From the Garden to the Shack
A few years ago the book, The Shack, was published with great fanfare and excitement among Christians. Now, the movie version of The Shack is premiering with equal fanfare and excitement among Christians. But is this the proper response Christians should be expressing for The Shack? Is this book and movie fit for Christian consumption or is it heresy dressed up in an easy-to-swallow pill?
With no sense of superiority I must confess I have not, nor will I, read the book, The Shack. I also have not, nor will I see the movie, The Shack. Whether you choose to read the book or see the movie is entirely your prerogative. Nevertheless, I will give my opinion as to whether this story is something Christians should embrace and promote as good or at least harmless, or if it is something to be ingested through the eyes and ears with caution.
For those who question what right I have to express my opinion on The Shack having never read it or watched the movie, I respectfully answer by saying I have spoken to one, a Christian, who has read the book and had both positive and negative things to say about it. I also read a review on the book posted on cbn.com by Belinda Elliot who gushes over it. From that information and a few other bits and pieces of information garnered from simply reading the give and take of comments posted online in response to the myriad articles one finds on the internet about The Shack, I feel confident that I know enough about the story to give an educated opinion as to the spirit behind this story.
Of course, there will still be some who believe I have no right to express my opinion on The Shack having never personally read the book. In reply I would say it is not always necessary to have firsthand experience with something to accurately understand the benefits and/or detriments of whatever the “something” is. For example, I do not have to ingest meth or cocaine to accurately discern that they are extremely dangerous and addictive drugs. All I need do is read about these drugs and obverse the consequences people suffer from having become personally acquainted with them from firsthand experience. In other words one need not personally experience the full force of evil to understand and discern that something is intrinsically evil, something I believe is true of The Shack.
But in order to make my point in believing that the essential and intrinsic nature of The Shack is evil I will start, not with The Shack itself, but with an episode in human history when a choice was made by a man and woman to believe a lie rather than the truth because the lie appealed to the legitimate needs of the body and mind and because it was presented to them in a way that fascinated and dazzled them. But the consequence of believing that lie and giving it life by literally ingesting it, poisoning the deepest parts of their beings, resulted in the greatest tragedy in human history.
It is a story worth reading.
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
“He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden”?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.”’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (Genesis 3:1-7 ESV).
The story seems simple and straight forward, and on one level it is. Adam and Eve lived in a garden God created for them. It was a place where their every need was provided for. It provided food for the body, beauty for the soul, and an intimate relationship with God for the spirit. And where they got that food for the body, that beauty for the soul, and that relationship with God was abundantly provided for by God. We are told…
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden…” (Genesis 2:15-16 ESV).
“Every tree of the garden.” Adam and Eve had full access to every source of food they needed to live, not just physically, but spiritually as well. But with the abundance of God’s provision came a warning from Him…
“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17 ESV).
Along with God’s overwhelming abundance of provision for Adam and Eve came one prohibition. They were not to eat; that is, find their source of food, whether for their bodies, souls, or spirits, from one of the trees: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God made very clear that the consequences of eating from this tree would be death. Simple and straightforward, yes; but also not so simple and straightforward.
Enter Satan, referred to as a serpent in this narrative. His primary goal after God had created man in His image, was to destroy man, to kill him; not just his body, but his soul and spirit as well. And he knew just what he needed to do to accomplish that goal. He began by asking Eve…
“Did God actually say…” (Genesis 3:1)?
Satan began by planting a seed of doubt into Eve’s soul about God’s character. He wanted Eve to question the goodness and fairness of God. He wanted Eve to question why God would prohibit her from eating from this one tree. He wanted her to question if God were intentionally withholding something good from her? He wanted Eve to question God’s motive, the “why”, behind the prohibition.
With the doubt of God’s character now planted within Eve’s soul Satan began to water it by directly accusing Him of lying about her dying if she ate of the fruit of this tree. He then fertilized that doubt by promising her she would actually become like God, knowing (that is, in a very real sense, defining) good and evil. If was as if Satan were telling Eve…
“If you eat this fruit you will no longer need for God to determine for you what is right and what is wrong or what is good or what is evil. You will be able to determine that for yourself. You will be free.”
That is a powerful temptation, one that is today being used with great effectiveness.
But as powerful as that temptation was (is) it is likely it would have been resisted if not for two other components associated with Satan’s lie. What two components?
Notice that when Eve looked at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, after having her conversation with Satan, she saw that is was good; she did not see that it was evil. She saw that it was good for food; that is, it was a source that she believed would fulfill the legitimate need of the body to be nourished. She saw that it was good in that it was a delight to the eyes; that is, it was a source that she believed would fulfill the legitimate need of the soul to be nourished by beauty. And she saw that it was a source of wisdom; that is, it was a source that she believed would fulfill the legitimate need of the spirit to be nourished by truth.
