Book Review: The Lies We Believe About God, by Paul Young

by Matt Slick The Lies We Believe About God, by Paul Young
3/19/2017

Paul Young's book The Lies We Believe About God, (Atria Books, 2017), will probably be a pleasant read for most people. It is full of words of encouragement about the God of the Bible who loves us and travels with us as we experience the good and bad of our lives. Young is a good writer who can tell a decent story. He is able to weave emotional narratives and motivational insights into an easy-to-read book.  The Lies We Believe About God, would be a great read if it weren't for, well, his heresies.

Yep, heresies such as universalism, no hell, God submits to us, denial of our sinful nature, denial of God's sovereignty, and a denial that sin separates us from God.

I suspect that much of what Mr. Young speaks against theologically is because of his upbringing. He said he grew up in a "rigid, religious family" (p. 86), where his father "was too often terrifying. Being around him was like walking through a minefield" (p. 31) and he would go "from absent to fearlessly present" (p. 31).  Obviously, Young's representation of his father is wrought with emotional trauma. I bring this up because while reading his book I had the distinct impression that Young was reacting to the rigidity of his father by denying traditional Christian theology and was substituting something more pleasant, more to his liking. I believe this negativity is prevalent in The Lies We Believe About God, as well as his book, The Shack.

Condemning the "Religious"

Throughout the pages of The Lies We Believe About God, there is an underlying resistance to religious people and associates them with "grim determinism" (p. 37) and "religious superiority" (p. 57).  He mentions a charlatan who was a "religious man" (p. 76).  Mr. Young states that the mention of the word sex in the "religious environment" of his childhood "was to commit a sin" (p. 93).  He tells us how "patriotic fundamentalists are much scarier than religious fundamentalists" (p. 100), and that the religious environment he grew up in was steeped in the "dread and specter of eternal conscious torment" (p. 131).  He says that religious people interpret the sacrifice of Christ as God's "necessary appeasement for his bloodthirsty need for justice" (pp. 150-151).  He also mentions "minds darkened by religious indoctrination" (p. 239).

Obviously, this negativity will affect what he writes about God and will tend to make him present the Almighty in a less than authoritarian manner.  I think Paul Young wants God to be more like a caring Father figure who is not rigid, not afraid of sex, not a fundamentalist, and does not subject people to conscious torment.  Perhaps this is why he juxtaposes the perceived harshness of religiosity with a soft presentation of relationship, caring, and love while he reconstructs God into a different image.

To me, this makes perfect sense.

Out with the old.  In with the new.

It's important for you to know that a standard practice of cults is to denounce traditional theological perspectives in order to replace them with new teachings. Joseph Smith taught that there was an apostasy and that Mormonism with its gods and goddesses is the restored truth. The Jehovah's Witnesses likewise say that present day Christianity is false and has replaced it with its own version of Christianity where its Watchtower organization is the prophet of God and only 144,000 JW's go to heaven. Most cults blatantly contradict Scripture. But, not all false teachers are that obvious. Many are subtle and weave lies in with the truth in order to influence people into believing in a different gospel and a different God than is revealed in Scripture. And, people like it!

2 Timothy 4:3–4, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths."

Universalism

Universalism is the teaching that everybody will be saved and that no one goes to hell.  This is what Paul Young advocated in The Shack and again in The Lies We Believe About God.

Paul Young says...

  • "Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? That is exactly what I [Paul Young] am saying!" (p. 118, All quotes with underlines are added by me for emphasis).
  • "...prior to the foundation of the world, we were all included; we were all saved in eternity (2 Timothy 1:9). Second, we were all included in the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:19). Third, within the context of our own present-tense, ongoing experience, we actively participate to work out what God has worked in (Philippians 2:12–13)." (p. 119).

The Bible says...

I have written extensively on universalism. It is not biblical. A simple refutation can be found in Scripture by citing verses that clearly teach eternal damnation. Please consider the following scriptures.

  • Matthew 25:46, "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
  • Mark 3:29, "but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin."
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:9, "These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,"
  • 2 Peter 3:7, "But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men."
  • Revelation 14:11, "And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."
  • Revelation 20:10, "And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever."

