The Shack Movie – A Christian Movie Review

What would you do if offered a beautiful piece of cake with a small skull and cross bones sticker on it?  The cake is gorgeously made with all of the frills possible.  It is also seems superb to the taste.  You can tell your taste buds will enjoy every bite.  It looks like the most attractive cake dessert you have ever seen.  It is one of the best technically made cakes.

Yet, there is the sign – Danger! – warns the skull and cross bones.

What is the problem?  The cake looks great but some of the ingredients are rotten and possibly poisonous.  The eggs were so spoiled or the milk so sour that they will make you sick.  They may even kill you.  What is the momentary pleasant taste worth to you?

You will enjoy the taste of the cake as you eat it, but it will cause you problems.  The only question is how severe the illness will be.  You will experience symptoms ranging from mild discomfort to death.  The bad ingredients are going to affect you, it is just a question of whether it is noticeable.

Would you still eat the cake for the short term sugar rush?

Would you serve it to others?

Would you let your small children eat it?  How about your frail grandparents?

This scenario likely does not present a difficult decision.  Reasonable people do not ingest food that can possibly kill them.  Yet, this cake dilemma mirrors the one faced with the movie version of The Shack, a movie that has some positive external aspects but is filled with harmful theology.  It presents the same questions:

What should you do with a movie that is very well made but tainted by rotten ingredients?

Why should I not enjoy a movie that tastes good going down even if it makes me spiritually sick?

Abhor what is Evil, Cling to what is Good

The Shack is an emotionally powerful and well-told story.  It is beautifully portrayed on the screen.  Some points of the movie do capture the mercy and grace of God well and it is one of the best technically made Christian movies I have seen.  Yet, it is also rotten at its core.  The author’s projection of his spiritual and theological issues onto God taint everything about it.  I would not recommend it.  It is just too far off the mark to want to push anyone to see it.

If you are unfamiliar with the storyline, here is the summary from Wikipedia:

Mackenzie “Mack” Phillips suffered physical and emotional abuse as a child at the hands of his drunken father. He witnessed similar abuse of his mother as well. There is the implication that as a 13-year-old boy he attempted to poison his father with strychnine. Whether he succeeded in killing the man is not entirely clear, although subsequent events suggest that he did. But as an adult, he has a bountiful life with his wife, Nan, and their three children: Kate, Josh, and Missy.  His spiritual life though is shallow and impersonal with God.

Mack’s life is shattered, however, when their youngest child Missy disappears during a camping trip while he is saving Kate and Josh during a canoeing accident. The police determine Missy is the victim of a serial killer after finding her torn dress and blood in a vacant cabin. Kate blames herself for Missy’s death because of her own reckless behavior in causing the canoe accident in the first place. The tragedy derails Mack’s faith and life until the onset of winter when he receives an unstamped, typewritten note in his mailbox. The surrounding snow is devoid of any incriminating tracks. The message is signed “Papa” (which was Nan’s nickname for God) and invites him to meet at the cabin.

Thinking this may possibly be an opportunity for meeting and capturing or killing the serial killer, Mack drives himself there and, finding the ruined cabin cold and desolate and empty, is overcome with frustration, rage and an almost irresistible impulse to turn his handgun on himself. But he suddenly encounters a mysterious trio of strangers who invite him to stay at their well-furnished, cozy little house that is situated just down the path and, oddly, in the midst of a beautiful, sunshiny, summertime wilderness.

The trio of strangers gradually reveal their identities as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The purpose of their invitation is to first help him to better understand his life as seen from a much broader context or higher perspective. This realization helps free him from an inclination to pass judgment upon himself as well as upon everyone else who crosses his path. It is from that new starting point that he may then continue his long, slow journey into healing for himself and his family and forgiveness for himself as well as for those who have grievously harmed him and his loved ones.

The storyline in the movie stays generally true to that of the novel.  Thus, the movie follows Mack as he journeys from great pain to joy and forgiveness in the Lord.  The makers do an excellent job of conveying the huge loss suffered by Mack and his family.  The horror and sheer randomness of such a grievous crime occurring to a loving family are palpable.  It comes through to such an extent that I cried along with them.

