The Shack Author Denies Biblical Substitutionary Atonement

I n a recent radio interview, The Shack author, Paul Young, told the interviewer he did not hold to the traditional view of the atonement in that he does not believe Jesus Christ bore the punishment (i.e., penalty) for man’s sins when He died on the Cross (transcript).

He also stated, with regard to this topic: “I don’t know if you’re aware, but that’s a huge debate that’s going on in theology right now within the evangelical community.” That debate, to which Young refers, is the new theology (or as we call it the new spirituality) that is entering Christianity through contemplative and emerging figures such as Brennan Manning, Brian McLaren, and Marcus Borg.

This “huge debate” states that a loving Father would never send His Son to a violent death on behalf of the sins of others. And while they do not deny that Jesus did physically die on a Cross, they insist that His death was not to be a substitutionary act wherein He was punished for our sins. Rather, they say, He was killed by man, not for man. And he was a perfect model of sacrificial servanthood. As Episcopal new spirituality author, Alan Jones, states, “Jesus’ sacrifice was to appease an angry God. Penal substitution was the name of this vile doctrine” (Reimagining Christianity, p. 168).

Contemplative proponent Brennan Manning, quoting Catholic mystic William Shannon, says: “[T]he god who exacts the last drop of blood from his Son so that his just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased . . . does not exist” (Above All, pp. 58-59). Mystic Marcus Borg has this exact same view. He is opposes the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement and sees the Cross as merely a metaphor for transformation in the mystical sense. 1 Brian McLaren shares this view (and indeed resonates with Borg) when he says that hell and the Cross are “false advertising for God.” 2

The Shack, still at the top of the New York Times Best Seller list, is being heralded as one of the best Christian books ever. But as Lighthouse Trails and other concerned ministries have reported in a number of documented articles, The Shack is not a Christian book, and it should not be packaged, presented, and promoted as such.

While many who have read The Shack, tout that it has changed their lives, what these people do not understand is that the book appeals to people’s senses; thus, the book is sensual. And because it makes people feel good, they assume (wrongly) that it must be from God. But The Shack is appealing to the carnal man and not the spiritual, and as the Bible warns, there is a “wisdom [that] descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish” (James 3: 15).

With this in mind, Lighthouse Trails has posted an article by free-lance writer, John Lanagan, who attended a large evangelical church meeting this past weekend in which The Shack author spoke. The church is presenting a series on The Shack and began the series by having Young address the congregation. It is not the intention of this report to single out this particular church but rather to warn believers of The Shack’s interspiritual, panentheistic, and non-biblical theologies and the book’s major impact on many many churches. Please click here to read this article.

We have also posted an article this week of a serious nature regarding the heightened involvement by Nazarene pastors worldwide with contemplative spirituality: “Nazarene General Assembly Welcomes Contemplative Spirituality–Nazarene Pastors Worldwide Invited.”
In His grace,
Editors at Lighthouse Trails Research

I have been a believer since 1981. Everything else before that is relatively meaningless. My heart has, from day 1, always been toward the subject of bible prophecy and I have seen the Lord do amazing things in my life through simply studying the Word and applying it to my life. I am a wife, grandmother and work full time in ministry. Life is full, and full of learning curves and seasons.

10 Responses to “The Shack Author Denies Biblical Substitutionary Atonement” Subscribe

  1. Mary March 27, 2009 at 12:31 pm #

    Um…saw this coming. I predicted this day.
    I am not happy about it, any more than I would be about any false doctrine/compromise/emergent garbage, but I did call this one.

    Now it appears folks will have to deal with this each in their own hearts, those who promote the Shack or say it’s harmless. The Lord is revealing hearts and doctrines as I write.

    The Shack is not just a book. It’s a drug. It’s borders on a cult. At the very least it’s heresy.



  2. Autumn March 27, 2009 at 9:09 pm #

    Hi Mary,

    Not Paul Young, but William P. Young is the author of the Shack. Thanks for keeping us informed.