As unpleasant as damnation is, it is a reality. But, universalism contradicts this.  It has a nice feel to it. It appeals to our fleshly desires and makes God far less judgmental and more "humane." After all, we don't want people to suffer, especially not for eternity. We want all people to be saved from God's righteous judgment and enjoy the presence of God. Unfortunately, it simply is not going to happen that way as the scriptures above clearly teach.

The danger of universalism

The danger of universalism is that it encourages people not to trust in Christ for salvation. I know this is a fact because I've encountered it many times. In my discussions with Universalists, in the presence of unbelievers, more than once those who have denied Christ have continued to do so by stating that they don't need to receive Jesus now. Instead, they can wait till after they die because, if universalism is true, then they will have a second-chance after they die.  Unfortunately, Mr. Young teaches just such a false doctrine.

  • "...prior to the foundation of the world, we were all included; we were all saved in eternity (2 Timothy 1:9)." (p. 119).
  • “I [Paul Young] mean that I don’t think God would ever say that once you die, your fate is sealed and there is nothing that God can do for you.” (p. 182).
  • "Personally, I do believe that the idea that we lose our ability to choose at the event of physical death is a significant lie and needs to be exposed; its implications are myriad and far-reaching." (pp. 185-186).
  • "If God (who is Life) has gone to such great lengths to protect our ability to say no, why would we think that the event of death would have the power to take away our ability to say yes?" (pp. 186-188).
  • "I propose that the event of death introduces a crisis (krisis—the Greek word, as in “Day of . . . judgment”), a restorative process intended to free us to run into the arms of Love." (p. 188).

So, we can see that Mr. Young teaches that there is an opportunity to receive Christ after death. But, is this what the Scriptures teach? No, it is not.

The Bible says...

  • John 5:28–29, "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, 29 and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment."
  • John 12:48, "He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day."
  • Romans 2:5, "But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,"
  • Hebrews 9:27, "And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment."

There is no second chance opportunity after we die. The time of salvation is now (2 Cor. 6:2).  After we die, there is judgment (Heb. 9:27).  This is why Jesus urged people to go out and make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20). In fact, he warned people about the judgment to come.  Jesus would not need to warn people about a coming judgment if universalism is true and everyone would be saved in the afterlife.

Young says that it's a lie to say that hell is separation from God

Paul Young says...

  • "Doesn’t it seem intuitively wrong to be desperately afraid of a torture-devising God and yet hope to spend eternity with this God?" (p. 132).
  • "Consider with me: Anyone who speaks of separation from God assumes that a person can still exist while separated—as if our life is not contingent upon the presence of God, who is Life. Does that mean we have eternal existence apart from Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit? Scripture is emphatic: not one thing has come into being apart from Jesus, and the existence of everything is completely dependent upon the sustaining life of Jesus. So, if we continue this thought . . . perhaps hell is hell not because of the absence of God, but because of the presence of God, the continuous and confrontational presence of fiery Love and Goodness and Freedom that intends to destroy every vestige of evil and darkness that prevents us from being fully free and fully alive. This is a fire of Love that now and forever is “for” us, not against us. Only if we posit that we have existence apart from Jesus can we believe that hell is a form of punishment that comes to us in our separation from Jesus. I propose 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." (pp. 136-138)

Obviously, Paul Young does not approve of eternal torment. He says that perhaps hell is the "presence of God, the continuous and confrontational presence of fiery love and goodness and freedom..." (p. 136). Also, he says 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." (p. 138).

The Bible says...

Now, we understand that God is everywhere. That is part of his nature. However, the Bible tells us that the judgment of hell is separation from God.  There is a sense in which there is a real separation, a real non-proximity to God's glorious presence.

  • Matthew 25:41, "Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels."
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:9, "These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power."

In addition, Mr. Young denies the torture that will exist for the damned in the afterlife as cited above on p. 132. This is consistent with his universalism and his softening of God's judgment. As unpleasant a subject as hell is, we must appeal to Scripture and see what God says.

  • Matthew 18:8, "If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire."
  • Matthew 25:41, "Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels."
  • Jude 7, "just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire."
  • Revelation 20:14–15, "Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."

Obviously, we can conclude that hell is separation from God and conscious eternal punishment. This occurs after we die if we have not found salvation in Jesus. Again, this is an emotionally disturbing topic. But, truth does not care about our feelings. Truth is sometimes difficult. We ought not ignore it, even if we don't like it.

