The Shack: the premise

Let the simple be warned: the god you may draw closer to in The Shack is not the true and Living God. It is a false god, and William Paul Young is a false prophet. Do not be led away by his lies.

(This is part 1 in a 4-part series. See also part 2, part 3, and part 4.)

The Shack by William Paul Young (Windblown Media, 2007) has been on the New York Times Best Seller list up until as recently as this month. A news release from the publisher from May 3 of this year says:

With 10 million copies now in print, The Shack continues on the NY Times Best Seller List for the 138th consecutive week, including 52 weeks at #1. It has been on the USA Today Top 150 List for 169 weeks and was ranked by USA Today as the 6th Best-Selling book of 2008 and 2009. The Shack was ranked by Nielsen as the Top Best-Selling book of 2008 and the 2nd Best-Selling book of 2009.

The Shack also continues to make waves in foreign markets. It has been translated into 34 languages. In Brazil, over one million copies have now been sold and in Germany, the book currently sits at #3. The Shack has also become a bestseller in Canada, the U.K., South Africa and South Korea.

In 2010, the L.A. Times said:

“The Shack” has become a 12-million-copy-selling phenomenon and the biggest Christian publishing sensation in decades.


The book includes several glowing endorsements, including these:

“This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good!” –Eugene Peterson

“THE SHACK is the most absorbing work of fiction I’ve read in many years. My wife and I laughed, cried, and repented of our own lack of faith along the way. THE SHACK will leave you craving for the presence of God.” –Michael W. Smith

“Reading THE SHACK during a very difficult transition in my life, this story has blown the door wide open to my soul.” –Wynonna Judd

“The Shack will change the way you think about God forever.” –Kathy Lee Gifford, NBC’s Today Show

Sounds like this book could really be edifying to the saints. In fact, you seldom hear such glowing endorsements of Scripture itself. Perhaps for many, The Shack will be like Scripture lite–a way of getting your feet wet with some truths from the Bible if you’re not ready to dive in to the real thing yet, or a helpful way of being reminded of the truths of the Bible if you’ve forgotten them, eh?

Thirsty and dry

On the back cover, there is this:

“In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant THE SHACK wrestles with the timeless question: Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain? The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You’ll want everyone you know to read this book!”

A quote from inside the story displays this desire for a relationship with God that is personal:

Try as he might, Mack could not escape the desperate possibility that the note just might be from God after all, even if the thought of God passing notes did not fit well with his theological training. In seminary he had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring to have them only listen to and follow sacred Scripture, properly interpreted, of course. God’s voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects.
(pp. 65-66)

In seminary, Mack had been taught that “God’s voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects.” How cold and dead. How distant, and inaccessible, and hopeless. Surely we all would hope that we don’t serve a god who has been captured and preserved on paper like a beautiful but dead butterfly pinned in a butterfly collection, obscured and lost behind multiple layers of moderation and interpretation such that we can barely catch a glimpse even of that fading glory.

Now, we know from Scripture that God’s Word is not dead, but living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword. And that the grass withers and the flower fades but the Word of the LORD stands forever. And that over and over again throughout history, spiritual dryness has been the result of man’s sin — man ignores and suppresses God’s truth in unrighteousness, and a major consequence is that God withdraws the light of His presence, and the people groan. And that God always responds to the prayers of His people and sends His preachers to speak the truth of His Word and call His people to repentance. Then He sends the showers of blessing again; so that we say with the prophet Hosea:

“Come, let us return to the LORD.
For He has torn us, but He will heal us;
He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.
He will revive us after two days;
He will raise us up on the third day,
That we may live before Him.
So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth.”
– Hosea 6:1-3 NASB

Is The Shack, then, going to faithfully speak God’s truth, rebuking us for the ways we have unwittingly (or even eagerly) imbibed the spirit of the age and suppressed the truth in unrighteousness? Will it bring God’s word of condemnation against our sin and call us to repentance? Will it get under our skin with the gospel, warning us from Scripture to flee from the wrath to come? Brought low by our heightened awareness of our sin and our absolute destitution before a holy God, will we fall on our faces in holy fear, crying out for mercy, and find the glorious truth that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”?

The Shack does indeed rebuke us and condemn sins, but not sins as defined by God’s Word. In fact, over and over again the book dares to take the very Word of God and say, You fool, for believing these lies. In this the book is more brazen than the serpent in the garden, who dared only question God’s word: “Did God really say…?”

Let the simple be warned: the god you may draw closer to in The Shack is not the true and Living God. It is a false god, and William Paul Young is a false prophet. Do not be led away by his lies.

If the Lord wills, in future posts we will show some of the major ways in which The Shack attacks the Word of God.

This entry was posted in book reviews, false teaching, honoring God's Word, Who is this Jesus?. Bookmark the permalink.

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