The Jesus Calling Witch Hunt!
Occasionally I get emails questioning quotes or videos I posted on Facebook or Pinterest. If you are on social media and someone questions something you post, don’t get upset. It is a good thing. Rather than accept every teaching, discerning Christians diligently study the scriptures.
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 1John 4:1
As believers, we are commanded to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” The test is to compare what is being taught with the clear teaching of the Bible. The Berean Jews in Acts 17 were commended because, after they heard the teachings of Paul and Silas, they “examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
If you have not read any of Jesus Calling you can read several devotional excerpts here. Jesus Calling was released in 2004, currently ranks number one on numerous lists, and has sold more than ten million copies worldwide.
My Jesus Calling Knee Jerk
The first time I opened Jesus Calling, in the middle of the book I had a knee-jerk reaction with Young using the first person. I just didn’t feel comfortable about it. Young said in her introduction:
“I have written from Jesus’ point of view; that is, the first person singular (‘I,’ ‘Me,’ ‘Mine’) always refers to Christ. ‘You’ refers to you, the reader, so the perspective is that of Jesus speaking to you.”
People all over the Internet are blasting her for writing first person. Then I remembered one of my favorite Christian authors, W. Phillip Keller, did the same thing! NO ONE ever had a problem when he spoke in the first person.
W. Phillip Keller (1920-1997) wrote more than thirty-five books on Christian subjects, including his most popular book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 (amazing, eye-opening, and a Christian best-seller). His books have over two million copies in print. Why don't they question him for his first-person writing in What Is the Father Like?: A Devotional Look at How God Cares for His Children (MUST READ BOOK!!) Here is a potion from the first devotion by Keller:
I was pleased that each of Jesus' Calling's devotional is followed by several Scriptures, and when Scripture is quoted in what she has written, it appears in italics.
Young mentions reading several books by Andrew Murray, another of my favorite authors. However, just because someone recommends books by authors I like it doesn’t mean their work is beyond reproach, so I prayed about it and read some online critiques.
Let's Examine One Jesus Calling Critique
Not only do we have the responsibility to test the spirit of the author, but we also have the responsibility to test the spirit of the critiques.
I do not like giving critiques (so I usually don’t) but this one diatribe makes it necessary.
Critique #1 Problem: the term “Presence of God.”
From the post:
I will identify a number of key category errors in Jesus Calling and correct them biblically. I will show that Young’s book is New Age panentheism and does not portray a biblical, Christian worldview.
The post went on to explain that Young used the term “awareness of presence” 50+ times and since New Age author Eckhart Tolle also used the term “awareness of presence” 50+ times therefore Young must be a New Ager.
WHAT? Is this a joke? Whoa!!
Is anyone taking him seriously? Using this faulty reasoning, the poster would also have a problem with the Bible. The Bible uses the term “presence of the Lord.” over thirty times in the KJV, forty times in ESA, and more than seventy times in the NIV.
Here is a list of 141 verses about God’s presence.
The “awareness of presence” or “presence of God” is a very common topic in the Bible and in the Christian community.
See Charles Stanley’s Sermon: The Awareness of God’s Presence. When I searched my commentaries on Logos I found hundreds of references. On Google I found thousands.
If we say anyone that uses phrases that are used by New Agers is evil is akin to saying that referencing the rainbow makes one a homosexual.
In the same critique, it said “Tolle then cites Buddha.” Sounds more like a critique of Tolle’s book, doesn’t it? Saying Tolle cites Buddha has nothing to do with Young’s book.
Critique #2 Problem: Romantic Intimacy
From the critique's post: A popular but horribly unbiblical understanding of Christianity portrays Jesus as a romantic lover with which one should strive to find greater intimacy. I identified this issue seventeen times in the book.
I completely disagree with this statement. This critique makes no sense to me unless the author does not think God wants an intimate relationship with us.
A person who knows God has an intimate personal relationship with Him. Where intimacy abounds, the fruit will abound. Life in the Spirit is relational. The Holy Spirit will meet us where we are. God seeks us out. He wants to be intimate with us. As our intimacy with God grows, we develop wisdom and skills as we desire and seek to know Him, His plans, and His ways. Prayer and spending time in His Word are the ways we show desire and passion for Him. It is building a relationship, not religious discipline.
