OPRAH WINFREY NOW PLAYING GOD?

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Just like Shoeless Joe, I’m afraid I also can’t say it ain’t so; for it appears tis true according to News Talk WTAQ and Hollywood Staff reporter Shannon Houston’s May 11th post How Controversial Will Oprah’s Role as God in Her New Christian-Themed Movie Be?

Houston informs us:

Last year when Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker teamed up, it resulted in one of the best films of the year: Lee Daniels’ The Butler. This year the two are working together on a new project, and we have a number of reasons to get excited about it. Whitaker is rumored to be the director of the highly-anticipated adaptation of The Shack, a book that had some controversial plot points when it first came out back in 2007.

It hasn’t been confirmed yet, but according to reports he has plans to write, direct, and star in the movie. The great Idris Elba is rumored to have been cast in a lead role, so we also have that to look forward to. (source)

BREATHEcast News Reporter Kristen Solis also confirms in a May 2nd report ‘The Shack’ Movie Cast: Controversial Book Adapted to Film; Stars Oprah Winfrey, Directed by Forest Whitaker that:

It appears Hollywood is not slowing the trend of christian [sic] faith inspired films as the global hit “The Shack” will soon be heading to the big screen. Originally a book written by William P. Young, it will be adapted into a film directed by Oscar Winner Forest Whitaker and will star Oprah Winfrey and British actor Idris Elba, best known for his role of Russel ‘Stringer’ Bell in HBO’s “The Wire.” (source)

Back in April the online apologetics and discernment ministry Stand for the Truth summed up my feelings well in What? Oprah starring in “The Shack?” when they wrote:

That’s the latest news from Hollywood, folks. How did this theological train wreck of a book become so popular and recommended? Because people don’t read their Bibles. If you don’t know about the 13 heresies in The Shack, you’ll want to get right on that. (source)

You may recall I talked about this book some six years ago here at Apprising Ministries in Stay Away from “The Shack” and drew together for you what I saw as the best critiques of this warped work by William Paul Young aka Wm. Paul Young. I’ll share a bit more concerning Young himself and his spurious spiritual shanty shack in a moment.

First, for a little backstory I point you to Christian Post reporter Morgan Lee who also told us in April that:

A film about the bestselling 2008 book The Shack will reportedly be directed by Forest Whitaker and may star British actor Idris Elba and television personality Oprah. In January, Deadline first reported that the Academy Award winner Whitaker, who starred in the 2013 film TheButler, was in talks to direct William Paul Young’s book.

It also suggested that Whitaker could be a supporting character in the story that chronicles a man grieving the kidnapping and brutal murder of his seven-year-old daughter, who encounters God in the shed where his child died. (source)

It was on the set of the movie The Butler where Winfrey and Whitaker bonded and apparently a deeper friendship was forged.1 In any event, it appears their close relationship is well known; for example:

Oprah Winfrey presented her ‘The Butler’ costar Forest Whitaker with the prestigious Joel Siegel Award during the Jan. 16 Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, for his awe-inspiring charity work in Africa and beyond…

Oprah was beaming when she gave the award to her longtime friend Forest, who was honored for his charity work for once, instead of his amazing acting.

“Forest subtly and so masterfully embodies the soul of a character,” Oprah said, before commenting on Forest’s love for his family, friends, and charity. (source)

The reason the deep friendship between Whitaker and Winfrey is important to highlight is friends tend to involve friends in their projects in beneficial ways. Next we go to The Tracking Board (TB), which informs us that it’s “Hollywood’s Insider Information,” and a post from Madison Barnes.

In {TB Eclusive} Oprah Winfrey and Idris Elba May ‘Shack’ Up. Barnes brings out why the Christian community should be concerned:

As a religious film it will definitely be controversial, and with such big-name talent it is sure to get huge press. All the actors so far mentioned are huge celebrities, and depending on how well the film is made, it may even become Oscar bait.

The budget is currently set at $30 million, and with Oprah or Idris Elba’s attachment could attract an even bigger budget. This is also Whitaker’s fourth time behind the camera, previously helming “Waiting to Exhale,” “Hope Floats,” and “First Daughter.” He currently has 3 other directing projects in the works.

The film is set up at  with Gil Netter Productions also onboard. Gil and  are producing, along with , and  for the studio.  and  are working on the current version of the script, and shooting is supposed to start in the summer of 2014 in Atlanta or Vancouver. (source)

Finally, in this regard Charisma News has told us that we don’t yet know for certain “who Winfrey will play.”2 And Morgan Lee has also pointed out that when the story first broke:

It did not specify which part Oprah could be given, although the main character, Mackenzie Allen Phillips, encounters three versions of God while in the shed, one of them Papa, an African-American woman.

