Error Calling

woodsRecently I met a fellow Christian dad at a Chick-fil-A  restaurant where our children were playing together in the enclosed area for toddlers.

After some small talk, he told me that he had been reading the devotional book, