Let’s Talk About The Shack

Because barely a word has been written on it right?  Kidding of course.

After seeing the movie The Shack today my first thought was to blog about it. My second thought, was to immediately shut down that first thought.  Surely, I am the least likely qualified person out there to write a post dissecting a popular film’s  spiritual message and whether or not it stays true to Christian doctrine.  A theology expert I am not and I would certainly be made a fool by anyone choosing to debate me on it.

My third thought came several hours later and it was that my unsureness about what being a “real” Christian is all about is exactly why I should share my thoughts about The Shack.  The film  (and the book it was based on ) was not created for those who are confident in their beliefs and have things all figured out; it’s directed at people like me who believe in God but struggle in really knowing His all  encompassing love and perfect nature.

The book  came to me at a time in my life several years ago when I desperately needed divine guidance and healing and it opened a crack in my heart to the possibility that God really does exist, really does love me unconditionally and really can be trusted to act in my best interest.  This was, you might say, an unexpected gift from God given at the most perfect time.

The way the story portrayed the Trinity, God’s continual process of redemption and renewal, the presence of evil in the world and His absolute devotion to working bad in to good in a very fallen world really made sense to me in ways traditional Christian materials could not.

Was that God’s way of introducing Himself to me? I can’t say for sure of course, but I can tell you that reading The Shack put me on a path of spiritual exploration that involved doing crazy things like actually studying the Bible, checking out local churches and eventually becoming a Christian.

The movie I think does a pretty good job at following the book and is even able to exude God’s supernatural nature without falling in to parody, which often happens with films of this nature.  Its explanation on why God “allows” bad things to happen is also very well done and comforting.

There were many striking scenes, but the most potent for me was when the main character Mack is in a boat and finds himself quickly being taken over by a black sea of ink  until he finally heeds Jesus’s call to look at Him.  The importance of fixing our eyes on Jesus instead of our own sorrow and loss has never been so powerfully portrayed in my view.

Does the movie touch on themes that will upset doctrinaire Christians?  Yes, without a doubt, the most prominent probably being its universalist view of everyone getting in to heaven.  Yet even that’s not so straightforward because the movie also strongly focuses on a God who is madly in love with His people and constantly pursuing them to return the favor.

Being a Buddhist, Muslim or atheist for example does not mean God won’t meet you where you are and accept you if you’re willing to follow His ways. Salvation comes from a loving God, not from religious institutions, a notion this movie does not contradict and which Peter infers in  Acts 10:34, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”

The movie’s portrayal of God in different genders and races also did not set off any red flags for me, as it’s obvious He is showing up as characters Mack could most easily relate to and is not some sort of silly token social justice stunt.

Like I said, my point here is not to dive in to the weeds of theology. Those that have reservations about The Shack certainly have every right to speak out about why they feel Christians’ shouldn’t support it. I’d challenge them though to actually see the movie or read the book before doing so.  It’s themes are more complex than you might think and hold appeal for many spiritual seekers who feel turned off by traditional Christian avenues towards finding Christ.

We all know God’s ways are not ours and it’s impossible to discern with any certainty how and why someone finally comes to Him. The Shack offers a way for some and knee jerk reactions against it in my view are a mistake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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25 Responses to Let’s Talk About The Shack

  1. Well said! I’m pleased that The Shack has touched hearts and I’m pleased too that some are even gracefully discussing doctrine! That is a miracle, indeed. 🙂 I once saw a cartoon that made me laugh, “heaven for the theologians,” and it was a hallway full of little rooms with angels tip toeing past saying, “Shhhh, they each like to think they are alone!” Cracked me up.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Tricia says:

      Ha, that cartoon you describe is now making me laugh just thinking about it!

      The Shack really did touch me in ways I can’t explain. I cried through the book and all through the movie today even though I knew what was going to happen at each scene.

      It’s hit a lot of people that way which gets me frustrated at people who dismiss it outright.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I really love your review!

    You are such a talented writer.

    One of our atheist brethren also did a review recently which made me think The Shack was a big joke.

