Tuesday, May 16, 2017

BY By Carolyn A. Greene
republished below in full unedited for informational, educational, and research purposes:
 NEW BOOKLET: Teresa of Avila – An Ancient Mystic Who 
Helped Shape Today’s Spiritual Formation Movement by Carolyn A. 
Greene is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet. 
 The Booklet is 18 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. 
Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklets are 
designed to give away to others or for your own personal use.  
Below is the content of the booklet.  To order copies of Teresa of Avila – 
An Ancient Mystic Who Helped Shape Today’s Spiritual Formation Movement,  
click here. 
Teresa of Avila – An Ancient Mystic Who Helped Shape Today’s Spiritual Formation Movement
By Carolyn A. Greene
Editor’s Note: Today, it is not uncommon for Christian leaders and teachers to recommend the writings of Teresa of Avila. For instance, the late theologian Dallas Willard encouraged his followers to read Teresa’s Interior Castle saying Teresa is “an example to follow.”1 Christian publishers like Bethany House, Thomas Nelson, and Multnomah Press have published books by Teresa of Avila. Rick Warren, author of the highly popular Purpose Driven Life, says her writings are among “great, classic devotional works.”2 Pete Scazzero, author of the popular book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, lists Teresa of Avila’s book, Interior Castle as one of his “top ten books.”3 Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Pathways and Sacred Marriage, favorably references Teresa of Avila numerous times in his book, Thirsting for God. And not surprisingly, contemplative authors such as Richard Foster and Henry Nouwen see her as a fellow mystic.

In 2009, Lighthouse Trails published Castles in the Sand, a story involving a young troubled girl who begins attending a Christian college where she is introduced in her Spiritual Formation class to the writings of an ancient mystic, Teresa of Avila. The following booklet is taken from Castles in the Sand narrating Teresa’s life. While Castles in the Sand is a work of fiction, Teresa of Avila is a real, historical figure (1515-1582). The depiction of her life in this booklet is based on historical records (see bibliography at end of booklet). Quotes and paraphrases of her writings are taken from her actual written works. The lives of other characters portrayed in this booklet are created from composites of true stories.

While some readers may find some of Teresa’s mystical experiences (that at times included involuntary levitating) troubling to read, it is important to understand that the “spiritual ecstasies” Teresa of Avila encountered were the result of her practicing a meditative prayer, much like one that is being practiced by countless Christians today through the Spiritual Formation (i.e., contemplative prayer) movement. We pray this booklet will illustrate how mystical prayer methods are dangerous and introduce the practitioner to occultism and its tormenting “fruit,” something you will not be warned about by those who recommend you study the ancient mystics. And now, the story of Teresa of Avila.
And still they told me my visions were the work of evil spirits! For six years, I was on trial . . . six years! So many prayers and masses said, I grew weary of them all! Yet still the trances and favors have become more violent and frequent . . . oh, I am in distress, such great distress. I am weary, and so tired . . . so very, very tired.—Teresa of Avila
Teresa of Avila was a Carmelite nun who was born in Spain in 1515. As a young girl with an active imagination and great love for books, she was profoundly affected by her mother’s death, which left her emotionally empty. In despair, she threw herself before an image of the Virgin Mary and begged her to be her new mother. This extreme devotion to the Mother Mary soon gave way to an interest in fashion as her beauty blossomed. With it, the passion for reading, writing, and romance was rekindled. Teresa’s concerned father sent her away to boarding school at an Augustinian convent. However, when Teresa fell dreadfully ill with malaria, the nuns sent for her father who came to take her home. Recuperating from the serious illness and suffering from headaches, Teresa read a book given to her from her uncle called The Third Spiritual Alphabet by Francisco de Osuna, from which she learned the practice of the prayer of recollection.* Though previously not interested in reading about such things, her illness had transformed her into a more serious kind of girl. She soon learned to practice “the prayer of quiet,”** a state where the soul is completely absorbed.
Weary of the worldly things that had once given her pleasure, she made secret plans to escape to the Carmelite Monastery without consent from her father and pursue a serious life of prayer, as her uncle had been urging her to do. Teresa later wrote about receiving “favors” that the Lord granted her as she continued to practice her “mental prayer” and the prayer of quiet, two stages of mystical prayer.
“It used to happen, when I represented Christ within me in order to place myself in His presence, or even while reading, that a feeling of the presence of God would come upon me unexpectedly so that I could in no way doubt He was within me or I totally immersed in Him. This did not occur after the manner of a vision. I believe they call the experience ‘mystical theology.’ The soul is suspended in such a way that it seems to be completely outside itself. The will loves; the memory, it seems to me, is almost lost. For, as I say, the intellect does not work, but it is as though amazed by all it understands because God desires that it understands, with regard to the things His majesty represents to it, that it understands nothing.”
The practice of the prayer of quiet continued to bring Teresa into what she called the state of union, the place where intellect and will cease to function over which she soon had no control. As the years passed, Teresa’s headaches and visions began to take their toll. She was counseled by the Jesuit Fathers to give up her “interior” prayer, but that didn’t help.

One day, she cried out, “Oh these visions! What tortures I have endured . . . how can I bear it?” she wailed. “I even gave up mental prayer. I . . . I gave it up. I did! First I waited to be free of sin, but they found no fault in me. Not a fault! Yet I was visited again, more visions . . . more revelations . . . to this most miserable sinner as I.”

Behind her, she could hear the group of nuns that stopped a short distance away, pausing for a moment before turning and walking in the other direction.

To continue reading and for endnotes and bibliography, click here.
St. Teresa of Avila's "Ecstasy in Contemplation"

Published on Oct 14, 2015
St. Teresa was born in Avila, Spain in 1515. She is known as the patroness of the religious and the sick.

As a child, Teresa was obsessed with the martyrs and saints. One day, when she was seven, she convinced her brother to become a martyr . Her plan was to go to the Moors and ask to be decapitated! They were just outside the town walls when their uncle found and stopped them.

When she was 14-years-old, Teresa's mother passed away, so she turned to the Virgin Mary as a spiritual mother.

Though she was devoted to her faith, the saints and the Virgin Mother, she was also interested in reading fiction and her father worried this was making her vain. To help Teresa remain holy, he sent her to the Augustinian nuns at Avila.

At the monastery, Teresa became extremely ill and experienced moments of religious ecstasy during her devotionals.

Teresa also practiced self-mortification, a common practice during that time. It was during one such occasion she received her first vision of Jesus. She continued to have visions for the next two years, which drove her to convert Spanish Jews to Christianity, to found convents, and to spend five years in prayerful seclusion.

Teresa eventually founded a religious order; the Discalced Carmelites. Many Carmelite religious live cloistered of poverty and prayerful contemplation even today.

As St. Teresa approached the end of her life, she expressed happiness that her hour has arrived. “My Lord, it is time to move on. Well then, may your will be done. O my Lord and my Spouse, the hour that I have longed for has come. It is time to meet one another."

St. Teresa was beatified at April 24, 1614 and canonized on March 12, 1622.

Following her death, her body was exhumed several times, each time smelling sweet, feeling firm, and was unspoiled. Several relics of her body are currently on display at various holy sites around the world.

Her feast day is October 15.
Biography of Saint Teresa of Avila
 Published on Feb 16, 2015
A short biography of Saint Teresa of Avila. Some basic facts about Teresa de Avila:

- Born on 28 March 1515 in Gotarrendura, Ávila, Crown of Castile (today Spain)
- Died on 4 October 1582 (aged 67) in Alba de Tormes, Salamanca, Spain
- Venerated in: Roman Catholic Church, Lutheran Church and Anglican Communion
- Beatified on: 24 April 1614, Rome by Pope Paul V
- Canonized 12 March 1622, Rome by Pope Gregory XV
- Major shrine Convent of the Annunciation, Alba de Tormes, Spain
- Feast celebrated on 15 October
- Attributes: Habit of the Discalced Carmelites, Book and Quill, arrow-pierced heart
- Patronage: Bodily ills; headaches; chess; lacemakers; laceworkers; loss of parents; people in need of grace; people in religious orders; people ridiculed for their piety; Požega, Croatia; sick people; sickness; Spain.



republished below in full unedited for informational, educational, and research purposes:
I wonder you should ask me whether it is essential to keep the patient in ignorance of your own existence. That question, at least for the present phase of the struggle, has been answered for us by the High Command. Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves.1 – C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
The Shack’s author, William P. Young, quotes C.S. Lewis favorably and frequently in his books, but The Screwtape Letters by Lewis is not one of the books from which he has quoted. I bring up Lewis, not as an endorsement, but to point out a discrepancy. The Screwtape Letters is a novel that presents some of the many ways Christians can be effectively seduced and deceived by Satan and his demons—a subject that is completely ignored in The Shack and in Young’s other books. The discrepancy is that Young  chooses quotes from authors like Lewis to serve his own personal and theological agenda while conveniently ignoring writings by the same author that actually contradict his agenda. The Screwtape Letters is a perfect example.
The Screwtape Letters consist of a series of letters sent by a senior seducing spirit named Screwtape to his young understudy Wormwood. In the letters, Screwtape teaches Wormwood how to subtly undermine and eventually destroy the faith of his Christian “patient.” In the quote cited above, Screwtape tells Wormwood to conceal himself in such a way that the designated individual remains unaware of his spiritual presence. And this is exactly what we find in The Shack. The Devil and his deceptive spirits are never mentioned—not even once. It’s no wonder Young avoids The Screwtape Letters when he quotes C.S. Lewis. Acknowledgement of a real Devil and seducing spirits plays no part in The Shack and its supposed expression of  Christian theology.
Young has a witty but innocuous C.S. Lewis quote at the beginning of The Shack’s main chapter on relationships.2 But where The Screwtape Letters serves to expose and warn about the ways Satan thwarts and undermines a believer’s relationship with God, Young’s novel—and in particular this chapter on relationships—says absolutely nothing in this regard. Given The Shack’s emphasis on the importance of  “relationship,” it seems odd that no mention is ever made in Young’s novel about a believer’s uninvited yet inevitable “relationship” with his Spiritual Adversary—Satan the Devil. There is no acknowledgment, no warning, no advice, no anything in The Shack concerning the Devil, his seducing spirits, and their many wiles.
Contrarily, the Bible tells believers to put on the full armor of God, so they can stand fast against the wiles of the Devil and powers of darkness that are very real (Ephesians 6:11-13). We are admonished to be “sober” and “vigilant” because our Spiritual Adversary is walking around like “a roaring lion” and “seeking whom he may devour”—whether that be in a shack or anywhere else (1 Peter 5:8-9). We are told to resist the Devil and his temptations with the Word of God—not with human wisdom and “relationship” (Matthew 4:1-11).
Young’s easy dismissal of the Devil implies that our Spiritual Adversary is not someone we have to contend with in our lives and relationships. Young goes so far as to teach that “evil and darkness” don’t even exist. Young puts these words in the mouth of his “Holy Spirit” character “Sarayu”:
Both evil and darkness can only be understood in relation to Light and Good; they do not have any actual existence.3
But this is what the universal New Age Christ teaches—that “evil does not exist.” This false universal Christ states:
Innocence is wisdom because it is unaware of evil, and evil does not exist.4
With darkness having no existence of its own, it’s no wonder that Young’s presentation of evil and darkness agrees with the teachings of the New Age rather than the teachings of the Bible. His expressed disbelief in the existence of independent evil goes right along with his self-confessed universalist leanings.5

 Hidden in Plain Sight

The Shack’s Papa “God” cites a number of inhibiting factors concerning “relationship” in what Papa calls “all the limiting influences in your life that actively work against your freedom.”6 These limiting influences are also referred to as “that confluence of multifaceted inhibitors.”7 But again, Young fails to make any mention of the Devil as one of these influences or inhibitors. For a man who likes to quote C.S. Lewis, Young might want to read or reread The Screwtape Letters. It would seem that Wormwood-like seducing spirits have effectively convinced Young they have no existence. As a consequence of this spiritual deception, Young has defined the Devil right out of existence—out of The Shack, out of his “Christian” theology, and out of the Bible. Sadly, most Shack readers become so emotionally caught up in Young’s novel, they never notice that the Devil is completely absent from his Shack story and Shack theology.
So where is the Devil in Young’s novel? Be sure of this—the Devil’s presence completely overshadows and thoroughly permeates the pages of The Shack. Cloaked in humor, clouded in human wisdom, concealed in flattery, tucked away in mockery and sarcasm, and hidden in half-truths and lies, the Devil thoroughly inhabits the many conversations that ultimately produce Young’s universal, New Age-flavored Shack theology. The Devil may appear to be absent from The Shack, but for those who have the eyes to see, the Devil is the unspoken force that inspires Young and purposely and cunningly drives his novel. As they say, the Devil is in the details. The Devil is not absent from The Shack, he is just hidden in plain sight.
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. (2 Peter 1:16)
Lest Satan should get an advantage of us:  for we are not ignorant of his devices. (2 Corinthians 2:11)
  1. C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York, NY: Macmillan Company, 1960), p. 39.
  2. William P. Young, The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity ( Los Angeles, CA: Windblown Media, 2007), p. 104.
  3. Ibid., p. 136.
  4. A Course in Miracles: Combined Volume (Glen Ellen, CA: Foundation for Inner Peace, 1975) (Text) p. 38.
  5. Wm. Paul Young, Lies We Believe About God (New York, NY: Atria Books, 2017), pp. 118-119. (Young states that he believes in universal salvation.)
  6. William P. Young, The Shack, op., cit., p. 95.
  7. Ibid.
Related Information:
BOOKLET – The Shack and Its New Age Leaven by Warren B. Smith
The Shack’s Universal Papa
“The Shack,” TBN, and the New Age 

“Truths We Believe about God” Theological Review of “Shack” Author’s New Book: “Lies We Believe About God”
 The movie was released in the same time as Young's latest book By Pastor Larry DeBruyn
republished below in full unedited for informational, educational, and research purposes:

A Biblical & Theological Refutation of Wm. Paul Young’s book, Lies We Believe About God

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
—The Apostle Peter, 2 Peter 2:1, KJV 

As promoted by the best-selling religious allegory The Shack, a non-Christian worldview is playing around with the mind and soul of evangelicalism even to questioning of salvation’s meaning. With the release of the movie by the same name, The Shack’s verbal images are now being visualized. Contemporaneously, and capitalizing upon the publicity generated by the movie, yet another book by Wm. Paul Young has hit the market, Lies We Believe About God.[1] 
Note the Yin/Yang, light/dark symbolism

What Young covertly taught by allegory and metaphor in The Shack he now overtly teaches in Lies—teachings among others, regarding God, humanity, love, and salvation. Reportedly, Young admitted that, “The Shack is theology.” And then added, “But it is a theology wrapped in a story.”[2]

Now in Lies We Believe About God, the shrouded “story” plays a more minor role as Wm. Paul Young openly states his theology. Young continues to exert a compelling presence among mainstream evangelicals through his interviews, books and release of the movie, The Shack. Leaders Pat Robertson and James Robison have praised the movie.[3] Featuring the book’s author, the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) has recently aired a weekly program Restoring The Shack.[4]

Why Be a Christian? 
But despite their popularity, Young’s teachings contradict what Scripture teaches about God, humanity, love and salvation (his contention being that all people are reconciled to God, are friends with God; i.e., universalism), and this conflict needs to be addressed. His revisionist thinking about “Christian beliefs” does not derive from seeing the faith through the lens of Holy Scripture, though he might pretend it to be otherwise, but rather through a prism of his life experiences and emotions. His devastating life experiences while growing up in New Guinea as an MK (Missionary Kid) may explain his journey as to why he has come to believe what he believes. But while the negative emotions aroused by his experiences, and similarly those of others, may explain why Young feels the way he does about some of the evangelical culture’s expressions of belief, they do not excuse his departure from biblical Christianity; that is, if biblical Christianity is to remain the true way of understanding and approaching God.

The purpose of this writing is not to deal with all the issues Young raises in Lies We Believe About God. While he raises a few legitimate concerns which I might share, most of them are illegitimate. What I find irreconcilable with the authority of Scripture is the template he forces on the Christian faith and how wedded to his life experiences, he tries to fit the Bible and its teachings into the psychological and philosophical way he views the world.

For example, if, as he states, all people are universally reconciled to God (Young: Are you suggesting that everyone is saved?... That is exactly what I am saying! LWBAG, 118), then why believe Christianity? (John 14:6) Isn’t that Young’s point by using an atheist as an example of being a child of God to disprove the lie, “Not Everyone is a child of God.”? (LWBAG, Chapter 24, 203-208)[5] If early Christians had not believed in the exclusivity of the Gospel, the Christian church’s genius would have been lost and Christianity would have reduced itself to the status of a sect in the first century. If I thought universalism to be true, I would possess no compulsion to believe Christianity or encourage others to place their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. If in the Trinity I along with every other soul on this planet already have an eternal and loving relationship with God, then no matter what I believe or how I behave I am going to be God’s friend and go to heaven anyway, right? It may take time to work out the friendship between God and me, but we’ll get there.

“Unshackled: Breaking Away from Seductive Spirituality”[6]
Previously to this writing and eight years ago, I expressed my concerns regarding the theology of Paul Young as expressed via story, allegory and metaphor in The Shack. My reservations were written in my book, Unshackled: Breaking Away from Seductive Spirituality (2009). Interested readers can also consult my article about the “god” of The Shack posted years ago on the website Herescope titled, Elousia and the Black Madonna: Imagination, Images and Impurity in “The Shack.”[7] The purpose of this writing is not to replay previous writings contained in Unshackled, but rather to biblically and theologically interact with and refute Paul Young’s teachings in his book, Lies We Believe About God; namely, that by virtue of descent from the Trinity via creation, every human being is through Jesus connected to God in a personal, organic, dynamic and eternal relationship (Genesis 1:26-30; 2:7).[8]

Thus we turn to look at the view of salvation Young promotes in his book (really, all his books) Lies We Believe About God. To begin with, I would like to share the paradigm Paul Young employs to measure Christianity, how he determines what are the truths and what are the lies regarding the faith. Understanding this template will help readers to see, I hope, why Young embraces some beliefs and why he discards others. And I might add, around this worldview much of the popular pan-evangelical movement appears to be coalescing.

The Author’s Spiritual Template
As I have reflected upon two of his books, The Shack and Lies We Believe About God, a spiritual template emerges—call it a paradigm, straight jacket or grid—by which Young measures his spiritual truth derived from the aggregate of his life experiences—as well as those of others (good and bad)—his psychological preferences, his philosophical perspectives, his twisting of Bible passages, his theological musings and his beliefs about God. In order to be included as part of the “relationship” between God and man as his template fashions it, his religious experiences and beliefs must fit in accord with his misgivings about the Christianity he experienced while being part of the North American fundamentalist-evangelical subculture (being an MK, Bible college student, etc.).

The Themes of His Template 
The core of his template is this: Young believes that universally all humans have a relationship with God and are redeemed and reconciled to Him. Everything in life—all cultural experiences, Scripture and theology—must, conditioned by his and other’s experiences and accompanied by his explanations, be molded to fit his belief system. If life events, evangelical expressions of faith or Scriptural teachings don’t fit his system of “truth,” they are considered “lies” (few, a very few, deservedly so). Thus the question arises, because he writes from a claimed Christian perspective, what are the psychological, philosophical, biblical and theological underpinnings which form the universalistic template by which he determines his truth that everybody’s saved because they’re in a relationship, either enjoying or not enjoying it, with God? To explain why he believes what he believes, we will try to unpack these assumptions.

(Movie endorsements for The Shack. Source)

Three Themes 
Indicating where he’s coming from, there appears to be three general themes which form his paradigm: first, by virtue of creation, the universe and the Tri-Personal God (Father, Son and Spirit.) co-exist in oneness; second, in this oneness the Trinity infuses the universe with the Love (spelled with an uppercase “L”) they interpersonally experienced before the foundation of the world (John 17:23, 24, 28); and third, every human by virtue of having been created by and being immanently inside the Trinity has, does and will participate in this divine “Love” Young calls “Relationship.”

First Theme: The Universe and Universalism 
To Young God is the Tri-Personal being who infuses and permeates the whole of creation which he spells a couple of times with an upper case “C” (Creation) in Lies We Believe About God and approximately twenty times (Creation) in The Shack. In doing so, he suggests nature is possessed of divineness. Presumably, the universe exists because in a symphony of unity the Trinity created it (Father, Son and Spirit, Genesis 1:1-2 and John 1:1-4). But this created universe, and here’s the catch, exists “inside” the Trinity.

