Movie Reviews

Movie review: ‘The Shack’

Comments (52)
  1. Ellen Machemer says:

    I read the book several years ago, and came away thinking, this is NOT Christian. Thank you for this review.

  2. JoAnne says:

    Thank you for this. I have not seen the movie, but did read the book some years ago. Although on one level I enjoyed the story, I was left troubled by it, but unable to put a finger on what was so wrong, when so much seemed so right. My Pastor at the time unfortunately chose not to help me. Thank you so much for defining the differences between the trinity of The Shack and the Trinity of Scripture.

  3. Jo says:

    I was so wondering about going to it. Thanks for the update.

  4. Richard Allan Eyerly says:

    Thank you, Rev. Giese, for a concise explanation of the film and the obvious contradictions with Scriptural truth. I’ve not seen the movie or read the book, but I did watch an interview with one of the film stars. When they spoke of the “faith” aspect of the story, I became wary. Apparently, my instincts were correct. Blessings from Minnesota ~

  5. James Freitag says:

    Although I agree with your theological points pertaining to our understanding of Christian doctrine, I did find some very significant parts of the movie that made it worthwhile for me to see and enjoy. The story line wrestled with themes of forgiveness and atonement. Can a kidnapper and murderer be forgiven by God? How does one come to grips in forgiveness in the midst of such a horrible loss?

    Likewise, I was very intrigued when the main character was asked to choose which of his two children he would send to heaven and which to hell. He was forced into making a choice and he chose that he would rather bear the punishment of hell himself than have one of his own children do so. The response of the character portraying wisdom was that he now had begun to understand the heart of Papa (God).

    When I encounter a piece of literature like this movie, I remember my seminary days with Rev Rossow in his class entitled, “Literature and the Gospel.” The premise of that class was the theme of sin and the need to redemption in some form of a savior is so basic to our human nature and identity that it bleeds over into secular literature. Thus, this seminary professor was able to show us how to use literature as an entrance point or bridge in presenting the real gospel as it is outlined in Scripture and central to our Lutheran theology.

    It is in this context that I see redeemable (sic?) qualities in this movie. I appreciated the struggle with sin and grace, even in the context of some theology that we acknowledge would fall outside of orthodoxy. At the end of the movie it is state that the main character forgave more and asked more for forgiveness as a result of his encounter with Papa (God). I see this movie as an excellent tool to lead in and present the Gospel in a strong way, as the issues dealt with by the main character are true to those encompassed in our human nature.

    Blessings . . .

    Chaplain (LTC) James Freitag

    1. Delwyn Campbell says:

      Excellent points, Chaplain Freitag. Your troops are blessed to have such a wise man shepherding them.

    2. Thank you James. It would be good for all to see this movie for themselves. It seems to me to be a good conversation starter.

  6. P. Bruss says:

    In watching the film we took it as a fictional movie & didn’t analyze it as Gospel truth. At the end you realize It was a man’s dream…fictional. I don’t know why so much time was use to pick apart a fictional story & compare it to the Bible. Some parts of his dream may have had some symbolic biblical references but you need to still knowl that the Bible is the true story. And if you take anything from this movie you will look at forgiveness & how we need to examine our faith walk & be more forgiving loving towards others.

    1. Brandon says:

      There is a difference between symbolism and depiction in film. Also, there is a big difference when a film is claiming to be Christian and yet it depicts Modalism. For that we can and should analyze and examine fiction. The author of the book is an admitted Modalist.

      Personally, I have many Evangelical friends who take this story as an accurate depiction of the Gospel because it is sold to them as Christian. That is where we should draw the line and atleast say it is not Christian.

    2. Teri says:

      Thank you. This is how i feel. Could mot put it into words.

  7. Tiina Wilds says:

    Great Movie!! Highly recommend!!

  8. Tom Gritz says:

    Saw it and found a positive message in this age of protests. We have to stop being afraid of our Christianity being challenged by a positive message.

    1. Delwyn Campbell says:

      To call this blog post a “fear” response assumes what remains to be proven. All the same, “fear” of that which can be harmful can be a wise response, especially if the danger is hidden in an innocuous camouflage.

  9. Mary says:

    Still an enjoyable film for many, despite this negative review.
    I did not feel the necessity to tear it apart theologically. Just a feel good film instead of the many Sex , Murder , and Filthy talk films. that abound. A distinct change of pace that took me to the theater and made me happy.

