Why Christians Hate “The Shack”

A snow covered old barn at night with the words
The Shack. Source: deadline.com

Written by Erin Lobner. Media by Bre Pollitt.

Recently, the faith-based film, “The Shack”, based on William Paul Young’s book, hit theaters. Many Christian people are at odds over it.

The story is told from the perspective of Mack Phillips (Sam Worthington). While on vacation with his wife and three children, his youngest daughter goes missing. The family and police search for her, but find evidence of her murder in an abandoned shack in the woods. While grief-stricken and angry, Mack receives a mysterious letter inviting him back to the shack. He returns to the shack and meets the members of the Trinity incarnate: God as an African-American woman named Papa, Jesus as a Middle-Eastern man, and the Holy Spirit as an Asian woman named Sarayu. They work together to rebuild Mack’s faith, forcing him to confront tough questions along the way.

Many Christian reviews have been overwhelmingly negative in regards to the book and movie.

A forerunner on this topic, Seth Challies (blogger, author, and book reviewer), wrote an article entitled, “Why I Won’t Be Seeing (Or Reviewing) The Shack Movie”. Challies laid out reasons why watching “The Shack” is an unwise and potential sinful decision. His concern is having human actors represent the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He believes this violates the second commandment, which forbids visual representation of God, lest Christians fall into the snare of idolatry.

Another critic, R. Albert Mohler Jr (president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), wrote a blog post reviewing the book. He stated that Young’s words “reveal a theology that is unconventional at best, and undoubtedly heretical in certain respects”. Additionally, Mohler Jr. reportedly

accused Young of ‘universal reconciliation’ or the belief that the death and resurrection of Jesus reconciled all of creation to God.”

On the other hand, some Christians support “The Shack”. Robert E. Olson endorses the book and movie. He encourages others to read and watch the story. Regarding the theological debate between Calvinism and ArminianismOlson says,

A major theme of the book and movie is that evil and innocent suffering are not planned or willed by God even if God does permit them. They are the result of human misuse of free will.”

These ideas strongly conflict with Calvinism, which is a main reason for controversy over this story.

A fair question some might ask Challies, and other critics, is how this depiction of God is so different from other representations throughout history? James De Young was interviewed by another critic who wrote an entire book in opposition to “The Shack”. Specifically, the article tackles how the representations of God are compared to Michelangelo’s painting of God in the Sistine Chapel. De Young said this was a step toward idolatry but

Michelangelo drew only a picture and he wasn’t trying to depict the Trinity as three separate beings. The characters on the screen are pretending to be the Trinity – and that is what an idol is.”

“The Shack” brings many religious questions into contemporary society. This could encourage Christians to think critically about their faith. So, should you go see this movie? It depends on your personal beliefs.

Let us know in the comments your thoughts and whether or not you have seen or read “The Shack”. Is it harmless or something Christians should avoid?



  1. If anyone wants to talk to or challenge Paul Young, he’s appearing in Orlando on April 1 in a Q&A seminar with the audience. http://www.theshackseminar.com There is certainly a lot to discuss here, and I think the image of an angry old white man as God needed a much-deserved makeover.


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