Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Shack Author Denies Biblical Substitutionary Atonement

In a recent radio interview, The Shack author, Paul Young, told the interviewer he did not hold to the traditional view of the atonement in that he does not believe Jesus Christ bore the punishment (i.e., penalty) for man's sins when He died on the Cross (transcript).

He also stated, with regard to this topic: "I don't know if you're aware, but that's a huge debate that's going on in theology right now within the evangelical community." That debate, to which Young refers, is the new theology (or as we call it the new spirituality) that is entering Christianity through contemplative and emerging figures such as Brennan Manning, Brian McLaren, and Marcus Borg.

This "huge debate" states that a loving Father would never send His Son to a violent death on behalf of the sins of others. And while they do not deny that Jesus did physically die on a Cross, they insist that His death was not to be a substitutionary act wherein He was punished for our sins.

Rather, they say, He was killed by man, not for man. And he was a perfect model of sacrificial servanthood. As Episcopal new spirituality author, Alan Jones, states, "Jesus' sacrifice was to appease an angry God. Penal substitution was the name of this vile doctrine" (Reimagining Christianity, p. 168).

Contemplative proponent Brennan Manning, quoting Catholic mystic William Shannon, says: "[T]he god who exacts the last drop of blood from his Son so that his just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased . . . does not exist" (Above All, pp. 58-59). Mystic Marcus Borg has this exact same view. He is opposes the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement and sees the Cross as merely a metaphor for transformation in the mystical sense. 1 Brian McLaren shares this view (and indeed resonates with Borg) when he says that hell and the Cross are "false advertising for God." 2

The Shack, still at the top of the New York Times Best Seller list, is being heralded as one of the best Christian books ever. But as Lighthouse Trails and other concerned ministries have reported in a number of documented articles, The Shack is not a Christian book, and it should not be packaged, presented, and promoted as such.

While many who have read The Shack, tout that it has changed their lives, what these people do not understand is that the book appeals to people's senses; thus, the book is sensual. And because it makes people feel good, they assume (wrongly) that it must be from God. But The Shack is appealing to the carnal man and not the spiritual, and as the Bible warns, there is a "wisdom [that] descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish" (James 3: 15).

With this in mind, Lighthouse Trails has posted an article by free-lance writer, John Lanagan, who attended a large evangelical church meeting this past weekend in which The Shack author spoke. The church is presenting a series on The Shack and began the series by having Young address the congregation. It is not the intention of this report to single out this particular church but rather to warn believers of The Shack's interspiritual, panentheistic, and non-biblical theologies and the book's major impact on many many churches. Please click here to read this article.

We have also posted an article this week of a serious nature regarding the heightened involvement by Nazarene pastors worldwide with contemplative spirituality: "Nazarene General Assembly Welcomes Contemplative Spirituality--Nazarene Pastors Worldwide Invited."

In His grace,

Editors at Lighthouse Trails Research


Keri Wyatt Kent said...

found your blog thru our Twitter connection. I have a question. What do you think "contemplative spirituality" means?

Sharon Ball said...

Wow, Susan, I had no idea that the author of The Shack maintained these views. How sad and misguided. I think I'm the only person on the planet who hasn't read this book. I can't believe it has been sold as Christian fiction. Very disturbing...

Martin said...

I am shocked! I was completely unaware of such a blasphemous ideology and will stand against this false doctrine. Thankfully, I have not purchased the Shack, but it has been recommended to me by fellow Christians. I will not place so much as a shekel in this mans pocket. Thank you Susan.

Denise @ Sunflowers, Chocolate and Little Boys said...

I have been wanting to read that book for awhile now.....but I think I just changed my mind. thanks for the heads-up.

Donna J. Shepherd said...

Wow. While I agree that Jesus was a perfect model of sacrificial servanthood, Jesus wasn't crucified just BY men. He willingly gave Himself as our substitution (Phil.2:8), giving His life FOR us.

I have to say, I started The Shack, but it did not make me feel good. On the contrary, I got to a point that I could not read another page or even one more word.

You have written a compelling post, giving your readers much to ponder. Thank you for your insights.

Keri Wyatt Kent said...

I wonder if reading this book with discernment, knowing that you don't agree with it, might help you to have conversations with people who are seeking God? I think Christians should read this book, not so that they can agree with it, but so that they can have informed, intelligent discussions, especially with those who are not yet believers.

Susan Storm Smith said...

It's not a point of Christians or non-Christians reading the book. The point is it was assumed to BE a Christian book, which the author says it is not.

As for finding ways to discuss and teach Christian values/gospel, etc. I do it everyday in many different venues.

Donna J. Shepherd said...

Keri, that is a point well taken. I wouldn't advise anyone without a strong spiritual discernment to tackle it, but just having read what little I could get through, I've had a couple of opportunities to talk to people about what it means to believe in Jesus.

Chelsea Peterson said...

Wow. This just confirms everything I've heard about the book from other people. Thanks for the great blog post.

Today's Christian Mom~ said...

This is soooo wierd! The reason I read The Shack and how I heard about it, was by watching an interview with the author (I do not remember the name of the christian show) but he was talking about how God changed his life and all the struggles he had been through and how God pulled him through when he felt stuck which is exactly where I was at the time. I would think of it as a christian book. Very sad he is being double minded now. Thanks for sharing.

Susan Storm Smith said...

I believe I saw the same or similar interview. This also brings us to the fact that over 68% of those who profess to be Christians do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus, believe that all roads lead to heaven, anything goes, everybody makes it.

