That’s really the question serious-minded Christians are asking themselves when it comes to the current movie, “The Shack.”
And, in reality, the answer is found in another question: “Why are you going and what are you looking for?”
Last week my wife and I decided to go see this film version of William P. Young’s 2007 book by the same name. A Canadian by birth, Young was raised as a missionary kid in West Papua, New Guinea. Sadly, he was sexually abused by his father and some older boys after being sent to a missionary boarding school at six-years-old.
After returning to the States, he graduated from Western Pacific College with a degree in religion. And later he attended the Canadian Theological Seminary while also serving on staff at a local church.
Some years later, when he was 25, his 18-year-old brother was killed in a work accident, his mother-in-law died unexpectedly and his five-year-old niece was run over by a cement truck while riding her brand-new birthday bicycle. And, some 13 years later he left the ministry after he was discovered to be in an adulterous relationship.
Thus, it would seem that “The Shack” was the author’s attempt to come to terms with his past hurts and sins. After being reconciled with his wife, Kim, she urged him to write about his healing and share it with their six children, ages 14 to 27 in 2005. It was never intended to be published; however, after several close friends read it, they encouraged him to turn it into book — which he did. And, this self-published book hit U.S.A. Today’s best-seller list within a year after its release, having sold one million copies by June 8, 2008. And, to date it’s sold over 22 million copies.
I bought the book out of curiosity, interested in seeing why so many people were reading it. After reading it, I realized why many were labeling his portrayal of God the Father as a plump, middle-aged black woman…Jesus as a young, Jewish carpenter with a big beard and bigger smile…and the Holy Spirit as a tall, slender Asian lady named “Sarayu” (which means “wind” in Sanskrit)…as heresy or blasphemous.
Likewise, there are numerous other theological red flags contained within the book and movie:
*His portrayal of the true nature of God is lacking. No doubt his emphasis on God’s loving, accepting nature stems from his own painful past and finding healing through God’s Grace and forgiveness. But, his failure to include God’s “transcendence,” i.e., seeing Him “high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1-3), leaves a distorted view of Who God really is.
*He leaves us with the impression of “universalism,” where everyone will ultimately be saved. However, such is not the case from a Biblical standpoint—for only those who come to Christ are “saved from God’s Wrath and reconciled to Him” (John 3:16; Romans 5:6-11).
*The author also has God (Papa) saying “Sin is its own punishment, devouring from the inside.” But, nowhere does Young talk about the “wages” of sin and a Day of Judgment unless one repents of those sins (Rom. 3:23; 6:23; Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 20:11-15). He also downplays how God uses guilt (“Godly sorrow”) to bring us to the place of repentance (II Corinthians 7:10).
Regardless, I don’t regret having gone to see the movie. Young’s showing how easy it is
to “get stuck” at a particular place in our lives—particularly when it involves great pain—is noteworthy. And, through the life of the main character in the movie, Mackenzie Mack Phillips, we realize the importance of forgiveness and trusting God in the midst of our pain and perplexity—as well as the joy that we can have now in Him and later on in Heaven.
My main concern is for those who are new to the Christian Faith or have little knowledge of the Bible. They could easily be confused and misled as to the Nature of God and Authority of the Bible if they’re not careful. Likewise, we should be careful in replacing a God Who comforts with a false god who makes us comfortable. God bless you.
NOTE: If you’d like to contact Bro. Tom or receive his daily e-mail devotional, entitled “Morning Manna,” you can write him at P.O. Box 10614, Fort Smith, AR 72917 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.