Movie review: ‘The Shack’

(Rated PG [Canada] PG-13 [MPAA] for thematic material, including some violence; directed by Stuart Hazeldine; stars Sam Worthington, Octavia Spencer, Tim McGraw, Radha Mitchell, Megan Charpentier, Gage Munroe, Amélie Eve, Avraham Aviv Alush, Sumire Matsubara, Graham Greene and Derek Hamilton; run time: 132 min.)

Is going to ‘The Shack’ worth the trip?

By Ted Giese

Occasionally a product hits the market after interest has peaked and people have moved on. Stuart Hazeldine’s film adaption of the popular 2007 fictional book The Shack, by Canadian author William P. Young, may be this kind of product.

The opening weekend box office only garnered $16 million for a film based on a book that sold more than 10 million copies. Had the film come out in 2008 it could have exploited the book’s momentum. The fact that this film is set to fizzle, not sizzle, is actually for the best.

And why would that be? For those who followed the story of William P. Young and his book, it will come as no surprise that The Shack has come under legitimate theological fire. This is not unwarranted and the film does nothing to change the significant problems.

The Shack is the story of a man, Mackenzie (Sam Worthington), grieving the loss of his kidnapped and murdered youngest daughter, Missy (Amélie Eve), while on a family camping trip. Although investigators found the crime scene, the girl’s body was never recovered.

In his time of great sadness over his daughter’s death, Mackenzie receives a note in his mailbox inviting him to make a weekend visit to the shack where Missy was murdered. The note is signed “Papa” — his wife, Nan’s (Radha Mitchell), nickname for God.

Could it really be God? Might it be the murderer trying to lure Mackenzie to the scene of the crime? Is it just a sick joke?

Despite a snowstorm, Mackenzie “borrows” his neighbor’s (Tim McGraw) truck and drives to the shack. Initially he finds nothing there except traces of his daughter’s murder, which leaves him distraught.

After almost attempting suicide, he has an unorthodox interaction with God. What follows is personal grief counseling from God as Mackenzie deals with his daughter’s death, the problem of evil and his own troubled childhood which includes abuse from his father (Derek Hamilton).

This all happens in a sort of bubble, where the ramshackle, snow-covered shack is transformed into a summertime paradise, complete with an idyllic lake, down comforters and home-cooked meals served by God.

Depicting God in movies is not new. In 1977, comedian George Burns played God in “Oh, God!,” and more recently Morgan Freeman has portrayed God in “Bruce Almighty” (2003) and “Evan Almighty” (2007).

In those films, God is largely played for laughs, but how does “The Shack” depict God and is it a faithful depiction of the Holy Trinity? (Films like “Oh, God!” don’t even tackle the mystery of the Trinity!)

What viewers receive in “The Shack” is not the Holy Trinity of Scripture: “One God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance” as confessed by Christians in the Athanasian Creed.

Neither does “The Shack” adequately present the incarnation of Christ as found in the Apostles’ Creed, where Jesus is confessed by Christians to be “conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary” and therefore, because of His incarnation, is distinctly different from God the Father and Holy Spirit.

It’s not enough to have an ethnically accurate, walking-on-water, wood-working Jesus (Avraham Aviv Alush). If God the Father and the Holy Spirit are depicted incorrectly, it impacts the Incarnation, and when the presentation of the Incarnation is wrong, more trouble follows.

In the book and film, Mackenzie interacts with a physical representation of God the Father — a wise/wisecracking black woman happy to be called Papa (Octavia Spencer). He likewise interacts with a sensitive Asian woman and gardener, Sarayu, who is intended to be the Holy Spirit (Sumire Matsubara).

These women are overly affectionate and emotional. Along with Jesus, they are fixated on “relationship” over and against anything resembling religion; Jesus claims to be disinterested in people being Christian at all.

The Jesus of “The Shack” is only interested in people having a relationship with Papa and that relationship is of a certain kind: a sort of endearing, intimate relationship often talked about in Pop American Christianity — short on reverence or awe, and capitalizing on society’s emphasis on intimacy in all relationships.

If a discerning Christian compares the intimate relationship Mackenzie has with God in “The Shack” to the rather impersonal relationship Job has with God in the Scriptural account of Job’s tragic suffering, the difference quickly appears.

In Scripture, God’s love for all people doesn’t require touchy-feely sentimentality. Ultimately, it requires Christ’s willing sacrificial death in the place of the sinner for the atonement of sin, which brings reconciliation between God and humanity. In the Bible, this is the purpose of Jesus’ incarnation and birth, the reason the Word became flesh.

The physical portrayal of God the Father and the Holy Spirit as women muddies what Scripture faithfully teaches about Jesus. But the problem is deeper than author Young’s desire to overturn the predominate expressions of God in Scripture.

Papa claims she appears to Mackenzie as a woman because of his poor relationship with his earthly father who beat him as a child. Later, Papa reappears as a Native American man (Graham Greene) because Mackenzie needed Papa to be a man when he’s led to his daughter’s missing body.

Since “The Shack’s” God changes forms, changes masks, to suit the situation at hand, an ancient challenge to the doctrine of the Trinity presents itself: the 3rd century heresy called modalism in which there are three different “modes” of God rather than three distinct persons. This false teaching becomes abundantly clear in a conversation Mackenzie has with Papa, where he accuses God of being bad at sticking close to people in their time of greatest need.

When Mackenzie points out that, at the cross, Jesus asked, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?,” Papa responds, “You misunderstand the mystery.” Papa then shows him nail wounds from the Crucifixion, saying that she (God the Father) never left Jesus at the cross and that they were “there together,” and that it cost them “both dearly.”

Sarayu, the Holy Spirit character, is later seen with the same Crucifixion wounds. This sort of clever exaggeration of the oneness of God is modalism.

While “The Shack” is trying to show how much God cares for Mackenzie’s suffering, the film undermines the Incarnation, which is how Scripture teaches us that God cares about human suffering by becoming one of us.

“The Shack,” in the most visual way possible, implies strongly that Mackenzie is not interacting with a God who is three distinct persons, equal in glory, and coeternal in majesty within the Godhead, where only Christ, because of His Incarnation, keeps the wounds of His Crucifixion as emblems of His sacrifice (John 20:19-31).

Why is this important? Students of Luther’s Small Catechism will recall a section called “Christian Questions with Their Answers.” It’s a series of questions prepared by Dr. Luther for those who intend to go to the Sacrament of the Altar.

Question 8 asks: “How many Gods are there?” The answer is: “Only one, but there are three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Question 9 asks: “What has Christ done for you that you trust in Him?” The answer is: “He died for me and shed His blood for me on the cross for the forgiveness of sins.”

Then question 10, a very important question as it pertains to this part of the film, asks: “Did the Father also die for you?” The answer is: “He did not. The Father is God only, as is the Holy Spirit; but the Son is both true God and true man. He died for me and shed His blood for me.”

As soon as Papa shows wounds from the Crucifixion, “The Shack” fails to be a Christian story and embraces the ancient heresy of modalism, an unfaithful depiction of the Holy Trinity and, by extension, a denial of the incarnation of Christ Jesus as taught in Scripture. The god of “The Shack” is not the Christian God of Scripture.

Space does not permit delving into many of the film’s other theological problems, but this gets to the heart of the problem. This is not a Christian film: It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, wrapped in wholesome family values and with a high regard for marriage and parenthood.

Mackenzie’s interactions with the god of the “The Shack” are permeated with the sort of moralistic, therapeutic deism that passes as Christianity for many people. It’s a system of belief which stresses that God simply wants people to be good and nice to each other in the way most world religions and the Bible are presumed to teach, and that the main goal of life is to be happy and feel good about oneself, free of unresolved problems.

The whole film becomes a sleight-of-hand that pays lip service to grief and suffering while emptying the cross of Jesus’ true sacrifice for sin, sidestepping the promise of the Resurrection and the believer’s hope that rests in Christ alone.

Be careful, the story is confused and disjointed, mixing truth and falsehood. Even as a work of fiction it is not worth defending.

Yet some might ask, “Can’t terrible stories make for good films?”

The answer? “The Shack” is not a good film. It’s B-grade at best, with an unsatisfactory ending.

