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Is "The Shack" Heresy?

I received a few comments of concern because I  promote The Shack and Wayne Jacobson’s books on this blog. The Shack by William Paul Young is a popular Christian fiction that has been a best seller for over 70 weeks. Wayne Jacobsen worked on the book and helped get it published.

The people concerned should be complimented for being careful of being seduced into error. We need to examine what we read for error.

If you want to know the book’s purpose and motivation, who should you ask the editor, Wayne Jacobsen or  a third party with a  questionable agenda? I read several of the  false rumors and some out-right lies bashing ‘The Shack.” In my opinion the  found they are either:

  1. Jumping on the bandwagon trying to get publicity from the book’s best selling status.
  2. Judgmental Pharisaical ministries focused on legalism instead of loving God and others.
  3. Extreme Calvinism- focused on replacement theology and election predestination. i. e. They don’t believe Jesus died for all.
  4. Misunderstand the book or author’s beliefs. Paul Young and Wayne Jacobsen believe in the salvation message (Jesus died on the cross paying for our sins)

Let’s get the facts  directly to the editor of the book (emphases mine):

“Is The Shack” Heresy?”

I never thought everyone was going to love this book. Art is incredibly subjective as to whether a story and style are appealing. I have no problem with a spirited discussion of some of the theological issues raised in The Shack.

The books I love most are the ones that challenge my theological constructs and invite a robust discussion among friends, whether I agree with everything in them or not in the end,. That is especially true of a work of fiction where people will bring their own interpretations of the same events or conversations.

I never view a book as all good or all bad. It’s like eating chicken. Enjoy what you think is the meat and toss what you think are the bones.

What is surprising, however, is the hostile tone of false accusation and the conspiracy theories that some are willing to put on this book. Some have even warned others not to read it or they will be led into deception.

It saddens me that people want to use a book like this to polarize God’s family, whether it’s over enthusiastic reader thrusting it in someone’s face telling them they ‘must read’ this book, or when people read their own theological agendas into a work, then denounce it as heresy.

If you’re interested, read it for yourself. Don’t let someone else do your thinking for you. If it helps convey the reality of Jesus to you, great! If all you can see is sinister motives and false teaching in it, then put it aside.

I don’t have time to give a point-by-point rebuttal to the reviews I’ve read, but I would like to make some comments on some of the issues that have come up since I’m getting way too many emails asking me what I think of some of the questions they raise. I’ll also admit at the outset, that I’m biased.

Admittedly, I’m biased. I was part of a team who worked with the author on this manuscript for over a year and am part of the company formed to print and distribute this book. But I’m also well acquainted with the purpose and passions of this book.

What do I think? I tire of the self-appointed doctrine police, especially when they toss around false accusations like ‘new age conspiracy’, ‘counterfeit Jesus’ or ‘heresy’ to promote fear in people as a way of advancing their own agenda. What many of them don’t realize is that research actually shows that more people will buy a book after reading a negative review than they do after reading a positive one. It piques their curiosity as to why someone would take so much time to denounce someone else’s book.

But such reviews also confuse people who are afraid of being seduced into error and for those I think the false accusations demand a response.

Let me assure any of you reading this that all three of us who worked on this book are deeply committed followers of Jesus Christ who have a passion for the Truth of the Scriptures and who have studied and taught the life of Jesus over the vast majority of our lifetimes.

But none of us would begin to pretend that we have a complete picture of all that God is or that our theology is flawless. We are all still growing in our appreciation for him and our desire to be like him, and we hope this book encourages you to that process as well. In the end, this says the best stuff we know about God at this point in our journeys. Is it a complete picture of him? Of course not! Who could put all that he is into a little story like this one? But if it is a catalyst to get thousands of people to talk about theology—who God is and how he makes himself known in the world—we would be blessed.

This is a story of one believer’s brokenness and how God reached into that pain and pulled him out and as such is a compelling story of God’s redemption. The pain and healing come straight from a life that was broken by guilt and shame at an incredibly deep level and he compresses into a weekend the lessons that helped him walk out of that pain and find life in Jesus again.

That said, the content of this book does take a harsh look at how many of our religious institutions and practices have blinded people to the simple Gospel and replaced it with a religion of rules and rituals that have long ceased to reflect the Lord of Glory. Some will disagree with that assessment and the solutions this book offers, and the reviews that do so honestly merit discussion. But those who confuse the issues by making up their own back-story for the book, or ascribing motives to its publication without ever finding out the truth, only prove our point.

Here are some brief comments on the major issues that have been raised about The Shack:

Does the book promote universalism?

Some people can find a universalist under every bush. This book flatly states that all roads do not lead to Jesus, while it affirms that Jesus can find his followers wherever they may have wandered into sin or false beliefs. Just because he can find followers in the most unlikely places, does not validate those places. I don’t know how we could have been clearer, but people will quote portions out of that context and draw a false conclusion.

Does it devalue Scripture?

Just because we didn’t put Scriptural addresses with their numbers and colons at every allusion in the story, does not mean that the Bible isn’t the key source in virtually every conversation Mack has with God. Scriptural teachings and references appear on almost every page. They are reworded in ways to be relevant to those reading the story, but at every point we sought to be true to the way God has revealed himself in the Bible except for the literary characterizations that move the story forward. At its core the book is one long Bible study as Mack seeks to resolve his anger at God.

Is this God too nice?

Others have claimed that the God of The Shack is simply too nice, or having him in humorous human situations trivializes him. Really? Who wants to be on that side of the argument? For those who think this God is too easy, please tell me in what way does he let Mack off on anything? He holds his feet to the fire about every lie in his mind and every broken place in his heart. I guess what people these critics cannot see is confrontation and healing inside a relationship of love and compassion. This is not the angry and tyrannical God that religion has been using for 2000 years to beat people into conformity and we are not surprised that this threatens the self-proclaimed doctrine police.

