I try to stay positive and focus on what’s encouraging. However, from time to time clear warnings need to be sounded about dangerous teachings. I am not one to use the word heresy lightly (see here for why), but when it comes to The Shack, it is completely appropriate. I read the book when it first came out in about 2007. People from my church community were reading it and raving about it. An uncle passed me a copy and asked me to read and review it. It was appalling. Not only was it really bad literature, it was even worse theology. This led my co-pastor and I to write a warning for our congregation regarding the book. This was published in our bulletin. Now there’s a movie being released on March 3. In view of that, I think it’s worthwhile to republish the warning that the Langley CanRC co-pastors issued in 2008 regarding the book. Today, I would just add that portraying God in any way, let alone with female actresses portraying the Father and the Holy Spirit, is a violation of the Second Commandment. As the Heidelberg Catechism says it in Lord’s Day 35, “We are not to make an image of God in any way…God cannot and may not be visibly portrayed in any way.”
From the Pastors
In a recent edition of BC Christian News, there was a front-page article promoting a novel by William P. Young, The Shack. It appears that this book is quite popular in broader Christian circles and has been making the rounds in our own circles as well. As pastors who care for the flock, we must be honest with you: this book is full of dangerous, erroneous teachings about God. It contains a perversion of the gospel.
This is one of those books were someone meets with God in person. In this case, two persons of the Trinity are represented as women. “Papa” is a large African-American woman. The Spirit is Sarayu, an Asian woman (Sarayu is a river in India invoked and venerated by Hindus). Jesus is represented as a Middle-Eastern man. However, there is also Sophia, an off-shoot of Sarayu. This book revives ancient heresies regarding the Trinity. One of those heresies is patripassionism, the teaching that the Father suffered with the Son on the cross. Another false teaching is found when “Papa” says, “I am truly human, in Jesus, but I am a totally separate other in my nature.” (p.201). God the Father did not become human in Jesus. That is the sort of mixing of the persons that the Athanasian Creed stands against. Next, we might also point out that the “God” of The Shack does not send people to hell – he/she has no concept of justice or wrath. Consequently, the grace offered in this book is cheap. Finally, the novel is explicitly Arminian (or Pelagian, which is even worse) throughout. For example, Young promotes unbiblical notions about the freedom of the human will. We also find the false teaching that the atonement of Christ was intended to save all (and going one step further, does in fact, save all). On page 225, we read “In Jesus, I have forgiven all humans for their sin against me, but only some choose relationship.” All these erroneous teachings are not incidental to the book but pervade it – and we could add several more.
Some have argued that this book is a work of fiction, that it is allegorical and is not meant to be taken literally. However, when the author was recently at Regent College for a book talk, it became very clear that William P. Young is not an orthodox Christian and his book was not written to convey orthodox Christian theology, but rather the opposite. Brothers and sisters, because the gospel is at stake, we are obligated to warn you: please do not waste your time and money on books such as this and please do not encourage others to read it.
You can also find a full review of this book at this helpful website.
Rev. George VanPopta has also reviewed The Shack here.