A former colleague takes apart The Shack author's new book denying Biblical truths.
When Paul Young and I founded a Christian think-tank together, little did I suspect that Paul would write a national bestseller (The Shack), let alone one that so radically distorts the gospel. But now Paul has gone a step further. He’s published a theological manifesto that explicitly denies doctrines central to the Christian faith. The cat is finally out of the bag.
Paul Young’s book Lies We Believe about God, which appeared last March, exposed what Paul Young really, truly believes about God and Christianity. No one should any longer be in doubt or confused.
For fourteen years I and others have been saying that Paul Young embraces universal reconciliation, that it is embedded in his novel, The Shack, and in the movie (2017). I was often rebuffed, even by Paul himself.
The History of Young’s Embrace, Then Denial, of Universal Reconciliation
I have known Paul Young for over two decades. In 2004, he presented a 103-page paper to our think-tank embracing universal reconciliation (UR) — the idea that God’s love trumps his justice and he will save every person in the world, past, present or future — and rejecting his “evangelical paradigm.”
Using some of the most pernicious language I’ve ever read, Young rejected evangelical belief in eternal punishment because it makes Jesus “a million times more vicious” than Pharaoh, Nero and Hitler put together. Eternal punishment is “sadistic humbug,” says Young. It makes Calvary “a farce, a burlesque, a travesty, and a sham.” Thus “Jesus died a failure and in vain. . . . Jesus is not the Savior of men. . . . He is not even a good man, but a liar, and therefore a rogue and a deceiving rascal.”
Young claimed that universalism had changed his life, making him a more loving person and affecting all his theology. Young had become a true believer.
I was shocked! I thought I knew Paul’s beliefs but I realized then I was unaware of his conversion to UR. The following month I presented a paper opposing Paul’s paper point by point. But Young had quit our forum. During the next few years he wrote The Shack with universalism boldly expressed in it.
But two pastor friends opposed the UR. Together they worked with Young for over a year trying to remove UR from his manuscript and became “co-authors” with Young in the process. In 2007, the three self-published this “second” edition and it became the best seller we know today. It also occasioned a lawsuit over how the royalties should be divided. (This making of The Shack is explained in this 2008 post.)
When I read The Shack, I was surprised by its subtle embrace and propagation of UR. To expose its UR I wrote Burning Down the Shack: How a “Christian” Bestseller Is Deceiving Millions.
Then Paul seemed to take a u-turn in his commitment to UR, or so he claimed. About the time The Shack appeared (2007), Paul came to my home and before several people, including my pastor, insisted that he no longer embraced universal reconciliation. When I asked: “What do you believe now?” Paul answered that he was a person in flux, that he didn’t want to be pinned down. In various interviews since, Young has denied that he is a universalist.
Young Confesses Universalism in His New Book, Lies
But now the truth comes out. In Lies, Young embraces virtually everything that he embraced in his 2004 paper. “Lies” is his word of choice to characterize 28 doctrines that we Christians have historically believed.
Here are some of the 28 evangelical “lies” that Young accuses Christians of believing in error. Many of these are “straw men” — doctrines he claims Christians believe, though in fact we do not. For him these are untruths: God is in control of everything; God is only male, and not also female; hell and sin separate people from God; after death people cannot repent and be saved; the cross was part of God’s plan; not everyone is a child of God. In his final chapter Young rejects the God of his “modern evangelical Christian fundamentalism” because this God originated evil and perpetrated child abuse on the cross!
But the clincher in Lies is number 13, titled “You need to get saved.” Young boldly confesses “universal salvation,” the belief that all people are saved already whether they believe or not.
Young’s repudiation of all of these “lies” flows from his core belief in UR.
Young Has Deceived Millions Again
Young’s affirmation of UR means that what he said in my home in 2007 was untrue. He had not stopped believing UR. He has continually embraced UR since 2004. In response to Young’s new book I’ve written: Lies Paul Young Believes about God: How the author of The Shack Is Deceiving Millions of Christians Again. I give the biblical response to all twenty-eight “lies.” My website further exposes Young’s heresy.
What Has Emboldened Young to Write Lies?
In an interview, Young claims that evangelicalism is changing; its structures are crumbling; and he stands on the cusp of a new “reformation.” Like other universalists, Young opposes the institutions of the church, marriage and government, seeking to replace them with a “pure relationship” with God. His follower, C. Baxter Kruger, suggests that Young may be a new Martin Luther!
Why is UR so dangerous? Universalists assert that even the devil and fallen angels will repent in hell and enter heaven (if hell is even real!). Yet the Bible says that Jesus died only for human beings, as the God-man, not the God-angel (note Heb. 2:16). Thus UR assumes some other basis for fallen angels to get out of hell.
Further, since love trumps God’s justice (in UR thinking), no real judgment occurred on the cross. Jesus did not take on himself the sin or sins of the whole world. UR rejects penal substitution — Jesus’ taking our place and paying the price for our sins. Thus UR stabs a dagger into the heart of the gospel, because it makes the cross of Jesus Christ unnecessary.
It is urgent that the church embrace anew its first love for Christ and the gospel (Rev. 2) and steadfastly proclaim it to a lost, needy world.