What are the Real Issues with the Shack?

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).

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