Writer William Paul Young grew up knowing God as “schizophrenic, narcissistic…angry and distant,” someone to be appeased. I’m so sad for Mr. Young. It’s good that he wanted to portray God differently in The Shack (first published 2007). Sadly, he swings too far into “warm fuzzy” and misrepresents God in other ways. Young’s background with church people he describes as “Pharisees” also explains the somewhat anti-church slant that comes through in the book.
There are a number of theological cringers in The Shack. And it seems disrespectful (regardless of intention) that the Holy Spirit character is named Sarayu. That’s a “sacred” river (and possibly a god) in Hindusim. For other specific concerns, see Tim Challies’s second review of this book, “Open Mind, Closed Bible.” Also interesting is Marcia Montenegro’s “What’s at the Back of The Shack?” Marcia, as a former New Ager, is savvy to certain lingo/ideas.
“Oh, come on,” we’re told. “The Shack is just fiction and not a theology book.” But wait. When an author is conveying a perception of God, wouldn’t the theology be important?
And here’s a follow-up wrinkle: Mr. Young wrote the foreword for Richard Rohr’s 2016 release, The Divine Dance. Surely you don’t write a foreword unless you’re in tune with the book’s content. In my previous research, I’ve seen Rohr align with/recommend the New Age lead teacher of A Course in Miracles, Marianne Williamson; the Dalai Lama; Catholic-turned-Buddhist Thomas Merton; Borg and Crossan, the Jesus Seminar guys who believe Jesus’ body was probably eaten by dogs; Joan Chittister (“We must become converted to the consciousness that makes us one with the universe”); and more. Rohr is described as a teacher of “Incarnational Mysticism, non-dual consciousness and contemplation.” Incarnational mysticism has nothing to do with the incarnation of Jesus. Look it up. In teaching “non-dual consciousness,” Rohr wants us to become enlightened to the idea that reality is not two (the creator and his creation), but one (all is one; I am god. That’s the mystical worldview). Since we’re all divine, we’re all saved (and there’s nothing to be saved from, really). And Rohr’s “contemplation” equals mantra meditation.
Fans of The Shack might want to reevaluate the lens through which they’re determining the nature of God, Jesus, the Bible, and the church. We all should do that periodically anyway.
But hasn’t The Shack helped some people think more about God? Sure. So have any number of secular books, fairy tales, rock ’n’ roll songs, and even outright anti-Christian writings. But we need to know and stand on solid truth (and help others do the same). The warm fuzzies feel good in the moment. But our enemy, that roaring lion, has his claws out (1 Peter 5:8). If we’re not protected by the belt of truth and the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:10-18)…well, I don’t like to think about it.