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William

The Shack — The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment

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The publishing world sees very few books reach blockbuster status, but William Paul Young’s The Shack has now exceeded even that. The book, originally self-published by Young and two friends, has now sold more than 10 million copies and has been translated into over thirty languages. It is now one of the best-selling paperback books of all time, and its readers are enthusiastic.

 

According to Young, the book was originally written for his own children. In essence, it can be described as a narrative theodicy — an attempt to answer the question of evil and the character of God by means of a story. In this story, the main character is grieving the brutal kidnapping and murder of his seven-year-old daughter when he receives what turns out to be a summons from God to meet him in the very shack where the man’s daughter had been murdered.

In the shack, “Mack” meets the divine Trinity as “Papa,” an African-American woman; Jesus, a Jewish carpenter; and “Sarayu,” an Asian woman who is revealed to be the Holy Spirit. The book is mainly a series of dialogues between Mack, Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu. Those conversations reveal God to be very different than the God of the Bible. “Papa” is absolutely non-judgmental, and seems most determined to affirm that all humanity is already redeemed.

 

The theology of The Shack is not incidental to the story. Indeed, at most points the narrative seems mainly to serve as a structure for the dialogues. And the dialogues reveal a theology that is unconventional at best, and undoubtedly heretical in certain respects.

 

While the literary device of an unconventional “trinity” of divine persons is itself sub-biblical and dangerous, the theological explanations are worse. “Papa” tells Mack of the time when the three persons of the Trinity “spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God.” Nowhere in the Bible is the Father or the Spirit described as taking on human existence. The Christology of the book is likewise confused. “Papa” tells Mack that, though Jesus is fully God, “he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything. He has only lived out of his relationship with me, living in the very same manner that I desire to be in relationship with every human being.” When Jesus healed the blind, “He did so only as a dependent, limited human being trusting in my life and power to be at work within him and through him. Jesus, as a human being, had no power within himself to heal anyone.”

 

While there is ample theological confusion to unpack there, suffice it to say that the Christian church has struggled for centuries to come to a faithful understanding of the Trinity in order to avoid just this kind of confusion — understanding that the Christian faith is itself at stake.

 

Jesus tells Mack that he is “the best way any human can relate to Papa or Sarayu.” Not the only way, but merely the best way.

 

In another chapter, “Papa” corrects Mack’s theology by asserting, “I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.” Without doubt, God’s joy is in the atonement accomplished by the Son. Nevertheless, the Bible consistently reveals God to be the holy and righteous Judge, who will indeed punish sinners. The idea that sin is merely “its own punishment” fits the Eastern concept of karma, but not the Christian Gospel.

 

The relationship of the Father to the Son, revealed in a text like John 17, is rejected in favor of an absolute equality of authority among the persons of the Trinity. “Papa” explains that “we have no concept of final authority among us, only unity.” In one of the most bizarre paragraphs of the book, Jesus tells Mack: “Papa is as much submitted to me as I am to him, or Sarayu to me, or Papa to her. Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same way.”

 

The theorized submission of the Trinity to a human being — or to all human beings — is a theological innovation of the most extreme and dangerous sort. The essence of idolatry is self-worship, and this notion of the Trinity submitted (in any sense) to humanity is inescapably idolatrous.

 

The most controversial aspects of The Shack‘s message have revolved around questions of universalism, universal redemption, and ultimate reconciliation. Jesus tells Mack: “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions.” Jesus adds, “I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, my Beloved.”

 

Mack then asks the obvious question — do all roads lead to Christ? Jesus responds, “Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.”

 

Given the context, it is impossible not to draw essentially universalistic or inclusivistic conclusions about Young’s meaning. “Papa” chides Mack that he is now reconciled to the whole world. Mack retorts, “The whole world? You mean those who believe in you, right?” “Papa” responds, “The whole world, Mack.”

 

Put together, all this implies something very close to the doctrine of reconciliation proposed by Karl Barth. And, even as Young’s collaborator Wayne Jacobson has lamented the “self-appointed doctrine police” who have charged the book with teaching ultimate reconciliation, he acknowledges that the first editions of the manuscript were unduly influenced by Young’s “partiality at the time” to ultimate reconciliation — the belief that the cross and resurrection of Christ accomplished then and there a unilateral reconciliation of all sinners (and even all creation) to God.

 

James B. DeYoung of Western Theological Seminary, a New Testament scholar who has known William Young for years, documents Young’s embrace of a form of “Christian universalism.” The Shack, he concludes, “rests on the foundation of universal reconciliation.”

 

Even as Wayne Jacobson and others complain of those who identify heresy within The Shack, the fact is that the Christian church has explicitly identified these teachings as just that — heresy. The obvious question is this: How is it that so many evangelical Christians seem to be drawn not only to this story, but to the theology presented in the narrative — a theology at so many points in conflict with evangelical convictions?

 

Evangelical observers have not been alone in asking this question. Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Professor Timothy Beal of Case Western University argues that the popularity of The Shack suggests that evangelicals might be shifting their theology. He cites the “nonbiblical metaphorical models of God” in the book, as well as its “nonhierarchical” model of the Trinity and, most importantly, “its theology of universal salvation.”

 

Beal asserts that none of this theology is part of “mainstream evangelical theology,” then explains: “In fact, all three are rooted in liberal and radical academic theological discourse from the 1970s and 80s — work that has profoundly influenced contemporary feminist and liberation theology but, until now, had very little impact on the theological imaginations of nonacademics, especially within the religious mainstream.”

 

He then asks: “What are these progressive theological ideas doing in this evangelical pulp-fiction phenomenon?” He answers: “Unbeknownst to most of us, they have been present on the liberal margins of evangelical thought for decades.” Now, he explains, The Shack has introduced and popularized these liberal concepts even among mainstream evangelicals.

 

Timothy Beal cannot be dismissed as a conservative “heresy-hunter.” He is thrilled that these “progressive theological ideas” are now “trickling into popular culture by way of The Shack.”

 

Similarly, writing at Books & Culture, Katherine Jeffrey concludes that The Shack “offers a postmodern, post-biblical theodicy.” While her main concern is the book’s place “in a Christian literary landscape,” she cannot avoid dealing with its theological message.

 

In evaluating the book, it must be kept in mind that The Shack is a work of fiction. But it is also a sustained theological argument, and this simply cannot be denied. Any number of notable novels and works of literature have contained aberrant theology, and even heresy. The crucial question is whether the aberrant doctrines are features of the story or the message of the work. When it comes to The Shack, the really troubling fact is that so many readers are drawn to the theological message of the book, and fail to see how it conflicts with the Bible at so many crucial points.

 

All this reveals a disastrous failure of evangelical discernment. It is hard not to conclude that theological discernment is now a lost art among American evangelicals — and this loss can only lead to theological catastrophe.

 

The answer is not to ban The Shack or yank it out of the hands of readers. We need not fear books — we must be ready to answer them. We desperately need a theological recovery that can only come from practicing biblical discernment. This will require us to identify the doctrinal dangers of The Shack, to be sure. But our real task is to reacquaint evangelicals with the Bible’s teachings on these very questions and to foster a doctrinal rearmament of Christian believers.

 

The Shack is a wake-up call for evangelical Christianity. An assessment like that offered by Timothy Beal is telling. The popularity of this book among evangelicals can only be explained by a lack of basic theological knowledge among us — a failure even to understand the Gospel of Christ. The tragedy that evangelicals have lost the art of biblical discernment must be traced to a disastrous loss of biblical knowledge. Discernment cannot survive without doctrine.

 

This article was based on the novel and was originally published in 2010.

 

Source: http://www.albertmohler.com/2017/03/06/shack-missing-art-evangelical-discernment/

 

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The author of this book seems to me to ascribe to the Universalist/Unitarian doctrines. He is also the author of a book that lists a bunch of what he considers lies that Christians believe. Some of them seem to be made up issues, while others are legitimate, and he uses little to no biblical support for his positions in debunking these "lies."

