In Part One of this review of Young’s new book, I mentioned the general theological and ideological space he is in. It is part of the broader recent trendy fad known as the emergent church movement. I have written dozens of articles detailing the very real dangers of this often aberrant Christian movement.
And one simply has to look at how people involved in this movement have turned out, to be very wary indeed about it all. Consider Rob Bell, who once was an evangelical pastor who then fully migrated into the whole emergent mess, only to finally renounce his Christian faith altogether. He now champions all things New Age, and is close buddies with dangerous New Age gurus like Oprah Winfrey. See here just one of my pieces on the sad case of Bell: billmuehlenberg.com/2015/02/19/the-appalling-apostasy-of-rob-bell/
And just like Bell, Young now denies basically all the core Christian doctrines, including the biblical doctrine of hell. But why would you need hell when we are all already saved anyway? Why need evangelism or gospel outreach for that matter? We really should just sit around, pop the champagne, and celebrate the fact that everyone is saved already.
Damnable theological errors
Let me remind you that almost every cult and heretical movement uses some truth to deceive others. A smattering of truth is found, but it is twisted, mangled and distorted. Or other vital biblical truths are ignored and downplayed. That is how heresy operates. That is why the cults seem so attractive. Mix some truth with some lies, and you will ensnare countless gullible folks.
That is just what we find by the truck-load full in this book. Some biblical truths are affirmed, but they are either dangerously distorted and ripped out of context, or they are held up independently of other important Scriptural truths that balance them out.
So let me go into some detail here. There is so much error and false teaching found that one wonders where to begin. As mentioned, one of the major faults found here is the old error of universalism, the idea that we are all already saved and in right relationship with God because of what Christ has done, and whether people know it or not, we are all God’s children and we are all going to end up in God’s good heaven.
This damnable doctrine was already found in The Shack but in his new book he makes it absolutely clear that this is indeed what he believes. Consider these shocking words as found in the chapter which says it is a lie that “You need to get saved”:
God does not wait for my choice and then “save me”. God has acted decisively and universally for all humankind. . . . 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.
Yes he actually said that. And as mentioned, the whole idea of sharing the gospel and witnessing to others is a complete waste of time. He goes on to say, “We don’t judge anyone. . . . We don’t offer anyone what has already been given; we simply celebrate the Good News with each one: We have all been included.”
There is your universalism. There is your heretical notion that no one is lost, everyone is already right with God, so let’s just party and have a good time. Wow, the Apostle Paul sure wasted his life. And he sure got the gospel wrong. Why bother going everywhere telling everyone they are lost sinners heading to a Christless eternity, when he should have been celebrating universal salvation. What a wasted life Paul!
Now there happens to be a theological pedigree for all this nonsense. For example, the great Swiss theologian Karl Barth has long been seen to be a proponent of universalism, although there is much debate and discussion about all this. One keen student of Barth – via Thomas Torrance – is the American theologian C. Baxter Kruger.
Not surprisingly, he has written the foreword to Young’s new book, and back in 2012 Young wrote the foreword to Kruger’s book, The Shack Revisited. So here we have three universalists – or at least near universalists – in a mutual appreciation society, with the latter two certainly happy to pat each other on the back.
As Kruger says in his forward, “Paul and I regard the widespread notion that human beings are separated from God as a fundamental lie.” There you have it folks: all this time you have believed a lie. Sadly, so too did Jesus, the disciples, and billions of believers throughout 2000 years of Christian history.
This nonsense is pushed because of dangerously faulty views of sin, and of the nature of God. As to sin, Young basically does not believe in it. At best, it is about being dogmatic and certain, and living by rules instead of relationship. This is standard emergent nonsense.
Love and truth always go together. Saying we just need love without truth is like saying we can fly a plane with just one wing. It does not work that way. The Bible everywhere deals with the reality of sin and describes what it is all about, including how it alienates us from God.
Yet Young keeps insisting that we are NOT alienated from God, but instead are all part of God’s family already: “Every human being you meet … is a child of God.” So Jesus was obviously really wrong on this – and in need of Young’s correction – when he rebuked the Pharisees for claiming God was their father. Jesus said no dice, you have the devil as your father – you are not children of God but children of the devil (John 8:44).
See more on this topic here: billmuehlenberg.com/2015/01/17/are-we-all-children-of-god/
But worse than a faulty – indeed cultic – view of sin and salvation is the view of God as found by Young and Kruger. The latter shows how heterodox his views are when he says in the foreword: “If Jesus is one being with God and one being with us, His very identity as fully divine and fully human speaks volumes about the relationship between God and humanity and about everything else in the universe.”
For heaven’s sake, this is not biblical Christianity but cultic pantheism. Reading the rest of his foreword (and his other books) makes this quite clear. He has made a grade school theological error in equating the relationship Christ has with the rest of the Trinity with us.
