The Shack Critique

By Anita Williams

THE SHACK tells the story of a man named Mackenzie Allen Phillips, whose 5 year old daughter, Missy, has been brutally murdered in an old abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness, as the cover reveals. The book recounts Mack’s journey from “The Great Sadness” as he calls it, to healing after receiving a note, supposedly from God, in his mailbox inviting him back to the shack for the weekend.

Upon arriving at the shack in the middle of winter and seeing the blood stains, he realizes the insanity of his being there and begins to leave. All of a sudden, the shack and surroundings turn into beautiful springtime and a lovely log cabin. Mack wonders if God is inside and steps onto the porch at the same time a large, African-American woman named Elousia, comes barreling out giving him a bear hug.  A flittering Asian woman named Sarayu, collects Mack’s tears and soon he meets a Middle Eastern man dressed as a laborer, complete with tool belt and gloves and a large nose, named Jesus (pgs. 84 & 111).

We quickly find out that Elousia or Papa as Mack’s wife, Nan, calls God, is supposedly God, the Father. Sarayu is the Holy Spirit and the man’s identity is evident. The three with help from Sophia (also a woman, the personification of Papa’s wisdom, see pg. 171) take Mack on this journey of discovery, forgiveness, and healing. They encourage Mack to discard all he learned in seminary classes and to have disdain for religion and the institution of the “church”, which I might say, the real Jesus built (Matt 16:18).

I will mainly be critiquing chapters 6 through 8 where the bulk of the error lies. I will do my best to point out the biggest errors and give scripture for rebuttal. As Pastor, I am sure you will be able to come up with even more scripture proving the depth of the error. TS will be used for THE SHACK and AW for my commentary.

First, this is my disclaimer:  “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24. The key words are “Spirit” and “Truth”. Our spirit makes communication with the spiritual realm possible. Therefore, we worship God, Who is Spirit, in spirit, but it must be in truth. God has given us the limitation of truth in our worship, because if truth is absent or diminished, we are not communicating with the one true and living God, but with the god of this world, who comes as an angel of light. Where do we find truth? God’s word is truth – Jesus is the living and eternal Word (John 17:5; I Peter 1:23) and our Bible, the written Word. The two cannot be separated. The key to understanding God is the truth of His Word and NOT conjecture [an inferring, theorizing, or guesswork]. I know we may do that to some extent, but when our theorizing is clearly contrary to the truth of God’s word, we must reject it. I believe this author, William P. Young, would have us transcend scripture – to go beyond the limits of God’s own word – and question it – which is something the serpent encouraged Eve to do in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1).

1.     TS.  Elousia is combining “El” – creator and “ousia” – being, meaning “that which is truly real” pg 110 or “The creator God who is truly real and the ground of all being” pg 111.
AW.  This is akin to New Age jargon:  “God is all and all is god.” He is “I AM WHO I AM” Ex. 3:14
2.     TS. Sarayu “Keeper of the gardens, among other things” pg 87 and “Creativity…Action…Breathing of Life, she is much more,” says Papa. “She is my Spirit…a simple name from one of our human languages. It means ‘Wind,’ a common wind actually. She loves that name. pg 110” [emphasis & capitalization his]
AW.  John 16:13 says “When He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.” [emphasis mine] Sarayu sounds more like the “force” of Star Wars than the 3rd person of the Trinity.
3.     TS.  “Jesus is fully human and lives as such” (Pg 99-100)
AW.  II Cor. 5:16 says, “…even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.” I Cor. 15:53“For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” Rev. 1:12-18“…One like the Son of Man…head and hair were white like wool…eyes like a flame of fire…feet were like fine brass…voice as the sound of many waters…His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But, He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” Please tell me, does this sound as if Jesus still lives as a human?
4.     TS.  Pg 83 Elousia says to Mack, “I have really been looking forward to seeing you face to face.”
AW.  John 1:18“No one has seen God at anytime. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” And I Cor. 13:12“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I am known.” Even when Moses saw God, it was His backside not His face, for God said in Ex. 33:20 “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” And when scripture speaks about God speaking to Moses “face to face” it was in the pillar of cloud that descended upon the tent of meeting.
5.      TS.  Pg. 90-91 Elousia speaking of a musical group (boys who haven’t yet been born) that she has been listening to via headphones says, “I listen to everything – and not just to the music itself; but the hearts behind it. Don’t you remember your seminary classes? These kids aren’t saying anything I haven’t heard before; they’re just full of vinegar and fizz. Lots of anger and I must say with some good reason too. They’re just some of my kids showin’ and spoutin’ off.  I am especially fond of these boys, you know. Yup, I’ll be keeping my eye on ‘em”
Mack struggled to keep up with her to make some sense of what was happening. None of his old seminary training was helping in the least.
