Biblical Review of The Shack

Thank you for joining me in this biblically-based, interactive review of The Shack by Wm. Paul Young. If you’re reading this, please know that I’ve been praying for you in accordance with Psalm 86:11-12. I encourage you to pray this as well.

Why is this "interactive"? It is interactive because I will ask you to pause, read, and meditate on the Scriptures noted throughout this review. The Holy Spirit has led me to write in this manner so you may read God’s word for yourself first, then you can read the excerpts from The Shack.

Please pause now and read 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 and 1 John 4:1; then pray and ask our gracious Father God for wisdom (James 1:5) so that we may rightly discern His voice and receive with humble and grateful hearts His words of life and truth.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”
~ Proverbs 3:5-8

“Now these Jews [Berean Jews] were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
~ Acts 17:11

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
~ Romans 12:1-2
In this interactive review we will test three aspects of The Shack with God’s Word:

1. I Have Seen the Lord
2. The Trinity and Hierarchy
3. What Is Blasphemy and Heresy

Although the story of The Shack is fiction, it's based on real people (Wm. Paul Young, his wife Kim, his kids and friends) and real conversations Mr. Young believes he had with God.

Mr. Young was raised by missionary parents, graduated from a Bible college, and attended Seminary for two years.

Here’s an excerpt from Mr. Young’s blog site:

“Remember, I am thinking about writing this for my kids, so I am searching for a good vehicle to communicate through. I figure a good story would be great…but I didn’t have one. So I started with what I did have…conversations. So, off and on, for about three months I wrote down conversations; conversations that I was having with God mostly, but which often included friends or family.

This means that Mack, of course, is not a ‘real’ person. My children would recognize that Mack is mostly me, that Nan is a lot like Kim, my wife, that Missy and Kate and the other characters often resemble our family members and friends….

Is the story ‘real’? The story is fiction. I m
ade it up. Now, having said that, I will add that the emotional pain with all its intensity and the process that tears into Mack’s heart and soul are very real. I have my ’shack’, the place I had to go through to find healing. I have my Great Sadness…that is all real. And the conversations are very real and true.

So is the story true? The pain, the loss, the grief, the process, the conversations, the questions, the anger, the longing, the secrets, the lies, the forgiveness…all real, all true.”
~ Wm. Paul Young August 15, 2007

"For though we walk in flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete."
~ 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

For those of you who have not read The Shack, here’s a very brief synopsis:

This book is about a man named Mackenzie Allen Phillips, who is referred to as Mack throughout the book. He’s married to Nan and they have five children. Mack enters into “The Great Sadness” that he endures for nearly three and a half years due to the abduction and murder of his daughter Missy. Naturally, this heinous crime shook the entire family, as well as Mack’s faith in God.

One day, Mack finds a mysterious letter in his mailbox that says:

This is supposed to be a letter from God to Mack.

The main theme of the story is about Mack’s physical encounter and conversations with the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit as well as the personified wisdom of God in which Mr. Young names “Sophie”.

Mack doesn’t know if this is truly a letter from God or if it’s some person’s very sick joke. But he goes to the shack where his Missy was brutally murdered to see if God really did send him this personal letter. As it turns out, it is a letter from god (the one from Paul Young's imagination, and not the true God revealed through His Word).

Mack is introduced to the trinity where god the father introduces herself as, “I…am….the housekeeper and cook. You may call me Elouisa.” Which Mack later discovers means ‘the creator god who is truly real and the ground of all being.’ I have no idea where Young got that definition, but there it is. She also gives Mack the option to call her “Papa” if that makes him feel more comfortable. Then Mack is introduced to “Jesus” who says, “And you may call me that [Jesus] if you like. After all, it is my common name. My mother called me Yeshua, but I have also been known to respond to Joshua or even Jesse.” First of all, the names, Jesus, Yeshua and Joshua all mean the same thing: "Jehovah saves". But Jesse means: "I possess or wealthy". So I have no idea where Young is going with this.

