Prayer Focus
Click here to watch THE HOPE on-line!
Movie Review

The Shack also known as “A Cabana,” “A viskó,” “Die Hütte - Ein Wochenende mit Gott”

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material including some violence.

Reviewed by: Roger Patterson
Christian Answers Team Member, Answers In Genesis
Used by permission

Strong Caution
Add to your list?
View your list
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Drama Adaptation
Length:
2 hr. 12 min.
Year of Release:
2017
USA Release:
March 3, 2017 (wide—2,888 theaters)
DVD: May 30, 2017
Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films
Read This
Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films

DISCERNMENT—Follower of Christ, remember the great importance of spiritual discernment in a world full of darkness, slippery lies, deceits and clever counterfeits.

About the non-fictional God of the Bible

➤ THE WRATH OF GOD has been displayed in awesome ways in the past, and will be seen again in Earth’s future. The real God PUNISHES sin, because He is JUST. See: punishment in the Bible, judgments of God, the Final Judgment, and Hell

➤ God is SOVEREIGN. The Creator and King of the universe (and Heaven and Hell) has the full right to do or allow whatever He chooses, no question—no matter what our human opinions may be.

➤ WE ARE CERTAINLY IN NO POSITION TO JUDGE GOD. Only He knows the big picture; He knows ALL—past, present and future. In comparison, mankind knows very little, is wicked and very prone to error, confusion, and foolish pride—operating with fallen minds. Despite modern advancements, the truth is, mankind knows very little about the future, and generally very little about the past.

The Shack REDEFINES “WHO GOD IS BY insisting that the attribute of God’s love trumps his other attributes of justice, holiness and righteousness.”

➤ BE VERY CAREFUL NOT TO CREATE AN ALTERNATE GOD of your own liking, a false “christian” diety with which you feel much more comfortable. Likely, most people today have done this. It is foolish, dangerous, and all too popular in our current age.

➤ SATAN’S PLAN—The Enemy of God and our souls, tries to get us to believe in an alternate God, to distract and confuse, keeping people from the truth. As someone has said, “If you want to think of our Creator as Oprah [or Santa or whoever], you’re welcome to do so, but you will be chagrined on Judgment Day.”

Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films

➤ Don’t forget that, despite this film’s fanciful story, Jesus Christ is the ONLY part of the TRINITY that has a HUMAN BODY. Not the Father or the Holy Spirit (Colossians 1:15).

Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films
Religions vs. The Way

All RELIGIONS do NOT lead to God! The Shack seems to suggest otherwise.

➤ God has told us clearly that there is only ONE WAY, through the SON. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me,” He said. This is what God in His infinite wisdom ordained. There is no other path or deity that will work. There is only one Creator/Redeemer. There is only one Door.

➤ HAS GOD FORGIVEN ALL PEOPLE FOR THEIR SINS, as the film seems to suggest? Does God suggest He ever will? Certainly not.

➤ The real Christ described what is happening with mankind this way: “Enter through the NARROW gate. For WIDE is the gate and broad is the road that leads to DESTRUCTION, and MANY enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to LIFE, and only a FEW find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films
Sin, Repentance and the Gospel

➤ Do you understand that YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH to be admitted to Heaven? If not, READ THIS.

➤ We all must acknowledge our evil actions and thoughts and sinful nature, and truly REPENT, and accept His gracious, merciful, completely undeserved gift of salvation, not available anywhere else.

➤ CHRIST'S DEATH ON THE CROSS WAS CRUCIAL. Salvation from the penalty of eternal death, is only available because Our Creator (the Son, Jesus Christ, “The Word”—John 1) took our ugly sins upon Himself, and paid the required penalty. The Father turned away from Him, and the Son died a painful, humiliating, criminal’s death). He did this to redeem those who accept His call.

Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films
The Issue of pain and suffering

➤ “The Shack” tries to answer the issue of suffering by essentially creating an ALTERNATE GOD.

➤ Why does the real God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

➤ Does this issue prove that there is no all loving, all powerful God and that we are on our own? Answer

ORIGIN OF BAD—How did bad things come about? Answer

Paradise or Pain? Why is the world the way it is?
WHY IS THE WORLD THE WAY IT IS? If God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and loving, would He really create a world like this? (filled with oppression, suffering, death and cruelty) ANSWER
Church

➤ The author is known not to think very highly of church. Why might that be?

Why should Christians go to church? How important is it? Answer

➤ Why did the author chose to depict a church elder as a cruel drunken hypocrite?

HYPOCRISY IN THE CHURCH—Some say, “I would never be a Christian; they’re a bunch of hypocrites.”

Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films
Rage

➤ Holding onto strong ANGER AND RESENTMENT toward another is poisonous; it will destroy you.

Personal pain and suffering

➤ Learn how to deal with personal tragedy, because it will come. Find the answers in God’s Word and through the fellowship with true, Bible-believing, faithful followers of Christ.

➤ Does God feel our pain? Answer

Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films
“The Great Sadness”

DEPRESSION—Are there biblical examples of depression and how to deal with it? Answer

➤ What should a Christian do if overwhelmed with depression? Answer

Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films
God

If one has a crisis of faith, what should they do?