One reviewer even thought this passage from The Shack was a mockery of the true God: “I’m not a bully, not some self-centered demanding little deity insisting on my own way. I am good, and I desire only what is best for you. You cannot find that through guilt or condemnation….” That wasn’t mocking God but a view of God that seems him as a demanding, self-centered tyrant? The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ revealed himself as the God who would lay down his life for us to redeem us to himself.

The words, “I don’t want slaves to do my will; I want brothers and sisters who will share life with me,” are simply a reflection of John 15:15. Unfortunately those who tend toward legalism among us have no idea how much more completely Jesus transforms us out of a relationship of love, than we could ever muster in our gritted-teeth obedience. This is at the heart of the new covenant—that love will fulfill the law, where human effort cannot.

Does it distort or demean the Trinity?

One of the concerns expressed about The Shack is that it presents the Trinity outside of a hierarchy. In fact many religious traditions think they find their basis for hierarchical organizations in what they’ve assumed about the Trinity. To look at the Trinity as a relationship without the need for command and control is one of the intriguing parts of this story. If they walk in complete unity, why would a hierarchy be needed? They live in love and honor each other. While in the flesh Jesus did walk in obedience to the Father as our example, elsewhere Scripture speaks of their complete unity, love and glory in relating to each other. Different functions need not imply a different status.

This extends in other ways to look at how healed people can relate to each other inside their relationship with God that defines authority and submission in ways most are not used to, but that are far more consistent with what we see in the early believers and in the teaching of Scripture. It is also true of many believers around the world who are learning to experience the life of Father’s family without all the hierarchical maintenance and drama that has plagued followers of Christ since the third century.

People may see this differently and find this challenging, if only because it represents some thought they have not been exposed to before. Here we might be better off having a discussion instead of dragging out the ‘heretic’ label when it is unwarranted.

Does it leave out discussions about church, salvation and other important aspects of Christianity?

This is some of the most curious complaints I’ve ever read. This is the story about God making himself available to one of his followers who is being swallowed up by tragedy and his crisis of faith in God’s goodness over it. This is not a treatise on every element of theological study. Perhaps we should have paused in the story to have an altar call, or perhaps we should have drug a pipe organ into the woods and enlisted a choir to hold a service, but that was not the point.

Is this a feminist God?

The book uses some characterizations of God to mess with the religious stereotypes only to get people to consider God as he really is, not how we have reconstituted him as a white, male autocrat bent on religious conformity. There are important reasons in the story why God takes the expressions he does for Mack, which underlines his nature to meet us where we are, to lead us to where he is. While Jesus was incarnated as man, God as a spirit has no gender, even though we fully embrace that he has taken on the imagery of the Father to express his heart and mind to us. We also recognize Scripture uses traditional female imagery to help us understand other aspects of God’s person, as when Jesus compares himself to a hen gathering chicks, or David likens himself to a weaned child in his mother’s arms.

Has it touched people too deeply?

Some reviewers point to Amazon.com reviews and people who have claimed it had a transforming effect on their spiritual lives as proof of its demonic origin. Please! How absurd is that? Do we prefer books that leave people untouched? This book touches lives because it deals with God in the midst of pain in an honest, straightforward way and because for many this is the first time they have seen the power of theology worked out inside a relationship with God himself.

Does The Shack promote Ultimate Reconciliation (UR)?

It does not. While some of that was in earlier versions because of the author’s partiality at the time to some aspects of what people call UR, I made it clear at the outset that I didn’t embrace UR as sound teaching and didn’t want to be involved in a project that promoted it. In my view UR is an extrapolation of Scripture to humanistic conclusions about our Father’s love that has to be forced on the biblical text.

Since I don’t believe in UR and wholeheartedly embrace the finished product, I think those who see UR here, either positively or negatively are reading into the text. To me that was the beauty of the collaboration. Three hearts weighed in on the theology to make it as true as we could muster. The process also helped shape our theologies in honest, protracted discussions. I think the author would say that some of that dialog significantly affected his views. This book represents growth in that area for all of us. Holding him to the conclusions he may have embraced years earlier would be unfair to the ongoing process of God in his life and theology.

That said, however, I’m not afraid to have that discussion with people I regard as brothers and sisters since many have held that view in the course of theological history. Also keep in mind that the heretic hunters lump many absurd notions into what they call UR, but when I actually talk to those people partial to some view of ultimate reconciliation they do not endorse all the absurdities ascribed to them. This is a heavily nuanced discussion with UR meaning a lot of different things to different people. For myself, I am convinced that Jesus is someone we have to accept through repentance and belief in this age to participate in his life.

Throughout The Shack Mack’s choices are in play, determining what he will let God do in his life through their encounter. He is no victim of God’s process. He is a willing participant at every juncture. And even though Papa says ‘He is reconciled to all men” he also notes that, “not all men are reconciled to me.”

Is the author promoting the emergent movement?

This guilt-by-association tactic is completely contrived. Neither the author, nor Brad and I at Windblown have ever been part of the emergent conversation. Some of their bloggers have written about the book, but we have not had any significant contact with the leaders of that movement and they have not been the core audience that has embraced this book.

That said I have met many people in the emergent conversation that have proved to be brothers and sisters in the faith. While I’m not nuts about all they do, a lot of the statements made about them by critics are as false as what some say about The Shack. They do deeply embrace the Scriptures. As I see it they are not trying to re-invent Christianity, but trying to communicate it in ways that captures a new generation. While I don’t agree with many of the conclusions they’re sorting through at the moment, they are not raving humanists. I have found them passionate seekers of the Lord Jesus Christ, who are asking some wonderful questions about God and how he makes himself known in us.

