Who’s Afraid of The Big, Bad Shack?

Who’s Afraid of The Big, Bad Shack?

By Wayne Jacobsen

It turns out quite a few people are.

As the movie adaptation of The Shack is set to release on March 3, I’m hearing increasing rumblings from people who want to denounce the story as dangerous for Christians to see. Mention the movie in your Facebook feed and you’ll hear from at least a few of your friends or family decrying it as heresy and judging those as fools who’ve been touched by its story.

Since I co-wrote the book and helped start the publishing company that distributed it, I often hear from some of these directly. A man wrote me last week concerned that the book distorts the Trinity, teaches that God is a woman, and promotes universalism. His email began like so many others, “I’ll be honest, I’ve never read The Shack, but…,” and then he launched into an all-to-familiar litany of misinformed interpretations of the book. And of course he’s concerned for the danger it represents to “the young in faith and those just growing in their understanding of God.”

It amazes me how people draw such certain conclusions from a book they’ve never bothered to read. I didn’t take the bait. It makes no sense to me to discuss a book with someone who hasn’t read it. We’d only be discussing his ignorance. Surprisingly most of those who have taken up my challenge to read it in a conversation like this have come back surprised that it wasn’t what they thought and tell me how deeply it touched them.

Why are people so afraid of a work of fiction? It’s not going to bite you. It’s not going to convince you something is true if you know already that it isn’t. And your fears just may rob you of an experience that many others have found so valuable in their own relationship with God.

The trouble is most of the accusations launched against The Shack aren’t even true, which makes me wonder what is really going on here. One pastor listed thirteen heresies in The Shack and I would disagree that The Shack promotes twelve of them and the other one isn’t actually a heresy. Like him, many quote a phrase from the book to justify an accusation, but ignore the rest of the story that argues against the very conclusion they want it to make. Amazingly not one of these people ever talked to someone involved with the book to find out if their judgments have merit.

One of the early detractors for The Shack was trying to build a cottage industry out of being the anti-Shack guy. He called me a few months after it was published offering to write a devotional guide to go along with the book. I asked him what he had in mind and he told me he wanted to help people mine the deep truths we’d written about. Having read his previous disdain for the book, I confronted him for his dishonesty. He didn’t want to unpack the story for people, but to attack it. He was surprised I knew and quickly hung up.


Spurious Accusations

Why are people so adamant about distorting the message of the book to scare people from reading it or from seeing the movie?

Some accused us of teaching that God is a woman when none of us who wrote The Shack believe that to be true. One even accused us of indoctrinating people into a black, Madonna, Hindu cult, whatever that is. You just have to make that stuff up.

The characterization in the book doesn’t speak to God’s gender, but through whom he chooses to reveal himself. For Paul Young and his family it was a black woman just like the one described in the book who first demonstrated the love of God to them in a brutal circumstance when few others would dare. In the story, Mack’s image of a father is severely broken by the abuse he suffered, so God comes to him through someone he can relate to. What it seeks to underscore is that God is Spirit and though he doesn’t have a physical body and gender as we do, Genesis assures us that both masculinity and femininity express the nature of God. This is more about Incarnation that God’s gender identity. The point is that he can reveal himself as easily through a black woman as a white male, an Asian senior, or a Latino child. It doesn’t get more Incarnational than that.

Some accused us of modalism, the idea that God is one person who takes on different forms at different times. They base this conclusion on one paragraph showing the wounds of the crucifixion on the Father’s character. They wrongly conclude that we believe the Father was crucified when the point in the book is that God didn’t abandon his Son even on the cross. He was “in Christ reconciling the world to himself.” Because Jesus took on our shame as well as our sin, he felt abandoned because he could no longer see the Father who was right there with him.

We were using a literary convention to convey the closeness between them, not as a depiction of modalism. To get to that conclusion you have to ignore the fact that the three persons of the Trinity spend most of the story in the same room interacting, loving and honoring each other. Of the theologians who wrote us in the first couple of years of the book’s release, 80% told us what we expressed about the relationship inside the Trinity was exactly as they see it. Only 20% took exception to it. But who knows for sure? The Trinity is an amazing mystery that defies description in our corporeal world. We could only depict it as loving, mutual relationships inside the one God.

Perhaps the most problematic accusation is that The Shack promotes universalism, the belief that everyone gets salvation in the end. Some who advance this idea quote from Paul Young’s paper for a think tank written before The Shack. Even today he describes himself as a “hopeful universalist”. However, Paul isn’t the only author of this story.

The original manuscript that became The Shack, was a rough cut of an endearing tale about God and suffering that Young had written for his children to explain his views of God. When he first sent me the manuscript, universalism was a significant component in the resolution of that story. When he asked for my help in publishing the book, I told him I wouldn’t work on it if that was his answer to human suffering. I didn’t agree with it and thought it would hamper efforts to reach the audience that would most benefit from the book.

Paul hoped to convince me I was wrong and sent me his paper on universalism. We spent some time discussing it, but in the end I felt it took too much linguistic gymnastics to bend Scripture to that conclusion. As I have friends who believe in universal salvation, it’s not a view I’m afraid of; it’s just one I don’t share. And regardless of what any of us believes, God will resolve this age exactly the way he has planned. I don’t have to figure it all out, but trust it to the God I know.  However, nothing Jesus, Paul, or John said points me to the conclusion that everyone receives salvation. In fact they warn of significant consequences in the age beyond for refusing God’s love in this one. I do believe God’s love is universal and his desire is for everyone to be saved, but that transaction involves a response from us.

At that point the conversations between God and Mack were a set of questions and answers, more like Sunday school lessons, interesting dialog surely but not yet a story of healing. To turn this into a book and later a movie, a friend of mine, Brad Cummings, and I discussed the need for those conversations to be more directed, moving Mack from anger and brokenness into freedom and healing. When we shared it with Paul he loved the idea. I explained to him exactly how to do rewrite it but he was reticent to do it on his own and begged us to rewrite it for him. “I’m done with it,” he told me one day. “If this book goes anywhere it’s because you’ll get involved.”

He agreed to let us take out the universalism theme saying he was less certain about it than when he wrote the first draft. So when people tell me that The Shack promotes universalism, I know it doesn’t because Brad and I don’t embrace it and when we rewrote the story in four different drafts over 16 months, we took it out.

Instead we wrote a story about God’s ability to find Mack in his brokenness and let his love invite him into truth and wholeness. Mack’s responses at every point are critical to the story. These quotes clearly set it apart from universalism:


“All I am telling you is that reconciliation is a two way street, and I have done my part, totally, completely, finally. It is not the nature of love to force a relationship but it is the nature of love to open the way.”

*     *     *     *

“Does that mean,” asked Mack, “that all roads will lead to you?”

“Not at all,” smiled Jesus as he reached for the door handle to the shop. “Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.”

*     *     *     *

Now (evil) touches everyone that I love, those who follow me and those who don’t. If I take away the consequences of people’s choices, I destroy the possibility of love. Love that is forced is no    love at all.”

*     *     *     *


The Real Controversy

One day I got a call from a church bookstore manager angry that we had included curse words in the book. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about and he reminded me that toward the end of the book, Mack calls his daughter’s murderer a son of a bitch as he wrestles with forgiving him. “My pastor won’t let me carry the book because of that.”

“Really?” I inquired further. “If it wasn’t there, everything else with the book is fine?”

He had to admit that it wasn’t. His pastor had other concerns, of course. The one curse word was only an excuse that others couldn’t argue with. It reminded me of Jesus healing people on the Sabbath. While nothing in the law forbid healing, it was something the Pharisees could point out to discredit him with the people. “We’re fine with him healing, he just shouldn’t do it on the Sabbath.” Sure!

I sense that with these many of the other accusations as well. They don’t stand up to the simplest reading of The Shack and seem forced on it by someone who has other issues they are not willing to admit. For some it may have been more about “black” than “woman”, but know that wouldn’t be well received. Or perhaps they didn’t like how gracious and playful Papa was with Mack. The story we wanted to tell was the story of a loving Father finding his way through all the pain, loss, and false accusations to reconnect with one of his children who was lost in his depression.

For the Pharisees Jesus was also too kind and compassionate with sinners, and not enough engaged with the religious elite of his day. He claimed to be a man of God but didn’t fit the mold the teachers of the law had designed for him. They preferred an angrier, more judgmental God. If there’s a controversy behind The Shack I suspect it is this: Who is God really? Is he an angry deity needing to be appeased by the submission of his fearful subjects, or is he a loving Abba winning people into his reality through tenderness and compassion? I grew up with the former, but have been won into the latter. But I can see why people would be threatened with the God of The Shack if he is more gracious to the lost than they are.

This book begs the question how a loving Father finds his way into the hearts of people in a broken world who are prone to blame him for their tragedies. That’s why I was willing to help rewrite this book. It’s one of the first books I knew of that attempted to show God finding his way into the darkness and paralysis of someone’s pain and personally walking them into freedom.

The Shack is a story of redemption, of God’s willingness to go into the worst of the human experience, and to the most broken of lives and love him into a friendship that could reverse the work of evil and restore a lost soul. In doing so it traverses the most difficult topics of God’s reality, suffering, depression, judgment, forgiveness, and love with a simplicity that befits the Gospel message.

Admittedly it is difficult to cover all of those issues without stepping on someone’s theological toes. I’m sure others would want to express these same truths differently and that’s what makes this novel such a catalyst for some fascinating conversations if it moves us to express our differences, and listen to each other rather than make accusations based on how we view the book. Fiction can be interpreted in a variety of ways, not all of them conforming to the intent of the authors. Like any piece of art I don’t expect everyone to appreciate it. But no one needs to fear it either. People throw accusations of heresy around way too easily these days. The idea that this is a dangerous book out to subvert the health of the Body of Christ, or that anyone who finds it meaningful is a theological simpleton is irresponsible at best and dishonest at worst.

The amount of email, and personal conversations I have had with people over the last decade tells me we got enough of this story right to provoke people to think about a loving God. Time and again I hear of people who had all but rejected God in the pain of their own lives, rediscovering how much God loves them by reading of this book. Is the book perfect? Of course not, but it was the best story three passionate men could produce a decade ago and we are grateful it has touched countless lives the world over. Our prayer is that this movie will do the same by helping people take a fresh look at God’s love and by sparking the conversations that will help them discover his reality.

I’ve seen the movie through its various edits and now in its final version. It simplifies these themes even more, and in an engaging way invites people to contemplate the existence of God in the face of human pain, and the lengths he would take to heal and redeem the brokenhearted. It is a visual feast that with simplicity and poignancy can open a wide door for God to make himself known to an audience who might never read the book. If evangelicals let the dialog speak for itself, they will be hard-pressed to find controversy here.

The point of the story is that none of us are so lost in our pain or despair that we are beyond the reach of a gracious Father.

Wouldn’t that be something to celebrate?



Wayne Jacobsen is the co-author of The Shack alongside Paul Young and Brad Cummings and has authored numerous other books including He Loves Me, Finding Church, A Man Like No Other, and In Season and hangs his hat at Lifestream.org.


115 thoughts on “Who’s Afraid of The Big, Bad Shack?”