Spoiler Alert! While heading home from his weekend in the shack, Mackenzie ends up in an accident, totaling his neighbor’s truck. The accident puts Mackenzie in the hospital. There he’s told the accident happened on his way to the shack and that he spent the whole weekend in the hospital.

Did any of his divine interactions really happen? Was it all a dream? Did Papa lead him to his daughter’s missing body? Did he bury her in a coffin handmade by Jesus, the carpenter? Or did it all just happen in his head?

This is the worst kind of film ending and it differs from the book’s conclusion where there is a concrete resolution concerning the missing body, leading to the real-world capture and prosecution of the killer.

In the film, no time is spent resolving any of this. Rather, Mackenzie puts his grief behind him and lives a happy life with his family and wife, almost like nothing bad ever happened.Now that the end of both the book and the film are out of the bag, feel free to skip going to “The Shack.” There is nothing there for the Christian. In fact, what you’ll find is a heretical wolf in sheep’s clothing — modalism — and it will bite anyone who takes their eyes off it for even a moment.

Watch the trailer

The Rev. Ted Giese (pastorted@sasktel.net) is pastor of Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; a contributor to the Canadian LutheranReporter Online and KFUO.org; and movie reviewer for the “Issues, Etc.” radio program. Follow Pastor Giese on Twitter @RevTedGiese

Posted March 9, 2017

Reporter Online is the Web version of Reporter, the official newspaper of
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Content is prepared by LCMS Communications.

52 Responses to Movie review: ‘The Shack’

  1. Ellen Machemer March 9, 2017 at 9:18 pm #

    I read the book several years ago, and came away thinking, this is NOT Christian. Thank you for this review.

  2. JoAnne March 9, 2017 at 9:18 pm #

    Thank you for this. I have not seen the movie, but did read the book some years ago. Although on one level I enjoyed the story, I was left troubled by it, but unable to put a finger on what was so wrong, when so much seemed so right. My Pastor at the time unfortunately chose not to help me. Thank you so much for defining the differences between the trinity of The Shack and the Trinity of Scripture.

  3. Jo March 9, 2017 at 9:42 pm #

    I was so wondering about going to it. Thanks for the update.

  4. Richard Allan Eyerly March 9, 2017 at 9:47 pm #

    Thank you, Rev. Giese, for a concise explanation of the film and the obvious contradictions with Scriptural truth. I’ve not seen the movie or read the book, but I did watch an interview with one of the film stars. When they spoke of the “faith” aspect of the story, I became wary. Apparently, my instincts were correct. Blessings from Minnesota ~

  5. James Freitag March 9, 2017 at 9:47 pm #

    Although I agree with your theological points pertaining to our understanding of Christian doctrine, I did find some very significant parts of the movie that made it worthwhile for me to see and enjoy. The story line wrestled with themes of forgiveness and atonement. Can a kidnapper and murderer be forgiven by God? How does one come to grips in forgiveness in the midst of such a horrible loss?

    Likewise, I was very intrigued when the main character was asked to choose which of his two children he would send to heaven and which to hell. He was forced into making a choice and he chose that he would rather bear the punishment of hell himself than have one of his own children do so. The response of the character portraying wisdom was that he now had begun to understand the heart of Papa (God).

    When I encounter a piece of literature like this movie, I remember my seminary days with Rev Rossow in his class entitled, “Literature and the Gospel.” The premise of that class was the theme of sin and the need to redemption in some form of a savior is so basic to our human nature and identity that it bleeds over into secular literature. Thus, this seminary professor was able to show us how to use literature as an entrance point or bridge in presenting the real gospel as it is outlined in Scripture and central to our Lutheran theology.

    It is in this context that I see redeemable (sic?) qualities in this movie. I appreciated the struggle with sin and grace, even in the context of some theology that we acknowledge would fall outside of orthodoxy. At the end of the movie it is state that the main character forgave more and asked more for forgiveness as a result of his encounter with Papa (God). I see this movie as an excellent tool to lead in and present the Gospel in a strong way, as the issues dealt with by the main character are true to those encompassed in our human nature.

    Blessings . . .

    Chaplain (LTC) James Freitag

    • Delwyn Campbell March 10, 2017 at 10:04 am #

      Excellent points, Chaplain Freitag. Your troops are blessed to have such a wise man shepherding them.