The two other members of the Trinity who Phillips meets are Jesus, a Jewish Carpenter, and Sarayu, a woman of unclear Asian descent whom he later discovers is the Holy Spirit.

Shooting is set to begin on the $30 million Lionsgate film in Atlanta or Vancouver later this summer, according to The Tracking Board. (source)

What you’ve just read lets you know that this Shack project is 1) very likely going to happen;  2) it has enough talent and backing to possibly become a major Hollywood production, and 3) there’s really not much doubt that Oprah Winfrey would be the logical choice to play the god Papa, who is the main character of the spiritual shanty, i.e. The Shack (TS).

By the way, if I sound lately a bit like a tabloid writer while covering these things,3 it just shows you how low the mainstream of Christendom has already descended in The Falling Away of the Evangelical Church. As far as Oprah Winfrey playing the god of TS, it’s really not that much of a stretch for those of her ilk practicing the New Spirituality; originally known as the New Age Movement.4

Some might say, “Wait a minute Silva, Oprah has professed her faith in Jesus Christ.” However, the question is: Which Jesus?5 O yes, I’m well aware of just how gullible professing Christians can be; consider the following from the Facebook page of The Christian Post:

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(source)

In fact, I brought you that video clip in my earlier article Oprah Winfrey is not a Christian, which I recently referenced in Rob Bell Set To Tour With Oprah Winfrey. This all ought to give you an indication that Winfrey can’t even see the Christian neighborhood from her current spiritual residence; let alone dwell in it.

However, to be fair, we’ll let Winfrey herself testify as to what she means by Christian. When we do you’ll clearly see she’s not a Christian at all despite her claim to the contrary. The following clip comes from A New Earth Online Class which Winfrey did with Eckhart Tolle, a leading guru of the New Spirituality/New Age a few years back.

While the two promoted the fickle fables in Tolle’s book A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (ANE), this was Winfrey’s first stab at webcasting. Following is Winfrey’s “Christian” testimony from her own lips; and keep in mind this is taken directly from the transcript of the online class, produced by Oprah Winfrey herself.

Winfrey began by telling “this global community” that she was going to “talk about what I believe is one of the most important subjects and presented by one of the most important books of our time, ‘A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose’” by “author and spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle.”6

Here’s what Dr. Gary Gilley tells us about Tolle’s ANE in his review:

A New Earth is little more than the standard New Age (New Spirituality) fare which would be highly familiar to those having knowledge of this doctrine. What makes A New Earth unique is its adoption and promotion by Oprah Winfrey who has become perhaps the biggest cheerleader for New Age spirituality in modern times. Because of Oprah’s endorsement, millions of Eckhart Tolle’s books have been sold and New Age ideas have spread to a whole new segment of Western society…

Tolle believes that all things are one (monism) (pp. 4, 26, 106) with the universe. This Eastern pantheistic teaching ultimately leads to all things being God. We are not surprised when he tells us that, “we are light” (p. 28), we are “I Am” (pp. 57, 60, 64, 79), “you are the Truth” (p. 71), we have a “common divinity” (p. 74), “I am life…I and life are one…I Am” (p. 128), we are God, or Being (p. 220), etc. (source)

Did you catch that; Tolle and Winfrey believe “the standard New Age (New Spirituality)” mythology that all of mankind is “God, or Being.” Classic “Eastern pantheistic teaching” that “all things” are God. Simply put, as drops of water make up the ocean, so we all make up God. Quite obviously, this is not Christian theology and no genuine Christian would think ANE’s a most important book; we’d reject it as blasphemy.

Now you are in the proper position from which to view the following clip, which comes as Oprah Winfrey opens up the discussion she’d been having with New Age guru Eckgart Tolle to her online web class. It also gives you a peek at just how Winfrey’s perversion of the historic orthodox Christian faith is now shipwrecking people’s faith. A transcript follows the clip to make it easier for you to follow along with Winfrey’s wistful musings:

KELLY (ILLINOIS): Well, my question is regarding religion and spirituality.

OPRAH WINFREY (HOST): Big one.

KELLY (ILLINOIS): I had a Catholic upbringing, I married a Catholic, and we’re raising our children this way. In reading books such as Tolle’s, I’ve really, it’s really opened my eyes up to a new way of thinking: a new form of spirituality that doesn’t always align with the teachings of Christianity. So my question is to you, Oprah, how have you reconciled these spiritual teachings with your Christian beliefs?

