THE SHACK Heresy Revisited

My previous post on “Is The Shack Heresy?” has promoted the most comments (81) of any blog to date. It is the most read and has generated the most anger in some quarters. I said there that it does not bother me if people struggle with some of the theology in The Shack. It was meant to be provocative and to get people to think outside of the religious conditioning that has distorted the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our day. I have a very close friend that thinks God should not be characterized in human terms in a novel. I respect his view and love him deeply, this disagreement notwithstanding.

But I have also received letters and comments from people that are vitriolic, making false accusations and bleeding with rage. I’m surprised that people take the time to get so worked up over a book they don’t like, especially one that is helping people reconnect with the love of the Father through the work of Jesus. There are millions of books out there that I disagree with, some of them theological in nature, but I’ve never felt the need to write the author or publisher or cast aspersions on their motives. I find it amazing that this book can at the same moment connect broken people to God in the deepest part of their souls, and enrage others who feel we didn’t cross all the theological t’s or dot all the doctrinal i’s.

Someone sent me a link to a blog called The Thin Edge that has made this comment about the controversy that has raged over this book, especially the personna of Papa in the early part of the story:

Those who miss the amazing story of The Shack by theological nitpicking are like those who try to fit every aspect of a biblical parable into their systematic theology textbook. They will never make all the pieces fit together. It seems to me that the predominantly white male critics of The Shack—especially those with Reformed theology running through their veins—may owe Paul Young an apology and the rest of us…well, we’re just really thankful for a literary portrait of the God who crawls into our deepest sadness and brings us through the darkest night from brokenness to wholeness once again.

I don’t know about needing an apology, but I resonate with his point.

Share this Post!

Related post

32 Comments
  1. StarLysandra Cole August 24, 2008 at 7:40 am

    As someone who had worked through an enormous degree of emotional, psychological, spiritual, and interpersonal issues resulting from years of horrendous abuse from an extremely early age… only to find Jesus there at the beginning, at the end, and at every point in between… and has also had the profound blessing of being permitted to come along side others working through equally horrendous pain and torment, I found The Shack to be on a very short list of books… of any genre… that accurately portray the height, depth, breadth, and expanse of the Grace, Mercy, Joy, Truth, and all the other issues related to the Character and Nature of the Everlasting Arms I’ve encountered on these journeys…

    … this is the only conclusion I can draw from those whose emotional responses are so incredibly vitriolic and intense. The instant I see someone behave in a manner that exceeds the bounds of the “trigger” they are responding against, it invariably become obvious that the “issue” over which they are reacting is not the problem. Whatever it was that has them so agitated is simply the trigger of OTHER stuff, OTHER issues, they’ve never resolved between themselves and Our Loving Creator God and which far too often they are running from as hard as they can possibly manage. Without fail.

    That being the case, I shake my head at the “temper tantrums” but can only manage to feel the utmost compassion for the pain they are refusing to visit and the incredible loss of Comfort and JOY they are passing by in their fear of meeting God at that place… at their own personal “shack” experience.

    Anyone who has worked through a deep pain of any kind, in any way similar to “The Shack,” and found themselves looking into the face of the Compassionate Healer, will resonate with The Shack and the message it communicates… because if they stuck with it, they found a similar encounter with the Heart of God. If they haven’t, they’ve not dug deep enough yet. If you’ve had that kind of encounter with the Redeemer of all things, including the horrors of abuse and trauma, you find it difficult to nit-pick at the theology and doctrines of man in its pages… you can’t even find those threads to pull. Because you recognize your Shepherd and His Voice… and you know as you read, the author has met the same King of Grace and Mercy you have found in such horrid places of pain. You understand, “this is why I left evil and did not vanquish it on that Resurrection morning along with the sin it generates”… because the fullness of the Glory of His Light can only be fully contrasted against the darkest dark of the enemy’s most vicious night.

    I completely agree with the “The Thin Edge” and the sentiments expressed… why do people rail against the blessing and healing people are experiencing and the bondage of anger and grief and pain that is being broken through its pages??? Can you say “pharisee”? Can you say, “sadducee”? The enemy’s most strident conflict against the Truth is frequently expressed through the voice of those who say they speak for God while furiously wrapping the living in death clothes.

    Heed them no mind.

