Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call hosted by T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for tuning in. In today’s program, Tom concludes a two-part series with guest Dave James as they address the topic: Why Are Christians Flocking to The Shack? And now, here’s Tom.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. This is the second part of our program series on the movie The Shack. My guest is Dave James, who’s been on a number of times, dealing with issues like The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? He wrote A Biblical Guide to the Shemitah and the Blood Moons, and these are books that have become very popular in the Christian community, in Christendom, and we just lay out – Dave’s just a Berean. We’re just Bereans. We are trying to evaluate what we read and hold it up to the Word of God. We’re trying to be Bereans about this.
So, Dave, that’s what we’re going to continue doing. So welcome back to Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Dave: Well, thanks for having me back. It’s always a joy to be with you.
Tom: Dave, as we mentioned last week, and, folks, I’d encourage you to…if you haven’t heard part one, you know, I started off the program talking about the medium of film and how it manipulates, how it affects, and this is just a practical way that I was trained as a film maker and then as a screenwriter in Hollywood to present information – but not just information; it’s an entertainment vehicle. But it does certain things to you when you’re in a movie theater, and I’m just laying out some very basic things.
Just to give you an example, you can watch a scene, and if there’s no sound, you may wonder about how to relate to it. But then you can keep adding music, change the music, and it’s going to change your mood. I mean, that was a basic exercise that we had when I was studying film at the university.
So that’s our point, and that has to do with the technical aspects of movies, how they’re used, and how they manipulate the audience, which is what they’re about. They want to make you laugh, cry, scream, whatever it might be. But now we’re talking about the movie The Shack with regard to how it is affecting movie goers, those who profess to be Christians, and those who are Christians, and it’s receiving an incredible response.
Dave, I mentioned this to you when we were talking, but I think it’s worth telling our audience: when I reviewed the movie, I went to an early matinee, and I do that so that there’s usually nobody there, or very few, maybe a handful of people, and I’m looking at movies, biblical movies – Son of God, Gods and Kings, whatever it might be…The Young Messiah, and all of that – because I want to evaluate them.
Now, when I went in to review The Shack, a third of the audience was – it was packed – a third of the theater was packed with people, which would surprise me. Now, after watching this, and this hasn’t happened to me in a theater in quite a while, but when the movie ended, there was a great applause; people applauded that. So here’s a concern, and you’ll – hopefully we’re going to bring that home as we talk about some of the things, some of the issues, some of the doctrinal things, because this is a movie, even though people say, “Well, it’s just fiction.” No, this is a movie that talks about God; it talks about the Trinity; it talks about…there’s a dialogue between the main character and the character of God in this movie, which is a black lady, and we mentioned why they made it that way in last week’s program, so you can go there. But what we want to do is address what is being presented, because these are doctrinal issues, these are things of faith, and people who buy into the things that were presented on the screen, it’s a false faith. It’s a faith that doesn’t hold up to biblical truth.
Now, Dave, last week we talked about, and I think this is worth going over again, the major question for the book, and William Paul Young was interviewed – he kind of vacillated or, you know, waffled on his view of universalism. Well, that’s no longer the case. Not only does that come across in the movie, but he has a book out called Lies We Believe About God, which is Atria Books, which is an imprint of Simon and Schuster, just out. In it, he says – when he’s asked about universal salvation, these are his words, “That is exactly what I’m saying.” And then he goes on to teach that every single human being is in Christ, and that Christ is in them. So how do you get away from that, Dave?
Dave: Well, that’s exactly right. As I mentioned last week, for one thing you have to throw out everything Jesus said about the consequences of not trusting in Him. You have to throw out what He revealed to John the apostle on the Isle of Patmos in Revelation 20 about the Great White Throne Judgment where unbelievers of all history will be resurrected from hell. It says that Hades is resurrected – death and Hades are resurrected and are brought before Christ at the Great White Throne Judgment. This is the second resurrection, which is the resurrection to death, and all those whose names are not found in the Book of Life are cast into the Lake of Fire, which is the second death.
And then as you were talking, I was reminded of what Jesus said to Nicodemus as we find in John 3: Jesus told Nicodemus that no one can see the kingdom of heaven unless he is born again, which presumes that Nicodemus had not yet been born again. He said, “You must be born again.” And then He even somewhat chastises Nicodemus – He says, “You’re a teacher of Israel and you don’t know you must be born again?” And then, of course, one of the most well-known verses from that exchange is John:3:16, which says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” And then two verses later, and this is where people forget, is that those who have not placed their faith are condemned already. So it completely flies in the face of everything the Bible teaches. You can’t even imagine how conservative Bible believers would remotely buy into this, but one of my concerns is it’s not just the mainline churches, it’s not just the liberal Christians – these are conservative people in Bible-believing churches that are buying into this, hook, line, and sinker.
