Critique of “The Shack” by William P. Young: Part 1

Allow me to introduce this critique of William P. Young’s The Shack by writing to “probable intention”, and the “regardless reality.”

I do not know William P. Young; in all likelihood, I never will.  Therefore, I cannot offer direct statements about his character, or even whether or not he holds to the things that he has written.  From the book itself, I may only infer that he holds to many of the ideas set forth.  Most of them would disqualify him from being considered a brother in Christ according to my adopted “truth triad” – there are some things that Christians can disagree on and consider one another brothers and sisters in Christ, but perhaps go to different local congregations; other disagreements are less severe, such that the two could go to the same church; but some are so contra biblical that anyone who holds them cannot be considered an authentic believer in Jesus Christ.  These kinds of disagreements over truth would include things like the denial of Christ’s virgin birth, or His bodily resurrection, or a pluralistic view of obtaining reconciliation with God – this book agrees with the latter.  

There is a 50/50 probability that Young did not intend for this book to have such a profound and sudden impact, or that it was to be taken quite so literally.  Perhaps, he intended it to be what it is – fiction – this is his probable intention, as I see fit to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Nevertheless, C.S. Lewis, and John Bunyan have taught us truth via fiction.  Therefore, no matter Young’s intention, many read it with embracing souls.  I write to say that this is extremely detrimental to the soul of one who also embraces the name of Jesus Christ.  For whereas Lewis, and (especially) Bunyan teach us truth (insofar as it accords with God’s Word), Young falls woefully, damningly short.  

Let me then speak to a “regardless reality.”  Whatever Young intended by the writing of this book, it has far outstretched his imagination; true, it is fiction, but it is not being read as fiction.  The problem is not really Young’s fault as it pertains to the church.  For the reality is that the concepts in his book are not only taking hold of the unbelieving kingdom around us, but are infiltrating the very group of elect people who are called to be a royal priesthood unto God, a people who are a light, a body embracing truth, a Bride proclaiming the excellencies of her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.  Some close to me, professed believers, have read and enjoyed this book, citing it as transformational (including noted professors of Christianity, Eugene Peterson and Michael W. Smith).  Others have used it as new approaches to understanding the Holy Spirit.  Reports come to me that some also read it for a small group study supplanting . . . the Bible.  

I am not angered at William P. Young; but I am concerned for the church of Jesus Christ.  Indeed, I say, read the book . . . just don’t read it without the Scriptures of God right beside it, as a lens through which to examine it, to critique it and repudiate that which abhors the truth of God’s revealed Word.  The problem is that some in the church are uncritically reading this book, and in so doing are falling in line with Paul’s prophecy in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears  they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”  Paul condemns Jannes and Jambres as men who “oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith;” then, he continues, “But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men,” (2 Tim 3:8-9).  I would ask those believers who have read Young’s book, “How far have his words gotten with you?”  Paul implies that the church is the body of Christ that wages war with the truth of His Word, that stands immovable upon the truth, that loves the truth, that presses the truth upon the consciences of men, and alas, they recognize and repudiate error with fervor, condemning its teaching.  Where are we as the church in this regard?  

The Bible is our lifeblood.  It is the standard of truth by which we measure all other ideas, all other truth claims – fictional or non-fictional.  When, and if we come across ideas that are antithetical to the gospel, we must flatly call them out, make them known, and deny them.  The Shack consists of such ideas.  Forthcoming posts will deal with Young’s book, chapter by chapter, in order to set it in view of the Bible, the light which reveals all darkness for what it truly is.  May God be glorified in Christ, and in our own souls as we undertake such an endeavor in the knowledge of the truth.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.