A follow up on Jesus Calling

The book Jesus Calling is wildly popular, having sold over 8 million copies as of March 2013, not to mention the many other “Jesus” books Young has written. Disturbingly enough, there’s even an app for that. Amy left a comment on my review of Jesus Calling recently and she asked some questions that I’d like to address.

Amy commented:

“I wonder why you would bother to read ANY other author, DeYoung or Gilley that pertains to Biblical exegesis or even Biblical commentaries for that matter. They too, are the authors personal interpretations or thoughts that they have obtained after prayer to God before putting pen to paper.”

My response: I think there are Christian books that can edify believers, although none so much as the actual scriptures. But I think your question makes a false comparison here. In the case of Kevin DeYoung and Gary Gilley, these authors have studied the Bible and are striving to apply it to a situation. This is not the same as what Sarah Young says she has done. Young claims to have received personal messages from God outside of scripture, which she has written down and then vetted herself. The introduction of Jesus Calling makes this clear, as do other books she has written:

In Jesus Today she writes, “Like Jesus Calling, Jesus Today is written from the perspective of Jesus speaking to you, the reader. As with all my books, I relied on the help of the Holy Spirit as I worked — seeking to listen to Jesus throughout the creative process. When I write in this way, I am always selective in my listening. If anything is unbiblical, I reject it. I believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God, and I strive to present to my readers only what is consistent with that unchanging standard.”

If this voice was of God why would she need to vet it for Biblical consistency? It also begs the question, how much of what she heard does she not present in her books because it contradicts the Bible and therefore could not have been from God?

Again in Jesus Lives, Young writes: “As with my previous books, I composed this one by listening and writing, listening and writing — always in prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit. I wrote down what I ‘heard’ from the Lover of my soul while listening intently in His Presence.

And in Dear Jesus, perhaps the clearest explanation of how she got the words to write these books:

“My first devotional book, Jesus Calling, grew out of writings gleaned from my times of focused concentration on Jesus: waiting in His Presence, listening in my mind for his communications. As I listened and wrote, I continually asked for the Holy Spirit’s help. … I wrote Dear Jesus in the same listening to God mode that I used with Jesus Calling.”

Unlike other authors, she is not simply explaining how the Bible ministered to her, or how she applied it to her life. She is claiming direct revelation from God by means that are not prescribed in the Bible. Jesus taught his disciples how to pray and did not instruct them to listen for a voice in their minds. The epistles instruct us to study the Bible and hold fast to sound doctrine and teach us what we need to know to live as servants of Jesus Christ, yet nowhere in the Bible does it tell us to to do what Young has done. This is why I reject her methodology, and it because I reject her methods that I cannot embrace what has come from it.

Amy’s comments continue: “Sarah Young has been a missionary for years in Japan and is currently serving Japanese people in Australia. She has had many chronic physical difficulties and through these times has learned to ‘listen’ and obey God. She is not a deceiver. Our church has hosted her and housed her short term. Her putting ‘Jesus Calling’ into first person was her attempt to encourage the reader to engage personally with Jesus and to know that He will guide you through His words, not hers. That is why she bases every devotional on scripture. She is sharing her thoughts from Jesus and encouraging you, not telling you that you should act or base your decisions on her thoughts.”

I have no reason to think she isn’t a nice person, and I am not judging her motives in any way. But that does not mean she has not deceived herself or been deceived by the book that led her into this sort of listening adventure in the first place.

“She is saying that this is what God has told HER. She isn’t implying that her words from God should mean more to us than His. She is listening for the ‘still small voice.'”

The Bible does not tell us to listen for a still, small voice of God as I’ve pointed out before with the help of John Downey. That description of God’s voice is not prescriptive or normative. Also, whether she states it outright or not, by writing book after book based on what she has heard from God she encourages others to do exactly the same kind of listening she has done and that is why I have warned about this book. There is no way to objectively know if the voice you hear is from God, Satan or your own depraved mind. Experiences like that are seductive, drawing people away from the infallible Word of God that to many seems boring in comparison with a personal word from God.

Amy, I appreciate your willingness to comment and I realize we may never agree about this, but I hope my response helps you understand why I stand by what I’ve written.

6 thoughts on “A follow up on Jesus Calling

  1. Pingback: Do Not Be Surprised… This ‘n’ That (12 July 2013) | Truth2Freedom's Blog

  2. I really appreciate your blog and the thoroughness of your thoughts. It is refreshing in a world where it seems Christians are just massively deceived and they just don’t want to hear the truth. It’s such a source of frustration and discouragement for me to see people not studying the Bible and just believing whatever they hear without discerning whether it is true and lines up with Scripture. Thank you for your boldness in pointing these out.

  3. Pingback: Podcast Recommendation: 4 Keys to Hearing God’s Voice? | Steak and a Bible

  4. I appreciate your discussion on Jesus Calling. My mom (not a believer) has been reading it on the advice of her Christian counselor. A phrase she read bothered me a bit and I had to respond “I don’t care what that says; I care what THAT says.” (Pointing to the bible). In all the criticisms I’ve read, however, I have yet to see any specific texts in the book clarified as unbiblical, but only discussion on her method. Is there anything you’ve read in this devotional which clearly contradicts scripture that you could comment on?

    • Hi Kevin, thanks for writing. My focus was on her methods being wrong because that should be enough. However, I have seen some scrutiny of the way her “Jesus” says things that the real Jesus wouldn’t. There should be some examples online, but if not you might consider Warren Smith’s book, another Jesus calling. I think he delves into that.

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