    1. Delwyn Campbell says:

      This film does tread on sensitive ground. The other aforementioned “God” movies – “Oh God,” “Bruce Almighty” and “Evan Almighty” – were more generic in their depictions of the Deity. The Shack presents a clear alternative understanding of the Trinity, and it is this alternative understanding that is a major issue for those who criticize the film.
      While you might not notice the differences, neither might an untaught person, whether new to the Faith or still dealing with the call of God through the Gospel. If this opens the door to heretical expressions of the Fatih, we should be aware of that fact, both in order to expose the error and to provide the proper corrective.

    2. Deb says:


    3. D. WADE says:


    4. Carol says:

      I have to agree with you Mary. I’m glad I went. Didn’t read the book so I can’t compare.

  10. Delwyn Campbell says:

    Perhaps, directing people to “not go” was a bridge too far. While it is wise to provide discerning information, to order people to not see the film, even though it came from a good place, could be seen as an exercise in “the Leader Principle.”

  11. Susan says:

    You missed one important point found in your open “fictional,” as in imaginary, or made up. The motion picture is a adaptation from a fictional book. Motion pictures are for entertainment. As a nurse when I see a hospital scene on TV or in the movies, I can sit and criticize it to. This was a story, and should be accepted as that alone. Have you ever seen a motion picture that despite’s the Bible or Faith totally correct? This movie was NO Different.

    1. karen says:

      What is the common response when you point out to a person they’re taking God’s name in vain? Most times it is “I didn’t mean anything by it”. That is the issue. Blasphemy is taking something holy and using in in a common way. This movie has taken something holy and reduced it to entertainment. The claim is that in the name of entertainment one can mishandle holy truths of God Himself and be excused for it.

  12. I would encourage people to watch and use it for educational purposes. Don’t tell people not to see it. Teach them to have a filter. We do everyone a disservice if we don’t teach them to recognize untruth on their own and the LCMS is notorious for poor teaching. Watch the movie or better yet, read the book as a study for adults and especially youth. Our youth need to recognize false teaching, but how can they if all we do is say, “Don’t see it,” and don’t teach them how to recognize it.

    1. D. WADE says:


    2. I agree. People in any stage of their faith journey new to expand their own mind by experiencing other’s interpretations of cocepts of God that are beyond human understanding.

  13. This article by Pastor Ted Giese from just north of me in Regina, that originally was published on his congregation’s website, is the best single article for general audiences about The Shack that I have read. It is most reassuring to see a pastor doing this kind of work, defending the flock. I have been promoting this article online everywhere I can and to my District President for commendation to the pastors of my district.

    For those who might be interested in something longer and with further background, you can get a free copy of a new book that makes its primary concern the chief article of faith upon which the church stands or falls, namely, justification and the redemption we have in Jesus.

    Looking for healing for his Great Sadness, the author of The Shack missed the consolation provided by Lutheran faith and ministry. Instead, he hit upon a particular strain of thought from the renaissance of Trinitarian theology that happened worldwide in the 1980s and 1990s. This theology has much to be commended. Tragically, however, it departs from the teaching of Scripture about the atoning sacrifice of Jesus for us on the cross. It denies the wrath of God on sin, and denies that Jesus bore that wrath for us. The Shack teaches a different theory of the cross that springs from perichoretic speculations about the Trinity.

    You can get a free PDF copy of The Shack: A Journey from Pain to Truth to Error at

  14. Julie says:

    The Shack is Christian fiction…. I prefer we as a body endorse this film vs Disneys new Beauty and the Beast

  15. Not trying to make anyone feel bad, but I cannot agree that The Shack is Christian fiction. When a work denies the atonement in any Christian or Lutheran sense, that is not Christian fiction.

    When a work messes up the Incarnation, as Pastor Giese explains, that is not Christian fiction.

    Two things a work must get right to be Christian are: A. the person of Christ; and B. the work of Christ. If a work gets both the person and work of Christ wrong, it is not Christian.

    Rather than Christian fiction, it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, which is worse than a wolf in wolf’s clothing.

  16. Jan Tallant says:

    I did read the book and had many things to think about as we can not put God in a box.
    After all He is the Great I AM. which means He can be whoever and whatever He wants to me or fells we need at the time.
    I also saw the movie, and it was very good.
    I cried, and was challenged by God
    I felt His love
    I felt His relationship with me and that He really knows me.
    I felt His forgiveness and Him wanting us to forgive other
    I felt His encouragement
    I felt Him challenge me to be best person I can be.
    And I felt His mercy
    WE can enjoy a good movie and come out BEING INSPIRED TO BE A BETTER PERSON

  17. Reggie Graham says:

    Very good movie. I can’t for the life of me see why there is criticism. It glorifies THE FATHER. It shows HIS unlimited Love for us through expressions of THE HOLY TRINITY. We do not know the complete nature of GOD, but like the Pharisees we are condemning a film that showcases the Goodnesame of GOD. That HE loves us and expects that we love (limitless) like HE does. Forgiveness, Trust and personal relationship(s) are the main points of the movie.

    I can imagine GOD trying to touch people through the film, then watch some who feel that GOD has to be this way or that way shoot it down. That’s what happened to JESUS. HE did not come the way they expected and they called HIM a herectic. That’s crazy. Go see the movie. It is intense and true regarding our expectations of THE MOST HIGH. You have eyes, ears and a mind. Don’t let others stop you from enjoying the film. It never states that it is a true event. It is a fictional Christian film that makes you think.

  18. Craig Gunty says:

    This is not the Bible, is not accurately portraying exact accounts from the Bible. We watched it for entertainment only, not for biblical lessons. However we were quite pleased with how well the portrayed relational issues between God and man, and answered common questions in a biblically based manner.

    Bottom line, it will likely get people talking about God, seeking to understand the trinity better, or how God can interact with us. Go knowing it’s not all word for word, and enjoy the adventure. Then read the Bible and study Gods word.

  19. Don Rusbult says:

    My wife had read the book a while back and wanted to see the movie. What immediately grabbed me was the FATHER being a woman and the HOLY SPIRIT also being a woman. It got even worse when the woman said she used many names! (All roads lead to God) about a third of the way into the movie the power in the city went out. ( the news said there was no explanation for it) We got a refund and went home. Movie was NOT worth going to!

  20. Deb Baber says:

    I too saw the film and was surprised at the choice of characters displaying The Trinity. Perhaps this was a strategy to distract us away from those teachings and try to allow us to look at some of the larger themes that were very important and came through loud and clear to me!
    The ending song Keep Your Eyes On Me was such a strong message sent. In this day and age so many times we are distracted and can easily lose our way with that trust in God. Also, the wonderful scenery symbolized the beauty of being with God, especially in the afterlife!! Another strong message that came across to me was how we as a society are trying to “play God” and how judgmental we have become! This is so destructive to our society!
    As well as the message of forgiveness and grace, these were huge parts of this feel good movie that I saw! I felt the love that God has for all his children and that to me was so worth going to this film. SO SORRY to see this movie being totally picked apart on a theological note and not giving it credit for these wonderful messages…..go to observe the emotional struggle that Mackenzie has with the destructive feelings of anger, guilt, and depression that he felt and how ultimately these feelings isolated him from his relationships with others. “Keeping his eyes on God” and working through forgiving the killer did allow him to help with deflating these feelings brought on by this horrible tragedy in his life, and yes, that did allow him to live and love more freely here on earth. We all have pain in our life because of sin, but we can live with that inner peace when we walk with God and choose to keep our eyes on Him instead of the self destructive feelings that can grow from pain and sin! GO SEE THE FILM!

  21. Joe Bath says:

    Why do we feel the need to over analyze stories about religion? It is a beautiful story about love and forgiveness. When my children’s school (a Lutheran school went public) and children from all, or no religions were invited to attend. Everyone scoffed that the Christian message would be lost. I put my faith in Jesus and the wonderful teachers there. The parents were given the option of exempting their children from religion class and chapel each week. None did. Of the hundred or so students that enrolled that year, 2 of the kids asked to be baptised at the end of the school year. Mission accomplished. My point, if seeing this movie will reach 1 person, and they turn back to God, mission accomplished. Any one who sees this movie as anything more than a wonderful story about God being love, and forgiveness as a way of life. Is just silly. No-one involved in this project, and especially Mr Young, are trying to replace or disrupt the gospel. I think any one who belives otherwise is afraid. We need to focus on the message, the same way I do every Sunday, to the message off my pastor’s sermon.

