by Cathee Poulsen

Tomorrow the feature film The Shack will be released. And already the backlash is there. On the one hand, the comments cover warnings that it’s “the greatest deception foisted on the church in the last 200 years” to “I would… be subjecting myself to a false, blasphemous portrayal of God. I cannot allow myself to watch it even for that purpose. I cannot and will not watch or review it.” On the other, we read, CBN’s op-ed “The Shack‘s depiction of God is an interesting portrait that isn’t meant to be taken literally as much as it is meant to capture many of the attributes of God that we read about in the Bible.”

Is It Heresy?

To be sure, The Shack is an anomaly. A book that was rejected by various Christian publishers for obvious reasons, it has sold more than 25 million copies and has been printed in 40 languages. It has been on the top of several bestseller lists for years. It must resonate with somebody!

Of course, Eugene Peterson’s quote may not impress you if you’re one of those who believe The Message translation of the Bible is heresy. Belinda Elliott had this to say about her search for heresy in The Shack.

[box] As a work of heresy, however, I was sorely disappointed. I just couldn’t find much in the book that I would consider heretical.[/box]

Discern for Yourself

Whether our recent presidential election or topics such as this one, many of us allow others to decide for us what we should believe and do. Most of us are too busy or lazy to research things for ourselves so we let others dictate what to believe. That, my friends, is far more dangerous that The Shack will ever be.

Here’s some facts that may help you decide whether to read the book, see the movie, or at least made an educated statement to others.

  1. The Shack is not a story targeting the mainstream Christian audience. It’s written to reach those who are spiritually hungry or curious, but disenfranchised with church programs and the current Christian culture.
  2. It is not meant to be a theological treatise on the Trinity. It’s a novel. A story. A way one man saw Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in his journey to process a horrendous grief.
  3. God appears in many forms in Scripture – a burning bush, a dove, a cloud of smoke, a pillar of fire, a still voice, a man in a wrestling match. (Spoiler!) Why would we be offended if He chose to appear as an African-American woman.
  4. God is a spirit and is neither male or female. He created us in His image (male and female) so part of God’s image is female. The tender, nurturing part of God’s personality is the Mother side of God. We tend to only see the Father side of God, but the Scriptures portray Him with two sides.
  5. The author, collaborators, and publisher are all committed Christians who worked hard to keep the ideas presented in the book true to Scripture. However, it is a story of fiction and not meant to be taken literally.
  6. Paul Young’s story and the way he presents God has opened untold numbers of conversations over dinner, in coffee shops, between Christians and non-Christians about who God is. Isn’t that a good thing?
  7. And last of all, the main takeaway from The Shack is how personal and intimate the love of God is for us. It deals with the hard question of suffering, showing a God who is always present and loves us through the worst of times.

Every person’s reconciliation to God is intensely personal and unique. God knows exactly how to reveal Himself in a way that connects with our soul because He designed us. Don’t we do the marvelous beauty of the Gospel, the Good News, a grave disservice to imply that every person’s journey has to fit within some preconceived boundaries of our own making?

Whether or not you decide to go see the film is between you and God. My aim is not to influence your decision, but to present some facts to help you decide for yourself, rather than let someone else tell you what you need to do.

May God’s love, as presented in this movie, impact a broken, hurting, and desperate world that cries out to know there’s Someone who truly cares.


  1. Good Grief! Sure it is an allegory, but what it represents
    is not only heresy but blasphemy. My comments as a Professor of Bible and Theology for
    20 years.

  2. In the summer of 2012, 4 of my students died by the hand of their mother, a woman I thought highly of. She also took her own life. Three months later, my own mother passed. I was a mess, falling, failing, desperate beyond belief. Someone handed me this book, and I chose to live and have faith. I am ready to see this movie!!

    • Sharon – that’s an awful lot to live through. You are just the person this book was written for. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks Cathee. I agree with youvand decided not to see it when we saw the previews. Thank you for a great perspective blessings

  4. YES! Spot on. The Shack is an allegory . . . like Pilgrim’s Progress. It is meant for the skeptic, the non-believer, the one who is open to a new idea about the concept of God.
    God, who loved us so much that He sent His only beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us and be resurrected so that we might have new life in Him.
    Reading the book was unique for this staid Christian but, by the end, I saw the big picture.
    Those who reject the movie may be just the ones who need to see it. If we put God in a box, all tied up and wrapped nicely, what is left for God to do in and through us? We are not complete until we are totally Him . . . in eternity. I pray we can share with Holy boldness in the same grace-filled way you wrote this article. Thanks.

    • First-this was SO well stated, Gail!

      I read the book years ago and felt that, by the end, I’d come to understand its allegorical nature. Not sure whether or not I’ll see the movie but I AM sure of this: God will use anything at His disposal if it will turn our hearts toward Him…and I am SO very grateful for that truth. <3

  5. Thanks for adding some balance to the situation. Being well informed should help us all do a better job in our decision making in all areas of life’s questions.

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