  1. Reminds me of a church where I served as an elder. People were all up in arms over the book and one person leading a class with the book as the topic of study. Many had not read it for themselves, but were taking the word of Michael Yousef (and undoubtedly others) that it was dangerous. They were all up in arms and could hardly believe this was the direction the church was taking. I encouraged one couple who reached out to me with their concerns to attend the class to experience it firsthand and their response to me was that they didn’t want to seem like they were snooping. So, in other words, they just wanted me to do something about it (i.e., put a stop to it). I attended the class and found nothing heretical about it. In fact, there were some very lively and thought-provoking discussions taking place. I’m sure my assessment was a disappointment to many.

  2. Wayne thank you a hundred times for you involvement with The Shack….loved loved loved it and am re-reading it again in preparation for the movie. I will try and print your great response to give to the naysayers I will encounter!

  3. Thank you Wayne for once again clarifying what is so good about The Shack for those who may have been swayed by some who are still hung up on pointing out what they perceive to be the bad and the ugly! Can’t wait to go and enjoy the movie!

  4. The Shack is one of the most precious books I ever read. I read it many times to discover a Loving Father, Jesus as the loving brother and friend I always longed for and The Holy Spirit as the most gentle and loving person to show me my way.
    How I long for a weekend in The Shack with these three loving persons. But the already changed me.
    The film I created reading the book has become so special to me, that I am reluctant to watch the movie. My experience with the book is enough. But I hope the movie will touch many lives and bring them closer to the loving Father.

  5. I’m sorry, but reading through the comments I had to comment on this one from Jan-William Hagen “”I read it many times to discover a Loving Father, Jesus as the loving brother and friend I always longed for and The Holy Spirit as the most gentle and loving person to show me my way.
    How I long for a weekend in The Shack with these three loving persons. But the already changed me.”” …..ummmm, they are truly revealed in the Word of God. We don’t have to read & read & read a book of fiction to discover the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. ….where is the mention of God’s Word?? That’s what might be a big caution about this…people getting their ideas of the Trinity & the God-head from a book instead of THE BOOK….just a thought 🙂

    1. Greg, part of the problem here is that the Scriptures have been so misused by those who want to use religion to control people through fear that people are no longer certain what they say. Finding a vantage point in someone’s book can have great value if it draws us back to the Scriptures to see if these things are son. Some people have gotten in my view a more accurate view of God by reading THE SHACK than they’ve gotten in countless hours of fear-based and guilt-inducing drivel from some of our pulpits. I agree the Bible is the only resource that matters, but we have to have a framework that allows us to interpret it in a way that doesn’t disfigure God.

      1. ” Some people have gotten in my view a more accurate view of God by reading THE SHACK than they’ve gotten in countless hours of fear-based and guilt-inducing drivel from some of our pulpits.” This statement seems to be assuming that Young’s interpretation/view of God is the “accurate” one. How do you arrive at this conclusion? Do you have a Biblical basis on which you state this?

        1. If it is fear-based and guilt inducing, I assume it has missed much of the Incarnation, the Gospel, and the life of Jesus. Brad and I helped write this book with Paul and we would have numerous Biblical sources for almost everything we put in the mouths of the Trinity. Is it perfect? No. But it is the best the three of us could do and I would still stand by the character of God as portrayed in this book and his ability to reach into Mack’s despair and bring love and light. As to whether it is right or not, we commend our words “to every one’s conscience in the sight of God.” It’s each of our responsibility to see him as clearly as Scripture and Spirit reveal him to us.

  6. This is so freeing! At the very least we can now know that, due to this new spirituality, that everyone is going to heaven, that there is no real “hell” or “lake of fire” that we need to be concerned about, that there is no need for anyone to believe in a “gospel” or any need for “repentance” or “faith” or whatever people are just making up these days. I was in a church that was so restrictive, so dogmatic about truth being so important, to be alarmed about “false teachers” but now that I have left that church, and Christianity, I am free!

    1. Dewey, can’t tell if you’re being a bit ironic here or not. Words like gospel, repentance and faith still have deep meaning for me. Free from Christianity as a religion, doesn’t necessarily mean free in the life of God. I’m concerned that this approach is much like the heresy hunters on the other side. We/I have the truth and those that don’t see it like we do are wrong or stupid. Knowing the God of the Ages, who is far more fast than we can ever contain, might provoke a bit of humility in our hearts and the conclusions we’ve come to.

      1. Ironic? I’m not sure what you mean, but I am sure that I’ve been freed by finding God in everything. There are no limitations, no distinctions. The words you mentioned don’t really have much meaning, how can they? and does it even matter. all is God/God is all. some see it/some don’t

    2. Those who have gotten up in arms over a few cuse words in the book should realize that in the bible the prophets complained to God , and sometimes wished death or destruction on thier enemies, we are not condemned for our words and when your so upset in real life you swear, anyone that hasn’t is because they have been fully sanctified in that area, but our humanity is flawed and that’s why we need Jesus. God isn’t concerned about how christian we look to others from the outside, he cares about our heart and our example. The purpose of the shack is to portray the Trinity, three persons but all one God. And the way they manifest does not mean that that is what God looks like in real life. The book isn’t about christian doctrine it is about relationship with a loving God , and that is its focus. It is a unipue book in that sense and all of us have wondered or imagined what a conversation with Jesus or the holy spirit would be like. The theological people probly are afraid of this book because it brings you close to God, nothing to hide behind. They teach about the Lord without knowing Him in a relationship daily. There scared that that will be exposed and they feel guilt over thier own sins so out of that they stick to theology.

  7. I appreciate you wanting to defend your own writing, who wouldn’t? And we’d all likely struggle in being objective regarding our own work, but I beg of you to pour as much objectivity as you can in the next few minutes.

    Rather than pointing out the many significant problems in this tome (that many wonderful people have pointed out), I will try to limit the focus to one main thing. Perhaps the biggest problem in this book are the unclear, appealing-to-emotion, and ambiguous messages (which might be blamed on literary style, poetic license, etc), which, then, can be taken to mean many different things.

    Therefore, the way this is set up, what ever valid point/concern/problem people point out (e.g. universalism; distorting the character of God; a misleading-at-best gospel; Gal 1:6-9; 2 Cor 11:3-4, 13-15), you (or someone else) can easily say, “Well, that’s not what I meant …” Really? It’s not that simple.

    I get it that the theology in a fictional book is harder to defend, but therein lies the problem. How much more difficult you made it when you tried to explain God, and the Trinity, with humans, and feel-good, less-than-reverent humans at that. Is it any wonder that so many people are offended by this?

    Add to this confusion and nebulousness the multiple authors, and with their conflicting beliefs/theology (not to mention any erroneous beliefs) with more than one theological matters, this becomes more than an issue, it becomes the prevailing problem. Now one author can just say that is not what he believes or meant to say in the book, although that is likely what another one believes and meant. You can’t have it both ways, yet that is what you are trying to do.

    As problematic as all that is, in one way it doesn’t matter if “that’s not what is meant by ___.” It is what the audience believes from reading/watching. Countless people have read, and will watch The Shack, and, whether it was intended by the authors or not, they will believe many things they read/hear, and many of those thing will end up being falsehoods (as shown in many other places.) To what degree does that matter, and what are you going to do about it?

    So, for example, it is conceivable that we could all get together and write whatever we want, however problem-filled it may be, but we could then say something like, “I’m sorry, *you* made a mistake in thinking we meant ____.” We could write that God grew up as a man on the planet Kolob, but also accurately say, “But that’s not what we believe.” Again, in one way, who cares what we say after the fact?

    And in the case of this book/movie, literally millions and millions of people are hearing your words, and countless are walking away and believing in falsehoods and a distorted view of God, **no matter what you say you meant, or actually meant** (what you wrote/meant is STILL a major issue).

    We can blame the audience, or the literary devices, or blame those who point out the errors (and subtly label and demean them Pharisees), and even be the victim of said Pharisees and the elites, or we could actually admit to these egregious problems, and make the necessary changes, and, out of a deep love, tell everyone who can possibly hear. Yet I have yet to see any authors of The Shack admit to these serious problems, or own any wrong teaching, or harmful impact. Not that you have not admitting erroneous ways or words, but all I see is defending (which, to some degree, is more than understandable) and subtle and overt blame-shifting, and straw-man arguments, rather than something like, “Wow, you are right! That is a great point, we blew it there and we need to make that right.”

    So, if you believed perfect theology, yet taught something nebulous or unclear, or even merely made a mistake, but readers believe what you wrote, and, therefore, now believe in falsehoods or heresy, then that is really what matters the most (e.g. the net effect, not your intent, not your “heart” in the matter). But this current situation is FAR more concerning and problem-filled than that. Nevertheless, I do not see alarm or godly sorrow, just subtle pushing the responsibility away, and blaming and shaming some supposed Pharisees.

    Do you really think that no one reads this book (or will see this movie) and not conclude you are teaching universalism, and therefore believe in universalism?

    Yes, “God will resolve this age like He planned,” but will this age be resolved like so many of your readers planned? It’s not likely if they fell for falsehood and rejected the true Jesus and the true gospel. And to what degree does that matter to you, and does having the true gospel be accurately taught matter?

    If just one person rejects the true gospel/falls for a false gospel, and believes there is no need for salvation … due to The Shack, then how does that change things for you? But what if hundreds, thousands, or more fall for a false gospel and are not saved? Does it matter? Yes, the truth matters, and believing the truth is essential, at least according to Scripture (2 Thess 2:8-13).

    1. M, thanks for contributing here. I don’t have time to answer at length, but I’d make a couple of observations in response to this.

      (1) According to your logic the Holy Spirit should apologize whenever someone misinterprets or misunderstand the Scripture. The reasons we have a zillion denominations is because anyone can read into its pages anything they want to see, which has created no end of problems and institutions. I don’t hear that MOST people misunderstood the book. Most of what I hear is consistent with what we hoped for.

      (2) If I met even one person, or heard from one by email, who became a universalist reading THE SHACK, I would be more concerned how at how we expressed it there. People who are universalists read it into the book, as previous commenters have demonstrated. And hyper vigilant heresy hunters can read into it as well. We could have put Scripture addresses to most of the statements we put in the mouths of Jesus, Papa and Sarayu. WE didn’t because it would break the flow, but there’s not a conclusion we reached that we could support from the Scriptures themselves. Our hope and prayer is that people discover the Truth in these pages, because you’re right, it does matter. Greatly.

      (3) If I read one reasoned commentary that pointed out the kind of miswritten passage you suggest above, then I would be first to apologize and suggest correction for the offending passage. However, the detractors I have read support their fears with quotes from the book that were never meant to be taken that way and the context makes that clear. When they lift a quote out of context to make a false charge I think, “That’s not what we were trying to say and I think they know that.” Most of their comments read as if they had disdain for the book first, and went looking for evidence to support their bias. Case in point, Jesus saying he is the “best” way to the Father has been often quoted as proof we believe there are other ways. But the context is Mack saying of the three of them he finds Jesus the best way. To suggest that this alludes to “other ways” to get to God is to be dishonest with the context. How can you even answer someone who isn’t being honest in their criticism? That’s my experience with most of the detractors. And you allege we’ve turned God into “feel good, less that reverent humans” unmasks your bias. I would disagree. There is nothing in this story that God lets Mack get away with. He holds his feet to the fire on every place of freedom, even up to the forgiveness of his own daughter’s murderer.

      (4) Any rule of biblical interpretation or even someone’s book is learning intent of the author. You dismiss that as some shell game we’re trying to hide behind. By telling the story clearly I’m giving people a peak into the process. If they choose to believe their own assumption about our intent or think we’re using that to obscure some sinister intent, I don’t know what to say to you. It seems the conversation there ends if that’s the conclusion you have reached.

      (5) Overall I think the story points to a loving Father who wants to win back a child lost in despair and grief. The overall response to that in the culture leaves me at peace with what is there and I’ll be happy to stand before the God of the Ages one day to be judged by the story we told. Those who “theologians” who have created an image of a narcissistic and petulant God who delights in the destruction of the broken humanity will have far more to answer for in disfiguring the God of the Bible.

      And (6) I love the conversation this book has provoked around the world. I love the conversations about who is God really? Where does Papa reflect that, when doesn’t he? I love people who have contemplated Mack’s journey or God being with Missy even in the kidnapping. You don’t know the comfort that has brought many parents whose children have suffered great tragedies and what could be truer than God with them even in extremity? And I love talking to friends who don’t like THE SHACK or felt we got something wrong. I’m not threatened by that conversation either because if I thought we were trying to do half the things we’re accused of, I’d be concerned. But fiction can be misinterpreted and when it is that can lead to fascinating conversations if both sides are willing to listen to the other. That doesn’t happen, however, with people who claim the theological high ground and don’t even consider that they may be reading in their own biases. Look at what people are contemplating and discussing all over the world because of this little book, even those who may take exception to what we wrote. They get a voice too and somehow God will sort out what’s true by his Spirit in open and receptive hearts.

      1. “14Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” 2 Corinthians 6:14.

        It seems that all of this confusion started from partnering with a Universalist in a project best left to Christians.

        ” 9Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 10If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” 2John 1:9-11

        “11But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. ” 1 Corinthians 5:11.

        1. Chris I guess I don’t push someone into the darkness because their theology might be a bit off. If so, there would be no one to fellowship with, not even me. What we experienced in those years together and what that collaboration produced hs had an amazing impact in the world and continues with the movie. The book is clearly not universalist if people don’t pull out a few sentences and twist them into their own conclusions. At every place Mack is responding to the Father’s love, repenting of his own misguided ideas and embracing truth even though it is disruptive to his way of doing things. Those who attack it as universalist have either misread it or use Paul’s words before and after, but none of that was evident while we were writing this book. I’m happy to stand by what’s in there and would rather be with someone who over exaggerates God’s love than one who over exaggerates God’s hatred or anger. But to think any of us, including you, have God figure out is ridiculous on the face of it. We are all going to be a little off somewhere, but fortunately we are not saved by perfect theology, but by embracing the work of Christ on the cross for us and learning to follow him.

          1. My question about the Universalist issue is in the Movie when Mac sees his dad as a spirit being – That might lead folks to get the Universalist idea if they didn’t know much about salvation in the Word. My question was and is to you Wayne or Brad – If Mac’s dad had received eternal life did he somewhere, sometime just before he died repent of his being a drunkard and abuser – who don’t inherit the Kingdom – 1 Corinthians 6:9-10? Is it in the book? (sorry I did not read it – not a great reader and more visual Thanks for the Movie).
            Since I am here: Wayne in your response#3 above you said, “There is nothing in this story that God lets Mack get away with. He holds his feet to the fire on every place of freedom, even up to the forgiveness of his own daughter’s murderer.” My question on that is, What about Mac murdering his own dad? In the Movie it showed him pouring poison in his dad’s bottles ( am I assuming too much?) That was never addressed by Papa – there was the little part where Mac says sorry to his spirit being dad – but that like many of folks objections seem to be things either left to the individuals imaginations, preconceived beliefs or personal doctrines and such. I reckon my concern are for those who will take the book or movie as more than just that and are left to draw wrong conclusions.
            And I am equally sad for those that are still controlled by the fear monger religious folks.
            I can’t say for the book, but I enjoyed the Movie very much! – As a follower of Christ I felt it was a thought provoking movie to use as a tool for those looking to start or for a deeper relationship with God.
            I have learned search the scriptures to prove what is Truth and not by God’s Spirit. I am Really Glad that God is not a man that He should lie and that He is powerful enough to draw folks to the Truth an opportunity for Salvation and we do have our part to play and get to choose. To sum it up I quote my favorite line by Papa in the movie,
            “You misunderstand the mystery” – I think we all do to some extent.

          2. Remember that ALL of this happens inside Mack’s coma. This is his perception inside a Spirit-inspired hallucination, I suppose. He never made it back to THE SHACK, but the things he learned transformed him no less. If his Dad is in heaven, then yes he would have repented at some point. Lots of people after drinking poison probably call out to God in the dying. He appears to be a believer in the movie, though a very broken one. The 1 Cor Scripture you quote in my view is about inheriting the kingdom here. There are many people who claim allegiance to Christ who struggle with various sins. Those sins don’t violate their salvation, but to the degree they give themselves to them they don’t inherit the kingdom in their lives. Instead the reap the whirlwind. And I think the forgiveness for murdering his dad is resolved in the cave, when he decides he doesn’t want to judge anymore and realizes his dad was as broken as he was. It’s also reflected in the meadow during the Festival of Friends, but I agree it might be too subtle….

        2. Chris, how can you say that a Christian Universalist is not a believer? Maybe a Universalist, but a Christian Universalist probably believes in Jesus more, believing that He will track a person down, through hell and all the way to the Great White Throne if necessary, where we are told that EVERY KNEE will Bow and EVERY TONGUE will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. That’s more of a believer than most and such a person just might be walking in more of the light than most of the rest who don’t yet see it.

    2. “And we’d all likely struggle in being objective regarding our own work, but I beg of you to pour as much objectivity as you can in the next few minutes.”.

      I’ve come to the conclusion that folks who make such statements, which carry *their own assumed objectivity*, remain in their own echo chambers for so long to become both self-validating and narrow-minded.

      “Therefore, the way this is set up, what ever valid point/concern/problem people point out (e.g. universalism; distorting the character of God; a misleading-at-best gospel; Gal 1:6-9; 2 Cor 11:3-4, 13-15), you (or someone else) can easily say, “Well, that’s not what I meant …” Really? It’s not that simple.”

      Whenever I read folks who critique theology and include statements like what I’ve quoted from your comment here, I’m always at a bit of a loss. You do realize that this same comment can be applied to your own viewpoint, (which I’m going to go out on a limb and assume is neo-reformed or some derivative thereof)? Is your own theological viewpoint “simple”?

      “If just one person rejects the true gospel/falls for a false gospel, and believes there is no need for salvation … due to The Shack, then how does that change things for you? But what if hundreds, thousands, or more fall for a false gospel and are not saved? Does it matter? Yes, the truth matters, and believing the truth is essential, at least according to Scripture (2 Thess 2:8-13).”

      Fear-mongering is one of the oldest religious tricks in the book. Wouldn’t you think, being objective just for a minute, that if it were as dire a situation as you’re framing here, that God wouldn’t feel the need to peek down from the clouds for even just a second to settle the debate once and for all? Or has he chosen you to settle it for us?

      1. I don’t disagree with you Mark, this is often true, but have no idea if it is in the case. I find when someone else is willing to tell me what I believe, even when I’m telling them I don’t, that there really isn’t much use trying to communicate further.

      2. “I’ve come to the conclusion that folks who make such statements, which carry *their own assumed objectivity*, remain in their own echo chambers for so long to become both self-validating and narrow-minded.”

        Wow, there are far too many problems/disagreements in what you wrote, so I’ll just point out a couple.

        First, the statement I made was an admission of the difficulty in being objective, for Wayne, myself, and all of us. Yet you jump in and make a not-so-subtle condemnation of me based on that? There are plenty of things a person can find fault with me on, but to take that quote, of all things, and then extrapolate that into some bizarre summary judgment of me is, well, bizarre.

        And while I’d love to address the multiple problems in your multiple false condemnations of me I will point out a couple more:

        “(which I’m going to go out on a limb and assume is neo-reformed or some derivative thereof)”

        Not close. I bring that up, not just as another false judgment of me (for whatever that is worth) but to point to the problem in judgment … period

        Lastly, it seems that you have somehow distorted a deep concern for people being mislead, and, therefore, greatly harmed (whether we agree or not on the actual level of accuracy is another matter), and twist that into “fear-mongering” and some ill-intent on my part, well, this points to yet another problem in judgment. [Not to mention love, God’s character, etc … all of which goes to my original point and concern, and proves all of the above.]

        All this, not to mention, avoiding the question(s), problems, etc. Nothing assures of staying where we are, and at least drifting into error and harm, then that approach.

        1. “Wow, there are far too many problems/disagreements in what you wrote, so I’ll just point out a couple.”

          Far too many? Overstate much? I don’t think there are any problems. You think there are. So let’s be clear here: these are all just our opinions. Nothing more, nothing less. Being “deeply concerned for people being misled, and, therefore, greatly harmed” doesn’t give your opinion more or less merit or validity and it doesn’t protect you from being called out. Perhaps it is your own views which are misleading and harming people?

          “First, the statement I made was an admission of the difficulty in being objective, for Wayne, myself, and all of us….bizarre summary judgment of me is, well, bizarre”.

          Bizarre? No, not bizarre at all. And no, not judgment or condemnation of you, judgment of your words. When you put your words out on the web, you can be sure that your intentions are going to be judged. What I am doing here is calling out the implied assumption. Again, your words: “I beg of you to pour as much objectivity as you can….”. Isn’t the assumption here, that if we would only be more *objective* then we would see that you are right and Wayne is wrong? You *beg* Wayne to be objective, but then later you admit your own difficulty in being objective? But if you yourself have a hard time being objective, why should we listen to you? Perhaps it is you who should try to be more objective to see your own errors? This is simply poor form. And whatever your views (if not neo-reformed, then what?), cutting and pasting Bible verses (i.e. proof-texting) does absolutely nothing to support or strengthen your claims and arguments and is itself IMHO a poor handling of the Scriptures.

          Here is my final point. In the past, I’ve spent hours and hours and hours on forums and blogs and books reading and studying, discussing and debating theology. While much can be learned, at the end of the day the most important thing to understand is that, yes, “truth matters”, but there is a difference between *feeling* that you are right, and actually *being* right. The former is easy. We just remain in our echo chambers and institutions and line up and interpret Bible verses and present commentaries and big name theologians and hermeneutical systems and make well-worded and clever arguments and *feel* right as rain. The latter, however, is impossible to prove. Theology is not like math. We can’t just punch our views into a calculator and get the objective “truth”. So that IMHO should give us GREAT PAUSE before we make presumptive grandiose statements like “But what if hundreds, thousands, or more fall for a false gospel and are not saved?” and attribute that to a work of fiction.