➤ How can we know there’s a God? Answer

➤ What if the cosmos is all that there is? Answer

➤ If God made everything, who made God? Answer

➤ What does God say? Answer

Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films
Jesus Christ: His Identity, Life, Death andResurrection

➤ The INCARNATION

➤ Was Jesus Christ God, manifest in human form? Answer

➤ Is Jesus Christ God? Answer

Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films

About the Holy Spirit

Salvation
Is Jesus Christ the answer to your questions?
Discover the good news that Jesus Christ offers

About hope

Click here to watch THE HOPE on-line!
Discover God’s promise for all people—told beautifully and clearly from the beginning. Discover The HOPE! Watch it on-line, full-length motion picture.
Featuring: Sam WorthingtonMack Phillips
Octavia SpencerPapa, God the Father
Graham GreeneMale Papa, God the Father
Avraham Aviv Alush … Jesus
Sumire Matsubara … Sarayu, the Holy Spirit
Alice Braga … Sophia, the personification of God's wisdom
Tim McGrawWillie
Radha MitchellNan Phillips
Megan Charpentier … Kate Phillips
Gage Munroe … Josh Phillips
Amélie Eve … Missy Phillips
Ryan Robbins … Emil Ducette
Jordyn Ashley Olson … Emily Ducette
more »
Director: Stuart Hazeldine
Producer: Netter Productions
Summit Entertainment
more »
Distributor: Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films

After 10 years, the best-selling novel by William Paul Young has become a major motion picture release. The Shack was a novel that stirred much controversy within evangelical circles when it was first published, and that has not changed with the movie. Major evangelical leaders have flown new flags of warning against the dangers in the film, but others have taken up the flag and championed the movie, buying blocks of tickets and encouraging their followers to see the movie. Outreach, an evangelical, nondenominational magazine that often features articles by many of the leading mega-church pastors, has published a sermon guide and other materials intended to help churches teach from the movie’s themes and engage their communities, hoping to bring people closer to God.

As with any movie, “The Shack” offers an opportunity to engage with others in conversation around the themes that are presented. Whether pointing an unbeliever to the goodness of God or helping a fellow believer to find true freedom from guilt and shame, “The Shack” could open those conversations… BUT so could the Bible. And if the God found in “The Shack” is the one people choose to follow, I fear they face grave eternal danger.

The Novel’s Impact

When the novel was released in 2007, it quickly soared to 1 million copies, having crossed over 20 million worldwide at the release of the movie in 2017. Many people have claimed that the book helped them see God in a new light and turned them toward healing and forgiveness in their own lives. But scrolling through the comments in recent social media posts, you will find many self-proclaimed non-Christians making those same grand claims about the book, even as they reject the true nature of the God revealed in Scripture.

No doubt with the release of the film, many will pick up the book and read its story. In the book they will find much more detail about the views of God presented by Young. Even though the book is written as fiction and has a “fantastic side that doesn’t necessarily mean it is not true,” it is filled with false views of God. Indeed, the trio in the novel looks superficially like the God described in the Bible (i.e., there is a Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), but something different resides under the surface. In his lengthy and worthwhile review, Randy Alcorn, a fiction novelist himself, details some of those concerns. As to the content and style of the book, Alcorn says,

The story is largely the wrapper; the “truths” are what’s inside it. It’s hard to fall back on “Yeah, but it was just one of the characters saying that” when the character happens to be God.1

Reviews of the book from Tim Challies and Dr. Albert Mohler will also be helpful to anyone deciding whether they should see the movie. The basic plot finds Mackenzie Philips (Mack) facing much strife in his youth at the hands of his father, a closet drunk, domestic abuser, and elder at the church. Mack’s own father is a figure that pushes him away from God the Father that he learns about in church. Later in life, he faces a heart-wrenching tragedy while on a camping trip with his family. In the face of all of this hurt, Mack finds himself asking why God would allow such suffering—a question we all face and must be able to answer.

Through a mysterious note from “Papa,” Mack is led back to the shack in the woods where his daughter was murdered. Papa is the nickname his wife uses to refer to God. At the shack, Mack experiences a mystical invitation into a fanciful world where Jesus (appearing as a Middle Eastern man), Papa (appearing as a black woman), and Sarayu (representing the Holy Spirit and appearing as a young Asian lady) present themselves as the Godhead. They offer Mack a chance to find healing from his “great sadness,” but on his own terms and timing. What follows is a story of forgiveness and freedom from bitterness that brings Mack healing, not only for himself but also for his family.

From Pages to Pixels

The screen adaptation of the book follows the basic storyline, but has a few changes and leaves out some large sections, especially the ending of the book. Some of the clearly unorthodox elements presented in the book are softened by the shorter treatment in the film. Sections of dialog and inner thought are presented in short snippets that don’t really flesh out the full thinking of Young’s views about God.

The film presents ideas that are shrouded in maybes and not-what-you-think comments, rather than the clear proclamations that God makes about Himself in the Bible. Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu often ask questions back to Mack, challenging the things he believes about them. While this mirrors the technique Jesus often employed in the Gospels, we know that Jesus spoke truth. Whether or not the conclusions Mack comes to in the film and those ideas presented by Papa and the others are in line with the truths revealed about God in Scripture is a question of great importance. As with any truth claim, we should be sure to compare what we hear about God to what God has plainly revealed about Himself.

