Three weeks ago, I published the first post in a series of Wednesday posts titled “Not Especially Fond of ‘The Shack’? The Shack Facts.” In it, I shared facts about The Shack book and its author, William P. Young, for those who knew little or nothing about either. In last Wednesday’s post, I shared what I believed to be the pros of reading/watching The Shack. In today’s (lengthier than usual) post, I will be sharing parts from book and the movie (the movie held true to the message of the book) that raised major red flags of concern in my mind regarding Young’s beliefs about salvation.
I would like to remind you that I am not a scholar or a theologian, but I enjoy researching and then passing on what I’ve learned (spoiler alert). Because The Shack book is a publishing phenomenon and runaway New York Times bestseller that has affected gobs of people (including myself), I believe we should be informed concerning its messages, both biblical and non-biblical.
If you are riding the fence on whether or not to read/see The Shack, I pray that the information provided in my 3-week Wednesday post series will help you make an informed decision, at the very least. At the most, I pray it will encourage you to do your own research. I will warn you, though: it’s easy to get overwhelmed in the sea of information the Internet freely provides.
In 2007, when The Shack book was first released, many Bible-believing Christians were concerned about some of the statements Young makes through the dialogue between Papa, Jesus, Sarayu, and Mack Phillips. “It is a work of fiction,” was a frequent response made in an effort to downplay some of those objections. But–and this is a very important but–no one can deny that most authors write in order to communicate what they most deeply believe. I do. This summer, my first book, His Banner Over Me Is Pursuing Love, will be published. When people ask me what it’s about, I tell them, “It’s basically my heart in a book.”
The following are some of the messages expressed in the novel that set off warning signals in my mind:
- Page 100, where Papa is talking to Mack: “Humans … are created in my image.” Genesis 1:26-27 says that Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, but after the fall, Genesis 5:1-3 says that Adam “became the father of a son in his (Adam’s) own likeness.” The fall changed everything. The perfect union between God and man was breached when Adam and Eve disobeyed Father God–asserting their independence, rather than remaining perfectly dependent on Him. There are places strewn throughout the book where Papa refers to all of humanity as being her children. (Father God is portrayed as an African American woman through most of the book and movie.) This completely disagrees with Scripture. Only those who are born again (who have believed in Jesus) are referred to as “children of God” (John 1:12, 11:52; Acts 17:29; Rom. 8:16, 21; 9:8; Phil. 2:15; 1 John 3:1-2, 10; 5:2) in the Bible.
- Page 103, where Mack is talking to Papa after he noticed the nail scars on her wrists: “I’m so sorry that you, that Jesus, had to die.” God the Father did not die on the cross (God is Spirit, John 4:24). God the Son, who came in human flesh, is the only Person of the Trinity who suffered the horrific cruelty of the cross in His physical body (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:36).
- Page 182, where Jesus is talking to Mack: “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslim, Democrats, Republicans, and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions. I have followers who were murderers and many who were self-righteous. Some are bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christian …” Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, and 1 Peter 4:16 all refer to those who have believed in Jesus as Christians. I would also like to point out that those in the Bible who are not believers in Christ are referred to as sinners, not saints, and are defined by their sin (murderers, self-righteous). Believers in Christ, however, are referred to as saints and are not defined by their behavior, but by who they eternally are in Him (Rev. 20:12, 15; 21:27).
- Page 192, where Papa and Mack are talking: Papa: “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.” Mack: “The whole world? You mean those who believe in you, right?” Papa: “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.” I must admit that there were statements like this one that left me scratching my head, wondering what Young really believed about salvation. What he is saying about God having done His part in reconciling the world to Himself is true (Jesus Christ died on the cross), but a response of faith on the part of each person is required (which Young does not make clear) in order for them to be forgiven, saved, partakers in Christ’s eternal life (in Christ), children of Father God, righteous, and free from condemnation, judgment, and punishment (John 5:24; Acts 10:43, 26:17-18; Rom. 1:16-17; 3:26; 4:13-14, 22-24; 6:3-4, 17-22; 8:5-8, 9-10, 12-14; 10:4, 9-10, 17-23; 12:19; 16:7; 1 Cor. 3:17; 5:9-13; 6:9-11; 2 Cor. 2:15-17; 4:3-4; 5:18-20; 6:14-17; 11:13-15; 13:5; Gal. 1:8-9; 2:4-5; 3:22; 5:4-5, 19-21; Eph. 1:13-14; 2:1-3, 12; 4:17-20; 5:5; Phil. 2:14; Col. 1:21-23; 2:13-14; 3:5-10; 4:5-6; 1 Thess. 1:9-10; 2:15-16; 5:2-9; 2 Thess. 1:6-10; 2:12; 3:1-2; 1 Tim. 1:8-11; 2 Tim. 3:1-8; Tit. 1:15-16; Heb. 2:2-3; 10:26-29; 12:25; 2 Pet. 2:4-10, 17; 1 John 2:22-23; 3:10, 14-15; 4:5-6; 5:1; Rev. 20:12-15).
