more reviews of The Shack

some big guns have turned their attention to Wm P. Young’s book, The Shack. Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian has read it and Dr. Al Mohler is concerned about the discernment ability of modern evangelicals in light of the fact that this book is so popular among them.

If you remember my main concern with the book was its false portrayal of God.

my summary is:

I am afraid that if someone reads the Shack and falls in love with Papa, then all they have fallen in love with is a fictional African American woman who likes to cook and give hugs. They have not been led to God. They have not fallen in love with the biblical Jesus.
They have instead been distracted by an anthropomorphic three headed idol created by Wm. Paul Young.

Therefore, I was pleased to see Tim Keller say:

But here is my main problem with the book. Anyone who is strongly influenced by the imaginative world of The Shack will be totally unprepared for the far more multi-dimensional and complex God that you actually meet when you read the Bible. In the prophets the reader will find a God who is constantly condemning and vowing judgment on his enemies, while the Persons of the Triune-God of The Shack repeatedly deny that sin is any offense to them. The reader of Psalm 119 is filled with delight at God’s statutes, decrees, and laws, yet the God of The Shack insists that he doesn’t give us any rules or even have any expectations of human beings. All he wants is relationship. The reader of the lives of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and Isaiah will learn that the holiness of God makes his immediate presence dangerous or fatal to us. Someone may counter (as Young seems to do, on p.192) that because of Jesus, God is now only a God of love, making all talk of holiness, wrath, and law obsolete. But when John, one of Jesus’ closest friends, long after the crucifixion sees the risen Christ in person on the isle of Patmos, John ‘fell at his feet as dead.’ (Rev.1:17.) The Shack effectively deconstructs the holiness and transcendence of God. It is simply not there. In its place is unconditional love, period. The God of The Shack has none of the balance and complexity of the Biblical God. Half a God is not God at all.

I also very much enjoyed Dr. Mohler’s take. He points out the numerous serious theological concerns and wonders why so many people fail to see how the book contradicts Biblical theology.

here are some of the problems but be sure to read the whole article for others:

The relationship of the Father to the Son, revealed in a text like John 17, is rejected in favor of an absolute equality of authority among the persons of the Trinity. “Papa” explains that “we have no concept of final authority among us, only unity.” In one of the most bizarre paragraphs of the book, Jesus tells Mack: “Papa is as much submitted to me as I am to him, or Sarayu to me, or Papa to her. Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same way.”

The theorized submission of the Trinity to a human being — or to all human beings — is a theological innovation of the most extreme and dangerous sort. The essence of idolatry is self-worship, and this notion of the Trinity submitted (in any sense) to humanity is inescapably idolatrous.

The most controversial aspects of The Shack’s message have revolved around questions of universalism, universal redemption, and ultimate reconciliation. Jesus tells Mack: “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions.” Jesus adds, “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, into my brothers and sisters, my Beloved.”

Mack then asks the obvious question — do all roads lead to Christ? Jesus responds, “Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.”

Given the context, it is impossible not to draw essentially universalistic or inclusivistic conclusions about Young’s meaning. “Papa” chides Mack that he is now reconciled to the whole world. Mack retorts, “The whole world? You mean those who believe in you, right?” “Papa” responds, “The whole world, Mack.”

emphasis added.

I think the bit that I bolded above is why the book is so popular. self love and self worship has been honed to a fine art in our culture including our church culture. we like hearing ourselves say to each other “you’re good enough, you’re smart enough and doggone it, people like you.”

We very much would like to believe that God believes the same thing about us that we believe about ourselves.

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strong words from ToddonGod

Todd Burus has written a two part “personal” review of the Shack. He pulls no punches on either the theology or the literary style of the book. Entertaining stuff. Now I think that I will have to break down and read it myself.

