by John Ellis
Two months ago, I ordered a copy of The Shack, the New York Times bestseller that has sold over twenty million copies. I intended to read it and then write a review in time for the release of the movie. However, I was unable to force myself to finish reading it.
For the record, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy reading The Shack. Over the years, I’ve become very familiar with the contrived plot, blasphemous characters, and heretical teachings. It’s been inescapable. The number of family and friends who rave about the book match the family and friends who denounce the book. Not long after its release, I researched the teachings of The Shack and concluded that, at best, it wasn’t worth my time reading; at worst, I would just become incensed over the heresy being subtly introduced (or not so subtly) to brothers and sisters in Christ. The devil is indeed a lion seeking to devour people. The movie, of course, changed my perspective on the value of me reading the book, and that brings me back to my opening paragraph. And, as stated, I couldn’t force myself to finish The Shack.
In the intervening weeks since I last attempted to force myself to read the book, I’ve debated the validity of publicly commenting on The Shack. I mean, I haven’t read the book nor have I watched the movie. I’ve researched the material enough to be comfortable holding to strong opinions and even sharing those opinions with friends and family. But, publicly declaring a popular book and movie as anathema probably requires having read the dumb thing at least once. That ain’t happening.
Of course, all of the above raises the question as to why I feel justified in breaking my self-imposed silence and publicly denouncing The Shack, both book and movie. Well, what’s changed is that William Paul Young, the author of The Shack has written a new book titled Lies We Believe About God. And I’ve read Young’s new book.
Whatever confusion people may have had about what Young actually believes, he has helpfully cleared it up with Lies We Believe About God. With his new book, Young has demonstrated that the charges of heretic lobbed in his direction because of The Shack are justified. The warnings from people like Albert Mohler, John MacArthur, and popular Christian blogger and pastor Tim Challies have been proven necessary and true.
For the record, this isn’t so much a book review as it is a listing of some of the unbiblical and heretical teachings and beliefs of Wm. Paul Young. My intention isn’t to offer robust critiques and/or apologetics in reference to his errors, but to confront Christians who defend The Shack with the erroneous beliefs of the man who wrote the book. This means, of course, that I’m assuming a level of orthodoxy that doesn’t actually exist among my readers. If you are confused by some of my assertions, please email me using the email provided in the “Contact” tab above. I’d love to dialogue with you about your questions.
Opening the second chapter, Young writes, “This lie is huge! And it is devastating!”
The lie that Young is referring to is the “lie” that God is good and humans are bad. Or, as the title of the chapter puts it, “God is good. I am not.”
Reading chapter two of Lies We Believe About God, verses flooded my mind. Verses like “None is righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10),” “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one (Romans 3:12),” and “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me (Psalm 51:5).”
The Bible clearly teaches that humans are bad; humans are not good. And the Bible teaches that the reality of the depravity of humans is because of sin. That’s the problem and the very reason that Jesus had to come to earth – the sin/badness of humans separates them from God, who is holy and just. God’s law has to be obeyed, and sin has to be punished. Jesus obeyed God’s law because none of us can, and He then died on the cross as the punishment for the sins of those who place their faith in him.
Opposed to that foundational teaching of Scripture, Young believes (and teaches) that, “We are true and right … Blind, not depraved is our condition.” In other words, sin isn’t the problem, lack of education and oppression are the problem. If that were true, if Young is correct, then God’s plan of redemption was unnecessary and Jesus didn’t need to die. This explains why Young believes that it is a lie that “You need to get saved,” the title of chapter 13.
In the middle of chapter 13, Young writes, “God does not wait for my choice and then ‘save me.’ God has acted decisively and universally for all humankind. Now our daily choice is to either grow and participate in that reality or continue to live in the blindness of our own independence. Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? That is exactly what I’m saying!”
The author of The Shack, Wm. Paul Young is a universalist, a heretic. That bears repeating.
The author of The Shack, Wm. Paul Young is a universalist, a heretic.
And lest you think that I’ve left out some context, Young continues, “Every person who has ever been conceived was included in the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. When Jesus was lifted up, God ‘dragged’ all human beings to himself.”
As stated above, chapter 13 is the logical conclusion of chapter 2. And at this point in my reading of Lies We Believe About God, I was expecting chapter 15, “Hell is separation from God.”
In chapter 15, Young claims that if hell is not a created thing than God is hell because God is not created. And, hold onto that, because Young comes back to it. However, before returning to that thought, according to Young, if hell is a created thing, then we can be separated from God and, misquoting Romans 8:38-39, Young asserts that we “do not have the power to separate [ourselves] from the love of God. And whatever hell is, if it is a created thing, it cannot separate you from the love of God.”
Rejecting the notion that hell is a created thing, Young returns to the belief that hell is not a created thing and, hence, that makes hell the one and the same with God. Using Young’s own words, “hell would be God.” Circling back to the heresy of universalism, Young believes that God’s love is hell for those who are currently rejecting Him. God’s kindness and mercy is the hell that will eventually purge them of their independence and into a God who has already saved them because they are not sinners.
Chapter 17, however, takes the heretical and blasphemous cake, so to speak. According to the chapter, people believe the lie that “The Cross was God’s idea.”
Young labels God a “cosmic abuser” if the cross was His idea. Young’s attack on the very center of Christianity is not new. For centuries, those in rebellion against God love to toss the charge of “cosmic abuser” in the face of the Almighty Creator of the Universe. At least most of those people are doing so honestly, and aren’t denying what the Bible teaches. However, the author of The Shack, Wm. Paul Young manages to both blaspheme God’s name and deny the substitutionary atonement.
Because this is such an important point, I’m going to link to an article on The Gospel Coalition that interacts with Young’s belief and teaching on the cross. I encourage you to read Owen Strachan’s TGC article in order to remind yourself of the vital and necessary place in Christianity that the substitutionary atonement holds. This is not a game, because one of the most popular “Christian” authors in the world is promoting damnable heresies and blasphemies against God.
Throughout Lies We Believe About God, Wm. Paul Young continuously ties those “lies” to points of emphasis in The Shack. Young didn’t write his latest book merely to teach his theology; he did so to clear up confusion about the theology he was teaching in and through The Shack. Wm. Paul Young’s latest book confirms the pleas for discernment and the warnings of heresy about The Shack from many theologians, pastors, and writers. Christians who have shrugged off those warnings would do well to ask themselves if they are among those whom the Apostle Paul warned would “not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4).”
Soli Deo Gloria
 According to the cover. I haven’t verified the claim, not do I intend to do so. It sold a whole bunch, that’s for sure.
 Furthermore, this article isn’t even a complete cataloguing of Young’s errors and heresies. That task would require its own book.