(Author’s Note: This article was written after The Shack was first released. Since then, the author of The Shack has written a second book, “Eve,” that “reimagines” the Biblical Eve story and draws heavily on Jewish Kabbalistic teachings. I am reissuing this article in anticipation of the upcoming release of The Shack as a movie.)
I am a spiritual realist. I came to realize a long time ago that life is harsh, that accidents are sometimes random, that there isn’t always “a reason for everything,” and that bad things happen to good people. I also have learned that the point for believers is not always be able to solve people’s problems or take away their pain but to be with people IN their pain when no answers come. And yes, God does miracles. And yes, we should always pray for healing, deliverance, and blessings on people. But we also need to be prepared to walk with people even when no answer comes.
Herein is a dilemma: In the midst of our grieving, sin-stricken, fallen world, God does not always appear like we want Him to, or think He should. Even for believers, it is difficult to face pain and suffering without trying to mold God into our own image and likeness to better comfort us. But God is who He is. He does not change. His character, His nature, and His presence do not become what they are not in order to make us feel better.
I suppose I learned this the hard way during the “inner healing” movement of the 1980’s. There were surely some good things about that movement, and I had long recognized the church’s failure to deal with people’s deeper issues and its quickness to paste an easy-answer scriptural band aid on people’s lifelong injuries and expect them to get over it. The inner healing ideas did bring healing, despite the flaws, baggage, and lack of scriptural backing that the later teachings on this brought to it.
During that time, in search of some genuine healing for my own woundedness, much of which stemmed from the painfully distant relationship I had with my father, I was presented with the idea that if I just used guided imagery, I could go back to when I was a child and imagine Jesus playing baseball with me, like my father never did.
I suppose that is where I drew the line. I know Jesus was there, in my past, but I also knew He was not going to be molded to my imaginary ideas like that or to my wishes that my past were different.
In fact, the most revelatory moment in my healing came when I was crying out to God for my need for a father in my life I never felt was there, and after agonizing hours of weeping, God said, as clearly as I ever heard Him, “Die to the need to have your father.” The result was some of the most gut-wrenching weeping I have ever had – and, at the end, a depth of healing that was both profound, and permanent.
God did not answer me as asked, or imagined. Jesus did not play baseball with me. He took me to the cross, and there, exchanged His life for my pain. He did not become something He was not to make that happen. He simply asked me to trust Him in what I did not understand, and answer me in a way that would heal my heart and set me free.
The current phenomenon of the overwhelming success of The Shack, a fictional story by William Young, speaks to both our desperation to find healing from our pain, and our willingness to abandon truth to find that healing.
The Shack is a simple story about a father whose daughter is murdered, and he is in pain and unwilling to trust the God he knew before, who it appears to him had abandoned him in his hour of grief.
He receives a note while his wife and family are away, from “Papa” – which is his wife’s pet name for God. “Papa” tells him to meet him at the shack where he last saw his daughter. Reluctantly, he goes.
There, he meets four characters: First, a fictional “trinity,” and then an additional “fourth person” of the trinity so to speak, Sophia, who is the Greek and occult goddess of wisdom.
Yes, you read that correctly. Although the author would disavow that connection, perhaps saying that Sophia is an early church concept of wisdom referring to Solomon speaking of wisdom as a “she” in Proverbs, the fact is, Sophia is quite a different figure to the New Age occult world. More on that later.
Before Mack, the main character, meets Sophia to be judged he meets “Papa” – a portly, matronly African-American woman who cooks, dispenses wisdom and dispenses hugs and love. It almost reminds one of Oprah Winfrey’s role in The Color Purple, where she coincidentally plays a character named “Sophia.”
The Son of God, in Young’s book, is a Jewish young man in Khakis with a big nose who is goofy and clumsy. The Holy Spirit is a Japanese girl named Sarayu (a Sanskrit- derived word for “wind” – Sanskrit being the primary written language of Northern India). Together, these four characters provide Mack with healing and closure for his horrible loss and grief, even allowing him a glimpse of his departed daughter, not in heaven as he imagined heaven, but, according to the Son of God, in the “new cleansing of this universe.” (P. 177)
Rather than attempt to tackle all of the theological ins and outs of this mess of a book, which might TAKE a whole book, I simply want to point out a few basic issues I think we need to look at.
First, any time we take God as He is revealed in His Word and remake Him into our own pleasing image and likeness, we are opening the door to the possibility – no, the near certainty – of spiritual deception. God is who He is. He comes to us as He is. From Old Testament to New, He remains the same. “I am the Lord God. I change not.” (Malachi 3:6)
Yes, God is multifaceted. But He will NOT be molded into any image man wants to create Him in. Pagans did that, and they created Baal, Molech, Chemosh and a host of other demonic entities that they decided were “God” because they fit their needs and lusts and desires and fears. God despised these idols and demanded them to be obliterated.
God said, “I AM that I AM.” Is not that clear enough? He is who He is – no more, no less, and not subject to our attempts to reform Him into a more palatable, sensible and understandable God. I am absolutely stunned that Christians who read The Shack do not grasp what a dangerous and terrible tampering with God’s character and true nature this story has done. It’s common spiritual horse sense if you read the Bible. I imagine what it would be like if my friends put me in a clown outfit and said, “Well, we know he’s not really a clown, but people will like him better as a clown. It makes people more likely to accept him.” But I am an intense, serious man of God, and not a clown – and any attempt for me or my friends to portray me that way is not only disingenuous and untrue, it is an insult to me as a person.
The fact is, the Biblical TRUTH is, God is not a breakfast cooking mother, and Jesus isn’t a goofy, clumsy kid, and the Spirit of the Living God is not a Japanese woman with a Sanskrit name. Father, Son, and Spirit are who they are, and no matter how much we may unwisely attempt to dress them up in more attractive clothes, they WILL NOT BE DRESSED UP TO PLEASE US. Those who do so are creating an idol that will lead people into darkness.
And no, there is no judge named Sophia.
This is the second, and for me, the most disturbing element of The Shack. Two decades ago, the New Age began to partner with the dead, carnal Western organized church denominations. That melding, in part, took place through both the “Gaia” (mother earth) concept and the “Sophia” movement – and the Sophia conferences, which were designed to rewrite the gender specific references in the Bible concerning God, emasculate and feminize God, destroy church Patriarchy, and as a result, introduce “new ways” of worshipping “God” – through a variety of New Age and occultic means, including Wiccan worship, nude dancing, crystal healing, etc. Thankfully it didn’t get widespread acceptance, but the Sophia concepts and conferences are still going on, and if you do a little internet searching, you will find that most of the sites are New Age and occult websites. Because Sophia is an occult concept. She is the acknowledged goddess of wisdom in the occult world, and even they trace her origins back to the days of Solomon when his marriage to pagan wives (which became his downfall) caused him to bring in the worship of the goddess Asherah into the house of the Lord. She is known by many names in the occult and pagan worlds, and one of the most well-known is Sophia.
In other words, the Sophia concept and movement is the deliberately designed incursion of goddess worship into the house of God today – even if disguised as “Papa.” All the occult, Wiccan and Pagan world acknowledges Sophia as the one known originally as Asherah.
So why has William Young introduced an entire vulnerable, wordless generation to the goddess? I cannot pretend to know his motives; I always assume they are noble and good until further information shows otherwise. But as always happens in the Emergent and Purpose Driven world, a dozen logical explanations and justifications will be made to spiritualize the spiritually unclean goddess infection. We are asked by The Message author Eugene Peterson to accept The Shack as a book that has the potential to do for this generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. But, as I learned early on, calling a rake a gardening implement may sound cute, but it’s really just a rake. And Sophia is an occult goddess, even if you attempt to dress her up in religious clothes. And regardless of the author’s motives, this book is a weapon in the Luciferian EndGame to, in the hearts of man, dethrone the One Unchangeable God and Jesus the Risen King and coming JUDGE, and put Lucifer as god, and “Gaia” or “Sophia” or “mother earth” as the illusional Queen Consort of darkness disguised as “light”.
The Shack is, in the end, a perfect New Age “Christian” tome for a scripturally blind and unlearned and undiscerning generation of leaders and the youth they are misleading, for whom truth is a flexible, dispensable, changeable commodity that is being increasingly sacrificed on the altar of our craving for spiritual experience.
This is a largely fatherless generation. And a generation with a missing, or warped, or evil, or absent father image, will more easily turn to God if she is a mother. The Shack speaks to a generation that will reject the God of the Bible, who, yes, is love, but is also Holy, who redeems us, but also is sending the King of Kings back to judge everyone according to their deeds. This generation does not want God as father.
It wants a hug. But the characters of “God” presented in The Shack will be more like the slow choking of truth and the embrace of the serpent who said, “Did God really say…?”
The Shack, rather than being the new Pilgrim’s Progress, simply casts Biblical truth, if not to the wind, at least by the wayside, in favor of a made-up concept of God who becomes whatever we want him – or them– or her– to be. The Shack is filled with conversations and languages that eerily resemble Neale Donald Walsch’s A Conversation With God series, in which an angry and hurt Walsch hears “God” talking, and “God” reveals himself in a way that Walsch accepts, and believes, and writes of, and exposes others to. A God who thinks Hitler will go to heaven.
While The Shack is not quite that radical, a careful reading of it with Bible in hand will find its theology is not “simple fiction” at all but rather a dangerous imaginative “reimagining” of the God of truth that will lead its followers on an ever-increasingly slippery path into deception. The Shack is simply the next salvo being leveled at a generation that has not been taught truth from error and will accept whatever will bring them comfort in the night. May God grant the power of truth to expose this dangerous book for what it is.