    • Tom Gritz March 10, 2017 at 5:01 pm #

      Amen!

    • Rev John Hohe March 13, 2017 at 8:01 am #

      Thank you James. It would be good for all to see this movie for themselves. It seems to me to be a good conversation starter.

  6. P. Bruss March 9, 2017 at 9:57 pm #

    In watching the film we took it as a fictional movie & didn’t analyze it as Gospel truth. At the end you realize It was a man’s dream…fictional. I don’t know why so much time was use to pick apart a fictional story & compare it to the Bible. Some parts of his dream may have had some symbolic biblical references but you need to still knowl that the Bible is the true story. And if you take anything from this movie you will look at forgiveness & how we need to examine our faith walk & be more forgiving loving towards others.

    • Brandon March 11, 2017 at 11:02 pm #

      There is a difference between symbolism and depiction in film. Also, there is a big difference when a film is claiming to be Christian and yet it depicts Modalism. For that we can and should analyze and examine fiction. The author of the book is an admitted Modalist.

      Personally, I have many Evangelical friends who take this story as an accurate depiction of the Gospel because it is sold to them as Christian. That is where we should draw the line and atleast say it is not Christian.

    • Teri March 12, 2017 at 4:12 pm #

      Thank you. This is how i feel. Could mot put it into words.

  7. Tiina Wilds March 9, 2017 at 10:57 pm #

    Great Movie!! Highly recommend!!

  8. Tom Gritz March 10, 2017 at 7:44 am #

    Saw it and found a positive message in this age of protests. We have to stop being afraid of our Christianity being challenged by a positive message.

    • Delwyn Campbell March 10, 2017 at 10:01 am #

      To call this blog post a “fear” response assumes what remains to be proven. All the same, “fear” of that which can be harmful can be a wise response, especially if the danger is hidden in an innocuous camouflage.

  9. Mary March 10, 2017 at 7:50 am #

    Still an enjoyable film for many, despite this negative review.
    I did not feel the necessity to tear it apart theologically. Just a feel good film instead of the many Sex , Murder , and Filthy talk films. that abound. A distinct change of pace that took me to the theater and made me happy.

    • Delwyn Campbell March 10, 2017 at 10:00 am #

      This film does tread on sensitive ground. The other aforementioned “God” movies – “Oh God,” “Bruce Almighty” and “Evan Almighty” – were more generic in their depictions of the Deity. The Shack presents a clear alternative understanding of the Trinity, and it is this alternative understanding that is a major issue for those who criticize the film.
      While you might not notice the differences, neither might an untaught person, whether new to the Faith or still dealing with the call of God through the Gospel. If this opens the door to heretical expressions of the Fatih, we should be aware of that fact, both in order to expose the error and to provide the proper corrective.

    • Deb March 10, 2017 at 10:20 am #

      Agreed

    • D. WADE March 11, 2017 at 5:28 am #

      Correct!

    • Carol March 12, 2017 at 8:10 pm #

      I have to agree with you Mary. I’m glad I went. Didn’t read the book so I can’t compare.

  10. Delwyn Campbell March 10, 2017 at 9:52 am #

    Perhaps, directing people to “not go” was a bridge too far. While it is wise to provide discerning information, to order people to not see the film, even though it came from a good place, could be seen as an exercise in “the Leader Principle.”

  11. Susan March 10, 2017 at 10:28 am #

    You missed one important point found in your open “fictional,” as in imaginary, or made up. The motion picture is a adaptation from a fictional book. Motion pictures are for entertainment. As a nurse when I see a hospital scene on TV or in the movies, I can sit and criticize it to. This was a story, and should be accepted as that alone. Have you ever seen a motion picture that despite’s the Bible or Faith totally correct? This movie was NO Different.

    • karen March 11, 2017 at 12:27 pm #

      What is the common response when you point out to a person they’re taking God’s name in vain? Most times it is “I didn’t mean anything by it”. That is the issue. Blasphemy is taking something holy and using in in a common way. This movie has taken something holy and reduced it to entertainment. The claim is that in the name of entertainment one can mishandle holy truths of God Himself and be excused for it.