        2. M, you said, “it seems that you have somehow distorted a deep concern for people being mislead, and, therefore, greatly harmed (whether we agree or not on the actual level of accuracy is another matter), and twist that into “fear-mongering” and some ill-intent on my part, well, this points to yet another problem in judgment. [Not to mention love, God’s character, etc … all of which goes to my original point and concern, and proves all of the above.]”

          Can’t speak for everyone, but speaking for myself, I find this a universal problem. Those that, to me, seem to believe they have transcended to a higher spirituality than others do much of the judging that they seem to disdain receiving. Again, speaking for myself, but what I often see is people trying to say we are so much better than you poor pharisees that have no idea what a relationship with God is all about. I’ll say something that I don’t hear much of, I admit I could be wrong (and I sure don’t assume that applies to everyone), just how it comes across to me.

          It really does nothing for me, but gives me a yuck factor, but I’ve grown accustomed to it. I’m no longer shocked and hurt by these things because I expect them. What shocks me now is when I read something like what you wrote M. Can’t say I agree with everything you say, but I wanted you to know that I thought the scent was beautiful.

          Maybe it’s just me

        3. M, you said, “it seems that you have somehow distorted a deep concern for people being mislead, and, therefore, greatly harmed (whether we agree or not on the actual level of accuracy is another matter), and twist that into “fear-mongering” and some ill-intent on my part, well, this points to yet another problem in judgment. [Not to mention love, God’s character, etc … all of which goes to my original point and concern, and proves all of the above.]”

          Can’t speak for everyone, but speaking for myself, I find this a universal problem. Those that, to me, seem to believe they have transcended to a higher spirituality than others do much of the judging that they seem to disdain receiving. Again, speaking for myself, but what I often see is people trying to say we are so much better than you poor pharisees that have no idea what a relationship with God is all about. I’ll say something that I don’t hear much of, I admit I could be wrong (and I sure don’t assume that applies to everyone), just how it comes across to me.

          It really does nothing for me, but gives me a yuck factor, but I’ve grown accustomed to it. I’m no longer shocked and hurt by these things because I expect them. What shocks me now is when I read something like what you wrote M. Can’t say I agree with everything you say, but I wanted you to know that I thought the scent was beautiful.

  8. I’m so grateful for The Shack book. It was one of a number of key things that saved my faith. I was being eaten up inside by an image I had of an angry, demanding, hard to please, vengeful God – who paradoxically I was told loved me. Creepy!

    Looking back my worst image of God matched the criteria of a psychopath as listed in DSM-V (the diagnostic manual used by psychiatrists). Honestly A lot has changed in my life and faith since reading The Shack. I have done a lot of training in the last 10 years alongside Cristian therapists and they all love the book. I’ve not heard a bad word. They frequently recommend it to clients who’s suffering, like mine, was made a lot worse by a messed up image of God. These therapists see first hand the damage the church can do, trapping people in fear and a living hell.

    Quite frankly I’m tired of all the criticism of the book. But I guess it has its plus side. A good bit of controversy and pastors banning people from watching the movie will mostly make people more curious to watch it. So in a warped sort of way I hope the Shack haters will get their placards and blogs out and warn people of the grevious hellfire dangers of watching this film. Honestly there is no better way to market the film.

    Bless you and thank you Wayne, Brad and Paul. I pray the movie helps millions find a more wonderful Papa than they ever dared hope for.

  9. Hi Wayne. Love the book,truly emotional.
    Is it not true. Jesus said ” behold my hands and my feet,that it is I myself,handle me an see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones,as he see me have ” Luke 24 v 39
    The Shack is closer at describing God than most religions do.

  10. Well written my friend.

    I am learning the singular commandment of Jesus, love one another ‘as I have loved you!’ My first job is to know how much I am loved by my Father. Then I can show that to others. I cannot love if I don’t know I am loved. It becomes empty, guilt filled performance.

    This world is broken and out of sync with our Creator. God allows free will. Some use that for some very evil, selfish purposes. My Father is able to take those most destructive, soul dissolving, painful times and cause all things to work together for good. Because I love Him. Because He first loved me. Who wouldn’t want to connect with this person?

    I have much of the background to be psychcopathic and/or a serial killer. You can cover that up with intellectual conversations or religious performance. Or becoming a minister. When I was finally confronted with the abject ugliness of my soul and the damage I had caused I needed a new Jesus. I found Him. And His love has been transforming me ever since.

    Once a week I meet with a group of 5 other crazies to, in essence, repent. They range in age from 62 to 86. All are still working. We work on our character defects without guilt or shame. We change because we want to live and love life, fully. Not to please an ever present disapproving God. Or to work on becoming sinless. But because we no longer want to be crazy and hurt people. It feels much better to live that way. Plus our families and friends like it as well.

    Job was allowed to pray for his friends and they would be forgiven because, unlike them, Job was honest with God. I can do that now. So can Mack. To encounter a loving, powerful, compassionate Father……. life transforming.

    Tomorrow I will teach on the character attributes of my Father. I am up to almost 30. I did not know Him like that before.

    Love wins my friends. Love wins. Thank you for The Shack. I has beeen a great help along my journey.


  11. Hi Wayne, I was looking for another post and found this on the Shack that somewhat relates. One of my daily “inspirational” messages was a verse Lam 3:21-24. I decided to read the entire chapter, I’m sure you know where I’m going here? Bible study and a personal relationship with the Trinity is complicated. Religious types want the Bible to be black and white, words hopefully inspiring but no personal interpretations please. (recalling Andy Stanley post a while back) They prefer this stationary view rather than something living that God thru the Holy Spirit uses to “work” with us.

    I have found that I am led thru and away from my misinterpretations. It is this freedom and yearning that deepens and enriches my walk. If I were to isolate the first part of that chapter in Lamentations, well it’s brutal. If we can’t have enough confidence in God to trust that he will not let us stand in our misunderstandings then what good is our faith?

  12. Marvelous commentary, and very on target. Whatever flaws, literary or otherwise, the book may have are far outweighed by the profound message of a loving God. As a prison chaplain I hear the message of a “venge-full” God over and over and know that the book has been a powerful tool for healing and redeeming prisoners whose only awareness of God was a robust angry arms-crossed man standing with with legs spread and demanding an explanation for wrongs committed. Thank you very very much for your part in making The Shack reality. Do not be fearful of the naysayers but rather grieve for them.

  13. Hey Wayne, thanks for a great post – I encounter the kind of fear based response in so many aspects of institutional church, and your writing always encourages me that I’m not skewed in my own freedom!

    Do you have details of international release dates for the movie? I’m really looking forward to seeing this when it comes to New Zealand, and am thinking about making it easy for people to talk about it once it’s here. Perhaps you could give us a quick blog update with the release dates, assuming you know them! I haven’t been able to find anything online for international release yet.

    Thanks again,
    with love, grace and gratitude,

    1. No, sorry Jane, Lionsgate is not allowing anyone to release International release dates. I figure it’s because they don’t want to be held to them if something holds it up. All I know is UK & Australia in April. I don’t know if NZ is going to be on that or not.

      1. Charles Waterman

        Sigh. Looking forward to it screening in Japan as well. Hope that’s in the works. I’d like to arrange a party with several of my seeker friends here to go see it together.

  14. I absolutely loved the book. It gave me a new and fresh love for the Trinity. The book was writing in a way that I could connect. After reading it I am more mindful and the trinity being around me and living in me. Thank you so much for being a part of this wonderful book!!

  15. I read He Loves Me right after the Shack and found that it was a more theological explanation of what the Shack was trying to say in fiction. Now that I understand your degree of involvement in the Shack, I understand why.

    Are you and William Paul Young not like any other Christian out there trying to convey concepts of God that you have learned or experience, so people can engage and either understand them better, be intrigued by them, or be invited to step further, go deeper, reach higher into the love of God? With all the Paul went through, and the depth of his own struggle and eventually coming around to this place of knowing God more intimately, I have respect for the man and what he has to say. The only difference is that Young unexpectedly ended up with his thoughts in a best seller and thus opened himself up to every critic out there, and most of them not even knowing him or his story. I find it generally unkind and unfair, and as usual, typical behaviour from Christian elitists calling themselves protectors of the truth yet missing the very points that would lead them closer to Jesus.

    I will tell you that The Shack opened up for me: it was a thought, a possibility that God was far more conversational, far more intimate and relational than I had original thought. And that thought invited me into something that was “more”.

    This is the beauty of The Shack and He Loves Me. They do not hammer doctrinal truth over my head demanding that I get my act together. They invite me into a relationship with Him that was deeper and more intimate than what I had experienced until then. And it made me think, even doubt, and deepened my understanding, and I am richer for it. They led me a whole lot closer to Him. So what is wrong with that?

    Is it perfect? Probably not, but I read the Shack a few times to see what the ruckus was all about, I still cannot see what people were talking about. They were simply reading into it what was not there, stuck on literary devices used by the author to create an incomplete picture about an infinite God.

    Thanks Wayne for your heart and for your words on the page. They have been a blessing.

  16. Loved the thoughts Wayne, as always.
    Quite simply, I would challenge anyone that takes issue with the book (or the movie) to read BOTH The Shack, AND He Loves Me, and not be moved to a new place in their perspective and appreciation of the relationship The Father wants to have with us – that’s the truth of He Loves Me, and the heart of The Shack. Don’t get lost in the wrapping and miss the heartbeat of the Gift.

  17. Love the portrayal of a personal relationship with the trinity. Beautifully done.
    Looking forward to seeing the movie this weekend.
    People need to wake up and rejoice when God is working in millions of people.
    Blessings Wayne.
    Matt and Joyce Wagner

  18. Love the portrayal of the trinity! Beautifully done.

    Looking forward to seeing the movie this weekend!

    People need to wake up and get on board when God is touching millions of hearts to know his love!

    Blessings Wayne.
    Matt and Joyce Wagner

  19. Great job guys, of making the movie of the book! Once again I see Providence’s hand on this whole endeavor from collaboration, publication and now movie-ficaton of what I dubb the “Shackmeup” phenom (true revival in every sense). I feel a band-of-brothers type bond with you guys (Paul, Wayne & Brad) for what you’ve accomplished in overcoming the evil one and being able to communicate Papa’s love for us transformationaly. How timely this “message” for our nation: individually being reconciled to Papa and then to each other in the Body of Christ. Then who knows, maybe even to the nations of the world. To all the Mack’s of America’s families out there I say “earn it”! Live your lives worthy of the price these brother paid for your transformational relationship with Papa. Live loved.

  20. Hi Wayne

    My wife and I saw the movie yesterday. Very good and encouraging. I was talking with a person just an hour ago about losing his daughter. He felt God was very far away, indifferent and angry. I mentioned the movie, but also warned of the loss he experienced was in the movie. He may go see it or not, but how nice to be able to recommend it. I prayed with him and talked for about an hour, he has not been in church or any other group in over 10 years.

    I was disappointed the line about there not being a road he would not go down to find Mac was not in the movie. Oh well, not everything makes it past the production line. And by the way, I don’t think you could have generated more publicity about this film than if you put a sex scene in the middle of it. “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” Oscar Wilde.

