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To Critique or Not To Critique
The Shack and It’s New Age Leanings.
The Shack: Helpful or Heretical?
A Critical Review by Norman L. Geisler and Bill Roach
The Shack and Universal Reconciliation (UR)
Partially excerpted from Norman Geisler’s critical review (Below)
The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity by William P. Young (Wind Blown Media, 2007, 264 pp) is a New York Times best seller with well over a million copies in print. it is Christian fiction and communicates a message in a casual, easy-to-read, non-abrasive manner. Based on the author's own struggle to answer many of the difficult questions of life, the book attempts to answer some of life’s biggest questions: Who is God? Who is Jesus? What is the Trinity? What is salvation? Is Jesus the only way to Heaven? If God, then why evil? What happens after I die? It attempts to present a Christian worldview through the genre of religious fiction.
Responses to The Shack range from eulogy to heresy.
Albert Mohler, a leading theologian of the Southern Baptist Convention, calling it "deeply subversive," "scripturally incorrect" and downright "dangerous."
Calvary Distribution says
“The book's conversational tone is intended to catch the reader off guard with overt casualness. There is a personalized-trademarked version of God that requires the least bit of commitment; seeker-friendly experience over truth; an air of anti-authority for the spiritually lazy consumer. The double-speak and theology that is embedded in this book with its underlying condescension, protesting agenda, and liberal theology are genetic markers of the emergent church”. [Review of THE SHACK by Keyan Soltani. Calvary Distribution]
On the other hand, the cover of the Shack carries an endorsement by Eugene Peterson, Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology, Regent College, Vancouver, B.C.
This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" did for his. It's that good!
However an endorsement by Eugene Peterson can hardly be taken as positive.. Peterson’s version of the Bible (The Message) is nothing more than Eugene Peterson’s thoughts and views. He has taken the carefully translated words of the Bible and put them into his own words and chosen idioms. He DELETES the reference to God's holy name, ADDS requests not voiced by Jesus, changes the meaning of other verses and introduces New Age terminology and concepts into the Lord’s prayer. [See The Message]
To Critique or Not To Critique
“We are told that we should not criticize The Shack because it is just a story. Certainly we must remember why it was written and acknowledge some legitimacy to Young’s defense that it is a work of fiction steeped in metaphor. But The Shack must be analyzed with discernment because, in our Postmodern age, people no longer get their theology from doctrinal confessions, but from stories. Postmoderns are suspicious of abstract principles and propositional assertions. They would tell us that systematic theology is passé, a relic of the Enlightenment with all its logic and institutionalized authority; with all its arrogant presumption that one can actually know the truth. God cannot be comprehended, because He is enshrouded in mystery. What is commendable is not doctrinal certainty, but sincere seeking in one’s quest for spirituality. What matters is the journey.
Young presents his theology as narrative, not doctrine. He values “relationship” over “religion.” The Shack tells a story of healing to a generation convinced that it needs therapy more than it needs theology. The Shack suits the appetite of our Postmodern age. Eugene Peterson says “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It is that good.” Like Pilgrim’s Progress, The Shack is an allegory. Young’s theology is taught by characters who represent the Trinity as they dialogue with Mack, the protagonist. The question is “Is Young’s theology as sound as Bunyan’s?” The promotions, interviews, everything about The Shack says “You’ve not understood who God is and you need to learn about Him from this book!” How can such a theological allegory not be theologically critiqued?” [The Faulty Foundations of The Shack - Part 2. Alan Dunn, Pastor Grace Covenant Baptist Church]
The Shack and It’s New Age Leanings.
The very essence of God is challenged when Young, quoting from Unitarian-Universalist, Buckminster Fuller, declares God to be a verb not a noun (pp. 194, 204). In a related statement, Young has Jesus say of the Holy Spirit, “She is Creativity; she is Action; she is Breathing of Life” (p. 110). Yet the Bible presents God as a person (noun) not an action (verb). When this truth is denied we are moving from the biblical understanding of a personal God to an Eastern understanding of God in everything. Thus, we are not surprised when Mack asks the Holy Spirit if he will see her again he is told, “Of course, you might see me in a piece of art, or music, or silence, or through people, or in creation, or in your joy and sorrow” (p. 198). This is not biblical teaching. This idea seems repeated in a line from a song Missy creates, “Come kiss me wind and take my breath till you and I are one” (p. 233). At what point do we become one with creation? Again, this is an Eastern concept, not a biblical one.
