# A Summary Of My Response To WM. Paul Young’s lies we believe about GOD
(released in March, 2017)
By James B. De Young
This document represents a summary of my recent book, Lies Paul Young Believes about God: How the Author of The Shack Is Deceiving Millions Again.
As shown below I took Young’s 28 chapters and titles and rearranged them into four categories of doctrine that I believe he is addressing. This arrangement is also reflected in my table of contents. In a real sense this book is a mini theology, touching as it does on crucial doctrines of our Christian faith: What is the nature of God? Who is Jesus Christ? What did Jesus accomplish on the cross? What is sin? What is hell? What is love and holiness? Who is a child of God? How does one become a Christian? What about the devil? What happened at the creation?
In my “Introduction: The Author of The Shack Writes a New Book Filled with Heresy,” I briefly trace my acquaintance with Paul Young and Young’s embrace of universal reconciliation (UR) as early as 2004. I outline the beliefs of UR and Young’s special understanding of UR. I cite several alarming statements found in Young’s newest book and list some of the “lies” that comprise some of his 28 chapters. I address how C. Baxter Kruger writes the Foreward of Young’s book from the perspective of a fellow believer in UR. He and Young claim on Kruger’s web site that they are orthodox by the standard of the Nicene Creed—a claim I examine in an Appendix. I note that in interviews and on web sites both Kruger and Young believe that they are on the cusp of a new reformation of the church that Young may be leading, as a new “Martin Luther”!
I also address how Young in his Introduction seems insincere when he claims that what he writes is not “final” or “complete” but just “ideas” to ponder. I note that he claims repeatedly throughout the book that his evangelical background has propagated “lies,” and that it has failed him (e.g., Lies, ch. 28). Further, he is unrestrained in his bold confession that he has embraced universal reconciliation (p. 118, ch. 13). Finally, as early as 2004, he confessed in writing that he was abandoning his evangelical paradigm and embracing UR. Since he has embraced UR for over thirteen years how can he say that his newest book simply consists of “ideas” to “ponder”?
The following is the arrangement of my book. Note the questions that arise under each doctrine that Young addresses from the standpoint of UR. After giving Young’s attempt to correct the “lies” of Christians I give the “Biblical Response,” what the Bible says. I identify whether Young’s “lies” are lies themselves, absolute truths or half-truths, or straw-men arguments. In the following summaries, I focus on and devote more space to the more important doctrinal issues and lesser space to those less important.
The asterisks next to certain chapters indicate a chapter of high importance.
PART ONE: ANTHROPOLOGY: THE STUDY OF HUMANITY
- Does God Love Us?
- What is the nature of human beings?
- Who is a Christian?
- Is God a Christian?
- Is Paul Young a Christian?
- Is Everyone a Child of God?
- Is Anyone a Sinner?
Exposure of the heresies in Young’s Lies, Chapters 1, 5, 12, 14, 24
Chapter 1: “God loves us, but doesn’t like us” (Young’s Lies, ch. 1). Young argues that God loves ALL people equally and the same; and is “especially fond” of everyone without exception. The Biblical Response is that the Bible distinguishes between those who are the “children of God” by virtue of their being created by God and those who are born again by believing in Christ. The Apostle Paul makes this distinction in Acts 17:28–31. Jesus stipulates that people need to be born again—have a spiritual new birth (John 3:3), as do the Apostles (1 Pet 1:3, 14, 23; 2:2; 1 John 2:29–3:3, 9–10; 5:1–5). This “lie” is both a straw man and false in the way that Young seeks to correct it.
Chapter 2: “God is a Christian” (Lies, ch. 5). Young asserts that using categories such as “believer” and “unbeliever” or “Christian” and “non-Christian” is from the devil because all people are Christians and believers. He wrongly understands the Greek word for “category.” God is a Christian if he treats all people as “beloved insiders.” Young is a Christian if the term means a “little Christ.” The Biblical Response is that “Christian” means to be a follower of Christ (Acts 11:28). Thus, by the Bible, God is not a Christian, nor is Paul Young. Finally, Jesus and the Apostles use the categories of “believer” and “unbeliever.” This “lie” is a straw man and also false: God is not a Christian, a follower of Jesus, but the Father of Jesus who sent him to be the Savior of the world (1 John 4:10).
Chapter 3: “God created (my) religion” (Lies, ch. 12). Young faults Christianity as a religion, as an institution, and the other institutions of the government and marriage. In The Shack he called them “the man-created trinity of terrors that ravages the earth.” The Biblical Response is that God created the institutions of marriage and government (Gen 2; Rom 13:1–7), and Jesus Christ created the church (Matt. 16); and the church is both an institution and a relationship. Thus this “lie” is the truth, at least in the sense that God created the faith of Christianity.