    Love wins.

    1. I think the line was in the script, but sometimes it isn’t read well, or it just doesn’t fit the look, or the pacing and it gets cut. Lots of factors here. Not sure what this one was..

  21. Great article, Wayne! Especially good read for those who might have had an issue with or maybe were at odds with some of the spiritual content and are now hesitant to see the movie that was just released. I certainly remember how the book challenged some of the theological teachings that I had been exposed to while serving those many years in the institutional churches. Anyone who really knows me, knows that I would often times visit other churches with friends and was constantly being confronted with opposing views of scripture. This was good and caused me to go to the Lord in prayer and to allow the Holy Spirit to do his job of leading me and guiding me into the truth. God is faithful and we have nothing to fear! This is the reason why I will continue to urge everyone to see the movie and read the book if you haven’t already. Love to you all.

  22. To Mr. Jacobsen and the readers here: please see–

    I’m especially struck with Bleeker’s (first link) citation of theologian Christopher J.H. Wright:

    “If Wright were to counsel Mack, the counsel would be that theology is not ‘just words.’ Theology brings clarity of thought. And clarity brings hope. Throughout The Shack, Mack states his displeasure with any ‘theological thing.’ Yet at a time when millions of readers’ minds are muddied, Wright washes away the grime with truth and humility so that we might understand.”

    1. Andy, do you not think we and our listeners are aware of these types of articles? This is the very kind of thing my article is meant to address. Some of these are the articles I was referring to in my piece. They don’t have honest disagreement with what we wrote, but make up their own interpretations of what we wrote and disagree with it. You’d think people wouldn’t have to be so disingenuous if they had real concerns. One of these is written by the man who I referred to the article that absolutely misrepresented himself and his intentions to me on the phone. Makes you wonder….

        1. Robert, I think the article I linked to speaks for itself, and the point here is that I am not aware of any theology that *universally* and *unequivocally* brings clarity of thought. I am unaware of any theology that does not have at least one or two reasonable questions attached to it. Just because a particular theological view brings “you” clarity does not validate that theology, nor should it give us any reason to dogmatically state that “Theology brings clarity of thought”.

          1. Marc,
            Just to clarify – I do not believe in Universalism. Scripture is clear that although God would that all be saved and makes a way through and Only through Christ and Christ alone, however God still give us free moral agency and perhaps the line “sin has it’s own punishment” is eternal death and not eternal life. As to your articles suggestions thanks I am sure you mean well, but you and the writers of it reflect the much too angry God and is not all scriptural either. God Bless.

          2. Robert, I could be mistaken, but I think you might have me (Marc B.) confused with the original commenter (Andy Doerksen). I posted the Slacktivist article on Interpretive Pluralism, not the 3 articles reviewing the movie/book.

  23. I loved the book, read it several times and recommended it to many. What a beautiful picture of God. I look forward to seeing the film in Toronto (i checked and it’s now playing in TO).

    Thanks Wayne!

  24. Thank you so much Wayne.
    Appreciate this write up and you other work as well.
    Peace love nad health to you.

  25. Hi Wayne, I am hoping yo can elucidate on your comment, “However, nothing Jesus, Paul, or John said points me to the conclusion that everyone receives salvation. In fact they warn of significant consequences in the age beyond for refusing God’s love in this one. I do believe God’s love is universal and his desire is for everyone to be saved, but that transaction involves a response from us.” I was truly helped in reading the book as it helped to reframe much of my understanding of the Father. However , I have always been troubled by a missing component, that you term as “a response from us” . I think this why there is a lot of rhetoric on universalism. Can you clarify what that response look like? So much of scripture has direct reference to believing in Jesus as a critical part of the salvation experience. But the book/movie stop short of any comments regarding what I consider a necessary part of the salvation transaction. i.e. “No man comes to the Father except by me” and many other passage where the name of Jesus and believing, trusting and relying on Him and his work are indelibly linked.

    1. Hi Dave. Happy to tackle this. I think Mack’s responses are clear throughout and probably clearer in the movie. He’s learning to trust Jesus and Papa by staying with them when he’s confused, by repenting of his desire to judge others and God and by taking the first steps to forgive his daughter’s killer. It’s not that he says “I repent” in some religious ceremony that matters. Many people have done that who still live in their own waywardness. It’s the actual turning from living life our way and living in him that matters. Notice where Mack is believing Jesus he’s moving toward health and freedom, and when he’s believing his own broken conclusions he’s moving further away from that. I’m not opposed to Peter’s instructions to repent, be baptized and be filled with the Spirit, but those are not ceremonies they are realities. For the thief on the cross it was simply asking to be remembered. That was enough.

      What we were trying to show in the book was the reality of what a repentant life looks like, or one that’s growing to believe who Jesus is and the things he’s speaking to Mack. The transaction is in the doing, not the confessing, if that makes sense. Our religious institutions have changed all that to a procedure of actions, that don’t necessarily evidence a change of heart. It’s the change of heart that matters. I love you. I believe you. I want to follow you.

  26. Thanks Wayne! I’ve been seeing the controversy on Facebook, and having read the book, look forward to the movie. I thought the polarization might be over after the election, but *sigh* see it has merely transferred to other venues…
    Carry on!

  27. Back in 2009, after hearing too many “sermons,updates” against this book and being told “don’t read it”, I read it. And as a lover of books and reading, I was glad I did!! Enjoyed so much the conversations between Mack and the Trinity”. The questions he had, the demands he’d make, his confusion and sarcasm…all dialogue I’ve had with the Trinity myself, in similar ways. And shortly after reading the book, a friend shared Paul’s testimony, from a church here in Wisconsin he visited. Wow. Changed so much how I took in parts of the book. And made it even more relatable and understandable!! Having, like the rest of us, shame and trust issues in my life, most not dealt with, but happened to be in the beginning of that process, at the time I read the book. I then really could relate to “the great sadness” more after hearing his testimony. And I think hearing his testimony helped give some respect and grace to the book itself and the parts I didn’t fully understand. I admit, very few things, that I didn’t understand in the book, I just respected as “not where I’m at in my “personal” walk with The Lord!!”
    And all these years later I read it again, having only heard last week the movie finally was made. What a nice surprise!:) I enjoyed it even more. It still reminds me of Lewis’, The Great Divorce, which is a favorite. And went with a friend last night to a packed theater, after waiting because two other showings sold out. Can’t believe they did such a good job. Usually hate movies after having read the book, but this was more than expected! I try not to get to worked up by “the dividers” of the day. But isn’t that expected in the times in which we live?!
    Blessings Wayne!

  28. I want to thank you for your diligence and courageousness in standing behind your work. The Shack was one of my first explorations into Christian lit. Though I’d heard the condensed Gospel so many times I could recite it long before declaring myself a follower, I grew up without a church home and was 30 before feeling I could fit in the Church. Your work with The Shack was one of the first times I truly realized God would even desire a deep, communal relationship with me – the complete me, with all the grief and pain I carried, not the polished Sunday best version of me I managed to put forth. It helped give me the temerity to commit to a church home, to service and digging deeper into Scripture. It was one of my first steps toward Christ. Thank you!

  29. Loved the book and your post here.
    I personally went through a horrible time after the death of two of my children. Years after their loss, when I felt strong enough, I read the Shack. I fell more in love with the God of the Holy Bible because of it. Not some weird cult or other thing, and it certainly did not change my doctrine or beliefs that I had been grounded in. I could relate to Mack. I HAD to go back to the point of my wounding in order to receive my healing. So much good came to me from it.
    I, for one, would LOVE to write an analysis: the psychological and personal insights contained within the book. There is much to learn if one wants too. God will do whatever He can to bring our hearts healing and return us to Him. We just have to be willing to take that ONE step toward Him. (I went on to blog my experiences which received much positive feedback.)
    Keep up the good work.
    I am a fan and defender of The Shack.

    1. Cheryl: Thank you for your comments.
      I also “HAD to go back to the point of my wounding in order to receive my healing.” For me, God took me through a fascinating 50-year life adventure, lovingly turning my ‘RESISTANT’ into ‘RECEPTIVE’ to His healing for me. He initiated a personal conversation with me that melted through my defenses, and had me realize that He ‘is especially fond of me.’ I began to trust Him, to trust His voice, to let Him take me back to every point of wounding, to show me that He was there, all the time, loving me. That was the deep healing I desperately needed.
      For me, God was extremely gentle, (which I needed because my woundings were deep and early in life), but I agree with you and can attest to the fact that “God will do whatever He can to bring our hearts healing and return us to Him.” (And He will take a lifetime, if necessary) I had a very protective shell around me that His love melted through and I recognized Him. (that’s another story)
      I am actually getting to KNOW God in a real way, and I’m aware that I am being KNOWN BY HIM, from the inside out! Gal.4:9 Being known by Him, darkness and all, has always been the deepest longing of my heart. I didn’t know that until I began to experience it.

  30. I’m sorry wayne…but the phrase “everyone is off a bit somewhere’ is just plain misguded 🙂 . We have to be united and one in the essential,foundational elements of doctrine. WE CANNOT be a little off on these. I’m not referencing the boon or movie at all…just your phrasin. We can be off on non-essential, minor elements of doctrine…but not on the majors. Im sure you agree and I appreciate how you are replying to all of the posts…even the critiques 🙂 God bless you greatly

    1. I wasn’t talking about essentials, but how we view God sorting out the realities of the depth of his compassion and tenderness and the moments of severity where that love works healing at great personal cost. Those who claim everything is essential to faith are basically saying that your correct theology saves you, rather than helping people to KNOW him, and letting their theology be shaped in that knowing.

  31. Thank you so much for this article and for your work to get the book out and for any part you had in bringing to film. I’ve spent the last few decades working with people who struggle to forgive through a prayerful encounter and relationship with God. (And I have experienced this healing myself.) Though The Shack is a work of fiction, the metaphors and symbols quite an accurately depict of the kinds of things people experience as they encounter the healing love of God. It seems significant that those who are seeking God see in the film a depiction of that for which they long for most deeply.
    Also, this imaginative approach also resonates with the spirituality of the Spanish tradition, especially Ignatius of Loyola. In his Spiritual Exercises Ignatius proposes an imaginative prayer exercise in which one imagines the conversation between the three Persons of the Trinity as they decide that the Incarnation is the solution to all the suffering and sin in the world. Here is a little more about it: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-spiritual-exercises/contemplation-on-the-incarnation-part-one-the-trinity-looks-down-from-heaven

  32. Church fathers grappled with articulating the mysteries of the faith accurately, and rightly so. Heresy was everywhere. Some argue that “Trinity” and “Three-in-one” are terms not found in the Bible. Some teachers use a triangle to illustrate it, which is a sincere attempt but hopelessly abstract. The Holy Spirit “descended like a dove,” but is the HS a dove? Should they have had a talking dove to relate to Mack? This is allegory and an attempt to dramatize and make real a loving God who likes me, is pursuing me, is not angry at me, wants to heal me, wants to be my friend. It is risky ground, but that hunger for Abba is what is driving people to the theaters. I don’t believe in universalism, but my heart’s desire is that all be saved. Well, it ain’t going to happen. Mack responded to God’s invitation. Many, maybe most do not, and God gives them that right.

  33. I read the book and i just loved it! It confirmed to me about God’s love and forgiveness . I am a Christian and have read the bible several times and i didn’t find the book as misleading at all! It was a beautiful book, and all my family and friends read it and they all loved it. As i live in Australia, we will only be able to see the movie when it comes by the end of the year! Soooo looking forward to warching the movie and then buying the DVD. Those who critisize the book, are legalists and don’t know the freedom we have in God to be able to see deeper and beyond the written words. Anyway, i loved the book and didnt find anything wrong with it. I am sure i will love the movie too 😊👍

  34. First of all, Wayne thank you for your masterful help in bringing this book to print and then into film form. Since I first met you at that conference in Portland in around 1998 and you stood up for God’s grace for me in a tense and judgmental situation, you have been on my most Princely list as I knew you understood the grace and love of God richly. Thanks for getting that into a book and film but I knew that was in you before that.

    This all got me thinking of the many different ways God is portrayed in the Bible. First of all there are many names He has used to reveal Himself with, such as El Shaddi, which I’ve heard means the “many breasted one.” Humm. He also compares himself many different was such as a shepherd, a potter, and on and on. Jesus even refers to the Father as a Mother Hen desiring to gather his chicks under His loving wings. I got to thinking that someone could write a book exploring the many ways a Mother Hen represents God. We could write another novel around this theme and call it THE CHICKEN SHACK:) I’m sure we’d get a few kackles over that, and a few chirps and peeps, and quite a few bawlk, bawlk, bawlks too as people work on laying an egg over that! 🙂

    1. Thank you Dean for the suggestion of the Chicken Shack. It was a great chuckle in my day.

      I just have to add to my previous comment above after reading some of the other comments: It blows me away that a book that was not even meant for the general public; was meant to simply explain to his kids about WP Young’s own journey; somehow deeply deeply resonates with a growing number of people; becomes a best-seller through primarily word of mouth out of the back of a garage through no effort of their own; and affects peoples lives and their relationship with God in a profound way by a vast majority of people – clearly been a miraculous God journey for this unassuming little book– then gets disproportionately slammed by religious elitists – the only way I can describe them.

      It reminds me of the very thing Jesus faced in his day from the religious elite. His harshest criticisms were for the religious elite. They did to not get it, and ultimately Jesus defined it as “I never you you”. I can understand that the world does not get it. The movie reviews from the critiques vs the average viewer is remarkably divided. Which means that the critiques did not GET it, but that is not surprising. They are looking for something else, which this movie/book can never give them, because it is not of this world. What is more disturbing to me is that people who call themselves Christians would be so harsh and judgemental over a book that is stirring people to a deeper walk with God, that conveys the grace and love of God in a world where the church has failed to convey it. And rather than embracing the wonder, they nitpick and literally create controversy where none exists. This kind of Christianity deserves to become obsolete.

      The journey I had been on prior to the Shack, ran parallel to many of the thoughts in the Shack. In the midst of my own personal family murder tragedy, this little book arrived and blew me away with how it mirrored so much of what I was already learning, adding a depth of understanding for such difficult questions that heretofore had not been forthcoming. It has helped me to literally grow to know Him more, personally, relationally and conversationally. I am assuming that this is the opposite of “I never you”.

      1. Hi John. Just thought I’d clear up a misconception in your first paragraph. THE SHACK as it was published is NOT the book Paul Young wrote for his children. He wrote a story for them by that name, but its as extensively re-written by Paul, Brad and me for the express purpose of releasing it to a mass audience and hoping to gain enough traction to make the movie. Unfortunately Paul confuses this story now by saying what he gave to his kids is the same story as the one published. I don’t want this to all sound more miraculous than it is. What it is has been incredible enough!

        I love how the movie and book have been received. So many people have been touched and changed by it, so many relationships healed that it’s all been worthy it even if there are plenty of people who dislike it or misunderstand it. They have their journey too and as near as I can tell their problems with THE SHACK are not influencing all the people they would hope it would. The letters of appreciation I get for this story far, far outweigh the people who call it heresy. Most people get what we were trying to do.

        1. Fair enough. But there is still something beautifully miraculous for me that this book sells as many copies as it did by word of mouth out of a garage when what are considered bestsellers from publishers come in at considerably lower numbers. Its quite a story.

          1. I don’t think it diminishes the miracle at all, but I don’t like exaggerating any of that to try to make it more spectacular. I know you weren’t doing that, but others are and it’s important I think to keep the story straight…

      2. John, I respectfully disagree with your illustration of using the example of the religious elites’ harsh criticism of Jesus (which is a reality) and applying it to this book/movie/etc. I do not believe that is the intent nor heart, and don’t believe that is a good example to use 🙂 The religious elites in the New Testament context were keeping people from the Kingdom & were the very embodiment of hypocrisy. That is why Jesus condemned them so much. I cannot speak for every criticism, but one thing that all believers should do is examine the doctrine of all teaching (book form, speaking, etc). To me, that is what the criticisms mainly have been about and Wayne Jacobsen has gracefully tried to explain reasoning behind statements from the said book/movie that some are ‘questioning’ ( if I can use that word). We should examine what is being taught in any book/movie/sermon. I’m sure that some of the critique & statements have been done in the wrong intent/heart and might have crossed the line as well, but doctrine is something that we should examine. God bless you all

        1. Hi Greg. I appreciate and hear your comments. Perhaps I am being a bit harsh. I see that I missed the word “knew” in “knew you” twice. Sorry about that.

          Actually what I wrote was about Jesus’ harsh criticism of the religious elite. Jesus does not often use words of harsh criticism, but in the case of the Pharisees (the religious elite) he did. Just read Matthew 23. One of the phrases he uses is: Blind guides who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel. I have no problem having a discourse with individuals about doctrinal content but so much of what I read and hear feels more like people wanting to “shut up the kingdom against men.” They are so concerned with straining out the gnat (e.g. of God being represented by a black woman) that they swallow the camel of legalism and miss the entire point.

          For some reason, the critics have decided that this little book comes across as a new Bible and should represent all of the truths of God between the pages when it actually only tries to only develop ideas around one or two truths. And rather than celebrate the new-found wonder and love for God that people experience as a result of it, the “people who know better” decide is it their duty to rain on the parade, and ask why hell was not further developed in the text. I am glad the authors did not, because what I needed at that time was NOT more understanding of hell but an awareness of God’s love in the midst of my messy life that felt under constant condemnation. Then when I am experiencing some real spiritual life of which the Shack and He Loves Me was a part of, I am told that I now believe in heresy. Not a good conversation starter.

          I am sure the Pharisees thought they were doing the right thing, but isn’t that the scary part? We are all prone to become this way. I am trying to move away from legalism towards freedom, the kind of freedom Jesus says I have in him.

          So, I guess in response to your comment, yes doctrine is important, but straining a gnat in the process is not helpful or beneficial. And that is what I was trying to speak to when it came to the religious elite.

  35. Thanks for responding!
    Have been enjoying God Journey Podcasts for a good while as well!
    God Bless!

  36. Greetings Wayne ,,after reading some of the harsh comments here I just needed to say THANKS !
    Brother you and Brad have been so faithful in this beautiful task the Father has trusted you with .
    I commend you here for amazing patience, kindness gentleness and wisdom with your responses here . Thanks for being a great model of REAL Christianity . Of course I loved the book and have received great healing and wisdom from the Holy Spirit ,,because the book is a great vehicle for Him to heal and love and guide . Just saw the movie ,,beautifully done ! Some of the acting was truley Grace for the soul . But I still love the book more, it ,,wrecks me every time I read it . Thank you Jesus for your wrecking Love ! ( wrecking my misconceptions and revealing Truth )

  37. Thank you, Thank you…..you have confirmed all of what I have believed about the book and the movie. What saddens me is that people don’t see the redeeming qualities of a God, Abba Father who could with just a whisper wipe us all of the face of the earth. After all He has that right, WE Crucified His Son, WE condemned Him to die on a cross. What a gracious Creator we have, we couldn’t and wouldn’t recognize Him 2000 plus years ago and sadly, we wouldn’t recognize Him today. I am no less a sinner than the man or woman that killed Mack’s daughter. Yes, The Shack is fiction, but there are real people that commit sins just as these.
    I pray and hope, when I am standing before my Savior next to a person such as this that He will not say to me ” I never knew you ” all because I didn’t Love, I didn’t Forgive and I didn’t show Mercy

  38. The first weekend after the release, I read the reviews from critics in IMDB. Most of them seemed to be either disagreeing with or seemingly not understanding the answers the movie portrayed to what philosophers and theologians call “Theodicy” — the struggle with understanding how a good, loving, just, and yet powerful God can “allow” suffering in the world and how we interact with the answers to those concerns.
    I thought the problems the critics were having could be related to the great challenges of getting a book that is mostly didactic (using teaching presented in a dialog format) into a movie which is mostly dramatic. More specifically, I speculated that the problems with communication of the message were mostly due to one of three possibilities: Either
    1. The script did not include the many, clear presentations the book made of the nature of the Loving, Just,and still all-knowing and all-powerful God, and the reaction of Humanity to such a God, or
    2. These presentations that were in the book were also included in the movie script, but were not done well enough to reflect what was in the book into what was in the movie in a way powerful enough to speak to the objections in the minds of the critics, or
    3. The presentations were written well into the movie and were presented very well, or at least as powerfully, in the script as they were presented in the book, but the critics just did not grasp those ways of thinking.
    Knowing a group of us were going to see the movie that following Wednesday, I spent time in preparation, searching the book. Between opening day on that Thursday and the Wednesday following the premiers, I reviewed the book (with notes; I am still really just a teacher at my core), paying attention to, pulling out, writing down page numbers and placing in mind the wording of the quotes that reflected the main messages of The Shack. That way, I could listen for those quotes when watching the film and get an idea of how well the book was reflected in the script. What I found while watching the movie is that the orthodox, Biblical theology so well presented in the book, is presented equally well in the movie script and acting, often with direct, extended quotes.
    It was so encouraging to see and hear, and not just read, about Papa who is a loving and powerful God, who is especially fond of humanity as the “Very Good” pinnacle of creation who chose the independent choices, with all the problems and hurts that causes, then suffers right with us, in relationships of trust, and is there to heal our hurts when we return, and learn to trust and how to live loved lives in relationships that heal us and provide healing for others as well.
    So, it seems to me that explanation 3, above, was the best explanation of how the earliest Hollywood critics could miss what The Shack movie was and still is, putting down: the message of the book was there, but not perceived. In fact, I wonder if this is a case of the spiritual not being perceived with natural minds of 1 Cor 2.14.
    I did create a problem for watching the film that day, though. I had just re-read the passages of the tree growing in the fractal garden, crying once again at the beauty of the word-craft and the meaning of it all. So, 30 minutes before I even started seeing the movie, I had already started periods of times of tears that continued throughout the movie. How wonderful and refreshing!
    Thank you for binging the film to our lives and many others in the future!
    I, too, pray that Papa would bless many conversations about God and us.

