Is Jesus the ONLY Way to Heaven? + Discussion of the Universalist Book “The Shack” #85
Happy Tuesday, friends! Today is day #6 of shelter in place for many of us, and things are pretty scary right now. Let me encourage you, as I have before, to not let the Word of God be overwhelmed in your mind by the reports of the world. Don’t stick your head in the sand – by any means – but DO stick your head in the Word, first, foremost and most!
Today’s Bible readings are Exodus 35, Proverbs 11, John 14, and Ephesians 3 and 4, because I inexplicably left off Ephesians 3 from yesterday’s episode – shame on me! Exodus 35 is focused on the sabbath which – I promise – we will cover in depth very soon. Also on the slate for a future show: Do Old Testament passages like Psalm 91 promise Christians living in the pandemic age that God will keep them from getting sick? Today’s topic is one of the most important we’ve ever covered, and it will possibly cost us some listeners, because it is one of those hard truths from the Bible that not everybody likes. That said, it is a teaching of the Bible that is absolutely indisputable. Over and over again, the Bible clearly, consistently and unequivocally points to Jesus as the only way of salvation. I’d like to start this discussion by discussing a bestselling book and movie that some might be familiar with – The Shack. I wrote a book on the Shack a few years ago that challenged the universalist theology found therein called UnShackled: Facing Suffering With The REAL Jesus. It is available on Amazon, and if you buy a copy today, I will send you an autographed square of toilet paper – an invaluable prize!
Most critics of The Shack tend to point out the female representations of deity as being the most disturbing problem about this book. I believe, however, that the most concerning and unbiblical aspect of The Shack is its universalism. What, precisely is universalism? It is the belief that all humans will spend eternity with God in Heaven. Young’s particular viewpoint is that the death of Jesus on the cross essentially saved every human whether they come to Jesus in their lifetime or not.
Witness this exchange between Papa and Mack: Papa sat forward and crossed her arms on the table. “Honey, you asked me what Jesus accomplished on the cross, so now listen to me carefully: through his death and resurrection, I am now fully reconciled to the world.” “The whole world? You mean those who believe in you, right?” “The whole world, Mack. All I am telling you is that reconciliation is a two-way street, and I have done my part, totally, completely, finally.
‘Papa’ is making the case here that the death of Jesus on the cross accomplished universal reconciliation – the world is now fully reconciled to her through what Jesus did on the cross. While that may sound nice and comforting, it is not what the Jesus of the Bible teaches. You can also see Young’s universalism come out in the fact that Papa, and Jesus (and Mack, his wife and all of their kids too) are huge fans of Bruce Cockburn, the Unitarian-Universalist musician from Canada. Such an odd and seemingly random detail, mentioned several times in the book, is not added lightly.
That Young intends his book to espouse his universalistic views is made clear in his follow-up theology book, called Lies We Believe About God. In that book, which details the theology that underlies the fiction of The Shack, Young writes: “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! Here’s the truth: every person who has ever been conceived was included in the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.”
What is the problem with universalism? Doesn’t God love everybody? Yes! He does love everybody, but the Bible is VERY clear (and Jesus is the CLEAREST of all) that NOT everybody will be saved. Universalism has generally been considered a heresy (meaning unorthodox/contrary to the clear teaching of the Bible) by all major branches of Christianity since the beginning, and rightly so!
Consider these specific proclamations of Jesus:
“The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who refuses to believe in the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36 “Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.”John 3:18
“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”Matthew 25:46
“Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”John 14:6
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’”Matthew 7:21-23
Consider these Scriptures also:
Now as they were speaking to the people, the priests, the commander of the temple police, and the Sadducees confronted them, 2 because they were provoked that they were teaching the people and proclaiming the resurrection from the dead, using Jesus as the example. 3 So they seized them and put them in custody until the next day, since it was already evening. 4 But many of those who heard the message believed, and the number of the men came to about 5,000.Acts 4:4-12
5 The next day, their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem 6 with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John and Alexander, and all the members of the high-priestly family.[b] 7 After they had Peter and John stand before them, they asked the question: “By what power or in what name have you done this?”
8 Then Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders: 9 If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a disabled man—by what means he was healed— 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—whom you crucified and whom God raised from the dead—by Him this man is standing here before you healthy. 11 This Jesus is:
the stone rejected by you builders,
which has become the cornerstone.
12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it.”
“This is what the Lord says— Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty:I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.7 Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come— yes, let them foretell what will come. 8 Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”Isaiah 44:6-8
1 Timothy 2:5
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people.
“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior.Isaiah 43:10-11
I think the above passages leave no doubt whatsoever that Jesus is the only way to salvation. I guess if you are still on the fence, and somehow the dozen or so verses above did not convince you, it might be good to ask yourself this question: Why did Jesus pay the ultimate price on the cross – not only suffering the pinnacle of human abuse – but also taking on the wrath of the Father for ALL of the sins of humanity – if there was another way for people to be saved? Why did He plead with His Father to take this cup of the cross and the punishment for our sins away from Him if there was another way for people to be saved?