Unknown-3

 

Perhaps you’ve noticed the reviews. One theologian claimed The Shack was “the greatest deception foisted on the church in the last 200 years” (James B. DeYoung) while another called it “undiluted heresy” (Albert Mohler). Others even called it “blasphemy.”

Conversely others praised it for returning wonder, beauty and mystery into their faith. “The Shack helped my friend return to Christ” was one grateful person’s response. Singer/songwriter Michael W. Smith’s quote can be found on the cover stating that The Shack will leave you “craving for the presence of God.”

Wow, we had better be sure of what we are talking about here. This is no mere movie review! Some claim your salvation is on the line, both those advising to watch and not to watch! It could either save your faith OR shipwreck it! How in the world do we to navigate through the immense polarizing opinions within the so-called one Body of Christ? No wonder many folks just throw up their hands and walk away. But is it really that complicated? No, it isn’t. While some are not bothered by the critics, this article is provided for anyone who wants to be a little more equipped to answer those making disturbing accusations toward The Shack message.

The accusations are unfortunate, for the world desperately needs to know that what God believes about us is far more important to get right before our beliefs about Him which are constantly dependent upon us unraveling all the contradicting theology! We are told, “We love because He FIRST loved us.” Thank God He is “The Author and finisher of our faith”!

Exploring the Scriptural, Historical, and Academic Support for The Shack.

First we need to be reminded that the context is a dream which means it is to be taken as a type of parable or metaphor. Jesus used parables to communicate and parables were meant to be interpreted by their main thrust not for their details in order to create a “systematic theology.” For instance, if you took Matthew 25 literally in detail you would have to deduce that salvation is by works. In the parable of the 99 sheep you could conclude that God abandons us in order to find the lost. And is God really a cranky judge who begrudges to answer a woman in need? We realize we must interpret the parables through the lens of the overall Story of God or we will be very confused indeed. Also we know enough to filter them by what we know of the nature of God not by details in the story.

Now, let’s unpack some of the breath-taking themes of The Shack in light of scripture:

1. God is not an isolated “Omi-God” but rather a relationship of mutual love, a unified “us-ness” overflowing to Their creation. (“Let us make man in our image…” Genesis 1:26)

2. God is not a distant God but rather present in our joy and celebration as well as our deepest darkness and pain. He is the incarnate God who is with us and willing to enter our world in a way that we can comprehend. (Psalm 22; John 1; Matt 1:23)

3. God is our source of and model for all forgiveness. (Matt 5:44; Luke 23:34; Eph 4:32)

4. God is a God of reconciliation, restoration and resurrection. (2 Cor 5:19; 2 Cor 15; Col 1; Rev 21)

5. God is neither male nor female but is represented by His image and likeness as both male and female. (Gen 1:26, 27)

6. God is good even though this life is painful and we don’t understand. (Gen 1:31; Psa 107:1; James 1:17)

Each one of these is an essential, vital, crucial, key and indispensible theme found within the scriptures. Have I emphasized that enough? How many books or movies have tackled and successfully wrestled with these foundational scriptural subjects, especially the nature of God in the midst of evil? (this age-old question is called “theodicy”)

Again, we can see above that The Shack addresses and focuses on THE most important truths of the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ found in scripture–that He is GOOD, He is LOVE, He is GREAT and that He is WITH US IN THE FLESH. These are enormous concepts to portray in any form but Paul Young and Lionsgate have powerfully and convincingly done it!

How Does Historical Christianity Line Up With The Shack?

