The book The Shack has sold over 25 million copies worldwide and has been translated into numerous languages, so it’s not a surprise that Hollywood has decided to cash in on its popularity with a blockbuster movie. While the book is marketed as a “Christian novel” and the movie is marketed to Christians, it simply isn’t based on Biblical Christianity. In fact, it’s full of heresy. The number of Christians who are singing its praises is evidence of the lack of discernment prevalent in American Evangelicalism. What’s even more concerning is that many Christian pastors and teachers are endorsing the book and movie.
The Shack was written and self-published by William P. Young and gained popularity with very little marketing. It’s the story of Mack (Mackenzie) Phillips after the abduction and murder of his daughter while on a family vacation. While her body is never found, evidence of her murder by a notorious serial killer is discovered in an abandoned shack. Years later, in his great sadness, Mack receives a mysterious note from “Papa” that seems to be from God, inviting him to the shack. While he is there, the shack is supernaturally transformed into a beautiful scene and it is there he has encounters with manifestations of the Trinity, who communicate with him through much of the book.
While The Shack is a work of fiction, it points to ideas based in Scripture and attempts to answer questions about God and why He allows evil. The Shack endorses ideas that are not Biblical and at points are even heretical, including its portrayal of the Trinity. It also uses actors to represent the persons of the Trinity, which is a violation of the second commandment (Exodus 20:4-6). This simply is not a book or movie that Christians should watch or endorse.
Discussions of the upcoming movie may offer opportunities for conversations with friends and family about Biblical Christianity. Several trustworthy Christian sources have offered reviews and commentary on the book, along with a more detailed analysis of the theological errors and heresy within it. These resources should offer help in understanding and discussing with others why the book and the upcoming movie is not something Christians should get behind.
Tim Challies has written a longer, more detailed article about The Shack. He explains in detail the Biblical issues with the book, including on the Trinity, salvation and forgiveness. This is one of the most thorough reviews of the book and discussions of its theological errors.
In this article, Tim Challies explains why he’s decided not to see the movie The Shack, even for the purpose of reviewing it. His biggest concern is “its visual representation of God.” He explains that “To watch The Shack is to watch human actors play the roles of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I take this to be a clear, serious violation of the second commandment.” He also reviews some of the same concerns from his earlier article.
James B. DeYoung, author of Burning Down “The Shack”: How the “Christian”Bestseller is Deceiving Millionsargues in this article that the “novel and the movie are becoming the greatest deception to blindside the evangelical church in the last 200 years.” He also discusses Pilgrim’s Progress, another Christian allegory which some have tried to compare to The Shack.
Albert Mohler points out several theological issues withThe Shack arguing, “The popularity of this book among evangelicals can only be explained by a lack of basic theological knowledge among us.” Along with showing several things in the book which are contrary to Scripture, he also spends some time talking about why The Shack is so popular among Evangelicals, not just the storyline, but even the theology, when it’s so obviously not Biblical. He argues that we desperately need a “theological recovery” and that this should be a “wake up call for Evangelical Christianity.”
During the first hour of this episode of Fighting for the Faith, Pastor Chris Rosebrough talks about “Cru’s (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) Nonendorsement/Endorsement of The Shack.” He also gives “an Overview of the Theological Errors and Dangers of The Shack and Wm. Paul Young.”
In this article, Amy Spreeman talks about blasphemy inThe Shack and lists the book’s heresies which Michael Youssef has identified. She also points out that, “Everyone gets into heaven in Young’s story. No sin or repentance, no need for a savior, and no need for a Gospel at all.”
Pastor Chris Rosebrough plays an interview with William Young, author of The Shack, where Young denies penal substitutionary atonement. Young also embraces other unbiblical theology, such as aspects of pelagianism.
Every Sunday in the Theology Gals Facebook group I post a weekly prayer request thread. Last week I was heartbroken as I read through them. We have many gals suffering greatly: a husband living with extreme depression, a child diagnosed with a terminal illness, the sudden death of a parent, and many other things I won’t mention. There were even things which may not seem as severe, but they are things which result in suffering or trials. I hear ladies sometimes say something like, “I know this is small compared to what many are dealing with.” I’ve often told women, “Don’t compare your suffering with other sufferings.” Suffering and trials come in different ways, different extremes, last different lengths of time. Scripture talks about suffering in general. The things in Scripture about suffering are for you, regardless of how severe your trial is.
