Charts: The Shack versus the Bible: Part 1

An excellent, brief overview of some of The Shack‘s heresies, by Dale Brown.  (Note: While we believe Brown means well, in light of Danger #6 below, we do not endorse this video’s drawing of Jesus.)

The Shack has taken the American Church by storm.

(Other posts in this series: Part 2) (see also Answering Defenses of The Shack, and The Shack Author Denies the Gospel)

This enormously popular—and dangerous—book by William P. Young has swept through all denominations, leaving in its wake a multitude of disciples.  It has seduced professing Christians—even those whom you would least suspect—into embracing some of the most heretical doctrines ever.  Again and again, readers report that The Shack has profoundly changed their view of God.

And in time, The Shack may not only seduce readers, but moviegoers as well.  There has been talks of making The Shack a feature film.

In light of this tragedy, we have begun a series of posts with charts that contrast The Shack‘s dangerous teachings with the Bible.

These charts are intended for those who need more information on The Shack, those who have read The Shack but have not been grounded enough in the Bible to discern The Shack’s dangerous teachings, and most of all, those who may have been deceived into embracing any number of The Shack’s dangerous and heretical teachings.

Special thanks to Tim Challies for his excellent review of the Shack, which provided us with very helpful information.  We highly recommend
reading Challies’ review.

Note : In The Shack’s trinity, God the Father is depicted as an overweight black woman; Jesus the Son is depicted as a Middle Eastern man; and the Holy Spirit is depicted as an Asian woman named Sarayu.

For this making of God into the image of man, and other reasons, the Shack’s god is not the One True God, but a blasphemous counterfeit.  As such, we try not to use a capital “G” when describing the god of the Shack, but a lowercase “g,” which is reserved for idols.

Danger 1: Assault on the Holiness of God

The Shack The Bible
The Shack does not portray a holy god.

While in the very presence of the Shack’s god, a character

  1. curses (p. 140) and uses profanity
    ( p. 224)
  2. has an outburst of anger (p. 92)
  3. raises his voice at the Shack god (p. 96)
The Bible teaches that God is holy and must be treated with the utmost respect.

The Bible teaches that the one true God would never tolerate such blasphemous behavior as exhibited by the character in the Shack:

“Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.  And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.”

“Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘It is what the LORD spoke, saying, “By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.”’  So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.” (Leviticus 10:1-3) (NASB)

Conclusion
The Shack, in condoning irreverent behavior in God’s presence, opposes the Bible.  Thus the Shack is heretical since it denies the importance of showing reverence before God.

Those who are disrespectful to God better quickly repent before God judges them.  And so should those who promote the Shack, since those who promote it promote disrespect to God.

Those who are disrespectful of God should learn Job’s lesson and keep their mouths shut:“And the LORD said to Job:  ‘Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?  He who argues with God, let him answer it.’”

“Then Job answered the LORD and said:  ‘Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?  I lay my hand on my mouth.  I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.’” (Job 40:1-5)

Danger 2: Assault on the Trinity

The Shack The Bible
All three members of the Shack trinity are actually the same person, at least sometimes.

Papa says that both she and the Son were at the cross “together” (p. 96).

Papa later adds,

“When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations that this entailed” (p. 99).

The Bible teaches there is one God in three persons (The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’” (Genesis 1:26a) (Here God is mentioned in the singular [“God said”], but speaks of Himself in a plurality of persons (“us,” “our”)

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19) (Here the unity of the Trinity is asserted in a single Name [“in the name of”],which is used in the singular, instead of saying “in the names of,” in the plural), followed by the individual names of the distinct persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16, 17)

Conclusion
The Shack, at least in the examples given, denies the Bible’s distinction between the three persons of the Trinity.

This is the same thing the heresy of Modalism does.  Modalism, according to CARM.org, is:  “The error that there is only one person in the Godhead who manifests himself in three forms or manners: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

Thus the Shack is heretical since it, at least at a certain point, denies all three persons in the Trinity.  Denying any person in the Trinity is to deny God Himself.

Danger 3: Assault on Hierarchy and Submission (within the Trinity and Mankind)

The Shack The Bible
The shack trinity opposes hierarchy within itself and within mankind.

Sarayu says

“[W]e are in a circle of relationship, not a chain of command. … Hierarchy would make no sense among us” (p. 122).

The Shack Jesus disapproves of hierarchies:

“Once you have a hierarchy you need rules to protect and administer it, and then you need law and the enforcement of the rules, and you end up with some kind of chain of command or 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” (p. 122, 123)

Sarayu later says,

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” (p. 124)

The Shack Jesus says,

“That’s the beauty you see in my relationship with Abba and Sarayu. We are indeed submitted to one another and have always been so and will always be. Papa is as much submitted to me as I to him, or Sarayu to me, or Papa to her.” (p. 145)

The Bible upholds hierarchy within both the Trinity and with mankind.

