Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
William Paul Young and his controversial book
One of the best-selling – and most controversial – Christian novels of the last decade may be coming to a movie theater near you.
Author William Paul Young confirmed in an e-mail to WND that he is writing a screenplay to make his publishing phenomenon, “The Shack,” into a motion picture.
“The Shack,” a story of a man who meets God in the woods following the kidnapping and death of his daughter, has sold over 12 million copies and has spent 111 weeks – and counting – on the New York Times best-seller list, including more than a year in the No. 1 spot.
“The Shack,” however, has generated not only revenue but also harsh criticism for its portrayal of God and messages on salvation. Some have even blasted the book as “heresy.”
James B. De Young, author of “Burning Down ‘The Shack,’” for example, alleges Young’s bestseller negates God’s holiness and judgment, distorts the work of Christ upon the Cross and falsely offers forgiveness and salvation to everyone regardless of their relationship to Jesus.
“A relationship with God comes only by personal trust or faith placed in Jesus Christ,” De Young told WND. “For the book (and the film) to ignore this core of faith is to propound another and different gospel to that of Jesus and the Apostles. It is the heart of the gospel, but it is ignored in the heresy of universal salvation.”
He continued, “A film will only reinforce such a distortion. Indeed, what people see will have a greater impact, potentially, than the printed page. If Young is true to his novel, his script will no doubt continue to lead people away from a total understanding of the God of the Bible.”
Rumors of a “The Shack” being made into a movie have been swirling for some time, pushed in part by a website that lists the “The Shack” among works in progress of Downes Brothers Entertainment.
Young told WND, however, that he has not authorized anyone to begin work on making “The Shack” into a feature film.
“Nothing at all has happened with regard to the movie,” Young wrote in an e-mail. “Anyone who has attached themselves to such a project are incorrect. Currently I am working on the screenplay but have not begun any of the anticipated process of getting it to the screen. In time. No rush.”
The questions about the movie rights, however, pale in comparison to the controversy over who owns the rights to do what when and to make how much money from the book.
The Los Angeles Times reports that last November Young filed suit in state court against the team of pastors and publishers that helped to bring “The Shack” to the public. Young alleges he is owed about $8 million in lost royalties and that Windblown Media, the start-up that first published “The Shack,” should have its publishing and distribution rights for the book terminated.
Financial controversies aside, millions of people have read the book, and many have testified that its redemptive story of a wounded, bitter man finding a God he never expected talking and dancing and walking on water with him has changed their lives. They’ve said it helps them see past the imposing image of God they adopted through painful experiences in church to find healing and joy in a clearer picture of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Author De Young, however, asks in his “Burning Down ‘The Shack,’” at what price are people turning to God and what god are they turning to?
“Is it truly helpful if someone helps people in one area while simultaneously propounding error in another area?” De Young writes. “If the love of God is affirmed but his justice and/or holiness is shortchanged, will this not lead to a distortion of God and one’s relationship with God?”
He continues, “One does not use error to teach truth. Jesus is love, but he is also truth. By deemphasizing or neglecting the justice or holiness of God in s the service of propounding a heresy about the love of God, one cheapens the love of God.”