Mack and his kids go from idyllic family camping fun to mourning over a too small and too empty coffin.  The grief would be unimaginable.  The movie does a good job of showing how it tears apart the surviving members.  Mack and his wife appear to be barely holding it together.  The two surviving children appear greatly troubled.  Mack is covered with grief and filled with anger.  It comes through in everything he does.

Emotional Manipulation is Not of God

The overwhelming emotional trauma of the opening is not just part of the storyline.  The Shack uses the tragedy involved like a con man uses alcohol on his mark.  The story is written to trigger enough empathy and pain to break down your defenses of spiritual discernment and solid doctrine.

The characters are regular folks, just like you and I.  They are put in a horrible situation that is both unthinkable and all too possible in today’s world.  As you are watching, you are drawn in by the tragedy, suffering, and more suffering until it feels unbearable.  The Shack deliberately puts you in a position of great tension to get you to not only overlook the huge doctrinal errors, but to applaud them as if they were your idea.  It is the only way to reach a satisfying emotional conclusion within the facts as presented.

This is classic emotional manipulation.  You bombard the target with waves of emotion to inhibit logic and reason and prey on their responses.  It is the sort of tactic that allow cults to thrive.

Book Review is Here

Satan Masquerades as an Angel of Light

The enemy does most of his work against the church in disguise.  No Christian would follow evil if it appeared as obviously demonic.  You would never agree to leave the narrow road of Jesus if promised nothing but death and pain.  Satan masquerades as something good to lure you away using your own weaknesses against you.  He often does so by manipulating the Word of God to his needs.  This happens in The Shack though the author presenting false pictures of God.  They are kind of like the God of the Bible.  They share similar names and claim to be that same God.  But in reality, they are one of the authors creation made to suit him.

The story arranges a meeting between God and man by taking Mack and sending him to the cabin where his daughter was killed.  It is a terrible place to contemplate.  Instead of leaving him there in the abandoned cabin, God appears in the form of three persons plus one person – Father, Son and Holy Spirit and wisdom.

Great, God shows up, yay!  Well, no, not yay.

William P. Young did not write The Shack so you can understand the God of the Bible.  Rather, it was so he can express what he thinks God should be like.  He created a new improved god that he can accept – not that mean old biblical version.  His version looks a lot more like the embodiment of the self help movement than Jesus.  This comes through in ways large and small.

The main character, Mack, has a problem with men in the story.  His father was abusive.  God the Father, therefore, appears to him as a woman.  The Son, evidently claimed to be Jesus, appears as a non-threatening middle eastern man.  The Holy Spirit also is shown as a woman.

Do you see what The Shack does there?  It is almost like the author gives away the core of his theology.

It is not about the gender of the characters.  Rather, The Shack changes God to suit man.  The story line has the eternal maker of heaven and earth change Himself so as not to offend a self involved, angry, and rebellious man.  This is madness.  It also reflects the self centered theology of the author.  God is merely a cosmic affirmer of how wonderful you are in Young’s theology.  Man is the center of Young’s religion rather than God.

God loves the lost and broken.  But He does so perfectly as He is, even when people don’t understand Him.  We change to understand God.  It is not the other way around.

The Shack Movie ReviewThe story also greatly errs in how Mack and the god characters interact.

Mack is sullen, angry and insolent to God.  At one point, he even angrily accuses the Papa character to her face.  All three god characters respond by stating that Mack just needs to understand how much they love him.  The Shack turns God into a dysfunctional dad begging for acceptance from his wayward child.

What is wrong with this picture?

God is love.  Yes, this is true.  Jesus also is patient and kind and puts up with all sorts of disrespect before the Cross.  But God is also perfectly holy.  He is righteous.  He is glorious beyond all of our imaginations.  Sitting on the throne of heaven is a God so magnificent that we have no comprehension of what it is like to come face to face with Him.

Fall Down and Worship Him!

In the Bible, when people interact with the heavenly beings as they truly are, whether it be with angels or with God, the reaction of the people is dramatic. “Fear not” or “get up” are usually the first words spoken as the person has fallen on their face in awe or is terrified by the brilliant holiness before them.  God by nature is awesome and glorious and powerful and holy.  He does not ever, ever, ever ( did I mention ever) apologize for it. You simply cannot understand God unless you understand His whole character.