  2. StarLysandra Cole August 24, 2008 at 10:40 am

    As someone who had worked through an enormous degree of emotional, psychological, spiritual, and interpersonal issues resulting from years of horrendous abuse from an extremely early age… only to find Jesus there at the beginning, at the end, and at every point in between… and has also had the profound blessing of being permitted to come along side others working through equally horrendous pain and torment, I found The Shack to be on a very short list of books… of any genre… that accurately portray the height, depth, breadth, and expanse of the Grace, Mercy, Joy, Truth, and all the other issues related to the Character and Nature of the Everlasting Arms I’ve encountered on these journeys…

    … this is the only conclusion I can draw from those whose emotional responses are so incredibly vitriolic and intense. The instant I see someone behave in a manner that exceeds the bounds of the “trigger” they are responding against, it invariably become obvious that the “issue” over which they are reacting is not the problem. Whatever it was that has them so agitated is simply the trigger of OTHER stuff, OTHER issues, they’ve never resolved between themselves and Our Loving Creator God and which far too often they are running from as hard as they can possibly manage. Without fail.

    That being the case, I shake my head at the “temper tantrums” but can only manage to feel the utmost compassion for the pain they are refusing to visit and the incredible loss of Comfort and JOY they are passing by in their fear of meeting God at that place… at their own personal “shack” experience.

    Anyone who has worked through a deep pain of any kind, in any way similar to “The Shack,” and found themselves looking into the face of the Compassionate Healer, will resonate with The Shack and the message it communicates… because if they stuck with it, they found a similar encounter with the Heart of God. If they haven’t, they’ve not dug deep enough yet. If you’ve had that kind of encounter with the Redeemer of all things, including the horrors of abuse and trauma, you find it difficult to nit-pick at the theology and doctrines of man in its pages… you can’t even find those threads to pull. Because you recognize your Shepherd and His Voice… and you know as you read, the author has met the same King of Grace and Mercy you have found in such horrid places of pain. You understand, “this is why I left evil and did not vanquish it on that Resurrection morning along with the sin it generates”… because the fullness of the Glory of His Light can only be fully contrasted against the darkest dark of the enemy’s most vicious night.

    I completely agree with the “The Thin Edge” and the sentiments expressed… why do people rail against the blessing and healing people are experiencing and the bondage of anger and grief and pain that is being broken through its pages??? Can you say “pharisee”? Can you say, “sadducee”? The enemy’s most strident conflict against the Truth is frequently expressed through the voice of those who say they speak for God while furiously wrapping the living in death clothes.

    Heed them no mind.

  3. Doni Brinkman August 24, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Very well said! Paul is, I am sure, getting the worst of the abuse, but I am finding personally, that many of us who are doing our best to market it are catching the heat wave as well. Just this week I found comments on another blog related to me. I was accused of being short on discernment and very deceived. 🙂 Grrrrr…. Had to look at it as a “love” opportunity though because everything in me wanted to lobby a full scale defense for Paul (and me too :). Frustrating. Asking the Lord to help me stand down and live free. By the way, I watched The Father’s Affection video on your site this week and I loved it! Hoping you make it to Prescott this year.

  4. Toby August 24, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    No matter how many dozens or hundreds or thousands of these hopelessly negative and vitriolic responses you and the Windblown family may be getting, please keep doing what you’re doing – focusing on the one response that matter’s, and that being the response of Papa Himself. Because you are truly living out of His love you will be a target for those who still thing they have to earn His approval. But as an added bonus be encouraged that for every single positive response, there’s certainly thousands more of us who haven’t taken the time to convey the gratitude we are all overflowing with. We are grateful for The Shack’s divinely powerful and creative expression of Father’s love and His desire to be so real and intimate in our lives. God is looking for lovers, not lawyers!

  5. Doni Brinkman August 24, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Very well said! Paul is, I am sure, getting the worst of the abuse, but I am finding personally, that many of us who are doing our best to market it are catching the heat wave as well. Just this week I found comments on another blog related to me. I was accused of being short on discernment and very deceived. 🙂 Grrrrr…. Had to look at it as a “love” opportunity though because everything in me wanted to lobby a full scale defense for Paul (and me too :). Frustrating. Asking the Lord to help me stand down and live free. By the way, I watched The Father’s Affection video on your site this week and I loved it! Hoping you make it to Prescott this year.

  6. Toby August 24, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    No matter how many dozens or hundreds or thousands of these hopelessly negative and vitriolic responses you and the Windblown family may be getting, please keep doing what you’re doing – focusing on the one response that matter’s, and that being the response of Papa Himself. Because you are truly living out of His love you will be a target for those who still thing they have to earn His approval. But as an added bonus be encouraged that for every single positive response, there’s certainly thousands more of us who haven’t taken the time to convey the gratitude we are all overflowing with. We are grateful for The Shack’s divinely powerful and creative expression of Father’s love and His desire to be so real and intimate in our lives. God is looking for lovers, not lawyers!

  7. Pam August 24, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    I am sure I have reformed theology running though my veins, and I don’t have a problem with The Shack. I rather liked it.

  8. Pam August 24, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    I am sure I have reformed theology running though my veins, and I don’t have a problem with The Shack. I rather liked it.

  9. Charles August 25, 2008 at 9:51 am

    It’s amazing how Religion shows her ugly head when people find out how much Papa truly loves us. I appreciate you and the others involved with “The Shack”, for you’re willingness to spread freedom all over the place.

    Toby, I love your statement “God is looking for lovers, not lawyers!” That’s great!

  10. Joni Menard August 25, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    We’ve been selling the book out of our ministry office since January and have not been able to keep it on the shelf. Early on in the community conversation on the internet, I too found myself upset at the negative vitriolic responses. Listening to both Paul’s response and Wayne’s response to the criticism has been a powerful witness of Truth, Life and The Way. I too haven’t taken the time to convey the gratitude I have for this book. I finished it while I was in a public library and I was overwhelmed with the sensation of being enveloped in a wonderfully warm soft blanket, I knew it was liquid love. I also knew from my depth it was all true. Not in the way that people will ask “is this a true story” and I would say its called fiction and its a novel. But as an allegory it is so true its stunning. Each one of us kids could write a Shack and it would be different but true too. I honestly think some of this criticism is exposing jealousy under the guise of hiding behind theological issues. Now when I view critical video or read a critical review of The Shack, I wonder about it and then I ask Papa about it and we have the most wonderful conversation. It usually leads to intercessory prayer. Prayer for both of the brothers in the prodigal story. And then I remember I am never far from either camp which in the end doesn’t matter because its the Father who is amazing.

  11. Charles August 25, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    It’s amazing how Religion shows her ugly head when people find out how much Papa truly loves us. I appreciate you and the others involved with “The Shack”, for you’re willingness to spread freedom all over the place.

    Toby, I love your statement “God is looking for lovers, not lawyers!” That’s great!

  12. Joni Menard August 25, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    We’ve been selling the book out of our ministry office since January and have not been able to keep it on the shelf. Early on in the community conversation on the internet, I too found myself upset at the negative vitriolic responses. Listening to both Paul’s response and Wayne’s response to the criticism has been a powerful witness of Truth, Life and The Way. I too haven’t taken the time to convey the gratitude I have for this book. I finished it while I was in a public library and I was overwhelmed with the sensation of being enveloped in a wonderfully warm soft blanket, I knew it was liquid love. I also knew from my depth it was all true. Not in the way that people will ask “is this a true story” and I would say its called fiction and its a novel. But as an allegory it is so true its stunning. Each one of us kids could write a Shack and it would be different but true too. I honestly think some of this criticism is exposing jealousy under the guise of hiding behind theological issues. Now when I view critical video or read a critical review of The Shack, I wonder about it and then I ask Papa about it and we have the most wonderful conversation. It usually leads to intercessory prayer. Prayer for both of the brothers in the prodigal story. And then I remember I am never far from either camp which in the end doesn’t matter because its the Father who is amazing.

  13. Brian Francis Hume August 28, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    I guess I need to read The Shack to find out what the fuss is all about! *smile* I hope I don’t uncover a Pharisee in me. (Kind of like John Maxwell’s “Discover the Leader Within You” train of thought…) Hence it is my desire that God breaks me of any religious pride and garbage I’ve accumulated over time. Sometimes I can smell the stench…and unfornately, so can others. So if there’s a book out there that just might “Expose the Pharisee Within You” than I’m licking at the chops to dig in! Blessings!

  14. Brian Francis Hume August 29, 2008 at 1:59 am

    I guess I need to read The Shack to find out what the fuss is all about! *smile* I hope I don’t uncover a Pharisee in me. (Kind of like John Maxwell’s “Discover the Leader Within You” train of thought…) Hence it is my desire that God breaks me of any religious pride and garbage I’ve accumulated over time. Sometimes I can smell the stench…and unfornately, so can others. So if there’s a book out there that just might “Expose the Pharisee Within You” than I’m licking at the chops to dig in! Blessings!