Does The Shack promote new age philosophy or Hinduism?

Amazingly some people have made assumptions about some of the names to think there is some eastern mysticism here, but when you hear how Paul selected the names he did it wasn’t to make veiled references to Hinduism, black Madonnas, or anything else. It was to uncover facets of God’s character that are clear in the Scriptures.

It’s amazing how much people will make up to indulge their fantasies and falsely label something to fit their own conclusions. Some have even insisted that Mack flying in his dreams was veiled instructions in astral travel. Absolutely absurd! Has this man never read fiction, or had a dream? Just because someone screams there is a demon under that bush, doesn’t mean there is.

* * *

We realize this would be a challenging read for those who see no difference between the religious conditioning that underlies Christianity as it is often presented in the 21st Century and the simple, powerful life in Christ that Jesus offered to his followers. Our hope was to help people see how the Loving Creator can penetrate our defenses and lead us to healing. Our prayer is that through this book people will see the God of the Bible as Jesus presented him to be—an endearing reality who wants to love us out of our sin and bondage and into his life. This is a message of grace and healing that does not condone or excuse sin, but shows God destroying it through the dynamic relationship he wants with each of his children.

We realize folks will disagree. We appreciate the interaction of those who have honest concerns and questions. Those who have been captured by this story are encouraged to search the Scriptures to see if these things are so and not trust us or the ravings of those who misinterpret this book, either threatened by its success, or those who want to ride on it to push their own fear-based agenda.

Recommended Books

Robin Sampson

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50 comments

  1. Stella

    It has answered the hardest questions for me……….why is there so much hurting in this world and why doesn’t God stop it? All that injustice. I was going to ask God when I saw him, when I died. This book answered that question is such a way that I feel not only satisfied, but happy! Happy! I cried through this book. Tears of grief, then tears of joy. I can’t wait to share it with my sisters and family. I look at the world so differently now. And I am changed.

  2. Sally Jenkins

    My daughter bought this book for me for Christmas because she said it did so much for her she wanted me to read it. She doesn’t really like to read much so I knew this must be a special book. I didn’t get around to reading it until recently although I wished I had read it immediately.

    I have been a christian all my life and it wasn’t until 1993 that I realized religion was not relationship. It was then I had my own wilderness experience and learned that God was not a judge with a gavel in his hand waiting for me to screw up. You see my own father was like that and although he loved the Lord and had had his own experience getting saved he forgot the love somewhere along the road. His walk became judgemental in so many ways, rules and regulations were the norm in my home.

    I learned in 93 that this thinking was not the heart of God but somewhere along the journey I lost sight of all he had taught me back then. This book renewed the thoughts but it took me even further in my relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I cried so many times as I walked through the pages of this book as if I was on this journey with Mack. At the end of the book, I fell to my knees and asked God to forgive me for losing sight of his love and forgiveness and began the process of forgiving so many I thought I had already forgiven.

    Starting with myself, and family then those who were a part of my life who hurt me deeply through the years. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore and asked Abba (Papa) to please help me to see with His Spirit what I cannot see with my own eyes. Thank you for writing this book it changed me forever and I know I will read it again and again as it will each time touch a part of my life that God wishes to change in me.

    Also I can see the changes it is making in my daughter who for years fought the Love of God as her father was not a part of her life and couldn’t forgive him.We all need to know that God loves us regardless of our past mistakes and that he expects us to make mistakes and each one will draw us closer to Him. I know that God is so well pleased with this book and that you will be blessed by the many who are touched by it.
    Baruch Hashem

  3. Well said. I love this paragraph.

    What do I think? I tire of the self-appointed doctrine police, especially when they toss around false accusations like ‘new age conspiracy’, ‘counterfeit Jesus’ or ‘heresy’ to promote fear in people as a way of advancing their own agenda.
    .-= Kim~littlesanctuary´s last blog ..The real deal =-.

  4. Celeste

    I loved this book!!

  5. Staci Medendorp

    Robin…

    Thank you so much!! I so appreciate your intelligent defense of what I felt was a great, thought-provoking read.

    Woo hoo……I hope that you have a blessed week and tnank you so much for this wonderful blessing of a ministry!!!

    Staci Medendorp

    P.S. I want to be like you when I “grow” up. (pssst…I’m 37!) LOL

  6. Thanks for the great book it has changed me or at least has begun a change. I discovered during the reading of this book that I really did believe that God was bad and he was out to get me… continuously punishing me and prolonging my needless suffering. Yes I did think that Jesus was the good cop and God was the bad cop… I think I’m starting to get it. I don’t want to be lonely anymore. I want to enjoy life, reap it’s rewards and end my miserable, resigned existance… yes the book made me cry. I think I let out about five litres of tears. Couldn’t believe a book could do that.
    Tom

  7. I’m not a fiction fan but had so many friends make comments about this book (good and not so good) from other forums and on Facebook.

    I have been on a quest to discover the richness of God’s grace and getting off the treadmill of performance to try to please Father God. I always felt empty in so much religious stuff that I felt trapped by.

    This work of fiction has helped to cement this concept of God accomplished everything for relationship with his children.

    I’m so convinced that Jesus paid 100% of the price for my sin (past, present and even future sin) so why should I keep trying to pay that price.

    I mentioned I’m not a fiction fan (give me a juicy commentary any day) and it was hard at first to get past the author’s image of Papa being a motherly figure but it makes so much sense since the main character had serious father issues. I had mother issues so in my vision of God a Abba would make more sense.

