Today Lies We Believe About God is the #2 selling Christian Theology Kindle book on the planet. Readers didn’t characterize the book as non-fiction theology, the author/publisher did.
The popular response to objections about The Shack is that it’s just a novel. That argument won’t hold a teaspoon of coffee anymore because The Shack’s author has become the most popular authority of who God is. The theology/doctrine of Lies We Believe is the storyline his novel.
The day I originally wrote this post, March 13, 2017, it was the #2 THEOLOGY book. The #2 title today (January 26, 2019) is C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. Let that sink in.
Young’s own story is the result of excruciating personal pain and his experience of recovery. Lies We Believe rebrands the theology of The Shack as doctrine. Would you believe me if I insisted that because I’ve read both this book and The Shack and watched several of his lengthy interviews – that I can tell the author’s story better than he can?
Fiction Produces Doctrine
Can I get you to believe that I have more insight into who Young is and how he got to be this way than he does? In other words, is it credible that I’m now more of an authority on Paul Young than Paul Young himself?
In fact, I might tell you, what I have to say will make people feel comfortable and trust him more than anything his words or behavior suggests. I suggest it’s fallen to me to correct the record on Paul Young because he kinda messed it up himself.
Kinda cheeky, isn’t it? Presumptuous even, and I doubt Mr. Young would appreciate my input. I’ve always wondered why people think they know what I believe or mean better than I do? I confess, that used to BUG me, but I’ve learned to listen past it and seek a positive direction instead of challenging the speaker.
But that’s precisely the theology of The Shack and the point of Young’s book; creating doctrine from fiction. Young argues that God did such a poor job telling His story that folks got the wrong idea and he intends to correct the record.
Mr. Young is fixing the Bible.
Young is brilliant. Approachable. I admire his skill and delivery. He’s also a master manipulator or painfully deluded. The magic of great story-tellers is that their fiction is more believable (and comfortable) than fact.
Which is precisely what happens in The Shack and Lies We Tell.
Young insists that God really screwed up His messaging
“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. He says the Bible got it wrong.
After explaining his concept of salvation, Young 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 and no questions asked. Because God is “especially fond” of everyone.
What was the point of the Cross?
It’s odd that Mr. Young seems so attached to Jesus since his theology suggests Jesus isn’t necessary. Mr. Young doesn’t say it quite as bluntly, but if God saves everyone anyway, what was the point of the Cross?
[su_quote cite=”Wm. Paul Young, Lies We Believe About God“]I’ve made a habit of rephrasing the line “God loves you,” and instead of making it about God, I make it about the object of God’s relentless affection – us. So throughout The Shack, Papa would say, “I am especially fond of her or him” There is a world of difference between saying “I love you,” which is about me, and saying “I am especially fond of you,” which is about you. [/su_quote]
The author insists that knowing that Papa (God) 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 and experience are more true than scripture and therefore apply to God and everyone else because it is his discovered truth.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” – John 14:6
7 Lies about God according to Paul Young
- God is good and I am not – is a lie.
- God is in control – is a lie.
- God does not submit – is a lie.
- Hell is separation from God – is a lie.
- God wants to use me – is a lie.
- You need to get saved -is a lie.
- Sin separates us from God -is a lie.
“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.
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 (that he admits are subject to later change.)
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. Her blood spurts and bubbles while the man pleasures 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.”
Young insists that God is always proud and never disappointed in ANY human. Ever. – – That isn’t God. That’s twisted.
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. It remains provocative.
Shack Theology – there is no bad news
Mr. Young is smart, approachable, practiced in the art of persuasion, and poses a threat to those not 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.
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