  15. Lani September 6, 2008 at 8:23 am

    These are quotes from the post above:
    Those who miss the amazing story of The Shack by theological nitpicking are like those who try to fit every aspect of a biblical parable into their systematic theology textbook. ….. It seems to me that the predominantly white male critics of The Shack—…..exposing jealousy under the guise of hiding behind theological issues….those who still thing they have to earn His approval Can you say “pharisee”? Can you say, “sadducee”? The enemy’s most strident conflict against the Truth is frequently expressed through the voice of those who say they speak for God while furiously wrapping the living in death clothes. It’s amazing how Religion shows her ugly head when people find out how much Papa truly loves us….exposing jealousy under the guise of hiding behind theological issues….
    I expect you will delete my post.
    Discussing theology does not mean people are nitpicking, jealous, pharasees, sadducees, the enemy, in death clothes, or representatives of religious “ugly heads”….or even “white males”….
    I love you guys, and if I express reservations or concerns, it is for the sake of the pure gospel of grace delivered to us by Christ our Lord. Don’t give your life any wind of doctrine…hold fast.

  16. Lani September 6, 2008 at 11:23 am

    These are quotes from the post above:
    Those who miss the amazing story of The Shack by theological nitpicking are like those who try to fit every aspect of a biblical parable into their systematic theology textbook. ….. It seems to me that the predominantly white male critics of The Shack—…..exposing jealousy under the guise of hiding behind theological issues….those who still thing they have to earn His approval Can you say “pharisee”? Can you say, “sadducee”? The enemy’s most strident conflict against the Truth is frequently expressed through the voice of those who say they speak for God while furiously wrapping the living in death clothes. It’s amazing how Religion shows her ugly head when people find out how much Papa truly loves us….exposing jealousy under the guise of hiding behind theological issues….
    I expect you will delete my post.
    Discussing theology does not mean people are nitpicking, jealous, pharasees, sadducees, the enemy, in death clothes, or representatives of religious “ugly heads”….or even “white males”….
    I love you guys, and if I express reservations or concerns, it is for the sake of the pure gospel of grace delivered to us by Christ our Lord. Don’t give your life any wind of doctrine…hold fast.

  17. Mary Bowley September 8, 2008 at 3:50 am

    Can’t find words enough to express just how much this lovely book has blessed me, deepening my relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I lost two adult children in 1999 and have found so much healing and reassurance that God surely does know the number of hairs on our head – and about all that we have gone through – and that He has planned the way through it all.
    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

  18. Mary Bowley September 8, 2008 at 6:50 am

    Can’t find words enough to express just how much this lovely book has blessed me, deepening my relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I lost two adult children in 1999 and have found so much healing and reassurance that God surely does know the number of hairs on our head – and about all that we have gone through – and that He has planned the way through it all.
    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

  19. Carolyn September 10, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    I think that The Shack is simply not for everybody. Reading it blessed me tremendously. I was in a darkness that might have consumed me if I’d never heard about God’s love for me in this way. I say that because I had heard that God loves me in church, but learned the opposite of that in the way church people treated me. And since I had never believed I was love from my childhood until that time, God’s love just seemed like a “nice idea.”

    Now I am learning to rest in His love. I never really could before. It may take me a while to really “get it” but that’s what I’m focusing on right now.

  20. Carolyn September 10, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    I think that The Shack is simply not for everybody. Reading it blessed me tremendously. I was in a darkness that might have consumed me if I’d never heard about God’s love for me in this way. I say that because I had heard that God loves me in church, but learned the opposite of that in the way church people treated me. And since I had never believed I was love from my childhood until that time, God’s love just seemed like a “nice idea.”

    Now I am learning to rest in His love. I never really could before. It may take me a while to really “get it” but that’s what I’m focusing on right now.

  21. Carol October 16, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    Thank you guys soooo much! This book put into words so much of what I have been feeling but did not know how to articulate. I cried through much of it because of the revelation of my own thoughts & feelings, saying thank you Lord for inspireing these guys to give it to us
    I have shared & given this book to many of my friends & family. It opens up communication & an opportunity to minister in ways that otherwise would not be possible.
    One of my friends had a revelation of how prejudice she was when Papa appeared as an African woman.
    Another had a granddaughter, 18 mo. old murdered, that she had not been able to speak about for 10 years. She gave the book to her son who was the father of this little girl, he wants to discuss the book w/ me.
    Another who has not darkened the door of a church in 47yrs.& has not given God much thought says she had read many books, but cannot stop thinking about this one. She is shareing it w/a friend so they can talk about it together (she has just lost her husband & has been exclusively alone w/him) afraid to go anywhere alone. It is really amazing the doors that have been opened because of the Shack. Thank you WPY for your story. Blessings to you all . Carol