This transfer from letters on a page, as we have in the Bible, to images on a screen presents a particular challenge. How do you represent the Godhead without violating God’s prohibitions against such images? The first three commandments delivered by God to the Israelites warn against false representations and false worship. Though there has been disagreement throughout the ages over such representations, the movie’s presentation of God the Father as a woman is problematic because in Scripture the Father is declared to be a spirit and presented in masculine ways. Additionally, Sarayu represents the Holy Spirit. While the Spirit does appear in the form of a dove and as tongues of fire in Scripture, He never appears as a physical human being and is referred to with masculine pronouns. While we may differ on which passages to look at as support, all orthodox Christians should affirm that presenting the Trinity as three human forms, especially the Father and Spirit as a female, is blasphemous.2 As discussed below, there are other aspects to consider about these problems with the representation of God.

Positive Elements

Because Young approaches his ideas from the viewpoint of a confessing Christian, there are many biblically consistent statements as well as allusions in the film. The three characters are presented as distinct persons, but each affirms his or her connection to I AM. At one point, Papa jokingly says, “I am, that I AM” in response to Mack. The title Almighty God is used in several cases, and all three reply “I AM” in unison to Mack. There is little reason to doubt that a Trinitarian concept of God is presented in the film (with one exception I will note below), but there was doubt raised in the book regarding the eternal generation of the Son.

At several points, the omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence of God is affirmed by the characters. The theme of God’s love is clearly communicated many times during the film. The brokenness in the world is said to extend all the way back to Adam through all humanity. Unforgiveness and bitterness are presented as emotions that block humans from experiencing the joy and relationships God intended for them. Relationships between humans are described as costly but worthwhile. Jesus is acknowledged as the creator of the stars, and the idea that God created the entire universe and sustains it is presented several times.

Questionable Elements

The book raised questions as to whether Young believed in a universal salvation for all people, based on the very inclusive language used by Papa and others. The film has hints of this as Papa expresses fondness for all people and says “she” loves all of “her” children. Another scene presents people in heaven as spirits from every tribe, tongue, nation, and people, though how they arrived in that state is not made clear. Even Mack’s father is among the group, raising the question, though unanswered, of how he got there. Coupled with the other claims in the film, at the least, an inclusive view of salvation where all will eventually be saved is left open.3

Man’s free will is set up as the ultimate expression of God’s desire for mankind. Without free will, the film asserts, it is not possible to love and to forgive. This idea is expressed many times in the film. Depending on your understanding of this doctrine, you will either find it edifying or terribly frustrating.4

Substitution is presented as the way that Papa can have a relationship with people even though they are sinful, but it is a cloudy idea in the film. The Cross is discussed, but exactly what was accomplished is unclear. Papa tells Mack that truth sets everyone free, and that truth is in the woodshop (referring to the Jesus character who was working on a project). What is meant by this is left open, and there is no discussion of atonement at all. The orthodox view of penal substitutionary atonement is clearly set aside for some novel view of the meaning of Jesus as our substitute.

Mack is called to let go of his bitterness and hatred toward those who have hurt him. Papa acknowledges that this is a process that will take time and get easier. But Mack is called to forgive his daughter’s murderer without the murderer ever seeking for that forgiveness. This is not the biblical model of forgiveness, though we must show love toward those who have sinned against us. Forgiveness is a two-way transaction, not something we can extend on our own (Luke 17:3–4). We should always be ready to forgive and have an attitude of forgiveness, but forgiveness cannot be granted unless it is sought.

Heterodox Elements

Many subtle and overt statements in the film promote ideas that cross the lines of orthodoxy, leading the viewer to think of God in terms other than He has presented Himself in Scripture. Experience trumps revealed truth in many of the explanations offered by the film. Consider the following examples.

Putting Words in God’s Mouth

The film draws on many biblical allusions and phrases, but often puts the words and thoughts of the author into God’s mouth. This is a very serious task, and one that can lead only to misrepresenting God. Because Young makes Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu say things that God never said, he crosses a line that should not be crossed. (See the examples quoted throughout this article.)

Love vs. Wrath

When Mack questions Papa about where she was when his daughter was murdered, she says she was right there with her. She then extends this to being with her son while he was on the cross. To make this point clear to Mack, she shows him the nail scar in her wrist and tells him that she never left his side. In contrast, while Jesus was on the Cross He quoted from Psalm 22, asking the Father why He had forsaken His Son. While we must deny that there was any division in the Trinity at this point, it is clear that in some sense God was “separated” from His Son as He became the sin-bearer. Isaiah 53 describes how Jesus bore the wrath of the Father for sin, going so far as to say that it pleased the Lord to crush the Son. But this is because God’s justice must be satisfied.

While Papa is portrayed as loving, justice seems to be questioned as an idea mankind applies to God. Papa is equally fond of everyone, regardless of their actions. When Mack brings up her wrath, Papa replies, “Wrath? You lost me there.” Here the Papa of The Shack is surely not the God of the Bible. In fact, portraying the Father as suffering alongside the Son (known as patripassianism) was condemned as heresy in the early church because it was connected with modalism (denying that God is one essence but three distinct co-equal persons and saying rather that God merely revealed Himself in three modes or forms).

Further developing this point, Papa downplays sin, telling Mack that she doesn’t “need to punish people—sin is its own punishment.”

