Book Review: Lies We Believe About God (by Wm. Paul Young)

In case there was any question or ambiguity arising from the narrative of The Shack, in his latest book, Lies We Believe About God, Young makes clear that he has arrived at the entirely unorthodox and un-Scriptural belief that ALL will be saved (Universalism). To be fair, in the Introduction he declares that none of this is certain or final or absolute — he’s still in transition. And to be even more generous, there are actually a number of topics about which I have more agreement than disagreement with Young. However, regardless of Young’s unwillingness or inability to stand firm upon his beliefs, the heresy (against orthodoxy) needs to be well-recognized so that all are given fair warning.

Keep in mind, that the title of each chapter is presented as a lie we believe about God. I’ll discuss briefly just a few here.

In chapter 2 — “God is good. I am not.” — Young refers to the rich young ruler who comes to Jesus and addresses Him as “good.” Jesus responds, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:18, Matthew 19:17) Young’s logical progression next goes far astray. Denying the extent of the fallen human condition with a qualified “Blind, not depraved, is our condition.”, he proceeds to affirm his deception with “God cannot become anything that is evil or inherently bad . . . and God became human.”

The truth is that Jesus didn’t come to affirm our inherent goodness — He came to redeem and free us from our fallenness. Jesus, perfectly God and perfectly man, is the living example what we were created to be and what we can be in Him — a human rightly bearing His image in right relationship with Him.

Young’s belief in the inherent goodness of all serves as one of the building blocks for perhaps the most blatant error which is found in Chapter 13 — “You need to get saved.” He asks, “So what is the Good News? What is the Gospel?” then proceeds to answer:

“The Good News is not that Jesus has opened up the possibility of salvation and you have been invited to receive Jesus into your life. The Gospel is that Jesus has 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 or more true.

What or who saves me? Either God did in Jesus, or I save myself. If, in any way, I participate in the completed act of salvation accomplished in Jesus, then my part is what actually saves me. Saving faith is not our faith, but the faith of Jesus.

God does not wait for my choice and then “save me.” God has acted decisively and universally for all humankind. Now our daily choice is to either grow and participate in that reality or continue to live in the blindness of our own independence. Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? That is exactly what I am saying!”

So, according to Young, it’s a lie that we need to get saved because all of humankind is already saved.

In chapter 15 — “Hell is separation from God.” — because Young cannot comprehend the wrath of God, he opts to deny it. And, since in his mind all are already saved, he proposes “the possibility that hell is not separation from Jesus but that it is the pain of resisting our salvation in Jesus while not being able to escape Him who is True Love.”

The eternal torment of separation from God depicted in both the New and Old Testaments and directly in Jesus preaching is simply not up for dismissal according to human wisdom, so called.

In whatever ways the human heart may wish to imagine away God or His self-revelation in the living and written Word, it only serves to further prove the depravity of mankind’s fallenness.

Young would do well to heed the Word in all its fullness, including 2 Peter 2:1–10.
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.”