A couple of people have asked me to write about “The Shack.” It is a bestseller and has now been made into a movie. The author William P. Young is a Canadian and former hotel night clerk. His book is about a man whose daughter is kidnapped and brutally murdered, and later receives a mysterious invitation, presumably from God, to meet at “the shack” to address and resolve his pain.
While the account is purely fictional one cannot ignore the real life parallels in the story line and the godlike character is very compassionate and understanding, hence its popular appeal. But as far as I know Young makes no claims to any theological insights and the god character is a figment of his human imagination.
Ergo, critics have levied attacks on its theological inaccuracies, while supporters praise its humanitarian approach to a horrific tragedy, and the truth that no life is lived without physical and emotional pain and we all have the need to cope with it.
People read and watch movies for all sorts of reasons, but fundamentally we read and watch whatever entertains us. This is why filmmakers produce movies based on bestsellers and not worse-sellers, they think a movie is more marketable when based on a book that has a proven track-record like “The Shack.”
Knowing the secular entertainment industry is motivated to make a profit, and not necessarily bound to biblical truth, anyone would be foolish to seek theological answers in a movie theater. People are entertained, in part, because books and movies give them a respite from the realities of life. For a few brief moments they can escape into a fictional realm that is pleasant and imaginary.
This is why I encourage people to read the Scriptures, because theological truth is not found in a bookstore or movie theater, it is found in the Book of books, the Bible. It is not only dangerous to confuse what is imaginary with what is real; it is deadly.
People are not confused about the truth or truly deceived unless they want to be. They deceive themselves when they prefer a pleasant falsehood to real truth.
God told the prophet Jeremiah, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart,” Jeremiah 29:13. We will find the Father when we seek Him and His truth.
I have not read “The Shack,” but I have read some summaries and reviews of the book, and while I have not seen the movie I have watched the theatrical trailer. I do not know if I will watch the movie or not, because I already know there is no such thing as a pain-free life. The Bible teaches us we live in a broken world, and tragedies are real. But real tragedies can only be healed by a real God, not an imaginary one. Only a real God offers help for the present and hope for the future.