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Fraser Trevor Fraser Trevor Author
Title: Is the Shack A.A.s higher power ?
Author: Fraser Trevor
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Cover of The Shack "See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' an...
Cover of "The Shack"
Cover of The Shack
"See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many." (Matthew 24:4-5)

The novel The Shack, by William P. Young, has sold well over two million copies. The author is in high demand as a speaker. Reportedly, Oprah and her staff have made reading the book a top priority. Studios are competing to secure rights to produce the film version. A pastor of a large church recently told his congregation, "If The Shack doesn't change your life, you need to have your pulse checked."

Despite such growing mainstream appeal, The Shack neither honours, nor portrays, the Biblical God. Instead it introduces people to a customised version of "christ." Remarkable similarities exist between the false god of The Shack and the "higher power" and theology of Alcoholics Anonymous. Bluntly stated, the god of The Shack is essentially the A.A. higher power with a Christian veneer.

The Hindus have 10,000 deities in their religion-Alcoholics Anonymous has millions. In A.A., one can choose to worship St. Jerome, the divinity of man, the sub-atomic universe, or anything else. One can worship vegetable, animal, or mineral-or a particular spirit.

One can also give the chosen "higher power" any trait, tendency, or characteristic that seems fitting in a god (and benefits the person.) Most decide the higher power is kind, forgiving, patient, full of love, nonjudgmental, and so on. This is just what author William Young has done with the god of The Shack. The world loves the novel's remade "trinity" for precisely the reason it loves A.A.'s higher power-it is the choice of a deity unconcerned with sin, repentance, or holiness.

The god of The Shack, unlike the God of the Bible, does not mete out eternal punishment. This is always a draw for sinful mankind. The novel's deity states, "I don't need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It's not my purpose to punish it; it's my joy to cure it."[1] In these brief sentences, the author has presented an altered gospel. If there is no eternal punishment for sinners separated from God, what purpose did the Lord's death on the cross serve?

We have an incomprehensibly gentle and faithful God. "But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth." (Psalm 86: 15)
But He is also holy. (Isaiah 41:14) There are consequences for sin and unbelief. (John 8:34-36, Rev 21:8) There is judgement. (John 5:21-24) It is a great disservice to present a book, read by seekers and new believers, where "god" claims to have nothing to do with punishment.

The false god of The Shack will be warmly welcomed into Alcoholics Anonymous, which has always been hostile to the real Jesus Christ. A.A.'s 12 Steps encourage the alcoholic to correct "wrongs," "shortcomings," and "defects of character" but make no mention of sin or of a holy God who hates sin.

In Alcoholics Anonymous, members can be divided into three groups:

1) Followers of the Biblical Jesus (who are generally silent about their faith due to A.A. hostility, or because A.A. is an idol)[2]

2) Those who bow to whatever higher power they individually envision-be it a tree, a spirit, or anything else.

3) Unsaved people who believe their higher power is "christ."

There has always been a smattering of false deities designated "christ" by unsaved individuals swimming the black seas of A.A. spirituality. But this "smattering" may be about to increase significantly. The Shack is beginning to seem far more than your simple, run-of-the-mill heresy. As sales continue to skyrocket, as a movie is inevitably made, as Oprah gives the book her approval, many in AA may find themselves redesigning their deities. In other words, many a "higher power" will come to be understood as "christ." We seem on the doorstep of that time when many-MANY-are going to be drawn to false versions of "jesus."

"He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44)

When The Shack was originally submitted for publication, the manuscript proclaimed universal reconciliation (also known as ultimate reconciliation.) [3] Universal reconciliation holds that Christ's sacrifice enables all people to go to heaven. Not just Christians, but every Hindu, atheist, Mormon, Muslim, and all nonbelievers that have ever lived. The novel's editor, Wayne Jacobsen, claims all elements of universal reconciliation have been removed from the book and that author William Young now accepts Biblical doctrine.[4]

Yet, as James De Young notes in 'Revisiting The Shack and Universal Reconciliation,' universalism remains a constant, subtle theme of The Shack.[5] A.A., with its any-and-all-gods theology, also has strong universalist tendencies. While viewed benevolently by many, both A.A. and The Shack serve as vehicles to undermine Biblical understanding of the Lord our God. Of course, Alcoholics Anonymous has been around much, much longer, and is second to none in terms of subverting the gospel.

In 'The Fall of the Evangelical Nation,' secular author Christine Wicker credits Alcoholics Anonymous with "hastening the fall of the evangelical church."[6] Indeed, The Shack could not be so joyfully received had not decades of exposure to A.A. (and other 12 Step groups) watered down understanding and reverence for the Biblical God.

Wicker states A.A.'s 12 Step program "slowly exposed people to the notion that they could get the [higher power] without the dogma, the doctrine, and the outdated rules. Without the church in fact."[7] This has removed the authority and influence of "the preacher and the Bible and tradition."[8] After all, why bow to a God that always holds you accountable for sin? Why not cobble together a deity of your own?

"But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons…" (1 Timothy 4:2)

In the Bible, Jesus never understood God the Father in the form of a goddess. He never referred to the Father as "she" or "her." Such references are not found anywhere in the Old or New Testaments. The Shack's Trinity is a black woman named Papa (supposedly god the father), a short Jewish carpenter ("jesus"), and an Asian woman called Sarayu (holy spirit). Mack Philips, the main character, is angry with "god the father" for the death of his daughter, and angry with his own father over his upbringing. Mack meets with the trinity in a remote shack in Oregon and the healing begins.

The Father-goddess tells him, "Hasn't it always been a problem to embrace me as your father? And after what you've been through, you couldn't very well handle a father right now, could you?"