Young reinforces his Eastern leanings with a statement right out of New Age (New Spirituality) teachings: Papa tells Mack, “Just say it out loud. There is power in what my children declare” (p. 227). Rhonda Byrne would echo this idea in her book, The Secret, but you will not find it in the Bible.
Further, we are told Jesus “as a human being, had no power within himself to heal anyone” (p. 100). So how did he do so? By trusting in the Holy Spirit. Jesus, the Spirit says, “is just the first to do it to the uttermost—the first to absolutely trust my life within him…” (p. 100). There is enough truth here to be confusing but not accurate. Jesus, never ceasing to be fully God, had all Divine power dwelling within Him. That He chose to limit His use of that power and rely on the Holy Spirit while on earth in no way diminishes His essence. While Jesus is our example He is not a guru blazing a trail in which in this life we too can be like God. This idea smacks of New Age teaching, not Scripture. Jesus even tells Mack that “God, who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things—ultimately emerging as the real” (p. 112). This is pure New Age spirituality. [The Shack - A Book Review by Gary E. Gilley]
The Shack: Helpful or Heretical?
A Critical Review by Norman L. Geisler and Bill Roach
The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity
by William P. Young (Wind Blown Media, 2007, 264 pp) is a New York Times best seller with well over a million copies in print. Literally hundreds of thousands have been blessed by its message, but its message is precisely what calls for scrutiny. Responses to The Shack range from eulogy to heresy. Eugene Peterson, author of The Message predicted that The Shack “has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good!” Emmy Award Winning Producer of ABC Patrick M. Roddy declares that “it is a one of a kind invitation to journey to the very heart of God. Through my tears and cheers, I have been indeed transformed by the tender mercy with which William Paul Young opened the veil that too often separated me from God and from myself.” (http://theshackbook.com/endorsements.html). People from all walks of life are raving about this book by unknown author “Willie” Young, son of a pastor/missionary, and born in Canada. He is a graduate of Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon.
The Background of the Book
The Shack is Christian fiction, a fast-growing genre in the contemporary Christian culture. It communicates a message in a casual, easy-to-read, non-abrasive manner. From his personal experience, Young attempts to answer some of life’s biggest questions: Who is God? Who is Jesus? What is the Trinity? What is salvation? Is Jesus the only way to Heaven? If God, then why evil? What happens after I die?
In the final section of the book titled “The Story behind THE SHACK,” he reveals that the motivation for this story comes from his own struggle to answer many of the difficult questions of life. He claims that his seminary training just did not provide answers to many of his pressing questions. Then one day in 2005, he felt God whisper in his ear that this year was going to be his year of Jubilee and restoration. Out of that experience he felt lead to write The Shack. According to Young, much of the book was formed around personal conversations he had with God, family, and friends (258-259). He tells the readers that the main character “Mack” is not a real person, but a fictional character used to communicate the message in the book. However, he admits that his children would “recognize that Mack is mostly me, that Nan is a lot like Kim, that Missy and Kate and the other characters often resemble our family members and friends” (259).
The Basic Story of the Book
The story centers around a note that Mack, the husband and father in the story, received from “Papa,” who is supposed to be God the Father. It reads, “Mackenzie, It’s been a while. I’ve missed you. I’ll be at the shack next weekend if you want to get together” (19). From this, the story moves through the personal struggles Mack has with such questions as: Why would someone send me this letter? Does God really speak through letters? How would my seminary training respond to this interaction between God and man? The story takes a turn when Mack’s son almost drowns while canoeing. During the chaos his daughter is abducted and eventually killed. This is what caused Mack to fall into what the book calls “The Great Sadness.” This time period is supposed to reflect his spiritual condition after the death of his daughter and the questions he has been asking for many years.