AW.  At first glance, there is an element of truth. Yes, Jesus searches the heart – Rom. 8:27; Rev. 2:23. However, my Bible says that out of the heart the mouth speaks – Matt 15:18-20“For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile…” These are the works of the flesh Gal. 5:19-20. Next, she calls them my kids which I feel is this book’s biggest error – how we become a child of God (John 1:12). Is it automatic because of what Jesus did as THE SHACK indicates? Or, is there a true believing and receiving as the Word of God clearly states? As Christians, we know there are two kinds of people in this world – those who have the Son of God and those who do not – I John 5:11-12. The implication here with this musical group, is that no matter what you say or do you are still God’s “kid”.
6.      TS.  Pg. 92 Mack says, “If you couldn’t take care of Missy, how can I trust you to take care of me?”… Elousia responds with tears, “Mack, I’m sorry…I want to heal the wound that has grown inside of you, and between us…Honey, there is no easy answer that will take your pain away. Believe me, if I had one, I’d use it now. I have no magic wand to wave over you and make it all better. Life takes a bit of time and a lot of relationship.”
AW.  This is an impotent God! Mack’s pain was due to the brutal murder of his little daughter; her death that supposedly God allowed. This dissertation is more like something I might say to a friend, but certainly not what God would say. The truth is God is able to raise and resuscitate the dead, even through His servants:  Elijah and the widow’s son, I Kings 17:17-24;  Elisha and the Shunammite’s son, II Kings 4:8-37;  Paul in Acts 20:9-12 with the young man who fell out of the window. In Matt. 9:25 and Mark 5:41 Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter and in John 11:43 He raises Lazarus. In each case the grieving family member received their dead back – completely taking away their pain. God is able to do that every time if it suits His purpose – “For with God nothing will be impossible.” Luke 1:37. And God does have all the answers! He is All-Knowing. He is the Alpha and Omega – The Beginning and The End. Is.46:9-10 says, “Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient time the things that are not yet done; saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.”
7.      TS.  Pg. 93 -95 Elousia explaining her appearance to Mack says, “Mackenzie, I am neither male nor female, even though both genders are derived from my nature. If I choose to appear to you as a man or a woman, it’s because I love you. For me to appear to you as a woman and suggest that you call me Papa is simply to mix metaphors, to help you keep from falling so easily back into you religious conditioning. She leaned forward as if to share a secret, “To reveal myself to you as a very large, white grandfather figure with flowing beard, like Gandalf, would simply reinforce your religious stereotypes.” Pg 95 Mack goes on to say, “Why is there so much emphasis on you being a Father? I mean it seems to be the way you most reveal yourself.”
“Well,” responded Papa, turning away from him and bustling around the kitchen, “There are many reasons for that, and some go very deep. Let me say for now that we knew once the creation was broken, true fathering would be much more lacking than mothering. Don’t misunderstand me, both are needed – but an emphasis on fathering is necessary because of the enormity of its absence.”
AW.  First, I am offended that this author thinks one of our so called, religious stereotypes is of Gandalf. Gandalf is a sorcerer – an abomination to Almighty God (Deut. 18: 9-14). If anything, the enemy inspired the author of The Lord of the Rings to use the description of “The Ancient of Days” in Daniel 7:9, 13, 22, to create the Gandalf character. Next, I am offended that this author would use a woman, red, yellow, black, or white, to portray God Almighty when scripture so clearly reveals Him as male – from the first use of “He” in Genesis 1:5 to Rev. 22:20, the last use of “He”. The author then gives his own explanation as to why – the lack of fathering. Scripture nowhere supports this statement, but it does say that a mother could and would forget her child (Is. 49:15), but He will not forget.  In scripture God is known as our Maker, Husband, Bridegroom, and Father – but not our mother. The only hint of female attributes could come in the name “El Shaddai” of Gen. 17:1. In her book, Lord, I Want to Know You, Kay Arthur quotes Andrew Jukes in his book, The Names of God (Jukes also quotes Parkhurst) “Shaddai describes power, but it is the power not of violence, but of all bountifulness. Shaddai primarily means “breasted” being directly from the Hebrew word Shad, that is “the breast” or, more exactly, “a woman’s breast.” Parkhurst explains the meaning, ‘The Pourer or Shedder forth, that is of blessings, temporal and spiritual. This “El Shaddai” the “Pourer-forth”, who pours Himself out for His creation, who gives them His life blood, who sheds forth His Spirit, and says “Come unto Me and drink” and open thy mouth wide and I will fill it, and Who, thus by the sacrifice of Himself, gives Himself and His very nature to those who will receive Him, that thus His perfect will may be accomplished in them.’” Again I feel William P. Young would have the reader disregard “…the faith which was once delivered to the saints.” Jude 3 and transcend scripture – to question whether or not God really means what He says in His word or if He really said what we think He said. This is the same question the serpent posed to Eve, “Has God indeed said…?” (Gen. 3:1) Apologist, Eric Barger, in his video The Death of Discernment, stated that he feels THE SHACK will do more to promote the feminization of God than all the revisions of scripture, removing the so-called gender bias.