The Shack’s version is a nice, sympathetic and culturally palatable view of God, but it is simply inaccurate.  It may make people better about the Father to picture Him as a kindly grandma, but it is a distortion of the God who sits on the throne of the Universe.  It is a diminishing of aspects of God, His glory, power, and majesty in favor of His love for His people.

Jesus did not die to lower the Father to us to placate man.  He did so to bring man up to worship God.  We are told to go boldly to the throne of grace not to have God come off His throne.  God loves us but doesn’t cater to us.

In our self-centered world, frankly, this is just about the last inaccurate picture of God we need to offer to people.

What is Wrath?

Even despite these issues, I was hanging in there with the movie until it dealt with the issues of sin and punishment.  The Shack rejects the ideas of sin and punishment in favor of the claim that God loves us so much that sin doesn’t matter.

The author clearly has an issue with the concept of responsibility for our own actions.  Culpability for every wrong action by any of the characters is explained away by the god characters.  Mack’s father in the story is a horribly abusive drunk.  Yet, we are told that this should be excused and understood because his father was abused.  Mack murdered his father when Mack was a teenager, yet, this also must be understood without judgment.  Even the serial killer who murders Mack’s daughter is given a free pass to escape responsibility.  His parents were also abusive so it would be unfair to him for God to judge.

This is not even close to what the Bible says.  Yes, God understands the pain that we suffer – Jesus wept with us – but we are also each responsible individually for what we do.  The wages of sin is death.  Free will allows us the ability to make bad choices, but God says explicitly that we are to give an account for every single one of those choices – for the good or for the bad.

The only free pass we get is through Jesus.  It is free only because of Jesus

Which leads to the moment which was somewhat shocking in its complete and total disregard of the real God.  After Mack spends a good portion of the movie angry, he somewhat insolently asks the god character about wrath.  The Father character answers by feigning ignorance about what the word “Wrath” means.  She states sin is punishment enough by itself.

This is self indulgent nonsense.  It sounds good, but is inherently unjust.

Consider these Scriptures:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. Romans 1:18

From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. Revelation 19:15

God’s judgment and wrath are also clearly spelled out in the Bible.  There will come a point where God’s judgment is going to poured out on the earth to settle accounts for what we as humans do to each other and to God on an everyday basis.  There is no legitimate way to avoid that conclusion from God’s Word.

It is also logically fair, if we think about it.  It would be unfair if the actions of the serial killer preying on little girls in the story are excused.   Yet, that is the contention of The Shack.  It goes so far as having the  “Papa” character says she is especially fond of the serial killer.  This shows no understanding of the character of God.  It also removes any need for Jesus.

Jesus’ greatest act as Savior was taking the wrath of God upon Himself on the Cross so that we could be spared it.

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. 1 Thessalonians 5:10

In the world of The Shack, there is no need for Jesus stepping in for us.  Papa loves us too much to punish us – we just need Papa to patiently wait until we stop insulting her and then agree with her how great we really are.  Papa is the perfect god for a narcissistic world.

For these reasons and more, I would highly recommend skipping The Shack.  Like the beautiful piece of cake, it may be tempting and may taste good initially, but it is filled with rot and poison.  It may not kill you, but it certainly is not going to help your walk with Jesus.

The Shack Christian Movie Review

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25 thoughts on “The Shack Movie – A Christian Movie Review
  1. Thanks for the review. Haven’t seen it or read the book. Font want to now. Good to hear quality is getting better. But I fear as christian movies become more mainstream, they will for sure be less truthful. This seemed like some hybrid blending of different spiritual beliefs.

    Not true to any, but a bit of this and that. Makes me think of Fusion Cuisine, what is a KimChi Taco, anyway?

    Maybe it’s new, maybe it’s not so new. Seems like Paul adminished several false -taught churches, as did Jesus in John’s Revelation, right?

    Some of the popular churches that stress Prosperity, appear a bit Eastern in their profrssions… can you say, “Ommmmmm?”

    You’re right, sir. This is clearly not the truth. Maybe it has some value in someone’s mind, but it doesn’t further the true Gospel.

    1. Yup, you are right. New brand of very old errors repackaged.

      It is an unfortunate thing because there are good points – just too mixed up.

  2. Parts of this review have merit but overall falls short because of the mockery. God doesn’t mock, He only speaks truth. You too should speak God’s truth without mocking. Others will take the advice more to heart.

    1. Hey William – thanks for the feedback. It is not intended to be mockery but I will go back and look over the post as it was from a few years ago. I appreciate the honest advice.

      1. good morning, I watched the movie, “the shack “, I was very interested in where it was going. But did not lead me to answer satisfactorily the ageless old question “why suffering.. ..”
        There were good parts but mostly non-biblical in it’s awkward attempt to understand the mind of God – way short of what the oldest book in the Bible attempted to do,job!

        Some of the parts were very confusing and unsettling.1)no man sees the face of God and lives 2)the sacrifice of Jesus was diminutive .
        3)if God intended us to understand him the way this movie portrayed it we would lose all faith and trust and the desire to move towards him.

        Our lack of understanding the pain and the torture that we feel is part of the purification process. As Paul said that “I may know him ,the power of his resurrection and in the fellowship of his suffering”.

        In summary I felt the movie was very confusing and the character of god,
        Non-biblical. Jesus made the remark that “if any person touches a child it be better for him to have a millstone put around his neck and be cast into the sea. “There’s a definite judgment and anger with God that it did not show. If you do not show this, the fear of God which is the beginning of wisdom loses its meaning.

        Sent from my iPhone

      2. Hi there, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree with you, particularly in regard to the understanding of pain and the emptiness of universalism. Glad you were not deceived by the emotional appeal of the movie.

  3. The shack seems like an update on the Narnia story where the character walks out of winter into the middle of Spring. Unfortunately, the story is full of holes and a gift to critics of Christian beliefs. It’s also thoroughly unbiblical in many aspects of its conclusions. I’m sure the writer meant well, but it’s so far beyond the reality of real life that it will never be taken seriously and is a wasted opportunity. There are better scripts out there.

    1. Hey James – good point about the winter connection with Narnia and yes, there are definitely better scripts out there. Having researched the author over the years, I am not sure he meant well. He has become more open about his self made universalist theology as the Shack became more popular. It seems that he was not simply mistaken in how he wrote the story. He deliberately crafted a universalist fairy tale. So Narnia for universalists.

      It is sad that it was so popular.

  4. Why can’t people just accept the fact that God is wrath? John has to assert that God is also love because it is an unspoken given through history up until 50 years ago that God is holy, holy, holy, which is, to all humanity, wrath. God is holy, therefore he is wrath. If you can’t accept that God’s holiness is defined by his wrath, that his love is defined by contrast to his wrath, that his plan for most of humanity is nothing but wrath, that God’s primary action on humanity is not just wrath, but eternal wrath, you can’t really be a Christian. God’s love in sparing us from hell, in sparing us from the sin we were born in, in sparing us from his own hand, would not be love if it weren’t overshadowed by his wrath and barely-contained, burning hatred to most of humanity. This is what Christian joy is: knowing that we have been spared. There is really no purpose of Jesus other than the joy and the blessing that comes from being spared from the Father.

    1. Hey Gordon – I think it goes back to Jesus’ direction about loving your neighbor as yourself. He points out that we all love ourselves a whole lot above all others – including God. This expresses itself in people emphasizing what they like about God’s character and dismissing those they dislike. So people like the author of the Shack make up a new god to suit them, rather than submit to the real God and learn how both His love and His justice are wonderful.

      1. Justice? Neither God’s love nor His wrath are from justice. If the afterlife were just, neither hell nor heaven would be eternal; we’d be paid according to what we do on earth, and some would have greater punishments than others, and God would be neither wrathful nor loving. Of course, this isn’t true. We are given infinite blessing or infinite torture based on which religion we choose. We face judgement on whether or not we are Christians, not for good and evil deeds. Being saved or not is what judges one’s deeds anyways. A Christian and a Non-Christian can both do the exact same charitable things, and one will be condemned a hypocrite while another will be found righteous. The idea of degrees of torment is not only unbiblical, but mathematically false. It’s not about justice. It’s all infinite. Infinite wrath or love.

