From the Shack to the Dungeon

When The Shack was published by William Paul Young in 2007, it struck a chord in the hearts of many Christians. By the following year, it had gained an unexpected meteoric rise as a cultural phenomenon. This past year, it was adapted into a movie, to bring its message to a universal audience.

The book was summarily about Mackenzie Philips, a father, who after his daughter’s abduction and gruesome murder, spirals into a deep depression that causes him to question his innermost beliefs. He became unwilling to trust the God he knew before who appeared to have abandoned him in the time of need.

After receiving a mysterious letter from “Papa” (his wife’s pet name for God), inviting him for a meet up at a shack in the woods where Missy was abducted, he meets four characters:

  • God (“Papa”) who is a matronly African American woman who cooks and dispenses words of wisdom and hugs.
  • Jesus, a clumsy Jewish young man who loves gardening.
  • The Holy Spirit, who is a Japanese girl named Sarayu (a Sanskrit word meaning “wind” and also the name of a Hindu river).
  • Sophia, a not-too-veiled reference to the Greek goddess of wisdom before whom Mack stood to be judged about his life.

While at the shack, Mack learns some truths. His “Jesus” is quoted saying:

God, who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things…” (The Shack, Windblown Media, 2007, p. 112).

Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims … I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into my sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters” (p. 182).

The first quote from this false Jesus teaches panentheism while the second espouses flagrant universalism. This is not a mere work of fiction; it’s an agenda-driven book. The Shack carries a message that is in tune with the worship of the “divine feminine” and it appeals to many hurting people who want God in their own form.

In the movie, “Papa” tells Mack that he had to appear as a woman to him because he couldn’t yet handle a male figure. Notably, some years later, the novel’s author, Paul Young admitted that the story is related to his past. Missy represented his innocence that died at childhood and Mack represents him as an adult, trying to deal with that childhood pain.

Young said he was raised by an unloving, distant father and was sexually molested by several older boys in boarding school as well as several men while in Papua New Guinea where his father was a missionary. He felt let down by conventional Christianity and the God of the Bible, so he embraced another God – a diluted version of God; a feminized god.

During a lecture held in June 2010 at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon, Young told his audience that “the God of evangelical Christianity is a monster.” He was referring to the evangelical belief that God is a God of judgement and will judge the unbelieving.

So what we have here is a man who has rejected the God of the Bible for a false God that might heal the pain of his fans but will certainly damn their souls. Moulding God into our image and likeness to better comfort us is the very definition of idolatry. Like A. W. Tozer said, “The idolater simply imagines things about God and then acts as if they were true.”

God is who He is; His nature and character will not change to make us feel better. “I the Lord do not change…” (Mal. 3:6). He is I AM THAT I AM (Ex. 3:14). He will not appear as Pan, Buddha, Sango, Astarte or something He is not to appeal to the felt needs of the heathen. Truth takes precedence over true healing.

Jesus didn’t appear to the woman at the well in a woman’s form because she has had problems with several men. He didn’t appear to the adulterous woman as a female because she had been betrayed and maltreated by religious men. He didn’t appear to the woman with the alabaster box as a female because she had been abused by men.

In this fallen world, we will always experience pain and losses – much of which we will have no understanding of or explanations for – but instead of converting God into a spiritual drug to deal with our pain and losses, we can simply walk through them with faith in God. We “trust in the LORD with all [our] heart and lean not on our own understanding” (Prov. 3:5).

The Shack, however, presents to its readers a spiritual panacea deity, one stripped of justice, immutability and holiness. It offers many a Trinitarian idolatrous hybrid god that represents whatever will make them feel better about their horrible tragedies. It’s the same concept underlying the visualization and guided imagery utilized by the Inner Healing movement.

If for example, you were sexually abused when you were young; instead of leading you to the cross where Jesus took away our pain, shame and guilt, they will tell you to imagine yourself going back to your childhood and visualizing Jesus coming to you to comfort you and take your pain away. And of course, after some time, this false Jesus takes on a life of its own.

William Young’s next book, Eve, re-told the story of Adam and Eve. It turned up the heat with the proverbial frog in the kettle. It was a book laden with Kabbalistic, occultic and Gnostic themes that would be readily embraced by the Contemplative/New Age movement.

In Young’s non-fiction book, Lies We Believe about God, his Universalist beliefs were clearer: “Every human being you meet … is a child of God” (p. 206). Death doesn’t result in final judgement but simply introduces “a restorative process intended to free us to run into the arms of Love” (p. 187). Therefore, hell isn’t a separation from God, but simply the pain of resisting salvation we have and can’t escape.” (p. 137)

In the light of the Bible, universalism (“all paths lead to God”) is a lie of the devil (John 3:18; 10:7; 14:6; Acts 4:12; Rom. 6:23 etc.). It is the philosophy of the last days that the final antichrist will use to build his one-world religion.

Recently, Eternity News published an article about Young sharing content of an interview that it conducted with the writer as it discussed his part in the new documentary “The Heart of Man” and some of his beliefs:

I think that Jesus is both our salvation and rightful judge, but that judgment is intended for our good, not our harm.” He continues, “I think there is an ongoing relational confrontation between the One who knows you best and loves you best. Potentially forever and, potentially, you could say ‘no’ forever. How someone could do that I don’t know, but definitely that tension is held in Scripture for sure.”

There are a number of lies here. Hebrews 9:27 says it is destined for man to die once and after that face judgement. This judgement is not “an education day” as Jehovah’s Witnesses and other false religionists like William Young teach. There is no other chance for those who have died without repentance.

The Bible also tells us that both heaven and hell are eternal destinations (e.g Matthew 25:46); once you are there, you are there. “For if the words spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” (Heb. 2: 2-3).

Our realization of what awaits the unsaved is the reason “we try to persuade men” to receive Christ. There is no salvation, pardon or cleansing after death. Thus, “now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 5:11; 6:2).

Young has no problem disseminating his poisonous heresies because he has already introduced a false god; he is merely building on the foundations of that warped theology. When people reject God as He is revealed in the Bible, the next logical step is to reject what He has also said about how to be saved and that implies a rejection of what He has said about eternity.

Through his books, he has succeeded in presenting a dark occult goddess, Sophia, to a generation that is all too keen to worship God as a female figure and is willing to sacrifice truth for whatever resonates with their inner cravings.

The most devastating loss that can ever befall one is to die in a deception. There’s no remedy forever. I pray that William Young and his millions of benighted fans will become truly saved and come to the knowledge of the truth before it’s too late.

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Word Faith Teachings and Mind Science Cults

Recently, while discussing with some friends on Facebook about the Word-Faith movement, I realised that the varying doctrines and nuanced terminologies found within the WOF can sway even sincere Christians to innocently embrace their heretical teachings and techniques.

Unravelling this aberrational hoodwink requires an exploration of the origin of such false teachings. Once their roots are exposed, you can easily discern when a teaching or practice has crossed the lines of Christian orthodoxy and is skating on the thin ice of cults and the occult.

First, let’s remind ourselves of what the Bible says about God and faith, because these are key areas through which WOF peddlers smuggle their load of errors through the back door.

  • God

The God of the Bible is “the Living God who made the heaven, and earth, and the sea and all things therein” (Acts 14:15). Not only that, He has a present interest and an active hand in the affairs of men:

“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him…” (2 Chr. 16:9).

This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites” (Josh. 3:10)

…For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and saves; he performs wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions” (Dan. 6:26-27).

Since God is the Creator of the universe, He’s not the universe and He is not subject to the laws of the universe. This is called “the Infinity of God.”

“The infinity of God is that perfection of God by which He is free from all limitations. In ascribing it to God we deny that there are or can be any limitations to the divine Being. It implies that He is in no way limited by the universe, by this time-space, or confined to the universe” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1958, 59

The Bible also shows us that God is sovereign. He has absolute authority over all His creatures and upholds all things by His almighty power. God – not man – has absolute rule. He shapes the whole present history of the world and all things are dependent on Him and subservient to Him:

“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes” (Deut. 10:17)

“With my great power and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it, and I give it to anyone I please” (Jer. 27:5).

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns’” (Rev. 19:6).

  • Faith

Faith generally means having an unhesitating assurance of the truth of God’s testimony, even when it is unsupported by any other evidence. Hebrews 11:1 describes it as: “the assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen” (Amplified).