  12. Laura Langhoff Arndt March 10, 2017 at 11:27 am #

    I would encourage people to watch and use it for educational purposes. Don’t tell people not to see it. Teach them to have a filter. We do everyone a disservice if we don’t teach them to recognize untruth on their own and the LCMS is notorious for poor teaching. Watch the movie or better yet, read the book as a study for adults and especially youth. Our youth need to recognize false teaching, but how can they if all we do is say, “Don’t see it,” and don’t teach them how to recognize it.
    http://www.carpentersministrytoolbox.com/2017/03/education-shack.html

    • D. WADE March 11, 2017 at 5:29 am #

      Correct!

    • Phillip Euler March 12, 2017 at 1:50 pm #

      I agree. People in any stage of their faith journey new to expand their own mind by experiencing other’s interpretations of cocepts of God that are beyond human understanding.

  13. T. R. Halvorson March 10, 2017 at 12:15 pm #

    This article by Pastor Ted Giese from just north of me in Regina, that originally was published on his congregation’s website, is the best single article for general audiences about The Shack that I have read. It is most reassuring to see a pastor doing this kind of work, defending the flock. I have been promoting this article online everywhere I can and to my District President for commendation to the pastors of my district.

    For those who might be interested in something longer and with further background, you can get a free copy of a new book that makes its primary concern the chief article of faith upon which the church stands or falls, namely, justification and the redemption we have in Jesus.

    Looking for healing for his Great Sadness, the author of The Shack missed the consolation provided by Lutheran faith and ministry. Instead, he hit upon a particular strain of thought from the renaissance of Trinitarian theology that happened worldwide in the 1980s and 1990s. This theology has much to be commended. Tragically, however, it departs from the teaching of Scripture about the atoning sacrifice of Jesus for us on the cross. It denies the wrath of God on sin, and denies that Jesus bore that wrath for us. The Shack teaches a different theory of the cross that springs from perichoretic speculations about the Trinity.

    You can get a free PDF copy of The Shack: A Journey from Pain to Truth to Error at
    http://steadfastlutherans.org/2017/03/free-book-about-loss-of-the-gospel-in-the-shack/

  14. Julie March 10, 2017 at 2:38 pm #

    The Shack is Christian fiction…. I prefer we as a body endorse this film vs Disneys new Beauty and the Beast

  15. T. R. Halvorson March 10, 2017 at 4:00 pm #

    Not trying to make anyone feel bad, but I cannot agree that The Shack is Christian fiction. When a work denies the atonement in any Christian or Lutheran sense, that is not Christian fiction.

    When a work messes up the Incarnation, as Pastor Giese explains, that is not Christian fiction.

    Two things a work must get right to be Christian are: A. the person of Christ; and B. the work of Christ. If a work gets both the person and work of Christ wrong, it is not Christian.

    Rather than Christian fiction, it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, which is worse than a wolf in wolf’s clothing.

  16. Jan Tallant March 10, 2017 at 6:14 pm #

    I did read the book and had many things to think about as we can not put God in a box.
    After all He is the Great I AM. which means He can be whoever and whatever He wants to me or fells we need at the time.
    I also saw the movie, and it was very good.
    I cried, and was challenged by God
    I felt His love
    I felt His relationship with me and that He really knows me.
    I felt His forgiveness and Him wanting us to forgive other
    I felt His encouragement
    I felt Him challenge me to be best person I can be.
    And I felt His mercy
    WE can enjoy a good movie and come out BEING INSPIRED TO BE A BETTER PERSON

  17. Reggie Graham March 10, 2017 at 9:49 pm #

    Very good movie. I can’t for the life of me see why there is criticism. It glorifies THE FATHER. It shows HIS unlimited Love for us through expressions of THE HOLY TRINITY. We do not know the complete nature of GOD, but like the Pharisees we are condemning a film that showcases the Goodnesame of GOD. That HE loves us and expects that we love (limitless) like HE does. Forgiveness, Trust and personal relationship(s) are the main points of the movie.