In the Foreword to Young’s book Lies We Believe About God, C. Baxter Kruger, a Trinitarian theologian, explains the relationship of the Three-Person Oneness of God to creation like this: “Inside of this moving divine dance of relationship, everything was created: every human being, every plant, every subatomic particle, everything.” (Emphasis added, LWBAG, 127-128). So in this view creation is not separate from, but is contained in the Tri-Personal God. The universe is inside, not outside the Trinity. The Trinity is the container, the universe becomes the contents, and God infuses Love into the contents so that no separation exists between container and contents.

Remember: Both Young and Kruger tell readers there’s no separation between the Trinity and humanity, no us and them. (LWBAG, 232, 11) Question: How do compatriots Kruger and Young know everything’s inside the Trinity? Do they arrive at this conclusion through philosophical speculation, their Sophia? Is that the basis? (In The Shack wisdom or Sophia is not Christ (1 Corinthians 1:24, 30), but “a personification of Papa’s wisdom,” 171).

Note: Kruger, as presumably Young, views the whole creation as dwelling within the Trinity (i.e., as Young would say, “No separation!”). By implication, it can be postulated that the converse of this creation-relation-equation can also be believed; that the Trinity indwells a dancing creation the Tri-Personal God shares with “every human being, every plant, every subatomic particle, everything.” If it is assumed that creation is symbiotically inside the Trinity and the Trinity inside the creation, then as represented by Jesus the prototypical human—“every single human being is in Christ... and Christ is in them.” (LWBAG, 119)

This quantum-like physics worldview (where like gravity the Trinity’s energy or Force of Love infuses and permeates the entire cosmos) is monism or oneness, i.e., all is one and one is all. This eastern-like mystical and New Age worldview implies that the universe and the Triune God exist together in a harmonious and rhapsodic movement (No separation!) of dance, in a sort of hypostatic union comparable to the way in which the divine and human fused and danced together in the Word incarnate, Jesus Christ. In such a symbiotic relationship (Creator and Creation “need” each other.) the creation feeds from the Trinity and the Trinity feeds from the creation (Yin/Yang or As Above, So Below).

So Paul Young chooses to name God “Papa” and Elousia (i.e., a combination of the Genesis and Hebrew name for God the Creator, “El,” Elohim, and the Greek verb “ousia” meaning “being” which he borrows from the Greek philosopher Plato). Elousia in The Shack describes herself as “the Creator God who is truly real and the ground of all being.” (The Shack, 111) The source of the phrase “ground of all being” derives from the radical theologian Paul Tillich (1886-1965).[9] One theologian evaluates that,

God as the Ground of Being is thus the God in whom Tillich would have us place our trust. But this God belongs to the circle [“We are a circle of relationship,” Papa tells Mack about the Trinity in The Shack, 122] of pantheistic theory. Ultimately, Tillich’s God absorbs everything into Himself [ed., like Young and Kruger’s model of the universe—everything is “inside” the Trinity].[10]

Tillich’s dialectical theology “has been variously designated as a system of Gnosticism, naturalism, pantheism, and atheism; and all these designations are, more or less, accurate.”[11]

In addition to Tillich, Young and Kruger borrow from and are popularizing the theology of Jürgen Moltmann (1926- ), in many ways the “father” of the emerging church, who used “the classical term perichoresis to speak of the mutual relations among the divine persons in God.”[12] This perichoresis relationship (Greek peri = “around” combined with choresis = “choreographed”), also called “social” Trinitarianism, co-inherence, “the dance,” Moltmann extends “to all relations, including mutual interpenetration among beings in the world and their mutual interpenetration with God.”[13]

In cosmic co-inherence, not unlike quantum theory, the Tri-Personal God and all that comprises the universe symbiotically dance together, mutually moving with, among, between and in each other in an ethereally loving and dancing relationship. As the title of Cooper’s book indicates, Young and his friend Kruger are peddling and popularizing panentheism within the greater evangelical, charismatic and emergent church communities—that God is in everything (contrast pantheism, everything is God).

So in reality Moltmann’s panentheistic theology, and by implication Young and Kruger’s, reduces the faith to pagan nature worship, and millions of Christian readers are ignorantly genuflecting before The Shack, both the book and the movie. By use of his template, Young transports readers to worship in his temple.

 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
—Romans 1:21-23 

Kruger’s quotation of Moltmann indicates his connection to the German theologian. To introduce chapter 9—“The Oneness of the Spirit, Son, and Father”—of his book The Shack Revisited, he quotes:
By virtue of their eternal love they live in one another to such an extent, and dwell in one another to such an extent, that they are one.
—Jürgen Moltmann
Thus, any understanding that God is Holy (“holy” means to separate, to be set apart, and to be sanctified) becomes quite naturalized.[15] And by the way, if the Lord God is not Holy (Revelation 4:8) then neither is He Worthy (Revelation 4:9-11).

But in a worldview like Young and Baxter’s there is no separation between Creator, creation and creature. As Cooper points out, this worldview is panentheistic (God dwells in all, and all dwells in God), though both Young and Kruger probably would not outright state this to be the case. But it might also be classified, at least according to the stated characteristics of their paradigm, to be pantheism. In stating something that sounds eerily familiar to what Young and Kruger write, Andrews defines monism-pantheism:

The essential element of Pantheism... ‘is the unity of God and nature, of the Infinite and the finite, in one single substance.’ The Infinite is not swallowed up in the finite, nor the finite in the Infinite, but both co-exist; and this co-existence is necessary and eternal [ed., by Young and Kruger’s reckoning, everything eternally exists inside the Trinity]. Thus we have the One and the many, the Absolute, the All. It will have no dualism, it will unify nature, man, and God.[16] 

This then is their sense of their universalism, the Trinity circularly moving, “dancing” and changing together in the oneness of Love, and in the process (enter process theology) why not let the whole creation, “every human being, every plant, every subatomic particle, everything” join the great quantum-cosmic dance? Then indeed, there will be “no separation” between God and humans as biblical words sin, wrath, condemnation and judgment imply, only Love manifested in “dancing,” “sharing” and “relationship”—the next word we move on to consider.
(Perichoresis illustration - Source)

Second Theme: The Universe and Relationship 
God is Love, and because the whole creation exists inside the Trinity, there is as has been stated, no separation between God and humans. The Tri-Personal Deity infinitely and eternally loves; each member equally loving the other two without personal diminishment, jealousy or competition between and among them (To state again, this is called perichoresis, co-inherence, social Trinitarianism or “the dance”). Their “dancing” relationship the Tri-Personal God desires to see reproduced between them and all humanity, and this the sovereign Tri-Personal deity has done, is doing and will continue to do ad infinitum. Because all creation exists “inside” the Trinity, creation becomes infused, like gravity, with the Love they share. “Relationship” therefore becomes actualized between God and every human being who ever lived.

Extending out of the Trinity’s union with creation, God is understood by Young to love humans unconditionally, and humans, though they might not realize it just yet, to similarly love God. (After all, they’re inside the Trinity!) Though some humans do not find themselves necessarily “fond” of God, God always remains fond of them (“Fond” is Young’s synonym for love, “We are especially fond of you,” Papa says to Mack in The Shack, 234). It may take time for some humans to become “fond” of God (i.e., develop a relationship), but sooner or later when they wake up to Love, whether in this life’s dimension or the next, they will (Talk about determinism...!).

