James B. De Young is author of the newly released WND Books title “Burning Down the Shack.”
Q: Am I surprised at the opposition to “Burning Down the Shack” that has arisen in some segments of the Christian community. What accounts for this?
Answer: On the one hand, I am surprised, for the Christian community ought to be concerned ultimately for the truth, which, Jesus said, is alone able to set us free (John 8:32). All books, including fiction, ought to be critiqued with this in view.
Christian fiction does not get a free pass to say any thing it wishes. It belongs to a literary type called theological fiction where the doctrine is the main point and the story line is brought into the service of the doctrine. “The Shack” and other recent fiction (as well as some much earlier) belong to this genre. Unfortunately, many Christians are blissfully unaware of the need to read such fiction with special care.
Both Jesus himself and the Apostles warn Christians not to be deceived. Jesus condemned those who substituted their tradition for the authority of the revelation of the Old Testament. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, he appealed to Moses and the Prophets as giving authoritative revelation about life after death; and that this was sufficient for people to find truth about the afterlife. Even if one should return from the dead (which Jesus would later do), people would not be convinced if they have rejected Scripture (see Luke 13), which is what happened after his resurrection.
In addition, the Apostle Paul warned in the severest terms about distorting the Gospel. He condemns to hell those who teach another gospel that differs from what he proclaimed (see Galatians 1). If “The Shack” fails to tell the truth, then it should be exposed. All writing should be so critiqued by asking: Does it measure up to the touchstone of Scripture?
There is the precedent of history. When Origen in the third century first began propagating universalism in forms just like those of today, the early church rose up and condemned it as heresy in the fifth century. But Christians give little place to early history and so are deceived by an old heresy.
There is also the witness of early American history. When John Murray first began preaching universalism in Colonial America in 1770, the false teaching drew many followers, many of them rebelling against the extreme forms of Calvinism preached by some. Virtually every Baptist church had defectors to universalism. Three of the first five preachers of universalism were former pastors of Baptist churches. But Isaac Backus helped stem the tide with his book published in 1782, which examined universalism in light of Scripture and found it lacking.
In 1846, Matthew Hale Smith published a book to warn about universal salvation. He traced his own conversion as a return to biblical faith after preaching universalism for a dozen years. He warns evangelical readers that universalism employs various deceptive means to propagate this heresy, including children’s stories and fiction! Once again we discover that “There is nothing new under the sun.”
Yet on the other hand, I’m not surprised at the opposition that has risen against “Burning Down the Shack.” We are living in a time when feeling trumps fact, when relationship with God is the chief issue (the stated theme of “The Shack”) and extolling the glory of God takes second, if any, place. Consider the popularity of films and books that debunk the Bible (“The Da Vinci Code”; “Misquoting Jesus”; “The Gospel of Judas”; etc.). That so many should be “mystified” by such propaganda shows that discernment is greatly lacking.
By its own claim “The Shack” is all about relationship. Sadly, even pastors are fearful of alienating anyone by preaching the whole message of Jesus Christ, which was often harsh, narrow and critical of those who put tradition or wrong theology in place of the truth (Matt. 15:1-20). His exclusivist claims, such as “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” run contrary to the spirit of pluralism today and being “politically correct.” Yet, without him and his death on the cross for our sins, we have no hope of immortality, of life beyond this life, no hope for knowing reality, no hope for our culture’s survival. And no freedom of speech and print! “Burning Down the Shack” seeks to bring people to the place of separating truth from error. Indeed, it is my prayer and hope that the Lord would use this book to contribute to the spiritual renewal that our country needs.
Help uphold truth in today’s church. Order James B. De Young’s “Burning Down the Shack: How the ‘Christian’ Bestseller is Deceiving Millions.”