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I haven't read the book The Shack, but the description of the Holy Trinity above actually makes me think of a different trio from greek myth: The Three Fates, (or the Norns if you are familiar with the Norse myth), Clotho, Atropos and Lachesis. It would certainly fit the line about submission with the Greek belief that Fate can bend to the strong-willed even as it can bend them.

 

I find it hard to understand how you can have non-Biblical Christianity though. Many of the ideas here are ones I have seen expressed in new age books already, it's just here they are being framed as Christian thought, and I am not sure that is right.

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The publishing world sees very few books reach blockbuster status, but William Paul Young’s The Shack has now exceeded even that. The book, originally self-published by Young and two friends, has now sold more than 10 million copies and has been translated into over thirty languages. It is now one of the best-selling paperback books of all time, and its readers are enthusiastic.

 

According to Young, the book was originally written for his own children. In essence, it can be described as a narrative theodicy — an attempt to answer the question of evil and the character of God by means of a story. In this story, the main character is grieving the brutal kidnapping and murder of his seven-year-old daughter when he receives what turns out to be a summons from God to meet him in the very shack where the man’s daughter had been murdered.

In the shack, “Mack” meets the divine Trinity as “Papa,” an African-American woman; Jesus, a Jewish carpenter; and “Sarayu,” an Asian woman who is revealed to be the Holy Spirit. The book is mainly a series of dialogues between Mack, Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu. Those conversations reveal God to be very different than the God of the Bible. “Papa” is absolutely non-judgmental, and seems most determined to affirm that all humanity is already redeemed.

 

The theology of The Shack is not incidental to the story. Indeed, at most points the narrative seems mainly to serve as a structure for the dialogues. And the dialogues reveal a theology that is unconventional at best, and undoubtedly heretical in certain respects.

 

While the literary device of an unconventional “trinity” of divine persons is itself sub-biblical and dangerous, the theological explanations are worse. “Papa” tells Mack of the time when the three persons of the Trinity “spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God.” Nowhere in the Bible is the Father or the Spirit described as taking on human existence. The Christology of the book is likewise confused. “Papa” tells Mack that, though Jesus is fully God, “he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything. He has only lived out of his relationship with me, living in the very same manner that I desire to be in relationship with every human being.” When Jesus healed the blind, “He did so only as a dependent, limited human being trusting in my life and power to be at work within him and through him. Jesus, as a human being, had no power within himself to heal anyone.”

 

While there is ample theological confusion to unpack there, suffice it to say that the Christian church has struggled for centuries to come to a faithful understanding of the Trinity in order to avoid just this kind of confusion — understanding that the Christian faith is itself at stake.

 

Jesus tells Mack that he is “the best way any human can relate to Papa or Sarayu.” Not the only way, but merely the best way.

 

In another chapter, “Papa” corrects Mack’s theology by asserting, “I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.” Without doubt, God’s joy is in the atonement accomplished by the Son. Nevertheless, the Bible consistently reveals God to be the holy and righteous Judge, who will indeed punish sinners. The idea that sin is merely “its own punishment” fits the Eastern concept of karma, but not the Christian Gospel.

 

The relationship of the Father to the Son, revealed in a text like John 17, is rejected in favor of an absolute equality of authority among the persons of the Trinity. “Papa” explains that “we have no concept of final authority among us, only unity.” In one of the most bizarre paragraphs of the book, Jesus tells Mack: “Papa is as much submitted to me as I am to him, or Sarayu to me, or Papa to her. Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same way.”

 

The theorized submission of the Trinity to a human being — or to all human beings — is a theological innovation of the most extreme and dangerous sort. The essence of idolatry is self-worship, and this notion of the Trinity submitted (in any sense) to humanity is inescapably idolatrous.

 

The most controversial aspects of The Shack‘s message have revolved around questions of universalism, universal redemption, and ultimate reconciliation. Jesus tells Mack: “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions.” Jesus adds, “I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, my Beloved.”

 

Mack then asks the obvious question — do all roads lead to Christ? Jesus responds, “Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.”

 

Given the context, it is impossible not to draw essentially universalistic or inclusivistic conclusions about Young’s meaning. “Papa” chides Mack that he is now reconciled to the whole world. Mack retorts, “The whole world? You mean those who believe in you, right?” “Papa” responds, “The whole world, Mack.”

 

Put together, all this implies something very close to the doctrine of reconciliation proposed by Karl Barth. And, even as Young’s collaborator Wayne Jacobson has lamented the “self-appointed doctrine police” who have charged the book with teaching ultimate reconciliation, he acknowledges that the first editions of the manuscript were unduly influenced by Young’s “partiality at the time” to ultimate reconciliation — the belief that the cross and resurrection of Christ accomplished then and there a unilateral reconciliation of all sinners (and even all creation) to God.

 

James B. DeYoung of Western Theological Seminary, a New Testament scholar who has known William Young for years, documents Young’s embrace of a form of “Christian universalism.” The Shack, he concludes, “rests on the foundation of universal reconciliation.”

 

Even as Wayne Jacobson and others complain of those who identify heresy within The Shack, the fact is that the Christian church has explicitly identified these teachings as just that — heresy. The obvious question is this: How is it that so many evangelical Christians seem to be drawn not only to this story, but to the theology presented in the narrative — a theology at so many points in conflict with evangelical convictions?

 

Evangelical observers have not been alone in asking this question. Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Professor Timothy Beal of Case Western University argues that the popularity of The Shack suggests that evangelicals might be shifting their theology. He cites the “nonbiblical metaphorical models of God” in the book, as well as its “nonhierarchical” model of the Trinity and, most importantly, “its theology of universal salvation.”

 

Beal asserts that none of this theology is part of “mainstream evangelical theology,” then explains: “In fact, all three are rooted in liberal and radical academic theological discourse from the 1970s and 80s — work that has profoundly influenced contemporary feminist and liberation theology but, until now, had very little impact on the theological imaginations of nonacademics, especially within the religious mainstream.”

 

He then asks: “What are these progressive theological ideas doing in this evangelical pulp-fiction phenomenon?” He answers: “Unbeknownst to most of us, they have been present on the liberal margins of evangelical thought for decades.” Now, he explains, The Shack has introduced and popularized these liberal concepts even among mainstream evangelicals.

 

Timothy Beal cannot be dismissed as a conservative “heresy-hunter.” He is thrilled that these “progressive theological ideas” are now “trickling into popular culture by way of The Shack.”

 

Similarly, writing at Books & Culture, Katherine Jeffrey concludes that The Shack “offers a postmodern, post-biblical theodicy.” While her main concern is the book’s place “in a Christian literary landscape,” she cannot avoid dealing with its theological message.

 

In evaluating the book, it must be kept in mind that The Shack is a work of fiction. But it is also a sustained theological argument, and this simply cannot be denied. Any number of notable novels and works of literature have contained aberrant theology, and even heresy. The crucial question is whether the aberrant doctrines are features of the story or the message of the work. When it comes to The Shack, the really troubling fact is that so many readers are drawn to the theological message of the book, and fail to see how it conflicts with the Bible at so many crucial points.

 

All this reveals a disastrous failure of evangelical discernment. It is hard not to conclude that theological discernment is now a lost art among American evangelicals — and this loss can only lead to theological catastrophe.

 

The answer is not to ban The Shack or yank it out of the hands of readers. We need not fear books — we must be ready to answer them. We desperately need a theological recovery that can only come from practicing biblical discernment. This will require us to identify the doctrinal dangers of The Shack, to be sure. But our real task is to reacquaint evangelicals with the Bible’s teachings on these very questions and to foster a doctrinal rearmament of Christian believers.

 

The Shack is a wake-up call for evangelical Christianity. An assessment like that offered by Timothy Beal is telling. The popularity of this book among evangelicals can only be explained by a lack of basic theological knowledge among us — a failure even to understand the Gospel of Christ. The tragedy that evangelicals have lost the art of biblical discernment must be traced to a disastrous loss of biblical knowledge. Discernment cannot survive without doctrine.

