I Was a Skeptic of 'The Shack,' Then I Spoke With the Author

Octavia Spencer (L) plays God in the film 'The Shack,' in theaters March 3, 2017.
Octavia Spencer (L) plays God in the film "The Shack," in theaters March 3, 2017. | (Photo:

I have just seen the movie The Shack for the second time and have read the book three times. Can you tell I'm a fan? Initially, I was quite a skeptic.

People had warned me not to read the book. And when I heard that God, who is called Papa, was portrayed as a large black woman, I really wasn't inspired to read it. You should know that I have known the Lord for 40 years; I am very protective of doctrine and orthodoxy.

Through a series of events, I had become friends with the author's wife, Kim. She gave me Paul's cell number and told me to call and chat with him about any of my questions and thoughts regarding the book. What an incredible opportunity to be able to talk with the author of a story being discussed by people across the globe!

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So I started reading this best-selling novel called The Shack. As believers, we are to guard our hearts and minds and actually to have them transformed by the Word of God. As I read the book and now having watched the amazing movie, I was absolutely blown away by Paul Young's genius way of illustrating the love of God through his craft.

Never in my life has my imagination been so captured by the imagery of the Triune God interacting with us as human beings. I have a whole new revelation of the working together of the Trinity. Paul's writing makes me visualize God in ways that have so expanded my capacity to understand how much He loves us.

In my conversations with Paul, I have learned that many of the criticisms aimed at him have turned out to be about some of the things that I have loved the most about the book. People thought it was blasphemous to portray Jesus as a man sitting on a dock talking with Mack, the main character in the book.

When Mack says he feels so lost, Jesus reaches out and squeezes his hand, saying, "I know, Mack. But it's not true. I am with you and I'm not lost. I'm sorry it feels that way, but hear me clearly: you are not lost."

There isn't a person who has ever lived who hasn't felt lost at some point, and it was such an beautiful way to visualize one of the greatest mysteries of who Jesus is: Emmanuel — God with us. Paul is one of the most open and authentic people I've ever conversed with.

I cannot imagine anyone reading the book or seeing the movie who would not be drawn towards the goodness of God. My belief is that Paul Young was inspired in his brilliant imagination by the Holy Spirit to write this story.

It's interesting that many people whom I know personally, vocally condemning the book and movie, have experienced neither. I do not look to the book or the movie to be doctrine or the Bible. What I do find is a story God is using — to teach people to walk in forgiveness, illustrated in such a way as to set people free.

This world is so desperate for a good story. I believe that God wants His people to be involved in every aspect of society, including the film industry. How can Christians disciple nations, as the Great Commission commands us to do, if His image bearers are not involved in arenas so critical to shaping the hearts and minds of people?

Could it be that Paul Young was inspired to create this fictional story to touch hearts around the world and lead people to an understanding of the goodness of God? This, after all, is what draws us to repentance as Romans 2:4 proclaims.

Maybe, just maybe, this story has the power to visualize the love of God to a lost and dying world.

The Shack opened in theaters worldwide on March 3, 2017.

Rene Couture serves as co-host of The Annica Thomas Show, a weekly radio show airing on KFAQ in Tulsa, Oklahoma and available online. She also gives tours of the East Coast, teaching about the Christian history of the United States. Rene lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

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