I know how difficult it can be when you’re right in suffering’s midst. It feels like it may never end. Even though I’m not completely on the other side of this season, I’ve seen the Lord’s grace in so many ways through it, and I’m thankful. I’ve experienced peace and joy from the Lord, even when my circumstance seems hopeless. Still, it’s not something I really like to talk about in detail, nor is it easy to do so. But I decided I would share my story, the things I’ve been through and the things I’ve learned because of suffering, with the hope of encouraging others.
Marriage and Children
As long as I can remember, I wanted to be a wife and mom. The night I met my husband at a birthday party, we talked the whole evening about theology, music and the Christian faith. Brenton was further into his study of Reformed Theology than I was. He asked me to call him when I got home that evening (few had cell phones in 1994) so he’d know I’d arrived safely, and we talked for three more hours. When I finally made it to my room in the middle of the night, before I slipped into bed, I pulled out my journal and wrote this sentence: “Tonight I met the man I’m going to marry.” It’s a little corny, I know. It wasn’t because I thought God gave me some private revelation, I don’t even know why I wrote it. I just knew there was something special about this guy. It took Brenton a little while to get the courage to ask me out, but on January 12,1995 we went on our first date, and seven months later to the day, we were married.
Thirteen months after we said, “I do”, we welcomed our first son. I come from a family with lots of girls and few boys so while I hoped for some boys, I wasn’t especially optimistic that I’d have many. Little did I know the Lord would ultimately bless us with four sons. We would have had more children if we had been able, even if it was five more boys, but the complications I had with childbirth became life threatening. I can clearly see God’s sovereignty in it now. I am grateful for the children the Lord has given us.
My husband and son’s around 2007
I think I was made to be mommy to boys. I enjoyed hunting for toads as much as, if not more than, they did. I was right there every time we fed our pet mantis’, because I love watching them catch and eat their prey. I love messy science experiments. I don’t mind having pet snakes and lizards, and we have many. I love attending the Reptile Expo, and even purchased a pet lizard for myself, a crested gecko. From the time I was little, it seemed to me boys’ toys were more fun. When my oldest son received his first set of Lincoln Logs, I stayed up late into the evening building a village. I know those things aren’t necessarily just for boys, but with having all boys, we have many of these in our lives. I’m about as girly as they come. I love pink and purple, dresses and makeup. I’m sensitive. But I love being mom to my boys, and I enjoy many of the things they do.
I have loved being a wife and mom. Even on those challenging and difficult days, I was reminded of the many blessings the Lord had given me. I was a busy mom, caring for my husband, raising four children, homeschooling and being involved at our church. There were many days I barely sat down: cooking, cleaning, laundry, teaching, walks to the park, playing, etc. I enjoyed it though, even the busyness of it all. I also loved entertaining. It wasn’t uncommon for us to have several people over to our home after church for Sunday dinner. I had a routine for preparing for the Lord’s Day that worked well and I just loved the worship, rest and fellowship of the day. Life was good.
Little did I know how much everything was about to change…
I remember the first day I started having some odd pain. I was perplexed by it; it didn’t make any sense at the time. When my husband called me from work, I even mentioned it to him. I wasn’t too concerned, took some ibuprofen and went on with my day. Over the next few months I just wasn’t feeling well, I was so tired, and that pain. It didn’t come all at once, but things got worse and I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I made an appointment with our longtime family doctor, I was in tears. I told my doctor, “Something isn’t right.” That appointment revealed some lumps. Dealing with those were a distraction from finding a diagnosis to the other symptoms. That was followed by various scans and ultimately removing the concerning lumps and biopsy, which thankfully came back non-cancerous. I was still having many unexplained symptoms.
Suddenly my life was full of doctor appointments, tests, specialists, hospital stays and more tests. Things were getting worse. I was living with constant nausea and vomiting, fevers and pain, along with other symptoms. I would eventually get down to 88 pounds, something I hadn’t weighed since probably about 6th grade. I was getting so weak. I was unable to care for my family. My doctor eventually sent me to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where I spent a month. And other things were bringing heartbreak to our family at the same time. My second to last day at Mayo, they found my brother in law’s body. We’ve experienced many losses the last several years, in the midst of my own physical suffering.