8.      TS.  Pg 95 Elousia/Papa goes on to say, “Mackenzie, the truth shall set you free and the Truth has a name, he’s over in the wood shed right now covered in sawdust. Everything is about him. And freedom is a process that happens inside a relationship with him. Then all the stuff you feel churning around inside will start to work its way out.”
AW.  On the surface this seems to be ok. But, looking at the scripture quoted by Papa and keeping it in the context of the passage, John 8:21-36 is really speaking about being set free from the penalty of sin. When you are free from the penalty of sin after believing, repentance, and receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, which this book never mentions, “the stuff” will fall away in the light of Jesus Christ. It is true that everything is about Jesus, but if you have the wrong God then you have the wrong Jesus and another gospel Gal. 1:6-8.
9.     TS.  Pg 95-96  Mack noticed the scars in her wrists, like those he now assumed Jesus also had on his... “Don’t ever think that what my son chose to do didn’t cost us dearly. Love always leaves a significant mark.” She (Papa) stated softly and gently. “We were there together.” Mack was surprised. “At the cross? Now wait, I thought you left him – you know- “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?” It was a scripture that had often haunted Mack in The Great Sadness [emphasis his]
“You misunderstand the mystery there. Regardless of what he felt at that moment, I never left him.”  AW.  This downplays the effect of sin and the price Christ paid.
TS. (continuing) “How can you say that? You abandoned him just like you abandoned me!”
“…Mackenzie, I never left him, and I have never left you.”
“That makes no sense to me,” he snapped.
“I know it doesn’t, at least not yet. Will you at least consider this:  When all you can see is your pain, perhaps then you lose sight of me?”
AW.  When we are a true child of God He never leaves or forsakes:  Is 59:2“But, your iniquities have separated you from your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He will not hear.”  IICor. 5:21“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  Luke 22:44 regarding Jesus praying in the garden prior to His arrest:  “And being in agony He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground.” Let me ask, “Why was Jesus in such agony that He even prayed for this cup to be taken from Him, but yielded to the will of the Father? Was it because of the physical pain He would suffer at the crucifixion or was it the moment He would become “sin for us” and be separated from the Father for the one and only time in all eternity? This is what makes the incarnation so amazing – the second person of the Triune Godhead chose to create for Himself a human body so that He, Himself, could pay the penalty for our sin. Because God is Spirit, He cannot die, but the penalty for sin – by His own commandment – is death. God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, being one in essence, still remained in heaven and the office or position they had always had. Is. 53:6 says “The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Because of us – His love compelled Him to suffer the separation sin had caused – for the hours on the cross – the sixth to the ninth hour when darkness fell and the temple curtain was torn in two. Then Jesus knew the penalty for sin was about to be paid so He said, “It is finished” John 19:38. With the time of separation finished, He cried in a loud voice, “Father into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” Luke 23:46.
The truth of scripture is that sin separates and Jesus suffered abandonment so we wouldn’t have to. We can repent…be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission or forgiveness of sins; and you [we] shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”(Acts 2:38) “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish or spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.” (I Peter 1:18-20)
10.                        TS.  Pg 99-100 Elousia speaking, “When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human.
AW.  Were all three of the Triune Godhead present in Jesus while He walked this earth? What about the Voice from heaven and the likeness of a dove after Jesus was baptized (Matt. 3:16-17)? Was the Son of God spoken into existence? Luke 1:35 says, “And the angel answered and said to her [Mary] , ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Highest will overshadow you, therefore also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.’” This doesn’t sound spoken. Even Adam wasn’t spoken into existence. All creation was spoken into existence (then God said, “Let there be…”), but Adam was formed by the hands of God “…out of the dust of the ground…” Gen. 2:7.
11.                        TS.  (continuing the same passage, Pg 99-100) We also chose to embrace all the limitations that entailed.