Eve looked at this tree and saw goodness and beauty (truth), encapsulated in a fruit that was perfect in ripeness and firmness. Imagine if Eve had looked at the tree and instead saw evil and ugliness (lies), encapsulated in a fruit that was rotten and worm infested. That would have been a strong deterrent for overcoming Satan’s temptation to question God’s character and His motives for prohibiting the eating of this fruit.
How often do we look at evil and ugliness (lies) and see goodness and beauty (truth) because we want the evil and ugliness to be true because we want to be God, defining good and evil for ourselves?
The first component Satan used to entice Eve to eat from this tree was to deceive her into seeing its fruit as good for her instead of laced with evil that would kill her.
The second component associated with the Satan’s temptation is similar to the first.
Just as the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and its fruit appeared as something to be desired, when in fact, it was poison, so was the creature that spoke with Eve. This creature in the Garden of Eden, referred to as a serpent, was not a hideous looking creature. The Hebrew word for “serpent” is nachash. It is a word that means “shining one”, implying a being, if not beautiful, at the very least, a being that fascinates and attracts not only the eye, but the mind.
Whether this serpent was a literal snake or not is a discussion for another time. Suffice it to say that the being that tempted Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit was Satan disguising…
“himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14 ESV).
It is important to note that the Bible says nothing about Eve being frightened in the least by this serpent. She saw only light, not darkness, and certainly not 50 shades of grey.
All too often we associate Satan and evil as being ugly and terrifying, and it is. But Satan knows the way to ensnare his human prey that he might kill him is much more effective when the snare is baited with perceived pleasure and beauty rather than pain and ugliness. Thus, Satan appeared to Eve as a Shining One, striking and dazzling in appearance with a voice that was no doubt very pleasant to the ear.
This was the snare Eve was being drawn into, a snare that was not only baited with what appeared to be pleasure and beauty, but a snare set by a creature that appeared equally pleasant and beautiful.
The combination of Eve’s desire to be as God knowing (defining for herself) good and evil made possible by her eating a fruit that was very appealing to her entire being to achieve that knowledge and presented by a creature of other-worldly beauty, sealed the deal.
The lie was made palatable because the fruit in which the lie was packaged to look like “health” food for the body, soul, and spirit. Further, the lie was made desirable because the one telling it was mesmerizing to look upon and listen to.
Satan’s goal was to mar God’s character, to make Him appear as something He was not in the souls and spirits of Adam and Eve. It was to get them to question God’s motives as to why He would prohibit them from partaking of something that (appeared) good and beneficial. If he could get them to believe something about God that was not true it would be easier to deceive them into believing other, more outrageous lies in the future.
And Satan’s tactics have not changed from that fateful day in the garden of Eden to today. We still find him lurking around where Christians can be found – Christian bookstores and Christian movies – such as the book and movie, The Shack.
The Shack tells the story of a man who has experienced a depth of pain far deeper than most of us will experience in our lifetimes, the pain of having one of his children abducted and murdered. Thus begins his quest to have his questions answered concerning pain, suffering, and forgiveness toward the one responsible for his pain and suffering. And there is nothing wrong with these questions. In fact they are quite normal. What is wrong is where he looked for the answers to such questions, just as Adam and Eve looked in the wrong place to satisfy the legitimates needs of their bodies, souls, and spirits when enticed to do so from a “Shining One” rather than from the One who is the true Light of the world.
For the man in The Shack the Shining One appeared to him after he received a mysterious note telling him to come to the shack where his daughter was murdered. He was not sure what to expect, but in an attempt to get the answers he was so desperately looking for, and thus satisfy the hunger that his pain was producing in his soul and spirit, he chose to go to the shack. And did he find God waiting there for him? Ah, there is the dilemma with this story.
Some would say he did find God because as the story unfolds his questions were answered; his hunger for understanding was evidently satisfied by the fruit produced by the words “God” spoke to him at the shack. Others would say he did not find God at the shack even though he found some comfort and understanding from the words spoken to him by the Trinity of beings he encountered there because this Trinity – Father (an African woman), Son (a Middle Eastern man), and Holy Spirit (an Asia woman) – was not the God – the Trinity – of the Bible.
So, how do we discern which of these two beliefs is true? We turn to the one place where we should look to discern whether anything we believe is true or false; to the Bible. The Bible is God’s Word to us. In it we find the Truth; in it we find how God has chosen to identify Himself so that we can discern if the One “speaking” to us is actually the Lord God (Yahweh) or a Shining One who presents himself as God, or at least, as god-like.
And how does God identify Himself to His creation? Part of His identity is revealed to us right at the beginning of His Word as He was actively creating the Universe and everything in it. The Bible tells us…
“God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night” (Genesis 1:5 ESV).
