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I posted a review of  “The Shack” about a year ago, but the requests for my evaluation of this book still continue regularly.

I got absolutely TRAMPLED with criticism, name-calling and condemnation when I posted this review the first time… FROM CHRISTIANS. The only reason I’m stupid enough to update it and post it again, is that a year later I’m even MORE convinced the acceptance of this book betrays a overall lack of general discernment among Christians today.

So trample me again. I’m a big boy, I could stand a little rapid weight loss (blood and limbs are pretty heavy). It’s worth getting criticized if a few people see the light and understand why books like this are not edifying (at best) or idolatrous (at worse).

FYI… this is not a statement on the character or motives of the author. I know NOTHING about him. I’m sure he is a fine man, with good motives and probably loves God.  Our love for God and good motives do not excuse us from having our published works evaluated against Scripture by other Christians. Notice how the early Christians examined and tested everything they were taught, even from guys like the Apostle Paul:

Acts 17:11 (emphasis mine) – Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

I am evaluating WHAT WAS PUBLISHED.  It is no JUDGMENT on the author, or those who read the book… not even those who LIKE the book.  Some of my very good friends think my review of this book is extreme, even sensationalist. I don’t doubt their motives or think less of them in any way.  This is my opinion. That’s all it’s worth.

If you think I’m wrong, then we disagree. Big deal. Christians can maturely disagree without insults, accusations or condescension. At least, we used to be able to. I’m not sure anymore…

The Question:

I keep hearing about this book ‘The Shack’ and people are even talking about having a study based on it. What can you tell me about it?

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The Shack is another fad sweeping through Christianity, like “The Secret” or the latest “something of purpose”. I get discouraged at the existing general level of discernment and Scriptural knowledge in today’s Church that allows such obviously unScriptural materials to be welcomed into our midst, including previous titles such as:

  • Mary Baxter’s cultic and extra-Biblical “Divine Revelation of Heaven”
  • The metaphysical, new age success book “The Secret”
  • Pop psychology Bible paraphrases like Eugene Peterson’s “The Message”
  • Any number of humanistic, positive-thinking “success” books that relentlessly emphasize God’s desire for you to perpetually and continuously happy, healthy, rich and devoid of any hardship whatsoever appealing directly to our flesh and self focus

It seems that Christians today get easily bored with the Bible, and very little time passes before the next “craze” begins. The latest, and not the last unless Jesus returns soon,  is the book entitled “The Shack”.

The author, William Young, who otherwise appears to be sincere in his love for God, portrays God as a cool talking, hip, occasionally crude black woman. Portraying God as sinful human should be enough (with no further explanation) to label the book as idolatrous (making God into an image) and blasphemous (equating God to a sinful human).

End of story. I shouldn’t even have to go on. But, I do.

We’ve Come A Long Way Baby

A hundred years ago, even 50, even 20… this book would have been immediately exposed and rejected by Christians.  However, we’ve come “a long ways baby”.  Most Christians today cannot even DEFINE idolatry* or blasphemy* so how can we expect them to have the discernment* (the primary trait needed to see error) to recognize idolatry or blasphemy in a book that is such an entertaining and touching story?

The portrayal of God as a human apparently conveys the idea that God really does understands us, and is ready to relate to us on our level. What a HORRIBLE thought. I’ve had enough betrayal, misunderstandings and insults with other HUMANS… why would I want GOD to be HUMAN so I can relate to Him? I like God right where He is: perfect, holy, all-everything and infinitely above the flaws that make human interaction the heartbreaking disaster it so often is. I don’t want to serve a God who is like me… I want to serve a God who is, and will forever remain… … … … … … GOD!

Contrary to the premise (portraying God as human helps us relate to Him), seeing God as human would destroy my faith that He can relate to me. It takes a transcendent, eternal holy God who can see into the depths of my flawed heart for me to truly relate to Him (because all ability to deceive or hide is gone). I know I can KNOW God because I know He Knows that I know He knows. You know?

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In the book, Jesus is a very human middle eastern fellow and the Holy Spirit is an Asian woman.  Now, repeat the last three paragraphs, mix well, and broil at 150 million degrees for eternity.

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Again, just what I’ve said so far should be enough to have Christians immediately reject the book. But no such luck. This has become the latest sweeping fad to make God more “real” and understandable to an ever-increasing Biblically-uninterested and entertainment-minded Church. Christians have jumped on board with this “cool” book and sales have surpassed millions.

Even if nothing else about the book is considered (it’s many unScriptural statements and ideas), IDOLATRY is the most obvious transgression with the author creating his own image of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t use some Biblical symbolism such as a Lion or a Rock, he actually re-creates the Godhood in sinful human form. How can Christians by the millions stomach such an insult to their God and Savior no matter how innocent or well meaning the motive?

