Lies He Believes About God: William Paul Young’s New Book Denies the Most Essential Christian Doctrines
[When my friend Teasi Cannon told me she was reading the latest book by William Paul Young, I asked her if she would be willing to guest post a review. I'm thrilled and honored that she agreed. This is an important post that shows how vital it is to be discerning in the times we live.]
By Teasi Cannon:
Author of The Shack, William Paul Young, has delivered to millions of devoted followers a book entitled Lies We Believe About God. A little late to the game, I just finished reading it, and I’ll be honest…it breaks my heart. After reading The Shack several years ago, I felt I'd met a kindred spirit in Paul Young—a friend who understood the depths to which God will go to heal a broken heart. I had been so deeply wounded by childhood sexual abuse...and the message of the Father's love brought tremendous healing to my life. The Shack echoed so much I held dear, and though theological quirks were there, I dismissed them as mere creative license allowed in a fiction. Though there were points I didn't fully agree with, I developed a trust and respect for Paul. Which is what I suspect many others would do: respect him...and trust him. Enough to invite him into their hearts again by reading his latest book.
I'll admit, I heard several negative things about the book before I read it—dangerously negative—which is why I needed to read it for myself and why I now choose to make my thoughts public. You see, many people I love and admire are fans of The Shack, both book and now movie. So, for me, the stakes are high. It’s hearts on the line, not mere book ratings.
To me, reading a book is somewhat like inviting an author into my home. So, opening this book was like opening the door to Paul and inviting him in to chat over coffee and a snack. Our visit started with me telling him what I’d heard, and him comforting me with a few non-threatening assurances that everything was going to be just fine—that I should just relax. So, I settled down a bit. But that settled feeling didn’t last long. By no more than 40 pages in, I discovered that reading the book was like visiting with a friend gone crazy—a friend you pray is only joking. Except you can plainly see he's not. He is dead serious. And to add to the crazy talk, it doesn't take long for him to start making a total mess of things in the house. After a few sips of coffee, he heads straight over to a bookshelf where I have my most prized family heirlooms on display—priceless antiques that have been authenticated time and time again by professionals fully trained in the field of authenticating relics. Paul picks up a few of my treasures, looks them over, and gently returns them to their places. He likes those. But the rest he holds up, telling me they are nothing but thrift store rubbish, and then one by one throws them to the floor where they shatter into pieces. Of course, he is not qualified at all to re-define the value of my heirlooms. He simply doesn't like them. They don't fit the decor of his home, so he doesn't want me to have them in mine either.
That little story is only an analogy (obvious, I'm sure), and in it my heirlooms represent the historic, orthodox Christian doctrines that have been precious to me (and so many) for years. Doctrines that have been established since the Lord’s disciples set out upon the Great Commission. Doctrines Young dismantles most often by erecting straw men as a diversion and then using his former book, The Shack, (far more often than the Bible) to bolster and justify his custom-fitting of the gospel. I would expect such a complete overhaul of truth to be substantiated by a hefty collection of scholarly references and biblical scholarship. But it isn’t there. What little biblical data Young does call upon is rarely more than craftily placed proof texts built upon weak (if not deceptive) exegesis. But...he throws those heirlooms to the floor with such whimsy and neighborly cajoling that readers will hardly know what's happening.
I honestly don't think Paul realizes this is what he's doing. At least I sure hope he doesn't. I think he sincerely believes he's doing us all a favor rewriting the entire meta narrative of the Bible the way he does. He must seriously think he's given us a much better story by which to live. But I don't. In fact, the story he writes would leave me feeling empty and confused if I didn’t know better. It would leave my life as a Christ-follower meaningless. After all, according to Young, we're all already saved, and we're all good children of God (aside from the fact that we're all so evil we nailed Jesus to a Cross—a Cross that was never God's idea but merely something Jesus rolled His eyes and "submitted to" as if saying, "Those silly humans...I guess I'll appease their blood thirst.”) In Young’s story, there’s no need to worry about hell (which doesn’t truly exist) or death because we’ll all be given plenty of time after we die to decide to believe in Jesus (who has already saved us all). Confusing? Yes.
I’ll end by saying there are a few of Paul’s proposed "lies" that I do agree with. I agree that a religious check list is not at all what living for Jesus is about. I agree that God wants relationship with us more than anything we can do for Him. And I agree that misconceptions about the Father most definitely get in the way of our freedom and abundance. But most of this book I sadly must call out as damaging heresy. When you completely diminish the Cross and erase my need for a Savior, you're not talking about historic Christianity anymore.
I'm so sorry Paul, but I can’t support these lies you believe.
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