March 24, 2018

Shack Attack!!

This post is my opinion, and your opinion is welcome in the comments if you can talk about The Shack instead of talking about what a jerk I am. I WELCOME differing opinions in regard to the book. Reading it and making up your own mind is what we should all do.

Well, well, well….it’s the little book that could. With about $300 of big-time promotion, William P. Young’s little novel, The Shack, is a multi-hundred thousand selling publishing phenomenon, with no sign of losing its momentum as it heads for the rare air of a million sales.

And along the way, Young’s imaginative, playfully serious account of one man’s weekend with the Trinity has apparently made a lot of doctrine policing sit up and pay attention. Attention, as in, “heresy alert.”

According to its various critics, The Shack promotes the New Age movement, worshiping God as a woman, various major and minor heresies, and outright denial of the Gospel. Especially irritating to the critics is Eugene Peterson’s comparison of The Shack to Pilgrim’s Progress, a comparison that’s unavoidable to any literate reader, no matter what their theology. The rights to comparison of anything to Pilgrim’s Progress apparently have been misplaced.

I’ve been wondering recently why the doctrinal conformity enforcement contingent is so interested in the emerging church. One answer has intrigued me: It appears that many of those identifying with some aspect of the Calvinistic resurgence in evangelicalism are also tuned in, with at least one sympathetic ear, to the emerging conversation.

How many people listen to and read John Piper, but also think Blue Like Jazz is a helpful and useful book?

How many people listen to Mark Driscoll because they believe he is both reformed AND emerging?

How many bloggers have a sidebar that’s full of the reformed, but also visit the Tall Skinny Kiwi, Scot McKnight and various emergers?

How many people who treasure the classic Christian doctrine of the Trinity were captivated and drawn in by Young’s portrayal of a Trinitarian God in The Shack? Some of us were more invigorated in our Trinitarianism by Young’s book than by a shelf of theological explanations. When Mack opens the door to the shack and sees the Father, I wept. It may be cheesy and off base, but it was a marvelous moment where all kinds of things came together. It didn’t make me new age or a worshiper of a feminine deity. It made me a better Trinitarian Christian.

How many of us find the insistence that emerging voices are heretical and dangerous an exaggerated claim that goes too far?

How many Christians who have a reformation Gospel believe there is a lot of value in the emerging church conversation, even if it is flawed- deeply- in places?

In my review of The Shack, I made it clear that this is not a systematic theology, and that those looking for errors could easily find them. But it’s important to remember that Young was writing a theological parable of sorts, for his children, not for a seminary faculty. This was never the last word in theology, and it was, from the outset, an experiment in literary playfulness. If the folks who applaud the removal of Peter Enns want to go after The Shack, I’m sure it will be a short meeting.

Listening to Young in interviews, such as his two Drew Marshall interviews, the recent Tal Prince Live interview or his God Journey podcasts, it’s easy to see that this is not an emerging version of Phil Johnson. Young is about as agenda-less as anyone I’ve ever heard. He’s not trying to start anything or rescue evangelicalism. He’s reporting on the God he’s come to know and love. Like most people who dream of writing a novel, it’s full of his own journey to understand life’s most important realities. In his case, that takes us back to the shack for a journey of forgiveness and rediscovering God.

The critics are right to notice that this isn’t a polemical, contentious book at all. It is a book written to say that if we could see life from God’s perspective, life’s tragedies would not erase God’s love and reconciliation. It’s a book that says God is good, even if inscrutable. It’s a book that magnifies the wonder of Father, Son and Spirit.

The critics are correct that this isn’t a book about God’s wrath towards sinners, and if it errs, it does err in ignoring some of God’s character and going too far toward universalism. But if we are going to err, better to err on the side of grace. Young believes God is good, gracious and confidently, endlessly loving.

I’m sure the critics would strongly disagree with such a one-sided presentation.

When critics say that the book promotes worshiping God as a woman, they’ve completely missed the point. They might be a tad overenthusiastic. Young’s choice of imagery isn’t teaching theology or inviting worship. It’s trying to prod us, even shock us a bit, out of thinking of God as a set of handouts and into seeing God in surprisingly personal terms. Young isn’™t trying to start a church. He’s wanting you to rediscover the God who loves you. He HAS left out some of the points and subpoints of systematic theology. Tweak your setting accordingly.

