As a sarcastic joke, one of my friends (one of our elders) bought me The Shack by Wm. Paul Young. This is the book I had heard so much about even before reading a single page. This fictional story seemed to have the unique ability, perhaps more than any other work, to immediately polarize Christians just by the mention of its title. I was amazed to hear how quickly people expressed either their love or hate for it in such strong terms. So many Christians were singing its praises as a new and insightful understanding of God, while other Christians were equally impassioned to lambast it as "the gospel according to post-modernism."
After listening and passively gathering information about this story that was stirring the passions of so many fellow believers, I had come to see it as a struggle between the "Christian liberties" side of the house and the "Christian responsibilities" camp. Those who had a tendency to embrace the overarching culture liked the book, while those who felt that modern western culture was "on a highway to hell," did not. The more I listened to the debate the more firmly I felt confirmed in my observation.
It got to be kind of a joke. I knew who would be "pro-Shack" and who would be "anti-Shack" based on their view of culture and liberty, and so I prejudged the book as something Biblically liberal simply by the people who loved it. And then my friend went out and bought one for me. I didn't have the time, I had already come to my conclusion, and I didn't want to read a work of fiction. But now it was in my hand. I guess I needed to read it.
The Shack is about a guy named Mack whose young daughter is kidnapped and killed by some pervert while on a family outing. Mack's lukewarm relationship with God goes cold, as he is embittered by this horrific tragedy that devastates his life and the life of his family. After some time passes, God sends him a note in the mail and invites him to the very shack where law enforcement officers had discovered his little girl's body. God appears to him at the shack as a large black woman, Jesus a Jewish man is there as well, along with the Holy Spirit who is a woman too. And ultimately the black-woman God, called "Papa," assures Mack that she had a purpose in all of it and that she loves Mack more than the human mind can imagine. Mack receives the message and is redeemed into relationship once again.
The story itself is very well written and Wm. Paul Young is gifted at painting pictures with words. I had a swirl of emotions as I progressed through his work. The peak undoubtedly occurred for me when Father God, Yahweh, Creator of heaven and earth, the One whom heavenly creatures praise all day, every day, with "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was, and is, and is to come," was introduced as a portly black woman reminiscent of Aunt Jemimah. "Why?" I thought. Was it to shock us or offend us? Either way, it worked. I was appalled, disturbed, and eventually became angry. As I continued, I realized that my prejudgment about the book was not only correct, but even worse than I had imagined.
It was a travesty. In the book, Jesus repeatedly calls the Father "she," and at one point laughs out loud and says, "She's a riot." The Father also makes fun of Jesus, calling Him "greasy fingers" after He drops a tray, and later on says of Himself (herself) "Guess that's jes' the way I is." What? Have we become so casual with God that we can assign the most stereotypical, uneducated, "ghetto-speak" to Him? In any other setting that would be called "racist." But now we can demean God with this kind of speech? Anger washed over me, a righteous anger, the kind that motivated Jesus to ascend the temple steps and overturn the money changers' tables, to form a whip and drive out those making the Lord's house a den of thieves.
Where was the God of the Bible? Certainly not in The Shack. That god was weak, silly, melodramatic, tolerant, passive, and effeminate. And He was a she! What kind of nut job makes God out to be an ill-spoken, ethnic, overweight woman? Jesus is the perfect image of the invisible God, and He was a He. Jesus always referred to God that way, and called Him by the clearly masculine title "Father." Jesus is not androgynous, neither is the Father. There were so many theological problems with this book that a well-trained 5th grader could have picked it apart. This was a not-so-subtle attempt to smuggle tolerance, diversity, universalism, egalitarianism, pacifism, and multiculturalism into evangelical Christianity. The Shack is the incarnation of the god of the political left. She is a genderless (but mostly woman) god who condemns no one, accepts everyone even without repentance, does not believe in hell, and knows only one attribute: love.
This book was poison. But lots of books are poison, so why is The Shack so unique? Because it got through the barrier, penetrated the church, and has received endorsement by numerous Christian leaders, and millions of Christians. There is even one speaker well known within the Calvary Chapel movement who has openly endorsed this book, and he remains on the speaking circuit within Calvary Chapel. Have we lost our minds? Have we completely rolled over and capitulated our doctrinal stand to the culture? Paul was right when he said, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables" (2 Tim 4:3).
And what a fable The Shack is! I dare anyone to read the book, write down the characteristics of God presented by Paul Young and then compare it to what the real God says of Himself in scripture. The two won't match. Be careful out there Christians, especially now in the 9th inning. Satan is going to do everything he can to confuse and delegitimize the authentic gospel in these last days. And sadly, many Christian leaders are following along.