Confusion at the Shack (#574)

We have been grateful to hear from so many people who have been touched by the movie adaptation of The Shack. Even those who didn't want to see the movie, fearful it would ruin their enjoyment of the book, have written to tell us how wrong they were. The movie has already touched so many lives and as Wayne and Brad go over their past few weeks with the movie's release, they also note some of the confusion that has arisen from putting The Shack back in the spotlight and those stories that distort both the content and creation of the book.

Podcast Notes:
Whose Afraid of the Big, Bad Shack, by Wayne
A Collaborative Life - an early podcast with Paul Young about writing The Shack
You can find our latest update on our work in Kenya here.
Add your voice to our question/comment line via Skype at "TheGodJourney"


  1. Thank you so much for sharing that Brad and Wayne! I’m so sorry for all the junk you had to walk through. It breaks my heart!!! But I’m so glad your story isn’t done yet. Also, I really wish your names were on the book as well. Not to diminish Young or for notoriety, but because the number one backlash I run across against the book and the movie is people pointing to what Young proclaims now. It causes many who would otherwise be open to The Shack to back away. I’m constantly having to explain that he wasn’t the only “cook in the kitchen.”

  2. Hey Guys, I know this may seem strange, but what you shared today ironically is sort of a free prologue to The Shack and helped me a little more like the original story.
    The book/movie’s portion of the story where “Pappa” finally got through to Mac she doesn’t hate anyone or love anyone less because we’re all wrecks and that’s why we can trust her love of us, just like our enemies, was the most impactful (and continues to be) for me.
    Here’s the irony, the fact y’all (3 – notice the other irony? There’s literally 3 of you like the trinity) are a wreck for Pappa to once again work with, again shows how though The Shack may have impacted us to rest of Pappa’s love, we must never forget we’ve “arrived,” we too might enjoy tremendous success, only to be squabbling with our friends just a short time later.
    If we’ll so easily (or surprisingly) battle with our friends, how much more than with others?
    And so Pappa’s work continues.

  3. Great to hear the full story. A lot of things make sense now. Brad has also written tons of stuff on his Facebook page that needed to be said.
    Wonderful how you guys are very careful not to say anything that might make Paul look bad, but thank you for sharing the truth.

    The podcast also reveals some of the pain you’ve both had to endure and the price you’ve paid (and are still paying) that The Shack might be a blessing to many.
    Well, the enemy has obviously been busy trying to derail the whole thing. But he has failed.

    Thank you.

    My prayer is for accurate translations (carrying the meaning and anointing of the English) into the mandarin Chinese, and Hindi, etc so that the story can continue to do its quiet work.

  4. Thanks so much for clarifying what you both are walking through. Wow. Somehow, we are asking God to see you both through this so that He is honored. Bruce and Janet.

  5. Wow. Never knew all this about The Shack and I think I’m even more confused. When I read it several years ago, Paul was listed as the author and his was the only name that I associated with the book. After starting to follow this podcast, I learned that you and Brad were involved with the book, but it’s never been very clear to me what your roles were. It sounds like there was an original manuscript that Paul wrote that was meant for his children. Then you were given a copy of it to make into a book and then eventually a movie? And now it sounds like Paul is going in a different direction with what the book was meant to communicate? It all is rather confusing to me. Is there anyway to write a prologue to the book that explains the change in direction from the original concept or that clarifies what your intent was when you got involved? I’m sure the views of Paul is what contributes to so much of the push back from some Christians. So much so, that it overshadows your intended message for those unwilling to hear and know another side.

    Given this experience, would you enter into a similar arrangement in the future? I guess in one way, there’s no guaranteeing that when we collaborate on something with someone that their views won’t change. I guess one can only hope that if a person’s views change that they would just walk away from the project versus trying to change the message of what was originally agreed upon.

    • No, Pat, I would not without a handwriting-on-the-wall direct sign from God that he wanted me to do this. I have had two experiences re-writing someone else’s material and both came to regret it. They seemed effusively grateful at the time, but then either didn’t believe what we had written or were incapable of actually trying to live it. I don’t have any problem with people growing on differently than me, we all have unique journeys as Father grows us up. I do have a problem, however, with being disingenuous with the process and to claim that the work we did together speaks to a conclusion we don’t share.