And that leads to a final point. Young is a writer of fiction; a story-teller. The prodigalâ’s father, the unjust judge, the owner of the vineyard, the mother hen, the Rock, the lamb……all of these are literary explorations of God in the context of story, not pure theology. None of them can be taken beyond the boundaries of legitimate literary use. Pressed too far, they become– hang on — heretical. And they are all in scripture.

I’m not saying that we should excuse William Young of literary or theological error. I am saying that when theologians critique The Shack, they are likely working one genre against another and the results may be of limited help.

If you believe Young wants to tell you that you can walk on water, then it’s heresy. If you want to enter into an experience with Jesus that reminds us of his identity and power in a creative way, then it;s legitimate. If you think it’s corny, that’s fine.

Similarly, if you believe Young wants you to worship the Holy Spirit in the form of a small Asian woman, then he’s a heretic. If he wants you to think of the Holy Spirit in a way that emphasizes, on another level, what we all believe scripture teaches about the Holy Spirit, then he’s on legitimate ground.

You may find Young’s theology of the resolution of good and evil to be unconvincing. That’s fair, but it’s also fair that Young gets to play the game we’re all playing on that issue. It’s not like there’s a simple answer and no one is still trying to articulate something that speaks to us where we are.

Sometimes I think some of the doctrinal police are about a foot away from saying any book that doesn’t just copy large swaths of scripture verbatim has no reason for existence. The mixture of art and theological truth must be nerve wracking to those whose view of inerrancy and authority makes literary explorations of theology almost automatically heretical.

Sometimes it seems that rewording scripture into a few almost-identical-to-scripture lyrics is about all some Christians can take in the literary arts. Past that and they are talking heresy.

Frankly, tha’s ridiculous. Whether it’s literary, visual or musical, the arts should be evaluated artistically, not just theologically. I know this may hurt someone’s head, but there’s more going on than just fidelity to scripture. And if you judge everything by some standards of understanding scripture, then we’re going to have the same artistic culture as Calvin’s Geneva. In other words, get out the whitewash.

I will never praise The Shack in the terms some are using. I see many flaws at the level of writing and story-telling, as well as theology. But a disciple of Jesus who wants to write a novel for his children with the goal of opening their eyes to a possible life-altering relationship with the Trinitarian God of the Bible gets the green light from me. We should see the book for what it is and that’s all.

If certain conservative Christians are annoyed that someone out there is reading a book they don’t like, then here’s a suggestion: Write a better book. Starting a parade to tell us all we shouldn’t read this one is probably a good reason it’s going to pass a million copies soon. If you haven’t noticed, readers don’t like to be told what they should and shouldn’t read, but they have surprising affection and loyalty to authors who deliver a compelling and involving story.


  1. nothing wrong at all with reading the tall skinny kiwi . . . he he he

    hey – i have seen friends reading The Shack and figured i need to get me a copy. guess i will go ahead and order it now.

  2. people just like to gripe…after an initial agreement on christ dying for sins, it’s all up for argument.

    btw…blj is great book.

  3. Doesn’t the author of “Blue Like Jazz”, a former member of Driscoll’s church, still go to a reformed church – Imago Dei? I was under the impression that Rick was reformed, much like Driscoll.

  4. I don’t think imago is reformed at all.

  5. I resolve to not read this until I’ve got a good long flight to knock it out at one shot, and after some of the current hype dies down because there’s no way it can live up. But yeah, agree most wholly to your assessment, and these guys are more concerned with just introing Jesus through a good story than having all the textbooks lined up properly on the dusty shelf. Good stuff – thanks.

  6. I can answer “I do” to all of the following questions:

    How many people listen to and read John Piper, but also think Blue Like Jazz is a helpful and useful book?

    How many people listen to Mark Driscoll because he is both reformed AND emerging?

    How many bloggers have a sidebar that’s full of the reformed, but also visits the Tall Skinny Kiwi, Scot McKnight and various emergers?

