A great deal of the movie’s themes are wrapped up in the idea that man cannot know the mind of God. This is truly Scriptural, as St. Paul writes, “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:11). So in the film, Papa (the nickname for God) declares, “You have no idea how much I’m doing right now,” while appearing to the main character, Mack, to be sunbathing. Likewise, the personification of Wisdom convinces Mack of this moral: God’s job is very, very difficult, so don’t act like you can do what he does.
In the midst of all this unknowability of God’s mind and thoughts, Papa directs Mack (and the audience) to a faith-understanding, or trust, based on feelings. When Mack asks questions, frequently he is directed to look inside himself and investigate how he feels about it. Never is Mack directed to the Word of God to understand God’s will. Instead, the Word is often dismissed and belittled. For example, when Papa appears to Mack as a large, comforting woman, he asks her name. Her response is, “I am known by many names. One of my favorites is Elousia.” Then, when “I AM” is brought up, Papa jokingly says, “I AM that I AM,” dismissing the Scripturally revealed name of God. The name God reveals of himself in Scripture is therefore dismissed in favor of a man-made name that Papa presumably cherishes because one of his children invented it for him (depicting God as a glorified loving parent who frames up the terrible mac-and-cheese art made by his children, not because it’s good, but because he loves them).
On another occasion, Mack interrogates Papa on why he abandoned his Son Jesus on the cross. Mack even quotes Jesus’ words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). Papa brushes this quotation off and says, “You don’t understand the mystery.” She then shows Mack the nail scars that she has on her hands, seeking to prove that she (God the Father) was with Jesus in his death. (More on this specific event later.)
If this isn’t enough evidence to demonstrate that The Shack directs the audience away from Scripture for God’s revelation, Mack receives his communication from God via an unmarked envelope in his mailbox, not from God’s Word. St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy: “[C]ontinue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:14-17). The Shack at least implies that something else is needed to supplement Scripture – and if you’d like to put a name to what that other thing is, it’s “Subjective Feelings.”