      I can’t tell you the number of people that have approached me about rewriting their work after THE SHACK climbed the best-selling charts. I have refused them all. If I like a manuscript I’ll give someone advice about how they might improve the book, but I won’t write for them any more.

      That said, I have done and will continue to do other collaborative projects with people I’ve known for a significant amount of time and trust their character to be true to the process, because collaborations are awesome!

      This process has been filled with more pain than I can describe to you, and not from the notoriety side at all. To be inside what I considered to be a great friendship then to be tossed aside like garbage when they took all they wanted from me, left me with an incredible sense of loss. But I know Jesus has suffered similar and far worse. I have found my peace and comfort in him, but I do want a clear line in people’s minds between what Paul espouses and what I believe to be Truth.

  6. For those who weren’t aware of the collaboration, here’s what Paul wrote about it in the original hardback version of THE SHACK:

    “Brad and Wayne would become two treasured friends who would help craft this story into something remarkable and special. For the next sixteen months, together we wrote and rewrote chapters of The Shack, dropping about forty percent of the dialogue, augmenting the story line, and recrafting the conversations to eliminate questionable theology or potential misunderstands. The collaborative process, the merging of three hearts and voices, proved to be an incredible experience for each of us. Openness to one another, the passion for a better book, and the refusal to protect our own ideas allowed a freedom of creativity not otherwise possible. Our work rose out of our growing friendship and our friendship out of working together.

    “… Beyond the force of the collaborative friendship was the understanding that we are only members of the orchestra, and none of us is the conductor… We are all agreed about who this book and the surrounding relationships are really about, and frankly we are simply not smart enough to do this any other way but in helpless dependence. So what has emerged is not only a story that is becoming a gift to the world, but a process that reflects that gift emerging from the love of friends who are in the same family.”

    Sadly, after our legal agreement and in direct defiance of it, Hachette removed that appendix in subsequent copies of the book as Paul has wanted to diminish our contributions and proclaim him the sole author of THE SHACK.

  7. Robin,,, you hit the nail on the head ! I believe the enemy is busier now in these last of the last days than any other time in history,,, and will not rest if he thinks there’s any chance of successfully sowing discord or confusion in any way possible, and those who are pushing their own agenda, are blinded to Papas real heart, will continue to see only what they want to see UNTIL Papa, in His UN-limited ways, reaches their hearts. “The Shack” I believe is one of my TOP 2-3 most favorite books,,, I’ve read it 6 times and listened to it read via audio twice and,,,,,,,, well,,,, the way it has spoken to the very very core of my heart, the “MESSAGE” that it carries,,,,, I’m unable to,,,? I’ll just stop, and let Papa take over because He knows ssooo well,,,,,
    Folks, we are GUARANTEED trouble on this spinning ball of dirt, and there’s no possibility of mankind fixing it,,, but we can overcome our troubles individually with Papa’s help, and experience that Joy unspeakable in the personal relationship that only Papa offers,,,!!! And beware, there are a lot of other “papas” out there clamoring to be number 1, wanting to be followed so badly,,, one of their downfalls is that they speak in tones that push their point a little to much,,,, I’m so thankful that Papa only speaks the Truth, and in His UN-limited way and knowledge of each heart, He can do His wondrous work !!!
    I believe Papa has blessed you boys,,, men,,, Brothers,,, immeasurably through your faithfulness, and there’s no doubt in my heart or mind that Papa, Sarayu and Jesus had EVERYTHING,,, to do with all of this,,, and “THEY WILL WIN” !!!

  8. Well, that felt a bit uncomfortable hearing my comment from the Lifestream site being quoted. I guess it provided the impetus to set the the story straight. But I felt a bit embarrassed.

    I really desire truth, and I really do not like being lied to which essentially is what appears to have happened in listening to broadcasts about or from Mr. Young. Especially when I end up quoting in a forum what I think is truth. Hoodwinked is a term that comes to mind. And I really do not like that feeling.

    Of course, we should not be surprised. We humans tend to mess things up on a consistent and predictable basis. But it still hurts to see it happen, especially around something that has brought hope and healing to so many.

    Ultimately, we have to return to the fact that Jesus is the only human we can indeed trust to be truthful and righteous. Everyone else falls short. I am reminded by the Lord regularly: “That’s why I died for you. Cause you need saving from yourself – all the time!” And its true, his grace and love towards us is the only factor in the equation of eternal life. I am learning to embrace it more fully – fully recognizing my desperate need for it.