Chapter 4: “God doesn’t care what I’m passionate about” (Lies, ch. 14). Young asserts that all the passions that people have—their loves, their curiosity, their drives toward authenticity and integrity—all originate in God. The Biblical Response is that there are also evil kinds of drives and desires that do not come from God but from the devil, the liar and great deceiver (John 8:43–44). Young is indirectly seeking approval for his embrace of UR. This “lie” is a straw man and false: God is interested in all our passions, but he does not give approval to those that are evil. The Apostle Paul exhorts believers to “put to death” evil desires and passions (Col 3:5ff.).
Chapter 5: “Not everyone is a child of God” (Lies, ch. 24). In this crucial chapter, Young more fully defends what he began in Lies, ch. 1 (also my ch. 1, above). He cites two texts (Acts 17:28–29 [cited above in ch. 1] and Eph 3:4–5: “there is one God and Father of all”) to support the idea that all people are God’s children, whether they believe in Christ or not. The Biblical Response is that the Bible clearly distinguishes between those who are God’s children by virtue of believing in Christ and having been born again, and those who are not. Faith in Christ is absolutely necessary to become a child of God (see the texts discussed under ch. 1). Young wrongly quotes Acts 17:28–29, using “children” rather than “offspring.” In the context of Ephesians 3, believers are being described, not all humanity. This “lie” is absolutely true, contrary to Young’s attempt to make it a “lie.”
PART TWO: THEOLOGY PROPER: THE STUDY OF GOD
- What is the nature of God?
- Who is God?
- What is God like?
- Is God Good?
- Is God a Sexual Being?
- Is God a Prude?
- Is the Institution of Government Evil?
- Did God Torture His Son?
- Do Christians who believe in the atonement of Christ make the Father a “child abuser”?
Exposure of the heresies in Lies, Chapters 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 16, 20, 22, 23, 25, 26, 28
*Chapter 6: “God is good. I am not” (Lies, ch. 2). Here Paul Young deals with the great issue of the nature of human beings. He asserts that all humanity is “fundamentally good,” not depraved. All are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Eph 2:10). People are “blind, not depraved” in their condition. The Biblical Response is that Young neglects the Fall recorded in Genesis 2, where all became identified in Adam’s sin and received a fallen, depraved nature (so Rom 1:18–3:23; 5:12–21). Thus, all are sinners needing redemption and the salvation that comes through faith in Christ alone (Rom 3:24–26; 5:17; 10:9–10). This “lie” is true in the absolute sense that no person apart from Christ is or can do good. Young is wrong in making this a “lie.”
Chapter 7: “God wants to use me” (Lies, ch. 6). Young refutes the idea of a utilitarian view of God, that God wants to “use” people just as a person uses his tools. God wants a deeper relationship with people and he never acts independently of them. Young argues that people need to be more precise in their use of words such as “use.” The Biblical Response is that while Young’s concern is legitimate he assumes again that all are God’s children already. He is wrong to say that God never acts independently of his creatures. For example, at the creation God acted apart from people and the rest of his creation. Young needs to hear the “words” of God in the Bible. His “lie” here is a straw man. No true Christian would think of “use” in this sense.
*Chapter 8: “God is more he than she” (Lies, ch. 7). In this strategic chapter Young asserts that God is a sexual being by nature, that he is equally “he” and “she,” and that he is the source of all human sexuality (because humans are created “in God”). All are in relationship with this sexual being. The Biblical Response is that God by his nature does not have sex, is not a sexual being, that he is a spirit being, as Jesus said (John 4:24). People are made in the “image and likeness” of God (Gen 1:26–27), but they are not divine. Texts that may suggest this (2 Pet 1:4; 1 John 3:8) refer to Christians who are born again, reborn spiritually, and thus reflect the nature of their heavenly Father. But they are not little deities. People are not created “in God.” Young’s “lie” is itself a lie and his attempt to correct it is also an error. His belief tends toward panthesism.
Chapter 9: “God wants to be a priority” (Lies, ch. 8). Young argues here that we should not think of God as first, prior to others, but as central to all. He appeals to the Greek words for “first and great commandment” (Matt 22:34–40) as supporting this view. Young claims that “first” suggests performance, a legalism of priorities and guilt, but “central” suggests relationship with God. The Biblical Response is that the Greek terminology used in this text does not carry the distinctions that Young would find. While the point is good that God should be central to all, the associations that Young makes with “first” and “central” are without foundation. They arise from Young’s prior commitment to the idea that obeying a command is opposite to relationship. But Jesus and the Apostles repeatedly link the two by saying that if we love him we will obey him: the latter is proof of the former (John 14:15, 21, 23, 24). Even the text cited (Matt 22:34ff.) links the commandment with love. Also, Jesus said: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” and all the rest will be provided (Matt 6:33). In a sense, if God is first then he will be central. This is a straw-man kind of argument.
