Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"The Outhouse" (aka The Shack): One-Hour Blasphemizing

I recently finished reading William P. (he goes by his middle name of Paul) Young’s novel The Shack, which has been, and continues to be, sold in Christian bookstores, such as those associated with GoDeeper.ca (which now seems to have gone so deep that it's gone under), and promoted by organizations such as Youth With A Mission (YWAM). A number of good critiques of The Shack from a Biblical perspective are available online in print and/or audio form, including those by James De Young (a close friend of Paul Young); Berit Kjos; Albert Mohler; Eric Barger; The Berean Call; Larry DeBruyn (also at Herescope); Warren Smith; and Jeffrey Whittaker. The reader is invited to look these up for himself.

I just want to add a few points of my own on The Shack, which other reviewers may have missed or not emphasized. I won’t go into a detailed recapitulation of the plot; those who haven’t read the book can find this out from the reviews mentioned above.

In my opinion, The Outhouse would be a better name for the book (and a better place for it, if you get my drift). It's not only a bad book, but a dangerous one, because of the mixture of truth and error. Not everything that Paul Young says is wrong; for instance, where he writes about the love within the Godhead (e.g., pp. 101-102), and about Jesus being the centre of everything, I agree with him. However, readers of The Shack are being deceived if they think they're getting closer to the God of the Bible while they're actually pursuing a relationship with the false god of The Shack. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth--John 4:24. If The Shack had been published in the 1980s, Christians would have recognized its god as a New Age counterfeit; now the counterfeit is being promoted within the professing evangelical church.

The front cover of the book carries a quote by Eugene Peterson, author of the perverted paraphrase The Message, saying that The Shack will be to this generation what The Pilgrim's Progress was to an earlier generation. I thought that the endorsement was quite appropriate, given that Dr. Peterson is famous for writing blasphemous fiction. In my view, The Shack is to The Pilgrim's Progress what The Message is to the Bible. Dr. Peterson's comparison of The Shack with The Pilgrim's Progress is rather strange, however, given that John Bunyan's book is filled with quotes from the Bible, while Mr. Young's book barely mentions Scripture (maybe Mr. Young hasn't read the Bible).

Paul Young, the son of Canadian missionary parents, claims to have been verbally abused by his father, and physically abused by the New Guinea natives among whom his parents were ministering. This was an alarm bell for me right off the bat, because it suggests that the novel was written as therapy. As Rod Serling discovered when he invited amateurs to send in scripts for The Twilight Zone, when writing is done as therapy, the result is usually garbage, and The Shack is no exception. I found it badly written and a tedious read; its narrative form reminded me of Edward Bellamy’s 19th Century utopian socialist novel Looking Backward 2000-1887 (1888), a similarly tedious read.

I don’t have children, so I didn’t get sucked in by the emotion of the story (and there’s so much emotion on display in The Shack that I thought it must have been written by a woman--the main characters are constantly laughing, crying, kissing, or hugging, which I found nauseating). The serial killer has become a tired device in books, movies and television shows by now. That aspect of the plot isn’t really important, anyway--it’s what Alfred Hitchcock called a "McGuffin," a device to keep the plot moving. The important part of the book begins when Mack, the main character (otherwise known as Paul Young) returns to the shack (p. 80 ff.), and the purpose of the book is for Paul Young to propound his heretical theology of universal reconciliation.

Mr. Young states that the gods of manmade religion are just better versions of the men who imagine them, but Mr. Young is guilty of this himself. From the beginning, I couldn’t stand the main character. The person that Mack reminds me of is Canadian Tire Guy (go here for a detailed examination of this pathetic individual). Mack doesn’t show reverence to the god of The Shack (in the Bible, people who encounter God always fall on their faces), probably because the god of The Shack is as much a wuss as his/her creator, and isn’t worthy of reverence. The god of The Shack has no wrath, in contrast to the God of the Bible (e.g. ...he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him (John 3:36)).

At no time did I ever sense or see any indication that Mack was actually born again, either before or during the events described.

