The Shack, a Response to a Critic (Theology behind The Shack)

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I chose to respond to a more respectable effort at discrediting the Shack and declaring William Paul Young as a heretic found here: http://www.albertmohler.com/2010/01/27/the-shack-the-missing-art-of-evangelical-discernment/

It would probably be fun to tackle all the rest of the Heresy Hunter blogs but this is a good place to start since he actually quotes the “most scandalous” portions of the book amidst the other vague condemnations he inserts.

With SO many self-appointed prosecuting attorneys I would love to be one of the self-appointed defense attorneys. As Bill Johnson of Bethel church would say, “I would much rather stand with the accused than with the Accuser”. But Truth IS important so we are going to examine the claims against Wm Paul Young’s novel The Shack in light of the Scripture.

Why are we so up in arms over a novel anyway? Well, because The Shack makes claims about the character of God. Is God good and loving like the Shack (and Scriptures) portray him? Are there words Paul Young “puts in God’s mouth” that contradict with Scripture? These are important questions that need biblical answers. (Incidentally, Paul Young informs us that everything God says in the book are things that God has said to him over the years of knowing him and having conversations – If God isn’t telling you things then I would suggest getting to know God which is what eternal life is – see John 17:3).

The article states:

“Those conversations reveal God to be very different than the God of the Bible. “Papa” is absolutely non-judgmental, and seems most determined to affirm that all humanity is already redeemed.”

It must be asked, Is the God that William Paul Young knows and loves and presents in his novel “very different” from the God of the Bible? As far as, “Is humanity redeemed?” Didn’t Jesus pull something off on the cross? Wasn’t all of humanity wrapped up in Christ on the cross as the Bible teaches us? Aren’t we proclaiming the joy of a finished work? This good news that we get to receive and believe and ridiculously enjoy? Could it be true that the world is already redeemed and some of us just haven’t woken up to it yet?

“For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:19

“No longer counting people’s sins against them”. Hmmm…. sounds non-judgmental to me. As does 1 Corinthians 13 where Love/God is described: “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”

Yes, sadly some will refuse and reject Christ and Papa’s love and will suffer for it… perhaps eternally if that’s what they choose. God loves us and respects our decision to reject him who is love. He loves us enough to warn us plainly of the devastating consequences of rejecting his Son. But, “God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) – That’s the heart of the Father!

The article states:

“Three persons of the Trinity “spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God.” Nowhere in the Bible is the Father or the Spirit described as taking on human existence.”

Did not the fullness of the Godhead dwell in bodily form in Jesus? Was he not “One with his Father” as He says? Is Albert Mohler really denying this? Was not the Father present in Jesus as he walked and ministered to sinners on this planet? Didn’t he have the Holy Spirit?

“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity dwells in bodily form. And you have been made complete in Christ” – Collosians 2:9-10

Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)  and “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30).

The article states:

“The Christology of the book is likewise confused. “Papa” tells Mack that, though Jesus is fully God, “he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything. He has only lived out of his relationship with me, living in the very same manner that I desire to be in relationship with every human being.” When Jesus healed the blind, “He did so only as a dependent, limited human being trusting in my life and power to be at work within him and through him. Jesus, as a human being, had no power within himself to heal anyone.”

Isn’t this exactly what the Bible says about Jesus, yet Albert Mohler calls this confused?

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2

Jesus says,

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. 13 You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. 14 Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” John 14:12

He says this because he modeled the “Christian life” for us. He became “just like us” and demonstrated what can be done when we walk in submission to, and in loving relationship with, his Father.

The article states:

Jesus tells Mack that he is “the best way any human can relate to Papa or Sarayu.” Not the only way, but merely the best way. (Albert Mohler interjects)

This seems a little nit-picky as if comparing his work of fiction to the scrutiny that Scripture can stand up under. You had better dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s or we will crucify you… or at least cast out your name as evil just like Jesus said would happen to true prophets.

William Paul Young knows Jesus is the Only way to the Father. I’m sure this summa cum laude Bible College graduate (with some seminary) has John 14:6 memorized. We can all read it for ourselves and plainly know that Jesus says:

“I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me. 7 If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him! …Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. 11 Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.” (John 14)

WOW! This is exactly what William Paul Young says in the Shack.

The article states:

In another chapter, “Papa” corrects Mack’s theology by asserting, “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.”

Now isn’t that beautiful? It’s God’s joy to cure it.

In my own experience and according to Romans 1 this is true. He hands people over to sins effects – those who are insisting on leaving. People suffer the effects of sins consequences. God doesn’t want those effects of sin to remain permanent. He is not willing that ANY should perish. He is on a rescue mission still to save every last one of us.

We are the ones who are harming ourselves through unbelief and continued willful rejection of the free gift of eternal life – which, by the way, IS defined by relationship with the Trinity living inside of you:

“For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3

He gives eternal life to those Papa gives to him and anyone who comes to Jesus ARE the ones Papa gives! Check this out:

“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (I will never reject them).” John 6:37 (<–the context of this, wow!)

