Popular blogger and pastor Tim Challies has once again addressed Jesus Calling, the blockbuster book that contains “devotions for every day of the year.” Author Sarah Young claims direct divine revelations. Tim wrote a review (here) in 2011 and now lays out 10 significant problems with the hugely popular devotional.
Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling is a phenomenon that shows no signs of slowing down. According to publisher Thomas Nelson, it “continues to grow in units sold each year since it was released [and] has surpassed 15 million copies sold.” Nelson is involved in an expansive new marketing campaign that involves a new web site and daily radio devotionals. ECPA reports that “Thomas Nelson began its partnership with the Salem Media group to provide 60-second daily messages on Eric Metaxas’ show, which is carried on more than 100 stations nationwide and worldwide on SiriusXM Radio. The Jesus Calling radio devotional reaches more than 500,000 people each day through these segments.” With 15 million copies sold, it has marched its way into rare company.
Yet it is a deeply troubling book. I am going to point out 10 serious problems with Jesus Calling in the hope that you will consider and heed these warnings.
1. She speaks for God. Far and away the most troubling aspect of the book is its very premise—that Sarah Young hears from Jesus and then dutifully brings his messages to her readers. Jesus Calling makes the boldest, gutsiest, and, to my mind, most arrogant claim of any book ever to be considered Christian. The publisher describes the book in this way: “After many years of writing her own words in her prayer journal, missionary Sarah Young decided to be more attentive to the Savior’s voice and begin listening for what He was saying. So with pen in hand, she embarked on a journey that forever changed her—and many others around the world. In these powerful pages are the words and Scriptures Jesus lovingly laid on her heart. Words of reassurance, comfort, and hope. Words that have made her increasingly aware of His presence and allowed her to enjoy His peace (italics mine).” There is no way to avoid her claim that she is communicating divine revelation, a claim that raises a host of questions and concerns, not the least of which is the doctrine of Scripture alone which assures us that the Bible and the Bible alone is sufficient to guide us in all matters of faith and practice.
2. She proclaims the insufficiency of the Bible. Jesus Calling only exists because Sarah Young had a deep desire to hear from God outside of the Bible. In the introduction she describes the book’s genesis: “I began to wonder if I … could receive messages during my times of communing with God. I had been writing in prayer journals for years, but that was one-way communication: I did all the talking. I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more. Increasingly, I wanted to hear what God had to say to me personally on a given day.” In those few sentences she sets up unnecessary competition between her revelation and what we are told of the Bible in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “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 complete, equipped for every good work.” Biblically, there is no category for what she provides as the heart and soul of her book. Biblically, there is no need for it and no reason we should expect or heed it.