Of course, such a scenario flies in the face of the Apostle Paul’s statement that there are those who are “haters of God” (Romans 1:30). Yes, some people can’t have a relationship with God because they hate Him!

Having looked at the aspect of relationship in Young’s worldview, we turn now to the subject of redemption and reconciliation.


Third Theme: The Universe and Redemption-Reconciliation 
Because God has lovingly wedded all humans into oneness—they are inside the Trinity—within him, her or them (Young’s hermaphroditic [androgynous, ed.*] goddess “Papa” in The Shack) they experience union with God, an eastern-mystical-like union which transcends time, matter and space. Young states that, “every single human being is in Christ (John 1:3), and Christ is in them, and Christ is in the Father (John 14:20). When Christ—the Creator in whom [Note: not “by” whom.] the cosmos was created—died, we all died. When Christ rose, we rose (2 Corinthians 5).” (LWBAG, 119) Young then adds that “prior to the foundation of the world, we were all included;... saved in eternity... all included in the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:19).” (LWBAG, 119)

From birth, if not before, Young teaches that the whole of humanity, being inside the Trinity, was somehow metaphysically “present” with Jesus in the great redemptive event of history, his life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension into heaven. All humans therefore have experienced, are experiencing, or will experience reconciliation and relationship with the Tri-Personal God because “all” were eternally in Christ when He redeemed-reconciled them to him/her/them “selves.” Baxter Kruger writes that to speak the name “Jesus” is to speak in “oneness,” the name of the Trinity. He explains,

Therefore, to speak the name of Jesus is to say that the Triune God, the human race, and all creation are not separated, but together in relationship. Jesus is Himself the relationship; He is [ed., by virtue of His incarnation] the union in between the Triune God and the human race. (LWBAG, 11) 

Kruger then explains that this is “why Paul and I regard the widespread notion that human beings are separated from God as a fundamental lie, one that denies Jesus’s very identity”—and presumably, denies our identity also, an identity of being from time immemorial metaphysically and transcendently one in Jesus, which oneness has now totally become immanent. (LWBAG, 11)

Note: I do not deny the truth that in positional union in/with Christ all believers have together been made alive, raised up and seated in heaven with Christ (Ephesians 2:5-6; Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:3-7). What I do deny are the universal implications which Young prejudicially extracts from the great truth of believers-only union with/in Christ to extend it to every single human being who ever lived.
Read more concerns HERE

The Template’s Summary 
This is the spiritual template of Wm. Paul Young and C. Baxter Kruger, a grid through which Scripture must pass and then be molded to fit into their paradigm of universalism. This is the foundation upon which they base their beliefs. (Bible verses had better fit, or else!). In the last part of the book and in an attempt to prove his fantastic scheme of universal relationship-redemption-reconciliation, Young weaves together a series of Scripture passages, something he calls A Catena. He extracts and intertwines thirty-four Scripture passages in his catena, many extracted from the Apostle Paul’s letters. In this weaving-deceiving he attempts to make biblically believable the conversation he’s having with naïve readers. His catena only includes passages containing the words “all,” “every,” “world,” “cosmos,” “everything” or “everyone,” passages he personally selects to fit his template and provide cover for his aberrant theology. About this method of using the Bible we ought to recall words of the Apostle Peter. Young’s approach to Bible quotation or allusion resembles that of “untaught and unstable” teachers who distort the meaning of Scripture to their own and others’ destruction if they swallow “hook, line and sinker” what is being cast to them (2 Peter 3:16).

Young presumes that because all creation is “inside” the Trinity, because the Love of the Trinity resides in union with all creation, and because all humanity before time participated in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, all are, have been or will be redeemed-reconciled with God. For readers who might have read or be reading The Shack or Lies We Believe About God, I ask that you consider my assessment of Paul’s paradigm to see whether or not his arguments can best be understood against this backdrop. Universal Love as expressed in universal relationship-redemption-reconciliation is the template Young tries to fit God and humanity into, and no matter what, they are going to fit!

This is the New Age-New Worldview-New Spirituality destination the evangelical movement appears to be traveling towards. Though the movement’s trains, whether the New Apostolic Reformation, the Emerging Church, Neo-Calvinism, the Charismatic Movement (add Liberal Denominations, Catholicism and Primitivism into the mix) etc., seem to be traveling on different tracks, they will arrive at the same hub: pantheistic nature worship. If not Christ, religious persons will devoutly deify and worship the cosmos, and then themselves. “I was an atheist” the T-shirt saying goes, “until I found out I am God.”

About the captivating religious box Young and Kruger have constructed for people to put their trust in, no matter how earthly-wise the packaging of it, the Apostle Paul gave this warning to believers: The box is empty!

Beware lest any man spoil [captivate] you
through philosophy
[love of sophistry]
and vain deceit
[empty deceptions],
after the tradition of men
[human wisdom not God’s],
after the rudiments of the world

[the constituent particles and powers of the universe],
and not after Christ. For in Him
[Not us!]
dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

—Emphasis and bracketed comments added, Colossians 2:8-9 
We turn now to the book, its title and contents.  

To be continued . . . 

[1] Wm. Paul Young, Lies We Believe About God (New York, NY: Atria Books, 2017). Besides this book and The Shack, Young also wrote Crossroads and Eve
[2] Charity Gibson, “‘The Shack’ Cover Artist Renounces Book for Leading People Astray: ‘I Have Deep Regrets’,” The Christian Post, April 19, 2017 ( Gibson quotes Dave Aldrich who designed the cover for The Shack who quotes Young. 
[3] Al Dager, Media Spotlight (Sequim, WA; Omega Ministries Spring 2017): 27. 
[4] Trinity Broadcasting Network, March ( 
[5] I will employ the acronym LWBAG (Lies We Believe About God) and page numbers when quoting the book. 
[6] Pastor Larry DeBruyn, Unshackled: Breaking Away from Seductive Spirituality (Indianapolis, IN: Moeller Printing Company, 2009). Book available for free PDF download at Discernment Ministries website, ; hard copies available from Discernment Ministries, P.O. Box 520, Canton, Texas, 75103; Phone: 903-567-6423. 
[7] Pastor Larry DeBruyn, “The Shack, ‘Elousia,’ & the Black Madonna: Imagination, Image, and Idolatry,” Herescope, July 2, 2008 ( ). 
[8] Pastor Larry DeBruyn, “The Shack and Universal Reconciliation,” Herescope, October 24, 2008 ( ). 
[9] Young adapts the phrase “ground of all being” from the term used by Paul Tillich (1886-1965) “to indicate God as the source of all reality or being.” Donald K. McKim, “Ground of Being,” Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms (Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press, 1996): 122. 
[10] Kenneth Hamilton, “Paul Tillich,” Creative Minds in Christian Theology, Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, Editor (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1969): 470. 
[11] Vernon C. Grounds, “Pacesetters for the Radical Theologians of the Sixties and Seventies,” Tensions in Contemporary Theology, Stanley N. Gundry and Alan F. Johnson, Editors (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1976): 95. 
[12] See John W. Cooper, Panentheism The Other God of the Philosophers: From Plato to the Present (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006): 251. For further study, Kruger recommends the writings of Jürgen Moltmann. See C. Baxter Kruger, The Shack Revisited (New York, NY: FaithWorks, 2012): 267. 
[13] Cooper, Panentheism: 252. 
[14] Kruger, Shack Revisited, 106. In his chapter’s title note how Kruger subtly employs one definite article “the” to preface Spirit, Son, and Father, contrary to Jesus’ command to make disciples by “baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). The quote subtracts from “the” Trinity in favor of “oneness.” 
[15] See Larry DeBruyn, “The Holy God,” Unshackled: 17-22. 
[16] Samuel J. Andrews, Christianity and Anti-Christianity in Their Final Conflict, Second Revised Edition (New York, NY: G.P. Putna’s Sons, 1899): 126-127.