    I am passing this book on to bless others. We all need to have the eyes of our hearts enlightened (flooded with light) to really grasp the height, width and breadth of God’s love for us.

  8. Roger Stewart

    The Shack is a tale of tragedy redeemed, not a theological treatise.

    People never cease to amaze me with suspicion. They speak of God’s love and claim salvation is not by works but question anything that doesn’t demand a bunch of rules.

    Accept His love and mercy and stop looking for the devil under ever rock. Paul Young is a loving Christian– go find someone else to punch.

  9. Acceptance of God’s love is key to shedding the need for judgment or justice and allows us to look through His eyes… and to love them right where they are… broken and in need of the Father’s love…

  10. wfolds

    many of those who make claims of heresy have never even read the book themselves. They are saying what some other person has said, and much of that is taken out of context.

    People who are critical and have not read it are like my granddaughter who, when offered a new food item, will say ” I don’t want to eat it because I don’t like it!” and once she tries it ” Loves it “. I will discount a persons opinion if they have not read it. I respect someone reading it and not liking it (though I have a hard time understanding how a person couldn’t like it), but don’t tell me what’s wrong with it if you have not read it. All too often when someone reads it, with and open mind, they love it.

  11. Laura Jenkins

    I think it is incredibly dishonest to allow only posts that agree with you. I have almost every book you have written and, as a homeschool leader, I point many to your websites and publications. In good conscience I can no longer do this.

  12. Laura Jenkins

    Doctrine police? That’s our job.

    Jude 1:3-4 (New American Standard Bible)

    3(A)Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our (B)common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you (C)contend earnestly for (D)the faith which was once for all (E)handed down to (F)the saints.

    4For certain persons have (G)crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand (H)marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn (I)the grace of our God into (J)licentiousness and (K)deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

    Laura’s comments on Facebook:

    I have not read the whole book. I stood for 20 minutes in the bookstore and skiimmed through it because I didn’t want to take anyone else’s word for what was or was not in it. In those 20 minutes I did not find one page that did not have doctrinal error in it. The bottom line, for me, is that the shack disagrees with the word of God. It is a very powerful fictional tool that uses emotion to subtly change our perception of God.
    _____________________
    ALL relgion is dead. Jesus was not at all religious. Our goal is a relationship with Him. We don’t need to read a fictional book to find out what He is like – we need to experience His word and as we learn to submit to Him and be willing vessels, to allow His life to be poured out through us. No work of fiction by a mere human can begin to extol the joy of the living God in us.
    __________
    Isn’t that why the 2nd commandment forbids graven images or any kind of representation? No image can begin to express who our Father is, and so would diminish Him.
    __________________
    What I wrote is based on what I read with my own eyes; however, there is enough information on the cover to determine it is a blasphemous book. What is the difference between depicting God as a black woman and casting a golden calf? None. We are not free to break the first 2 commandments. The author has created his own make believe god.
    ______________________
    There are whole books written about all the error in the shack. I don’t have a copy of it and don’t really see the point into going through all that when it should be clear enough that the premise itself is wrong. One contradiction of the Bible in a “christian” book renders it unfit to read for a Bible-believing Christian. To continue to do so when you find error is disobedience.
    ______
    ou will never know how many readers you have lost over this, Robin. Did you pray and ask permission before you read it? Did you pray and ask permission before you recommended it to so many people? I didn’t say anything the first 72 times you posted on it but this, to me, is deeply blasphemous and I don’t enjoy being hit over the head with it …
    _____________
    I will agree with you that it has been inspirational for many people. God will use everything, good or bad, to woo us. That does not mean that we will not be held accountable for what we endorse. There is plenty of good inspirational fiction that accurately depicts God and wonderful missionary stories that teach who He really is. The world hates us. If the world loves a book, that is a very good indication that it is not for us. I will not be responding to any more posts about this.

  13. Sorry your comments did not appear right away Laura. Long time commenters are not moderated. Comments from newer commenters do not show until I get a chance to approve.

    I deleted comments with links to distortions (things taken out of context) about The Shack.

  14. Laura, are you saying I am “ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”?

    Just trying to understand your point. Jude 1:3-4 is a pretty serious accusation to throw around lightly.

    WHERE have I denied Christ? Where has Paul Young or Wayne Jacobsen dined Christ????????? Why can’t Christians disagree without condemning another as a heretic?

    The reason I love the Shack is because it is a place where I see LOVE! Love from God through Jesus. Unlike typical judgmental, nasty people in many churches.

  15. Laura,

    Several months ago the Southern Baptists pulled “The Shack” from their shelves in all of their bookstores. However, after having their top theologians read and dissect it pages like a forensic pathologist performing an autopsy, they found nothing in error with the book and had it placed back into all of their stores and churches. Have you read it for yourself? Or do you rely on others twistings?

    And believe me if the Southern Baptists couldn’t find anything truly theologically wrong with “The Shack” I would be hard-pressed to find others who could.

    Most negative comments on “The Shack” have been as a result of taking certain passages in the book completely out of context.

    please remember….the book is fiction not a theology book.

  16. FLJennifer

    This just makes me want to shout – Who said God can’t appear to us in just the form this guy wrote about? He was a bush – a dove – all sorts of things, so why not a woman, a guy with a big nose, or an Asian lady? So what anyway? Why are they so threatened by this? It is like a little kid in the back seat of a car complaining,”he TOUCHED me!” in a whiney voice, lol.

