While "The Shack" is raking in millions of dollars at the box office, it is also becoming more and more a controversy.
The entertainment industry lives by the rule "controversy sells books," or in this case, it "sells theater seats"---"if people are talking that's good---doesn't matter what they are saying," the industry says.
But what impact does this film have on those actually seeking biblical Truth?
Christian leaders, educators, pastors, celebrities and regular folks across the country all seem to have an opinion about "The Shack."
I haven't read the book or seen the movie. I don't plan to do so.
However, I have read a summary of the storyline and a profile of the characters in the movie.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert R. Mohler Jr., is warning that the movie may very well be painting a wrong picture about what Christians believe, "However,", he says, "The real danger, the seductive danger of 'The Shack', is that its presented as a retelling of the Christian story."
He says, "Christians armed by Scripture and committed to the Christian worldview should highly value fiction and thus evaluate it by Christian norms. But we can never value a vehicle for importing heresy into the church or misrepresenting Christianity to a watching world."
Jerry Newcombe, senior producer, on-air host and a columnist for D. James Ministries, says, "I felt the movie was too New Age...If Oprah Winfrey were to make a 'Christian' movie, 'The Shack' would be it. I felt it took too many liberties with the Person of God. God commands us not to make graven images."
Two of the film's stars, Sam Worthington and Tim McGraw, see it differently.
Worthington says, "I came to religion very late, in my 20s and it was never something that was thrust on me when I was a kid. It's something that I discovered, and my choice. I'm still on this journey of discovery [myself] and I think part of my journey was getting involved with 'The Shack'."
Tim McGraw, who plays best friend of Mack (Sam Worthington), neighbor and supporter, told Know News how he would respond to someone who questions the fact that actress Octavia Spencer, a black woman, plays God in the movie, thus God is portrayed as female.
McGraw said, "We don't know. I don't know. I know if I told you what God looked like and felt like then I'd be telling you a story. I just think we don't know. God manifests Himself, herself or itself in a way that we need it, in a way that we can grab a hold of and a way that we can put our arms around."
McGraw said jokingly if he went to heaven and saw Octavia Spencer sitting there it'd be "all good."
Mohler says the depictions of God, and the Trinity in the film are "profoundly unbiblical."
He says, "The Bible warns against any false depiction of God and calls it idolatry. Making that into a compelling story just compounds the theological danger, and when all this is added to the creative storytelling power of Hollywood, it also becomes very seductive."
Those who advocate for the film see that differently as well.
McGraw says, "The Shack" can be "used as a tool to help others on their life journey," adding that the movie carries the universal themes of "love, compassion, and forgiveness."
These are all important. Absolutely important.
But more important than the characterization of God? And the Trinity---with God the Father (Papa) played by a woman, Octavia, while the Holy Spirit is also presented as a woman.
McGraw explains, "You're searching constantly for the next step, the next level and consciousness in your spiritually, who you are as a human being and what you contribute to society or what God means to you is always a course everyone goes on. This movie does this, regardless of what your belief system is."
In 2010, the book, "The Shack," had become a bestseller with more than 10 million books sold at that time, Dr. Mohler wrote a commentary for Christians in regard to the book---upon which the movie is based.
I strongly recommend you read his column.
In part he says:
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. Any number of notable novels and works of literature have contained aberrant theology, and even heresy. 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.
All this reveals a disastrous failure of evangelical discernment. It is hard not to conclude that theological discernment is now a lost art among American evangelicals — and this loss can only lead to theological catastrophe.
The answer is not to ban The Shack or yank it out of the hands of readers. We need not fear books — we must be ready to answer them. We desperately need a theological recovery that can only come from practicing biblical discernment. This will require us to identify the doctrinal dangers of The Shack, to be sure. But our real task is to reacquaint evangelicals with the Bible’s teachings on these very questions and to foster a doctrinal rearmament of Christian believers.
The Shack is a wake-up call for evangelical Christianity. An assessment like that offered by [ author] Timothy Beal is telling. 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.
Be Informed. Be Discerning Be Faithful