Why/How the film is a subversive attack on Christianity and the culture of America
A “MOVIE GUIDE” for “The Shack”?
“Why?” you ask.
It’s a fair question. Let me try to give a reasonable answer.
The film “The Shack” is the movie version of the fictional novel, The Shack. This novel has sold upwards of 10? million copies over the last several years. It was on the NY Times best seller list for many months. This is quite amazing when we consider that this was written by a writer claiming to be a Christian and intended for Christians to give a Christian explanation for why people suffer. Obviously the story has resonated with a multitude of people, whether Christians or not, who have wondered about the love of God, eternity, and why Jesus came into the world.
Why has this best-selling fiction novel captured the imagination of millions of people? It has a special appeal to those who identify themselves as Christians but who are struggling with serious questions of doubt and uncertainty about their faith. They have been challenged by circumstances and pressures beyond their control. They feel that God does not care about them and perhaps has even abandoned them. Many are angry at God. In a very real sense not anyone of us would dare to say that we could never be where they are—in a shack where they must come face to face with God. The Shack provides an explanation for their pain and anger, and a way of escape—back to God.
Perhaps the most gnawing concern of Christians who are hurting and even of those who are not Christians is the question: If God is a good God why do so many people suffer? Similarly, if God is a good God why are so many people—those who are non-Christians—destined for eternal suffering? Why should people suffer everlastingly for sin and for sins committed for a short duration in time? For whatever reasons we all have thought about such theological questions.
It is well known that the novel became a focus of controversy. This controversy swirls around the author, Paul Young, and whether he has tried to sell subliminally his beliefs as a universalist in his novel. There are many who believe that the novel has betrayed Christian belief, and there are others who think not. Some believe that it is heresy; others think not.
I am one in the former category. I have known Paul Young for many years. I have firsthand knowledge of how in writing he rejected his evangelical (Christian) beliefs and embraced universal reconciliation. I have written a book, Burning Down the Shack, that explains my former relationship with Paul Young. Over several chapters I seek to show how the teaching of Paul Young contradicts the Bible and blasphemes the God of the Bible.
But whether you know about the controversy or not, or don’t care about it, or, on the other hand, are deeply concerned about it, everyone should be at least curious as to what the controversy is all about. And how the film contributes to it. As you view the film, “The Shack,” you will suddenly be thrust into the uncertain but necessary position of being a film critic. You will need to decide whether what you are viewing is in line with Biblical truth that Christians have always believed since the time of Jesus and the Apostles or is a perversion of this truth which calls itself universal reconciliation (UR).
In the following pages I will describe (1) why I am personally concerned about this matter of the novel and the film [in short, I knew the author Paul Young for several years prior to the writing of his novel when he renounced his evangelical faith], (2) what universal reconciliation means, (3) proof of Paul Young’s conversion to UR, (4) how UR came to be embedded in the novel, and (5) most importantly how UR can be discovered in the film. By carefully comparing my points with what you see on the screen, what is in the film, you the viewer can come to your own informed conclusion.
In short, I will show that the film is a deliberate attempt to sell UR in a subliminal way. As commercials are sometimes embedded in a subtle manner in film to sell a product to the unsuspecting viewer, the fictional story of “The Shack” seeks subliminally to force UR on the unsuspecting.
I believe that “The Shack” as both the novel and the film is the greatest attempt in the last two hundred years to deceive millions of Christians. I’ll defend this statement below.
So here’s the plan. This MOVIE GUIDE seeks to focus on specific scenes in which various statements are put in the mouth of the main human character, Mac, and in the mouths of the Trinity—the view of Christians that God is three persons in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Papa (the Father) is portrayed by a large, African-American woman; Jesus the Son is portrayed as a Jewish carpenter; and the Holy Spirit is portrayed by Sarayu, a small, South Asian woman.
To make the MOVIE GUIDE easy to use and helpful, I’m here presenting the most provocative statements that, in the eyes and ears of many, constitute heretical theology about God, Jesus, eternity, hell, and God’s love and justice. These are 21 statements taken from Young’s novel and most of them are restated in the film. I listed these in the introduction to my book, Burning Down the Shack. I here add a brief response to each of these statements. A fuller reply is found in the chapters of Burning Down the Shack (cited as BDS with the chapters indicated).
I’m asking that you the viewer of the film be alert to these statements or their equals. They make the movie a faithful portrayal of the novel, and equally heretical. At a screening in late January, Paul Young himself said that the film follows the book more closely than any other film based on a book.
After this section I outline what universal reconciliation (hence UR) is all about—what it believes and why it is heresy. Then I give a list of the statements found in a paper that Paul Young wrote in 2004 in which he confessed that he was rejecting his traditional Christian beliefs and had become a convert to UR.
Finally, I give the reasons why all of this is important—why this MOVIE GUIDE was necessary. I include a section that shows the significant place that The Shack now takes in history—the history of universalism in America. I also give brief consideration of how the Reformation (now in its 500th anniversary) affected universalism.
By the end of my discussion in this MOVIE GUIDE I will demonstrate why Paul Young with his universalism is (1) an anarchist like others who would destroy institutions, (2) a terrorist assaulting culture on a scale parallel to ISIS and the LGBT community, (3) and demonic—as doing the work of the Devil and against the Holy Spirit.
Thus my goal is the following. I wish to convince those Christians (and others who may or may not care) who are insensitive or reluctant to find heresy in the novel that it really is there, and that the movie version is an equally subtle portrayal using visual imagery and fiction to propagate heresy.
You see, The Shack represents a literary genre recognized as theological fiction. Paul Young has explicitly said that his novel is highly theological—teaching us something about God and sin and judgment and relationships—and metaphorical about his own journey to know God in his “shack.”
You may not care about this controversy. But Young does, and with his sword he has “drawn a line in the sand” challenging every Christian and the future of our culture. And every Christian committed to the truth and to loving obedience to Jesus Christ as Lord of one’s life ought to care. The Christian should be jealous to bring glory to God as revealed in Jesus Christ and to affirm his word as the truth and to love his church.