|Review of The Shack
By William P. Young
The Good 1
Authority and Submission 2
Universal fatherhood of God 10
The sovereignty of God 10
The Incarnation and the Trinity 11
The Holiness of God 11
When you write a book review, usually even if you really didn’t like the book you point out the good things about the book. And I will tell you that there are a number of excellent things in The Shack. I found some of them very encouraging and intriguing. However I’m not going to mention any of them, and here’s why: Almost always, the most dangerous theological errors are presented with a whole lot of really good teaching. That’s why people fall for it. If you don’t put any bait on the hook you don’t fool any fish. And if you set a bottle of pure arsenic on the table, the person you’re trying to poison won’t drink it. It’s when it’s hidden in an otherwise good drink that the poison can be delivered. The principles that are harmful in this book are made palatable by the good things the book says. Every book you ever read that isn’t the Bible you must read with discernment, and glean the good and reject the bad. But there comes a point at which the bad is so bad that the book should be avoided altogether, and in my opinion that is the case with this book. Jesus did not teach us to draw out as much good as possible from false teachers. He taught us to avoid them. The errors of The Shack are serious enough (and subtle enough) that I feel the most loving thing is to warn people to stay away.
Before reading the book I spoke with a number of people who greatly enjoyed it, and they urged me to read it with an open mind. They pointed out that if you pressed every detail of C.S. Lewis’ allegories, or took too literally the scenery of classic works of Christian fiction, you could condemn them all as heretical. So I took that advice to heart and read the book with every intention of granting the author as much poetic license as possible.
It should be noted, however, that The Shack is not an allegory. The main character, Mackenzie (Mack) Phillips, is a real person who claims the entire story is true, and that it all actually took place. He is not a writer, however, and so he asked William Young to put the story on paper for him. Young’s assessment? “Whether some parts of it are actually true or not, I won’t be the judge. … I confess to you that I desperately want everything Mack has told me to be true.”1 In an allegory, there is no way to know which things were intended to represent some principle and which are just the scenery of the story – unless you ask the author. But this book is not an allegory. The book moves back and forth between storytelling and teaching doctrine. There will be an event that takes place, and then one of the members of the Trinity will teach something to Mack, and it’s crystal clear that the doctrines espoused by the God characters in the book are intended to be presented as true.
Authority and Submission
Most of the teaching sections are very short. For example, when Mack asks Jesus how one becomes a part of the Church, the answer is one short paragraph.2 Discipleship – one paragraph.3 Sin and punishment – one sentence.4
There is one extended teaching section, however. It spans 6 pages5 and is by far the lengthiest teaching section in the book. The topic of that section is authority and submission. That topic comes up several other places in the book as well. There is no question in my mind that the most urgent agenda of this author is to promote a certain point of view regarding authority and submission.
The point of view taught by the members of the Trinity in the book is the classic feminist, egalitarian belief about submission and authority. The section that focuses on this begins with Mack asking if there is any authority and submission within the Godhead. The Father and Son are perplexed and don’t even understand the question at first. So Mack explains…
“Don’t you have a chain of command?”
“Chain of command? That sounds ghastly!” Jesus said.
“At least binding” Papa added as they both started laughing.”6
(Papa is the name of the Father, who appears as a black woman. The Holy Spirit appears as an Asian woman, and Jesus appears as a man.)
Then the Holy Spirit adds,
“We have no concept of final authority among us, only unity. We are in a circle if relationship, not a chain of command… What you’re seeing here is a relationship without any overlay of power. … Hierarchy would make no sense among us.”7
“But every human institution that I can think of, from political to business, even down to marriage, is governed by this kind of thinking; it is the web of our social fabric,” Mack asserted.
“Such a waste!” said Papa …”Once you have a hierarchy you need rules to protect and administer it, and then you need law and the enforcement of the rules, and you end up with some kind of chain of command or a system of order that destroys relationship rather than promotes it.”8
Papa goes on to explain that the reason He works within authority structures is because “We carefully respect your choices, so we work within your systems… [But the system of authority and submission] lies behind every struggle for power, every prejudice, every war, and every abuse of relationship.”9 So God works within, promotes, and even commands us to engage in a system that is evil simply because He is so committed to accommodating our decisions.