    I can imagine GOD trying to touch people through the film, then watch some who feel that GOD has to be this way or that way shoot it down. That’s what happened to JESUS. HE did not come the way they expected and they called HIM a herectic. That’s crazy. Go see the movie. It is intense and true regarding our expectations of THE MOST HIGH. You have eyes, ears and a mind. Don’t let others stop you from enjoying the film. It never states that it is a true event. It is a fictional Christian film that makes you think.

  18. Craig Gunty March 10, 2017 at 10:41 pm #

    This is not the Bible, is not accurately portraying exact accounts from the Bible. We watched it for entertainment only, not for biblical lessons. However we were quite pleased with how well the portrayed relational issues between God and man, and answered common questions in a biblically based manner.

    Bottom line, it will likely get people talking about God, seeking to understand the trinity better, or how God can interact with us. Go knowing it’s not all word for word, and enjoy the adventure. Then read the Bible and study Gods word.

  19. Don Rusbult March 10, 2017 at 10:41 pm #

    My wife had read the book a while back and wanted to see the movie. What immediately grabbed me was the FATHER being a woman and the HOLY SPIRIT also being a woman. It got even worse when the woman said she used many names! (All roads lead to God) about a third of the way into the movie the power in the city went out. ( the news said there was no explanation for it) We got a refund and went home. Movie was NOT worth going to!

  20. Deb Baber March 11, 2017 at 9:09 am #

    I too saw the film and was surprised at the choice of characters displaying The Trinity. Perhaps this was a strategy to distract us away from those teachings and try to allow us to look at some of the larger themes that were very important and came through loud and clear to me!
    The ending song Keep Your Eyes On Me was such a strong message sent. In this day and age so many times we are distracted and can easily lose our way with that trust in God. Also, the wonderful scenery symbolized the beauty of being with God, especially in the afterlife!! Another strong message that came across to me was how we as a society are trying to “play God” and how judgmental we have become! This is so destructive to our society!
    As well as the message of forgiveness and grace, these were huge parts of this feel good movie that I saw! I felt the love that God has for all his children and that to me was so worth going to this film. SO SORRY to see this movie being totally picked apart on a theological note and not giving it credit for these wonderful messages…..go to observe the emotional struggle that Mackenzie has with the destructive feelings of anger, guilt, and depression that he felt and how ultimately these feelings isolated him from his relationships with others. “Keeping his eyes on God” and working through forgiving the killer did allow him to help with deflating these feelings brought on by this horrible tragedy in his life, and yes, that did allow him to live and love more freely here on earth. We all have pain in our life because of sin, but we can live with that inner peace when we walk with God and choose to keep our eyes on Him instead of the self destructive feelings that can grow from pain and sin! GO SEE THE FILM!

  21. Joe Bath March 11, 2017 at 9:11 am #

    Why do we feel the need to over analyze stories about religion? It is a beautiful story about love and forgiveness. When my children’s school (a Lutheran school went public) and children from all, or no religions were invited to attend. Everyone scoffed that the Christian message would be lost. I put my faith in Jesus and the wonderful teachers there. The parents were given the option of exempting their children from religion class and chapel each week. None did. Of the hundred or so students that enrolled that year, 2 of the kids asked to be baptised at the end of the school year. Mission accomplished. My point, if seeing this movie will reach 1 person, and they turn back to God, mission accomplished. Any one who sees this movie as anything more than a wonderful story about God being love, and forgiveness as a way of life. Is just silly. No-one involved in this project, and especially Mr Young, are trying to replace or disrupt the gospel. I think any one who belives otherwise is afraid. We need to focus on the message, the same way I do every Sunday, to the message off my pastor’s sermon.

  22. Karen March 11, 2017 at 10:32 am #

    Yes it is worth seeing. It is not a factual documental movie. It is based on a fictional book. It was good

