Monday, February 9, 2009

A Review Of THE SHACK

Have you ever noticed how many Christians always need to have something new? Ron Livesay, a friend of mine, reminded me that, in just a short time in recent history, we have seen the proliferation of so many Christian books and fads that capture the imaginations and allegiance of multitudes of "dumb sheep." Often, these fads result in unorthodox Christian Movements. Just a few that come to mind are “Jonathan Livingston Seagull,” “In His Steps” (that resulted in the WWJD movement), “The Prayer of Jabez” (remember all the Jabez Junk?), and the very popular New Age theology of, “The Purpose Driven Life (or Church).”

I think movements in the Body of Christ are like movements in our physical bodies; they come along frequently with regularity and they usually stink.

One of the newest fads to suddenly burst on the scene is a piece of fiction titled, THE SHACK, by William Paul Young. It has been endorsed as the most significant piece of Christian fiction in our modern world. In fact, I have learned that one church is using this book in its adult education curriculum and some of the people are actually placing table models of a shack on display in their homes. Eugene Peterson said on the cover of the book, “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good!”

WOW! That is a pretty amazing claim and so it merits some serious discernment.
Ron Livesay, who has written A Review of the Shack, warns that it might be wise to back off that praise just a hair. Comparisons to Pilgrim’s Progress are absurd. The huge difference between the two books is that Pilgrim’s Progress was an allegory based on biblical truth, whereas The Shack claims to be an allegory to teach truth, but it is based on someone’s unbiblical definition of the nature of God and His desire for a “relationship” with us, which is man-made nonsense.

One defense of THE SHACK stated that since it is fictional and allegorical, we need not worry about what it teaches. But that is precisely the problem. If one ignores the fact that this book teaches false or inaccurate doctrines, the power of that false teaching to deceive unsuspecting readers is amplified. A well-written allegory about God (like Pilgrim’s Progress) would most certainly not have Him making false statements and, in this book, there are many false statements made by the three persons of the fictitious “trinity.”

In A Review of the Shack, Mr. Livesay exposes eight unbiblical views of important Christian doctrines that are briefly summarized here:

1. An Unbiblical View of Scripture – This book presents a very low view of the Scriptures and elevates our experiences and feelings at least to the level of the Word of God.

There are at least two serious deficiencies in the way the author presents divine revelation. First, there is the implication that God would not have committed His Word to the “ancients and uncivilized” without also speaking directly to “moderns” and “educated Westerners.”

Second, it implies that we are all powerless to understand what God has said in His Word unless it is “properly interpreted” and that it must “be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects.”
The truth is that all believers have an anointing to understand the Scriptures, we have the very author of the Scriptures indwelling us and illuminating us to understand, and we are commanded to study the Scriptures in order to be “approved unto God.”

2. An Unbiblical View of God – The god of THE SHACK is not the Almighty, Sovereign God of the Bible, and this “god” should be rejected.

Mack, the main character of the book, a man who went to seminary, describes a god who has no control over his creation, who does not violate the choice or will of humans but actually submits to humans, and who is fully human and lives in the present.

The Scriptures are clear; anyone who worships any “god” other than the God of the universe, through the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is worshipping a false god.

3. An Unbiblical View of the Trinity – There are those who believe that by reading THE SHACK, one can finally understand the Trinity. However, not only does THE SHACK not explain the Trinity, it actually propagates confusion and false teaching about it.

All three persons in the fictitious trinity are declared to be fully human with all the (human) limitations that entails. It is a trinity with no hierarchical authority or chain of command. In fact, when Mack questions the godhead on the subject, both god the father and Jesus admit their own confusion and ignorance. According to them, they have no need of order in the godhead.

One of the more disturbing aspects of this false trinity is that god the father also died on the cross and bears the same wounds as the son.

The Bible makes it clear that all three persons of the Trinity have distinct functions, and that Jesus Christ submitted Himself to the will of His Father.

4. An Unbiblical View of the Incarnation – The Scriptures do not teach that either the Father or the Holy Spirit is ever revealed in human form. Jesus Christ is truly the God man. Although some would teach otherwise, He never did cease to be God, nor did he lay aside His power. He did lay aside His glory, and He voluntarily chose not to use some of his power. Yet in this book, “Papa” (the name of the father) states that even his ability to do miracles “proves that Jesus is truly human.” Jesus never drew upon his nature as god to do anything. He only lived out of his relationship with the father in the very same manner that he desires to be in relationship with every human being.

The implication is that Jesus Christ did what He did on this earth because of a relationship with God the Father that each of us can also experience and that we too can do all those things if we only get our relationship right. This idea that Jesus did what He did as an enlightened human who was in touch with God is the New Age idea that we all have the potential to tap into the “Christ consciousness” and evolve into a higher state of enlightenment.

5. An Unbiblical View of the Nature of Man – According to the god of THE SHACK, “Humans are not defined by their limitations, but by the intentions that I have for them; not by what they seem to be, but by everything it means to be created in my image.”

Man is portrayed, not in his sinful, disobedient state of condemnation, total depravity and inability, and in need of a Savior, but only in terms of his decision to either be in a relationship with the godhead or to remain independent.

God’s purpose, in regard to man, is summarized by the false holy spirit in the following statement to Mack:

“…if anything matters, then everything matters. Because you are important, everything you do is important. Every time you forgive, the universe changes; every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes; with every kindness and service, seen or unseen, my purposes are accomplished and nothing will ever be the same again."

This Universalist statement, like other statements in THE SHACK, strokes the ego of man, but man does not need his ego stroked. What he desperately needs is the message of redemption from sin through the Lord Jesus Christ.

6. An Unbiblical View of Salvation – In THE SHACK, god is disappointed that we chose independence over relationship, but he still wants that relationship with all of his children, although he would never impose his will on any of us. He will try to help us see the need for a relationship with him by gently persuading and convincing us. He (“Papa”) declares, “I desire a relationship with every human being.” But nothing is ever said about salvation or redemption. One can only assume that this relationship is the THE SHACK’s equivalent of salvation.

Regarding faith,“Papa” says, “I’m not asking you to believe anything.” This is in conflict with Scripture, which emphasizes “belief” and “faith” repeatedly.

THE SHACK promotes the heresy of Universalism. In several place we learn that all people are God’s children. “Papa,” himself, says, “In Jesus, I have forgiven all humans for their sins against me, but only some choose relationship.”

When Mack asks Jesus what it means to be a Christian. His response is both startling and interesting, “Who said anything about being a Christian? I’m not a Christian…Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims…I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved.”

In another place, “Papa” again emphasizes the universal nature of salvation, and places the responsibility for the completion of the work of salvation squarely on humans. “You asked me what Jesus accomplished on the cross; so now listen to me carefully: through his death and resurrection, I am now fully reconciled to the world…the whole world, Mack. All I am telling you is that reconciliation is a two way street and I have done my part, totally, completely, finally. It is not the nature of love to force a relationship but it is the nature of love to open the way.”

If God is fully reconciled to the world, why does the Scripture command men to be reconciled to God? The rationale behind the above paragraph is the old idea that “salvation is of God, but man has to do his part.” This is simply not true. There is no part in salvation that man can do. Left to our own devices, we would all surely perish.

7. An Unbiblical View of Christian Living – There is real resistance today among many Christians to the idea of “rules” for Christian living. Some will not even accept the idea of “principles” or “guidelines.” Many would prefer to go to a seminar on Christian living than to read, study, and obey the Bible. This (unbiblical idea of Salvation being about “relationships, not rules”) is underscored in THE SHACK. Jesus answers a question from Mack by saying, “You’re not supposed to do anything. You’re free to do whatever you like.”

The holy spirit of THE SHACK (who is supposed to guide us into all truth), tells Mack that “The Bible doesn’t teach you to follow rules. …you will hear and see me in the Bible in fresh ways. Just don’t look for rules and principles; look for relationship – a way of coming to be with us.”

Real Christian freedom is freedom from the power of sin and victory over sin, not freedom to sin. In Christ, we have freedom to do what is right, not freedom to do anything we please.

8. An Unbiblical View of Judgment – “Papa” addressed the subject of judgment, with the following three statements that are contradictory to Scripture: “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’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.” “I don’t do humiliation, or guilt, or condemnation.” “The God who is – the I am who I am – cannot act apart from love!.”