I’m happy to say that I am no longer scratching my head about what Young really believes. After spending quite some time researching the Internet, reading several different articles, listening to many YouTube videos of Young speaking, and watching the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) series, Restoring the Shack, there is no doubt in my mind that Young adheres to Christian Universalism. According to Wikipedia, Christian Universalism is a school of Christian theology which includes the belief in the doctrine of universal reconciliation, the view that all human beings will ultimately be restored to a right relationship with God in Heaven and the New Jerusalem.
Paul Young told me he is a “hopeful universalist.” He believes that our loving God sent His Son to die for every single sinner without exception. One day God will effectually reconcile every sinner to Himself. Paul uses the term “hopeful” universalism because he understands that the Scriptures speak of judgment, but Paul is “hopeful” that even in judgment, the love of God will eventually bring the sinner being judged to love for Jesus Christ. Paul Young is “hopeful” that the fire of God’s love will eventually and effectually persuade every sinner of God’s love in Christ.
(Lie #13) Chapter 13: “You need to get saved.” Here he (Young) turns to the matter of salvation. I (Challies) will excerpt this at length so you can see his full-out embrace of universalism—that everybody has been or will be saved by God.
So what is the Good News? What is the Gospel?
The Good News is not that Jesus has opened up the possibility of salvation and you have been invited to receive Jesus into your life. The Gospel is that Jesus has already included you into His life, into His relationship with God the Father, and into His anointing in the Holy Spirit. The Good News is that Jesus did this without your vote, and whether you believe it or not won’t make it any less or more true.
What or who saves me? Either God did in Jesus, or I save myself. If, in any way, I participate in the completed act of salvation accomplished in Jesus, then my part is what actually saves me. Saving faith is not our faith, but the faith of Jesus.
God does not wait for my choice and then “save me.” God has acted decisively and universally for all humankind. Now our daily choice is to either grow and participate in that reality or continue to live in the blindness of our own independence.
Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation?
That is exactly what I am saying!
Here’s the truth: every person who has ever been conceived was included in the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. When Jesus was lifted up, God “dragged” all human beings to Himself (John 12:32). Jesus is the Savior of all humankind, especially believers (1 Timothy 4:10). Further, every single human being is in Christ (John 1:3), and Christ is in them, and Christ is in the Father (John 14:20). When Christ—the Creator in whom the cosmos was created—died, we all died. When Christ rose, we rose (2 Corinthians 5).
Young leaves no doubt that he espouses universalism. To further his argument, he includes an appendix on the matter.
Clearly, no one has to wonder at all about Young’s theology anymore. To be completely honest, I was so disappointed to find this out! As I mentioned in my post, The Shack Pros, much of this book/movie touched places in my heart as nothing else ever has.
In closing this series of Wednesday posts, I will give my overall opinion of The Shack. For biblically-grounded believers in Christ who have a desire to learn more about The Shack, I would encourage them to eat the meat of sound, biblical theology and throw away the bones of unbiblical ideology. Test every question you have against what the Bible actually says on the matter (Acts 17:11). The Shack’s personification of the Trinity’s compassionate and endearing love, grace, and mercy (among themselves and toward Mack) is sure to foster receptivity in the souls of believers in Christ to enjoy the gifts already lavished on them through their eternal spiritual union with Him.
For those who know little or nothing about sound, biblical theology (either unbelievers in Christ or believers in Christ with unrenewed minds), I would strongly caution you not to buy into Young’s theology of Universal Reconciliation, his “hopeful” belief that all humankind will eventually be reconciled to God through no choice of their own. It’s just not biblical (find out for yourself by reading the Scriptures listed in the fourth bullet point above). My heartfelt prayer is that no one would be sucked into the lie that a relationship with God is a done deal–whether we want it or not. A forced love relationship is an oxymoron.
For more information about The Shack movie, you can go to Focus on the Family’s Plugged In Movie Reviews.com.
For a more in-depth article concerning the theology of The Shack, please read Randy Alcorn’s “Reflections on The Shack.”
I would love to interact with you concerning the entire “Not Especially Fond of The Shack?” series of Wednesday posts.
- Had you read/watched The Shack book/movie prior to reading this series of Wednesday posts?
- If yes, has the information provided in these posts changed how you view the messages communicated in The Shack? If yes, please explain.
- If you answered no to question 1, will you read/watch The Shack book/movie now? Why or why not?
If you prefer to interact with me through personal email rather than commenting below, you can do so by clicking here.
Until next time,
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