I recently commended the book entitled The Shack by William Paul Young. I find that I no longer can because so many take its primary teaching and distort it into lawlessness. The book teaches a profound truth about God’s forgiveness and the fact that Jesus died to reconcile all men to God. We find the full truth of this in the beauty and mystery of the doctrine of “universal reconciliation.” Many people forget (or never learned) this major tenet of the Gospel in their profound zeal to hurry people into hell. But, the book can and does cause a problem in the wrong, zealous hands.
Immediately after I read The Shack I gave it to my wife to read, who did. We have now discussed it on numerous occasions. It does contain some theological flaws, but what book doesn’t? Again, who possesses perfect wisdom with respect to God’s truth? No one you or I know! But, there is a huge theological flaw in The Shack that must be addressed, which is that people can and are using the book to defend lawlessness. I will address some of those issues here.
Is love lawless? The question is, did Jesus “put away” the law, or did he “fulfill” the law? If he put away the law, then sin no longer exists. If sin no longer exists, then evil no longer exists. If God could take care of the sin problem by simply taking care of the law problem, that is, by annulling the law, then Jesus died for nothing. Why? Because God could have just never implemented the law to begin with.
But, love is not lawless. This is why the Scripture says, “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” (Psalms 85:10 KJ2000) In God’s plan mercy, which is another name for love or peace, meets together with and kisses truth, which is another name for justice (law) or righteousness. God does not separate the two concepts. Mercy triumphs over judgment, but never over justice, for mercy and justice are one (think of the Father and the Son who are one yet distinct). Thus James says, “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that has showed no mercy; and mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13 KJ2000) James makes it clear that judgment for wrongdoing still exists and here he calls judgment without mercy wrongdoing. The point he makes here is that justice and mercy will require judgment upon those who judge without mercy.
All the rest of Scripture make it equally clear that judgment comes upon the disobedient, rebellious, and unrepentant as well. But, the goal of God’s judgment ultimately brings restoration to an individual. Thus justice (righteousness) and mercy (peace) kiss in the restored person bringing him into union with God. This is the reconciliation that Jesus effected by his death on the cross.
He that rejects me, and receives not my words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. (John 12:48 KJ2000)
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For outside are dogs, and sorcerers, and fornicators [sexually immoral including adulterers and homosexual offenders], and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loves and makes a lie. (Revelation 22:14-15 KJ2000) Please note that this verse is at the very end of the Bible.
As true as many concepts in The Shack are, sin is still sin, and God will still bring us to account for sin and unrepentance. They do err who teach that love and mercy never judge. It is precisely our willingness to judge with love and mercy that finally brings the rebellious into God’s fold. Mercy without judgment is exactly what Jude condemns in his book saying, “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into licentiousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4KJ2000) The word “denying” here means contradicting. When one uses the doctrine of grace to condone licentiousness he necessarily contradicts Jesus Christ, thus denying him.
Some seem to believe that The Shack teaches that God accepts anyone into his kingdom without requiring them to repent even though they still stand in the midst of their sin. If it does, then those who accuse the author of The Shack of writing blasphemy are correct. If you click this link to The Shack Forum you will see some examples of the confusion The Shack brings to people. This is unfortunately true even of Christians who have, according to their own words, walked with the LORD a long time. Virtually every person who commented on my post there takes issue with it. None have a clue about God’s “teaching about righteousness,” and they don’t want to learn. The Shack has somehow confirmed them in their rebellion to God’s ways.
But, I don’t think The Shack itself teaches lawlessness and licentiousness. However, the book’s great weakness is that people indeed interpret it to do so. It provides ground for immature Christians to become entrenched in their lawlessness and belief that God accepts them unconditionally in their sin without ever requiring their repentance. No, our God is a holy God, and beloved, he will require holiness in each of us before we see his face. I think the author of The Shack understands this, but most of his readers appear not to. Therefore I cannot endorse the book because it leads God’s people astray.