Thursday, October 16, 2008

Have you read "The Shack?"

There is a wildly popular book out there called "The Shack" by William P. Young that's become somewhat of a Christian fad (think WWJD bracelets, The Prayer of Jabez, etc). I started reading it upon the recommendation of a friend (and it's on the shelf of every store, everyone at work is reading it, etc), but a few chapters in something in my spirit was like, "Ummmm...something here isn't right..." and I put it down. I'm not Bible scholar, but there seemed to be some huge doctrinal holes.

I would encourage anyone who has read this book or who is reading it right now to ask God for a spirit of discernment. Just because a book is sold in a Christian bookstore or is endorsed by Christian friends or a church does not mean it is sound and in line with God's Word. We are called to be as gentle as doves and wise as serpents in all things, and there are plenty of things in this world that are packaged as truth that don't line up with the Truth.

Dr. Michael Youssef - a well-known pastor and author - read the book himself after hearing about how many people in his congregation were eating it up. He went on to outline thirteen distinct ways that "The Shack" contradicts the Bible in its claims about the deity of Christ, the role of the Trinity, sin, and justice - to name a few.

Following is Dr. Youssef's list of the book's claims that are blatantly contradictory to God's Word. As for me, I'd rather read some good Amish fiction, thank you.

1. God the Father was crucified with Jesus.
Because God’s eyes are pure and cannot look upon sin, the Bible says that God would not look upon His own beloved Son as He hung on the Cross, carrying our sins (Habakkuk 1:13; Matthew 27:45).

2. God is limited by His love and cannot practice justice.
The Bible declares that God’s love and His justice are two sides of the same coin — equally a part of the personality and the character of God (Isaiah 61:8; Hosea 2:19).

3. On the Cross, God forgave all of humanity, whether they repent or not. Some choose a relationship with Him, but He forgives them all regardless.
Jesus explained that only those who come to Him will be saved (John 14:6).

4. Hierarchical structures, whether they are in the Church or in the government, are evil.
Our God is a God of order (Job 25:2).

5. God will never judge people for their sins.
The Word of God repeatedly invites people to escape from the judgment of God by believing in Jesus Christ, His Son (Romans 2:16; 2 Timothy 4:1-3).

6. There is not a hierarchical structure in the Godhead, just a circle of unity.
The Bible says that Jesus submitted to the will of the Father. This doesn’t mean that one Person is higher or better than the other; just unique. Jesus said, “I came to do the will of Him who sent me. I am here to obey my Father.” Jesus also said, “I will send you the Holy Spirit” (John 4:34, 6:44, 14:26, 15:26).

7. God submits to human wishes and choices.
Far from God submitting to us, Jesus said, “Narrow is the way that leads to eternal life.” We are to submit to Him in all things, for His glory and because of what He has accomplished for us (Matthew 7:13-15).

8. Justice will never take place because of love.
The Bible teaches that when God’s love is rejected, and when the offer of salvation and forgiveness is rejected, justice must take place or God has sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for nothing (Matthew 12:20; Romans 3:25-26).

9. There is no such a thing as eternal judgment or torment in hell.
Jesus’ own description of hell is vivid … it cannot be denied (Luke 12:5, 16:23).

10. Jesus is walking with all people in their different journeys to God, and it doesn’t matter which way you get to Him.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one will come to the Father but by me” (John 14:6).

11. Jesus is constantly being transformed along with us.
Jesus, who dwells in the splendor of heaven, sits at the right hand of God, reigning and ruling the universe. The Bible says, “In Him there is no change, for He is yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 11:12, 13:8; James 1:17).

12. There is no need for faith or reconciliation with God because everyone will make it to heaven.
Jesus said, “Only those who believe in me will have eternal life” (John 3:15, 3:36, 5:24, 6:40).

13. The Bible is not true because it reduces God to paper.
The Bible is God-breathed. Sure, there were many men through 1,800 years who put pen to paper (so to speak), each from different professions and different backgrounds, but the Holy Spirit infused their work with God’s words. These men were writing the same message from Genesis to Revelation. If you want to read more about the place of Christ in the Scripture, read “We Preach Christ” (2 Timothy 3:16).


