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.