Redefinition of Sin

Paul Young says...

  • "But if the essence of God’s nature is relationship, then sin must be defined and understood as missing a relational reality, a distortion of the image of God in us." (p. 228).
  • Yes, it [sin] is about “missing the mark,” but the mark is not perfect moral behavior. The “mark” is the Truth of your being." (pp. 228-229).
  • "Sin, then, is anything that negates or diminishes or misrepresents the truth of who you are, no matter how pretty or ugly that is." (p. 229).
  • We Christians have long espoused a theology of separation. A lot of “my people” will believe that the following statement is in the Bible, but it isn’t: “You have sinned, and you are separated from God.” (p. 231).
  • "If separation is a lie, does it mean that no one has ever been separated from God? That is exactly what it means. Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38–39)." (p. 232).

Such New Age sentimentality has no place in true Christian teaching and that is exactly what Mr. Young is teaching. I've done a lot of studies in the New Age movement over the years and Mr. Young's phraseology is reminiscent of it: "co-creating the possibility of life (p. 44), "beingness of all relational authenticity" (p. 97), "relational reality" (p. 228), "the truth of your being looks like God" (p. 229) "journey toward wholeness" (p. 237), etc.  These phrases have a psychological effect of disassociating from traditional understanding and reconstructing a new paradigm of understanding.

But back to the topic at hand. Mr. Young has redefined what sin is.

The Bible says...

Let's see what God says about sin and compare it to Mr. Young's personal opinions.  Remember, his book is about The Lies We Believe About God. So, in contrast to Mr. Young's redefinition of sin, is what the Scripture says about sin really a lie?  Let's find out.

  • Isaiah 59:2, "But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear."
  • Matthew 6:12, "And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."  With Luke 11:4, "And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.’ ”"
  • Romans 3:20, "because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin."
  • Romans 3:23, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,"
  • 1 John 3:4, "Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness."
  • 1 John 5:17, "All unrighteousness is sin..."

So, according to Mr. Young, sin is "missing a relational reality" (p. 228), missing the mark of the "truth of your being" (pp. 228-229), that which "misrepresents the truth of who you are" (p. 229), and that it does not separate us from God (pp. 231, 232).  Is what he says biblical?  No.  It is not.

Do I need to point out the obvious differences between what Mr. Young says and what the Bible says? Must I go through and relate each point? I hope the contrast is sufficiently obvious by itself for you to see that what Mr. Young is offering is ungodly counsel. He contradicts Scripture yet again.  He is a false teacher of God's word.

Another Gospel

Paul Young says...

"What is the Gospel? 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." (pp. 117-118).

So, Mr. Young defines the gospel by saying "that Jesus has already included you into His life, into His relationship with God the Father, and into His anointing in the Holy Spirit."  His definition is unclear and is reminiscent of New Age philosophy - as I've mentioned above.  I sought to understand more clearly what he defined the gospel to be.  So, I did a search through his book. The word "gospel" occurs five times, (pp. 34, 117, 165, 167) and the word "gospels" occurs once (p. 4). In none of those occurrences is the gospel defined biblically.

The Bible says...

1 Corinthians 15:1–4, "Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures."

So, we can see that according to the Bible, the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  It is the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for our sins. This fundamentally basic understanding of the gospel isn't found within Paul Young's words. This made me curious. So, I did some searches in my Kindle edition for different phrases that are related to the gospel.  What I found was not good.

