I’ve read several reviews on The Shack by William P. Young. I first read the book almost 10 years ago. I just finished reading it a second time. Here’s a disclaimer: the first time I read it, I read it as a novel. But the second time I read the book, I was intent on exactly what Young was saying about God.
Now, I’ve heard the comment, “It isn’t a theological book, it’s a novel!” Here’s my question: How can a book about a man’s encounter/dialogue with God NOT be about theology. Here are some of the topics I noted that the book deals with: God’s basic nature; freedom of choice; what is truth; why God allows pain; the humanity of the Deity; the Trinity; God’s anger; preconceived notions about God; punishment for sin; order of the Trinity; authority; structure; trusting God; original sin; purpose of Christ; why we fear; Lordship; submission; judgment; accomplishment of the cross; nature of the church; salvation; discerning truth; God’s love; rules; priorities; forgiveness; etc.
That is certainly not an exhaustive list but hopefully it reveals the vast number of important subjects the book addresses. Everyone will agree that there is A LOT of theology in the book. Make no mistake about that point. The question is not: Is there theology in the book? Of course there is theology in the book. Theology simply means the study of the nature of God. Let’s face it, Mack (I’m assuming you read the book and know Mack is the main character) encounters the Triune God in a shack! God does a lot of talking! This presents a very clear theological issue when someone takes a very serious subject – the issue of pain & suffering and God addresses it. That is heavy theology.
Literally as I am in the middle of writing this post, I discovered that Young released, just this month, another book, Lies we believe about God. In his second book, Young clearly writes a theological book. It is no longer camouflaged as a novel. Every writer brings to the table a world-view, beliefs about God, etc.
There are many parts of The Shack that concern me. But there is absolutely no mistake of the clarity in which Young presents his theological perspective on salvation as he writes in Lies We Believe about God:
God does not wait for my choice and then “save me.” God has acted decisively and universally for all humankind. Now our daily choice is to either grow and participate in that reality or continue to live in the blindness of our own independence.
Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation?
That is exactly what I am saying!
Here’s the truth: every person who has ever been conceived was included in the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. When Jesus was lifted up, God “dragged” all human beings to Himself (John 12: 32). Jesus is the Savior of all humankind, especially believers (1 Timothy 4: 10). Further, every single human being is in Christ (John 1: 3), and Christ is in them, and Christ is in the Father (John 14: 20). When Christ—the Creator in whom the cosmos was created—died, we all died. When Christ rose, we rose (2 Corinthians 5).
Young embraces the heresy of universalism. That which is somewhat shaded in The Shack breaks out in the light in Lies we Believe about God. Other bedrock theological truths are blatantly thrown under the bus in Young’s Lies we Believe about God. For a fuller review of Lies we Believe about God, click here.
What is the bottom line?
My primary concern is the erosion of discernment among followers of Jesus Christ. The Shack is an emotionally charged book that is now a movie. The book sold over 20 million copies. The movie may have some entertainment value but it is loaded with dangerous, heretical theology! Some will say that it is only a movie and we need to chill out about it. I say that the book/movie is an emotionally charged teaching tool of errant theology. Maybe you have heard people say, “The Bible says, ‘God helps those who help themselves.'” I’ve heard many people say that. Of course that is not in the Bible. But it was taught somewhere and undiscerning, good people believed it because of the way it was packaged. That is my fear with The Shack! We need to see through the emotional smoke screen and realize that the agenda that began in the Garden of Eden has not changed! What is that agenda? The agenda is to lure humans to believe lies about God that will separate them from God.
The Shack followed by Lies We Believe about God only prove the point that we must read the Bible more than social media posts and novels. The deceiver is certainly at work. I wonder if those who ardently defended Young and his novel are now going to be just as clear in exposing the lies propagated by both books. Remember, what we truly believe always comes to light. Timeless truths do not change.