As The Shack movie hits the screen, many will see God portrayed as never before. Some will be struck by the relentless affection God shows toward the human main character. Others will be surprised by the depiction of the Trinity.
Some controversy is already swirling around the film–as it did around the book The Shack, which became a runaway best seller. Even though the story is fictional, critics complained about theological issues, and casting. Some denominational officials banned the book–and anything else from its author, William Paul Young.
This effort to vanquish and block access to one with whom they disagree smells a lot like today’s ugly political atmosphere, where pundits, shouters and protesters from one side attempt to drown out the voices of those on the other side. Listening, and calmly discussing various viewpoints, are becoming lost arts–including within our churches.
I asked The Shack‘s author about this phenomenon in the church, in my conversation with him on the Holy Soup Podcast. Paul Young said, “Most of people’s issues are not intellectual, are not theological. They’re affective. People are afraid.”
I saw evidence of that early in my work in youth ministry. For a few Sundays I took my youth group around to other churches in town, to see how others worshiped. I was roundly criticized by some fearful parents and church leaders. “What if our kids swallow that dangerous stuff they do over there?” I explained they needn’t fear. Our visits to other churches were always followed by a healthy discussion that culminated in reinforcing why we believe the way we do.
Fear should not restrain our quest to know God better. And that, by the way, is a central theme in the film, The Shack. Still reeling from the brutal murder of his daughter, Mack is invited to meet God in the very shack where his daughter was killed. He was gripped not only by fear but by anger toward God. Out of his angst, Mack encounters the depth of God’s love for him.
Millions of people will be given the opportunity, through this film, to think about God’s relentless love for them. Those in the Christian community can join their friends, and see and discuss the film. Or they can wallow in fear.
I invite you to listen to my conversation with William Paul Young in the Holy Soup Podcast here:
Also, you may join the conversation about this film at a special edition of Lifetree Cafe, scheduled live throughout the country during the week of March 5. Find more information here.
And a free discussion guide and devotionals will be available on the Lifetree general site, MyLifetree.com.
If your truth stands on the Truth, you need not fear.
Every church has a logical reason for the traditions they hold. They may visit your church, criticizing how you worship and explain to their youth why your way is wrong and their way is right. Of course it is the same way with politics. I would look at infant baptism as crazy to the point of idolatrous.
If theological arguments happen to get way out of control, you almost need someone to come in, say an atheist, who sees both sides as crazy and explain how they view the whole world of religion. Morals, ethics and traditions are slavery. They are good to keep society from becoming chaotic. When your being attacked, turning the other cheek may not always be the right reaction. If someone is beheading you for real or figuratively, There are times you have to put your morality and ethics aside and stand up for yourself as a human being. Ecc. “There is a time for peace and a time for war.” When people get so out of control, it can take war to bring back peace.
“Those in the Christian community can join their friends, and see and discuss the film. Or they can wallow in fear.”
Are you sure those are my only two options?
My thought too!
Thirteen Heresies In “The Shack”
God the Father was crucified with Jesus.
God is limited by His love and cannot practice justice.
On the Cross, God forgave all of humanity, whether they repent or not. Some choose a r
relationship with Him, but He forgives them all regardless.
Hierarchical structures, whether they are in the Church or in the government, are evil.
God will never judge people for their sins.
There is not a hierarchical structure in the Godhead, just a circle of unity.
God submits to human wishes and choices.
Justice will never take place because of love.
There is no such a thing as eternal judgment or torment in hell.
Jesus is walking with all people in their different journeys to God, and it doesn’t matter which way you get to Him.
Jesus is constantly being transformed along with us.
There is no need for faith or reconciliation with God because everyone will make it to heaven.
The Bible is not true because it reduces God to paper.
(Thirteen Heresies compiled by Dr. Michael Youssef)
Thirteen Heresies compiled by Dr. Michael Youssef. Is Dr. Michael Youssef God?
Good word. Thank you. Take heed “how” you hear…Take heed “what” you hear… But in all things at least make the “attempt” to hear!
I love the book, The Shack! I say that while not agreeing with everything Mr. Young presents, because it has challenged me and enabled me to grow in my theological views. I am hoping the movie will be a good presentation of the book while perhaps offering additional things to contemplate. There is nothing wrong with being challenged and perhaps gain new insights into the nature of God and the importance of relationships, both to God and others.
I tried to “like” your comments but couldn’t find out how to do that. This is something of how I handled the Purpose Driven Life in that there is no grace. It is good to see something that challenges and then confronts as well as seeing on that which affirms without question.
I am amazed that most here accept the universalism if this author and the 13 heresies listed in my above post.