AW.  The limitations of humanity:  physically Jesus limited Himself, but did He really? How many of us humans can walk on water without the Lord Jesus Christ physically present or calm a violent storm with a word? How many of us can turn water into wine or feed 5000+ people with 5 loaves and 2 fish? How many of us can give power and authority to another to heal the sick and cast out demons as Jesus did when He sent out the 12 apostles in Matt. 10:1, Mark 3:13-15 and Luke 9:1, or the 70 in Luke 10:1? The apostles and the seventy had nothing within them to believe they could do these things – why else would they have been so excited and amazed, recounting how even the demons were subject to them in His name, when they returned? (Luke 10:17) Luke 10:18-20 gives the Lords response in the form of a rebuke to “not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” This power came from God the Son. He was able to impart power and authority (something only God Almighty can do) because He was and is the God-Man.
12.                        TS.  (continuing) Even though we have always been present in this created universe we now became flesh and blood…like this bird, whose nature it is to fly, choosing only to walk and remain grounded. He doesn’t stop being the bird, but it does alter his experience of life significantly…Although by nature he is fully God, Jesus is fully human and lives as such. While never losing the innate ability to fly, he chooses moment-by-moment to remain grounded. That is why his name is Immanuel, God with us, or God with you, to be more precise.”
“But what about all the miracles? The healings? Raising people from the dead? Doesn’t that prove that Jesus was God – you know more than human?”
“No, it proves that Jesus is truly human.”
“What?”  AW. My sentiments exactly!
“Mackenzie, I can fly, but humans can’t. Jesus is fully human. Although, he is also fully God, he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything. He has only lived out of his relationship with me, living in the very same manner that I desire to be in relationship with every human being. He is just the first to do it to the uttermost – the first to absolutely trust my life within him, the first to believe in my love and my goodness without regard for appearance or consequence.”
“So when he healed the blind?”
“He did so as a dependent, limited human being trusting in my life and power at work within him and through him. Jesus, as a human being, had no power within himself to heal anyone.”
That came as a shock to Mack’s religious system.
“Only as he rested in his relationship with me, and our communion – our co-union – could he express my heart and will into any given circumstance. So, when you look at Jesus and it appears that he’s flying, he really is…flying. But, what you are actually seeing is me; my life in him. That’s how he lives and acts as a true human, how every human is designed to live – out of my life.
AW.  What is the real implication of these statements? Is it that if we have enough faith we can be like Jesus, do all He did? When Jesus performed miracles He received worship. If the above is true, should we also expect to receive worship? Blasphemy!!
13.                        TS.  (continuing the same passage) “A bird’s not defined by being grounded but by his ability to fly. Remember this, humans are not defined by their limitations, but by the intentions that I have for them; not by what they seem to be, but by everything it means to be created in my image.”
AW.  This passage as a whole again goes back to the Garden of Eden and the lie the serpent told Eve, “You will be like God…” (Gen. 3:5) also, as apologist, Eric Barger, stated, “…Sounds very much like Mormonism.”  I am appalled and could say so much about the blasphemy here, however since I have already overwhelmed you with words, I will say only this, the author, William P. Young, like so many in the world, are confusing created in the image of God with being a child of God. This is what Satan wants us all to believe and it leads to apathy and complacency – an “I’m ok, you’re ok” mentality – but not to repentance and the “right to become the children of God.” (John 1:12) Since the fall of Adam, there is a big difference in being created in the image of God and being a child of God – the difference is where we will spend eternity. This passage is again downplaying the effect of sin. Young has conjured up his own “god” in his mind because he refuses to accept the true God of Scripture due to the pain he suffered in his lifetime (according to the book’s cover).  THE SHACK is akin to the Oh God movies of the 80’s, (1st movie starred John Denver), and the Touched By An Angel TV series. They cause complacency and apathy, and keep unbelievers from seeking true repentance and life in Christ.
14.                        TS.  Pg 118-119 speaking of musician and songwriter Bruce Cockburn, Mack states, “You seem to be especially fond of a lot of people…are there any you are not especially fond of?”
(Papa) lifted her head and rolled her eyes as if she were mentally going through the catalogue of every being ever created, “Nope, I haven’t been able to find any. Guess that’s jes’ the way I is.”
Mack was interested, “Do you ever get mad at any of them?”
“Sho’nuff! What parent doesn’t? There is a lot to be mad about in the mess my kids have made and the mess they’re in…anger – especially for me – is an expression of love…I love the ones I angry with just as much as those I’m not.”
“But,” Mack paused. “What about your wrath?”…weren’t you always running around killing people in the Bible? You just don’t seem to fit the bill…”
(Papa) “I’m not asking you to believe anything…simply accept what is, instead of trying to fit it into your preconceived notions.