In another scene where Mack is challenged regarding his thinking of Papa as judge, the concept of hell is brought up. But the real sense of the scene is that no one will be punished for their sins in hell—even murderers and abusers—because Papa loves them just as Mack does his own children. To deny that God is just removes the concept of atonement and removes the need for a Savior to die in our place. Though the film hints at Jesus’s substitutionary death to pay for sin, it does so in an unbiblical and inconsistent way. The god of The Shack is not interested in justice in an ultimate sense.

In another scene, the Jesus character tells Mack that “religion is way too much work,” and that he wants friends not slaves. He goes on to say that “Christian” is a title he is not crazy about. He only wants all people, regardless of their religious expression, to be changed by Papa and know what it means to be truly loved.

Immanence vs. Transcendence

Papa is a term that we do not find in the Bible, but is often connected to the Aramaic Abba. While many have heard and taught that this term is what a young child would call their father, the equivalent of daddy today, that claim has no historical proof.5

While we must not deny that God is our loving Father, as Jesus so clearly modeled for us, that is not all that He is. In the film, Papa expresses only love and has no room for wrath, justice, or holiness. While taking the first, apparently delicious, bite of a meal prepared by Papa, Mack exclaims, “Oh my God!” then quickly apologizes, thinking he had been irreverent. Papa laughs it off and excuses what Mack thought would be a sin.

Overall, the goodness of God is set as the ultimate attribute, taking up any room for God’s holiness and transcendence. This is not the response we see from Ezekiel, Isaiah, and John when they find themselves in the presence of Yahweh.

See what God’s Word says about… • Fear of Lord

I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory…” —Revelation of John 14:6-7 NASB

In this, the Papa of “The Shack” cannot be equated with the God of the Bible. Papa is in fact a serious distortion of the God revealed in Scripture. Papa does not demand reverence, only endearment. The Jesus character assures Mack that people “are the center of our love and purpose.” Scripture tells us that we are loved and made in God’s image, but God’s glory is His ultimate purpose. Isaiah 42:8 says,

“I am the Lord, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another,” and Isaiah 48:11 says, “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it; For how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another.”

Justifying God

The moral argument of justifying a good God in a world filled with evil is called a theodicy. This is one of the major themes of this film, yet it is left entirely undeveloped. While there is a clear affirmation that evil in the world is a result of man and that the brokenness extends back to Adam, Papa’s relationship to evil is left in an unbiblical position. There is no description of a perfect creation corrupted by Satan’s influence and Adam’s sin.

Mack’s daughter’s death is blamed on evil that results from Papa giving man free will. Mack has experienced real suffering, and his story, as we see it in the lives of others around us, should evoke real compassion. (Read about the biblical explanation for death and suffering in “Why Does God’s Creation Include Death and Suffering?” by Dr. Tommy Mitchell.) The explanation in the film is incomplete, though the filmmakers may have purposefully left it so.

Male or Female

While Papa appears as a woman to Mack as a boy and later at the shack, Papa also appears as a man. While Mack expected Papa to be in a white beard rather than a dress, Papa didn’t think Mack could relate to her as a father. Knowing what Mack endured from his earthly father, Papa appeals to Mack as a loving mother—something we never see of God in Scripture. When Mack has to face a tough day of confronting his bitterness and refusal to forgive, Papa appears as an older man.

While God has many characteristics, to say that He cannot be loving and endearing as a Father is to deny the power of the Holy Spirit to work in people’s hearts, making the truth of Scripture real to them. God is not male or female in a physical sense, but He does relate to us in ways that are endearing, even as He calls Himself our Father, a rather endearing term when we consider His holiness and that He is the Creator of the universe.

Conclusion

If you draw close to the Papa of “The Shack,” you will be drawing close to a false god who does not line up with the Yahweh of the Bible.

Randy Alcorn notes,

But I fear some readers (not all, by any means) may feel closer to a God who is different than the God revealed in Scripture. My concern is for those who think they are coming closer to God, when they may actually be altering the biblical revelation of God into a form that is more pleasant to them because He seems less holy and fearsome. If that’s the case, then they’re not closer to God at all, just closer to a false God, an idol constructed in the image of our contemporary need for acceptance, and forged by our resistance to repentance, submission, and accountability.6

Is REPENTANCE necessary for salvation? Answer

For me, this is a question of whether the Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu trio of The Shack is a good representation of the triune Godhead of the Bible. If you rely on personal experience for determining what is true, The Shack will be very appealing. If you rely on the Bible for determining what is true, The Shack will leave you disturbed, though not unmoved by the hope of love, healing, and forgiveness found in God. You will find distorted shadows of the true God in the pages and scenes of The Shack, but you will not find Him in His full, Triune glory. That can only be found in the pages of Scripture. Only that God can truly heal the wounded heart and satisfy the longings of the soul.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Minor—“Oh G*d,” “Oh my G*d” / Sex/Nudity: None

Footnotes

  1. Randy Alcorn, “Reflections on The Shack,” Eternal Perspective Ministries, September 26, 2012.
  2. While there are many anthropomorphic terms in the Bible that describe God as having human characteristics (e.g., the hand of the Lord and the eyes of the Lord.), God the Father and the Holy Spirit are indeed spirit. They have no form. Jesus, having taken on flesh, does have a human form since the Incarnation. To misrepresent God in any way is blasphemy.
  3. Randy Alcorn discusses this theme, including conversations he had with the author, in “The Shack: Biblical Discernment Is Key in Evaluating Any Book or Movie,” Eternal Perspectives Ministries, February 20, 2017.
  4. The doctrine of free will and its relationship to God’s choice is an issue of debate, typically drawn along lines of Calvinistic and Arminian belief systems. Answers in Genesis does not take a position on this issue, but it is an important consideration when discussing the idea of the presence of evil in the world.
  5. Glenn Stanton, “FactChecker: Does ‘Abba’ Mean ‘Daddy’?”, The Gospel Coalition, May 13, 2013.
  6. Randy Alcorn, “Reflections on The Shack.”

