Wednesday, March 8, 2017

'The Shack' - Fact, Fiction or Heresy?

It began as a book that was initially self-published with relatively few copies in print. But it gradually grew into something much more and sold some 10 million copies. It was translated into over thirty languages on its way to becoming one of the best-selling paperback books of all time. But the novel ‘The Shack’ has had no shortage of controversy surrounding it and now the new movie version has just been released.

So what is this successful book that is based on Christian themes all about? And more importantly, is there anything that Christians should be warned about? Or should they even avoid all together? The Christian Broadcasting network said of the new movie the following on their website:

"Mack is a dedicated dad with a troubled past. While on a family camping trip, Mack's daughter is kidnapped while he is distracted by a canoe accident involving his other children. Police determine that his daughter was murdered by a serial killer in a hunting shack, but do not find her body. Some time later, Mack finds a note in his mailbox asking him to come back to the shack where his daughter was killed. It is signed by "Papa," which is the name his wife calls God. A suspicious Mack tells no one about the note except his friend and neighbor, Willie, and goes to the shack while the rest of his family is away for the weekend. At first he finds no one there, but a man passing by invites him to walk. It turns out that the man is Jesus, and he leads Mack to a beautiful mountain cottage inhabited by "The Trinity:" "Papa," portrayed as a maternal woman the Holy Spirit, portrayed as a quietly mysterious woman; and Jesus himself. As Mack becomes acquainted with the Godhead, they lead him on a journey of faith and forgiveness.’ End of quote. The review also stated that 'The Shack deals with spiritual themes and questions from beginning until the credits roll."

But considering all of the controversy surround the novel, and now new movie, the question remains are these themes things handled in a Biblically accurate way? And also, if they are not, is the average Christian today spiritually grounded enough to even know that when they see it?

I have not seen this film or read the book and therefore cannot make final judgment on it. But others who do know what it is about have offered their thoughts. And I found that someone that I highly respect, and who is more than qualified to offer a expert opinion, has indeed spoken out forcefully and comprehensively on this book and film.

He is Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. and he serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world. has called him the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.” In addition, Dr. Mohler hosts two radio  programs, writes a popular blog and a regular commentary on moral, cultural and theological issues. So exactly what does this highly respected and brilliant scholar think on the subject of this book and movie? That question was answered at length in his recent article titled, ‘The Shack — The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment’.  I highly encourage you to read the entire blog post can be found here.

One great way to get a full and fast grasp on what this book and movie is all about is to visit this blog link just shared and take in the sobering comments from a man who is more than qualified to label harmful spiritual issues when he sees them. To make a long story short, this respected theologian has major concerns with ‘The Shack’.  He points out grave errors with views about the Trinity. There are major flaws with how God views sin, judgment and especially concerning salvation. Apparently the book declares a form of universal salvation and that coming to Christ is just the 'best' way but not the only way. These are more than minor mistakes and are the reason why Mohler uses the tern ‘heresy’ when speaking to what this book teaches.

But there was one other aspect that he pointed out concerning ‘The Shack. Here are just a few of his closing comments that are closely related to the issue. And I quote:

"In evaluating the book, it must be kept in mind that The Shack is a work of fiction. But it is also a sustained theological argument, and this simply cannot be denied. The crucial question is whether the aberrant doctrines are features of the story or the message of the work. When it comes to The Shack, the really troubling fact is that so many readers are drawn to the theological message of the book, and fail to see how it conflicts with the Bible at so many crucial points."

And then he adds this most sobering paragraph: “All this reveals a disastrous failure of evangelical discernment. The Shack is a wake-up call for evangelical Christianity. The popularity of this book among evangelicals can only be explained by a lack of basic theological knowledge among us — a failure even to understand the Gospel of Christ. The tragedy that evangelicals have lost the art of biblical discernment must be traced to a disastrous loss of biblical knowledge. Discernment cannot survive without doctrine.”

Perhaps you have read this book, know someone who has, or have even seen the new movie already. If so, and If you are a Christian, you need to compare that what you observed to what your Bible actually teaches. And you need to be ready to lovingly and truthfully engage those who might be wrongly influenced by this film and may thus feel 'spiritually safe' when the exact opposite may be the case.

The Shack can be used as a tool, despite its flaws, if it opens a dialog between those who need Christ as Savior and those who know Him now. But to do that, believers must be fully grounded in the truth of Scripture and willing to take a stand for the same. May that be true of each of us and may we be the ever present light of Christ in this difficult and darkening world.

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."  (2 Timothy 2:15)

Bill Breckenridge

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