Pretty awesome! right?

And this:

“Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.” John 14:23

And of course we know that the Spirit lives in every believer!

Romans 8:9 says:

Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”

They travel in a pack! If Jesus is your Savior you have the Trinity living in you  who are eager to fellowship with you and show you how to truly live and love and have fullness of life!

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.” John 10:10

There is a scene in the film that moved me when Mack was sitting down with Papa, Son, and Holy Spirit around the dinner table. It was SO beautiful and reminded me of this:

 “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” – Jesus, Revelation 3:20

The article states:

“The relationship of the Father to the Son, revealed in a text like John 17, is rejected in favor of an absolute equality of authority among the persons of the Trinity. “Papa” explains that “we have no concept of final authority among us, only unity.” In one of the most bizarre paragraphs of the book, Jesus tells Mack: “Papa is as much submitted to me as I am to him, or Sarayu to me, or Papa to her. Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same way.”

I think this is beautiful. Could it be that any hierarchical understandings of the Trinity are just plain wrong? Honestly I have no idea what people believe about a hierarchy in the Trinity anyway. Hasn’t Jesus submitted himself fully to the Father? Doesn’t the Holy Spirit? Does the Father “submit” back? Well, he answers Jesus requests. Doesn’t God submit to us when he allows us to think, say, and do as we please? Doesn’t he submit to our prayers? Isn’t there ample evidence in Scripture and in your own life for this?

Let’s read John 17 – I find it bizarre Albert Mohler doesn’t at least quote even a verse? I LOVE this chapter!

After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. 2 For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. 3 And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. 4 I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5 Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.

6 “I have revealed you[a] to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, 8 for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.

9 “My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. 10 All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. 11 Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name;[b] now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. 12 During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me.[c] I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.

13 “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. 14 I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.

20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. 24 Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!

25 “O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. 26 I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”

WOW! Highlight this one: “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me”

Papa loves you as much as he loves Jesus! He is bringing you up into the most elevated place: One with God! Forever to share in all his Glory!

The Shack barely scratches the surface to how scandalous the message of the Good News of Jesus is. Anyone who truly believes it has to question, “Is it really this good?” God would say, “You have no idea!”

Next point:

“The most controversial aspects of The Shack‘s message have revolved around questions of universalism, universal redemption, and ultimate reconciliation. Jesus tells Mack: “Those who love me come from every system 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.” Jesus adds, “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, my Beloved.”
Mack then asks the obvious question — do all roads lead to Christ? Jesus responds, “Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.”
Given the context, it is impossible not to draw essentially universalistic or inclusivistic conclusions about Young’s meaning. “Papa” chides Mack that he is now reconciled to the whole world. Mack retorts, “The whole world? You mean those who believe in you, right?” “Papa” responds, “The whole world, Mack.”

He plainly says: “(Jesus says) I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, my Beloved.”

That sounds awesome! Sign me up!

But what about that MOST scandalous statement of the book just before that, “I have no desire to make them Christian”?

At this point I would like to call Wm Paul Young to the stand.

William Paul Young, do you swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

What us your response to this scandalous thingy you said in your work of fiction for your children?

Well, here’s what I have to say about that

In the movie, “Jesus” points out the obvious: “I am not a Christian”. Even the name “Christian” didn’t crop up until decades after Christ’s ascension. They were originally dubbed “followers of the Way” and considered a sect of Judaism. How alien would Christianity today appear to those first followers?

I believe it is William Paul Young’s belief that Jesus came to liberate ALL of humanity from everything that hinders the fullness of life and joy and bring us ALL into the family of God and into union and sweet fellowship with the Trinity.

The “Christian religion” that William Paul Young grew up in was opposed to this purpose of God for him. He instead was introduced into a performance mentality religion that wasn’t really about God or the joyful Good News and it destroyed him. I can relate.

William Paul Young: “Jesus was always challenging the dogma of religion…And it’s always been you know, religion that has been the primary impediment to actual relationship with God, because it creates a mythology about performance — that you can perform your way into the appeasement of the deity.”

“It’s God’s intention for us to become fully human again. And that’s what I’m trying to describe is — let me tell you about becoming human, for me, because I’ve gotten lost inside the performance stuff and the religious stuff, because I was so damaged and I have a long ways to go. It took a long time for me to become a child. And it took a long time to destroy the mythologies that existed in my own mind and heart about the character and nature of God as well as who I was.” (source)

So maybe he is trying to get to the heart of what Christ meant to be his true follower (who will be known by their love) and questioning the loaded word, “Christian”, with all its preconceptions and baggage. Unfortunately, that freaks us out. We can’t hear another word he says or receive from him because he scared us. But I think hearing his testimony will change our mind on that. He loves Jesus, Papa, and the Holy Spirit. He, of course is a Christian who loves the church which is the body of Christ that spans and supersedes all institutions of man.

