NOTE: This article was edited after it was published to more accurately and comprehensively reflect and provide context for Pastor Joe Schimmel’s concerns about the novel, and thus the upcoming film that is based on it. Schimmel also took to his blog to respond directly to the original article; read his words here. The edited version follows below…
Today brings word that some Christian leaders have taken issue with, among other things contained within it, the depiction of God as a woman (played by Octavia Spencer) in the upcoming Lionsgate faith-based film “The Shack,” which is an adaptation of the best-selling book by William P. Young.
“If the film is a faithful portrayal of the events and the theology of the book, then every Christian should be gravely alarmed at the further advance of beliefs that smear the evangelical understanding of the truth of the Bible,” said James B. DeYoung, author of “Burning Down the Shack: How the ‘Christian’ Bestseller is Deceiving Millions,” told the Christian News Network (CNN) website in a December 20th article titled “Christians Warn Upcoming ‘Shack’ Movie Depicting God as Woman Could ‘Far Outweigh’ Harm of Novel.”
In addition, Joe Schimmel, the pastor of Blessed Hope Chapel in Simi Valley, California, and host of the documentary “Hollywood’s War on God,” shared his concerns with the CNN stating: “Young’s pretentious caricature of God as a heavy set, cushy, non-judgmental, African American woman called ‘Papa’ (who resembles the New Agey Oprah Winfrey far more than the one true God revealed through the Lord Jesus Christ—Hebrews 1:1-3), and his depiction of the Holy Spirit as a frail Asian woman with the Hindu name, Sarayu, lends itself to a dangerous and false image of God and idolatry.”
Schimmel is very concerned that the bestselling book and its “false messages” (as he puts it on his blog Cup of Joe) has apparently been widely-embraced by the Christian community, despite what he describes as its “counterfeit Christianity that draws in fans but distorts the Bible.”
Schimmel lays out what he calls 13 false representations of God (“heresies”) found in “The Shack” (the book), in a post on his website titled “The Shack and the Seduction of the Church.”
The piece begins with: “Many people are being moved by emotional stories and seduced into accepting another Jesus rather than the Jesus of the Bible. Sadly, even Christians are being deceived into this false message about God and embracing an all-inclusive counterfeit Christianity that draws in fans but distorts the Bible. How does the Bible compare to the theology taught by William P. Young’s characters in ‘The Shack’? Because The Shack continues to be a best seller, and evangelicals and otherwise conservative churches are so taken in by this novel, we felt it was necessary to call attention to this subject again. Evangelicals have embraced the book and pastors have bought the book by the cases for their church members, even centering bible studies around it. Why would a book that contains 13 separate heresies about God be so popular with those who ought to know Scripture? It has caught on like wildfire because Christians today let their feelings determine truth rather than let truth dictate their feelings.”
He invites his readers to “learn the truth” in an hour-long audio sermon (click the link above), and then goes on to list “Thirteen Heresies in ‘The Shack'” by Dr. Michael Youssef.
Christian author James DeYoung (mentioned at the beginning of this post) is also a critic of the novel, and chimed in as well with his opinions on its content and the upcoming movie it’s based on, stating that the film’s faithfulness to the book’s message and wide distribution could “far outweigh” the damage that the book alone he claims has already done.
Both Schimmel and DeYoung are critical about a concept known as “Universalism,” which apparently the book embraces; essentially the belief that all people, regardless of sin, will ultimately go to heaven, which goes against what they say the bible teaches. According to Schimmel, “The Shack” is guilty of “denying that God will pour out his wrath on unrepentant sinners, as well as the fact that Christ took God’s wrath as the substitutionary atonement for the wicked,” describing what the “abberant” book does as “heresies,” adding that “these are not mere trivial matters but strike at the very heart of God’s character and the gospel that saves our eternal souls.”
I suppose you’ll have to listen to his sermon to know and fully grasp what his concerns are.
In closing, author DeYoung suggests the following: “My word to the viewers of the movie ‘The Shack’ is this: If they confess to be Christians, they should pay close attention to the statements made by the actors and ask themselves: Does this theology agree with the Bible and Christian doctrine? Or, is it more in line with the old distortions of the truth that Christians have identified as heresy as early as the Council of Constantinople in 533?… Contrary to UR, 2,000 years of Church history cannot be wrong.”
In summary, both Schimmel and DeYoung take issue with a number of things within the book; one of them being the depiction of God as a “pretentious caricature… a heavy set, cushy, non-judgmental, African American woman called ‘Papa’ [who] resembles the New Agey Oprah Winfrey far more than the one true God revealed through the Lord Jesus Christ—Hebrews 1:1-3.”
The question that evangelicals can answer for the rest of us non-evangelicals is how God is revealed in Hebrews 1:1-3, and whether or not your expectations of how God should be depicted in media is challenged by how God is depicted in the source material (the novel) that they film is based on; and also whether any of that ultimately matters.
Read the full article on the Christian News Network here.
Directed by Stuart Hazeldine, Lionsgate will release “The Shack” on March 3, 2017.
Watch a trailer for the upcoming film below: