Article by Will Soto
It is an unfortunate reality that destructive heresies exist. Perhaps it is more unfortunate that these heresies make their way into churches, effectively infiltrating the hearts and minds of God’s people. Make no mistake—when Jesus gave His disciples, and by extension His church, the Great Commission, He knew full-well that the enemy would also send out missionaries. These missionaries, termed “antichrist” by the Apostle John (1 John 2:18-22), would seek to lead God’s people astray with false teaching. What was true in John’s day is also true for us, now.
In 2007, William P. Young’s, The Shack, hit bookstores, and instantly became a phenomenon. On the recommendation of close friends, I purchased a copy and found myself enthralled by the beautifully written story. Admittedly, the author does a terrific job of making you feel the agony of the main character, Mack; and, he creates a strong setup for the book’s main purpose—to tell us about God and how He relates to us. Unfortunately, what began as a strong narrative, ended up as a heretical mess—and one that Christians would do well to avoid.
Fast forward to the present day, and The Shack is making its grand re-entry into the world—this time as a movie. Old heresies do not go softly into the night—they stick around, waiting for an opportune time to rear their ugly head. In my most recent sermon, I preached from 1 John 2:18-27. In it, I commented that false teaching is often subtle and requires discernment to spot. In other words, false teachers do not teach an outright denial of the Father and the Son. If that were the case, most Christians would run in the other direction. Unfortunately, false teachers shroud their message under a veil of familiar words, phrases, and illustrations—a whole lot of truth, mixed with a small amount of error. We would do well to remember Paul’s words to the Galatians, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. “ (5:9)
During the sermon, I referenced The Shack as an enticing, yet subtle false teaching that should be entirely disregarded by God’s people. Having read the book several times since its release, I stand wholeheartedly by that assertion. Here’s why:
Note: There are several other heretical views in The Shack, including the author’s view of the Trinity, universalism, and God’s character, to name a few. This list, while not comprehensive, offers a glimpse of the more easily recognizable views.
- According to The Shack, the Bible is unhelpful because “God’s voice had been reduced to paper…” (p.65-66)
The statement comes out as the main character’s frustration with his upbringing in church; but, it is obvious that it forms the foundation upon which the rest of the book is built. In fact, the interactions between “god” and Mack are predicated on the deconstruction of his preconceived ideas about God. Where do those preconceived ideas come from? Scripture. What is the first domino to fall in The Shack? The authority and sufficiency of God’s Word.
This is a favorite device of false teachers—downplaying God’s Word. The first false teacher to employ it—the serpent in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3). His famous question “Indeed, has God said…” was followed with deceit, “…you shall not eat from any tree of the garden?” A quick reading of Genesis 2 will show that the serpent’s question was intentionally deceitful; but, there was enough truth for both Eve, and ultimately Adam, to fall into his wiles—and plunge us into sin.
If I can be so blunt—God is not limited by the Scriptures. In fact, if we understand them as the revelation of Himself to us (2 Timothy 3:15-17), we will have the necessary perspective to begin avoiding subtle false teaching. We can spend thousands of lifetimes plumbing its depth, all the while never reaching the bottom!
- According to The Shack, Jesus attained God-consciousness—this is how He was able to function on earth (p.99-100)
Unfortunately for the author, and thankfully for us, his theology becomes quickly evident. He wastes no time deconstructing the main character’s understanding of Jesus. The subtlety of his claims are easy to miss:
“…Jesus is fully human. Although he is also fully God, he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything. He has only lived out of his relationship with me, living in the very same manner that I desire to be in relationship with every human being. He is just the first to do it to the uttermost—the first to absolutely trust my life within him, the first to believe in my love and my goodness without regard for appearance or consequence…Jesus, as a human being, had no power within himself to heal anyone.” (99-100)
At first glance, it seems as if there is an affirmation of Jesus’ humanity and divinity—both are equally true. But, then, it becomes obvious that the author prefers to view Jesus through the lens of his humanity—at the expense of his divinity. While Jesus “did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Philippians 2:6), this hardly means that he was powerless during His time on earth. The miracles of His life are a mere foreshadowing of the ultimate miracle—His resurrection from the dead (see John 10:17-18).
- According to The Shack, there is no punishment for sin, as “sin is its own punishment…” (p.120)
The statement is both ridiculous and nonsensical. It would be impossible to read any portion of Scripture, whether Old Testament or New Testament, and walk away with the idea that God is not going to judge sin.
There is no shortage of issues that arise from the author’s assertion. But, let me ask this: if sin goes unpunished, what would be the point of Jesus’ coming in the first place? It makes no sense that Jesus would come into the world “to save sinners” if there were no reason for them to be saved!
The beauty of God’s love for us is not that He turns a blind eye to sin; rather, God’s love is demonstrated in sending His Son to die on behalf of sinners—the just for the unjust. The beauty of the Gospel is that we who were enemies of God, through faith in Jesus’ work on the cross, have been brought near. True love is not ignorant—it is sacrificial.
In our sin, we deserve: justice, judgment, wrath, punishment, separation, vengeance, and hell. But, in His grace, found only through faith in Jesus, we are given: forgiveness, pardoning, reconciliation, relationship, restoration, redemption, and eternity. Do not turn away from the true Gospel for a false gospel (see Galatians 1:5-10).
In Matthew 7, Jesus tells a parable about two foundations. In summary, his conclusions are stark: those who hear His word and act on them are like a person who built their house on the rock. On the contrary, those who hear His word and do not act on them are like a person who built their house on the sand. In the day of testing, only one house will stand.
The Shack is aptly named—it tells the story of a man who meets with God in a dwelling place. What he doesn’t realize, like so many Christians, is that the shack is built not on the Rock, but on quicksand.
As God’s people, let us recommit to standing firm on the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word. Likewise, let us depend on the Holy Spirit to teach us and bring to remembrance all that Jesus taught us—for God’s glory, our good, and the advancement of His Kingdom!