Chapter 10: “God is a magician” (Lies, ch 9). By magic Young means that people seek to exert control over God, to coerce him to do something. He singles out “faith magic,” whereby people seek to control God by having enough faith to do something, and “performance magic,” whereby people seek to control God by doing things such as prayer, Bible reading, tithing, going to church, etc. Instead God wants relationship which involves mystery and “loss of control.” The Biblical Response is that obedience and relationship, as said above, are not opposed to each other. While Christians don’t seek to control God they do seek to obey him lovingly while growing in relationship with him. This chapter has behind it Young’s assumption that everyone already is in relationship with God. This “lie” is a straw-man type of argument. No true follower of Jesus believes that by believing or by doing we can control or coerce God.
*Chapter 11: “God is a prude” (Lies, ch. 10). In this pivotal chapter, that builds on the “lie” of chapter 8 of Lies, Young pursues the sexuality of God’s nature. He asserts that all human beings have the “divine nature placed within them,” that human sexuality originates with God, that all are in a relationship with this sexual Being. He cites three Greek words: agape, which is “other-centered, self-giving, committed love”; perichoresis, which is “interpenetration within the Godhead” which illustrates human relationships; and eros, which is erotic, self-serving love (and never used in the NT). Young asserts that the “love” belonging to the relationship all people have with God is to be of the first two kinds, never of the third.
The Biblical Response should include the response that I give to the “lie” of Young’s ch. 8. In this chapter Young is correct to speak of agape love as that love that should prevail in relationship with God. But it is not clear why “interpenetration” should be brought forward here unless it is to suggest that relationship within the Godhead and among people in relationship with God has a sexual element to it. If so, Young is wrong on several counts. First, people do not have the “divine nature” within them. Second, people have sexuality as a gift from God for the primary purpose of procreation (note Gen 1:26–27; Gen 2 and 4). Third, God is not a sexual being. Fourth, Young’s claim that “interpenetration” was used by church fathers to describe the Godhead is overstated. Only two use this noun: Cyril of Alexandria (once) and John of Damascus (five times). The verb form occurs a similarly few times. These fathers died, respectively, in 444 and 749. So Young tends to misrepresent this witness: it was not early; it was not frequent; and it was not pervasive. On the web site perichoresis belonging to C. Baxter Kruger, Young also appeals to the church father Athanasius and the Nicene Creed as determining his own orthodoxy. In an APPENDIX to my book (see below) I compare Young’s beliefs with this church father and this Creed and find Young to be unorthodox—that is, heretical.
The “lie” of Lies, ch. 10 is a straw-man argument. Young’s defense of the opposite of it is false.
Chapter 12: “God blesses my politics” (Lies, ch. 11). Young asserts that government was created by people, that it is about separation, domination, and power. Every nation exists because of the “bloodshed of brothers” going back to Cain’s murder of Abel (Gen. 4). Young embraces “peaceful resistance” and “turning the other cheek” in the kingdom of God. The Biblical Response here includes the response given to the “lie” of Lies, ch. 12. The Bible asserts that all governments are “ordained” or “ordered” by God for the good of humanity (Rom 14:1–7); government was not created by people. No government existed in the time of Cain. Government begins with the institution of nations after the Flood (Gen 10–11). The ethic of “turning the other cheek” is given to people, not to government, in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:39). The kingdom of God exists across cultures and is not to be equated with any one government. It is a fact that, beginning with the fifth century, Christians began formulating “just war” criteria. This “lie” is a straw man.
*Chapter 13: “God is not good” (Lies, ch. 16). Young here states the opposite of his “lie” of Lies, ch. 6 (“God is good. I am not”). Here Young seeks to answer such universal questions as: Why do people suffer? Why is there so much evil in the world? He asserts that whatever the ultimate answers are God is Good all the time. The Biblical Response is that while Young’s assertion that God is good all the time is true, his answer to the universal questions is truncated and short-sighted, at least. Because of his UR he fails to acknowledge the existence of the cause for evil in the universe—the rebellion and influence of Satan. He brought about the Fall into sin of all humanity. Sin lies behind all the evil, crime, suffering, and death in the world. Having a distorted view of the reality of sin leads to much deception and a failure to explain why life is what it is. This “lie” is a lie, of course. But Young’s treatment of God’s goodness springs from his commitment to UR and his resulting blindness to the enormity of evil that one day in the future God will judge and bring to an end.
