The Shack movie deals with the tough questions, in theaters March 3rd. Based on the New York Times best-selling novel with over 22 million copies in print worldwide, The Shack takes us on a father”€™s life-transforming journey that will show him the ultimate truth about love, loss, and forgiveness. Tune in today as we discuss all this and more on todays episode!

Air Date: 02/28/2017

Guests: Brad Cummings, David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton


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Transcription note:  As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast.  However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers.  Additionally, names may be misspelled because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.



Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture, WallBuilders Live! Thanks for joining us today where we”€™re discussing these hottest topics on policy, faith, and the culture from a Biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective.

We’re here with David Barton. He’s America’s premiere historian and one of TIME magazine’s top 25 Influential American evangelicals and founder of WallBuilders. Also Tim Barton, national pastor, speaker, and president of WallBuilders. And my name is Rick Green.  I’m a former Texas state rep.

You can find out more about us at our website and also We’re a pro-family organization presenting America’s forgotten history and heroes with an emphasis on our religious, moral, and constitutional heritage.

WallBuilders has been recognized from coast to coast for its work in education, history, law, and public policy, always integrating the elements of Biblical faith and morality throughout all aspects of American life and culture.

David, Tim, we cover really every area the culture, the pulpit, the area of business, politics a lot, education, but also the media and entertainment. In fact, I remember somebody a few years ago saying, “€œThe movie makers were like the high priests of our culture. It greatly influences where people are, the types of movies that we have.”€

A Huge Success


Yeah, it does influence that. But in this case, we’re going to talk about a movie today that actually has a huge following to start with.  It hasn’t even been released. It first came out in a book form.  There’s a lot of movies that go from book to the screen.  If there was a bestselling book that would get a pretty decent look at the screen, bet this one’s going to be I think a whole lot more than that.

By the way, a best selling book may only have 50-60 thousand copies sold, and that’s a lot for a book. But when you consider 330 million people in America, I mean you’re talking tenths of 1%. So, if you have about 1 million bestseller man you have a huge blockbuster at a million. But that”€™s still only one-third of 1% of Americans that have read that book.

You go back to something like Common Sense which Thomas Paine did.  It had 50% penetration. 50% of Americans read that thing, that would be you know massive today.

There was a book that came out a few years ago that had 22 million copies sold. Now, that’s not a small show, that’s a huge thing. Means a lot of people liked it and told others because they didn’t have much of an advertising campaign. It was kind and by word of mouth that it went around. And so when that movie comes out here shortly, the book was called “€œThe Shack,”€ and it was, you know, a lot of controversy with it. There are people who hated it, there were people who loved it, but nonetheless 22 million people went with it. That’s about to be a movie.

The Three Person Godhead


An interesting publishing story behind this.  It originally wasn’t picked up by a major publisher. They self-published it, and like you said, word of mouth just went crazy.


Yeah, there was so much traction on it. It was interesting because it was a faith fiction but it tried to be rooted in spiritual truth. And anytime you try to make a faith fiction rooted in spiritual truth, if you start touching theology, it doesn’t matter what you do, you’re going to offend somebody somewhere.

That’s just the nature where there are some things that for different denominations are really important. I don’t envy someone that’s going to make a faith film that’s going to mess, well, “€œmess with”€ is relative, that’s going to address doctrinal things or try to present doctrinal things. And maybe doctrinal might not even be the best way to say this because I don’t think they’re trying to present doctrine.


Could even just be fundamental spiritual principles.


Yeah,  because in The Shack you do deal with the kind of the three-person Godhead where you have the Father,  Son, and the Holy Spirit and they’re all revealed in human form. And so then you’ve really kind of have to micro-examine what they do and say, “€œOk, is that really how God the Father would be?”€

A Creative Story

Or one of the controversies, in this case, God the mother, “€œI don’t think that’s right.”€ And you know, in a little bit of defense of the book, they point out that God is all. Go back to Genesis 1 where male and female.  He made in His image. So, in the story, God appears in female form because the guy that he’s dealing with has all this kind of back drama with his father and so there are issues with men. And so God appeared in a form that he could relate to so God could minister.

But when you start getting in that, there’s just so many, “€œOk, I’m not sure?”€ because it’s something we’ve never have seen and done before but there’s a lot of interesting topics. It does bring up that really is worth having a conversation about. There is some great stuff there.


It was not trying to be a doctrinal book.  It was not trying to say that God is male or female.  It’s just that’s where the fiction went.

Dealing With Tough Questions


Basically use a creative story, if you will, to get people to talk about some big questions. They really address, when you’re talking about, “€œIf there’s a God, why does he let bad things happen?”€

When you’re talking about, “€œCan you really forgive when something horrible has happened?”€ I mean, these are some serious subjects and it does use a very creative way to get people at least to have that conversation.


Well, we get to have the author of the book and the producer of the movie on with us.  And it”€™s  not a small movie, it’s come out through the Lion’s Gate and it will have a big show because there are so many people who like the book and read it.

If you know you stand the big issues and if it turns into a doctrinal debate, it”€™s going to be a problem. But if he stays on the big issues of the heart and dealing with tough questions that’s going to touch a lot of folks. No question about it.


Brad Cummings is that producer and that author. He’s going to be with us when we come back.  Stay with us on WallBuilders Live!

Pastors Only Briefing Trip


Hi, this is Tim Barton with WallBuilders and I want to encourage all the pastors out there with a unique opportunity that we’re presenting at WallBuilders. We’re doing a special tour just for pastors that you can come and learn more about the spiritual heritage of our nation. Not just seeing the sights but understanding the significance of what they are and what they represent.

We get to go to the Capitol at night.  And we get to see the spiritual heritage of our Founding Fathers, of who we are as a nation, where we came from. We bring in congressman that will tell you about current legislation, about our religious liberties  and freedom, and what’s going on in Washington D.C.

If you’re a pastor or if you want to recommend your pastor for this trip, you can go to our website at  And there’s a link that’s for scheduling.  If you click on that link there’s a section for pastor”€™s briefing. There’s more information about the dates, when it’s going, and how it’s going to happen. If you want to know more about our nation, our religious liberties, our freedom, our spiritual heritage, this is a trip you want to be a part of.

Where Is God In The Midst Of This


Welcome back thanks for staying with us on WallBuilders Live. Our guest today is one of the co-authors of the book and producer the new movie The Shack, Brad Cummings is with us. Brad, how are you doing, man?


I”€™m doing fantastic.


Thanks for coming on and congrats on the movie coming out. March 3rd is the big day!


Nationwide, 3,000 theaters. We’re excited.


Yeah, you guys you got some star power in this too, Sam Worthington.


Yeah, he was in Avatar and the Clash of the Titans. This I think is an incredible dramatic role for him and he just knocked it out of the park. Tim McGraw thought extremely well on it, as well.


Tim McGraw plays Willie our little narrator and Max’s best friend. Then Octavia Spencer plays Papa.  She just was exquisite.


I have to tell you, Sam Worthington, it was so weird for me to watch him not be this tough fighting dude. But actually be a normal kind of broken man with a tragedy in his life.


Yeah, I think he carries himself incredibly well. I think what I love so much is Sam is very much a man’s man. And so The Shack is not a chick flick, this is very much wrestling head on with loss and suffering and asks the proverbial question, “€œWhere is God in the midst of all that?

Why Do So Many Bad Things Happen


Yeah, it was one thing I was impressed by, you did not shy away from very, very tough questions. Frankly, questions that this millennial generation is asking a lot these days in terms of, “€œIf there’s a God, how can he allow these type of horrific tragedies to happen?”€


Yeah, I think it was fantastic in this drama is that it”€™s very much a story and has a lot of truth in it, but it”€™s not peddling an agenda. That is really driven along by the emotion of the drama and kind of the mystery.

For folks who don’t know the story, a man takes his family on a camping vacation and his youngest daughter goes missing and they never find the body. How do you deal with that? He goes into great sadness and then he gets a mystery note in his mailbox inviting him back to this very place.