AW.  This is something the New Agers or the Emergent Church would say. Forget what you learned – go with the experience! Preconceived notions? Where would we get these so-called, preconceived notions about God or His wrath? From His holy word that’s where! See Ps. 19:7-14; Rom. 1:18-19; Rev.6:17.
15.                        TS.  (continuing the passage, Pg 119) Mack asks, “But if you are God aren’t you the one spilling out great bowls of wrath and throwing people into a burning lake of fire?...Honestly don’t you enjoy punishing those who disappoint you?”
[With deep sadness in her eyes Papa says,] “I am not who you think I am Mackenzie. I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.
AW.  What? These statements again downplay the effect and utter depravity of sin. Would this author have the reader disregard the whole Bible or just theorize it? Eric Barger asks, “Where in THE SHACK is the holiness of God; where is His sovereignty; His worship?” It is mysteriously absent. Sin is in the world and sin must be dealt with because God is just and His justice demands a verdict. Either we have a substitute take our punishment or we choose our own way and pay the price ourselves (Ezek. 18:4-20; Rom. 6:23; Job 19:29).  Any true believer knows the wrath of God is real – this is not a preconceived notion that we should discard.  God says in Ezek. 33:11, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked...” But, they will die in their sin nonetheless, if they do not choose repentance (II Thes. 1:6-12). He is not a hateful, angry God, like William P. Young thinks. No, He is loving in that “…He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
16.                        TS.  Pg 121-123  In this long discourse, Papa, Jesus, Sarayu and Mack discuss hierarchy. Mack says, “Isn’t one of you more the boss than the other two?” “…I am talking about who’s in charge. Don’t you have a chain of command?”
“Chain of command? That sounds ghastly!” Jesus said.
“At least binding,” Papa added as they both started laughing, and then Papa turned to Mack and sang, “Though chains be of gold, they be chains just the same.”
“Now don’t you concern yourself with those two,” Sarayu interrupted, reaching out her hand to comfort and calm him. “They’re just playing with you. This is actually a subject of interest among us.”
AW.  Does this sound at all like our God – playing or teasing to the point that one of His creation would get upset? These are sinful human qualities, the very opposite of our God.
17.                        TS.  (continuing the same passage Pg 121-123) “Mackenzie, we have no concept of final authority among us only unity. We are a circle of relationship, not a chain of command or ‘great chain of being’ as your ancestors termed it. What you’re seeing here is relationship without any overlay of power. We don’t need power over the other because we are always looking out for the best. Hierarchy would make no sense among us. Actually this is your problem, not ours.”
AW.  If you would check out page 107 of THE SHACK, you would find a time of devotion where Jesus is giving devotion to Papa and there is no reciprocation. Isn’t this time of devotion a contradiction of what Sarayu just stated?
18.                        TS.  (continuing) [Sarayu goes on] “Humans are so lost and damaged that to you it is almost incomprehensible that people could work or live together without someone being in charge.”
“But every human institution…is governed by this kind of thinking, it is the web of our social fabric,” Mack asserted…
“It’s one reason why experiencing true relationship is so difficult for you,” Jesus added. “Once you have a hierarchy you need rules to protect and administer it…then…law and the enforcement of the rules, and you end up with…a system of order that destroys relationship rather than promotes it…Hierarchy imposes laws and rules and you end up missing the wonder of relationship that we intended for you.”
AW.  Almighty God established and demonstrated hierarchy just by creating. Creation evidences hierarchy, culminating in Man being given dominion prior to the fall not to mention Eve as the helpmate. Granted, sin has corrupted God’s ideal, but it was God, Himself who gave the structure of the family in Gen. 3:16. However, even if every being were totally equal, there would still be One above us.  Scripture shows hierarchy in heaven among the angels (Dan. 10:13) and in Satan’s kingdom. God established earthly government and commands us to pray Rom. 13:1-7, I Tim. 2:1-4. God even established hierarchy in the church Eph. 4:11-12.
19.                        TS.  (continuing) “Well,” said Mack sarcastically…we have adapted pretty well to it.”
Sarayu…, “Don’t confuse adaptation for intention or seduction for reality.”
“So we’ve been seduced into this preoccupation with authority.”
“In a sense, yes!” responded Papa…
AW.  Seduced into a preoccupation with authority? I’ve just explained how God demonstrated authority in the beginning. Should we throw out the whole Bible? This book constantly undermines the Word of God – His actions – and puts words into God’s mouth that are just not there. I truly believe THE SHACK is “doctrines of demons” (I Tim. 4:1, I John 4:1) because the error is so very subtle. If I baked you a lovely chocolate cake, but put just a little arsenic in the batter, no matter how good it looked and tasted, it’s still poison!