Next, we will reveal the historical support of the theology of The Shack in the early church fathers. Athanasius, who penned the Nicene/Apostle’s Creed, was very much in agreement with the identification of Christ with mankind in his incarnation:

“For we were the purpose of his embodiment, and for our salvation he so loved human beings as to come to be and appear in a human body.”
― Athanasius

 

“For the Lord touched all parts of creation, and freed and undeceived them all from every deceit.”
― Athanasius

 

“Paul also said, ‘being rooted and grounded in love, that you may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God’ (Eph 3.17–19). For the Word unfolded himself everywhere, above and below and in the depths and in the breadth: above, in creation; below, in the incarnation; in the depths, in hell; in breadth, in the world. Everything is filled with the knowledge of God.”
― Athanasius

 

“For of what use is existence to the creature if it cannot know its Maker? How could men be reasonable beings if they had no knowledge of the Word and Reason of the Father, through Whom they had received their being? They would be no better than the beasts, had they no knowledge save of earthly things; and why should God have made them at all, if He had not intended them to know Him? But, in fact, the good God has given them a share in His own Image, that is, in our Lord Jesus Christ, and has made even themselves after the same Image and Likeness. Why? Simply in order that through this gift of Godlikeness in themselves they may be able to perceive the Image Absolute, that is the Word Himself, and through Him to apprehend the Father; which knowledge of their Maker is for men the only really happy and blessed life.”
― Athanasius

 

In The Shack Mack is Shown how Papa and the Spirit also bear the scars of the cross. An early theologian named Clement of Rome wrote a letter to the Corinthians where he noted the union of God the Father and Christ as he called Christ’s sufferings “His sufferings”,

“Content with the provision which God had made for you, and carefully attending to His words, ye were inwardly filled with His doctrine, and His sufferings were before your eyes.”

Clement also spoke of “The blood of God,” Christ as “The only true God,” “The only-begotten Son and Word, before time began,” “Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ,” “God being manifested as a man, and man displaying power as God.”

These church fathers taught, as do the scriptures, that while there was distinction there was solidarity and unity in the death of Christ: Yahweh says “They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced.” (Zech 12:10)

 

Is There Solid Theology to Support the Themes of The Shack?

Lastly we can show substantial validation of The Shack’s theology by very godly and outstanding theologians. Dr. C. Baxter Kruger has written a scholarly book unpacking the rich biblical and historical underpinnings of The Shack called The Shack Revisited: There is More Going On Here Than You Ever Dared to Dream. This book was not written in tandem with The Shack’s release or a collaboration. Baxter was given The Shack by a friend and had never heard of Paul Young. As he read, he could not believe the way in which Young so accurately represented the Incarnation and Trinity biblically and historically as that was Dr. Kruger’s doctoral area of study under J. B. Torrence in Aberdeen, Scotland. He immediately contacted him and they became fast friends.

Another book that is an easier read and does a very thorough job of dispelling the myths and fears that certain theologians have created is God, the Bible and The Shack by Gary and Cathy Deddo.

To answer the accusation that the story promotes something called “pluralism,” the idea that all roads lead to God, please see this brief article.

Conclusion

As you can see there are two very different reactions to The Shack. I hope this overview has revealed how The Shack offers healing and hope to a world entangled in the worst lies about God propagated by the Accuser who has been “a liar from the beginning.” May the story continue to defend God’s character as love, His nature as good and His ways as perfect in the midst of life’s chaos, the voice of atheists and the religious confusion. These are not small themes in the scripture –they are the most monumental and pivotal. This is what The Shack has so courageously undertaken and so marvelously achieved.

For more, read this interview with Dr. Baxter Kruger: WILLIAM PAUL YOUNG: ORTHODOX NOVELIST

Join the conversation. Let us know what you think and comment below!

Wednesday evenings through April are set aside for a conversation over the themes of The Shack @ 7 pm at The Table, Port Orchard Nazarene.

___________________________

*Note: One point the movie makes regarding the atonement has unnecessarily stirred controversy. Mack is told that Papa-God never left His Son Jesus on the cross but rather suffered with Him. Some claim this is “heresy.” However, there are very different yet acceptable “atonement theories” held within the Body of Christ and throughout history. Paul Young simply chose to present the one he feels makes the most sense in light of scripture. Those opposing Young take the view of “Penal Substitution” (God substituted Jesus for us to pour out His wrath upon in order to forgive us and satisfy justice) which was established during the Reformation (which begs the question what did the church do for the first 1500 years without the “right view”? Many Biblical scholars see the atonement as many faceted and therefore reflecting many concepts: It’s like …a sacrifice, a ransom, a victory, an example, and a recapitulation of history. We’ll post more on this later!)