Sunday

5 Lies About God's Character Promoted in "The Shack" - Scripture vs. Shack


There are commendable things about the message of The Shack. In some areas, the author offers hope and compassion that is Biblical. 

Unfortunately, I would not recommend The Shack to an unbeliever or new Christian because of the book's presentation of Universal Salvation. And I strongly urge all Christians exercise caution and discernment when reading it. 

Fictional representations of God can never perfectly represent God, but the representations of Father, Son and Spirit in The Shack are in riddled with Biblical error.

The list below is not all inclusive, but I’ve listed five characteristics of The Shack’s god that warrant our attention. Scroll down to read about each point with full Scripture references and helpful resources to study these subjects further.

1. The Shack’s god doesn’t punish people.
2. The Shack’s god says punishment is never about destruction.
3. The Shack’s god says he has no expectations for anyone.
4. The Shack’s god is never disappointed in anyone.
5. The Shack’s jesus denies his life is meant to be an example for others.

1. The Shack defines God as a God who doesn’t need to punish people:
Page 120: The Shack’s version of God the Father says, “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” 

This idea that God never punishes us for sin, that consequences are our only punishment is a false teaching growing in popularity. It has it's basis in misunderstandings about "unconditional love." That's why we must get our view of God from Scripture.

Our God's love is pure, fair, and perfect, but the God of the Bible, the true God, punishes:

Hebrews 12:6: For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child."

Revelation 3:19: Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.

Matthew 25:46: "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Romans 1:18: The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness,

John 3:36: Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on them.

2 Peter 2:9: the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.

For more on this subject, see "God Punishes" and "Discipline, Punishment, Condemnation."

2. The Shack’s version of the Holy Spirit says, “Judgment is not about destruction but about setting things right” (page 169).

This is another attempt to redefine God's character and remove His holy and righteous anger.

God’s Word says there is a final destruction for those who reject Christ:

2 Thessalonians 1:9: They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might

Jude 1:7: In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

Matthew 10:28: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matthew 7:13: "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 

For more on this, see "Why Would a Loving God Send Men to Hell?" and  "Is it Necessary to Share Hell When Evangelizing?"

3. The Shack’s god says He has no expectations for anyone.
Scripture, The Shack,
On page 206: “I’ve never placed an expectation on you or anyone else. The idea behind expectations requires that someone does not know the future or outcome and is trying to control behavior to get the desired result.”

This is another example of a misunderstanding about unconditional love. But the pure and holy love of our God has great expectations of His children. And we who love Him seek to do His will.

The Bible is filled with God's expectations - things that will help our well-being, our faith, and our relationship with Him and others.

Matthew 10:37-38: “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 22:37-38: Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.

Philippians 2:12-13: Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

There are hundreds more Scriptures explaining God’s expectations of believers. I will include one more that shows both general and specific expectations of the Lord:

Ephesians 5: Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them.

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

For more on this, see "Love, Works, Obedience" and "We Can't Ignore Our Role.

4. The Shack’s god is never disappointed in anyone.
Page 206: Mack asks “Papa” (representing God the Father) if he’s ever been disappointed in him:

“Never!” Papa stated emphatically. “What I have is constant and living expectancy in our relationship, and I give you an ability to respond to any situation and circumstance in which you find yourself. To the degree that you resort to expectations and responsibilities, to that degree you neither know me nor trust me.”

Again, this is a misunderstanding of unconditional love. Any loving father is disappointed when his child makes harmful choices. Surely we don't think our loving Heavenly Father is unaffected by our harmful choices.

The Bible says God can be grieved and troubled by our behavior. We are exhorted to find out what pleases God, which means we can displease Him.

Genesis 6:6: The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.

Ephesians 4:30: And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Isaiah 63:10: Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them.

Matthew 10:37-38: “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 19:28: Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

For more on this subject, see "What True Love Isn't."