Copyright, Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films

Additional facts and background you should know (from Christian Spotlight’s Editor)

➤ INSTANT DEATH—If you actually saw God, YOU WOULD DIE. In fact, when God’s presence was in the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy of Holies, or on Mount Sinai, merely touching or entering would bring you instant death.

WANT TO SEE GOD? Read a true story (short) about the experience of a biblical man who really, really wanted to see God, which I wrote for young people and families.

FEAR OF THE LORD IS A GOOD THING! Although God is all-loving, He is also fully righteous, totally holy, totally just—and an infinitely powerful God of wrath and judgment.

MURDERING one’s own father (as Mack does) and totally getting away it—with no justice, no repentance, no rebuke from God—does this lead viewers to or away from a true understanding of sin, who God really is, and the true Gospel?

➤ ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF OUR SINS AND REPENTANCE ARE KEY to God’s forgiveness of sin. The Shack overlooks this.

➤ BUT THIS MOVIE IS FICTION, SO WHY CARE ABOUT ACCURACY? Fear God, and also understand that the author is using dramatic fiction to RE-EDUCATE viewers. Movies and novels can be very effective at this—whether for good or evil. This story uses strong emotions, tears, warm feelings, mixed with some very good things that make people feel comfortable and open their minds to its messages—lowering their guard. This makes it much easier to plant his beliefs in people’s minds, and, if you experience powerful emotions during your viewing, your brain will generally make them embed for years.

The film offers what seems to be a more appealing, comforting, friendly God, and makes many people feel better about themselves—showing them a way to happily leave those dreadful, nasty negative emotions. BUT… this film’s false diety, and false doctrine, if accepted and followed, can only lead to disappoinment, more error, and spiritual destruction. Only the truth will truly set you free and save your eternal soul.

THE PEOPLE MOST VULNERABLE to the re-education goals of this film are likely those that have experienced personal tragedy and felt rage at God, or felt betrayed by the church. And who do not have a very strong biblical education or sufficient respect for God’s Word, and have doubts about its literal accuracy. There are many such people; they are the norm in our current world.

To understand this film (and novel), it is CRUCIAL to know that the author strongly rejected the evangelical, literal Bible-believing faith of his youth (saying “the God of evangelical Christianity is a monster,” etc.).

➤ HE REJECTED VARIOUS KEY BIBLICAL DOCTRINES, AND EMBRACED A FORM OF UNIVERSALISM and ecletic spiritual beliefs more to his liking, particularly NEW AGE SPIRITUALISM AND MYSTICISM. He wants others to accept his beliefs. He wrote this story to teach them to his children.

“When The Shack was written, Young [the author] …believed Jesus Christ would eventually save everyone, even souls already in hell (universal reconciliation). Universal reconciliation…is another form of universalism.” —Warren Nozaki, Christian Research Institute (CRI) EquipBlog

“In April of 2004…[The Shack’s author] Young presented a 103-page paper which presented a defense of universal reconciliation, a Christian form of universalism–the view that at some point every person will come to a right relationship with God. If they do not do this before they die, God will use the fires of hell to purge away (not punish, mind you) any unbelief. Eventually even Satan and his fallen angels will be purged of sin and all of creation will be fully and finally restored. This is to say that after death there is a second chance, and more than that, a complete inevitability, that all people will eventually repent and come to full relationship with God.” —Tim Challies, author of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, in his review of Burning Down “The Shack”

Will ALL mankind eventually be saved? Answer

➤ A MODALIST. The author of “The Shack” is a Modalist. Modalism is a doctrine that denies the Trinity truly exists; there is only ONE person—who perhaps changes form—sometimes the Father, sometimes the Holy Ghost, sometimes the Son—or the “persons” of the Trinity are metaphorical, representing “only three MODES or aspects of the divine revelation.” MODALISM DENIES THAT THERE ARE DISTINCT AND COEXISTING PERSONS in the divine nature. This is seriously wrong and heretical.

➤ What is clear about the TRINITY from God’s Word?

➤ How can 1 God be 3 distinct persons? Answer

➤ A PANENTHEIST. Young wrote the forward to a book by a Franciscan ECUMENICAL PANENTHEIST Richard Rohr, also supporter of homosexual advocacy. The book claims to be about the Trinity, but as a reviewer notes, it does not contain sound Christian doctrine and “is relentlessly committed to averting your focus from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Fred Sanders, The Gospel Coalition).

(Panentheism: A combination of theism—belief in a diety, but not the true God of the Bible—AND pantheism—“God is EVERYTHING,” “We are ALL in God”).