  22. Karen says:

    Yes it is worth seeing. It is not a factual documental movie. It is based on a fictional book. It was good

  23. Kim says:

    I read the book back in January. I felt it was absolutely outstanding. The author is writing about an experience that really happened to the main character, but they had to call it fiction because no one could prove or disprove it. It was a fantastic story of forgiveness and shows a parent in his most raw and vulnerable moments, which we can all relate to. Pain/death/unjustifiable heartbreak is just part of the broken covenant in the Garden! There is no quoted scripture in the book. It does not claim to be a Biblical reference. At no point reading that book did I feel that my biblically-based values were in question. The author does a beautiful job of painting a picture, if that’s even possible, of how the Trinity might work as three in one. I’ve always struggled with picturing how this could work and this book gave me a small glimpse. The Author, through this guys’ testimony, fantastically addresses how God meets our innermost needs and pours his grace upon us at just the right times in His perfect way. All of that can be backed up with scripture! Jesus did not invent ‘religion’. He taught his disciples how to follow Him/God/Holy Spirit and he did it through relationship and meeting people’s needs. He got in the trenches with His people. He got in the boat! This book depicts a beautiful example of God coming down to get in the boat with us– to comfort and woo us back to Him all while giving us free will. The minute we lose our humility and think we fully understand the depth and breadth of every God-breathed Word in scripture, we are guilty of thinking we are omniscient! I think it’s worth the read! I was encouragement to my journey of faith. I’m sure the movie, which I haven’t seen yet, doesn’t do it justice as movies never do, LOL, but I’ll go anyway. God be with you all.

  24. Suzy says:

    I’ve been a Christian for 48 years. I chose to read the book and see the movie not to explain the Trinity to me or for me to understand forgiveness.
    I found the movie entertaining and the beauty of the scenes lovely, the Pacific Northwest is a beautiful area to enjoy. I didn’t find the movie as sacreligious at all. I have a good grounding in my Biblical knowledge. I feel like they did a good job in explaining how God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one but different as well. I don’t know if God can manifest himself as a women black, white or Asian or anything else, who does know? I will recommend this movie to my friends to go and see it.

  25. R Oerman says:

    The problem with a movie like this is that well-grounded Christians will recognize the errors and be able to separate Christian fact from secular fiction. However, far too many modern Christians are not grounded thoroughly in correct doctrine, plus many non-Christians will see this movie, and both groups will come away confused at best or with an entirely wrong view of the true God at worst.

  26. Nadine Zellers says:

    Personally I didn’t like the movie I had a hard time figuring out what was going on. I went with a friend and she also felt the same way. I am a Christian and am of Lutheran MS faith. Reading the above helped to understand it a little more. Thanks for the information.

  27. Lisa says:

    It was a wonderful movie from a fictional book. People are missing the point-it is about forgiveness and letting go in your life, how you can move on. We need more movies like this, people get tired of the news in real life.

  28. Marge Milbrodt says:

    Thank you for this. I read the book years ago, and I also remember that there was something in the Lutheran Witness about it. I did not think the book was right!

  29. Chris says:

    People need to remember that while this movie is certainly Christian themed that it *is* at the end, only a movie. Written, directed, and produced with the goal of making money. I don’t go to the movies to research the Bible, God, or Christianity- that’s what church and my pastor are for.

    I, for one, loved the movie and as a result of it ended up doing a lot of soul searching and ultimately ended up renewing my own relationship and dedication to Christ.

    If the movie ends up having that sort of effect on people or gets them to investigate Christ further I’m all for it, no matter the inaccuracies.

  30. Ken says:

    This movie is about Grace and Forgiveness . My daughter and I wept through most of it. To criticize it as you have done here shows you’ve missed the entire point of the movie.

    Theological Correctness never entered my mind.

    Thank you William P Young for helping me and many others learn to forgive.

  31. Rose says:

    Great movie..not meant to be a true story. People need to relax. Dont be so quick to judge. If anything, that was the meaning of the movie that so many apparently missed.

