The Shack Discussion

I’m really thankful for the comments on the prior post. The Shack and Paul are raising the question of what is the LORD like in powerful ways. As long as it goes back to Bible, rather than what I’m comfortable with, I’m happy. But even when we go to the Bible we tend to see and return to what we are comfortable with, I’m finding. Weird how we do that.

Now to the excellent comments: Terrance wonders if The Shack will be read in fifty years. My guess is that it won’t. But the verdict of history could be in now! But whatever the long term impact, the immediate impact is huge. It is being read by millions now. The assessment needs to be done wisely and biblically.

I also remember Charles Sheldon’s book, What Would Jesus Do? which was written as standard liberal social gospel trash which emerged into real popularity in young evangelicals who put the "missional" writing back into the context of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then it became a national joke. So it’s hard to predict the future of a book. I wonder that about Vintage Jesus (shorter life) and Death by Love (longer life).  Thinking of no one reading the books I work on makes me all the more committed to not writing! But I’m working on Doctrine: What the Church Should Believe now.

Terrance and Cal are right on when we question the balance between otherness and closeness. That’s exactly where the rub comes. Most in my camp (Reformed Evangelical more or less) tend to otherness. They also go toward holy justice and wrath as key attributes and see grace and love in the setting aside of His righteous anger rather than a genuine compassion and desire to come alongside and help. Exodus 34:6-7 is the best balance I know.

Mike and I agree: Really seeing God is a relatively rare thing for Abraham, Moses, Isaiah and such folk. It’s virtually a never thing for ordinary people. Even David never saw the LORD. At least it’s not mentioned in the Scriptural account if He did. It is a commentary on our self centeredness that I want to see God RIGHT NOW!

But there’s a sense of His reality that comes through the Spirit and through the body. It can go a bit nuts, but it can also be quenched by sin or lack of pursuit. I think of intimacy in marriage as a similar concept.

Glenn, when I heard Mark’s criticism of The Shack, I suspected that he’d followed his on advice and not read the book. I can’t for the life of me see how anyone could accuse Paul of teaching goddess theology in The Shack. The issue of authority relation in the eternal Trinity is a big debate in the books, blogs, and in Evangelical Theological Society I’m doing a paper on that topic in November. I’ll argue there’s not enough biblical data to decide if the Son was submitted to the Father in eternity. The early church went that way as they developed the fourth century creeds of course.

Bottom line: Exodus 34:6-7. The most quoted verse in the Bible by the Bible.

Osborne And a historical note: Sherry is doing a scrapbooking day with Bonnie Holland tomorrow. She’s going through old pictures to do a brief family history. We’ve been laughing over lots of things. This was 27years ago, my first computer. 64k memory (kilo, not mega or giga!) was huge. TWO floppy disk drives with 92k-bytes each. CPM operating system and Wordstar. It was wonderful. I did most of my dissertation on this machine. But I’m really glad it’s gone now, replaced by my new "little guy" that has far more power of the huge IBM 360 that was in the basement of Milliken Hall in those days.

Also you see my coke bottle glasses. I’m totally thankful for Lasik surgery that means no corrective lenses of any kind for me now.

15 thoughts on “The Shack Discussion

  1. Dr. Gerry,

    The Lord is infusing in me a passion to study theology and read doctrine for the first time, I have enjoyed your books with Driscoll and have learned a lot through reading them. I am now reading a lot about the Doctrine of Election and by God’s grace trying to make some sense of the different views. Talking with a good friend the other day he mentioned your position and it sounded very interesting, without the fallacy of reductionism. I only got to hear a bit and I can’t seem to find it anyplace online or on your blog. Where’s the best place to hear, read, or study it?
    Your a blessing to more than you know out here, keep pressing in and blessing us normal dudes.