It”€™s this, “€œWho in the world sent this?”€ And so against his better judgment, the note was signed, “€œPapa”€ which is his wife’s nickname for God. And you go, “€œCould God possibly-“€ I mean, it’s like one of those mind benders. “€œReally? Could God actually crawl into the midst of this situation? Or who is he going to see?”€

It’s a wonderful unfolding drama that allows you to kind of have a chance- and he goes up there and has the entire weekend with God. It’s sort of displays the Trinity but it’s sort of busts an awful lot of stereotypes.

Finally Hollywood Has Got It Right


And in his case you know you’re dealing with a situation a lot of people deal with when they have tragedy in their life. Their faith comes into question and they really doubt or perhaps, even walk away from their faith. You hit a lot of that head on.

By the way, I forgot to mention, the book.  Yeah, it did ok. I mean what? Twenty-something million copies right?


22 million copies going into 40 different languages. In Brazil alone it’s referenced as the most important book they’ve ever published. So yeah, it was-


Best-selling Christian novel since Ben-Hur, maybe? I don’t know?


You know what, I actually don”€™t know all of our accolades on the book side. I am thrilled with how it’s done. It was birthed out of my garage which is rather astonishing that we’re there.

From the get go, I saw an exquisite movie that was possible out of all of this. More people go and watch films than they do sit and read books. I think the book is a wonderful meal that people can fully dive in and enjoy but to translate this into film was was such a battle and the difficulty to try to get it right.

I love some of the responses, this is one that people would say, “€œFinally, Hollywood has got it right.”€ And I really believe we came out with a very faithful adaptation of a deeply spiritual story that a rather entertaining drama.

Self Published Miracle


You mentioned the kind of the publishing miracle here. I mean you guys had what 26 Christian publishers and others say no? It”€™s a great story of perseverance and just being willing to believe in your project, and ended up publishing it yourself initially. Like 11,000 copies and then boom 30, more and 60 more in, and wow, here we are.


We were sort of caught in our own tsunami of success which was a little harder to navigate than I thought, just trying to keep up with what was going on. But I think it’s because this story resonates in the heart of people.

Everybody has been touched with pain. There’s nobody on the planet that’s immune from it.  The challenge most of us feel so alone in the midst of it. You just go like, “€œThis was not the script I submitted to Heaven. This was not what I wanted to do, Lord.”€

I think we feel so alienated and so absent from where is God in the midst of this? And this is such a beautiful drama that speaks to that. We don’t provide any trite answers. That’s what I sort of love.  There’s a raw honesty that struggles with really hard to answer questions. But what’s revealed in the process I believe is a beautiful picture of the heart of God. He just promised to never leave us nor forsake us.

How individuals sort that out, that’s the beautiful part of the story is I think people can see their own life in their own struggles and they’re offered a beautiful glimpse hat they normally don’t see. And yet, we purposely never put a sales pitch in this movie.


Gotta take a quick break. Brad Cummings, our special guest today, producer of The Shack. Stay with us.  You’re listening to WallBuilders Live.

Moment From America”€™s History

This is David Barton with another moment from America’s history. In the case Lee versus Weisman, the Supreme Court ruled that for an adult to mention the word, “€œGod”€ at a public graduation constituted both psychological and religious coercion against the students.

Yet, consider the actions of William Samuel Johnson, a signer of the Constitution and one of America’s leading educators who served as the first president of Columbia College. At his graduation exercises William Samuel Johnson declared to the students, “€œYou this day have received a public education. The purpose whereof had been to qualify you better to serve your Creator and your country. Your first great duties, are sensible, are those you owe to Heaven, to your Creator and Redeemer.”€

Founding Father William Samuel Johnson believed that a public graduation was an appropriate setting to remind students of the duties which they owed God.

For more information on God’s hand in American history, contact WallBuilders at 1 800 8REBUILD.

What Is So Shocking About The Book


Welcome back.  Thanks for staying with us here on WallBuilders Live. Brad Cummings is with us.  He’s one of the co-authors of The Shack book and also a producer of the movie that’s coming out on March 3rd.

To be totally fair to our listeners that go in eyes wide open, it is a controversial book. And movie among some in the Christian community just because of the way you do portray God in a very different way. It is a shocking kind of-


You’re not ready for what you see in the visuals.