Faith rests on the unseen because it rests upon the foundation of God’s Word. Noah was “warned about things not yet seen” so by faith he responded in obedience. Abraham went forth in obedience to the land of inheritance without having seen it. Sarah was enabled to conceive Isaac without having seen him. Joseph didn’t see the exodus of the Israelites, but it happened as he believed (Heb. 11:7, 8, 22).

All these happened because they took God at His Word; they believed that God is willing and has “power to do what he had promised” (Rom. 4:21). Biblical faith acknowledges that God knows what is best for us. (Job. 42:1-6; Matt. 26:39; Rom. 8:26; 2Cor. 12:7-10).

True faith necessitates believing in God and His Word (e.g. 2 Chr. 20:20); therefore, God doesn’t need to have faith in Himself to do anything. To assert that God “used the force of faith by speaking faith-filled words to create the universe” presupposes that there is a ‘higher God’ he rested his faith on. Wrong. God created everything by and through His own omnipotence. He is infinite and there is no being higher than Him.

Having this understanding, when we pray in faith, we let God be God and trust in His wisdom and goodness. Even though God can do all things, we recognize that He reserves the right to determine the terms and timing by which we will receive what we ask (Rom. 11:33-36).

Faith is not an impersonal force that can be harnessed to create a new reality. The right faith is a willingness to believe what God had said (2 Cor. 12:7-10; Phil. 4: 10-13). True faith is not hinged on an idea; an institution; an image; a feeling or a ritual. It is based on God, His Word, Jesus Christ and His finished work.

The earliest preachers to introduce ideas of faith being a “force” were Smith Wigglesworth (1859-1947) and Essek Kenyon (1867-1948). Due to scant documented evidence of Wigglesworth’s power and exploits, it has been stated that much of the tales and claims attributed to him were mythical (see Gerard Fisher, The Quarterly Journal, January-March 1995, pp. 1, 11-14).

Essek Kenyon absorbed the teachings of the Higher Life movement as well as mind science concepts which birthed WOF teachings. This leads us to briefly explore mind science religions.

New Thought, Mind Science and the New Age

The 19th century wasn’t just an era of industrial revolution; it was also an era of religious revolution. In the middle of that century, Western society was entering a new and scientific era, where reason, experimentation, and observable results were becoming the standard means of measuring progress and assessing truth claims.

In a bid to sustain the social mechanics of that time, some people attempted to create a dubious mix of science and religion giving rise to metaphysics or mind science cults. After being influenced by Phineas Quimby, an occultist and founder of New Thought philosophy, Mary Eddy Baker founded the Christian Science cult.

She taught that Jesus was a scientist who applied dynamic laws of the mind which govern the universe to heal people. She also taught that sin, sickness or death were illusions of the mind which can be dispelled with scientific faith or positive thinking.

Myrtle and Charles Fillmore, who founded Unity School of Christianity in 1889, taught the same in Dynamics for Living: “God cannot create without law. God is the Mind force carrying forward creation under law… Whatever Mind commands to be brought forth will be brought forth by and through the law of evolution inherent in Being.

Ernest Holmes of the Church of Religious Science also taught that: “Science of Mind teaches that Man controls the course of his life…by mental processes which function according to a Universal Law.”

These were concepts that emerged later as New Age philosophies. John Randolph Price in his book The Superbeings says: “Like attracts likeWhat you think in your mind will produce in your experience … All the Power of the Universe is within you and this Power you can have anything on earth you desire.” (The Superbeings John R. Price Quartus foundation, 1981, xv).

Though some of these mind science cults deceitfully use Christian terminologies, they have given them different meanings to suit their own beliefs:

  1. They don’t believe in a personal God who directly, sovereignly governs the universe as Christians believe, but in an impersonal god (called “the Force,” “the Infinite Power” or “the Spirit of Infinite Life”) who rules the universe indirectly through immutable laws.
  2. They believe man is the one in control of all that happens to him. Since their god is like energy, he holds no one morally accountable: he only exists to give man what he wants. So, man needs to control his situations or the world with his mind. With positive thinking, he can activate the god energy for his own good.