Chapter 14: “God is a divine Santa Claus” (Lies, ch. 20). Young takes up the idea that many people project on to God what they believe about Santa Claus. They find God to be either a nice Santa who rewards good behavior or a nasty Santa who rewards bad performance. It is better to look at themselves to discover what God is like, since people are made in God’s image and likeness. It is even better to look at Jesus the incarnate God-man. The Biblical Response is that the only correct vision is to look to Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith” (as Heb 12:2 says). The Bible never exhorts us to look at ourselves for we are without any good thing apart from Jesus Christ. But in him we are complete, perfect (Col 2:10). He is the supreme example of a human being since he was committed to doing God’s will perfectly (Heb 10:5–10). This “lie” is a straw man.
*Chapter 15: “God is not involved in my suffering” (Lies, ch. 22). Young asserts that love (that is, God) and suffering are inextricably connected. Following his commitment to UR, Young asserts that all humanity has been raised in Christ’s resurrection to experience love and life. Suffering began when Adam “turned” away from life in God. All people are “created in Christ” and thereby God embraced suffering. By the incarnation, God joined humanity and experienced suffering. God infuses our suffering with “Presence and Love.” Suffering transforms us to become more “free to love, to become more alive and human.” Until death is fully eradicated, people in relationship with Jesus are growing in their participation in the suffering of others and “thereby participate in the abiding and active Love of God.”
The Biblical Response involves identifying in the various statements above those which arise from UR and thus not from the Bible. While God is involved in some way in all suffering, only those who believe in Christ, not all people, have been raised in the resurrection life of Christ (as Col 2:12–13 and 3:1 assert) and experience God’s special care in the midst of suffering (note Paul the Apostle’s source of comfort in Christ; 2 Cor 1:5). It is this comfort that enables Christians to comfort others who are suffering (1:3–7), even because of the death of other believers (1 Thess 4:18). All humanity is not “created in Christ” and all are not in “relationship with Jesus” until they believe in him (as I pointed out in other chapters above). Young also fails to connect human suffering with the existence of evil and the work of Satan in the world. This “lie” is a straw man; no mature Christians would ever say that God is not involved in their suffering. This is a great truth for Christians but unbelievers can make no such claim since they do not know God nor does God know them.
Chapter 16: “You will never find God in a box” (Lies, ch. 23). Young deals with the idea that there are all kinds of boxes and categories, some good but many bad. People often climb out of one box and end up in another. God often joins people in their boxes to assist them. God is everywhere, which idea includes boxes. The Biblical Response is that this “lie” elaborates on the “lie” opposing categories such as “believer” and “unbeliever” (Lies, ch. 5), which violates the clear teaching of the New Testament. For Christians reading this summary the most obvious “box” is that of universal reconciliation (UR) that Young and others have constructed. God is not in this box. This “lie” is a half-truth, depending on the kind of box, whether it is good or evil.
Chapter 17: “God is disappointed in me” (Lies, ch. 25). Young asserts that God is never disappointed with anyone because all are God’s special children. He will never abandon anyone since he has no expectations of anyone. God delights in everyone. The Biblical Response includes the following observations. Such promises of God’s presence pertain only to believers (Heb 13:5–6; Rom 8:28–39). For non-believers there is a future of judgment and eternal separation from God (John 3:16–18, 36). Jesus said that the world hates him and his followers (John 14 and 15). God does not delight in those who reject his Son. God wants all people to be saved, to believe and accept his Son as Savior (1 Tim 2:4), but he respects peoples’ choice to reject him. Young overlooks the greater, opposite, truth, that God will never be a disappointment to believers and unbelievers alike. This “lie” is a half-truth depending on who the “me” is. Yet God is never “disappointed” in unbelievers, since he knows all people and has chosen those who believe in him (Eph 1; Col 3:12). Nothing violates God’s perfect knowledge.
Chapter 18: “God loves me for my potential” (Lies, ch. 26). Young articulates the idea that one’s potential is no basis for relationship with God. From his perspective of UR, Young asserts that God loves everyone at every point of his/her journey with no thought of what a person ought to become at the end. The Biblical Response is that while it is true that God does not love us for what we are going to be, this truth is again only for Christians. God loves those who are in Christ because he views every believer as complete in Christ (Col 2:10), wholly pure and without defect (1:22). This standing in Christ constitutes their essential identity or reality. Yet an attending truth is that every Christian is to grow, to mature spiritually (Col 1:28) until we attain to “the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:12–16). This aspect of reality is tied to a person’s history and refers to one’s daily existence. In general this “lie” is a straw man.
