Oscar Winner Octavia Spencer to Play God in Film Version of Controversial Bestseller 'The Shack'

Presenter Octavia Spencer arrives at the 87th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 22, the 87th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 22, 2015.
Presenter Octavia Spencer arrives at the 87th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 22, the 87th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 22, 2015. | (Photo: Reuters/Lucas Jackson)

Octavia Spencer, winner of an Oscar for best supporting actress in the popular 2011 film "The Help," will be playing the role of God in the film adaptation of the New York Times bestseller The Shack.

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One of the most controversial books amongst the Christian community to come out in recent years, The Shack underwent intense scrutiny and criticism from Christians for its depiction of the Holy Trinity in ways that veer away from the Bible and the basis of Christian beliefs. Despite the book being described as a "Christian novel," Bible experts question the fictional relationships inside of the Holy Trinity and the Trinity's relationship with man as described in the novel.

The 2007 book by William P. Young tells the fictional story of Mackenzie "Mack" Allen Philips, whose daughter Missy is abducted and brutally murdered during a family vacation. Four years after the murder, Mack is confronted by God through a note, and told to return to the scene of the crime, i.e. the shack where Missy was killed.

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In the book, an African American woman who calls herself "Papa" embodies God. Jesus is a Jewish carpenter and the Holy Spirit is an Asian woman named Sarayu. The book tells the story of Mack's encounters with each, and his journey to healing over the death of his child, while building relationship with the Holy Trinity through their human forms.

The book was rather unknown for the first year or so after publication, but it got a spike in sales as it gained word-of-mouth exposure across Christian media platforms, which used it as a foil to discuss what is right and wrong with its description of man's concept of the Trinity.

In 2010, R. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentuck, penned a column in which he dissected the book and its faults.

"The theology of The Shack is not incidental to the story," said Mohler in his 2010 piece. "Indeed, at most points the narrative seems mainly to serve as a structure for the dialogues. And the dialogues reveal a theology that is unconventional at best, and undoubtedly heretical in certain respects."

Many in the Christian church, like Mohler, were quick to speak out against the book through written reviews and columns, videos and interviews. But it was largely the public backlash from outspoken Christians that sparked the rise in interest in the book back in 2008. The popularity has ballooned to the point where a film adaptation of the movie is scheduled to begin this spring, and several other big names such as Forest Whitaker, Idris Elba and Oprah Winfrey have been linked to the movie.

According to a USA Today article published in 2008, co-publisher of the book Brad Cummings said that the book was aimed at the "spiritually interested." In the same USA Today article, Young said his original goal only was to get the book copied and bound by Christmas so that he could give it to his children. Young, who had experienced a rather tumultuous life up until he wrote the book in 2005, described The Shack as "the ugly place inside where everything awful was hidden away."

Filming for the motion picture adaptation of the controversial book is scheduled to begin this spring.

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