Category Archives: The Shack

‘The Shack’, A Note from Philip Young: Chapter 5

'The Shack' by William P. Young
'The Shack' by William P. Young

I have a tight schedule so I might need to be more brief with these next chapters. In this chapter looms the appearance of Young’s god, who appears as a woman. I struggled with my view on this. Could God appear as a woman? Would God appear as a woman? Is it wrong to cast God as a woman? It all came down to four things: 1) the note in chapter 5; 2) Philip’s request in John 14:8; 3) impossible sight of the Father; and, 4) the second commandment in Leviticus 10:1-3.

First, Young writes that Mack tells his friend Willie, “I guess part of me would like to believe that God would care enough about me to send a note”. Then later he laments to himself, “To think that I hoped God might actually care enough to send me a note!” The best we can say here for Mack is that maybe he’s an unbeliever acting like an unbeliever. The words I quoted are some of the most ungrateful words I can think of. God, who has sent His very Son Jesus, who has given Him over to suffering, who has punished His own Son for the sins of a rebellious people, this mere man Mack compares such evident love to the arrival of a note. And the disgust inherent in Mack’s ingratitude gives us insight into the other two things.

Second, John 14:8-9 reads, “Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, “Show us the Father”?’” Jesus is obviously offended that Philip would want to see the Father because the Father is in Jesus. If you see Jesus you have seen the Father. This should have been enough for Young. If any revelation was actually needed beyond comforting Mack with his Bible then only Jesus should have showed. Instead we have the blasphemous creation of papa and the lesser-spirit. Jesus would have been equally disappointed if Young had asked Him to show us the Father.

Third, not only is there no need to see the Father but it is impossible. Consider Exodus 33:20, John 6:46, and 1 John 4:12 on this subject. We can see that death would result from seeing God, who Jesus specifies as the Father and John confirms still that no one had seen Him. Jesus was incarnated to be seen, in part. The Father’s holiness is not shielded like that of the Son. Mack would have died in the presence of the Father or Young has stolen the holiness of the Father so Mack could tolerate it.

Fourth, the second commandment reads, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth” (Exodus 20:4). An interesting application of this occurs in Leviticus 10:1-3 which reads,

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the LORD spoke, saying,
‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy,
And before all the people I will be honored.’”
So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.

Nadab and Abihu die because they have worshiped the Lord by altering/perverting what He described as proper worship. The second commandment is against this, against worship of God by altering/perverting the forms of worship He has given – idolatry. This is what Young is doing – attaching an incarnation (and gender) to the Father and the Holy Spirit which God has not done or authorized or commanded or permitted.

So for these four reasons we begin our discovery of a false trinity in The Shack: 1) an insult to Jesus’ work; 2) an insult to Jesus’ deity; 3) a less-holy father; and, 4) creating idols by adding humanity to the Father and Holy Spirit (which Young shows here and tells us of it later).

‘The Shack’, A Book and a Prayer: Chapter 4

'The Shack' by William P. Young
'The Shack' by William P. Young

This chapter describes The Great Sadness which weighs down much of the book. To properly critique this book we have to keep in mind the overwhelming shock and sadness of the main character’s daughter being kidnapped and murdered. During these times our minds our saturated with sin. Our sinful nature tries to dominate and Satan has an easier time tempting than usual (this is why I recommended practicing trust in God’s sovereignty a few chapters ago).

There are two major parts of this chapter that will take our attention. The first is prayer. The second is the Bible. Young intersperses the tragedy of Missy’s death (Mack’s daughter) with the prayers that Mack and others pray. One prayer of Mack emphasizes our own need to pray in times of desperation and stress. It is another great area to practice, praying always so we always default to praying in every circumstance, not just tragedy but also in times of joy – praising God for His good providence in all situations. Another time Mack shows his dependence on God by praying. This is always a commendable aspect of our prayers, telling God we are very familiar with the fact that He is good and sovereign and in control and we are not any of those things.

Second, Young offers some degrading remarks on the Bible. One reads, “Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book [the Bible]“. First, The Shack is a book. So Young is elevating his book over the Bible. What Young is trying to argue for is direct communication with God. Seeing that he confronts the Bible, he’s trying to argue for revelation from God (not to Him in prayer) that is equal to the Bible. There are so many problems with this. First of these problems is that the Bible says it is sufficient for us, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). So the Bible is profitable for all these things, with a purpose “so that” we are quipped for “every” good work. In other words we don’t need direct communication from God in order to make sure we know what good works to do and how to do them. We need the Bible. Second, the Bible does not tell us of any other tool we have that can equip us for every good work. Third, the Bible itself speaks of God beyond His activities in the Bible. Passages like Psalm 115:3 tell us that God does whatever He wants. There’s no greater un-boxing or un-booking God than that. Fourth, there are very, very few people who have ever received direct revelation from God – like roughly 40 who wrote the Bible and a few who were prophets or prophetesses that received revelation through dreams or visions or the equivalent. Of billions of people that have been born through history hardly any have been given direct revelation outside the Bible. Most of those that claim it will contradict the Bible. The Bible calls those people false prophets.