20.                        TS.  (continuing) Sarayu continued, “When you chose independence over relationship, you became a danger to each other. Others became objects to be manipulated or managed for your own happiness. Authority, as you usually think of it, is merely the excuse the strong use to make others conform to what they want.”
AW.  What?  Independence? Is that what we chose? I thought we chose disobedienceSIN – bringing in death (Rom. 5:12). Young is renaming sin and continually downplays its effect.  Renaming sin as independence makes it not seem so bad; implying repentance is not actually needed, and this reinforces the “I’m ok – you’re ok” mentality. When Young states, “Authority…is merely the excuse the strong use to make others conform to what they want”, is he really only referring to fallen man or is this subtle implication toward Almighty God as God is our ultimate Authority? We exist because of His will. Yes God is love, but love encompasses truth and the truth is, sin must be punished (I Cor. 15:20-28; Rev. 20:11-15; Rev. 21:7-8). However, God has given the free gift of eternal life and emphatically states many time in scripture “Choose life” (Ezek. 18:32; Ezek. 33:11) and “Choose whom you will serve (Deut. 6:13; Joshua 22:5 & 24:14-15; Matt. 4:10). There is no fear of God in THE SHACK. I am not just talking about reverential fear, but actual fear because He is Almighty! Proverbs tells us over and over that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom” and Jesus tells us in Matt. 10:28 that we are to fear Him who has the power to “destroy both soul and body in hell.” THE SHACK is creating a god we, as sinful people, want to believe in – ONLY LOVE AND NO PUNISHMENT. THE SHACK is merely scratching some “itching ears” (II Tim. 4:1-4). Yes, “God is love” that is why He came Himself and bore the punishment for the sin of the whole world. John 3:16, Rom. 5:8 and I John 4:10 explain this truth. However, just because this gift of eternal life has been given, there must be an understanding or belief that the gift is yours, and then acceptance and receipt of that gift or else you cannot claim possession (I John 4:14-15; John 1:12; Rev. 3:20; Matt. 7:21-23).
So, if God isn’t our Authority, but a relationship, and if we choose relationship over independence, do we now become “like God” because we will have joined His circle of relationship? Earlier in this chapter Young implies contempt for God’s wrath against sin. It is my opinion that with this statement, he is railing against God and His [Young perceived] injustice. If I am offended at this, what about Almighty God?
21.                        TS.  (Pg. continuing 123-125)  Mack asks [regarding authority] “Isn’t it helpful in keeping people from fighting endlessly or getting hurt?”
“Sometimes. But in a selfish world it is also used to inflict great harm.”
“But don’t you use it to restrain evil?”
“We carefully respect your choices, so we work within your systems even while we seek to free you from them,”
AW.  Let me ask, “Did God respect Pharaoh or Balaam’s choices? Did Jesus respect Saul/Paul’s choices when He appeared on the road to Damascus? This Papa is very unlike our true and living God.
22.                        TS. (continuing) Papa continued. “Creation has been taken down a very different path than we desired. In your world the value of the individual is constantly weighed against the survival of the system, whether political, economic, social, or religious – any system actually. First one person, and then a few, and finally many are easily sacrificed for the good or ongoing existence of that system. In one form or another, this lies behind every struggle for power, every prejudice, every war, and every abuse of relationship. The will to power and independence has become so ubiquitous that it is now considered normal.
“It’s not?”
“It is the human paradigm,” added Papa… “It’s like water to fish, so prevalent that is goes unseen and unquestioned. It is the matrix, a diabolical scheme in which you are hopelessly trapped even while completely unaware of its existence.”
AW.  This is the sin nature. The question is where does this author see it going? What is the end for those who do not choose relationship? Because of Young’s earlier teaching (see #13) regarding us being created in the image of God thus being a child of God, I now understand he is teaching Universal Reconciliation or Reconciling Universalism.
TS. (continuing) Jesus picked up the conversation, “As the crowning glory of Creation, you were made in our image, unencumbered by structure and free to simply ‘be’ in relationship with me and with one another. If you had truly learned to regard each other’s concerns as significant as your own, there would be no need for hierarchy.”
AW.  What? Unencumbered by structure and free to simply ‘be’ in relationship? Adam was subservient to God, although given “dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Gen. 1:28 This is structure. Without structure chaos ensues. Adam was not “simply free to ‘be’ in relationship with me [God] and one another”; God gave Adam work to do and a command to follow. God did this for Adam’s own good. Structure is order “the arrangement of all the parts of a whole; put together systematically”. Hierarchy means “a group or persons or things arranged in order of rank, grade, etc.” Our God is a God of order, not of confusion and chaos (I Cor. 14:33; James 3:16) Sin corrupted the simplicity of the original hierarchy – God, and then below Him came Adam followed by Eve, finally dominion over creation (Is. 55:8-9). After the fall, hierarchy was commanded by God so order would continue (Gen. 3:16; Rom. 9:20-21; Is. 64:8; I Tim. 2:13-15).