Grieved with the death of his daughter and the possibility that the note might be from God, Mack packs his bags and heads for the shack. The point of this journey is to suggest that his traditional teaching, Sunday prayers, hymns, and approach to Christianity were all wrong. He comes to the conclusion that “cloistered spirituality seemed to change nothing in the lives of people he knew, except maybe Nan [his wife]” (63). In spite of being an unlikely encounter with God, Young uses this fictional encounter as a vehicle for Mack’s spiritual journey and encounter at the shack.
While at the shack, Mack discovers that God is not what we expect Him to be. In fact, God the Father is a “large beaming African-American woman,” Jesus appeared to be “Middle Eastern and was dressed like a laborer, complete with tool belt and gloves,” and the Holy Spirit is named Sarayu, “a small, distinctively Asian woman.” The book identifies these three people as the Trinity (80-82). After trying to reconcile his seminary training with this new encounter with God, he concludes that what he had learned was of no help.
A Brief Evaluation of the Book
Young’s point is clear: forget your preconceived notions about God, forget your seminary training, and realize that God chooses to appear to us in whatever form we personally need; He is like a mixed metaphor. We cannot fall back into our religious conditioning (91). The Shack attempts to present a Christian worldview through the genre of religious fiction, but just how Christian it is remains to be seen.
Problem One: A Rejection of Traditional Christianity
Beneath the surface of The Shack is a rejection of traditional Christianity (179). He claims that traditional Christianity did not solve his problem. Even Seminary training didn’t help (63). He insists that Christianity has to be revised in order to be understood, reminiscent of McClaren’s Emergent Church book titled, Everything Must Change. However, one might question whether it is Christianity that needs revision or Christians that need to be revitalized. One thing is certain, Christianity should not be rejected because it has some hypocritical representatives. To be sure, some Seminary training is bad, and even good Seminary training doesn’t help, if you don’t heed it. But the baby should not be thrown out with the bathwater. Christ established the Church and said the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Mt. 16:16-18). The Shack, as gripping as its story is, trades a church occupied with people who hear the Word of God preached for an empty shack where there is neither.
IPS Note: The traditional and long held view of Jesus’ words about ‘the gates of hell not prevailing against the church’ is that the church is like a fortress, which the enemy pounds at ...to no avail. However in Old Testament times the gate of the city was its main and foremost defense against the enemy. If the enemy prevailed against the gates the city was lost, and usually fell quickly. So the image Jesus was painting was exactly the opposite of the conventional belief. He was saying that the church will usurp the power of Satan and his gates will not be able to defend him against the church. The church is the one that does the attacking, not the powers of hell. In His choosing of this location Jesus was initiating the disciples, preparing them for the work ahead and giving them a broad vision of the role of the church.
[See Upon This Rock]
Problem Two: Experience Trumps Revelation
An underlying problem with the message of The Shack is that it uses personal experience to trump revelation. The solutions to life’s basic problems come from extra-biblical experience, not from Scripture (80-100). Non-biblical voices are given precedent over the voice of God in Scripture. These alleged “revelations” from the “Trinity” in the shack are the basis of the whole story. While biblical truth is alluded to, it is not the authoritative basis of the message. In the final analysis, it is experience that is used to interpret the Bible; it is not the Bible that is used to interpret experience. This leads to a denial of a fundamental teaching of Protestantism. [Also See The Four Most Dangerous Mistakes Any Christian Can Make]
Problem Three: The Rejection of Sola Scriptura
The Shack rejects the sole authority of the Bible to determine matters of faith and practice. Rather than finding a Bible by the altar in a little old country church and getting comfort and counsel from the word of God, he is instructed to go to an empty shack in the wilderness with no Bible and get all he needs to cope with the tragedies of life from extra-biblical voices. The Shack’s author rejects what “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…. God’s voice had been reduced to paper…. It seemed that direct communication with God was something exclusively for the ancients…. Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book” (63).
However, the Bible clearly declares that “Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, emphasis added). Indeed, our comfort is not found in extra-biblical revelations but is realized in that “through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). In short, the Bible is sufficient for faith and practice. No new truth beyond the Bible is needed for doctrine or living the Christian life. Of course, this does not mean that God cannot bring biblical principles to our minds when needed through various experiences, even tragic ones. He can and He does. Nor does it mean that God cannot guide in circumstances that help us in the application of biblical principles to our lives. He can and He does. But these experiences bring no new revelation. They are merely the occasion for God focusing our attention on the only infallible written source of His revelation, the Bible and the Bible alone. To forsake this fundamental principle is to leave Protestantism for Mysticism.
