Is 'The Shack' Heretical or Film of Healing: Christians Debate

Octavia Spencer (2nd from right) plays God in the film 'The Shack,' in theaters March 3, 2017.
Octavia Spencer (2nd from right) plays God in the film "The Shack," in theaters March 3, 2017. | (Photo:

Christians from different sectors of public life continue debating the theology behind the recently released movie "The Shack," based on the book of the same name, with some wondering if its contents could be considered heretical.

"I felt the movie was too New Age for my tastes. If Oprah Winfrey were to make a 'Christian' movie, 'The Shack' would be it. I felt it took too many liberties with the Person of God. God commands us to not to make any graven images," said Jerry Newcombe, the senior producer and on-air host and a columnist for D. James Kennedy Ministries, in an op-ed for The Christian Post.

Newcombe takes issue with the character of God the Father (Papa), played by Octavia Spencer, portrayed as a woman, with the Holy Spirit also presented as a woman.

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He wrote that the movie's mixing of the Father, the Son and the Spirit could be considered heretical, as it was Jesus the Son of God specifically who suffered the passion, not the other Persons of the Trinity.

He wrote that it's a fair point to look at the larger message of the movie about how Christians in great pain can find healing, but at the same time wonder: "[H]ave we not lost the fear of God in our day? Some evangelicals act as if 'Jesus is my buddy. I can put Him in my back pocket and pull Him out to feel good whenever I want to.'"

Tony Reinke, author of Newton on the Christian Life: To Live Is Christ, previously wrote in a blog post titled "Our Mother Who Art In Heaven?" that it must be remembered that Jesus arrived on Earth as a biological male.

"From this point onward, as the nature of God becomes more and more clear — specifically as the contours of the Trinity emerge in the New Testament, and the Father-Son dynamic becomes more fully developed — we find a sharp drop-off with the feminine metaphors for God," Reinke wrote.

Others, such as the National Catholic Register's Steven D. Greydanus, agrees that the film and book are controversial when it comes to theology matters.

Still, he said that despite people's objections to how God is portrayed in the film, one should not be placing a limit on how God might chose to present Himself.

"The Shack doesn't say God is actually like this; it says that this is how God chose to manifest Himself to one particular person: one Mackenzie 'Mack' Philips, played in the film by Sam Worthington ("Hacksaw Ridge," "Avatar"). Well, who can say God wouldn't choose to appear this way to someone? No imaginative interpretation of God is more than a half-truth, if that," Greydanus wrote.

Carmen Fowler LaBerge, host of "The Reconnect" radio program, further told The Christian Post that the average American might not understand "how thin we're trying to slice the theological pie here."

LaBerge urged Christians to engage in conversation with the questions the movie brings about, while being wary of its issues concerning the Trinity.

Forbes and others meanwhile reported that "The Shack" hit a "divine" box office opening despite the controversy, pulling in $16.1 million from 2,888 theaters, which is the best performance of a Christian movie since "Heaven Is for Real" in 2014.

Follow Stoyan Zaimov on Facebook: CPSZaimov

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