What The Shack gets right
Published: March 7, 2017
The Shack is a new movie based on the 2008 best-selling book by William Paul Young. In it, the protagonist, Mack, has an encounter with God in the place where a life-altering tragedy occurred. This review may contain spoilers for key plot points.
It would be easy to write a standard, outraged review of The Shack. They portray God the Father and God the Spirit in human form, as females! They put words in God’s mouth that He never said! They substitute correct doctrine for mushy platitudes that sound like they came from Oprah!
All those things are true, and they’re all problems, and those problems have been very thoroughly laid out elsewhere in reviews of William Paul Young’s best-selling 2008 book of the same title, so go there and read about those issues.1 But we should ask, why did people find The Shack appealing in the first place? I think there are several reasons, and they should actually be encouraging for evangelical Christians. When we speak to people who have seen The Shack, when we understand why they were drawn to such erroneous material, we can show how the Bible gives a much more satisfying portrayal of God than The Shack ever could. In fact, if we’re prepared for these conversations, it could be a tremendous opening to discuss the biblical Gospel.
Many people can identify with Mack, the main character, who is grieving the murder of his daughter. Raised with a veneer of Christianity, he struggles with the question of how could God be good, while allowing such evil things to happen? This is a frequent question we receive at CMI, and there are often emotional undertones, because unlike some other doctrinal questions, people aren’t asking a hypothetical, philosophical question. They are asking, “Why did my mom die of cancer?” “Why was my daughter born with a genetic condition?” “Why do I struggle with depression?” What is God doing when it doesn’t seem like He is hearing our prayers for help and relief?
This is a question a person has to confront if he lives long enough to experience loss or suffering of any kind, and Scripture gives a clear and comforting answer for grieving people. Unfortunately, you won’t hear it in The Shack. Instead, the movie gives vaguely New-Age, universalist, feel-good answers that may move someone to emotions with the convincing delivery of the actors, but which don’t actually resolve the fundamental problem.
To give the biblical answer, we have to take the focus off man, and put it on God, where the Bible focuses. The god of The Shack has his/her/their hands tied by Evil, a force outside god’s control, which exists as an inevitable consequence of human free will, and is thus part of the original creation. He/she/they can be ‘within’ evil events, working good, but he/she/they are ultimately powerless in the face of human actions. This is presented as noble, as God refusing to meddle with human choice, because God is interested in having friends, not slaves (according to the actor playing Jesus in the film). But this dichotomy has no basis in Scripture—while Christ called His disciples His "friends", there is an element of servanthood as well. Jesus said, "You are my friends if you do what I command you" (John 15:14). God opens the way for us to have a relationship with Him, but there is no question about who is ultimately in charge.
Scripture presents a God who is sovereign over evil, and thus can promise to one day end all evil, and to work all things (even the worst things) for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). This is a great comfort to people who are suffering. But just as importantly, Scripture presents evil as a corruption of God’s ‘very good’ creation. So humans, not God, are blameworthy for evil in the world, because evil was not part of the original creation, but came as a result of Adam's disobedience.
For more on the problem of evil and its biblical solution, see: Death and Suffering Q&A.
People want a God who understands their suffering
One of the more powerful portions of the film was a conversation between Mack and ‘Papa’, where he asks where God was when Jesus was on the cross. ‘Papa’ reveals scars on his wrists identical to Jesus’, and says that what Jesus chose to do cost both of them dearly. While this falls under the heresy of patripassianism (the idea that the Father suffered with Jesus on the Cross), the fact that this is so powerful shows us that people want to know that God identifies with their suffering.
Scripture clearly shows that in Jesus’ humanity, He experienced temptation and suffering, and can identify with us. The book of Hebrews has some of the most powerful statements about this. I encourage you to read the entirety of Hebrews 1-5 to grasp how the following verses fit in the author’s larger argument, but note his statements about the temptation and suffering of Christ:
“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering” (Hebrews 2:10)
“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:17–18).
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15).
“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:7–8).
So we know that God can sympathize with our suffering, because Christ experienced it during His earthly life and ministry.
People want a relational God
Many are drawn to the portrayal of the fellowship between the Persons of the Trinity and their love for and enjoyment of each other. It is misleading to portray the Trinity as three people in relationship because it can never capture the fullness of the relationship between the Persons of the Trinity, because the three Persons are one God. As humans we can never fully comprehend what that’s like.
However, Scripture clearly portrays a deep unity and singularity of purpose between the Persons of the Godhead. During His ministry on earth, Jesus often went away to pray, and the high priestly prayer (John 17) is a glimpse into the relationships within the Trinity.
For more about the Trinity, see: Our Triune God.
People want a relationship with God
One theme in The Shack is that the trinity portrayed there invited Mack into relationship with them. And again, there is a kernel of biblical truth there, because through Christ, Christians have a relationship with the Triune God where we are very closely identified with Christ. When we trust in Christ for the forgiveness of our sins through His death and resurrection, we are adopted into God’s family and enjoy the privileges of sonship and close fellowship with God. This will be fully realized at the return of Christ when believers are raised to eternal life, and the entire creation is restored from the effects of sin.
What wasn’t in The Shack
The most troubling error in The Shack’s portrayal of God was the omission of the Gospel. The god of The Shack forgives simply because he/she/they love. But the atonement which makes forgiveness possible is never clearly presented. ‘Papa’ says he/she does not have any wrath, but the God of the Bible must judge sin because He is just. It is only through Christ substitutionary sacrifice in which He paid for the sins of all who would believe that God is able to be both just and merciful in His forgiveness of sinners.
Talking about The Shack
Most of us will probably have friends and family who go to see The Shack, and while we never want to encourage bad theology, this could open up some opportunities to talk about subjects that rarely come up in conversation. If people mention liking the story, ask questions! What did they like about the movie? What did they think about the portrayal of God? Was there anything that struck them as unsatisfying or simplistic? While people often shy away from being ‘preached to’, they are usually very eager to share their views! Then that opens an opportunity for you to respond.
What people are attracted to in The Shack can also help us to emphasize the biblical truth about God. And so, while this was almost surely not the intention of the directors, this could open up tremendous opportunities for Gospel conversations.
References and notes
- For instance, see Tim Challies’s excellent review, available at challies.com/wp-content/uploads/The_Shack.pdf. Return to text.
Anne C., France, 6 March 2017
Great article, well written and much needed! When I was lent this book ages ago, I was aghast! I had been given it by a 'mature in the Lord' friend yet it was his vicar who had given it to him! I had the opportunity to speak to someone in the USA about it but she told me that they were studying it in their Bible class and nothing would dissuade her that the errors in this book were serious. It seems that many Christians are fooled into believing anything emotional, experiential and that is easy to believe. This is the tragedy, that many Christians will go to see this film and promote it to all and sundry. They would be better off promoting 'La La Land' as being more Biblical.
Philip W., New Zealand, 6 March 2017
I am pleased Lita has pointed out what the Shack gets right, I am a huge fan of the Creation.com website (keep up the good work :) ) but I have to say I am also a very huge fan of "The Shack" book and can personally testify to a huge reset of my entire relationship with God (from one of having a legalistic viewpoint requiring me to "achieve to receive God's affection" to one that instead understands his absolute love for all of us and the huge power of Grace to be transformative in our lives and then with confidence of being loved being able to share that love with others) as coming from reading "The Shack" and the book by one of the co-authors Wayne Jacobson called "He loves me". I am sure there are or could be interpreted from the text some theological errors, but I have no doubt that as a tool to help people begin to know the loving God of scripture and understand some of the questions that arise from a straight forward uneducated look at the scriptures "The Shack" novel is a fantastic starting point and I have no hesitation recommending it to others. To address one erroneous comment from Lita which is a bit of bugbear for me "They portray God the Father and God the Spirit in human form, as females!" please note that it is very clearly shown in the text that God has revealed himself to Mack as a woman as Mack had such a poor relationship with his own Father that he would initially be unable to relate to God as a man in meaningful way. Later in the book as Mack deals with his "Father issues", God the Father reveals himself to Mack in the more traditional manner as a White elderly male. It is wrong to state the book portrays God as a female implying that the authors see God as female - instead it shows God's willingness to go to extreme lengths to save us!
Lita Cosner responds
While you are correct about the reasons Young chooses to have God portrayed as female in the book, and they are the same in the movie to some extent, it is still an error for the movie to do so as Scripture never does. Seeing God as our perfect Heavenly Father is actually the antidote to a lot of 'father issues' people have, not seeing Him as a 'heavenly mother'.
Albert L., Australia, 7 March 2017
Thanks for your review and the how we can use it for a spring board for the truth of GOD. Have read a review also on WND. Just viewed the book launch by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale on You-Tube on "Why Suffering?". This may be used as a testimony of how GOD has brought people through sufferings. GOD's blessings on the Ministries HE has raised up for contending the truth with grace.
Luke T., Singapore, 7 March 2017
Not everyone can talk to a Christian about the Shack. What they get from it is a false god disguised in nice form, BUT not the God of the Bible. Where is the holiness and wrath of God? Where is the one way in Jesus and His atonement? Is Mack getting 'right' on his terms with Mama, but not Papa? I hope CMI can give a more balanced critique. We can talk about God in all movies, even of forgiveness in a gay one, but we must render to God what is God's, not an adulterated concoction hoping it will not toxify the soul.
Lita Cosner responds
If you noticed, I did condemn the lack of a Gospel and the God who 'just forgives' sin without any discussion of how God forgives sin and remains just. I also pointed readers to existing comprehensive reviews of the doctrinal errors of the Shack which I acknowledge exist and are problematic. Rather than 'reinvent the wheel' in my own review, I chose to focus on how Christians can recognize what draws people to bad movies like the Shack and show how the Bible answers those motivations. There is a difference between endorsing a movie (I do not endorse The Shack) and showing how we can discuss it with people who go to see it.
Joe H., Canada, 7 March 2017
Great article as usual Lita, thank you. I burned through this book in 2 days when it was given to me by my daughter, who is a born again Christian. This book is responsible for me wanting to become Christian, and delve deeper into the bible. What intrigued me most, was the undying love of God and the incredible forgiveness He offers us. It was like a light switch went off in my head, it all seemed right, even though i had a catholic upbringing, and had some understanding that some of the things portrayed were not really biblical. I think if we look at the basic premise of the movie, God loves us, Jesus died for our sins, freeing us from sins hold over us, and that the Holy Spirit works in our lives daily to guide us, and help us forgive the ones who've hurt us, thereby releasing us from the chains of unforgiveness. It opened the door to conversations about God, just as you've stated.
Ken C., Canada, 7 March 2017
CS Lewis dealt extensively with the topic of pain and suffering he states, “Tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless.” Hence Revelation chapter 21, verse 4 expresses the hope of what is to come: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”. He also stated, “If God is Love, He is by definition something more than mere kindness. And it appears from all the records that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.” In portraying God as a Female, I have no issue with that for as stated in Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them”.
Jason L., United States, 7 March 2017
This was a wonderful review with a gracious heart. I tend to be critical of ideas (which can be good for discernment), but recently realized that it can make me difficult for those less critical to relate to.
We need to correct error, but gently. We're dealing not just with ideas, but with people who have those ideas.
This article was a necessary addition to the discussions being had about the film. It is a great example of presenting a truth to correct and build up rather than to tear down.
Vern R., United States, 7 March 2017
Excellent article, it touches many of the things that came to me as my neighbor related how much it was, "changing," his life. He had found out a few years before that he had ALS and it was beginning to show in his body. He would not take scripture as he had the book, "The Shack." He said it was all he needed to get him through his disease and heaven.
As Anne C. mentioned, there are churches using it as Bible study. It is no wonder many churches today preach a, "gospel," of, "being saved in sin."
As we see time being shortened by the speed of events coming from the pages of scripture, it seems to be harder to try explaining the scripture to those who show some interest in it.
Sometimes you want the still small voice to scream at people, but that is not the way of our creator. Yet.
I am old and have seen much in my lifetime, but I enjoy what CMI brings forth from the scripture and from what the earth brings forth to help illuminate the history of mankind and the earth's creation and the creator of both.
Kristy K., United States, 7 March 2017
Great article! The Shack is a horrendous book/movie. It is full of New Age, universalism, and other blasphemy. We should warn people about the book/movie and point out the dangers. However, you are right that people rarely respond to being "preached at." I have been guilty of doing this in the past and I have noticed many people just ignore what I am trying to say. It is often much more helpful to ask questions of the person to help guide them in discovering what they really belive for themselves and asking them how they defend their beliefs. Often this leads to them digging deeper and discovering truth. It also teaches them to learn to defend and research better. Our catechisms are based on Q&A's for a reason; this type of interaction not only teaches the truth but how to find the truth for yourself.
Ron H., United States, 7 March 2017
Thanks so much, Lita, for this thoughtful review. Just today I had a long conversation with my neighbor who was deeply touched by this movie. He said "I get tears coming just talking about it!" I have been praying for and witnessing to him for more than three years, and seeing the Holy Spirit move him from declared atheism, to agnosticism, to openness to the Gospel. Your analysis of "Shack," (which I have not seen) gives me good insight to why he had such a powerful, positive reaction to the film.
Luke T., Singapore, 8 March 2017
Thanks for your reply. I understand the points you have made but I doubt people will receive clarifications of Christian doctrines after a powerful visual presentation of a god who understands, forgives and loves no matter what. This is what appeals to them and is dangerously attractive and will stick to them after they left the cinemas, the soft, mushy feeling. They will remember that maternal, female connection that the Bible has not portrayed but avoided. If God want to reveal Himself in this way, will He not have done so? What if Jesus was shown as a Jewish lady trying to reach out to Mack? Imagery is influential, made more so by audiovisual images. Thanks for your review though it will be incomplete if I do not take time to read others. Your basic premise applies to all movies.
King T., South Africa, 8 March 2017
Thank you for putting a positive view across on this. I would have been much more inclined to point out the negatives first without even considering what draws people to books like this.
My pet peeve is this:
Just the fact that God is portrayed as a female already rings alarm bells for me because that is exactly the total rejection of God that liberal anti-God media want to make known. There's this feminist rejection of the perceived overly patriarchal domination that supposedly pervades the bible and influences society today. So they want to throw out God with that. This is not something new. Jeremiah 42-44 already clearly deals with the idolatry of those who want to serve the queen of heaven instead of God. Now the insinuation in the book is that the female character is so much more loving and approachable than the male, all the while playing on the "loving" tune which is also pervasive in the homosexual issue.
But as you said - this is what draws people because there is this undeniable hunger for love and acceptance and we can definitely learn from this.
Gian Carlo B., Puerto Rico, 8 March 2017
Speaking of Christian literature, aside me from being a molecular geneticist (and a modder [not a profession though]), I wanna dedicate to some manga series which I titled God Spirit Knights. It's an action and epic of Christian soldiers (no, it's not the Crusades, these are different) and their struggles and battles in the situation of war. And unlike some popular lame Christian literature like The Shack, GSK will have (and I'll make sure it has) sound doctrinal and theological quality at its highest and basic level and avoid heresies like The Shack does. Oh, and a manga that literally narrates the Bible. Yeah I'll be a super busy guy, lol. But all to honor The Lord.
That's one thing I vomit on these literatures; they only appease too much to our emotional anguish and do a disservice to correct theological quality and doctrinal as well. People these days build a false dichotomy that there is a battle between emotional comfort and theological-doctrinal integrity. There is nothing wrong with expressing emotional anguish, but please keep it canon on the theological level. Excellent critique as always, Lita.
John P., Australia, 8 March 2017
I'd never heard of this movie before reading Lita's review of it To me, Scripture is the ultimate authority and we need to see these movies with God given discernment. Movies don't really do anything for me anyway from a personal view.We need to go by Genesis and the rest of the Bible, which portrays God the Father and God the Holy Spirit as masculine. God is Spirit and we are made in His Image. As always this was a great article
James G., United States, 10 March 2017
Great review, Lita, but I would have clarified that the word tempt when used of Jesus does not suggest He could or would have chosen to sin. He, as the God-Man, could not sin as Heb. 4:15 states, even in His humanity otherwise we have a God who as divine couldn't but as human could...a contradiction. Jesus could be tested ( what tempt usually means) but not in the area of sin. He was sinless, separate from sinners, yet in His humanity could experience what every human experiences, but no sin nor solicitation to sin. I thought this needed to be made clear since "He experienced temptation and sufferings" can be misleading in English.
Andrew W., Canada, 17 March 2017
Clever apologetic, and good advice on how to use the natural longing for God's beauty to introduce the Gospel. Thank you. The headline might start a rumour that CMI agrees with the Shack (if they don't read it), but great hook.
Karalee C., United States, 17 March 2017
Ms. Cosner -- While the content of your article does promote sound Evangelical doctrine, it was disturbing to see the title, "What The Shack gets right" associated with any material coming from Creation.com. There is nothing "right" about Christian-Universalizism, which is the theology W P Young ascribes to. In attaching the word "right" to this book/movie, you give the appearance of an endorsement to it's legitimacy. In essence, this is equivalent to saying to Eve, "Since you're going to go ahead & fall for Satan's deception, let's talk about that." Death can enter in once anyone bites the apple. Satan's deception is never described as "right." 1 Peter 3:15 tells us. " . . . always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,." Of course we should talk to people who have seen The Shack. But, the New Testament clearly teaches we are to rebuke anyone who teaches a false gospel. Nowhere do the apostles say we should tolerate false doctrine because it might "open up opportunity" to talk to someone. I suggest a scriptural title for your article would have been, "Being Prepared; The Shack Unmasked." Satan masquerades as an angel of light. Let us not say his methods are okay because, who knows, it might lead to a conversation. I have a higher standard than this for anything coming out of Creation.com.
Lita Cosner responds
I chose this title purposely to make people think. It's easy to show how The Shack is wrong, and others have done that very capably; I specifically referenced Tim Challies as a blogger who has done a particularly good job.
Because of this title, people have read the article who otherwise would not have, and people who (rightly) disagree with the doctrine of the movie are now encouraged to engage their friends who are real fans of Young.
I hope it is clear from the article that I agree with very little in The Shack, except that it has its pulse on something that powerfully affects people, and biblically correct Christians should realize that as we engage people, so we can show how the Bible presents a true account of the God who loves us.
Stephan B., Canada, 17 March 2017
While i understand your effort to give an honest review, i would strongly suggest to be less judgmental and critical on what others do in their best effort to represent God and the overall aspect of faith. I have been christian for 30 years now and my heart is truly sadden by the fact that many christians are way too judgmental toward their brothers & sisters in Christ (see Matt 7:3-5). Instead of always looking and pointing out the ''faults'' in them, we really should be united together and working toward a common goal. Many non-christians folks out there look at us arguing between ourselves and aren't impressed!! We need to be a lot more loving & compassionate than right if we gonna touch people's hearts.
Lita Cosner responds
Could you please point out a place where I was less than loving or compassionate? Furthermore, if Scripture presents an absolutely true account of God, anything that deviates from that standard must be less than true. Is it more loving to allow people to be led astray by error? Is it more loving to allow people to be confused about God is?
I think you will find I made substantial efforts to understand where people are coming from, but faithfulness to Scripture requires us to recognize that the god Young portrays has very little to do with the God of Scripture.
Erica M., Canada, 17 March 2017
To my recollection, this book was written as a fictional story for Mr. Young's grandchildren, not as a Bible study for Christians, and should be read as that.
Lita Cosner responds
It may have started out like that, but clearly people are interpreting it as quite a lot more. At that point, it is important to point out that this story is presenting terrible theology and Christians need to be prepared to answer it.
Dirk Y., United States, 17 March 2017
I really appreciate you not publishing yet another take down of The Shack. When it came out years ago, I didn't read it because of all of the accusations. When the movie came out I decided to check it out for myself. There are positives and negatives. I think the critiquing Christian community, including the author of this article (you're awesome Lita, but gotta mention this) has mischaracterized the movie (can't speak for the book).
Two things: Linguistically the Holy Spirit is feminine. In heaven there is neither male nor female, so the way the author approached God is within the character of God, according to the author's story line (which is fiction, but Papa stated that this was only form Mack could handle at that moment). Papa was a female, but they kept referring to the Father (Papa) as "he", even when he was a female. It wasn't some politically liberal, transgender rendering of God to keep with the times.
This also wouldn't be the first work of Christian fiction that puts words in God's mouth. Let's be consistent. There is error in this story line, I won't defend it (it's not hard to find error among humans trying to depict God). But I have spoken to more than one mature Christian who was healed by the ideas in this book. One later crusaded against the book and it's error.
I didn't see all of the accusations that I've heard about. It recognized hell. It recognized Jesus as the way. It recognized that God wants to redeem sinners. It recognized sin.
It also recognized that many of us are broken, and struggle with blaming God (especially atheists). I loved how this movie defended God with the juxtaposition of Wisdom making Mack judge God, from God's position. Mack caved pretty quickly when he saw what God had to go through in order to be just.
Lita Cosner responds
Linguistically, the Holy Spirit is always referred to with personal male pronouns, so to portray Him or the Father as females is incorrect, because Scripture consistently portrays the Triune God as relationally male--He is Father, King, Lord, and so on, not Mother, Queen, or Lady.
I hope you can see in the article I did not simply steamroll over people who have been affected by the message of The Shack. But it would be a tragedy if people were so taken by Papa (a god of Young's imagination) that they never moved away from the false portrayal to the true God of the Bible who can speak to all the needs of emotionally broken people in a much more powerful way, because He is the true God.
eric S., United States, 17 March 2017
Satan is very good at partially getting it right. The horrible truth is that William Paul Young is leading people on the road to destruction. Paul in Galatians 1:8-9 told us very clearly how to respond to false teaching: "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under GOD'S curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!" There is nothing good or right about "The Shack."
Lita Cosner responds
If you read the article, the only thing I thought the Shack got right is the emotional button it pushes for emotionally hurt people. When evangelicals realize this, we can show how the true God is much more powerful and satisfying than the god of Young's imagination.
Ted B., Canada, 17 March 2017
I and My wife went to see the Movie the Shack< we were Appalled by the Movie especially when they portrayed God the Father and the Holy Spirit as a woman. And were. Implication of the New Age
Tom H., United States, 18 March 2017
"to have God portrayed as female in the book, and they are the same in the movie to some extent, it is still an error for the movie to do so as Scripture never does." Right Lita, as many forget that the blood line of babies is through the Father, not the Mother. This is why Jesus had His Fathers blood. Pure, sinless, and unblemished. He was ready for slaughter as the sacrificial Lamb of God the Father, not God the Mother. Also, to answer James G. about "could Jesus sin?" Hebrews 4:15 is the very scripture that tells us he "could have", as it was real temptation, yet he did not sin! This is what makes him (Jesus) such a great High Priest, as he understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. To say he could not have sinned is the same as saying, God did not really (truly) test him! This would be calling God a liar! Thanks
Timothy Y., United States, 18 March 2017
Jesus warned about false/evil leaven leavening the "whole lump"!! Proverbs 30:5 states, "Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him." So since EVERY word of God is pure, and this book changes so many truths of the bible for filthy lucre (you cannot serve God AND mammon), then why would CMI think that there might be any good in this blasphemous book/movie? This article is frightening in that it appears that CMI is moving in a very dangerous direction in trying to appease man while offending Lord God. Repent.
