It’s not surprising that with the success of the book (with sales of over 10 million) ‘The Shack’ has now been turned into an incredibly successful film with takings of over $96 million on a $20 million budget!
The story, in brief, revolves around Mack, who four years previously suffered the brutal murder of his young daughter. Mack suffers from what he calls his ‘Great Sadness’. Yet, during the course of the story, a meeting with God (at the shack of the title) brings him to a point of resolution concerning his pain and anger. The story seeks to deal seriously with suffering. It shows God as compassionate and that ultimately sufferings and heartache can only really be healed through meeting and knowing him. But opinion has been divided concerning ‘The Shack’. Some Christians have embraced it as a positive tool for outreach. Others have called it a work of heresy! But what are the real issues ?
Firstly, its representation of God. Any time we portray God as we imagine him we run the risk of being in violation of the Second Commandment. The story also downplays the use of the Bible with personal experience being more important. Christ’s work on the cross is side-lined, hence the holiness of God and the issue of sin being an affront to him is sacrificed. Christianity, depending as it does on this, is pushed to one side to present a more ‘Universalist’ view. Even when ‘The Shack’ is at its best, as some Biblical concepts are well illustrated, very often a strong sense of ambiguity prevails. In the end we are left with a ‘touchy-feely’ God who is a completely user-friendly re-invention!
Those embracing it as a tool for outreach prove the Church is in retreat in this country. It has become concerned with its image, seeking to have what it sees as a more user-friendly and politically correct one, Hence ‘The Shack’ ticks all the right boxes!Yet when writing to the Galatian Church the apostle Paul refused to accept any other purported Gospel regardless of who preached it (Galatians 1:8-9). The issue of sin and the cross is central as: ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”’ (Galatians 3:13). This demonstrates the seriousness of sin. It’s such an affront to a holy God that we are literally cursed and, true to his nature, he would have to judge us as such! But this, and the willingness of Christ, by his voluntary obedience to his father, to become a curse for us makes the Gospel all the more remarkable (Philippians 2:6-8). I’ve recently been reading ‘Preaching – an Awesome Task’ by Eryl Davis. Its subtitle ‘Wrath, Final Judgement, Hell and the Glorious Gospel’, struck me as really appropriate as the Gospel’s is the remedy to the first three. And that’s what makes it glorious! Its message of Christ’s sacrifice for our wrong doing is the only way that we can ever possibly be reconciled to God who, because of his holy nature, could never coexist with our sin! No wonder Paul would accept no other Gospel!
In the end we all need the authentic Gospel and ‘The Shack’ with it’s strong sense of ambiguity falls short! At best to use it as such could be interpreted as sincere but misguided. Let’s be bold enough to believe in the power of the true Gospel with the centrality of the cross as the remedy for sin. And let’s repent of the times we’ve been tempted of depart from it in our witness!
The subject of Gospel integrity is dealt with in the sermon Accept no Imitations! (Galatians 1).