ConWebWatch home
ConWebBlog: the weblog of ConWebWatch
Search and browse through the ConWebWatch archive
About ConWebWatch
Who's behind the news sites that ConWebWatch watches?
Letters to and from ConWebWatch
ConWebWatch Links
Buy books and more through ConWebWatch

WorldNetDaily's 'Shack' Attack

WND has spent years obsessing over a spiritual novel for failing to advance its fundamentalist Christian agenda.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 6/13/2014

James De Young

WorldNetDaily has spent years taking whacks about a novel called "The Shack," even publishing a book purporting to offer a "gripping counter-balance" to it.

So what's the big deal?

"The Shack" is a self-published novel that, as Slate describes it, occupies a middle ground between religious and secular fiction, casting God as a path to happiness without serving up dogma. The book has sold more 10 million copies despite, or because of, the book's quirky prose and "too-weird-for-the-pulpit thoughts" that give it a "rough-hewn, handmade quality" but also succeed at "connecting recondite doctrine to the tastes, rhythms, and mores of modern life."

Such success breeds coattail riders, as well as detractors. Enter WND.

WND columnist Jim Fletcher has been denouncing "The Shack" for quite some time:

  • In a July 2009 column, he cited the book as central to the problem of Christian bookstores' pursuit of profit, complaining that "you see 'The Shack' in virtually every Christian store, even though many ministries and individuals have objections to author Paul Young's worldview." Fletcher made the same complaint in an August 2009 column.
  • A November 2009 column noted "the controversy surrounding Young's theology" and lamented that "Young's success has further cemented the marriage between the evangelical world and the larger world."
  • A December 2009 column claimed that "the readers/authors of such books [as "The Shack"] are not necessarily 'committed to the full teaching of the Scriptures' though they insist that they are."
  • In a February 2010 review of "The Shack," Fletcher asserted that there are "both subtle and overt challenges to orthodoxy" in the book, and that "There seems to be a free-wheeling emphasis in 'The Shack' on personal experience and feelings, something the Bible warns against." Fletcher also noted that "One of the problems conservative Christians have with "The Shack" is the portrayal of God" as a black woman or, more to the point, an "Oprah-esque figure," adding, "That kind of dialogue and imagery just doesn't square with our understanding of God from Scripture."

WND's promotion for its attack book "Burning Down 'The Shack': How the 'Christian' Best-seller is Deceiving Millions," portrays the book as "blasphemous" and filled with "counterfeit Christianity," not to mention "more than 15 heresies":

Worse, says author James De Young, its depiction of God as an African woman who suffered Christ's crucifixion – and the book's exclusion of any existence of Satan and hell – represent just some of its many dangerous deceptions.

If such deceptions, which upend biblical teachings on sin, redemption, salvation and damnation, go unchallenged, says De Young, this "feel-good novel" could prove terribly divisive and destructive to millions of Christians.

James De Young's WND-published attack book, "Burning Down 'The Shack.'"

The WND book also appears to be a weird sort of revenge for the author; De Young is described as "a former longtime colleague of Paul Young, and was his Portland-area neighbor when Young wrote 'The Shack.'" The article adds: "He also takes unique creative license and shows readers stories and instruction in Scripture that would have helped Paul Young's fictional character, Mack, find the forgiveness and restoration he so desperately sought – but was not offered."

Meanwhile, WND editor (and WND Books operator) Joseph Farah went on a May 2010 tirade against "The Shack," calling it "dangerous and spiritually subversive" and claiming it "represents unmitigated heresy in its view of salvation, an anti-biblical portrait of the Creator of the universe as our buddy and a thoroughly paganistic message that there really are no consequences for sin."

(As blogger Richard Bartholomew pointed out, "if Farah ... believed in 'consequences for sin', surely he’d be terrified of how he’s going to explain to God why WND publishes so many lies?") Nevertheless, Farah continues:

Why is it important to dissect the theology behind "The Shack"?

Because it has indeed deceived millions – and continues to mislead more every day.

It embraces a universalist creed that suggests everyone is saved. It rejects the clear biblical condemnations of sinful behavior. It preaches the false "I'm OK, you're OK" gospel and rejects the reality of eternal damnation.

The wholesale acceptance of this book by the Christian establishment – radio networks, publishing houses, churches, bookstores and clergy – is alarming to say the least.

Nowhere in any of these attacks does WND mention that the publisher of "The Shack" has addressed many of the questions raised by its critics, including whether the book promotes easy salvation and a God that is "too nice."