  23. Kim March 11, 2017 at 10:42 am #

    I read the book back in January. I felt it was absolutely outstanding. The author is writing about an experience that really happened to the main character, but they had to call it fiction because no one could prove or disprove it. It was a fantastic story of forgiveness and shows a parent in his most raw and vulnerable moments, which we can all relate to. Pain/death/unjustifiable heartbreak is just part of the broken covenant in the Garden! There is no quoted scripture in the book. It does not claim to be a Biblical reference. At no point reading that book did I feel that my biblically-based values were in question. The author does a beautiful job of painting a picture, if that’s even possible, of how the Trinity might work as three in one. I’ve always struggled with picturing how this could work and this book gave me a small glimpse. The Author, through this guys’ testimony, fantastically addresses how God meets our innermost needs and pours his grace upon us at just the right times in His perfect way. All of that can be backed up with scripture! Jesus did not invent ‘religion’. He taught his disciples how to follow Him/God/Holy Spirit and he did it through relationship and meeting people’s needs. He got in the trenches with His people. He got in the boat! This book depicts a beautiful example of God coming down to get in the boat with us– to comfort and woo us back to Him all while giving us free will. The minute we lose our humility and think we fully understand the depth and breadth of every God-breathed Word in scripture, we are guilty of thinking we are omniscient! I think it’s worth the read! I was encouragement to my journey of faith. I’m sure the movie, which I haven’t seen yet, doesn’t do it justice as movies never do, LOL, but I’ll go anyway. God be with you all.

  24. Suzy March 11, 2017 at 11:15 am #

    I’ve been a Christian for 48 years. I chose to read the book and see the movie not to explain the Trinity to me or for me to understand forgiveness.
    I found the movie entertaining and the beauty of the scenes lovely, the Pacific Northwest is a beautiful area to enjoy. I didn’t find the movie as sacreligious at all. I have a good grounding in my Biblical knowledge. I feel like they did a good job in explaining how God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one but different as well. I don’t know if God can manifest himself as a women black, white or Asian or anything else, who does know? I will recommend this movie to my friends to go and see it.

  25. R Oerman March 11, 2017 at 11:28 am #

    The problem with a movie like this is that well-grounded Christians will recognize the errors and be able to separate Christian fact from secular fiction. However, far too many modern Christians are not grounded thoroughly in correct doctrine, plus many non-Christians will see this movie, and both groups will come away confused at best or with an entirely wrong view of the true God at worst.

  26. Nadine Zellers March 11, 2017 at 12:03 pm #

    Personally I didn’t like the movie I had a hard time figuring out what was going on. I went with a friend and she also felt the same way. I am a Christian and am of Lutheran MS faith. Reading the above helped to understand it a little more. Thanks for the information.

  27. Lisa March 11, 2017 at 1:43 pm #

    It was a wonderful movie from a fictional book. People are missing the point-it is about forgiveness and letting go in your life, how you can move on. We need more movies like this, people get tired of the news in real life.

  28. Marge Milbrodt March 11, 2017 at 2:01 pm #

    Thank you for this. I read the book years ago, and I also remember that there was something in the Lutheran Witness about it. I did not think the book was right!

  29. Chris March 11, 2017 at 5:03 pm #

    People need to remember that while this movie is certainly Christian themed that it *is* at the end, only a movie. Written, directed, and produced with the goal of making money. I don’t go to the movies to research the Bible, God, or Christianity- that’s what church and my pastor are for.

    I, for one, loved the movie and as a result of it ended up doing a lot of soul searching and ultimately ended up renewing my own relationship and dedication to Christ.

    If the movie ends up having that sort of effect on people or gets them to investigate Christ further I’m all for it, no matter the inaccuracies.

  30. Ken March 11, 2017 at 10:09 pm #

    This movie is about Grace and Forgiveness . My daughter and I wept through most of it. To criticize it as you have done here shows you’ve missed the entire point of the movie.

    Theological Correctness never entered my mind.

    Thank you William P Young for helping me and many others learn to forgive.

  31. Rose March 11, 2017 at 10:48 pm #

    Great movie..not meant to be a true story. People need to relax. Dont be so quick to judge. If anything, that was the meaning of the movie that so many apparently missed.

  32. Presten Buford March 11, 2017 at 10:49 pm #

    I loved the movie and found it as a positive message God loves us all so much and works on us our time evil dose exist in our world but God can trun the most hurtful and painful things in to something beautiful and meaningful take the cross for example one of the most painful and humelading and horrific ways to die and he turned the cross in to a beautiful symbol and and something to look up to

  33. R. Hutchinson March 12, 2017 at 7:54 am #

    A friend of mine just made a post on Facebook saying, “‘The Shack’ is a great depiction of The Trinity.” I immediately Googled, “Is ‘The Shack’ a Christian film.” This essay was the first Google result.

