The Shack

“I am not a reader”

This is the line repeated time and again during the second Q&A time after Paul Young, author of The Shack, delivered his presentation1 of his bestseller at Capitol Christian Center.

Sadly, it shows.2

Paul Young has a very eloquent writing style and excellent storytelling abilities which come through in both his oral and written works. Unfortunately, his ability to communicate is not paired, at least in the case of “The Shack” with sound theology.

There are excellent in depth reviews that deal with the theological issues contained in The Shack34 so I won’t re-address them here. What I want to focus on instead is the impact this book, hailed as being the next “Pilgrim’s Progress”,  is having on the Church of Christ.

Whenever someone brings up a critique of The Shack, defendants are quick to cite it as work of fiction and “not a theological work”5. The problem is, anything that purports to tell us something about God6 is, by definition, a theological work7.

The difference between The Shack and something like a systematic series by Bruce Ware is that The Shack is simply a poor theological work8 which displays the confusion and inner turmoil of the author9.

The problem this false “its only a fictional work” view poses is that it a.) wasn’t intended as purely fictional by the author10 , b.) it won’t be taken as purely fictional by the readers11 and c.) it has a wide reading and will consequently have a wide influence in the Christian community just like Dante’s Inferno12 .

Several people have mentioned the profound impact this book has had on their “spiritual development, but the strongest statement to this point was during the Q&A time where one lady claimed The Shack “not the Bible”13 was the most influential book for her spiritual walk. Sadly, no one jumped up to correct her or show her the error of her thinking.

As bad as The Shack is theologically14 , it is really just another example of how many Christians in America are more willing to embrace the existential, heterodoxical, and (often) heretical views of our present day15 rather than spend the time to study and listen to the orthodox views or fathers, grand fathers, and great grandfathers in the faith handed down throughout the ages.

In short, The Shack is only popular because Christians don’t read16 and this present fad only serves to reinforce the slide into post modernity17 we have been facing for quite some time.

Since there will probably be a movie based on this book, I believe it is worthwhile for us to examine more carefully the claims and theology put forth in such a seemingly innocent and entertaining work. We will never make a difference in our culture if we are unclear and uncertain about the message we are presenting. If we are serious about Christ being the only way back to the Father then we owe it to our Creator to study the word he has left for us in order to become knowledgeable and therefore useful in the work we are called to do.

UPDATE: Many more excellent reviews of The Shack can be found here.
  1. This is in 3 services which the pastor claims are all different so you might want to listen to all three. I, however, only listened to the last one. []
  2. Why would we ever consider a lack of reading a good thing? That is, unless we are captivated by personal experience instead of diligent study, but I digress.. []
  3. []
  4. []
  5. For an example, see the bottom of this post. []
  6. See Paul’s blog on the background behind The Shack to see where he does intend to tell us something about God. []
  7. []
  8. That is, it lacks attention to detail and does not actually answer the question it raises regarding the question of evil. In short, it is very subjective based on the expieriences of the author. []
  9. Such as his gender identity issues, mentioned in Q&A times, as well as a host of other issues. In fact, it is my conjecture that The Shack is a therapeutic work hat should have never been put into publication. []
  10. Again, see Q&A time where Paul Young asks rhetorically “Did you really think that I meant only the introduction literally?” []
  11. There are numerous “testimonials”, “courses”, and “study groups” all pointing to the “truth” found in The Shack []
  12. Which still predominantly shapes the Christian community’s views on Hell to this day even though much of it is based in pagan mythology. []
  13. Yes, that is a direct quote. I encourage you to listen to the Q&A to hear it in context []
  14. Need to add a qualifier here that I don’t think Paul Young is the anti-christ lest he write another emotionally laden blog about me hurting his feelings and devaluing him as a person. []
  15. Though these bogus ideas have been around for a great while now. []
  16. Which, by extension, indicates how much they value spiritual maturity. []
  17. Characterized by a poor view of objective truth and what, if anything, can be known. []

5 responses to “The Shack

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  2. I couldn't agree more.

    My mom asked me if I had read the Shack and I told her that I hadn't, but I had read reviews by reputable theologians (Norman Geisler) stating that the author's view of God is skewed, which could have a devastating impact on weak Christians. I gave her the example of God taking forms of different beings and she fed me the line in your post, "it's fiction." I couldn't believe my mom had taken the bait. I'm thinking about sending her this post. 🙂

    • Thanks Seth!

      I still maintain that the author doesn't view his own beliefs with regards to God as fiction. Based on interviews he has given and his own articles, he wrote "The Shack" to express his views of God. Sure, he chose the medium of fiction as opposed to the medium of a technical theological textbook, but so what? Are we really supposed to believe that The Chronicles of Narnia tells us nothing of CS Lewis's religious views (including his views on salvation outside of Christ

      Ultimately, I think "The Shack" is dangerous not because of its contents but because of its perpetuation of a popular mental cancer that is prevalent in the Church. That cancer is intellectualism and no where is it more evident than when we encounter sloppy (at best) works like "The Shack" and proceed to push people who like it to employ their minds and think about it analytically.

      • True, true. A friend of mine thinks that Christians shouldn't be intellectual, that Christianity is all about blind faith. Of course, Christianity is about faith, but what is faith? To have faith in something, you must have knowledge of that something. I think we should devour all knowledge that is given to us from God, it only makes the faith stronger.

        The link about C.S. Lewis' views on salvation goes to a Mcafee link. I just thought I would let you know. 🙂

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