Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington

“It’s just fiction,” they said.

“It was never intended to be a theology textbook,” they said.

“It will show people that God is love,” they said.

New LiesIn the seven years I’ve been blogging, I’ve never written a rebuttal post. I write what I believe I’ve been called to write and then move on to another topic.

Until today.

Last week, I wrote a blog post expressing concerns about the unbiblical theology undergirding The Shack. I noted that both fiction and non-fiction can influence us toward a biblical view of God or away from it.

Of course, fiction can espouse any theology the author wants. Or no theology at all. However, fiction marketed as Christian has an obligation to uphold a biblical worldview. If not, please don’t call it Christian.

Some readers felt that I (and others who raised concerns) overreacted. And that my response demonstrated a lack of love. Surely such a story was a blessing as it addressed the pain of suffering and drew people to a loving God. A few theological discrepancies weren’t that much of a problem, were they? Besides, the movie didn’t include some of the unbiblical statements found in the book, so that makes it okay, right?

The problem is that The Shack did not draw people to a loving God. It draws people to a loving god. And no, the small letter “g” is not a typo.

New Lies

For those who believe accurate theology in fiction is not important, here’s a newsflash. This week, the author of The Shack released a non-fiction book titled Lies We Believe About God. Yes. Non-fiction. In this book, which is already a bestseller in its first days of release, William Paul Young explains his theology—the same theology that framed his novel.

What are these “lies”? He lists twenty-eight. They include:

  • God is in control.
  • Hell is separation from God.
  • Sin separates us from God.

Yes, he identifies these statements as lies. Yet here are just a few of many Bible verses that refute these supposed lies:

  • “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?” (Lamentations 3:37 ESV).
  • “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (II Thessalonians 1:9 ESV).
  • “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Revelation 22:15 ESV).

To be fair, just as truth was mixed with error in The Shack, so is truth mixed with error in Lies We Believe About God. Some of the lies in this new book are, indeed, lies that should be exposed, such as the lie that “Death is more powerful than God.” But will readers be familiar enough with Scripture to separate fact from fiction in this non-fiction book that is supposedly Christian?

As someone once said, the easiest lie to believe is one mixed with a grain of truth.

Would you Eat This?

I’m reminded of the following story.

Two teens asked their father if they could go see a movie all their friends had seen. He read the reviews and denied their request.

“Why not?” they protested. “It’s rated PG-13—we’re both older than thirteen!”

Dad replied, “Because it portrays immorality, something God hates, as being normal and acceptable behavior.”

“But our friends told us those scenes are just a few minutes of the total film. It’s based on a true story and good triumphs over evil.”

“My answer is no, and that’s final.”

The boys sulked on the couch. But then they heard sounds of their father in the kitchen and recognized the aroma of brownies baking. Soon their father appeared with a plate of warm brownies.

“Before you eat, I want to tell you I love you very much. That’s why I made these brownies from scratch with the best ingredients, like organic flour and free-range eggs.”

The brownies looked mouth-watering.

“But I must be honest with you. I added one ingredient that’s not usually found in brownies. The ingredient came from our own back yard. But don’t worry, because it’s organic. The amount is practically insignificant. Take a bite and let me know what you think.”

“Dad, what’s the mystery ingredient?”

“The secret ingredient is organic…dog poop.”

“Dad! We can’t eat these!”

“Why not? The amount of dog poop is very small compared to the rest of the ingredients. It won’t hurt you. You won’t even taste it. Go ahead and eat!”

“Never!”

“That’s the same reason I won’t allow you to watch that movie. You won’t tolerate a little dog poop in your brownies, so why should you tolerate a little immorality in your movies? We pray God will not lead us into temptation, so how can we in good conscience entertain ourselves with something that will imprint a sinful image in our minds and will lead us into temptation long after we see it?”

The theology of supposedly Christian books such as The Shack and Lies We Believe About God may not be immoral in the sense of the above story. But these books are as bad or worse. They mix truth with error as they mishandle the very nature of God under the guise of being Christian.

In the name of tolerance, are warnings such as this unloving? Legalistic? On the contrary. The most loving thing we can do is alert people to the danger of demeaning the nature of our holy, transcendent – and yes, loving – God.

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17 Comments

  1. Bonnie Dorsey

    Ava, this is so on the mark. Never thought of what “a little” immorality can influence us. Thank you for being so honest and backing up with scripture.

  2. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Bonnie.

  3. Ellen Frogner

    I have been hesitant to comment when friends say they are going to see The Shack. I read the book, only so that I was able to intelligently refute it. There are so many levels of wrong! I have not read the “non-fiction” book yet, but from what I see here, it is just as misleading and the path it leads is straight to hell for those who choose to believe what he says. If God is not in control then He’s not God, he’s a “god.” Thank you for your very clear warning. I had these same issues with Harry Potter when my children were growing up. Fiction is great as long as you don’t get confused and think it’s real. Greek mythology is fascinating as long as you recognize it as myth. God, capital G, is very real, and so is Satan, who lurks to confuse with “stories” like this.

  4. Jana

    Fiction “Christian” entertainment does influence many people’s perception of our God. I will be sharing the brownie story with my grandchildren. What a great illustration !

  5. Nancy Tufte

    SO RIGHT ON THE MARK!!!! When people say- it’s only a little, I always respond with- How much poop would you like in your brownies. lol
    After reading The Shack i was surprised to see it in Christian book stores and to see my Christian friends raving about it.
    One thing I have noticed about peoples comments online is this- When they think with their hearts they love the film. However, when they think with their heads the remarks are the opposite.
    The Bible warms us about thinking with our hearts.

  6. Ava Pennington

    Yes, Nancy – that’s a good way to describe it – what guides our thinking?

  7. Sue

    Ava, thank you for allowing the Holy Spirit to guide you as you write about this subject and for having the boldness to speak truth in love. As I have had a “check” in my spirit since I read the book many years ago, you have helped me to take a stand as well. I sent my GL the link to your first blog and she forwarded it to Ginger who then took a strong, biblical stance against the book and movie in her lecture. Thank you and I love you my dear and faithful friend!!!

  8. Kimberly Moore

    I liked your first article about The Shack and I like this article even better. I have not read the book but my husband and others loved it. I was planning to see the movie, but now I probably won’t. Thank you!

  9. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Sue. <3

  10. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Kimberly.

  11. Shannan

    Ava! Thank you! You can’t believe what perfect timing this was for me to read today as I posted we can not be fooled by its fallacies! ox

  12. Anita

    Ava, I so agree with everything you wrote. Someone once said this , when we pray and ask for discernment pray like this …
    Lord, help me to discern between what is right and what is almost right.

  13. Ava Pennington

    “Lord, help me to discern between what is right and what is almost right.” – Anita, I love that…and will remember it for future use!

  14. Bonnie Delker

    Thank you for writing and posting this. This reminds me of “wolfe in sheep’s clothing”. We need to be informed and discerning. That’s not being judgmental, it’s being wise! Thanks again for sharing your heart.

  15. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Bonnie.

  16. Gale Tate

    again thank you Ava,I was just talking to a friend about the shack & how I don’t want to see the movie. I will share this & your other post with her to help her understand better what I was trying to say. God Bless You.

  17. Heather Humphries

    Spot on! You nailed it. Thank you for speaking out against the heresy.

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