    I can feel the pain in this podcast, and in a small way I can relate, because there is also a sense of betrayal for me having been a “fan” of The Shack and encouraging others to read it. While the message is still great in this book, the author’s misdirection of the facts and apparent return to universalism now makes this book a bit “dangerous”(?) to recommend. (“Author” as per what is published on the cover of the book :-/ )

    It makes me sad.

  9. I’m thinking I’m going to have to re-read Baxter Kruger’s book, The Shack Revisited. Baxter’s main emphasis is on the Trinity and on grace. I don’t recall any universalism, hopeful or not.

  10. To those of you who don’t know Wayne well, I can testify to the fact that no one could have worked harder to resolve the legal conflict created by Paul. He was willing to be cheated if that what it took but had other contractual obligations to third parties. Wayne made a number of attempts to meet with Paul to talk things through outside of a legal context, but was refused. In conversations I had with Wayne during that painful ordeal, he said that he would rather give it all up than subject this gift to legal battles. In the years I’ve known Wayne, money or notoriety have never held a candle to the value he places on relationship and integrity.

  11. Wayne etal. We finally saw the movie last night. All of our friends have loved it as we did. I have read some of the criticisms about the book and could not find any justification for their negative comments. Not one example to support their claims. I pray that this movie continues the impact the book has caused and reaches many for salvation. The true nature of God is revealed for all to see. Thank you for persevering to see this result.

  12. Hi John. Sorry if using your comment made you uncomfortable. We figure blog posts are public already so using them on the podcast is not a problem. Honestly, we are sad too, but that doesn’t keep us from celebrating the story we helped write. I think it is still a great gift to unpack God for a hurting heart. We just have to separate the work from what the humans around it do in its aftermath… I hope we can.

    • Hi Wayne.

      The posting of the comment did not make feel as uncomfortable as my speaking something that was not completely true in the original comments and then to find out I was off base. I hate being wrong… :-0

      I will get over it…. 🙂

      In that the message of the book is speaking to so many people, and people’s walk with God are being encouraged through the book … I will celebrate that with you !!

      • Don’t worry, John you aren’t the only one that has been misinformed. That’s been a huge part of the problem here. Glad you gave us the chance to clear it up for you and many, many others. I hate being wrong too, but I’m getting used to it! 🙂

  13. Hi Wayne,
    Before all the attack on the Shack came, you were on my mind to prayer for much and now I know why for encouragement during this time. I have not read the book simply because when someone told me the part of his daughter being taken I didn’t think I could stomach reading it as BUT my brother and my dad were tremendously blessed by the book and now my mom had gone to see the movie and says it’s a “must see”. I plan to see the movie with my hubs soon but wanted to drop a line of encouragement to you that the book and movie touched my family and my mother plans to see it again:). I am SO thankful for you…your blog and life have been instrumental to my family. Blessings,

  14. Wayne and Brad:

    I have a paperback copy of the Shack I received back in 2007 from my friend Cherie. I looked in the back in the acknowledgments by Paul Young and this is what I read .

    ” I brought a stone to three friends. It was a chunk of a boulder that I had carved out of the caves of my experience. These three, Wayne Jacobsen, Brad Cummings, and Bobby Downes, with great and careful kindness helped me chip away at that rock until we were able to see a wonder below its face.

    Wayne was the first to see this story and went out of his way to encourage me to have it published. His enthusiasm brought in others to refine the story and to prepare it to share with a wider audience, both in print and we hope in film. He and Brad bore the lion’s share of work in the three major rewrites that brought this story to its final form, adding their insights into the ways in which God works and keeping the story true to Mack’s pain and his healing. These two brought energy, creativity and skill to the writing, and the quality of work that you now hold in your hands is due in large measure to their gifts and sacrifice… ”

    People know who really made this happen. It is there. Maybe he changed his mind later or has taken a different journey away from what you did, but he knows and he will remember . And you know, more than most of us, that there is brokenness that has contributed to this.

