Why I Loved The Shack Despite Its Flaws

I was prepared to hate The Shack. I had never read the book. I read the reviews first and figured I’d hate it, so I passed.

For starters, The Shack portrays each member of the Trinity in human form. God the Father is an African-American woman; the Son is a Middle-Eastern man; and the Holy Spirit is an Asian woman called Sarayu. Representing God the Father as a woman seemed blasphemous to me. I strongly believe, as C.S. Lewis did, that “What is above and beyond all things is so masculine that we are all feminine in relation to it.” God is Father, not Mother – and portraying Him as the latter seemed horribly wrong.

Plus, I had heard The Shack was New Age, and I just didn’t think I could stomach another make-God-in-your-own-image narrative. No thanks.

There’s a lot of truth and love communicated in The Shack, though I’ll admit, it does so imperfectly. But God often uses flawed people to reach others, so I’m quite sure He can also use flawed works of art.

But when the movie came out, and I heard the familiar strong reactions on both sides, I realized I should probably check it out. So I did — and much to my surprise, it moved me deeply.

Granted, I knew going in what some of the objections to The Shack were, so I was prepared for those. And I don’t mean to minimize them. The Old Testament Law makes crystal clear that God is a jealous god and takes very seriously how He is represented.

Some, like Blogger Tim Challies, has argued that portraying God in any visible form is a violation of the second commandment. Of course, that would make Michelangelo’s painting on the Sistine Chapel a violation of the second commandment. Though I respect Challies, I don’t believe representing God artistically is necessarily wrong, provided that the representation is truthful. The point of the second commandment is forbidding misdirected worship – crafting false gods and then bowing down to them and serving them.

Plus, I was surprised to discover that The Shack isn’t arguing that God is a woman. God is called “Papa” throughout. But since the main character, “Mack,” had been horrifically abused by his earthly father, Papa changes His appearance. “After what you’ve been through,” he says to Mack, “I didn’t think you could handle a father right now.”

Granted, that’s taking liberties I wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable taking. But it does make a difference. Also, later in the movie Papa appears as an older man, so I don’t think The Shack feminizes God. It simply shows an understanding of symbols, and how they can trigger strong emotions. Though I believe it’s important to redeem the symbol of God as Father eventually, that doesn’t necessarily have to be a starting point.

Given the uproar over The Shack, though, I was expecting an error in the larger narrative – in how the movie resolves the problem of pain and evil. This is the central issue the book addresses. Not only was Mack abused as a child, but his youngest daughter was brutally murdered. Is it possible for God to be great and God to be good – and for horrific things to happen to innocent people? This is a fundamental question all human beings wrestle with at some point. And how we resolve that issue makes all the difference.

One common heresy denies God’s greatness. This is the view Rabbi Harold Kushner advances in his best-selling classic, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. God is distressed about the evil in the world, Kushner says, but He is simply unable do anything about it.

I expected to hear one of these two heresies in The Shack. Instead, I saw a powerful drama depicting a very biblical answer to the problem of pain.

Another common heresy denies God’s goodness. Sure, he’s all-powerful, but He’s also malicious and cold. This, I would argue, is what most of the new atheists believe. Though they deny God’s existence, their overwhelming contempt for this supposed non-being seems to betray that they believe in some ultimate being. They just really hate him.

This hatred is painfully apparent in Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion. In it, he writes: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

I expected to hear one of these two heresies in The Shack. Instead, I saw a powerful drama depicting a very biblical answer to the problem of pain. God is great and God is good, but He gives people freedom to reject Him because He wants “friends,” not “slaves.” This freedom, combined with our refusal to trust God, is what causes pain. Or as Papa puts it, “All evil flows from independence, and independence is your choice.”

Of course, this is an intellectual answer, and the problem of pain is an extremely emotional problem. And this is where The Shack especially shines. It includes these raw and real conversations between Mack and Papa where Mack questions Papa much like Job or David question God in the Psalms. And instead of responding with condemnation or pat answers, Papa responds with empathy, love and sometimes tearful correction.

“You’re the Almighty God, right?” Mack asks. “You know everything and you’re everywhere all at once? And you have limitless power. Yet somehow, you let my little girl die. When she needed you most, you abandoned her.”

“I never left her,” Papa responds.

“If you are who you say you are, where were you when I needed you?” Mack pleads.

“Son, when all you see is your pain, you lose sight of me. I’m not who you think I am.”

It’s these kinds of interactions that powerfully speak to the heart in The Shack. And though I’ll admit, the conversations sometimes err theologically, the errors are not so serious that the truth is obscured.

The Shack is a powerful argument for the goodness of God. God loves us despite what our circumstances may indicate. And though God never causes sin, He wants to heal the pain sin has caused and bring good from every evil circumstance.

The Shack is a powerful argument for the goodness of God. God loves us despite what our circumstances may indicate. And though God never causes sin, He wants to heal the pain sin has caused and bring good from every evil circumstance.

This is a basic truth that every person who follows God must believe. I remember vividly when I was in my early twenties and struggling to come to terms with four very dark and painful years, everything hinged on whether I believed in God’s goodness. And I wrestled like Mack wrestled. And I questioned God like Mack did.

And God responded – first with a powerful experience of His presence and love – and then, after listening to a preaching series on the 10 Commandments, with the realization that every one of God’s laws were for my benefit. He didn’t want me to follow Him because he was some kind of cosmic control-freak. He wanted me to follow Him to spare me the pain and heartache of rebellion.

The Shack communicates this same message. When Mack questions Papa about her wrath, she responds, “I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it. It’s my joy to cure it.”

I’ll admit that statement comes dangerously close to suggesting that there’s no eternal punishment or hell. And given what Young writes in his newest book, Lies We Believe About God, that may be what he truly believes, and that is clearly wrong. But taken on face value, Papa’s statement reminds me of 2 Peter 3:9, which says God doesn’t wish any “to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

That is God’s heart towards us. And The Shack masterfully reveals that heart. I think that’s why so many have been profoundly impacted by the movie. And I fear that in our zeal for theological correctness, we may be trampling on something beautiful.

I actually saw The Shack twice. After seeing it once, I had a strong sense that someone I love dearly needed to see the movie – someone who had walked away from God but was softening towards him. So on Sunday night, we saw the movie together and we both cried. And then in a sweet prayer time afterwards, this person returned to Christ.

If this movie were as bad as some say, I don’t think it would have that kind of impact. There’s a lot of truth and love communicated in The Shack, though I’ll admit, it does so imperfectly. But God often uses flawed people to reach others, so I’m quite sure He can also use flawed works of art.

At the same time, I wouldn’t recommend anyone watch or read The Shack uncritically. Like the Bereans, we should go to the Scriptures and see if what is being communicated is true. I also wouldn’t recommend reading Lies We Believe About God or getting the The Shack Study Guide either. Clearly, The Shack’s author holds some unorthodox views, and it’s important to acknowledge that.

But in our criticism, let’s be gracious. And instead of condemning the movie to those impacted by it, let’s engage in dialogue and seek to understand what aspect of The Shack impacted them. Affirm the good, gently correct error, but above all, love.

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20 thoughts on “Why I Loved The Shack Despite Its Flaws

  1. Bud Brown

    I am very disappointed in this article. We may have emotional responses to any number of things, but you have just used your influence to affirm a film that blatantly misrepresents God and provides a humanistic concept of sin. There are consequences to sin, but suffering in this life is not the worst. The author has indeed indicated his belief in universalism. We are in a culture that sees truth as relative and if there is belief in a god, it is one of human invention as you suggest. Had the author intended to merely help suffering people, a concerned counsellor could have been used. Christians need to be prepared to defend sound doctrine, rather than making excuses for unbelievers. It would have been far better to recommend the Challies article.

  2. Pamela Brukalla

    Thank you Julie Roys!!!

    After reading so many outcries regarding heresy and blasphemy I almost didn’t go see the movie, but I am so glad I did. It was a beautiful picture of God’s love and healing in a broken pain-filled world. I saw it twice and wept through it both times. I am so very glad that my heavenly Father loves me through the pain. I’m so glad there’s a trinity. I don’t understand it, but there is love and relationship even in the Godhead.

    That said, I want to address the objections coming from the “doctrine police”.
    First, as Julie stated: This movie is not portraying God the Father as a black woman. God is always referred to as “Papa” and He/she clearly explains that He is taking that form because of the extreme pain and brokenness that Mack has experienced. God meets us at our need, in love. God chose to reveal himself as a burning bush to Moses, he wrestled with Jacob, and in numerous places in Psalms and in the gospels it speaks of God’s wings. When Jesus wept over Jerusalem He spoke of gathering people under His wings of protection. “As a hen gathers her chicks…” That is a picture God himself gave us! We don’t think He’s a big chicken! (and a big female chicken at that!)