Here is part 1 where Todd addresses the book as literature.

for example:

So what did I think? Well, just to get it out of the way now, I think as a piece of literature this book was horrible. The author lacks all understanding of subtlety, choosing instead to beat you over the head with certain images he deems important and completely missing the concept of foreshadowing. Things like God’s dislike of Mack’s gun (cf. p.90) or the scars on God the Father’s wrists (cf. p.97) are repeated shamelessly and with the same words, making it perfectly obvious that the author wanted to make a point through them. And even if you were interested in what was going to happen next, there never was much anticipation because the author continually short-circuited himself by giving way too much information or using “suspenseful” sentences eerily reminiscent of the ones my 8-year old daughter uses in her 2nd grade stories about evil elves.

and here is part 2 where Todd addresses the theology.

for example:

Next, consider the other image which Young beats to death in the book, that being the idea that both Jesus AND God the Father bear the scars from the cross. There are two things wrong with this. First, it is inaccurate. It did not scar the Father to have his Son sacrificed. In fact, it was the opposite. Isaiah 53.10 says, “It was the will of the Lord (Father) to crush him (the Son).” The Father was not tortured in doing this; through the sacrifice of his son, God was propitiated, which means that his righteous anger was satisfied. God was satisified by the death of his son. Obviously, this is not a popular message in the era of belief in the “divine child abuse” theory of the atonement, but it is Scriptural nonetheless.

The second reason why depicting scars on the Father and the Son is inaccurate is because this, along with the statement on page 101 that the whole Trinity made itself fully human and limited in the incarnation, advances an old, old, old heresy known as Sabellianism, or modalism. This is the teaching that God exists in different modes as experienced by the believer. It also historically teaches that God the Father suffered on the cross. This heresy has been out of vogue for at least a good millenium and a half, but apparently is receiving a revival in the popular appeal of this book. As a note, if a heresy is so false that it goes dormant for 1500 years, it is probably a good indication that it really is wrong. Yet not only does Young present it, he goes back to it again and again by constantly retelling that the character of God the Father has scars on his wrists like Jesus.

Go read all of both parts linked above. Very entertaining.

I just can’t resist posting the conclusion as well. Sorry Todd.

Anyways, I’ll close with four words: don’t buy the hype. This is not a life changing book, unless of course you read it and embrace all that it teaches, in which case you have just become a heretic. Maybe that is strong language, but when I see a wolf like this coming in and devouring sheep the way it has I can find no better word. Well, maybe one: pathetic. Try reading the Bible instead. It has a lot more to say than this glorified dollar bin crap.

that is some good stuff right there.

more on the Shack

Resurgence has posted Scott Lindsey’s thorough review of The Shack. It is the best one I have seen yet at taking the problems with the book head on from scripture. Bookmark the page and go back to it anytime someone talks to you about this book. There is a pdf download available (14 pages) as well so that you don’t even need to be connected to the interwebs to read it.

In this passage here Scott puts his finger on the core problem with this book:

One of the most disturbing aspects of The Shack is the behavior of Mack when he is in the presence of God. When we read in the Bible about those who were given glimpses of God, these people were overwhelmed by His glory. In Isaiah 6 the prophet is allowed to see “the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1). Isaiah reacts by crying out “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5)! Isaiah declares a curse upon himself for being a man whose lips are willing to utter unclean words even in a world created by a God of such glory and perfection.

When Moses encountered God in the burning bush, he hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God’s glory (Exodus 3:6). In Exodus 33 Moses is given just a glimpse of God’s glory, but God will show only His back, saying, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Genesis 33:20). Examples abound. When we look to the Bible’s descriptions of heaven we find that any creatures who are in the presence of God are overwhelmed and overjoyed, crying out about God’s glory day and night. But in The Shack we find a man who stands in the very presence of God and uses foul language (“damn” (140) and “son of a bitch” (224)), who expresses anger to God (which in turn makes God cry) (92), and who snaps at God in his anger (96). This is not a man who is in the presence of One who is far superior to Him, but a man who is in the presence of a peer. This portrayal of the relationship of man to God and God to man is a far cry from the Bible’s portrayal.

And indeed it must be because the God of The Shack is only a vague resemblance to the God of the Bible. There is no sense of awe as we, through Mack, come into the presence of God. Gone is the majesty of God when men stand in His holy presence and profane His name. Should God allow in His presence the very sins for which He sent His Son to die? Would a man stand before the Creator of the Universe and curse? What kind of God is the God of The Shack?

Once God is a peer, then everything else is up for grabs.

Hat tip to Challies.