God and Fiction – A Look at The Shack, Part 6

Business. The May CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award run-off poll will run for two more days. Be sure to vote.

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A Christian Worldview? Am I beating a dead horse by continuing this discussion about The Shack, a novel by William P. Young? Well, nearly a hundred bloggers wrote about the book this past month, so it appears to remain a subject of interest. Besides, as I said when I started this series, this just might be the perfect book for this blog because it so clearly combines the two areas I focus on—fiction and a Christian worldview.

But is The Shack written from a Christian worldview? That’s a tough question. Some would rush to say yes. Mr. Young, after all, came from a Christian background and has done a fair amount of speaking in various churches. Plus, the work is about God!

To be from a Christian worldview, however, I think the work needs to tell the truth about God—not part truth and part lie.

God’s nature. In the last two posts, I’ve made a case for my belief that The Shack misrepresents the divinity of Jesus and trivializes God’s person. Equally troubling is a more subtle inaccurate portrayal of God’s nature.

I think I can say without the need to quote supportive passages that The Shack stresses God’s love. Apparently this aspect of the book is one that has attracted so many fans. I would be in the front line cheering if I felt that the story was drawing attention to God’s love as He revealed it in Scripture, but unfortunately, Mr. Young’s idea of love seems to rule out justice.

Interestingly, on Saturday The Whittenberg Door posted an article on this subject, Love vs. Justice, specifically dealing with The Shack. I agree with the conclusion the Door author reached: “The truth is, if you sacrifice justice for love, you have likewise sacrificed love—for love demands justice.”

Love according to The Shack, however, negates justice. In a discussion with Sophia, a person identified as the personification of God’s wisdom, Mack’s views of Hell are challenged, at first indirectly. Sophia asks him about his love for his children:

“But what about when they do not behave, or make choices other than those you would want them to make, or they are just belligerent and rude? What about when they embarrass you in front of others? How does that affect your love for them?”

Mack responded slowly and deliberately. “It doesn’t, really … I admit that it does affect me and sometimes I get embarrassed or angry, but even when they act badly, they are still my son or my daughter … what they do might affect my pride, but not my love for them.”

I find this stunning because there is no room in this discussion for correcting the children for their benefit. Apparently, only Mack’s pride is at stake. And judging his children would only be a result of his anger. This is not at all true of God, though Sophia later in the conversation goes on to make this analogy between God and Mack, clearly identifying all of mankind as God’s children, not just those who have come to Him through Jesus.

Let me see if I can outline the discussion. After Mack declares his love for his children, Sophia brings him to the judgment seat as the judge of God and the human race (p. 160). When Mack balks, she gets him to confess that he thinks there are people who deserve punishment, like the man who abused and killed his daughter.

She then asks if that man’s father who abused him should also be punished. Mack says yes. Sophia asks how far back Mack thinks this blame should go—to Adam? to God?

Mack admits he think God is to blame. Sophia then says Mack, because he is able to judge God, can judge the world. So he must choose two of his children to send to Hell. Mack balks and finally says he can’t do it, asking if he could go instead.

Her response:

“I am so proud of you!”

“But I haven’t judged anything,” Mack offered in confusion.

“Oh, but you have. You have judged them worthy of love, even if it cost you everything. That is how Jesus loves … And now you know Papa’s heart,” she added, “who loves all his children perfectly.” (p. 163)

The discussion then turns to the issue of suffering.

The point is clear—God loves perfectly and by implication, His love negates justice. This latter conclusion is stated another way towards the end of the book. Papa says, “In Jesus, I have forgiven all humans for their sins against me, but only some choose relationship.” (p. 225) Then at the bottom of the page: “When you forgive someone you certainly release them from judgment …”

I think the conclusion is clear: the god of The Shack is a god who loves without judgment and consequently without punishment. I believe the theological term for this position is universal salvation.

Series continued in Part 7.


  1. Becky,
    I haven’t commented every day, but I have been reading! You amaze me with your ability to so clearly state what is doctrinally astray in this very popular book. Bravo for taking the time to point these things out.

    As I stated earlier, I did post an emotional response to this book and even that was largely related to an experience I had just prior to reading the book. I wish now that I had taken more time to reflect on the information regarding God’s character and the Biblical truth of the trinity. You are dead on in the areas you have addressed, and I appreciate that very much!

    You know Becky, it really gives me pause to consider my own work as a reviewer. It is not a thing to do lightly when considering the Truth of God’s Word. You set a great example for other bloggers Becky, and I thank you for being so thoughtful and challenging in your posts. To me, it’s like being challenged to dig deeper! Thanks for all you do!


  2. My writing is so different from this… I have characters who burn in hell for their sins and who reject God’s mercy and suffer serious penalty… (maybe this is why I’m not as successful as Mr. Young?)…

    God’s chastisement is a loving chastisement. It is the same God who gave up everything out of love for us, who also punished the world by destroying with a flood. God chastises us, because He loves us… He doesn’t want us to runaway from Him, and lose Him forever, because He loves us so much, so He attaches penalties to deter us from doing so.

    God cannot remain indifferent to when He sees us abandon Him and march off a path that will end in forever seperation from Him… He doesn’t remain neutral when people do evil to each other, He steps in and sets things straight.

    St Paul wrote, ‘be angry, but do not sin’

    Anger is good when it is done out of love.

    God Bless,


  3. Kim, thanks so much for your comments. You made my day!

    I’ll be honest. In going back over the book to prepare these posts, I’ve discovered a lot that I missed the first time through. Would that we all learn to be careful and thoughtful when we read.

    But your mentioning an emotional response brings up a critical point. Fiction does elicit emotional reactions, which may distract us from the accompanying message. It’s one reason fiction is so powerful.

    The other is, our guards are down. We come to fiction primarily for a good story, so we’re not generally picking novels apart. Even we reviewers. It’s usually, I really liked that book followed by a some musing as to why I did.

    That’s okay as a place to start, I think, but I believe we Christians should go a step farther.



  4. (maybe this is why I’m not as successful as Mr. Young?)… 😀 You might be onto something, David. Hahah! That gave me a chuckle.

    But you’re absolutely right about God’s love. Plus it’s balanced by His justice. He disciplines His children and He punishes those who rebel against Him. Those who are His learn from both.

    Those who aren’t, see God’s discipline of His children—those of us who are in His family and will share in the inheritance being kept for us—and label God as mean or cruel or capricious.

    Blind eyes.



  5. […] of the complaints I had about The Shack was that the brand of love the book touted actually nullified justice. But God is a […]


  6. […] of the complaints I had about The Shack was that the brand of love the book touted actually nullified justice. But God is a […]


  7. […] June 1, 2009 at 11:43 am God and Fiction – A Look at The Shack, Part 6 « A Christian Worldview of Fiction […]


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