**Chapter 19: “God is One alone” (Lies, ch. 28). This is one of the most crucial chapters in Lies and is an appropriate ending for Young’s whole book. It is an appropriate ending for this section of my book dealing with the nature of God. Here Young relates most fully his background and how The Shack came into being. He says that the God who actually showed up and healed his broken heart was “not the god I grew up with in my modern evangelical Christian fundamentalism.” He writes that the God he knew while growing up was (note his words) “of little comfort. In fact, that God was considered the originator of evil, a distant deity who had a plan that included the torture of a child. One can’t run to God if God is the perpetrator.” Young states that to him God the Father was “a distant deity” and different in character from Jesus. “That God” was disappointed in Young and Young felt betrayed. The God he subsequently discovered was triune in nature with whom he could have a deep relationship. This God is not “One alone.”
In response, I must confess that the preceding almost takes my breath away because of the slander of God that Young makes here. The Biblical Response involves several matters. First, it seems that Young still has not resolved conflicts with his upbringing under missionary parents (he acknowledges this on p. 210 of his book). Second, the God of his evangelical, fundamental past is not the perpetrator of evil, not distant, not the torturer of Jesus, not a betrayer, and not one who differs in character from Jesus. Young’s statements all constitute slander—blasphemy—of the Triune God of the Bible. In my full book I give Biblical texts to respond to each of these charges. Here Young’s “lie” is truly a lie since no evangelical Christian believes such things, and we believe in the Trinity: God is not a singular being. He is Three-in-One.
Further, Young is not giving the fullest account of how The Shack came into being (as I write about it in the introduction to my book). He omits at least three details. (1) He confessed conversion to universal reconciliation (UR) and claimed that it is this that changed his life and made him a more loving person. (2) The first edition of The Shack which he wrote for his children was full of UR (as his co-editors Jacobsen and Cummings state on their web site; see my Burning Down the Shack, p. xix). They spent over a year trying to remove the universalism. Thus the version of The Shack that became a best seller is not the first version that he wrote for his kids. People should ask Young to release this first edition. He also insists that he had no agenda when he wrote The Shack. This is contradicted by the fact that he deliberately placed UR in the first edition. (3) Young omits the fact that when the film of The Shack was being planned his co-editors sued him for not giving them a proper share of the financial returns. The account of this law suit is available on line.
The God Young subsequently discovered, as he describes in his conversion to UR, is truly not the God of the Bible. Finally, how do all of Young’s statements in this chapter compare with his disclaimers in the INTRODUCTION that he is simply throwing out questions to “ponder”?
Why does Young write so strongly and provocatively? One of his motives, it seems, is to present himself as standing on the “cusp” of a new reformation of the church, as a new “Martin Luther,” as he and Kruger have said in interviews and on Kruger’s web site. Can you believe this? See my full book and its appendices (see also my web sites, burningdowntheshackbook.com (opens new window) and liespaulyoungbelievesbook.com (opens new window)).
PART THREE: THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
- Is God in Control of All Things?
- Does He Have a Plan That Includes All Things?
- Was the Cross in God’s Plan?
- Is God a Cosmic Abuser of His Son?
Exposure of the heresies in Young’s Lies, Chapters 3, 4, 17, 18, 19
*Chapter 20: “God is in control” (Lies, ch. 3). In this section dealing with the sovereignty of God we have clear assertions that Young thinks in strict conformity with UR. In this chapter he asserts that God is not in control of everything, that he is not sovereign. God is not a planner but an artist. “God” and “control” are two incompatible words. The cross was not in God’s plan. The mess of this world is not in God’s plan. If it is then God is the author of evil, Young concludes. Humans created the idea of the plan of God because they want to have certainty, instead of a relationship with him. God doesn’t have a plan for our lives but only a relationship to join. “Submission,” not “control,” is God’s vocabulary.
The Biblical Response is to say that all of the foregoing is a lie. Young asserts just the opposite of what the Bible says. I give a complete refutation of these statements in my book. Note a few great texts affirming that God is in control of everything and that he has a plan. God is omnipotent and omniscient (Dan 4:35; Acts 17:24–28; Rom 9:21; Eph 1:3–14; v. 11 has “purpose,” “plan”). Further, while all things, including the fall of Adam and Eve into sin (Gen 2), are included in his plan this does not make God the author of sin. He allows or permits the evil things; he creates or makes all the good things, including the way of redemption as found in Jesus Christ. This “lie,” as Paul Young has labelled it, is the absolute truth: God is in control; we are not. If God were not in control of all, he would not be God who is omnipotent (all powerful) and omniscient (all knowing).