This idea is seen in Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, where he quoted a poem saying: “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishment the scroll, I am the master of my own fate, I am the captain of my soul” (p. 86). Napoleon Hill said he got his teachings from “9 invisible counselors” he met through intense visualization:

I can truthful say that I owe entirely to my ‘Invisible Counselors full credit for such ideas, facts or knowledge as I received through ‘inspiration’…” (Think and Grow Rich, p. 86).

Who were these “invisible counselors?” Your guess is as good as mine. These mind science occult beliefs came into the church in the 20th century through three key figures:

(a) Robert Schuller who had gleaned much of his “possibility thinking” ideas from Napoleon Hill (who admitted being inspired by demons). In one of his tapes, Schuller said: “You don’t know what power you have within you! …You can make the world into anything you choose” (Possibility Thinking – Goals)

(b) Norman Vincent Peale, a 33 degree Mason who taught that: “God is energy. As you breathe God in, as you visualize His energy, you will be reenergized! (PLUS: The Magazine of Positive Thinking 37:4, May 1986, 11).

In 1984, on the Phil Donahue program, Peale said, “It’s not necessary to be born again. You have your way to God; I have mine. I found eternal peace in a Shinto shrine … I’ve been to Shinto shrines, and God is everywhere:”

Shocked, Phil Donahue responded, “But you’re a Christian minister; you’re supposed to tell me that Christ is the way and the truth and the life, aren’t you?” Peale replied, “Christ is one of the ways. God is everywhere” (Christian News, May 12, 1997, 11).

(c) Agnes Sanford, an Episcopal mystic healer who taught visualization and Jungian psychology. She wrote: “The same principle is true of the creative energy of God. The whole universe is full of it, but only the amount of it that flows through our own beings will work for us” (The Healing Light, p. 1)

Strands of mind science concepts were adopted by Word Faith preachers and couched with different terms like “the laws of faith”, “the laws of the fourth dimension” or “the laws of miracles.” Though the terminologies differ, the concept is the same.

Yonggi Cho wrote: “You create the presence of Jesus with your mouth … He is bound by your lips and your mouth … through intense visualization and dreaming, you can incubate your faith and hatch results … Sokagakkai [a Buddhist sect] has applied the law of the fourth dimension and has performed miracles…” (The Fourth Dimension, pp 64, 83)

Frederick Price: “You are in control! … God cannot do anything on earth unless we…give Him permission through prayer” (The Word Study Bible, p. 1178)

Sam Adeyemi: “This world is governed by laws. God invested tremendous energy in this world; energy which He put within the bounds of certain laws. When you satisfy the conditions of those laws, you generate tremendous force in your life to get things done” (Success is Who You Are, 2008, pp. 25-26).

Kenneth Copeland: “Any image that you get down on the inside of you that is so vivid when you close your eyes you see it, it’ll come to pass. When God came at the Tower of Babel, He said, ‘Anything they can imagine, they can do.’“ (Copeland, Inner Image of the Covenant, side 2)

Myles Monroe: “Prayer is man giving God permission or license to interfere in earth’s affairs… God could do nothing on earth… nothing has God ever done on earth without a human giving him access. [So he is] always looking for a human to give Him power permission. In other words, God has the power, but you get the permission. God got the authority and the power, but you’ve got the license. So even though God can do anything, He can only do what you permit Him to do” (“This is Your Day” with Benny Hinn, July 2004).

These mind science beliefs relegate God and exalt man. The idea that there is a universal law or “faith force” which Christians and non-Christians can tap into and use to experience miracles or achieve success is not a Bible teaching. True miracles are not governed by laws – they override all laws. We receive from God by faith, not by applying man-made laws.

A study of the Bible shows that there is no fixed technique, ritual, formula nor “laws” that can be used to force the true God to work miracles or answer our prayers. We must all be very careful of what we glean from some preachers or books.

The devil knows Christians would never listen to the ravings of a shaman reciting his cult corpus and waving his rattle. We won’t even allow him get past our church doors. But if a shaman shows up in a three-piece suit, has some degrees under his belt, carries a big bible and mouths off the same cultic ideas, this time, laced with familiar Christian clichés, many Christians will fall for his deceptive teachings.