When I first heard of the book called The Shack, I had recently began developing in my Christian faith and in biblical doctrines. Before my true conversion, I had grown up with some doubts to the Trinity and leaned toward the view of Modealism (oneness Pentecostalism) which taught that God the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit were the same persons. I believed that there was one God who manifested Himself into the images that were necessary. When I began studying the Scriptures, it was clear from Genesis 1 that God had a unique nature, and that He was one God in three persons. Thus, I began to comprehend the doctrine of the Trinity through a biblical light and immersed myself in that doctrine.
So when I heard critics, Christians recording artists, and pastors recommend a book called The Shack, I became interested. Not only was it a book that addressed the question of suffering, but many people endorsed the book as being the best explanation of the Trinity in Christian fiction literature. Without even hearing any criticism of the book, I checked out a copy from my local library and began reading it. The beginning of the book was very emotionally captivating. I deeply cared for the main character, Mack, and his family through the suffering he endured (his daughter was kidnapped and murdered in a shack in the woods). I was completely invested in the book, and then the story began.
Mack gets a letter from God to meet him at the shack where his daughter murdered. So, God wants Mack at the shack and addresses Oneself as “Papa” (the same title which Mack’s daughter used to describe God). Mack thinks it was the killer that sent the letter, but to his astonishment, a person leads him to a different shack that was nearby. There, God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were waiting. Up until this point, I was enjoying the book, but then God the Father was introduced. The problem was that God the Father was not a father, but a woman. God the Father was portrayed as a hefty African-American black woman. It was at this point that I closed the book, and rushed to return it to the library (despite my urge to want to set the book ablaze).
Of course I read the book reviews from other bloggers, and I also heard sermons from leading pastors that critiqued the book. I learned of all the heresies in the book from others and of the details that were in the book. When I heard that a movie was coming about, I was absolutely astonished. It had two of my favorite actors working in Hollywood: Octavia Spencer (The Help) and Sam Worthington (Hacksaw Ridge). It had the same producers as Life of Pi, as well as the screenwriters from The Blind Side. So, despite many compelling arguments not to go see a movie based on a heretical book, I was curious to see the movie. I wanted to see for myself what would change and how they would capture some of the visual elements of the book.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the auditorium for the showing was that it was packed. I had arrived around 20 minutes early and I barely found a good seat. Even the first three rows that no one wants were taken. People really wanted this movie to come out, which is why we should be loving in our confrontation to people who enjoy the movie or the book, but still warn them of the heretical content. Now before I set in stone the heresy within the movie (much of it stemming from the book), I want to make sure that people who read this know that it is very easy to be fooled by this film. There were many great elements of this film. Here are some of the following redeeming qualities of the film:
1.) The acting was superb. — I thought that no one gave a bad performance and that everyone truly poured out their emotion.
2.) The visuals were breathtaking. — There were plenty of mouth dropping visuals such as the garden set, the multitude scene, and the shots that some of the cameramen were able to accomplish.
3.) The emotional connection. — I will not lie. I had theological problems with this movie, but there were plenty of moments that made me tear up and made me connect with the movie.
(Bonus — All the songs sung by the characters in the film were hymns. That was a nice little bonus for me.)
All that being said, while watching the film I kept track of all the heresies that were in the film. After the film, I counted about 30 heresies that I noticed in the film called The Shack. Now, this is to be expected since the book was nowhere near the level of theological excellence as it should’ve been, but I didn’t think that it would have as much heresy as the book would have. I will not list all 30, but I will list some of the big heresies that stood out for me which should be addressed:
1.) God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit are portrayed in the flesh. — The Bible is very clear in places such as John 4:24 and Colossians 1:15 that God is a spirit and that He is invisible. No eye has seen God the Father, or the Holy Spirit, (John 5:37) and to see God would be deadly (Exodus 33:20). The very idea that God the Father, or God the Holy Spirit, would take the form of a human being is heretical in itself.
2.) God the Father is portrayed as God the…Mother? — A while back, I wrote a blog post on the masculine representation of God in the Bible (click here to read). I understand that the Bible is clear that God doesn’t have a gender, but God chose to reveal Himself as the great Father. God chose to reveal Himself in a masculine understanding and we are to respect that. If God the Father can be God the Mother, than we don’t worship God, but “Goddess”.
3.) “Papa”, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit all have scars from the nails. — This is a clear representation of Modealism. It was God the Son who died on the cross. It was God the Son who rose from the grave. It was God the Son who ascended on high. It says in the Scriptures that God the Father crushed His son on the cross, and that He lavished His wrath on His son. It also says that the Holy Spirit is the One who raised Him from the dead. Did the Father and Holy Spirit do the work of Jesus? NO! Jesus did the work of Jesus, at the Father’s command.
4.) God morphs into any image we are most comfortable in. — I understand that in the book Mack had problems with his father, but there is no way that God would change His nature so that He could communicate an idea to Mack. God doesn’t submit to our perception of Him. If that is the case, then there is no point in worshipping Yahweh since God reveals Himself in any way to communicate to us. God the Father doesn’t change His nature just because of the fact we might feel uncomfortable.
5.) God doesn’t punish sinners. — This is absolutely unbiblical. The Scriptures are clear with phrases such as “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated,”; God has wrath towards sinners. He desires that people would repent, but nevertheless He sends people to hell for their sins and disobedience to His commands. Despite the film’s claim, sin is not a punishment in itself since the Bible says we love sin. Rather God punishes us because of our sin.
6.) Jesus has no intention of making anyone Christian. — Jesus said Himself, “No one can come to the Father, but by me.” The only religion in the world that teaches that Jesus is the only way to salvation is orthodox Christianity. Does Jesus want people to be Christians? You bet he does. He wants us to conform to His image, study the gospel, and to seek His truth. This movie teaches that Jesus wants us to find a truth that leads to Him, rather than the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit.
7.) Believing in a false portrayal of God is permitted as long as it helps you become a better person. — This is more of a subliminal message that preached heresy like the others. By the end of the film, Mack is a changed man, but only because he believes that he met God at the shack. So in essence, if you have overcome grief through seeing God as being a mom, Jesus as being a love guru, and the Holy Spirit as a teenage girl then it is permissible because it is helpful, inspirational, or powerful.
While there were moments that were entertaining and tear-jerking, the whole premise of The Shack was heretical. Of course the movie had good acting, a memorable score, and captivating visuals, but this doesn’t mean that every Christian should ignore heresy in order to enjoy the entire movie. Though I believe the book is significantly worse than the movie, the film still hold the premise of the heretical Trinity that the book held to: god the mother, god the hip son, and god the holy daughter (these are all lowercased because it would be a disrespect to God to do otherwise). I hope that no Christian takes this movie seriously or spends their money to watch it. The only way that someone could’ve been able to fix this movie, was to make sure it was never produced.
Soli Deo Gloria.