While there have been diagnosis’ which include an autoimmune disease and neurological condition, treatment can be tricky. I absolutely have experienced some healing, but it’s still a daily struggle. Few people know what I have and continue to really suffer with physically, emotionally and spiritually. I still rarely enjoy eating and often have to force myself to even try. Daily I live with nausea, fevers and pain. I don’t want people to know how weak I really am. I’m not depressed, thankfully. In fact, my third son said to me one day, “You’re always so happy, Mommy, and it doesn’t make sense with what you’re going through. It has to be the Lord.” He’s absolutely right. By God’s grace, I’m content…. most of the time. The Lord has given me immense peace and joy. And my tears are more often than not because I’m amazed by God’s grace. It’s because of His love and grace that He has blessed me with so much, including a loving and faithful husband who I adore more than words could describe. The way he has cared for me and our family is beyond what I could have hoped. I have sons who constantly amaze me, and I’m thankful for the close relationships I share with each of them. My husband and son’s all contribute to keeping our home run smoothly, taking over responsibilities I can’t keep up with, and never a complaint. The Lord has blessed me with such good friends, too, lifelong friends who love and care for me, who encourage me and point me to Christ. These blessings far outweigh the suffering.
It took me awhile to get here though. I’ve had many rough moments, and still have to fight discouragement often. In the beginning of this season, I cried quite a bit. I’ve had many moments of crying out to God, asking, “Why me? What did I do to deserve this? Why can’t you just heal me?” I’ve had times where the pain was so great, I begged God to please just take me. It wasn’t because of depression, but rather, I didn’t know if I could physically handle it anymore. My husband and closest friends will tell you there was a time I really wanted to give up, that for a short moment I considered stopping the treatment that was keeping me alive. Again, it wasn’t depression. Physically, the misery can be so wearing. I’ve also been rushed to the hospital, almost died. My body wasn’t holding onto potassium, something our bodies can’t function without. I’ve had the doctor sit next to my hospital bed the next morning and say, “Do you understand you almost died? Do you understand this is life threatening?”
My suffering pales in comparison to what my husband and children have gone through. That’s the worst part. Hearing my husband crying in the middle of the night…he’s not a crier. The only time I saw him weep before that, was when his father was dying. The worst thing is that look on my children’s faces when mommy is being rushed to the hospital once again. It’s the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever seen. They don’t say it out loud, but I know they’ve all wondered if they were losing me. It didn’t help that in the midst of this, our family also suffered several losses: my brother-in-law, two of my close friends, my grandparents, my mother-in-law, my son’s close friend and more. Eight funerals in four years. And then one of the hardest things, which I’ve already written about, was when my oldest son said to me, “I can’t believe in a God who lets those who love Him suffer so much.” I’ve experienced great guilt over what my husband and children have gone through and guilt that I can’t care for them the way I want to.
I’m now grateful for the suffering, although I’m ready for it to be over yesterday. And yet I realize that I wouldn’t be learning the things I have, was I not going through this. One of my dearest friends reminded me recently, “You wouldn’t have your Theology Gals podcast had you not gone through this.” She’s right. We speak of God’s sovereignty, but I’ve had to learn to truly trust in His perfect wisdom and plan. Scripture describes many reasons for suffering and we’re told to count it all joy because the Lord uses it for our good. I don’t deny I’m not thrilled about the prospect of this continuing to be my life this side of heaven, suffering the symptoms of the autoimmune and neurological conditions which plague my body. I admit that often I put my hope in the possibility of healing instead of in the Lord, regardless of what my future looks like. I also struggle with coveting the good health of others and the things they’re able to do that I am not. I can’t remember what it feels like to feel normal, to not have pain, to not feel sick.
The reason I’ve written this is to share about the things the Lord has done in my life through suffering and the things I’ve learned, with the hope of encouraging someone else. I’m a far more grateful person than I ever was before. I’m very aware of God’s grace in ways I hadn’t considered previously. I understand more now, that I’ve been given far more than I deserve. I was guilty of trying to control things I should have been trusting the Lord with. At one point I told a friend, “I have to trust the Lord now, I have no other choice.”
