Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Shack part 1: Helpful or Heretical? A Critical Review by Norman L. Geisler and Bill Roach

Many of you are aware of the best selling book The Shack. It has sold millions and many Christians have read it and promoted it. Unfortunately there are many serious theological errors in the book. Although it is a work of fiction, many undiscerning readers will undoubtedly take the ideas presented in this book as truth. I've heard both sides of the coin on this one, and I say it's safer to eat boneless meat than it is to eat the meat and spit out the bones.

There are several good articles that review the Shack, but I think this one by by Norman L. Geisler and Bill Roach lays it out in pithy paragraphs that gives us a great understanding of the problems with the Shack in light of Scripture.

I will also provide extra links to more in depth articles on this and other books soon, including the New Age language and implications that are hidden in this story. -Chris

Which reminds me, I want to give a shout out to Danny Turner at

This young man is only eighteen years old and he get's it. Check out his blog where he has his own critique of the Shack (Danny-I have not read it all and will, but what I have read, you're right on).

I also want to say hello to Wayne Dawg at This is a blog I have started following as of today! I didn't need long to realize that we have a lot in common. It is loaded and I look forward to checking out the archives. I recommend the "Are you ready?" video Wayne has and check out the Fish with Trish link. Thanks Wayne! Okay, back to the Shack......if we must. : )


The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity by William P. Young (Wind Blown Media, 2007, 264 pp) is a New York Times best seller with well over a million copies in print. Literally hundreds of thousands have been blessed by its message, but its message is precisely what calls for scrutiny. Responses to The Shack range from eulogy to heresy. Eugene Peterson, author of The Message predicted that The Shack “has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good!” Emmy Award Winning Producer of ABC Patrick M. Roddy declares that “it is a one of a kind invitation to journey to the very heart of God. Through my tears and cheers, I have been indeed transformed by the tender mercy with which William Paul Young opened the veil that too often separated me from God and from myself.” ( People from all walks of life are raving about this book by unknown author “Willie” Young, son of a pastor/missionary, and born in Canada. He is a graduate of Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon.

The Background of the Book
The Shack is Christian fiction, a fast-growing genre in the contemporary Christian culture. It communicates a message in a casual, easy-to-read, non-abrasive manner. From his personal experience, Young attempts to answer some of life’s biggest questions: Who is God? Who is Jesus? What is the Trinity? What is salvation? Is Jesus the only way to Heaven? If God, then why evil? What happens after I die?
In the final section of the book titled “The Story behind THE SHACK,” he reveals that the motivation for this story comes from his own struggle to answer many of the difficult questions of life. He claims that his seminary training just did not provide answers to many of his pressing questions. Then one day in 2005, he felt God whisper in his ear that this year was going to be his year of Jubilee and restoration. Out of that experience he felt lead to write The Shack. According to Young, much of the book was formed around personal conversations he had with God, family, and friends (258-259). He tells the readers that the main character “Mack” is not a real person, but a fictional character used to communicate the message in the book. However, he admits that his children would “recognize that Mack is mostly me, that Nan is a lot like Kim, that Missy and Kate and the other characters often resemble our family members and friends” (259).

The Basic Story of the Book
The story centers around a note that Mack, the husband and father in the story, received from “Papa,” who is supposed to be God the Father. It reads, “Mackenzie, It’s been a while. I’ve missed you. I’ll be at the shack next weekend if you want to get together” (19). From this, the story moves through the personal struggles Mack has with such questions as: Why would someone send me this letter? Does God really speak through letters? How would my seminary training respond to this interaction between God and man? The story takes a turn when Mack’s son almost drowns while canoeing. During the chaos his daughter is abducted and eventually killed. This is what caused Mack to fall into what the book calls “The Great Sadness.” This time period is supposed to reflect his spiritual condition after the death of his daughter and the questions he has been asking for many years.
Grieved with the death of his daughter and the possibility that the note might be from God, Mack packs his bags and heads for the shack. The point of this journey is to suggest that his traditional teaching, Sunday prayers, hymns, and approach to Christianity were all wrong. He comes to the conclusion that “cloistered spirituality seemed to change nothing in the lives of people he knew, except maybe Nan [his wife]” (63). In spite of being an unlikely encounter with God, Young uses this fictional encounter as a vehicle for Mack’s spiritual journey and encounter at the shack.
While at the shack, Mack discovers that God is not what we expect Him to be. In fact, God the Father is a “large beaming African-American woman,” Jesus appeared to be “Middle Eastern and was dressed like a laborer, complete with tool belt and gloves,” and the Holy Spirit is named Sarayu, “a small, distinctively Asian woman.” The book identifies these three people as the Trinity (80-82). After trying to reconcile his seminary training with this new encounter with God, he concludes that what he had learned was of no help.

Click here for entire article.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the shout-out and link to my post. And thanks for the post on the Shack and being a discerning Christian. Too many Christians just swallow stuff like the Shack right up and its dangerous. Cool article too, thanks for the link. I haven't read it all. But I will. Love the blog!

God Bless

Wayne Dawg said...

"Some of my brothers and sisters don't see it that way, they don't see the harm in it. They say they can see the errors in books such as these and can eat the meat and spit out the bones. And some of my friends are capable of that, and that's okay. The problem is the new believers or those non-believers (seekers) who will eat it up....bones and all."

Thank you for the shout out! It's refreshing to see more and more Christians on Blogger who are able to discern the truth of God's Word.

I have a prayer meeting every Monday with some believers here at work. After praying this week one of the brothers said that he just finished reading 'The Shack' and told all of us that we should too.

All of us at the meeting have been followers of Christ for quite a while now (no new believers), but I told him that the book is full of heresy that can mislead and even damage a new believers walk. He agreed and said that a new Christian should not read it.

I asked him why he decided to read it. He said that someone had given it to him so he just read it. I asked why he thought all of us should read comes the scary part: he said that it gave him 'new' insight to God, salavation and the Trinity. I said, "new insight"? I told him the Bible is all we need to have to know about God, salvation and the Trinity.

The wolf in sheeps clothing that is featured at the top of your blog is a perfect picture of that book.

Keep up the good work!