Here are seven more points about The Shack to amend to my review a couple of days ago. (I did not really want to do this, but I should have known this was coming!)

  1. Concerning the supposed bad attitude toward Christians and the church: First off, there is no problem being critical of the church. If I remember correctly, Christ was pretty critical of it in the book of Revelation. Also, if we rejected everyone who does such, then we better take another look at the reformers. Besides, (and most importantly) the bad attitude expressed in the book was BEFORE his encounter with God. At that time he also hated God!!!! Things changed…that is the point of the book! We have no knowledge of Mack’s attitude of Christians and the church after his “recovery.”
  2. Statements in the book may indicate that Young is an inclusivist (i.e. Christ is the only way to God, but the Gospel is not the only way to Christ). If so, I would think that this is the closest position that he holds to that pushes the orthodox line. In doing so he would join C.S. Lewis, the whole Catholic Church, Thomas Aquinas, Gregory Boyd, and others. I am not an inclusivist, but there are some very good people who lean in that direction.
  3. Concerning the charge of modalism: this concept could not be denied any more clearly in the book. From the book: “We are not three gods, and we are not talking about one god with three attitudes, like a man who is a husband, father, and worker. I am one God and I am three persons, and each of the three is fully and entirely one.” It does not get any better than that! Then it says that “we were all in Jesus” during the incarnation. Then people forget that he has clearly just denied modalism and go ahead and make the charge. This is silly folks. We have to be more responsible when evaluating such things, at the pain of tarnishing reputation in a completely ill-founded way. This statement “we are all in Jesus” is very orthodox considering the context in which he has denied modalism. He is just being more Eastern in his expression here, following the Great Cappidocian Father (whom I am sure people could take out of context and blast as modalists too—sigh . . .). We need to understand a concept called perichoresis or mutual indwelling (look it up). In this very orthodox way of describing things, there is a very real sense in which the person of the Trinity mutually indwell one another—they are all in each other while remaining separate persons. In fact, if you were to deny this, you would be unorthodox!! Ironically, I think that Young’s orthodox theological astuteness might have caught many people off guard.
  4. Remember, anytime one tries to personify God there are going to be issues with those who want to take it too literally. We don’t get a free pass by simply saying it is fiction, I know (and advocates of the book need to quite using the “its fiction” card to liberally). But you try to write a fictional about the Trinity. Better, just think too long about the Trinity. You will end up with some type of unorthodox nuance. That is why I said in my original review, I wish he would have been a little more apophatic about things. However, I don’t have any suggestions on how to present the Trinity and stay out of danger. The only ultimate solution is not to describe the Trinity at all!
  5. We should never be relying on books such as this to educate the church in basic theology. If we have gotten to that point where someone is in danger of misreading this and becoming a modalist, shame on us. But let us not simply attack these type of books. Let’s just use them to illustrate and stretch us. There will never be a perfect analogy of God—ever!
  6. Let’s face it, people just get uptight when something gets too popular, ala Left Behind. If it is too popular, Satan must have inspired it. I get tired of this mentality. I say lay off Left Behind and lay off The Shack. Both present a certain theology, both have elements that good Christians are going to disagree with, but neither are THAT dangerous. Just make sure that people are properly discipled. If they are relying on either of these books for their discipleship, again, we have big problems.
  7. I would have loved to have seen more of the fear of God in this book. I know Christ came to sinners with a message of love and forgiveness. Yet when Isaiah saw God he fell apart. He could have (should have) included both, but focusing on one is not necessarily heresy.

Look, I am not saying I agree with all of this dude’s theology. I could take him apart piece by piece with the significance of his Arminianism assumptions and make it sound as if what he is teaching is going to topple the faith, but that would be dishonest and lack wisdom and perspective. All I am saying is that I don’t see any major line being crossed.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    240 replies to "Seven More Points About The Shack"

    • Dr. G.

      1) Many are saved. “All” in fact.

      a) First those saved early, “first fruits.”

      b) Then those saved later; at his second coming?

      Lots are saved; in two rounds it seems.

      c) But especially, is there anything here, that says that … there is anybody at all that are not saved? That Christ does not take in and save everybody, in the End? Especially since it starts with “all” being saved?

      The Bible was not as simple as many thought. So far, in examples looked at closely here …. it still looks open to universalism.

      So should we rush to condemn Young? The way the Pharisees crucified Jesus, in the name of – their idea of – God?

    • Kara Kittle

      The Bible clearly states hell was created for the devil and fallen angels. So if it a state of death, you would think then the devil is going to die one day. The Bible does not say that. Does it say anywhere in the Bible that the devil is merely going to go down to the grave?

      2 Peter 2
      4For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;

      Hell is a real place. Jesus described what hell is like, gnashing of teeth, where the fire is not quenched and the worm does not die and there is no water. The rich man lifted up his eyes from hell and said to Abraham that he is tormented in the flames.

      OK if Jesus is making a point to describe what hell really is like, and states fallen angels are there…what does that mean?

      God did not spare angels that sinned. They were reserved in chains. It does not imply either they would someday escape it through some purgatorial method.

    • cheryl u

      Dr. G,

      Please take another look at that Corinthians verse. Who is the firstfruits? “Christ the firstfruits.” Not other people. Jesus was the firstfruits of the resurrection.

    • Dr. G.

      Not what it says in every translation.

      In any case, say it is Christ that is first; still, many others follow.

      And still nothing here to suggest that not everyone is saved, in that second group.

    • Dr. G.


      “The dead, the first fruits.”

      Indeed, in most translations, it is “first fruits” plural; suggesting that just “Christ” singular, could not be the referent here.

      Suggesting finally that another group – the dead in Christ etc. – are those who are the subject, the first fruits.

      Though again in any case, it is the second group that is more interesting, and possibly all-inclusive. /Universal.

    • Dave Z

      Cheryl, I agree, but I think the comparison has specific meaning, especially in the Romans passage – the many made sinners in Adam, the many made righteous in Christ. Regarding Adam, the many is all, but we’re to understand it differently later in the same sentence? Doesn’t feel right.

    • cheryl u

      Regarding comment # 105

      I haven’t seen any translation that doesn’t say that myself. On that blue letter bible site I gave you 13 out of 13 translations given there say that. Granted there may be some that don’t, but it certainly sounds like a majority translation to me.

    • cheryl u

      No Dave, I agree, it may not feel right. But how can you ignore the context of who he says are the ones that are saved? The only way we can do that is to assume that everyone ends up believing before they die and it certainly doesn’t seem like that seems to be the case in the world as we know it. Or otherwise we have to believe that God gives everyone another chance after death which seems to fly in the face of that Scripture that says we are appointed once to die and after that comes the judgment.

      And if it should be the case that all men end up believing in the end, on their deathbed by some kind of miracle of Godor in a second chance afterwards, why in the world would there be so many warnings in Scripture about the punishment and condemnation of unbelief and the warnings about eternal punishment if there was no chance any one was ever going to go there? And the commands to us to preach the Gospel to all–to tell them to repent and believe if it made no difference in the end? That would seem to be an exercise in utter futility to say the least. Nothing about any of this scenario has any logic to it whatsoever as far as I can tell.

    • Dr. G.

      NIV: New International Version. On the Blue Bible site. Note two different interpretations available, around the phrases offset by a comma.

      And why couldn’t everyone end up believing? Isn’t Christ convincing .. particularly in the Second Coming? (Though to be sure, other parts of the Bible might … not fit this).

      As for warnings about punishments? They are saved … after fire.

    • Dr. G.

      So why all the earlier threats? A bluff? A metaphor? A part of the typical Old Testament severity … that the NT dropped or metaphoricalized/ spiritualized?

    • […] Journal and Well known blogger C. Michael Patton at Parchment and Pen along with 63 comments and over 200 […]

    • cheryl u

      Dr. G,

      “As for warnings about punishments? They are saved … after fire.”

      Not if the warning about eternal punishment in unquencable fire is correct they aren’t!!

      And I don’t believe for a minute Jesus gives idle threats or bluffs!! That would make him a liar.

      Have to go do errands.

    • cheryl u

      I think I am probably done with this discussion period. Endless theological circling becomes a drain of my time and energy at some point–think that point is here or past!

    • Dr. G.

      I don’t have my own Bible, with my notes, on hand; which I prefer to the Blue Book (thanks though).

      But some quick hypothesis on how the Bible itself – especially the above – more closely read, might still be consistent with the Universalist hypothesis:

      1) You might be punished briefly today, punishment ended … and yet the record of that punishment goes on forever. Indeed, there are indications that the punishment is not forever.

