Guest Contributor: Dr. James DeYoung Revisiting The Shack & Universal Reconciliation

Dr. James DeYoung

Gospel-Driven Blog is privileged to have Dr. James B. DeYoung, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Western Seminary (Portland Campus), revisit The Shack with us.

Dr. DeYoung provides much needed, helpful insight into this widely popular but misleading book that continues to exert a great deal of influence within Christian as well as non-Christian circles.

I have posted below an abbreviated version of a longer review (9 pages) by Dr. DeYoung. For those who would like to read the longer review, click here: Revisiting The Shack and Universal Reconciliation.

While all the reviews that I have previously cited (Paul Grimmond and Tim Challies) are very helpful, Dr. DeYoung brings a unique perspective in his reviews due to the fact that he is personally acquainted with William Paul Young. Furthermore, Dr. DeYoung has done a great service for the church and for the cause of the gospel by exposing the foundational problem with The Shack and its author.

For those who are unaware, it is critical to realize that William Paul Young espouses the heretical teaching known as Universal Reconciliation (condemned by the church since 533). This accounts for his heterodox views (e.g., faulty views of the Trinity, Biblical revelation, Christology, eternal punishment, etc…).

The gospel must be paramount!

Paul, in Galatians 1:8-9, writes, “8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”

Regardless of how genuine, sincere, credible, popular, well-received or authoritative a Bible teacher or author may seem, ultimately, it is not the messenger but the message that matters.

The issue at stake among the Galatian churches was not Paul but the gospel. The gospel must be paramount!

Therefore, Paul says if anyone, including himself or his missionary associates who were fully authorized representatives (v. 2; Barnabas, Silas or Timothy), or even an angel from heaven should proclaim a false gospel they themselves will incur the judgment of God.

The alarming words of Paul should cause every reader of The Shack to consider carefully the gospel that Young is seeking to promote.

Distorting the purity of the gospel is no small matter. Paul says that the eternal destiny of man is at stake. A false gospel nullifies grace, renders useless the death of Christ (Gal. 2:21) and severs a person from Christ (Gal. 5:4). Such consequences are hardly trivial, light matters.

If we do not feel as deeply about the distortion of the gospel as Paul did, perhaps the problem is that we have not understood the gospel as clearly as Paul?

Revisiting The Shack and Universal Reconciliation
James B. De Young
October, 2008

Seldom does one have the opportunity to review a work of fiction written by a friend that has risen to the top of best seller lists. Recently The Shack has been approaching sales of three million or more. There is talk about making a movie of the book.

What is so unusual about this success is not only that the novel is ostensibly a Christian work of fiction but that it also espouses a view of God that is creative but biblically challenged. It is novel both as literature and as theology. But does Christian fiction have to be doctrinally correct?

A brief look at the book uncovers an unremarkable plot. Willie retells the story of his friend, Mackenzie Phillips, who as a child was abused by his father which left him bitter toward God, the Bible, and the ministry. When his youngest daughter is kidnapped and brutally killed in a mountain shack, Mack’s anger freezes his total outlook in sadness and despair. Years later God invites him to return to the same shack. He encounters the Trinity in the form of a large African woman (“Papa” =the Father), a Jewish carpenter (=Jesus Christ), and a small Asian woman by the name Sarayu (=the Holy Spirit). These three lead Mack to discover a fresh meaning of God’s love for him and forgiveness.

Who is the author? For more than a dozen years I have known William P. Young. We have discussed much theology in a “think tank.” Over four years ago Paul embraced universal reconciliation and defended it on several occasions. He claimed that universalism changed his life and his theology.

The core belief of universal reconciliation asserts that love is the supreme attribute of God that trumps all others. His love reaches beyond the grave to save all those who refuse Christ before they die. God’s love will even conquer fallen angels and the Devil himself who will join the saints in heaven. This view of future destinies claims many texts that seem to teach that the reconciliation that Jesus accomplished on the cross extends to all creatures (Rom. 5:18; 2 Cor. 5:16-20; Col. 1:19-20), that all will lovingly confess him as Lord (Phil. 2:6-11), and that God’s will that all be saved (1 Tim. 2:4) will be accomplished without fail.

After the The Shack was written, the editors worked over a year to eliminate its universalism (as they assert on their web site). Paul now disavows universalism. Yet like all universalists he affirms that he “hopes” that none will experience eternal suffering. But the critical question is this: Does universalism remain in the book? By comparing the creeds of universalism with The Shack one discovers that many tenets of universalism and other errors are implicit in the book.

1. Universalism subjugates God’s justice to his love. The creed of 1878 asserts that God’s attribute of justice is “born of love and limited by love.” The novel asserts that God “cannot act apart from love” (p. 102, 191), that God “chose the way of the cross where mercy triumphs over justice because of love,” and that God did not choose “justice for everyone” (164-165).

2. The creed of 1899 asserts that God “will finally restore the whole family of mankind to holiness and happiness”; there is no future judgment. Similarly Paul denies that Papa (God) “pours out wrath and throws people” into hell. God does not punish sin; it’s his “joy to cure it” (120). Papa “redeems” final judgment (127). God will not “condemn most to an eternity of torment, away from his presence and apart from his love” (162). To judge is to act contrary to love (145).

3. Universalists deny a personal devil. He goes unmentioned in the book (134-137).

4. Paul reveals that the entire Trinity became incarnate, and that the whole Trinity was crucified (99). Both Jesus and Papa (God) bear the marks of crucifixion in their hands (contra. Isa. 53:4-10). These ideas suggest the heresy of patripassianism and modalism, that God is singular who assumes the different modes of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

5. Reconciliation is effective for all without exercising faith. Papa asserts that he is reconciled to the whole world, not only to those who believe (192). The creeds of universalism never mention the need to believe in Christ. Rejecting the idea that God willed humans to have a will that allows them to reject him is deterministic and coercive.

6. All are equally children of God and loved equally by him (155-156). In a future revolution of “love and kindness” everyone will confess in the power of the Spirit that Jesus is Lord (248).

7. The institution of the church is rejected as diabolical. Jesus claims that he “never has, never will” create institutions (178). This counters Jesus’ words in Matthew 16 and 18.

8 ) The Bible is only a revelation of God. In the novel it comes as an afterthought to other revelation (198).

Universalism began with Origen in the third century. In the sixth century it was condemned as heresy. In modern times universalism undermined evangelical faith in Europe and America. It opposed the Great Awakening in the 1730’s-40’s. By 1961 universalism joined with Unitarianism to form the Unitarian-Universalist Association, with its denial of the Trinity and the deity of Christ.

How does one answer the errors of universalism? From the Bible which I’ve cited at The Shack

Near the beginning I asked: Does Christian fiction have to be doctrinally correct? In this case the answer is “yes,” for Paul’s intention is to teach theology throughout The Shack. If it is only fiction, why was universalism removed? Although a story may be quite helpful, if an author uses doctrinal impurity to teach how to be restored to a redefined God is one restored to the God of the Bible? Jesus warned that a house built on the wrong foundation will collapse (Matt. 7:24-28). So will a shack.

73 Responses to Guest Contributor: Dr. James DeYoung Revisiting The Shack & Universal Reconciliation

  1. […] John Fonville posts this excellent review. I am amazed at how many Christians are singing the praises of ‘The Shack’. A sign of our biblically-ignorant, and doctrine-depreciating times? For further important critiques of this misleading book, check out articles by Paul Grimmond and Tim Challies. […]

  2. David Cooke says:

    We run rather behind the USA in the UK on things but I can tell you that the Shack has arrived here recently and is being widely read by Christians. This review is incredibly helpful and thoughtful and I will be passing it on to others. Thank you. David

  3. […] James De Young on ‘The Shack’ Posted on January 27, 2009 by mywordlikefire ‘The Shack’ is reviewed and exposed by James De Young, a Western Seminary professor who knows the author personally. On Gospel Driven Blog.… […]

  4. Ron says:

    It is a good read if you are mature enough to know the difference between fiction and doctern. I`m not sure that God as an African American woman is something I can get used to, but it is just a story and should be taken as such. Lord of the rings is also just a story and many christians have read it and are quite alright. Too many people are getting way too carried away with this book being some kind of heresy, though strange it may be. By the way God is universal in that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Even bloggers.

  5. mywordlikefire says:

    When the book was sent to publishers it contained Christian universalism, the belief that all unsaved people are going to heaven because of Jesus’ sacrifice.

    The author in an interview on KAYP Radio, with Pastor Kendall Adams, denied the substitutionary atonement of Jesus. In other words, the author of The Shack, like many others, is now denying the very purpose of the cross.

    Ron, it is not just a story. It is theology passing as fiction.

    • Dan says:

      That’s the whole point. Young’s teaching blatantly disregards clearly interpreted Scripture in context. It takes either foolish naivety or willful ignorance to adopt such a lie. If it were true, the whole “message” of Christ in Scripture would be false rambling, so the only part that’s false is the diabolical teaching such as is presented by heretics like Young.

      In fact, it’s so off the wall, I think we don’t need to be overly concerned, because the Spirit of God will penetrate the hearts of the predestined in spite of those who are to be accursed. A five-year-old can read the Scriptures and see how bizarre Young’s teaching is. What a waste of life, but to God be the glory!

      • Wisefool says:

        After being a fully committed christian for 30 years I finally came to my senses and analyzed what I thought I believed in. I still believe in God (probably in a deeper way now than ever before) but have thrown off the erroneus belief in Jesus. I more answers than questions in my life, I no longer believe in a devil or having to be saved from the wages of sin – all of which are fairy tales which science is now completely debunking. I am hppier than I have been in a long time, and hope in time the veil will drop from many christians eyes and they will see that the emperor has no cloths.

  6. Bryan Winters says:

    Dr De Young claims Universal Reconciliation was condemned as a heresy at the Council of Constantinople in 533AD. This is often posited by those opposed to UR. However, it is a false claim, and I challenge anyone to point out where in the anathemas it is mentioned. By the way, the same Council of 533AD also condemned anyone who would not refer to the ever-virgin Mary as God-bearer.
    There are oodles of scriptures supporting UR such as 1 Timothy 4:10 ‘The Saviour of all men, especially those who believe.’
    However, the real issue is one at heart, not that of introducing competing verse references. Either it is in your heart to wish unbelievers suffer eternal torment, or it is not. Most Christians have too much baggage to even consider UR as a valid theory, because it posits, in Jesus words, the last coming in first.

    • Dan says:

      Bryan, you seem like a more intelligent individual than to propose such heresy yourself. 1 Timothy 4:10 means that Jesus is the Savior of men, SPECIFICALLY of those who believe, not in ADDITION to as you seem to be indicating. The meaning you are suggesting doesn’t even make sense and attempts to nullify other passages of Scripture that teach some will be separated from God forever. Sorry, God’s Word stands firm in spite of feeble attempts to play on emotional reasoning.

      “Either it is in your heart to wish unbelievers suffer eternal torment, or it is not.” So, it’s up to how we feel? Come on Bryan, that’s just lame.

      Jesus is the propitiation made available to the whole world, but like the bronze serpent Moses lifted up for the people in the wilderness, everyone must decide for themselves if they will look to Him in faith as their Savior.

      Again, the bottom line is in John 3:36: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” “For ‘WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.'” (Romans 10:13)

      The teaching of universal salvation violates clearly interpreted Scripture in context and can only be supported by twisting and distorting God’s Word as Bryan has demonstrated here.

      Bryan, your talents can be used much more effectively…for good, and I hope that changes soon.

  7. Samuel says:

    Excelente artigo, precisamos de pessoas assim que falem a verdade, outro site com questões polêmicas é o

  8. Darin says:

    there are two many pharisees roaming around in pulpits today with their pet doctrines, etc. Why are they so afraid of the shack. They are afraid that God is too nice. Hilarious. Why, he can’t be that nice…that is exactly what the pharisees said about Jesus.

  9. Darin says:

    I love what Bryan said above…

  10. Darin says:

    The people who go around condeming others such as Paul Young are exactly the same people that who would reject Jesus if He was standing before them. It makes me want to throw up!

  11. Dale says:

    What a ‘rag.’ That article credits “the creeds of universalism” (whatever they are) with being the ultimate authority on what Universalism teaches.

    #2 says: “…there is no future judgment.” Wrong!

    #3 “Universalists deny a personal devil.” Wrong!

    #4 “Paul reveals that the entire Trinity became incarnate…? I never heard of such a teaching

    #5 “Reconciliation is effective for all without exercising faith.” Wrong!

    #6 “…everyone will confess in the power of the Spirit that Jesus is Lord” Um, #5 just got through saying “Reconciliation is effective for all without exercising faith.” Now he turns around and says, in effect, ‘everyone will exercise faith by confessing Jesus is Lord through the power of the spirit.’ Which one does he disagree with, #5 or #6?

    #7 “The institution of the church is rejected as diabolical.” Wow, He got one right! Just to clarify. It’s the ‘institution’ that’s diabolical, not the church (the Body of Christ).

    #8 This statement may very well be in the book, but, has NOTHING to do with Universal Reconciliation.

    –“Universalism began with Origen in the third century.” Wrong! It began with God. Colossians 1:19-20 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

    — “In the sixth century it was condemned as heresy.” Yeah, by the ‘institution’.

    –“In modern times universalism undermined evangelical faith…” Yes, it does. As it should! Evangelicalism teaches ‘faith in faith’ not faith in ‘Christ.’

  12. Dan says:

    Young’s teaching blatantly disregards clearly interpreted Scripture. It takes either foolish naivety or willful ignorance to adopt such a lie. If it were true, the whole “message” of Christ in Scripture would be false, so the only part that’s false is the diabolical teaching of those such as Young.

    In fact, it’s so off the wall, I think we don’t need to be overly concerned, because the Spirit of God will penetrate the hearts of the predestined in spite of those who are to be accursed. To God be the glory!

    • Wisefool says:

      Yes, you’re right “the whole “message” of Christ in Scripture would IS false” – and theres plenty of facts to back that statement up – the NT even contadicts it self and can hardly be held up as having any historical accuracy. Most people when trying to prove the bible try to use the bible to prove itself. Youngs novel is probably just as accurate, only his doesn’t claim to be Gods message of salvation for the world.

  13. Dale says:

    Clearly interpreted, eh Dan? Clearly interpreted by who (or is it whom)? What’s clear to me, may not be clear to you. And vice-versa.

    • Dan says:

      “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:20-21)

      While there may be several different applications, in the original languages, there is always only one interpretation. And, the applications stemming from a particular interpretation cannot violate other interpretations. It’s very simple really. God spoke with a single meaning, not several to be determined as we see fit.

      One thing I’ve noticed recently is that those are promoting this heresy seem to be “born again” believers. How dumb is that? However, that’s actually very reassuring to me, because I know that “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44)

      “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:28-31)

      “Those who are called,” are those He foreknew and also predestined, justified, and glorified. So, the “called” will be saved regardless of the false teaching from those who are to be accursed. And, “God’s elect” are distinguished from those who are not.

      It’s God’s Word, not mine. The saddest thing about this whole “movement” of universalism is the miserable and feeble attempts by those who are wasting their time and efforts, but perhaps it only goes to show how much greater God’s plan is than our own, which is superficially and unsubstantially fabricated.

      “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” It’s almost not even worth discussing!

      • Dale says:

        Huh? Did you think I said that both of our ‘interpretations’ were correct? I never said that. My point is, what’s clear to me may not be clear to you, so talking about “clearly interpreted Scripture” only means what YOU believe it ‘clearly’ says. I believe it ‘clearly’ say’s something different.

  14. David says:

    The absence of any competent argument of the facts indicates that there is no defense of UR. Enumerating the problems that you have with an argument and then saying “Wrong” is not exactly an argument against the point. Why is it wrong?

    Dan has cited several worthy arguments against UR and there has been no credible defense to date. You can yell and call names, but the facts are clear.

    Biblical truth is clear, it’s application can vary, but if you consider the whole council of God and not just a few verses, you have to reconsider, as the author of The Shack did, your understanding and belief in UR.

    How can you say that you understand your own Doctrines if you don’t even know that it has Creeds? What are creeds but statements of doctrine. Doctrine is just a statement of what you believe. I’m weary of people running away from “doctrine” like it’s some kind of plague. And then they don’t even know, nor can they clearly state, what they believe.

    UR, to me, seems to play on the “anti-establishment” feelings that many people have today. Some are against the government (which I join in on) and some are against the Church. Excuse me, the “institution” of the Church. But isn’t that even made up of members of the church?

    Too much scripture, as Dan has shown above, goes completely ignored and too many questions go unanswered by UR proponents for it to even be considered as a legitimate doctrine. It is truly “pie in the sky” belief.

    • Dale says:

      I would have thought it was pretty easy to understand what I meant by saying ‘wrong’ when accused of believing there is no future judgment. It means I believe there IS future judgment. Same with denying a personal devil. There IS a personal devil.

      I could care less about Dan’s supposed “worthy arguments against UR.” All I was doing was showing that the author of that article doesn’t understand UR. Ask any Baptist if an article showing the weakness’s of Catholicism’s creeds proves Christianity is wrong.

      Yell and call names? Care to point that out?

      Why do you guy’s keep saying words to the effect that ‘biblical truth is clear’? Clear to who (again, or is it whom?). If it IS so clear, why are there thousands of different denominations that all use the same Bible? Obviously people differ on what they think the Bible is saying. I understand you believe it ‘clearly’ say’s many people (if not most) will be tortured forever in a literal fire. I believe it ‘clearly’ say’s God will redeem all.

      No, I don’t have to reconsider my belief in UR. The more I understand the Bible as a whole, the stronger my belief in UR.

      I’m not running away from doctrine. But, if the ‘UR creeds of 1899’ are going to be used as the authority on what I believe, and if the author did properly represent what they teach, then I certainly do wish to distance myself from that document. Again, like holding a Baptist to the creed’s of Catholicism. Catholic creeds do represent Baptist beliefs any more than the UR creeds of 1899 represent mine (or anybody I know).

  15. David says:

    First, giving the answer “wrong” and just assuming that the opposite is true is not really giving a defense of your view. Why do you believe different? What evidence do you site for your belief? This all goes back to knowing what and why you believe as I stated above. If you want to convince someone of a different view, you need to site your evidence and reasoning. Otherwise I have no reason to even consider your view. Does this help?

    Saying “I would have thought it was pretty easy to understand what I meant” is very demeaning. It’s like saying “you’re too stupid to get it”. I get it that you mean the opposite, but why? You’ve given no reasonable argument. Can you imagine a politician standing up in a debate and saying “WRONG” and expecting to win anyones confidence.

    Regarding Biblical interpretation, there are rules for understanding scripture. It’s not as willy nilly as you suggest. If we can’t have a reasonable system for interpretation then there will be lots of different systems. And that’s just what we have. When people bring their convictions TO the Bible, they can use any verse to prove anything they want. This is not a good hermeneutic.

    “And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.” 2 Peter 1:19,20

    There are some basic rules for interpreting scripture that are really based on common sense. Like Definition; what does the word mean? Common usage; what does it mean in other places in the scripture? Context; how is it used in this place and what is surrounding the usage? Historical background; what was life like when the word was used? Logic; use common logical reasoning. Precedent; if the word is used one way in the past, why change it now? Unity; is the interpretation in sync with the rest of scripture? Inference; is the meaning a fact reasonably implied from another fact?

    The reason for denominations has as much to do with non-essentials as anything. I can worship in several different denominations and have done so. I’ve been a member of Bible, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, Brethren and non-denominational churches. They all hold to slightly different positions on different areas but I can fellowship with them. If I attend a Baptist church, I don’t have to believe that all Lutherans are wrong.

    The things pointed out by the author above have to do with essentials of the faith, not areas of polity and other non-essentials.

    I don’t know why you don’t like Creeds. The Nicene Creed is still used today and I don’t think a Baptist would have a problem with it. It is usually associated with the Council of Constantinople. This is the creed recited in churches. The council met to refute Apollinarianism. Apollinarius taught that Jesus was a combination of the divine Logos spirit, a sensitive human soul and a human body. He taught that Jesus did not have a human spirit. The council condemned this view in order to show that Christ, as truly human, could redeem the whole person.

    Nicene Creed –
    We believe in one God,
    the Father, the Almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all that is, seen and unseen.
    We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God,
    eternally begotten of the Father,
    God from God, light from light,
    true God from true God,
    begotten, not made,
    of one Being with the Father;
    through him all things were made.
    For us and for our salvation
    he came down from heaven,
    was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
    and became truly human.
    For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
    he suffered death and was buried.
    On the third day he rose again
    in accordance with the Scriptures;
    he ascended into heaven
    and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
    He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
    and his kingdom will have no end.

    We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
    who proceeds from the Father [and the Son],
    who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified,
    who has spoken through the prophets.
    We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
    We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
    We look for the resurrection of the dead,
    and the life of the world to come. Amen.

    The word “catholic” is with a small “c”, meaning universal, not the Catholic church. Where is the problem with this creed for a Baptist, or other denomination?

    • Dale says:

      I wasn’t attempting to give ‘a defense of MY view’ per se. I was only showing that the author doesn’t know what he’s talking about. UR does NOT teach the things he say’s they teach. UR agrees with you in that there IS a future judgment, there IS a personal devil, etc. I did elaborate a bit on a few points. Maybe you missed them?

      It’s not that you’re too stupid to get it. It’s that I’m so stupid that I thought it was sufficient for someone who agrees with the belief. Why should I see a need to give a reasonable argument when you agree that there IS a future judgment, etc.? I dunno… my bad.

      And you DON’T bring your convictions to the Bible? Yeah… right! Did you believe in “Hell” before you ever read the Bible?

      “…no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation” is talking about those who wrote the scriptures. It wasn’t of THEIR own interpretation. Keep reading through v. 21 “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the holy spirit.” You err if using those passages to support how to interpret scripture.

      I don’t have so much a problem with creeds as much as I have a problem with someone using a creed that I disagree with to show where I’m wrong.

      If you care to learn what UR really teaches (at least the version I believe in) then there’s a myriad of sites. I’d like to suggest Lots of good info.

  16. B.D says:

    I know this thread is old but, I just had to weigh in. I believe in universal reconciliation. I do believe in judgement as well. There is a lake of fire as documented in Revelation. But this book also talks about about locosts with scorpion stings tormenting people, I don’t claim to be an expert on Aramaic idiom(you shouldn’t either unless your name is George Lamsa). So what exactly this lake of fire will be comprised of I will leave to our heavenly father. It will probably anger a lot of biblical literalists but, the reason I believe in universal reconciliation is simple logic. I don’t believe a righteous God will torment people eternally for temporal crimes. Apart from that there is specious textual evidence to support such a view, unless your methodology of interpretation is through tradition (I call that lazy hermeneutics). Blessings to all I would that we could focus on beliefs we hold in common, may you be in health and peace.

  17. Loretta Sweeney says:

    THANK YOU for publishing this book!!! I just had to buy it after hearing what a GREAT Christian book it was. I even bought 2 copies so I could give one as a gift for Christmas! After reading about half of it, I closed it and didn’t intend to finish it, but I wanted to see just how INACCURATE and UNBIBLICAL it truly was. I praise God that you have written this. I threw away my books and told all my friends & relatives that it was a blasphamous book, reducing God, our creator….our Lord & Savior….to just a simple ‘Joe’!!! God help those who have read this book & believe it!! God bless you!!

    • Loretta Sweeney says:

      after re-reading my post, I don’t want any confusion. The book I refer to buying, reading half of, & throwing it away IS The Shack! Not your new book, Dr. DeYoung!! I look forward to reading your book. Just wanted to clear that up! God bless you!

    • MsLee says:

      Loretta” I agree with you. I too read it, and only finished it to see how unbiblical it was. My 83 year old Mother read it and agrees with me. It “perverts the Word” which is a description of what Satan does (Gen 3: 1-4)
      I was troubled when I heard a Church I recently attended was studying The Shack to gleen from it the positive pearls. I was shocked that they weren’t reading it to learn how to educate the unsaved who had read it and thought it was the way to attain salvation. Which is according to The Shack basically doing nothing. Don’t do anything because God loves you and will cleanse everyone so that none will perish. What a bunch of baloney! This is a very sinister book. This is a work of Satan. And that there are so many comments here is tribute to the insideous nature of this book (The Shack). Thank God for Men like DeYoung who calls attention to the wrongness of this book.

      • Loretta Sweeney says:

        MsLee, what a blessing to see that someone else sees the errors of this book. It is evil and so scripturally incorrect! Very sad to know that churches are actually teaching from it and leading poor souls down the path to hell by taking The Shack literally and thinking we can do nothing at all – or we can receive salvation from our works! I agree, and am truly thankful for men like DeYoung and others who set the record straight. We as Christians need to be on guard & warn people about this book (and so many others like it) and try to lead them down the only road to salvation…accepting, obeying, and trusting in our Savior, Jesus Christ. Good works can’t do it. There is only one way – and He is it! God bless you!

      • Brandon says:

        Nothing in the book suggests that at all. That is taking statements from the book out of context (which DeYoung does constantly by the way).

    • Brandon says:

      I would be interested in how you define the incarnation. Jesus became such a “simple Joe” that for 30 years no one even knew God was in their backyard.

  18. Dan Shumaker says:

    I heard your interview on Moody radio yesterday (6/2/10), about Burning Down the Shack, and appreciated very much your perspective and analysis. I haven’t read The Shack but I read a book by one of its co-authors, Wayne Jacobson: So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore. I don’t know about Universalism but he has a casual view of Scripture. I met him once in a group and heard him express irritation that so many people treat the Bible as “more important than God.” (Of course, that’s not the point; the Bible is our only source of truth about God and nothing we could ever experience will do more than confirm what we know about Him because of it. As such, we must hold it in high regard or anyone’s opinion is as good as another’s.) When some of us objected, he quickly diverted the discussion.

    Just as The Shack appealed to our God-given desire for genuine, personal intimacy with God and offered a placebo, So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore justly decries the social club atmosphere and self-perpetuating albeit well-intentioned activities that make up most of what we know as church today: we attend meetings, pay dues, pledge to keep the rules and promote its activities. To paraphrase the book, we are trapped in “doing” church instead of BEING the church in our daily lives, with each other and our neighbors – some very valid points. (As a result of reading this book, I am carefully and respectfully re-examining “church” as we know it, versus what the Bible actually says.) But as you said of The Shack, the focus in this book is on relationships to the neglect of their bases.

    The book is a novel about a pastor’s journey from being a high-functioning church staff member, with all the accolades and spent energy that go along with being a social club officer. He feels spiritually empty but he’s not ready to turn his back on the “sacred” but empty church life – until he meets a mysterious, nice guy named John who pops in and out of the story and guides the pastor in his journey. The book hints that John is the apostle, back to dispel myths about God and re-interpret Biblical passages. The pastor gradually sheds misconceptions and starts a home Bible study, free of the expectations of others about what church is or should be, content to grow in his relationship with God and others.

    My father died at a very difficult time in my life. I longed to ask him for advice but God is my Father, right? So why couldn’t I think of Him that way? My own father was kind, earnest and emotionally distant; my mother was a tyrant and bully. No whining: I understand why now. But I realized I had a schizophrenic image of God: nice but ineffectual, yet quick to slap me for misbehaving. In desperation, I vowed a cover-to-cover Bible study on a quest to know God as my Father. I sought emotional support from Him, something I couldn’t reconcile with my image of Him.

    So I began in Genesis but my study derailed in Exodus 34. In the middle of a discussion with God about His going or not going with His people, Moses asks, out of the blue, to see God’s face and to learn His ways. I think these are one question: “God, what are you LIKE?” Moses had interacted a lot with God but still had questions and clearly wanted to know God more personally and intimately; God graciously answers. As He passes by, He declares His name: Jehovah, “I Am,” the monograph that declares His eternal self-existence but also (to my Western mind) seems to begin a sentence that follows: “I Am… compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in loving-kindness, abounding in faithfulness, showing loving-kindness to thousands (of generations?), forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin – but I will punish the guilty and” [as I understand it] “permit the consequences of sin to trickle down and spread.”

    God chose this list of 9 character traits to describe Himself. This is what He wants us to know about Him. As I’ve dwelled on each one, I have begun to see that God is not the nice but austere and distant Being I saw in my mind’s eye, but the Loving Father Christ presented. Of the nine, the first 7 are “soft” and the last 2 seem “hard.” But the “hard” traits are also loving. It is no kindness for the guilty to go unpunished and God champions the cause of those hurt by the guilty. And permitting the consequences of sin is a kind of loving, “reality” discipline, from which we can all learn, and it also testifies to the legitimacy of our freedom to choose, even if we choose against God.

    So all 9 traits describe God’s love. Let us not say, “God is love, but…” Let’s define His love the way He did. He is not schizophrenic, with two conflicting, internal voices of love and justice constantly vying for the upper hand, with one over-ruling the other depending on the circumstances. He is not loving some of the time and just the rest of the time; God = Love. Let’s learn what that means, in His own terms, and we will draw closer to an understanding of just what kind of Father God is.

    Maybe I’ll resume my study some day but 2,500 years ago God gave us the answer I sought; “Moses, I’m like this…”

    • Brandon says:

      You make the Bible sound like the third member of the Trinity. I would say that God is the only source of truth about God. I would say that Jesus is the only source of truth about God. After all, didn’t Jesus Himself say that He was the “way, the TRUTH, the life”? The Bible is the inspired breath of God of that truth. The Bible is the menu, Jesus is the meal.

  19. William Bissell says:

    Hello Dr. James, In May ’07’ I wrote a book called “The Eden Endeavor” and in May ’09’ I wrote the sequel “The Angelic Agenda”. Sometime after, I was given and read the Shack. Needless to say, I was VERY dissappointed with the shack. Upon reading it I was thrown off by the characterizations of the our Lord God. The characters were very thin and I always found myself unsure what the diolgue meant? The conversations always seemed to be either completely unimaginative or out of this world odd. I found very little biblical basis other than some quotes that didn’t much fit. And the way he developed these strange places was as if he had always been on acid? I was extremely pleased with my finished product by comparision, as the depth and imaginaton was by far more biblically based and Masculine. I cloned Jesus, so that a group could find the anomally that made him different than mankind. If they can find a difference between his DNA and ours(Chimp DNA is 99.8% to human)they may be able to create a serum, innoculate us, remove origional sin and rebuild Eden. Will God the Father be pleased, is this something He would wish man to do? Or will He be completely enraged with our attempt to find divinity? I utilize quite a few biblical theories and retell some of the stories of the Christ. Even though I always twist and turn the readers memory and make people think. The Shack was a disaster, unfortunately. I was anticipating SO much better.

    • Brandon says:

      Nice plug for your book! :) I am sure “cloning Jesus” is much more biblical than what is in the Shack.

      • William Bissell says:

        That’s book(s) as in two. But no kidding. My books are masculine and NOT weird? My diologe makes sense and my ‘Adam’ is a man of Honor, is truely the Second Son of God and is NOT unimaginative. They are fiction so yes, I took liberties. But I was(biblically)consistant with the characters and asked and Answered many questions we all pose. The Shack was very afeminiate and the interaction with the Trinity was extremely strange. The Jesus character hardly spoke and wore carpenters farmer-jeans. Ghee whiz, really?? While I get into cloning/genetics/chemistry/ history/scripture/miracles/Lucifer/ Demons/martial arts/Budhism/Taoism/ Evil/Sin/forgiveness and on… My books ARE very interesting and answer questions. Thanks for caring…

  20. Dave Williamson says:

    I’m hoping you will be monitoring these responses, Dr. Young. I am involved with a ministry that both debunks quazi-christian groups and also clarifies christian doctrine and “makes straight” beliefs skewed by worldly philosophies. I would like to talk with you further about being a guest writer or another kind of involvement. Please get back to me. Thank you.

    Dave Williamson

  21. June Osterholm says:

    Simply stated, The Shack is a novel. That is all it is… nothing more. Professional jealousy is unattractive. Written by the daughter of a Scottish Presbyterian elder and member of a conservative Methodist congregation.

  22. Guy L W Hardy says:

    I salute your intent and efforts, but I cannot help but feel that those who turn to books other than The Bible for the underpinning of their beliefs are not going to be helped by any book but The Bible in their recovery from whatever error the other book leads them into.

    Matthew 16:4.

    May God bless you with His grace and peace.

  23. William Bissell says:

    I think its Marvelous that Mr.Young sold so many books. As I thought it just Great that Mr.Brown sold so many De’Code. It just goes to show, people are thirsty for religious novels. Unfortunately, they will read anything that’s a rip-off of someone else’s work(Holy Blood, Holy Grail) or the unimaginative, spine-less Shack. “In my opinion” I did not like it, so what. But as I look forward to other giving me critiquing, I think I can give it out as well. Mr.Young is supposed to be a biblical expert. Who would know with this work. I am so looking forward to exposing “The Eden Endeavor” & “The Angelic Agenda” to critics were I to sell so promenately. Perhaps Mr.Young and Mr.Brown were just as shocked with their numbers as some of us? Thank you, William Bissell

  24. David Foster says:

    I’d like to be kept abreast of plans (or possibilities) to publish your book Burning Down the Shack in Africa. Some book store managers whom I know in RSA have shown an interest in ordering it… There are questions re copywrite that I’d like to discuss with you. Would you pls get back to me on this or put me in touch with the appropriate person to deal with
    these kinds of questions(WND??).

  25. […] what I’ve read about it. I’m basing my views on the “orthodox” criticisms of this book. From the link: For those who are unaware, it is critical to realize that […]

  26. Brandon says:

    Just as an aside, I have asked DeYoung to provide this “evidence” he uses in the book (e.g., the 103-page paper). DeYoung refuses. I find it interesting that he finds it ethically ok to write a book about his friend but refuses to provide the evidence to back up his claim. Sounds fishy to me.

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