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I can hold onto and trust in the truth of God’s Word even when I don’t feel like it. I’ve felt like the Psalmist in Psalm 13 when he says, “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” It’s the end of the Psalm that reminds me that I have much I can hold onto, regardless of how I feel, even when I start wondering if He’s listening at all. The Psalmist concludes chapter 13 with, “ But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.” Isn’t that amazing? Even when the Psalmist feels far from God, even wondering if the Lord had forgotten him, he holds onto the goodness and kindness of our Lord and is reminded of his salvation and rejoices in it. No matter how difficult things get, as Christians we have hope in our salvation, the death and resurrection of Christ. There are similar Psalms where despair is expressed, followed by a proclamation of God’s goodness. I’ve found comfort in the Psalms of lament.
I know some of you reading this are suffering right now, have been suffering for a while, or maybe you’re dealing with something smaller or new. You may have an illness, a difficult marriage, a sick child, infertility, you’ve suffered losses, or…the list goes on. Or maybe you’re one who is thinking, “I’ve suffered some small trials, but nothing that severe. But my small trial is still hard.” I say to all of you what I said in the beginning of this article: don’t compare your suffering with others’ suffering. Suffering and trials come in different ways, different extremes, and last different lengths of time. Your suffering is difficult for you regardless of what it is and how long it lasts, and the Lord will use it. When I did an in-depth study of suffering from Scripture, I was shocked by all the reasons for suffering that Scripture mentions. Our suffering tests and prepares us and teaches us to rely on God (2 Corinthians 4:17, 2 Corinthians 1:8-9). We suffer so we we may be comforted by God and comfort others in their suffering (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). We suffer for our good (James 1:1-2,24; Romans 5:3-5). These are only a few of the reasons.
On our Theology Gals episode on suffering, we talked about not only reasons for suffering but also the many things Scripture offers to comfort us in the midst of our suffering. The Holy Spirit comforts us and gives us peace and joy in the midst of our struggles. The Lord has also given the church to love and support us. But I know very personally that suffering can feel lonely sometimes, too. I’ve felt so lonely but yet I’m never really alone. Neither are you, never really alone. The Lord is always near.
While I’ve had plenty of weak moments, asking why and even questioning God, I’ve also found comfort in His grace and the gospel, finding my hope in Him instead of all the things I’m tempted to look for hope in. He isn’t just in control of all things, He also loves me. Even in my darkest moments, I can look to Christ and find hope. There’s much I don’t understand. I do know, however, that His ways are good, His ways are loving, His ways are perfect. Take comfort in this.
With all of the acronyms and abbreviations used in Reformed Christian circles, we’ve put together a reference list as we often get questions about what these things mean. Not everything on here is specifically Reformed, but are things which may be used in various theological discussions and writing.
2C 2nd commandment
2CV 2nd commandment violation (3CV and so on depending on the commandment violated)
2K two kingdoms
3FU Three Forms of Unity
3PC/4PC three point Calvinist/four point Calvinist
AACC American Association of Christian Counselors
AALC The American Association of Lutheran Churches
ACA Anglican Church in America
ACBC Association of Certified Biblical Counselors
ACE Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals
ACNA Anglican Church in North America
AoG/AG Assemblies of God
APA Anglican Province of America
APC Associated Presbyterian Churches
APM A Puritan´s Mind
ARBCA Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America
ARP/ARPC Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
AV Authorized Version, Bible (same as KJV)
BCF Belgic Confession of Faith
BCO Book of Church Order
BCP Book of Common Prayer
BCT Baptist Covenant Theology (1689 Federalism)
BoT Banner of Truth
BPC Bible Presbyterian Church
BPS Book of Psalms for Singing
BT Biblical Theology
CanRC The Canadian and American Reformed Churches
CARPC Covenanting Association of Reformed and Presbyterian Churches
CB Credo Baptism
CBMW The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
CCCC/4C’s Conservative Christian Congregational Conference
CELC Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference
CmL Ceremonial Law
CofC Church of Christ
CoG Covenant of Grace
CoR Covenant of Redemption
CoW Covenant of Works
CREC Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (formerly the confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches)
Credo credoBaptism (believers baptism)
CRC/CRCNA Christian Reformed Church in North America
CRPC Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church
