The Shack movie, much like the book that preceded it ten years ago, has stirred up a hornet’s nest among a small but loud group of evangelical Christians for the sins it’s committed – sins so grievous that they’re calling it “HERESY.”
One sin in particular has been brought up in several of the reviews and treated as if it were a dirty word.
According to some critics, the simple mention of this word should make any Bible believing Christian feel ashamed of even thinking that it could be true. So dangerous and potentially destructive to one’s faith is this “heresy,” one commentator equated it with a complete failure to understand the Gospel of Christ.
What is this sin? It’s the “sin” of universalism.
True universalism is not the misinformed belief that any and all roads lead to heaven. It’s the Christian idea that the all-powerful, all-loving, all-wise God of the Bible will ultimately get each person He created in His image into heaven! The idea that through His death and resurrection, Jesus Christ actually succeeded in His mission to seek and save the lost.
Almost completely absent from any of the discussions of the film is the fact that true universalism is one of the three major views the Christian Church has held from its beginning in answer to the question of what happens when we die.
True universalism is not heresy! Contrary to popular opinion, it was never declared to be that by a General Council of the Church, and it was actually the dominant view held by Christians in the first five centuries after Christ.
Of the six major centers of Christianity in the ancient Church, four held the view that God will ultimately restore all of His creation to its intended perfection. One believed the wicked will ultimately be annihilated. And only one strongly favored the doctrine that the wicked will experience conscious suffering that will never end.
These early Christians include the man who wrote the first system of Christian theology. He’s considered by many to be the most important theologian and Biblical scholar of the early Greek Church – a man named Origen.
Another man of great influence was Gregory of Nyssa – who was instrumental in defining the Christian doctrine of the Trinity that we still stand on today. Gregory added the phrase “I believe in the life of the world to come” to the Nicene Creed, and was acknowledged in later centuries by the Church as “Father of the Fathers.”
They and others believed that God doesn’t defeat evil by shutting it up in a corner of His creation and leaving it there forever – like some kind of cosmic graveyard keeping sinners imprisoned for all eternity. Instead, they were convinced that God will destroy evil completely – transforming evil-doers by purifying their hearts.
It was their understanding that at the end of time, God will actually get everyone He created into heaven.
Critics vs. People
On the review website, Rotten Tomatoes, critics have given The Shack a 21% approval rating. By contrast, the audience approval rating is 86%. Somehow, there is a major disconnect between the critics and the people. That disconnect seems evident in the reviews by some in the evangelical Christian establishment as well.
People are drawn to The Shack because it addresses some of their heartfelt questions and provides answers they haven’t heard before. One of those answers is that the God of the Bible is good. He actually loves all those created in His image. He has a plan to ultimately restore all of those He created through Christ’s death on the cross. And He never gives up.
That’s not a sin! Those are good words that all Christians should seriously consider!
Portions excerpted and adapted from Heaven’s Doors . . . Wider Than You Ever Believed!
by George W. Sarris
Now available in paperback and eBook on Amazon.com