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 to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4
When William Paul young wrote The Shack nearly a decade ago, it became the talk of both Christian and secular circles. It was called by many “a great book about God’s love and forgiveness.”
Some of us who read it saw some very concerning ideas and tried warning people that the book misrepresented the nature and character of God. It discounted the whole gospel of confession, repentance, and salvation through the willing sacrifice and shed blood of Jesus Christ.
Naturally, in our modern times of biblical illiteracy, we who raised concerns were often called Pharisees, dividers, and haters. We were told we were taking it way to seriously. After all, The Shack is fiction. Some said we were reading things into the book and the author’s beliefs that just were not there.
So now after the original book, a movie based on the book, and a brand new nonfiction book by Young, we all get to see the theology of The Shack author in his own words. His new book, Lies We Believe about God,” will most likely be dismissed by those who loved the movie and his first book. So this morning, we will look deeper into what the author actually says and believes as we critique his new book.
Can we at least agree, as Christians, to hold up Young’s words and beliefs against the truth of God’s Word revealed to us in Scripture? As we approach this program today, what are your thoughts and do you think Young’s description and understanding of God line up with the Bible or contradict it?
TIME SAVING SUMMARY
The Shack appeals to our human desire to be loved and forgiven, but it discounts what is required by God: confession and repentance. The movie plays right into the growing mindset in America about wanting benefits without responsibilities. It’s overall message is that God conforms to us instead of our need to be transformed into the image of Christ which produces holy living. The Shack is the prefect message for people who want to think we are all basically good in nature and character.
So now the book by Young is out. He suggests it is a “lie” to tell someone, “You need to get saved.” Young asks himself the rhetorical questions, “Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation?”He answers, “That is exactly what I am saying!” Young then goes on to teach that “every single human being is in Christ” and that “Christ is in them.”
Here’s a review by Tim Challies we will cover on today’s program:
The Shack has sold twenty million copies and along the way generated at least twenty million conversations. Many of these have been attempts to discern the fact behind the fiction, to interpret what Paul Young means to teach through his story. Some have read the novel as a fresh expression of Christian orthodoxy while others have read it as rank heresy. In the end, only Young knows what he really believes.
At least, that was the case until the release of his new non-fiction work Lies We Believe About God. In this book he tells what he believes about sin, religion, hell, substitution, submission, salvation, and a number of other issues that cut to the very heart of the Christian faith. He does this by addressing a series of twenty-eight “lies” people—evangelicals, that is—tend to believe about God…
Selected chapter notes as discussed on today’s broadcast: (Remember, the bold headings are what Young says are “Lies.”)
Chapter 2: “God is Good. I am not.”
Our biblical Truth: The bible says all men are wretched sinners compared to the glory of God. Before God’s saving grace through our confession, repentance and complete faith in Jesus, we are creatures of moral depravity. But as born-again believers we receive the imputed righteousness of Christ. God no longer sees us wretched and depraved—he now sees us as adopted sons and daughters—as loving children we should obey all he has commanded because of what He did for us on the cross.
Chapter 3: “God is in control.”
Biblical answer: God is ultimately sovereign over all His creation. His will one day will be done for eternity. He has given man a free will to choose to love and obey Him or not. But for Young to say that God “submits rather than controls” heightens man to a place of authority and control, rather than submission and honor to God.
Chapter 5: “God is a Christian.”
Chapter 12: “God created my religion.”
Biblical answer: No, we are not “all on the same path”. Every human being in on one of two paths: Either on the path to salvation and sanctification by submitting to God; or on the path of disobedience and denying God, headed for eternal separation from Him. This is Young’s attempt to marginalize ‘religion”—a familiar emergent tactic. Emergents give a false choice: religion or relationship. The truth is born-again believers have a growing relationship with God within certain rules He has given us.
In fairness Young does bring up a good point: The danger of an unhealthy emphasis on religion over relationship with God. Legalists stress rules, some of them man-made; Emergents stress relationship without boundaries. When we understand what I call in my book “Biblical Conjunctives” we find the biblical balance and truth about religion and relationship.
Chapter 13: “You need to get saved.” – WOW, this is a lie, according to The Shack author?!
Biblical answer: Young seems to have found a new classification: Universal Calvinism: That God predestines who is saved—every one—and that there is no choice or responsibility whatsoever for men to confess and repent. The Bible is clear that through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross that salvation is available to men if they confess and repent and understand that Jesus absorbed the righteous wrath of God against sin in our place. Young’s teachings on salvation are dangerous and eternally deadly to the souls of men.
Chapter 15: “Hell is separation from God.”
