WorldNetDaily has been taking whacks about a book called "The Shack" for months now, culminating in a WND-published 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 WorldNetDaily.
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 Feb. 26 review of "The Shack," Fletcher asserts 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 notes 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.
The WND book also appears to be a weird sort of revenge on 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) went on a May 31 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 points out, "if Farah is 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 the WND's attacks does it 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.