        The law was given and made impossible to follow because of wrath. Jesus abolished the law for Christians because of love. The Law never justifies, but only condemns us because of God’s wrath. Jesus justifies out of love. God turns human goodness into filthy rags out of wrath. Jesus imputes his goodness onto us out of love. Justice would excuse original sin and reward us off what we did with what we knew. The Cross would be pointless if God were just.

        And we know that from the Parable of Lazarus and from Revelation, that the joy we experience in heaven is derived from beholding God’s wrath on the damned, a righteous sadism, if you will. Justice today says that is wrong, but there is no justice in the afterlife. If it were all about justice, you might as well believe in Karma. God doesn’t need to exact justice anyways. Nothing can harm him. The reason for hell is wrath. If it were justice, hell would be purgatory, and heaven would be another earth.

    2. Hello Gordon, I just had to comment on your ending statement “there really is no purpose of Jesus other than the joy and the blessing that comes from being spared from the Father” Jesus came to show us The Father. Every word of compassion Love and mercy as well as judgement came from the Father through Jesus lips. Jesus said he only spoke what the Father told him. So when you see the beauty of Jesus the son you actually see God the Father. It is the Father who loves you so much he sent his own son to bring you back home to Him. God is Holy Holy Holy because of his all consuming Love purity and Goodness. He is not like us He is perfect. He shines brighter than the sun. This is why we fall at his feet and beg for mercy. Because to see his Goodness could kill us. It could. Yet He says be not afraid. We fall at His feet.

      1. I believe this is described as an ontological model of hell, that philosophically, God’s warmth to those in heaven is the same substance as the fires of hell, being perceived in different ways because of the recipient’s righteousness or unrighteousness. Like our souls themselves are the works that are tested by fire (straw, wood, stone, or gold, etc. as written about by Paul somewhere I can’t remember).
        The problem with it is this: how do you resolve this idea with the Bible’s allusions of separation? The Wide gulf, the Outer darkness, the Gates of hell, the throwing Into tartarus and chains of Darkness (as opposed to light). These all strongly hint at a locational difference, not a dispositional gap between different receivers of the burning light.
        The passage that works the most in your favor is that of God’s passage in front of Moses, where his Face would indeed kill him, so he had to show his Back.
        But scriptures illustrations look pretty well weighted against your model unless you got more to show us.

    3. Hello again Gordon, “Gods barely contained hatred towards most of humanity?”For God so LOVED the world he sent his only son not to condemn the world but to save it. It’s lovely you feel joy in knowing you have been spared from Gods wrath. We have so much in common. I feel joy in now knowing the Father too. Knowing I can talk to him and be accepted as his child and this all because of Him sending Jesus to be our means of salvation. And praise Jesus for his obedience and the joy he must of felt knowing that by his death (and rising to life) he would bring so many back home. I would not dare approach God as I do without Jesus because in Jesus I know I am accepted and Loved. I mentioned God shining brighter than the sun and that he was perfect. You mentioned Moses. I probably didn’t explain myself properly. I am referring to the risen Christs face as brighter than the sun and perfect and Good. He after all has been given the job of judgement (he alone is worthy, revelation) and he said “don’t be afraid” to meet Jesus we are never the same again. And of course to see Jesus (the risen) is to see God .

      1. I actually take precious little joy from it out of pity for my friends whose hearts have been hardened against Jesus because of his teachings and the actions of his followers, including myself. Christ’s offer of salvation introduces the threat of what he saves us from, i.e. our birth and creation on a helpless tragectory to eternal torment because God created everyone after Adam a sinner, and then judges them for being as He created us. Indirectly threatening an outsider with eternal damnation and wrathful vengeance by offering a binary alternative to the above is not very persuasive. And yet, it is gospel.
        The love and salvation is almost completely eclipsed by the threats, demands, and anger that precede it.

  5. Hi Gordon. You mentioned the parable of Lazarus that many readers ASSUME is talking about the after-life.
    It isn’t. This is a parable about the death of the Old Covenant (the Rich Man) and the replacement with the New Covenant (Lazarus who symbolises the gentiles).
    There is a HUGE GULF that separates the two. So those who stick to the Old remain in their torment, while those who embrace the New receive their blessings through Jesus Christ. All of this happens in THIS life. This parable has nothing to do with life after death. See Revelation 20, verse 5.

    1. What, then, does the second half of the story (Luke 16:27-31) mean? The rich man, Caiaphas, the high priest whose job was to rejoice at the gate as part of that job’s description, had 5 brothers in law who exchanged the high priesthood, and all denied the resurrection, to the point that Lazarus being so couldn’t convince them that Jesus was a prophet of God.
      I don’t see how the old covenant has 5 brothers and is burning in hell or unable to be convinced of anything.

      1. Gordon, I agree with you about the description given by Jesus not fitting James’ interpretation.

        James – I don’t agree with the interpretation but I see what you are saying there.


      2. Hey Gordon – I did not mean to leave the last paragraph there. I started to say more about the Scripture but realized that it wasn’t necessary. I am happy to discuss the passage but did not want to argue.

  6. Gordon hello.I can see you love your friends. God loves your friends and you and I more than we know too. You don’t know where your friends stand with God.You believe them condemned. But who are you to judge? Jesus came for the unbelieving and the hard hearted and the least. I was an unbeliever and God showed up. He showed me that every day of my life he had been with me. When I was sad (aww) and when I was bad (ouch) it was such a revelation I was healed and changed instantly. I saw that when I had been very very sad He had been with me helping me yet I hadn’t known it and when I did wrong it was actually God that I hurt. What a revelation! He never gives up his pursuit it’s sad you feel they have no hope. He loves your friends. He is near your friends all the time but they don’t know it. God truly loves your friends he feels their hurts and difficulties and reasons for unbelief. No one will ever Love them more than God. They are precious to him even in there unbelief. That is scriptural. He always whispers “come to me” You and I are no better than your unbelieving friends. They might even be better people than you and I. God is Love. It is possible the only difference is that we know we need God. I think that is what qualifies Gordon. Knowing your need. That is when God reveals Himself. He makes himself known because he is merciful. He comes to the broken hearted and the failures, to the sinners the weak and the suffering. And sometimes as a surprise to those who didn’t even know they were looking.

    1. Hi Dom – thank for the comment, but I don’t understand your question? Can you explain what you mean?

  7. This is long and I apologize.

    Christians sometimes are so hypocritical. Especially the ones who reviewed this movie, which the discussion seems to have gotten away from. Some background: I am 76, was raised in a “Christian” household, although we didn’t have a bible. Went to church every Sunday, immersion baptized when I was 22, went door to door evangelizing, etc, etc. Taught adult Sunday school for 12 years (after re-immersion) until the new pastor banned teaching Sunday school. He went with the indoctrination of small groups where the bible wasn’t even studied – instead there were prepared worksheets that led the participants into a desired outcome. As a high school science teacher for 43 years, I know that isn’t teaching.

    Here is how some of the reviewers are hypocritical:
    1. “The movie violated the 2nd commandment about graven images.” Seriously? Did Paul violate that when he saw Christ? Much of the Christian teaching we have actually comes from Paul. He told us we are not bound by the Law. Modern Christianity seems to be a mixture of OT and NT theology rather than NT theology. Did the reviewers watch the movie? It appeared to me that all that Mac experienced was in his mind after he wrecked his neighbor’s truck.. I am not saying it wasn’t real (for him.) I am saying that Pappa. etc weren’t physical manifestations, as some assert. BTW, do we doubt God couldn’t do that if that was the desire?

    2. In one reply to a comment Pastorunlikely says “Glad you were not deceived by the emotional appeal of the movie.” Hs he or any of the readers ever been to a revival? It is ALL about emotion! I have been to many until I realized that. Arm waving, chanting, crying, etc. Listen to TV pastors as they try to make you feel guilty or afraid or shameful. Isn’t that emotion? Some, C.S. Lewis is an exception, consider faith an emotion.