    Thank you for sharing the painful part of this journey with us. I am grieved that all of you had to go through this. I am grieved for Paul for the rabbit trail he was taken down. Celebrity is never a kind companion. We bloom and blossom in the shadows with the people God gives us to love. When we step out into the stage… we loose sight of the people and only see the cameras and the brilliant lights focused on us. How sad is that.

    You are right. It’s only a chapter or two.. not the whole book. There is more to be written and I hope you get to see the healing you are looking for.

    Ruby from Alberta, Canada

  15. Reminds me of the conflict within the Eagles, to the extent that someone chooses to follow an agenda rather than love from the heart. Journey experienced the same ordeal with Steve Perry; and those bridges were severely burned. He has said he would not repeat the same selfish choices; at the expense of not following his own heart, he’s learned to follow it. Self promotion comes from a deeply seated insecurity; one which forces others to validate you by your own standards. This is never complete, it just keeps consuming like a fire doesn’t it. It appears Paul was willing to do what it took to get the story published, offering feigned lip service instead of agreeing from the heart. If honesty would have been yielded to all parties would have walked away with an unwritten story; but that isn’t really the STORY is it? In spite of the pain, Papa has done a work the world over. Some have grown, some have stayed on the shore of making merchandise of men, and Papa loves them all. I never felt I wanted to read the book; and when I heard of the tumult some 6 years ago, I simply said, “Well, of course he did.” Was no surprise, since we have all done it to varying degrees. Felt drawn to the movie, and though some Hollywood polish flows within it, the heart is what matters; it has heart. And if someone is listening they will hear Father’s within… Here’s to hoping Paul will come and walk on the water and leave the forlorn shore. Brad and Wayne have grown in wisdom through the course. We won’t all agree on a lot of things but this doesn’t mean our hearts cannot be in agreement.

    • Mitchell, it seems to be expected in Rock music that there is conflict and damaged relationships as a result. That is what the ‘art’ is based on. Not so much when it comes to, for lack of a better term, Christian publishing. That is why the Shack is perceived as so controversial. If released as a rock music record, it would probably come off as pretty tame. Again, I wouldn’t go to the Eagles or Steve Perry to base my life’s decisions, but there are people that may go to the Shack for more than just entertainment value.

  16. Let’s be very careful in our commenting and even personal responses to this podcast to impose our assumption of the motives of other people, when we cannot possibly know them. Let’s be generous in spirit to all even as we seek to sort out the truth that sets everyone free!

  17. I’m seeing it a little like Lila from above. If I understand it correctly (and perhaps I don’t), I thought Paul was promoting the universality of the cross and not Universalism. By that I mean that what Christ (God in Christ) did on the cross was DONE and finished and that He did it for ALL. He reconciled the world to himself, but not everyone will choose to be reconciled to Him. If there is no individual response to His love then a person will not live in the reality of it or see the benefit from it. I think? Paul is promoting God’s good intention for ALL, God’s hope that ALL will come to Him. Am I misunderstanding? Is the fact that Paul claims to think that God will pursue us even after the death of the body what is meant by Universalism? I have listened to him a good bit and I don’t believe I’ve heard him say that EVERYONE will ultimately be reconciled. But perhaps I am wrong? And perhaps something new has come out where he has stated this?
    Wayne and Brad, we love you! (And Paul) I’m so thankful that you did this podcast and shared more about it. I just want to understand and the secrecy around it has been an ache in my chest especially in light of the reconciliation and healing in the story itself. But I so appreciate the fact that you didn’t want the story to suffer nor your friend Paul by being blatantly open about it early on. That helps me somehow because I know you to be so open and real and that helps me to trust. Thank you for all you do and for allowing us in on the journey with you. You are my brothers in Christ.

  18. I was observing how on some level I was liking getting “more and more information” about the behind the scenes events surrounding this movie and book. Why was I enjoying the banter?

    Then I was nudged into thinking how Jesus said nothing before his accusers. He certainly could have spoke the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. He paid a great price, but remained silent, even unto death!

    May God heal everyone’s hurts and pains. Be still and know that he is God.