    Or was it that the review made me think the review was a big joke?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tricia says:

      Thanks Silence! I think there are a lot of critiques out there that frankly are written by people that have not read the movie or book, or, they’ve done so with their minds made up already about its blasphemy. The Shack definitely is not for everyone, but it’s also a lot more complex and nuanced than people give it credit for.

      Like

  3. Wally Fry says:

    Hi Tricia

    Yeah, I have thoughts about the Shack. Some not good, some sort of neutral, and some good if I can make myself be charitable.

    First, the bad. The truth is, the book is full of more legitimate heresies than one can shake a stick at, the most dangerous of which is the universalism taught in it. the simple Biblical truth is that not all will be saved, and those who are save will only be saved through Jesus Christ. God will indeed meet us, but that meeting has to be about Jesus, not anyone else. I don’t recommend the book or movie to either believing, or non believing friends. I my preacher taught from it I would make a motion to fire him, then leave until we did.

    The neutral and good follows. Like it or not, people with question are going to read this book and see the movie. Millions maybe. How we react to and deal with them matters. If we scream heretic in their faces we won’t make much headway for the Kingdom. Many people may become receptive to even the idea of God here; we can teach them about the correct God later.

    The same goes for believers who support the book. We don’t have to have them for lunch, but hopefully can discuss this like the brothers and sisters that we are. Sadly, there have been some instances of Christians doing everything short of burning another at the stake over this issue. I am sure you saw this over at IBs place. We don’t need all that.

    Great writing as usual

    🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Tricia says:

      Hey Wally thanks so much for your comment. It’s always uncomfortable to write opposing thoughts on a friend’s post which makes me appreciate your comment even more.

      The Shack does indeed have some elements which go against Christian doctrine but I believe the overall story holds much more good in it than bad.

      As I said in my post, I also think the rap it’s getting for its universalist outlook is unfair, as I don’t think it promotes the notion that all roads lead to heaven. Topically yes, the are some questionable statements, but if you dig beneath them you’ll find the overall message to be about God pursuing people anywhere they are and from that starting point the truth of Him is revealed and the person must walk away from those other beliefs for salvation.

      I completely agree with you that we should stop tearing each other down over things like this. I think the Church would do well to question why so many are drawn to The Shack and make an honest effort to appeal to those people.

      Thanks for coming by! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wally Fry says:

        Indeed….it is uncomfortable. I am really glad we can do this without ripping each other’s eyeballs out Tricia. I prayed hard before responding, and felt I needed to, but obviously I consider you a friend…ugh right? Some behaviors I have seen have been truly sad regarding this, and I don’t want to be all mixed up in it.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Citizen Tom says:

      @Wally Fry

      I have been reading a book by Peter Kreeft. In one chapter he discusses Hell and the fact it must exist. I suppose it is worth a post.

      Universalism may sound wonderful, but it is contrary to the notion of free will. If God allows us a free will, some of us will not choose God. If you are unwilling to choose God, and God respects your choice, that means you have chosen Hell. Because the difference between Heaven and Hell is infinite, we must abhor Universalism. The belief that leads some to think they don’t have to take the choice to choose God seriously.

      Should we hate Universalists? No. Pity. Yes..

      @Tricia

      Great review! I have not read The Shack. So I cannot comment on it specifically, but people have lots of different ideas. Like Wally (and you too I would imagine), I try to attend a church where the pastor takes the Bible more seriously than he takes himself. Hard to find a church like that. So I am glad God gives us more grace than we deserve.

      I agree the God will accept people from every nation, that He looks for those who fear Him and do what is right. Jesus says He is the way. Yet the Bible says that many who never heard of the Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross will be saved.

