by Candace Malcomson
LITERARY WARNING – a number one best selling ‘Christian’ Novel has taken the Christian world by storm. The book is:
The Shack by Wm Paul Young
Since it was published by the Author and his collaborators in 2007, the novel, “The Shack” has become the #1 New York Times Bestseller and may be found on the ‘number one’ shelf of most Christian bookshops around the globe today. Written as an allegory, it has been hailed by Eugene Peterson (translator of The Message Bible) as the Pilgrim’s Progress of our generation. Brothers and Sisters, The Shack is sadly the Pilgrim’s Retrogress of our generation. Please read on...
The Story in Brief
Without his wife Nan, Mack takes his 3 youngest children on a camping trip and whilst averting a canoeing tragedy involving the two older children, his cute, youngest, ‘Missy’ is abducted from the campsite. Although her body is not found, Missy’s bloodstained sundress is, in a shack set deep in the mountains. Hurt and angry with God, Mack lives daily with what he calls The Great Sadness. He is shocked then when a few years later he finds a note in his post box written, posted and signed by ‘Papa’ – his wife’s personal term of endearment for God - inviting Mack to return to the shack to meet with Him.
Conveniently Nan heads away for the weekend and Mack borrows a friend’s jeep for the rough winter journey. Armed with gun at his friend’s recommendation, Mack heads up nervously to the Shack. Initially Mack finds the run-down shack much the same as before; the blood stain where his daughter’s dress was found now slightly faded. With all the pent up anger and hurt of the years, Mack lashes out at God verbally and violently and confronts thoughts of suicide. He falls asleep briefly only to be woken by the freezing cold and decides to head home. A few steps away from the shack he feels a warm breeze and in the process of 30 seconds, the landscape melts and breaks in to a beautiful Spring day. Mack is drawn back to the Shack and there meets with the ‘Trinity’. First to introduce ‘herself’ is God, “Papa” in the form of a hearty, warm black woman who likes to be called Elouisa. Then Middle-Eastern Jesus in plaid shirt and jeans greets Mack and before long a spritely young Asian woman dances around Mack, collecting his tears with a brush and introduces herself as Sarayu, personification of the Holy Spirit.
What ensues is a ‘spiritual-emotional journey’ for Mack from hurt and confusion to revelation of the love of God. Mack is healed of his hurt from his abusive father and from the loss of his daughter. He had battled with the question: how can a good God allow a child (him) to have a cruel father and how can a good God allow such a tragedy as Missy’s murder. Led one by one by the personified trinity and a fourth person – personified Wisdom - Mack is taught by ‘God’ who ‘they’ are, what ‘they’ are and why ‘they’ are. God leads Mack through a confrontation with his hurt from his father and breaks every preconception that Mack has of rules, freedom and who God is. Jesus levels with Mack and he is led to where Missy’s body was left by the serial killer. The Holy Spirit, Sarayu helps Mack to gradually weed and plant up the garden of his heart. By the end of the weekend Mack arrives to a place of peace with God.
On his return home Mack is involved in a serious car accident but lives to share the tale of his supernatural encounter with his wife and loved ones. But what does Mack really learn? How does first-time author Wm Paul Young portray God and why should every Believer be warned of this seemingly harmless novel? Indeed, many testify to the healing, grace and love they find in this book so why now a stern warning to Brethren to avoid the book and cease its propagation?
THE PERSONIFICATIONS – Eastern Mysticism and New Age Religions
Popular Christianity and the Emerging Church movement like to use phrases such as ‘paradigm shift’, ‘challenging our comfort zones’ ‘shaking perceptions’ as explanations for different doctrines, strange manifestations or new theological angles present in the church today. The Shack is so full of so many new age philosophies which sound good but which are really serious deceptions of the devil. It may help some through a time of pain, but the devil knows that he can plant his seeds of error mixed up with truth by seemingly meeting people's needs.
Author Paul Young, presents Mack as a man who has been ‘churched’ in the past, has even been to seminary but who experiences several paradigm shifts throughout his weekend at the shack. The first of these paradigm shifts is the appearance of the black lady “Papa”, the person God or Elouisa. Later once Mack has worked through his bitterness against his own father and has accepted God for who she is, she becomes ‘he’ - a Gandalf father figure. It has been pointed out by a number concerned about this novel that the presentation of God as a black lady alludes to the ‘Black Madonna’. Read Reverend Dr Matthew Fox's article on the Black Madonna, available on his website; the coincidences are too close. Do a little research on the Cult of Sara, and the picture becomes clear. Interestingly Young acknowledges his gratitude to new age teachers such as Anne Lamott who is best known for her book, Travelling Mercies, and she resonates with Oprah Winfrey’s New Age meditation author, Elizabeth Gilbert.
Cults aside, is it not enough that Scripture says that God is our Father and Christ himself instructs us to pray “Our Father who art in Heaven…”? Moreover, the God of our Bible is Holy. Paul Young gives Elouisa-God, the following words to Mack: (pg. 88 par 1) “Well, Mackenzie, don’t just stand there gawkin’ with your mouth open like your pants are full,” – this hardly needs a comment in the light of our Holy, Majestic, Almighty God. Pg. 98 God says to Mack “Mackenzie, I am what some would say ‘holy, and wholly other than you.’ No, Mr Young, the Bible says God is Holy; God says of Himself repeatedly “I am Holy” It is no surprise that Young has God enjoying funk music, dancing and swaying her hips to the beat in so doing Young can rubber stamp yet another popular new doctrine: the musical genre is irrelevant if there is ‘a message’.
Jesus is represented as a hard-working carpenter – your Mr Average with his plaid shirt sleeves rolled up revealing muscular arms. Jesus as our ‘chum’; Jesus as ‘one of the lads’; Jesus as whatever you wish to make him; seems harmless, you say. It reminds one of the time that wicked king Ahaz took away the stand and put the brazen altar (representing God’s Word: Christ) down on the ground. “Let’s bring Christ down to our level” – a noble intent? No friend, a seeker-friendly sacrilege. Jesus also tells Mack that he should not feel obliged to go in and talk to God “Go because it’s what you want to do.” (pg 89 par 5) Well, if we all speak to God when we want to/feel like it, the heavens would be much quieter! What about “Men ought always to pray and not to faint” (Luke 18:1) Oh that Paul Young would read Paul the Apostle in the seventh chapter of his letter to the Romans: Rom 7:15 – 7:25 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
The Holy Spirit - Sarayu: It is not uncommon to find that the Holy Spirit is portrayed as some mystical 3rd person and in The Shack, Sarayu, whose name is derived from an ancient Indian holy river, may be found frequently levitating and mysteriously disappearing (“Sarayu seemed to have just evaporated.” Pg 88 par 3) and re-appearing. The Holy Spirit of the Bible is most certainly not mysterious but confirms who God is, reveals His word and always leads us to Christ. Whether represented by the finger of God as in the Old Testament or as wind and fire in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit always reveals Christ. There is no mystery to knowing who God is as Scripture is clear. God the Father, through God the Holy Ghost, displays God the son, through a vehicle called the church. (B.H.Clendennen)
Throughout Mack’s interaction with the Godhead, the three essential ‘S’s are glaringly absent; Sin, Salvation and Sanctification. Elouisa (God) refers to Adam ‘messing up’ and does talk about man’s need to be reconciled to ‘them’ but the subject and essence of man’s sinful nature, his need for the saving blood of Calvary and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit are utterly misrepresented. Pg 224 God refers to Mack’s daughter’s murderer in the following: “But he too is my son. I want to redeem him.” No Mr Young. An unrepentant murderer is not God’s son, until he repents and is saved. Pg 227, Mack is told to pray for the murderer’s ‘wholeness’ so that “my love will burn from his life every vestige of corruption”. Mr Young, I pray that God will consume all the corruption of this message. Again, the murderer needs to be saved; needs to repent and be born again.
Pg. 92 “Life takes a bit of time and a lot of relationship” No Mr Young. Life in Christ Jesus takes a whole life laid down, a life lost in order that we might gain His life that He might have the pre-eminence, for he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.
Pages 122 and 123, Mack is told by Jesus, that hierarchies, organization, and law or regulations get in the way of relationship. Mr. Young, the law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.
Pg. 203 “In Jesus you are not under any law. All things are lawful.” Mr Young, you had best take the book of Romans out of your Bible!
Pg. 235 “Every time you forgive, the universe changes; every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes;...” No Mr Young, only Jesus Christ changes lives, only the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto Salvation and therefore only the gospel of Jesus Christ can change the world.
Mr Young essentially denies the Divinity of Christ. He believes that Jesus was only man in his birth, death and is now still man in his resurrected state. Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace
Sadly we may take pains to teach our children that Darwin was deluded when it comes to the age of the planet whilst evolution is promulgated in the church at large today. Phew - what a sweeping statement! Qualified: The church practises psychological evolution; which means salvation evolution, which means that we seldom see life changing testimonies of a ‘man meets Christ’. Whether murderer or monk, a man is transformed at Calvary. Because such a vast number of folk who occupy pews on Sundays have not repented, which means they have not turned from their sins; they do not have an amended life, a changed life; they are not truly born-again; born of the incorruptible seed; born of above and not below, these folk are in fact tares and programmes need to be implemented to make tares evolve to look like wheat. Hence: Christian counselling.
What the godhead says and does in The Shack is largely based on popular ‘Christian psychology’ The bottom line of such counselling is that one must return to the point(s) of pain through talking through the history, events and reasons for one’s hurt; one must revisit and re-experience and then face the hurts in an effort to forgive and heal. But Scripture says:Phil 3:13- 15 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
Frequently if not almost always a parental figure usually the father is to blame for the hurt and reason for man’s inability to have a relationship with a heavenly father. (pg 91 par 6) God says to Mack: “Or, maybe it’s because of the failures of your own papa?” I hope Jesus does not battle to have a relationship with God the Father because Joseph was in absentia at his first miracle and at his death (at the cross)! It is easier to tell a man that he beats his wife because his father whipped him as a child, than telling that same man to repent, walk with God and love his wife as God instructs in His Word. It is easier to see an adulterous woman enrol in a counselling course so that she may work through the hurt inflicted by her adulterous father than tell her that she needs to be born again and will be a new creature in Christ. Her real conflict is not with a spirit of un-forgiveness but her own self indulgence. Ultimately counselling is man-centred and man glorifying as the counsellor and oneself leads oneself out of the mire which is one’s hurt and past.
Friends, Christ’s work at the Cross was complete and is enough. How can we explain that brethren in the persecuted churches all over the world whether they grow up with perfect parents or faithless fathers all love and know God the Father without counselling? Christian counselling is one of the great end-time distractions. Satan would like nothing more than if every believer had to sit and talk about himself or herself and look in on his/her own heart for then we would truly be inspired to wickedness! The Bible says (Jer 17:9) “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
Pg 93 par 2 God speaking “I often find that getting head issues out of the way first makes the heart stuff easier to work on later...when you’re ready” Here Young raises a popular thought that the heart is separated from the head. Times without number sinful actions are excused by the “well we do not know what is or was in his heart?” Well according to the scripture from Jeremiah 17 above we DO know what is in the heart. Now FACT: the Greek word heart in the New Testament by Christ is kardia which means thoughts and feelings. Thoughts and feelings – inseparable. Selah.
Pg 95 “...freedom is an incremental process.” But Scripture says, Whom the son sets/makes free is free indeed (John 8:36) That word indeed means: really: - certainly, clean, indeed, of a truth, verily.
Folk who support this novel should realize that they are breaking the second commandment as they are making a god of their own imagination. Folk who dismiss Mr Young's work as fiction would be the same as passing the devil off as a work of fiction. And if it is purely fiction why does it claim to do for the Christian what Pilgrim's Progress still does even today. Mr Young originally wrote this story as an allegory to illustrate to his children who and what God is. It is my sincere prayer that Mr Young’s children lay aside this fiction and seek God with all their hearts through His written Word to know Him.