  2. I do not agree with your assessment of Sheldon’s book as “standard liberal social gospel trash”. Growing up through the 90s and now into the 00s, I remember with a kind of loathing the popularity of the WWJD movement. I had even been swept up into it at one point, but then quickly shied away, as I am wont to do with things that seem ridiculously popular to me. Even now I cringe at the prominent display of such bracelets in Christian bookstores. However, having recently come across Sheldon’s In His Steps, I find that the book is much more committed to a relationship with Christ than the recent movement would have it seem. One of the problems with the uprising of the question “What would Jesus do?” is that we forgot to add that to find that out, one needs to develop a deep, personal, and ongoing relationship with the one they wish to emulate. In his book, Charles Sheldon repeatedly has the characters praying to ask what God would have them do, and it is filled with Scriptures or allusions to Scriptures that earnestly encourage the seeking after of God’s will. It seems to me that somehow most of that was just boiled down to a trite soundbyte that encouraged nothing but a popular, brief fad that is now, as you have pointed out, more of a national joke than anything else.

    Coming back to my original point, I do not see how you could call this book trash, whatever the movement may be that followed it. First, do not forget that the original setting for it was at the turn of the century in the late 1800s. The characters in the book talk much about the negative effects of alcohol and the saloon on those souls they are trying to win, and I cannot help but wonder if this book had any influence on the short-lived Prohibition period. Sheldon does not espouse any political or social movement, but he earnestly tries to point each character toward what God would have them do in their individual situations that would follow what Jesus himself called the two greatest commandments of all: to love God and to love your neighbor. Second, having read both In His Steps and The Shack in close proximity to one another, I can tell you that the writing of the first is far superior to the latter, and that now, even 100 years later, easy to read and understand. I do not have the same confidence in The Shack, whose biblical references are dubious at times and whose informal colloquial sayings may date it embarrassingly to its age. Originally, I did think as Peterson did, that perhaps this book may become the next Pilgrim’s Progress. But now, though I see good things in this for reconciling people’s relationship with God, I do not believe that it is worth that much.

  3. zingo,

    I have to say, that if Jesus had not died on the cross, all death would be “eternal”… by force of logic. With no sacrifice for sins, with no substitutionary sacrifice, no one could be saved. If you stop and think, of course the same salvation being extended to all humanity in full restoration in the end is merely the extension of the same benefit we’ve received as God’s elect in this time.

    It’s not logical to say that the cross of Jesus Christ is without meaning if the same benefit is applied to the reprobate at the end as is applied to the elect in this age as the called out remnant of God – God’s chosen people in this age (even as the Jews were God’s chosen people in the OT).

    I think if you examine your logic, it’s not really there. You’re still functioning on the same assumption of your understanding of the cross at present being only for a few… rather than the sins of the whole world.

    You’re not thinking what I’m thinking at all… and your objection is without basis. It’s not logical.

    That’s like saying a debt being paid is pointless unless some people end up owing the debt… as if the debt being cancelled for some is completely unnecessary if the same debt is cancelled by the same act for all.

    Ummmmm… no one’s debt could be cancelled unless it was paid… and all stand in equal need of the debt being paid. The debt being paid doesn’t become “unnecessary” if it is applied to the balance of all… it becomes complete: “It is finished” in effectual atonement for all who were atoned for. The Atonement is fundamentally necessary.

    I can’t see your logic at all. Please review from the paradigm I’m submitting, not saying, “If it isn’t limited, I’m taking my bat and ball and going home!! There’s no point to this game!!”. You’re insisting the cross only has meaning to you if others are deprived of it’s benefit. If others gain the benefit – you’ve lost none. Your salvation has lost no benefit, meaning, nor power if it is extended to others. The cross is merely made effectual to all – not rendered of none effect – far be it for any to claim!! Without the cross, none would be saved. The presentation is that by the cross, in effectual atonement, all shall be eventually saved.

    Therefore, when God says this will be testified of in due time… it’s a “when” not an if that all shall come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ by that one sacrifice once for all sin and for all time.

