Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Shack

The Shack by Willam P. Young. (Los Angeles: Windblown Media. Copyright © 2007 by William P. Young. pp 248. $14.99).

The Shack, the sensational book by William P. Young, has been on the New York Time's Best Sellers list for almost a half year now. Well over a million copies are in print. It has been praised by none other than Regent College theologian Eugene Peterson and recording artist Michael W. Smith. 

The Shack is a gripping story. Mack's little daughter, Missy, is kidnapped and murdered while Mack is on a camping trip with his three children. The place where she was killed, a shack in the mountains, is discovered, though Missy's body and the killer are not found.

Some time later, Mack receives a letter from God, "Papa", inviting him back to "the shack." Mack goes to the shack and meets the Trinity there. God the Father is an Afro-American woman; Jesus is a mildly clumsy blue jeans-wearing man; the Holy Spirit is an ethereal woman called Sarayu.

In unique sessions with each of the Trinity, Mack struggles with anger against his abusive father and his hatred against Missy's killer. After he forgives his father, God the Father appears to him—and for the rest of the story—as a man. After Mack forgives the murderer, God leads Mack to Missy's body and the four of them bury her. Mack, then, returns home to his wife Nan and his other two children.

It is a very imaginative story, but contains some serious theological difficulties.

Young runs into trouble with the second commandment which says that we are not to make an image of God in any way and that God cannot and may not be visibly portrayed in any way. When Young "paints a picture" of God with words, he bumps up against the second commandment. Arguably, one could portray Jesus, since he is a true man, but one may not portray the Father nor the Holy Spirit. "You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman.…" (Deu 4:15,16).

Young's view of the Trinity is not right. God the Father, at one point in the book, says that he is truly human in Jesus, and he has scars on his wrists to prove it. The wrong teaching that Young subscribes to at this point is likely patripassionism, the teaching that the Father also suffered. Young confuses the persons of the Father and the Son. The ancient Athanasian Creed warns against this.

Young also espouses a wrong view of the extent of the atonement. Whereas scripture teaches that Christ died for the forgiveness of the sins of his people, Young says that God has forgiven all sin in Christ and that it is up the human individual to choose relationship with the Father. His view of the atonement is Arminian (see Chapter II, Canons of Dort); his view of man's unregenerate will is Pelagian (see Chapter III/IV, Canons of Dort).

Although it's a nice story to read, I cannot recommend The Shack because of its many doctrinal errors.