There are times when you are forced to revisit things you thought you understood. Today is one of those times.
In my last post, I commended The Shack to you as a parable. If it was simply read in that way, and I suspect most people will read it that way, it’s a good book. It emphasizes God’s love and work to heal us. Yes, it says some things along the way that can be taken in unbiblical ways, but in general, it’s still a good book. After all, none of us express ourselves perfectly. Even Jesus allowed incorrect beliefs (see the description of the place of the dead in the parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus) to go unchallenged so he could get to bigger points.
I was happy with that view of The Shack for several years. Various complaints were leveled at the author, Paul Young, by theologians. At the Evangelical Theological Society he was pointedly asked whether he was advocating universalism (the idea that everyone will be saved) in the book. He directly answered, “No.” Various other supposed heresies were similarly denied.
Now Paul Young has published Lies We Believe About God.
Matt Slick, at the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, reviewed Young’s new book. While Slick holds to the unbiblical view of an ever-burning Hell, he still identifies very real and important heresies in Young’s theology. A couple of items from his review will make things clear.
The first is that Young does believe in universalism, even though the Bible clearly states that only the “remnant” (a small group!) will be saved.
“Paul Young says…
- “Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? That is exactly what I [Paul Young] am saying!” (p. 118, All quotes with underlines are added by me for emphasis).”
Young has a very odd view of Hell.
“. . . perhaps hell is hell not because of the absence of God, but because of the presence of God, the continuous and confrontational presence of fiery Love and Goodness and Freedom that intends to destroy every vestige of evil and darkness that prevents us from being fully free and fully alive. This is a fire of Love that now and forever is “for” us, not against us. Only if we posit that we have existence apart from Jesus can we believe that hell is a form of punishment that comes to us in our separation from Jesus. I propose the possibility that hell is not separation from Jesus but that it is the pain of resisting our salvation in Jesus while not being able to escape Him who is True Love.” (pp. 136-138)”
Young also has a very odd view of sin.
“Sin, then, is anything that negates or diminishes or misrepresents the truth of who you are, no matter how pretty or ugly that is. (p. 229).”
Then Young tries to describe the gospel without ever talking about the Cross, which Paul declares is “of first importance.” (1 Cor 15:1-8) You get the picture.
If Young had kept his mouth shut, The Shack would have stayed on my recommended reading list as a modern parable. But he has now made it unmistakably clear that he is preaching “another gospel” that does not come from the Bible.
Much to my chagrin, I must withdraw my previous approval of The Shack. Those bits that some identified as heresy weren’t there by accident. Young is preaching heresy with his novel, and has confirmed it with his book of “theology.” Since theology is writing about a god, the god he is writing about is not the God of the Bible. He is not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And He is not the God who wants to save you.
Take some time to read Matt Slick’s review. And please forgive me for misleading you. I had taken a charitable view of The Shack that was not deserved.