Young seems to look at hell the same way Roman Catholicism views what it calls “purgatory”—a place where we suffer until all our sins are purged and then we go to heaven. No Roman Catholicism confirms that hell is real; Young seems to think at worst it is a place where we suffer until we realize that we have put ourselves there by doubting God’s love. He stressed the common false teaching of modern Emergents and red letter Christians: that God’s nature is “only love”. The Bible teaches that God’s nature is always righteous, just and holy. He does love all His creation—but His love alone will not save us. He simply requires we confess ourselves as lost, disobedient sinners; repent and place our trust in Jesus Christ as the substitutionary atonement for man’s sins. We will see a little later that Young considers substitutionary atonement “child abuse”…
Chapter 17: “The cross was God’s idea.”
Chapter 19: “God requires child sacrifice.”
Biblical truth: Jesus Christ willingly submitted to The Father’s will to be the sacrificial lamb that bore the wrath of God against sin. There was no ‘child abuse”. Jesus has eternally been part of the Trinity—He willingly became the sacrifice for our sins.
“Abuse” is forcing someone to do something hideous against their will: Jesus willingly took our punishment in our place. Young lines right up with Rob Bell and Brian McLaren—modern day apostates—in his lack of understanding about the cross.
Chapter 21: “Death is more powerful than God.”
This lines up with Rob Bell’s ‘second chance salvation”—that after death we can still be saved.
Chapter 27: “Sin separates us from God.” – This is a lie?! df
Biblical truth: God proclaimed all creation “very good” before Adam and Eve chose disobedience and rebellion against God—when sin and death entered the world. This is nothing less than blatant Humanism—another trait of Emergent theology. It distorts the nature, character and Word of God.
Through twenty-eight brief chapters, Young systematically discusses and denies tenet after tenet of the historic Christian faith. He denies human depravity and divine sovereignty. He proclaims there are none who are specially loved by God and that formal religion is opposed to God. He insists that all humanity has been or will be saved by the gospel, that hell does not exist, that God merely submitted to the cross, that any God who would punish his Son as a substitute is abhorrent, and that the very notion of appeasement is unworthy of God. He denies that sin separates us from God and that death represents the end of our opportunity to respond to his offer of divine grace.
As Jefferson famously excised from his Bible all those passages he considered unbearable, Young has gutted the Christian faith of anything he considers repugnant. What remains bears only a passing resemblance to the faith “once for all delivered to the saints.”
Now that Young has described what he believes, his fans would do well to return to The Shack, for he has settled many of the debates. Does The Shack teach universalism? Absolutely. Does it encourage people to turn to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith? Is it meant to compel people to come to deeper confidence in the Bible? Is it a book that will persuade people to join and serve a local church? No, no, and no. Years ago when I reviewed The Shack I said, “Despite the amount of poor theology, my greatest concern is probably this one: the book has a quietly subversive quality to it. Young seems set on undermining orthodox Christianity.” “Seems set?” Now we know he is set. He is set on revoking and replacing the very pillars of the Christian faith. Tim Challies
In Lies We Believe About God, we see Paul Young apart from the subjectivity of narrative. And as he proclaims what he denies and affirms, he outs himself as beyond the bounds of Christian orthodoxy. This book is a credo for false teaching, for full-out heresy. I do not say this lightly, I do not say it gleefully, but I do say it confidently. Christian booksellers should be utterly ashamed to sell this book or any other by its author. Christians should not subject themselves to his teaching or promote his works, for he despises sound doctrine that leads to salvation and advocates false doctrine that will only ever lead away from God.
Young successful plays off our Humanist desires of a God who is fashioned in our image—the desires of our flesh. It is not the blatant lies that deceive us—it is the type of clever deception and misrepresenting “facts” as truth that deceive us. Young does in masterfully.
After reading what Young really believes—every Christian should be very wary of watching the movie “the Shack”. And if your reason in seeing it is to “bring an unbelieving friend and open up a discussion about the gospel”…there is no gospel in The Shack. It is a wide open door to deception and apostasy and embracing its teachings as truth can only lead to eternal damnation.
The resource site for “The Shack” provides both written and recorded endorsements from many well-known entities, including leaders and representatives of The Salvation Army, Young Life, Family Christian Stores, The Christian Post, K-LOVE, CBN and TBN, to celebrities such as Michael W. Smith, Joel Houston of Hillsong United, Gospel artist Tasha Cobbs and Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” show.
“I had some problems with the theology of this story, but I am remembering that it’s just a work of fiction and perhaps it will be helpful to those that are hurting and have unforgiveness. So because of this, I’m saying I give it a thumbs up,” said Trish Fuhlendorf of K-LOVE in Denver, Colorado.
“There were moments of great humor and plenty (so many) tear-jerking moments. I fought back tears at least four times. God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit were so cleverly depicted. LOVE the film!” also remarked Kevin Porter of the The Christian Post.
Other Scriptures Shared by Mike and David: John 3:36, and Ephesians 5:1-11
History, Doctrines, Christian Response to The Shack from Watchman Fellowship (pdf)
The Shack – Matt Slick C.A.R.M. (extensive!)
The Death of Discernment – Eric Barger on The Shack
The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment – Albert Mohler
Using The Shack for God’s Glory? – last week’s program on Stand Up For The Truth