OPRAH WINFREY (HOST): Oh, the question’s to me. I was resting knowing it was going to about—I’ve reconciled it because I was able to open my mind about the absolute indescribable hugeness of that which we call “God.” I took God out of the box because I grew up in the Baptist church and there were, you know, rules and, you know, belief systems in doctrine.

And I happened to be sitting in church in my late 20s, and I was going to this church where you had to get there at 8 in the morning or you couldn’t get a seat. And a very charismatic minister, and everybody was just, you know, into the sermon. And this great minister was preaching about how great God was and how omniscient and omnipresent, and God is everything.

And then he said, “And the lord thy God is a jealous God.” And I was, you know, caught up in the rapture of that moment until he said “jealous.” And something struck me. And I was like, I think about 27 or 28. I was thinking, “God is all, God is omnipresent, God is—and God’s also jealous? God is jealous of me?”

And something about that didn’t feel right in my spirit because I believe that God is love and that God is in all things. And so that’s when the search for something more than doctrine started to stir within me. And I love this quote that Eckhart has, this is one of my favorite quotes in Chapter 1, where he says, “Man made ‘God’ in his own image. The eternal, the infinite, and unnamable was reduced to a mental idol that you had to believe in and worship as ‘my god’ or ‘our god.'”

Now I think that’s very eloquently put by Eckhart Tolle in Chapter 1. But that is exactly what I was feeling when I was, you know, sitting in church that Sunday listening to the preacher. And you know, it’s been a journey to get to the place where I understand, as I said on the preshow here, that what I believe is that Jesus came to show us Christ consciousness.

That Jesus came to show us the way of the heart and that what Jesus was saying that to show us the higher consciousness that we’re all talking about here. Jesus came to say, “Look I’m going to live in the body, in the human body and I’m going to show you how it’s done.” These are some principles and some laws that you can use to live by to know that way. And when I started to recognize that, that Jesus didn’t come in my belief, even as a Christian, I don’t believe that Jesus came to start Christianity… (source)

From what you learned above, you now know that Oprah Winfrey not only believes “God is in all things,” she also believes that all things are this “unnamable,” impersonal force aka God. This is also classic New Age mythology and actually couldn’t be further away from a Christian testimony. Jesus didn’t come to show us some laws “to know that way.” No, Jesus is the way to the Father.7

What is more, Jesus didn’t come “to show us Christ consciousness,” which to the New Ager means to be conscious that we’re all God, because the Bible tells us God the Son is the Christ.8 So you see, it wouldn’t be hard for Oprah Winfrey to play the god of TS because she already believes that all things make up God. In other words, in her portrayal of the god of TS she could simply see it as being, well, herself.

Before I leave you with further background information about Wm. Paul Young and his foolish book TS, let me point out that Dr. Anthony Harper of InterMountain Christian News has questioned how this kind of thing would play out with the world religion of Islam if someone was to portray Allah in a Hollywood film in violation of their rules concerning blasphemy.

It does give us pause to wonder: Will there be any kind of a protest from the Christian community? Let’s just say, I’m not going to hold my breath on that one. In closing, I’ll tell you that Wm. Paul Young is “a writer” who’s worked “on staff at a large suburban church while attending seminary” as well as:

owned businesses and worked for others in diverse industries, from insurance to construction, venture capital companies to telecom, contract work to food processing;… While I have extensively written for business, creating web content, business plans, white papers etc.,

The Shack was a story written for my six children, with no thought or intention to publish… (source)

Unfortunately Young, who loves “the wastefulness of my Papa’s grace and presence,” would chose to publish this rubbish. As far as what Wm. Paul Young believes, teaches, and confesses about God we turn to Dr. James B. DeYoung, professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Western Seminary, Portland, OR.9

Dr. DeYoung is on record revealing:

For more than a dozen years [as of 2008] I have known William P. Young. We have discussed much theology in a “think tank.” Over four years ago [circa 2003] Paul embraced universal reconciliation and defended it on several occasions. He claimed that universalism changed his life and his theology. (source)

This would mean that Wm. Paul Young is a believer in the Love Wins mythology of Oprah Winfrey’s new pal Rob Bell, former rock star pastor of the Emerging Church. In the same article cited above Dr. DeYoung went on to point out that:

Paul now disavows universalism. Yet like all universalists he affirms that he “hopes” that none will experience eternal suffering. But the critical question is this: Does universalism remain in the book? By comparing the creeds of universalism with The Shack one discovers that many tenets of universalism and other errors are implicit in the book. (source)

Rob Bell also says the same thing; however, their subsequent doctrine belies their disavowal of universalism in favor of a form of Christian universalism. As I make this case, it’s beyond any reasonable doubt that the sappy sentimentalism of Universal Redemption, also referred to as Christian Univesalism, slithers its iniquitous way into the spirituality of Wm. Paul Young’s magnum opus TS.

