(The following review of the bestseller, The Shack, was written by Pastor Alan Day, copyright 2008.)
Since several of you have asked my opinion of the novel, THE SHACK, I decided to give a brief review of the book in this article. There is a continuing stream of favorable reviews, and many are claiming that the book has revolutionized their lives.
The attraction of THE SHACK is its emotional appeal to those who are struggling with the most common of human emotions–grief and sorrow and anger and disappointment. And that’s the danger. It is so emotionally captivating that the theological content can be absorbed unconsciously.The main character of the novel, Mack Philips, has lost his daughter. She has been murdered, her bloodied dress found in an isolated shack. Four years later Mack receives an invitation from God to spend time with the Trinity in the very shack where the dress was found. He goes back to the shack and meets the Trinity. Papa is a large, African American woman. Jesus is a carpenter, and a rather homely one; and the Holy Spirit is an Asian woman.
I can only list the most glaring theological concerns. Even though there are positive features, these can never redeem a book so full of error.
· On p. 31 we learn that God is identical to the Great Spirit of Native American thought.
· On p. 65 we learn that special revelation is still going on and that the Bible did not complete the revelation of God. “God’s voice had been reduced to paper” is how he describes the traditional evangelical position.
· On p. 100 we learn that Jesus did his miracles only as a man depending upon God, not as the God-man who had authority in himself to forgive sins, heal the sick, open blind eyes, or for that matter, to obliterate the universe with the word of his power. But the Apostle John calls Jesus’ miracles “signs” and organized them to show that these miracles proved his divine nature. He begins his gospel with the eternal deity of the Son of God who became flesh and pitched his tent among us (John 1:1-18).
· On p. 102 we learn that Papa has scars on her wrists. This attempt to identify the Father with the sufferings of Jesus opens the door to a view that was determined to be heresy by the early church. Called “Patripassionism” it is the view that the Father suffered on the cross. The church Fathers saw this as a confusion of the role of the second person of the godhead and condemned the view as heretical. The scripture makes it very clear that it was the Son, not the Father, who bore our sins in his own body on the cross. I know that the Trinity is a mystery, but we must keep our thinking biblical or we open the door to every kind of offensive idea.
· On p. 105 Jesus makes a mess in preparing a meal and Papa calls him “greasy fingers.” Strange that the NT never speaks of Jesus making a faux pas, a mistake, a mess up or whatever. If the Holy Spirit had thought we needed to see Jesus break dishes and make a mess of supper in order for us to know and trust him, then we would have such accounts in the NT. The author’s attempt to make Jesus more like us and, thus, more likeable, is contrived and extreme. Did Jesus ever try to walk on water and fail? Did he ever attempt to heal and fail? Did he ever say “Oops?”
· On p. 110 the author has Jesus say that he is the “best” way to relate to the Father and the Spirit. Jesus is not the BEST way, he is the ONLY way. The author is inclusivistic and postmodern in his understanding of salvation. This is dangerous and one of the greatest challenges of our day.
· The author suggests that non-Christians are going to be saved (p. 182). He says that God does not punish us for our sins (pp. 119-20). On pp. 192 he suggests that God has done everything he can do to reconcile mankind and now he is waiting for men to respond to him. This is extreme Arminianism.
· On p. 225 he continues this idea and says that he (Papa) has already forgiven every one of their sins, even though not everyone chooses relationship.
· On p. 206 Papa says that she never has any expectations of anyone, therefore they can never disappoint her. She (he/it ?) can never be disappointed in anyone. Where did this idea come from? It is pure postmodernism.
But the most disturbing idea is that God can be understood to be like an obese woman name “Papa.” This sexual confusion hardly interprets the nature of God, who is Father, Son, and Spirit. And the feminine character who represents the Holy Spirit, though emotionally attractive, hardly resembles the Spirit of Jesus in the New Testament.
God has the right to control how humans think about Him. The ancient world was full of female deities. Our contemporary world worships the spirit of Gaia and the feminine spirit. Feminist theologians debate the feminine side of God and some even relate the Holy Spirit to the idea of femininity. God could have revealed himself with feminine features if he had thought it wise and good and if that would have been true to his essence. But he did not. Therefore, in my opinion, we don’t have the freedom to portray him with feminine characteristics.
God’s purpose in revealing himself as Father, Son and Spirit was not because God has male sexual characteristics, because he doesn’t. His purpose is to faithfully describe his eternal nature. He chose Father, Son, and Spirit because, as omniscient, he knew this best described his eternal essence. The divine trinity is not mere allegory or metaphor. God’s eternal essence is Trinitarian. He is eternally Father, Son, and Spirit.
The book is powerful, emotional, and attractive. Its subtle heresies, not apparent to most baby believers, makes it very dangerous and, consequently, disturbing to me.
The author, William P. Young, stops short of affirming universal salvation; but he does raise the possibility and indicates some sympathy to the idea.
Beware the coming flood of literature masquerading as biblical and evangelical which, in fact, advocates or at least sympathetically addresses the issues of inclusivism, universalism, and a kinder, gentler deity.
2ProphetU is an online magazine/website, started by Warren Wiersbe and Michael Catt, to build up the church, seek revival, and encourage pastors.