An open letter to anyone who thinks The Shack is a good book.
You’re not going to like me for this. For 4 good reasons:
1. It’s been over a year and a half since The Shack has been published. Better reviews are available. [I'm a terribly slow reader.]
2. I only read two-thirds of the book.
3. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
4. I think you’re not using your brain when you say it’s a good book.
Now, before you hit the Back button, let me explain.
What your over-zealous response to this book indicates to me is an obvious lack of critical thinking, faith or spiritual discernment.
How Can I Say That?
Well, any careful reader will see Young’s got a theological ax to grind. And he wants to create God in his own image. Which is bad.
How you missed this, I don’t know.
So, let me spell out to you what Young did right with this book before I go onto explain where he went really, really wrong.
Young’s use of suspense, dialog and conflict are spot on. All three orthodox ways to thicken the plot. Which he does masterfully. But that’s where his orthodoxy stops.
What follows in the 240 odd pages is a bizarre, corny, heretical fantasy.
The Problem with the Eugene Peterson Endorsement
Eugene Peterson of The Message Bible fame compares The Shack to John Bunyan’s classic The Pilgrim’s Progress.
A horribly uneducated comparison.
Any casual read of Bunyan will see its steeped in Scripture. You can’t go two or three sentences without a direct quote from the Bible. Or at least an echo of the Bible.
Young, on the other hand, takes an undeniable and fatal departure from the Bible.
Throughout The Shack Young consistently disparages Scripture at the expense of personal experience. He ignores the beauty, power, transmission and sufficiency of the Bible–and substitutes his own speculations.
However, without Scripture as our unwavering rule we are subject to every whim. Including fantasies like The Shack.
Perverts the Trinity
Modalism says God is one person who works in three different modes. Young goes as far as to say that God was even on the cross with Jesus.
Wrong. Dead wrong.
It was Jesus who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born to a virgin, crucified by Pilate, buried in a tomb and raised from the dead. Not God the Father.
Young obscures what the Gospel makes crystal clear– Jesus Christ is the one and the only way to be reconciled to the Father.
In fact, on page 120 Papa says:
“I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.”
While sin is a punishment, how can you reconcile that statement with Jesus’ death on the cross? The Bible makes it very clear that on the cross Jesus paid the penalty for our sin.
Distorts the Identity of God
No where in the Bible are we given permission to view God as a woman. However, Young portrays God as a big, black woman named “Papa.”
Wait. 3 things dreadfully wrong here.
1. Jesus said God is a spirit. That means God doesn’t have a body.
2. Exodus 20:4 says not to make idols out of wood, stone or flesh.
3. And Romans 1:25 says we’ve “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.”
I don’t know about you, but a big, black woman named “Papa” sounds a lot like a creature to me.
Ignores Obvious Hierarchy
Young again departs from Scripture with his idea of the Trinity–and the damage he thinks hierarchy causes to a relationship.
On numerous occasions Jesus of the Bible said, the Father sent me, I only say what the Father tells me and I only do what the Father tells me to do. An obvious submission of one person to the other.
Furthermore, out of the teaching of hierarchy in the Trinity we get the reason why children should obey their parents, wives respect their husbands, Christians submit to their pastors and citizens honor government officials.
Drop the Trinitarian teaching and you get disobedience, chaos and anarchy. Dangerous stuff.
Downplays the Presence of the Glory of God
This is where I think Young gets really stupid.
In Mack, the main character, we find a man who can use foul language with God, and even snap in anger at God.
What’s obvious is that Mack is not in the presence of a being who is far superior to him. We have no sense of awe for Papa. Gone is the majesty and supremacy clearly defined in Scripture by such passages as Revelation 4:10-11.
The One Question You Must Ask Yourself
Now, the one question you should be asking yourself instead of charging roughshod with praise for Young is this: Where does Young get his information?
I have an idea.
To boot, Ellul was a Christian Anarchist, which probably explains where Young adopted the subversive quality of The Shack.
Speculations of a Rogue Christian
What the book amounts to is a bizarre, corny fantasy–equivalent to speculative science fiction.
In fact, Young joins a group of notable authors who’ve carved out Christianity, God, spirituality and Jesus in their own image: James Redfield’s The Celestine Prophecies, Richard Bach’s Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret and Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth.
And like these authors, Young expects us to take his subjective speculations as absolute truth–over and above the objective truth found in the Bible.
If Young is involved in personal ideas of God that undermine Scripture, promotes new revelation and leads believers astray…who are you going to listen to?
I’ll be happy when this book goes away.