Right, no doubt. So, let’s make sure people know that.  You’ve been accused by some critics of almost being a little bit too Universal, Unitarian, in the in the presentation of the gospel message.

Dealing With The Why


I understand as far as if people don’t listen with real I think specific clarity they can be afraid of that. What’s behind this is there’s a very generous heart of God that we’re trying to communicate.

I think religion has argued over so many things, so many times, to the ruin of the hearers. And I think what we’ve missed is the very heart of God in the midst of it. You know full-fledged there is a beautiful presentation of the Gospel in the midst of everything that surrounds this movie. Jesus’ death on the cross is central to the drama but it’s very subtle as opposed to focusing on a doctrinal what it really reveals the heart of why.

God’s heart was to crawl into the mess and the nightmare of humanity so as to bring forth healing, as a gift of those who would receive it. I think this really is a relational look at theology where we’re actually dealing with a person’s–

We took some liberty and license and we crafted a drama where all three people of the Trinity are there. In the Bible only Jesus is incarnated, you know. And so you know arguably to put flesh on God the Father and the Holy Spirit we’re taking some license with the story but I don’t know how else to give a drama that you can visually see.

Revealing God”€™s Heart


And you’re not even, I don’t think you’re even really necessarily targeting so much those that are in the church now as those that have heard or seen a little bit and don’t really understand and can’t relate. And this is a way of reaching them where they are.

Where Is God In All This?


You know what, in all honesty, we’re targeting humans. Because I think regardless of whether they’re in the church or out of the church people really struggle with pain. They do struggle with the universal questions of, “€œWhere is God in all of this?”€ And this is meant to be a relational drama that unfolds and reveals what I believe is very biblically consistent with the heart of God, his personality.

We purposely have some things that bust stereotypes because I think when we hear little triggers we end up with our little mantras of doctrine, and for a lot of people, those are just words. They really aren’t heart revelations of a God that I’m relating with.

I sort of feel like at the end of the day doctrine is incredibly important. I’m one of those top scholars when I was in seminary, got a masters of divinity. I am no slouch when it comes to the Bible.

But, we’re not saved by our doctrine. I don’t know where we got this idea that “€œI’m saved by 100% pure and perfect logic and thinking.”€ I’m saved by a savior. And I’m saved by my relationship and trust in that savior.

I think a lot of times we trip and stumble over issues of minor doctrine. On the majors, I think this is absolutely clear. On the minors, a lot of people have a lot of opinions and I free all of them to have them and share them.

Forgiveness And Judgment


What are you hoping people get out of the forgiveness portion of this? Because that is definitely a major theme in the movie and a very powerful part of what happens in the movie.

Because that’s the no question, that’s a big part of what gets people off track is the bitterness that wells up from from holding those grudges or just not being able to forgive when you’re truly wronged.


Yeah, I think, especially when you have the proverbial innocence that is just destroyed, that seems unforgivable. Nobody wants to give that an excuse, that just should be utterly judged. I think we all feel that.

The difficulty is, neither you nor I are called upon to be the judge of the universe. And we have a judge. But the problem is we don’t know him well.  We’re not confident of how much he really loves us. So if you try to trust when you’re not confident of being loved, it’s impossible.

One of the beautiful stories in this is God wins us to a place of trust, by winning us to a revelation of how confident we can be and in the fact that he loves us. Forgiveness unlocked in that place.

I think it’s really hard to forgive when you don’t know that there is a righteous judge who loves you and is going to do right. I think because we’re insecure about that, we then feel like, “€œI have to step in and somehow make this right.”€ And we’re not very good at that. Because we”€™re limited, we don”€™t see all the perspectives, and if we put a plumb line of fairness on this, the measure you use will be measured unto you. I don’t know about you, when I stop and ponder that I go, “€œI think I’ll go for mercy.”



Right, well, I was also glad to see that the scene towards the end with the with Graham Greene when he does say, “€œI was afraid it might go the direction of “€˜everybody’s forgiven no matter what you do,’ and he made it clear, “€œNo, there’s consequences for your actions as well.”€ So, it wasn’t just a feel good kind of just be nice and love everyone no matter what.


