For those of you who have been following the controversy surrounding the orthodoxy of the wildly popular best sellerThe Shack, World Net Daily has announced the publication of a new book written by a seminary professor and former colleague/neighbor of Shack author William Paul Young who says the book wasn’t written to be a creative way of dealing with God but to teach an unorthodox philosophy.
In the new book, Burning Down the Shack, author James DeYoung, a New Testament language and literature professor at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, says an age-old heresy known as universal reconciliation lurks beneath the story line of The Shack.
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. This belief diminishes the work of Jesus on the cross as well as the holiness and justice of God, DeYoung says.
Even though Shack author Paul Young has repeatedly denied that he is a universalist, DeYoung told World Net Daily (WND) that he was personally acquainted with Young for more than 12 years. During that time, he and Young co-founded a Christian think tank called the M3 Forum in which they discussed problems facing the church as it approached the new millennium. It was during this time that Young submitted a 103-page paper embracing universal reconciliation and rejecting the “evangelical paradigm.”
Less than two years later, Young was asking friends to read a draft of a novel he was writing for his children as a Christmas gift – a book that later became The Shack. Even though his friends liked the book, they were very much opposed to the universalism they found in it and have publicly acknowledged that they spent more than a year trying to remove that message from the book.
In fact, mainstream Christian publishers refused to publish it, which is why Young and some friends formed their own publishing company in order to get it into print.
With 10 million copies now in print, DeYoung said he believes the acceptance of The Shack by so many evangelicals and their institutions is evidence of a church in need of renewal.
“I’m really dismayed to see that Christian publishers and radio programs, TV programs have basically imbibed the feel-good spirit of ‘The Shack’ and have not critically examined the theology,” he told WND. “If you point that out to them they feel offended. They feel that you’re being overly critical. They feel something like, ‘Well, can’t you look beyond the doctrine and appreciate the story.'”
De Young laments “a great lack of discernment” in Christian media and publishing that is willing to “look askance at the doctrine” if a book enjoys widespread popularity and makes a lot of money.
He also believes many evangelicals and churches have been seduced by The Shack because the story resonates with a deeply wounded populace.
“There is a growing segment of our population who have a bad background, perhaps in the sense they come from a divided home, a home where divorce took place or even an abusive home on the part of one or both parents,” he said. “When they can read a story like The Shack and find solace and encouragement from the experiences of this fictitious person and realize that God does love them, then I think that it will resonate with a lot of people.”
People who have been deeply hurt, he said, “are reaching out for a sympathetic God who they can clearly understand and who loves them.”
The Shack’s Christian-sounding language makes the book all the more appealing to Christians, particularly those who are not well-versed in their own faith, let alone in the teachings of universalism.
DeYoung’s book is written in an informative rather than negative way. He takes each chapter of The Shack and presents its good points, then brings the reader around to “questioning what that chapter really is all about and the doctrinal errors in it,” he told WND.
Personally, I have heard from many people who say The Shack is being read by Catholics in parish book clubs and even touted from the pulpit by pastors. If you’re having these problems, you may want to check out DeYoung’s book which is loaded with concrete explanations about the doctrinal errors in The Shack.
Visit the WND book store for more information about Burning Down the Shack.