CT Covenant Theology or Critical Text
CTS Covenant Theological Seminary
CvL civil law
DPW Directory for Public Worship
DoG Doctrines of Grace
EFCA Evangelical Free Church of America
ELCA Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
ELS Evangelical Lutheran Synod
EP Exclusive Psalmody
EPC Evangelical Presbyterian Church
EPCA Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia
ERLC The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention
ERPC Evangelical Reformed Presbyterian Church
ESS: Eternal Subordination of the Son
ESV English Standard Version, Bible
ERQ Eglise Reformee du Quebec (Reformed Church of Quebec)
FACA The Federation of Anglican Churches in the Americas
FCC Free Church of Scotland, Continuing
FCS Free Church of Scotland
FoG Form of Government
FotF/FOTF Focus on the Family
FPCNA Free Presbyterian Church of North America
FRCNA The Free Reformed Churches of North America
FV Federal Vision
GA general assembly (the highest court of presbyterian polity)
ICRC International Conference of Reformed Churches
IFB Independent Fundamental Baptist
HC head covering
IHOP International House of Prayer
IRBS Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies
KPCA The Korean Presbyterian Church in America
kirk Scot word for the church
KJV/KJB King James Version, Bible
KJO King James Only
KTS Knox Theological Seminary
LBCF/1689 LBC Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689)
LCMS Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
LD Lord’s Day
LS Lordship Salvation
MDiv Master of Divinity Degree
MERF Middle East Reformed Fellowship
ML moral law
MLJ Martyn Lloyd Jones
MOS Mortification of Spin (podcast)
MT Majority Text
NAPARC North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council
NASB New American Standard Bible
NCT New Covenant Theology
NGSB New Geneva Study Bible
NIV New International Version, Bible
NKJV New King James Version, Bible
NLT New Living Translation, Bible
NPP New Perspective on Paul
NPW normative principle of worship
NRC Netherlands Reformed Congregations
NRSV New Revised Standard Version, Bible
OCRC Orthodox Christian Reformed Church
OPC Orthodox Presbyterian Church
OPCGA Orthodox Presbyterian Church General Assembly
Paedo paedobaptism (infant baptism)
PB Puritan Board or paedobaptism
PCA Presbyterian Church in America
PCAGA Presbyterian Church in America General Assembly
PCUSA Presbyterian Church USA
PSA Penal Substitutionary Atonement
PRCT Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology
PDM Psalms of David in Metre
PresRC The Presbyterian Reformed Church
Presup presuppositional apologetics
PRC/PRCA Protestant Reformed Church in America
PRTS Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary
PTL Praise the Lord
R2K Reformed two kingdoms or radical two kingdoms
RB Reformed Baptist
RCA Reformed Church in America
RCC Roman Catholic Church
RCJ Reformed Church in Japan
RCM Reformation Christian Ministries
RCUS Reformed Church in the United States
RE Ruling Elder
REC Reformed Episcopal Church
RES Reformed Episcopal Seminary
RPCA Reformed Presbyterian Church of Australia
RPCGA Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly
RPCHP Reformed Presbyterian Church (Hanover Presbytery)
RPCNA Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America
RPCS Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland
RPCUS Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States
RPTS Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary
RPW regulative principle of worship
RSC R. Scott Clark (for TG listeners)
RSV Revised Standard Version
RT Received Text
RTS Reformed Theological Seminary
RUF Reformed University Fellowship
SBC Southern Baptist Convention
SBFA Salvation by faith alone
SD Sabbath Day or Savoy Declaration
SDG Solo Deo Gloria
ST Systematic Theology
SWRB Still Water Revival Books
TE Teaching Elder
TEDS Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
TG Theology Gals
TGC The Gospel Coalition
TR Textus Receptus or Truly Reformed
TFoU Three Forms of Unity: Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, Canons of Dort
TULIP Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints. (The 5 Points of Calvinism)
URC/URCNA United Reformed Churches in North America
VT Van Til
WELS Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod
WCF Westminster Confession of Faith
WHI White Horse Inn (radio show/podcast)
WLC Westminster Larger Catechism
WPCUS Westminster Presbyterian Church in the United States
WRF World Reformed Fellowship
WRS Western Reformed Seminary
WSC Westminster Shorter Catechism or Westminster Seminary, California
WTS Westminster Theological Seminary(PA) or Whitefield Theological Seminary or Western Theological Seminary
YRR Young, Restless and Reformed
*If I’ve missed something or need to make any corrections, you can either comment on this post or email me. Some things may be more specific to Theology Gals listeners than the Reformed community as a whole.
On this week’s episode of Theology Gals, Coleen and Ashley discuss some topics which have come up regarding the role of women. They discuss submission, The Excellent Wife, men learning from women and other topics.