Problem Four: An Unbiblical View of the Nature and Triunity of God
In addition to an errant view of Scripture, The Shack has an unorthodox view of the Trinity. God appears as three separate persons (in three separate bodies) which seems to support Tritheism in spite of the fact that the author denies Tritheism (“We are not three gods”) and Modalism (“We are not talking about One God with three attitudes”—p. 100). Nonetheless, Young departs from the essential nature of God for a social relationship among the members of the Trinity. He wrongly stresses the plurality of God as three separate persons: God the Father appears as an “African American woman” (80); Jesus appears as a Middle Eastern worker (82). The Holy Spirit is represented as “a small, distinctively Asian woman” (82). And according to Young, the unity of God is not in one essence (nature), as the orthodox view holds. Rather, it is a social union of three separate persons. Besides the false teaching that God the Father and the Holy Spirit have physical bodies (since “God is spirit”—Jn. 4:24), the members of the Trinity are not separate persons (as The Shack portrays them); they are only distinct persons in one divine nature. Just as a triangle has three distinct corners, yet is one triangle. It is not three separate corners (for then it would not be a triangle if the corners were separated from it), Even so, God is one in essence but has three distinct (but inseparable) Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
IPS Note: The Bible is not exactly forthcoming on the subject of the Trinity, seemingly content to speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as being God, without explaining how it is so. In fact the lack of a clear scriptural basis for the Trinity was a disquieting problem in the early church. The development of the doctrine of the Trinity happened in stages, over a period of at least a couple of hundred years The 325 BC Council of Nicaea adopted a term for the relationship between the Son and the Father that, from then on, was seen as the hallmark of orthodoxy; It declared that the Son is "of the same substance" as the Father. However the nature and being of God is the most incomprehensible idea known to man. How are we to think of that which has no beginning, which is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and eternal? Though the concepts can be known by the mind, they can not be fully comprehended. We have no experience in this world with which these elements can be seen or grasped. Understanding this, we need to watch ourselves lest we elevate a certain creedal statement, a certain author’s explanation, or our own understanding of God to the place of untouchable orthodoxy.
[See Section on the Trinity on THIS Page ]
Problem Five: An Unbiblical View of Punishing Sin
Another claim is that God does not need to punish sin. He states, “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 is not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it’” (119). As welcoming as this message may be, it at best reveals a dangerously imbalanced understanding of God. For in addition to being loving and kind, God is also holy and just. Indeed, because He is just He must punish sin. The Bible explicitly says that” the soul that sins shall die” (Eze. 18:2). “I am holy, says the Lord” (Lev. 11:44). He is so holy that Habakkuk says of God, “You…are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong…” (Hab. 1:13). Romans 6:23 declares: “The wages of sin is death….” And Paul added, “‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19).
In short, The Shack presents lop-sided view of God as love but not justice. This view of a God who will not punish sin undermines the central message of Christianity—that Christ died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:1f.) and rose from the dead. Indeed, some emergent Church leaders have given a more frontal and near blasphemous attack on the sacrificial atonement of Christ, calling it a “form of cosmic child abuse—a vengeful father, punishing his son for offences he has not even committed” (Steve Chalke, The Lost Message of Jesus, 184). Such is the end of the logic that denies an awesomely holy God who cannot tolerate sin was satisfied (propitiated) on behalf of our sin (1 Jn. 2:1). For Christ paid the penalty for us, “being made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God through him” (2 Cor. 5:21), “suffering the just for the unjust that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18).
Problem Six: A False View of the Incarnation
Another area of concern is a false view of the person and work of Christ. The book states, “When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations that this entailed. Even though we have always been present in this universe, we now became flesh and blood” (98). However, this is a serious misunderstanding of the Incarnation of Christ. The whole Trinity was not incarnated. Only the Son was (Jn. 1:14), and in His case deity did not become humanity but the Second Person of the Godhead assumed a human nature in addition to His divine nature. Neither the Father nor Holy Spirit (who are pure spirit--John 4:24) became human, only the Son did.
Problem Seven: A Wrong View of the Way of Salvation
Another problem emerges in the message of The Shack. According to Young, Christ is just the “best” way to relate to the Father, not the only way (109). The “best” does not necessarily imply the only way, which then means that there may be other ways to relate to God. Such an assertion is contrary to Jesus’ claim, “I am the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes unto the Father except through me” (John14:6). He added, “He who believes in Him [Christ] is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (Jn. 3:18). Jesus is not merely the best way, but He is the only way to God. Paul declared: “There is one God and one mediator between God and Men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).
Problem Eight: A Heretical View of the Father Suffering
The book also contains a classic heresy called Patripassionism (Literally: Father Suffering). Young claims that God the Father suffered along with the Son, saying, “Haven’t you seen the wounds on Papa [God the Father] too?’ I didn’t understand them. ‘How could he…’ ‘For love. He chose the way of the cross… because of love’” (p. 165). But both the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed (A.D. 325) made it very clear that it was Jesus alone who “suffered” for us on the Cross. And that He did this only through His human nature. To say otherwise is to engage in “confusing the two natures” of Christ which was explicitly condemned in the Chalcedonian Creed (A.D. 451). Suffering is a form of change, and the Bible makes it very clear that God cannot change. “I the Lord change not” (Mal. 3:6). “There is no shadow of change with Him” (Jas. 1:17). When all else changes, God “remains the same” (Heb. 1:10-12).
Problem Nine: A Denial of Hierarchy in the Godhead
The Shack also claims that there is no hierarchy in God or in human communities modeled after Him. He believes that hierarchy exists only as a result of the human struggle for power. Young writes of God: “‘Well I know that there are three of you. But you respond with such graciousness to each other. Isn’t one of you more the boss than the other two…. I have always thought of God the Father as sort of being the boss and Jesus as the one following orders, you know being obedient….’ ‘Mackenzie, we have no concept of final authority among us; only unity. We are in a circle of relationship, not a chain of command…. What you’re seeing here is relationship without any overlay of power…. Hierarchy would make no sense among us’” (121).
However, Young cites no Scripture to support this egalitarian view of God and human relations—and for good reasons since the Bible clearly affirms that there is an order of authority in the Godhead, the home, and the church. Submission and obedience are biblical terms. Jesus submitted to the Father: “O My Father,… not my will be done but yours” (Mt. 26:39). “He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death…” (Philip. 2:8). In heaven “then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). Children are to submit to their parents: Paul urged, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord…” (Eph. 6:1). Likewise, women are urged: “Wives submit to your own husband, as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22). “The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3). Members are to “obey your leaders” (Heb. 13:17). Indeed, citizens are commanded “to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient…” (Titus 3:1).
The hierarchial order in the Godhead is the basis for all human relationships. And pure love does not eliminate this; it demands it. The Bible declares; “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 Jn. 5:3). Portraying God as a Mother, rather than a Father, reveals an underlying anti-masculinity in Young’s thought. He wrote, “Males seem to be the cause of so much of the pain in the world. They account for most of the crime and many of those are perpetrated against women…. The world, in many ways, would be a much calmer and gentler place if women ruled. There would have been far fewer children sacrificed to the gods of greed and power” (148). He does not explain how this would not be a hierarchy if women “ruled” the world.
Problem Ten: Ignoring the Crucial Role of the Church in Edifying Believers
The Shack is totally silent about the important role the community of believers plays in the life of individuals needing encouragement. In fact there is a kind of anti-church current born of a reaction to a hypocritical, legalistic, and abusive father who was a church leader (1-3). However, this is clearly contrary to the command of Scripture. A bad church should not be replaced with no church but with a better church. God gave the church “pastors and teachers, to equip the saints…for building up the body of Christ…” (Eph. 4:11-12). Paul said, “To each [one in the body] is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). Young replaces a Bible-based church in the wildwood with a Bible-less shack in the wild. Comfort in bereavement is sought in a lonely, Bible-less, empty shack in the wilderness where one is to find comfort by heeding deceptive presentations of God. At this point several scriptural exhortations about being aware of deceiving spirits come to mind (1 Tim. 4:1; 1 John 4:1; 2 Cor. 11:14). As for the need for a church, the Scriptures exhort us “not to forget the assembling together as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as we see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:25). Without the regular meeting with a body of edifying believers, proper Christian growth is inevitably stunted.
