The Shack Stokes Praise, Criticism

by | Nov 30, 2008 | Charisma Archive

Although the best-selling novel has energized millions of readers, some claim it has a low view of Scripture
The year’s most popular Christian novel is also one of the most controversial. Critics of The Shack have lambasted its theological underpinnings as it makes its mark on Christian publishing.

Although The Message author Eugene Peterson compares it to Pilgrim’s Progress, Prison Fellowship founder Charles Colson claims The Shack has a “low view of Scripture.” Others have said it presents a faulty view of forgiveness and has traces of universalism.

None of this upsets author William P. Young, who says he doesn’t embrace universalism. The one-time church staff member says the metaphorical shack in his novel represents the place where people get hurt and hide their secrets. “If you’re interested in dealing with it, at some time you’ve got to go back,” Young said.

Despite the novel’s controversial aspects, flocks of readers have praised the fictional story of a man’s encounter with the Trinity after the murder of his young daughter. After hosting Young on his Life Today TV show in mid-July, James Robison offered the book to viewers who support the ministry’s outreaches and encouraged others to buy it.

Robison said The Shack invites people who are stuck in a pit to look up to God to lift them out of despair. “It is not difficult to stir up controversy among Christians,” Robison said of the disputes about the book. “[But] I want to be part of an answer to Jesus’ prayer that we ‘be one,’ and I believe that is Paul Young’s intent.”

Tom Wymore of the Foursquare Church’s national church-planting team knows of two district supervisors who bought cases of the book so they could give a copy to each pastor in their districts. “A 70-year-old woman on staff at a church in Midland [Texas] where I was the pastor … was in tears trying to describe for the first time in her life that she was able to call God ‘Papa,'” Wymore said.

The book’s publication is itself a dream come true. After Brad Cummings and Wayne Jacobsen helped Young revise the original manuscript, they created Windblown Media to release it after receiving multiple rejections from publishers.

As the book crossed the 1 million mark last spring via word-of-mouth advertising, the former Charismatic pastors signed a business agreement with Hachette Book Group, which expects sales to top 5 million by Christmas. A screenplay is in development, with a film anticipated by the summer of 2010.

A former associate pastor of a Vineyard church in Los Angeles, Cummings said the book is engaging a culture that is interested in God but hasn’t connected with the church. “[We’re saying] you can have a wonderful relationship with God, whether you fit into the boundaries of the institutional church or not,” Cummings said.

Wymore said it is easy to see why Young has become so popular after observing him at the recent 2008 House2House conference in Dallas. “It was wonderful theology,” Wymore said of Young’s talks. “He did a remarkable job of tracing the implications of the fall and how [humans moved] away from intimacy with God.”

Yet Young’s identification with the house-church movement symbolizes the problem with The Shack, says a New Testament professor and noted author. Ben Witherington of Asbury Theological Seminary appreciates the book’s thought-provoking nature, but says it espouses house churches’ anti-establishment, anti-institutional rhetoric.

“[It’s] the ‘house church is the solution, the small group is the solution’ kind of approach,” he said. “They don’t have an adequate theology of the church, which is certainly much bigger than little, tiny independent house churches.”

He said the book also projects an anti-authoritarian philosophy that he calls unbiblical, but its most glaring error is that it projects a “fuzzy image” of the Trinity. Although The Shack portrays a Trinity of coequal parts, 1 Corinthians 15 says that when Christ returns to vanquish His enemies, He will hand everything over to the Father and submit to the Father, Witherington said. “There’s no hierarchy of the Trinity at all [in the novel],” Witherington said. “They’re just sort of interchangeable parts. It’s certainly not what the Bible says.”

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

How Believers Can Work Together to Restore Pre-COVID America

How Believers Can Work Together to Restore Pre-COVID America

On April 16, 2021, I traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the request of a local business leader, Clay Clark. He asked me to speak at a conference focused on ending the COVID lockdowns. Clay is a business coach and entrepreneur who'd seen his clients' businesses devastated...

What Is Your Prophetic Warning?

What Is Your Prophetic Warning?

God wants to anoint you with His grace through your unique prophetic wiring to impact the body of Christ in the place He has called you! He will do that in as many diverse ways as there are people, personalities, and gift mixes across the face of the earth. I cannot...

The Lord Says, ‘It’s Payback Time’

The Lord Says, ‘It’s Payback Time’

If you’ve been following any of my recent posts, you’re probably aware that my husband and I are selling the property we’ve lived on for the past 21 years and buying a ranch. Interestingly, we have also been led to engage in three other real estate transactions at...

Discerning False Prophets and Delusions with Mario Murillo

Discerning False Prophets and Delusions with Mario Murillo

My longtime friend Mario Murillo is providing a critical role in the body of Christ in speaking up against the wolves in sheep clothing. Matthew Henry said, "A traitor inside the camp is more dangerous than 1,000 persecutors outside the camp." Christians want to be...

RECENT ARTICLES

Do You Need A Miracle? It’s In Your Mouth!

So many people are in need of a miracle these days. So many people are experiencing lack, illness and despair. So many of these people are Christian people that are bewildered as to why they are...
Is America Destined to Become Like Sodom and Gomorrah?

Is America Destined to Become Like Sodom and Gomorrah?

Sodom and Gomorrah were real cities and real people lived there. These were notoriously sinful cities that God warned but eventually destroyed because of their wickedness (Gen. 19:24). These cities, infamous for their debauchery and homosexuality, are mentioned 23...

How to Get Rid of Guilt Forever

How to Get Rid of Guilt Forever

Are you bugged by a guilty conscience … carrying around baggage from a certain mistake or decision that produces feelings of regret or even self-loathing? We’ve all said or done things that we wish we could take back. And while it’s completely natural to grieve over a...

4 Tips to Fix Your Christian Marriage Problems

4 Tips to Fix Your Christian Marriage Problems

Christian married couples, like everyone else in the world, can have their ups and downs. The pressures at work, home and family can mount a pile so high you barely see your spouse on the other side. God created marriage and He longs for you to have a healthy,...

Prophecy: The Isaiah 60 Church Will Arise

Prophecy: The Isaiah 60 Church Will Arise

I saw a movie several years ago about an Amish community. In the movie, when someone needed help (whether it was a crisis, a barn raising or help in harvesting their fields) they would ring a large bell. Within minutes, the community would appear in all directions,...

Did Mr. Rogers Warn Against Transgenderism?

Did Mr. Rogers Warn Against Transgenderism?

While he may not have realized it at the time, Fred Rogers, otherwise known as "Mr. Rogers" on the children's television program "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood," may have been anti-trans and also prophetic about the culture in America more than 40 years ago. A devoted...

Pin It on Pinterest