    1 Timothy 2:5-6 (King James Version) 5For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

    The ransom was given for ALL – to be testified “in due time”. The atonement is effectual. See John Murray – The Atonement. Reformed doctrine rightly holds true that whoever was atoned for is going to be saved in due time. The scripture states unlimited atonement. Jesus gave Himself a ransom for ALL – the atonement is UNLIMITED and extent is to ALL.

    It just takes rethinking a paradigm. You cannot judge this doctrinal position from within a position that states, “Either my view is correct – or the sacrifice is without meaning… some must spend eternity in hell… or the sacrifice of Jesus Christ was pointless. Either I gain at the expense of those who lose out…. or life has no meaning.” That isn’t how God thinks. God thinks in term of a Perfect Savior and a Perfect Sacrifice for sins… and God, in His Sovereignty, has Sovereignly decided to “pass over” the reprobate in this life. They do not receive, in this life, the grace and mercy to be saved here and now. We are saved from the day of God’s wrath. They shall go through the wrath of God in punishment for sins in the lake of fire. That’s God’s choice, His plan, His will, His purpose… and we are in no position to protest the Sovereign plan, will and purposes of God insisting that things must be as we perceive or desire – because God’s ways make no sense unless they occur in alignment with our own understanding.

    “Humble yourselves under the mighty Hand of God…” says the scripture.

    “Lean not unto your own understanding but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God.”

    “Am I not free to do what I will with what I own?” asks God??

    “Who are you, oh man, to reply against God??” God says.

    It’s not our place to protest or demand our own way. “My ways are higher than your ways.” says the Lord. “My thoughts are higher than your thoughts”. says the Lord.

    God will do what He wills and no one will stay His Hand. It is merely our place to seek and discover the truth of what is His Plan revealed in His Word. We have no power to change or alter God’s eternal decrees and His Sovereign decisions.

    If God has willed to save the reprobate – who are we to protest?? We should not be as the elder son. We should rejoice with the Lord that the prodigals are coming home… and we should also stand in awe of so GREAT a salvation.

    I see no reason protest. I see only reason to stand in awe of God and His Sovereignty and Love and Grace and Power and Authority in the Lord Jesus Christ. He shall do as He wills… and if we are to be perfect, we must be perfect as He is… and forgive all… and rejoice in the salvation of all who are saved: even mass murders… as was Paul but he was forgiven and changed and recreated and renewed and reborn a new creation. Who shall lay any charge to God’s elect?? It is GOD who justifies!! If God justifies the reprobate on Judgment Day… WHO shall lay any charge against them?? It is God who justifies and it is Jesus Christ who stands to the right hand of God having died and risen… and if He does not condemn… who are we to condemn?? God shall make no difference between those who are saved by Grace on the Last Day. Such is the Heart of God in Grace… and why should any protest if they have a heart of grace… and are perfect… like God??

    Matthew 5:43Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

    44But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

    45That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

    46For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

    47And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

    48Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

    It is not our place to protest anything that God should choose to do in His Sovereignty. We have no standing to protest or complain against God’s grace to all mankind. Who are we to judge others?? It seems frightening to me to presume to say, “God should not have mercy on others as He has had on me!!”. That is not a scriptural objection to the Grace of God or final restoration. It is rather a sin to be repented of. It is one thing to state, I don’t see that in scripture – but who are we to protest at what scripture states?? That’s not our place. We must subject ourselves to the will of God, imo, and just remember our place as recipients of unmerited favor.

    Passion and fervor for the truth of God’s Word is a good thing. It is good to discuss the Word. These things should be respected. Those who were like the Bereans and studied to show themselves approved and to see what the Word stated in truth were commended.

    Grace to you.

  4. I saw you want to see Jesus. Hmmmmm… I’ve seen Him. He is 100% Divine Love. My ministry is to speak the doctrines of grace that others might see Him clearly. I stand on the 4 points of Calvinism. I pass on Limited Atonement. I go with Limited Election and Unlimited Atonement. That does make me UR in eschatology. However, it is interesting that I speak the doctrines of election and reprobation so clearly.

