Knowing that I enjoy going to the movies, I’ve already had many friends ask me if I was planning to see the upcoming film adaptation of William P. Young’s best-selling 2007 novel The Shack. When I tell them that I’m not going due to serious theological issues in the book, they usually respond that they don’t know or care too much about theological issues, they just loved the book.
Several years ago, when it seemed like everyone I talked to was reading the book (the book has sold an incredible 22 million copies to date), I decided to read it myself. I wanted to see why it was resonating with so many people, even some of my friends who didn’t regularly attend church. And while the book can speak to those who have experienced a tragedy or lost a loved one, I had serious concerns about the way the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) were portrayed.
To help you be discerning as you consider whether or not to watch the film or read the book (as interest in the book has been rekindled with the release of the film), I offer the below perspectives from three respected Christians teachers.
- Tim Keller. In this article Tim Keller writes “But here is my main problem with the book. Anyone who is strongly influenced by the imaginative world of The Shack will be totally unprepared for the far more multi-dimensional and complex God that you actually meet when you read the Bible.”
- Tim Challies. In this article (which also links to his lengthy review of the book), Tim Challies writes “The Shack presents God in human flesh. It makes the infinite finite, the invisible visible, the omnipotent impotent, the all-present local, the spiritual material. In its visual portrayal of God it diminishes, it obfuscates, it blasphemes, it lies. Even though I would watch the film to help others interpret it and to bring correction to error, I would still be subjecting myself to a false, blasphemous portrayal of God. I cannot allow myself to watch it even for that purpose. I cannot and will not watch or review it.”
- Randy Alcorn. Randy Alcorn writes “Unfortunately, increasingly few people these days are well grounded in the Word and have both the knowledge and the discernment to filter out the bad while embracing the good. That means that some people, perhaps many, will fail to recognize the book’s theological weaknesses, and therefore be vulnerable to embracing them, even if unconsciously. Sadly, I personally know some who have been led down a path of universalism through their understanding of the book and what they have heard the author say, either publicly or privately.”
I know these comments won’t be popular with many. Please seriously consider them when making your decision about whether you will see this film. And if you disagree with what is written here, please let me know and why. Also, if you need good materials that address the topics in the movie such as “Where was God when I lost my loved one?” I would be glad to give you some recommendations.
February 27, 2017 at 9:20 am
Thanks for the excellent review, Bill. I am not a fan of religious fiction as a genre (having suffered through several of the Left Behind books before I finally ‘left [it] behind’ because there were so many elements that I found contradictory to what I was taught), so can honestly say I’ve not had any interest in the book nor the movie. And apparently with good reason! Stick with the ‘real deal’, my friends (that is, the Bible) – you will not be disappointed.
February 28, 2017 at 7:32 am
Thanks for your wisdom and courage to stand for truth.
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March 20, 2017 at 8:38 am
While I agree with everything Tim Keller, Tim Challies, Randy Alcorn, you, Tracy, and Nancy said, I found myself smiling while reading it all, knowing of a certainty Who’s Really on the Judgment Throne, and The ONLY One Whose ‘Opinion’ really matters. ( I was clearly helped along with this certainty of mine by watching the movie, of course.) 😉
March 23, 2017 at 6:13 pm
Thanks for your comment Pam. I sure appreciate it. My intent is not to judge, but to help readers in discernment in regards to books, movies, music, etc. The more I read about the author of The Shack, the more concerns I have for those who aren’t mature or discerning who read the book or watch the film. Paul Young recently published a non-fiction book Lies We Believer About God. I was shocked with the content of the book and what he really believes. About the book and author, Tim Challies wrote “Christian booksellers should be utterly ashamed to sell this book or any other by its author. Christians should not subject themselves to his teaching or promote his works, for he despises sound doctrine that leads to salvation and advocates false doctrine that will only ever lead away from God.” http://www.challies.com/book-reviews/what-does-the-shack-really-teach-read-lies-we-believe-about-god
June 5, 2017 at 6:33 am
I read the book in 2008 and recently watched the movie without first reading commentaries and opinions of others. I left the theatre totally in love with God. For me, it is a story of God refusal to give up on Mack. Even if it meant physically writing him a letter and inviting him to the shack. It is a story of a very, very personal God that loves us and delights in us and has paid the highest prise to reconcile us with Him. The gentleness by which God relates to Mack in the story just grabbed me. He even said in the movie that none of the beauty of creation even comes close to us. It portrays a God that can work incredible beauty from the most horrible evil. God is good and we CAN trust him. I can however see that the book can be dangerous for people who does not yet have a personal relationship with Jesus. But I think if you know God and are grounded in the Gospel, then it will just make you smile and cry with delight in this incredible God we serve.
June 5, 2017 at 8:58 am
Thanks for your thoughtful comments and for reading the blog. May God bless you!