What they got right.
Christianity is not a religion; it is a relationship. We need to walk with Jesus on a day by day bases not a go to church on Sunday or study about him in theology training and hope that someone gets it right. Jesus wants to walk with and talk to us and minister to us through the Holy Spirit. There is not a pastor or priest that can substitute for Him.
God is love. Now I will have more to say about that in the other half of this paper, but what I have have said here is true. We need to get back to loving God not just talking about him.
God wants to heal relationships. There is a lot to talk about here but the healing of relationship was the major theme of the book for those who wanted something else to come from the book. So if that was all that would come from a book where someone meets God it would be sufficient.
Healing of the relationships is through forgiveness. What he has to say about forgiveness is very true. I am not sure about Biblically accurate but it is true in the way it is presented.
Judgment is not for us to do, at least not at this time. There is a major scene where the hero of the story is asked to judge various people and then is condemned for doing so. While the Bible does say to judge not lest ye be judged., final judgment is not for us at this time. The book should have went on to say that we will judge at the final judgment but for now it is not the time. We are to be looking to bring this person into relationship with God not trying to throw the book at him.
How they represented Jesus. You can't go wrong when the only explanation of how Jesus looks is in the Bible. They got that one right. I'll say more about the other two later.
What they got wrong.
First of all, I don’t think you will ever get to meet the Father or the Holy Spirit even in eternity. No matter how you would have represented them, it would have been wrong. Jesus said in John 14, that if you have seen me, you have seen the Father. I and the Father are one. All we need to know about God the Father and the Holy Spirit can be summed up in the person of Jesus. As far as the spirit goes, I like the name that was given but the way that he was represented leaves much to be desired. The spirit does dwell within you so therefore the spirit will testify when things are right and wrong. I think his explanation on why the Father(Papa) must appear as a black woman is adequate, the whole notion does not fit with scripture. I would have him as an Older Samoan man myself. Why Samoan? Take a genetics class and you will see that they are closer to the average skin tone and hair structure of the genetic code. Not white, not black not kinky hair not straight. Right in the middle.
The opening story about the great spirit and how one person sacrificed themselves to the spirit so the rest could live. Wow, what a story but it was later said that the Great Spirit and God were the same. No they are not. God does not wish that we should ever equate him to any other gods. The only human sacrifice he ever demanded he stopped by providing a lamb to sacrifice instead. It is only the gods of paganism that require a human sacrifice.
The overemphasis on love to the lessoning of Judgment. While it is true that God is love, he is also a God of Justice and Judgment. It is only through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross that we can have forgiveness of sins and divert the wrath of God. It is God’s grace that diverts judgment. Man who continues to defy God will in the end face the judgment of God. The only mention of hell is when the main character wishes his daughter’s murderer to go there. God said he wanted to reconcile him. While that is true, the fact that hell remains there for that person that does not repent is still true.
There is a reemphasis on the election and predestination doctrine even though at one point Jesus said he would travel any road to find disciples. That statement has made several commentators think that have written negatively on the book comment that this made the god of the Shack a Universalist, I don’t think so. I think that is accurate in the fact that he will travel any road to find those whom he has called. What is not emphasized in that statement which needs to be is that he has to call them out of the religious system that they are in.
De-emphasis on prophecy. Apparently the author had been reading Rick Warren because not once is anything prophetic mentioned. When he had Paul in the wilderness, prophecy was taught to him. When Jesus was here the first time he spent a lot of time discussing the future with his disciples. He wanted them to know what to expect next. While he didn’t give details he did give enough that they were able to discern the times they were living. Speaking of which. Matthew 24 says that if someone says that Jesus is somewhere, don’t go there. He is not. I know it wouldn’t make for good fiction if he had refused to go find out if God was really at the shack. The fact that nothing was said about, You won’t have long now. I will be returning soon to set up the Kingdom was not ever once said. With the nearness of the second coming, I would hope that there is a building of enthusiasm for it on the part of Jesus. There is a discussion about the Bride of Christ but does not mention the wedding. That was very disappointing.
What about that ending? His transformation was good but the explanation of what had happened to him that weekend had the feeling of the TV series “Lost”. It is all the more reason to leave the story as a work of fiction. Leave the Gospel to the scriptures and enjoy the story for what it is. Fiction.