Few Christian books in the world today have been compared to John Bunyan's classic Pilgrim's Progress in its enormous impact in shaping the world's faith. William P. Young's 256-page self-published novel The Shack, though, has achieved that epic comparison.
Within a year after its May 2007 publication date, The Shack sold a whopping 1.1 million copies and has dominated The New York Times, Publishers Weekly and USA Today's bestsellers list. A feature film hit the theaters in March 2017. Now this popular book can be found in most Christian's bookshelves, Bible studies, and even preached on during Sunday morning services.
But, is the The Shack biblical?
We have asked this question on our television program Christ in Prophecy over the past few years of three experts in Christian doctrine. They are:
- Dr. Ron Rhodes
(watch | read)
President of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries, a prolific author of more than 70 books who holds a doctorate in systematic theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, and an adjunct professor at several seminaries teaching in the field of Apologetics.
- Eric Barger
(watch | read)
The founder and director of Take a Stand! Ministries who is an authority from first-hand experience in the cults, the New Age, and the rock n' roll music drug culture.
- Warren Smith
(watch | read)
The author of many books including his testimonial The Light that Was Dark, which tells Warren's touching story of how in his search for a Savior he got sidetracked into the occultic darkness of the New Age Movement.
Dr. Ron Rhodes
The fact is, The Shack is full of problems. Sure it's a book that is so incredibly popular and it's inspirational when you read it, but it is doctrinally wrong. We've got bookstores lining up to sell this book. I don't blame them as I know it's making them a lot of money, but just look at some of the problems.
The book by the way was endorsed by Eugene Peterson who put together The Message Bible. He said that The Shack has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress did for his. I don't think so!
The book communicates that the traditional approach to Christianity is all wrong. His concept of the Trinity concerning the Father is a large beaming African-American woman. Jesus is a Middle Easterner dressed like a laborer, complete with a tool belt and gloves. The Holy Spirit is named Sarayu and is a small, distinctively Asian woman. That's Tritheism, that's not Trinitarianism. This is putting the Trinity into three people, and that's heresy.
There is also a false view of Christ's incarnation. Instead of Jesus coming in the flesh, we've got the entire Trinity coming. "When we three spoke ourselves into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations that this entailed even though we have always been present in this universe. We now became flesh and blood."
William Young, The Shack's author, argues that we should forget our preconceived notions about God. Forget your seminary training! God appears to us in whatever form we personally need.
Christianity, he says, has to be revised in order to be understood. How dare any human being say that Christianity which is based upon revelation from God Almighty say that Christianity must be revised! I hesitate to think about William Young at the judgment when God says, "What's this about a revision?"
Personal experience is supreme in The Shack. It communicates that personal experience trumps revelation. If you've got problems, you don't go to the Bible, you go instead to your experience. Experience is used to interpret the Bible instead of the Bible being used to interpret Scripture.
As for sin, Papa or the Father, says this, "I am not who you think I am. I don't need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment devouring you from the inside. It is not my purpose to punish it; it is my joy to cure it." I agree that God's curing, but God does punish sin. In fact, unbelievers will be punished for all eternity in a politically incorrect place that we call Hell.
The Shack's heresy in terms of salvation teaches that Christ is just the best way to relate to the Father, not the only way.
The fact is that Christian bookstores should not be selling The Shack. That they do leads me to believe that there are landmines in Christian bookstores today, and innocent people walk in there thinking they are safe, but they step on a landmine and their whole faith blows up. It's dangerous! That's why we need spiritual discernment.
When you have The Shack come in so fraught with doctrinal problems, though, it makes you wonder how could churches have accepted this so easily? The only reason can be that we have turned off our biblical worldview and let our emotions guide us, because The Shack is a very emotional story.
The Shack was written by a fellow named William Paul Young. He likes to be called Paul. He is a Bible school graduate from Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon, and later went to another Bible school in Canada. This is his first book and there are several things in it.
First of all, God passes a note to him to tell him to meet Him in the shack, which is a place in the Oregon wilderness where his little girl we assume from the book was murdered. This is a very tragic story. So, God is now reduced to passing notes to people. I thought God spoke through His Word and through His Holy Spirit to us, but now its notes.
When God comes to the shack He comes in the form of an African-American women named Papa. Now, this is tough to talk about because of the genders going on here. Well, Papa is a god, an African style or a black god from Polynesian occultism which is where it came from. Now, Young is not about to announce this when he goes on Christian TV and radio and talk about this. There have been many Christian ministries that I am shocked that they have offered this book and talked about it favorably. But, that Papa figure comes from Polynesian occultism.
The Holy Spirit in this book is an Asian women and the Jesus in the book is never called the Christ. What does that tell you? It is another Jesus, and, of course, Paul warns us that that there will be false Jesus' and false gospels and false spirits. 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 fits that classification.
I don't think that it is an accident that Jesus was never called "the Christ" in the book. We also have a Trinity but not THE Trinity in the book.
The author crafts God into the image of a man. It says in Romans 1:21-23 that is forbidden for us to do, to craft God into the image of a man. I know that it is a novel and I realize you can take liberties in a novel that you can't in some other type of book, but in this case Young is playing with something that the Scriptures speak so clearly about.
The next thing we see is that Jesus is said to be the best way to know Papa, not THE way to know Papa. Very subtle language there. That leaves the door open for Universalism to be the truth that Young is trying to bring out.
The author is a good friend with a professor at Western Seminary in Portland who has written a very scholarly 38 page paper and now has broken ties with his friend, Paul Young. The author of this paper is named James DeYoung. He has written this paper saying that he knows that Paul Young is a Universalist since they've had arguments about it. They have talked about it over and over and yet Paul Young is going on Christian TV programs and in Q&A sessions after he speaks in churches and volunteering out of the blue saying, "I am not a Universalist." Nobody is asking the question, but he is volunteering it anyway. And here is why, because according to James DeYoung, this professor at Western Seminary, the editors of the book spent over a year trying to convince Young to take the universalism out of the book, and he never got it all the way out. It is still there.
This is not just a guess that Young is a Universalist. No, this is a guy who is teaching what is called Reconciling Universalism, which is different than the idea that all paths lead to God, which is Classical Universalism. Reconciling Universalism says that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world and that God wishes no one to perish, and so we're all saved.
Reconciling Universalism is the same thing that Carlton Pearson fell into up in Tulsa. It is the same heresy. By the way, the doors of that church are totally closed now. He sent the rest of his people to a Unitarian Church in Tulsa. He followed the same idea that we're already saved and we need to tell the world, "Bring the missionaries in off the field, because if they are in a dangerous place they're in the wrong place because we don't have to tell anybody anything since everybody's saved, whether they ever heard about Jesus or not." This completely destroys the message of the Bible to think like that, but that is what Reconciliation Universalism is about. And The Shack teaches it.
It is shocking to me how many seasoned Christians have shut off their Biblical thinking because of the emotional grip the story has on them from the very beginning of the book.
The Bible describes and warns about every deception I was ever involved in before I got saved. The Bible warns about every false doctrine that is coming into the Church which people try to explain away, like they do with The Shack. People will even say it's a good book to give to unbelievers. No, it's not! It's not just because of the New Age teachings that are in there, such as God dwells in and around and through all things.
For one, the author is a stated Universalist, though he calls himself a Christian. Oprah calls herself a Christian, too, and she's not. She's a New Ager. Therefore, you've got to look at just what kind of "Christianity" they are talking about.
The Scripture that comes to my mind is, "A little leaven, leaveneth the whole lump." You cannot have these false teachings inserted into these supposedly "Christian" books, surrounding Satan's lies with a little truth. Some will claim all truth is God's truth, but then they will take some teaching from out of the New Age book A Course in Miracles and use that as the "truth."
There are a lot of deceptive voices out there, and a lot of these voices are now coming into our churches through books like The Shack. People just don't realize that the author of The Shack told a small group that met privately in a house church that he had real conversations with God and that the teachings in his book came right from God, but he just put them in a novel form.
The Shack is a very popular book, not only in the Christian world, but it was actually at the top of the New Age bestseller list as well.
People will claim, "Well, but Jesus is in there." What a lot of people don't understand is that from what I think was on page 112, the Jesus of The Shack said, "God who is the ground of all being dwells in and around and through all things." Then, if you look carefully at the book when the word "Creation" is brought up, a capital "C" is used. Those of us from the New Age know that when you see creation with a capital "C", it means that God indwells His creation.
That is very different from what the Bible teaches. No, God is not indwelling His creation. Psalm 39:5 tells us, "Verily, every man at his best state is altogether vanity." Or, in John 2:24-25, Jesus said referring to Jesus, "He did not commit himself to men because he knew what was in men." Now, why would that be said if God is in man? Why wouldn't He be emphasizing that? Instead, Jesus was actually saying to the effect, "Watch out! Men amongst themselves can be very dangerous." That is what Jesus was teaching. So, no, God is not within each person.
I just want to stop and caution people that when somebody gives you a copy of a supposed Christian book, but it's not really Christian, like for example The Shack, just because somebody in the morning asks, "Hey, have you read The Shack?", or somebody later in the afternoon asks the same thing, don't think that God is saying, "Hey, you should read The Shack." It may seem like the coincidence is meant to be from God, but it can also be meant to be from the Devil.