      2) Indeed, how are the fire and/or punishment eternal … if Death and Hell (in some translations?) are ended? (If memory serves here).

      3) Jesus does not bluff. Nor God either. But in the transition between the OT and the NT … some old threats, might have been subtly dropped (as they could be, many would say, in a “new covenant.”)

      …. Leaving in effect an “inadvertant” impression – left in, “inadvertantly,” by the redactors and “Scribes” in whose care the Bible has been – that an old threat was still in force; whereas in fact it was not. The old punishments of “law” having been vitiated by “Grace” and forgiveness. As authorized by Paul.

      Many might prefer hellfire. But here we have Christ who is as forgiving as many would hope: actually saving everyone. Though the OT God seemed not to do that.

      Or so a univeralist might claim.

      And therefore, finally, on a closer reading of the Biblical text, the universalist claim is rather more Biblical than one might suppose. In fact, it looks rather as if the Bible was written/translated in such a way, as to systematically allow at least two readings here. One that would 1) indeed, reassert the OT, punishing God; who will send you to Hell and everlasting fire. But then, systematically, there seems to be a fairly consistent second reading that remains open. Which would allow something like the 2) Universalist position.

      Which after all, would leave us with the kind of Jesus we like to think is there: one who saves everyone, in the End.

      Which is right? I won’t say here. But I would say that … it’s hard for anyone who does a close reading of the text, to reject the Univeralist hypothesis, as casually as many do.

    • Dr. G.

      Sorry I avoided doing a close reading of one or more of the texts you mentioned earlier; my excuse is that in fact, to do that well … is rather fatiguing. And so I saved it until late in the argument.

      But just so’s you all know: a very close, exhaustive look at the Bible itself, does not so far, rule out Univeralism.

      Or in other, plainer words?

      The Bible does not rule out a Jesus who saves everybody, in the end.

    • Dr. G.

      What else would you expect? A Jesus that fails to save everyone?

    • Dr. G.

      A God that fails?

    • Kara Kittle

      Dr. G,
      There can be no theology that is founded in orthodoxy that states once an individual goes to hell they can ever get out. After the last judgment death and hell will be cast into outer darkness.

      The rich man asked for a reprieve, there was none. He asked for comfort, there was none. And he asked for someone to go back and warn his brothers. Abraham said it was impossible. They had Moses to warn them and ignored him, they had David to warn them, and they ignored him as well. So if they have all these people warning, and do not take it serious then how are they going to listen to anyone else?

      There is a great gulf separating the places, and Paradise was above Hell. Jesus spoke about it in warning, and never once did he say there could ever be escape from it.

      That does not mean God fails, it means the person who went there failed because they were warned.

    • Dr. G.

      Very well Ms. K: if you want Hell with no reprieve, let us pray it is granted to you.

    • cheryl u

      I said I was done with what has become to me endless circular debate and that hasn’t changed.

      But I must say Dr. G. that is about the downright meanest prayer and the worst thing I have ever heard someone that as far as I know claims to be a Christian has ever said to a fellow believer. Shame on you!! If you can’t discuss things with others that they oppose just as passionately as you defend them without resorting to such an outrage, there is something truly wrong.

      Kara, I am sorry. That was outrageous!

    • Kara Kittle

      ROFL. That is par for the course for him. Don’t worry about him, he has his friends on here. That was the funniest philosophical statement from him yet, profound intellect there is so underwhelming…lol.

      I take it I must have struck a chord, and when it hit, wow what a comeback!

      Cheryl don’t worry about what Dr. Z says. I will be greatly alright. I know his liberal views are protruding, and he is finding it harder to cover them up, so just wait until he tells someone on here who is not as friendly as me.

      Oh it might be unfriendly in his eyes. But don’t worry Cheryl, as someone said “you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.”

      And as someone else said, “if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull.”

      I find him amusing now, his objections are no longer based in intellectualism, but in liberalism.

    • Dr. G.

      Since I have a sense of humor – C. didn’t get it – I’m now less of a person?

    • Kara Kittle

      Dr G.,
      Rather macabre sense of humor. Do you really feel it was an appropriate statement? Would you make that same statement toward CMP? And would you take it as humor if I said it to you? I highly doubt that.

