Thoughts of a Pastor’s Wife on “The Shack”

Lots of my Christian friends are talking about The Shack now that the movie, based on the book, is out. I have not seen the movie yet, but I did read the book several years ago, and I think there are some important things that need to be said.

The Shack tries to tackle the need for a relationship with God, getting rid of religion. I am all-for having a relationship with Jesus. Although I believe the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has correct doctrine, I’ll be one of the first to admit that the LCMS can be guilty of being the “Misery Synod.” But just as we need both Law and Gospel, I think we need both relationship and religion. We need that personal connection with God, but we also need the respect and reverence that comes with the religion that God, Himself, outlined in the Bible.

The Shack


This brings me to my next point. I love stories of how God has worked in people’s lives. I listen to the music on the local Christian radio station whenever I’m in the car. I often feel closer to God when I’m out in nature than when I’m in a church. However, those things should never replace God’s Word. Those things should never cause us to change God’s Word, and that is exactly what The Shack is guilty of.

In a world where gender identity is in crisis, changing the gender of God the Father – for even the seemingly innocent reason of the main character’s experience of having an abusive father – is not biblical. I’m not saying there is something wrong with women, or that women are less than men. I am saying that the Bible only uses masculine terminology to define God. Yes, it sometimes uses feminine terminology to describe God, but that is only in metaphor. “The Shack” takes it a step further. (For more on the topic of the Trinity and gender, you can read this article from Got Questions.

Lastly, The Shack flat-out contains a heresy called modalism, which can be traced back all the way to the 3rd century. The Trinity is a miraculous and tricky concept. The Bible teaches that there is one God, but three separate and distinct persons. Modalism teaches that there is one God who is one person but has different modes. Modalism is evident in The Shack when God the Father and the Holy Spirit show their scars from the wounds Jesus received on the cross. Let’s be clear: God the Father and the Holy Spirit were not crucified; only Jesus was crucified. Only Jesus died. God the Father did forsake His Son because God cannot tolerate sin, and Jesus was carrying the sins of the world on the cross. Jesus was forsaken so that we would not be forsaken. It’s sad and tragic and yet beautiful and miraculous. (For more on the topic of modalism in The Shack, you can read this article by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod).

The god in “The Shack” is not the Christian God in the Bible, but rather, a god created by heresy.

I’m not saying don’t read the book or see the movie. I am saying you need to know your Bible before you do – and if you don’t know the Bible, don’t use The Shack to learn about Christianity. If you want a relationship with God, I encourage you to find a church that teaches correct doctrine. I HIGHLY encourage going to Bible studies, because that is where you receive an education on God’s Word, when you get to ask your pastor questions. In the LCMS, pastors go to seminary for at least four years. They learn a lot of in-depth facts about the Bible, and they want to share those facts with you. I am a firm believer that education grows faith. Worshiping God in church with fellow believers strengthens faith. Reading and hearing God’s Word revives faith. Don’t lean on misrepresentations, like The Shack, to feel spiritual – lean on the real thing; lean on The Book, the Bible.


2 thoughts on “Thoughts of a Pastor’s Wife on “The Shack”

  1. Thanks for writing this, Shelby. I had a couple thoughts. The first is that modalism was defined properly but improperly applied. According to moralism throughout history it is that God appears in different modes over time. Often this is temporal, with the Father during the OT, the Son during the NT, and the Spirit now. Anything that portrays all three persons at the same time cannot be modalism because modalism excludes the three persons together.

  2. The other point is in regards to God’s nature. I would not be so dismissive of metaphor in the Bible. Many key points are made through metaphor. Also, metaphor is not of a lesser truth value than other types of writing in the Bible. If we are to take all of the Bible as God’s Word, I’d argue that means metaphor must be taken just as seriously as narrative or anything else.

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