Chillin’ In the Shack with the Almighty

It is pretty rare for a Facebook post to turn into a blog for me, but after posting an article by Tim Challies regarding the upcoming movie that follows the best selling book, “The Shack” I determined a blog may be a good way to follow up.

I wrote a review of this book way back when I first read it almost ten years ago. But it wasn’t until reading a blog by Tim Challies this morning that I was reminded of my primary concerns from the book. Many struggled with the book because God the Father was portrayed by a black woman. That was not my primary issue, despite the fact that the author WAS trying to push something with that depiction. My greatest issue concerns the basic representation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Without going back and reading it, I can only briefly address any specific content issues. I remember some comments regarding authority and hierarchy that I believe were given to Jesus that completely goes against the Biblical evidence that the Trinity has a working order of authority. This Trinity that Mack meets in the Shack sounds a lot like a modern American who doesn’t like the idea of anyone being in charge and calling the shots. So Jesus denies that “Papa” is really in charge. Despite the Biblcial evidence that the son speaks what the Father gives Him to say, and the Son does the will of the Father, and the Father and Son send out the Spirit, etc.

Equally, I recall a comment by ‘Papa” to the effect that God doesn’t punish sin. Sin is its own punishment, and God’s purpose is not to punish it, but it is simply His joy to cure it. That is NOT consistent with Scripture.

But again, feel free to correct me if I am wrong or misquoting anything. This is my blog and I get to do less research and admit that I am doing less research.

But my deepest concern is the reality that people will take this novel and enfold it into their view of God right along with Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Revelation, etc. And that is a best case scenario. Because even worse than this, is for the many who have not quite made it the book of Revelation in the Bible, this piece of fiction may even sidestep that book altogether. Many who have never read the full counsel of God will go to this movie, and walk out with the producer’s ideas of God filed in the place where the Bible should be.

How can I analyze a movie I have not yet seen and call it dangerous? Perhaps this movie will prove to be a careful exposition of the Bible and my concern will amount to nothing. But if it follows the book, then the Father will receive no honor, awe, or reverence. The Son will be there as an additional figure who is kinda unneeded because the Father fills His role, and the Spirit will be a supporting actress who cannot possibly in any authentic way, reflect the reality of the awesome power of God displayed by the indwelling presence of the omnipresent Spirit of God. Remember that Jesus encouraged the disciples that they should be glad he was departing because that meant that the Holy Spirit would be sent to them to live in them and through them. That’s a tall order to attempt to convey with one actress on a screen. But if you don’t feel compelled to convey the Spirit in any Biblical sense, then it makes the job easier.

I would suggest that you read the book of Job before going to the movie. Read what God shows to a person who has lost everything. Read how God responds. Picture that in film. Make that movie in your mind as you read. And then consider how it differs from Papa and the gang!

Job walks away from His trials in awe, wonder, and EVEN APOLOGY to God for having doubted Him. God gets to be in the driver’s seat and the very nature of original sin is that we didn’t like that and tried to take the wheel. But God who is loving and good has made a way for sinful humanity to be restored to Him. And all the persons of the Trinity are involved.

But this book ignores a central theme of all of Scripture; namely, that God the Father is far beyond what we can take in. The Shack attempted to tame the heavenly King by making Father and Son flat! Jesus is the image of God, but he took on flesh so that we could relate to Him and know Him.

But those who encountered God trembled in awe and wonder. They did not chill with the father on the mountain. They were told to stay clear from the Holy mountain. And Moses’s face shown with glory for weeks just because he saw the proverbial back of God. The routine response to encountering God in a Scripture was to fall down in awe and wonder. How big is God? How amazing? We ought not think of him as a black woman named “Papa” who just wants to chill with us and hang for weekend. We ought to consider His great love for us that is demonstrated through the sacrifice of His Son to appease His wrath. But we should not allow the knowledge of His Son and His great compassion to cloud our awe and wonder at his great power and authority. We should not dumb down the Father’s glory.

I would not ask people to boycott a movie. I am not asking anyone to follow my personal convictions. But I am asking that we give a VERY significant consideration to whether or not you want your view of God to be potentially polluted by novel that could result in a lessening of your view of the Almighty God. I can say this as a student and preacher of God’s Word . . . If Mack doesn’t fall flat before “Papa” that only shows that “Papa” is not consistent with the Almighty God revealed in the Scripture. And if “she” is not consistent with the Biblical view of God, then why assimilate this content into your catalog of ideas about the Almighty?

5 Responses

  1. Carl Olson says:

    Well said! Even as “entertainment” this story is dangerous, especially to those who have not spent much time in God’s word. I don’t plan to see it and, based on your ideas, I am sure I would be provoked just as I was with the movie “Noah”. I just wish people would realize that the Bible is full of all the entertainment you could ask for. If folks would join a good Bible study group, the messages begin to appear and the relevancy becomes obvious. Thank you for your blog.

