Friday, March 03, 2017

The Shack Movie - Resource Round-Up

"The Shack" movie comes out this weekend, an adaptation of the uber-popular book The Shack by William P. Young. A whole lot of people are talking about it online right now.

I read the book in 2009 and registered my cautions and concerns about it then, and today, as none of my concerns have gone away, my cautions also remain. Set your discernment-level to "high" if you chose to watch this one.

Here are some of the best things I've read about the book (and a few about the movie):

1. Pastor and author Timothy Keller wrote about it in 2010.  He says, "At the heart of the book is a noble effort—to help modern people understand why God allows suffering, using a narrative form." I agree that this is the driving purpose of the book, and I know that many have resonated with that part of the book and comforted by it. However, Keller goes on to caution:
Anyone who is strongly influenced by the imaginative world of The Shack will be totally unprepared for the far more multi-dimensional and complex God that you actually meet when you read the Bible. . . . The God of The Shack has none of the balance and complexity of the Biblical God. Half a God is not God at all.
2. Blogger and author Tim Challies wrote a thorough review of the theology of the book in 2008 that has been read by many.  His conclusion:
Because of the sheer volume of error and because of the importance of the doctrines reinvented by the author, I would encourage Christians, and especially young Christians, to decline this invitation to meet with God in The Shack. It is not worth reading for the story and certainly not worth reading for the theology.
Tim also has written recently on his concerns about watching any movie where God is portrayed in human form, especially God the Father and God the Spirit. While I don't share his concerns in the same way, I thought his follow-up article about the differences between Aslan of Narnia and "Papa" of The Shack had a lot of merit to it.

3. Author Randy Alcorn, who also writes fiction to teach theology and has met with the author, urges discernment about watching the movie (and previously wrote about concerns about the book's content).

4. Plugged In and World Magazine both posted reviews which try to provide balancing opinions. In its typical skewering satirical fashion, The Babylon Bee was a little less balanced.

5. David Mathis of Desiring God compares and contrasts The Shack with the biblical book of Job. I think this is a wonderful comparison to make because the book is not primarily about the Trinity (though it is definitely teaching a poor theology proper, too) so much as it is about suffering. I'm with Mathis in finding the Book of Job's answer much more satisfying than Young's, even if it does not conform to my wishes.

6. My all-time favorite review of The Shack book is actually five reviews at once by Fred Sanders, one of the smartest theologians we have in current evangelicalism. He adopts five different personas to attack The Shack from different directions, some with his tongue firmly placed in his cheek. It's fun to read out loud. For example, Sanders' Haiku artist puts it this way:

Eugene Peterson
Said it was good as Bunyan.
He must have meant Paul.

We’ve all got a shack:
That dark place deep inside us
Where we keep our crap.

“I’m thinking that bird
Probably understands that
Better than I do” (p. 98)

That Jewish guy said
Papa baked me some cookies
‘Cuz she is so sweet.

Whose problem is it
That I feel weird with this God
Like Aunt Jemima?

Wacky Trinity
Is not what you expected
And that’s the whole point.

“I’m sorry, but those
Are just words to me. They don’t
Make much sense,” Mack shrugged. (p. 98)

My copy was free
But I almost lost my mind
Inside of the Shack.

All of that to say, read and watch with discernment. And if you don't know how to do that, give this book and its movie a pass. There's a lot better stuff out there for you to ingest.


The conversation around Shack is splintered and only sometimes are we talking about the same implications. Please take this 11-question survey,, and help grow the conversation. The corresponding blog is here

The Shack an Hollywood movie which is released on March 2017. Movie story based on a man whom youngest daughter died and after some time he receives a letter and suspect it is from God. After that he return to a place named as Shack where his daughter may have been murdered and story begins.