by Tom Kraeuter
I just finished reading The Shack, by William P. Young. Overall, I found the book very readable and worthwhile in its consistent message that the Christian walk is one of relationships: with God and with one another. This point is hammered home repeatedly and rightly so. For those who are well-grounded in their faith and solidly anchored in the Scriptures, I think the book may be a worthwhile read. There are some things, however, that I found to be quite unsettling. As a result, I thought it would be best to offer my thoughts on certain points.
My first concern came early in the book. Pappa, God the Father, is portrayed by a woman. Yes, I recognize that the Father does not have male genitalia. I also know that men and women were created in the image of God, and that the Old Testament attributes certain female characteristics to God. Yet Jesus repeatedly referred to His “Father.” Did He misspeak? Was Jesus wrong to do this? Was He merely trying to fit in to the culture of the day? Obviously not. Jesus clearly didn’t care about fitting in or not rocking the boat.
Although portraying God as a woman may be politically correct today, it is not biblical. To me this is one of those, you-don’t-have-to-like-it, you-just-have-to-eat-it scenarios. Whether we are comfortable with it or not, whether we are willing to accept it or not, the Bible talks of God as Father—not Mother—for a reason.
Think about it this way. If it was acceptable to refer to God as Mother, couldn’t Jesus have demonstrated that during His visible earthly ministry? Of all the times He either prayed or referred to His Father, wouldn’t it have been a simple thing for him to use the term “Mother” just a couple of times? But He didn’t. Not even once. Hmmm. Kinda makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
And yes, Pappa explains why she is manifesting as a woman: to keep Mack from falling back into his “religious conditioning” (page 93). It’s early in the book and I will offer the benefit of the doubt that this is not a suggestion that we should be skeptical of all we have learned over the years. More and more people today are making such a suggestion and the final outcome is that historical, orthodox Christian theology is being tossed to the wind as “religious conditioning.” That’s not just sad; it’s extremely dangerous.
Page 105: Although I can not emphatically back this point up from Scripture, I struggled with the idea that God the Father would be sarcastic—albeit, good-natured sarcasm, yet sarcasm nevertheless—toward Jesus. In my mind, the idea is preposterous.
On pages 134-137, Mack and Sarayu (the Holy Spirit) have a conversation about good and evil, a conversation that is continued between Mack and Jesus in the next chapter. Mack—and by inference, the rest of mankind—determines what is good and what is evil subjectively, as it relates to his own life and situation. Sarayu, and later Jesus, both declare that a final determination for what is good and what is evil must come from relationship with them. Yet, in the context of the conversation, this, too, is subjective. No objective means for determining good and evil is offered. Excuse me for asking, but what happened to the Bible? The last time I checked, that was the only truly objective source for making such a determination, yet it was not even mentioned in a context where it would be more than appropriate. I find such an omission to be quite scary.
On page 147, Jesus tells Mack that men wrongly took the headship role over women (“his response was to rule ‘over’ her, to take power over her, to become the ruler.”) Yet God’s Word declares emphatically:
- “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband…” (1 Corinthians 11:3).
- “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (Ephesians 5:22-24).
Those verses do not sound as though, from God’s perspective, that man took over. It is a God-given role.
On page 149, Jesus says, “Seriously, my life was not meant to be an example to copy…” I agree that being an example was certainly not the whole purpose, but, according to Scripture, it is one purpose:
- “…Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him” (1 Timothy 1:16).
- “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example , so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
Yes, actually, His life was meant to be an example to copy.
Page 182. Jesus says, “Who said anything about being a Christian?”
It is becoming more and more trendy to refuse the title of Christian and instead to call oneself a “Christ follower” or some other such name. I know that there are those who claim to be Christians, but, through their lives, portray nearly the opposite. This has left many people with a bad taste in their mouths regarding Christians and, so—the argument goes—we should not use the term. Yet, the Bible uses the term to refer to us.
- “And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26).
- “And Agrippa said to Paul, ‘In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?'” (Acts 26:28).
- “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian…” (1 Peter 4:16).
I find it difficult to believe that Jesus would disown a biblical term that refers to His followers.
Page 187. Mack says he’s feeling guilty and Papa responds by saying, “Guilt’ll never help you to find freedom in me. The best it can do is make you try harder to conform to some ethic on the outside.”
Actually, that’s not true. Guilt is what is supposed to happen when we break God’s commands. You see, the job of the law—all the do’s and don’ts of the Bible—is to lead us to Christ.
- “So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24).
- “Therefore no one will be declared righteous by observing the law; rather through the law we become conscious of sin” (Romans 3:20).
The law is supposed to make us feel guilty in order to cause us to recognize our need for God. To suggest that guilt will only make us try “to conform to some ethic on the outside” is patently false. It is guilt that causes us to find freedom in Christ by renouncing our sin and crying out to the Savior.
Page 197. Sarayu states, “They (emotions) just are. They are neither bad nor good; they just exist.” This is pop-psychology at its best. Following this thinking to its logical conclusion, when I am angry because I didn’t get what I wanted, its okay. When I am happy because of being satisfied by my illicit lover, it’s alright. No! Those emotions are 100% opposed to God. They are, in fact, bad. It is the sinful nature once again rising up in me causing me to move away from the Lord. To suggest that such things “are neither bad nor good” is ludicrous and clearly false.
Again, although I found this book personally challenging from the perspective of relationship, given the theological errors it is certainly not one that I recommend.
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