    I have not seen the movie yet, and I may not. However, I will say that this essay is what annoys me about Chritianity and why I havent been to church in a while.

    You get bogged down in “modality” and all other kinds of minutiae. P. Bruss, said it best in their comment 4 or 5 posts up –

    “I don’t know why so much time was use to pick apart a fictional story & compare it to the Bible.’

  34. Paul F. Hein March 12, 2017 at 3:17 pm #

    I agree with Chaplin Freitag that this movie can be a good way to reach out to non-Christians. There are theological issues, but I believe it is worth seeing so that we can use it as a bridge to share the good news of what Jesus Christ has done for us. This review does not talk much about the main themes of the book and movie. God loves us and cares about us is the major theme. And another theme is that forgiveness is an important part of healing.

    I believe the book and movie does not portray the view of Moralistic and Therapeutic Deism as the reviewer thinks, because of the backstory behind Paul Young’s writing of the book. Paul Young was a church worker whose view of God was moralistic and authoritarian. He wore this mask of being a good person while his sin was destroying him. God brought him down and then showed him forgiveness, mercy and grace. Out of this experience he wrote the book. The book was intended to reach out to those who are hurting and view God as a stern judge. They are in need of the Gospel, not Law, which the book provides. We can use this movie to show them that though God is just, he is also loving.

  35. Tenna March 12, 2017 at 5:16 pm #

    How about focusing on the gift of HOPE….that’s what this book and movie is about.

    When we are in such dark despair, God comes to us in very interesting measures. We don’t need to give the whole bale of hay to folks when they’ve finally surrendered enough to grasp for one grass of clover.

    GOD HEALS! End of story. This movie can initiate some very positive discussion.

  36. Alicia March 12, 2017 at 6:44 pm #

    Read the book and saw the movie. I agree that it is not theologically sound. With that being said, if someone is struggling to know Gods love and the power of forgiveness this movie plants a seed. A seed grows and matures and the mature Christian can then decipher the theological faults. If it can plant a seed then the Holy Spirit is at work.

  37. Joe Emery March 12, 2017 at 10:59 pm #

    How often did Jesus teach in parables? We are told why he taught in parables. We also know that we are all at different maturities in our faith.
    That being said, I ask this:
    How many convicted believers will be led astray by this movie? None.
    How many who don’t know God at all may be led to ask about him? Countless.
    How many who don’t know God at all will be let to NEVER ask about him? I doubt any. This was a non-threatening film in so many ways.

    The trinity will NEVER be understood by anyone until we are called home. And as convicted as I am in God’s word and as much as I appreciate the fact that there are people willing to take the microscope of analysis to movies such as The Shack, we can’t miss the fact that this can be a fantastic tool used to begin reaching those who are seaking who God is. And perhaps they are seeking BECAUSE OF this movie. How will they react when they come to us asking about God and we tell them how non-theologically correct this movie is. Personally, I wouldn’t want to talk to you anymore.

    I was very skeptical and I did not make it through the book. Being more visual, I went with my wife. Yes, the characters took some getting used to, but after putting my LCMS hat to the side to enjoy the movie, I thought it did a really good job of putting a visual picture of the impossible-to-understand. I’m taking my kids, because I trust my ability to teach them the Truth above what Hollywood does.

  38. Laura March 12, 2017 at 11:31 pm #

    I watched the movie and loved it. It is the first time I saw God portrayed as a woman. And the Holy Spirit too, the Ruah described in the Bible. And Jesus, not portrayed as a white male but as a midle east man.

  39. Karen Garone March 13, 2017 at 8:08 am #

    I have not seen the movie yet, I plan to, but have read the book. This is a fictional story based on the concepts of pain, loss of faith, forgiveness and ultimately new-found faith and God’s grace and redemption. We in the flesh struggle with these concepts daily. I thought the idea of making God a black woman for most of the story very unique, especially since Father God is a spirit and does not have human form. By doing this I feel the author did not disrespect the Trinity as I understand it from the Word, and feel that we should go outside the box of thinking using the gift of our spiritual discernment.

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