TS.  (continuing) Mack…staggered by the implications of what he was hearing. “So you are telling me that whenever we humans protect ourselves with power…”
“You are yielding to the matrix, not to us,” finished Jesus.
…Sarayu interjected… “You humans are so lost and damaged that to you it is almost incomprehensible that relationship could exist apart from hierarchy. So you think that God must relate inside a hierarchy like you do. But we do not.”
“But how could we ever change that? People will just use us.”
“They most likely will. But, we’re not asking you to do it with other, Mack. We’re asking you to do it with us. That’s the only place it can begin. We won’t use you.”
“Mack,” said Papa… “We want to share with you the love and joy and freedom and light that we already know within ourself. We created you, the human, to be in face-to-face relationship with us, to join our circle of love. As difficult as it will be for you to understand, everything that has taken place is occurring exactly according to this purpose, without violating choice or will.”
AW.  We’ve already discussed the “face-to-face” relationship in #4 so I won’t say more on that. However, regarding not “violating choice or will”, yes, we can choose not to love God, but I’ll bet most of us would not choose death. Last time I checked, death is a violation of our will, not to mention sickness, deformity and handicap. This is all the result of sin. None of us alive today chose to live in a sin-cursed world, but we do. Again, that’s why the incarnation is such a gift. (Acts 17:28; Heb. 1:3-4; Heb. 2:5-9)
I could go on and on about the heresy in this book, the subtle hold it puts on the reader, and the way it alters and muddles your thinking.  In the remaining sections I will give a few of the portions containing error, some refuting scripture with a little commentary, and allow you to formulate rebuttal.
23.                        TS. Pg 147-148 …Jesus continued, “…The world, in many ways, would be a much calmer and gentler place if women ruled…”
AW.  Gen. 3:16 God designed the order of things and placed Adam as head, just as Christ is Head of the church, His bride Eph. 5:22-33. God gave Adam the role of provider placing him in the workforce.
24.                        TS. Pg. 181 Jesus said tenderly, “…You are free to love [people] without an agenda.”
AW.  Is the author implying that our “Great Commission” (Matt. 28:19-20) is loving with an agenda?
25.                        TS.  Pg. 182 [Jesus speaking] “Who said anything about being a Christian? I’m not a Christian…Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions…I have no desire to make them Christians, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa…into my Beloved.”
“Does that mean,” asked Mack, “that all roads will lead to you?”
“Not at all…Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.”
AW.  Why are we called Christians? Acts 11:26 “…And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” It’s the gospel of Christ that makes us disciples, therefore Christians. If this Jesus doesn’t want to make them Christians, how are the unbelievers to be transformed? Rom. 1:16-17. Then he states “most roads don’t lead anywhere”? Scripture tells us there are only two roads, one wide and the other narrow (Matt. 7:13-14) and they both lead somewhere.
26.                        TS.  Pg. 190  [Papa speaking] “…All evil flows from independence, and independence is your choice…Evil is the chaos of this age that you brought to me, but it will not have the final say. Now it touches everyone that I love, those who follow me and those who don’t. If I take away the consequences of people’s choices, I destroy the possibility of love. Love that is forced is no love at all.”
AW.  By the time the reader gets to this page, their mind is so garbled they accept this as true. However, what I understand from Scripture is that Satan sinned first. (Is. 14:12-17; Ezek 28:12-15; Luke 10:18; Rev. 12:9; Gen. 3:1-5) Where in this book is the enemy of our souls that “roams around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (I Pet. 5:8)? Why does the author believe wisdom of Proverbs should be portrayed as an actual woman “Sophia” (Pg. 171) but totally ignore Satan? Is it because Satan and all who follow him by not repenting and accepting the free gift Jesus provided, have a place prepared for them also – “…the lake of fire and brimstone…” (Rev. 20:10-15) and this doesn’t fit with his doctrine, his gospel of Universal Reconciliation.
27.                        TS.  Pg. 191 -192  “Papa, can you help me understand something? What exactly did Jesus accomplish by dying?”
“…Papa sat forward… “Honey, you asked me what Jesus accomplished on the cross; so now listen to me carefully; through his death and resurrection, I am now fully reconciled to the world.”
