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A Review of The Shack

It’s troubling that anyone who actually reads and loves the Bible would find reason to be even remotely interested in pursing an introduction to New Age philosophy, but apparently it’s currently sweeping evangelical Christianity with an insidious vengeance.

  • Susan Eby,
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It’s troubling that anyone who actually reads and loves the Bible would find reason to be even remotely interested in pursing an introduction to New Age philosophy, but apparently it’s currently sweeping evangelical Christianity with an insidious vengeance.

I confess, I wasn’t paying attention, so therefore, having received glowing reports of how “The Shack” by William P. Young would revolutionize my perception of God, I got myself a copy with the eager, albeit naïve assumption that it might have something constructive to contribute to my ever-growing faith.

What I found instead, however, might just as easily have been titled, “New Age 101” or even, “The Gospel According to John Lennon.” (Okay now, everybody hold hands across the aisle and sing together, “All You NEED-IS-LOVE…” But I digress.)

As I eagerly settled down with the book in hand, I confess that my first twinge of concern surfaced as I scanned the names of those who wrote enthusiastic endorsements on the cover. Wow. I was certainly not prepared to sell out the wisdom and insight of great past and present fathers of the faith, John Calvin, R.J. Rushdoony, Francis Schaeffer, John Piper, R.C. Sproul… for… Wynonna Judd?? Michael W. Smith?? Or how about a couple of barely post-college-age guys with a website called “” (I checked it out. For all of those who ‘don’t want to go to church anymore,’ this site is a hot spot.)

I delved into the book notwithstanding. Apparently the book was written by the author for his children, in order to explain to them the unconditional love and forgiveness of God. Okaaay… Let’s see… a story about a six-year-old girl, the youngest of several children, being savagely abducted by a crazed killer during a family camping trip… brutally murdered… her broken body hidden in a cave… Ah, pardon my glaring sarcasm, but I couldn’t help thinking, “Nice going, Dad!! I’m sure the kids slept well, totally secure in God’s great, unconditional love…” (But just for the record, THIS guy won’t be telling MY grandkids about God’s love any time soon!)

However, I persevered, as difficult as it was to read such horror, because glowing reports promised I really would come out at the other end with a better, greater, even “refreshing” new comprehension of God. The first flashing red alert, however, did not appear when the writer portrayed “God the Father” as a black woman, and the “Holy Spirit” as an Asian woman. (Jesus, of course, was a mild-mannered Middle Eastern …dare I say “Mama’s boy?”) This was strange, considering that the Bible is certainly clear on the fact that Jesus WAS “God made flesh.” Apart from Jesus, God the Father never has, and never will have a bodily form, and neither will the Holy SPIRIT, named ‘Spirit’ for a reason.

Besides other places like John 1:14, and 1 John 4:2, Hebrews 1 speaks so clearly about Jesus being “the brightness of [the Father’s] glory, and the express image of His person…” And Colossians 2:9 affirms that, In him [Christ Jesus] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”

Interestingly, this last verse is stated immediately after warning us to, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world…” [such as postmodern heresy, might I suggest] “…and not after Christ.”

Oh don’t get me wrong! This was a red alert, for sure… but it wasn’t the first red alert. The first red alert came with the main character’s assessment of the restraints the Bible supposedly holds that stifle one’s ability to independently hear from God.

“God’s voice,” Mack sarcastically summed up on pages 65-66, “had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects. It seemed that direct communication with God was something exclusively for the ancients and uncivilized, while educated Westerners’ access to God was mediated and controlled by the intelligentsia. Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book. Especially an expensive one bound in leather with gilt edges, or was that guilt edges…”

(“Uncivilized?” Is he referring to King David? To Moses, who was raised a prince of Egypt? To Paul the Apostle? Solomon the Wise? Doctor Luke…?? Or is this writer’s problem that those “educated in the Western world” aren’t getting their fair shake? But please note, he’s referring specifically here to a ‘secular’ education, because elsewhere in the book, the study of “Theology” is a dirty word.)

From that point on, it became futile to refute the myriad ways that the book deviated from the truth of Scripture, because Scripture had just lost its authority as the standard of measurement, the safety net into which we fall when deception presents itself as an angel of light. What results is that “anything goes,” anyone can “hear from God” (in fact, from ANY God) for himself-or-herself without restraint, and every individual is ‘free’ to do what is right in his-or-her own eyes. Sounds like a ripe setting for anarchy, wouldn’t you say?

In retrospect, actually the “first red alert” ought to have been the emasculated manner in which males, all through the book, were depicted, starting with the main character’s own father. Early on, the main character Mack (who throughout the story deferred to his wife as the wiser, stronger, more “together” of the two) seemed justified in his anger toward his father, a “Christian” of course, who routinely came home from church and beat his family members. By portraying Mack’s father as an extreme perversion of what a father ought to be, the writer seemed justified in elevating women to those roles characteristically filled by men, including, most notably, God the “Father”, thereby blurring the lines between male and female. Women, it seems, can fill literally any roles that males can fill, but even better.

Further, by labeling Mack’s father as a “Christian,” the writer seemed to believe he was justified in condemning traditional Christianity as hypocritical across the board, desperately in need of change and the creation of “a NEW kind of Christian!” (In fact, even “Jesus” himself refused to identify with that claim on page 182 in this book, adamantly denying that he is a ‘Christian,’ which means “Christ-one.” Is he having a problem with Jesus being the Christ? See I John 2:22.)

