I was 18 and walking across an iced over lake. I was practically petrified; stepping as light as possible. My thoughts? “These people are crazy. Why anyone would risk their life for ‘fun’ only to fall through the ice and freeze to death is beyond me. I cannot believe I’m actually doing this.” But there I was, looking like an idiot, literally tip toeing on ice. As I tread lightly then, I tread lightly today. I do so spiritually, not physically. The Shack, a faith based novel written by William P. Young, has sold millions and has been translated in over 30 languages. This book is the rave amongst evangelicals and the only thing lacking is spiritual discernment.
With there being fantastic reviews of the book by Tim Challies and Albert Mohler, there is no need to get into the story line of the book. What I do want to mention are a few of Young’s characters: The Triune God represented by three human beings. God the Father is represented as a black woman called ‘Papa.’ God the Son is represented as a middle eastern man (Jewish presumably). And finally, God the Holy Spirit is represented as an Asian woman named ‘Sarayu.’
Challies and Mohler both hit the nail on the head with raising the question if the book is in violation of the second commandment. But as I was thinking through the reviews, I noticed that this book and movie is also in violation of the first and third commandment as well. To be succinct:
- “You shall have no other gods before me.” Young is modeling the Triune God after that which is not depicted in the Bible. There are no biblical grounds to support the vast majority of his portrayals, therefore, placing his characters as a form of ‘other gods.’
- “You shall not make unto thee any graven images…” The representation of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are personified in human form. Tim Challies said, “To portray the Spirit is to vastly misrepresent the Spirit; to portray the Spirit is to blaspheme the Spirit.”
- “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain…” The Westminster Shorter Catechism #55 states, “The third commandment forbiddeth all profaning or abusing of anything whereby God maketh Himself known.” By watching human characters modeling and reciting influential words that are extra Biblical, we are participating with and for some, enjoying these characters taking the name of our Lord in vain. This book and movie are not only treading on an iced over lake, but one that is beginning to crack and crack quickly.
Media is designed to lure our thoughts and desires on what is being portrayed. The book draws us in with the story and we become heavily invested in it. We are sucked into the fictional world and are confronted with characters who proclaim themselves to be the Triune God. We attach ourselves and follow the story along believing them to be who they say they are. We have an image, a tone, a look, a demeanor that fixes in our mind as how God would act and what He would say. Is this a matter of Christian liberty or is this pure foolishness?
When treading lightly on ice, every single step and movement is calculated and intentional, marked with consistent care and attention. This is how Christians need to be concerning doctrine. Hollywood has doctrine and they are subtly teaching the world. Albert Mohler said it well, “What entertains us effectively reaches our minds. And once it reaches our minds, it reaches our hearts…Eventually our thinking will be aligned with our hearts.”
Even though The Shack is quite popular, I will not be reading nor watching it. Knowing what I know now, I will be steering clear. Christian Liberty or not, Spring is on its way and that iced over lake is thawing.
For Further Discussion:
The Shack-The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment by Albert Mohler