      Still, we have the Great Commission. So I think we can assume that telling people about the Gospel makes an important difference, even if we don’t exactly understand that difference. What about those who spread the Gospel with heresies (and I fear I may believe a few)? We can still point people to the Bible, and that is where the Truth is to be found. We can only lead another to Jesus. Only Jesus can be Jesus.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. KIA says:

    I haven’t seen the movie yet. I hated the book as a Christian and even had a counter apologetics book on my shelf called ‘burning down the shack’ that went thru all the reasons that the book was dangerous and detrimental.
    Having recently deconverted from Christianity, I read the book again and ended up enjoying the book very much. Even cried at several points. Who cries while reading a book? Me that’s who.
    I’d love to do a review, but like you I doubt I could really do it justice. Looking forward to seeing the movie and how it differs from the book.
    Thx again for the post. -kia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tricia says:

      I’ve read parts of that counter book and I get what the author is saying, I really do, but I also think he is just wrong on some issues or is mistaking assumptions for fact on many others. And some of it he is correct too.

      I cried while reading the book and all through out the movie too!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Al says:

    I’ve neither read the book or seen the movie so I won’t comment on either. Wally’s comment about being “saved” only through Jesus Christ was a little disheartening, but I’m only recently an agnostic after many years of church involvement so I will let it go. Actually, it’s not that I’m recently an agnostic, it’s that I only recently came to admit it. I went many years in church positions saying and repeating things about there only being “one way” to heaven that I never really felt in my heart. It’s good to be free from that. Like KIA though, I can see a religious movie and cry because it awakens the goodness that lies in our hearts, just like any tear-jerker movie without religious overtones. I will probably watch the movie but must wait until it is on TV with closed captions due to my hearing impairment. Good post as usual, Tricia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tricia says:

      Thanks Al for your thoughtful comment and I appreciate the background too on how you’ve come to your conclusions. It’s always helpful to see the context in why people think the way they do.

      I’m not disheartened by Wally’s comments at all because I know he is very sincere about his beliefs and thinks very carefully (on top of praying) before responding to topics like this. He’s very in tune with how believers can come across to others and is not the type to force his beliefs on anyone.

      Plus I agree with him that Jesus is the truth, way and light, but we hold different views on how to get to that point I think.

      Anyway, fascinating topic with interesting people always sparks my brain. Definitely watch the movie when you can Al. I’d be interested in hearing your perspective after you do.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. xPraetorius says:

    Really great post, Tricia! I love especially how you say that God will come to where you are. I mean, if that’s not at least one message of the cross, I don’t know what is!

    Some credit must go to you for keeping your ears, eyes, mind and heart open too!

    I’m a daddy, and I’m so grateful for how God gave me that beautiful glimpse into His infinite love for us.

    Would I go to where my son or daughter is to save him or her? You bet! Would I allow myself to be hung from a cross until dead for them? Yep. Not that I’d like it, though!

    So, how surprising is it, really, given how much we love our children, that God loves us vastly more? How surprising that He would send His only son to die on a cross, on our behalf, that we might know everlasting salvation? How surprising that His son Jesus Christ, loving us as His Father loves us, would give Himself up to die on that cross?

    Not surprising at all. Awe-inspiring, tears-of-gratitude-inducing, yes. Surprising…not really.

    Best,

    — x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tricia says:

      Well thanks x, I so appreciate that. It is absolutely amazing when that realization sets in of just how much God really loves us. And no, it’s not surprising at all x, thank God. 😉

      Like

  7. ColorStorm says:

    Some very fine comments here T, all the way down.

    Says alot how believers can discuss differences and still experience unity. The unbelievers should pay attention to true Christianity in action.

    God’s word is not threatened by accurate or inaccurate depictions, whereby by the way, believers have this thing called Liberty, yes, Liberty, to do this or that.
    ,
    God can use whatever He wants, a film, a pigpen, thorns, you name it, He can sanctify anything for his glory. Who are we to chastise others for their own calling? I like your idea that not all people are at the same mile markers in the christian life, and what may be despised by one, is actually appreciated by another, then that is a good thing

    In the end, if movies, be it good or bad, get the heart tuned toward scripture, the God of heaven, and the Lord of redemption, who am I to complain?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Tricia says:

      Well ColorStorm you’ve gone and done it again with a comment that outshines my post. I’d call no fair except I appreciate too much the IQ enhancement you bring to my blog. 😉

      It’s true what you say that God can use whatever He wants for His purpose and certainly feels no threat from inaccurate depictions. He is the great I Am after all and always brings just what is needed to every situation.

      Liked by 1 person

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