    I am a Moody graduate and an attorney and I am no longer young. I used to be a member of the “doctrine police”. Oh, I still believe there are basics about repentence from sin and Jesus being God and paying our penalty which cannot be compromised, but I don’t understand the trinity, and won’t this side of heaven so I’m not going to get into that argument. (The people who want to argue about it don’t understand it either.) I want to come to Christ as a little child, not as one of the “teachers of the law”.

    In regard to universalism, I don’t think the movie was promoting it. Perhaps the book did, but I did not see it in the movie. God said he wanted to redeem the person who committed the atrocity, but He did not say the man was redeemed. In regard to the wrath of God, I was initially concerned but not after I thought about it. This movie was about God and one of His hurting, broken children. When we have come to Christ and been adopted into his family there is no condemnation for us. PRAISE GOD! I could do the research and write more but I don’t have the time or space. A judge in his courtroom looks much different than when he’s playing on the floor with his children. This is a movie about the judge healing and comforting one of His children. I and so many other hurting people need this message. I believe it was clear that the only way we come to the Father is through the Son. Yes, God will pour out his vengeance and wrath in the future, but now is the time of his mercy and He draws us with his love. If we repent and come to Christ, God will redeem us. His joy is to rescue us! but if we refuse Him we will pay the penalty, Christ died to pay for us.

    I cannot express the depth that I was touched. My tears were on many levels, but they were all shed in thanksgiving to God and repentance regarding my own arrogance and lack of love. About five years ago a dear friend of mine was struggling with divorce, pain, fear. I wanted to encourage her, but I held fast to the “God is our Father” position and for some foolish reason thought it was important to stress that doctrinal truth, although my friend protested that she could not think of God as her father because of the pain in her background. I explained that God was the “GOOD” father, her father never was. That was still too difficult for her and she asked me never to speak to her of those things again. About two weeks later she committed suicide. This movie may have ministered to her. I, as a member of the doctrine police, did not. I am so sorry.

  3. Kathy

    So glad to read this critical review of the movie. While I haven’t seen it I really loved the book for the very same reasons you’re stating here. In fact it may be one of my all-time favorite books and I am a very devout, Bible believing,God-fearing, Christian. I also love literature and analyzing it, and seeing how it might be portraying a shadow of spiritual truths in real life situations. I agree that some liberties were taken, the impact emotionally have some struggles with God through tragedies resonate with me. I did not read the book as an exigetical commentary on biblical doctrines but instead as a literary work depicting how someone might experience spiritual struggles and growth as they wrestle with tragedies.

  4. Rev 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

  5. Dear Julie,

    You wrote, “So I did — and much to my surprise, it moved me deeply.”

    While your review considers Young’s portrayal of god, we must be clear that Young’s god is not the same god of the Bible. The intent of movies is to “move” people through their emotions, senses, and feelings. The Shack is no different since it offers great cinematography, an epic score, and believable actors. But when you get down to it, it is all a drama. What makes The Shack so appealing is that it “appears”, (Emphasis on appears) to be a Christian story. It is NOT a Christian story.

    This needs to be clear.“The Shack” is another gospel, therefore it is accursed.

    Gal 1:6-9 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

    The is no fence sitting on this. None. You cannot say good things about is if it is a false gospel. Your review is double-minded. James 1:8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. You need to repent and stand firm that no matter emotionally powerful this drama may appear to be, Young’s god is NOT the God of the Universe.

    A little leaven leavens the whole…

  6. Hi Neil,
    I am in agreement with you that “The Shack” is not a book or movie I would recommend. I have not read it, except for brief excerpts, but I am convinced of what you say. It is borderline, if not heresy because it appears to teach universalism. However, with that being said, Paul and Barnabas had severe disagreements and did indeed separate, but both of them did have a great impact on the spread of the gospel. I am not saying that Paul Young is spreading the gospel at all, but I do know that I have truly Christian friends on both sides… and as Julie Roys put it… in the end must be LOVE… the hardest of all. Ultimately, it is God that judges the hearts… we can love our Christian brothers and sisters, even when they disagree… You have the right to separate from them if in your heart you feel the need to do so…. but you MUST love, even your enemies. After listening to quite a few of Julie’s programs, I believe she is very biblical and yet remains truly loving in her judgments. But I myself feel no need to see the movie because as you said it offers “great cinematography, etc.” to attempt to persuade with emotion. Thank you for your insightful comments. I agree with you for the most part. And I struggle with many of your same thoughts. And it is very hard for me also to sometimes truly LOVE my brothers and sisters who disagree with me…… but I know that I must learn that…. First Corinthians 13…. very hard… because I so much want to be right more than I want to love.

