Holy Hollywood! Tinseltown gaga for God

By Garth Kant

God is doing sensational business at the box office, and Hollywood is suddenly shouting hallelujah.

After the phenomenal success of “The Bible” miniseries on the History Channel, the surprise bestseller “The Shack” is slated to hit the big screen.

But, not all Christians have praised the book.

“The Shack” is the fictional story of a man who meets God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and is cured of his deep emotional pain.

Hollywood likely will promote it as a Christian film, but a respected theologian told WND “The Shack” does not present the Gospel truth.

James B. De Young, professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Western Seminary in Portland, Ore., wrote the book “Burning Down the Shack,” which is available at the WND Superstore.

“Burning Down the Shack” addresses issues of biblical doctrine and scriptural truth as it brings to light troubling questions about “The Shack.”

“What bothers me about the book is there’s a sentence in ‘The Shack’ that says ‘I do not punish sin,’ and yet the Bible teaches clearly that that’s the case,” De Young told WND. “And there are all kinds of other statements in ‘The Shack’ that misrepresent the nature of God which I presume will make their way into a movie.”

“The Shack” was a publishing phenomenon, self-published in 2007 with an initial investment of only $300. It has sold 18 million copies in 39 languages and spent 180 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.

Now, Deadline Hollywood is reporting Summit Entertainment has acquired the screen rights to the William Paul Young novel.

The film will be produced by Gill Netter and penned by John Fusco, writer of 11 films, including “Hidalgo,” “The Forbidden Kingdom” and an upcoming remake of the Akira Kurosawa classic “Seven Samurai.”

Deadline Hollywood says Netter has a strong track record with heartfelt family fare, including “Life of Pi” and “The Blindside.”

Hollywood may be realizing there is gold in God, again. Tinseltown used to regularly turn out religious blockbusters such as “The Ten Commandments,” “Ben Hur” and “The Robe.” That changed as society has become more secular since the 1960s.

The success of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” in 2004 showed there is still a huge audience for religious-themed feature films. Now, the recent success of the History Channel’s “The Bible” may be sparking a renewed interest in the genre by Hollywood’s power-players. The miniseries got huge ratings, especially for a show on cable. Almost 15 million viewers watched the premiere of “The Bible” on March 31, beating everything the big four networks aired in prime time. Additionally, the Hollywood Reporter says director Ridley Scott (“Gladiator,” “Blade Runner”) is teaming up with the National Geographic Channel and Fox News host and author Bill O’Reilly to do a film adaptation of O’Reilly’s “Killing Jesus: A History.”

As for “The Shack,” the book has caused controversy since its inception. The author couldn’t find a publisher initially, because Christian publishers thought it was too mystical, and mainstream publishers thought it was too religious.

Additionally, a number of theologians have criticized it for deviating from Scripture.

“Burning Down the Shack” author De Young said Christians should be wary of “The Shack” for a number of reasons.

De Young said he knew “The Shack” author Young for several years before Young wrote the book, and there was a sudden turn in his understanding of the Bible and his identification as an evangelical.

“I wrote my book to expose the theological underpinnings of ‘The Shack,’ which is the belief that there is universal reconciliation,” De Young said. “It’s a heresy that goes back all the way to the third century of the Church. It came to America in 1740 and was propagated among the churches of New England, where it found fertile ground and has been never totally eradicated.”

De Young described universal reconciliation as the belief that everybody eventually will go to heaven. Unbelievers, according to the belief, first will go to hell, be chastised, then repent and be admitted to heaven. In this view, even the fallen angels and the devil will eventually repent and go to heaven.

In this way of looking at things, De Young said, “Hell ceases to have any need for existence and everybody is in heaven for all eternity.”

“But the church has always recognized this as going beyond what Scripture reveals and a rejection of what it means for people to believe the Gospel,” he said. ‘Because the theological basis of all of this is that somehow the love of God will transcend His justice and holiness, and that in the end He could not allow a hell of judgment for people who chose to reject Him, and for them to go there for all eternity.”

De Young said the belief in universal reconciliation also eliminates the significance of free will in Christianity.

“It’s very deterministic, because it’s really saying in effect that the worst of sinners who die in a state of total rejection and unbelief are going to have their wills turned around after death by God in the judgment of hell, and they’re all going to go to heaven, anyway. It’s just the opposite of what it purports to be, as though it’s opening up free will for everybody.”

He explained that if universal reconciliation were true, “you don’t really need the Gospel. ”

“In other words, if God is so loving that He will save everybody in the end for some reason, then the Gospel itself is really unnecessary,” De Young said.

“And that’s why the church has consistently found this to be heretical, because it denied the very core of the Gospel. And it rejects an understanding of the full nature of God.”

De Young said that if God is so loving that he cannot exercise justice, “then you have mischaracterized God.”

He said he encourages people to read the background of how “The Shack” came to be written.

“I deal with that in the introduction to my book,” he said. “Because knowing something about the author will help people to weave their way through the book and then help them to understand the (likely) distortions in the movie.”

De Young pointed out that Jesus, Himself, spoke more often about hell than heaven.

“Jesus is the one who spoke more about judgment, uses the strongest words about hell and judgment, than any other person in the New Testament, or, in the rest of the Bible, for that matter,” he said.

“So, all we have to do is go back to the teachings of Christ and what He said, and we’ll be on safe ground. But ‘The Shack,’ and the movie, no doubt, will step out of that and seek to do other things that are not scriptural.”

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