As just a quick and elementary lesson in basic theology, Jesus is the second person in the Godhead, fully equal in being and nature with the Father and the Spirit. All three persons comprise the one, eternal God. We on the other hand are created beings, who are alienated from God because of sin. Those who are redeemed through faith and repentance are adopted into God’s family.
We are not part of the divine, as Eastern religions and New Age pantheists teach. We are forever separate, distinct individuals. Yes those of us who are saved are brought into the family of God because of what Christ did on our behalf, but we never become God or gods, as some of the heretical cults teach.
But Young repeats this foolish and unbiblical nonsense: “The Gospel is that Jesus already included you into His life, into His relationship with God the Father, and into His anointing in the Holy Spirit. The Good News is that Jesus did this without your vote, and whether you believe it or not won’t make it any less true.”
Yikes, what madness is this? So we are all saved whether we know it or not or like it or not. So Dawkins shaking his fist at God, along with countless other atheists and those of other religions who may daily curse God and rail against him, are already in the family. No probs! Welcome to the club!
Unbelievable. So when the Apostle Paul says we are dead in our trespasses and sins, or says we are alienated from God, or are enemies of God, or objects of God’s wrath, or lost, or slaves to sin, or in spiritual darkness, he had it all wrong. And the church has had it all wrong.
So now Young and Kruger and others need to correct the prophets, correct Jesus, correct Paul and the other disciples, and correct 2000 years of Christian belief. Hmm, whenever I hear someone making – or implying – those sorts of lunatic claims about some new truth in these last days, they are always in a dangerous cult.
Because Young has God, sin and salvation so utter and contemptibly wrong, he of course gets the greatest event in human history – the work of Christ at Calvary – wrong as well. And big time. Indeed, he actually says that it is a lie to say “The cross was God’s idea”.
Yes you read that right. The cross was NOT God’s idea. In fact he goes on to actually say this: “Who originated the Cross? If God did, then we worship a cosmic abuser.” Oh good grief! And if this sounds remotely familiar, it is because other unbiblical emergent leaders have said the very same ridiculous things.
For example one big cheese in the movement, Englishman Steve Chalke said almost identical things, calling the traditional Christian understanding of the Atonement “cosmic child abuse”. See more on this here: billmuehlenberg.com/2009/01/25/on-the-atonement/
That Jesus would die on a cross for our sins was not only fully God’s idea, it was part of his plan, even before the creation of the world as so many texts make clear (see eg., Act 2:23; Ephesians 3:7-13; 1 Peter 1:18-21; etc.). The cross was the very heart of God’s eternal plan to accomplish our redemption. It was prefigured in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New.
It was God’s chosen means to win sinful and rebellious mankind back to himself, for all who would believe and place their trust in what Christ did for them. Yet here we have Young calling all this a “lie”? Just how much false teaching is he running with in this book?
I have only highlighted a few of the numerous theological mistakes, false doctrines and dangerous teachings found in this book. While some believers may have found some comfort in The Shack, and it may have been used to help get some people out of an overly legalistic religiosity, the danger of rebutting one extreme with another is you still have error.
Indeed, heresy erupts at either end of the spectrum here. Putting people into a legalistic bondage with a million man-made rules and regulations is certainly damaging to the faith. But going to the other extreme and insisting that rules and regulations do not mean beans and we should all just accept the fact that God accepts us just as we are, and just go on our merry way, is equally damaging and harmful.
Instead of creating unhelpful and unbiblical false antitheses, we should stick with Scripture and proclaim the full counsel of God. That means we rejoice in God’s love, mercy and grace, but we also stress his holiness, his justice and his wrath.
That means we take very seriously everything the Word of God teaches, including the reality of sin, our lost condition, our need of a saviour, the reality of God’s wrath and future punishment of those who will not bow the knee, and the reality of the need to emphasise both law and grace, as Scripture emphasises them.
Forcing us to choose between one set of biblical beliefs and teachings over against another is how cults and heretics operate. It is NOT how biblical Christians should operate. Let me close by citing some words of D. A. Carson from his important 2005 volume, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church which I have often used before:
So which shall we choose? Experience or truth? The left wing of an airplane, or the right? Love or integrity? Study or service? Evangelism or discipleship? The front wheels of a car, or the rear? Subjective knowledge or objective knowledge? Faith or obedience? Damn all false antitheses to hell, for they generate false gods, they perpetuate idols, they twist and distort our souls, they launch the church into violent pendulum swings whose oscillations succeed only in dividing brothers and sisters in Christ.
Last word: there is one thing I do agree with about this book. There are indeed a lot of lies we believe about God. And this book is full of them. Do not waste your money on this destructive and reckless book. Spend more time simply reading the Bible and you will be in a far better place.
Part One of this article is found here: billmuehlenberg.com/2017/04/20/william-paul-young-heretic-part-one/