  19. Hi Wayne and Brad. Wayne, you and I met 4 or 5 years ago when you were in NC to visit with a home group I had been attending in Winston-Salem. I also enjoy a period of email/blog dialog with you over the course of a few months as well. I have continued to enjoy visiting the podcasts and hearing of you and Brads adventures with the movie and around the globe. What first brought me to the Lifestream site and to these podcasts was having read The Shack. I was coming out of a very destructive, controlling and manipulative experience in a Pentecostal Assemblies of God church and The Shack was the breath of fresh air that began to give credence to many concepts and feelings about the true God that I had been having and that ran counter to the fundamental “Inerrant” theology I had been subjected to. One of those breaths of fresh air came from the conversation in The Shack between Mack is questioning the possibility for salvation of anyone who is non-Christian and Jesus points out that He is not a Christian and goes on to say that he will go down any path to find you! This hints of universal salvation, but it was an amazing eye opener for me and it was the first time I felt I had been given permission to consider the possibility that all Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. were not hopelessly condemned to Hell. It also allowed me to consider that Jesus may present Himself in the lives of people in these religions but they may not necessarily know he is Jesus.

    I bring this up because I honestly believe these are truths about God and how he endears us to him, regardless of our religion or our denomination or the lack of either. In today’s podcast, I hope you are not suggesting these truths are heretical. Also, I am planning to see The Shack movie this afternoon and I am anxious to see if these sections I discussed above from the book were left in the movie.

    Thanks – and God Bless!

  20. Hi Cliff. We wrote that section very carefully because we didn’t want it to be about universal salvation. It’s really about universal opportunity and the unrelenting passion of Jesus to find us wherever we get lost in the darkness. It does not suggest that all religions are another way of finding God, but that Jesus can find us wherever we may have wondered. Yes, Jesus can be present in people’s lives who are responding to him, even if they don’t know what to call him yet. I don’t think he minds. But that is still salvation through Jesus, not universalism.

  21. Seems that people have a problem with a woman character as papa. Mac could not handle the “father” type because he was beaten by his earthly father. So the character needed to be Gods “woman heart”. Mac could trust the “woman heart” of God because he loved his earthly mother and did not trust his earthly father. Once Mac came to realization of wisdom, he then needed Gods “father heart”. Then the forgiveness came and the restoration. Gods love at work through process. Its clear as a bell to me.

  22. Wayne and Brad – well done. Having been in the bleachers the past 20 years I’ve been able to watch the lives behind the story. I read Lifestream before there was a God Journey

    I listened intently. I had been snookered before. The promise of following Christ with the risks involved only to be disappointed as man tried to manipulate for his own ends

    But I’ve watched you both. I’ve listened. I’ve had you in my house multiple times

    And I’ve become convinced that for good or bad you will seek to follow Christ in truth to your convictions. What you see is what you get

    This doesn’t make you right or true. It does make you authentic

    And as for me you have steered me to greater faith and trust in God. And I’m convinced if his live and goodness

    I’m sorry the friendship amongst you has fractured. I understand how it feels not to be able to control the outcomes

    But thank you for staying true to what you believe and said

    I’m pulling for you both. I want to see somebody live out their faith during my lifetime

    Take care

  23. Thanks for sharing this information in a manner that is kind to the brother with whom you are in conflict. I have no words to express my sadness for the pain you have experienced, especially the loss of a friendship. You both are in my prayers.

  24. Hi again! Thanks for responding to my comments above, Wayne.
    I did see the movie yesterday. OH MY GOODNESSS, what a remarkable experience! I cried through the whole thing! I cried at the beginning knowing what was coming, I cried in the middle because of what WAS happening, I cried at the end because of the beautiful healing message! Well done guys!
    I am impressed with how consistent the movie is with the original story line of the book. Going in, I was sceptical of Spencer personifying Papa in a way that would not fall short of that character as created by my mind’s eye when I read the book. WOW, was I pleasantly surprised! Her script seemed to want more depth, as many of Papa’s words in the book carried the most poignant moments for me personally, but Spencer delivered amazingly in character. I kept wanting more from her script, but then the movie would have been four hours long.
    Anyway, thank you Brad for giving so much of your life to this work (hope to meet you some day), thank you Wayne for your devotion and your indelible contributions both to the movie and to the book, and and thanks to Paul for his original manuscript and for following Papa’s nudging to seek out the assistance and expertise that created this masterpiece. You have all once again amplified and intensified my God Journey in an exquisite and beautiful way! Personally, I am eternally greatful to you all and I am convinced that Papa is undoubtedly especially fond of your work!

    God Bless,

  25. Haven’t read through all the comments but thank you for this podcast. Had downloaded on Audible Lies We Believe About God last week, and was asking Father if universal reconciliation was true. Have been trying to wrap my brain around it and this morning decided to listen to your podcast on line. All weekend, I’ve thought about things ya’ll said about trusting Father to guide me and as always He has.

  26. I was probably more the exception than the rule that I found you guys, Wayne and Brad, before I found out your involvement with ‘The Shack’. In fact, my first involvement with ‘The Shack’ was the recent movie premiere…I had not read the book beforehand. I became aware of the back story through God Journey podcasts and it did not change my perception of you, Wayne and Brad, one iota. I would never go to a work of fiction to gain a theology, just as I would not go to a work of theology to be entertained. If Mr. Young decides he is going to base his life’s calling as he is with subsequent works based on false theology, it would be wise of him not to sully your reputations in the process, even knowing how painful it may be to minimize your contributions on ‘The Shack’, although in the movie credits both your names are represented prominently. And it is not like you haven’t reaped any benefits on the collaboration. The truth will mete itself out in the end…thankfully I don’t have to play judge and jury, that is God’s deal.


  27. @ the God Journey, @ron

    Thanks for the reply.
    The reference reverts back to relationships and love. When someone acts out of insecurity, rather than love that’s where it always unravels. When someone seeks self above the collaboration it always goes sideways. Insecurity is always based on fear, not love. In those times, someone has decided to act the judge over good vs evil, as is our fallen nature – one short of love. This all reminded me of the recording artists of reference, but was not done to compare. We are all the same when we choose to not love. In the case of writing credit, one person was seeking self concerning the Shack, as fruit never falls far from the tree. My experience, someone’s heart wasn’t where they led others to believe it to be. But that doesn’t need another to judge it or imply motivation. The motive to not love is always self, even if only temporary. This is fruit we can all see. And none of that matters when we know the God who works all things for good concerning his transformation of hearts into his image; it isn’t about callng one good and the other evil. All items, life lessons, songs, creations, films, art, wisdom, poems, persons, memory, places, times,
    illustrations, methaphors, etc. become tangible elements of God speaking to us by any means necessary at the personal level. He comes to us. The artists previously mentioned have been placed upon my heart (for decades).
    I have learned and been encouraged greatly, if only by simple observation, as to the work God has done in their hearts.
    When I found out what had happened those many years ago with the Shack book, it was of no surprise, because all flesh is the same, fleshy. But God is still God…

  28. All I can say is, it’s a very good and delightful book. I haven’t read in a long time, and to pick this up and read was a treat. I can’t believe ppl, some of the comments I read were very disturbing. You guys did a wonderful job!!!

  29. I can appreciate your comments and hurt about this. You guys might remember me as helping to run the Shack forum back in the early days. I’m sure there is a lot of truth that there is a lot of pressure on Paul to be the celebrity in this all. Sinatra once said that “Something” was his favorite Lennon/McCartney song even though Harrison wrote it. Everyone remembers Kurt Cobain, but who even knows the bass player of Nirvana? Our world loves to push the one person who is the spokesman and celebrity.

    In fairness, I have heard a few interviews with Paul (even in the last year) where he mentions you guys working on the book with him. He seemed to speak favorably of you, even though I recall those earlier podcasts where you guys talk about collaboration and no contracts. So it does seem that you are mentioned less in his interviews… but not totally left out.

    But I also think that what Paul teaches isn’t as strong as what you guys might have implied. I have to admit that you knew him better than I have. I never saw the original manuscript (I would love to), and haven’t spent the time alone with him that you both have. I think Paul has always liked “stirring the pot” to get people to think about things. Maybe he could say things in better ways, but he seems to enjoy getting people to think. And sometimes I think he deliberately says things in a way to “stir the hornet’s nest.”

    I have seen no interviews with him, nor any of his writings, to suggest “everyone is saved” (and I think I’ve watched nearly a hundred of them by now). I would say he has expressed himself more as a “hopeful universalist” but he always seems to go back to the fact that man has the ability to say “no”. His hope is more that man would not say “no” when face-to-face with the love of God.