      Good thing for you that I am not too touchy, because it kind of sounds like cyberbullying…but since I don’t let your words get to me then you are not bullying me, but nice try though.

    • C Michael Patton

      Dr. G,

      You may not agree with what people believe, that is everyone’s right, but on this blog our disagreement are to be done in a way that shows gentleness and respect. Your comments are certainly not in line with such. Please read here:

      In short, please don’t encourage prayer for someone to go to hell. That is over the top, immature and adds nothing to the conversation. We will not have that here at Parchment and Pen.

      You are welcome to be here, just go out of your way to show respect.

    • Dr. G.

      Still there’s a point in what I said (somewhat) humorously; which is (partly) why I allowed myself to say it. (Aside from a geniune sense and deep sense of exasperation at you at times; and your many, many, constant insults).

      The point of this edgy joke is in part … that many feel that God, will surely be the realization of our dreams. Our “hopes.”

      And so: do you really dream of – “want”; “hope” for – a God that gives people eternal damnation?

      Since you probably don’t want that (above and beyond any psychological need for punishment?), note therefore that our “hopes” – to the extent that they are definitive – would suggest that … God is not as severe as you assert.

      If a God that damns you to eternal Hell – or anyone (remember you are in effect insisting that he does; even liking it?) – does not really conform to your “hopes,” then after all, perhaps such a God does not exist; you have the wrong idea of God. You have not really looked deep enough into the “heart” that you (in effect?) like to cite constantly as absolute authority.

      If our “hopes” are – as many say – any criterion, then God will not send many people to eternal damnation at all; but will in fact indeed, save them all, in the end.

      So indeed, though I think our “heart” is often “deceived,” as the Bible says, still, now and then it is right. So: consult your hopes and dreams for a second; and then think about Universal salvation. Which would you prefer? Which do you want?

      For myself – I would want a God who saves everybody. Even you; in spite of your many insults about “intellectuals” and so forth.

    • EricW

      FWIW (yes, I dropped out, but I dropped back in for a sec), I did not take Dr. G.’s comment in in #220. as a wish/prayer that Ms. K aka Kara Kittle would herself personally be condemned to a reprieveless hell, but that she would get her wish/hope/prayer/doctrine that God indeed sends some people to a reprieveless hell.

      I never detected a vengeful or hateful note in anything Dr. G. has written here, and hence it never occurred to me upon reading his comment that he was wishing that Ms. K. would personally go to hell. Rather, it struck me that he was somewhat cutely/sarcastically/wryly saying that if she believes there is or will be an eternal lake of fire in which some or many are eternally tortured according to God’s holy and righteous and Biblical will, judgment and condemnation, and if she wants God to be as she believes Him to be with respect to this, then he is praying that she get her wish so that she will be happy to find out that God and hell are as she believes them to be.

      (Maybe kinda but not really like C.S. Lewis or someone who said that for those who won’t say to God, “Thy will be done,” God will say to them, “Thy will be done.” I.e., people get what they want. If they want God, they get Him. If they want themselves, they get … self, and all the horror that it means to be stuck with one’s self for eternity.)

      Or so I thought.

      Carry on. 🙂

    • Dr. G.

      Thank you Eric. You caught some aspects of my own thought, that I did not articulate as well as you have.

    • C Michael Patton

      If there was no offense meant by it, Dr. G, please forgive me.

      I guess it goes to illustrate that all communication, big words and small, need clarification!!

    • John C.T.

      Unless the joke is obvious from the language and context, it would help to use some kind of emoticon or smiley. I didn’t take it has a joke, and now that it has been explained, I still don’t find it humourous. Blogs are not the most genteel of writing, however it appears that everyone is prepared to forgive and move on. I think we all try to cut each other some slack, but I think smileys would still help.


    • John C.T.

      I note, however, Dr. G. that you still have not apologized for the offence, which was taken even if none was intended. I suggest that one would be appropriate.

    • Kara Kittle

      Dr. Z,
      I forgive you. Can we be friends?

    • Dr. G.

      I apologise to Ms. K. for the perceived insult.

      Will she also now apologize for all the dozens of very, very clear insults she hurled at me and intellectuals and so forth, earlier in other forumns? (As verified and noted by Eric. Z above? And as is easily traceable in past blog posts?)

      To be sure, let us all be nice; and move on.