    Julie

  7. Rob

    Most critical comments and concerns come from regurgitation of someone’s else’s views and theological bents that are learned from someone else’s bent. The two men on the program today who touted their degrees and books they have written had no arguments that remotely made sense if they truly read the book or if they read Jesus words to love Him and people. Jacobson was much more articulate in explaining the premise of the “fictional” book than the two who were living off of the letters after their names more than through a relationship with Christ.
    Julie, I believe your story says it all…the movie (and book) led someone back to A relationship with Christ. Relationship is the key, not a bunch of argumentative knowledge based on someone’s theological bent from seminary teachers past.
    The local churches are full of argumentative and arrogant knowledge junkies who have no real relationship with Jesus. I believe that saddens Jesus since His two greatest commends are to love Him and love people…you cannot have a love for people without relationship. Which is what this book articulates.
    When we go before God, I doubt He will ask us to tell Him about our theology of Himself, I believe He will ask, “Do you know Me”?

    • Pamela Brunkalla

      Thank you Rob. I agree wholeheartedly!

    • Linda

      Perfect response! You said everything that needs to be said! Well done!

    • LaRue Campbell

      I agree with you Rob. I believe relationship is so very important. I am from a “Religion” that must have everything right theologically and but seem to be lacking in relationship. I believe it should be relationship rather than religion. One should be in a close relationship with God and be knowledgeable about the love story of the Bible. Otherwise, I can see how someone could be misled by putting too much emphasis on the points of doctrine so many are questioning. I think LOVE is the theme but it must be understood and not taken as doctrine. Thank you for your reply.

    • Cyndi

      BTW – This is my own viewpoint regurgitated from no-one and I have no letters after my name. I respectfully want to pose this to you…no name-calling or personal attack, but as iron sharpens iron!

      On the one hand adherents of The Shack, such as yourself, are critical of those opposed to The Shack based on the fact that we are “making too much” of a “fictional” movie and many proponents, like Julie, have said that it did not get everything about god accurate. Okay, you could possibly be right. Fiction meanings:

      “noun: literature in the form of prose, especially short stories and novels, that describes imaginary events and people.
      synonyms: novels, stories, (creative) writing, (prose) literature;
      invention or fabrication as opposed to fact.
      plural noun: fictions
      “he dismissed the allegation as absolute fiction”
      synonyms: fabrication, invention, lies, fibs, untruth, falsehood, fantasy, nonsense
      a belief or statement that is false, but that is often held to be true because it is expedient to do so.”

      And then on the other hand, you state that “the movie (and book) led someone back to a relationship with Christ…Relationship is the key…” So, are you (and others) saying that those opposed to The Shack should not be bothered by the movie/book because it is admittedly fiction (and additionally should not be bothered by the things that are not accurate about God, Jesus or the Trinity because it is fiction); however, we additionally should celebrate the fact that people are coming to believe in the fictional god of this movie…and that is a good thing?

      Either this movie accurately depicts God and the Trinity and it is bringing people to a true faith in God and the Trinity or it is just a lovely fictional story about a fictional god(s) (which happen to be named after Polynesian and Hindu deities) resulting in people truly believing in a fictional god.

  8. Pamela Brunkalla

    How can anyone with integrity critique something they have not seen? Proverbs 18:13 “if one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”
    The movie did not teach universalism. I saw it. If you think it teaches heresy or another gospel explain why you think that and be willing to listen if someone gives a different interpretation. The movie is not scripture and so it is not totally accurate. I think we can disagree on some things without crying “heresy”. If you read everything Luther or Calvin or Augustine wrote you will find some terrible heretical things! Let’s see…. hatred of the Jews …. killing heretics …. Horrible! Certainly Not the Christ of the Bible.
    Show me specifically the scriptures and places in the movie where they are in opposition and I will listen to you. Come let us reason together… I suggest some of the people condemning this film read the gospels a few time and ask themselves what Jesus Christ was (and is) like. He touched people, healed them, turned water into wine at a party, and drove the money-changers (crooks) who were in the temple out. He reached out and healed the hurting people with compassion and the religious leaders hated him. They kept trying to trip Him up and they orchestrated His crucifixion.
    He told them how they vainly searched the scriptures when they needed the scriptures to lead them to come to Him. John 5:39-40… but they were jot and tittle experts.
    This movie portrays the Trinity : God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in as good a way as we humans can get it, somehow 3 and yet one God. Too much for my little brain. So it does not deny the trinity. It is clear that Jesus died on the cross for us and rose from the dead. Jesus is the truth and the way to God the Father. (Yes, that was in the movie, i don’t know about the book). God wants to redeem all men (it does not say He does redeem them). God is good. God loves us. We can and need to trust God. I don’t see a problem. That’s what I saw in the movie, the Shack, and it was a balm to my heart.
    Go ahead and critique the movie. But see it first so you have some clue what you’re talking about. And be specific and give your reasons, not just your judgment. Be like the Bereans, not the Pharisees, and in all things love.

  9. Rev. G S Shaffer

    I appreciated Julie’s article; you saw the movie, were prepared NOt to like it, looked for major errors, confessed you did not see it and rather saw the good vs evil, Is-God-All-Loving-AND-All-powerful in nature as the crux of the story. I hope that encourages never-Shackers to go and decide for themselves.
    Let’s not create a straw man, Neil, (movies are to move us emotionally) and then use that to justify your position. Some movies are also to persuade, to inform, to entertain or make a statement. I am glad you at least wrote more than your first quote. One basic lesson in writing is that a quote standing by itself explains nothing (you did it 3 more times though). I still saw all of your following assertions as if you were the truth decider & another attempt to stifle discussion and arguments (the good, explanatory kind). I would not agree with you on the pontifications you made. I don’t need a priest to tell me what to believe.
    A good argument goes more for light than heat. We speak the truth in love (light and respect) and leave it on the table, letting others decide for themselves. If we take major issues of life (as in the Temptations of Jesus) of power, authority and meaning, looks like you got stuck on authority. I was like you on this issue at one time, trying to become an authority on God’s written Word while actually keeping Him at arm’s length and myself removed from sharing my failures as an operating dynamic in my life (not good for someone in ministry). I now lay out arguments as persuasively as I can/appropriate to the situation and allow the next believer coming along & the Holy Spirit to work. Doctrine is important; not anything goes. Of course Judaizers INSIST on their view and conformity as self-appointed authorities. I realize you did not take a great explanation likely due to limited space and tried to be succinct. A good many of us here are not newbies and know the issues & positions and arguments on each of the sides. To the young or weak in faith in this forum, get a 2nd opinion on items like this discussion until your growth and maturity has taken you through the paces on doctrine and practice, accurate history and science The written Word stands up in all of these, and be sure to seek out many who can instruct you in grace & away from legalism. I understand Neil’s position since he believes he sees heresy. There are those of us in ministry who are charged to protect the flock (the weak and the young are who I mean), so I give Neil the benefit of the doubt as to his motive for his writing. As for his opinions and interpretations of a creative work, mine are different. I am a conservative with Bible-based foundation, with theological training, & a 40-year plus missionary; I am not a modernist, liberal nor New Ager for the record. There is still some of the authoritativeness in me and why I react to Neil’s comments; saying I disagree is also an authority statement. I am hoping to stay away from heat & go for light so…..
    I saw the movie more about DEPICITNG the loving relationship within the persons of the Trinity and then with believers and all others. Handling the good vs. evil was powerfully done and serves as a response to Rabbi Kushner’s flawed book from 30 years ago, written in the pain of his 14 yo son’s death & without the New Testament input. Paul Young has more than one interview out about his views and his supposed/former inclination toward universalism. I do not hold that view, and Wayne answered well in “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Shack?” If you haven’t seen the movie or read the book or don’t intend to at this point, read this review of Wayne’s. He bats away the objections easily since he was an insider as a co-author. It really is folly to answer before you hear the facts. I do encourage everyone to read Wayne’s article, then see the movie, and decide for yourself if this is Biblical, Christian, and about the one and only trinitarian God of the universe. If you know the Scriptures from reading for any length of time, I would guess you would come away not agreeing with the “heresy chargers.”

  10. Allen

    I saw the movie and was not impressed. I had a real hard time “connecting the dots.” It seemed to me to be very fragmented, so therefore, I lost most of the meaning of the story. I don’t know why Mack whispered most everything he said, which caused me to only get about a third of what was being said. Usually the theater is so loud it hurts my ears, but this was just the opposite. Frankly, I think it was poorly done. It wasn’t until nearly the last few minutes when Mack woke up in the hospital that some of it made sense to me. I disliked the idea that a woman was portraying God. I believe that could certainly leave the wrong impression with some people. I personally would not encourage others to see it.

  11. I enjoyed your review Julia. I too enjoyed the movie. I concur with Rev Shaffer (as I too fill a position of feeding people). To those seeking the limitations, I am sure one could make some links, but no where do the characters espouse any direct quotable heresy. To those who are so assured this does, I would ask for the exact lines that counter biblical content.

    I think most will find that the book and the movie do not affirm universalism (thanks in great part to Wayne Jacobson and Brad Cummings contributions; co -authors of the SHACK) but if you were to ask for Paul’s personal views, you might find the limits pressed. Its always a challenge to draw direct correlation from “art” and fiction to defend or coroborate systematic theology. In short, I prefer to encourage people to “see and read”, then seek if possible, to hear directly from the authors to learn of their intent and purpose. In this case, it is wise to seek all three contributors to the SHACK (Paul, Wayne and Brad). There are many interviews on line to view and thanks to shows like yours, people can hear from the originators instead of only drawing from the interpretations of perhaps biased individuals. It has been my experience that we who “protestith too much” are at times revealing some more than an honest review, but a set of lenses in which we view life through. Thanks again Julia.

  12. First, I must acknowledge that I have not read the book nor seen the movie. Given the controversy over and impact of them I do intend to. My concern is that, since we live in a culture where each one finds “their own truth”, the vast majority of the audience will do just that. It is my experience that church goers who are personally knowledgeable of the Bible are a very small minority, and that Bible knowledge in the general population is virtually non-existent; therefore, the vast majority of the audience will be incapable of the kind of critical analysis that Julie contends is necessary: “At the same time, I wouldn’t recommend anyone watch or read The Shack uncritically. Like the Bereans, we should go to the Scriptures and see if what is being communicated is true.”

    The movie and the book may be appropriate for people who are capable of that kind of critical thinking. The real danger is that, because the vast majority do not nave the knowledge to do so, they will “get the warm fuzzies” and latch on to “I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it. It’s my joy to cure it.” Thinking that they have found
    their own truth, they will rely on that experience for salvation.

  13. Tori Stewart

    It’s amazing that so many people have neither read the book nor seen the movie and choose to insist that it is leading people away from God. The danger in the world we live in today is not based on God being represented as a black woman, or Jesus as a middle eastern man, or the Holy Spirit as a southeast Asian woman in a movie (because that is what bothers many people who aren’t bold enough to say it). The dangers we face are within each and every one of us. Our fears, hatred, pride, independence, self-righteousness, greed, in short our sin.

    This movie is not perfect because no perfect movie has ever or will ever exist. What the book and the movie has done for me is reinforce the truth that God is Love, we all need to repent of sin and be forgiven, and each of us should be living a redeemed life that draws people by how we love each other. Even though we are guilty He finds us worthy of Love, and we don’t have the right to pick and choose who God Almighty can and can not Love.

    His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Just think about it, someone may look at your life and find you unworthy of a loving relationship with God. But praise God, that He doesn’t base His love for us on other peoples opinions.

  14. sandrajune910

    I did see the movie and I think I missed where Jesus is depicted as Lord and Savior alone. At 59 minutes in, Jesus states that he is “the BEST way” to God,” but not the only way.

    The movie had many wonderful exchanges that were theologically accurate, but I caution us as Christians that we need to be careful of getting swept up by an emotional manipulation that contains grave errors about the nature of our God. This movie also had God the Father showing nail scars on her wrists– a blatant heresy that the Father died on the cross (patripassianism). And the whole scene where Papa doesn’t understand the word “wrath” was cute but denied the Bible’s assertion that God has wrath towards sin.

