Taken Behind the Woodshed and Beat (part 2)- A Personal Review of “The Shack”

Yesterday we started into my review of the novel The Shack, with today being set aside to dissect what Young has written from a theological  side of things.  Now, it has been well documented that Young and his supporters are using the genre of fiction as a mask for any false teachings contained in this book, but since so many people think this story is of Pilgrim’s Progress standing I don’t think it is fair to evaluate the claims as anything less than what the author wishes for us to believe.  (And to be honest, I don’t know how comfortable I would feel attributing something to God, even God in my fiction novel, if I wasn’t pretty sure I believed it.)

First, I will say that not everything in this book is bad or disagreeable.  There are certainly points where the issues he raises or the statements he makes, though out of the evangelical mainstream, still carry more truth than not.  However, the sheer amount and magnitude of inaccuracy outweigh any positive that may exist.

So, let’s begin with the obvious, that being the author’s agenda in developing a Mother God (as well as a female Holy Spirit).  Of course it is true that God is neither male nor female, but that does little to change the fact that God is pretty much always presented as a father in Scripture.  Even taking the two places in the Old Testament where it is possible that God is represented as a mother (and not just being compared with a mother, which I think is more accurate), the overwhelming number of Scriptures about it, including the entirety of the New Testament, present God as father.  This is not just a product of male chauvinist society; it is biblical illustration.  Just because we have put so much value on feminism and egalitarianism does not mean that God gives a rip about being viewed equally as male and female.  Yet Young rides this image to death.  Again, in his elementary story writing technique, Young pushes this idea over and over and over until finally you want to yell “Enough!”  I mean, it’s almost too much constructing an excuse for calling a female God ‘Papa,’ but then to constantly remind us that the main character finds a female God hard to grasp is overkill.  Clearly this is in there for controversy, as a biblically defensible reason would seemingly fall on its face.

Next, consider the other image which Young beats to death in the book, that being the idea that both Jesus AND God the Father bear the scars from the cross.  There are two things wrong with this.  First, it is inaccurate.  It did not scar the Father to have his Son sacrificed.  In fact, it was the opposite.  Isaiah 53.10 says, “It was the will of the Lord (Father) to crush him (the Son).”  The Father was not tortured in doing this; through the sacrifice of his son, God was propitiated, which means that his righteous anger was satisfied.  God was satisified by the death of his son.  Obviously, this is not a popular message in the era of belief in the “divine child abuse” theory of the atonement, but it is Scriptural nonetheless.

The second reason why depicting scars on the Father and the Son is inaccurate is because this, along with the statement on page 101 that the whole Trinity made itself fully human and limited in the incarnation, advances an old, old, old heresy known as Sabellianism, or modalism.    This is the teaching that God exists in different modes as experienced by the believer.  It also historically teaches that God the Father suffered on the cross.  This heresy has been out of vogue for at least a good millenium and a half, but apparently is receiving a revival in the popular appeal of this book.  As a note, if a heresy is so false that it goes dormant for 1500 years, it is probably a good indication that it really is wrong.  Yet not only does Young present it, he goes back to it again and again by constantly retelling that the character of God the Father has scars on his wrists like Jesus.

The final issue that I would like to raise is the confusion in the book over salvation, how its accomplished, and who receives it.  Basically, from reading the passages on pages 161 through 166, page 184, page 194, and page 227, one must at least declare that Young is teaching to a very Arminian view of universal reconciliation, and is probably even promoting universalism.  In fact, on page 227 it says,

In Jesus, I have forgiven all humans for their sins against me, but only some choose relationship. . . .  When Jesus forgave those who nailed him to the cross, they were no longer in his debt, nor mine.

And then, a few paragraphs lower it says,

When you forgive someone you certainly relaease him from judgment, but without true change, no real relationship can be established.

Now, in reading that, there is no way left that a person could find to say this book promotes a biblical view of judgment as is portrayed in places like Matthew 25, 2 Thessalonians 1.9, or Revelation 20.  The worst someone can end up with is not being in “real relationship” with God.  However, no judgment, no separation, means that these people would be allowed into heaven, the New Jerusalem.  But this is a place where “God himself will be with” the inhabitants, so how can a person be there and not be in “real relationship” with God.  Honestly, I think the author is so confused in trying to be hip and tolerant, but only succeeds in leaving us with a completely impotent, indecisive, and inconsistent God.  It’s surprising how whenever we try and help God, we wind up only making him look weaker; Young demonstrates this to a tee.

So, let’s revisit Eugene Peterson’s quote once more:

[The Shack] has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his.  It’s that good!

Really?  Do we believe this looking back over all we’ve just said?  Now, I haven’t read Pilgrim’s Progress myself, but I had always thought it was supposed to be a pretty solid work done by a theologically-sound Calvinist.  Maybe, and I believe this is actually the case, Eugene Peterson has absolutely no idea what is good literature and even moreso what’s good theology.  Of course, keep in mind, he is the guy who wrote The Message, so . . .

Anyways, I’ll close with four words: don’t buy the hype.  This is not a life changing book, unless of course you read it and embrace all that it teaches, in which case you have just become a heretic.  Maybe that is strong language, but when I see a wolf like this coming in and devouring sheep the way it has I can find no better word.  Well, maybe one: pathetic.  Try reading the Bible instead.  It has a lot more to say than this glorified dollar bin crap.

2 Responses to “Taken Behind the Woodshed and Beat (part 2)- A Personal Review of “The Shack””

  1. strong words from ToddonGod « Interstitial Says:

    [...] here is part 2 where Todd addresses the [...]

  2. Keith Walters Says:

    Thanks for the critique

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