If God were never disappointed in us – always pleased with us, Scripture would never tell us to find out what pleases the Lord. See Ephesians 5:10 above and the verses below:

Romans 12:2: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Colossians 1:9-10: For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,

5. The Shack’s jesus denies his life is meant to be an example for others.

Page 149: In a discussion with Mack, The Shack’s jesus says, “Seriously, my life was not meant to be an example to copy. Being my follower is not trying to ‘be like Jesus,’ it means for your independence to be killed.”

To be honest, this idea seems absurd to me. I’m not sure it really needs the Scriptural proof I give below since the whole Bible is about becoming more like our Lord. We’re His “followers” – that means we follow His ways, follow where He leads. We follow His example and obey His commands.

1 Corinthians 11:1: Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. [the Apostle Paul]

1 Thessalonians 1:6: You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.

1 Peter 2:21: To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

John 13:15: I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

Ephesians 5:1-2: Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

1 Peter 2:20-21: But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

Philippians 2:5: In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus 

For more on this subject, see "Follow the Leader" and "4 Misunderstandings About Following Jesus" and "Three Warnings."

Dear Christians, we should love our Lord's true and wonderful character enough to be offended when He is misrepresented. May we love God's Word more than man's words. May we find our hope and joy in His true Words, not the errors if men.

More on The Shack:




19 comments:

  1. I was a weak Christian when I read "The Shack and I was a mom who had spent many years angry with God for not preventing the death of my only child at 27 yrs of age. Now some 14 yrs later I am a stronger Christian who attends church, tries but fails to live as Jesus did and am very proud of my soon to be 21 yr old granddaughter that we raised after my daughters death. It wasn't just reading the book that turned me around, but a series of "God" events that happened because of (in part) of the book. Too long to cover here, but I knew the book was fiction and the Author didn't advertise it as anymore than that. Who knows where I would be today had The Shack not "bought" me,and God's blessings in my life. Carole Fleming divern54@aol.com

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    1. Hi Carole,
      I'm very glad that The Shack helped bring you back to the Lord. I don't doubt that it has done some good, especially in the area of understanding suffering.

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    2. Carole, I believe that the film is having the same affect on very many people, Christians included. In fact it is very timely for me as My abusive father grows closer to death. I am struggling with whether to see him or not and this story reinforced and demonstrated forgiveness for one another in a meaningful way. I can't quote a lot of scripture but I am not Bible illiterate. Dare I say that much of the argument here has to do with semantics ? Because the story went off script so to speak. idk I found it as inspiring as the last few Christian films that have been so popular.

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    3. Thanks so much DJean. It's nice to hear from someone with a similar experience. You situation must be difficult, but with God right there along with you, I'll bet you can muster the courage to forgive him. I will be praying for God's protection and your ability to forgive.

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  2. In these last days, we who believe in Christ need only one book = Holy Bible. I just saw a commercial on television for The Shack and I knew this something was wrong. Thank you for bible love notes and confirming my suspicions about this book. Many other books out there now days, the good ones are bible based. For newer believers I would suggest the free pamphlet The Daily Bread . In Christ, tommy

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  3. I'm a Conservative Christian and I question everything. This movie was fantastic and I would recommend it to anybody. It didn't give the absolutes that this article is claiming. This article was apparently written by somebody who is very angry.

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    1. Hi Gene, What specifically denotes anger in the above article?

      Also, are you aware of Paul Young's recently released book explaining that all of the things I mention above are part of his theology? They weren't included in his book unintentionally. Please read Young's quote in the comment below about the cross being unnecessary and any God who would send His Son to the Cross being a "cosmic abuser."

      I admit it does make me angry that my Lord is called a cosmic abuser, but I wasn't angry when I wrote the article above. I was sad that my Lord was being misrepresented in a book that has received such acclaim.

      I felt it was important to inform Christians about the errors and that's why I was careful to use accurate quotes from the book and multiple Scripture references.

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  4. Get a life. I am an ordained minister who has graduated from seminary, raised in the Assemblies of God, my father was an ordained AG minister, and I am telling you God has better things for you to worry about. Like feeding the poor, defending the widow, orphan and foreigner in your midst and giving a cup of water in His name. The Shack is about love, compassion, forgiveness and hope; not bad themes in this day and age. You sound like the Pharsees in Jesus' day when he told the story of the Good Samaritan...they decried it! There were no "good" Samaritans! Jesus' story was outrageous, blasphemous and a LIE according to the Pharisees. Good thing Jesus didn't tell that story today...you would blogspot him for lying about God.

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    1. Hi Playtow,
      I have been a full-time missionary to Hungary, worked in the NJ projects as a volunteer, and done other things related to works of service.

      I also have a seminary degree, but I think the errors in The Shack are clear enough for anyone to recognize.

      When I read the Bible, I find Jesus rebuking the Pharisees for judging others harshly and placing external actions above pure faith in God. I don't remember any passages where Pharisees are rebuked for defending the honor of God's character.

      I would encourage you to read the beliefs of Paul Young, author of the Shack in his newly published book (Lies People Believe). Young confirms all of the heresies in The Shack’s presentation of God were intentional. Young believes all men will be saved, whether they believe in Jesus or not and he believes a score of other things that contradict Scripture. However, I will mention only one specific quote from Young’s book here. If it doesn’t give you pause about recommending The Shack, perhaps it will give other readers pause:

      Young says the Cross wasn't necessary for the salvation of mankind and it wasn’t God’s plan. In fact, Young says any God who would let His Son die on the Cross would be “a cosmic abuser, who in Divine Wisdom created a means to torture human beings in the most painful and abhorrent manner."

      The Bible says it was God’s plan: Acts 2:23-24 says "This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him."

      Any author who calls my Lord and God a “cosmic abuser” is not an author who I will recommend. If that makes me a Pharisee, then I will wear the name proudly.

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  5. Thank you Gene. I thought the movie was fantastic too. Thanks for commenting!

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  6. Gail - I think you are missing the macro view. The Shack, like the The Pilgrim's Progress or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, is a parable, and a positive one at that. Pointing out the "lies" contained within it is no different than the Pharisees pointing out the ways Jesus was breaking religious law, dishonoring God by becoming unclean and sinning by eating with tax collectors. Everything the Pharisees pointed out was correct but MISSED the point of what Christ was doing. There was something to be learned and a larger "truth" pointed at that direct people to God. I appreciate Carole Flemming's comments - because I think it demonstrates the larger point. Also, I do think God what much rather have us discuss how to help orphans, widows and foreigners in our midst than the "lies" in The Shack.

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    1. I don't think I’ll convince you of anything, but I’ll respond for the sake of others reading our comment stream.

      I’m not aware of a single Scripture rebuking Pharisees for being sensitive about God’s character or nature. But there are many passages where Jesus is sensitive about God’s character and rebukes others for misrepresenting Him and His Word.

      Even in your examples of the Pharisees, you make my point. They were not jealous for God's honor. They were jealous for their petty rules.

      I don’t talk about externals in this article. I talk about our core beliefs in God and His character.

      You write: “Everything the Pharisees pointed out was correct but MISSED the point of what Christ was doing.” I disagree. The Pharisees operated on incorrect knowledge of God and focused on externals, not beliefs. They created a god in their own image and deceived people that faith was work-related.

      Young admits in “Lies People Believe” that he believes all men will be saved, Christ’s death was unnecessary, and God doesn’t punish anyone. His agenda is more appealing to fallen man than the Pharisees agenda, but every bit as deceptive.

      Not everyone has been as fortunate as Carole to move from those half truths to full truth.

      If God's grace, love and forgiveness can’t be beautifully presented without dismantling God’s character, we are in a sad place.

      Regarding Pilgrim’s Progress and stories of C.S. Lewis, I’m no expert, but I have read some reviews by Bible Scholars who say Lewis’ and Bunyan’s representations are far more Biblically accurate than Young’s.