I’ll leave you with a few warnings concerning the spurious spirituality of TS. First of all, here’s what the quietly complaisant Tim Challies says in his review of TS:

Young did not write this book for the story. This book is all about the content and about the teaching it contains… Eugene Peterson grasps this, saying in his glowing endorsement,… “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” did for his. It’s that good!”

Could it really be that good? Is it good enough to warrant positive comparison to the English-language book that has been read more widely than any other save the Bible? Let’s turn to the book’s content and find out… Throughout the book there is this kind of subversive strain teaching that new and fresh revelation is much more relevant and important than the kind of knowledge we gain in sermons or seminaries or Scripture…

At several points I felt as if the author was encouraging the reader to doubt what they know of Christianity—to deconstruct what they know of Christian theology—and to embrace something new. But the faith Young reconstructs is simply not the faith of the Bible.

Because of the sheer volume of error and because of the importance of the doctrines reinvented by the author, I would encourage Christians, and especially young Christians, to decline this invitation to meet with God in The Shack. It is not worth reading for the story and certainly not worth reading for the theology. (source)

Next we have the aforementioned Dr. Gary Gilley, who informs us that TS of universalist Wm. Paul Young presents us another God entirely as:

the Trinity takes human form in the novel: the Father (called Papa throughout) appears as a large African-American woman who loves to cook; the Holy Spirit is called Sarayu (Sanskrit for air or wind) and is a small Asian woman who is translucent; and Jesus is a middle-age man, presumably of Jewish descent, who is a carpenter…

The main thrust of the novel concerns itself with an understanding of God and how we are to be in relationship to Him. [However] the method by which mankind comes into the right relationship with God is cloudy at best in The Shack. Young’s Trinity is equally confusing. The author does not develop his understanding of God exclusively from Scripture and, in fact, often contradicts biblical teaching.

The first issue is that of imagining and presenting human forms for the members of the Trinity…the first two of the Ten Commandments would forbid us depicting the Father or the Holy Spirit in physical form. When we create an image of God in our imagination we then attempt to relate to that image—which is inevitably a false one. This is the essence of idolatry and is forbidden in the Word.

Further, the portrayal of God throughout the novel is one which humanizes Him rather than exalts Him. Young quotes Jacques Ellul, “No matter what God’s power may be, the first aspect of God is never that of absolute Master, the Almighty. It is that of the God who puts Himself on our human level and limits Himself” (p. 88). Really? This quote is in contradiction to the entirety of biblical revelation which first and often declares God to be absolute Master, yet in no way mitigates the incarnation, as Young and Ellul are trying to claim.

Young further humanizes God and contradicts Scripture by teaching that all the members of the Trinity took human form at the incarnation: “When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human” (p. 99). Is Young advocating modalism (an ancient heresy which teaches that the Trinity is not composed of three distinct members but three distinct modes in which God appears throughout human history)? If not, it is abundantly clear that Young believes that the Father died on the cross with the Son and bears the marks of the cross to this day (pp. 95-95, 164).

He also does not believe that the Father abandoned Jesus on the cross as Scripture declares (p. 96). And any concept of authority and submission in the Godhead is denied (pp. 122, 145), although 1 Cor. 11:1-3 is clear that such authority/submission exists. More than that, God submits to us as well (p. 145). By the end of the book God is reduced to being our servant as we are His (it’s all about relationships, not authority) (pp. 236-237).

The very essence of God is challenged when Young, quoting from Unitarian-Universalist, Buckminster Fuller, declares God to be a verb not a noun (pp. 194, 204). In a related statement, Young has Jesus say of the Holy Spirit, “She is Creativity; she is Action; she is Breathing of Life” (p. 110). Yet the Bible presents God as a person (noun) not an action (verb). When this truth is denied we are moving from the biblical understanding of a personal God to an Eastern understanding of God in everything.10 (source)

Then there’s the Thirteen Heresies in The Shack compiled by Dr. Michael Youssef, Leading the Way Ministries:

1. God the Father was crucified with Jesus (96).

Because God’s eyes are pure and cannot look upon sin, the Bible says that God would not look upon His own beloved Son as He hung on the Cross, carrying our sins (Habakkuk 1:13; Matthew 27:45).

2. God is limited by His love and cannot practice justice (102).

The Bible declares that God’s love and His justice are two sides of the same coin — equally a part of the personality and the character of God (Isaiah 61:8; Hosea 2:19).

3. On the Cross, God forgave all of humanity, whether they repent or not. Some choose a relationship with Him, but He forgives them all regardless (225).

Jesus explained that only those who come to Him will be saved (John 14:6).

4. Hierarchical structures, whether they are in the Church or in the government, are evil (122).

Our God is a God of order (Job 25:2).

5. God will never judge people for their sins (120).

The Word of God repeatedly invites people to escape from the judgment of God by believing in Jesus Christ, His Son (Romans 2:16; 2 Timothy 4:1-3).

6. There is not a hierarchical structure in the Godhead, just a circle of unity (122).

The Bible says that Jesus submitted to the will of the Father. This doesn’t mean that one Person is higher or better than the other; just unique. Jesus said, “I came to do the will of Him who sent me. I am here to obey my Father.” Jesus also said, “I will send you the Holy Spirit” (John 4:34, 6:44, 14:26, 15:26).

7. God submits to human wishes and choices (145).

Far from God submitting to us, Jesus said, “Narrow is the way that leads to eternal life.” We are to submit to Him in all things, for His glory and because of what He has accomplished for us (Matthew 7:13-15).

8. Justice will never take place because of love (164).

The Bible teaches that when God’s love is rejected, and when the offer of salvation and forgiveness is rejected, justice must take place or God has sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for nothing (Matthew 12:20; Romans 3:25-26).

9. There is no such a thing as eternal judgment or torment in hell (248).

Jesus’ own description of hell is vivid … it cannot be denied (Luke 12:5, 16:23).

10. Jesus is walking with all people in their different journeys to God, and it doesn’t matter which way you get to Him (182).

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one will come to the Father but by me” (John 14:6).

11. Jesus is constantly being transformed along with us (182).

Jesus, who dwells in the splendor of heaven, sits at the right hand of God, reigning and ruling the universe. The Bible says, “In Him there is no change, for He is yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 11:12, 13:8; James 1:17).

12. There is no need for faith or reconciliation with God because everyone will make it to heaven (122, 192).

Jesus said, “Only those who believe in me will have eternal life” (John 3:15, 3:36, 5:24, 6:40).

13. The Bible is not true because it reduces God to paper (65, 66, 134, 198).

The Bible is God-breathed. Sure, there were many men through 1,800 years who put pen to paper (so to speak), each from different professions and different backgrounds, but the Holy Spirit infused their work with God’s words. These men were writing the same message from Genesis to Revelation. If you want to read more about the place of Christ in the Scripture, read “We Preach Christ” (2 Timothy 3:16).

And finally, here’s Todd Friel of Wretched Radio adding some further commentary to Youssef’s Thirteen Heresies:

So, in the end, I say let’s pray that the Christian community will indeed send the world the right message about this upcoming movie and Stay Away From “The Shack”

Further reading

Endnotes

  1. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/10453443/Oprah-Winfrey-on-her-massages-with-Forest-Whitaker-her-co-star-in-The-Butler.html, accessed 6/10/14.
  2. http://www.charismanews.com/culture/43750-will-oprah-play-god-in-the-shack-film, accessed 6/10/14.
  3. This movie and e.g. last night’s Pastor Carl Lentz Baptizes Justin Bieber in a Bathtub?
  4. Matt Slick of CARM does a nice job presenting this complex subject here: http://carm.org/new-age-what, accessed 6/10/14.
  5. 2 Corinthians 11:4 tells us there is such a thing as another Jesus; and giving you the benefit of my nearly 30 years in the ministry fields of apologetics, non-Christian cults, and Comparative Religion, I introduced you to a number of them a few years ago in Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?
  6. http://images.oprah.com/images/obc_classic/book/2008/anewearth/ane_chapter1_transcript.pdf, accessed 6/10/14.
  7. cf. John 14:6
  8. cf. 1 John 5:1
  9. http://www.westernseminary.edu/admissions/faculty/james-deyoung, accessed 6/10/14.
  10. Gilley notes: God “in” everything is known as panentheism—an Eastern belief akin to pantheism which teaches that God IS everything. In reality there is very little difference between the two.