Me too, sir. People perish for lack of knowledge of God’s word. This movie is just another new age propaganda hit piece. Those with discernment and eyes to see and ears to hear know this! What a mishmash of a mess this movie is! It’s sad that they put a nice story together, yet twist it with lies to distort truth.
Rosie, the movie doesn’t come out until March 3. What are you describing?
Rosie, we need another reformation of God’s word if that is Gods will before the rapture of the Church. Come quickly Lord Jesus
I don’t believe it is heretical to speak of the Holy Trinity as non- hierarchical. Surely, a hierarchical Trinity would itself be heresy! This sounds like subordinationism
Bill, i have read the book. I found it offensive because it offended my personal Lord and Savior—fiction or not. It is unbiblical. And no matter how much theology someone who supports this message may claim to have, does not alone make them wise. It is a matter of the heart as well. For without the indwelling Holy Spirit to discern Gods wisdom, then Gods wisdom will seem foolish, while the foolishness of the world will appear wise. We can learn from the early church in Corinth: “Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” (1 Corinthians 3:18-20 NIV)
If in order to make God approachable or palatable to the world, we diminish His holiness and over-elevate man, we have done a great injustice. To God yes, but also to those who are seeking to know Him. You cannot have a personal relationship with someone if you do not really know who they are. There is a difference between knowing about Jesus, and personally knowing him. I pray anyone who reads this who does not know Jesus personally would seek to know him today. He tells all we need to know about him in his Word. <3. Bill, my brother, thank you for not being satisfied with anything short of God's truth.
Thank you Amy and God bless you. Bill
Thanks for the interview with Paul Young. Just as the book led to conversations, I’m hoping it will affect all generations to rethink God’s presence in our lives. God is good wants all to experience God’s grace. Perhaps as Paul Young stated, this is a time for reformation in the church. May all of Jesus’ disciples seize the moment.
If Young really thinks we need a reformation then he would burn his book that teaches universalism and 12 more heresies that I listed above
Give it a rest, Bill. We read your list and some of us disagree. You are not looking for dialogue, but condemnation of those of us who may not be as theologicallly pure as you are, but love a picture of the heart of Father, Son and Spirit in relationship to each other and to us.
I saw a preview of the film in December, and I was disappointed that they changed the ending from the book.
Some comments from Facebook today:
Julie commented: “Can’t wait to see it. I loved the book. Really caused me to think and reflect.”
Isaac said: “I’ve not read the book…maybe I should start there.”
Carl wrote: “Dangerous movie as was the book. Very confusing to the young believer and none believers.”
Timothy wrote: “Hope the movie is as good & thought provoking as the book.”
Mariann commented: “Definitely will see it. Loved the book. And Paul Young’s story is important to hear and has resonated with many.”
Rick said: “This is not 50 Shades of Grey folks, I read the book, it is not Gospel, it has some interesting symbolism, but before I encourage my folks to see it, I will.”
Carol said: “I’m for seeing it, great way to get discussions going.”
I have to laugh, do you really think that Jesus cannot save an individual? He knows all of us, our failings, etc., He overcame every method used to deceive unsaved people. Pretty sure all of us started out the same way. We have all fallen short of the glory of God. The only difference between me and an unsaved person is that I believe what Jesus did for me.
My main problem with the book is that it teaches that all religions lead to God. All you need todo is be devout in searching for Him. Jesus said, “…no man cometh to the Father except through Me.” Was he lying?
Joyce, the author talks about that in the Holy Soup Podcast.
Young thinks Jesus was lying apparently
All religions lead to ‘a’ god. As for Jesus, coming to the father is through him.
Definitely will see! Our men’s group is going to go see it together and then discuss it. The book was such a gift for me, so I can’t wait for the movie. We are told love casts out fear. That’s what the book was about for me — not fearing God, or myself or my future. My experience has been that if the message of radical love causes fear, it is fear of losing control — the fear the Pharisees had of Jesus. It can be scary to think God is much bigger than the doctrinal or theological boxes we find it necessary to put God in.
It has nothing to do with fear.
The fear of the conservative Evangelical fundamentalists is the movie might hasten the exit that’s already occurring from their Churches. They will argue it’s about souls, that’s the real heresy here. It’s about loosing tithers that pay their gravy train salaries, buy their books etc. and having decent crowds to lord power over.
I guess I am a little confused and saddened by the “shunning” of this film and/or the book. It is fiction. I loved the book, and have recommended it to many non-believers. Just my opinion, but I believe the book captures the love of God in a most powerful and beautiful way. We can never know the magnitude of God’s love for us, or the beauty He has in store, but “The Shack” did a wonderful job of helping me to just imagine what is to come. The book left me breathless with anticipation of what it will be like when we see our Savior and live with Him for eternity.
