About eighteen months ago I read William P. Young’s novel, The Shack. My purpose in doing so was that if the library book proved useful, I would buy a copy as a gift for my unsaved sister who is very attracted to new age philosophies, in the hope that this book might lead her to faith in Jesus Christ.
I will never purchase this book or recommend it to anyone. On the contrary I think it is at best a very poorly written novel, at worst, dangerous heresy.
As an avid reader and lover of great literature, from a purely literary point of view, I found this book to be poorly structured with a plot that does not develop and characters that are introduced in the first few chapters for no apparent reason. The book was neither edited nor published by a reputable publisher, Christian or otherwise.
As a writer, I am always concerned about writing truthfully and writing work which will have a positive influence in the world. As a Christian writer, I seek to glorify God in all I do, and particularly in what I write. I’ve been involved in writing groups and websites for over thirty years and enjoyed many stimulating conversations regarding not only how to write, but what to write about. “Write about what you know“ is an old adage. Whilst I respect the freedom of other writers to select their subject matter, I found it difficult to appreciate a best-seller that has at its heart the fictionalised murder of a young girl. There are many inspiring non-fiction accounts of actual families that have experienced shocking tragedies. The symbolism in this case is something you would not wish on your worst enemy.
The Shack is a novel which relies heavily on Christian theology. In a similar manner to Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, it has attracted a cult following which belies its literary worth. Like Brown’s work, when inaccuracies in the story which do not adhere to scripture are pointed out, its proponents are quick to scream out “it’s just a story!” Yet it is a story which seeks to explain the Trinity – God the Father, Jesus Christ His only Son, and the Holy Spirit. It also seeks to explain why a good God allows suffering.
If you want to know about the Trinity, read the Bible. If you want to know why a good God allows suffering, it’s in the story of Creation, Sin, human choices and Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. It’s all there. Every Christian bookstore has a plethora of Bibles, commentaries and guides and there are multitudes of Christian websites.
In the Bible we are warned not to add to or take away from scripture (Revelation 2:19), yet here we have a mere human devising his own descriptions of God, depicting two members of the Godhead as women, and putting his own words into their mouths.
According to the Bible, there is one and only one way to right relationship with God. That is through the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ accomplished at Calvary. (John 14:6, Acts 4:12). Christ is not a way to God, He is the only way.
Biblically, God the Father has authority over Christ the Son, as Jesus states in the gospels that He obeys His Father. eg Hebrews 10:7, John 14:31. The Father has knowledge unknown to His Son eg. Matthew 24:36. There is authority within the Trinity and there is certainly authority of all members of the Trinity over fallen humanity. We are redeemed through faith and by God’s grace, but we are fallen humans living in this world and owe God all honour and glory that is His due.
Throughout the Bible, those to whom God reveals Himself most clearly are overcome with awe at his holiness and shame of their sin eg. Isaiah’s majestic vision of the Lord on his throne is followed by his shame of his unclean mouth and God’s forgiveness (Isaiah 6). Similarly Peter witnesses a miraculous catch of fish, and realises his own human sinfulness compared to God’s great love and majesty, and falls at Jesus’ feet.
Biblically, the church, that is the body of believers in the world who have given their lives to God by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is known in scripture as ‘the bride of Christ.” The church was established by Jesus to be a witness to an unsaved world. We are instructed not to fall away from meeting together. (Hebrews 10:25) Yes, the church as an institution falls short many times. Many have been severely hurt and disillusioned by “church” people. Yet God loves his church and we have the responsibility as Christians to be part of a body that encourages others, worships corporately and teaches and learns together.
“All scripture is given by the inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). We are warned that there are those who will teach false doctrine. The devil himself, when tempting Adam and Eve and when tempting Jesus, distorted scripture. We are warned that there will false prophets, who come in sheep’s clothing, but who inwardly are ravaging wolves. (Matthew 7:15). A litmus test for the truth of witness is one that unashamedly proclaims the Gospel as given in the Bible and gives all glory and honour to God. Many Christian writers and artists include a dedication to God giving Him the glory on their work and websites; also many Christian websites offer a statement of what they believe.
The Gospel includes grace, forgiveness, love and relationships. It also includes the less palatable aspects of repentance, sacrifice, responsibility, suffering, obedience. Jesus, the Son of God, paid an incredibly high price in obedience, honour, suffering and abandonment on the Cross. Our justification is just one aspect of His death. We owe it to Him to hold what He did in the highest honour. Words cannot express.
It’s an old adage that bank tellers are quick to spot a forged note, not because they are highly trained in spotting forged notes, but because they handle the real thing all day long. Know God. Know Him through His living word, the Bible. Know Him through prayer. Know Him through Christian fellowship in a caring church. Know Him through the indwelling Holy Spirit which Father sent at Pentecost to be His witness in the world today. Know Him through Christian resource materials which honour Him and the gospel of the Bible as they seek to make His message widely known. May God give you wisdom and discernment as you seek an ever deepening relationship with Him.
Some useful links
Deceived by a Counterfeit Jesus: the twisted truths of The Shack and A Course in Miracles by Berit Kjos http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/08/shack.htm
Mark Driscoll discusses “The Shack” www.youtube.com/watch?v=pK65Jfny70Y
Consider the content on the Shack website theshackbook.com
What is the gospel journey message? http://www.dare2share.org/gospeljourney/
The Thread http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5qdXWnvynE&feature=related
The Thread http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5qdXWnvynE&feature=related
Never be reluctant to seek out your own resources on the internet and elsewhere and consider prayerfully many different points of view in order to form your own opinion on a subject.