Colossians 1:19 sums this up: “For in him all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form,” The Father, Son and Spirit sharing all things in intimate, face-to-face fellowship.
This relationship, this camaraderie of love and mutual delight, is where God wants us to be. Being rooted and grounded in His love means our hearts are beating with the very heart of the Father.
It appears the critique against Young is attempting to twist encouragement into a controversy that has no merit. The blog has a lot on God’s wrath and little about God’s love.
Jesus Calling has been a comfort and source of peace for so many because of the beautiful intimacy Young portrays. I want intimacy with God and I will not apologize for it.
The Bible is about romantic intimacy. “A godly ‘romance’ is at the heart of the universe and is the key to all existence. From all eternity God purposed that at some time in the future His Son should have an Eternal Companion, described by John the Revelator as ‘the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’” Rev 21:9.” (Paul Billheimer)
Now, this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:3
The word know is often used in the Septuagint and sometimes in Greek to describe the intimacy between husband and wife.
|Adam, First Man||Christ, Last Adam|
|Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. Rom 5:14||The first man, Adam, became a living person. But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit. 1Cor 15:45|
|Eve, First Bride||Second Eve, Bride of Christ|
Horribly Unbiblical? This is a WITCH HUNT!
The critique complains that Young used the term “whisper” because it is part of Young’s “romantic intimacy.”
One request that Young attributes to Jesus a number of times is “Whisper my Name.” This contributes to the sense of romantic intimacy she portrays. For example:
When you are with other people, you often lose sight of My Presence. . . When you realize this has happened, whisper My Name; this tiny act of trust brings Me to the forefront of your consciousness, where I belong. (May 2)
Why would Jesus want His name “whispered”?
The critique against Young has a problem with whispering Jesus’s name? Does that really seem ” horribly unbiblical” as stated by the critique? The words “horribly unbiblical” are pretty strong.
The critique complains that Young misrepresents Jesus in this sentence “When My Presence is the focal point of your consciousness, all the pieces of your life fall into place. (January 28th).
I have no problem with this sentence. The Bible tells us to focus on Christ:
- Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2
- Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Proverbs 4:25
- But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
- For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:5
The critique made it sound like Young’s appeal to focus on Christ means we are looking for something beyond scripture. Re-read Young’s sentence: “When My Presence is the focal point of your consciousness, all the pieces of your life fall into place. (January 28th). She doesn’t say anything like that.
The critique said, Jesus and His apostles never equated the promise of Christ’s presence to a state of awareness, consciousness, or source of special revelation beyond Scripture. We need faith in God’s promises, not some version of Christ-consciousness!
The critique is not only putting words in Young’s mouth but also stretching simple encouragement to mean something entirely different to the point that it reminds me of the Witch Hunts.
The critique has a big problem with Young saying, “I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more.”
The critique twisted that sentence to say, “…she confesses her dissatisfaction with what God has revealed in Scripture.”
Whoa again. Yearning for more of God is dissatisfaction? I guess I am guilty because I want more of God too.
All of the above said, I still do not feel comfortable reading writings from Jesus in the first person, and I completely understand some concerns relating to Young.
Sarah Young said, "I write with the help of Christ’s Spirit, who guides my thinking while I listen in His Presence. I believe the Bible is the only infallible Word of God. My writings are based on that absolute standard, and I try to ensure they are consistent with Scripture.”
I could say the same thing. I feel I have heard from God. After prayer and Bible study I have felt prompted to go in a certain direction. I feel God has prompted me to write encouragement to others and I pray over those words to be sure I express what God wants me to say. I also know as much as I want to do His will, I still miss it at times.
God’s Word tells us how to be spiritually discerning. By their fruits (Matt 7:15-20) Refusal to acknowledge Christ (Mark 9:39; 1 Cor 12:3; 1 John 4:1-3;6) Glorifying self (John 7:18; 16:14) Unfulfilled prophecy (Deut 18:21-22) Enticing strange worship (Deut 13:1-5) Preaching “another gospel” (2 Cor 11:4; Gal 1:6-9) Contrary to the Word of God (Isa 8:20; Gal 4:30; 6:16; Phil 3:16; 2 Tim 3:16)
I see nothing on this list describing Sarah Young’s writings. Sarah Young doesn’t say that Jesus speaks to her. She’s clear about that in her book Introduction. In no way does she believe her own writing is sacred or that she has new revelations.
Sarah Young does not offer another gospel. I do not see anything unbiblical or any wrong theology in Young’s books (please let me know if I missed something). In fact, I only see love and encouragement to trust and obey God. I just wish she had written in the third person.
I believe people hear from God. I sincerely pray I am hearing from Him in this post. God speaks today but never contradicts Scripture.
As always my disclaimer: Anything that you read on my blog that encourages you to seek God is probably from God, and anything in error is from my flesh. I think Sarah Young would say the same thing.
Sarah Young also makes no pretension to be adding to Scripture. She makes it clear that the Bible is the only infallible word of God. In the foreword to a follow-up book, Jesus Lives, she says she has written what she “heard” (quotation marks are hers) and has tried to make sure it aligns with Scripture. So she is careful to indicate she is not hearing the infallible Word of God and she checks what she eventually writes with the Bible.
Ms. Young wrote,
“…what I am doing is devotional writing, and I do so by asking Jesus to guide my mind as I spend time with Him—to help me think His thoughts.”
We all struggle between the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit (Gal. 5:17). We must never move away from the simple message of God’s unconditional love demonstrated through Christ. We are saved by the love of God, changed by the love of God, and grow through the love of God. It’s a shame some are afraid of it.
Critique #3 Problem: New Age Terms
One absolutely laughable post critiques Young’s book with the title NEW BOOKLET TRACT: The New Age Implications of “Jesus Calling” The author, Warren B. Smith writes:
“Sarah Young’s “Jesus” also makes indirect reference to two of the mega best-selling New Age books of the last thirty years—Shirley MacLaine's New Age book or Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled. Young’s “Jesus” invites her millions of readers to “go out on a limb” with him and to take “a road less traveled”: Shirley MacLaine's New Age book or Scott Peck’s
What a Twist!
You have to twist like a pretzel to have this make any sense! Nowhere in any of Young’s books does she refer to Shirley MacLain’e New Age book or Scot Peck’s book. For this author to use common phrases like this he needs to go cirque about 10,000+ Christian books that use similar phrases.
Have you ever used either term: “go out on a limb” or “a road less traveled”? I have.
- The term road less traveled meaning is From Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken, 1920. It is a common phrase I have heard from the pulpit.
- As to “Out on a Limb” I have personally used this phrase many times and NEVER had anything to do with Shirley MacLaine’s book. Etymonline says that the figurative sense is from 1897. The Phrase Finder supplies a quote from 1895. For example, the Steubenville Daily Herald, October 1895: […] If we get the 14 votes of Hamilton we’ve got ’em out on a limb. All we’ve got to do then is shake it or saw it off.
Critique #4 Problem: “Visualization”
Now there are a lot of New Age books like The Secret, Law of Attraction, etc using the visualization of the term. Stay away from them, but don't lump another author into a secular new age genre because of vocabulary. Look at the context.
Warren B. Smith claims because Young uses the term visualization she is a New Ager. How ridiculous! Here is the sentence he quotes:
“One morning as I prayed, I visualized God protecting each of us.”
Wow! Really. Does this make her New Age??? The Bible refers to visual reminder: It will become a visual reminder Isaiah 19:20
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines vi•su•al•i•za•tion \ˌvi-zhə-wə-lə-ˈzā-shən, ˌvi-zhə-lə-, ˌvizh-wə-lə-\ noun, 1883
- formation of mental visual images or
- the act or process of interpreting in visual terms or of putting into visible form.
The Critique #5 Problem: “Meditation”
Warren B. Smith claims because Young uses the term meditation she is a New Ager. If you follow Warren B. Smith's logic you better call the Bible New Age too!