Tom: Yeah. Now, as we mentioned last week, a lot of the influence of the movie, why people are enamored with it, is because it’s highly emotional. You’re carried along and you’re buying things because you either like the character or you’re empathizing with the character, or you like the presentation of the Trinity, which is, as we mentioned last week, it’s blasphemy. In other words, this isn’t God the Father, this isn’t God the Son, and this isn’t the Holy Spirit. This is dead wrong in terms of a presentation.
Now, but, Dave, it’s far more simple than that, and this is what troubles us big time, because as you mentioned, there are conservative churches…we’re going to go down a list in a bit about those who have promoted the film, those who feel that this is really a good thing.
But let’s go back to universalism: Dave, if everyone is saved, and that’s what universalism is about – everyone’s saved, everybody gets to heaven – what’s the point of the cross? What’s the point of the gospel? What’s the point of salvation? What’s the point of going out and witnessing and ministering to people? What’s going on?
Dave: Well, yes, exactly. Right. And the answer that they would give – this is what you get from those who believe…the technical term that is being used now, the theological term that’s being used now for the old liberal universalism is universal reconciliation, and they point to what Paul says in Romans, where it says that when Christ was on the cross, He was reconciling the world to Himself, and so they say that this is already a past work. Well, yes, Christ’s work of reconciliation has been done, but we also know that Paul says that salvation is a free gift, and a gift must be received, and we also know that Paul talks about the fact that that gift is received by faith. So…
Tom: It’s…Dave, I want to interject this: Not only must it be received, the Scripture also says that it’s rejected. So where’s reconciliation there? They can point to one verse, but let’s go to the full counsel of God over and over and over. You know, we’re going to get into some of these other aspects of God as judge – certainly God is love, God is mercy. You know, we have these perfect qualities of God. But they’re not something that people just make up, or that it’s just made up. They are reality, and they’re absolute truth, and this does not conform to that in any way. It’s contradictory to the salvation that’s presented in the Word of God.
Dave: Exactly, and to take it one step further, for example, in 1 Corinthians 6, as well as in the book of Revelation, it makes it very clear that those who have certain lifestyles – in other words, life-besetting sins that show that someone has never been born again – for example, murderers, sorcerers, homosexuals – those kinds of people who have besetting lifestyle sins where they’ve never been changed through being born again, it says that those will not inherit the kingdom of God. In Revelation it says that they are outside the kingdom of God. And John’s Revelation – this is 60 years after Christ had done the reconciliatory work on the cross, but it must be applied and a life must be changed through placing one’s faith in the death of Christ for their sins and believing on the resurrection unto eternal life.
Tom: Right. Again, folks, every sin can be forgiven. Well, we talk about the sin with regard to the Holy Spirit – that just means they’ve rejected the Holy Spirit convicting them of sin. It’s rejection, rejection, rejection, and if you have that, which is laid out very clearly in Scripture, then you cannot have reconciliation. It’s a false teaching, and the sad part is if you buy into that, you think, “Well, there’s nothing I have to do. Yeah, I want to be a good person, and I’d like these attributes and so on, but basically I’m there. I’ve got it. I don’t have to worry about that.” And that’s a false idea that could keep somebody from coming to the true and living God for the salvation that Christ paid for on the cross.
Dave: And, you know, this is especially, I guess you could say, almost a sensitive or a topic of passion for me as a veteran missionary of 25 years. The thing that brought me back off the mission field is what I saw in the theology changing in the evangelical church in the United States. Back in 2008 there was a survey done of over 30,000 church goers in the United States, and over 9,000 of them were self-identified evangelicals, and 57 percent of those 9,000 evangelicals said that they believe that there is salvation possible for those outside of Jesus Christ. So this kind of movie just plays into that sentiment, and those numbers are going to grow.
Tom: Right, right. Now there are some other issues – one I want to talk about, because we addressed it last week, but I want to use a term here that I think is important. The term is anthropomorphism, and what that means is now we’ve been presented a view of God, not the biblical – not the God of the Bible, okay – but we’ve been presented a view of God that draws Him back to humanity. Yes, Jesus became a man, but He’s the God-Man, He’s the perfect Man, He’s the sinless Man. But now we have characters on the screen representing the Trinity, representing God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost who, come on, Dave, they’re so human, they’re so like us! I mean, we get to see God the Father/a woman, okay, presented as a woman, with the Holy Spirit presented as another woman, and what are they doing inside? They’re listening to contemporary music and they’re boogying. Now, you’d say, “Well, that’s…come on. They’re just throwing a little humor in there,” and so on. No, no. This is blasphemy. This is presenting the God of the Bible in a way that is grotesque. It’s a sad thing when we think of who God is. We’re talking about the God presented in the Bible, in the Word of God, in the Scriptures, and so on. So that’s called, as I said, anthropomorphism. It’s like we lower God down, make Him be just like us, okay, even with some of our faults and some of our eccentricities and whatever it might be, but this is kind of a friendly buddy God…isn’t that the case?
Dave: Well, yes. And again, we could very easily be accused of picking nits when it comes to theology, but God gave us His revelation. and He revealed Himself to mankind both in His Word and personally. And the only Person of the Godhead, the Son, the eternal Son of God, that is the only one that has physically presented Himself to man. Even in the Old Testament, it was the pre-incarnate Christ. It was not the Father who appeared to men, it was not the Holy Spirit who appeared as a man to men, or the Angel of the Lord – that was the pre-incarnate Christ, which was a foreshadow of the incarnation that would come. So God the Father has never done this, God the Holy Spirit has never done this, and yet the movie, as I mentioned last week, when people now who have seen the movie, when they think of God, they’re not going to think of God the Father, they’re going to think of God who looks like Octavia Spencer, a matronly black woman. When they think of the Holy Spirit, they’re not going to think of He who indwells us; they’re going to think of a Japanese model and well-known actress. That is going to be the face they see: a woman, and they’re not going to think in holy terms of the Holy Spirit as the one who indwells the believer.
Tom: Right. Dave, as you probably remember, because I’ve addressed so many so-called “biblical” movies, even going back to The Passion of the Christ, which was about 10-11 years ago, I talk to people today who can’t get that image of James Caviezel as Christ out of their head. James Caviezel is not Christ, okay? And we don’t know, because it’s never been presented, what Jesus looked like, and I think for good reason.
Now, related to that, to physical aspects, Dave, explain to me what took place when this character, Papa, a female, presents her arm, and there is a nail hole, the scar of a nail hole in her just above her – well, right in her wrist. What’s that about?
Dave: Yeah, that’s exactly right. Well, it’s a discussion between the main character Mack and Papa, God the father, played by Octavia Spencer, and the main character is taking God to task for saying…see, he’s lost his daughter; his daughter has been kidnapped, presumably raped and murdered, and he sees God as responsible, and he begins a conversation: “If you’re God almighty, you’re all powerful, nothing was outside of your grasp, and you abandoned my daughter. You weren’t there when she needed you, you weren’t there when I needed you. Where were you? You abandoned us. You forsake us.” And then he says, the main character says, “Just like Jesus your son said on the cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”
And God the Father, Papa, Octavia Spencer, with tears in her eyes, looks at the main character Mack, and she says, “I never abandoned you. I never abandoned my son, and I never abandoned Missy, your daughter.” And then she holds her arm out to show a nail print in her wrist, and she says, “We were there together.”
Well, one, it flatly contradicts Scripture in terms of…it does say that Jesus says, “Why have you forsaken me?” Secondly, this is a theological heresy called patripassianism (that’s the technical term for it) which means that the Father and then also the Holy Spirit were physically present and were crucified, as well. See, this is, again, total heresy – even blasphemy. The reason Christ took on humanity was so that He could die in the place of man. That’s why Luke traces His genealogy back to Adam. He is connected to man because He became a man, and God sent His Son to become a man. God the Father was not crucified, the Holy Spirit was not crucified. Jesus took on human form and He is in human form right now and spends all eternity as the God-Man. He will sit on the throne of David and He will have the scars. He is the Lamb of God who was slain from the foundation of the world. The Father and the Spirit join together in sending Him, but Jesus died for our sins.
Tom: Dave, there are so many other things, which we don’t have time for, but in the dialogue between Mack, the lead character, and Papa, and certainly the character Jesus – I have to use “character,” because this is not the Jesus of the Bible. This is not God of the Bible. This is not the Holy Spirit of the Bible. But in that they talk about things like – he asks some questions about God’s wrath and judgment and sin, and you want to talk about confusion, you want to talk about waffling around what the Bible says clearly: “The wages of sin is death,” all right?
But you get the idea that, “No, no, sin is – it has its own rewards. No, I don’t have wrath. I don’t pour out my wrath.” It was like she never heard of these things which are clear throughout the Scripture. That’s a major, major problem.