      And let me address these words you write since you’ve repeated them twice:
      You write: “I do think God what [sic] much rather have us discuss how to help orphans, widows and foreigners in our midst than the "lies" in The Shack.”

      Multiple Bible passages command us to expose false teachings. And if you think these are the only worthwhile subjects to discuss, you will need to criticize The Shack for not focusing on them.

      I have judged your written words and Young’s written words in light of Scripture, and you have judged my words.

      You have also judged my ministry priorities and my character, but I will not judge yours. That’s God’s job.

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  7. I'm a mature christian - I saw the movie. It's platitudinous and I agree with you. Good post.

    www.lifenotesencouragement.com

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  8. That's a Bill O'Reilly word for sure....not clear on whether you liked the movie or not, but I value your response.

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  9. I think the point is that we have a major motion picture about God playing in all theaters across the world. A major motion picture....What I see is people seeing he movie and feeling the love of our God. Is that wrong? Is it wrong if it sends them to the Bible to ask questions or to their local churches? This is a major event in a world of sin. We should applaud the movie not bash it. Christians are the biggest enemy against other Christians. We believe in our living God. Let's start there and build. The movie is fantastic and will get people in churches and will help people deal with the pain in their lives. These Shack bashing articles are horrible. Why not rally around a movie about God?

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    1. Louis,
      If a misrepresentation of God actually sent the majority of people to their Bibles to find out who the Real God was, it still wouldn't be as good as an accurate representation. Are we Christians saying that we can’t show the love and grace of God without these misrepresentations?
      I don’t doubt that some good has come from this book, but I need only read the reviews on Amazon (12000+) to see how many more are using the Shack to define God, many feeling assured that they need not seek the true and living God or believe in Christ to be saved. Satan always uses a little truth to deceive people. It’s far more affective than 100% lies. He told Eve she would know good and evil and be like God. She did know good and evil after eating the fruit but her sin made her less like God, not more like Him.
      What does it take for Christians to be concerned? Author Paul Young has made it clear in his recent book that the theology he transmits in The Shack is intentional. He does not believe it is necessary to believe in Christ to be saved. In fact, he says any god who would send Christ to the cross is a “cosmic abuser” who enjoys torture.
      What does it take for Christians to care what is said about their God? You think it’s horrible that my article bashes The Shack. What about the way The Shack bashes the God of the Bible and puts lies in His mouth?
      God uses bad for good, but He doesn't approve the bad nor expect us to promote it.
      I have had professing Christians post comments that I’ve not posted – not because they disagree with me, but because they’ve been so rude and mean-spirited, some using crude language. Everyone is talking about the wonderful grace presented in The Shack, but I have never in my 5 years of blogging had so many ungracious remarks made about my character and my writing as from professing Christians supporting The Shack.
      Look at the comments above and you will see that most of those that disagree with me in some way judge my character. Not one has given Scriptural reasons why supporting a misrepresentation of God is something Christians should do. The only use of Scripture has been to judge me for not caring about the poor and needy – by someone who has never met me.
      I have written a mature article without harsh words against anyone, not judging the character of The Shack supporters or author Paul Young. Instead I have accurately compiled written words from The Shack and the Bible and judged how those words contradict. But you consider that “bashing.”
      If I were trying to be popular, I would never have written about The Shack, but I feel that God has urged me to write about the errors that are dishonoring to Him. And the negative responses have done more to assure me of the importance of my articles than the responses from people who agree with me.

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  10. I couldn't agree with you more Louis. That was exactly my point in my first post was the book turned me around and sent me right back to the Lord. Well said!
    Carole

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  11. Dear Gail. Thank you for your article. Thank you for defending the character of God. Those who profess to be Christians must make it a practice to test all things to find out if they be of God or not (1 John 4: 1-3). Anyone who blindly accepts another mans truths about God as fact is in serious danger.

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