Unless you live under a rock or are in a mind control cult you have heard of a little book called The Shack, which is now a major motion picture set to release this weekend. And if you have heard of The Shack, you probably have heard an opinion about The Shack. It seems that this little book has stirred quite the debate and brought out all the heresy hunters. If you are not overly familiar with the story behind The Shack here is a brief synopsis.
The Shack is written by William Paul Young, an average person – husband, father. He was not an author or a prolific public speaker, just Paul or dad or husband. Young had gone through some significant trials in his life even to the point of contemplating suicide, but his life changed when he had an encounter with the Trinitarian God. To tell of his experience and transformation, Young penned a book that was solely designed for his children. It was an allegory of his personal journey. He had a few copies printed and bound at the local Kinkos and gave them to his kids one Christmas.
His children encouraged him that he needed to have it published, that this story needed to get out. With some reluctance Young began to “shop” his book to publishers. One by one he was rejected. No one wanted to touch this. Finally, a friend assisted and Young self published The Shack.
It was an instant success. It sold like hot cakes as my mom used to say. It sold 1 million copies in the first year becoming a USA Today best seller It then rose to the New York Times best seller list as the No. 1 trade paperback in fiction and has sold well over 10 million copies to date.
One might think with such success that all has been good and well received. But that has not been the case.
One other piece of information: The Shack is a blatantly “Christian” book. It is about God and life and one’s experience with God and life. Therefore, its primary audience has been Christians. As such, it has had its fans and its detractors. Some people love it and others have called it the greatest heresy since…well, whatever the last greatest heresy was.
After the book’s initial success it was hit with all sorts of propaganda hit pieces and Youtube exposes warning people of its heresy and ungodly message and the dangers it possessed. Their judgment: Stay away! Don’t even read it. This has continued, though somewhat more mild, since the early days (the book was published in 2007).
Ah, but now, they have made a movie and the self imposed guardians of the faith have resurfaced with a new force to warn us all of the evils of The Shack. And once again, to stay away, both from the book and now from the movie.
First of all, let me just say something about the heresy hunters and self-imposed guardians of the truth. I know they can pick and choose a couple Scriptures that “validate” their “ministry”, but let’s be honest, they are nothing more than fear mongers and peddlers of their own self righteous importance. The totality of Scripture is clear about the life and attitude of a believer and it is not one who’s whole life is spent looking for and debunking someone else’s theology. These people are insecure in their own skin and want nothing but control over the “sheep”.
Am I saying there is not a place for discernment? Of course not. There is absolutely a need for true discernment, but let’s keep things in perspective. Take a banker for example. They way a banker is “taught” to catch counterfeit money is by…wait for it…touching real money. In fact, they don’t handle or look at counterfeit bills at all. No, the way they spot a fake is to become so familiar with the real thing that a fake that crosses their fingers will automatically stand out, not because they are on the prowl for it, but because they recognize that it’s not the real thing.
These heresy hunters are just the opposite – they have built their entire “ministries” on nothing real, but only on all of the so called “fake” and false theology. Theirs is a promotion of fear instead of a trust in the real thing.
Now, as much as I would love to continue talking about the absurdity of these self-proclaimed heresy hunters, I must resist and get to the actual point here (though have no fear, I will be back here momentarily).
Without spoiling the story too much for those who may not have read the book but are going to see the movie, let me point out the crux of the story and the things which have so many people’s panties in a bunch.
The story has Mack camping with his kids. During the trip something tragic happens, something that would devastate any of us. Following this tragedy, Mack enters what he calls “the great sadness”. During this time his faith falters and his very life is unraveling. Then one day he receives a note in his mailbox. It is an invitation to The Shack, the place of his great sadness, and it is signed, “Papa”.
After some discussion and arguing (mostly with himself) Mack decides to head out to the Shack. It is here that Mack finds God – really finds God. In fact, he finds the full Triune God and spends time with them during his healing, which isn’t always easy or comfortable. He meets Papa, who is an African American woman (cue the self righteous heresy hunters), Jesus, who is described as a middle eastern man (imagine the audacity of Him not being represented as a blond haired blue eyed American), and Sarayu, who represents Holy Spirit, portrayed by an Asian woman (the scandal).
Through this journey at The Shack and what Mack encounters with the Trinitarian Godhead, Mack finds his healing and a true relationship with God. It is a story of hope and redemption. Ultimately though, it is the story of Papa’s unending and relentless Love. This is the story of the Gospel.
Now, one of the main objections I’ve heard and read from the self-righteous, fear mongering, control hungry objectors is this: God is portrayed by a human. “How can God be portrayed as a human, he is much higher than human and it is idolatry to picture him as mere human. In fact, is breaks the second commandment of making an image in the form of God.” Now, please forgive me, but this is quite possibly the stupidest thing I have ever heard. I mean, seriously, as I heard someone once say, “How can you be that stupid and still breathe?” Forget that we are no longer bound by the 10 Commandments, put aside the fact that we are under a New Covenant, and refrain from the idiocy of anyone actually worshipping the actress playing Papa. This is insanity on display folks. This is people who think way too much of themselves and their corner market on theology.
I have one – yes one and only one – response to these silly and ludicrous statements.
The incarnation! The single most significant thing to ever happen to humanity. The incarnation – where God became man. And yet so much more than just that statement. Jesus, the Son of God, who is fully God, became fully man. He entered into our humanity. He didn’t become like one of us – He became one of us! And for those that haven’t paid much attention, the Scriptures NEVER state that when Christ ascended He left His humanity to return to his Godhood. Jesus Christ is forever both God and man. In fact, He has forever united the Godhead with humanity. Even more…there will always be a real person – a human – seated in the Trinity. Jesus has forever woven humanity into the Godhead.
Now I am not saying we are God or we are equal to God so settle down there. But what I am saying is that we have been interwoven into the Trinitarian Godhead, invited into their shared life and mutual Love and forever seated in Heaven in Him. The incarnation IS God in human form, not for a story, but forever in reality. All these so called watchmen need to put that in their pipe and smoke it.
There are other accusations of course, such as, it teaches universalism, that God only loves and doesn’t judge and a plethora of other, simply stupid allegations.
But, for the love of all that is good and holy, please don’t take my word for it. And please, please, please, please don’t take “their”
word for it. Don’t judge a book you’ve never read or a movie you’ve never seen. Don’t let someone else do the “work” for you. Put on your big boy pants and be a responsible human being. Make a determination on your own based on your own personal observation.
Oh, and before you decide to do that, maybe read a little bit of St. Paul and spend some time in true prayer and get to know the Real Deal before you head out looking for heresy. Because we all know what you will find if you go looking for heresy – heresy of course. But instead of concentrating on the false or the perceived and talked about false, get to know the Real and see what happens. See if Love isn’t what actually resounds in your heart. See if this never ending, unrelenting, other giving Love is not what the Godhead is all about; Is not what the Gospel is actually all about.
It is the goodness and kindness of God that leads us to Himself – not having our theology perfect or making sure we have called out all of the heresy in the world to somehow protect people. God is good – in fact He is better than you have ever imagined. He is not dangling a carrot in front of you, He is not testing your theology to make sure you don’t fall. On the contrary, He is forever, madly in Love with you and is waiting for you to meet Him at your shack and share in the divine dance of life with Father, Son and Spirit.
PS Go see The Shack and see how God may tug at your heart and reveal Himself to you as He has always been.