Avoiding the sacrifice of Christ

  • "Christ died" occurs zero times.
  • Jesus being crucified is found on pages 4, 6, 9, and 11.  But, they are not found in the words of Paul Young. They are found in the words of C. Baxter Kruger who wrote the Foreword.  Furthermore, none of those references mention that Jesus died for our sins.
  • On a good note, the phrase "forgiveness of sin" does occur, but only once, again in the forward (p. 4), which is not written by Young.
  • The word "atoning" occurs only once on page 248 in a list of scriptures.  The words "atoned" and "atonement" do not occur at all.
  • "Propitiation" does not occur at all.
  • The word "blood" occurs 4 times (pp. 75, 231, 232, 245).  The only reference to the sacrifice of Christ is found in a list of Scriptures at the end of his book. He does not discuss how the blood of Christ cleanses us of our sins.
  • "Sacrifice occurs 17 times on pages 150, 165, 166, 167, 169, 170, 171, and 248.  But, there is a problem.  In regards to the sacrifice of Christ, Young spins the issue negatively by associating it with a "bloodthirsty need for justice" (p. 150), modern day child sacrifice both real and metaphorical (p. 165, 169, 171), the sacrifice he [Paul Young] made as a child so people could hear about Jesus (p. 166), and peoples' living sacrifice in the context of embarrassment (p. 167).  He says perhaps mockingly, that if God affirms child sacrifice shouldn't we, too (p. 169).  He says "God hates child sacrifice" (p. 170) and that "God does not require child sacrifice" (p. 171).  Young mentions the almost-sacrifice of Isaac (p. 170) and the sacrifice required by pagan gods (p. 171).  In one place, he associates sacrifice with magic (p. 171).  He implies that we require a sacrifice, not God (pp. 171-172), and there is a single reference to sacrifice in 1 John 2:2 (p. 248).

This is really disturbing. Why does Paul Young shy away from the sacrifice of Christ as the place where our sins are forgiven by his shed blood?  Let me quote what he says so you can understand what he is saying.

  • "God hates child sacrifice and is opposed to it in any form." (p. 170).
  • "And how would we religious people interpret this sacrifice? We would declare that it was God who killed Jesus, slaughtering Him as a necessary appeasement for His bloodthirsty need for justice." (pp. 150-151).
  •  "One of the narratives about God is that because of sin, God required child sacrifice to appease a sense of righteous indignation and the fury of holiness—Jesus being the ultimate child sacrifice. Well, if God is like that, then doesn’t it make sense that we would follow in God’s footsteps?" (p. 169).
  • "Nothing, not even the salvation of the entire cosmos, could ever justify a horrific torture device called a “cross.” (p.  39).

So, Paul Young equates the sacrifice of Jesus with child sacrifice and says that God hates it (p. 170).  He also speaks negatively about the cross of Christ as something that cannot be justified (p. 39).  This is incredibly disturbing.  He is very confused.

Yet, the Bible says...

  • Leviticus 17:11, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement."
  • Acts 20:28, "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood."
  • Galatians 6:14, "But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."
  • Ephesians 2:13, "But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ."
  • Colossians 1:20, "and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven."
  • 1 John 1:7, "but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin."

Why does Paul Young appear to avoid the true nature of the gospel that is Christ's blood atonement for the forgiveness of our sins? I don't know. But I do know that what he says the gospel is, is not biblical. It is another gospel.

Galatians 1:8–9, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!"

The gospel is vitally important and should never be redefined or ridiculed. God has declared what it is and he has declared a warning to those who would preach a different one.

Paul says that God submits to us

Paul Young says...

  • "What if there is no “plan” for your life but rather a relationship in which God constantly invites us to co-create, respectfully submitting to the choices we bring to the table?" (p. 39).
  • "As our children’s choices affect our relationship with them, so too do our choices affect our relationship with God. God submits rather than controls and joins us in the resulting mess of relationship, to participate in co-creating the possibility of life, even in the face of death." (pp. 42-44).
  •  What about the cross, in which God submits to our anger, rage, and wrath? (p. 48).
  • "But God did not start religion. Rather, religion is among a whole host of things that God did not originate but submits to because we human beings have brought them to the table." (p. 109).
  • "This is Jesus. God submitting to our torture machine and transforming it into an icon and monument of grace, so precious to us that we wear it on our rings or around our necks." (pp. 152-154).
  • "God submits to Abraham’s choices and creatively works to build something good out of the rubble." (p. 170).
  •  "I think evil exists because of our turning from face-to-face-to-face relationship with God, and because we chose to say no to God, to Life and Light and Truth and Good. God, with utmost respect and reverence, submits to our choice even while utterly opposing it." (p. 186).

A low view of God results in a high view of ourselves. In Paul Young's words, God submits to us... to us.  Really?  Not once in my entire life has God ever submitted to me. In fact, in all my experience and all my encounters with Christians, not once has any of them said God has submitted to them. It just doesn't happen. Why? Because it's not biblical, that's why. Nothing in Scripture says God submits to us. But, Paul Young offers his New Age, humanist philosophy in a pleasant, flowing prose in order to say that God submits to us.  The truth is that the Bible says the opposite.

The Bible says...

  • James 4:7, "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you."
  • Philippians 3:21, "who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself."
  • 1 Peter 5:6, "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time."

We submit to God because he is sovereign, omniscient, omnipotent and the one we ought to submit to. He is God.  I can only surmise that the scope of Paul Young's theological error is due in part to his oppressive father who required submission, who was terrifying (p. 31), a "righteous man who was never wrong, and he was a strict disciplinarian" (p. 31). Young's reflection of God, I suspect, is a reflection of his apparent resentment towards his father.  Perhaps that is why Paul Young says...

"...the God I grew up with was of little comfort. In fact, that God was considered the originator of evil, a distant deity who had a plan that included the torture of a child. One can’t run to God if God is the perpetrator." (p. 238).

 

Various Quotes with Comments

By now I assume you've gotten a good understanding of some of the many errors taught by Paul Young in his book The Lies We Believe About God. But there is more. I have provided an outline list of other quotes from the book worth examining. Following each one, I offer a small comment. If, however, you want to see the full list of quotes that I developed in my research of his book for this article, please go here.

  1. "I am fundamentally good because I am created “in Christ” as an expression of God, an image bearer, imago dei (see Ephesians 2:10)." (p. 35).
    • Paul Young fails to understand the nature of the fall. It is true that we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). But it is also equally true that we are fallen. In other words, we are sinners and are by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). Furthermore, if we were fundamentally good, then why does the Bible say that it is man who is deceitful (Jer. 17:9), full of evil (Mark 7:21-23), loves darkness rather than light (John 3:19), cannot come to God on his own (John 6:44), does not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12), is helpless and ungodly (Rom. 5:6), is a slave of sin (Rom. 6:20; John 8:34), cannot receive spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14), is dead in his sins (Eph. 2:1), is by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3), and is at enmity with God (Eph. 2:15).
    • I'm not trying to say we are worthless pieces of dung. Not at all.  God values us. But, the fact is that we are fallen and sinful. We are not fundamentally good. We are touched by sin in all that we are and only by God's grace and love can we be saved from the consequences of our sin through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
  2. "agape, a Greek word that means other-centered, self-giving, committed love." (p. 95).
    • This is a common mistake made by a lot of people. Agape does not always mean "other centered, self giving, committed love."  We find the opposite use of the word as described by Jesus in Luke 11:43. "Woe to you Pharisees! For you love [agape] the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places."  Now, this is not that big of a deal. But you would think that someone who wants to make such a blanket statement about agape would do a little bit more research.
  3. "Jesus is not the founder of any religion. He did not come to start a new religion to compete with the myriad of other religions that already existed. Rather, Jesus indwelt an inclusive family of faith—in which we are learning to celebrate the presence of God (contemplation and action) and the presence of each other (community)." (pp. 110-111).
    1. Whether Mr. Young likes it or not, Christianity is most definitely a religion. And, Jesus founded Christianity.  It's called "Christ"-ianity.  Now I suspect that why Young says Jesus is not the founder of any religion is because he equates religion with something bad.  He mentions conflicts between faith and religion (p. 52) the dangers of patriotism and religion (p. 100), religion is people based (p. 110), religion is formed by people due to their fears (p. 110), religion is used to control people (p. 111), related to external activities (p. 111), that "we sacrifice our children on the altars of religion" (p. 169), etc.
    2. Now I understand that "religion" can be a bad thing when it is a dominant tradition that imposes rules and separates us from God.  But, the fact is that Mr. Young does not properly represent what the word religion means in the context of Christianity's founder.
  4. "To understand who God really is, you can begin by looking at yourself, since you are made in God’s image. All the things you long to be true about who you are—authenticity, kindness, patience, integration, goodness, purity of heart—these are qualities of the God in whose image you were created." (p. 178).
    1. Unfortunately, Paul Young is offering his humanist philosophy once again.  Humanism is the teaching that man is the start and standard of what is morally good and true.  It is a man-centered philosophy that says "to understand who God really is, you begin by looking at yourself." That is blatantly wrong and unbiblical.
    2. The truth is, to understand who God really is, we need to look to Jesus. Jesus is God in flesh (John 1:1, 14). He is the exact presentation of the nature of God, (Hebrews 1:3).  While it is true that we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), it is also true that we have a fallen nature which manifests itself in our sinful intention and actions (Romans 5:12, 18; Ephesians 2:1,3).  However, Jesus is not fallen. He never sinned (1 Peter 2:22).  We should look to him to understand God, not ourselves. Paul Young is perpetrating a lie.
  5. "Turns out Matt [an atheist] not only believes in Love, but in Life and in Truth. Not bad for an unbeliever. But does that make him a child of God? No, it doesn’t. He already was a child of God." (pp. 204-205).
    1. Paul Young fails to clarify the biblical meaning of what it means to be "children of God.  There is a sense in which the terms applied only to believers. John 1:12, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name."  There are more verses that say the same thing: Romans 8:16-17; 9:8; Philippians 2:15; 1 John 3:1-2.
    2. But, there is another sense in which it is used.  When Paul the Apostle was witnessing to the unbelievers at Mars Hill, he said, "for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ 29 “Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man," (Acts 17:28–29).  The latter usage of the term is in reference to a pagan philosopher.  Paul was using the term because it was familiar to them and he was seeking to reach them with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
    3. So, was Matt the atheist a child of God? In the pagan sense, yes.  In the biblical sense, no.  Paul Young should know the difference.
  6. "Expecting perfection is a denial of our humanity," (p. 226).
    • In the context of what Paul Young was talking about in this quote, he was speaking of our inability to be perfect. It is human nature to fail.  We are imperfect. That's why he said expecting perfection is a denial of our humanity.  But, he is mistaken. God is the standard of perfection. He is a standard of holiness.  In fact, he says be holy because he is holy (1 Peter 1:16).  Paul Young fails to understand the difference between God's holy requirement based on his perfect nature, and the obligation that we as people have to do what is right before God. God does not lower his standard for us and give us a pass. He says be holy for I am holy. God elevates himself as the standard not us. That is why Jesus says in Matthew 5:48 that we are to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.
    • But, of course, we cannot attain such perfection. This is why we need Jesus. He, being God in flesh (John 1:1, 14; Colossians 2:9), was able to keep the law perfectly and never sin (1 Peter 2:22).  Jesus did what we could not. Therefore, God's expecting perfection of us is not a denial of our humanity. It is the proper standard based on God's character.  This is all the more reason why we need to trust in Christ who provides the "perfection" we cannot attain. We need to trust in what Jesus has done in his perfect life and his loving sacrifice.
  7. "Do we really think that Jesus never made a mistake on His homework, or never forgot someone’s name, or as a carpenter always made accurate measurements? Jesus didn’t have a reputation for being the “best carpenter” in Nazareth, making perfect doors and always-level tables." (p. 226).
    1. 1 Cor. 4:6 says that we are not to exceed what is written in Scripture. Nothing in Scripture says that Jesus ever made a mistake. But, on the other hand, nothing in Scripture says he did didn't, either.  Nevertheless, are we to argue from what the Bible does not say?  Nope.  We are told not to exceed what is written.  To do so is dangerous.  Let me say it again, we should not "fill in the blanks" where God does not speak, especially when it comes to the person and work of Jesus.
  8. "Pride is a sin because it is a denial of being human. Humility is always a celebration of being human." (p. 227).
    • This is more humanistic philosophy that is not rooted in Scripture.  Nowhere in the Bible does it say anything like the idea that pride is a sin because it's a denial of being human.  Where did he get this, from the book of 2 Hesitations?  It's not there. Paul Young is offering humanist philosophy and using Scripture to justify it.

 

Conclusion

On page 126, Paul Young says he is a theologian.  Perhaps he was, but, he is not a biblical theologian. He is quite bad at it.  He's more like a humanist philosopher weaving man-centered ideology into biblical themes.  He's a good enough writer who happened upon a good enough story in his original work, The Shack, that has resulted in millions of people voting with their cash in support of his teachings. Undoubtedly, the publishers wanted to capitalize on his popularity, so he has produced his second book, Eve, as well as this third offering under examination.

In my opinion, the name of his third book should be changed.  Instead of The Lies We Believe About God, by Paul Young, it should be The Lies I Teach About God, by Paul Young.  Avoid this book.

2 Peter 2:2–3, "Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep."

 

 

 

 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.