*Chapter 21: “God does not submit” (Lies, ch. 4). In this critical chapter dealing with the sovereignty of God Paul Young asserts that the Golden Rule pertains to God as well as to people. Because God is love and a God of relationship there is mutual submission of people to God and of God to people. God submits to “our anger and wrath.” The Biblical Response is that a relationship with God is possible but only for those who become Christians, who have been adopted into God’s family (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:5; Eph 1:5). Even in this relationship believers submit to their Father and to Christ as their Brother (Heb 2:11–14); these roles are never reversed. Our example is Jesus who addressed God as Father (Matt 6:9). The Apostles likewise pursue a personal relationship of knowing God (Phil 3:8–14); but they never write about a mutual submission of God and believers that would be equal on both sides. Further, God does not submit to our anger (which is illegitimate). God expresses wrath toward unbelief and unbelievers but he never expresses wrath to his own people (Rom 1:18–32; 1 Thess 1:9). It is God’s anger that was satisfied at the cross by Christ’s atoning sacrifice for sins (Rom 3:25). Jesus paid the wages of sin (Rom 6:23). The “lie” of this chapter is basically true.
**Chapter 22: “The Cross was God’s idea” (Lies, ch. 17). The primary question that Young asks in this critical chapter is: “Who originated the Cross?” Young is not reluctant to answer that God did not. And his explanation is so blasphemous that, for the record’s sake, I quote it in full.
If God did, then we worship a cosmic abuser, who in Divine Wisdom created a means to torture human beings in the most painful and abhorrent manner. Frankly, it is often this very cruel and monstrous god that the atheist refuses to acknowledge or grant credibility in any sense. And rightly so. Better no god at all, than this one.
Notice the slanderous titles Young gives to our great and loving God in this quote. As I show in my book, Young explicitly rejects belief in the God of the Bible.
In Young’s understanding, based in UR, God submitted to the cross to destroy its power. This is probably one basis for Young’s assertion in the previous chapter that God submits to human beings (which is false). Further, Young accuses us “religious people” of interpreting this sacrifice to mean that “it was God who killed Jesus, slaughtering Him as a necessary appeasement for His bloodthirsty need for justice.” Here Young cites the prophesy of Isaiah 53.
The Biblical Response is that the Bible clearly teaches that God planned for the redemption of fallen humanity by the death of Christ from before he created the universe (Acts 2:23: the cross was in “God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge”; 4:28: God’s “power and will decided beforehand” the death of Christ; Rom 3:25: “God set forth Christ as a propitiation through the shedding of his blood”; Eph 1:4–5: we were chosen in Christ “before the creation of the world . . . in accordance with his pleasure and will”). And Isaiah 53 repeatedly states that God planned the death of Christ. The claim that we humans gave this interpretation to Christ’s death is false; God did this. He inspired the prophet Isaiah to write this way (vv. 4–6, 8–10–12). This chapter by Young is one of the most strategic and theologically evil in the entire book. His “lie” is the absolute truth: the cross was God’s idea. Otherwise, there would never have been the redemption accomplished by Jesus at the cross and all humanity would still be lost in sin and without hope.
Chapter 23: “That was just a coincidence” (Lies, ch. 18). Young insists that nothing happens by coincidence or by chance. There are no true detours. People need to pay attention to their “part of participation with the flow of the redeeming genius and creativity of the Spirit . . . even in the midst of profound loss and agony.” With these last words Young is giving an additional answer to the questions he raised at the end of his Lies book, chapter 16, regarding the existence of suffering and evil in the world. The Biblical Response is that Young’s concept of coincidence involves a syncretism or confluence of both divine and human wills, on an equal level (note Lies, chs. 3–4, where Young says that God is not in control of everything and that God submits as much to human beings as they do to him). The key word above is “relationship” which Young understands to be exercised fully both ways where there is no authority and no submission of any party to another (see The Shack, pp. 122–124, 154–163). Again, by failing to acknowledge the presence of the devil who is seeking to destroy God’s work and people (in agreement with UR), there is an insufficient explanation for suffering and agony. This “lie” is a straw-man argument.
*Chapter 24: “God requires child sacrifice” (Lies, ch. 19). Young continues to propagate his understanding of salvation from the perspective of universal reconciliation (UR) that he began two chapters before (in Lies, ch. 17). He accuses Christians of believing that God was committing child sacrifice by planning for the death of Christ on the cross. Because of Young’s UR anchored in the love of God, he cannot allow God to have done this act of judgment. Thus, the cross was man’s idea, not God’s (thus this chapter goes with Lies, ch. 17). The “lie” of this chapter is the truth, if by “child sacrifice” we mean the death of Jesus Christ for sin. God did require his sacrifice. But Young takes the “lie” to describe the involuntary, torturous “sacrifice” of a child to appease a capricious deity. Taking it this way the “lie” is false, morally evil, and a straw man.