    I think when he uses the term “universal salvation” (as he does in his Lies book) he is making more an argument that Jesus’ death included all of man (instead of a Reformed argument that it was only for a “few”). In other words, sin has been dealt with for all of mankind. Reconciliation has been established by God, but man must still choose it. In a way, his argument is more Reformed than at any time, but he doesn’t take the end result to where Piper does. So to me, he is simply stating that “we’ve all been included”. That is, God was in Christ reconciling the WORLD. But that doesn’t mean we have no part to play in it. If we believe God is omnipresent, then there is nowhere He is not, including hell. So even if a man rejects God, he does so in the middle of the Trinity. In the Greek Orthodox tradition, hell and heaven are the same thing … God. To a person who loves God, to be in the presence of God is heaven, but to a person who despises God that same love would be hell. Whether or not we agree with that, it is an interesting perspective.

    Now, perhaps Paul is really a full-blown universalist, and not a hopeful one? But I think his words are taken out of context to imply that. And again, in fairness, perhaps he really is and he just deliberately massages his words to never come out and say that. But I’ve seen a lot of interviews with him where he says he is hopeful of it, but can’t get beyond the idea that man must choose … that relationship takes the choice of TWO people.

    Given that, I think we should reject a notion of universalism as heresy which says “any path to God works” or “everyone is saved whether they choose it or not” … I guess a pluralistic universalism. But there is a growing group that believes in the Nicene Creed, believe that Jesus is the only way to the Father, but happen to also believe God will always pursue man. Some even believe in some idea of hell and punishment. And it is sad to me that these people are condemned in the church as heretics, all the while the craziest ideas about “antichrist” are presented as “orthodox”.

    Even Zondervan (major Christian publisher) has included a Christian universalist perspective in the 2nd edition to “Four Views on Hell” by Robin Parry. It may not be popular … it may not be considered “orthodox” (even though Augustine felt too many held to this view in his day, and fathers like Origen and Gregory seemed to lean that way) … but it is disheartening to see Christians labeled as heretics for simply believing that God’s love wins in the end, people who believe that Jesus is the only way …

    I don’t honestly know where I land on this. I don’t believe that God delights in punishing. Like the book of Judges, I think a true Biblical judge is one who sets things right. But I also believe that God must do something with the injustice in this world in setting things right. At the same time, I believe that sins are dealt with and forgiveness is given (otherwise Jesus would have to die again according to Hebrews … Jesus sat down because it is done). We are alienated to God by our choice, our sin. But all that is needed is for the dependent creature to give up his delusion of independence and embrace the God of love who has already embraced him. I think this is all Paul is saying, just maybe using certain phrases that aren’t the best way of saying it.

    I hope and pray as Wayne said … that this is the middle of the chapter, not the end of the story. Like I said, I’m not wanting to argue for Paul. I don’t really know him. Not like you guys do. But at least with the “public” record of books and interviews, I just don’t see he is pushing universalism. I don’t see it in the Shack, and I don’t see it in what he teaches (but I’m sure he could choose his wordings better to avoid this).

    I hope in fairness that the original story behind the Shack is restored because it is only right to give you guys credit for your involvement. I was upset when Malcolm Smith was left out of this originally and glad when he was finally included (as some parts in the book were directly taken from some of Malcolm’s sermons).

    Blessings on your journey, and prayers toward the healing for you three …

  30. Brandon, thanks for sharing your perspective and your hopes. We all hope for a better end to this story…

  31. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but my wife read it to me several years ago as we drove about 800 miles one day. It was a compelling story.

    I did see hints of “universalism/ultimate reconciliation” which bothered me not at all. More importantly, I saw a very accessible treatise of Nicaean Trinitarian theology which presented a beautiful picture of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    Relative to universalism/ultimate reconciliation I sense that you (Wayne and Brad) have significant objections which seem to revolve around the issue of “choice”. I understand that, but if the power of human choice is positioned as of supreme importance then our choices, or lack thereof, become the sovereign trump card in our relating to God/Ultimate Reality/the Ground of All Being. Our choices in life certainly matter to us and those around us. However, in the grand scheme of things (whatever that actually is) it is difficult for me to see “choice” as the end-all-be-all, despite the assertions of American Frontier Revivalism and its grandchild known as American Evangelicalism.