Some of the 13 “heresies” overstate scriptural warrant. The scriptures do always testify in unison or from the same point of view. In fact, the only way a Christian can appropriately discern and interpret holy texts is with the mind of Christ, wich is to say, illuminated by the Holy Spirit. As to hierarchy in the Triune Godhead, different currents in the great tradition have seen the matter differently for centuries. The real question we need to be asking is not whether every detail is consistent with our preferred doctrinal spin, but whether The Shack touches hearts in such a eay as to invite people to faith.
I was asked to read the book and comment on it as part of my pre – confirmation reflections. I was confirmed when I turned 60; a bit of a late starter. The book seemed to me a sort of Alice in Wonderland with the aid of some sort of medication thrown in. The part about the mans daughter being murdered and God telling him how brave she was whilst this odd god stood by like a voyeur watching was certainly “inspiring”. I think we would be safer to go it alone. The book struck me as an attempt to help placate broken hearted Christians who feel or have been terribly let down by their faith or god. This supplies some sort of fantasy to help them I suppose. If it works for you then good on you. I think studying the book of Job is where I will go all the same. Cheers.
Thom – Thank you for this very interesting article. The podcast interview was also fascinating. One thing that struck me that William Paul Young said was how many people who condemn the book have never even read it! It seems to be the same way with the movie.
I think that many of us “older folks” who grew up in the pre-Internet days received our theological point-of-view from our parents or a trusted, beloved pastor. Those adults gave us a set of “rules” to live (and believe) by that created a feeling of comfort and security. Now that so much information about Christianity and other religions is available at the touch of a button, experiencing something new – even in a work of fiction – can feel very upsetting. Thank you for continuing to encourage us all to have “fearless conversations”.
A fair comment Debbie; I have read the book. My theological point of view comes from studying theology as a formal subject and years of Biblical/Theological endeavour. One thing that scripture makes quite clear is that we do not make any kind of “Image” of God which is idolatry. The fictional work “The Shack” attempts to portray God as a person. This person evidently has issues with a sense of perverted voyeurism. Theologically the only human form God took on was the “Person of Jesus Christ”; in which God dwelt among men; the incarnation. Any other attempts at this whilst may bring comfort to the hurt and suffering are quite OK, but are really quite outside the plain stated bible based revealed truth of scripture. I have had a few discussions with people about the book “The Shack” and the views seem divided down the middle. On one side many Christians see that it has replaced the Bible which has become irrelevant to us today; to my own view that it is fictional fairy tale that may bring comfort to the feeble minded who have been let down by God. I am not into book burning and “Proscribing” texts so I think everyone should be free to read anything they like.
So according your above statement anyone that reads the book and gets comfort from it is “feeble-minded”. Hmmm did not know you were an expert on the human mind. And just how many discussions have you had with other Christians? Just saying…
I’m encouraged that you think everyone should be free to read anything they like. It’s admirable that you have taken the time to study theology as a formal subject. You seem very confident that you have arrived at the “correct” interpretation of the Bible based on your studies. Any time someone uses the phrase “…plain stated bible based revealed truth of scripture” I think it is likely that they have a difficult time seeing the nuances in the Bible that others may see. I have many friends like this. Very confident in their view of the Bible and very willing to “correct” others. I think that we all would agree that our Bible is a library full of books about God’s love for us. How we engage with those books and seek truth in them is quite an individual endeavor and no doubt the reason for so many different denominations.
If people read the book The Shack or see the movie and enjoy it, they will be exposed to Christianity in a way that might be more accessible to them. I believe that would make Jesus very happy.
Yes; I have studied and continue to study theology/bible and antiquities via a respected institution. Also studied Applied psychology as a formal subject. After 59 years of christian life I am aware that in the world of Christendom there is very little that anyone at all agrees with; from water baptism through to universalism, the how and means about being born again, speak or not speak in tongues, Hell or if the Jews have been victims of Replacement theology and so on. The so called Rapture; are the ones who are left behind OK or is it the ones who are taken?? Boy what rows I hear over that one. Interestingly my previous post on this was 2017 in March; we are now now approaching March 2020. Time shows us that the book The Shack is not mentioned much at all now and has run its course I think. This rather Alice in Wonderland book has had its day and people have moved on I guess. Made some money hopefully as this would be the underlying reason to publish in the first place. Personally i do not think in retrospect that the subject warranted all the who-ha it appears to have stirred up. From my perspective every theological view has 3 to 5 differing schools of thought (if you are lucky) and it is good to be familiar with all of them; however one does not need to agree with any of them rather weigh them up and find which one may be most plausible based on quite detailed research. This would include language, antiquities, archaeology. context, cultural backgrounds, man myth and magic of the cultural world at the time and so on. I do not think the Shack fits any of these criteria except for an imaginative Fairy Tale.