The god of The Shack preaches a different gospel: a gospel where there are only sheep and no goats; where all the soil is good soil; where there is only wheat, no chaff or tares to be burned; where the broad road does not lead to destruction; where the evil slave won’t be cut in pieces and assigned a place with the unbelievers. A gospel where there’s no need to keep your lamps trimmed and burning, because this god would never say ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ A gospel where there’s no need to prepare, no need to repent, no need to stay awake, no wrath to come.
How foreign the gospel preached by John the Baptist sounds after listening to the god of The Shack:
John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people. – Luke 3:16-18 NASB
According to The Shack, we are not saved from wrath, we are not saved to obedience, and Jesus is no Lord.
1. No wrath to come
Papa: That kind of god could possibly act without love, and that would be a disaster. And that is surely not me… The God who is — the I am who I am — cannot act apart from love! (102)
“But if you are God, aren’t you the one spilling out great bowls of wrath and throwing people into a burning lake of fire?” Mack could feel his deep anger emerging again, pushing out the questions in front of it, and he was a little chagrined at his own lack of self-control. But he asked anyway, “Honestly, don’t you enjoy punishing those who disappoint you?”
At that, Papa stopped her preparations and turned toward Mack. He could see a deep sadness in her eyes. “I am not who you think I am, Mackenzie. I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.” (119-120)
Ah yes, sin an offense against ourselves, not against a holy God.
Is that what Scripture teaches?
No, our God speaks much differently:
“But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes…
– Luke 12:45-47
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
– Matthew 13:47-50
The evil slave acted wickedly and will be cut in pieces. The slothful slave knew his master’s will and did not obey it and will receive many lashes. The wicked will be taken out from among the righteous and, far from already having completed their suffering by sin being its own punishment, they will then be thrown “into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” What a surprise it will be for those who think that the consequences of their wickedness end at death, when they find that they’ve just begun!
As for whether God enjoys punishing those who disappoint Him, He does not:
“Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?'”
– Ezekiel 33:11
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
– 2 Peter 3:9
But we know that He will surely punish the wicked:
But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
– Romans 2:5-10
Everybody won’t be treated all the same, when the Man comes around:
“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left…Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels…’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
– Matthew 25:31-33, 41, 46
Meanwhile, the woman Folly assures Mack with her sweet lies. “There’s no destruction,” she says:
Sophia: “Mackenzie, judgment is not about destruction, but about setting things right.” (169)
But it is written:
“Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”‘ But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire.”
– Matthew 22:4-7
2. Who yo daddy is?
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
– Matthew 7:13-14
Narrow gate? Naw, says William Paul Young. Everyone is already God’s child!
J: God, who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things — ultimately emerging as the real — and any appearances that mask that reality will fall away. (112)
Papa: “Mackenzie, I have no favorites; I am just especially fond of him.”
“You seem to be especially fond of a lot of people,” Mack observed with a suspicious look. “Are there any who you are not especially fond of?”
She lifted her head and rolled her eyes as if she were mentally going through the catalog of every being ever created. “Nope, I haven’t been able to find any. Guess that’s jes’ the way I is.” (118-119)
“There was no way he could sentence Katie, or any of his other children, to an eternity in hell just because she had sinned against him.” (162)
“Seems pretty risky,” Mack surmised.
“Maybe for you, but not for me. There has never been a question that what I wanted from the beginning, I will get.” Papa sat forward and crossed her arms on the table. “Honey, you asked me what Jesus accomplished on the cross; so now listen to me carefully: through his death and resurrection, I am now fully reconciled to the world.”
“The whole world? You mean those who believe in you, right?”
“The whole world, Mack. All I am telling you is that reconciliation is a two way street, and I have done my part, totally, completely, finally. It is not the nature of love to force a relationship but it is the nature of love to open the way.” (192)
But unless we are born again, we have a distinctly different father…
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God…You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
– John 8:42,44
Here’s Folly again, rebuking Mack for believing God’s Word:
Sophia: “He loves each one according to his knowledge of the being of that son or daughter. You believe he will condemn most to an eternity of torment, away from His presence and apart from His love.” (162)
It is true that He will never leave nor forsake His own. But not everyone is His child. And woe to the one who has no hiding place on that Day!
3. A terrifying expectation of judgment
So, what will God’s disposition be toward those who never repent? Or what are the consequences of refusing to repent? How faithful is Young to warn souls to flee from the wrath to come?
Of course, Young does the opposite. The Shack is a study in lulling the unrepentant one to sleep, inoculating him against calls to repentance and teaching him that there is no day of wrath to prepare for.
Imagine the god of The Shack uttering anything close to the Apostle Peter’s warning:
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority.
– 2 Peter 2:4-10
What are the consequences for the one who will not obey? There is an expectation all right, and not a happy one:
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
– Hebrews 10:26-31
The day of God is coming:
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless…
– 2 Peter 3:9-14
Harvest time is coming:
Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.” So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.
– Rev 14:18-20
The wrath of the Lamb is coming:
When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also. I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
– Rev 6:9-17
William Paul Young counsels laxity and comfort rather than vigilance and preparation. But pity the unbeliever or the slothful one who heeds his counsel and does not discover his error until the Day of Wrath is upon him!
Of course our God does not have only authority, expectations, and wrath. Oh, He has these and so much more!
See how He describes Himself:
Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”
– Exodus 34:6-7
Hear the testimony of the psalmist:
I waited patiently for the LORD;
And He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay,
And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear
And will trust in the LORD.
How blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust,
And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.
Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which You have done,
And Your thoughts toward us;
There is none to compare with You.
If I would declare and speak of them,
They would be too numerous to count.
– Psalm 40:1-5
O unrepentant one, repent while it is called today, or you will be doomed to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels! Save your soul and flee to Christ!
And all of us: let us not shrink from the holy God of glory, whose presence is terrible, awesome, and majestic; let us not be led astray by false teachers and their safe, clean, comfortable, manageable, impotent idols of wood and stone that cannot save; but let us fall on our faces before our Maker, confessing our sins and crying out for mercy. Let us take His yoke upon us and learn from Him, for He is gentle and humble in heart, and we will find rest for our souls. Let us gratefully enter His sanctuary with the assembly of His people, the redeemed of the Lord. Then, with the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before, let us lift our voices in praise to the One who saved us from wrath to obedience, who is our Shepherd and our King and our Husband, and sing:
The LORD is righteous in all His ways
And kind in all His deeds.
The LORD is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.
He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He will also hear their cry and will save them.
The LORD keeps all who love Him,
But all the wicked He will destroy.
My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.
– Psalm 145:17-21