    Autumn D.

  3. Mary March 28, 2009 at 4:33 pm #

    Greetings all,
    Actually William P Young is the author. Different sites call him William, some use Paul. Wikipedia uses William P, or William Paul. Same difference, kinda strange all in all. Thanks for the comment!

  4. Sylvia June 30, 2009 at 1:26 pm #

    William Paul Young does go by “Paul”, it seems.
    Mary, I’m guessing you’ve heard the latest one:
    “People have their fears about the book’s theology and stuff, and that’s OK. But all over the country, I meet non-religious people who have read the book, bought copies for their religious friends, and told them, ‘I like the God in this a lot more than yours.’”
    ———Now that’s just ugly. :-(

  5. Mary July 1, 2009 at 1:41 pm #

    Yikes. And you know, people will continue to nulllify and ignore any good apologetics on this issue and others. But at least those who are warning are doing their part. Christendom today is s l e e p i n g. And unteachable as well. Stubborn sheep! Can’t say it’s bad parenting for believers. It’s pure disobedience.

  6. monica July 21, 2009 at 5:56 pm #

    I read this book and liked it. It is fiction and I don’t see where the author has presented it as non fiction. I don’t see where the book is so horrible. It illustrated to me the function of the trinity and what each encompasses. The father, who can be what ever you need at any time in your life, the son, a carpenter who became man and can relate to us on a human level and the holy spirit, a comfortor to keep us from blowing up in a million pieces when we feel we are falling apart. I liked it and have recommended it to others. If he was presenting it as a nonfiction book or an extension of the bible I could see the problem and would be angry myself but he isn’t. The book is no different than Harry Potter or Twilight, people liked it and the recommended it to their friends. I just don’t see the problem.


  7. Mary July 22, 2009 at 11:56 am #

    Well, you have hit on the problem yourself: it’s fiction, so we shouldn’t believe a word of it. Yet you admit that you got truth out of it regarding your understanding of God. Which God, which Jesus? The one who did not die for our sins in a substitutionary manner as stated throughout the Bible? This is the article you are commenting on, did you read it? People want things both ways, but in the spiritual realm, this is an impossibility. God has promised to build His church on the finished work of Christ, not on a Barnes and Noble bookstore.

    How do you reconcile these two concepts? Does anyone care who is this author, is he born again, and what does he believe about truth? Fiction is the claim, but unfortunately, his own rebellious ideas of God are woven throughout this book, as well as Emergent concepts, New Age ideas, and universalism. Please see the link below for an article by a man who has known him personally for 12 years and knows firsthand that WP Young is a universalist. Universalism is diametrically opposed to the gospel, and unless one is discerning and knows the real thing, they will never spot a counterfeit.

    People are getting their theology from this book, whether they admit it or not. Some are saying, “I like this god better than the Biblical god”. That’s a big problem. And some people are just not being honest about it. Do you think that this book would sell so many copies if it were just a novel?
    And if it were the gospel, would it be #1 on the bestseller list for a year or more? It’s meant to manipulate the emotion first, then slam dunk someone’s views of God, most of them rebellious. I have been a believer for 30 years, and the lack of understanding of the God OF THE BIBLE in this book is appalling.

    So, which is it? The truth of the matter is, while the author claims it’s fiction, his spiritual agenda is evidenced throughout, and you are being manipulated. This is the fruit of the Shack, spiritual confusion and division in the church. Great.

    I will relax if you promise not to check your brains at the door : )

  8. Raphael May 26, 2013 at 7:45 am #

    You’re right Mary, The Lord Jesus did not say,”in my father’s kingdom there are many (s)hacks.”

  9. Youth Kit February 9, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a colleague who has been conducting a little homework on this. And he in fact bought me dinner due to the fact that I discovered it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to talk about this subject here on your blog.

  10. Mary February 9, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

    Happy to help. I hope it was a good meal.

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