Finally, Mack meets the holy spirit who’s name is Sarayu which Young shared in an interview is a Hindu name that means: a common wind that takes you by surprise. Wow! I think one thing we can all agree on is that there is nothing “common” or ordinary about God in any way, shape or form. Our God is majestically brilliant and far beyond anything or anyone we can ever imagine!

“Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
~ Psalm 119:104-105

Please pause now, read, and meditate on Romans 16:25-27, Deuteronomy 8:3, John 1:1-3, 2 Timothy 3:14-17, John 20:30-31, 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, 2 and John 5:46-47.

Now that you’ve got the gist of what The Shack is all about, let’s start the review. I strongly encourage you to read every Scripture that I share in this review so that you may discern for yourselves through the power of the Holy Spirit whether this book honors or dishonor’s God.

“Thus says the LORD:
Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”
~ Jeremiah 9:23-24

I Have Seen the Lord

Throughout the Bible, our God has graciously provided us with numerous accounts of the proper and very normal attitude of any human being who find themselves in the sight of the holy, almighty, good and righteous God or any of His heavenly hosts.

Please pause now, read, and meditate on Genesis 32:30, Exodus 20:18-20, Judges 6:22-23, Isaiah 6:5, Luke 1:11-12, Luke 1:28-30.

As you can see, the normal, and lucid reaction from all these different people is, humility and fear.

John Calvin once said, “It is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such a contemplation to look into himself.”

God states clearly in His Word that it is the fear of God that causes us to acknowledge He alone is God, there is no other and that He alone is omnipotent, inherently good, perfectly righteous and just. He is full of compassion and His mercy abounds. His wrath is poured out to all those who are arrogant and practice all kinds of evil, but His mercy, compassion, grace and salvation is poured out to all those who have humbled themselves before His presence and cried out to Him with a broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart; for these are the things in which our Lord delights (1 Samuel 15:22-23, Psalm 51:17).

Listen to what the Holy Spirit directed King Solomon and King David to write concerning how we ought to approach God

“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore, let your words be few.”
~ Ecclesiastes 5:1-2


“Make me know Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for YOU are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long…Good and upright is the LORD; therefore He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies. For You name’s sake, O LORD pardon my guilt, for it is great. Who is the man who fears the LORD? Him will He instruct in the Way that he should choose. His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. The friendship of the LORD is for those who FEAR HIM, and He makes known to them His covenant [secret counsel].”
~ Psalm 25:4-5, 8-14

Excerpts from The Shack regarding Mack’s reaction when he finds himself before the presence of the Lord God Almighty.

(Mack meets the trinity)

“Thoughts tumbled over themselves as Mack struggled to figure out what to do. Was one of these people God? What if they were hallucinations or angels, or God was coming later?...Then Mack struggled to ask, ‘which one of you is God?’ ” (p. 89)

(Mack is having a discussion with Papa and Jesus)

“ ‘But you respond with such graciousness to each other [speaking of the trinity]. Isn’t one of you more the boss than the other two?’…”Jesus looked over at Papa, obviously trying with some difficulty to maintain the perception of a very serious exterior. ‘Does that make sense to you, Abba? Frankly, I haven’t a clue what this man is talking about.’ Papa scrunched up her face as if exerting great concentration. ‘Nope, I have been trying to make head or tail out of it, but sorry, he’s got me lost.’ ‘You know what I am talking about.’ Mack was a little frustrated. ‘I’m talking about who’s in charge. Don’t you have a chain of command?’ ” (pp. 123-123)

“Mack blurted. ‘It all sounds like the end justifies the means, that to get what you [God] want you will go to any length, even if it costs the lives of billions of people.’ ” (p. 127)

“Sarayu interrupted his [Mack’s] sentence again. ‘That in one instance, the good may be the presence of cancer or the loss of income – or even life.’ ‘Yeah, but tell that to the person with cancer or the father whose daughter is dead,’ Mack said, a little more sarcastically than he had intended.’ ” (p. 138)

There are numerous occasions (too many to include in this review) where Mack continues to accuse God of wrongdoing, God’s negligence, and the inability or lack of desire God has to help people. Throughout the book, Mack speaks to God with casual familiarity as if they are equals; then Mack is also found cursing while in God’s presence and becomes annoyed with the trinity at times and even scowls at Jesus (p. 206).

Keep in mind, the author (Paul Young) states that these are the real conversations he believes he had with God.

In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25), Jesus warns us of what will happen to self-centered, lazy, and arrogant people who have the audacity to accuse God of any wrong doing. Jesus said, “And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 25:30)

And again it is written:

“And the LORD said to Job: ‘Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it…

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: ‘Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to Me. Will you even put Me in the wrong? Will you condemn Me that you may be in the right? Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like this?’…

Who then is he who can stand before Me? Who has first given to Me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine.’ ”
~ Job 40:1-2, 6-9 and 41:10-11

The Trinity and Hierarchy

Please pause now, read, and meditate on the various aspects of God's relationship with people.

How God the Father relates to people:
  • Genesis 1:1, 3:21
  • John 1:18
  • John 4:23-24
  • Matthew 27:46
  • John 12:49
  • Mark 13:32

How God the Son relates to people:
  • John 1:1-4
  • 1 Corinthians 8:6
  • Colossians 1:15-16
  • John 3:16-18
  • John 5:19, 12:49-50
  • 1 Corinthians 11:3
  • John 14:6
  • Colossians 1:18
  • Romans 5:1

How God the Holy Spirit relates to people:
  • John 14:26
  • John 14:16
  • John 15:26
  • John 16:8
  • Titus 3:5
  • 2 Timothy 1:14
  • 1 Corinthians 12:7-11

Now that we’ve looked at how each Person of the Trinity relates to mankind, let’s find out if there is hierarchy within the God-head.

hierarchy: any system of persons or things ranked one above another and is derived from: hieró = Greek for holy, sacred + arch = Greek for rule, government

We know from Scripture that our God is a God of order and not one of chaos (1 Corinthians 14:33 and 14:40). As we’ve meditated on God’s word and have clearly seen how each Person of the Trinity relates to human beings, it is also revealed through these Scriptures that there is clearly a hierarchy within the God-head: that is, God the Father commands and directs, while God the Son fulfills the Father’s commands and God the Holy Spirit confirms and bears witness to God the Son as He equips every believer to live holy lives unto the Lord.

“Finally, it may be said that there are no differences in deity, attributes, or essential nature between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each Person is fully God and has all the attributes of God. The only distinctions between the members of the Trinity are in the ways they relate to each other and to the rest of creation. In those relationships they carry out roles that are appropriate to each Person.”
~ Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine

Now, let’s take a look at Mack’s conversations with God and how the god of The Shack compares to the God of the Bible. By the way, throughout this book, the trinity is found cooking, cleaning and altogether serving Mack, while telling Mack, he can do whatever he wants, they have no expectations of him; their only purpose is to be with him in relationship.

Please pause now, read, and meditate on Luke 1:31-33, John 13:14-15, Romans 8:29 and 1 Corinthians 11:3.

Excerpts from The Shack regarding the Trinity and Hierarchy within the God-head:

“When we three spoke ourselves into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human”… “Jesus, as a human being, had no power within himself to heal anyone.” (p. 101)

“We have limited ourselves out of respect for you. We are not bringing to mind, as it were, our knowledge of your children. As we are listening to you, it is as if this is the first time we have known about them, and we take great delight in seeing them through your eyes.” (p. 108)

“Hierarchy makes no sense amongst us…We [the trinity] carefully respect your choices, so we work within your systems even while we seek to free you from them.” ” (p. 124 & 125)

“Jesus chuckled….’Seriously, my life was not meant to be an example to copy. Being my follower is not trying to ‘be like Jesus…If you want to do your thing, have at it. Time is on our side.’ ” (p. 151)

[this is Sarayu talking] “I [the trinity] am a verb. I am that I am. I will be who I will be. I am a verb! I am alive, dynamic, ever active, and moving. I am a being verb…Unless ‘I am,’ there are no verbs, and verbs are what makes the universe alive.’ ” (p. 206)

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”
~ Exodus 20:7

Please pause now, read, and meditate on Luke 6:46, John 14:15, John 15:10-11 and 1 John 5:2-3.

Now let’s read what Mr. Young wrote as “Jesus” answers Mack’s question regarding Jesus’ lordship over us:

[here, Jesus is speaking to Mack] “Have you noticed that even though you call me ‘Lord’ and ‘King’, I have never really acted in that capacity with you?’… “That’s the beauty you see in my relationship with Abba and Sarayu. We are indeed submitted to one another and have always been so and always will be. Papa is as much submitted to me as I to him, or Sarayu to me, or Papa to her. Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we  [the trinity] are submitted to you in the same way.’ ” (p. 147)

“ ‘I’ve [Jesus] been trying to catch him [the fish] for weeks, and here he comes just to bait me,’ he [Jesus] said with a laugh.’…Mack was bewildered by the whole scene. ‘Jesus, why don’t you just command him to…I don’t know, jump into your boat or bite your hook? Aren’t you the Lord of creation?’ ‘Sure,’ says Jesus, leaning down and running his hand over the water. ‘But what would be the fun in that, eh?’ ” (p. 178)

What does it really mean to “use God’s name in vain”?

blasphemy n. ~ 1. profane or contemptuous speech, writing, or action concerning God or anything held as divine; 2. any remark or action held to be irreverent or disrespectful.

blaspheme ~ [Hebrew] naqab means:to pierce, perforate, bore, appoint; a primitive root; to puncture, literally (to perforate, with more or less violence) or figuratively (to specify, designate, libel):-appoint, blaspheme, bore, curse, express, with holes, name, pierce, strike through

blaspheme ~ [Greek] blasphemeo means:to speak reproachfully, rail at, revile, calumniate, blaspheme

vain ~ [Hebrew] shav' means: emptiness, vanity, falsehood; or shav {shav}; from the same as 7722 in the sense of desolating; evil (as destructive), literally (ruin) or morally (especially guile)

heresy n. ~ 1. a religious belief opposed to the orthodox doctrines of a church; esp., such a belief specifically denounced by the church; 2. any opinion (in philosophy, politics, etc.) opposed to official or established views or doctrine.

heresy ~ [Greek] hairesis means a body of men following their own tenets (sect or party)

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.”
~ 2 Peter 2:1

"To whom will you liken Me and make Me equal, and compare Me, that we may be alike?...remember the things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,"
~ Isaiah 46:5, 9

Please pause now, read, and meditate on Deuteronomy 5:11, Leviticus 24:16, Jude 1:8.

From these Scriptures we can firmly conclude that the words blaspheme and vain are alike in that they both defile the holy name and character of God by speaking evil of Him through equating God to sinful man; and/or speaking to God or of God like we would speak to one another; with casual familiarity.

From Scripture we can clearly understand that heresy is the opposite of sound doctrine, it is false doctrine. But then the question has arisen (especially within the emerging or emergent church movement) that doctrine is not important, only relationship is important, so why teach doctrine? Let’s see how God feels about doctrine.

"As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions."
~ 1 Timothy 1:3-7

Please pause now, read, and meditate on Romans 8:29, 1Timothy 1:8-11, 2 Timothy 3:14-17, Titus 1:9, 1 Corinthians 2:11-13.

I've often witnessed people have a thought or opinion about something then pick and choose Scriptures they believe support their personal ideology. The only problem with that is that we're supposed to follow God's word, not the other way around. Having an opinion about something, then opening God's word to see if you can find support for it, is never the way to read God's word. Doing this puts many of us in the dangerously tempting place of learning and teaching false doctrine as we begin to slowly take God's word out of the context in which He intended and begin to read and apply it in the context of our emotions, thoughts or personal experiences.

"For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power."
~ 1 Corinthians 1:17

Now, let’s take a look at Mack’s conversations with God and what the god of The Shack has to say about God’s holy name and the teaching of sound doctrine, which only comes from Scripture.

Excerpts from The Shack regarding the use of God’s name and the importance of sound doctrine:

“In seminary he [Mack] had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring to have them only listen to and follow sacred Scripture, properly interpreted, of course. God’s voice had been reduced to paper.” (p. 67)

“ ‘If you [Papa] couldn’t take care of Missy, how can I [Mack] trust you to take care of me?’...’Mack, I’m so sorry.’ Tears began to trail down her cheeks….’Honey, there’s no easy answer that will take your pain away… Believe me, if I had one, I’d use it now. I have no magic wand to wave over you and make it all better. Life takes a bit of time and a lot of relationship.’ ”

“Papa didn’t answer, only looked down at their hands. His [Mack’s] gaze followed hers and for the first time Mack noticed the scars on her wrists, like those he now assumed Jesus also had on his… Mack was surprised. ‘At the cross? Now wait, I thought you [Papa] left him [Jesus] – you know – ‘My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?’ It was a Scripture that had often haunted Mack in The Great Sadness. ‘You misunderstand the mystery there. Regardless of what he felt at the moment, I never left him’ [Jesus] How can you say that? You abandoned him just like you abandoned me!’ ‘Mackenzie, I never left him, and I have never left you.’ That makes no sense to me,’ he [Mackenzie] snapped.” (p. 97 – 98)

“ ‘But if you are God, aren’t’ you the One spilling out great bowls of wrath and throwing people into a burning lake of fire?’ Mack could feel his deep anger emerging again, pushing out the questions in front of it, and he was a little chagrined at his own lack of self-control. But he asked anyway, ‘Honestly, don’t you enjoy punishing those who disappoint you?’ At that time, Papa stopped her preparations and turned toward Mack. He could see a deep sadness in her eyes. ‘I am not who you think I am, Mackenzie. 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.’ ” (p. 121 – 122)

“ ‘We [the trinity] carefully respect your choices, so we work within your system while we seek to free you from them,’ Sarayu continued.” (p. 125)

“Again Jesus stopped. ‘Those who love me have come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims….’ ‘Does that mean,’ said Mack, ‘that all roads will lead to you?’ ‘Not at all.’ Jesus smiled as he reached for the door handle to the shop. ‘Most roads don’t’ lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.’ ” (p. 184)

At the end of this book, there’s a page entitled “The Missy Project”, which I thought was something Mr. Young created to help parents who have had their children abducted and murdered. But I was wrong, The Missy Project is just a publicity project asking others to share this book and how to do it. Here’s a quote I found on this page, “They will not only get a compelling, page-turning thrill ride, but also a magnificent glimpse into the nature of God that is not often presented in our culture.”

Personally, I would never recommend this book. Why? Because from cover to cover Mr. Young indulges in blaspheming the holy name of my awesome heavenly Father, as well as blaspheming the name of Jesus and the Holy Spirit by giving them “names” that he personally liked. Mr. Young also blasphemed by defiling the holy character of God by bringing Him down to our level and conversing with God as if God were our equal. Then there’s the rampant heresy Mr. Young spews all over the pages of this book. The god of The Shack is certainly not a god I would ever worship. Mr. Young’s god is weak, cuddly, foolish, too co-dependent on people and apparently isn’t very powerful since we have to forgive others in order for him to redeem them (p. 226 ~ “Mack, for you to forgive this man is for you to release him to me and allow me to redeem him.”)

By the end of Mack's story, and at the end of his visit with the trinity, Mack's conclusion and understanding of God is this:

" 'God, the servant.' He [Mack] chuckled but then felt a welling-up again as the thought made him pause. 'It is more truly God, my servant.' "(pp. 238 - 239) [emphasis mine]

To complete Mr. Young's blatant practice of both heresy and blasphemy, he writes this in the After Words:“And one day, when all is revealed, every one of us will bow our knees and confess in the power of Sarayu that Jesus is the Lord of all creation, to the glory of Papa.”

“Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed His name. ‘They shall be Mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.’ ”
~ Malachi 3:16-18