[Note: the following was an editorial I wrote for publication in the Times Gazette. As submissions are only to be 600 words, there is a great deal of brevity and not much in terms of detailed critique. For those wanting a deeper evaluation, I suggest reading this review at the resurgence website. I back virtually all that is said in it and greatly appreciate the cordial balance.]
In every age the people of God are called to contend for the faith. Ministers of Christ, particularly, are called to serve as watchmen who sound the alarm when false teachings or teachers arise. Being that this is so, I wish to warn citizens of Ashland about Ashland Theological Seminary’s upcoming speaker, William Young, and his best selling work, The Shack.
Untold numbers have regarded The Shack as a life changing work. Some have even equated it with John Bunyan’s classic Pilgrim’s Progress. Yet these advocates seem oblivious to what has rightfully been termed “undiluted heresy” by Southern Baptist Seminary President Al Mohler.
Young’s literary capability certainly cannot be contested. In reading the book I was greatly impressed with his ability to create an intriguing plot and develop such appealing characters. Young’s winsome style, coupled with his in-depth treatment of an appealing subject (that of sadness and sorrow that afflicts the soul in a sin filled world), no doubt make the book gripping to its readers.
Yet, because of its captivating nature, many readers have been blind to the book’s subversive bent and explicit declaration of gross doctrinal error.
The brevity required of TG editorials prevents an in-depth analysis of its numerous doctrinal deviations. However, a list for such a consideration would include its sundry perversions of the Trinity, promotion of feminist theology, disavowal of the exclusivity of Christ in salvation, discrediting the institutional church and seminary instruction, and repeated attempt at undermining theological certainty.
Shack devotees will certainly attempt to rationalize away each of the above mentioned items. However, even if their objections were granted, one cannot discount the fact that The Shack gives, at the very least, a cold shoulder to the actual teaching of the inspired Word of God.
It is this perpetual slighting of Scripture that makes the book so dangerous. As Tim Challis (www.challies.com) points out, The Shack has a subtle, yet devastating, subversive tone to it. Throughout the book Young dismantles commonly held Christian notions, yet he fails to reconstruct them on the basis of divine revelation.
One example may be seen in the book’s discussion of the punishment of sin. It is stated that God does not need to punish sin because “sin is its own punishment.” While this statement contains an element of truth (i.e. sin hurts), it completely dismisses the profuse teaching in Scripture on hell.
Undoubtedly some will say that critics like me read too much into the book and skew the author’s original intentions. After all, it is a work of fiction!
Yet these ignore the fact that the book is hailed as “life changing.” Such high acclamations require careful examination of the book’s contents and sober reflection on how it compares with Scriptural truth.
I fully understand that the author did not intend his work to be a doctrinal dissertation. Nevertheless, Young intentionally sets out to communicate ideas. As one theologian has said, the fundamental thrust of the book is to “impact the way readers think about God, about love, and about life.”
This is why those who have read the book (or will read it) should be on their highest alert. As well, those who will attend the upcoming lecture need to be aware that Mr. Young’s work is profoundly contrary to Scripture’s teaching.
Above all, community members ought to begin to question the fidelity of Ashland Theological Seminary. That ATS would proudly promote someone who advocates such a radical departure from orthodox Christianity should make us wonder whether or not they hold to the faith that was “once for all delivered up to the saints."
[Note: Again, the word limit did not allow me to offer the opportunity to speak further regarding the book. It is my desire that I can sit down and talk with any who would like about the issues brought up in this article and book. Please feel free to email me to set up a personal discussion.]