    3. The Bible. Many reviewers quote scripture in their reviews. Few Christians have read the entire bible, fewer still can quote much scripture. Some can paraphrase John 3:16. Most can’t tell where the scripture is located. In fact, there are a few websites that list quotes that people think come from the bible but don’t.

    4. Gender, race, etc The bible was written by patriarchal men. Women were mostly treated as cattle with a few exceptions. Much of the middle east is still like that. Of course God, Jesus, the Holy Ghost (I prefer that over spirit for some reason!) are all masculine in these 2000+ year old manuscripts. If God is a spirit, there is no gender. God also has no race. Think of how many churches depict Christ as a blue-eyed white guy? The Holy Ghost is not a dove.

    The movie was excellent, in my estimation, if you consider the message(s). When you were a kid, did you obey your parents because you loved them or feared them? How about your heavenly father (parent?) Love or fear? The movie tried to show that God is love, the Trinity works together, there is joy in heaven, sometimes we judge others when we shouldn’t, grief is life long ( I lost a daughter some years ago,) and belief in God brings hope and peace.

    As an experiment, as your Christian friend why they are Christians? The answers may surprise you.

    1. Hey Jeff – thanks for the thoughtful comment. First, I am sorry about the loss of your daughter and I am glad God brings you hope and peace. He is good. I don’t want to “me too” you because it is not nice to do and also I have not experienced what you have. But if you have read any of my personal information on this site, I experienced lots of pain growing up of various kinds and I still remember how much I cried as I read The Shack as a new Christian. It is a powerful story that does capture wonderful truth about God. I do understand that. The problem is that mixed in with these wonderful parts are things that are untrue and are outright harmful and which diminish Jesus, but presented as true. That is a bad combination. I understand that there may be those who can watch the movie and ignore the untrue parts while being blessed by the picture of love, grace, and mercy – it is just a mess overall that most people will have trouble with.

      I generally agree with you on the small groups with prepared worksheets – at least in a lots of circumstances. Getting to know the real Jesus as set out in the Word is the point of our efforts and the worksheets can very much limit our understanding. They also can greatly influence people in the direction chosen by the one who made the worksheet. Ironically, I think The Shack does much of the same things. I do understand that people like it and it has some good messages. Yet, the author made a number of decisions when he wrote the book to imbed his theology into the story in such a way that his personal nonbiblical beliefs are inseparable from the powerful story. Frankly, it is a classic manipulation technique – a movie version of the love bomb that traps people with dysfunctional organizations.

      I totally agree with you about the mixing of the OT and NT and people still living as if they are under the Law. I also agree that fear of God has an outsized presence among Christians. But Young’s version of God does not stay anywhere near a Biblical understanding of God. He was covertly pushing universalism.

      1. “The movie violated the 2nd commandment about graven images.” Seriously? Did Paul violate that when he saw Christ? Much of the Christian teaching we have actually comes from Paul. He told us we are not bound by the Law. Modern Christianity seems to be a mixture of OT and NT theology rather than NT theology.

      I agree with you here and I don’t think I said this in my review. I do believe Christians should be careful if we do depict God as He is God.

      Did the reviewers watch the movie? It appeared to me that all that Mac experienced was in his mind after he wrecked his neighbor’s truck.. I am not saying it wasn’t real (for him.) I am saying that Pappa. etc weren’t physical manifestations, as some assert. BTW, do we doubt God couldn’t do that if that was the desire?

      The depictions in The Shack are clearly not stated to be God directly speaking, but it is also clear that they are also attempting to depict the nature of God in the story. Regardless of how God got there, the movie wants you to learn about God from it – much like the book. Could God do the things is a big question – some of the things, sure, but others go directly against His revealed nature.

      2. In one reply to a comment Pastorunlikely says “Glad you were not deceived by the emotional appeal of the movie.” Hs he or any of the readers ever been to a revival? It is ALL about emotion! I have been to many until I realized that. Arm waving, chanting, crying, etc. Listen to TV pastors as they try to make you feel guilty or afraid or shameful. Isn’t that emotion? Some, C.S. Lewis is an exception, consider faith an emotion.

