What to Make of The Shack

The internet is full of comments on the new movie, “The Shack.” This is the film adaptation of the popular novel by the same title from 2007. I’d like to add a couple of comments, then some links to some helpful information about the Christian’s thoughts toward this book and film. 

First of all, I think it is a very bad idea to portray deity the way The Shack does (and for that matter, “Oh God!” “Bruce Almighty,” etc.). The Triune God of Scripture has revealed Himself in the manner we are to understand Him. Scripture is not an accident, nor cavalier in this, but very precise. The words of Scripture are clear and placed as they are for a good reason.

Second, no I have not read the book nor seen the movie, and that doesn’t matter. There are many books, films, plays, recordings that I have not personally taken in, and it is because there is an army of trusted reviewers and scholars who do that. I comment on what I have seen or read for the benefit of others, and others for me. If you are ever confronted by someone who tells you, “You can’t criticise a book or film unless you’ve seen it yourself,” just use your thinking abilities to show the absurdity of this view. Think of things we criticise yet without experiencing (reading, viewing, participating in); do we have to personally partake to know something is in error?

Third, those who think the movie is just wonderful will tell you that it is only a novel, a fiction, and not theology. But in our feelings-led and anti-thinking culture fiction almost automatically becomes doctrine. One only has to remember the horrible, “Left Behind” series of books and films to recall that what was supposedly fiction soon became settled doctrine. The reason for this is because fiction is first based upon doctrine (teaching), whether or not it is so admitted. No fictional idea arises in a theological vacuum. Likewise, the Shack offers its comfort in a non-Biblical doctrine of God; a Christian should be asking, “Why do I prefer The Shack’s portrayal of God to the one in Scripture?

Please take a look at the following links, by men who are much more articulate on the subject than I. Please think this through before the images of the “The Shack” enter your imagination.

Albert Mohler

Tim Challies and Tim Challies

David Mathis

Mary Kassian

Luke the Historian

“Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense; he fixes his mind on the idea and plan that rules in the evolution of history; and proportions the scale of his treatment to the importance of each incident. He seizes the important and critical events and shows their true nature at greater length, while he touches lightly or omits entirely much that was valueless for his purpose. In short, this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”

W. M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (London; New York; Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton, 1915), 222.

.Ramsay 1

“I set out to look for truth on the borderland where Greece and Asia meet, and found it here. You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian’s, and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment, provided always that the critic knows the subject and does not go beyond the limits of science and of justice.”

W. M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (London; New York; Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton, 1915), 89.

Ramsay 2

“You have heard . . . but Scripture Says”

grounded

“Evangelicals who would catechize today need to properly identify the appropriate “vis-à-vis” for their own catechetical ministries. In other words, when we say, in effect, “You have heard that it was said … but the Scriptures say to you” we need to be clear about the influences that have been speaking into the lives of our congregants. Catechesis must always be attentive to the counter-catechesis at work in our lives. Earlier we dealt with the causes and consequences of the uncatechized church. In reality, however, all our members actually have been catechized—thoroughly so—in competing worldviews.

. . .

As we suggested in the previous chapter, catechesis typically has a built-in contrast: “You have heard that it was said … but I say to you.” That is, in order to more clearly illustrate the truth of the Gospel we need to highlight p 192 the counterclaims of the competing cultures. In every age and culture there are false -isms—beliefs and worldviews that fly in the face of God’s revelation in Christ. Examples in our own age might include such -isms as materialism, godless humanism, religious pluralism, and so on. In faithful and fruitful ministries of preaching, teaching, counseling, and liturgy as well as through the hymns and songs we sing, we must identify and challenge these with the potent, liberating, universal, and unchanged truth of God’s Word.”

J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett, Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2010), 162, 191–192.

What Makes a Theist?

Bahnsen on Miracles

Quote from Greg Bahnsen in his closing remarks in a debate with Dr. Gordon Stein (Stein representing the atheist position).

Audio and printed transcript available here.

The full context of the quote below:

Moderator: Dr. Stein, the final question is directed to you. It reads:
You have said that there has been no adequate evidence put forth for God’s existence. What for you personally would constitute adequate evidence for God’s existence?
Stein: Well, it’s very simple. I can give you two examples. If that podium suddenly rose into the air five feet, stayed there for a minute and then dropped right down again, I would say that is evidence of a supernatural because it would violate everything we knew about the laws of physics and chemistry.

Assuming that there wasn’t an engine under there or a wire attached to it, we can make those obvious exclusions. That would be evidence for a supernatural violation of the laws. We could call it a miracle right before your eyes. That would be evidence I would accept.

Any kind of a supernatural being putting it into appearance and doing miracles that could not be stage magic would also be evidence that I would accept. Those are the two simplest way. I would also accept evidence that logically non-contradictory, and I have not heard any yet here tonight that hasn’t been offered already.

Bahnsen: Dr. Stein, I think, is really not reflecting on the true nature of atheism and human nature when he says, “All it would take is a miracle in my very presence to believe in God.” History is replete with first of all things which would be apparently miracles to people.

Now, from an atheistic or naturalistic standpoint, I will grant, in terms of the hypothesis, that that’s because they were ignorant of all the calls of factors and so it appeared to be miracles. But you see that didn’t make everybody into a theist. In fact, the Scriptures tells us that there were instances of people who witnessed miracles, who all the more hardened their heart, and eventually crucified the Lord of glory. They saw his miracles, that didn’t change their mind.

People are not made theists by miracles. People must change their world views; their hearts must be changed. They need to be converted. That what it takes, and that’s what it would take for Dr. Stein to finally believe it. If this podium rose up five feet off the ground and stayed there, Dr. Stein would eventually have in the future some naturalistic explanation because they believe things on faith, by which I mean that they believe things as which they have not proven by their senses.