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.
Brian Lowry of Variety reviews “Belief,” a seven-night miniseries Oprah produced that explores the origins and impacts of different world religions. Without getting too far afield, Oprah says she’s a Christian. However, when we examine the beliefs she holds it becomes clear that her religious views are more in line with New Age/New Thought.
Now to Lowry’s review:
Oprah Winfrey narrated Discovery’s splendid nature series “Life,” and seeks to bring similar production values — including sleek photography and a sweeping score — to OWN’s take on faith in “Belief.” Yet as earnest and human-interest oriented as this seven-part production is, it will play best among those who buy into the billionaire mogul/personality’s particular brand of “Live your best life” mumbo-jumbo, a mix of spirituality and self-help. The Oprah seal of approval should make this a winner by OWN’s standards, but for all its positive energy, “Belief” will likely wind up preaching to the choir.
“My confidence comes from knowing there is a force, a power, greater than myself, that I’m a part of, and that is also a part of me,” Winfrey says in voiceover at the outset of each installment, summing up where she stands on the belief continuum. After that, however, the program is — literally and by design — all over the map, flitting to different spots across the globe to explore manifestations of faith in all its varied forms.
Popular blogger and pastor Tim Challies has written a stellar review of Paul Young’s latest attempt at distorting the true meaning of the Bible:
On the positive side, I think [William] Paul Young has become a markedly better writer since The Shack. On the negative side, he continues to use his writing to undermine and redefine Christian theology. By my reckoning, that’s a net loss. Where The Shack was meant to revolutionize our understanding of God, his new novel Eve is meant to revolutionize and rescue our understanding of the relationship between men and women. And it is no less troubling.
Now, obviously Eve is fiction, which means it can be tricky to determine exactly what the author actually means to teach through his story. There is a lot in the novel that is complex and symbolic and that awaits the author’s authoritative interpretation. But what is clear is that Young’s novel is a retelling of the creation narrative through which he means to right a great wrong
John Lanagan of My Word Like Fire expresses his concern over the actress the Kendrick brothers cast in their new film:
Photo courtesy newsbusters.org
I saw the movie, War Room, and liked it very much. Priscilla Shirer is an incredible actress, and the director made wise use of her facial expressions to tell much of the story.
Shirer is far more than an actress in a Christian movie. She is an author, speaker, and Bible teacher, and this movie is going to bring many women into her sphere of influence.
That’s not a good thing.
Blogger Sunny Shell reviews A.D., the Bible Continues, a made for TV movie produced by New Age Catholics Roma Downey and her husband Mark Burnett. In Shell’s opinion, their work is deeply flawed and, in her words, “heretical.” “A more suitable title for what the television show conveys,” says Shell, “would be ‘A.D. The Bible As We’d Like It To Be’”.
This show is no different from not-“The Bible” miniseries and not-“The Son of God” movie. Just as these previous productions created new scenes and dialogue that are not found in the real Bible, with dramatic music and excessive, mystical imagery, ‘A.D.’ proves to flop in facts, but succeeds in fallacious depictions of Christ, His apostles, His disciples and other people who played a role in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the true Son of God.
Upon its publication, the book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young quickly became a bestselling sensation among professing Christians. Since its initial release and in spite of concerns raised by men such as Tim Challies, who noted that it was “a very dangerous book,” there nevertheless has grown a sort of Jesus Calling empire, with additional books, children’s books, and even a study bible.
Michael Horton of The White Horse Inn offers his own thoughts on this devotional book. He concludes:
Reading Jesus Calling, I was reminded of the confusing message of my Christian youth. Longing for “something more,” I pored over my mother’s bookshelf: Thomas a Kempis’ Imitation of Christ, D. L. Moody, Bill Bright, and Andrew Murray. Only with the discovery of the Reformers and various Puritan writers was I offered a liberating alternative that drew me out of myself to cling to Christ. While looking to this Reformation stream for a cluster of doctrines, many in the history of pietism have looked for “something more” elsewhere. Luther and Calvin may be great guides on understanding salvation, but we find our spirituality in medieval and modern alternatives. Yet Reformation piety directs us to the Word, always to the Word, where Christ speaks to us every time it is preached and his sacraments are administered in his name. When we come to this Word, in public and in private, we never need something more.