External reading list suggestions

  • Prominent evangelical theologian and apologist Dr. Norman Geisler wrote “The Shack: Helpful or Heretical?” listing 14 points of theological disagreement with the book. Geisler says “The Shack” is “false,” “an unbiblical view of the nature and triunity of God,” “a rejection of traditional Christianity,” “uses personal experience to trump divine revelation,” “the rejection of Sola Scriptura,” “classic heresy,” “an unbiblical view of punishing sin,” “a wrong view of the way of salvation,” “non-rational,” “psychologically helpful… doctrinally harmful,” and “very dangerous.”

  • Theologian Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, agrees, calling The Shack “deeply troubling” and saying that it “includes undiluted heresy.” (“A Look at ‘The Shack’”—on-line radio program)

  • A Reader’s Review of The Shack” (.pdf) by Tim Challies

  • The Shack,” Matt Slick’s Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry article.

  • Book: Burning Down “The Shack:” How the “Christian” Bestseller is Deceiving Millions by Dr. James B. De Young (a former longtime colleague of the author of “The Shack”), and professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Western Seminary, a graduate-level professor of Greek and Biblical studies for 30 years.

  • Latest ‘Christian’ film blasted as not so Christian” (WND article)

➤ MYSTICISM. Young’s friend Rohr has also written The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics and other mysticism works. Young has recommended the writings of at least 3 Catholic mystics and panentheists. [Learn more about what is happening with Catholic mysticism combining with New Age, pagan beliefs]

➤ BELIEVES THE CROSS WAS UNNECESSARY. Like his friend Richard Rohr, Young has revealed that he does not believe that the cross was a place of punishment for our sins or even necessary for the redemption of fallen mankind (see: “The Shack Author Rejects Biblical Substitutionary Atonement” by John Lanagan).

Sadly, this is all part of a growing rethink movement (known by various names), trying to convince people that “Christianity, as we have known it, has run its course and must be replaced… that Christianity must be re-thought and re-invented if the name of Jesus Christ is going to survive here on planet Earth.” The Bible is rejected as literal and accurate; instead it is open to interpretation based on their personal feelings and wishes. This leads to spiritual darkness and disaster.

In summary,

“It is undeniable to the reader who will look to the Bible, that there is a great deal of error within The Shack. There is too much error.” —Tim Challies

PLEASE READ OUR SIDEBAR ABOVE, providing OTHER IMPORTANT ISSUES and answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Movie Critics

…underwhelmed… slow to develop and hard to follow… Though I wasn't in love with this film for a variety of reasons, I still found pieces to savor. …Many details of this story and the Trinity are contradictory to Scripture. …[2½/5]
—Carrie Dedrick, Crosswalk

…discombobulated Christian worldview with many good theological points but mixed with many aberrant, unorthodox misconceptions… didactic and ethereal… very non-dimensional characters… extreme caution… [3/4]
—Ted Baehr, Movieguide

…“The Shack” delivers significant messages about God in a world desperately looking and longing for answers. Does this story provoke valid, even significant theological concerns? Clearly, it does.…
—Bob Waliszewski, Plugged In

…viewed objectively as cinema, it’s just not a very good film… at least 40 minutes longer than the storytelling requires… [1]
—Peter Hartlaub, Hearst Newspapers

…eccentric, kitschy… even its jolts of surrealism feel curiously stilted… isn’t even particularly effective on the basest tear-jerking level. …marginally better movie than “Collateral Beauty”…
—Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

“The Shack” dares to ask, “What if God were a character actor?”… Plus, just to be clear, Mack does get away with murder in the opening sequence… [1½/5]
—Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, A.V. Club

…the movie is dramatically inert, slow, and thus, yes, boring as all get out as it lumbers through its 130­plus minute runtime… And with no real answers provided for the tough questions at hand… [4/10]
—ScreenIt

…The questions are profound, and so is the tedium. …a leaden, belabored affair. …With its sparkly spin on the New Testament, the film will be too New Agey for those who hew closely to doctrine
—Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter

…tedious… far too often slow-paced and unconvincing spiritual journey… to say “The Shack” offers a new spin on the Holy Trinity—and some provocative theories about free will, forgiveness and the afterlife—is an understatement… [2]
—Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times

…“The Shack” is essentially an overlong montage of stock New Testament discourses narrowly targeted at the sort of armchair Christians whose faith comes easy, and whose lazily won belief barely even needs to be vindicated. …[1½/4]
—John Semley, The Globe and Mail

…our culture is starved for films that portray religious feeling in a way that’s both reverent and truthful. “The Shack” isn’t one of them; it reduces faith to a kind of spiritual comfort food. But thanks, in part, to movies like this one, maybe that’s what faith is on its way to becoming.
—Owen Gleiberman, Variety

…It might have been designed to score group sales from megachurches, but “The Shack” winds up sounding downright Buddhist. …
—Matt Prigge, Metro newspapers

…it will probably play well to the niche audience it is aimed at. Truly, there will not be a dry eye in the house. The story is tragic and might be too much for young audiences. …
—John Dobbin, Access Winnipeg

There must have been redeeming qualities in William P. Young’s novel “The Shack” for it to become such a popular bestseller in 2007. Those traits have mostly gone missing in the film. … [1½/5]
—Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News

