If you’ve read the book, you probably won’t notice any spoilers, but if you haven’t, beware, I’ll be mentioning some movie scenes below.
I’m really surprised at the number of Christians who are boycotting this movie. I guess because I’m usually on the boycott bandwagon, I’m not often on this side of the entertainment debate. I have had one or two people tell me they aren’t going because they felt in their spirit the book was wrong. Those folks I am encouraging to follow that instinct. If the Holy Spirit tells you to do something, just do it! I don’t care who tells you it’s alright to ignore those feelings because to them it’s fine, just listen to the Spirit.
But here’s my take on some of the negativity I’ve heard . . .
IT’S FICTION . . . First of all I think it needs to remain in perspective this is a work of fiction. It’s a made up story. It sounds real . . . when I read the book, I kept wondering if it was a true story. Young did a great job of narrating in such a way you felt as though it really happened. On top of that, it’s a fictional story about something a person dreamed while in a coma. Let’s face it, God speaking to people in dreams is not a new phenomena. We don’t have any problem believing God spoke to Joseph or even wrestled with Jacob in a dream, so I’m not sure why this fictional story Should not be allowed to be called Christian based entertainment. Someone even said they thought people were taking it as scripture. If that’s the case, Christians shouldn’t read anything other than the Bible because there’s a chance we’ll mistake it for scripture. It’s fiction. It’s one man painting a picture of forgiveness, healing and the Trinity with words. If someone starts thinking it’s scripture, I think that little fact will straighten them out.
God is not a Black Woman . . . no, He’s not . . . but he’s not a white man either. God is Spirit, and how He reveals Himself to His children is His business. He walked with Abraham toward Sodom and must have looked like a Middle Eastern man then. I like it that Young took God out of the box. He maintained the masculine pronouns just like God seems to like (since that what scripture uses), but the Bible gives God a lot of traits that aren’t masculine because is not human and has no gender.
Universalism. . . I can see how some might think this movie/book supports the idea that no one goes to hell. But on the other hand, there are several lines in the movie (and I believe in the book also) that dismiss this theory. At one point Papa tells Mack He wants to redeem the man who hurt Missy. If you’re going for a Universal view where everyone goes to heaven, then either there’d be no need for redemption or he’d already be redeemed. But Papa wants to redeem him.
In several places the issue of free will is given. Jesus and Papa both say they don’t want any slaves. Everyone is given a choice to follow or not follow. Wisdom says that trust is required for a relationship with the Trinity. All of these seem to contradict a Universalist view.
Mack’s dad being in heaven seemed to bother a lot of people, it bothered me a bit when I read the book. But by assuming the man could not possibly have made it to heaven is to become the same kind of judge Mack had to learn he was. The father was a leader in the church, and although the beating was inexcusable, we don’t know his relationship with the Almighty. One would think the man’s fruit would negate his ability to be saved, but while the Bible gives me permission to talk about His fruit, it strips me of my right to determine whether or not he accepted Christ’s forgiveness even in the few moments as he lay dying.
I’ve been told some people think this because Mr. Young is a Universalist. I don’t know. I don’t know the man. I’ve never even seen him interviewed. Maybe he is, but I don’t see that the book or movie solidify that view. I believe that even if he is a Universalist, Young left the door open for me to share my belief that One MUST accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In fact I thought the scene when Mack told Wisdom he would give his life for his children so they could both have an opportunity to go to heaven would make a perfect intro to explaining that God deemed us worthy of His love so He sent Christ, but we have to accept the sacrifice on our behalf to claim the gift. Even in this scene Wisdom simply illustrated the children were worthy of love; she did not give them a free pass to heaven.
Justice and Love at odds . . . I just don’t see it. Charisma News said that was a problem, but especially in the scene with wisdom, I see Wisdom being tough on Mack. Even Papa as a man told Mack he didn’t have to excuse the act of the man who hurt Missy. He also talked a bit about justice there too if I remember right, and then said He wanted to redeem the man.
The Wrath of God . . . OK I’ll give you this one. Young does minimize the wrath of God here, but in this context, with Mack believing that Missy was taken because of the Wrath of God, Papa’s statements are legit. Mack did not understand who God was. And the truth is most of the world doesn’t understand who God is. The wrath of God gets plenty of publicity, as does the picture of God who allows for cheap grace. I think the book and the movie both do a good job of showing the need for forgiveness and relationship with the Trinity. So, I can live with the wrath of God being trivialized in a work of FICTION just this once.
I think the biggest issue I have with all those who have problems with this book goes back to my very first statement. For some reason everyone seems to forget this is a work of fiction. I had more problems with THE BIBLE series on the History Channel than I do “The Shack”. “The Bible” series had a few deviations from scripture I thought, but they were relatively insignificant, so I didn’t make a big deal about them. And that series was supposed to be straight out of the Bible. If you’re going to put the Bible into a movie, you have to be accurate. But this is fiction . . . it’s a story someone told . . .
I personally found the picture of the Trinity Young painted pretty awesome. I loved that the garden of Mack’s life was a mess, but beautiful from God’s point of view. I also thought the book and movie did a tremendous job of pointing out the need for forgiveness and a full relationship with the Trinity. He did not get into the plan for salvation, but again . . . it was a work of fiction. I always assumed his point was the need for forgiveness and relationship so he left the way to salvation to us. If this movie can motivate dialogue about the Trinity and the need to trust in God, is it really a bad thing?