Reviewing books on Goodreads, I find that many of my most popular reviews are actually those where I have given a one star rating. I have also observed that these tend to be the best-selling books especially in the Christian book market. (The Purpose Driven Life, The Shack, Heaven is for Real)
The popularity could be because more people are aware of the books hence more likely to read a review about them, consider reading them or have read them in the past. On the other hand, it could be that Christians are lacking discernment in the books that they buy, read and recommend. Therefore, these books end up clogging up the best-seller lists when they really shouldn’t be there in the first place. Tim Challies has written a good review series on Christian best sellers including The Shack.
I am sympathetic to those who act in ignorance or through naivety. I’m sure there have been books I have bought in the past that I wouldn’t want to read now and maybe books that I would read now that I will look back on with a different attitude. This is how the Christian life should be as we progress in holiness and sanctification. What I struggle with, however, is Christians who are aware of the error and decide to overlook it because they want to be entertained.
The Shack is a book that I have warned a lot of people away from over the years. I was given it as a gift by a well-meaning friend and just read the first few chapters before throwing it away. I was annoyed by the profanity and don’t think it's ever okay for a Christian to swear or use blasphemy in their books whether fiction or non-fiction. My most popular blog post to date is interestingly on that topic.
Aside from the cursing, I couldn’t believe it when members of the Trinity began to appear to the main character as black women. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about race, it is about gender and the representation of God.
Representing God the Father as any image or human is a serious error even in fiction. We are not to build an image in our minds of God--we cannot "reduce" Him to our level of comprehension as He is so far above us in all things. Jesus had to die a painful death to reconcile us as sinful humans to God the Father due to His holiness. Jesus is the bridge and mediator, we cannot approach God apart from Him, let alone misrepresent Him in this careless way.
Why represent God as a woman? The Bible makes it clear that the authority structure is for a man to be at the head. The Shack is more dangerous because it feeds society's attempts to undermine the biblical gender roles and provides direct support for the feminist agenda. Christians should be standing against cultural trends where they conflict with the Bible, not promoting and supporting them.
And now, there is a movie. Hooray!
In the same way that Christian authors have a responsibility to ensure they are not promoting and advancing erroneous theology, even in fiction. Christian readers must exercise discernment in their reading. It is not legalism it is necessary and biblical. Why should this be any different for a movie?
If enough Christians refuse to go and see this movie on the basis that the theology is erroneous, even dangerous, then it at least sends a message that the Bible cannot be undermined in this way. It also ensures that non-believers aren’t confused by the misrepresentation of the Christian message like some have been by the Da Vinci Code.
If you are not put off by the issues mentioned already, then an examination of the agenda of the author should be enough to make you think twice before reading the book or going to see the movie. This documentary from Paul Flynn is worth watching.
Sadly, I know that many Christians will still go to see this movie. They will go for the entertainment factor and some will say it is so they can critique it afterwards or start a Christian conversation with a non-believing friend. But, why start with something so confusing and potentially lead your friend down a blind alley from the outset, there are definitely easier ways to start an evangelistic conversation. Why not pray then try—would you like to come to church with me on Sunday? or, have you read this Christian book?—Ultimate Questions by John Blanchard is a good opener and the PDF is free here.
God didn't teach us to walk along danger lines or to study falsehood in order to learn error. We should instead study the truth (the Bible) so that we can recognise error. We are taught to resist evil and to flee from temptation. If we walk along danger lines instead of seeking to be more like Jesus by staying away from the lines, we will eventually veer across the line and fall into sin. It’s human nature and there is an active enemy seeking to devour us!
Christians who go to watch the movie are endorsing the errors in the teaching, undermining the Bible, funding this series and future projects and encouraging other authors and movie makers to write more of this type of thing.
We need to remember that it is the broad way that leads to destruction and the narrow way to life. In the latter times, people will gather teachers that say what their itching ears want to hear and we are warned that many will be deceived. The popular way is not God's way. Simply put in this modification of a quotation from G. K. Chesterton,
Wrong is wrong even if everyone else is doing it. Right is right even if no one else is doing it
Christians, let’s boycott this movie!
Psalm 101 vs 3
I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.
Romans 16 vs 1
Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.
1 Timothy 4 vs 7
But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness;
Philippians 4 vs 8
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
2 Timothy 4 vs 3-4
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
Proverbs 4 vs 14-15
Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on.