  2. Melanie says:

    Don, I prefer your article to the one written by Tim Challies; well done. šŸ˜Š

    I would add, I think the draw to this book is a symptom of a greater sadness: many “Christians” today do not study the Word and definitely not in context. They don’t know the Book. Therefore, they do not know about the character of God and the falleness of mankind. How can they? Many “churches” are filled with powerful emotion driven worship songs and feel good “messages,” little pep talks, highlighting a few random verses and maybe a clip from a popular movie to help everyone feel ready to tackle the typical American week. There is no in depth study of the Scriptures. People walk out feeling good, but not knowing about who God says He is and what He has done. On top of that, they don’t open their Bibles until next week. How can they? No one has “time.”

    My husband and I sat in a church such as this for almost a year when we first moved to Ohio. It was a nice church on the outside: great programs for kids, wonderful outreach in the community, talented musicians leading “worship,” beautiful mission outreach to Africa, a huge congregation (around 5,000) , planting churches in the inner city, encouraging retreats, etc… But… The messages. Over a several months, we kept asking each other after Sunday mornings, “what do you think of that?” They were little things at first, I can’t even remember! We just chalked them up to different opinions on scripture. But one day, the Sunday after Easter, the pastor basically stated that a loving God doesn’t really send people to hell. My husband and I immediately jerked our heads up. What?!? We were expecting the congregation to stand and challenge the remark on the spot or mass exit. But everyone seemed immoved and unaware.

    We are not ones to ruffle feathers, and we were relieved when an email came, announcing a special meeting about this message. We went, anxious to hear the congregation’s response (in the meantime, through our questioning of him, we learned his beliefs were grounded in a Rob Bell type philosophy; I’m sorry I can’t recall the exact theology site he pointed us to, but we did read it and weigh it against scripture).

    It was a sad meeting. At first, the cynic in me thought the questions were planted. “This is such a refreshing gospel… Tell us more about what you think”… Etc. At one point the pastor mentioned how it’s ‘so good we are not like the Muslims,” but have “more than just a 1st century book to show us the way, reveal new things”… He said the Holy Spirit does that: reveals new things about that 1st century Book. All of these things of course oppose the Scriptures.

    We no longer attend that “church” and have learned a great lesson. We must study! As painful as this was to see, it was eye opening and drove me to study God’s Word. Initially, I plowed through Romans a chapter at a time and now make efforts to study and learn the Bible in context (the old and the new). Studying Leviticus and Hebrews was pretty intense, but I learned so much!

    I am sad for that church. I know it sounds wacky, but it’s a simply another mainstream protestant denominational church full of people not studying, but adopting a pastors errorneous beliefs because they sound or feel good.

    Sadly, this book is just another “Christian” message that sounds and maybe feels good. I have read it, but it does not point to the mighty God I’ve read about in the Bible.

  3. Paul B says:

    I went to see this movie with a few friends this weekend. All claim to know the Lord as their savoir. I looked at this movie as one mans idea of the Trinity. I did not read the book, so I can’t speak to that. What I noticed is the over all message of the movie. God exists in three forms. I was surprised a black women playing God the father, but it is just a movie. Jesus was not the white Aryan male like I have been shown in the Baptist churches since I can remember. The Holy Spirit was a Polynesian women.
    I quess one question is. Are you still the person who believes, playing cards, going to movies and allowing your daughter to go to a dance is a stumbling block for unbelievers? I bet a real legalistic could find much more wrong with this movie than you have mentioned. But many of us would have been very disappointed with Christ hanging out with tax collectors and women of the night also. So under that assumption, was this movie 100% Biblical, probably not (OK not). Was it meant to disgrace God and His supremacy and His son as are redeemer and the Holy spirit as God’s gift to us as a mediator, I did not get that impression. It was just a movie, maybe you think it was a disgrace to the truth. But If only one (unbelieving) person goes to this movie and it causes them to wonder about the truth of God, will you be the person to gladly show and explain to them God’s word? Or will they not fit your concept of the REAL person who needs Christ. There is only one difference between them and you, because sometime in your life someone didn’t care about your past, only about your future and showed you that God created us all the same, but only through Mercy we have been changed. So embrace those who have seen this movie and have questions, You may be the one to plant the next seed of grace.

    • Don Filcek Don Filcek says:

      Paul. I am unsure who you are without your full name, but I am glad you put your thoughts down to interact on my blog. There seems to be a significant misunderstanding in your comments. I am not legalistic. I actually said I am NOT for boycotting the film. I am not sure what I wrote that made you think I would not be eager to discuss this movie with anyone who went to it. I am suggesting that the God in the book is not the same God that is revealed in Scripture. I have not yet seen the movie but am pretty sure It will follow the book. In my blog I even mentioned that I reserve room for the producers to surprise me and edit the screenplay to make God full of the awe and wonder that that Bible reserves for Him, but I somehow doubt that the producer will take this license. This is not a disrespectful question, but did you read the whole blog before commenting?

  4. Bill Abernathy says:

    Good comments, Don. Thanks. As I said in my comments on the book many years ago, it may point people to god, but what god? Not the God of Scripture.

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