      You know, I actually agree with you here as well – again to some extent. The church can go to extremes on emotions in both directions. There are some parts of the church that are terrified of emotions and coldly demand that you just obey God with your head and calculation. Others like some of the revivals you mention cater to emotion and try to get people riled up in emotional frenzies – jumping from one emotional/experiential high to the next. I don’t think either approach lines up with what we see in the Bible. Emotions are a big part of who we are as followers of Christ. Love is an action, true to some extent, but love is also emotional. Emotions are neither good nor bad in themselves. They are normal for us humans. Those that are based on truth and in submission to Christ are wonderful.

      Yet, our emotions can also leave us open to manipulation or lead us into trouble when we follow them over Jesus. You mention TV preachers and the OT – they are a great example. They will often use powerful emotional appeals that are based on partial truth to hook people on to their schemes. So they will often quote OT Scriptures out of context and apply them to NT believers to induce a sense of shame and guilty, then use that to shape people in their own image. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard Micah used to shame people in this way. This is my view of what The Shack does powerfully. The story is extremely emotionally charged, is relatable and believable, and your heart breaks for Mac as he struggles through his past and his loss. This hooks the viewer to the story and leaves you desperate to get resolution. Yet, the answer provided by the movie is one that is not biblical and one that will ultimately leave most people in worse shape in the end. I am not going towards legalism or lack of grace – I think the true God is way better and way more loving and filled with grace than depicted. The issue is that the entire theology in the movie is centered around Mac, what he wants, struggles with, is comfortable with, and will accept. Pappa as a female, in itself is not great, but the bigger issue is the message that God presents Himself as female to not offend Mac. Though I understand how this meant to seem loving, it sets Mac and people in general up for a huge amount of failure. One of the most mind blowing wonderful things about God is He is “I AM”, yet He still is perfectly loving etc. Young may think he is doing people a favor through his message and I do understand the need to turn away from the mean old man on the mountain picture constantly disappointed with us, but what he actually does is diminish Jesus and His Cross – His love and grace too.

      3. The Bible. Many reviewers quote scripture in their reviews. Few Christians have read the entire bible, fewer still can quote much scripture. Some can paraphrase John 3:16. Most can’t tell where the scripture is located. In fact, there are a few websites that list quotes that people think come from the bible but don’t.

      Ok, that may be the case, I cannot answer for others. I can say that I love the Bible and I think Young’s clear theology contradicts the Bible in many ways. As I said above, the worst part is he takes away the point of Jesus.

      4. Gender, race, etc The bible was written by patriarchal men. Women were mostly treated as cattle with a few exceptions. Much of the middle east is still like that. Of course God, Jesus, the Holy Ghost (I prefer that over spirit for some reason!) are all masculine in these 2000+ year old manuscripts. If God is a spirit, there is no gender. God also has no race. Think of how many churches depict Christ as a blue-eyed white guy? The Holy Ghost is not a dove.

      I think I get what you are saying here, though when you start your point with the Bible written by patriarchal men its honestly hard to go along with you. It is such a throw away line that diminishes the men involved, but more importantly disregards the authority of the Scripture and the ability of God to inspire Scripture. We are not free to read the Bible and pick and choose what parts of it we like according to our opinions about the authors as that returns the faith to being all about us. It also makes the content somewhat perplexing – Jesus on the one hand is depicted as greatly valuing women and elevating them repeatedly in the culture and they are also important to His ministry and the early church – these are left in, yet the writers of the Bible change other things to suit their biases.

      I do understand that people tend to make Jesus look like them and unless they are an Ancient Israelite that is going to be inaccurate – though generally harmless. Much like with the Pappa character, my personal issue with personification of the Holy Spirit was the fact that they made a Holy Spirit in their own image. This and the personification of wisdom presented a really weird picture of God.

      The movie as certainly well done and powerful. I am glad that it seems to have helped you and I know that God is bigger than any depiction and can work through everything. I also totally agree with your point about the emphasis on love, grace, joy, hope, and peace. I tell you, friend, that I have seen so many exhausted and shamed Christians toiling under the weight of unbiblical messages. Despite this, I think this movie rebounds way too far in the other direction to not lead people into trouble.

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