 

This article was based on the novel and was originally published in 2010.

 

Source: http://www.albertmohler.com/2017/03/06/shack-missing-art-evangelical-discernment/

 

 

I don't think that one needs anything more than an 80 IQ to understand that "The Shack" has nothing to do with Christianity.

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I was given a copy of The Shack by a very dear friend of mine who was a Methodist Minister, his message was, read it for what it is. I am no academic and I read it with many many tissues and could not put it down. The Trinity is extremely difficult to explain and I found his version not real, but a helpful analogy. I didn't once think of it as a replacement or guide, just a beautiful story with the happy ever after :RpS_smile:

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I read "The Shack" a number of years ago and at the time was not at all concerned with its theology. Yes, it is an emotional story, and that is what makes it difficult to criticize. No matter how emotional it is, however, we cannot excuse the massive amount of dangerous false doctrine it contains. It is also irrelevant that so many dismiss it as "just fiction", because it still makes very serious claims about God and the Gospel. Shortly after the movie was released, William Paul Young released a non-fiction book (conveniently timed) titled, "Lies We Believe About God". In this non-fiction book William Paul Young openly advocates for Universalism, among other unBiblical claims, calling many elements of Biblical Christianity "lies". Sadly, far too many people were not willing to listen to the warnings regarding "The Shack", and many likewise have no concerns about William Paul Young's recently released non-fiction work.

 

It also does not help when some of the largest and most influential churches are promoting "The Shack" unashamedly. Beni Johnson (wife of Pastor Bill Johnson) of Bethel Redding, for example has done so, openly praising it on her Facebook page. (Not really surprising as Bill Johnson has professed his belief that Jesus did His miracles and lived His life on earth, not as God, but only as a man).

 

Here are a few other helpful articles regarding the very serious problems with "The Shack."

 

The Shack and Its New Age Leaven

 

When People Say: "But The Shack is Just a Novel!"

 

The Shack

 

And here is more information on the problems with William Paul Young's "Lies We Believe About God":

 

What Does The Shack Really Teach? "Lies We Believe About God" Tells Us

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I read "The Shack" a number of years ago and at the time was not at all concerned with its theology. Yes, it is an emotional story, and that is what makes it difficult to criticize. No matter how emotional it is, however, we cannot excuse the massive amount of dangerous false doctrine it contains. It is also irrelevant that so many dismiss it as "just fiction", because it still makes very serious claims about God and the Gospel. Shortly after the movie was released, William Paul Young released a non-fiction book (conveniently timed) titled, "Lies We Believe About God". In this non-fiction book William Paul Young openly advocates for Universalism, among other unBiblical claims, calling many elements of Biblical Christianity "lies". Sadly, far too many people were not willing to listen to the warnings regarding "The Shack", and many likewise have no concerns about William Paul Young's recently released non-fiction work.

 

It also does not help when some of the largest and most influential churches are promoting "The Shack" unashamedly. Beni Johnson (wife of Pastor Bill Johnson) of Bethel Redding, for example has done so, openly praising it on her Facebook page. (Not really surprising as Bill Johnson has professed his belief that Jesus did His miracles and lived His life on earth, not as God, but only as a man).

 

Here are a few other helpful articles regarding the very serious problems with "The Shack."

 

The Shack and Its New Age Leaven

 

When People Say: "But The Shack is Just a Novel!"

 

The Shack

 

And here is more information on the problems with William Paul Young's "Lies We Believe About God":

 

What Does The Shack Really Teach? "Lies We Believe About God" Tells Us

 

 

Happy to see that you have come to conclusions that you have.

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Loved the Shack

 

Found it through Focus on the family.

 

Its fiction folks

 

Author wrote 9 or 11 copies for gifts, was not written to be published

 

 

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Loved the Shack

 

Found it through Focus on the family.