Problem Eleven: An Inclusivistic View of Who Will be Saved
While The Shack falls short of the universalism (“All will be saved”) found in other emergent writings, it does have a wide-sweeping inclusivism whereby virtually anyone through virtually any religion can be saved apart from Christ. According to Young,, “Jesus [said]…. ‘Those who love me come from every system that exists. They are Buddhists or Mormons, Baptist, or Muslims, …and many who are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institution…. Some are bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christians, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa….’ ‘Does that mean…that all roads will lead to you?’ ‘Not at all…. Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you’” (184).
Again, there is no biblical support for these claims. On the contrary, the Scriptures affirm that there is no salvation apart from knowing Christ. Acts 4:12 pronounces that “There is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved.” 1 Tim. 2:5 insists that “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” And Jesus said, “unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (Jn. 8:24). For “whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (Jn. 3:36). And “whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (Jn. 3:18).
Problem Twelve: A Wrong View of Faith and Reason
The Shack embraces an irrational view of faith. It declares: “There are times when you choose to believe something that would normally be considered absolutely irrational. It doesn’t mean that it is actually irrational, but it is surely not rational” (64). Even common sense informs us that this is no way to live the Christian life. The Bible says, “’Come now let us reason together,’ says the Lord” (Isa. 1:18:). “Give a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15); “Paul…reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2). “These were more fair-minded [because] they searched the Scriptures daily…whether these things be so” (Acts 17:11). “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God” (1 Jn. 4:1, emphasis added in above quotes). Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” and reasonable Christians would add, “The unexamined faith is not worth having.”
Problem Thirteen: It Eliminates Knowledge of God
According to Young, God is wholly other; we can’t really know Him. He wrote: “I am God. I am who I am. And unlike you…” (96). “I am what some would say ‘holy and wholly other than you’” (97). “I am not merely the best version of you that you can think of. I am far more than that, above and beyond all that you can ask or think” (97).
One basic problem with this view is that it is self-defeating. How could we know God is “wholly other”? Wholly other than what? And how can we know what God is not unless we know what He is? Totally negative knowledge of God is impossible. Further, according to the Bible, we can know what God is really like from both general and special revelation. For “Since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen…even his eternal power and Godhead…” (Rom.1:20). As for special revelation, Jesus said, “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also” (Jn. 14:7) and “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (Jn. 14:6). God does speak of Himself in His written Word (2 Tim. 3:16), and when He does it tells us something about the way He really is. His words are not deceptive but descriptive.
Problem Fourteen: It Entails Divine Deception
According to The Shack, God is revealed in ways contrary to His nature. The Father is revealed as a black woman and having a body when He is neither. The reason given for this is that in love God revealed Himself in ways that would be acceptable to the recipient (who had a bad father image) but were not so. But this is case of divine deception. God is a spirit (Jn. 4:24) and He has no body (Lk. 24:39). God is never called a “Mother” in the Bible. It is deceptive to portray God’s Nature in any way that He is not, even though ones motive is loving (91-92). A lie told with a loving motive is still a lie. Of course, when God speaks to finite creatures He engages in adaptation to human limits but never in accommodation to human error. Portraying God as having a black female body is like saying storks bring babies. Young calls it a “mask” that falls away (111). But God does not have masks, and He does not masquerade. “It is impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18). Paul speaks of the “God who cannot lie” (Titus 1:2). It is only the Devil, the Father of lies, who engages in appearing in forms he is not. “For even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). To be sure, there are figures of speech in Scripture, speaking of God as a rock or a hen, but they are known to be metaphorical and not literal, since there are no immaterial rocks and God does not have feathers.
The Shack may do well for many in engaging the current culture, but not without compromising Christian truth. The book may be psychologically helpful to many who read it, but it is doctrinally harmful to all who are exposed to it. It has a false understanding of God, the Trinity, the person and work of Christ, the nature of man, the institution of the family and marriage, and the nature of the Gospel. For those not trained in orthodox Christian doctrine, this book is very dangerous. It promises good news for the suffering but undermines the only Good News (the Gospel) about Christ suffering for us. In the final analysis it is only truth that is truly liberating. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). A lie may make one feel better, but only until he discovers the truth. This book falls short on many important Christian doctrines. It promises to transform people’s lives, but it lacks the transforming power of the Word of God (Heb. 4:12) and the community of believers (Heb. 10:25). In the final analysis, this book is not a Pilgrim’s Progress, but doctrinally speaking The Shack is more of a Pilgrim’s Regress.
The Shack and Universal Reconciliation (UR)
Excerpt from The Shack: Father-goddess Rising
By John Lanagan [http://www.raptureready.com/soap/jl.html]
Universal Reconciliation (UR) is the belief that Jesus' sacrifice allows Christians and non-Christians to spend eternity with God. In other words, in UR theology, everybody goes to heaven, not just followers of Jesus. Some in this camp even believe this includes the devil and his demons.
Publisher Wayne Jacobsen acknowledges that UR was included in earlier versions of The Shack. Jacobsen explains:
While some of that was in earlier versions because of the author's partiality at the time to some aspects of what people call UR, I made it clear at the outset that I didn't embrace UR and didn't want to be part of a project that promoted it. [Wayne Jacobsen, “Is The Shack Heresy?”]
So why did Jacobsen proceed to join forces with Young? He writes:
To me that was the beauty of the collaboration ... the author would say that some of that dialogue significantly affected his views. ... Holding him to the conclusions he may have embraced years earlier would be unfair to the ongoing process of God in his life and theology. [Wayne Jacobsen, “Is The Shack Heresy?”]
Perhaps, but this allegedly former theology even now seems to explain some of the content of the book.
The Bible clearly teaches the only way to God the Father is through Jesus, who loved us enough to die for us. Early in The Shack, Mack's daughter asks if the Great Spirit, the Native American god, is another name for the Father of Jesus. Mack tells her ... yes. [The Shack pg. 31]
He may as well have told her that Allah (or any other false patriarchal god) is also the Father of Jesus.
Of course, if everybody is going to heaven because of UR, what does it matter? God, Great Spirit, Allah, what's the difference?
His daughter asks the question because Mack tells the story of an Indian princess who willingly died so her people could be delivered of an illness. According to an Indian prophecy, it could be ended only through her sacrifice. The author states, "After praying and giving herself to the Great Spirit, she fulfilled the prophecy by jumping without hesitation to her death on the rocks below." [The Shack pg. 28]
When his daughter calls the Great Spirit "mean" [The Shack pg. 31] for making both Jesus and the princess die, Mack never clarifies that Jesus' Father is not the Great Spirit, or that God the Father has nothing to do with this pagan legend.
Does the author still have UR leanings? In his article, 'The Beauty of Ambiguity,' it is not his character Mack, but Young himself, who speaks to the Father-goddess. He denies being a universalist, and proclaims "faith in Jesus is the only way into your embrace." 
She asks, "I take it that it wouldn't bother you if I decided to save every human being that ever lived?"
"Nope. I actually hope you've figured a way to do just that," he replies. 
Wait a minute. If Young is still hoping God somehow ends up saving everybody, well, that is Universal Reconciliation. And hoping UR might happen directly contradicts Jesus Christ:
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)
Although Young then proceeds to voice acceptance of the reality of hell, he complains to his fictional Father-goddess:
...why couldn't you have made things clear? People go to the Bible and find all these ways to disagree with each other ... Everybody seems to want to acquire their little piece of doctrinal territory ... Some find support for Universal Reconciliation; some find proofs for eternal torment in hell... 
Young continues with his list. Issues run the gamut from Calvinism to eschatology and, having inserted Universal Reconciliation into the mix, his fictional Father-goddess never corrects him. No surprise there. Is this perhaps an attempt to at least infer valid consideration of UR by including it amongst a hodge-podge of doctrinal concerns?
Incredibly, Young's Father-goddess clarifies (?) that she made much of the Bible ambiguous on purpose! That the author, or any person, would dare present doctrinal confusion as the intended plan of God--and via a fictional character at that--is chilling. But, that's the way it is these days.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3)
It's going to get worse. Goddess worship, false christs, and many other heresies will continue to rise. Movies, novels, and TV will become increasingly blasphemous.
Readers of this novel would do well to examine Biblical teaching about the Trinity, sin, repentance, communication with the dead, and much else.
Many in the Body of Christ have run to get a copy of The Shack. Far better, brothers and sisters, to just run.
 William P. Young, “The Beauty of Ambiguity” http://www.windrumors.com/43/the-beauty-of-ambiguity-mystery/
The Shack Says
For me to appear to you as a woman and suggest that you call me Papa is simply to mix metaphors, to help you keep from falling so easily back into your religious conditioning."[p.93]
The Bible Biblical Christianity has now been defined as "Religious conditioning?"
The Shack Says
"I'm not a bully, not some self-centered demanding little deity insisting on my own way. I am good, and I desire only what is best for you. You cannot find that through guilt or condemnation...."[p.126]
"You don't need me at all to create your list of good and evil. But you do need me if you have any desire to stop such an insane lust for independence.... Mackenzie, evil is a word we use to describe the absence of Good, just as we use the word darkness to describe the absence of Light. ...evil and darkness can only be understood in relation to Light and Good; they do not have any actual existence."[p.136]
The Bible says
They are foolish; for they do not know the way of the Lord, the judgment of their God...." Jeremiah 5:4
"You thought I was altogether like you, but I will rebuke you..." Psalm 50:21
"...the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.... Professing to be wise, they became fools..." Romans 1:18, 22
"Behold, I will certainly bring calamity on this people— the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not heeded My words...." Jeremiah 6:19.
The Shack Says
“Papa” (God the Father) tells Mack: “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.” [p.120]
The Bible: Funny but my Bible says
“the wages of sin is death…” [Romans 6:23]
God is a righteous judge, And a God who has indignation every day. If a man does not repent, He will sharpen His sword; He has bent His bow and made it ready (Psalm 7:11-12).
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you . . . (Isaiah 59:2).
“..without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” [Hebrews 9:22]
The Shack contradicts Scripture by teaching that all the members of the Trinity took human form at the incarnation: “Papa” speaks of the cross and says, “We were there together.” And is seen has having the scars of the crucifixion on “her” wrists. In other words, the Father suffered with Jesus, on the cross.
“We created you to share in that. But then Adam chose to go it on his own, as we knew he would, and everything got messed up. But instead of scrapping the whole Creation we rolled up our sleeves and entered into the middle of the mess—that’s what we have done in Jesus.... When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations that this entailed. ...flesh and blood."[p.98-99]
The Bible says that ONLY the Son came to earth as a human.
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
[2 Corinthians 5:18,19]
The phrase in Christ in verse 19 is synonymous with through Christ in verse 18
The Shack Says
Although by nature he is fully God, Jesus is fully human and lives as such. While never losing the innate ability to fly [which he demonstrates in the book], he chooses moment-by-moment to remain grounded. That is why his name is Immanuel, God with us...."[p.99-100]
The Bible says that Jesus ascended to Heaven in a visible way and will return in a visible way.
And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven." [Acts 1: 9-11]
The Shack Says
So how do I become part of that church?" asks Mack.
"It's simple," answers the fictional "Jesus." "It's all about relationships and simply sharing life... being open and available to others around us. My church is all about people, and life is all about relationships."[1,p.178]
The Bible: Doesn’t the Bible say something about being Born Again etc?
The Shack Says
"Authority, as you usually think of it, is merely the excuse the strong use to make others conform to what they want.... We carefully respect your choices...." [p.123]
The Bible: takes a very different view of ‘authority’. The Father gave the Son authority
“and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man”. [John 5:27]
and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; [Colossians 2:10]
The Son gave His disciples authority
"It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. [Mark 13:34 34]
Paul had authority
For even if I boast somewhat further about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be put to shame, [2 Corinthians 10:8]