    I have a “Great Awakening” thread that is by invitation only. There I talk about the coming move of the Spirit. I don’t know that I’d open it but I see you are crying out to see Jesus. My other blogs are open. If you truly have a heart to see Jesus, that’s always possible.


  5. The movie “Oh, God!” was also fiction, but that did not excuse it from being critiqued for giving some unbiblical representations of God. So why should “The Shack” be defended for its representations, based on the fact that it is fiction? I think we should drop this issue, especially since the God figures in the book make many statements purporting to be representations of God’s attitudes toward many things.

    Perhaps the issue is that the book is missiological, in that it will attract many people to think through issues of God’s character who would not otherwise read anything (let alone the Bible) that was a straightforward teaching about God. In such cases, it is expected that eventually they will depend on the Word of God to give them light on the truth of God, and will no longer depend on this work of fiction as definitive theology.

  6. Scott J. has a great point. Even though The Shack has some theological loopholes, it still provokes thoughts and challenges religious paradigms that offer nothing but ungodly fear, terror and mystery concerning God. This is not a Bible study book by no means. Neither is masterfully wriitten. It is a work that touches the age old question, “Where is God, now that I am hurting? Is He the author of my suffering, indifferent to my suffering, laughing at my suffering, or just asleep?” Young brings some comforting points to these questions. God can certainly use this work to heal-even if it is a misrepresentation of Himself. I believe that is why it is classified as fiction.

  7. I do not understand why Christians are so accepting of this book. The author has basically remade his “god,” and has many anti-Biblical statements. In the book the author states that God dwells in everything—yet God most certainly does not dwell in the unsaved.

    The author has “god” state that “she” does not need to punish anybody, that sin is its own punishment. Yet, if there is no eternal punishment, there was no need for Jesus to die on the cross.

    I appreciate this forum very much. I am leaving a link to an article comparing AA’s higher power to The Shack’s redesigned trinity.

    Also, James De Young does a wonderful job of linking The Shack with universal reconciliation, although no one seems to care that the author included this heresy in his original manuscript. James De Young’s essay is online in pdf.

    Thank you, and God bless you.

  8. I’m not saying they were into homoiousios at all. The teaching of essential equality is clear throughout the creeds and writings. The issue is the functional ordering. That’s what folks like Ware and Grudem appeal to very strongly. I see the early creeds and writing adopting the language of begetting. So it’s Father first, eternally generating the Son who is second and then the Spirit third proceeding from Father (and Son?) in third probably. That sounds like an ordering, but not an authoritative ordering as Ware argues so strongly.

    I’m working on the ETS paper so I’m going to come see you Jim!

  9. “I’ll argue there’s not enough biblical data to decide if the Son was submitted to the Father in eternity. The early church went that way as they developed the fourth century creeds of course.”


    Your first point on the lack of scriptural data seems right.

    On the second, I’ve heard the assertion that the “early church went that way,” (i.e. toward eternal submission?) but never seen any evidence. And I think some would provide evidence for the opposite.

    My sense is that the movement was more from divine monarchy that operated through (mildly subordinate) bi-nitarian agency (the right & left hands of God) in the 2nd-3rd centuries toward the full-fledged homo-ousios doctrine of the Nicene-Constantinople creeds. Unless submission within the eternal trinity is mutual submission, it would seem to me to lead to a homoi-ousios conclusion about the 2nd (and 3rd) persons.

    Regardless of that, am glad to be united with the life of Trinitarian love (John 17:23), and look forward to reading your paper.

  10. What is so interesting about the book and possibly one reason it is receiving so much attention is it dares to cross conventional thinking in the way we have understood God in the past. Our stereotypical concepts for how we see God have stopped us from seeing Him in some instances as a loving, caring person who wants to connect with His kids.

    One interesting and somewhat controversial comment Paul Young makes in his book is sure to make a lot of people think differently about a cliche we have been throwing around in the church for years. It is found on page 149, Paul writes in Jesus’ words “My Life Was Not Met To Be An Example That You Can Copy”. For years, we the Christian community have held onto the idea that Jesus’ life or “behavior” was to be followed. We have all heard and even used the cliche “What would Jesus do?” or WWJD for short.