I know a man who has a seminary degree who still doesn't believe in the Bible .. go figure

Thanks to everyone for the discussion and comments

Sandy Cathcart said...

I met William Paul Young recently at an Oregon Christian Writers Conference. Listened to him for five hours, talked with him personally.

I also am 3 classes away from degree in biblical studies.

There are lots of discussions and arguments going around about theology that sound scary and like the other person believes differently than us. Often, these people are brothers and sisters in the Lord, BUT it's a matter of using words differently from one another.

This I can tell you for sure. Paul (as the author likes to be called) clearly stated that we come to God through Jesus. There are no other roads.

I will post about this later on my blog. Haven't had time. But I thought the same as you about him (from reading everything and hearing everything said about him...well not everything, but a lot), but I have no doubts this man is a brother in the Lord (through Jesus!). And I met him 2 weeks ago. I don't believe he's changed since that time.

He wrote the book for his kids. He said that Jesus said, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father." (which is true)

He said he wanted his children to have a better view and relationship with God the Father. That they could know Him like they know Jesus. That's why He pictured God the Father as he did in The Shack.

It's always best to learn firsthand.Go to
and order the tapes (3 of them) from the OCW Conference in Salem.

Hope that helps a bit!

Lindylou said...

I agree with Sandy that it is always best to go firsthand. I read through several of the links...that linked to links...that never linked to the original transcript. I found when I was writing the past summer and fall on the political presidential campaign that I would never believe anything on a website unless I could find the original source. Christians, because we are followers and speakers of truth, need to be especially careful of a thorough fact finding before posting "information".

Susan, I did listen to the "radio interview, which is the actual interview with the author of Shack, Paul. I also have the advantage of reading Shack, and understanding that it is FICTION. The published book wasn't intended to be theology, or "the Bible". And it is clear in the interview that many of the more theological parts in the original book Paul wrote for his children (15 copies printed at an office store), so we don't have the whole book that Paul gave to his children.

What I found interesting about the interview is the pre-interview comments. Before Paul Young was on the show, the host made comments about how the book, The Shack, was not Biblical and made quote/page number from the book. This is a slanted way of starting an interview. I was leery that the interviewer was going to try to trap the author into saying something sensational or non-Biblical because of the approach to the setup for the interview.

I did write down the exact words Paul Young stated from the radio interview regarding a question about what he thought ultimate reconciliation to God was - "To me, everyone was included in what Jesus did on the cross, Father, Son, Holy Spirit did on the cross, that we are all included in that. He didn't die for just a few of us. And that the path of salvation was absolutely accomplished. Many of us aren't excited about a relationship. I mean we don't want to let go of our idols, our own self-centeredness..."

I know my theology pretty well. I can always learn something new from God or a wiser Bible Teacher. But I find Paul Young's statements to be quite Christian. I don't follow a person, though, I read the Bible and follow God for my understand of Biblical concepts. I don't expect Mr. Young to get everything right about theology, and you know, he doesn't present himself to be someone that is a Bible teacher or know it all. He is simply a great writer that wrote a book using an allegory format in a book about dealing with tragedy in life...and looking to God for answers. He isn't giving the answers...he is wanting everyone to know God is the source of love and understanding...and that God is the great I AM...I AM what you need.

Lindylou said...

I also want to say that Young's other comments on the he doesn't believe in a physical hell or whatever else he may say...he clearly states he is not teaching and not a expert on dogma of the faith.

Susan Storm Smith said...

As the interview and reviews state, this book is extremely controversial and a hot subject. People are seldom on the fence regarding it. That's not a bad thing. I like the fact that people are willing to dialogue about it, where it fits both in terms of just literature or as a Christian book.

Calling it a work of fiction is fine, but to call it Christian and doesn't line up with the Bible, that I believe most people have a problem with.

This is one of the problems with people reading such works without a clear understanding of what they are reading--we're speaking about the church at this point.

People read "Christian" and accept it as Bible. Many of us understand that you have to be discerning, but so many don't read the Bible, or had a relationship with God, and accept things that are written.

About 68% of evangelical Christians today do not believe in the Resurrection of Christ, that there is no hell, and all roads lead to heaven. This is not biblical.

In the interview he states you can be a Buddhist/Christian, Muslim/Christian .. where is that in the Bible? When we put a written work out as Christian, it should like up with biblical standards or we are introducing those things which are not of God.

The Bible tells us to be aware and warned about those who introduce these anti-christ[ian] thoughts into our minds/hearts.

So we are in agreement in some things, and on others, we have choice, I'll leave it at that.

Margo Carmichael said...

Does he understand that Jesus is God in the flesh? I don't know. On p. 110, he says Jesus is the "best way" to relate to the Father. Jesus said He is the only way to the Father.

Bola said...

I have convinced myself not to worry about the very dangerous doctrines that are surfacing these last days, it is important that we stay focused on the truth, if it does not agree with the bible, i just simply dismiss it.

I think we will fall into alot of errors when we try to present God to the 'world' in a way that we feel they will accept it or make us acceptable to them, rather than in the way God wants it done.

I encourage you friends to hold on to the truth and discard this lie that Mr Young may be supporting.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this article. The Shack is dangerous. It is the introduction of goddess worship, a false "christ," and a denial of the cross into the church. Now it seems as if the Gaithers are going to promote The Shack.

I have written an article on this:

Terri Tiffany said...

Wow Susan-- some great dialogue here. I love your information and insight about this book. I've had many friends recommend it to me but I haven't read it yet. Now I have some more thought about it.