It’s possible that we’ll see a worse movie released in 2017 than ‘The Shack’, but that’s only because life is full of surprises, not because this complete failure is remotely redeemable. …essentially manipulating and exploiting the faith of good people who deserve better. …[½/5]
—Philip Brown, High-Def Digest

Positive
Positive—“The Shack” is a wonderful movie. I am so disappointed that this website determines it is not recommended. Is it theologically perfect? No, it isn't, but it is a work of fiction. Is Jesus an actual lion as depicted in “The Lion, Witch and Wardrobe”? Of course not. “The Shack” is a movie about the all encompassing love of God, His mighty ability to heal, and the lengths He will go to for even one broken individual. Remember how the angels rejoice over even one who was lost and now is found? This movie shows how a broken man who has honest questions about evil, pain and loss can be redeemed. The movie absolutely honors Jesus and the Bible. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—C. Nelson, age 56 (USA)
Response from another visitor—With a number of comments about Narnia comparisons, there are a few things that come to mind…
1) God the Father, and the Holy Spirit were not given any form in Narnia.
2) Jesus is directly referred to as the Lion of Judah in Genesis and Revelation.
3) Narnia didn’t do any gender-shifting with God.

Even so, and possibly as importantly, as far as I know, Narnia didn’t make assertions about God’s nature that directly contravenes scriptural doctrine. Deception is Satan’s greatest tool, don’t be deceived.
—Mac, age 50 (USA)
Positive—Saw “The Shack” at an early showing today. I have never read the book—so if there are scriptural concerns over the view-points offered in the text—I can not speak to that. BUT as for the movie, I was afraid I would not enjoy it, and even further, be offended by a quasi—Christian agenda. Especially when I saw that the movie features a woman as God in previews. I went prepared to be mad LOL… but, overall, the movie was enjoyable. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Chandra Mcguire, age 35 (USA)
Positive—Are you looking for a movie that answers the questions; “Where is God when people suffer?,” or “Why does God allow evil people to live?” Then the movie, “The Shack” has something for you. …Mack Phillips (Sam Worthington) gets the opportunity to do what so many other people would like to do—have a one on one conversation with all three members of the Trinity. Not in the manner which Job did, or Moses, or even Jacob for that matter, but in the form of a gentle woman, who is Papa (Octavia Spencer), a loving young woman, who is Sarayu (Sumire Matsubara) and our loving Savior, Jesus (Avraham Aviv Alush). more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Dennis Smith, age 43
Positive—I have to say, I was was surprised at how good this movie was. Based on several reviews I read about the book, which I have not read, I expected to be offended at the Biblical problems with the film. However, there were very few of those issues. God being played by a female took some getting used to, however because of the background of the main character, a female was what was called for. God provided. When a male was needed, God provided. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Chris, age 44 (USA)
Positive—Wonderful movie. It has been several years since I read The Shack, but it seemed to be true to the book. Great plot, dialogue, scenery, acting, etc. As another reviewer mentioned, it is a good movie for Christians and non-Christians. There are some folks opposed to the movie due to religious grounds, but there is nothing that violates Biblical principle. Jesus spoke in parables, and I see it as a parable of sorts, demonstrating a truth through a story. This is fiction that directs one’s attention to God to bring light to some of life’s questions. It is done in a well thought out and respectful way. There was even some light humor in a few scenes. It was so well done and so refreshing to see Christian movies made like this. Great movie, and I will recommend it to all.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Gloria, age 51 (USA)
Positive—While it may be a shock to see God depicted by a black woman and the Holy Spirit as an Asian woman as well, the Christian virtues of forgiveness and gentleness, of moving on after tragedy with the assurance that God has everything under control is inspiring and moving. A lot of “religious” movies are sappy and poorly made, but this one is a quality movie with some great actors. We would recommend it highly.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Bob Johnson, age 73 (USA)
Positive—First, let me say that I love Christian Spotlight, and while raising my kids, made them go and see the reviews here before asking if they wanted to see a particular movie (especially as teens). That said, I disagree with many negative aspects the reviewer made about this movie. I was raised in a very conservative PCA Presbyterian Church and have attended a Southern Baptist church for the past 21 years. I teach adult Sunday School and a weekly men’s Bible study, so I get the inerrancy of scripture.

I believe the movie offers much more good than “grave eternal danger” as the reviewer puts it, in regards to viewership. I will admit that when the figures that represent the Trinity are first revealed and the interaction with Mack begins, I felt a little awkward. Jesus we know in human form and that’s one of the reason even Mack, feels more at ease with Him. But God and the Holy Spirit in human form is another issue. Yes, we’ve seen it in comedies like “Bruce Almighty” and “Oh God,” but those are purely secular driven films. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Eric Reinhold, age 52 (USA)
Positive—My mother has seen this movie 16 times and is waiting to buy the DVD when it is released.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Sandra Gooding, age 79 (USA)
Negative
Negative—Anytime a character portrays God means they’re on extremely thin ice. In “The Shack,” God is portrayed as a woman—yet the Bible clearly differentiates Him as male. Jesus states many times he is addressing his father (In My Father’s house are many mansions. John 14:1-2 / No one can go to the Father except through me. John 14:5-6 / My father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Matthew 26:36-39 / Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. Luke 23:46).

