The Shack Movie and the War on Grace

The Shack Movie and
the War on Grace

by Roger Fields

There’s a war going on.

It’s between us who rely solely on God’s grace and the religious police who are trying to stop us from believing in grace too much. The Shack movie is bringing the conflict to light as the religious Pharisees are now coming out of the woodwork.

But don’t let religious gatekeepers rob you out of the message of this movie. The Shack is a clarion call to embrace the God of love and reject heartless theology. I declare war on the Pharisees, the doctrinal police. For too long they have stripped love out of Christianity.

It’s time to confront their bland, religious correctness. It’s on.

Lori and I saw the “The Shack” last night. In spite of the movie reviews from the doctrinal police who shout “heresy” at anything that doesn’t square with their tightly packed theology, I applaud this movie. It brings God’s love into the real world.

After the devastating abduction and murder of his seven-year-old daughter, “Mack” meets the divine Trinity. God is depicted as “Papa,” an African-American woman. Jesus, a Jewish carpenter. And the Holy Spirit as “Sarayu,” an Asian woman.


The events and talks at the shack help Mack recover from his spiritual/emotional wreckage.

Mack enters the shack consumed with anger and slowly begins to experience the Trinity in a way that melts his rage and draws him into relationship with God. He takes apart everything he thought he knew about God then rebuilds his understanding in a way that allows him to recover his life.

For the fussy pants theologians who whine that God is depicted as a woman they might want to consider that Jesus illustrated God’s love for the lost by telling the story of a WOMAN who lost a coin and relentlessly searched until she found it. Was that heresy?

For the doctrinally anal who moan that God’s wrath is not depicted in the movie, they might want to take their scissors to the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. There is no hint of the Father’s wrath. In Jesus’ story the Father welcomes home his wayward son with no suggestion that the boy avoided punishment. Even the stuffy, older son didn’t get cast into hell. He just opted not to attend the party. Was that heresy?

Apparently, the doctrinal police would have been happy if Papa had simply thrown a few people into hell somewhere in the middle of the movie.

Modern day Pharisees seem more hell-bent on promoting hell than the good news of God’s love through Jesus. Their criticism reveals more about them than about the movie.

The Shack will help you relate to God’s love more than any other movie…ever.

I celebrate that.


By |2018-01-16T16:33:27+00:00March 9th, 2017|Games|25 Comments


  1. Kacy Thomas March 9, 2017 at 12:22 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this article. I absolutely loved the book and the movie, as well. It was a moving, beautiful experience that showed the power of love. God is love, so why is this forgotten? Love is a much greater force than fear, and that’s the part of God’s character this world needs.

  2. Peg March 9, 2017 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    thanks Roger, I celebrate that awesome love with you!!

  3. David L. Barnes March 9, 2017 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    Roger, I cannot speak to the movie because I haven’t seen it yet, but the book upon which it is based, does raise some serious theological, biblical concerns as outlined by Albert Mohler, a man for whom I have great respect:
    At best the book and movie are a mixed bag as outlined in the following reviews:

    The author of “The Shack” has written a book that explains his beliefs about Christianity and the Bible, and I quote Tim Challies, “In Lies We Believe About God, we see Paul Young apart from the subjectivity of narrative. And as he proclaims what he denies and affirms, he outs himself as beyond the bounds of Christian orthodoxy. This book is a credo for false teaching, for full-out heresy. I do not say this lightly, I do not say it gleefully, but I do say it confidently. Christian booksellers should be utterly ashamed to sell this book or any other by its author. Christians should not subject themselves to his teaching or promote his works, for he despises sound doctrine that leads to salvation and advocates false doctrine that will only ever lead away from God.”

    In view of the many warnings in scripture about coming end-time heresies of false teachers and false prophets, from Jesus (Matthew 7:13-29; Matthew 24, Mark 13), Paul (Acts 20, 1Thessalonians 4-5; 1Timothy 3; 2Timothy 3), Peter (2Peter 2-3), John (1John 2, 4; Revelation 2,3) and Jude, it would seem wise for us to be vigilant and careful as we are warned in 1Peter 5:8 and 2Corinthians 11:3-5;13-15..

    I can never fully understand and appreciate the amazing grace of God until I understand that I am a hell-deserving sinner and that Jesus took the wrath of God for me on the cross.

    Luke 7:41 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. 42 But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”

    43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”

    “That’s right,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.

    47 “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” 48 Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”

    • Roger Fields March 9, 2017 at 3:03 pm - Reply

      I’ve read Mohler’s review. I don’t share your respect. The Shack is not an outline for salvation but a sound perspective on God’s love. Very simple.

  4. Roger Knowlton March 9, 2017 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    Pharisees were known by Jesus for their lack of love and adherence to extra-biblical standards. They were self-righteous, looking down on others who did not hold their standards.

    I wonder if you yourself have just played the Pharisee in looking down on those who take issue with the depiction of God the Father in human form. There is biblical warrant for such concern.

    In other words, I sense a self-righteousness from you against others who, in your mind, are not as on target in their doctrine as you are (allowing God to be loving, etc.)

    I know you’re not a theological liberal, but liberals make this mistake all the time. They are the Pharisees who look down on others who are not as “open” and “non-judgmental” as they are.

    It’s pretty easy to be self-righteous in our supposed lack of self-righteousness. Take it from a guy who has struggled with it like everyone else.

    So my challenge is…reconsider your tone. The love is missing from the one who is saying that others are missing love.

    • Roger Fields March 9, 2017 at 3:06 pm - Reply

      Have you read what Jesus said to the pharisees? Or what Paul said to the Judaizers? My tone is mild by comparison.

  5. Chelsea Ogan March 9, 2017 at 3:00 pm - Reply

    Wow, I didn’t know that I was a Pharisee that takes the love out of Christianity. I read The Shack and, because of my personal relationship with God and how I felt Him misrepresented in the book, I won’t be seeing the movie. If I felt someone is misrepresented a friend of mine, and am disappointed or angered by that, am I really trying to stop people from believing in grace too much? I haven’t been out there pounding my fist, but it sounds like you’re responding to a personal attack. How much grace is there towards me in the position you’re taking?

    • Roger Fields March 9, 2017 at 3:12 pm - Reply

      There have been no personal attacks. Just offering my view of the movie and the doctrinal police who set themselves up as the gatekeepers of orthodoxy.

  6. Sally March 9, 2017 at 3:35 pm - Reply

    While I respect your opinion, the tone that I pick up in your review seems quite angry. In my opinion, the book trivializes God, and humanizes Him. He is God, and we are not. As for the doctrinal police- our world and its churches have tried to make the things of God more palatable, thus, watering down the gospel. We need doctrine to have a standard by which to live. Hopefully, we have studied God’s Word to develop a doctrine that serves well and is true to the Gospel. Do we make mistakes, you bet. Do we disagree? You bet. But I thought as Christians we were to use words that build, not tear down…Yes, we need to be quick about speaking about God’s love and grace, but to do so without talking about sin and repentance, is doing no one any good. So I guess I’m the police too…

    • Sally March 9, 2017 at 3:42 pm - Reply

      Regarding my ‘Palatable ‘ remark: I don’t mean to imply that the things of God should be ‘un-palatable’…Quite the contrary. What I mean to say is that by and large, we try so hard to be ‘relevant’, entertain, put on a show with our sermons, kids programs and bible studies, that we miss the mark where our sin & Jesus’ death and sacrifice are concerned. Making church fun, having light messages, etc. is not wrong in and of itself, but if we don’t have a dialogue about sin & its consequences and balance that with what our programming looks like, we miss the mark.

