The Hills Church : Glorifying God through Transformed Lives

The Shack

The following are some resources related to The Shack, both the book and the movie. As a pastoral team we want to provide these resources as part of our role for being shepherds to the congregation. We want to encourage interacting and engaging with movies and books in discerning ways (not just avoiding them or censoring them). Hence, we want to warn our congregation that The Shack is a mixed bag in regards to what it teaches. While its emphasis on the importance of love, respect, relationships and forgiveness is commendable, much of its theology is erroneous, if not at times heretical (a word we do not use lightly), especially in its view of the sovereignty of God, salvation, the Trinity, Scripture and revelation, sin, and the sinfulness of man,

The Shack is a type of literature known as a theodicy, an attempt to explain or rationalize the goodness and sovereignty of God with the evil and injustice in this world. That is, what Paul Young is attempting to do in The Shack is explain how evil and injustice can exist in this world if God is truly good and truly sovereign (in control of all things). Many refer to this simply as “the problem of evil.”

The Sovereignty of God
The explanations that Young proposes to this problem of evil are troublesome and dangerous. To explain how evil can occur Young appeals to the fact of the freedom of the will of man. However, he goes a step too far when he says God actually submits to humans, by which he seems to mean that God is subject to the decisions humans make and thus not really in complete control of all things. While this would seemingly let God “off the hook” for the problem of evil, Young is denying the biblical truth that God is simultaneously in complete control of all things and not subject to anything (i.e. completely sovereign over everything) while humans are also entirely culpable and responsible for the sins they commit, thus bringing about evil. This is the historic belief within Christianity.

Salvation by Faith Alone in Christ Alone
Further, Young denies the necessity of placing one’s faith in Christ for salvation. Rather, Young alludes to what is known as “universal reconciliation,” that ultimately everyone will be saved, or reconciled to God. While in The Shack this is not overtly stated but implied in statements made by Jesus in the book, and Young confirms this idea in his latest book Lies We Believe About God. The historic confession of the church is that overt faith must be placed in Christ in order to be saved. Not all humans will be saved; some will suffer eternal punishment in a real place called “Hell” because they have never been born of the Spirit.

The Trinity
Probably the thing that will strike many Christian strangest in the book is that God manifests Himself in Young’s story as three humans: “Papa”, who represents God the Father, as an African-American woman; “Jesus,” who represents God the Son, as a Jewish man; and “Sarayu,” who represents the Holy Spirit, as an Asian woman. The problem is that the Bible shows only one member of the Godhead who ever becomes human: God the Son becomes human as Jesus. God the Father and God the Holy Spirit never take human form. The danger here is that some less knowing Christians may believe that God the Father or God the Holy Spirit will reveal themselves in human form and thus seek to find God the Father or God the Holy Spirit by finding Him in human form. That is, a person will seek for God in ways He is not found, and what they do find may be something entirely other than God.

Further, not only is the way in which the Trinity is portrayed is unbiblical, the Bible itself seems to be demoted as the way to know God. Rather, self-discovery through visions or manifestations are elevated above learning about God through Scripture. What The Shack does my omission is set aside Scripture as the final and sufficient rule and standard for all Christian faith and practice.

Sin and the Sinfulness of Man
The Shack also softens the seriousness sin and its consequences of sin. As noted earlier, Young believes in universal reconciliation. This belief leads him to present a view of sin such that the temporal consequences of sin (i.e. the consequences of sin in this life) are sufficient punishment enough and that the eternal consequences of sin are essentially non-existent. This is directly tied to the idea that ultimately everyone is saved, or reconciled to God. Thus, sin has no eternal consequences because regardless of one’s faith in Christ in this life, ultimate you will be reconciled to God in some way. There’s no fear of consequences of hell.


Albert Mohler

​Dr. Mohler is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) in Louisville, KY and a regular observer and commentator on culture in his podcast "The Briefing".
This is probably the clearest, most succinct, and most helpful article in understanding the errors and dangers of The Shack. If you read only one article, read this one.

Tim Challies

​Tim Challies is a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, co-founder of Cruciform Press, and long time blogger. 
Challies provides a fairly lengthy review of the book.  It is helpful in thinking through The Shack and its weaknesses. Challies is spot-on in pointing out that The Shack is a mix of good and bad, and should not be recommended especially to young Christians.
  • Challies has also written several other very helpful reviews on The Shack.

Owen Strachan

​Owen Strachan is a professor of systematic theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
This article is helpful as it highlights the centrality of the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement for sin to the Christian faith and how both William Paul Young (author of The Shack) and Michael Gungor (popular musician) both assault it and distance themselves from it.

David Steele

Dr. David Steele is Senior Pastor at Christ Fellowship in Everson, WA.
This is a review of Wm. Paul Young’s latest book, Lies We Believe about God. While not specifically addressing The Shack, Dr. Steele does help to point out the many fallacies (even heresies) that Young espouses overtly in Lies We Believe about God that underpin some of his ambiguous statements in The Shack.

Scot McKnight

​Scot McKnight is Professor of New Testament at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a widely respected, moderate-to-conservative scholar. 
​​Dr. McKnight is generous in all of his life, but he may have been too generous with The Shack.