Over the last few days there has been a lot of conversation on the recent release of William Paul Young's book and blockbuster, The Shack. While much has been, and will continue to be said, about the book and the movie, I feel it necessary to share some thoughts and comments. For the sake of full disclosure I have not read the book, nor have I seen the movie. However, I do not feel it necessary to fulfill either of these obligations in order to speak to the concerns at hand. My comments are based upon reviews and hearing Young speak about his life and work.
A few nights ago I watched a couple of episodes of "Redeeming The Shack" on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). Honestly, this is a network I do not often watch, nor do I agree with much of the theology espoused by the founders or leaders of TBN. Nonetheless, the network has recorded several episodes with Young sharing his personal story and the motivations of The Shack. Young was very open about his intentions with the book and the theology he hopes to convey through the continued sale of the book, and newly released, movie.
Having listened to Young share about the story, the characters, and their roles I do have some concerns with the movie. My goal is not to bash Young. In watching the TBN special I was moved by Young's honesty and transparency in discussing his personal story–the good, bad, and ugly. Without a doubt Young is a man of sincerity, but that does not mean he is orthodox in his theology. One should never sacrifice truth on the altar of sincerity.
One of the concerns I have about this movie is not necessarily with the movie itself. While I do have my concerns about the message and imagery of The Shack, my greater concern is with the Christians who flock to this movie, as they have others (such as Heaven Is For Real), looking for answers to questions and meaning in life, which should ultimately be sought in God's Word. Never should our theology be built upon a book (other than the Bible) or a movie. The Scriptures should be our guide in all matters of faith and practice. If we have to look to a novel, movie, or any other source for these issues, we all are most to be pitied.
From hearing Young speak, the clips I have seen, and the reviews I have read, I do think there are some problematic issues and concerns with Young's understanding and presentation of God, Jesus, and the Trinity. I concur with Dr. Al Mohler's analysis, "The theology of The Shack is not incidental to the story. Indeed, at most points the narrative seems mainly to serve as a structure for the dialogues. And the dialogues reveal a theology that is unconventional at best, and undoubtedly heretical in certain respects." There is no question viewers will be entertained by The Shack. Like every good movie, The Shake includes all the elements of relationships, tragedy, redemption, and hope. It's a best seller! However, those who seeks to uphold a Biblical worldview must use use caution when viewing this movie, or any movie, for that matter. This movie will in now way enhance my understanding of God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, because much of its espoused theology is heretical, and at best faulty. Among my concerns with The Shack is it's teaching of universalism, the belief that all mankind will be saved; it's inaccurate theology of sin; and it's unorthodox misrepresentation of the doctrine of the Trinity.
Yes, I understand The Shack is a work of fiction. However, too many professing followers of Jesus simply fall down to anything and everything that "looks Christian." As one review from GotQuestions.org noted - "if you're going to have God as a character in your fiction, then you must deal with God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. By using the Trinity as characters, The Shack is clearly indicating that it’s talking about the God of Christianity. But God has said certain things about Himself in Scripture, and much of what’s in this novel contradicts that."
We would be wise to head John's words in 1 John 4:1 - "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false profits have gone out into the world." Do I intend to read the book? No. Do I plan to watch the movie, probably not. In all honesty I have no desire to see the movie. Should you? Well, in the end it's a matter of conscience and conviction. James said, "to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is a sin" (James 4:17).