According to The NASB Topical Index the word meditation is all through the Bible: MEDITATION:
- the general practice of by Isaac: Ge 24:63
- by the Psalmist: Ps 104:34
- evidently by Jesus: Mk 1:35
- in relation to the Lord, meditation upon His word practice of Jos 1:8; Ps 1:2; 119:15, 23, 48, 78, 97, 99,
- prosperity: Jos 1:8; Ps 1:2–3
- success: Jos 1:8
- productivity: Ps 1:2–3
- spiritual insight: Ps 119:99: meditation in His temple: Ps 27:4: meditation upon His lovingkindness: Ps 48:9: meditation upon the Lord Himself: Ps 63:6: meditation on His works: Ps 77:12; 143:5; 145:5: meditation on His wonders: Ps 119:27: meditation on His majesty: Ps 145:5,
- in relation to one’s heart: Ps 4:4; 19:14; 49:3; 77:6, in relation to time
- day and night: Jos 1:8; Ps 1:2
- in the morning: Ps 5:3
- all the day: Ps 119:97
- toward evening: Ge 24:63, various other uses
- meditation on terror: Is 33:18
- meditation on certain virtues: Php 4:8
Imagery is all through the Bible: God is masculine (Father, King, etc.), feminine (Nursing Mother, Woman, and Coin, etc.), animal (Mother Bear, Eagle, Lioness, etc.), inanimate objects (Rock, Fortress, Strong Tower, Mountain, Shield, etc.). Imagery helps us understand the character of God.
The Critique #6 Problem: “Light Bearer”
Warren B. Smith claims because Young uses the term Light-bearer she is a New Ager. The term Light-bearer in a dozen devotionals and in the Bible:
- Ezek 32:8 As for all the light–bearers in the heavens, I will obscure them over thee – And will stretch out darkness over thy land, Declareth My Lord Yahweh. (REB)
- Phil 2:15 so that you may prove to be blameless and spotless, faultless children of God in a crooked and perverted age, in which you shine as light–bearers in the world as you continue. (WNT)
It's even a heading in some Bibles. Here it is in NKJV:
Why Does Smith Slam Young?
Warren B. Smith has a flat-out evil agenda. I see the same evil in those criticizing William Paul Young's books. It's like they want people to wallow in shame and not see how much God loves them-- remind you of anyone? Pharisees?
The Pharisees taught the same lies many pulpits teach today and sung in the church like the song lyrics "You are good when there’s nothing good in me." They all teach that we are worthless. (Sin and our righteousness is worthless--not the person. ).
The truth is that we have inherent value because we are made in the image of God. Our value and worth are not dependent on us.
But those of us who are desperately broken and wounded may believe that if there is nothing good in us, there is no hope for real transformation. We think that the best we can do is some form of temporary self-discipline, a way to cover up our shame through façade and performance.
All the positive speaking in the world won’t change a rock into a bird of paradise. Many of us learn to fake it until we are completely exhausted from trying to keep all the lies spinning. Inevitably, the poisons in our inside-house begin to seep out in ways we can’t control. Or we simply give up and act out what we have already determined about ourselves.
If I believe the deepest truth about me is worthlessness, then why are you surprised when I act like I’m worthless? Am I not at least being honest? Yes, I would be, if that were the truth about who I am; but it is not the truth.
Does anything that is “not good” originate in God? No! Are we still image bearers, made in the image of God? Yes, we are! God, who is only good, creates only good—very good! This is why Jesus asked the rich young ruler, “Why are you calling me good? There is only One who is Good, and that is God” (Matthew 19:17). This is not Jesus saying, “There is nothing good in me,” but asking, “Do you see God in me, young brother? Is that why you are calling me good, or is this still about performance?” If you read the rest of that story, you will see that it is still about performance.
Young, Wm. Paul. Lies We Believe About God (pp. 32-34) Lies We Believe About God (pp. 32-33).
I feel the need to read the review really pray and look at it hard. What is the motive? Are they critiquing the words the author wrote or protecting their teachings--like limited atonement?
For more see Why I Left Calvinism by Baxter Kruger.
We need more people looking at those who slam others in the name of Christ. Many people scan the critical review then avoid the book or person without further investigation.
I'm glad I took the time to really investigate (I am a former police officer) and there is no evidence in this review that would ever hold up in court. In fact, it was quite easy to blow holes in Warren B. Smith's allegations.
Smith's accusations are completely groundless, inappropriate, ridiculous, and just plain silly. The Calvinist critiques are just as ridiculous. Don't get caught up in this kind of slander!
I should mention there are others who slam Young's book. I am no longer surprised to see 5-point Calvinist slam anything that focuses on God's love and grace.
PRAY. Ask God and do diligent research. Do not be one of the fools that jumps on this bandwagon.
Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool. Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues. Proverbs 10:18-19
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