So did God send Mack this note that Mack received? The Bible doesn’t eliminate God’s ability to use the mail. But there are two things. One, this god will prove not to be the God of the Bible. Second, didn’t this god violate US federal law by tampering with the mail?

‘The Shack’, Corrupted innocence: Chapter 3

'The Shack' by William P. Young
'The Shack' by William P. Young

This is a relatively plain chapter. Young does very little different. It seems to be mostly character development and plot enhancement. At one point Young is looking through Mack’s eyes at a sleeping Missy. He describes her as innocent.

Rightly understood there is nothing wrong with one person/human acknowledging the innocence of another. We should be excited when we see justice done in a courtroom, for instance. Those who are guilty of breaking human laws deserve punishment and those who have not should be declared innocent.

The same is not true in God’s courtroom. Romans 5:19 reads, “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous”. We can see that since Adam’s first sin none of us were innocent but all became sinners. Romans 3:12 reads, “All have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one”. Not only were we born sinners but we continue in sin throughout our lives. Finally we have Isaiah 64:6b reads, “And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment”. Even our good works are stained by sin and unworthy before God.

This becomes important as Young continues into the book. He presses this innocence and even assumes it in important sections where God’s holiness and justice are questioned because Young assumes humanity’s innocence before God. We’re not though. We have a corrupted innocence. We are in no way innocent before God and therefore must depend on the obedience of Jesus Christ for the actual good works He did and surrender ourselves to Him, repenting of our sins and trusting in His death for sinners.

‘The Shack’, A false gospel: Chapter 2

'The Shack' by William P. Young
'The Shack' by William P. Young

This chapter introduces us to Mack before his tragedy, a man struggling with his understanding of the gospel. He may not “know” that he has the gospel wrong but Young places a false gospel on these pages without qualification.

We can look first at the good aspect of this chapter – “Obviously, Nan’s nightly prayers were having an effect.” Though not as much as recommended in the Bible (Deuteronomy 6:7), Mack and Nan have a family that does pray and attempt understanding of the Bible. Unfortunately, Mack is “reluctant” to worship God though he thought of himself as a rich man “in all the ways that mattered”. The family’s understanding of the Bible and Mack’s reluctant worship (even before his tragedy) seem to have been hampered by their understanding of the gospel, to which we now turn.

Explaining the gospel is a life-long venture. Exploring and understanding and relating to God in light of the gospel of Christ Jesus is what the Christian life is. So we should not expect an exhaustive explanation of the gospel in this chapter. We should, however, see where so many parts of the gospel are left out that it no longer remains the gospel but becomes a false gospel.

Mack retells the tale of the Princess of the Multnomah tribe. Young narrates after the fable that, “It had all the elements of a true redemption story, not unlike the story of Jesus that [Missy] knew so well”. Young never mentions the vast number of things that make the fable completely unlike the gospel, the story of Jesus. I’ll take this post to touch on some of them and treat two a little further.

First, Jesus was a man. Starting in Genesis the man is given the role of responsibility and leadership. As such Adam is held accountable for sin’s entrance into the world even though Eve sinned first (Romans 5:12, 19). And so Jesus Christ also had to be a man to take the role of responsibility and leadership to be our representative in righteousness, the opposite of sin. The Chief’s daughter was, obviously, a woman who underwent no special act to be the one of responsibility and leadership among her people. But Christ did undergo a special/miraculous act. Christ was incarnated, He put on humanity to be our representative. Second, because of Christ’s incarnation He was fully God and fully Man, which made Him the perfect mediator between God and Man. The princess held only her humanity. Third, God the Father asked God the Son to die a sacrificial death to redeem His people (Matthew 26:39, Philippians 2:5-8). The Chief nor the great spirit ask the princess to sacrifice herself. In fact, she decides for herself that she should be the sacrifice. Fourth, Jesus is the only Son of God not, like the princess, the only child left. Fifth, Jesus has saved us from our sin. Our sin comes both from Adam, as above in Romans 5, and our own thoughts, motivations, actions, etc. We deserve the spiritual death that is the just punishment of God’s wrath. The people of the princess have not done anything to deserve their current state of sickness. Sixth, they are not dead but only sick. We are spiritually dead from our sin (Ephesians 2:1-3). The people of the princess were only sick. Seventh, the princess is not sinless, which makes her unable to listen to her heart (Jeremiah 17:9) and a completely unworthy sacrifice. Jesus lived a sinless life so He could take the wrath of God for our sins (Hebrews 2:17, 4:15). Eighth, there is no resurrection from the dead for the princess. This event is essential, as Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15 (see more below). Ninth, repentance and faith are required to be saved (Mark 1:15, Acts 16:29-31). No faith was required on the part of the people of the princess. Tenth, Jesus died to save His bride the church (Ephesians 5:25-27). The result of the princess’ death was that her betrothed and their tribes all lived. This is a message of universalism, everyone in the world being saved without respect to their relationship to the Savior (a relationship which Young seeks to make much of in the book). Eleventh, Mack later counsels Missy that God will not ask her to jump off a cliff. This is, of course, exactly what Jesus asks us to do – take up our cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23).