This, on the surface, seems very kind and merciful-a god conforming to a likeness a person will tolerate. Author William Young has stated Mack needed "for god to come to him in a way that's accessible." But acceptable is a far more accurate word.
The author has essentially applied A.A.'s higher power concept to the God of the Bible. As if taking scissors to the Word of God, William Young has cut out and removed His righteousness, judgement, wrath, holiness, and much else. He has piled on grace, love, forgiveness, and kindness-and who, after all, does not want to hear about these things? The author has remade the Biblical God the Father into a goddess seemingly out of one of the ancient pagan religions. This, in a time of spiritual and cultural breakdown, attracts the world.

But it's not just the world. Incredibly, some leading pastors and high profile Christians are defending this higher power/trinity. Where the Apostle Paul, or Spurgeon, or A.W. Tozier would have called out to God in horror, the Father-goddess is increasingly welcomed into the church. A generation raised on movies such as "Oh, God" and "Bruce Almighty," is perhaps already conditioned for such a change to be made.

It seems the Holy God of Isaiah 6 is no longer welcomed by many of His people. Perhaps, since entertainment takes up so much Bible Study time, some are simply ignorant of this aspect of our God. We prefer our Ancient of Days as human as possible. The book's attempt to replace our King is not something Christians should celebrate. This Father-goddess, this queen of heaven, has fangs.

"As for the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we are not going to listen to you! But rather we will certainly carry out every word that has proceeded from our mouths, by burning sacrifices to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her…" (Jeremiah 44: 16-17)

In the novel, "sin" and "salvation" do not seem to have the Biblical meaning one would naturally assume. In fact, "relationship" seems to be presented as if it were salvation. Yet, Biblically speaking, there can be no relationship without salvation.

In one of the most incredible statements in the book, the "christ" of The Shack fails to proclaim salvation is exclusively through him. The "christ" states, "I am the best way any human can relate to Papa or Sarayu [holy spirit]."[11] The best way? Young does not have his "jesus" say he is the only way, simply that he is the best way. This is no minor point.

Let's use the phrase "best way" in some sentences: "The best way to eat pancakes is with maple syrup." Yet that is not the only way to eat them. "The best way to Oregon fromCalifornia is the I-5 highway." Yet that is not the only way to get to Oregon from California. "The best way to see the Super Bowl is to be there live and in person." Yet this is not the only way to see the game.[12]

When the book's "christ" informs readers he is the "best way" to "relate" to God the Father and the Holy Spirit, we should not simply nod our heads in agreement and move on.

Jesus tells us, "No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:16) No one! In Acts, Peter testifies of Jesus, "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

We find the same "shack theology" in the A.A. belief system. It is entirely about growing in relationship with the higher power of one's choice. Biblical repentance and salvation is an alien concept, unless one wants to place it within the context of an individual's 12 Step/higher power worship.

Martin and Deidre Bobgan state Alcoholics Anonymous and other "12 Step programs are in essence New Age religions and archetypical precursors of a one-world religion."[13] Indeed, Alcoholics Anonymous will continue to play a key role in the spiritual nightmare that is to come. It has been doing so for seventy years, eating away at Biblical certainty, often with the help of Christian allies.

During one of his many presentations, The Shack author William Young stated, "God is embedded in all of us."[14] His novel instructs, "God, who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things, ultimately emerging as the real-and any appearances that mask that reality will fall away."[15]

But God does not dwell in all people. According to the Bible, sin has separated us from God. (Romans 3:23) Upon Salvation, God is not activated or, as Young claims, "emerging." The Holy Spirit comes to dwell only in those who know Christ. Writing to believers, Paul states,

"Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Cor 3:16)

Concerning The Shack's theology, Warren Smith writes, "This false teaching about a 'God' who 'dwells in, around, and through all things' is the kind of New Age leaven that left unchallenged could leaven the church into the New Age/New Spirituality of the proposed New World Religion."[16] Smith emphasizes "this leaven alone contaminates the whole book."[17]

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book-the A.A. "bible"-also proclaims divinity abides within. The Big Book states, "Sometimes we had to search fearlessly but He was there. He was as much a fact as we were. We found the Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis, it is only there that He may be found."[18]

Let's stop and review. According to the author, the god of The Shack dwells in everybody, and apparently does not condemn any to eternal punishment-or, as The Shack would address this, "She does not punish anyone." The novel's "christ" is the "best way" to salvation, but apparently not the only way.

What about Alcoholics Anonymous? The A.A. Big Book states, "We found that God does not make too hard terms with those who seek Him. To us, the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek. It is open, we believe, to all men. When, therefore, we speak to you of God, we mean your own conception of God."[19] According to the A.A. Big Book, God is "deep down within us."

Thus are the seeds of the New Age planted in the soil of both The Shack and Alcoholics Anonymous. The tentacles of various heresies are reaching out and linking. The false "christ" of The Shack seems poised to be welcomed into, or serve as a catalyst for, emergent/contemplative/12 Step Spirituality.

Many Christians have superimposed their beliefs upon The Shack, supposing it a novel written by a Biblical Christian. As James De Young and others have pointed out, this is not necessarily the case. Over the decades, many Christians have also jackhammered their God into AA's anti-Biblical system-and their love has effectively been divided between Christ and Alcoholics Anonymous. (2 Corinthians 6:14-17, Galatians 1:8-9)

For those who have heard how The Shack draws people closer to God, please, be cautious."They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, 'Peace, peace,' But there is no peace." (Jeremiah 6:14)

The Shack will not bring you spiritually closer to the God of the Bible. You will not find the Holy God within its pages. It is the Father-goddess who revels in stolen adoration, and while its fangs may sparkle, the Father-goddess beckons from utter and total darkness.

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