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38) (Here Jesus speaks of doing the will of God the Father)

“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”  (1 Corinthians 11:3)

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For ‘God has put all things in subjection under his feet.’ But when it says, ‘all things are put in subjection,’ it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-28)

“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” (Colossians 3:20)

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” (1 Timothy 5:17)

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” (Romans 13:1, 2)

“Let all who are under a yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved.” (1 Timothy 6:1-2)

Conclusion
Thus the Shack is heretical since it denies what the Bible teaches about  hierarchy within the Trinity and within mankind.

Mankind has attacked the notion of  hierarchies since the fall of Adam.In the Garden of Eden, Satan tempted Eve to be God’s equal in saying: “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5c).

Adam, who was with Eve (v. 6), refused to assume his leadership role as a husband and keep Eve from eating from the tree.  Instead, he allowed her to be his equal, and makind has suffered from sin and death ever since. 

Danger 4: Assault on the Sovereignty of God

The Shack The Bible
The Shack denies the sovereignty of God.

The Shack Jesus says,

“Have you noticed that even though you call me Lord and King, I have never really acted in that capacity with you?  I’ve never taken control of your choices or forced you to do anything, even when what you were about to do was destructive or hurtful to yourself and others” (p. 145)

The Bible affirms the sovereignty of God.

“So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.” (Romans 9:18)

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44)

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide,” (John15:16a)

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” (Proverbs 16:33)  (Not even chance is possible!—God decrees everything, even the “random” lot.)

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:36)

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,” (Ephesians 1:11)

“Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.” (Psalm 115:3) (NIV)

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” (Proverbs 21:1)

“Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked?” (Ecclesiastes 7:13)

“In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.” (Ecclesiastes 7:14)

“I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)

“Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” (Lamentations 3:37-38)

“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 times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ (Isaiah 46:9-10)

Conclusion
The Shack denies God’s absolute sovereignty in all things.  Certainly God is not be blamed for evil, but nevertheless, God is in absolute control of all things.Thus the Shack is heretical because it denies God’s rule over all things.

Denying God’s sovereignty is a serious sin.  No one has the right to question God’s absolute control of all things:

“all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35)

Denying God’s sovereignty is the sin of rebellion against God:

“You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” (Romans 9:19-21)

Danger 5: Assault on the Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture

The Shack The Bible
The Shack denies the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.

The Shack writes of the character Mac:

“In seminary he had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring to have them only listen to and follow sacred Scripture, properly interpreted, of course. God’s voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellectsNobody wanted God in a box, just in a book. Especially an expensive one bound in leather with gilt edges, or was that guilt edges?” (65, 66)

The Bible teaches that Scripture is fully authoritative and sufficient.

“The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” (John 12:48-50)

“Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge, for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips. That your trust may be in the LORD, I have made them known to you today, even to youHave I not written for you thirty sayings of counsel and knowledge, to make you know what is right and true, that you may give a true answer to those who sent you?” (Proverbs 22:17-21)

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules.  I am severely afflicted; give me life, O LORD, according to your word!” (Psalm 119:105-107)

For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress.” (Proverbs 6:23, 24)

Conclusion
Thus the Shack, in denigrating God’s Word in the Bible, denigrates the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.

This is out of character for true Christians,  since “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge.” Christians accept God’s Word in the Bible.  Jesus said,“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

The Shack implies God’s truth in the Bible is unknowable, subject to being deciphered by “proper authorities and intellects.”  But God’s Word can make us “know what is right and true.”

The Shack attacks God’s Word as revealed in the Bible as something dry, “reduced to paper,” but the Word is “a lamp” and “a light.”

Thus in all these attacks on God’s Word, the Shack is heretical.  Just like Satan in the Garden of Eden who tempted Eve to deny the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word (as Satan told Eve, “You will not surely die,” Genesis 3:4b), so too does the Shack tempt us to deny the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word.

Danger 6: Promotion of Idolatry

The Shack The Bible
The Shack supports idolatry.

The Shack depicts God the Father as an overweight black woman; Jesus the Son as a Middle Eastern man; and the Holy Spirit as an Asian woman

The Bible forbids idolatry, which includes making God in man’s image.

To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.” (Isaiah 40:25)

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1:21-23)

“Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.” (Acts 17:29)

An idol! A craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and casts for it silver chains.” (Isaiah 40:19)

The 2nd Commandment says,

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:4-6)

Conclusion
Since the Shack depicts God as human beings—and human beings are part of “anything … in the earth beneath”—the god of the Shack is a false god, an idol.

Thus the Shack is heretical. Tim Challies writes in his review of The Shack,“To worship such an image, to acknowledge it as God or even to pretend it is God is to commit the sin of idolatry. It is to worship a creation rather than the Creator” (p. 12).

In making God in the image of man, The Shack, just as in Romans 1:21-23,  dishonors God and exchanges his glory for images resembling mortal man.