 

Its fiction folks

 

Author wrote 9 or 11 copies for gifts, was not written to be published

 

 

 

You don't think that fiction can be harmful?

 

The Shack was written to convey a message. That message is heretical.

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I saw the movie. It clearly teaches falsely with universalism. The Father appearing as a female was a bit out there as well. There is a lot of false theology in the movie. My wife read the book and they are fairly close, although there are some differences. The fiction can definitely be dangerous with these false teachings.

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I don't understand how fiction can be false teaching.I do believe promoting it as a Christian guide is false teaching, which is not the fault of the author, that is the fault of the teachers. It's wonderful story and I loved it.

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I don't understand how fiction can be false teaching.I do believe promoting it as a Christian guide is false teaching, which is not the fault of the author, that is the fault of the teachers. It's wonderful story and I loved it.

 

I liked the story to an extent but it was based on the LORD and was just false. I do not like books and movies that falsely represent the LORD. Many people will believe what this book and movie are depicting.

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Many people will believe what this book and movie are depicting.

 

Exactly, which is what the author is counting on.

 

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Exactly, which is what the author is counting on.

 

Agreed

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I don't understand how fiction can be false teaching.I do believe promoting it as a Christian guide is false teaching, which is not the fault of the author, that is the fault of the teachers. It's wonderful story and I loved it.

 

The story may have been fictional, but the Triune God is not. "The Shack" made many very unBiblical and erroneous claims about God, which is why all Christians should absolutely reject "The Shack" and warn others.

 

Also, you might want to do some research into William Paul Young's latest (non-fiction) book, "Lies We Believe About God." Due to the fact that so many Christians have dismissed any and all warnings about "The Shack", (because it's only fiction) many will also accept this new book by Young, where, for example, he more specifically advocates for universalism, among other heretical beliefs.

 

We need to be very careful with what we accept as okay, especially with what is called "Christian" in these days. Satan is very cunning, and deception is like leaven, and not always immediately obvious.

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"Fictional" story about a triune god. . . Ok.

 

Yes. The fact that "The Shack" is "just fiction", is one of the main responses regarding any warnings given about it. Very unfortunate.

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Yes. The fact that "The Shack" is "just fiction", is one of the main responses regarding any warnings given about it. Very unfortunate.

 

 

It is unfortunate and shocking that this type of thing gets promoted and applauded by Christians.

 

Everything is "preaching" to us. We must be discerning about who and what we listen to, fiction or not.

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"The Shack" is a deplorable representation of the Trinity and all we believe in.

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"The Shack" is a deplorable representation of the Trinity and all we believe in.

 

Yes, it is.

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On ‎4‎/‎28‎/‎2017 at 7:07 PM, thatbrian said:

 

 

I don't think that one needs anything more than an 80 IQ to understand that "The Shack" has nothing to do with Christianity.

That is something few of the Bible Thumpers trying to find ways of discrediting this fantastic book can even comprehend.

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I read the Shack.  I commented negatively on it before reading it.  😕   That was dumb.   So I read it.  Saw the movie too.  It was okay but I really didn't think about the story that much.

 

Then I read the book Finding God In The Shack by Randal Rauser.  https://www.amazon.com/Finding-God-Shack-Randal-Rauser/dp/1606570323

What I found was a book rich with biblical themes.  Yes, The Shack has its problems.  But it also has very good elements.  

 

I find there are two or three camps of peeps when it comes to this book:  

1.  People who didn't read the book but never-the-less are critics of the book.   Bad form IMO.

2. People who read the book and are critical.   (this is fine)

3.  People who read the book and gave it some thought; sought out the ideas and opinions of others; read books about the Shack; and found that jumping to a conclusion about the book was neither fair nor smart.  

 

Again, there are issues in the book.  There are also redeeming qualities.  The best book to read on this is the Randal Rauser book.  It's better than the Shack IMHO.  

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Never read it, but I've read reviews that used direct quotes from the book showing some serious heresy, so therefore it's only good for toilet paper.

One of the false teachings from the book is that God doesn't punish sin, that's bad enough right there.

   

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