Multiple times in The Scriptures we are told to test (and judge) those who would make themselves teachers of God’s word. This is critical for both leaders and those being led so that we can avoid falling victim to those things that would lead us astray from God and distort the clear teaching He has given us. Unfortunately, it seems that the modern church is moving very quickly to a “judge not” mentality with regards to doctrine and those who teach it. The latest example of this is in regards to the newly released movie “The Shack” and the book it is based on. While there may be some good and accurate elements to it I would propose that there is far more bad when it comes to the theological teaching presented in the book and put to screen in the movie. I will not mince words here…there is outright heresy being taught and many in and out of the Church are being duped by it.
Let me say first of all that I am not explicitly referring to the attempt to display the Trinity, although that is troublesome. Throughout history great theologians and scholars have made various attempts to explain this particularly difficult teaching from Scripture. Some have come close, many have failed, none have succeeded in capturing it perfectly. Every illustration breaks down at some point and fails to show the glory and majesty of this uniquely Christian doctrine. Any attempt to do so should be taken and absorbed with great caution and that made in The Shack is no different but bad illustrations do not necessarily equate to heresy.
How many of us would sit in a Sunday service and listen to our pastors preach the following without questioning (or firing) them (page numbers may not line up with all book formats):
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit were all three made incarnate and became flesh.
“When we three spoke ourselves into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations this entailed. Even though we have always been present in this created universe, we now became flesh and blood.” (pg99)
This is contrary to the picture given in John 14:16-17 where we clearly see three, distinct persons who are clearly not all flesh and blood:
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” – John 14:16-17
God the Father will show scars, as if He was crucified.
“The Father had scars on his wrists – like the crucifixion wounds of Christ” (pg95)
It was not God the Father who was crucified but Jesus the Son. They are independent persons who do not share the same body. Crucifixion wounds would not appear on God, who has no body to be crucified.
John 4:24 “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Luke 24:39 “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
God, and the Trinity, desire to be in submission to man as we are in submission to them.
“Papa is as much submitted to me as I am to him, or Sarayu to me, or Papa to her. Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same way.” (Pg 145-146)
Many times Jesus refers to Himself as being sent by God, doing the Father’s will, submitting to the Father.
Matthew 26:39 – And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
John 12:44-50 – And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”
God does not punish sin
“I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.” (Pg120)
It is made very clear, throughout Scripture, that God hates sin, is angry at sin and will punish the wicked.
Psalms 3:7 -Arise, O Lord!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
Psalms 37:38 – But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
the future of the wicked shall be cut off.
Psalms 92:7 – that though the wicked sprout like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction forever;
Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Revelation 21:8 – But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
All are saved, regardless of belief or religion
Jesus said, “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptist or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions. I have followers who were murderers and many who were self-righteous. Some are bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my beloved.” (p. 182)
This is a plain statement of universalism and in itself should be enough for discerning Christians to put aside any thought that good can come from this book/movie. Christ Himself made it clear that the only way to the Father is through faith in Him. It is clear from the remaining New Testament teaching that this is not a vague or casual faith, but a knowing repentance and belief in Jesus – by name.
Matthew 16:24 – Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Romans 10:9-13 – because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
I started out with a statement that the theological content of The Shack is outright heresy and I hope that I have shown that, at least a little. As I was writing this a review of Paul Young’s latest book, Lies We Believe About God, was published. If I had any doubt about the validity of my heresy claim they vanished as I read that review. I have linked to that article and two others that were helpful in my writing below.