As far as the inclusivity of the Good News, please hear this:

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” Ephesians 1:13

The Good News is for you! The Good News is for you!

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” Romans 8:31

As for the other points. Of course Jesus followers come from every tribe and language and are saved from every religion that they may have been born and brainwashed into! Check this out:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” Revelation 17:9

Jesus is revealing himself to Muslims in dreams and millions have come to faith in Christ. Perhaps a million from Iran alone:

“Despite the crackdown, there is now a growing movement of Christians in the Islamic Republic. Groups like Open Doors USA estimate around 450,000 practicing Christians in the country, while other estimates record more than 1 million Christians in Iran.” (source: http://www.foxnews.com/…/irans-secret-christian…)

You know, I think there will be many millions more in heaven also who never heard the name of Jesus. I know that “seems” heretical to say but I’ve been thinking about this since I was a child. I loved learning about the Native American culture in my youth. And I always believed that the Great Spirit was God. I believe that given their level of knowledge and understanding prior to any clear witness of Jesus, if they “lived in love, they lived in God and God in them” just like Scripture tells us:

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” 1 John 4:16

YAY! I’m not a heretic! I have a Bible verse!

And think about the sheep and the goats parable Jesus told:

“But when the Son of Man[a] comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations[b] will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,[c] you were doing it to me!’

41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.[d] 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.” Matthew 25

These sheep didn’t know that they were actually serving Christ when they showed love. Those who truly love are the righteous in God’s sight.

The apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ said: “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

What is in a Name?

Did you know that Jesus name literally means “I AM Salvation”. It would be superstitious of us to think that his name is some sort of password into heaven right? Isn’t a name representing of the essence of someone? Jesus warns that there are many antiChrists (which literally means “in place of Christ”) going by name “Jesus”. I’m sure you have met some of their followers who are judgmental and just plain mean. And then you meet someone who really truly loves people well and you think, “how can you not be a Christian?”

Well, what if they are and just don’t know it? What if, because the name “Jesus” has been misrepresented to them so tragically, that they couldn’t see themselves becoming one of “those”? (“Those” actually referring to those steeped in an antichrist demonic religion calling themselves “Christian”).

Just some thoughts. I’m not the judge.

We are all very painfully aware of those who call themselves “Christian” who have no love. Their love has grown cold. Are these Christians even “saved” then? That is a difficult question. Some of these might be pastors… even well-respected and highly esteemed Most Honorable Reverend Dr. so and so.

This Scripture is worth reading:

“Either way, Christ’s love controls us.c Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.
16So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

18And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 5

Reconciling to the whole world. Did you see that? Did it mean anything when Jesus uttered the words from the cross: “It is finished”? Didn’t he pull something off? The above Scripture says, “we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life”. Romans 6 tells us that we died with him, were buried, and raised to live a new life – all of humanity was included in this. But people must receive this free gift and open the present to enjoy the gift..

Graham Cooke had this to say:

“The whole world has been reconciled to God. It doesn’t mean they are saved. It means they have a really good chance. It’s like when you get a credit card through the mail. All the benefits of that card belong to you but you can’t activate them until you get in touch with the benefactor behind the card and register. That’s what reconciliation is. We are saying to people that all the benefits of Heaven are available to you and we are here to connect you with the creator so that you can find Him and discover Him!”

As for claims of Universalism, even his critics point out that William Paul Young OFTEN says, “I am not a universalist”. And yet, no one seems to believe him. Yet I have heard that he does seem to be comfortable with term “hopeful universalist” – and of course we have to dive into what he means by this and if Scripture supports this view.

Here is what he has to say about universalism:

If you want to learn more about how he sees our (the entire worlds) inclusion in the finished work of Christ (like the Bible teaches but most don’t believe), and the hope that he has, there are talks on YouTube you can watch as William Paul Young teams up with  C Baxter Kruger:

further reading:

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3 thoughts on “The Shack, a Response to a Critic (Theology behind The Shack)

  1. Amen Daniel. Good points.

    On the universalist claims, saying that salvation and reconciliation are universal is not the same thing as being a universalist. Young calls himself a “hopeful” universalist, meaning that he hopes that all will accept God’s invitation (which is the same as God’s will – 2 Pet.3:9). There’s a good article from another evangelical in response to Mohler on Paul Young’s site here: http://wmpaulyoung.com/universal-reconciliation/

    Young’s theology is almost identical to that of C.S. Lewis and respected theologians like George McDonald and James and T.B. Torrance. Not to mention, most of the early church fathers like Athanasius and the Cappadocian fathers who, ironically, were framers and original defenders of Christian orthodoxy! Nobody calls these people heretics.

    It sounds like a lot of Mohler’s objections are Cessationist objections. There is nothing the book and movie can do to make them happy about that. 🙂

  2. Pingback: The Scandal of The Shack (It Changed My Life) | Daniel Lovett

  3. Pingback: Universalism? (Theology behind the Shack) | Daniel Lovett

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