It Changed My Life… But It Is Not Bible Teaching

Reviews and testimonies frequently speak of how this book has “changed my life” and “other than the Bible” is “the most important book I’ve ever read”. Christians all over are starting study groups centered on this book. For those who want to characterize this book as an innocent parable or allusion, the fact that this book teaches theology, on purpose or not, is betrayed in the many comments by people stating in so many words it “changed how I see God”.

STOP… don’t pass up that last paragraph to quickly. Look at what I said. The most frequent response I get (during the trampling) is that The Shack “doesn’t claim to be Scripture” or “revelation” or “theology” or “speaking for God”.  And yet, it “changed the life” of Christians who already have a Bible (and a Holy Spirit) available to them?  It’s “the most important” book they’ve read?  Study groups center on it?  But it’s just a little tale with no theological influence?

Uh, no.  A book with that much professed impact on Christians cannot claim it doesn’t teach, present theology or communicate truths.

The vocabulary and dialog of  The Shack is at times crude (which when assigned the Godhead, makes it blasphemous). Jesus is kissed by “god” and enjoys “her” humanness. Throughout the book, “god”, “jesus” and the “spirit”, are shown to be very human and very much like you and me, allowing us to more fully relate to them and increase our knowledge about their true nature (apparently better than the Bible does since so many Christians declare a “life changing” opinion of it). If that’s not teaching doctrine and theology, I’m not sure what is.

In light of that, this book must be judged for theological accuracy, where it fails.

The Problem: a man assigning words to God’s mouth. We cannot create “dialog” for God, Jesus or the Spirit without taking the words directly from Scripture. This is tantamount to declaring divine revelation, and at a minimum, is certainly an exercise in teaching a theological viewpoint. Think about it: how presumptuous of any human to think they can write and print words they THINK God would say (unless they are directly derived from what Scripture plainly declares)?

Even if we could get past the idolatry issue, and call it something akin to “Pilgrims Progress” (which Eugene Peterson, author “The Message” does indeed imply about his humanistic paraphrase of Scripture), the issue then becomes the fact that the book is full of theological error, some of it simply heretical. For more complete explanation of the theological errors, download this PDF.

Neither Satan Nor Oliver Stone Is Stupid

Satan is not stupid. He knows that people will read these types of books, and actually think it is either something God did say, or would say. More and more we see movies, dramatizations, psychology and these types of media replacing the sufficient Word of God.

Just like the movie “JFK” by Oliver Stone leaves crowds of gullible people thinking “that’s what really happened”, movies like Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” and humanistic paraphrases like Peterson’s “The Message” leave multitudes of innocent but undiscerning Christians thinking “that’s what God is really like” or “that’s what really happened”.

We should never take license with anything concerning God. We should only illuminate and expound on what Scripture reveals to us when it comes to communicating God’s nature, character and words. Again the fact that “god” speaks in this book is absolutely an exercise in teaching theology, whether or not that is the author’s intention.

This book is another of a long line of attempts that have successfully undermined Christian’s knowledge and trust in the sufficiency of God’s Word (again, even if the author’s motives were innocent). When people commonly say a book “changed my life” and “I’ll never think about God the same way again” – people are saying this about the Shack – you can bet the book is theological statement. Sadly, it is an unBiblical theological statement.

The less we know about the Bible, the easier it is to be bored and go after these fads”, then not discern (there’s that word again) something that  should be avoided.

People who speak out against these fads are becoming increasingly criticized and dismissed as they dare to warn other Christians about the relentless onslaught of teaching/media that is undermining the Bible, the Gospel and Christianity. Deceiving entertainment, psychology, humanism, positive thinking, new age techniques and extra Biblical revelation… all things that should easily be recognized and shunned by Christianity have sadly been embraced with open arms (and often pulpits).

Let the trampling begin.

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Idolatry: replacing the True Nature and Attributes of God with the image, natures, traits or characteristics of our own imagination.  For example, if we see God as ONLY loving and merciful but not as a Judge or Jealous, we make God in OUR image (what we think versus what He declares).  If we create any physical image of God and worship it, or declare it to represent God, then we have created and idol (what WE think God looks like). That is why in Christianity we do not have statues of God or Jesus and bow down to them.

Blasphemy: a term derived from a Greek word meaning to injure the reputation of another (God). In the Bible it means showing contempt or a lack of reverence for God (Lev. 24:16; Mark 2:7).  Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row, P., & Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). Harper’s Bible dictionary. Includes index. (1st ed.) (135). San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Discernment: the ability to evaluate and make a correct Godly judgment about what is right or wrong, good or evil.