The implications of this male/female role reversal philosophy are huge! The first very obvious affect can be seen in the current widespread effeminization of the church at large, and particularly within this postmodern movement, whereby the strength and safety of church doctrine, Biblical creeds, and an unyielding adherence to the Scriptures as the inspired, inerrant, comprehensive Word of God is all rejected in preference of a fluid effeminate structure where emotions rule, “relationship” trumps all other motives, and “love” is all that really matters.

Secondly, the blurring of roles between male and female is exactly the in-your-face postmodern thinking process that is being paraded all around us in our current culture today, insidiously creeping into the church. When Scripture is sarcastically scoffed at as being too “limiting” and God the Father is portrayed as a woman, there is no more any standard of measurement whereby anyone can perceive homosexuality or lesbianism as a perversion. We are thereby being forced into accepting it as a normal aspect of life.

Frankly, by portraying God the Father as a woman, our understanding of God is not at all expanded. Quite the contrary, it’s made frustratingly narrow and confining. All the attributes of a “father,” including but not limited to God’s fatherly protection, His provision for us, His paternal blessings, the fact that we are called by His name, and the blessing of His eternal inheritance are ours by virtue of His Fatherhood. These attributes would be nonexistent if God were a mother.

Even beyond the writer’s portrayal of God the Father as a woman, you have to wonder what god he is writing about really. The “Jesus” in this book claims, on page 182, “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims… and many who are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions… I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa…”

Had the writer held to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God (or, may I suggest, had he read it), he would have known that in multiple places, it affirms that “narrow is the way which leads to life, and few there be that find it,” as Matthew 7 states in the context, interestingly enough, of warning us to “beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. You shall know them by their fruits.”

And just as a passing note, it seems rather intentional that the resurrection of Jesus is conspicuously missing from the entire book, as is the concept of hell. The writer definitely believes that Jesus died to save us…but so did a little Indian princess die, he tells us, to save her tribe. In fact, when Mack’s daughter asks him, (page 31), “Is the Great Spirit another name for God?” he smiles and answers, “I would suppose so. It’s a good name for God because he is a Spirit and he is Great.” Oh, great.

But no mention is ever made at all of the resurrection and ascension of Christ, though Hebrews 1:3 affirms that …”when he had by himself purged our sins, he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

Further, Ephesians 1:17-23 so powerfully speaks of the Father’s “mighty power which He wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come: and has put all things under his feet and gave him to be the head over all things to the church which is his body, the fullness of him that fills all in all.”

Among the many other heretical claims of this book, the author claims that there are no institutions in God’s intention. “It’s all about relationships and simply sharing life,” Mack is told by ‘God’ on page 178. (Again, John Lennon would be so proud.)

“You’re not too fond of religion and institutions,” Mack counters on the next page, and he’s astounded to find out that God not only hates institutions, but in fact, ‘Jesus’ tells him, “[Even] marriage is not an institution. It’s a relationship.” So I guess that we can logically assume that as soon as a wife claims, “I don’t love him anymore! We simply have no relationship!”… that she is free to walk away from the marriage because it isn’t a marriage anymore…especially in light of the fact that she is drawn deeply into a very real and substantial ‘relationship’ with her co-worker.

No, this doesn’t make sense to me either.

There are so many other objectionable and/or offensive theological deviations in the book (including the suggestion that the purpose of judgment is for man to judge God as stated on page 160, or the preeminence of man’s will over God’s in the discussion on page 149), that dealing with all of them would necessitate writing a book in itself.

Suffice it to say that when a Theo-centric, truly God-centered Theology finds itself erroneously replaced by an anthropocentric belief system, and everything else, including God Himself, is re-defined with MAN at the center (which is the very heart and soul of post-modernism), it produces all kinds of mischief and deception. That seems to be the classic case of the message of this book. It seriously and sadly lacks a base of proper, God-centered theology, and relies too deeply on a touchy-feely belief system that Oprah Winfrey would be delighted to see infiltrating the church.

In his best known lyrics, John Lennon imagined a world that sounds frighteningly close to the one purported in this book: no hell, no religion, nothing to die for, total equality, where peace and love are the ultimate and singular goal. Lennon’s was a philosophy that’s warm and fuzzy, but it’s far, far, far from Biblical reality, and has no legitimate place in the Christian church.

Would that evangelical Christianity might return to Bible-teaching churches, to sound expositional Biblical teaching, to Christians who actually read their Bibles with uncompromising adherence to a conviction that it is the inspired, inerrant, comprehensive (sufficient) Word of God by which we measure everything in life! Maybe then we would not be shocked and disheartened to find brothers and sisters in Christ so easily swayed by every wind of heresy and deception.

  • Susan Eby

Susan Eby and her husband Dan will celebrate 34 years of marriage this fall. Having grown up in a Christian home, she grew in the Reformed faith over the last 20 years through her husband's influence (in large part by reading the works of R.J. Rushdoony.)

After raising their three children and supporting her husband in his 12-year role as a pastor, Susan assisted Dan in his involvements in Christian political organizations and Christian education. Currently, she and Dan own a vacation lodging business in Leavenworth, Washington, and are also part owners of Patria Institute and Patria Academy International, a 6th-12th grade long-distance academy for Biblical worldview training.

Dan and Susan are truly blessed with their three grown children, two of whom are married, and all of whom live in the faith. Susan's very great joy is participating in the lives of their four (so far) grandchildren.

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