No, it’s like nobody gets away with anything. This is very much a holy righteous judge. That is who God is. But he’s also a tender available papa. I mean Jesus came to reveal God. And we don’t get a better look, you look at Jesus, and we’re supposed to.

Hebrews says, “€œHe’s the exact representation of God.”€ So when we look at Jesus we kind of go like, “€œI dig Jesus.”€ But I don’t know why we have this good cop/bad cop schizophrenia perception of the Father.


Brad, last thing.  Website folks can go to to learn more?


Come to, gives you all the information on the movie releases and tickets and stuff like that. And if you’re interested in engaging with the whole live forum of folks that are interested in these questions, exploring them, that has been in existence for a decade and blows up and you know, causes servers to crash. There’s a bunch of people there that love it.


Alright man, appreciate you coming on.  Thanks for being here.


Thanks, Rick.


Stay with us folks.  We’ll be right back with David and Tim Barton.

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In The Midst Of The Hurt God Is With Us


Welcome back.  Thanks for staying with us here on WallBuilders Live! Thanks to Brad Cummings for joining us today as well. Back with David and Tim. Guys, like Brad said, they’re trying to get to the heart of the matter.

Honestly, one of the biggest questions I think that this will raise with people certainly from outside the church is, “€œIs there a God? Can there actually be a God in an evil world?”€


Yeah, and I think that they do a pretty interesting and compelling job of answering that question, certainly, something that I have not seen the movie yet, I’ve only read the book. In other conversations with Brad, he said, “€œYou know, one of the tough things about doing a movie in Hollywood is there’s only so much faith elements that they understand.”€ So as you’re trying to explain who God is and the love of God and even as a producer, you’re trying to help the actors and actresses know the part they’re trying to play. There’s only so much that resonates with them.

So he said, “€œYou know, there are certain things where for me as a Christian, I looking “€œOh man, I wish we would have done that better.  But when you consider it’s Hollywood, it’s amazing that Hollywood did something in the level they did it at.”€

There’s been screenings all around the U.S. going on and Brad’s posted on social media and we’ve had conversations about it and people have just been moved and you know, kind of this reconnection with God, because there is a lot of forgiveness and healing that takes place in this movie. And that certainly is a central theme that there is a God who does love me in spite of sometimes what I’ve dealt with and gone through and felt alone and abandoned and whatever else.

So, they really do a very interesting job in the story of helping portray the hurt of life and the loving God who”€™s there with us in the midst of that hurt.

Discussing The Difficult And Big Questions


And like David, you said at the very beginning of  the program. I mean it raises the questions and we’ll begin the conversations that a lot of people, frankly, need to have. There were things approached, I had a chance to do a prescreen of it, and man, I’m telling you it’s done in a very powerful, Hollywood story kind of way.

It’s a tough, tough, story about what happens to this guy. And as a father, it. made me think, “€œHow would I feel if that happened and how would I deal with my anger towards God for letting it happen? How would I deal with having to forgive horrific things that that had happened.

They definitely approach some very tough issues and handle them in a very different, let’s just be clear, very different, very creative way. That really does make you think. And I don’t agree with everything in the movie or the theology and all that kind of stuff,  but I’m telling you, it will raise good questions and make you think about some things and open the door for conversations with friends that maybe hadn’t been able to open that with.


And Rick, that”€™s a great point.  In the midst of this is not some kind of doctrinal or biblical philosophical movie that we’re taking people to go, “€œOh, that’s the gospel message that I’ve never understood and the intricate doctrines of Christianity.”€ But, it could be a great conversation piece and the opportunity to have some of these conversations about difficult issues with a very well done movie.


And it”€™s like we’ve talked about, we bring up Ben-Hur all the time and there’s a novel that you know I’ve never analyzed Ben-Hur for it’s doctrinal things, it’s more about it points people to Christ.

It points people to ask those questions and study those things and very much the same thing here with The Shack.

So thanks to Brad Cummings for joining us today on our program. Thank you for listening. You’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live!