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January 8th,2017


So finally got around to reading The Shack in the midst of a few other books…here are my thoughts. For those who have not read it will try not to give spoilers but do my best to summarize the story. Let me start by saying I found the beginning of the story (lets say act 1) to be compelling and gave me a genuine concern for the protagonist. As a father myself its hard to imagine going thru something so horrific as the loss of a child to the hands of a killer. The author  (Wm. Paul Young) did a good job putting you the reader into what it would be like to endure this kind of experience.

  As we get more into the story, lets say Act 2 Mack (our main character) is introduced to the characters which represent the Trinity, this is in response to a letter Mack receives in the mail that invites him out to the shack (the infamous place where his daughters bloody dress was found and most likely killed). The letter that he received was signed “Papa”, the affectionate term his wife calls God. Interesting story and actually I have no problem with the concept thus far nor do I take issue with God revealing Himself in a way that is unexpected or supernatural. For the record I do believe God speaks to us, that spiritual gifts are for today as well as divine healing,and God’s transforming power…but all things in accordance to the scripture.

  Reluctantly Mack accepts the invitation and meets God, or rather Godhead, the Trinity. Now we can all agree the Trinity is something we can never get our minds fully wrapped around, but this is the point in the book that I think things start getting a should I say…weird? Youngs concept of the Trinity is as follows- God the Father= a large black woman who he calls “Papa”, the Holy Spirit is a semi-transparent Asian woman named Sarayu, which from my research is a Hindi word for refreshing wind. Jesus is described as middle eastern carpenter with a large nose which is along the lines of what would seem a fairly common depiction.

 Out of the three the oddest is that of God the father, a black woman called “Papa”, which seems more in line with the Oracle in the Matrix, Oprah or Tyler Perry's Madea  (which would take another long article to explain why I find those movies so disturbing…) or maybe the gospel of Oprah…but lets stay focused on this for now. In my comparison I may be a little extreme but its the closest thing in my mind to what I read in The Shack and the furthest from what I have both read in scripture and personally experienced  for the past 30 years.

 At one point we read  Papa: “Thats okay, we’ll do things on your terms and time”-pg81, which is the underlying premise of the book where God and the Trinity are brought down to a human level and thus seemingly making God more palatable. At the beginning of Chapter 6 the chapter starts with a quote essentially saying the same thing, focusing on the importance of God putting Himself on a human level and thus limiting Himself. The quote is from Jacques Ellul ,a self proclaimed “Christian anarchist”…which is troubling in and of itself and without getting to sidetracked “he declared himself to be a Christian Universalist, writing "that all people from the beginning of time are saved by God in Jesus Christ, that they have all been recipients of His grace no matter what they have done.”Ellul Page 188. And it should be no surprise Young would quote Him since from what I have researched on Young he also believes in or at least did believe in at the time of writing, Christian universalism (all will eventually be saved through Jesus either before or after they die) and this is the impression I got as I read the book ."In Jesus, I have forgiven all humans for their sins against me, but only some choose relationship.” Pg225  if all humans are forgiven of their sins, then all humans go to heaven seems to be the implication, thus eliminating God’s judgement, wrath, the reality of hell and God’s holiness. In 2008 Young in a Radio interview stated that God the Father was crucified with Christ; and he denies that we can say that anyone is presently in hell for rejecting Christ.

Below is a list of quotes from the book that I believe are either poorly represent God or just plain odd for the behavior we know of the God of the Bible.

  Jesus speaking to Mack about the Father who is an African American Woman (p. 89)."Jesus laughed, 'She's a riot!'"

Here is a dialogue found on page 90.  Mack is speaking to the Father who is listening to music."May I ask what you're listening to?” "You really wanna know"?"Sure." Now Mack was curious."West Coast Juice.  Group called Diatribe and an album that isn't even out yet called Heart Trips.  Actually," she winked at Mack, "these kids haven't even been born yet.”

"Right," Mac responded, more than a little incredulous. "West Coast Juice, huh?  It doesn't sound very religious.""Oh, trust me, it's not.  More like Eurasian funk and blues with a message, and a great beat."  She sidestepped toward Mack as if she were doing a dance move and clapped.  Mack stepped back.

Jesus wiped the Father's (Papa) feet. (p. 105)”Ooooh, that feels soooo good!' exclaimed Papa, as she continued her tasks at the counter."

Food is being passed around at a table (p. 121)."'Whoa,' said Papa, who had returned from the kitchen with yet another dish. 'Take it easy on those greens, young man.  Those things can give you the trots if you ain't careful.'"

By a lakeside, skipping stones (pp. 170-171)."As he entered the clearing, he saw Jesus still waiting, still skipping stones."  "Hey, I think my best was 13 skips," he said as he laughed and walked to meet Mack.  "But Tyler beat me by three and Josh threw one that skipped so fast we all lost count."

While Jesus and Mack are walking on water and see a large trout (pp. 175-176).Jesus said, "'I've  been trying to catch him for weeks, and here he comes just to bait me,' he laughed.  Mack watched, amazed, as Jesus started to dodge this way and that, trying to keep up with the fish, and finally gave up.  He looked at Mack, excited as a little kid. 'Isn't he great? I'll probably never catch him.'"

Jesus and Mack are talking (p. 182).Jesus said, "Those who love me come from every system that exists.  They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptist or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don't vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions.  I have followers who were murderers and many who were self-righteous.  Some are bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians.  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."

 On page 145-146 we find, "Mack was surprised. 'How could that be? Why would the God of the universe want to be submitted to me?'  'Because we want you to join us in our circle of relationship.  I don't want slaves to my will; I want brothers and sisters who will share life with me.'"  We have to ask, is there any place in Scripture where God expresses a desire to be submitted to an individual human being?

"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" (120). 

This last quote is certainly not least and clearly not at all Biblical, its as if the author wants to make God not responsible for any kind of judgement or punishment. The theme that seems to come up again and again in the book is what we often see emphasized in false teaching and false teachers, God is love….and thus everything and anything you do is ok because God is love. As the false prophets of old cried out 

“They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace. Jeremiah 6:14

Teaching that can keep people complacent and comfortable in sin only perpetuates the spiritual apathy in our world as the devil applauds in the background and that I cannot tolerate.

  So to wrap up my review of The Shack on a positive aspect the Unity in the Trinity, the emphasis on love, forgiveness and relationships was encouraging. On the other hand the errors as stated above cannot be overlooked for the supposed greater good. One online review of the book said it like this:

“If a friend had a cold, abusive father, don't make the God of your story into a warm, loving female to compensate. Show your friend what a true father is like, using the example from Scripture. If your friend is hurting, don't comfort him with soothing lies, such as The Shack's assertion that God does not judge sin. Show him the God of all comfort found in Scripture, the God who was willing to save him from that judgment by sending his Son.”

Also as most who commented on my post said I and others who brought should calm down because it is “just fiction” I would say I don’t think that matters and may actually be part of the problem. I read so many comments from people who said the book changed their lives and gave them a new understanding of God. To that I won’t argue, but I will say if this is your concept of who God is then yes your God is fictional, not who God has revealed Himself in the scripture. Mack was told by Papa throughout the book to drop his beliefs and pre conceived notions about who God is, and some of you would tell me the same, however much of what I have learned of God, especially as a new Christian simply came from studying the Bible. My background was one of no religion, no church and not until I was 17 did Jesus save me from a life of drugs and alcohol, and get me into the scripture and eventually into a Bible teaching church. So if my understanding of God is wrong its not from being raised in what the author would refer to as man made institutions.

  Some defend The Shack by saying it’s only a work of fiction. But if you're going to have God as a character in your fiction, then you must deal with God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. By using the Trinity as characters, The Shack is clearly indicating that it’s talking about the God of Christianity. But God has said certain things about Himself in Scripture, and much of what’s in this novel contradicts that.-Jim Pierce One last thing I would say to pastors. If you support The Shack, as I know some do and hand out copies to their church members, you should be aware the author is no friend to the Church. Young is not part of a church nor does he believe he should be, he lost his job at a Christian school because of his universal beliefs and he like in his book refers to the church, government and marriage as the “trinity of terrors”. 

  Am I saying don’t read the book? No, but if you do choose to read it do so through the lens of scripture and not only by feelings or emotion. The ones who seem most passionate to defend this book also seem the most motivated by emotion and point completely to a subjective experience rather then to the authority of scripture to which we as Christians must submit to. So as I stated in my original Facebook post I do believe The Shack presents not only a distorted view of God but also confusing. I welcome your feedback whether you agree or disagree and pray that some who read this find it helpful.


Jay Peters

The Shack Book Review: Articles & Resources
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