The peace that the world cannot give does not appear to be reigning in the life of Paul Young, author of the controversial best-seller, The Shack, who is suing his two long-time friends and business partners, alleging that they bilked him out of $8 million in royalties. While a federal judge mulls over the case, he’s busy writing a screenplay with the hopes of bringing the book’s flawed portrayal of Christianity to a wider audience.
The New York Times is reporting that a federal judge is expected to hear arguments this month in a case concerning Shack author Paul Young and his two former partners at Windblown Media, pastors Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings. Young’s suit claims Windblown deprived him of more than $8 million in royalties and requests that “all of Windblown’s rights, including the right to publish the work and to receive any form of consideration for distribution of the work, [should be] terminated.”
Young is also suing Hatchette Book Group, the distributor of the novel that has sold nearly 12 million copies since its debut in 2007.
The case began with Young’s suit in late 2009, which was followed by a $5 million countersuit by Windblown Media in March of this year in which Young’s suit was called “ridiculous.” Hatchette entered the fray last month by filing its own motion and suggesting the case be heard in federal court.
As a result Judge John F. Walter of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles is expected to hear arguments on Hatchette’s motion sometime this month.
The Shack has caused widespread controversy for its distorted presentation of God who reaches out to help a man who is suffering a loss of faith after the kidnapping and murder of his five year-old daughter. God the Father is presented as an overweight black woman, Jesus is described as a kind of lumberjack in jeans, and the Holy Spirit is portrayed as what amounts to a garden fairy whose name, Sarayu, is the name of a mystical river in ancient India related to the Hindu deity Kali.
In the course of the book, Jesus claims He’s not a Christian and is not someone people should view as an example to follow. Young’s gods also teache that “it is you who determine good and evil. You become the judge…that which you determine to be good will change over time and circumstance…” (For more on these and other heresies, see Dismantling the Shack.)
As bad as this might sound, people love the off-beat portrayal of God and are buying the book by the caseloads. It has sold 12 million copies thus far and has spent 111 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list, including more than a year in the No. 1 spot.
This has many Christian leaders worried. James B. De Young, a New Testament language and literature professor at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon and author of the book, Burning Down the Shack, says that aside from negating God’s holiness and judgment and distorting Christ’s redemptive work on the Cross, a heresy known as universal reconciliation is also portrayed in Young’s book. Universal reconciliation, also known as universal salvation or universalism, is a belief that all people are saved because of the love and mercy of God.
In spite of this troubling backstory, we haven’t seen the last of The Shack. Young recently confirmed in an e-mail to World Net Daily (WND) that he is writing a screenplay with the hopes of launching his bestseller into a motion picture. However, he confirmed that no one has been authorized to begin working on the movie yet.
This is not good news to concerned Christians like DeYoung. “A film will only reinforce such a distortion,” he told WND. “Indeed, what people see will have a greater impact, potentially, than the printed page. If Young is true to his novel, his script will no doubt continue to lead people away from a total understanding of the God of the Bible.”
Even though many people claim the book has brought them closer to God, DeYoung asks a vital question: ” . . . (A)t what price are people turning to God and what god are they turning to?”