    • Roger Fields March 9, 2017 at 4:10 pm - Reply

      The gospel gets watered down not when we emphasize God’s love and grace but when we mix it with human effort. The Bible calls mixing faith and works as being under a “spell.” Check out Galatians 3:15. Now about my “tone.” I love pharisees. Many of my friends are pharisees. I was a pharisee before my pharisectomy. But I hate doctrine that reduces the good news of Jesus down to a formula complete with doctrinal check points. I don’t apologize for that.

  7. Roger Knowlton March 9, 2017 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    One more thing you should consider before you and your ministry offer such an all-out endorsement of this movie and attack those who disagree – Wm. Paul Young’s new non-fiction book is out where he clearly advocates unbiblical doctrines like universalism (Lies We Believe About God):

    “God does not wait for my choice and then “save me.” God has acted decisively and universally for all humankind. Now our daily choice is to either grow and participate in that reality or continue to live in the blindness of our own independence.

    “Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation?

    “That is exactly what I am saying!

    “Here’s the truth: every person who has ever been conceived was included in the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. When Jesus was lifted up, God “dragged” all human beings to Himself (John 12: 32). Jesus is the Savior of all humankind, especially believers (1 Timothy 4: 10). Further, every single human being is in Christ (John 1: 3), and Christ is in them, and Christ is in the Father (John 14: 20). When Christ—the Creator in whom the cosmos was created—died, we all died. When Christ rose, we rose (2 Corinthians 5).”

    I’m hoping this is concerning to you and that you would acknowledge that some people, reading your review, might purchase his new non-fiction work as a companion to the movie (as the publisher likely desires – the timing sure suggests it!)

    As children’s director in our church, my wife has been interested in your ministry. You should know that everyone who considers the dangerous theology of the Shack is not your enemy or the doctrine police. I’m pretty fired up about the gospel too, but I think you reconsider your attack.

    • Roger Fields March 9, 2017 at 6:16 pm - Reply

      I am NOT condoning everything Paul Young ever wrote or believes. I am only commenting on this movie.

  8. Roger Fields March 9, 2017 at 6:11 pm - Reply

    Do not mistake passion for God’s grace as anger. If you were looking for dispassionate opinion I suppose this is not the place. I am sorry if I conveyed anything other than an enthusiasm for promoting the incredible grace of the Gospel of Jesus and love of God.

  9. Bruce March 9, 2017 at 10:01 pm - Reply

    I think the book and the movie speak best to broken and disheartened non- followers of Christ. If you know Jesus you need nothing more than what you all ready have. Those who don’t know Jesus need more help and this book and movie may just help. Truth is churchianity has warped many a view of Jesus,The Holy Spirit, and God the Father more that this movie ever could. Don’t worry about others whether they see the movie or read the book. Actually go out and talk to them, not as a movie critic but as a friend, listen to their heart’s cry, and be with them. All else is just words. All else has the potential of becoming puffed up.

  10. Karl Bastian March 10, 2017 at 2:43 am - Reply

    Great article. I’ve always enjoyed your passion – and I think you write strongly to engage readers, which you certainly did here. I am reminded of those who attacked Harry Potter, but justified Narnia or LOTR as be Gospel messages. (Only Narnia was intended to be such), but all three used mythical magic. (not the magic forbidden in Scripture.) Art can be a powerful way to engage and prompt thinking. It isn’t intended to be the final or completely explained truth. The Shack gets people thinking about the unmerited and truly amazing grace of God. The theology can follow rooted in Scripture. Every metaphor or object lesson breaks down – but they aren’t intended to be full truth, just an illustration of it. I still think Bruce Almighty is one of the best evangelistic films ever made, and it wasn’t even a ‘Christian’ movie… of course it had things Christians would cringe at, but it contained a powerful truth about free will and that the source of all our problems isn’t anyone else, it’s us, and that only when we surrender to God and love others more than ourselves will we ever see the changes we seek in life. I celebrate any film that causes the audience to ponder and seek God. I agree love get out-shouted as Christians argue theology and distract from the power of the Message.

  11. Roger Fields March 10, 2017 at 8:33 am - Reply

    In retrospect I think I could have toned it down a little. I’ll work on that.

  12. Michelle March 14, 2017 at 2:08 pm - Reply

    AMEN! Don’t apologize for the passion or tone of your original post. You were right on target!

  13. Brenda March 14, 2017 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    I haven’t read the book of seen the movie YET. I do plan to see the movie soon and would very much like to take a few non Christian friends too. As I read all the reviews these words from the Bible, God’s words, kept coming to mind. It is the love of God that leads a man to repentance, seeing the goodness of God manifested. Those who come to God and serve Him only out of fear seldom seen to remain in relationship with Him. Fear driven relationships rarely last and at best are not healthy or nurturing. We need more of the love and mercy of God to be shown and extended. The thought that God almighty is willing to personally reach out to and be concerned with a grain of sand like me keeps me in awe. It stirs in me an even greater desire to seek Him and serve Him so I applaud and support any instrument that shows or shouts out about that unfailing, unconditional love. If they can preach the goslel, the GOOD news and be castawsys, if Jesus said that even tho they were not with Him, but they were still promoting God’s grace to leave them alone, then let’s let the word of God’s love for every man go out to all men! In His Love

  14. Chris March 14, 2017 at 8:48 pm - Reply

    Great review!!! I agree totally. My wife and I went to see it, expecting the worst, but seeing God’s love instead. I believe He is speaking to many through this movie. Praise Him for that! In my experience, if the liberal Hollywood newspapers hate it, then is is probably something great. That is that case here, for sure. Thanks for the truth!

  15. Brenda March 15, 2017 at 8:05 am - Reply

    I accept your apologetic response. But, I still won’t endorse this book or movie. I have read the book and my spirit grieved that many were being led to believe things that counter the Word of God. But more importantly I did not want to tell people that just because the masses of people think something is good because of the way it makes them feel, that it is always biblically correct. The things people read and movies they see are avenues for the writers to get others to believe their opinions or beliefs. The Bible is the only truth that we should believe in. I’m accountable as a pastor to show people the truth of who God is and what his word says and I don’t want to stand before God and find out that I lead people to follow something that plays on their emotions instead of giving them the truth. God is love and he does love us but he also holds us accountable. I just want to say, that I have watched many “religious” movies and have read many books through the years. Many of them I have not completely agreed with, but most of the things that I felt were incorrect were opinions on how the story went, or opinions on what someone would or wouldn’t have said, and definitely not on who God was. So to me that’s what makes this so different. I’m glad we are having these conversation but I am sad that so many are basing their beliefs on a movie and not the word of God. But for many, reading the Bible isn’t an option. Movies are easier. I’m thankful that we can agreed to disagree and still remain friends.

  16. Susan March 16, 2017 at 3:07 pm - Reply

    Really? You apologize? Stop it! Some of us choose to believe in the God of Love and Grace. Don’t give in to the fussy pants theologians, doctrinally anal and modern day pharisees! Now I’m offended…lol.

  17. David L. Barnes March 21, 2017 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    Roger, was there something wrong with the comment I made? I didn’t think I was being too Pharisaical, was I? I never saw it posted here. Did it fail to meet your guidelines? Was it too long? Was I too critical? I appreciate all you have done for Kids Ministry over the years, and you have been a great inspiration to me. It’s okay if we believers disagree on some things. I think the others who have commented here have made clear the biblical concerns we have concerning “The Shack”. Like I said in my previous comment, the movie offers a mixed bag.

    • Roger Fields March 22, 2017 at 8:02 pm - Reply

      David, I cannot find it. I am sorry but I do not know what happened. If you repost it I will make sure it goes through. I never reject any response unless it is vulgar and I’m sure that’s not what happened in your case.

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