Conclusion – This review of THE SHACK (presents sufficient evidence to bring us to the) following general conclusions:

There is an unhealthy ignorance of the Scriptures in the church today that cannot be remedied by encouraging people to read and study books like THE SHACK. There is a great need today to get back to the study of the Bible, the very Word of God. THE SHACK is written from an unbiblical perspective and attempts to undermine sound doctrine. Therefore it should be ignored and/or opposed by Bible-believing Christians. Anything that contradicts the Word of God is false teaching.

The book makes an effort to “humanize” God and bring Him to our level, thus making us feel better about ourselves. It plays very well into the modern (man-centered) false gospel of “self-esteem.”

The god of THE SHACK is not the God of the Bible. He is portrayed as weak and unable and unwilling to control his creation and to rule in the affairs of humanity. The God of the Bible is all-powerful, totally in control, and ruling in the affairs of men.

Every pastor, youth worker, Sunday school teacher, Christian school administrator, Christian school teacher, and anyone else who leads others spiritually has the responsibility to sound the warning against false teaching. Failure to do so failure to fulfill the command to protect and feed the flock of God.

It is very difficult to watch many professing Christians “turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:4). It is important to make every effort to point people back to the truth. “…in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil…” (2 Timothy 2:25-26).

There are several warnings in the Scriptures about false doctrine. We are told “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love...” (Ephesians 4:14-15). This warning is given because it is necessary. Many will be deceived by false doctrine if no one stands for the Truth, even if it is unpopular to do so. Truth always trumps falsehood, and we must not back away from our responsibility to “…contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). God’s Word does not change. Truth does not change. In order to stand for truth, it is often necessary to point out the contrasting falsehood.

Note – Ron Livesay’s, A Review of the Shack with supporting Scripture can be read in its entirety on his blog, Buffalo Noise.

10 comments:

Daisy said...

Oh, don't get me started on The Shack. I am amazed at just how many Christians will fight ferociously for the merits of this piece of drivel.

How many examples do we need that Christians are woefully ignorant of Biblical truth?

Eddie Eddings said...

Thanks for the posting! I blast the shack in my blog too...and a good friend of mine, who carries copies of the Shack to give away, told me kindly to quit "tearing it down" (so to speak). The 2 Timothy 4:4 verse really tells it like it is!

Eddie Eddings said...

...which brings me to the point, it's our spiritual obligation to "tear down the Shack" because it is a dangerous place to dwell! Why live in a shack when God provides a mansion?

Raffi Shahinian said...

To balance out this conversation, I've posted a list of 10 Theologically Dead-On Excerpts from The Shack, for anyone who might be interested.

Grace and Peace,
Raffi

Ron Livesay said...

One of my daughters-in-law was given The Shack as a gift. She read to page 82 where God the Father turned out to be "Mammy" from Gone With the Wind, and did what many others do. She stopped reading.

I was really proud of what she did next. She took the book to the "Christian" book store where it was purchased and exchanged it for something else. She also asked them if anyone at the store had read the book, informing them that the author obviously doesn't know the Bible. Of course, their answer was that they just carry what the higher-ups tell them to carry. That is weak. Deliver us from "Christian" book stores.

Ralph M. Petersen-Always Right; Sometimes Wrong! said...

Raffi

Thank you for the link. Although I disagree with some of your supporting arguments for this book, it is interesting to see and hear another point of view.

Eddie Eddings said...

The strategy Satan uses most effectively in leading someone astray is to mix truth with lies, and then take them only a few feet away from the way he/she should go...ever increasing the lies and distance.

Ron Livesay said...

I went to Raffi's blog to look at his "Theologically Dead-On Excerpts from The Shack." It is amazing what a big difference a two-letter word can make. The actual title of the article should have been "Theologically DEAD Excerpts from The Shack."

Stan McCullars said...

Out of curiosity, when do you suppose supporters of The Shack will start recommending the Qur'an? After all, it also contains some truth.

Anonymous said...

If you are so convinced that the "Shack" is meaningless which I agree that it is. Then how can you be so sure that everthing in the Bible is accurate when you know that it has been revised and edited so many times, not to mention translation issues? Are you not arguing about the same thing? I believe in God, but I do not believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. The best sources in the Bible are when Jesus is quoted directly. Most of the rest suffers from the same problems of logic that you assign to the Shack.

Regards,

Amy

PS I can figure out what you want me to give for my profile?