top of page


The novel, The Shack by William Paul Young (Newbury Park, CA: Windblown Media, 2007) is coming to theaters. "The book is a novel set in the Northwest, for the most part in the northeast corner of the State of Oregon. It is a novel designed to propound a particular view of the nature of God and the resolution of the problem of human suffering. Its subtitle betrays its scope: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity" [ ( James De Young, Review, 2)]

By way of summary: The format is a retelling of the experience of Mackenzie Allen Phillips by his friend Willie. Mackenzie has a troubled past & finds himself in training for ministry yet unable to pursue it. He experiences the brutal murder of his youngest daughter and he becomes bitter toward God. Three and a half years later, he is led by God back to the murder scene—a desolate cabin in the mountains and forests of Northeast Oregon—where he encounters the Triune God and finds how to have joy again in his life. It is tied to the reason for his existence and his relationship with God. The murder of his daughter is also solved (De Young, Review, 2).

This review borrows heavily from James B De Young's review, "At The Back Of The Shack A Torrent Of Universalism: A Review" (Revised ed., May, 2008). De Young has been a friend with William Young, who goes by "Paul." De Young (p. 5) notes their families and kids have been friends for about a dozen years and De Young and Paul have been "theological buddies" enjoying multiple discussions of theological issues over the years & together co-founded a Christian forum where they and several others have explored many theological issues including universal reconciliation. They've had many conversations about things that are reflected in his novel—the meaning of reality, the Trinity, love, the fall, humanity, the future, etc. About four years ago, Paul embraced universal reconciliation and strongly defended his decision. It is on this matter that they part company.

De Young (p, 2) notes, "Because the fiction is deeply moving the reader is caught up in the emotions of the story. And therein lies the problem. It is too easy to feel deeply with the sufferings and triumphs of the characters and miss the theological point of what is being said." De Young writes (p. 8), "It is often said that to understand a book better one needs to know its author. We even say this about the Bible. Well, I am acquainted with Paul and his doctrinal beliefs. Thus I feel qualified and compelled to address the contents of the novel. I am concerned that many may read this story without discerning that what Paul writes undermines evangelical theology, the gospel, and the institutional church founded by Jesus himself and his Apostles."

De Young (p. 7) adds helpful insight by revealing that "Paul admits that his novel is partially autobiographical. Paul has shunned the institutional church, holding church instead in a private home with his family and some friends. He has regularly opposed other institutions associated with the church, such as seminaries and Bible schools, and has opposed the institution of the government. In The Shack, he identifies all institutions as demonic systems and power-control entities that hinder relationship with God. … It is not surprising that all of these thoughts and beliefs are represented in The Shack. It is particularly bold for Paul to have them come from the mouth of God himself (often in neglect of other, contrasting words from God as recorded in the text of Scripture)."

De Young (p. 3) warns of the various theological errors propounded in the novel, saying, "The greatest doctrinal distortion in the book is Paul’s assumption of universal reconciliation. There are other points of theology that are distorted or improbable or debatable. These include mutual submission in the Godhead; no subordination within the Godhead or among people; the Father’s co-crucifixion with Christ (modalistic); people completing a circle of relationship with the three persons of the Godhead; institutions being identified as diabolical; etc. Yet the most serious error is Paul’s embrace of

universal reconciliation which lies embedded in the book."

"Recently Paul has deflected charges that he is a universalist. I presume that he means that he is not an adherent of general universalism. This is that system of belief that affirms that there are many roads to God and Jesus is only one of these. This is not Paul’s belief" (De Young, Review, 6). William Young ["Paul"] does embrace and teaches universal reconciliation in The Shack. "Universal reconciliation is not a minor doctrine. It goes to the heart of evangelical faith—who God is; what he accomplished at the cross; what sin is; how and when people are saved; what the nature of the judgment after death is; etc" (De Young, Review, 8).

De Young says, "Christian universalism (also known as universal reconciliation) argues that love is the supreme attribute of God that trumps all others. Those who refuse him now will be given another chance to repent after they die. Thus unbelieving humanity, and fallen angels and the Devil himself, will one day in hell repent and be delivered from it and be admitted into heaven. There cannot be any left in the universe whom the love of God does not conquer; hence the words, universalism reconciliation" [ TheShackShorterReview.pdf (De Young, June 2008, 8)]. De Young carefully exposes this subtle teaching in The Shack & how it distorts a biblical understanding of God and his attributes and the gospel!

De Young interacts with arguments as to why someone might still read the book despite its subversive theology [read the full review on-line]. De Young (p. 39) concludes, "He [Paul] is subversive to the truth about a lot of things, including the nature of God and the eternal end of people, particularly the lost. He is subversive to the institutions of the church, the state, the home. The book hinders rather than helps genuine spiritual growth and understanding. Paul acts like an insurgent does within a culture. The effect is chaos and anarchy." So, this is why I recommend you steer clear of The Shack!

Randy Mann

71 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Tongues and prophecy for today or not? To properly address such a controversial and significant issue fully, would require a book (and many have been written!). The scope of this article is thus limit

Why is it that evangelicals seem to have so many different interpretations of the Bible when they agree on the authority of the Bible for daily living?  The problem primarily is a hermeneutical one -

I’ll never forget my first day at Reformed Episcopal Seminary as I participated in the opening convocation. Two things stand out in my memory some twenty-five years later. First, my Brethren backgroun

bottom of page