How The Shack’s Message Misses the Truth

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How The Shack’s Message Misses the Truth

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The Shack, a fictional novel that first came out in 2007 and includes imaginary roles for the traditional Trinity figures, has again topped the best-seller list with an incredible 20 million copies sold. And it is now paired with a somewhat popular movie that has already brought in $43 million. 

In the past few years, Hollywood has produced some biblically themed movies that take extreme license with the real facts and story lines of the Bible. The Shack, however, truly takes the cake. I don’t recommend that you read the book or see the movie. Why?

At first pass, it appears to be a moving story of creative narrative, where harsh drama and raw emotions give way to apparent forgiveness. There is no question that it is well and compellingly written. But in the process the book and the movie blaspheme God, trivialize sin, and serve up flawed allegory in place of biblical truth. Both the book and the movie (they differ in content in some places) present a heady mix of moral relativism, vigilante vengeance and Hellenistic-Platonic-fueled human theology.  

That’s why in part that many evangelicals and other Protestant leaders have trashed it, surprising as that may be. Secular critics note that movie tries to dilute critical concepts down to spiritual comfort food.

According to various reviews, the film in particular tries to assert that all religions lead to God. In both book and movie, Trinitarian tenets manifest themselves where the three “members” of the Trinity appear as humans. “God the Father” (referred to as “Papa”) appears alternatively as a man or an African-American woman, and the Holy Spirit is played by an Asian woman called Sarayu, which is Hindu for “wind” or “holy river.” At one point during the fictional weekend, all three “members” of the godhead sit and have dinner with the main character in The Shack.  

The “Shack” is the fictional site of the grisly murder of the main character’s youngest daughter, which tragedy haunts him and leaves him severely depressed. The main character, Mackenzie Allen Phillips, previously suffered abuse at the hands of his alcoholic father, and Phillips harbors hatred and resentment against him. In the movie, a young Phillips kills his father through poisoning, but there is never any acknowledgment that murder of any kind is a sin. Phillips never repents.

The worst part is the attempt to normalize a heretical belief that cannot be reconciled with the Bible: the Hellenistic-based concept of three quasi-equal “gods” as a Trinity (Plato believed in a divine triad of “gods,” comprised of “God”—or “the One,” ideas, and an undefined “world spirit”). Despite what anyone would like to assert or believe, the introduction of the man-made Trinity doctrine back in the 4th century came about as a flawed defense against “adoptionism” (a false claim that Jesus was an ordinary human who became the Messiah and Son of God when he was baptized), “Sabellianism” (false belief that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are essentially one and the same), and Arianism (false concept that God existed before Jesus and that Jesus was a special creation of God). It was intensely debated back then and was not accepted by some groups for quite a long time.

It is this casual adoption and promotion of a biblically contrary “Trinity” that represents the greatest flaw of the book and movie. If you have not yet read our Bible study guide Is God a Trinity? that would be an excellent study, particularly given the current popularity of The Shack novel. The apostle Peter tells us that we have been given “exceedingly great and precious promises” in order that as Christians we “may be partakers in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4 2 Peter 1:4Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
American King James Version×
). So, it’s important for us to understand exactly what that means.

Most Christian groups hold a belief in the Trinity as the core test of orthodoxy. Reflecting the past era of theological turmoil in the fourth century, Trinitarian belief thus represents the false dividing line. When people are first coming to understand the real biblical truths of the Sabbath, God’s Holy Day and the like, the prominence of that false belief in the Trinity probably causes more people to stumble than any other counterfeit belief.

The truth, of course, is that one cannot find any reference to the Trinity doctrine anywhere in the Bible. The Trinity masks the very purpose for which humanity was created. The New Testament authors refer to us as the very “children of God” in numerous places for a reason. Jesus Christ is identified as our Elder Brother. This is made plain in Hebrews 2:11 Hebrews 2:11For both he that sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brothers,
American King James Version×
: “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers” (New International Version, 1984 edition, emphasis added). He is also identified as God—the pre-existent Word (John 1:1 John 1:1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
American King James Version×
).

Taking away from our magnificent purpose—the purpose for which Jesus Christ was crucified—that of becoming part of God’s eternal family as the very children of God, is nothing short of dangerous blasphemy.

So, with all of this in mind, it’s a good idea to stay out of the Shack, despite the alluring storyline of forgiveness. In fact, when one truly discerns how biblically contrary this storyline really is, it would be better to burn down The Shack.