I felt unclean in my spirit while reading The Shack, especially in those parts where Mr. Young puts words in Papa’s (i.e. God the Father’s) mouth. I thought that some of the language used by Papa to be vulgar and offensive. Mr. Young has a lot of nerve in doing this, and he should be trembling at the judgement that will await him if he doesn’t repent. (Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. (Proverbs 30:6))

Mr. Young's "Jesus" says that "God, who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things" (p. 112). The first part of that statement is true (e.g. Acts 17:28, Colossians 1:15-17), but to say that God dwells in all things is to express an animistic, rather than a Christian, world view.

Mr. Young declares that when God sent Jesus to the cross, that mercy triumphed over justice (p. 164). On the contrary, Jesus fulfilled his Father’s requirements for justice at the cross. (And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission (Hebrews 9:22))

Mr. Young states that there is mutual submission within the Trinity (pp. 121-124, 145), but I don’t find this in Scripture. Rather, the Lord Jesus submits his will to that of His Father (Matthew 26:39; Luke 22:42), and always does the things that please the Father (John 5:30; 8:29). And where in the Bible do you find mutual submission between God and man (e.g., pp. 124, 145-146), as promoted by Mr. Young?

If you want to know how far the level of discernment in the professing evangelical church of Jesus Christ has sunk, look no further than the statement by Papa near the end of the book that by sending Jesus to the cross, "I am now fully reconciled to the world" (p. 192). I’ve come across such a statement only once before, and that was in the made-for-television movie Jesus of Nazareth. That movie was originally broadcast in 1977, and an expanded version was broadcast on NBC in 1979. In the expanded version, "Jesus" says "My father in heaven is reconciled to the world." In the late 1970s, the heresy was coming from outside the church; now it’s being promoted from within. Jesus of Nazareth was written by Anthony Burgess, who stated in interviews that he didn’t believe the Gospels (he regarded the Gospel of John as a "highly romantic fable"). Bible-believing Christians denounced the film, which is now forgotten (Carl McIntire provided an analysis of Jesus of Nazareth in the Christian Beacon of April 12, 1979, and subsequently published a booklet on the film and its blasphemous content).

According to Mr. Young, reconciliation is a two-way street (p. 192), but the words of Mr. Young and Mr. Burgess are exactly the opposite of what the Bible says: All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. II Corinthians 5:18-20 (NIV); And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things on earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight. Colossians 1:20-22

Near the end of The Shack, Mack visits his now-dead father, supposedly in heaven, and, reminiscent of the practice known as "inner healing," becomes reconciled with him (pp. 215-216). Mack’s father is described as a child of God, although there’s no evidence that he repented before his death. This passage not only promotes necromancy, which is described in Scripture as an abomination (Deuteronomy 18:10-12), but is a denial of Hebrews 9:27--And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.

This part of the book also includes a slight whiff of homosexuality, even within the Godhead. When Mack leaves his father at the end of this passage, he kisses him on the lips (p. 216). As if this isn’t revolting enough, a few pages later (p. 220), "Jesus" kisses his father (Papa) on the lips, which I found grossly offensive, to put it mildly. I’ll leave it to the reader to imagine what kind of person would write this. In a recent post at Slice of Laodicea, Ingrid Schlueter commented that when religious leaders start touting the feminine side of God, support for homosexuality isn’t far behind. I predict that the promotion of homosexuality will be more "out of the closet" in the sequel to The Shack (with all the enthusiasm and sales that his first novel generated, can there be any doubt that Paul Young will publish at least one sequel?), along with whatever other heresies and blasphemies Mr. Young will see fit to serve up. Claiming to be a victim of abuse doesn’t give Paul Young the right to blaspheme; may God grant Mr. Young repentance unto life.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like the god of the Outhouse (I mean the Shack) is what happens when a 21st Century androgynous neo-pagan god is an androgynous bisexual "this door swings both ways" combination of Rick Warren and Oprah Winfrey.

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