PART FOUR: SOTERIOLOGY: THE STUDY OF SALVATION
- What Does Salvation Mean?
- Is Everyone Already Saved?
- Is Anyone Lost?
- What Is Hell?
- Does Hell Bring Separation from God?
- Can People Choose God after Dying?
- What Does Sin Mean?
- Does Sin Bring Separation from God?
Exposure of the heresies in Young’s Lies, Chapters 13, 15, 21, 27
**Chapter 25: “You need to get saved” (Lies, ch. 13). This is one of the pivotal chapters in Young’s book, Lies We Believe about God. Young boldly claims that no one needs to get saved, to become a child of God, because everyone already is saved. He boldly writes: “Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? That is exactly what I am saying! This is real good news!” (p. 118). Young goes on to assert that salvation involves three dimensions: (1) we were all saved in eternity, prior to the foundation of the world (2 Tim 1:9); (2) we were all included in the “birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus” (2 Cor 5:19); (3) in our ongoing experience “we actively participate to work out what God has worked in” (Phil 2:12–13) (p. 119).
The Biblical Response. For over ten years I have been asserting and writing that Young converted to universal reconciliation (UR) in or before 2004, when he clearly admitted this and rejected his “evangelical paradigm” in a 103-page paper delivered before our Christian “think tank” (see the full story of this in the Introductions to this book and to my book, Burning Down the Shack). I have claimed in interviews that UR pervades the novel and movie, The Shack, and that it pervades his other novels, *Crossroads *(2012) and Eve (2015) (see my review of these novels on my web site, burningdowntheshackbook.com). Paul Young steadfastly denied this identification with UR. People gave him the benefit of the doubt. Now the “cat is out of the bag,” “the genie is out of the bottle.” Here in his own words is his bold declaration.
What are we to make of all of this? Young has been hiding and falsifying what he really believes. In a multitude of public appearances he has taken advantage of Christian churches and deceived multitudes of Christian pastors and people. This chapter reveals that he is not a friend of Christians but their enemy (as witnessed by how the early Christians and later ones dealt with UR).
This chapter is foundational to all the rest. All the “lies” can be explained from the one, basic standpoint of UR. All people are saved already and everyone is a child of God (Lies, chs. 13, 24); there is no judgment from God who is supreme love (Lies, chs. 3, 4, 17, 26, 28), and all the other “lies” of UR. The Biblical texts that Young cites in this chapter are all limited in their contexts to a description of Christians, those who have believed the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. He ignores the great number of texts that describe unbelievers as destined for hell and judgment (including John 3:16–18, 36). Finally, Young’s words here hardly seem to be limited to “ideas and questions to ponder” (from his Introduction, p. 21). Young’s “lie” of this chapter is not a falsehood but the absolute truth: people do need to “get saved”; otherwise, they are lost forever. Jesus and all the Apostles assert this (for example, John 3; Rom 10:9–10; 1 Pet 1:3–9, 17–23).
*Chapter 26: “Hell is separation from God” (Lies, ch. 15). Using language of emotion and reason Young seeks to show that the idea of eternal damnation is unacceptable. Young asserts that hell is not separation from God. He rejects the idea that an “eternally Good God, whose very nature is Love” could allow human beings to be in infinite “conscious torment and pain” (p. 132). Young says it is “intuitively wrong” to be afraid of a “torture-devising God and yet hope to spend eternity with this God” (p. 132). Young cites the Bible (Rom 8:28–39) that nothing in the universe, including hell, can separate anyone from God. The Biblical Response is that hell is a real or actual place of torment and judgment, away from God, as Jesus said (Matt 25:46; Luke 16:23–24), and as the Apostles said (2 Thess 1; Rev 20). The text of Romans 8 is the promise made to believers. Young slanders God by describing him as “torture-devising” when people and their sins of rebellion bring his wrath (Rom 1:18–32). This “lie” is actually the absolute truth.
*Chapter 27: “Death is more powerful than God” (Lies, ch. 21). In this pivotal chapter, Young asserts that death is not a barrier for God’s love to reach those who have died so that they may choose love and relationship. People can be saved after they die. Otherwise, in his denying this, Young says that we make death stronger than God. Young believes that death introduces a crisis, a restorative process, whereby people will be restored to a relationship with God, to “run into the arms of Love.” The Biblical Response to this “lie” is that the Bible nowhere offers any hope to anyone that, after death, he/she will have a chance to believe and come into a relationship with God. The pivotal text here declares that after death comes the judgment (Heb 9:27), and that is why Jesus Christ died—to bear the judgment to take away sins. Young’s UR is obvious here, for it is a foundational belief of UR that death and hell form a “restorative process”; hell is corrective and remedial, not a time of judgment. UR will not allow God to be a God of judgment. The “lie” of this chapter is a lie; no Christian would ever assert this because God is omnipotent. Yet Young’s refutation of it is a lie also. People cannot change their destiny after death, as Jesus reveals in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31).
*Chapter 28: “Sin separates us from God” (Lies, ch. 27). In my final chapter, I take up the important topic of Young’s “lie” regarding both (1) the nature of sin and (2) whether it separates anyone from God. Surprisingly, in his appeal to the Greek word for sin (hamartia), Young defines sin as it relates to people rather than its Biblical focus on God. Young asserts that sin as actions or behavior can never separate anyone from a relationship with God. Thus sin is not “missing the mark”—falling short of the moral perfection of God’s requirement in behavior. Instead sin is “missing a relational reality” (p. 228). Young defines the Greek word for sin as “missing the mark of the Truth of your being” (p. 229), and that truth is that everyone is very good. It is “failure to identify one’s truest self, which is a child of God.” Sin, then, is anything that diminishes the truth of who people already are—that they are children of God.
The Biblical Response is to say, first, that this is a very significant topic. How we understand sin will determine how we understand properly why Jesus Christ died on the cross. He “became sin for us” (2 Cor 5:21). Young is wrong on both counts (as listed above). Sin is both rebellion and transgression against the standard of God’s law—a matter of peoples’ performance; and an evil disposition and condition of human nature—people are depraved and lost. On both counts people are out of fellowship with, and separated from, God. People are not “very good.” Many texts make both of these ideas clear (a few examples: Matt 5:20; Rom 1:16–32; 2:1–16; 3:9–26; 6:23; 2 Cor 5:21). Young’s appeal to the etymology of the Greek word (hamartia) is fallacious. Virtually every Greek dictionary, word study, and commentary defines the word as “missing the mark of God’s perfection,” not missing the mark of human perfection or being, or denying this. Because of his UR, Young puts the focus on humans rather than on God and reaches for definitions that don’t exist. This “lie” is the absolute truth: sin does separate one from God. Because it does, Jesus Christ died to become the satisfaction for the judgment that sin deserved and to be the way back to God (John 14:6).
In the conclusion, I make some observations regarding why Paul Young wrote Lies We Believe about God, the manner in which he has written, and the impact of what he has written. I observe that he totally omits dealing with the hope of all Christians—the second coming of Christ. He also omits mention of the Lord’s Supper and baptism—two ordinances that Jesus Christ commanded his followers to observe. I also raise some sober questions: Can Paul Young repent of his heresy and return to the truth of the Bible? Should Christians pray for Paul Young? How should the evangelical church respond to his writings?
In Appendices, I also discuss how readers may ascertain whether what Young writes in Lies is in line with orthodoxy (which is what Young and Kruger claim) and what the results of this investigation are.** **
APPENDIX 1: Is Paul Young’s Claim to Be Orthodox by the Nicene Creed True?
I cite the Nicene Creed (AD 325) and compare Young’s statements and writings with it. I discover that Young is not orthodox but heterodox (heretical). Young’s claim is false.
APPENDIX 2: Does the Church Father Athanasius Support Universal Reconciliation?
Both Young and Kruger have high praise for Athanasius as the champion of orthodoxy at the Council of Nicea. They claim that they are in agreement with him. On his web site, Kruger posts Athanasius’ work, “The Incarnation of the Word of God.” By studying this writing, I discover that Athanasius is in direct opposition to the writings of Kruger and Young. Athanasius does not support any of the beliefs of universal reconciliation.
APPENDIX 3: Does the Athanasian Creed Support Universal Reconciliation?** **
I cite the Athanasian Creed, that goes back to Athanasius. I discover that this Creed is in direct opposition to Kruger and Young and their statements and writings.
APPENDIX 4: The Many Contradictions of Paul Young as a Universalist.
I take up several of the claims of universalism that Young embraces and show that there are significant contradictions. For example, if everyone is a child of God (Lies, ch. 24) and everyone is already saved (Lies, ch. 13), why argue that people may choose God from hell after they die? How can a child of God go to hell?
APPENDIX 5: Three Final Questions.
I present here three questions with suggested answers: What has led Paul Young to become a universalist? Why do so many follow him? What’s wrong with his being a universalist?