On March 3, The Shack will be in theatres. This movie is based on the book by Paul Young, published in 2007. To date, the book has sold over 22 million copies, making it a huge bestseller.
The book (which I have read) is unambiguously theological; that means, it was clearly written with the intent of teaching about God and presenting Him a certain way. I assume the movie will be similar to the book in that regard.
What is Good about the Book?
§ It is a compelling story about a man whose young daughter was kidnapped & murdered.
§ It wrestles with the problem of evil and offers hope to those overwhelmed by tragedy.
§ It presents God as a Triune Being – Father, Son & Holy Spirit.
§ It portrays God as all-powerful, all-knowing & all-good. He is compassionate and warm toward those who are suffering.
What is Problematic about the Book?
A lot! But, to keep this article relatively short, I’ll mention four major shortcomings.*
First, The Shack has a subversive quality to it. It is critical of many aspects of the church and Christianity. The author (Paul Young) professes to be a Christian, but according to Randy Alcorn, who interviewed him for 6 hours, he doesn’t attend church. His disdain of the church is fairly evident in the book.
Second, The Shack diminishes the importance of the Bible. Greater emphasis is placed on God’s revelation by other means, much of it mystical & totally subjective (e.g., supposed direct communication via a person’s thoughts and/or feelings).
Third, The Shack implies universalism, the eventual salvation of everyone. The book quotes God the Father saying everyone has been reconciled to Him and He doesn’t punish anyone for their sin.
Fourth, The Shack is contrary to Scripture with regard to the Trinity. There are several things I would mention here:
§ God the Father & God the Holy Spirit are both depicted in human form. This is a breaking of the 3rd Commandment.
§ God the Father is called Papa (good), but is portrayed as a woman (odd).
§ The book expressly denies the subordination of the Son to the Father, and of the Holy Spirit to the Son.
§ Papa (God the Father) claims to have also died on the cross and has scars on her wrists to prove it. This is an ancient heresy known as ‘modalism.”
§ God the Father denies having forsaken the Son on the cross; the Son only felt forsaken.
§ The human (Mack) exhibits no sense of awe at being in the presence of God. He basically interacts with God as an equal.
§ God is presented one-dimensionally. There’s no mention of what theologians call his “hard” attributes (righteousness, justice, wrath, holiness); only his “soft” ones (compassion, kindness, mercy, love).
This last item is particularly important.
Christians who are grounded in the Bible, will recognize that the book (or movie) is focusing on God’s soft attributes and will benefit from being reminded of them. However, those who aren’t grounded in the Bible, will come away from the book (or movie) with a false picture of God.
During the time he spent with Paul Young, Randy Alcorn urged him to present a more balanced view of God when the book was reprinted, but Mr. Young refused to do so.
*Adapted from a review of The Shack by Tim Challies, author of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment.