A couple weeks ago I posted an article on the new Shack movie titled “To See or Not to See The Shack Movie: That is the Question“. Today somebody named “Sven” posted a comment in which they charged author Paul Young with a long list of egregious doctrinal errors:
“God is not a gender fluid goddess. The Shack teaches “Universalism” that all paths and religions lead to heaven. The Shack claims that God does not judge sin. This make Christ sacrifice on the cross worthless. The Shack uses 10% lies to distort the Gospel and lead people astray.If you have any Biblical Christian discernment, you will see the Shack for the abomination that it is.”
So let’s see, Sven begins by charging Young with goddess worship, pluralism (albeit incorrectly described as “universalism”), a non-judgmental God, and an impotent savior. What is more, Sven insists that these are not simply errors, they are lies. In other words, Young is intending to deceive. Or perhaps Sven is claiming that Satan is deceiving and Young is merely his unwitting puppet. Either way, this is serious business.
There is one bit of truth in Sven’s analysis: the depiction of God in The Shack arguably reacts against manipulative images of a wrathful deity to such an extent that concepts like transcendence and holiness are almost forgotten. (I explain the problem at some length in my book Finding God in the Shack.) Having said that, please keep in mind that this is not a systematic theology; rather, it is a novel describing a weekend in which a man wrestles through his own grief. So it should hardly be surprising that the manifestation of God Mack receives includes a disproportionate representation of the still small voice of maternalistic comfort rather than the royal wrath of fire from heaven.
Anyway, given that Sven had leveled such extraordinarily serious charges at Mr. Young, I asked him to substantiate just one of them, namely the charge of universalism (or pluralism).
I don’t know anything about Sven, but I do know that I’ve seen similar behavior among many conservative evangelicals. People that (hopefully) would never think of leveling the charge of “adulterer” or “pedophile” or “thief” without excellent evidence nonetheless believe themselves justified in lobbing the most serious theological charges at fellow brothers and sisters in Christ with no evidence at all.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen Christians label another Christian as a “heretic” or charge another Christian with holding a “heresy”. But almost invariably the one making the accusation is unable even to define what they mean by heresy, let alone to defend that definition, let alone to demonstrate that the one charged has in fact satisfied it.
So this is my challenge to the wider Christian community. When Christians raise charges of heresy like Sven did against Mr. Young, ask them to define and defend their terms and to provide the evidence that this other individual has, in fact, satisfied that definition. If they can’t do that much, denounce them for defaming a fellow brother or sister in Christ.