  39. Hi Wayne, 3 quick questions:

    1. Did you by chance grow up in, or at least go to high school in, the central valley of CA? (weird question, I know)

    2. Did WPY have actual, audible conversations with God, which effectively are the same (or similar) conversations that God has with Mack in The Shack? If so, can you expound on this?

    3. Have any of your concerns or stances on the ideology in The Shack changes since reading WPY’s new book?

    1. I was born and grew up in Selma, CA, so yes to 1.

      No to 2. The conversations in The Shack are made up by the authors to illustrate they have discovered in their growing relationships with God. Though we’ve heard things similar, none of us have conversations like they are portrayed in this fictional novel.

      No to 3. The ideology of THE SHACK was set 11 years ago when we wrote it. I have not read much of WPY’s new book, but what I have seen concerns me greatly. But what he believes today has absolutely no bearing on the content of THE SHACK, though it will nearly impossible for those who hate it to agree with. Paul is in a very different space from the person we worked with years ago.

      Hope that helps,


      1. Thank you for writing back, and answering. I am sorry to hear you are from the valley. I’m kidding! I’m from there as well, and you likely know many wonderful things about Selma and the central valley.

        I had heard he had “conversations with God” and that is why I asked what I did, and since I inquired with you about the conversations I found the following information and quotes about WPY’s possible conversations with God:

        “I know the author well—a personal friend. (Our whole house church devoured it last summer, and Paul came to our home to discuss it—WONDERFUL time!) The conversations that “Mack” has with God, are real conversations that Paul Young had with God . . . and they revolutionized him, his family, and friends.” [Dena Brehm]

        And, apparently, in WPY’s own words:

        “Remember, I am thinking about writing this for my kids, so I am searching for a good vehicle to communicate through. I figure a good story would be great . . . but I didn’t have one. So I started with what I did have . . . conversations. So, off and on, for about three months I wrote down conversations; conversations that I was having with God mostly, but which often included friends or family … Is the story “real”? The story is fiction. I made it up. Now, having said that, I will add that the emotional pain with all its intensity and the process that tears into Mack’s heart and soul are very real. I have my “shack,” the place I had to go through to find healing. I have my Great Sadness . . . that is all real. And the conversations are very real and true. . . . So is the story true? The pain, the loss, the grief, the process, the conversations, the questions, the anger, the longing, the secrets, the lies, the forgiveness . . . all real, all true.”
        [Sunny Shell, “The Shack, a Biblical and Interactive Review”]

        So, if we pray then we can say we are having a conversation with God, yet we can also mean different things here. There is an infinite difference if we are claiming to hear the actual voice of God directly (e.g. that no one else hears, or is not privy to). This often crosses the line into new revelation. Perhaps you can clarify, with whatever “inside” information/knowledge you may know, but it seems like he is saying he had actual (i.e. “real”) conversations with God where he actually heard his voice (or something close to that) AND that these “real” conversations with God Himself is the source, or main source of the book. Even if it is not the source or a source, and as important as that is, I am mainly interested if he is saying he had actual, audible conversations with God (perhaps similar to Neale Walsch). That seems to be what these quotes are saying, but I could also see some possible confusion from these quotes as well.

        Thanks again

        1. Mark, I don’t know in what context these words were said. I know many people, including myself, who express that relationship as a “conversation with God” that may span thoughts over many months. If that’s what he’s referring to, I understand that. If he’s saying these are conversations he transcribed and put into the book, that would make no sense. For one, he didn’t write all those conversations. Two, he wouldn’t be talking to God as Mack and about Missy or his other kids. My thought is that he’s referring to a longer process of discovery and dialog over a span of time as held questions before God word and had discoveries that arose out of revelation or conversations with others. But that’s really a question for him.

          1. Ok, thanks again…

            one other quick question: is there any connection to, or significance with Mack’s full name and the actress by the same name? The spelling is the same, so it seemed like there could be some intentional point to it. Thanks …

  40. Wayne, Above you shared your concern for what you have seen in WPY’s new book. I have not read any of it except snippets from it on a handout given to me by a friend who the weekend of The Shack’s release was in a “Sunday School” class led by the pastor of a local church here in our town. He recommended his listeners not to go see The Shack because now he has “theological concerns” with the theology in Paul’s new book. My incredulous response upon hearing that was much the same as yours… “What he believes today has absolutely no bearing on the content of THE SHACK… though it will nearly impossible for those who hate it to agree with.”. That must go for both the book and the movie; that pastor is not recommending a movie which he probably had not yet “screened” (our small town theater did not show it) because of a list of problems (which he got from someone’s blog on the ‘net) with WPY’s latest book. He concluded the class with this, that those who like The Shack are “biblically illiterate”. (!) My friend said he wanted to raise his hand right then and there and tell every one that he liked The Shack!
    My bride and I are taking our biblically illiterate selves out of town tomorrow to see The Shack. Can’t wait!
    So… I’ve got a question for you: What is more important, to be “biblically literate”, or to know The Word!?

  41. Yes. Exactly. The Word is a person we are in relationship with. That person is Life. When we attempt to interpret the words without His illumination, without His teaching Spirit breathing Life into them, we are in the weeds.
    Why is it that in our diligence to “study to show ourselves approved…” we are much of the time just like Mac in the movie, who after having experienced that wonder filled walk on the water with Jesus, tried to walk without him. The Carpenter’s response was classic, “It works better when we do it together.”! (Loved the movie. Papa’s blessing is upon it. Thanks for your part in it.)

  42. Mr. Jacobsen, I was so thankful for this post, as it put legs behind what I believed to be true in my reading of The Shack. I was somewhere between amused & angry when I read the list of heresies, because they were so clearly put together by someone who did not read the book fully or with an open mind. I’m sad to hear that WPY’s theology has strayed [more?] since the book’s publication, but am grateful for your influence in keeping it sound within The Shack so that more people could benefit from its life-changing truths.
    I know that you were at one time contacted by someone with less-than-pure intentions wanting to do a devotional, but I have been writing a journal/devotional for a small online Facebook group leading up to the movie’s release, inviting people to explore their own deeper heart issues in relation to the book. I’m sure I’m too late to the game for it to go anywhere, but would love for you to check it out should you have the time.
    Thanks again for you words & wisdom!

  43. Wayne – I do appreciate your commentary here as it does round out much of what I’ve been reading. The concern I have is that Paul Young’s name is really the name associated with authorship. I don’t see your name anywhere on my copy of the book (maybe I haven’t looked hard enough). And as such, people will rightly associate the book and movie content with Paul’s current writings and beliefs. And you yourself express concern over where Paul is at currently:

    “No to 3. The ideology of THE SHACK was set 11 years ago when we wrote it. I have not read much of WPY’s new book, but what I have seen concerns me greatly. But what he believes today has absolutely no bearing on the content of THE SHACK, though it will nearly impossible for those who hate it to agree with. Paul is in a very different space from the person we worked with years ago.” (your previous reply to a comment above).

    So – no matter which way you cut it, the controversy is quite justified. I would disagree that what Paul believes today has no bearing on the content of The Shack. How did Paul get to where he is at today… it came out of his thinking when writing the original book. If that kind of thinking can take Paul there then why would it not take others there who devour the book? People who have loved the book (and as the book really identifies Paul as the author – in BIG print), will certainly be more likely to be influenced by his current beliefs and writings.

    So I would suggest that as a co-author of the book there is a responsibility to all the good and the bad that may spill over from the original writing but also the direction that Paul (identified as your colleague) is now trying to influence people towards. I’m not exactly sure where that leaves you but perhaps a more vocal and public disagreement with where Paul is taking people these days is necessary as part of bearing the responsibility of influencing people’s theology as co-author. If your name is associated with Paul in The Shack… then it may also be seen to be supportive of his current teaching in his new book. I pray that God will give you great wisdom in this matter. I also pray that Paul’s desire to love all people will not further distort his understanding of who God is and how He has shown Himself to act in the redemptive story. If we replace the truth expressed in Scripture and replace it with what our own heart would like to believe we walk a dangerous road.

    1. Unfortunately Paul and Hachette have colluded to remove Brad and I from the authorship in direct defiance of our agreement with them during Paul’s lawsuit. But most printed books include Brad and I as collaborators on the Title Page and Paul describes that in the original acknowledgments. I don’t consider this my problem to deal with. What I did for Paul’s book I did at God’s leading and his insistence. We said at the time that it might cost us dearly if we didn’t prove trustworthy. But I always believe that God is bigger than the failures of men, and though this has been incredibly painful, God is working for good beyond what we can see. I am not supportive of many of Paul’s teachings today, but fortunately I have enough stuff out there that most don’t let Paul define my theology. But loving others is always a risk and sometimes you pay the price for doing good.

  44. Much of the push back against The Shack reminds me of a time in my life when I was in the leadership of an exclusive isolationist communal Bible-based cult back in the mid-1970s.
    Through our aggressive Street evangelism we would at times be confronted by believers who challenged our rigid perspective of who God is as a person and how his salvation works. At the heart of their argument was that God and his intrinsic nature was all about ‘gifted favour’ (agape love) and therefore his salvation was based on and worked through the ‘gift of favour’ e.g. the ‘favour’ he was ‘gifting ‘ us with was his forgiveness (our redemption) his acceptance (our adoption) and his care (our new father and child relationship with him). And many insisted that his/this favour was expressed by his kindness, respect and generosity towards us. Also, we could usually agree that we accessed God’s saving favour and received adoption as sons and daughters through our response of ‘trust’ (faith) of God himself and his loving mercy and favour towards us.
    At the time, I remember recognising in my heart that the ‘gifted favour’ approach was essentially true in regards to our initially coming into a relationship with God as one of his children but I was deeply committed to the idea that continuing to receive God’s ‘favour’ was conditional to holding to certain doctrinal truths, to certain standards of righteousness and holiness and holding to certain levels of commitment to serving God’s purposes in this life – and my sense of peace and assurance of where I stood with God was deeply rooted in this ‘conditional favour’ approach to an ongoing relationship with God.
    I can remember feeling quite threatened by their insistence that both God’s nature and his salvation was all about ‘gifted favour’ (Grace) not ‘conditional favour’ (works), pointing me back to Paul’s arguments to the Galatians and Romans on this issue. In particular what made me feel most threatened was my inability to comprehend the idea of how to have a relationship with God (and with myself and others) based purely on ‘gifted favour’. And if they were right about God and his salvation working this way, then that opened up the possibility that I was basing my peace and assurance on ‘works’ rather than ‘grace’!
    The other aspect that troubled me about where they were coming from by claiming that a (saving) relationship with God, both to enter into and to continue in it, worked through ‘gifted favour’ alone was that you can’t control relationships which work through ‘gifted favour’ – either between someone else and God or between each other – you can only support or hinder such relationships. Clearly, you can control a relationship based on ‘conditional favour’ and I feared not just losing the sense of position, power and prestige (3P’s of pride) I had through functioning as the guru, the expert the answer guy to other believers by ‘mediating’ which doctrinal truths, which standards of righteousness and holiness and what service would earn, deserve or merit (pay for) God’s ongoing ‘favour’ – but most of all, I was deeply troubled over what the consequences would be for me when I stood before Jesus if a saving relationship with God only works through ‘gifted favour’ (i.e. Grace) knowing that I not only based my own sense of peace and assurance primarily on ticking the boxes re-beliefs and practices/behaviour, but I was also passionately encouraging other believers to do the same and aggressively attacking anyone contradicting either the idea that God’s ongoing ‘favour’ (his ongoing forgiveness, acceptance and care/ongoing kindness, respect and generosity) was conditional to right beliefs practices/behaviour – or attacking anyone contradicting in any way the established ‘doctrinal truths’, ‘standards of righteousness and holiness’ or ‘service to God expected in this life’ which I had come to believe were required to earn deserve merit (pay for) his ongoing ‘favour’ both in this life and in the life to come.
    The Shack, both book or movie would also have challenged me all those years ago and I have no doubt that it is challenging others whose ‘security blanket’ (peace and assurance) has been invested in the ‘conditional favour’ approach to a relationship with God (and subsequently with each other) for all the same reasons.