Men who read the idolatrous Shack, be warned:  If you view the god of the Shack as the God of the Bible, then the 2nd Commandment considers you a hater of God and threatens generational curses on your family:

“You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, …”

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4 Comments

  1. Unfortunately as with most critiques of “The Shack” this list misses the entire spirit with which the book was written.

    The point of author in writing this book is to rediscover the relationship nature with God man lost when kicked out of the garden. Of course, the way to the garden has been closed and any attempt will be futile however noble its attempt.

    This explains why the author allowed his hero to explore the full depth of his feelings. Truly in the presence of the holy God all the chaff would be quickly burned up. Relationship in this realm requires time and communication.

    These lists really begins to feel like ‘nit picking’ when complaints surround the depiction of God as a certain race or sex of human. It should be obvious from a study of scripture that man’s very form is a holy form designed by God to be like his nature and as a temple for his eventual habitation (both in Christ Jesus and in us today through the Holy Spirit.)

    Like C.S. Lewis writings this work is an imaginative work of fiction. It is necessary to suspend ‘reality’ in order to enter the world the author has imagined. As with analogies it’s always possible to extend the relationship beyond the bounds of sensible application.

    When folks begin to treat works of fiction like “The Shack” like they are a commentary on the bible I begin to wonder if any of the schisms which have rendered the church asunder will ever be healed. The bible has many much more fanciful descriptions of God (none of which is fiction).

    When reading a work like this I look to see what the purposes of the author are. In this case I believe he is trying to get Christians to engage their relationship with the godhead in a more personal way, to pray in a more conversational fashion, and to realize that “Jesus Loves Me” is more than just a children’s song.

  2. For: Alan Coons

    Alan, my name is Jesse and I wanted to bring some clarification on C.S. Lewis’ position on “myth” as well as to challenge your position.

    I too am a Christian and I hope that what I have to say is recieved as a brother who desires to sharpen one another!

    In attempting to make sense of who we are and how we relate to God, I believe that — has done a poor job and disfavor to Christianity, regardless of how good his intentions are (Besides, isn’t the heart deceitfully wicked above all else (Jeremiah 17.3)?

    In your comment you said,

    Like C.S. Lewis writings this work is an imaginative work of fiction. It is necessary to suspend ‘reality’ in order to enter the world the author has imagined. As with analogies it’s always possible to extend the relationship beyond the bounds of sensible application

    Unfortunately C.S. Lewis never contended for such a notion in his writings. C.S. Lewis, along with J.R.R. Tolkien, believed that myths – stories that attempt to explain our existence or some aspect of human behavior – are true in so far as much as they reflect the Truth, namely, Jesus Christ. So, to suspend “reality” is to suspend “Reality” (i.e. God).

    Lewis himself said, “The story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened.” He went on to say, “Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call ‘real things’ namely, the actual incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection” (see C.S. Lewis’s letter to Arthur Greeves, October 18, 1931).

    In light of Lewis’ own words, how can you suggest that he or any other notable author of myths, such as John Bunyan, would ever suggest for one moment to suspend Reality?

    Any story, rather it be The Shack, Harry Potter, Star Wars, or The Matrix, is true in so far as it relates to the Truth. Consequently, all stories need to be juxtaposed with the Story to see how their message relates with it.

    To “suspend reality” while reading is a misnomer and highly dangerous, especially for Christians who are attempting to better “relate” with God. God has never called us to such a feat. Rather, He has called us to love Him with it and to bring every thought captive to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, including the Shack.

    Besides, if a story such as the Shack is relating a false notion of God, who are people being led to pray to in a more personal way?

  3. Thank you for your comments. I would argue that my choice of words may not be the best in regard to “suspended reality”. My real point was that it is best not to stretch and analogy too far.

    I think the reason folks can find any ammo to sling at the author of “The Shack” is because his story goes for about twice or a third longer than necessary to communicate it’s purposes.

    Take the poem otherwise recognized as “Footprint”. It’s author is looking back over his life’s history as if they were footprints in the sand. Then he see’s Jesus (God the Father?, The Holy Spirit’s?) work in his life as if they were two sets of footprints. You know the story.

    Do we go all ape of the poem because it presents God as being like man (therefore unholy) and making footprints? How about because it is written by someone dead like another gospel from the grave and an assault on the true Word? Do we refuse it because it doesn’t differentiate the action and purposes of the various members of the godhead?

    I am of course being absurd. When I read “The Shack” I read it in the same spirit as I read “Footprints.” It didn’t offend me but it did leave an emotional impact similar to a reading of “Footprints” which I hope many others can share.

    Jesus really does love you! And he wants you to know it!

  4. Without jumping directly into this discussion, I just want to give a quick footnote about C. S. Lewis, who has been mentioned by both sides: He expressed very dangerous theological views (for example, baptismal regeneration, universalism.)

    I mention this since, contrary to how most perceive him today, Lewis is not the man he was hyped up to be.


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