Pastor Larry DeBruyn reviews Jonathan Cahn’s bestseller The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery that Holds the Secret of America’s Future from a unique Scriptural perspective. Can one apply the words of judgment spoken and written to ancient Judah (circa 732 BC) by the prophet Isaiah (i.e., Isa. 9:10–11) to the fall of the Twin Towers on 9/11 and its aftermath in America?
This popular book is now beginning to cause some unrest in the Christian community. Apprising Ministries is pleased to point you to this short review.
At the White Horse Inn blog, Brooke Mintun offers a brief review of Francis Chan’s new children’s book, Halfway Herbert. She writes:
My problem with Chan’s book isn’t that it emphasizes our obligation to live righteously; it’s that it doesn’t acknowledge in any way the fact that Christ has already lived righteously for us – the imperative is given without the indicative; there’s law, but no gospel – which is only half the truth revealed in Scripture and half the message children need to hear.
The following two reviews of Kirk Cameron’s Monumental came out today, which express disappointment in the movie from an evangelistic perspective. Each article can be read in their entirety at the respective links:
Michael Coughlin writes:
First of all, God is worthy of our praise, worship and OBEDIENCE regardless of whether we think it will achieve for us our desired effect. As well…many of the people who need the gospel will be turned off by this message. They (unregenerate, unrepentant sinners) do not desire the freedom offered by the gospel…they desire their sin. Promising a homosexual or an abortion doctor or a prostitute or a hardened criminal that a return to biblical roots will offer them freedom and help our country is asinine. They do not have any desire for the freedom offered by the gospel.
What they need is to be told of God’s righteous judgment which is imminent, that His wrath is currently abiding on them, and the escape offered by grace through faith alone in the resurrected Son of God, Jesus Christ who became sin on behalf of His people. They need to know that Jesus Christ is their Lord, whether they acknowledge it or not. Attempts to convincing them that biblical basis for laws without a regenerated heart will not only be unfruitful, but somewhat insulting. You may as well tell a leopard to change his spots or an ethiopian to change his skin color…Jeremiah 13:23. You could make the argument that the country could be made better using these principles, even if people don’t believe them. That even false converts and members of apostate christian churches and groups could embrace the morality and promote it, but who cares? I’m not trying to make the world a better place from where people can go to hell. I praise God so many unbelievers still have a conscience, but their end is the same as the most violent criminal apart from faith alone in Christ alone…
John Chisham writes:
Maybe I had wrong expectations. Maybe I assumed since this movie was marketed in the way that it was that there would be a strong Gospel message to get back to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to the teachings in the Bible, to the centrality and need of strong God-honoring marriages and family. You could draw that out, but as evidenced in my conversations with people following the movie, you could draw that out and apply that to the God of their own understanding…
…this is the problem the critics warned us about before the movie. This seems like a revival of the religion of America, manifest destiny, that we are somehow a Christian nation and that God will bless us because we are his chosen ones…
Berit Kjos of Kjos Ministries reviews the smash hit The Hunger Games. The movie is based on Suzanne Collin’s first novel of a trilogy that has fascinated readers young and old alike. Kjos warns of the movie’s occult themes and “stark contradictions to America’s founding beliefs and values.”
This movie is part one of the story based on the last book in the Twilight series. Bella, a human, and Edward, a vampire, are to be married, which means at some point she must become a vampire. This is something Bella has wanted for a long time, so she is delighted.
Early in the movie, Edward tells Bella about his past when he decided to give in to his blood lust as a young vampire. However, he killed only murderers, as Bella kindly points out. Edward tries to get Bella to consider changing her mind about becoming a vampire but she is not to be persuaded.
Are you a believer who is struggling through what is commonly called “Calvinism” but desires to grow in the knowledge of God’s grace? Maybe you have difficulty with the “problem verses” in Scripture that seem to speak against God’s absolute sovereign election, or perhaps you might be one who admittedly hates Calvinism, but you are curious as to how Calvinists deal with these “problem verses”? Even still, perhaps you already embrace Calvinism and are looking to refine your understanding of God’s sovereign grace? CRN contributor Justin Edwards has just the book for you.
T.D. Jakes is the leader of The Potter’s House, a 30,000 member congregation located in southern Dallas, Texas. I had never heard a T.D. Jakes sermon before, though I knew of his reputation. I was curious to see – if only via an Internet video stream – the man that Elevation Church reminded us was named ‘America’s Best Preacher’ by Time Magazine. Would I be able to uncover the secret of his mystique? And would he preach the Biblical Gospel?