I’m not anti-feminist by any stretch, yet the Bible is straight forward when it comes to gender. I agree with other critics that the woman playing God falls through the ice when she makes statements found nowhere in the Bible. One could even take away the impression of a Unitarian Universalist deity from this film—which is theologically highly arguable. And, yet, millions upon millions of people who bought the book can’t be wrong.… can they?
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Leonardo, age 75 (USA)
Negative—I’m 75 years old and did not become a Christian until age 24. I watched this movie with my Wife (married 5 years after first wife died of cancer). We decided not to make comments while watching, since we are both Serious Christians, and this movie does provoke many questions for which I’m glad, it does do that. First, there have been many books I’ve read over the years that discredit what the Bible clearly teaches. Since 2008, the book “The Shack” has sold over 22 million copies across all formats worldwide, according to the publisher. I’ve not read the book; however, I understand it’s more detailed. The movie is far too long at the front, even boring; then better toward the end and somewhat hurried.

It states quite soon after introducing 3 humans as God the Father (a woman) and God the Son (a man) and God the Holy Spirit (a woman) that Sin has its own punishment. That is wrong, since many get away with all sorts of evil. I could go down a line of anti-biblical issues, but the reviews above are there. Then, as I struggled a bit with the Blasphemy of representing God the Father as Human, which is the breaking of the second of the Ten Commandments. I did get my mind in tuned with the fact that this film is not only Fiction, but a large portion is, in fact, a Fantasy of a man having a Vision and learning things about himself in the vision. To that end, it was profitable for the man to try and change for the better. There is good in the movie and some emotional human scenes, very well done; ladies bring your tissues.

For those seeking to find out more about themselves and the “why” of everything; I would not recommend this, except for its fantasy. It presents a very mixed up version of Non Biblical values. The answers are vague and mostly not true. It’s quite mystical, for those who like that. Anyone who does not know the major doctrines of the Holy Bible and are just Church goers with not much Bible Knowledge, I would warn you; this could definitely twist your concept of what Scripture clearly states. Cinematography in HD these days is a powerful medium. We should be careful of these “message” movies.

Conclusion: not worth several hours of my time, but maybe for entertainment some would sit through and enjoy. I needed to see the movie, so I could be honest in my review about it, and my wife and I could discuss what things we had read and heard about it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Gavin Langley, age 75 (Canada)

PLEASE share your observations and insights to be posted here.

Comments from non-viewers
Negative—…I will not see the film, even to review it, because I will not and cannot watch humans pretend to be God. …I will grant that the primary concern of the second commandment is worship. It forbids creating any image of God in order to worship God through that image. Yet the commandment first forbids any visual representation for any reason. …To portray the Spirit is to vastly misrepresent the Spirit; to portray the Spirit is to blaspheme the Spirit.

The same is true, of course, of the Father. …God is not a human being. God is not like a human being in any way that can be explained by presenting him in an embodied form. God is so other, that any visual representation harms instead of helps our understanding. Even as “The Shack” uses human beings in an attempt to lead people closer to God, it will actually lead them farther away. …
Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer
Negative—Dear ones stay away from things that the devil has authored. His goal is always to twist the Word ,and you have fallen prey to his devices. If you read every warning about this movie and go see “The Shack,” you have fallen under the shrewdness of the Enemy who is blinding you.

How could any true lover of Jesus Christ and His holiness choose to watch a fiction that will undermine the Word of God in non believers’ eyes, not to mention distort His holy name. Another false god has been presented in three forms—NO LIKENESS TO OUR GOD. And those who go watch the film have then funded this movie and are working for the wrong side.

Be wise the Word tells us, and, my friends, you have chosen to have your ears tickled, instead of honoring the Lord with your eyes and mind. The only way to not have these apostate movies made is to not fund them with God’s money, that He has gifted you with. So sad.

If you study your Bible you would not partake of falsehoods about our Lord. So sad…
2 Timothy 4:1-9 (NASB77) “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
—Sharon, age 56 (USA)
Negative—The Bible explicitly says that if anyone claims to be God, we shouldn’t believe them. I’ll cut right to the point here: I wish Christians would boycott this film. I’d rather my kids watch the Harry Potter franchise than this. At least Harry Potter distorts something evil instead of distorting God!
—Gabriel Mohler, age 27 (USA)
Negative—After reading the part of the article on the beliefs of the author of “The Shack,” I'm not going to watch this film. Mister Young belief that everyone is going to be saved isn't in the Bible, among other things. Pretty sure scores of believers will go and be deceived by the book and movie.
—David, age 65 (USA)
Negative—This isn’t a comment about the movie, instead I would like to comment on the review by Mr. Patterson, who only addresses one of the two aspects of forgiveness. Forgiveness cancels a debt; seen clearly in the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35). It requires either the one who sinned must make amends, or the one who has been sinned against must absorb the loss himself. To say that forgiveness can only be granted if the offending party comes forth to seek it, removes the possibility of reconciliation in our hearts with those who have died or otherwise neglect to ask for forgiveness. That is to say some people are left to carry that debt alone, unsettled forever.

But there are two types of forgiveness: Judicial and Relational. The first is made possible when we agree to leave the offense and offender in God’s hands. We relinquish our right for debt repayment and give it to our Lord, thereby granting forgiveness. Relational forgiveness, the type addressed by the reviewer, cannot be transacted without the offender acknowledging the injustice and requesting to be forgiven.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
— Michelle Eichler, age 50 (USA)