There Are Better Books (Than “The Shack”)

This is (yet another) blog post about The Shack, by Wm. Paul Young. The Canadian in me wants to apologize immediately and get back to smiling, but that wouldn’t be quite honest. So I’ll just say I wish posts like this never had to be written.

(Before you scroll on: I promise to end this post on a positive and constructive note! And I will need your help to make it even more positive.)

[Update: Actually, this post is more a review of the theology of the original author of The Shack than a review of the book itself. As I understand it, pastors Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings helped shape the manuscript of The Shack, so that Young’s theology was not so fully expressed there. (There have even been lawsuits about who all should be named as authors.) Please bear these facts in mind as you read the rest of my post.]

What I’m Not Saying and Why I’m Writing

As debates about The Shack have escalated to a near frenzy online in recent weeks, I have been trying for the most part to hold my tongue about Young. I don’t like conflict, especially between Christians. I don’t like putting myself in a place where I’ll almost certainly receive some criticism. I don’t think reviewing controversial books or evaluating complex topics (such as God’s gender) are usually done best in Facebook text bites. Doing it in blogs is hard enough. And I want this blog to usually focus on more foundational matters than the latest hot topic—Bible reading skills and theological understandings that prepare us to navigate multiple topics as they come along.

But “this website exists to build up the Church of Jesus Christ by helping her listen carefully to the Scriptures,” and it seems to me that too many of my fellow Christians are following someone who is neither building up the Church nor listening carefully to the Scriptures. So, I’d like to shine the light of the Scriptures on a few corners of The Shack.

Before I continue, though, please hear me when I say that I nearly tremble to share this post. I realize there are some readers who feel they have (and may indeed have) found great help in Young’s writings. Some of these readers, like Young, have experienced terrible abuse and great suffering of spirit. They have found solace in Young’s depiction of God’s great love. I tremble lest my words reopen wounds or sound like a callous diminution of God’s tender love. I tremble lest, in noting the imperfections of the arm upon which some are leaning, I am the occasion for someone falling without hope of any arm upon which to lean.

If, perhaps, I may be describing you, let me assure you: There are better books than this one, and God’s love is even richer than Young describes it to be, for it reaches even lower than he imagines.

I also tremble lest my words of caution drive some even more devotedly after Young.

But, imperfect as I am, and imperfect as this post will be, I will carry on.

I have some words of firm rebuke to say later, so I want to first clearly say several things I’m not saying:

  • I am most certainly not calling any fan of The Shack a heretic. Enjoying an imperfect book does not make someone a heretic. Even believing untruths about God does not automatically make one a heretic.
  • I am not denying that The Shack contains many beautiful truths, that many find it to be an engaging story, or even that God has used it to help some people learn more about himself.
  • I don’t agree with every criticism that is being leveled against The Shack or its author.
  • I’m not interested in attacking Young as a person, belittling the suffering he has experienced, or making statements about his standing before God.
  • I am not telling you whether you should or should not either read or watch The Shack. Sometime after the novel came out and controversy first swirled around it, I read it. I don’t regret doing so.

What did I think of it? I enjoyed maybe 80% of it. It was a rare “light” read for me (I usually read non-fiction biblical studies books), and much about the plot and characters was engaging. But I also read it with an eye open to test what it was teaching–for it was written with the intent to teach, right? I’m glad I read it, but my copy ended up full of sticky notes where I sensed that something didn’t seem to be lining up with Scripture. Here’s my copy:

Orange means “caution.”

What nudged me to write this post was a chance today to scan another book by Young. As I was servicing a Choice Books rack at a Walmart this morning, I noticed Young’s book Lies We Believe about God on a nearby rack. I had already heard of the book, but had never seen it.

Unlike The Shack, Lies We Believe about God is (or at least is intended to be) non-fiction. Here Young clearly states the set of beliefs he was trying to teach us through his earlier novel. (I understand the novel was first written for Young’s children, then later published for mass readership. But, as Young shows in his new book, The Shack was indeed intended to portray and teach theological truths.) This new book contains multiple short chapters, with each chapter title being a “lie” he aims to prove false.

I took time to scan parts of five or six chapters, and snapped photos of a few pages to help me share excerpts here. (A fuzzy “dumb phone” camera partially frustrated my purposes, but Amazon preview came to the rescue.) I’ll share some excerpts, then comment.

Problems with Young’s Theology:

Near the end of the chapter entitled “Sin Separates Us from God”—one of Young’s “lies”—we read this:

If separation is a lie, does it mean that no one has ever been separated from God? That is exactly what it means. Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).

Jesus did not come to build a bridge back to God or to offer the possibility of getting unseparated. One of the multifaceted purposes of the incarnation of Jesus is that we who are lost in the delusion of separation can witness a human life who knows He is not.

There is “nothing” outside God. There is only God, and Creation is created “in” God; and according to John 1, Creation is specifically created “inside” Jesus, the Word who is God (see verses 3-4). (p. 232)

As I compare with Scripture, I see multiple problems with these paragraphs. Here are several:

  • Young is teaching universalism. (This will become explicit later.) Normally, universalism is the belief that God will ultimately save everyone, so that no one will spend eternity estranged from God. Young’s version of universalism is even more radical: He believes that already now no one is separated from God.
  • Young’s language about being “lost in the delusion of separation” sounds more like Hinduism than Christianity. And his solution sounds more like Hinduism’s enlightenment than Christianity’s salvation. [I originally compared Young’s thought to Bhuddism rather than Hinduism, but a reader suggested, correctly I think, that Hinduism is a closer comparison.]
  • Young’s biblical foundation is very shaky.

More on this last point. First, Young twists Scripture to make his point. Romans 8 is not denying that sin separates us from God. It is written about Christians who have already been freed from the penalty (Romans 3-5) and power (Romans 6-8) of sin, and it is assuring them that those who are already elect and justified cannot be separated from God’s love by any external threat. Romans is clear that apart from Christ every person is an “enemy” of God who needs to be “reconciled” to him (Rom. 5:10)—a reality only experienced by those who pursue righteousness by faith in Christ (Rom. 3:21-25; 9:30-32). It is the Spirit who bears witness that we are children of God, and “anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Rom. 8:9 ESV).

Young likewise uses John 1 in a suspect manner, both building theology on a questionable translation of a Greek preposition (“inside”) and also stretching a passage about the Son’s role as divine Creator to say something unsuggested in its original context—that if everything was created “inside” Christ/God then nothing can be estranged from God. We don’t have to read much further in John 1 to know Young’s interpretation is wrong, for we soon read that Jesus own people “did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (1 John 1:11-12 ESV). The clear message here is that (a) not all are children of God and (b) those who are, became such—they were not children of God prior to receiving Christ and believing in his name. This is not universalism!

Second, the excerpts above are the only scriptures that Young cites in his entire chapter on the “lie” that “sin separates us from God”! That is the only biblical evidence he provides as he attempts to overturn a standard Christian teaching. The rest of the chapter is just his own theological musings.

Here is only one of many other Bible passages that Young might have considered:

Behold, the Lord‘s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
    or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
but your iniquities have made a separation
    between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
    so that he does not hear. (Is. 59:1-3 ESV)

In the same chapter Young discusses the definition of “sin”:

The Greek word often translated into English as “sin” is hamartia. A moralist will tell you that the word means “missing the mark” and then go on to explain that the mark is “moral perfection” or “right behavior” and once again we are back on the performance hamster wheel. But if the essence of God’s nature is relationship, then sin must be defined and understood as missing a relational reality, a distortion of the image of God in us.

Hamartia is made up of two parts: ha- (an aspirated alpha), which is a negation (like un- or dis-), and -martia, from the Greek word meros, which means “form, origin, or being.” The fundamental meaning is “negation of origin or being” or “formlessness.” Yes, it is about missing the mark, but the mark is not perfect moral behavior. The “mark” is the Truth of your being.

…Sin, then, is anything that negates or diminishes or misrepresents the truth of who you are, no matter how pretty or ugly that is. Behavior becomes either an authentic way of expressing the truth of your good creation or an effort to cover up (performance behavior) the shame of what you think of yourself (worthlessness).

And what does the truth of your being look like? You are made in the image of God, and the truth of your being looks like God.

You are patient.
You are kind.
You are good.
You are humble.
You are forgiving.
You are a truth teller.
You are… [many more]… pure of heart…

And so on.

These are all expressions of the truth of our being.

Difficult to believe, right?

I think that is the point. (pp. 229-230)

I see several problems with this passage. First, there are several problems with his discussion of the definition of hamartia:

  • He cites the definition a “moralist” might give to hamartia, but never cites any standard Greek dictionary. This sets up somewhat of a straw man argument, or at least misses the opportunity to check his understandings against what experienced Greek students have concluded. For example, Mounce notes that hamartia “typically refers to the transgression of the law” and that “thus, hamartia is used to denote our sin against God” (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words). Note Mounce’s observation that sin is not merely about missing some abstract “moral perfection” or “right behavior,” but about transgressing God’s law—thus making sin a relational matter (as Young claims) but a matter of our relationship to God (not to ourselves, as Young suggests).
  • Young commits what linguists call a “etymological fallacy” when he defines sin based on its word components. What does “butterfly” mean? Don’t try to define it by dividing it into “butter” and “fly”! True, many words won’t lead you quite so far astray if you divide them into parts to define them. But the dependable way to get a working definition for any word is to see how it is used in real life. Hence Mounce’s approach above, when he says that hamartia “is used to denote” such and such.
  • Young then makes a leap from his etymologically-derived definition to assume that “the mark is the Truth of your being.” Why not (assuming for the moment his definition) say that “the mark is the truth of God’s being”?
  • Young says that “the essence of God’s nature is relationship.” I don’t deny that relationship is essential to God’s nature. But I also recall that the God of the Bible never says “I am relationship.” Nor is he ever praised as “Relationship, relationship, relationship!” But there are many places where he declares “I am holy,” and multiple places where he is praised as “Holy, holy, holy.” Surely holiness is essential to God’s nature. Why does Young not consider this in his understanding of sin?

This thought flow leads to a definition of sin that doesn’t seem  anything Iike the standard concept of sin in the Bible: “Sin, then, is anything that negates or diminishes or misrepresents the truth of who you are…” If I am reading Young correctly here, it seems that he believes sin is essentially inauthenticity.  And if you understand yourself correctly, you will know you are good. So sin is to disbelieve one’s own goodness.

I’ll include one more extended excerpt from Young’s recent book, from a chapter about the “lie” that “You Need to Get Saved.” I’ll add bold font to some clauses and mostly let Young speak for himself:

So what is the Good News? What is the Gospel?

The Good News is not that Jesus has opened up the possibility of salvation and you have been invited to receive Jesus into your life. The Gospel is that Jesus has already included you into His life, into His relationship with God the Father, and into His anointing in the Holy Spirit. The Good News is that Jesus did this without your vote, and whether you believe it or not won’t make it any less or more true.

What or who saves me? Either God did in Jesus, or I save myself. If, in any way, I participate in the completed act of salvation accomplished in Jesus, then my part is what actually saves me. Saving faith is not our faith, but the faith of Jesus.

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 am saying!

This is real good news! It has been blowing people’s minds for centuries now. So much so that we often overcomplicate it and get it wrong. Here’s the truth: 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 (John 12: 32). Jesus is the Savior of all humankind, especially believers (1 Timothy 4: 10). Further, every single human being is in Christ (John 1: 3), and Christ is in them, and Christ is in the Father (John 14: 20). When Christ—the Creator in whom the cosmos was created—died, we all died. When Christ rose, we rose (2 Corinthians 5)…

We don’t offer anyone what has already been given; we simply celebrate the Good News with each one: we have all been included. (pp. 117-120, emphasis added)

Young is clear enough that his words need little explanation here: He believes in universalism—that all people are already saved, apart from anything (including even faith) on their part.

Young says that this truth “has been blowing people’s minds for centuries now.” What he does not mention is that universalism has also been considered a heresy for centuries now.

Here, for example, is the assessment of Roger Olson—someone who is actually probably more open to the possibility of universalism than I would be:

Strictly historically speaking, any universalism is heresy–according to all major branches of Christianity.

Olson suggests that not all forms of universalism are as dangerous as others. Which kinds are most dangerous?

I think universalism is a minor heresy SO LONG AS it does not interfere with evangelism…  I also evaluate the seriousness of universalism by its context–viz., why does the person affirm it?  If universalism is evidence of a denial of God’s wrath and/or human sinfulness, then it is much more serious.

Given Young’s redefinition of sin (and of God’s wrath in other parts of this book), I suggest that his version of universalism is no small heresy.

I do not know Young. I do not know his intentions. I do not aim to make a judgment call on his salvation. I sincerely hope he is my brother in Christ. Again, listen to Olson:

[Universalism] is unbiblical and illogical.  However, that does not mean a person who holds it is not a Christian.  I have never met a Christian who was one hundred percent theologically correct.  Scratch hard enough and you’ll always find some heresy beneath the surface (if not on the surface).  That’s true for me as much as for anyone else.

However, the unfortunate truth remains: Young’s books promote the heresy of universalism—a heresy that reaches near to the core of our understanding of the gospel. Many of us sensed such problems in The Shack; they are now evident to all with eyes to see in Lies We Believe About God.

In addition, our brief discussion of only a few pages of his recent book revealed the following problems:

  • Young radically redefines sin in unbiblical ways.
  • He does not follow standard lexical methods for defining biblical words.
  • He uses relatively little Scripture, takes it out of context when he does use it, and overlooks passages that contradiction his assertions.

Sadly, what Young does not seem to realize is that his attempts to emphasize God’s love (by promoting universalism and its supporting doctrines) actually produce an anemic vision of God’s love. By downplaying the horror of sin’s afront to God’s holiness, God’s offer of love to sinful humanity is also diminished.

I understand that people such as Young who have suffered terribly often struggle to feel God’s love. I do not want to belittle this struggle in any way. I, too, have tasted of it, though I will not compare myself with others. I do suggest, however, that the answer to our desperate sense of distance from God is not to deny that distance via a universalism that strips the cross of its awesome incongruity, but to acknowledge the immensity of the gulf that God has spanned at immeasurable cost on our behalf. In denying that gulf, Young unwittingly diminishes our vision of God’s love.

Better Books

As I left Walmart and reflected on Young’s writings, one thought grew uppermost in my mind: “There are better books!”

With all the great Christian literature out there, why should The Shack float to the top?

I freely affirm that there are valid concerns that lead people to books such as The Shack. Many of us have experienced terrible injustices and abuses. Many of us have been hurt by our churches. Most of us have stood in urgent need of a fresh vision of God’s love and grace!

But why turn to The Shack as the best answer to these needs? Yes, Young writes with great authenticity (a virtue which is opposite of his definition of sin, after all). But many other writers have also written with authenticity. And authenticity is not the same thing as truth. Why do some of us seem to value authenticity more than truth? Without truth, there is no real life—no eternal life. Why not seek and promote books that speak healing and grace and love—and truth!

This is where I need your help. If you share any of my concerns about our need for fresh, healing visions of God’s love and grace, if you share any of my experience of being hurt (once or repeatedly) by the church, and if you also share any of my concerns about the false teachings found in Young’s writings, then please do us all a favor:

Share in the comments below the name of a book or two that you would suggest instead of The Shack.

Pointing out false teaching is unfortunately essential work at times. But merely pointing out the false does not bring life to anyone. Help us out! What books would you suggest to someone who is wrestling with suffering, abuse, pain, distance from God, hurt by the church, or other major heart tragedies? Which books have helped you?

Let me begin by listing several:

  • Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan. Eugene Peterson suggested that The Shack could do for our generation what Pilgrim’s Progress did for Bunyan’s. Actually, Pilgrim’s Progress served many generations well. Why not read an updated version today?
  • Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church, by Philip Yancey. This one was helpful to me in my early twenties. Yancey recounts his “horror story” about his church experience, then mini bios of  many saints past and present whose lives renews his own faith.
  • Speaking of Yancey, he has written many good books on suffering and wrestling with God, as well as an influential book on grace: What’s So Amazing About Grace? [Note: I originally called this a “great” book, but I amended my endorsement after someone emailed me with a concern about the book. I confess I have not read this book, but shared it based on earlier positive feedback I’ve heard and my experience with Yancey’s other books.]
  • When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty, by Joni Eareckson Tada and Steven Estes. (This one was recommended as an exceptional read to me several years ago by Clifford Schrock of Sharon Mennonite Bible Institute. Tada has a new one that may be even better.)
  • The Gospel According to Job: An Honest Look at Pain and Doubt from the Life of One Who Lost Everything, by Mike Mason. Mason’s book on marriage is the only marriage book that my wife and I have both deeply enjoyed. I gave this book on Job to my friend Lowell Herschberger, and I think I’ve seen him reference it multiple times since.

Those are a few. My list is tilted toward nonfiction. Try Les Miserable or some Dostoyevsky for some tested fiction that wrestles deeply with tragedy and grace.

What can you add to this list? Please suggest a helpful book in the comments below. And again… if you think I’ve been overly critical of Young and The Shack, I sincerely hope we can still be friends. God’s love can cover a multitude of sins, including my own.

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26 thoughts on “There Are Better Books (Than “The Shack”)”

  1. Gentle, yet powerful, review. Thanks, Dwight. Three books that I have found helpful is A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser, Finding God by Larry Crabb, and As We Forgive by Catherine Claire Larson.

    1. Thank you, Asher. Yes, Jerry Sittser is good–I haven’t read that one of his books, but have heard it plugged before. And Finding God was helpful for me way back in the day. 🙂 The third one is new to me.

      Thanks again!

      1. As We Forgive is actually more of a documentary of the reintegration of the Hutu’s into Rawanda after the genocide. It wrestles deeply with the process of forgiveness and reconciliation after being brutally violated and abused. I think we from the West have a lot to learn about forgiveness from those in Rawanda. Our grief (and healing) tends to be so “me” centered.

        1. That sounds powerful, Asher. I haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard other reports of the sort of forgiveness and reconciliation that happened there. Our justice/retribution preoccupied western approach to crime has definite weaknesses, both pragmatically and definitely in light of Jesus.

  2. I have to admit that in my deepest distress, nothing comforts me quite like the Bible. I’ll often turn to the Psalms or some favorite passages in Isaiah, though I find my soul restored through other Scriptures, too! God speaking through Romans healed some very painful places for me. But. You were asking about other books. 🙂 I like Ravi Zacharias’s Cries of the Heart, many of CS Lewis’s books, Elisabeth Elliot’s These Strange Ashes, and I’m sure there are many more I’m not thinking of right now!

    1. Rosina, I am nothing but thrilled that you first turn to the Bible! That is indeed how it should be. Job, Lamentations, Romans 8, many Psalms—riches so often overlooked on the way to something “more” ____.

      Thanks for mentioning the other books, too. I’ve read a lot of Lewis, a little of Zacharias (not that one), and yes, after I posted my blog I thought of Elliot, too–a refreshingly candid but unwaveringly faith-full voice that was helpful especially during my single years. Thank you!

  3. Thanks for your thoughtful, yet respectful review. And for giving us quality replacements. I love to reread favorite books (from Elisabeth Elliot to the Psalms) and be reminded of times when those passages spoke deeply to a need in my life.

    Some of the most encouraging books I’ve read have been those who tell the stories of believers. Books like The Hiding Place, If I Perish, and biographies of people like Adoniram Judson and Amy Carmichael have been soul-sustaining on hard days.

    1. Thanks, Gina. I know my wife has read some Amy Charmichael, and Christian biographies are one of the most upbuilding literary forms, in my opinion. I appreciate your suggestions.

  4. When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayer by Jerry Sittser …I have a whole list of favourites , some already mentioned by others, but this is one I keep coming back to again and again .

  5. Wow, this was a great read. I read The Shack and found it refreshing, though I read it knowing that it was a work of fiction. Was not aware of the other book by him but I really appreciate your thoughts on it. I like any Max Lucado book. “When the Angels were Silent” is a favourite.

  6. thank you for your response to this book! I appreciate the tone of humility. Righting wrongs with arrogance never fixes a problem and I had begun to tune out some of these discussions because I was sensing (perhaps mistakenly) that attitude.

    The book ‘Safely Home’ by Randy Alcorn, was pivotal in my desperate struggle to answer the questions my heartache left me with. It brings the reader to a crisis point that one cannot easily avoid. Somehow, that was so helpful in grappling with my burdens.

  7. I deeply appreciate the gentleness and humility you wrote this with. The Shack brought me to deep conviction when I read about the chair of judging God, and so I’m sensitive to someone bashing the book completely.
    Suggestions? Yancey’s Disappointment with God is one I’ve read umpteen times. He writes with sensitivity and honesty that is life-giving because he doesn’t skirt around hard questions.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Anita! Yes, I certainly don’t want to deny or trample on any good that someone may have experienced through an imperfect book. I’ve benefited from plenty of imperfect authors myself.

      Thanks for the Yancey suggestion. We have that one on our shelf, I think (thanks to Zonya?), but I don’t think I’ve read it.

  8. A lot of people commented on this post when I shared it on Facebook. Some recommended books. Here are the books that were recommended (minus a few that either the posters or I are least confident about):

    * The Hawk and Dove Trilogy, by Penelope Wilcock. “One of my most favorite books ever… [They] explore some of the same themes of Gods healing love and care; how sin and separation make grace beautiful and effective. I reviewed it more extensively on my blog [Vicki Kauffman] but I thought of it immediately when I read this.”

    * Books by Corrie ten Boom; The Gift of Pain, by Philip Yancey; God is Closer than You Think, by John Ortberg; any of Rich Mullins’ books; Exquisite Agony, The Tale of Three Kings, and The Prisoners in the Third Cell, all by Gene Edwards. “We really need to gauge where a person is in relating with God before we recommend any style of book to them. I started by reading books like Corrie Ten Boom and the truth of who God was and wanted to be in my life hit a nerve. Theology books were beyond my understanding and I didn’t believe in the love of God due to experiences by Gods followers.”

    * Cries of the Heart, by Ravi Zacharias. “I actually cried most of the way through it.” For fiction, The Martyr’s Song series, by Ted Dekker “Wrestles deep with suffering, and will give you thoughts to process for months.”

    * When God Weeps. “I second the recommendation.”

    * Till We Have Faces, and the Space Triology (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength), by C.S. Lewis. (Recommended by my wife.)

    * The Gospels and the books of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John. “In times of deep pain, for me [these books] have been very helpful.”

    Thanks again to all for your recommendations! You all make me want to hole up with some good heart-strengthening books!

  9. I appreciate the gentle tone and humble approach of this article. I think one of the reasons The Shack appeals to so many, lies within the fact that it is a work of fiction. Many of the nonfiction books that are being recommended in the comments, are excellent books, both in dealing with pain and seeing God’s heart in our pain. However, many people that will not read a nonfiction book will read a fiction one for a light, entertaining read. There are not very many works of fiction that are both entertaining and yet teach a powerful message without sounding preachy–especially one that addresses the things Young does. I don’t agree with all that Young is attempting to convey, but I think that Christian fiction writers could learn from his method. I see someone recommended Safely Home by Randy Alcorn. Alcorn is an author that has mastered this well.

    1. Thanks, Simon. I affirm your comments. Readers are divided on whether Young is a skilled writer. (Someone with editorial experience sent me a rather humorous private message strongly declaring he is *not,* though I will quickly acknowledge Young writes better novels than I do.) But it is certainly true that some people read fiction who rarely pick up nonfiction. And I’ve heard good about Alcorn’s fiction, and know from his nonfiction that he is a wise voice. Blessings!

  10. This is a post by Wayne Jacobsen about a comment on Facebook. I happen to know Wayne personally and I know for a fact he doesn’t agree on everything that Paul Young writes but he does his best to redeem the good in it. I feel strongly that God can use this book and movie for His glory. I don’t feel any need to fight for or against it. Just saying. Carry on.
    I was reading a friends post this morning about taking his wife to THE SHACK last night and how touched they were. As I read some of the comments below, most agreed except for a few. One “friend” wrote, “HERETICAL BLASPHEMOUS GARBAGE.” Really? Even if you feel that way about the book/movie, that’s the first thing you want to say to a friend that was deeply touched by something. Because now their so-called friend is either an idiot or a spiritual fool to be touched by it.

    Facebook really twists what it means to be a friend. If a friend of mine is touched by a book or movie that I don’t like my response would be,”That’s great. What touched you about it?” And I would get to have a conversation and find that what touched them is something that would also touch me. To see something as ALL beauty or ALL garbage is a dishonest way to view the world and makes you a bit of a relational creep. There is some good in most things even if we have problems with the whole of it.

    I wouldn’t even think to tell my friends through social media that something that touched them is garbage. I don’t see people do that about much else other than the anti-SHACK people. What is it about their feelings of this book that draws them into such dark and disturbing space? There are lots of books and movies I don’t like, but I don’t spend my time writing forty-page papers against them, or lambasting my friends who like them.

    Can’t you let God work in others without raining on their parade? Does it make your life more enriched to know that you derided something that held significance for a friend?

    And you don’t even think that’s creepy!

    1. Thanks, Leonardo. Interesting that you know Wayne personally! I, too, have heard that he isn’t exactly on the same page as Young on all theological points. I question Wayne’s suggestion that it is only with The Shack that people express themselves in such an all-or-nothing negative fashion online. I’ve seen it on multiple topics! That said, I agree with Wayne that we should express our evaluations with a spirit of compassion and respect for those who feel they have been blessed by whatever it is that we are evaluating. Hopefully “There Are Better Books” is a fairer and less inflammatory title (and overall post) than “HERETICAL BLASPHEMOUS GARBAGE.” 🙂

      1. Thank you Dwight, yes I agree with you on that it’s on more than just “The Shack” that people show themselves as all one or the other way. I would like to generalize Wayne’s comment to a broader scope of books/movies. I didn’t follow the instructions on naming a book and let’s say that different books impact people in different ways depending on their journey.
        The return of the prodigal son by Henri Nouwen
        He loves me by Wayne Jacobsen
        In a pit with a lion on a snowy day by Mark Batterson
        These are 3 books that I couldn’t lay down. Thank you.

  11. Bought the book ” The gospel according to Job ” based on your recommendation. Can’t wait to read it. Thanks for the great article!

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