    And I don’t see why that would be rare.

  7. Michael Krahn: Don’t you find it unusual that so many have a blogroll populated by voices who invest vast amounts of time in denouncing the other half of their blogroll?

  8. Unless we’re talking about Ken Silva here (who would denounce his own mother if she admitted to a fondness for Erwin McManus),outside of McLaren, Jones, and Pagitt, I don’t hear a whole lot of denouncements. Those three seem to come up occasionally. Other than that it seems everyone is relatively friendly and respectful.

    What do you have in mind when you say “vast amounts of time in denouncing”?

  9. Michael Krahn: You’re correct. [Mod: edited. See Abraham comment below.]

  10. To gain further insight on Paul Young and his journey, keep an eye on Drew Marshall’s site – this week to catch his interview with him this past Saturday. He shares his personal story and visit to “The Shack.” It is a great interview.

    Also, I had the pleasure of having him on my show last night, and will have it up on our archives later this week – keep checking in at

    Nice work, Michael – I’m trying to figure out where this latest wave of “heresy police” are coming from. We have many students here at Beeson Divinity School all too happy to label anyone they disagree with, even slightly, a heretic. The trouble is they are not joking – they do it to professors, too. There’s an arrogance out here that is hard to reconcile with the Sermon on the Mount.

    We can certainly disagree, but does disagreement alone qualify for heresy?

    The Shack is a good book for its’ purpose. It is clearly not reformed, but Paul is not a reformed guy. This doesn’t make the man a heretic for crying out loud.

  11. “teampyro, John Piper, John Macarthur” [Mod Note: this is in reference to a deleted comment from Michael Spencer]

    Piper’s no “friend of emergent village,” but to sandwich him like this is nonsense.

  12. Abraham: I stand corrected. Thanks. I should have made it clear that every critic of the emerging church doesn’t view it the same way or use the same rhetoric. I was responding to a commenter who was asking for examples, and I should have differentiated between different kinds of criticism of the emerging church. I’m well aware that your dad isn’t in the same camp as the other two examples I mentioned. I was speaking of critics in general and not various kinds of criticism. The phrase about “spending vast amounts of time” criticizing the emerging was a mischaracterization of Dr. Piper.

  13. Starting a parade to tell us all we shouldn’t read this one is probably a good reason it’s going to pass a million copies soon.

    And the same reason why it just went on my Amazon wishlist. Also the same reason I became a Harry Potter fan – seeing what the fuss was all about!

  14. I was thinking about writing a reformed theological novel set at Hogwarts… Perhaps I should rethink that.

    I read The Shack after your review Michael and while it was challenging, in the end it brought me closer in my relationship with God. For that I am thankful.

  15. Thanks for your post, Michael. I and a number of my friends at church love The Shack. Despite it being fiction, Young deals in a wonderful way with theodicy, which is difficult for most of us to get our heads around. Blessings.

  16. This isn’t the first book ever written that needs to be read with discernment. I don’t think we should move in the direction of requiring imprimaturs on every “Christian” book.

    Just be aware while reading that patripassionism, egalitarian Trinitology, and universalism are all incorrect according to historic orthodox belief (not just Reformed belief), and don’t get carried away.

  17. I think I find it easier to see this as an “Evangelicals don’t understand fiction” thing rather than an example of “heresy-hunters versus the Emergent Church.”

    I mean, Frank Peretti was no Nobel Prize for Literature candidate. But I was shocked when he stated his reason for ceasing to write sequels to “This Present Darkness.” He’d intended to write a spiritual Star Wars, and found people writing Bible Studies based on his book and treating him as some sort of prophet.

    I’m not sure things have changed all that much since then. They may BE changing (and I think there’s a lot of indications that they are), but I don’t think they have yet.

  18. MODERATOR NOTE: Sometimes a poster starts out well, but then turns the comments towards slander and invective toward me. In that case, the commenter’s entire contribution is coming down.

    If you think that’s supposed to make me look better and smarter, you should think more and type less. It makes me look worse, but I’m not sponsoring the ongoing discussion of what an asshat I really am if you’d only listen to people who’ve never met me and who are dedicated to eradicating the influence of this blog and my ministry if possible. The sponsors of that discussion have their own highly successful blogs on which they can use their space and time to chase that rabbit. If they think the world is interested.

    Not happening here.

  19. Can you imagine pro-reform activists slamming Upton Sinclair because The Jungle was too skimpy on details? NO!

    Can you imagine critics reading Marquez’s Hundred Years of Solitude and complaining about how unrealistic it is? NO!

    Can you imagine someone reading Thomas A’Kempis and asking what Bible version the town used? Yes.

    Christians are awful about this stuff. We miss the forest for the trees, and I’m not sure we get the trees right.

    Thanks, IM.

  20. “Asshat” – what’s the origin of that word? The only other place I’ve heard it is on the TV show Everwood.

  21. FWIW, our elder board reads and discusses several books a year. Some fall into the “how to be a good leader” bin, but others are along the lines of Desiring God and Blue Like Jazz. (I’m not commenting on the discussion of comparing John Piper and others vs. emerging church here – these are just examples of what our church is reading)

    I’ve largely stopped reading stuff from TeamPyro, AOMin, etc., but I do keep a list of both reformed and emerging blogs in my Google Reader. (and Lutheran, Anglican, etc. for that matter) I stay far, far away from the spiteful disguised as reformed types, though. Y’all know who they are and I won’t name them here.

    My only suggestion to those who won’t leave the Reformed ghetto is to try to balance your reading. You don’t have to change your Reformed beliefs, but it will certainly help you figure out what the other voices in theology believe when you actually listen to them.

  22. Michael,

    Thank you for this well-stated response to the whirl around this thought-provoking book.

    As I read the comments, I was reminded of a wonderful phrase from J.R.R. Tolkien concerning the proper reading of “story” — he suggested that one much set aside disbelief long enough to enter into the story and experience what the storyteller has to offer. Otherwise one gets sidetracked with those bits and pieces that are not “real” or “true” and, more often than not, miss the entire point of the story.

    This little bit of wisdom from Tolkien has served me well over the past 20 years or so … I recommend it. It is after one has stood in the author’s shoes and looked out through his or her eyes that one must then begin the challenging work of discerning that which is helpful to ponder further and that which just falls away.

    And thanks, too, for standing up for proper manners. The Abbess appreciate her brother Monk for this. :^)

  23. My take on the debate, and it may be somewhat over-simplified, is that there are some people who’s brains are wired to be very concrete. They struggle mightily with metaphor and analogy. So this sort of book is lost on them. There are other sorts of people in the world who love metaphor and analogy, who live for it … those sorts of people wallow in this book, they can be discerning about the places where this book falls short and where it sings. They are also the sorts of people who can have both reformed and emergents in their blogroll (btw).

    The problems erupt when the concrete thinkers insist that the metaphors are heresy and must be eradicated. Life is far more colorful than those who see in black and white would have us believe, unfortunately for them. The lines are blurrier.

    Fortunately, God made space in this world for all of us. Vive la difference.

  24. Do you think that maybe this portrayal of God violates God’s command to not make an idol? The author artistically creates characters to depict God. It seems to me that this is much more of an idol than any wood/stone carving could ever be.

  25. Nate: You might note two things:

    1) The commandment is meant for the context of worship, not artistic expression or literary expression outside of public worship.

    2) Is Aslan idolatrous? The Shepherd in the children’s play who represents Jesus?

  26. Good points. I think it would be interesting in a future blog to read your theological critique of “The Shack.” Although it is a work of fiction, it certainly is undergirded by a certain theological outlook. If there are errors in this theology, then it’s easy to see how they could be unconsciously adopted by an a reader without much theological education or by a reader who simply does not read thoughtfully.

  27. Nate: Thanks, but to me the book simply doesn’t advocate a full blown theological viewpoint. If someone were to use the book to teach theology, I’d say they were guilty of the same error as the people who taught theology from Peretti novels. I think that doing a theological “critique” of a story like Lion, Witch and Wardrobe, for example, simply takes something out of genre and then the narrative is really at the mercy of the theology of the reviewer. “Where’s the atonement!?!” Well, maybe it’s just not entirely clear on that one.

    That said, I’d gladly link a serious analysis of the book that deals with it as what it is, like it or not.

  28. “Taught theology from Peretti novels”?

    I’ve had run-ins with theology taught from Late Great Planet Earth and Left Behind, but PERETTI NOVELS? That sounds so Drooling Fanboy Trick it isn’t even funny.

  29. Sounds very interesting, I’m going to check to see if my local library system has it.

    I do tend to like the story tellers.

  30. Haley Ballast says:

    Michael, I am new to your blog but I really appreciate your thoughtful critique and response to this book. You’ve made me a fan – I look forward to more good stuff from the internet monk!

    BTW to Michael Krahn – I love the fact that you referenced Everwood! I don’t remember hearing the word asshat… but I loved that show and am sad that it got canceled.

  31. Hi Haley,

    Everwood – a guilty pleasure for me and my wife.

  32. I like the following quote from Orthodoxy and Heresy by Rob Bowman. In just skimming through his book again, it is very helpful in distinguishing between heresy, orthodoxy and aberrant teaching.

    “Moreover, even when we are convinced that people are teaching error, we should seek to learn from them. What aspect of Christian truth are they exploiting? Perhaps there is some facet of biblical truth that the orthodox are ignoring. . . . we should take their effort as a signal that those of us who are orthodox have some intellectual work to do.” 74

  33. I am still only halfway through The Shack, but there is a clear difference between this book and The Chronicles of Narnia. In Narnia, Aslan is a lion that represents God. He’s clearly a metaphor. In The Shack, God speaks for himself in a way that is not metaphorical.

    In any narrative, there is a difference between ideas that are communicated through things such as characterization, metaphor, irony, or other literary devices, and those that are communicated through direct discourse. In The Shack, it’s not the literary devices that people see as heretical (i.e. that God is an african American/asian/arab), it’s the discourse. God is a character in the story and He talks about Himself. Some of the things that God says about himself (i.e. that the Father was crucified, that there is no functional hierarchy within the trinity, and that Christ emptied himself of certain divine attributes in the incarnation) are troubling people.

    However, the conversations between God and Mack meander so much that it is hard to figure out exactly what Young is saying about God in most places. While the storyline is captivating, the dialogue is a bit cheesy and forced. I haven’t come across any passages that are blatantly heretical, but there are many in which his statements could be interpreted as heresy.

  34. Marcy Heffinger says:

    So all the pictures of Jesus ever painted should be burned? Even “Solomans Head of Christ” that most people growing up in the ’50’s think is an actually snapshot?
    We are so arrogant to think that only the great books of Theology really nail the Triune God. Wow……I am in the process of reading “The Shack” right now and I am sadly almost done. Even if this book was the only picture of God some Lost Tribe would someday end up with…I think they would have all they need. NO, it’s not an additional revelation to be added to scripture but there is something that just paints God’s heart in an understandable human way and they have made me fall in love with my Creator even more. Yes, I teach children and I use all five senses to help them understand our Wonderful God……in a Presbyterian Church!! Yes! I’m a subversive!!

  35. Clay of CO says:

    I purchased The Shack, and only then started hearing about the controversy before I started reading. As a conservative, evangelical, seminary-strained type, I was not optimistic about what I would find. But I read it, and I was pleasantly surprised, and completely dumbfounded by all the negative noise. It’s not great literature, but it’s a good story. And it challenged me, encouraged me, and made me think. I never once thought “heresy” even though I spotted a few theological questionables here and there. And though I was very comfortable with its more Wesleyan take on suffering and the sovereignty of God, the first thing I thought upon finishing was, “The TRs are gonna hate this.” I passed it on without editorial comment to my wife, then daughter (24), and son (21), and each of them had the same response. For a book by a gentle Christian dad who was trying to create a story for his kids that would help them make sense of suffering and God’s character, I think it will become a classic work of popular fiction, much like In His Steps.

    Matt, you’re trying far too hard to distinguish between metaphor and characterization in a literary work. Even in Narnia, Aslan still unmistakeably “speaks for God.” In The Shack, the character for God the Father tells Mack that He only reveals Himself to Mack as a black woman because that is what Mack needs to see in order to hear the truth he needs to hear. That is simply a literary device for Mack learning from God about His truth, it is not the author’s idea of what God is in truth. I don’t believe any normal believer or unbeliever would presume that the author is trying to convince the reader that God the Father is a black woman.

  36. Bill Haynes says:

    Michael, I have read in several of the comments that Packer changed his view of the 2nd Commandment from what he presented in Knowing God. I can’t find where anyone has provided the interview that this was supposed to have happened. I am not denying that it is possible, but I had this conversation with Packer in 2007 and he was still very much along the lines as in KG. I would really like to see the documentation if you or any of the repliers could provide it.


  37. Bill:

    I’m in a bit of a quandry here because I did have the link, read it, but deleted it before I thought of writing this piece.

    I can’t deny what I read, but I will edit the claim out of the comments.

    If I find it, I’ll repost it.

    Sorry to have left the wrong impression if it turns out I am mistaken.

  38. OK. Found the Packer reference, thanks to a Lurker. It’s at John Armstrong’s, so call him 🙂

    >One of the most remarkable things I heard Jim say in our time in Dallas was when a young minister asked him if he still held to the same view he espoused regarding pictures of Jesus in his classic best-seller, Knowing God. Jim said, “No, I do not.” How refreshing to then hear the author of one of the best-selling books of theology in our era say, “I have changed my mind.”

  39. Bill Haynes says:

    Thanks Michael, I wasn’t questioning you or doubting what you said . . . I just wanted to read it in light of my conversation last year with him. Thanks for the link. Even men like Packer are free to change their minds.

  40. I just read a comment from Rick McKinley, and though it doesn’t totally support the ‘reformed’ pic, he stated that they stood ‘firmly upon the Gospel of the Reformers’, or something like that, but made it clear that that wasn’t where they wanted the conversation to end. He’s also very supportive of Acts 29 Network – which are solidly reformed – and said that if someone wasn’t near his church and was looking for a place to attend, to go to one of their churches. Listening to their sermons, it all sounds pretty much like the stuff my old PCA/L’Abri related church in Athens, GA taught.

  41. Matt wrote : “In The Shack, it’s not the literary devices that people see as heretical (i.e. that God is an african American/asian/arab), it’s the discourse.

    Actually it is the literary devices that critics are complaining about. Accusations of goddess-worship and breaking the 2nd commandment are what I’ve seen a lot of.

    FWIW, I don’t think Young actually does either of these and certainly doesn’t dip into heresy in his book.

  42. Michael, I agree with your main point that the Shack is a novel about relationship and reconciliation with God through times of horror. That is obviously the main point that Young is seeking to create.

    I love his theology. It even says several times in the novel that God-the-first-member appears as a woman to mess with Mack’s mind.

    My major beef with the book is how poorly written it is technically speaking. His frequent overuse of simile (and misuse), changing POV from Omnipotent to Specific, and over-writing by use of adjective and adverb show he is a neophyte writer. He really could have used a ghost writer to clean up the prose.

    But no one should doubt he has a gift as a story-teller and as one who sees the spirit of Scripture without bowing to the faults of just knowing the letter.

  43. I’m so glad to see that you put this post back up. You nailed it.

  44. Brandon says:

    Thank you … thank you … thank you … FINALLY a review of the book which I find refreshingly balanced and honest. While my review of the book might be more positive than yours, I love that you seem to find the middle ground (which is where truth mostly lies).

    Bravo sir!

  45. God has revealed Himself to us in his word & anything other than that is an Idol. If God would have revealed Himself as a mother instead as a father then I would worship a mother. However God the Father is spirit and has no flesh and is referred to as Father. The Holy Spirit is not ever revealed as having flesh.

    The problem with The Shack is the same problem that Mormonism has the same terms – different Jesus – different God – Not Christian.

    Joseph Smith had god the father and jesus appear to him at the same time a physical manifestation of what he thought was god, however it was a demons masquerading as God. Because Joseph Smith failed to test the spirits and the Angel Moroni the false belief system of Mormonism was created.