AW.  Yes Jesus’ death satisfied sin’s penalty. II Cor 5:12-21 explains this reconciliation through Jesus Christ for the whole world. However, you cannot build a doctrine on one passage of scripture. You must take the whole of scripture and scripture clearly states that not all will inherit the kingdom of God. These will choose to not believe, to not love God and not accept His “free gift of eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom.6:23) However, if full reconciliation has taken place as William P. Young states then why in the II Corinthians passage does God give us the “ministry of reconciliation”, “the word of reconciliation”, so that “we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us; we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” (vs. 20) Why would God plead if all were already reconciled? Do we go out imploring the world to be reconciled to God so they can live a better life here on earth, or do we implore them because, as believers, we know where they will spend eternity if they are not reconciled? Reconciliation is full if you believe and receive the Lord Jesus Christ – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” We all have a choice and we can choose unbelief, in which case we will die in our sin without the reconciliation provided by our Lord Jesus Christ.
28.                        TS.  Pg. 205  [Papa speaking] “…you won’t find the word responsibility in the Scriptures…”
AW.  True, the word responsibility is not in scripture, however its counterpart is:  duty. We are commanded to follow the example of Jesus, Paul and the apostles I Pet. 2:21; II Thes. 3:9). We are responsible for our actions or sin; to work out our own salvation (Phil. 2:12) – implying responsibility to choose righteousness as we allow God to work in us. Also, we were “saved by grace through faith…for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:8-10)
29.                        TS.  (continuing Pg. 205) Religion must use law to empower itself and control the people who they need to survive. I give you an ability to respond and your response is to be free to love and serve in every situation, and therefore each moment is different and unique and wonderful. Because I am your ability to respond, I have to be present in you. If I simply gave you a responsibility [emphasis his], I would not have to be with you at all. It would now be a task to perform, an obligation to be met, something to fail.”
AW.  It is true that without Jesus we “can do nothing.”(John 15:1-5) But, what is the implication here about the law of God? Are we, according to this author, to disregard the Old Testament containing the law? Rom. 7:12 tells us “…the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.” Without it we cannot know sin and our need of a Savior (Rom. 7:7).
30.                        TS.  Pg. 224 [Papa] “…because of Jesus, there is now no law demanding that I bring your sins back to mind. They are gone when it comes to you and me, and they run no interference in our relationship.”
AW.  Here is an example of a half-truth followed by a lie. Tell me does THE SHACK indicate that Mack ever repented of his sin and accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior? In fact, the Foreword describes the exact opposite. If Mack were truly saved, the first part of the statement would be true. The second part of Papa’s statement that sins runs “no interference in our relationship” is, even for believers, a lie. Sin separates, entangles, entices, and leads to spiritual death. (Is. 59:2; II Pet.2:20; Jas. 1:12-16) Yes, we do “have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous…Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (I John 2:1-4) However, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John l:9) I am not a fan of legalism or religion so-called, but obedience and keeping “oneself unspotted from the world,” yes. (James 1:27)
31.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      TS.  Pg. 225 “…Mackenzie, don’t you see that forgiveness is an incredible power – a power you share    with us, a power Jesus gives to all whom he indwells so that reconciliation can grow? When Jesus forgave those who nailed him to the cross they were no longer in his debt, nor mine. In my relationship with those men, I will never bring up what they did, or shame them, or embarrass them.”
AW.  Did the fact that Jesus said from the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do...” (Luke 23:34) mean that all their sin was forgiven and now have a personal relationship with God? At the time of crucifixion, when these men were casting lots for His clothes, repentance was the furthest thing from their minds. This is just another example of author, William P. Young’s doctrine of Universal Reconciliation. However, that doctrine contradicts true doctrine. Throughout scripture there are examples of people crying out to God for deliverance without a repentant heart and He says, “I will not hear”. (Is. 1:15; Jer. 7:16; Ezek 8:18; Amos 5:23) Psalm 66: 18 says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.”  Acts 3:12-23 says, “…Men of Israel…you denied the Holy One and the Just, and…killed the Prince of life whom God raised from the dead…Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.”

My prayer is that through you the Lord will not allow THE SHACK to deceive anymore. Thank you, in advance, for caring enough for your flock to take this information and expose the error far and wide. God bless you in your service for Him.

All for my Lord Jesus Christ,

Anita Williams

PS:  Here are some helpful websites, however, they were accessed in 2008. The first is a wonderful critique from Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll’s Ministry, by Dr. Glenn Kreider. The others are regarding a Polynesian Deity named Papa (also a woman with black skin) Author, William P. Young, was “raised among a stone-age tribe by his missionary parents in the highlands of what was New Guinea” according to the cover bio:

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