  22. Carol October 16, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Thank you guys soooo much! This book put into words so much of what I have been feeling but did not know how to articulate. I cried through much of it because of the revelation of my own thoughts & feelings, saying thank you Lord for inspireing these guys to give it to us
    I have shared & given this book to many of my friends & family. It opens up communication & an opportunity to minister in ways that otherwise would not be possible.
    One of my friends had a revelation of how prejudice she was when Papa appeared as an African woman.
    Another had a granddaughter, 18 mo. old murdered, that she had not been able to speak about for 10 years. She gave the book to her son who was the father of this little girl, he wants to discuss the book w/ me.
    Another who has not darkened the door of a church in 47yrs.& has not given God much thought says she had read many books, but cannot stop thinking about this one. She is shareing it w/a friend so they can talk about it together (she has just lost her husband & has been exclusively alone w/him) afraid to go anywhere alone. It is really amazing the doors that have been opened because of the Shack. Thank you WPY for your story. Blessings to you all . Carol

  23. JCL December 22, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    I just pray that in these days people won’t put ‘their theology’ before a relationship with Christ Himself.

  24. JCL December 22, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    I just pray that in these days people won’t put ‘their theology’ before a relationship with Christ Himself.

  25. Robin Sampson February 23, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    The problem is those tulip sunglasses! No one can though them.

    Praying they take them off.

  26. Robin Sampson February 23, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    The problem is those tulip sunglasses! No one can though them.

    Praying they take them off.

  27. Paul Julian October 14, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Clearly opinions are polarised by The Shack’s portrayal of God. It sounds a bit like the polarising of opinions when God showed up as a Galilean a few years back…

    (John 1:14)

  28. Paul Julian October 14, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    Clearly opinions are polarised by The Shack’s portrayal of God. It sounds a bit like the polarising of opinions when God showed up as a Galilean a few years back…

    (John 1:14)

  29. Karen January 27, 2015 at 8:56 am

    Wayne,

     

    I know it has been several years, but we are re-reading The Shack and I have one question.  I understand that there was no masked Eastern Religious agenda, so what was the inspiration and thoughts behind naming the Holy Spirit Sarahu after the Indian river?  Your candid response would be most helpful to our group discussion right now..as this inquiry goes to the horse’s mouth so to speak. 🙂

     

    Thank you

    Karen 

  30. waynejacobsen January 27, 2015 at 9:18 am

    We didn’t name Sarayu after an Indian river.  There may be a river with the same name, but that’s not where it came from.  Paul tells the story often of working on the original manuscirpt while he was working a part time job moderating one-line business conference calls.  While he was waiting for others to come on the call he got to talking with an Indian woman who was waiting for others to come.  At that point he was looking for an interesting name to call the Holy Spirit.  Since the word ‘Spirit’ in Greek comes from the word for  wind, he asked here if there were any interesting words in Hindi that mean wind. Turns out they have lots of words for wind.  As she was throwing out some options he immediately fell in love with “Sarayu”.  He asked her what kind of wind that was. She said it was that light refreshing breeze that comes across your face on a hot and exhausting day.  The rest is history.  It’s a lovely image for how the Spirit engages us as we journey through this life.  Also keep in mind part of Paul’s thinking with THE SHACK in its earliest phases was demonstrating a God who reaches past our white, western preconceptions and has love enough to encompass the whole world.  That’s why using different races, different words, and different images was so important. 

  31. Karen January 27, 2015 at 11:56 am

    Wayne,

     

    I know it has been several years, but we are re-reading The Shack and I have one question.  I understand that there was no masked Eastern Religious agenda, so what was the inspiration and thoughts behind naming the Holy Spirit Sarahu after the Indian river?  Your candid response would be most helpful to our group discussion right now..as this inquiry goes to the horse’s mouth so to speak. 🙂

     

    Thank you

    Karen 

  32. waynejacobsen January 27, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    We didn’t name Sarayu after an Indian river.  There may be a river with the same name, but that’s not where it came from.  Paul tells the story often of working on the original manuscirpt while he was working a part time job moderating one-line business conference calls.  While he was waiting for others to come on the call he got to talking with an Indian woman who was waiting for others to come.  At that point he was looking for an interesting name to call the Holy Spirit.  Since the word ‘Spirit’ in Greek comes from the word for  wind, he asked here if there were any interesting words in Hindi that mean wind. Turns out they have lots of words for wind.  As she was throwing out some options he immediately fell in love with “Sarayu”.  He asked her what kind of wind that was. She said it was that light refreshing breeze that comes across your face on a hot and exhausting day.  The rest is history.  It’s a lovely image for how the Spirit engages us as we journey through this life.  Also keep in mind part of Paul’s thinking with THE SHACK in its earliest phases was demonstrating a God who reaches past our white, western preconceptions and has love enough to encompass the whole world.  That’s why using different races, different words, and different images was so important. 

Comments are closed.