Lita Cosner responds
Timothy, I started out the review by saying there were serious doctrinal errors. I did not advocate the theology of the movie; I did not even recommend going to see the movie. The point of my review is that many of us have friends who will see the movie, so we should understand why it may be emotionally powerful for them so we can have productive conversations and point them to the truth in Scripture.
Erica M., Canada, 18 March 2017
I have not seen the movie, so I can only comment on the book, which I read shortly after it came out as 'fictional' and not as a book on theology. I was somewhat baffled by the three characters who portrayed the Trinity, however, as the story progressed I felt what the author was trying to convey. There would be just as much criticism if God was portrayed as a walking loaf of Bread, a hen with Wings, a talking Rock, a Vine plant, a flame of Fire, a huge drop of Living Water, a carved Alpha or even a bleating Lamb or roaring Lion. These are metaphors and I believe Mr. Young used them To portray that people of any race or gender are loved unconditionally by God.
Lita Cosner responds
Even if we attribute good motives to Young, to portray the Father and Spirit in physical forms at all is wrong, and to portray them as females is something that Scripture never does.
John N., United States, 19 March 2017
The Shack is “leaven”. The scriptures teach us that a little leaven (sin) leavens the whole lump, therefore leaven has no redeeming features. One drop of poison in a glass of water is deadly. Quit trying to sell the gospel as an emotional commodity, using it as a gateway for conversation with unbelievers about the gospel. If the unbeliever will not respond to the unadulterated gospel, then that unbeliever is responding to something other than the gospel. This same heretical approach is being used by the Church Growth Movement. It is a marketing program like we see being hawked by people like Rick Warren, Robert Schuller, Donald McGavran and C. Peter Wagner. The faulty premise of this approach is that attracting people to the gospel requires a sociological, psychological and anthropological insight based on the study of man. But, our Lord commands us to simply preach the gospel. The Shack presents salvation as mysticism based on an emotional criteria; whereas, the Bible teaches that salvation is the result of trusting in Christ. Faith in Christ alone for salvation is a decision, not an emotion.
Lita Cosner responds
John, I think you misunderstood the article. I wasn't advocating using The Shack to get people interested in the Gospel, but rather encouraging Christians who have friends who will see The Shack to be prepared to engage with them biblically. There's a critical difference there, and I hope it's one you can recognize.
Marcella N., United States, 20 March 2017
Clearly the most offensive sticking point in The Shack is the depiction of God as a woman. However, I think there is a difference between God IS a woman and God appearing AS a woman. I am a woman made in the image of God, so to say that God could not appear in the mere form of a woman in order to deal directly with an individual seems to be limiting his power. In the book and the film God is Papa, God the Father. What difference should it make how he chooses to appear to an individual? I just didn't see this point the way critics are seeing it. I never thought anyone was saying "God is a woman". As for Papa showing the scars of crucifixion, Zechariah 12:10 says "...they will look on me (aleph tau) whom they have pierced...". Doesn't that mean that they would or COULD appear on Papa? It certainly does have some issues, but it is also an opportunity to open up a dialog with people about the truth.
Lita Cosner responds
Portraying God as a woman is offensive because God consistently presents Himself as relationally male, though He has no biological gender. Of course, in the Incarnation, God the Son took on a male human nature.