    People often think that “universalism” began sometime in the 1800’s, perhaps with George MacDonald. Not true.
    According to the work done by well respected Patriarchal Scholar Ilaria Ramelli, support of “Universalism” was VERY PREVALENT in the early church, of course it wasn’t called “Universalism”, the doctrine was called: “Apokatastasis”:

    4/6 churches taught this outcome that we have the earliest records of…even if you deny the first couple, the rest can be argued persuasively from their own writings or others to support the eventual salvation of all.
    Of particular merit note the following:

    1. The amount of native GREEK speaking teachers of this list is overwhelming.
    2. [354-430] St. Augustine (early, anti-Manichean phase) used the same argument ORIGEN, a Universalist of renown did against pagans before he renounced the view and championed eternal torment.
    3. [c. 296-373] Athanasius of Alexandria] AND [330-390] Gregory of Nyssa – Were the Fathers of, and prime EDITOR of the Nicene Creed!
    4. – [c. 260-340] Eusebius – Early condemner of many early Christian heresies, yet Universalism was never one among them.

    “Supporters of apokatastasis in roughly chronological order:
    – [c. 30-105] Apostle Paul and various NT authors
    – [c. 80-150] Scattered likely references among Apostolic Fathers
    o Ignatius
    o Justin Martyr
    o Tatian
    o Theophilus of Antioch (explicit references)
    – [130-202] Irenaeus
    – [c. 150-200] Pantaenus of Alexandria
    – [150-215] Clement of Alexandria
    – [154-222] Bardaisan of Edessa
    – [c. 184-253] Origen (including The Dialogue of Adamantius)
    – [? 265] Dionysius of Alexandria
    – [265-280] Theognustus
    – [c. 250-300] Hieracas
    – [? c. 309] Pierius
    – [? c. 309] St Pamphilus Martyr
    – [? c. 311] Methodius of Olympus
    – [251-306] St. Anthony
    – [c. 260-340] Eusebius
    – [c. 270-340] St. Macrina the Elder
    – [conv. 355] Gaius Marius Victorinus (converted at very old age)
    – [300-368] Hilary of Poitiers
    – [c. 296-373] Athanasius of Alexandria
    – [? c. 374] Marcellus of Ancrya
    – [?378] Titus of Basra/Bostra
    – [c. 329-379] Basil the Cappadocian
    – [327-379] St. Macrina the Younger
    – [?387] Cyril of Jerusalem (possibly)
    – [c. 300-388] Paulinus, bishop of Tyre and then Antioch
    – [c. 329-390] Gregory Nazianzen
    – [? c. 390] Apollinaris of Laodicaea
    – [? c. 390] Diodore of Tarsus
    – [330-390] Gregory of Nyssa
    – [c. 310/13-395/8] Didymus the Blind of Alexandria
    – [333-397] Ambrose of Milan
    – [345-399] Evagrius Ponticus
    – [?407] Theotimus of Scythia
    – [350-428] Theodore of Mopsuestia
    – [c. 360-400] Rufinus
    – [350-410] Asterius of Amaseia
    – [347-420] St. Jerome (later recanted on it)
    – [354-430] St. Augustine (early, anti-Manichean phase)
    – [363-430] Palladius
    – [360-435] John Cassian
    – [373-414] Synesius of Cyrene
    – [376-444] Cyril of Alexandria
    – [500s] John of Caesarea
    – [?520] Aeneas of Gaza
    – [?523] Philoxenus of Mabbug
    – [475-525] Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite
    – [?543] Stephen Bar Sudhaili
    – [580-662] St. Maximus the Confessor
    – [? c. 700] St. Isaac of Nineveh
    – [c. 620-705] Anastasius of Sinai
    – [c. 690-780] St. John of Dalyatha
    – [710/13-c. 780] Joseph Hazzaya
    – [813-903] Moses Bar Kepha
    – [815-877] Johannes Scotus Eriugena”

    (BTW, I have an earlier comment that appears to be in moderation. Something wrong?)


  32. Hi Tom. No the problem Brad and I have with universalism is not “choice” the lack of evidence for it Scripturally as people talk of it today. And, the lack of passion for integrity, righteousness and justice that universalists have toward others here. Free will has consequences seemingly both in this life and the age to come.

    And, I’m sorry but there are no comments from you in moderation..

  33. Thanks for the clarification Wayne.

    In the context of the podcast I can understand why you are skeptical about “universalist”.


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