The Smith Family said...

Wow. Hadn't heard of the book until now. Thanks for the heads up Jenny!

Emrys said...

Beware the good Doctor's knee-jerk reaction to "The Shack" of boiling it down to 13 doctrinal errors. As far as I can tell, Mr. Young did not intend the book to be a treatise on systematic theology. The good Doctor seems to have taken it that way--and this makes me sad. I suspect that the way most people (including Christians) connect with the book is not in its subtle or implied doctrinal points; I think they connect with it because it is a profoundly rich, graceful, and honest story.

Emrys said...

And according to point number 6, Dr. Youssef is a heretic.

Jenny said...

Em, you are far more the Biblical scholar than I. The Davinci Code was an even better and more riveting work of fiction, but I know people whose worldview was totally rocked by it. Similarly, I know people who are reading The Shack and delving into it as biblical truth...or wanting it replace or "update" biblical Truth. Churches are taking it up as part of Bible studies. I'm not saying not to read it, and I don't believe Mr. Young intended it to be a treatise on systematic theology either. But for people who endorse the book to say things like it taught them more about God than three years of seminary? Clearly it's being grasped by many as more than simply fiction. And that's why it's imperiative to be certain of what the Bible states and employ discernment.

Granted, it does connect with the reader emotionally and flows as a great story, and Mr. Young is an excellent writer who develops characters richly. I'll pass on the study guide, though.

Emrys said...

The great power of "The Shack" is that it takes a thing that is so often described as a "what" (God), and makes God a "who." It does so by the means of telling a story. This is also what the scriptures do; they make God into a "who" with which people can connect, to whom people can pray, and with whom they may enter the kingdom of heaven. A grave danger here is that we respond to the mystical and edgy threads of theology found in "The Shack" with a knee-jerk response that uses an abstract "what" derived from the scriptures. Instead, we ought to ask ourselves, "What have people discovered in The Shack that is true and good and reflective of the same God whom we find in the scriptures?
Perhaps this is the work of discernment you are suggesting. If so: good on ya! Carry on.
I want to celebrate anything that gets people to say, Wow, this Jesus guy is cool. Maybe I should look into walking with him.

Jenny said...

Em, I love a good conversation with you. What would we do without the bloggosphere? (Is that a word?) Anyway, yes, I identify with chewing up the meat and spitting out the bones. And that's what I refer to when I say to exercise discernment. Anything that causes one to ask questions and go to the Word and start digging up God's truths is good. Allowing it to replace or update God's word is not. We live in a culture of people who are not well-practiced in measuring things in a discerning manner; we're more likely to follow popular thought. We should always, always be on our guard for things that look lovely and truthful but are not. It takes very little to deviate from plumb (plum??), but before we know it, we're way off.
But like you said, if it prompts someone to say, "Hey, I never really gave God much thought and I want to know more about Him" and they start digging into what He actually says about himself, then right on. I fear that many will say, "Hey, I never really gave God much thought, but this book showed me He's really cool" and then walk away feeling like this piece of fiction wrapped it all up really nicely for them, and therein lies the danger.

But all in all, God is bigger than The Shack, The Davinci Code, Dante's Inferno, and whatever else. He can speak well enough for Himself, and He is found when sought. If someone reads The Shack and it's a stepping stone that brings them to their knees and His Word, then rock on. I only exhort myself and others to hold things (all things) up to Scripture and separate the wheat from the chaff.

Thanks for the thoughts, big bro.

Emrys said...

No prob. Always a joy. I just wish we were close enough for me to observe that wide-eyed grin you give when you're excited. Next time.

Aye: "blogosphere" and "plumb." Well done.

Jenny said...

Aye to you, Em: a good, healthy provocation of discourse, always a delight. :D

WWBS? (What Would Bono Say?)

Emrys said...

Bono already said what he'd say:

"Grace" (All That You Can't . . .)