Coming out this weekend, “The Shack,” based on best-selling book by William Paul Young, explores what happens when a grieving father (Sam Worthington) has an encounter with all three Persons of the Trinity, played by different actors — including “Hidden Figures” star Octavia Spencer as God the Father, or “Papa.”
Personifying the Trinity, and other aspects of the book’s theology, have caused some concerns.
Secular outlet The Hollywood Reporter had this to say:
With its sparkly spin on the New Testament, the film will be too New Agey for those who hew closely to doctrine (some conservative Christians have criticized the novel as a work of misguided heresy). But beyond theological debates, the feature is a leaden, belabored affair. However universal the perennial questions and struggles that The Shack illuminates, under Stuart Hazeldine’s plodding direction, its faith-based brand of self-help feels like being trapped in someone else’s spiritual retreat — in real time.
And this, from Catholic deacon and movie critic Steven Greydanus:
Like many popular sensations, from Titanic to Twilight, from Dan Brown to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, The Shack is easy to rip apart if one has a mind to. It’s too didactic for drama, too literal for allegory, too artless for poetry, and too fuzzy for theology. The writing is folksy and florid; when Mack falls in his driveway, he doesn’t just get a bump on his head: The lump emerges “like a humpbacked whale breaching the wild waves of his thinning hair.”
Although an enthusiastic cover blurb from Eugene Peterson compares The Shack to Pilgrim’s Progress, generically and thematically it’s somewhat closer to C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce. Lewis’ brilliant book, however, focuses on familiar foibles of human nature; Young attempts a portrait of sorts of the divine nature.
The Shack is essentially an imaginative exploration of theodicy, of the problem of evil, experienced not in the abstract, but as an existential crisis of faith. More broadly, it could be called a response to disappointment with God and disillusionment with religion.
Also concerned, CatholicMom.com founder Lisa Hendey turned to our own Head of Production, Father David Guffey, C.S.C., to get his take. Here’s some of what he had to say:
The film is not a religious teaching on the doctrine of Trinity, any more than the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is a study of physical appearance of God. Each of these use artistic license to point to great truths of faith. Film is an art form and as art, evokes the imagination to discover mystery of life and the workings of God’s grace within it. I would not use this film to talk about Trinity, but instead as an opening to discuss the many ways that God is close to us and the ways that God actively tries to be part of our lives in the best of times and especially in the hardest of times.
I would encourage you to see this film with someone you can talk about it with afterwards. You will want to. It would be a great family movie night film the weekend of March 3, 2017.
After watching the film, invite family members to talk about the times in their life when they feel closest to God. Is it in nature or in a church or at a family gathering? How do we recognize the hand of God at work I the people around us and the events of our lives? Second, and perhaps more difficult, I would encourage a conversation on how the Phillips family coped with loss and grief.
Click here to read the whole thing.
Image: Courtesy Lionsgate