Free Book about Loss of the Gospel in The Shack

A new book offers a new kind of critique of the novel and movie, The Shack. My articles here on Brothers of John the Steadfast have been transformed into a book that the Steadfast Lutherans are distributing to you for free on this page. This book packages five articles together into a handy, single resource useful for reference and sharing.

What is new and different about this critique contrasted with others? While I sympathize with nearly all the concerns expressed in other, Reformed and Arminian critiques and agree that many of their concerns are serious, for a confessional Lutheran, the primary concern is the chief article of faith upon which the church stands or falls. The chief article is justification and the redemption we have in Jesus. The way of salvation – this is the main thing. Jesus asks, “What will a man give in exchange for his soul?“ (Matthew 16:26) This is the focus of a confessional Lutheran critique.

Looking for healing for his Great Sadness, the author of The Shack missed the consolation provided by Lutheran faith and ministry. Instead, he hit upon a particular strain of thought from the renaissance of Trinitarian theology that happened worldwide in the 1980s and 1990s. This theology has much to be commended. Tragically, however, it departs from the teaching of Scripture about the atoning sacrifice of Jesus for us on the cross. It denies the wrath of God on sin, and denies that Jesus bore that wrath for us. The Shack teaches a different theory of the cross that springs from perichoretic speculations about the Trinity.

In the novel, the shack comes to symbolize the mess inside of us sinners. But The Shack changes what the Christian faith says this mess is. It substitutes a different problem, and thus fails to deal with my actual problem. The Shack fails to deal with the true shack – the shack of actual sin, wrath, and forsakenness, which Jesus bears in the place that was mine, the cross. Contrary to The Shack, Jesus came all the way to me where I really was, under the wrath of God, in my real shack, and saved me.

There is no bigger deal than this. This is not a picky criticism about unimportant matters. This is not just a failure to allow for some fictional fantasy or poetic license. This is about the difference between salvation and damnation. The Shack embodies a loss of the Gospel, and to believe what it teaches is to lose the Christian faith.

Download your own copy of The Shack: A Journey from Pain to Truth to Error in PDF format. Feel free to share either electronic or printed-out copies of it with family, friends, and church members. “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)

About T. R. Halvorson

T. R. Halvorson was born in Sidney, Montana on July 14, 1953, baptized at Pella Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sidney, Montana on November 8, 1953, and confirmed at First Lutheran Church in Williston, North Dakota in 1968. He and his wife, Marilyn, are members of Trinity Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Sidney, Montana. They have three sons and six grandchildren. T. R. farms at Wildrose, North Dakota, and is Deputy County Attorney in Sidney, Montana. He has been a computer programmer; and an author, conference speaker, instructor, and consultant to industry in online legal information. He is among the authors of the religion column in the Sidney Herald at Sidney, Montana. He is the Editor of


Free Book about Loss of the Gospel in The Shack — 4 Comments

  1. Mr. Halvorson: you write, “It denies the wrath of God on sin, and denies that Jesus bore that wrath for us.” If God, our Lord Jesus, bore the wrath of God for our sins, then the slate is clean, and there is no more debt for our sins. How then can the God say, through the Prophet Jeremiah, 31:34, “I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.” God punishes God for our sins, but He also forgives us? Should it not be either one or the other, if He is a just God? The Old Testament, in setting up the various punishments for crimes, makes it clear that the punishment wipes out the guilt of the crime.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  2. @George A. Marquart #1

    Objective justification.

    Subjective justification.

    Pastor Andrew Preus has done some outstanding writing about this, some of which you can find here on Brothers of John the Steadfast.

    But as to The Shack, it wouldn’t matter because there is no wrath of God on sin and Jesus did not bear for us God’s wrath on sin.

  3. I agree completely that if you don’t properly identify the target you can’t hit it, which is sin. Going back to Problem Solving 101, the solution doesn’t fixate on the symptoms, but rather the problem. If the problem is solved the symptoms disappear. This, in secular terms, would seem to apply to the issue of Justification you are addressing by The Shack ignoring the real problem, sin.

  4. Reading your booklet here, Herr Halvorson, it strikes me that the theology of The Shack is like so many (all, really) errors and heresies of the millenia: It states something that is actually true–e.g., one *could* say that the Incarnation *is* “vicarious”, also, Paul stating that he discovered that God is doing something “in” and “with” us, not *just* “for” us–but then, setting these “truths” against “traditional” doctrine–more precisely, forensic justification. The sad thing is, “Mack”, even though he’s trying to run away from both Calvinism (with its monstrous “God” of double predestination) and Arminianism (with its “God” that isn’t really sovereign) winds up with Arminianism, anyway–choosing (even if its only a “realization”) to be back in “relationship” with the Trinity.
    I was friends with a local native Netherlander Methodist preacher. He explained that the reason he wasn’t Dutch Reformed was that the more he considered TULIP theology, the more he couldn’t believe in the “God” of TULIP, and then discovered Jacob Arminius. I tried to gently explain to him that he had simply jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire–that Luther and the Concordia was where he needed to stop. He’s been moved by the UMC, so I don’t see him any more. Hope he discovers Luther–that is to say, the real Jesus of the Scriptures.

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