Two of these are most grievous, the supposed redemption and the absence of the resurrection. Without the Chief’s people being guilty of something and thus deserving their sickness, there is no redemption. They’re not redeemed from anything by the death of the princess. Though Young says it is a redemption story there is nothing the people need redeemed from. Apparently there is no wrong they have done for which they’re condemned. When Young states that this myth is a redemption story though it is not one, he highlights two things. One, he disregards our sins, the exact state from which we need saved. Two, he perverts the justice of God. God is not pictured as both just in His judgement against us and our justifier through Jesus Christ (Romans 3:26) but only as the conductor/commander of death.

The second of the most grievous two things is the lack of the essential piece, the resurrection. A pool forms where the princess dies. She doesn’t return to life. She doesn’t offer any hope that her people will not truly die. She doesn’t even rise to end all future sickness. But Jesus’ resurrection attests to His faithfulness, sinlessness, truthfulness, deity, and acts as our future hope. Mack later wavers concerning the truthfulness of the princess tale. Eventually he affirms that Jesus’ story is true and so the one of the princess is probably true too. The amazing difference in these truth claims is that Jesus’ is anchored by an amazing and historical fact: His resurrection. She remains dead. If there is no resurrection in the gospel then “we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19).

For application there are two points. One, we should be very diligent and consistent with our discussion of the Bible – who God is, what He has done, and what we should believe. Second, we must be especially zealous over the gospel. It is the power of our salvation from beginning to end (Romans 1:16).

‘The Shack’, Many small gods: Chapter 1

'The Shack' by William P. Young
'The Shack' by William P. Young

We continue now with the good, the bad, and the application from The Shack. In this chapter we see Mack after his great tragedy and before his meeting with god. Young again writes well, conveying the listlessness with which Mack goes about his icy day.

Throughout this chapter there are references to many gods. There is a god of winter, Nature who grants rest by her intervention (notice the capitalization), the humbling powers of ice and gravity. Each of these are personal, a god, a personal ‘granter’, a humbler so they are more than just creative writing. Young attributes personal characteristics to things that never possess them. When Young does this we can see how Mack must see the world – controlled by these personal forces which are outside the control of God.

To be fair, Mack is in a desperate time after a great tragedy. His world seems to wallow in a mass of melancholy. And who of us has not been there? But this does not excuse Mack or ourselves. Poor understanding of and poor trust in God and His ways, whether by ignorance or neglect, is still sin.

In light of this chapter we can learn one of the most important lessons of application. The application is to practice/meditate on the goodness and sovereignty of God in all things, at all times, to all God’s elect. If we daily practice our faith in our Good God who is in control of all things (Romans 8:28, Ephesians 1:11) then when tragedy strikes we will have a solid and practiced faith that God is doing good. When we fall on the ice and we split out heads open, what will we do? We will practice – we will acknowledge that God is good, that He is doing good by ordaining our fall and our bleeding; we will pray to God that we would learn what He is teaching, thank God for His Son Jesus Christ who saved us from eternal suffering, pray for humility to receive His discipline with thankfulness, and all such like things. And when real tragedy comes we will do that same, as God has taught us.

‘The Shack’, Mack and his god: Forward

'The Shack' by William P. Young
'The Shack' by William P. Young

I’ll be trying to take this chapter by chapter. There will mostly be three main sections to my posts: the good, the bad, the application. I don’t want to misrepresent Mr. Young’s book. There are points worth learning what he is teaching but many others where it is worth learning something else.

I will also be addressing one main topic – one main good and one main bad, not the entire chapter. So for the Forward, the good is Young’s writing. The bad is Mack’s god. The good is straight forward. The bad will focus on the picture of a god Mack would probably have had growing up.