  32. Presten Buford says:

    I loved the movie and found it as a positive message God loves us all so much and works on us our time evil dose exist in our world but God can trun the most hurtful and painful things in to something beautiful and meaningful take the cross for example one of the most painful and humelading and horrific ways to die and he turned the cross in to a beautiful symbol and and something to look up to

  33. R. Hutchinson says:

    A friend of mine just made a post on Facebook saying, “‘The Shack’ is a great depiction of The Trinity.” I immediately Googled, “Is ‘The Shack’ a Christian film.” This essay was the first Google result.

    I have not seen the movie yet, and I may not. However, I will say that this essay is what annoys me about Chritianity and why I havent been to church in a while.

    You get bogged down in “modality” and all other kinds of minutiae. P. Bruss, said it best in their comment 4 or 5 posts up –

    “I don’t know why so much time was use to pick apart a fictional story & compare it to the Bible.’

  34. Paul F. Hein says:

    I agree with Chaplin Freitag that this movie can be a good way to reach out to non-Christians. There are theological issues, but I believe it is worth seeing so that we can use it as a bridge to share the good news of what Jesus Christ has done for us. This review does not talk much about the main themes of the book and movie. God loves us and cares about us is the major theme. And another theme is that forgiveness is an important part of healing.

    I believe the book and movie does not portray the view of Moralistic and Therapeutic Deism as the reviewer thinks, because of the backstory behind Paul Young’s writing of the book. Paul Young was a church worker whose view of God was moralistic and authoritarian. He wore this mask of being a good person while his sin was destroying him. God brought him down and then showed him forgiveness, mercy and grace. Out of this experience he wrote the book. The book was intended to reach out to those who are hurting and view God as a stern judge. They are in need of the Gospel, not Law, which the book provides. We can use this movie to show them that though God is just, he is also loving.

  35. Tenna says:

    How about focusing on the gift of HOPE….that’s what this book and movie is about.

    When we are in such dark despair, God comes to us in very interesting measures. We don’t need to give the whole bale of hay to folks when they’ve finally surrendered enough to grasp for one grass of clover.

    GOD HEALS! End of story. This movie can initiate some very positive discussion.

  36. Alicia says:

    Read the book and saw the movie. I agree that it is not theologically sound. With that being said, if someone is struggling to know Gods love and the power of forgiveness this movie plants a seed. A seed grows and matures and the mature Christian can then decipher the theological faults. If it can plant a seed then the Holy Spirit is at work.

  37. Joe Emery says:

    How often did Jesus teach in parables? We are told why he taught in parables. We also know that we are all at different maturities in our faith.
    That being said, I ask this:
    How many convicted believers will be led astray by this movie? None.
    How many who don’t know God at all may be led to ask about him? Countless.
    How many who don’t know God at all will be let to NEVER ask about him? I doubt any. This was a non-threatening film in so many ways.

    The trinity will NEVER be understood by anyone until we are called home. And as convicted as I am in God’s word and as much as I appreciate the fact that there are people willing to take the microscope of analysis to movies such as The Shack, we can’t miss the fact that this can be a fantastic tool used to begin reaching those who are seaking who God is. And perhaps they are seeking BECAUSE OF this movie. How will they react when they come to us asking about God and we tell them how non-theologically correct this movie is. Personally, I wouldn’t want to talk to you anymore.

    I was very skeptical and I did not make it through the book. Being more visual, I went with my wife. Yes, the characters took some getting used to, but after putting my LCMS hat to the side to enjoy the movie, I thought it did a really good job of putting a visual picture of the impossible-to-understand. I’m taking my kids, because I trust my ability to teach them the Truth above what Hollywood does.

  38. Laura says:

    I watched the movie and loved it. It is the first time I saw God portrayed as a woman. And the Holy Spirit too, the Ruah described in the Bible. And Jesus, not portrayed as a white male but as a midle east man.

  39. Karen Garone says:

    I have not seen the movie yet, I plan to, but have read the book. This is a fictional story based on the concepts of pain, loss of faith, forgiveness and ultimately new-found faith and God’s grace and redemption. We in the flesh struggle with these concepts daily. I thought the idea of making God a black woman for most of the story very unique, especially since Father God is a spirit and does not have human form. By doing this I feel the author did not disrespect the Trinity as I understand it from the Word, and feel that we should go outside the box of thinking using the gift of our spiritual discernment.