What does this tell us about the One True God? First, it tells us that God is the Creator of everything, including you and I. But it also tells us something a little more subtle, but just as important. It tells us that God has chosen to identify Himself as male…
“The darkness he called Night” (Genesis 1:5).
Of course, we know that God, in His essence, is neither male nor female. But that does not minimize His decision to identify Himself to us as male – not just here at the beginning of the Bible, but throughout the Bible. Near the end of the Bible, in the Book of Revelation, an angel is speaking to John concerning why God chose him to reveal the events that are to take place at the end times. The angel, referring to God, says…
“The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place” (Revelation 22:6 ESV).
God is here again identified through the use of male pronouns.
Further, God is referred to as “Father” scores of times in the Bible, but not once as “Mother”. Jesus Himself, referred to God as His “Father” over 150 times. Also, of great importance concerning how God has chosen to identify Himself as male to us is reinforced by Jesus when His disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray. Jesus responded by saying…
“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father… (Matthew 6:9 ESV).
What is my point? Just this.
We now live in a time when gender is believed to be fluid; that is, male and female are not concrete attributes of our being. Being biologically male does not mean one is actually male if one self-identifies as female; being biologically female does not mean one is actually female if one self-identifies as male. In essence we are being told that neither society, nor our DNA, has the right to impose its identity upon us. Transgender has become the latest rallying cry of deceived men and women who have taken up arms against God by attempting to shout down the truth that mankind was created by God as male and female (Genesis 1:27).
I believe with all my heart one of Satan’s primary objectives when he lured Eve into a conversation with him concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was to blur the uniqueness of maleness and femaleness because once that blurring reached critical mass the primary building block of human society – the family – would be destroyed and along with it the image of God would be destroyed, for man would then bear the image of Satan. And what is the image of Satan?
The first thing I noticed when watching The Passion of the Christ was the appearance of Satan in the Garden of Gethsemane (notice he was back in a garden again) as he crouched down a little way from Jesus as He prayed to the Father. I looked closely at this person portraying Satan and said to myself…
“I can’t tell whether this person is male or female.”
Then I thought of how much truth was wrapped up in that image of Satan; neither male, nor female, but rather an androgynous being seeking to create man in his image. And as transgenderism takes more and more hold upon us as a nation and as individuals we are more and more beginning to shed the image of God and clothing ourselves with the image of Satan. The danger is very real, but very subtle.
We are beginning to not only see the lunacy of the lie of transgenderism as the lines of maleness and femaleness become more and more blurred as males now openly and proudly (think of Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner) put on the mask of femaleness and females openly and proudly (think Chastity/Chaz Bono) put on the mask of maleness, but we are beginning to experience in real life situations the dangers of this lunacy as more and more corporate and government entities chose to allow, if not insist, that males in female bathrooms and locker rooms and females in male bathrooms and locker rooms is good rather than evil. We have returned to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. With this in mind let me turn directly to The Shack.
The Shack is the transgenderization of the Trinity. Rather than Father (male), Son (male), and Holy Spirit (identified by the use of male pronouns in the Bible), the “god” in The Shack is Mother (black woman), Son (male), and Holy Spirit (Asia woman). This may seem like a trivial matter. It is not. No doubt Eve believed eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was trivial compared to the actual consequences of her action. And no doubt those who ingest through their eyes and ears the story of The Shack think it is a trivial matter, mere entertainment. I strongly believe that is a mistake.
In a world where gender-confused individuals demand the right to self-identify rather than conform to the image God created them to bear and to be addressed with pronouns reflective of their self-perceived gender, God is denied that same respect. God has plainly, consistently, and unequivocally chosen to be identified as male. The Shack is an attempt by Satan to strip God of His identity as God and take His place.
The Shack is like a magician’s sleight of hand as he attempts to make you believe something that is false, such as cutting a woman in half with a saw, by subconsciously drawing your attention away from what is going on in the background. The Shack does the same thing as it attempts to divert attention from how he is going to introduce a heretical portrayal of the Trinity (what is going on in the background) as a black woman, a Middle Eastern man, and an Asia woman – which may seem innocent, but it is not – by using the diversionary tactic of focusing one’s attention away from this Trinitarian lie by appealing to the strong emotional, and legitimate need to find peace and understanding in the midst of incredible pain and suffering.
I will close with this question. What is the most lethal poison you know of? Cyanide? Arsenic? Strychnine? They are all deadly, but there is one that is potentially much more lethal than any of them or all of them put together. The most lethal poison known to man is the one that tastes good.
Satan is in the business of making poison taste good, because it is the only poison you will eagerly ingest.
In my opinion The Shack is one such poison so if you decide to read/see it please make sure you have the antidote handy.