    1. Well, first of all you can’t believe everything you read in WND. They have an anti-Shack agenda of longstanding animus. Secondly, Paul is sure making it easier for them these days since he’s tried to hijack the rewritten SHACK to advance his current theological agenda. This is al quite a mess!

  45. “Who’s afraid…” As if that is the ONLY reason someone may have a different opinion about The Shack. Couldn’t it be that there are legitimate doctrinal concerns? Issues with the Trinity being given faces that place images in the mind that present when you think of each One afterwards? That is where I stand.

    This is your blog, Wayne, so you control it. That’s fine and good. However, the body is fragmented because of a lack of being able to discuss differences. Your manipulative Title says that you have planted your flag for the Shack and no one who wants to stay in your favor should disagree with you – that’s how I read it, anyway, “don’t take issue with my pet project!” And the same holds true for those on the other side that rail against it as if it is the manifestation of Satan. Why so polarized? Pride is what I come up with, on both sides of the schism.

    When severe persecution comes to this nation, perhaps we can learn to get along. I pray.

    1. Rory, I’m sorry that’s how you read it. The title could have gone either way. It could just as easily been about why your fears of THE SHACK are justified. But since I helped write this book I am partial to its message, though I’m happy to discuss people’s concerns any time they want to do it honestly. The problem I have with most of those who have spoken out against the book as theologians, is that they misinterpret it (and I believe intentionally) so they can disagree with their own misinterpretation. We have far more theologians who are fans of the book, than we do those who aren’t.

      Where people are wiling to honestly and openly discuss it, I’m happy to. I do it often, as a matter of fact. I’ve got good friends who don’t like THE SHACK for one reason or another and I respect that. It is an art form and not everyone is going to understand what we are trying to say or appreciate how we said it. So the idea that I’m warning people not to mess with my pet project is a bit over the top. I wrote the blog because people who were posting about their excitement over the movie’s release were having friends and family jump on their FB pages and post the “blasphemous heresy” charges. It was to answer as many questions as I could about those concerns.

      And it opens a door for people like you to post here as well your thoughts. I haven’t moderated out any comments here because people disagree with my input.

  46. Hans-Günther Franke

    Hi there,
    greetings from Hanover Germany
    I just saw the shack in a small city cinema, about half of the places filled on the good friday.
    It was so moving, felt like Abbas presence filling my heart and the whole room.
    Most of us stayed till the last song had been sung….

    1. Hi Andy

      I decided to check the website you are referring to and, respectfully, I find that the writer is a bit sketchy in his arguments and doctrine. Not wanting to be argumentative in anyway, I humbly submit some thoughts:

      Pelser: “One of the unbiblical teachings that seems to be suggested by The Shack is that God the Father, and perhaps also the Holy Spirit, became incarnate along with the Son.”

      Pelser conveniently sidesteps the Three in One concept that is God Almighty. While he denies that not all three were made incarnate, he ignores an important biblical concept expressed in these examples, to name a few:

      1) Emmanuel – God with us. To which I say, which part of God are we talking about here? Is it God Jesus, God Father or God Spirit. It actually is the generic term “theos” or “god” and does not specifically reference a part of the trinity. So if God is with us, is that not the triune God? Or do now pull in the 2nd person of the Trinity here to make a point that is convenient to our own thinking?

      2) Jesus says, I and the Father are one. If you have seen me you have seen the Father. Sounds like the Father is present in Jesus.

      3) Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit onto his disciples. Does this not imply that Jesus breathes out of himself the Holy Spirit, and if the Holy Spirit is in him, then is not the 3rd person of the trinity in Christ on earth.

      Do we believe in the mystery of the Trinity or not? That while 3 distinct persons, they are still one God? This is the essence of the our doctrine, and yet when we look at Jesus on earth, himself a human physical manifestation of God to us, do we suddenly pull him out of the Three that is One.

      Jesus was slain from the foundation of the world. This means that there was a plan. What this the plan concocted only by Jesus, or was it the Three in One who designed and set in motion this plan of redemption – were ALL Three in One involved?

      The approach the Shack takes in their presentation of Papa having the wounds of Jesus in a deeper richer understanding of the inseparability of the Trinity of God. Pelser’s attempt to create heresy out this illustration reveals a lack of imagination of the Three in One. Yes. Jesus was the one who was crucified, but at what point in time did the human representation of God cease to be part of the Godhead? It would heresy to say that he was separate because then he could not be God and we step out of the Ancient Christian Creeds that Pelser refers to.

      The use of the three human figures in the movie does NOT mean there are three incarnate humans, but it an literary device to convey the trinity in a way that helps us understand the Trinity with some new insight. I am appalled at the ignorance of the use of this literary device and speaks again to a complete lack of imagination or out of the box thinking to make a point.

      In regard to Pelser’s attempt to provide a heresy about the name of God, again the argument is strange. Through his argument he flips the meaning of the word “name” as moniker with “name” as character and in the end missed the point being made that we need to recognize that “name” as moniker means little without “name” as character.

      The former “God” I served, the one I called but he moniker Father, Son and Holy Spirit , who I thought was a very difficult God to serve, turned out to be quite different than the Father, Son and Holy Spirit I now serve understanding His character and love and mercy and righteousness and holiness and my place in that relationship with them, being also one with them. So even within Christianity, the moniker of God can be as far from the character of God. So perhaps we need to be less concerned with a moniker, but instead come to know WHO God is … as Papa, Jesus, Yeshua, Holy Spirit, Abba, Father, Jaweh, Emmanuel, etc.

      While I recognize that William Paul Young has shifted in his theology, the Shack from 10 years ago needs to be read from that perspective without inserting Paul’s thinking now. Wayne and Brad carefully describe their process to keep the doctrine and theology correct in both the book and the movie, and I have yet to find anything that is doctrinally unsound after multiple reading and having seen the movie as well.

      Many of the heresy hunters seem to be part of Reformed and Calvinistic theological mindsets – one that I was a part of at one time. At the time there were major issues around concepts of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and personal intimate relationships with God, and the role of emotions alongside spirituality. Many also have problems with art in the church and human expressions of creativity as an important part of serving God, which explains why they have a problem with things that should be taken figuratively and not literally. In reading their comments, all I hear is head knowledge and the law. Where is intimacy with God? It is all adherence and rule keeping.

      Maybe I am sweeping with too large of a brush… I just am running as fast and far away from those that want to tie me all up again. Yes, good theology is important but demanding a legalistic adherence to what sounds like THEIR version of the eternal everlasting infinite creative God seems a bit self serving. Sorry, been part of that group .. no interest in returning.

      If you have not read Wayne’s book “He Loves Me”, I encourage you to pick it up. It is a more direct involved theological discussion of what was presented through fiction in The Shack.

      Blessings on you Andy as you continue to seek Him, the one true Three in One awesome God and live in His love.

  47. That’s a really unfair reply, Chuck.  By the same logic, you might just as easily have rejected Mr. Jacobsen’s article because it has the negative word “afraid” in it.  But, like “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Shack?”, the CRI piece likewise poses a question in its title, rather than an assertion.  You owe it to the writer, and Truth itself, to actually assess whether the author does a good job of answering the titular question — before you render judgment.

    Don’t you think that would be the discerning thing to do . . . ?

    And by the way — what does the persecution of Huguenots have to do with this? Nobody’s suggesting we “persecute” the Shack author(s).

  48. Hi again Andy. I didn’t mention the word “persecution” but you clearly understood my point even though it made you uncomfortable. I didn’t say your comments were wrong. I said that the word “Heresy” has OFTEN historically lead to very unpleasant things between believers. I feel that we can discuss the effects of viewing/reading The Shack without that word? If we can’t, then what are we **really** discussing? I’m pretty sure you won’t agree with me based on your most recent response. I hope I have explained why I think the word “heresy” is a more dangerous word than “afraid”. (The word doctrine sets my teeth on edge as well in many contexts, so I’m **probably** not the kind of person it would be efficacious for you to communicate with? )

    1. I could hardly fail to understand your point when the word persecution was in the URL. But it didn’t make me “uncomfortable”; that word implies that I may have sensed some truth in the insinuation, and that that perception itself made me “uncomfortable”; i.e., squirming under moral pressure.

      But that isn’t the case: rather than “uncomfortable,” I simply reject your insinuation that branding Mr. Young or anyone else a “heretic” automatically suggests or lends itself to persecution. Calling a spade a “spade” doesn’t require destroying the spade. Calling a heretic a “heretic” doesn’t require persecuting the heretic. If we couldn’t make that distinction, then modern-day Christians would never be able to identify or label actual heretics, because to do so would automatically entail persecution, or the serious risk thereof.

      Which is a ridiculous proposition. The term heresy derives from the Greek hairesis, “a taking or choosing for oneself, a choice, a means of taking; a deliberate plan, purpose; philosophical sect, school” (Etymology Dictionary). It functions as a label for doctrines purporting to be Christian but recognizably antibiblical. To use that label, in that function, is merely to classify. Whether such classification entails persecution falls under a different heading: How should we treat those with whom we have serious disagreements?

      No, we can’t discuss The Shack without using the word “heresy.” Why not? Because critics of the book are identifying – or believe they are – concepts therein which are, in historical and biblical fact, heresies. Whether or not those concepts really are in the book is a separate question. But the concepts themselves are, yes, heresies.

      By your reasoning – since your ostensible concern is with the risk of persecution – we should never label any doctrine “heresy.”

  49. Thank you for your well-reasoned response. You’re quite right, I strongly dislike the use of the word heresy. I think it is a word which has lost it’s beneficial usage because of the history connected to it, and because of the way it is used to dismiss unorthodox approaches to following Jesus. I *do* think it’s important that we be thoughtful and analytical about what we believe and why as we seek to be of service to our great God who created the world, and redeemed those he claims as his own.. Unfortunately, the dependence upon certain words in talking about the source and reasons for our beliefs about God interfere with communication so thoroughly that, yes, I believe they should be mostly abandoned. I think I’ll let this thread go for now. I think (hope) we understand each other. If I haven’t communicated my ideas clearly yet, I feel like continuing this dialogue isn’t likely to make my views more understandable. Thanks for taking me seriously enough to interact this long.

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