    We have seen it on bracelets and tee shirts for years. Problem is that when you look at it from a new covenant aspect it you would never hear Jesus tell us to mimic his behavior. Instead Jesus would tell us that we are to mimic or copy the relationship he experienced with the Father through the Holy Spirit. It is out of this relationship that behavioral issues, difficulties and temptation finds answers, not through some pull yourself up by the bootstraps mentality. Bottom line is that this book will challenge old belief systems that probably need to be challenged. Only then can you truly experience Christ as life, which beats religion any day!

    Scott Johnson

  11. Thanks for the lead to Wayne Jacobsen’s article, Zingo. I’d not seen it before. It is a response to many of the allegations about The Shack by one of the men who helped Paul put the manuscript into final form. Here’s what Jacobsen says:

    Does The Shack promote Ultimate Reconciliation (UR)?

    It does not. While some of that was in earlier versions because of the author’s partiality at the time to some aspects of what people call UR, I made it clear at the outset that I didn’t embrace UR as sound teaching and didn’t want to be involved in a project that promoted it. In my view UR is an extrapolation of Scripture to humanistic conclusions about our Father’s love that has to be forced on the biblical text.

    I think it’s true that The Shack itself does not teach Ultimate Reconciliation. Whatevert Paul Young believed/believes (which is much in dispute in the blogosphere), the book must be taken for what it actually says.

    I’ve raised the issue with Paul. He responds by taking me to passages like Colossians 1:20 or Philippians 2:10 and says he hopes the anger of God will eventually bring sinners like him into a place of repentance. It’s not without some biblical foundation.

    However, there are also very strong statements about the reality of hell for those who reject God’s grace as well as statements that there are many people who will end up there. I see pasasges like 2 Thess. 1:8-9 for example along with Psalm 2, Isaiah 2, Matt. 25:41, Rev. 14:9-11; 20:9-15.

    I don’t apologize at all for my belief in eternal conscious punishment in hell especially in light of the evil of people like the lady bug killer. I do hope they will hear the call of the compassionate gracious LORD who loves to forgive wickedness, rebellion and sin but does not leave the guilty unpunished.

    But I also believe there are levels of punishment as did Jesus according to Matt. 11:20-24. Not everyone will be at the same level of punishment as the lady bug killer.

    I also believe that many who are confident that they are going to heaven will hear Jesus say Matthew 7:23 ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ They will be like those is Matt. 7:15-29. The whole point is those who love the LORD will become like Him by the power of the Spirit.

  12. When this manuscript was first submitted, it contained elements of Christian universalism, the heresy which states Jesus died so ALL can end up in heaven.

    These aspects were changed. (See: Is The Shack Heresy by Wayne Jacobsen on web) See his page here

    On pg. 112 the author claims God “dwells in” everything. God does not dwell in a person without that person first accepting Christ. This is not a book that lines up with the Bible, and therefore it is not simply a novel.

    Thank you.

  13. The good old days are wonderful in a nostalgic way. I will say that seeing this picture brought back a lot of emotions. It was like a friend to me, certainly a helper. So developing the “relationship” was full of joy. It grew (double density drives, external monitor) and I grew (skilled in CP/M, modems, and wordprocessing) as we got more deeply involved. But then there was the day the relationship ended. There was a real sadness as I sold it. I’ve imagined: If that friedn were to come back to Portland from some far country, and I couldn’t see it, it would be an unimaginable pain. But the SF friendship goes on. Computers are such an important part of my life.

  14. I haven’t read the Shack so I don’t think I should join in on that conversation yet … but I did want to comment on that beautiful machine you have in the picture! I remember my first “computer” was one of those aquarias, soft foam keyboard (with keys that get stuck), and you had to program each line of code and then save it onto a tape drive. Man, the good old days!

Leave a Reply to Trish Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *