At the request of a couple of friends, I read The Shack this week. I can certainly understand the premise of the book. When we face a crisis, some turn away while others turn to God. The Shack tells the story of a man in search of reconciliation with God. And although it is a fictional story, The Shack does touch on several theological issues and this is where I think caution is warranted.
My primary concerns revolve around the fact that Paul Young’s narrative diminishes the Holy and Exalted nature of God, the value of scripture in the church and the work of Jesus Christ in His role as Saviour.
Isaiah 6: 1-3
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!
Isaiah, Job, Abraham, Moses, Paul and John each had a similar experience when encountered by the Creator of the Universe. Each saw God as Holy and higher than man and each responded in reverence and repentance. In contrast, Young’s picture is essentially a God who resembles Oprah Winfrey’s character of Harpo in the Color Purple. The dialogue recorded between the figures of the Trinity resemble a bad sitcom from the 70’s. When the Jesus character washes “Papa’s” feet, she exclaims, “Oh, that feels sooooo good.” This is not an isolated incident.
2 Timothy 3: 16
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
In The Shack, the author diminishes the value of scripture while Mack thinks “God’s voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects. … Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book. Especially an expensive one bound in leather with gilt edges, or was that guilt edges?”
Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Young quotes Jesus as saying that he called no one to become a Christian…and leads to a thinly veiled “Christian Universalism” that all roads lead to the same goal of redemption. On page 182, the character representing Jesus says “Those who love me come from every stream that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions”. Mack asks for clarification. “Does that mean…that all roads will lead to you?” “’Not at all,’ smiled Jesus…’Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you’”. Jesus then goes on to say “I am the best way any human can relate to Papa or Sarayu (the character who plays the Holy Spirit).”
In the end, the question seems to me to be one of authenticity. If someone has little knowledge of scripture, how will they respond to the message of The Shack? Will they have an accurate view of God or will they be able to create their own vision of God to fit their own needs and desires?
Great review, and you really put your thoughts into words nicely. I do feel sorry for Mr. William P. Young. I feel people have been very cruel to him. You weren’t at all. Could you imagine if C.S. Lewis wrote the Chronicles of Narnia with today’s media outlets? They would have been merciless on him and his brilliant pieces of fiction.