Usually people who have an aversion to authority have an aversion to institutions as well. And that’s exactly what you find in this book. Mack doesn’t like organized religion, Scripture, church, singing hymns – any of it. And Jesus responds by telling Mack that He doesn’t like organized religion either. “It’s a man-made system. … That’s not what I came to build. … I don’t create institutions – never have, never will. … I don’t create institutions; that’s an occupation for those who want to play God. I’m not too big on religion. … and not very fond of politics or economics either.”10
That’s a very strange statement. Jesus says He doesn’t create institutions because that’s an occupation for those who want to play God. The author is so adverse to authority that He doesn’t even want God to play God.
I wanted to make sure I had a good understanding of what the author was really trying to say in this book, so I did some research of his teachings. One source was a series of interviews by J. Michael Feazell, who is part of the World Wide Church of God. In that interview the author of The Shack said this, “yeah, I bash any institutional systems generally. I don’t care whether they are political or religious or whatever, because frankly, they are part of the world’s system. You know, a way to coerce and manage human beings.”11 He does claim to love the Church, but only as it’s separated from the institution.
If you bring up the passages about authority and submission to an egalitarian theologian they will always respond by pointing to Eph.5:21, which calls us to submit to one another. They say that means everyone submits to everyone in the same way. That is an incorrect interpretation of that verse. When the book of Revelation speaks of people killing one another in the end times it doesn’t mean everyone killed everyone. It means some killed others. And that’s the same way the phrase is used in Eph.5:21. “Submit to one another” means some submit to others. Who submits to whom? Paul immediately goes on to answer that – wives to husbands, children to parents, and slaves to masters. He does not call the authorities to submit to the subordinates. He does call them to serve the subordinates, but serving is not the same thing as submitting. But the feminist position confuses the two – so much so that God the Father tells Mack that God is submitted to us in the same way we are submitted to him.12 And one point in the book God even says, “I don’t want slaves to my will.”13
Is that true – that God doesn’t want slaves to His will? The only reason anyone could ever make a statement like that is because the modern translations of the Bible don’t have the courage to translate the word “slave” in contexts that refer to Christians. The Greek word for “slave” is doulos. It always means slave – someone who is owned by his master. In Eph.5 when it says, “Slaves, submit to your earthly masters” that’s the word doulos. But every time that word is used to describe Christians, the English translations all opt for a less offensive sounding word. But if they were consistent then it would be crystal clear to everyone that a Christian is a slave of God. We are called slaves much more often than we are called Christians or disciples.
Acts 2:18 Even on my slaves, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days
Acts 4:29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your slaves to speak your word with great boldness.
Romans 1:1 Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus
Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus
Titus 1:1 Paul, a slave of God
James 1:1 James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ
2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ
Jude 1:1 Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ
Revelation 15:3 they sang the song of Moses the slave of God
Galatians 1:10 If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a slave of Christ.
Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a slave of Christ Jesus
2 Timothy 2:24 And the Lord's slave must not quarrel
1 Peter 2:16 live as slaves of God.
Revelation 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his slaves what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his slave John,
Revelation 2:20 By her teaching she misleads my slaves into sexual immorality
Revelation 7:3 "Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the slaves of our God."
Revelation 10:7 the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his slaves the prophets.
Revelation 11:18 The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your slaves the prophets
Revelation 19:5 Then a voice came from the throne, saying: "Praise our God, all you his slaves, you who fear him, both small and great!"
Revelation 22:3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his slaves will serve him.
6 The Lord… sent his angel to show his slaves the things that must soon take place.
God is not our slave. We are God’s slaves. He is in authority over us. We are not in authority over Him. We submit to Him; He does not submit to us. His will is supreme; our will means nothing except when it aligns with His.
There is a constant temptation to twist the message of God’s love for man into a man-centered theology. Does God love us? Yes! Does He love us more than He loves Himself? Are we a higher priority to Him than His own glory? No. God does not commit idolatry. He never elevates anything higher than God.
But many today seem to think that the most important thing to God is man. And that our will is supreme even over His own. And you get tastes of that throughout this book. In statements like the one that says God accommodates Himself to the evil system of authority and submission just to respect our decisions. Or at the beginning when Mack hesitates to do something God said to do, and God responds by saying, “Not Ready?” she responded. “That’s okay, we’ll do things on your terms and time.”14
Is that what we usually see in Scripture? Someone doesn’t want to do what God commands and so God says, “It’s OK – I just want to do everything according to your timetable”? Have you found that God does that in your life – adjust everything according to your will and your timing?
Here’s another statement from the interview:
“I was thinking about Christmas this year, and you have God who is working together for our redemption and they have this circle of relationship and they crack it open and invite a 15-year old little girl into it and they say, ‘Would it be ok if we did this?’ And they wait until Mary says, ‘Be it done unto me.’ And that’s the God of the universe who is in relationship with us and submitting the process to us.”15
You all remember the famous Christmas passage where God comes to Mary and says, “Would it be OK if we did this?” and then submissively waits to get the go ahead from her before coming upon her with the Holy Spirit – right? Or is that missing from your Bible too?
It didn’t happen that way. Luke 1 tells us how it happened – God sent an angel not to ask Mary’s permission, but to inform Mary about what was going to happen and to command her about what to name the child.
Luke 1:31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.
Psalm 115:3 Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.
Psalm 135:6 The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths.
Are we in a negotiating kind of relationship with God where He asks our permission, and we give our input, and God and us put our heads together and come up with a plan? Are we in a position to second guess what He comes up with?
Isaiah 45:9 Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, 'What are you making?'
"This is what the LORD says-- the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: … do you question me … or give me orders about the work of my hands? 1112 It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts.
46:10-11 My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. 11 … What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do.
God’s plan is not a negotiation. He’s not asking our permission for anything.
Isaiah 40:13-14 13 Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? 14 Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?
At one point in the book the Father to Mack: “…our relationship is not about performance or you having to please me. I’m not a bully, not some self-centered demanding little deity insisting on my own way. I am good, and I desire only what is best for you.”16
The God of The Shack doesn’t insist on His own way. He prefers to do what you want, rather than what He wants. What a curse that would be if that were true!
“Our relationship is not about … you having to please me”?
Ephesians 5:10 find out what pleases the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 4:1 Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God … Now we … urge you … to do this more and more.
Colossians 3:20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
1 Timothy 2:1-3 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, … be made for everyone-- … This is good, and pleases God our Savior
Hebrews 13:16 Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
2 Corinthians 5:9 we make it our goal to please him
1 Corinthians 7:32 An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs-- how he can please the Lord.
(The advantage to being single over being married is you can devote more of your time and energy to pleasing the Lord.)
Colossians 1:10 And we pray this in order that you … may please him in every way
1 Thessalonians 2:4 We are not trying to please men but God
1 John 3:22 We receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.
The God of The Shack doesn’t require that you seek to please Him. The God of the Bible does. But for the author of The Shack, for God to require that you please Him would mean that He is a bully, and a self-centered, little deity.
Does God’s requirement that we please Him make Him a bully? No. Does it make Him little? No. Does it make Him self-centered? Yes! A lot of this false doctrine arises from the fact that people think it’s wrong for God to be self-centered. It isn’t. If God were not self-centered He would be evil. The reason it’s bad for you or me to be self-centered is because every being in existence ought to be God-centered, because God is the supreme good. You can tell how good a heart is by how God-centered it is, because part of being good is loving that which is good. So if God failed to be God-centered He would be evil. He would be an idolater. He would be failing to hold up the highest good as the highest good. He would be failing to take greatest delight in the most delightful thing.
It is unloving for me to be self-centered. Why? Because if I point everyone’s attention to me, I’m pointing them to a dry well that can’t give them what they need. But for God the most loving thing He can ever do for us is to be self-centered and magnify His own glory and put it on display, because in doing so that points everyone to an eternal spring of living water that is the greatest treasure in existence.
The natural result of rejecting the authority of God is antinomianism – the belief that it is not necessary to obey God’s commands.
Toward the end of the weekend Mackenzie started wondering what it would be like when he went back home. So he says to the Trinity: “…you’ve dumped a whole lot in my lap this weekend. What do I do when I get back? What do you expect of me now?” And when he says that the Holy Spirit gets really upset. And the reason the Spirit gets so agitated is because of the implication that God would require or expect him to do something. That surprises Mackenzie, and so he asks, “Then why did you give us those commandments? If You don’t require anything of us, why give the commands? ”
And the Spirit answered, “Actually, we wanted you to give up trying to be righteous on your own.”
“Are you saying I don’t have to follow the rules?”
“Yes. In Jesus you are not under any law. All things are lawful…Trying to keep the law is actually a declaration of independence, a way of keeping control.”
Then the Spirit goes on to explain that the reason we like to try to obey the law is because we want to seize control of our lives and judge others and feel superior to them.3 And so trying to keep God’s commandments is a terrible thing to do.
Mack refers to keeping rules, and the Holy Spirit responds…
“What might those be?”
“…doing good things and avoiding evil, being kind to the poor, reading your Bible, praying, and going to church.”
“…Machenzie!” she chided, her words flowing with affection. “The Bible doesn’t teach you to follow rules. It’s a picture of Jesus.
“You’re asking me to believe that you’re God…”
“I’m not asking you to believe anything…”17
The God of The Shack doesn’t require obedience. But the God of the Bible says,
1 John 2:3-4 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar
1 John 5:3 This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome
The author of The Shack believes the most important thing is human freedom.
In that interview the author talks about why people like me insist on always looking to the Bible to hear God’s voice.
“Yeah, it goes back again, in part, to not believing that people can grow up to hear the voice of the Spirit for themselves – that we need to interpret that for them so that we can maintain control. You know, I think a lot of people are afraid that if people move into freedom, and freedom is why Christ came – it was for our freedom – that if that happens that people will go do crazy things.”4
So his point is the reason why people like me would insist on Scripture is because if I allow people to hear directly from God, I lose all my control over everyone. I’ll address that in just a moment, but first I want to point out that statement: “our freedom is why Christ came.” He brings that up repeatedly, and it’s a theme in the book as well. God doesn’t want to do anything to hinder our decision making or to limit our freedom to do what we want. In fact, when he speaks about the issue of God’s wrath he says that God doesn’t get angry at people; He only gets angry at the things that hinder people’s freedom.18
In the book he constantly limits God’s sovereignty and constantly builds man’s sovereignty. God is restricted by human decision making, but man is not restricted by divine law.
The summary of all that adds up to a low view of God’s will. If you are not eager to obey God’s commands it’s because you don’t love His will (because that’s all His commands are – expressions of His perfect will). You can tell how much you care about His will by how much you care about His commands.
And when you invent a system where God is more concerned about your will and your desires than about His will and His desires, again – that comes from a low view of God’s will. And wherever you have a low view of God’s will you’re going to find a low view of Scripture, because Scripture is the revelation of God’s will. And so it’s no surprise that of the very few references to Scripture in the book, most of them are negative. The Bible is part of the stuffy, dry, organized religion that misses the joy of relationship.
Mack is invited to the weekend with God by a note from God that appears in his mailbox. In questioning whether the note he received was really from God Mack was skeptical.
“In seminary he had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring to have them only listen to and follow sacred Scripture, properly interpreted, of course. God’s voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects. It seemed that direct communication with God was something exclusively for the ancients and uncivilized while educated Westerners’ access to God was mediated and controlled by the intelligentsia. Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book. Especially an expensive one bound in gilt edges, or was that guilt edges?”19
The Bible is a reduction of God’s Word to paper. It’s a confining box that limits God and mostly just generates guilt. The Bible was never any help at all to Mack. All it did was burden him with a whole lot of rules and commands. But then when God speaks to Him directly at the shack, that’s when he was really able to know God. And when Mack gets ready to leave the shack he’s worried about not hearing from God anymore. So he asks the Holy Spirit:
“How will I hear you?” Does the Spirit respond by saying, “You will hear My voice in My Word. I will speak to you through the Holy Scriptures which I inspired”? No. Instead He says, “You will learn to hear my thoughts in yours.”20
That belief – that you can hear God’s thoughts in yours, has been one of the most devastating errors of our time and throughout Church history. People listen to their own thoughts and decide it’s the voice of God. That’s exactly how you can get a book like the Shack. The author had a lot of thoughts about God, and took them to be the thoughts of God speaking to him, but in reality it was only his own thoughts. The words you find in the quotation marks coming out of the mouth of Papa and Jesus and the Holy Spirit – a great number of those words originated in the mind of the author, and are not the thoughts of God at all. And I know that for sure because they contradict what God has said in His Word.
Does the Holy Spirit speak to you now, today, in modern times, privately, in your own heart? Yes! Absolutely! But not apart from the Bible. He speaks to you not by telling you things that aren’t in the Bible. He speaks to you by opening your eyes to see clearly what is in the Bible.
Now, I should hasten to add that the author claims to love Scripture – not in the book, but he did say that in an interview.
“I love Scripture, you know. We are very blessed in the sense that we have this so available and just at our finger tips. Most of our brothers and sisters throughout history did not. They began with the Holy Spirit. And sometimes I’m thinking, Maybe they have a little bit of an advantage because we so easily fall back into our intellectuality and don’t even know how to hear the voice of the Spirit for ourselves. And we don’t, you know… Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.” … He’s saying, “You individually, you, you hear my voice.” And I think that’s part of what the work of the Spirit is. Is to tune us, to allow us so that through the purification process, we sense his presence and we hear him speak to our hearts. And that becomes central. Then Scripture comes, He can illuminate it – but I’m not at all convinced, at all, that Scripture is the sole and only place through which God speaks. I tell you, in my life, it’s been through mus… movies even, but – music, creation, relationships, conversation, art, architecture, … cultural diversity ….”21
So the communications you receive subjectively from God apart from Scripture – that “becomes central. Then Scripture comes.” The Bible is secondary, but God speaking to you through movies and relationships and cultural diversity – that’s central.
Another corollary that results from a low view of authority is a failure to take sin seriously. God becomes a little unhappy about things that cause us pain or limit our freedom, for the most part sin is taken very lightly by God in the book.
At one point Mack finds the Father listening to a secular band called West Coast Juice that plays Eurasian funk and blues, and is surprised to find out that the Father likes to listen to secular music. And she responds: “These kids ain’t saying anything I haven’t heard before; they’re just full of vinegar and fizz. Lots of anger and, I must say, with some good reason too. They’re just some of my kids, showin’ and spoutin’ off. I am especially fond of those boys, you know.”22
They sing secular, godless songs full of anger and God enjoys listening to it and justifies it by saying they have good reason for their anger. The sins of the world – it’s just fizz, and it’s understandable.
When Mack asks about punishment for sins God says, “I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment. … It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.”23 Not God’s purpose to punish sin?
1 Thessalonians 4:6 no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.
2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power
But for the God of The Shack sin is kind of a joke. When Mack uses profanity it makes the Father chuckle.9
“I don’t do humiliation, or guilt, or condemnation. They don’t produce one speck of wholeness or righteesouness, and that is why they were nailed into Jesus on the cross.”24
Mack: “So it’s alright if I’m still angry?”
Papa was quick to respond, ‘Absolutely!’”
When someone asked in the Q&A a few weeks ago what the problem with having the Father suffer on the cross was, I responded by saying it would obscure the fact that the cross was God the Father pouring out His wrath for our sin on His Son. As it turns out, it seems the author is confused on that point.
Again, from one of the interviews:
“to make even matters worse, we have this idea that God comes to us and says, “You know… Father says, you know, you and I have a problem. Your behavior doesn’t meet up to the standards required, but I have a solution: For you and I to be ok, I’m going to take my innocent Son who I love more than anything else in the world, out to the woodshed, and kill him – and then you and I will be ok. Oh, by the way, trust me.” We’re going, “Is there a disconnect here somewhere? Is that what had to happen for God the Father and I to be ok?”
And then he says, “That’s not it at all.”25 It’s not?
Isaiah 53:10 It was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer
Universal fatherhood of God
Another serious error that proliferates the book is the idea of the universal fatherhood of God. The God of The Shack is everyone’s father, and everyone is His child – including unbelievers. Referring to the unrepentant murderer who brutally murdered the little girl the Father says, “He too is my son, and I want to redeem him.”26 The God of the Shack loves all people the same.
“You seem especially fond of a lot of people,” Mack observed with a suspicious look. “Are there any who you are not especially fond of?”
She [Papa] lifted her head and rolled her eyes as if she were mentally going through the catalog of every being ever created. “Nope, I haven’t been able to find any. Guess that’s jes’ the way I is.”
Mack was interested. “Do you ever get mad at any of them?”
“Sho ‘nuff! What parent doesn’t? …But…I love the ones I am angry with just as much as those I’m not.”27
It’s actually hard to discern if the author of this book even believes that some people are saved and others are lost, or if anyone is really at risk of going to hell. And the question of how to be saved is dealt with in incredibly shallow terms. Mack asks God how he can become a part of the Church, and God responds, “It’s simple Mack. It’s all about relationships and simply sharing life. What we are doing right now – just doing this [they were sitting on a dock looking out over a lake] – and being open and available to others around us. My church is all about people and life is all about relationships.”28 Nothing about conversion or repentance or believing the gospel. Just chatting with Jesus, having relationships and being nice to people.
The sovereignty of God
Another error in the book is his view of sovereignty. The author doesn’t believe God is in control over painful events. He can redeem them, but they are not part of His plan.
Regarding Mack’s daughter’s death, Sophia (another woman in the book who is the personification of the Father’s wisdom) says, “This was not [the Father’s] doing.29 … This was no plan of Papa’s.”30 Later the Father says, “Just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it…”31
The God of The Shack does not plan, orchestrate or cause painful events. But the God of the Bible plans, orchestrates, and causes all events.
Ecclesiastes 7:14 When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.
Job 1:21 and said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." 22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
Job 2:10 “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
The Incarnation and the Trinity
There are some problems with the author’s understanding of the Trinity. The book teaches that the entire Trinity took on “limitations” in the incarnation. “When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations that this entailed.”32 That is not a biblical idea. There is no sense in which the Father and the Spirit took upon themselves any limitation in the incarnation.
The author’s understanding of the incarnation errs, I believe, in his understanding of Jesus as well. “Jesus is fully human. Although He is also fully God, he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything.”33 “Jesus, as a human being, had no power within himself to heal anyone.”34
That is not an uncommon idea. A lot of people teach that, but I think it’s dead wrong. If you read carefully through the gospels you will find that it isn’t true that all Jesus’ miracles were a result of Jesus praying to the Father. He did it with His own divine power. He did not leave His divine power behind. Throughout His life He had both a human nature (that was limited) AND a divine nature (that was never limited in any way). There was never a time when He did not have His divine nature.
Jesus pointed to His miracles as proof of His deity. For example, in Mt.9 when he forgave the paralytic’s sins, His opponents were upset because only God can forgive sins. Jesus responded by healing the man in order to demonstrate that He has authority to forgive sins (since it proves Him to be God). If His healing of that man were nothing more than an answered prayer it would not be proof that He was God. God has many times answered prayers for miraculous healing, but that didn’t mean the person praying was therefore able to forgive sins.
Finally, the author does not understand the holiness of God. In the book the Father has nail wounds in His hands. At first you might read that and think, “It’s just a metaphorical way of saying it hurt the Father to watch Jesus suffer.” I believe it was painful for the Father to watch the Son suffer. But the author of The Shack goes beyond just that. In the interview I mentioned earlier he explained that the idea of the Father having the nail wounds comes from his understanding of 2 Cor.5;19.
2 Corinthians 5:19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ
He says, “See, the Father was in Jesus when Jesus accomplished reconciliation, therefore the Father suffered on the cross. And what’s alarming is the explanation he gave in the interview when he was asked about this. He said he put that in the book because he is against any kind of “doctrine of separation.” He hates the idea that God is up there in heaven and we are down here, and there is a separation. He’s totally against the idea that a human being can distance himself from God in any way. He says we have totally misunderstood the concept of holiness.
“We think holiness is a manifestation of his reaction against sin. The truth is he was holy before there was sin. He was other… what makes God “other” is his very nature of love – that’s what makes him “other” than us. And holiness then becomes a manifestation of his love, not of his justice, not of his dealing with sin.”35
God’s holiness is very much a manifestation of His justice and His dealing with sin.
Leviticus 10:2-3 So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Moses then said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke of when he said: "'Among those who approach me I will show myself holy;
Ezekiel 38:22-23 I will execute judgment upon him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him. 323 And so I will show my greatness and my holiness.