*Herescope's editor added this word. Read Warren B. Smith's excellent article "The Shack’s Universal Papa," in which he descibes Papa as not unlike a pagan trickster god. "But in regards to Papa, it states that “in his shapeshifter form he tends to change genders and forms to delight himself."  Our friend Warren B. Smith is writing many articles posted at Lighthouse Trails, some which are referenced or linked to in this article, including his most recent: “Shack” Theology: Where Is the Devil?
TBN Pulls Plug on “Shack” Author’s New Book—Sort of . . .
“The Shack,” TBN, and the New Age

To read more discernment material about William Paul Young, and his two controversial books THE SHACK and LIES WE BELIEVE ABOUT GOD, including the recent Hollywood movie based on The Shack, see the articles referenced in Pastor Larry’s footnotes above. Also see the many articles posted on the Herescope blog over the years, such as: 
THE SHACK & Its New Age Leaven
THE SHACK, "Elousia," & the Black Madonna
THE SHACK and Universal Reconciliation
Quantum Physics and the New Spirituality

Herescope and the Discernment Research Group have been on a badly needed sabbatical since December 2016. This post begins a multi-part series which will be published on Guarding His Flock Ministries website and also Herescope. 

Reprinted with author's permission with minor modifications to the textual layout for blog posting. The glossary of definitions throughout this post were added by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for the Herescope version of his article. For the original article see:



republished below in full unedited for informational, educational, and research purposes:
We have often been asked, “How do I find a good Bible-believing church?” There are many believers who are struggling to find one in their own communities. To start with, we usually recommend they make phone calls to potential churches and ask a few concise questions such as:
“Do you have a Spiritual Formation program at your church?” or “Has your church implemented aspects of the Purpose Driven Movement anytime in the past 10 years?.”
Since thousands of churches would answer yes to both or at least one of these questions, they are worthwhile to ask, and it would certainly narrow down the scope of one’s search. Here are a few other questions that could be asked:
1. Is the pastor using The Message “Bible” in his sermons and studies? Because this paraphrase is very often used by pastors and teachers who promote contemplative spirituality or emerging spirituality (as the language in The Message helps support these false teachings), it is another indicator that a church is going in the wrong direction.
2. Is the church affiliated in any way with the Willow Creek Association? Oftentimes, a church has not implemented the Purpose Driven Movement but is, rather, hooked up with Willow Creek. This is as problematic as Purpose Driven. See our article on our website titled, “No Repentance from Willow Creek—Only a Mystical Paradigm Shift.”
3. Is the church connected at all with Bethel Church of Redding, California? Bethel’s hyper-charismatic influence is huge today, and many churches are getting on board with the Bethel craze. That would include Jesus Culture too, which is an offshoot of Bethel. Before starting your search for a church, make sure you understand what the Word of Faith/NAR, hyper-charismatic movement is. Lighthouse Trails has several trustworthy authors who write about these issues. You’d be surprised to learn how extensive this influence has been in North American churches, even in ones that do not consider themselves charismatic.
4. Ask a potential church if it would mind mailing you a few recent Sunday programs. When you get them, look for some of the key terms used within the contemplative/emerging camp: missional, servant leader, soul-care, spiritual formation, transformation, transitioning, silence, organic, authentic, reinvent, spiritual disciplines, Christ follower (the term Christian isn’t typically liked too well by contemplatives and emergent) Christian formation (or Christian spirituality) (a term often meaning the same as Spiritual Formation). Just using these terms alone doesn’t suddenly make a church contemplative or emerging, but it does show that at least one person in leadership at that church is reading books of that persuasion, and eventually that person’s influence will affect that church adversely.
In addition to those questions, be sure and visit a church’s website as there you may be able to find the answers to these questions without making the phone call. When on a website, see if there is more talk about unity, “culture,” social justice, and relevancy than about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You can check out the doctrinal and mission statements but be on guard—a church can have a solid-sounding doctrinal statement and be actually going in an entirely different direction. Listen to an interview called Beware the Bridgers for some information on that. And by the way, remember who some of the more popular ”bridgers” are, closing the gap between “rightly dividing the Word” and spiritual deception in millions of people’s lives: Beth Moore, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Tim Keller, John Piper, etc.—those who claim to be orthodox biblical Christians but who promote contemplative spirituality and/or emerging spirituality.
When on a church’s website, you can usually find out which conferences the church is involved with or recommending to their church members. The IF: Gathering conferences are growing tremendously in popularity all across North America, but as Cedric Fisher has documented in his booklet IF It is of God—Answering the Questions About IF: Gathering,  IF is an avenue through which emergent theology is entering the church. There are many other conferences and events, usually with high attendance, taking place yearly that are pumping up Christians with heretical ideas and “theologies.” If you find out a church you’ve been researching is involved in any of these, that is a big warning sign.
Also, once your search for a new church has narrowed down to a few churches, a weekday visit to those churches’ bookstores would be important. Look for books by Richard Foster, Gary Thomas, Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, and other authors discussed and critiqued on the LT website. Chris Lawson from Spiritual Research Network has a booklet that provides an extensive list of authors who fall within the contemplative, emerging camps. It’s an excellent resource.
While searching for a good church, it would be important to find out where a particular church is at in relation Jesus Calling and The Shack. Many churches have been allowing New Age ideas into their congregations through such books. Be sure to read former New Age follower Warren B. Smith’s materials which will help you identify what the New Age is and how it can disguise itself as a better, newer “Christianity.”  You might ask about women’s and men’s Bible study groups and which books are being used at these meetings. That will tell you a lot.
When all this has been done to find a Bible-believing church, if there are any in your community that have passed the contemplative/emerging/seeker-friendly/hyper-charismatic test, maybe it’s safe to take your family for a Sunday visit. Are many of the people walking in carrying Bibles? Seeker-friendly and church-growth churches discourage that because it might “offend” unbelievers (or as they say unchurched) coming to church. Does the pastor at some point in his sermon talk about the Cross (the atonement) and salvation (and mention of hell)? These are subjects that many churches avoid because of the “offensiveness” of that message. Better to offer an espresso drink and a little rock n roll music during the service and a psychology-based, feel-good message that appeals to the carnal senses (sensual) rather than build up the spiritual man.
Once you have found a church that seems to be sound, you should not stop being discerning. That must be ongoing. That might seem like a ”paranoid” or overly concerned attitude to have, but if we remember the many verses in Scripture that talk about spiritual deception (right from the Garden of Eden all the way to the Book of Revelation), we will realize it is the responsibility of the Christian to be discerning and watchful. And the Bible frequently talks about the latter days before Christ’s return where deception will run more rampant than ever before. Roger Oakland gives a list of signs to look for to see if a church is becoming or has become contemplative/emerging. As you begin to attend a new church, this list may be helpful to you and your family:
Scripture is no longer the ultimate authority as the basis for the Christian faith.
The centrality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is being replaced by humanistic methods promoting church growth and a social gospel.
More and more emphasis is being placed on building the kingdom of God now and less and less on the warnings of Scripture about the imminent return of Jesus Christ and a coming judgment in the future.
The teaching that the church has taken the place of Israel and Israel has no prophetic significance is often embraced.
The teaching that the Book of Revelation does not refer to the future, but instead has been already fulfilled in the past.
An experiential mystical form of Christianity begins to be promoted as a method to reach the postmodern generation.
Ideas are promoted teaching that Christianity needs to be re­invented in order to provide meaning for this generation.
The pastor may implement an idea called “ancient-future” or “vintage Christianity” claiming that in order to take the church forward, we need to go back in church history and find out what experiences were effective to get people to embrace Christianity.
While the authority of the Word of God is undermined, images and sensual experiences are promoted as the key to experiencing and knowing God.
These experiences include icons, candles, incense, liturgy, labyrinths, prayer stations, contemplative prayer, experiencing the sacraments, particularly the sacrament of the Eucharist.
There seems to be a strong emphasis on ecumenism indicating that a bridge is being established that leads in the direction of unity with the Roman Catholic Church.
Some evangelical Protestant leaders are saying that the Reformation went too far. They are reexamining the claims of the “church fathers” saying that communion is more than a symbol and that Jesus actually becomes present in the wafer at communion.
There will be a growing trend towards an ecumenical unity for the cause of world peace—claiming the validity of other religions and that there are many ways to God.
Members of churches who question or resist the new changes that the pastor is implementing are reprimanded and usually asked to leave.
Roger has these signs listed in his booklet/article How to Know When the Emerging Church Shows Signs of Emerging into Your Church.
May God bless you and guide you in your search. It may seem like an insurmountable task, but we know there are still good churches out there because we often hear from pastors who are staying the course and are aware of the times in which we live. May God lead you to find one of these churches.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural [carnal] man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. . . . For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:12-16)


