When I first saw the trailer for the movie The Shack, I rolled my eyes and muttered under my breath, “Oh brother. Not again.” For those who aren’t familiar, this movie is based on the 2007 best-selling book by William P. Young. The Shack is a theodicy: Through a fictional story, the book attempts to answer the question that if God is good, loving and all-powerful, why do pain and suffering exist?
At first glance, The Shack sounds like a good book. But the book has been controversial since its release, largely centered around whether it presents a heretical view of the Trinity and salvation. As expected, several people began blasting the new movie for promoting false doctrine, and rightly so. There are MANY theological problems that come out of the story. But this is not the focus of this post.
The focus lies in the shift of my attitude. I began to reflect on the implications of this book becoming a movie and God worked on my heart. Rather than purely discarding it as heresy, I began to see it as a potential opportunity. So, a few weeks ago, I went to a pre-screening of the movie.
I want to submit to you a few reasons why and how believers should see The Shack:
- Why should you see The Shack? It opens the conversation.
1 Corinthians 9:22b-23, I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Whether we want to admit it or not, this movie will be seen by millions of people. These millions of people will see a fictional representation of God interact with a man who is questioning God’s existence/purpose/goodness during unspeakable tragedy. The goal of this movie is to give God credence, not to discredit Him.
God is depicted as love. He is caring for and pursuing Mack (the main character) after his daughter was murdered. God is relentless, persistent, forgiving, and relational. From man’s perspective, Mack walks through the stages of intense grief with God’s help.
These are “broad brush stroke” themes, but they are present. In the book, I was quicker to downplay these broader themes because of the various problems in the details. But as a movie, the potential audience has grown and the opportunity to “open the conversation” has expanded.
What I mean by “opening the conversation” is that The Shack opens the door for gospel conversations. Many people will watch this movie and resonate with Mack. Maybe they have experienced a tragedy or have gone through a season of pain and suffering. We can all identify with a broken world. Why? Because we have ALL been created in the image of God and sin distorted that image. We are always wanting to get back to God’s design.
I believe that we can use what Hollywood has put together as an open door to share The Good News of Jesus.
- How should you see The Shack? We should build the conversation.
1 Corinthians 2:2-5, For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
We should watch this movie critically. This is not critical in the sense of only negative, this is critical in the sense of analyzing and processing various themes as they interact with Scripture. We must see The Shack as the open door, not the path to our destination.
There are many problematic statements from the characters that are more aligned with sentiment than Biblical truth. Let me give you a few critical questions you need to ask as you watch the movie:
What does the movie communicate versus what does Scripture say about…
- The depictions of God and the Trinity?
- God’s presence in the midst of tragedy?
- God’s wrath, judgement, and hell?
- Redemption, reconciliation, and salvation?
- Love, joy and fulfillment?
There are many more questions that need to be addressed, but this will hopefully direct you on the path of critical engagement. This process should lead you to hold onto the truth that is found in the movie and use that as a spring board into the full truth of the gospel through God’s Word. The Shack opens the conversation, and critical engagement lets us build the conversation around Scripture and not the movie.
- What should you do after you see The Shack? Engage in the Conversation.
1 Corinthians 9:16-17, For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.
I can remember the first time I played softball. Up until that point, I had only played baseball, so I was accustomed to a faster pitch. My first swing at my first at bat, I swung almost two seconds early and completely missed the ball. After that, I realized that I was making this game too hard. I slowed down and adjusted.
This is the way I feel about The Shack. It is a lobbed softball coming down the plate and we have an opportunity to hit the ball. If we try too hard, we’ll miss the opportunity. We’ll either completely embrace the story and miss the true gospel, or we will completely discredit the story and miss the opportunity to share the gospel. We can’t overthink it. My prayer is that we use this story to stir up meaningful questions and address them with Biblical truth.
At the end of the prescreening I attended, Brad Cummings came out and addressed our theatre. Cummings is one of the producers for the movie and worked with Young on the book. He told the story of shooting this movie in the Hollywood setting. He said he was amazed by how many non-believers would work on such an explicitly “religious” movie trying to answer the question: “What if there is a God who loves you?”
Then, in his last few comments he said, “Over our 38 days of shooting, we led six people to the Lord… Pray for this movie.” I think there is an appropriate way to approach this movie. May we use it to open conversations that would allow for the Biblical truth of the gospel.
 You can find a list of articles that address many of the theological problems here:
The Shack: Helpful or Heretical, by Norman Geisler and Bill Roach
The Shack – The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment, by Albert Mohler
“The Shack” Review, by Tim Challies
The Shack – Impressions, by Tim Keller