Now, having said all that, and there’s so much more that we could talk about, Dave, I’m going to go down a list of those who up to this point have recommended this movie, who have promoted it, and some of the things we might expect, some other things are very shocking. But let me give you a list: Focus on the Family supports it. Charisma Magazine – we might expect that. Christian Broadcasting Network; we might expect that. Campus Crusade and Family Life. That’s a little unexpected. Joel Houston, who’s part of Hillsong United. Dick Rolfe, cofounder and CEO of Dove Foundation. Geoff Tunnicliffe, former head of the World Evangelical Alliance. Kent Hovind, creationist. And Tim Tebow – I mean, this really shocks me, because, I mean, I have so much respect for that guy, and he has over a million and a half people following him on Twitter. So we’ve got Christian artists contributing to the movie – Dan and Shay, Skillet, Brian Isaac, Hillsong United, Lecrae, and then we have thousands, literally thousands of evangelical pastors and churches throughout the country. What can you say about that, Dave?
Dave: Well, that’s right. In fact, I was actually on The Shack website today, and I was looking down through the people who – there are thousands, at least hundreds, and I think thousands, on the website – just page after page of people who are supporting it from every conceivable denomination, many in the extreme charismatic group, but, as you mentioned, others who are conservative as well as individuals - I even saw one girl who – one lady – who I know attends a well-known Southern Baptist Church in the United States, a large one, and she’s a graduate of this school in Hungary, and she is supporting it. I know somebody from my home church years ago when The Shack came out, and she put on her Facebook page, “It changed my view of God.”
And my response to that idea is, “If this book and this movie changed your view of God, then you no longer have a biblical view of God.”
Tom: Without a doubt.
Dave: Yeah. You mentioned Tim Tebow. I happen to know – I was just at Word of Life Philippines a couple of months ago – his dad has a tremendous mission work in the Philippines. His sister went to Dallas Seminary with one of the professors who I’m here with this week. So he’s coming from a good, solid background, and maybe he just misspoke, but the fact is this influence is unbelievably broad.
Dave: That book has over 20 million copies in 40 languages.
Tom: Yeah. And this was – started out as a self…this wasn’t produced by a major Christian publisher. This was something that they raised enough money to – it’s self-published. This is – the only way I can explain it is it’s a reflection of the days that we’re in. This is the apostasy. This is the strong delusion coming from God Himself, I believe, in terms of allowing things that those who have not a love of the truth, God will send strong delusion, it says in 2 Thessalonians. It’s overwhelming.
So, Dave, we just have a few minutes left. Now, what would you say to people who maybe take the position, and we’re just laying out what the Word of God says and comparing it with what the movie says so those who would believe that and be their own Bereans and comparing what they’ve seen with the Word of God, and now they want to encourage other people and point to them, showing them the errors. How should they go about it?
Dave: Well, first of all, I think we need to deal with the issue of this being a fiction book. People sometimes defend it or say, “Well, it’s just fiction.” What you need to point out to people is that there are only two possibilities when it comes to Christian fiction: it’s either fictional theology, which by definition is heresy, or it’s theological fiction, which means that it’s simply using fiction as a vehicle to communicate – and you said this last week – what the author believes to be actually true theology. I told the students in the chapel on Wednesday that this book is just as much a theology book as Charles Ryrie’s systematic theology book Basic Theology. It is communicating theology. It’s influencing people, and we need to make sure that even if it’s fiction, even if it’s a movie, it has to be 100 percent accurate, or you are distorting the Word of God, and there are warnings in the Word of God not to add to or take away from the Word of God, and by definition fictional books and movies both add to and take away from the Word of God, which is why I discourage Christian fiction just simply because of that. As you said, you have to create a storyline that departs from the Word of God.
Tom: Right. Dave, I couldn’t agree more, and, folks, if you’ve been following The Berean Call, you know I’ve been writing articles about mysticism and the coming world religion, and basically what that means is we’ve moved away from objective truth to the subjective, to the experiential, to the emotional. And I’m going to warn you, having been a professional in the movie industry, all right, it is an emotionally driven vehicle, and when you start talking to people about movies, it’s going to move right away to emotions. So how many times have you heard, Dave, and we’re just about out of time, but how many times have you heard, “Well, Dave, I followed what you said, I hear what you’re saying, but I just don’t feel that way.” Folks, once it goes that way, where do you go? All you can say is, “Well, I’ll abide in what you say, I’ll believe what you say if you can give me chapter and verse.” We encourage all here listening to the program who follow the ministry to “search the scriptures daily to see if these things are so.” I don’t care if it’s a book, a movie, whatever it might be, or a sermon.
Dave, thanks for being with us, bro, and I know it’s late in Budapest, Hungary, but I really appreciate your input. Thanks so much.
Dave: Well, it’s always great, Tom. I really appreciate the opportunity to share with your listeners about the real dangers of this. I really appreciate it.
Tom: Okay, God bless you, brother.
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7 featuring T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of resources to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter, contact us at PO Box 7019 Bend, Oregon 97708. Call us at 800-937-6638, or visit our website at thebereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for joining us, and we hope you can be here again next week. Until then, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.