The Shack: A Lesson In Biblical Discernment

The movie The Shack ..

based on the novel with the same title by Paul Young, released on March 3. By now you have likely seen previews of the movie. Of course, in what I share below, I’m only speaking about the book—though if the movie is faithful to the book, I would expect it to have some of the same strengths and weaknesses.

I am reluctant to post this for a variety of reasons, including that I know and like Paul Young. Some years ago, when the book had sold thousands but not yet millions, I had coffee with Paul twice and we engaged in long and very civil discussions, totaling six hours or so, about various parts of The Shack, and the Bible. We agreed on most points while disagreeing on some significant ones.

Since many people have been asking me about the movie and the book, I feel obligated to say something. I have not seen the movie and have no idea whether it’s close to the book or quite different. Since I have read the book, which has sold over 20 million copies, I can offer my perspectives only on it. If you see the movie you can judge for yourself what pertains and what doesn’t.

 

 

I think there’s good in The Shack …

It raises the problem of evil and offers God’s love and hope to those who’ve been overwhelmed by tragedies they can’t reconcile with God’s sovereignty and goodness. There are people I respect greatly who love this book, without qualification, and consider it a great gift of God to thirsty people.

There are others I respect as much who are deeply concerned about the book’s messages, both overt and subtle, and their impact on people. In a sense, both might be right, but both need to understand the other point of view and realize that many books that are good for some people are not good for others.

I believe that those who are well grounded in the Word won’t be harmed by the weaknesses and deficiencies of The Shack. For example, a friend of mine recently emailed me about someone she knows, who has a solid Christian worldview, and who loves The Shack and finds it helpful as an allegory.

Unfortunately, increasingly few people these days are well grounded in the Word and have both the knowledge and the discernment to filter out the bad while embracing the good. That means that some people, perhaps many, will fail to recognize the book’s theological weaknesses, and therefore be vulnerable to embracing them, even if unconsciously. Sadly, I personally know some who have been led down a path of universalism through their understanding of the book and what they have heard the author say, either publicly or privately.

Please don’t get me wrong on this point: I believe in Christian fiction. It can be both true to reality and true to Scripture, honoring to God and His Word.

I’ve written novels that God has, by His grace, used to reach people who’ve not been reached by my nonfiction. The novels of C. S. Lewis and many others have had a profound positive effect on me that nonfiction can’t have, because the two are different art forms that speak to the mind and the heart in different ways. Some people oppose The Shack because they don’t believe in fiction, but that’s certainly not the case with me. There is much truth in some fiction, just as there is much error in a lot of nonfiction.

 

 

One of the major issues with the book …

is that it puts words in God’s mouth. In those rare instances in my fiction where I have God the Father or Jesus speak, I try to take words straight out of Scripture, and when they’re not I always make sure I have a solid biblical and theological foundation that would justify attributing those words to God. But The Shack is full of words supposedly stated by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. While some of those words are in keeping with what Scripture says, some of them are not.

I give specific examples in this long and detailed review, which I wrote reluctantly years ago and for a long time shared only with people who personally asked me about The Shack. It’s for those who really want to consider both the good and the bad that, in my opinion, is to be found in the book. (In his article, Tim Challies suggests that the movie version, depicting all three persons of the triune God in human form, may be inherently in violation of God’s commandments.)

Todd Wagner, pastor of Watermark Church, did a video related to The Shack. I appreciated the balance in his words. That balance is what I tried to achieve in my review (which Todd cites).

 

 

 

Discernment is more important than anything as we evaluate any book or movie.

The Berean Christians were commended for carefully examining, in light of the Scriptures, the teachings of the apostle Paul (see Acts 17:11). This is a man who eventually wrote thirteen inspired biblical books. How much more should we evaluate the teachings of everyone else we read, listen to, or watch.

Please begin by evaluating my words here and everywhere else in light of Scripture!

Randy

 

 

 

 

 

 

How is God encouraging you today?

 

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About the author : Randy Alcorn

Randy Alcorn

Before starting EPM in 1990, Randy served as a pastor for fourteen years. He has a Bachelor of Theology and Master of Arts in Biblical Studies from Multnomah University and an Honorary Doctorate from Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He has taught on the adjunct faculties of both.

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