    Basically, it was a story about a sweet god of love but not the Holy God. God describes Himself primarily as “holy.” We would do well to remember and embrace that truth. It did not show the God of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That a sinful person is under danger of eternal punishment without Jesus Christ as their Savior. That we need to place our trust and believe on God the Son who took on flesh, lived a life we could not, died a death we deserve, came alive again, ascended into heaven, and will come back to earth one day to judge the living and the dead.

    A god of love without this truth is useful only to make us feel better in the temporary. A bandaid for a fatal wound.

  15. Pamela Brunkalla

    Sandra, I’m pretty sure you misunderstood the reference that Jesus made to “the best way”. That was in a conversation where Mack told Jesus he could relate more to Jesus than to God the Father or to the Holy Spirit and Jesus said that was because Jesus is also human and so Jesus is the best way to understand what God is like in the trinity for us. It was not saying there are other ways to God.
    I agree that this movie is not a complete explanation of everything there is to know about God. But I think it is very good in what it portrays. When we read the gospels we find Jesus interacting differently in different situations. He didn’t preach at the wedding in Cana.
    God is Holy. I didn’t see a contradiction. I also think God’s wrath is the flip side to His love. I just read the minor prophets this week. The wrath of God is plainly displayed but we often fail to see why…. it is because of how we treat each other- injustice, greed, violence. God puts up with it for so long and then says enough… but it is in His timing, not Mack’s or ours. And He wants to redeem all people.
    The shack is not scripture but I don’t think it’s wrong and it opens the conversation, where we can explain more. And i believe we can share that God would so much rather cure us from sin than punish us, however, we each have a choice in that regard. Yes, we each have a fatal wound that can only be healed by God in relationship with His Son. I think this movie was a moving picture of that relationship. Mack was free to come to relationship or not… if we come to God through Jesus there is healing rather than condemnation. If we won’t come we are left in our sins. And yes, the result is death, however, it is still God’s joy to cure us if we will come.

  16. Cyndi

    Julie I am surprised by your review. I read part of the book and saw the movie. For starters, the Holy Spirit is called Sarayu (from the Hindu Ramadan) which is the river that the Hindu god Vishnu immerses himself in to go to his final incarnation. Papa, the name for god, happens to also be the name of the Polynesian goddess of earth who is also depicted as a large, dark-skinned woman in Polynesian culture. Paul Young would know this as he lived in Papua New Guinea with his parents when he was young. The Son in the movie has more of an Arabic accent than a Jewish Accent, could he be the Mahdi? There is a scene at the dinner table where Mack is seated with “the trinity” and he tastes the food that god (Papa) had prepared for him and he states “Oh my God!” seemingly interpreted as meaning the food tastes great. Immediately he apologizes to “god” who says “Oh that don’t bother me none” and “the trinity” all laugh together at this “faux paux.” So using God’s Name in Vain is something the Trinity laughs about? So many other scenes like this that do NOT depict the God of Christianity…Mack telling his daughter that the Great Spirit (of Indian lore) is another name for God…god telling Mack that he was created “to be loved” (not to give glory to God) and the Jesus figure says something similar to him…I could go on and on…

    What if people in the Old Testament had called God “Baal” and the Holy Spirit “Astarte” but it was a “Good” depiction because they showed the love of God? I doubt God would smile on it and I do not think He smiles on The Shack. I can’t even go into all the other serious issues in this movie that make this movie a serious deviation from True Christianity. Yes, people may come to the LORD through seeing the love of God reflected in this movie; however, as my fourteen year old asks “But what happens when they read the Bible and see the other side of God? The holiness and righteous anger against sin etc.? Won’t they then feel deceived? Confused?” Yes my son, they will. What god are they really “coming to” in The Shack? As one reviewer put it “The Shack depicts (I say, not even) half of God and half a God isn’t God” words to that affect. Yes, it may lead some to a statement of faith; however, I truly believe that this movie will lead many, many more away from the True God and lead them to a god of their imagination, a god that tolerates anything we want to throw at Him and is . I have a relation that believes that God is a woman. The Shack will reinforce in her inaccurate belief about the living God.

    This could have been a great feel good movie about redemption if they had left the whole Christian imagery out of it and just made it about Mack meeting nice women called Wisdom, Love and Hope and a nice man called Grace in the woods (ie. his imagination) and call it good. To try and tie Hinduism, Polynesian deities, Universalism, Christianity and possibly Islam all together and put a bow on it, I feel is offensive to all beliefs involved and to our Holy and Righteous God and His Son.

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