  Germany Confiscates Homes To Give To Islamic Invaders 



  Germany: Apartments seized from their owner to accommodate Muslim migrants



republished below in full unedited for informational, educational, and research purposes:
This is the first use of a law passed in 2015 that allows for property to be seized to be used for refugees: “In Hamburg, property can be expropriated,” translated from “In Hamburg kann enteignet werden,” by Steffen Richter, Zeit Online, October 1, 2015: “The city of Hamburg has decided to seize commercial real estate. This is to ensure the accommodation of newly arriving refugees.”
And now it has happened. Merkel’s Germany is showing a clear preference for Muslim migrants over the rights of its own citizens. And apparently most Germans are too cowed by the prospect of charges of “racism” and “Islamophobia” to utter a murmur of dissent.

“Mitte District is for the first time forcibly leasing,” translated from “Bezirk Mitte führt erstmals Zwangsvermietung durch,” Hamburger Abendblatt, May 2, 2017:
Hamburg. The district of Hamburg-Mitte is now doing what it said it would do: for the first time, empty living space has been taken from its owner and forcibly rented. In accord with this, a trustee is currently renovating six long-term lease apartments on the Ohlendorffstrasse in Hamm. This year, they are to be restored and handed over to their owner, said Sorina Weiland, a spokeswoman for the district. The renovation costs in the middle five-digit range will be billed to him.
As the Abendblatt reported in November, in the fight against the housing shortage, the district had for the first time taken the utmost advantage: expropriation. Since the Hamburg Housing Protection Act became more stringent in 2013, long-term unused apartments can be refurbished and forcibly rented by the trustee, who is commissioned by the District Office. In a first for the district, Mitte now has taken six out of eight residential units at Ohlendorffstrasse 15 in Hamm. After the threat of expropriation, the owner was promised that he would be allowed to rent his apartments again. However, this remains only a verbal promise.
The apartments in Hamm have been empty since 2012. Despite previous foreclosures of 18,000 euros, the landlord had refused to bring the apartments back to the market. Therefore the key power over the residential units was handed over to a trustee on 1 March.
Once sanitation requirements have been identified, heating, flooring, plumbing and walls are being renewed. An apartment can even be rented again depending upon its condition, said Sorina Weiland. But the district will only vote for a precise plan this week. Once all six apartments have been renovated and refurbished, they will be returned to the owner.
Until now, the forced lease as a final use of the housing protection law had not been implemented in any Hamburg district. According to the law, an apartment must have been empty for at least four months without noticeable renovation work to be reported to the Office. Only after this can the owner be forced to make a move….
 Germany Confiscating Homes To Use For Migrants

Authorities in Hamburg, the second-largest city in Germany, have begun confiscating private dwellings to ease a housing shortage

BY  Soeren Kern | The Gatestone Institute


republished below in full unedited for informational, educational, and research purposes:
  • In an unprecedented move, Hamburg authorities confiscated six residential units in the Hamm district near the city center. A trustee appointed by the city is now renovating the properties and will rent them — against the will of the owner — to tenants chosen by the city. District spokeswoman Sorina Weiland said that all renovation costs will be billed to the owner of the properties.
  • Similar expropriation measures have been proposed in Berlin, the German capital, but abandoned because they were deemed unconstitutional.
  • Some Germans are asking what is next: Will authorities now limit the maximum amount of living space per person, and force those with large apartments to share them with strangers?
Authorities in Hamburg, the second-largest city in Germany, have begun confiscating private dwellings to ease a housing shortage — one that has been acutely exacerbated by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to allow more than two million migrants into the country in recent years.
City officials have been seizing commercial properties and converting them into migrant shelters since late 2015, when Merkel opened German borders to hundreds of thousands of migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Now, however, the city is expropriating residential property units owned by private citizens.
In an unprecedented move, Hamburg authorities recently confiscated six residential units in the Hamm district near the city center.The units, which are owned by a private landlord, are in need of repair and have been vacant since 2012. A trustee appointed by the city is now renovating the properties and will rent them — against the will of the owner — to tenants chosen by the city. District spokeswoman Sorina Weiland said that all renovation costs will be billed to the owner of the properties.

