Over the last few months I’ve been hearing more and more about a book titled The Shack by William Young, who goes by his middle name, Paul. Some, like my mother, are profoundly disturbed by the content of this book. Others are saying that it is the best book they have ever read. In fact Eugene Peterson says “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good.”
After reading a front page article in the Life section of USA Today and hearing a comment by a colleague, I decided to open the door on The Shack. Here’s the deal: I have to confess that Young’s stereotypical characterization of the Father as a large, beaming African-American woman, the Son as a Jew with a large nose, and the Holy Spirit as a mysterious Asian female makes me more than just a little queasy.
Furthermore, virtually every theological heresy begins with a misconception of the nature of God and The Shack is no exception. After chiding those he believes to have misconceptions about the Trinity, Young proceeds to compromise, confuse and outright contradict biblical orthodoxy.
For example, he pictures the Father bearing crucifixion scars as well as being incarnated in tandem with the Holy Spirit. Not only so, but he pontificates that Jesus has never drawn upon His nature as God to do anything. Of course those who have read the Bible even once will immediately recognize the falsity of that statement, particularly with respect to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
One more point. Young has Jesus – the Jew with the big nose – declaring “I am not a Christian and I have no desire to make them” – and the them is Buddhists, Mormons, Muslims, etc. – “Christians.” Indeed, Young describes Christians as religious fanatics and part of a sinful world system. Of course in sharp distinction the followers of Christ adopted the word “Christian” in the midst of suffering and persecution. You can see examples of that in the Book of Acts written by Luke or by Peter, such as 1 Peter 4:16.
The fact that The Shack is now being touted by those who take the sacred name of Jesus Christ upon their lips is, to me, a sad commentary on Christian discernment. Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle said it best: “If you haven’t read The Shack, don’t.” I suppose in the end it is books like this that make the need for discernment ministry ever more necessary.