This book, entitled God and The Shack, is a group of interviews done by Grace Communion International's J. Michael Feazell. The people interviewed were William Paul Young, author of The Shack, and C. Baxter Kruger, president of Perichoresis, Inc. The best way to sum up the theologies of these three men is to simply say they have no understanding of the Gospel.
They outright deny the Gospel by attacking Penal Substitutionary Atonement. This tendency, which I call "Lewisism", is an outright assault on the Gospel message. Kruger said about the cross, "It's not the Father's wrath being poured out on Jesus - it's our wrath." Contrarily, Isaiah 53:10 (ESV) says, "Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand." Kruger later refers to a blood sacrifice as, "just Paganism." Hebrews 9:22 (ESV) tells us, "Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." If Kruger's gospel is one that has no shedding of blood, then his false gospel has no forgiveness of sins. Both Faezell and Young appear to affirm this false gospel. Young points away from the Cross and says the Gospel is that we are all embraced by God. That is not the Gospel. The Gospel is that Jesus died in our place as the atonement for our sins.
This Lewisism is not the only distortion of the Gospel. Throughout the book, there are hints of Universalism. Young says, "Most believers from the Middle East will still tell you they are Muslim, but they're Christian." An unrepentant Muslim is not a Christian or a believer. Unless one rejects their Idolatry and forsakes their false god, there is no reason to believe they are saved. Faezell says, "But in The Shack, we are talking about a God who is presented in the Gospels who has already forgiven everyone in Christ." When Kruger is speaking about the thieves on the Cross, Faezell remarks that Jesus would, "Meet both of them in a few minutes." Either he did not understand that one thief was unrepentant or he embraces a Universalist view of the atonement (Given other portions of the book, I'm inclined to say it is the latter). This Universalist view eventually leads them to dismiss the idea of eternal punishment in Hell entirely.
Their false gospel meets their view of the nature of God in two other heresies. One is a bit of a Sine Ira (Latin: Without wrath) view. Throughout the interviews, they consistently deny that God has a wrath towards people, saying that He only hates sin. This is likely stemming from their Universalism (or maybe their Universalism stems from their wrathless view). The other heresy is the Ancient heresy of Patripassianism. Young claims, "One of the dominant metaphors or images that I used [In The Shack], is that there are nail scars on Papa’s wrists – God the Father. I’ve been given some push back about that. But that’s scriptural, and everything that is embedded in the story – and I didn’t do this just by myself – I had help from some very smart theologically trained people to make sure that the realities that are inside this parable, this story, are validated by Scripture." This is utterly untrue and blatantly heretical. God the Father did not suffer or die on the Cross with Christ. This has been condemned ever since it was first espoused by Sabellius in the 200s, and for good reason.
Patripassianism is not the only heresy of Sabellius that is propagated in this book. Though they often say the word "Trinity", it appears that at least Young does not understand that doctrine. Young's view of God more closely fits Sabellius's heresy known as Modalism, with denies the individual personhood of each member of the Trinity. Instead, in that view, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one person and one being that appears in different forms at different times, the same way one man can be a husband, father, and brother. Young says, "The basis of Jesus saying that, is that you don't know the Father, but if you've seen me, you've seen the Father. You've seen me playing with kids; you've seen the Father. You've seen me with the woman at the well, or the woman caught in adultery." He did paraphrase the John 14:9, but he greatly misapplied it. The very next verse shows the true meaning of that verse. "Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works." John 14:10 (ESV). Kruger, instead of correcting Young, affirmed and added to his statement, "Or seen me, outstretched arms, being crucified and beaten by the human race. You're looking at the Father." This Modalist view of the Godhead is not Biblical, and it is not Christian.
This book not only validates much of the criticism of The Shack, but further solidifies that we should not read the book or watch the movie. The god worshipped by Young, Kruger, and Faezell is not the God of the Bible. Rather, it is a god crafted and graven in their own image. It is a god that is ultimately powerless to save. Furthermore, this false gospel they have is powerless to save. A gospel without the Penal Substitutionary Atonement is a false gospel. Though propitiation is attacked in the book, there is no salvation without the shedding of blood.
For a presentation of the true Gospel, please click here.
Brandon C. Hines
Brandon is a young writer, theologian, and polemicist. He adheres to the 1689 London Baptist Confession and believes in Calvinism, Covenant Theology, Credobaptism, Presuppositional Apologetics, and the Essentials of the Christian Faith.