    Their logic is faulty. These people are full of fear, and negativity. It is amazing to me when people look and see only the evil, or ugly in a thing of beauty. Just what does that say about their spirit or relationship with our Father??? Always seeing doomsday and sin, judgment and death instead of what Jesus brought – life, light and love – and forgiveness with our repentance. No one said to go out and sin in this book so lighten up!

    Also, take it for what it is. No one claimed this book to be gospel – yet “they” are accusing all involved of being false prophets, dangerous, heretical; and they take things out of context, regurgitating it falsely, misconstruing thoughts until it sounds like it was written to take people away from God, or contrary to what its intent was at any rate. I certainly didn’t take away from reading it, that this book and what it said was the way to salvation, or how to believe, or something. Are people really that gullible?

  17. Finding God in The Shack by Randal Rauser is amazing. He addresses and answers all the objections with Scripture and explains so much in simple terms (not bad for a theologian). Love it!

    Read the first chapter free here. http://budurl.com/Shack3

    Blessings,
    Robin
    http;//heartofwisdom.com/blog

  18. Jennifer Hopkins

    I find this book to be so evocative and thought provoking – if for no other reason than making us think, :Smiley wouldn’t you think people would appreciate it and commend him and the others who worked on it instead of trying to discredit them/it?

    I still hold it to be true that God, through this book, has inspired me and made me grow – there was an identification with the rightness of it, and I had none of the negative things ring true. If I was deceived, then I believe God will tell me that (actually I think he would have already…) I may be naive, but he’ll take care of that, no fear. I trust in Him to do that, and believe he will. That’s why I don’t see what the big deal is.

  19. Great point Adam:

    Several months ago the Southern Baptists pulled “The Shack” from their shelves in all of their bookstores. However, after having their top theologians read and dissect it pages like a forensic pathologist performing an autopsy, they found nothing in error with the book and had it placed back into all of their stores and churches.

    if the Southern Baptists couldn’t find anything truly theologically wrong with “The Shack” I would be hard-pressed to find others who could.

  20. RHayle

    The shack is an interesting read. It challenges so much of my traditional beliefs.

    I am keeping my feet on the ground. This is a work of fiction. One mans vision of God and the Godhead relationship. The concept is challenging, even believable.

    The bottom line for me, at present ,is that if this book removes the judgemental perception from the reader’s view of his fellow men then it making this earth a better place to live in.

  21. Richard Strick

    Why are Christians so quick to scream heretic? Interpretation is what separates a Baptist from a Roman Catholic. Paul young may have a different interpretation but he obviously loves God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit ad the Word! Get a life false accusers.

  22. Robin, I have been meaning to write to you for a while now. I wanted to say a HUGE “Thank you!.” I started reading all of Wayne’s books after I read one of your posts telling how God was changing your life in Love! I had already read The Shack but didn’t know about any of the other resources – or ideas – or Truth.
    God is changing my life and I am learning to live Loved!

    Thank you, dear Sister! You may never know how much God is using you!

    Thank you!

  23. In my limited experience, I have found that the biggest critics are those that have not read the book.

    I believe that the bickering and division that critics have caused is far more damaging than the book itself.

    I have not read personal testimonies of how the book has mucked up a person’s relationship with God but I have read how many have come to have a deeper walk, a walk of dying to self, with the Lord despite the fact that it is a work of fiction.

    How about personal testimonies of how the book destroyed your relationship with God?
    .-= Susan (HomeGrownKids)´s last blog ..No power =-.

  24. angela hunt

    I agree, the bickering and division that critics have caused is far more damaging than the book itself!

  25. Lisa K

    I have to agree with Laura Jenkins posts.

    I’d like to share a story if I may.
    Its called “Fathers Brownies”.

    A father of some teenage children had the family rule that they could not attend “R” rated
    movies. His three teens wanted to see a particular popular movie that was playing at local
    theaters. It was rated “R.”
    The teens interviewed friends and even some members of their family’s church to find
    out what was offensive in the movie. The teens made a list of pros and cons about the movie to
    use to convince their dad that they should be allowed to see it.
    The con’s were that it contained ONLY 3 swear words, the ONLY violence was a building
    exploding (and you see that on TV all the time they said), and you actually did not “see” the
    couple in the movie having sex – it was just implied sex, off camera.
    The pros were that it was a popular movie – a blockbuster. Everyone was seeing it. If the
    teens saw the movie then they would not feel left out when their friends discussed it. The
    movie contained a good story and plot. It had some great adventure and suspense in it. There
    were some fantastic special effects in this movie. The movie’s stars were some of the most
    talented actors in Hollywood. It probably would be nominated for several awards. Many of the
    members of their Christian church had even seen the movie and said it wasn’t “very bad.”
    Therefore, since there were more pros than cons the teens said they were asking their
    father to reconsider his position on just this ONE movie and let them have permission to go
    see it.
    The father looked at the list and thought for a few minutes. He said he could tell his
    children had spent some time and thought on this request. He asked if he could have a day to
    think it about before making his decision. The teens were thrilled thinking; “Now we’ve got him!
    Our argument is too good! Dad can’t turn us down!” So, they happily agreed to let him have a
    day to think about their request.
    The next evening the father called in his three teenagers, who were smiling smugly, into
    the living room. There on the coffee table he had a plate of brownies. The teens were puzzled. The
    father told his children he had thought about their request and had decided that if they
    would eat a brownie then he would let them go to the movie. But just like the movie, the brownies
    had pros and cons.
    The pros were that they were made with the finest chocolate and other good ingredients.
    They had the added special effect of yummy walnuts in them. The brownies were moist and
    fresh with wonderful chocolate frosting on top. He had made these fantastic brownies using an
    award-winning recipe. And best of all, the brownies had been made lovingly by the hand of
    their own father.
    The brownies only had one con. He had included a little bit of a special ingredient. The
    brownies also contained just a little bit of dog poop. But he had mixed the dough well – they
    probably would not even be able to taste the dog poop and he had baked it at 350 degrees so any
    bacteria or germs from the dog poop had probably been destroyed.
    Therefore, if any of his children could stand to eat the brownies which included just a
    “little bit of crap” and not be affected by it, then he knew they would also be able to see the
    movie with “just a little bit of smut”and not be affected.
    Of course, none of the teens would eat the brownies and the smug smiles had left their
    faces. Only Dad was smiling smugly as they left the room.
    Now when his teenagers ask permission to do something he is opposed to, the father just
    asks, “Would you like me to whip up a batch of my special brownies?”

    If we don’t stand for something, we’ll fall for anything.
    Contending for the Faith,
    Lisa

  26. Yes, I absolutely prayed about the Shack. I had a knee jerk reaction at the beginning until I understood the allegorical message.

    I am a survivor of spiritual church abuse. I was taught to believe if there is suffering in your life you must have pissed God off. The Shack gives another view of suffering portraying a loving Father God. Those who think God is more judge than merciful don’t like it.

    Do you really believe if God the Father came to us in some sort of vision, He would be some old man with a long white beard? People are angry the book questions preconceived ideas? Is that so wrong?

    What would Jesus do with this book about Him? I believe He would chuckle at parts of it and He may groan at parts of it. I know He loves Paul Young and He loves you. And I believe it saddens Him that you have so much anger towards brothers and sisters in Him.

    You probably think I am a blasphemous for saying Jesus would chuckle. That is part of what I got from the Shack. God gave us humor, and beauty, and a desire to receive love and that’s OK. He KNOWS us, loves us and wants us to come to Him they way we are. He loves us while we are sinners.

    What is sad is that it is very likely that the people most offended by “the Shack” are the people who need to hear it’s message most desperately.

    Lets examine the fruit of those bashing the Shack and those promoting the Shack. How a Christian handles disagreements tell volumes about the person. Some are babes in Christ and just need patience to see the error of how handle situations in love.

    Some are prideful and want to “win” more than find the truth. I disagreed with parts of the book and pointed them out in a review. People don’t agree about the Bible they certainly won’t agree about fiction work. When you disagree you should be able to discuss the facts not attack the person (like Democrats do to Republicans).

    Prideful people not only throw the baby out with the bath water, they then go pick the baby up and throw it down on the ground and stomp it to death while screaming hurtful names to be sure there is as much pain as possible. That is fruit I see in those bashing the Shack. Then I see a few who disagree but in love having a meaningful discussion about the discrepancies.

    I found so more fruit of the Spirit of God in Paul Young & Wayne Jacobsen’s writings & podcasts– love, joy, peace, gentleness… than I have ever seen in any church of judgmental, nasty name callers. The real fruit I have seen in how Paul and Wayne have handled the critics and the lies –with 100% humble love!

    When a sweet, loving humble person writes a moving book about his love of God –and you find fault with it –handle it like a Christian –ask him about your problems with the writing– don’t false accuse and bash him and everyone else who grew closer to God because of the book with words like blasphemous and heretic in every sentence. Then refuse to discuss the disagreement any longer.

    This whole thing reminds me of the KJV only people ready to die for a book they are so misinformed about. I’ve seen KJV only people here locally stand at major intersections screaming at people driving by “Your on your way to hell brother unless you repent!” Real loving eh? The same people had a NIV bonfire. Misguided. Misdirected, full of hate and pride. May God save them from themselves.

    I will shout the message from “The Shack” from the rooftops (dispite a few errors- Only one book on this planet is without error.
    ) because someone else might discover God is love– not the mean ogre waiting to strike you down. those who call themselves by His name present with their nasty, judgmental, superior attitudes.

    I will be praying for you. I am very sorry you misinterpret my motivations. God Bless.

  27. Lisa,

    Love the brownie story. Great lesson. Doesn’t fit with this subject because all books have errors– only one book on the planet iis perfect. If we use the brownie story about reading we would never read any books.

    The brownie story is great for R rated movies– not for judging a Christian fiction book

  28. The book is beautifully written, emotionally cathartic, and spiritually BIG, even if every detail in it does not match up with any of the theological beliefs held by ANY of the blue-million different denominations/religious groups in the world, each of whom believes THEIR way is the one/only/true way.

  29. Ah, Robin…you hit the nail on the head there! It all boils down to the fruit. ‘nough said.:o)

    Thank you for your consistent stand for LOVE, above all else. I love you, sister!

    1Cor. 13:1 ¶ If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

  30. The religion industry profits from making people believe they are separated from God and must do something to make God like them again, just like how the cosmetics industry profits from making people think they are ugly.

    When people are dominated by religion (a technique they hope will re-unite them with God), they are miserable. If you don’t share their miserable quest (but instead enjoy the relationship with God that has already been given to us by grace), they get PISSED.

    Just like the Prodigal Son’s older brother.
    .-= ShackBibleGuy´s last blog ..To hell with balance! =-.

  31. LOL, well said ShackBible Guy.

    >>The religion industry profits from making people believe they are separated from God and must do something to make God like them again, just like how the cosmetics industry profits from making people think they are ugly.<<

  32. Terri Layne

    Dear Robin,
    You know I have supported and respect you. I have benefitted greatly from your homeschooling advice.

    With regard to The Shack, I have not read it yet. I have too much homeschooling stuff to read 🙂

    However, I must disagree with you on one point you make in your response to Lisa and others. You said that Wayne Jacobson had responded entirely in love to the criticisms of the book. However, as I was reading his response to his critics, I felt just the opposite. Making statements like “How ludicrous is that?” and other similar statements as such are not loving, but very defensive and sarcastic, responses. Those responses did not endear me to him, nor make me want to read the book.

