In his wildly popular novels, Wm. Paul Young portrayed the Triune God in ways that challenged our thinking—sometimes upending long-held beliefs, but always centered in the eternal, all-encompassing nature of God’s love.
Now, in Wm. Paul Young’s first nonfiction book, he invites us to revisit our assumptions about God—this time using the Bible, theological discussion, and personal anecdotes. Paul encourages us to think through beliefs we’ve presumed to be true and consider whether some might actually be false.
Expounding on the compassion fans felt from the “Papa” portrayed in The Shack—now a major film starring Sam Worthington and Octavia Spencer—Paul encourages you to think anew about important issues including sin, religion, hell, politics, identity, creation, human rights, and helping us discover God’s deep and abiding love.
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Lies We Believe About God
“God loves us, but doesn’t like us.”
It is the middle of winter in northern Alberta, Canada. The temperature is well below zero, one of those days that is so cold your nose hairs feel like little sticks plugging up your nostrils and every exhalation of breath becomes its own fogbank. I was born not too far from this city, up in the northern prairies.
“At least it’s a dry cold,” someone offers, which is true, but not that comforting.
We enter the building and I unwrap the layers of protection, trading them for the warmth of this place of incarceration. We are visiting a women’s prison. The women who have asked me to come and speak said that dozens of copies of The Shack have been making the rounds and having an impact. The government has given these inmates a “time-out,” an invitation to think about their lives and choices, something that people outside these walls have little opportunity to do. These women are here today to spend an hour with me, by their own choosing. Their presence is a gift.
Those who have eyes to see will find much wonder beneath tough exteriors and callous hearts. Most of the women are here because of a relationship gone wrong, and their suffered betrayals and losses are visible in their bluster of defiance or barely concealed shame. I feel quite at home here, among the bruised and wounded. These are my people, our people.
I don’t remember what I talked about. It probably had to do with the prisons in my own life, places that became precious to me because they were all I knew. About how we hold on to the certainty of our pain rather than take the risk of trusting anyone ever again. Deeply wounded souls in the room began to weep. Bruce Cockburn, the Canadian poet and musician, would call these “rumours of glory.” Lost coins, lost sheep, lost sons, but not just any. These are my sons, my sheep, and my coins.
I finish my talk and only a few leave. Others wait to have me sign a book. I hug everyone, which I am certain is a violation of all sorts of rules. But I have been breaking such codes for a while, and no one ever interferes with these sacred encounters. A woman stands waiting, her body tense with emotion. When I simply take her in my arms, it is as if I set off a charge that lets the dam burst. She sobs uncontrollably, for minutes. I whisper that it is okay, that I have other shirts, that I have her and she is safe. I can’t comprehend all the misery and humanity that is flooding through this one small touch, but it is real and visceral and wrenching.
Finally, she stops the heaving enough to find some words.
“Do you really think,” she whispers in short bursts, “that Papa is fond of me?”
And there it is, the question. This tender human being is entrusting me with this monumental question. Even those who don’t believe that God exists are desperate to know that love does and that love knows who we are. More, we are driven from within to take the risk to ask of someone or Someone, Do you find anything in me that is lovable, that is enough, that is worthy of being loved?
There is a scene in The Shack in which the main character, Mackenzie, is having his assumptions challenged. Mack is face-to-face with Sophia, the Wisdom of God, and she is asking him about the love he has for his children. In particular, she asks which of his five children he loves the most.
Even moderately healthy parents would tell you this question is impossible to answer. My wife, Kim, and I have six children. When our eldest was born, we couldn’t imagine ever having the capacity to love another child. Our first used it all up. But then our second arrived, and suddenly there was a new depth of love that either hadn’t existed or had been dormant before his arrival. It is as if each child brings with him or her a gift of love that is deposited into the hearts of the parents.
In the religious subculture in which I was raised, we all knew that God is love. We said it and sang it all the time, until it didn’t mean that much. It was simply the way that God is. It is like the grandchild who says, “But you have to love me. You’re my gramps.”
But saying “God is love” doesn’t capture our question, does it? So I’ve made a habit of rephrasing the line “God loves you,” and instead of making it about God, I make it about the object of God’s relentless affection—us. So throughout The Shack, Papa would say, “I am especially fond of her or him.” There is a world of difference between saying “I love you,” which is about me, and saying “I am especially fond of you,” which is about you. Both are correct, but the latter somehow pierces the disquiet of our souls and says, “Yes, I know you love me, but do you know me and do you like me? You love because that is the way you are, but is there anything about me that is worth loving? Do you ‘see’ me, and do you like what you ‘see’?”
“Do you really think,” she whispers in short bursts, “that Papa is fond of me?”
I squeeze her tight. “Yes,” I whisper back as we both dissolve into torrents of tears. “Papa is especially fond of you!”
Minutes later she regains a semblance of emotional control and looks up into my face for the first time.
“That’s all I needed to know. That’s all I needed to know.”
With another hug, she exits, leaving me thinking, Darlin’, that is all any of us needs to know!
Table of Contents
Foreword C. Baxter Kruger, PhD 1
1 "God loves us, but doesn't like us." 23
2 "God is good. I am not." 29
3 "God is in control" 37
4 "God does not submit," 45
5 "God is a Christian." 51
6 "God wants to use me." 59
7 "God is more he than she." 65
8 "God wants to be a priority," 75
9 "God is a magician," 83
10 "God is a prude." 93
11 "God blesses my politics." 99
12 "God created (my) religion," 107
13 "You need to get saved." 115
14 "God doesn't care about what I'm passionate about." 123
15 "Hell is separation from God." 131
16 "God is not good" 139
17 "The Cross was God's idea." 147
18 "That was just a coincidence." 155
19 "God requires child sacrifice." 165
20 "God is a divine Santa Claus," 173
21 "Death is more powerful than God." 181
22 "God is not involved in my suffering." 189
23 "You will never find God in a box." 197
24 "Not everyone is a child of God." 203
25 "God is disappointed in me." 209
26 "God loves me for my potential." 217
27 "Sin separates us from God." 225
28 "God is One alone." 235
A Catena: God's Drama of Redemption 241
A Final Word from Dietrich Bonhoeffer 249
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In the past two years, there has only been two books that ever brought me closer to God, other than the Bible, than I ever felt before. One is the Shack of course, but the other is book called "When God Stopped Keeping Score." It, is as the book offers, takes an amazing look at the power of God and forgiveness and helped me address a lot of things in my past. It also helped me learn how to forgive myself. Then, this book comes along and challenges my beliefs again. I put the book down and then walked around the store and came back again to make sure that I read it right. I am about twenty pages in and this book is not one that you will walk away from lightly. It is meant to be considered and re-read. But, above all, read it. This and When God Stopped Keeping Score. Both must read, especially if you have read the Shack.
Read this. Truth
Sometimes people experience such deep hurt that their minds find creative ways to help them deal with the pain. In many cases, the hurt is so bad that the victim is left with "crazy eyes." Take a real good look and you will see what I mean. Though I sympathize with the author's personal tragedy and respect his right to create his own God, this book is what could be called heresy and should be ignored by those seeking Christ.
Gods worda are never a lie people just say things like that so other people can believe them i am a christain amd i believe that gods word is for everyone that went to trust in hi.