Film Review: The Shack

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shack movie poster“Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, Not from the Mouth of the Lord.” Jeremiah 23:16

The Shack
I had the opportunity to watch one of the premier viewings of The Shack in South Africa. The storyline follows the main character, Mack, as he struggles to deal with his personal concept of God and the immense sufferings he has encountered in his life. The story develops after Mack receives a mysterious message in the mail, requesting him to go to the shack where he previously found his little girl who had been brutally murdered. The message was signed by “Papa” which is the movie’s depiction of God the Father. Upon arrival at the shack, Mack meets “the Trinity”: “God the Father”, portrayed as an African American woman, “God the Son” portrayed as a Jewish carpenter and “God the Holy Spirit” portrayed as an Asian woman. Mack deals with his perception of God, his understanding of suffering and apparently finds peace. The story of Mack’s discovery of who God is and how to deal with suffering follows an emotional storyline accompanied by good acting, music and cinematography. It is a high quality film production.

The movie The Shack is based on the 2007 novel which has sold over 20 million copies. While it is a fictional novel, The Shack claims to “wrestle with the timeless question: Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?” In order to answer that question, some evangelicals may expect to view a story akin to the book of Job or a message to the Church to stand up against evil and call all forms of authority to obey God’s Laws in order to see evil dissipate, but the shack offers something quite different.

The Nature of God
At the core of one’s theology is one’s view on the Godhead. This most important aspect of sound Theology is distorted in The Shack. From the beginning of the film, “God” is an effeminate being whose greatest desire is to fix hurting people. While it is true that God does save, heal, and deliver people from the power, guilt, and ultimate consequences of sin, His main goal is not simply to be a shoulder for people to cry on. God is far more interested in displaying His Divine attributes through the salvation of a particular people and glorifying Himself as He redeems those people and calls them to holiness. God’s mission is to save mankind from sin, not simply act as a coping mechanism for those who have been affected by consequences of sin.

The Trinity
The doctrine of the Trinity is also misunderstood. At key points in the film, the main character looks at the wrists of all three members of the Trinity. Each member of the Trinity is depicted with scars on their wrists. This of course gives one the misconception that all three members of the Trinity died on the Cross. The Biblical model of the Trinity and the Crucifixion is quite different. There is only one God who is revealed in three distinct Divine persons. The Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is not the Father. They are three distinct Persons who are all truly One God, each playing a different, yet unified, role in the salvation of God’s people. Therefore, it is inaccurate to depict all three as suffering on the Cross, even though all three played, and do play, vital roles in the redemption of God’s creatures. “He comes to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found.”

Sin
A central idea The Shack attempts to deal with is sin. Positively, the movie does depict the depravity of man, at least to some extent. It shows the mess which sin creates. Mankind’s corruption can be seen by the evil in the world. The main character, Mack, experiences serious suffering at the hands of fallen humanity throughout his life. However, it does not deal with the problem of sin with any satisfaction.

The movie fails in how it depicts God’s attitude toward sin. It makes God out to be a helpless deity, hoping that humanity will allow Him to help victims of sin cope with their problems. At no time does The Shack define sin for what it really is: lawlessness. It is rebellion toward God. He hates sin and He is angry with the wicked every day.

The main character has a desire for justice because of the personal abuse he suffered and the murder of his little girl, but God, as portrayed in the movie, is completely void of justice. Throughout the film, “Papa” (God the Father, portrayed as a woman) is almost opposed to bringing wrathful judgment upon wicked sinners.

When the main character meets with a personification of Wisdom, he comes to the realization that a father will do anything for his children, even die in their place. The individual portrayed as Wisdom tells the main character that this sacrifice is exactly what God did for all His children, i.e. all mankind. The context of this conversation suggests that God died for all people, without requiring faith or repentance in response. Universalism, the idea that all will be saved regardless of personal belief or lifestyle, is strongly implied during this interaction.

God’s Wrath
Because the film has an inadequate view of sin, it is not surprising that it has an inaccurate depiction of God’s wrath. To put it simply, The Shack portrays God as a Being without any wrath. In fact, the main character pointedly asks God the Father about His wrath on the wicked, to which God responds by telling him that He (God) has no wrath. At this point of the film, even the overwhelmingly positive audience, in the movie house I was in, resounded with sounds of disagreement. Yet, after the film, it seemed as though everybody forgot that the character depicted as God made a theologically heretical statement! The Shack attempts to depict the wrath of God as a manmade tradition and not a Biblical concept. It blasphemously puts words into “God’s” mouth that contradict clear teachings of Scripture.

Sadly, when the wrath of God is lost so is the love of God. It is only in appreciating God’s holy hatred toward sin and His anger toward the sinner, that anyone can appreciate what the Father did to the Son on the Cross and what the Son had to endure to atone for the sin which God detests.

Do We Know God?
It is painfully obvious that many people do not know who God is. After I watched The Shack, I was amazed to see only positive reviews. Many people said that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the film. Some even professed to be pastors and Bible College students and on that foundation asserted that The Shack was a “fantastic film” which all people should watch! If this is the kind of response coming from people who claim to be Christian, one wonders what is being preached from the pulpits in our local churches?

Salt and Light
Jesus Christ has commanded His followers to be salt and light, but how can we give a Biblical response to anything happening in the world around us when we do not even know what the Bible says about God, sin, humanity, justice, redemption, holiness and love? The Church of Jesus Christ needs to come back to practicing Biblical Discernment. Clearly, the popularity of The Shack displays the lack of discernment in Evangelical Christianity today. The Church is starving for discernment and choking on heresy.

“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only True God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3

Rev. John Clifford, 17 May 2017.

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