    I certainly do understand his temptation to be defensive and sarcastic, but that does not equate to a loving response to those who are really just trying to be Bereans and testing everything by the word of God. His responses would have been more fruitful had he not engaged in his own name-calling and addressed the actual complaints in more detail.

    Eventually I will read the book, with a critical eye as called for in Scripture. My other concern is putting this man on a pedestal. Many people put others on pedestals-you yourself have warned others not to put you on a pedestal. Be careful, please, Robin, with doing this with this gentleman. Many have put people like Bill Gothard and James Dobson and John Macarthur and many others on pedestals. While I have benefitted greatly from some of their ministries, I have not set them up as the ultimate source in my mind. I’m sure you don’t intend to do that here either, but please search your heart as to whether this may or may not be the case.

    We should be setting our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, not any one human being or his writings.

    This is one danger I see, Robin.
    Written in love,
    Terri L.

  33. Thanks for commenting Terri. It is easy to take a critique when it done in such loving words. 🙂

    I totally agree with you. I certainly don’t want to put anyone on a pedestal here.

    I listen to Wayne a lot on audio and video so I hear the sincerity in his voice. I didn’t hear sarcasm but that’s easy to misinterpret tone in writing so it could be. Wayne’s the kinda guy that would quickly admit he’s a sinner and has a long way to go. If you get a chance check out his videos at Lifestream.

    Thanks for pointing out the main thing– Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. See new post today “Three Little Words” http://heartofwisdom.com/blog/three-little-words/

  34. How refreshing it is to see someone else noticing and also grieved by the “doctrine police”. I have never seen such mean spiritedness coming from certain camps.

    I’m all for discerning blatant sin that would lead to death. But most folks I see doing the policing in these last days are foolishly chasing mice when lions are devouring our land as Leonard Ravenhill once said.

    It seems some of the police forget that Jesus sums it all with the greatest command, to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and soul and love thy neighbor as thyself. : )

  35. Amanda Espinoza

    THANK YOU! Thank you! Thank you! Beautiful description of what this book is truly about. We do have to take all teaching and all books to the truth of His word. Including those arguments about this book. You summed it up when you said “read it for yourself” and as for those who make this book their bible or religion, we are all guilty of following someone at sometime rather than the true Master Himself. This book was a powerful eye opener to myself and husband and moved us both to study the Word more! I am thankful for that. I also know that we tend to put God in boxes that fit our comfort zones… This book blows the boxes away and I believe makes us take a true look at our hearts and how we have tried to “control” our image of God and His influence in our lives. Thank you for printing this book and having your hand in this. May you and your family be greatly blessed by “Papa” 🙂

  36. Dear Robin and fellow HOWer’s,

    When I began the adventure to homeschool again (21 years between my two sets of kids) I could not have been more thrilled to find the HOW! I could not have been more excited to read the list of recommended books and to start collecting them ALL because I love to share great resources. I recall many times when I would get a book, briefly look through it and be so touched by the content. I recall telling others that the list of books is awesome and how wonderful HOW is for those of us who homeschool, especially from a Messianic perspective. I am even in the process of starting a homeschool group in the Denver area based on it because it is so above par.

    Then I noticed the new store with a link to The Shack book. I was confused that it was there because of the controversy I have heard about. So I thought it was time I actually consulted some great apologists (who are not Calvinists, by the way) to see their responses.

    [portion & links removed. claims could not be confirmed]

    It is, at very least, disturbing to me to see it posted as a recommended book. My approach will change from feeling so comfortable and trusting with what is recommended to one of much caution.
    Debra

  37. I’m so grieved at the attacks on this book and shocked at the nasty venom. People search the web to find critiques and automatically believe them without ever looking at the other side– Why is it easier to believe the accusations? Why don’t people bother getting both sides?

    The author has responded to the accusers questions but those responses are IGNORED by the accusers. If someone wants to know the author or publisher’s stance –ask the author or publisher not some third party.

    To the accusers posting link to critical articles- you are responsible to verify facts before passing them on as truth. How would you feel if someone passed on lies about you. Think about it. Someone post pure garbage then 20 Christians get a hold of it and pass it along gleefully bashing as they go. What kind of witness is this?

    I will continue to delete links to unconfirmed information.

  38. Wow- what kind of witness is it to pass on things that distort the truth? There were other postings from people who did take the time and showed you specific things that were contrary to scripture and you still defend it. The links I sent were very intelligibly written and from a Godly perspective. I do not need to read the Koran to know that it is full of untruths because I have consulted someone whom I respect about it; a former convert who used to teach Islamic studies- to me their information is valid, better articulated and full of things to think about. I did read the linked information I sent you and hoped it would make you think: for making you defensive was not my aim. My heart truly is that God’s people will not be deceived with such lies that are presented in the book, as it is only the truth that sets you free. I read how you were a victim and how it helped you, that is wonderful but real healing will only come from knowing the truth, and this book certainly isn’t a source of it. It isn’t that it is easier to believe any accusations, any one who knows me would never accuse me of such nonsense. I have been on the mission field full time for many years and I am not ignorant of the Word, but I am convinced that it is our responsibility to call out what is truth and what is not. How effective would one be if they allowed lies to become truths? You go ahead and defend this all you want, after all, it is your forum. I will stand by the fact that the Word is the ultimate source of truth, and when a book written contradicts it, it isn’t worth advocating. We are called to discernment. Ideas have consequences and bad ideas do destroy everything that counts.
    No one is bashing, no one is gleefully bashing. They are making the gullible people more aware.