    • Kara Kittle

      I don’t think of you as an intellectual any more than I think of anyone else as one.

      I was thinking last night…what is a Bible scholar?

      A Bible scholar is one who studies the Bible and learns from it. So does that study have to always be in a formal setting?

      A person who had limited means to a proper education is still a Bible scholar if they themselves sit down and study the Bible. This is one thing we should not limit in strict view to only the high and mighty by definition and my protests were geared toward the defense of those on the fringe.

      If you study the Bible, you are indeed a Bible scholar as all Christians are called to be. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with intellectualism, but if that intellectualism pushes people into categories of “not as good as me because…” then that intellectualism has only vilified one person.

      We must talk rationally, we must talk reasonably. But I do not like seeing intellectuals who imply people who take a conservative approach as mindless. Which there were people who have had those insults hurled at them. If you want to keep the peace Dr. G, don’t make the implications any more how you regard those people who you believe are not as educated as you are.

      We can get along but if you will keep pushing them away if you don’t learn that not everyone has the same opportunities as everyone else. We must talk sensibly and with respect. I don’t care if you dislike me, that’s your right of course. But I will be quick to defend when I see people who have very valid viewpoints but are attacked in a pseudo-veiled attempt of ad hominem. Cheryl has very valid views and you tried to tear her apart. Greg had a question asking for help and I tried to tell him he was just as alright as anyone else and was told it was inappropriate.

      But Dr. G. no one in these blogs are better or worse than anyone else, no one is more or less intelligent than anyone else. God is the giver of intelligence and He very well understands that some are not able to process information in the same way, but never will I ever say any one is dumber or smarter than me. With all the arguments and debates I never called any one else stupid and never implied it. But I did not imply any one else as arrogant, that I stated explicitly.

      The debates with the others ended, we all maintained our positions and kept our ground. For the future, now Dr. G, let’s be civil.

      Ad hominem…
      the viewpoint of A is….
      because A is ….
      therefore the argument of A is invalid.

      Fill in the blanks.

    • mbaker


      I have enjoyed your blog up until now.

      Now, I see it being taken over by folks who:

      (1) clearly want to have soapbox for their own uses rather than wanting to discuss the substance of a thread in a manner which relates to the subject, and gives everyone a chance to input.

      (2) Are accusing others here of hurling insults at them, when they are the instigators.

      (3) Pulling the ‘I’m more educated than you are, therefore you’re beneath me’ card.

      (4) Post long winded rambling posts that have no point themselves, while making fun of some else’s stand. This has become such a distraction to me that I can hardly keep up with any of your threads.

      To allow this to go much further in my opinion will be detrimental to your blog.


    • C Michael Patton

      mbaker. Thanks for you comments. I have let a couple of these threads go as of late. Been so busy . . . I will try to keep a better eye on this.

    • cheryl u


      Thank you.

    • Ron

      Hello Michael

      I read The Shack shortly after it was first published. I thought it was so good that I bought copies to give to my saved and unsaved family, friends, food servers, hairdressers etc. At one Bob Evans we even had an informal Shack discussion group. It was a way to open the door to a discussion of Christ and salvation. Many people then when out and bought books for their entire family.

      After I had given out 30 or more copies I read many pro and con blogs. But the one by John Mark Hicks went into great detail on the story and then he did an analysis of the claimed theological errors. Since he wrote back in October 2008 it may be hard to locate all of his blogs but a good place to start is:

      Thank you Michael for your post.

    • Dr. G.


      Thank you from me too.

    • Jim Leavenworth

      Hey Michael,
      First of all thanks for the Blog- I really enjoy it and get a lot of the articles. Most of the times I 100% agree with you but this one I have to disagree (in a friendly way!).

      I found the Shack to be very dangerous and full of heresy. Some might disagree and that’s fine. I’ve had some correspondence with the author’s daughter and she answered some questions I had. If anyone wants to read our critiques of the book here’s a link to an article I wrote.

      By the way, did you know the author totally denies penal substitution…he actually said it in an interview (you can listen here- THis kind of thinking also matches his book. Doesn’t Papa say things like “I’m not mad at anyone Mack” all throughout the book? I think that’s pretty telling.

      Keep up the good work and let me know what you think of the critique if you get a chance.

      In Christ,
      Jim Leavenworth

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