Paul Young is an affable guy with a great story. He’ll tell you himself that story is powerful.
His own story is the result of great personal pain and his experience of recovery. Lies We Believe is a book that rebrands the theology of The Shack as doctrine. What would Mr. Young think if I told him that since I’ve read both this book and The Shack and watched several of his lengthy interviews – that now I can tell his story better than he can.
Would you believe that I have more insight into who he is and how he got this way than he does? In other words, I’m now more of an authority on Paul Young than Paul Young. In fact, I can make Paul Young an even more likable guy. I can make people feel comfortable with him and trust him. I can correct the record on Paul Young because he kinda messed it up himself.
That’s precisely the theology of The Shack and the point of this book; creating doctrine from fiction. God told His story so badly that folks got the wrong idea. Young intends to correct the record. Young is brilliant. He is a manipulator. That’s the beauty of being a great story-teller; fiction becomes more believable than fact.
God really screwed up His messaging. Here’s what He meant to say…
“To understand who God really is, you can begin by looking at yourself, since you are made in God’s image.” Young believes that God is explained by humans, not the reverse. The Bible got it wrong.
After explaining his concept of salvation the author anticipates a question and offers his answer. “Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? That is exactly what I am saying!” Yep, God saves everyone. No matter what. No questions asked. Because God is “especially fond” of everyone. It’s odd that Mr. Young seems so attached to Jesus since He really wasn’t necessary. Mr. Young doesn’t say it quite as bluntly, but if God saves everyone anyway, what was the point of the Cross?
The author insists that knowing that Papa is especially fond of you “is all any of us needs to know.”
There are some wonderful messages in Lies We Believe. There is also a mountain of presumption. The author figured out who God had to be to make him feel whole and loved. Okay, that’s his business and none of mine. But he insists that his ideas (not scriptural) must therefore apply to God and everyone else because it is his discovered truth.
Paul Young says these are lies we believe:
- God is good and I am not.
- God is in control.
- God does not submit.
- Hell is separation from God.
- God wants to use me.
- You need to get saved.
- Sin separates us from God.
“God submits rather than controls and joins us in the resulting mess of relationship, to participate in co-creating the possibility of life, even in the face of death.” I find that a cumbersome but colorful sentence and one of the book’s numerous examples that God really can’t do much without us. Young refers to the amazing power of words, using “Let there be light” as an example. Yet somehow that same Creator “God is a God of relationship and never acts independently.“
The author uses circular reasoning to justify his philosophy. Wisely, he also leaves the door open to change his mind and his opinion later. So much for theology. Young is an emotional man. He appears to be a caring man. He wrote The Shack at his wife’s request so his children could better understand how their father thinks and processes relationship. He says he never sought fame or fortune from sharing his personal crucible.
So why did he write a book of theology? Today Lies We Believe About God is currently the #2 selling Christian Theology Kindle book on the planet. Readers didn’t add that characterization, the author/publisher did. The excuse that The Shack is just a novel fails. It has become the most popular authority of who God is. That is tragic.
If you want to know who God is and what He thinks read His Word. It begins with a new heaven and new earth and ends the same way. Nothing of import was left out. Mr. Young recovered from brokenness. I’m happy for him and his family. However, expecting his truly horrifying experience to generalize to everyone is a bit cheeky. Especially when he frames his ideas as eternal truths.
Young’s Twisted Theology
Imagine the scenario in The Shack that wasn’t written. The part where the kidnapper tortures and kills little Missy. The very act. As her blood spurted and bubbled the man pleasured in his handiwork. According to Young’s theology, God/Jesus was standing right next to both the perpetrator and the small victim saying to each personally, with an inviting grin, “I am especially fond of you.” That’s it. Young insists that God is always proud and never disappointed in ANY human. Ever. – – That isn’t God. That’s twisted.
Mr. Young is smart, approachable, practiced in the art of persuasion, and poses a threat to those who aren’t as well-versed in theology, psychology, and recognizing lies wrapped in emotion-laden partial truths. Do I believe the author is authentic in his message? Yes. But that doesn’t mean he’s right. Does God judge? Yes. Is there Good News? Yes. Why is there Good News? Because there’s Bad News. The author insists there is no bad news. In other words, there is no point to faith at all except that it makes you feel good.
If Mr. Young wouldn’t agree that I can tell his story better than he can he might rethink his quest to correct the way God chose to tell His.
- “with an inviting grin.” Soon after meeting “Jesus” in the shack, Mackenzie says how sorry he is that Jesus had to die for him. Jesus replies “with an inviting grin.” I admit, the way Young trivialized the brutality of Christ’s death irritated me when I read it.