I wonder you should ask me whether it is essential to keep the patient in ignorance of your own existence. That question, at least for the present phase of the struggle, has been answered for us by the High Command. Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves.1 – C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
The Shack’s author, William P. Young, quotes C.S. Lewis favorably and frequently in his books, but The Screwtape Letters by Lewis is not one of the books from which he has quoted. I bring up Lewis, not as an endorsement, but to point out a discrepancy. The Screwtape Letters is a novel that presents some of the many ways Christians can be effectively seduced and deceived by Satan and his demons—a subject that is completely ignored in The Shack and in Young’s other books. The discrepancy is that Young chooses quotes from authors like Lewis to serve his own personal and theological agenda while conveniently ignoring writings by the same author that actually contradict his agenda. The Screwtape Letters is a perfect example.
The Screwtape Letters consist of a series of letters sent by a senior seducing spirit named Screwtape to his young understudy Wormwood. In the letters, Screwtape teaches Wormwood how to subtly undermine and eventually destroy the faith of his Christian “patient.” In the quote cited above, Screwtape tells Wormwood to conceal himself in such a way that the designated individual remains unaware of his spiritual presence. And this is exactly what we find in The Shack. The Devil and his deceptive spirits are never mentioned—not even once. It’s no wonder Young avoids The Screwtape Letters when he quotes C.S. Lewis. Acknowledgement of a real Devil and seducing spirits plays no part in The Shack and its supposed expression of Christian theology.
Young has a witty but innocuous C.S. Lewis quote at the beginning of The Shack’s main chapter on relationships.2 But where The Screwtape Letters serves to expose and warn about the ways Satan thwarts and undermines a believer’s relationship with God, Young’s novel—and in particular this chapter on relationships—says absolutely nothing in this regard. Given The Shack’s emphasis on the importance of “relationship,” it seems odd that no mention is ever made in Young’s novel about a believer’s uninvited yet inevitable “relationship” with his Spiritual Adversary—Satan the Devil. There is no acknowledgment, no warning, no advice, no anything in The Shack concerning the Devil, his seducing spirits, and their many wiles.
Contrarily, the Bible tells believers to put on the full armor of God, so they can stand fast against the wiles of the Devil and powers of darkness that are very real (Ephesians 6:11-13). We are admonished to be “sober” and “vigilant” because our Spiritual Adversary is walking around like “a roaring lion” and “seeking whom he may devour”—whether that be in a shack or anywhere else (1 Peter 5:8-9). We are told to resist the Devil and his temptations with the Word of God—not with human wisdom and “relationship” (Matthew 4:1-11).
Young’s easy dismissal of the Devil implies that our Spiritual Adversary is not someone we have to contend with in our lives and relationships. Young goes so far as to teach that “evil and darkness” don’t even exist. Young puts these words in the mouth of his “Holy Spirit” character “Sarayu”:
Both evil and darkness can only be understood in relation to Light and Good; they do not have any actual existence.3
But this is what the universal New Age Christ teaches—that “evil does not exist.” This false universal Christ states:
Innocence is wisdom because it is unaware of evil, and evil does not exist.4
With darkness having no existence of its own, it’s no wonder that Young’s presentation of evil and darkness agrees with the teachings of the New Age rather than the teachings of the Bible. His expressed disbelief in the existence of independent evil goes right along with his self-confessed universalist leanings.5
Hidden in Plain Sight
The Shack’s Papa “God” cites a number of inhibiting factors concerning “relationship” in what Papa calls “all the limiting influences in your life that actively work against your freedom.”6 These limiting influences are also referred to as “that confluence of multifaceted inhibitors.”7 But again, Young fails to make any mention of the Devil as one of these influences or inhibitors. For a man who likes to quote C.S. Lewis, Young might want to read or reread The Screwtape Letters. It would seem that Wormwood-like seducing spirits have effectively convinced Young they have no existence. As a consequence of this spiritual deception, Young has defined the Devil right out of existence—out of The Shack, out of his “Christian” theology, and out of the Bible. Sadly, most Shack readers become so emotionally caught up in Young’s novel, they never notice that the Devil is completely absent from his Shack story and Shack theology.
So where is the Devil in Young’s novel? Be sure of this—the Devil’s presence completely overshadows and thoroughly permeates the pages of The Shack. Cloaked in humor, clouded in human wisdom, concealed in flattery, tucked away in mockery and sarcasm, and hidden in half-truths and lies, the Devil thoroughly inhabits the many conversations that ultimately produce Young’s universal, New Age-flavored Shack theology. The Devil may appear to be absent from The Shack, but for those who have the eyes to see, the Devil is the unspoken force that inspires Young and purposely and cunningly drives his novel. As they say, the Devil is in the details. The Devil is not absent from The Shack, he is just hidden in plain sight.
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. (2 Peter 1:16)
Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. (2 Corinthians 2:11)
- C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York, NY: Macmillan Company, 1960), p. 39.
- William P. Young, The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity ( Los Angeles, CA: Windblown Media, 2007), p. 104.
- Ibid., p. 136.
- A Course in Miracles: Combined Volume (Glen Ellen, CA: Foundation for Inner Peace, 1975) (Text) p. 38.
- Wm. Paul Young, Lies We Believe About God (New York, NY: Atria Books, 2017), pp. 118-119. (Young states that he believes in universal salvation.)
- William P. Young, The Shack, op., cit., p. 95.