Farah doesn't quite admit that he wants to sell books and make money. Nor does he explain how apparently only he knows the One True Way and that everyone else is a blasphemer and heretic.

So desperate was WND to boost its anti-"Shack" book that it even devoted one article to how a blog nobody has heard of named it the "Most Significant Book of 201o."

(WND tried the same thing a couple of years later when, after its lies and smears failed to keep President Obama from being re-elected, it touted the claim of an obscure fringe website that WND was "trustworthy." There was no mention that the website was operated by a church accused of being a cult and whose associate pastor had been charged with first-degree rape of a child.)

'Cult-like' smear

WND's war on "The Shack" escalated with a June 2010 column by anti-"Shack" author De Young, who portrayed fans of "The Shack" as exhibiting "cult-like" tendencies and "Shack" author Paul Young as -- we are not making this up -- akin to Jim Jones:

There are certain characteristics of the people who love "The Shack" that suggest cultic-like devotion. Why would I suggest such a thing? Because the word "cult" suggests certain behavior and domineering personalities that have often arisen among Christians in the past. Remember Jim Jones and his People's Temple cult in the 1970s? More than 800 adults and children committed suicide in blind devotion to their leader who could do no wrong and whose teaching was beyond questioning.

But how do I know a cult when I see it? The dictionary says that a cult is 1) a system of religious worship or ritual; or 2) a quasi-religious group, often living in a colony, with a charismatic leader who indoctrinates members with unorthodox or extremist views, practices or beliefs and 3) a group of followers.

Some of these words do not characterize the readers of the novel by Paul Young. But Paul Young is certainly a charismatic leader who is gathering a significant following. He certainly propagates unorthodox or extremist views and religious beliefs (as I will show). And since he comes under no local church, he himself decides what is orthodox.

De Young complained about "The Shack's" definition of God as someone who would rather "cure" sin than "punish" it, insisting that "the vast majority of the teaching of Scripture attests that God does indeed punish sin." De Young concluded with more cultic smears:

If you believe "The Shack's" pronouncements about judgment and sin instead of the Bible's, then you are in danger of being swept up into a cultic allegiance to a charismatic leader! And isn't this just the nub of what makes many people uncomfortable about "The Shack"? The novel projects "novel" views of a lot of the Bible's teaching that at least distort the truth and at the most slander God and Jesus Christ (as I show in my "Burning Down the Shack").

And in line with the novel's opposition to the local church, this charismatic leader refuses to come under the leadership and authority of any local church and decides for himself what is true. This is cult-like!

If "The Shack" is not yet a cult, it may be on the way to becoming one.

With smears like these, De Young appears to be building a case to be sued for libel.

'Shack' movie freakout
Talk of a film being made based on "The Shack" started WND into a new round of "Shack"-bashing.

An April 2013 WND article by Garth Kant rehashed De Young's attacks on the book, asserting that "The Shack's" message of universal reconciliation is "a heresy that goes back all the way to the third century of the Church. It came to America in 1740 and was propagated among the churches of New England, where it found fertile ground and has been never totally eradicated.”

As the film project moved closer to reality, WND's long knives came out again. Bob Unruh did the duty this time in a June 1 article:

Hollywood insiders report the next major leap for the message in William Paul Young’s million-selling book “The Shack” is a first-run movie featuring the talents of Oprah Winfrey, Idris Elba and Forest Whitaker.

According to an Indiewire report, Whitaker will direct and star in the Summit Entertainment film based on a book that has become iconic among evangelicals but also has drawn strong criticism for its theology.

One of the chief critics of “The Shack,” James B. De Young, is a former neighbor and colleague of Young who authored a response, “Burning Down ‘The Shack.’” De Young charges that “The Shack” minimizes God’s holiness and judgment, distorts the work of Christ on the cross and falsely grants forgiveness and salvation to everyone, a doctrine known as universalism.

“I remain convinced that ‘The Shack’ is aberrant theology,” De Young told WND on Tuesday. “‘The Shack’ goes to the heart of universal reconciliation, Christian universalism.”

Unmentioned by both Kant and Unruh: DeYoung's attack book was published by WND. Since this is WND, neither Kant nor Unruh permit Young or anyone else is permitted to respond to De Young's attacks.

If the film version of "The Shack" does indeed get made, look for WND and De Young to continue to ride its coattails by bashing it.

Send this page to:

Bookmark and Share
The latest from

In Association with
Support This Site

home | letters | archive | about | primer | links | shop
This site © Copyright 2000-2014 Terry Krepel