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The top 10 articles from Nehemiah Institute

Burning Down the Shack James De Young
(A critique of The Shack, author Paul Young)?


A review of Burning Down the Shack by Dan Smithwick,
President, Nehemiah Institute
May 2017

Burning Down the Shack may be the most important
book of the 21st century!

I am offering this review of Burning Down the Shack from a conviction that it touches upon perhaps the most critical weakness in the Christian Church in America today- near complete loss of biblical discernment. This review is not meant to be an exhaustive treatment of the two books in question. I highly recommend both books be read. You can then form your own opinion of James De Young's critique of The Shack.

I did not read The Shack as I was warned against it by a friend who operated a book store in a large church in Houston. After reading reviews of The Shack by several conservative pastors/theologians my friend refused to carry the book (much to the chagrin of several customers). He was wise.

Over 20 million have read The Shack, presumably the majority were professing Christians. And now, a good portion of them are watching the movie of the same title/theme. I recently discussed the movie with a lady who runs a ministry focusing on biblical worldview. She had seen the movie and thought it was great simply because it was "promoting God." But my question is, God based on what?

A few weeks ago I watched an interview of a Professor at Western Seminary, Portland, OR, James De Young, giving a strong warning about The Shack. I was fairly spell-bound by what Professor Young was revealing. I immediately purchased his book and in reading it, came to the conviction that this Review was necessary. The interview of Professor James De Young can be found at: http://www.sonlifetv.com/archives.html?catid=57271. Click on the "Frances and Friends" tab, then below the video window, scroll through past programs to the April 18, 2017 program.

Professor James De Young's credibility on this matter is especially high since he has been a long time personal friend and ministry associate of the author of The Shack, William Paul Young, who prefers to use his middle name. They are not related.

Both of them lived in Portland, OR area in the 1990's and were associated with a Christian school called Damascus Christian School. Both were involved with sporting programs and other activities of the school. Our ministry, Nehemiah Institute, was at this school during the early 1990's where we were conducting our In-Service program for Christian school faculty. We considered Damascus Christian School one of our better worldview schools. James De Young and Paul Young also co-founded a Christian think tank where they met with others over a 7-year period to debate various theological matters.

According to Professor James De Young, it was during this time that Paul Young began teaching "strange fire" at his local evangelical church. It ultimately led to a church split, and then Paul Young began establishing a few home groups in the area where he warned Christians to have nothing to do with institutional churches; reasons why given below.

Professor James De Young, and a few close friends who knew what was going on, met several times with Paul Young to pull him out of heresy. All to no avail. Paul Young published his book The Shack in May 2007. De Young eventually published his counter book, Burning Down the Shack to expose the many heretical views he believed were promoted in The Shack.

During the TV interview of James De Young (cited above), he stated that Paul Young and two other notable "Christian" leaders are now joined together to advance a new "denomination" with the key theme being Universalism (all people eventually go to heaven). The two other men are Brian McClaren and Rob Bell. Both gentleman have been widely criticized for their unorthodox views of the Christian faith and their support of Universalism, Postmodernism and Christian Progressivism. McClaren is a noted leader in the Emergent Church movement. Professor Young mentions McClaren in his book.

Here are some (6 of 21) of the more egregious doctrinal errors of The Shack,according to James De Young, as listed on pages ix and x.

"The first aspect of God is never that of the absolute Master, the Almighty. It is that of the God who puts himself on our human level and limits himself." p. 88

"The Father, the Spirit and Jesus were together at the cross and together were crucified." p. 95,96

"Although Jesus is fully God, he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything." p. 99 [Emphasis Paul Young's]

My Note: What about all the miracles from the hand of Jesus? If these were all done by Jesus' human nature, then does that mean that we too, in our humanness, can be the same nature as Jesus?

"I don't need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment." p. 120.

"God cannot send any of his children to an eternity of hell just because they sinned against him." p. 162

"I don't create institutions--- never have, never will. The institutions of the church, government and marriage are the man-created trinity of terror that ravages the earth and deceives those I care about. It's all false." p. 179 (my emphasis, DJS)

How is it possible that bible-believing Christians could read the above statements in the book, or hear the same in the movie, and not realize that they are being fed outright heresy? Are,. they so emotionally caught up with the characters of the book that they "read over" these anti-biblical statements? Are they so theologically illiterate that they simply don't know that these comments are contradicting scripture?

Here are several comments from James De Young's book, Burning Down the Shack to argue that Paul Young's book is heretical and should not be used by Christians to guide their walk in the faith.

From Burning Down the Shack
"The doctrines of The Shack distort major beliefs that Christians have agreed on for the past two thousand years. They are not a matter of individual interpretation." p. xxiv

"They [the Universalists, of which Paul Young professes to be since 2004] deny that the fires of hell are punitive but say they are restorative, coercive, and purgatorial. There is absolutely no support for this idea of punishment. It is an illusion, a figment of the imagination born of a mind having a distorted idea of the love of God." p. 61

"Equally disturbing is Paul Young's discussion of sin and the Fall. Perhaps the most serious question that this chapter gives rise to is this: Why is there no mention of the embodiment of evil, of independence from God, namely Satan, known also as the devil?" p. 88

"One of Jesus' purposes for dying was to destroy the power of a real devil (Heb. 2:14), but Paul Young leaves the devil out of the picture, as though he is unreal." p. 94

The Chief Error of The Shack (paragraph heading in James De Young's book "How does The Shack approach the teaching of the Bible? A familiar pattern is to give one aspect of a theological issue while ignoring another equally important aspects that qualifies or limits the first one. It is a deeply deceptive maneuver." p. xxii

Conclusion Chapter of Burning Down the Shack
"I believe that the gospel according to Paul Young carries very serious consequences. Here is my brief enumeration of them. Paul Young improperly redefines the meaning of the Trinity and the special roles of God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He distorts the nature of Christ's crucifixion, the nature of sin and punishment, the wrath and judgment of God, and the nature of God's love and having a relationship with Him. He has no place for the devil, the enemy of every Christian. He has corrupted the nature of forgiveness, the nature of faith and reconciliation, the nature of salvation, the very meaning of the gospel, who the children of God are, what the Bible is, and the role of the institutions of the Church, the State and Marriage. Indeed, he rejects the latter, twice calling them a 'trinity of terror'." pp. 203, 204

Professor James De Young continues,
"Paul Young's The Shack is a subversive attack on the Bible and the Christian faith. It has the potential to damage Christian theology for several generations." p. 205

Review Conclusion
Due to these gross heretical views espoused inThe Shack, it is my view, that Paul Young has put out what is the greatest heresy seen in the past 500 years. The fact that it is a best seller, selling millions to Christians, is proof-positive of just how poorly churches are equipping their members with truth, a biblical worldview. Pastors are promoting The Shack as if it were the latest inspired revelations from God. America is suffering today (maybe dying) because professing Christians are lacking biblical discernment. Clearly, the 20 million readers of The Shack, and the thousands who are enjoying the corresponding movie, are not living up to Romans 12:2:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

The hard cold truth is that doctrine no longer drives the majority attending Church. What matters, according to The Shack, is simply having good relationships and the belief that God will join you on your journey ensuring that heaven will be your home. Postmodernism has driven out the idea of objective truth and now every man is doing what is right in his own eyes. The teachings of the Nicolaitans (a class of professing Christians who sought to introduce into the early church a false freedom or licentiousness, Rev 2), appear to once again be infiltrating the Church. Oh God, have mercy on us.

In this regard, I argue that Burning Down the Shack may be the most important book of the 21st century.  


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