  39. Rebekah

    I read The Shack a while ago after it was recommended to me. As with most books, I came away with mixed feelings about it. There was some good stuff to be gleaned, and some stuff to be discarded, probably more of the former than the later. It wasn’t a book that I wanted to read to my girls, as was recommended. Nor was it a book that I would have highly recommended to others, since it gave me enough hesitation.
    I marvel at our Loving Dad’s grace and mercy to me on my journey with Him, and I know He extends His same mercy and grace to my brothers and sisters, and so should I.
    So what’s my point? Grace is needed to be given to the author and where he is at in his journey, and grace should be given to the critique-rs and where they are at in their journey — encouraging all in respectful dialogue. Let us continue to respond and react to each other as we would want to be treated ourselves.
    Shalom,
    Rebekah

  40. Hello Robin, at one point I was really excited about HOW until the SHACK appeared on here. I have read the book so that I am not basing anything on someone els’s opinion. The Shack was a good story and yes, I can see how it could possibly shed light in some lives. I don’t understand how you feel the brownie story does not fit . I found issues immediately in the SHACK . My concern is why promote such a book with such a large audience who may not be able to separate the good from the not so good? I agree with Rebekah that grace needs to be given and we are all at different places in our journey. God’s word is ultimately the only book we really can recommend wholeheartedly since it is from HIM without concern about how it may affect the reader. With Grace and Love, Randi

  41. Thank you for posting this. I have held back from reading this book because of the crime in it (I really don’t like to read novels about crime, enough happens in real life). After reading your post I wanted to see for myself. I got the book out of the local library and read it in two sittings in one day. I just couldn’t put it down. I still did not like the crime part of it, but it was essential for the story to be played out. Horrible things happen every day and God is still there through out it all wishing for us to turn to Him and talk to Him instead of condemning Him for them.

  42. Karen V.

    I also cried while reading The Shack. Tears of joy and tears of happiness. Happy tears to know that I have always felt that God is always with me whether the times are bad or good. Jesus, in my eyes, is a white man. But to an Asian person, Jesus will be Asian and to a black man, he will be black. I don’t think it matters how Jesus is described in a book. He is everything to each of us. As long as we BELIEVE in Him is what matters. The Trinity was in this book. I don’t understand how someone can say this book is not based on The Word. I loved every word! Thank you,
    Karen

  43. Amanda

    Hi Robin,
    I appreciate your willingness to debate this topic. I got about half way into the book and had to stop reading. Not because I disagreed with any theological suppositions, but because I have four little girls and it was just too traumatic for me. It was just more than I could deal with.
    Blessings,
    Amanda

  44. Hi Robin,
    The Shack for me was a burst of fresh air, loved the characters, loved the message. Our ideas of God blown out of our comfort box. Sometimes He has to get in and mess our thinking up a little in order for us to move forward with Him.
    God bless
    Rebekah

  45. Melanie

    Hi Robin! I’ve been reading your blog and looking into purchasing some of your homeschooling materials. I just stumbled onto this Shack discussion by accident and wanted to post my 2 cents for what it’s worth (which is virtually nothing!).

    I read the Shack without any preconceived notions. I’d only heard about it from 2 different people. Neither of them told me anything about the book but that they absolutely loved it. Neither of them are Christians. Their beliefs seem to be a mixture of Christian, new age and humanism.

    The person who gave actually gave me the book and asked me to read and give me thoughts on it is a relative who pulls from many different religions and smokes marijuana every evening.

    So, I read it. While I did glean much from it and was deeply touched by different parts of the book, I ended up throwing it in the trash can. Why, you ask?

    My opinion concerning The Shack is that while it may be beneficial to well-grounded Christians, it is very misleading to unbelievers. It certainly helps those of us who can get a little too “religous” but unbelievers who read it come away with some interesting thoughts but it doesn’t seem to draw them any closer to the Lord. They continue in their own lifestyles just as before.

    The Shack reminds me of much of what Christian hear from pulpits every Sunday and often read in the latest Christian bestseller-lots of fluff without any meat. People listen and read and walk away the same as they came. When someone who lives a very worldly lifestyle can read a “Christian” book and come away without feeling a need to change their lives or repent-something is certainly lacking.

    The only Christian I know that liked this book also stated that Mormons are Christians because they call Jesus Saviour and that everything else (meaning doctrine) is just “window dressing”.

    It’s like listening to Joel O’Steen-very inspiring and uplifting but not much else.

    Blessings,
    Melanie

  46. Sharon Whelan

    I opinion echoes that of Melanie’s. As a piece of fiction, it is not theology. I’ve witnessed my book club sweepingly accept The Shack’s representation of who God is, without discernment or evaluation of it’s content. Some talk as though it’s not a work of fiction, but a revelation from God himself through the author. While I know this is not the fault of the author/publisher’s, it is what’s happening. Also disturbing for me in the book, was the choice given to the father: to stay with all of them in heaven or to go back to his family who were still alive. If God gives us choice then suicide is an option. As I Christian I know everything is a choice, I can chose to obey or not to obey and there are consequences to either choice. I know we have a choice to accept his gift of salvation, but the ramifications of this choice given by the Father. Again I know this book is FICTIONAL, but the precepts are not being taken that way. In fact, during a public discussion about The Shack, a new believer who had read the book, questioned the very same issue I just mentioned. To quote her “Aren’t we as Christians supposed to choose life, and I don’t understand why God gave him the choice. I am confused.” To which the selected discussion panel re-iterated to her that this book is fictional, not real.
    Anyways this is my two cents, which really is only 2 cents.

    Shalom
    Sharon

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