The expropriation is authorized by the Hamburg Housing Protection Act (Hamburger Wohnraumschutzgesetz), a 1982 law that was updated by the city’s Socialist government in May 2013 to enable the city to seize any residential property unit that has been vacant for more than four months.
The forced lease, the first of its kind in Germany, is said to be aimed at pressuring the owners of other vacant residences in the city to make them available for rent. Of the 700,000 rental units in Hamburg, somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 (less than one percent) are believed to be vacant, according an estimate by the Hamburg Senate.

Socialists and Greens in Hamburg recently established a “hotline” where local residents can report vacant properties. Activists have also created a website — Leerstandsmelder (Vacancy Detector) — to identify unoccupied real estate in Hamburg and other German cities.

Since then, both the mayor’s office and the Senate appear to have abandoned their plans.
Following an investigation, Gunnar Schupelius, a columnist with the Berlin newspaper BZwrote:
“A strange report made the rounds at the weekend: The Senate would authorize the police to enter private homes to house refugees, even against the will of the owner. I thought it was only satire, then a misunderstanding, because the Basic Law, Article 13, states: ‘The home is inviolable.’
“So I went on a search for the source of this strange report and found it. There is a ‘proposal’ which the Senate Chancellery (Senatskanzlei) has apparently circulated among the senators. The Senate Chancellery is another name for the mayor’s office. The permanent secretary is Björn Böhning (SPD)…
“The proposal is clear: The police can enter private property without a court order in order to search for housing for refugees when these are threatened with homelessness. You can do that ‘without the consent of the owner.’ And not only should the police be allowed to do this, but also the regulatory agencies.
“This delicate ‘proposal’ attracted little public attention. Only Berlin FDP General Secretary Sebastian Czaja spoke up and warned of an ‘open preparation for breach of the constitution.’ Internally, there should have been protests. The ‘proposal’ suddenly disappeared from the table. Is it completely gone or will it return?”
It remains unclear why no one has challenged the constitutionality of Hamburg’s expropriation law.
Meanwhile, some Germans are asking what is next: Will authorities now limit the maximum amount of living space per person, and force those with large apartments to share them with strangers?
Socialists and Greens in Hamburg recently established a “hotline” where local residents can report vacant properties. Activists have also created a website — Leerstandsmelder (Vacancy Detector) — to identify unoccupied real estate in Hamburg and other German cities.
It remains unclear why the landlord in Hamm left his apartments vacant for more than five years. Some have posited that, given the location of the properties, the renovation costs may have been too high and probably would not have been offset by the rental income.
Others are blaming city officials for not approving more building permits to allow for the construction of new residential units. A study conducted in 2012 — well before the migrant crisis reached epic proportions — forecast that by 2017, Hamburg would have a deficit of at least 50,000 rental properties.
In 2016, however, only 2,433 new residential units came onto the market, while only 2,290 new building permits were approved, accordingto statistics provided by the City of Hamburg. These numbers were up slightly from 2,192 new units and 2,041 new permit approvals in 2015.
In 2012, Hamburg’s Socialist government presented a plan to build 6,000 new residential units per year. The plan never materialized, however, because prospective builders were constricted by government-imposed rental caps which would have made it impossible for them to even recover their construction costs.
Since then, the city has turned to seizing private property to resolve its self-inflicted housing crisis.
On October 1, 2015, the Hamburg Parliament (Hamburgische Bürgerschaftapproved a new law that allows the city to seize vacant commercial real estate (office buildings and land) and use it to house migrants.
City officials said the measure was necessary because, at the time, more than 400 new migrants were arriving in Hamburg each day and all the existing refugee shelters were full. They said that because the owners of vacant real estate refused to make their property available to the city on a voluntary basis, the city should be given the right to take it by force.
The measure was applauded by those on the left of the political spectrum. “We are doing everything we can to ensure that the refugees are not homeless during the coming winter,” said Senator Till Steffen of the Green Party. “For this reason, we need to use vacant commercial properties.”
Others have argued that efforts by the state to seize private property are autocratic and reek of Communism. “The proposed confiscation of private land and buildings is a massive attack on the property rights of the citizens of Hamburg,” said André Trepoll of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU). “It amounts to an expropriation by the state.” He said the proposed measure is a “law of intimidation” that amounts to a “political dam-break with far-reaching implications.” He added: “The ends do not justify any and all means.”
Katja Suding, the leader of the Free Democrats (FDP) in Hamburg, said that the proposed law is an “unacceptable crossing of red lines… Such coercive measures will only fuel resentment against refugees.”
Similar expropriation measures have been proposed in Berlin, the German capital, but abandoned because they were deemed unconstitutional.
In November 2015, lawmakers in Berlin considered emergency legislation that would have allowed local authorities to seize private residences to accommodate asylum seekers. The proposal would have authorized police forcibly to enter private homes and apartments without a warrant to determine their suitability as housing for refugees and migrants.
The legislation, proposed by Berlin Mayor Michael Müller of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), would have amended Section 36 of Berlin’s Public Order and Safety Law (Allgemeine Gesetz zum Schutz der öffentlichen Sicherheit und Ordnung, ASOG), which currently allows police to enter private residences only in extreme instances, to “avert acute threats,” that is, to fight serious crime. Müller wanted to expand the scope for warrantless inspections to include “preventing homelessness.”
The proposal was kept secret from the public until the leader of the Free Democrats (FDP) in Berlin, Sebastian Czaja, warned the measure would violate the German constitution. He said:
“The plans of the Berlin Senate to requisition residential and commercial property without the consent of the owner to accommodate refugees is an open breach of the constitution. The attempt by the Senate to undermine the constitutional right to property and the inviolability of the home must be resolutely opposed.”
Since then, both the mayor’s office and the Senate appear to have abandoned their plans.
Following an investigation, Gunnar Schupelius, a columnist with the Berlin newspaper BZwrote:
“A strange report made the rounds at the weekend: The Senate would authorize the police to enter private homes to house refugees, even against the will of the owner. I thought it was only satire, then a misunderstanding, because the Basic Law, Article 13, states: ‘The home is inviolable.’
“So I went on a search for the source of this strange report and found it. There is a ‘proposal’ which the Senate Chancellery (Senatskanzlei) has apparently circulated among the senators. The Senate Chancellery is another name for the mayor’s office. The permanent secretary is Björn Böhning (SPD)…
“The proposal is clear: The police can enter private property without a court order in order to search for housing for refugees when these are threatened with homelessness. You can do that ‘without the consent of the owner.’ And not only should the police be allowed to do this, but also the regulatory agencies.
“This delicate ‘proposal’ attracted little public attention. Only Berlin FDP General Secretary Sebastian Czaja spoke up and warned of an ‘open preparation for breach of the constitution.’ Internally, there should have been protests. The ‘proposal’ suddenly disappeared from the table. Is it completely gone or will it return?”
It remains unclear why no one has challenged the constitutionality of Hamburg’s expropriation law.
Meanwhile, some Germans are asking what is next: Will authorities now limit the maximum amount of living space per person, and force those with large apartments to share them with strangers?