    Anyone who embraces this false god and false trinity is opening themselves up to error. It goes without saying if you can embrace this false trinity all the other doctrinal errors in the book seem insignificant.

  46. Erin Valentine says:

    Brian states, “Just be aware while reading that patripassionism, egalitarian Trinitology, and universalism are all incorrect according to historic orthodox belief (not just Reformed belief), and don’t get carried away.” Others toss around words such as “theodicy” and “Wesleyan intent.” Most people reference well-known Christian authors and theologians, and nearly everyone seems cognizant of the so-called Emergent Church. Apparently a well-read, informed, and enlightened group of people are involved in this debate.

    What about the others, though? Those new Christians who are barely on the path and who grope about searching for answers? They’re the ones who look dazed when the conversation turns to amillennialism vs. postmillennialism, arminianism vs. Calvinism, or Heaven forbid, hyper Calvinism. When they read a book that is as touching and emotional as The Shack, are they capable of discerning that the book may be fun to read, but it’s theologically problematic? That it, as Matt stated, asserts “that the Father was crucified, that there is no functional hierarchy within the trinity, and that Christ emptied himself of certain divine attributes in the incarnation,” and that these are not scriptural assertions?

    That’s why myself and others believe this is a potentially dangerous book. As an English teacher, I asked parents to read Harry Potter WITH their children, to show them the aspects of the books that are heretical and dangerous according to Scripture – while still allowing that Harry exhibits fine qualities and the stories are entertaining.

    Children won’t be reading this book, however. Adults who may not know God’s word will be, and who is going to tell them the truth? I appreciate the people who stand up for scripture, who speak for its inerrancy and divinely inspired creation, especially since many other ‘Christians’ on many web sites respond with sarcasm, or they call the negative reviewers of the book “unloving.” It’s not easy to stand up for your beliefs when Christians who should speak more kindly reduce your response to “wearing your underwear too tightly” simply because you disagree with them.

  47. Starting a parade to tell us all we shouldn’t read this one is probably a good reason it’s going to pass a million copies soon. If you haven’t noticed, readers don’t like to be told what they should and shouldn’t read…

    Back in the Eighties, there was this catchphrase that popped up occasionally in local SF litfandom: “It’s gotta be good — the Christians are denouncing it!” THAT is the rep Christian Media Activists (TM) have stuck themselves with, to the point that “Piss off the Xians” is now a deliberate marketing strategy; just punch their buttons, let them go, and rake in all the self-generating free publicity.

    My writing partner (a burned-out country preacher) actually got in big trouble with the local church ladies when he joked on LiveJournal that he was available as a “Reverend” to denounce your latest book/comic/movie — as a publicity stunt, for a fee. I told him he might want to try it for real.

  48. I just finished reading the book.

    On one hand,
    I appreciate a writer being creative for a creative God who loves creativity.

    But on the other hand,
    One recurring question I had as I read was that I wondered how respectful it is to ‘play with God’s character’ so to speak. -To put words in His mouth. -To take extra biblical artistic license in describing the way He appears and acts. I thought of the early Christians, who hardly wanted to write the Lord’s name for fear they were disrespectful.

    I don’t have the answer to this question… Maybe someone else has some thoughts on this.

  49. The most incredible of all storytellers, and the master of metaphors, Jesus never once had to resort to violating the nature or character of God the Father.

    Jesus in all of His metaphors and stories never once violated or contradicted the rest of Scripture. Neither did the prophets.

    How is it that the modern church rises and applauses when a man commits all of the above violations? I believe it is because most people do not study and know the Scriptures.

    Commentators and bloggers commending the book and defending it over God and His Word. How wonderful they are, how wise they are, how wonderful the book is….Where is the praise for God Almighty, the awe and respect due His Holy Name? Have you no fear? Fear God! Praise His holy name!

    The Shack is a work of fiction by its own account. If you look up the word “fable” Websters Dictionary defines it as it is used in the Bible, it is defined as…

    FABLE, n. [L., Gr. The radical sense is that which is spoken or told.]

