Ten years ago The Shack was published. The story wrestles with one of the most pressing questions of Christianity. The book grabbed people’s attention and soon became one of the bestselling books of all time. One reviewer declared The Shack was the greatest book written since John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Last week the major motion picture The Shack was released. Based on the book the movie had a decent opening weekend. It more than the doubled the opening weekend revenues of the 2014 movie Left Behind. The Shack also had a better opening weekend than other recent, popular Christian movies like Courageous and God’s Not Dead. The book seems set to continue exerting its influence over Christians.
The Shack is a work of fiction. Though the book is a work of make believe it claims to be an instrument for teaching Biblical truth. Like a Biblical parable the story seeks to communicate great truths through the medium of a believable and gripping story. I have not seen the movie, but have read the book. My understanding is that the movie follows pretty close with the book in the essentials.
The Shack is filled with problems. Because it is intended to teach, Christian’s cannot disregard the substance of the message. In wrestling with the problem of evil the book and the movie teach about the nature and character of God, the relationship of evil to God and the nature of salvation. The Shack’s view of God is horribly deficient and its understanding of salvation is tragically errant.
In attempting to address the problem of terrible suffering in this world The Shack presents a god who is limited. The God of The Shack is not in control of world events. He responds to tragedies and through His love brings good out of them. Instead of tragedy being a part of the perfect plan of God tragedy is something that God is unable to avert. God has relinquished some control of the world to give men genuine freewill. In a sense both God and man are powerless to prevent evil. God’s love will eventually win but only when men have chosen to follow God.
The Old Testament book of Job is the story The Shack tries to tell. In Job the readers learns of a father who suffers great loss and life shattering tragedy. He insists he did nothing to deserve such pain. He blames God and demands a chance to prove God’s injustice. When God speaks to Job at the end of the book He does not pass on cutesy witticisms and cryptic truths. God confronts Job with His power and control. God doesn’t shrug His shoulders and say there was nothing He could do about it because He gave man freewill. God declares His sovereignty and justice. The God of the Bible is a God in control of all things.
Genuine comfort in life’s sorrow comes from knowing God. The Shack offers a false comfort built on a modern construct of a god who looks like God but is not. The book, and the movie, have rejected the Word of God. In doing so all that is offered is sentimentalism masquerading as wisdom.