If you go to the movie looking for something that is not exactly God, you can probably find it. On the other hand, if you go to the movie looking for God, you will probably find him. I am a huge fan of The Shack, both the book and the movie. The book and the movie are works of fiction. A work of fiction is supposed to be creative and imaginative with the truth. But a work of good fiction has elements of truth, and The Shack is packed with those truthful elements.
When The Shack was first published it created an uproar similar to some of the current movie reviews, ten years later. I had the privilege of listening to the author, Paul Young, speak about his book on two separate occasions. I did several book reviews in churches and book clubs to discuss the book, and the people were often divided in their opinions. I am a huge fan of The Shack because I am a fan of great literature. I am now a huge fan of the movie too.
Some have disagreed with The Shack‘s depiction of God as a black woman. Personally, I thought the idea was genius. The criticism from some evangelicals is that the book misrepresents God, but I think the exact opposite. The truth about God is that it is impossible to depict him with human descriptions.
The Bible says God is love (1 John 4:8). What does love look like? What gender is love limited to? What does love look like, sound like, feel like? If you had to draw a picture of love, what would that picture look like? Paul Young chose to depict God in a way that would most look like love, compassion, wisdom, and comfort to the character in his book. Again, I thought his representations of God, of Jesus, and of the Holy Spirit were truly genius.
The Shack deals with the most difficult question in theology. How can an all-powerful, all-loving God allow an innocent child to suffer? How can God ask a person to believe and have faith, when they have lived through impossible pain and grief? I think that is the question Christians should take to the movie. After seeing the movie, I still can’t tell you exactly how The Shack answered those questions. I just know that it did in many beautiful ways.
The answers in the movie were biblical in nature. Forgiveness, judging, trusting, and loving are all subjects the movie addressed. The truth and mystery of heaven was also represented. Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” That verse is often used in funerals and hospital rooms to offer comfort to those who are grieving. Christians have the hope of heaven. But what does that verse also say about our time on earth?
Heaven is nothing like earth. In heaven, there will be no mourning, crying, or pain. But for those of us on earth, that verse teaches we will live with each of those things. The former things have not yet passed away. Heaven is our future hope, not our present reality. I think The Shack speaks that truth, creatively and with clarity—then offers hope and help for those times.
The Shack is about the realities of this world and the hope of the next. Paul Young didn’t intend to tell people how to get to heaven. He wanted people to go to God’s word for that message. He wanted people to realize heaven is real, unimaginable, yet attainable. Paul Young didn’t want to describe God in a way people would expect because God will always be more than we can understand or comprehend. His goal was not to tell people how to get to heaven, just inspire them to want to go there. Paul Young did his job; we need to do ours.
Why should Christians see this movie? Because talking about the movie gives us a chance to talk about God. The movie won’t tell people how to get to heaven. God didn’t assign that job to movies; He assigned that job to his disciples. Fiction isn’t supposed to be God’s word, and I admire Paul Young for writing a story that everyone would perceive as different from Scripture.
People need the hope of heaven. Support the movie because it gives people a chance to consider their eternity. Then, share the gospel with people so they will know how to make heaven their future home, while living in a world that will never be heaven.
One of my favorite lines in the movie is spoken by “Papa,” the name given for God. Mack had been given the choice of going to heaven or returning to his family on earth. He wondered if there was any reason to go back, go to work, and go about daily life in a fallen world. He wondered if his life really mattered. “Papa” looked at him and said, “If anything matters, everything matters.”
Our lives matter to God and to others. If that is the only lesson a person learns from watching The Shack, they have learned something that matters. Go to the movie, don’t look for the flaws or the fiction, look for God – and you will see him. The movie ends with a song written by Tim McGraw, who had a small but important role in The Shack. The song is based on words that the character of Jesus speaks in the movie. Take a minute and look for Jesus as you listen to one of the many great messages from The Shack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywyxbF6_4ZQ
Join us at www.christianparenting.org and chime in on this week’s discussion question: Will you take your children to see ‘Beauty and the Beast’?