Young is a good writer. There are two things he does extremely well in the forward and throughout the book. The first is that he draws us in with the character of Mack, giving the impression that this book is a true account of a real man who has some dark event in his life which his god personally helped him through. The second is that Young is constantly commentating on the culture, the scene, the people etc. These side-bars also draw us in – into a place of levity and familiarity. There is a lot of responsibility when you write this well. Young’s side-bars and commentaries become almost unnoticed as they continue on in the book to teach his readers both by assumption and instruction. This can be dangerous if he assumes or instructs heresy.

The bad, or rather sad, part is Mack’s god. Within Mack’s world he would have had a tough picture of who God was. Two causes of this picture of his god would be the god’s lack of holiness and lack of justice. In Mack’s life he had an evil father. Of course this gave him a poor picture of God but what is more is that Mack’s church did not enact any church discipline. God has appointed justice to reign in the church (Matthew 18:15-20). So Mack’s father should have been punished not only by the law but especially removed from the church. This injustice could (if Mack were not a fictitious character) have started Mack’s delusion of God’s justice. Mack also attempted to murder his father by putting poison into the alcohol his father would drink. According to Romans 12:19 vengeance belongs to the Lord. This too indicates that the justice and wrath of God is not developed or is corrupted in Mack from his youth.

Later in life Mack continues to have difficulty in establishing a relationship with God. He attends seminary in Australia where he has “his fill of theology”. This begins, or really continues, the assault on God’s holiness, confining God to something of which you can get filled up on (for theology is no more than the study of God and His work which are both inexhaustible).

The holiness of God is chided by the author also. One of those sections of side-bars by Young harshly treats our Creator saying, “God might be there even if you don’t believe in him. That would be just like him. He hasn’t been called the Grand Interferer for nothing.” Two things, God does not depend upon anyone’s belief in order to exist. And the word “interferer” has a negative connotation, meaning it insults God to describe Him that way. Honestly, wouldn’t you be insulted by being called the grand interferer? Young abuses his good writing skill here to endear the reader to false ideas about God.

Last, God’s holiness is questioned from the beginning. The opening paragraph of the forward states that “a man claims to have spent an entire weekend with God”. And we are skeptical as the author predicts. The Bible states several times that no one has ever seen or can see God (Exodus 33:20, John 1:18, 5:37, 6:46, 1 John 4:12) which means God the Father has not been seen. But God the Son has made Him known (John 5:37, 1:18). So seeing God the Father is impossible but by seeing God the Son, Jesus Christ, we see God (John 14:7) because that is the Son’s role (but we’ll get to that later!). So what the Bible states partly to highlight God’s holiness, Young contradicts from the beginning.

As you hopefully continue to read this series I would like you to keep a few more notes from the Forward in mind. Through the Forward we are informed of Mack making “uncomfortable sense in a world where most folks would rather just hear what they are used to hearing” and although “he has strong convictions, he has a gentle way about him that lets you keep yours”. I hope my reader will take my comments on Mack and his story in the same spirit but allow themselves to consider the wisdom of not keeping their convictions when the Bible opposes the story. Young, in the last paragraph of the Forward, writes that he would not be surprised by errors being contained in the story about to be related. That is the wonderful thing about the Bible. It can be used to guide our discernment and help us separate truth from heresy.

‘The Shack’, by William P. Young: Series

'The Shack' by William P. Young
'The Shack' by William P. Young

The Shack by William P. Young (Wm. Paul Young) is one popular book. I have heard about it from many different sources. At one extreme is Eugene Peterson on the front cover stating, “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good”. Some say that it has changed the way they view God. They no longer see God ‘in a box’, to quote more than one person. Another group falls in the middle and claims it is yet another passing fad. A fourth that it needs to be confronted. And yet a fifth that seek to have it thrown out of book stores and burned. I will largely fall into the fourth group with sections causing me to want to burn the book.

I’ve read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress many times. This book is not its equivalent for many reasons, the least of which is that a much larger portion of the Christian life is dealt with in Pilgrim’s Progress. I’m never sure what people mean when they say God was ‘in a box’. Meditating on verses such as Psalm 115:3, Habakkuk 2:20, Ephesians 1:11, and Philippians 2:5-11 would, I think, be more helpful and solid than any fiction book. Also, even if it were a passing fad, as Christians we are to evaluate teachers and be prepared to give an answer (Deuteronomy 13:1-4, 1 Peter 3:15). Lastly, the fifth group only speaks to a problem with our Christian culture. We would not need to remove books from stores if Christians could properly discern for themselves and educate each other on them. As for the burning, righteous indignation is a virtue :)

With all that for introduction I will continue with posts every two or three days going chapter by chapter to review sections of agreement and disagreement. I hope this will aid you in thinking through this popular book.