    1. A feigned story or tale, intended to instruct or amuse; a fictitious narration intended to enforce some useful truth or precept.
    2. Fiction in general; as, the story is all a fable.
    3. An idle story; vicious or vulgar fictions.
    But refuse profane and old wives fables. 1 Tim 4.
    4. The plot, or connected series of events, in an epic or dramatic poem.
    5. Falsehood; a softer term for a lie.

    FABLE, v.i.
    1. To feign; to write fiction.
    2. To tell falsehoods; as, he fables not.

    FABLE, v.t. To feign; to invent; to devise and speak of, as true or real.

    1Ti 1:4 Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.

    How can the Shack be truly of God when God gives us the qualities of a minister of His? A true minister of God would be faithful to His Word, nature, and character. A true minister or ministry would heed the exhortation of Scripture, proclaiming unadulterated truth.

    I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
    Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
    For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
    And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
    But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. 2Ti 4:1-5

    I cannot commend the author for his “balanced” criticism of the book. Odds are that I comprehend allegory and metaphor as well as most and better than others. My dogmatic response to the metaphors and misrepresentations of God and His Word in the Shack are not a knee jerk reaction or an emotionally charged attack on a cleverly devised fable.

    I love God! I love His Word. I am a Christian and I desire to be found ready and faithful at His return. I desire that all would come to a knowledge of the Truth. I have committed myself to Him, and my passion and fervor for Him drives me to remain a staunch and vocal adversary to those who would call themselves Christians or ministers and attempt to water down His Truth and teach lies.

    The Shack is a fable, a cleverly crafted story, by a man who either intentionally or inadvertently has crafted a work full of extra-biblical doctrines and false representations of God. I do not defend the works of CS Lewis or Tolkien, or Rowling. I do however get offended easily when my God and Savior are maligned and His name blasphemed by “Christians”. By calling God a woman, and making Him out to be 2/3 female is contradictory to scripture at the very least, and takes His name as worthless.

  50. James,

    I guess it totally escaped you that Jesus pictured God as a woman in the parable of the lost coin in Luke 15, huh?

    In your reference of 1 Tim. 1:4, it would help if you read that verse in context with the entire book, as well as not compare Greek terms with English definitions. The fables-legends were about the origin and propagation of angels, such as the false teachers taught at Colosse (Col 2:18-23). “Jewish fables” (Tit 1:14). “Profane, and old wives’ fables” (1Ti 4:7; 2Ti 4:4).

    “These false teachers were following after fables (mythois, cf. 4:7) and long, involved genealogies. Exactly what these fables and genealogies involved
    is not known. They may have had a Gnostic flavor, but were more likely of Jewish origin (cf. Titus 1:14).” Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (2:731). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

    Myths are traditional stories of ancestors and origins; these are present in most cultures, and people regard them very highly. Here, however, myths is used in a negative way; it is not simply that the myths referred to are made-up tales and legends (TEV), but that these stories have been substituted for the true Christian message. It is possible to read the text in such as way as to identify the myths with the genealogies, which are in turn described as endless in the sense of “long” (TEV). What these genealogies consist of is not at all clear, since the letter itself offers no clues. Some of the possibilities suggested are as follows:

    (1) These could refer to the lists of ancestors that were found in the various Gnostic movements at that time. Gnosticism taught that anything material was evil. This includes the physical universe, which was not created by the Supreme God but by demigods who come between the Supreme God and the physical universe. The genealogies would contain the lists of these semi-divine beings.

    (2) These genealogies could refer to Jewish ancestral lists and other stories that became popular among Jews who were influenced by Greek culture. These stories would include not only ancestral origins but the meaning and interpretation of even minute details of the biblical record, such as numerals and the spelling of names.

    (3) These genealogies could refer to legends and stories built around the Hebrew ancestors—stories that were handed down by tradition and were contained in popular Jewish writings at that time. An example of this kind of writing is the Book of Jubilees.
    Arichea, D. C., & Hatton, H. (1995). A handbook on Paul’s letters to Timothy and to Titus. UBS handbook series; Helps for translators (16). New York: United Bible Societies.

    Your definition of fable comes awfully close to putting Jesus’ parables in the same light. I’d be careful about how dogmatic you want to make that argument.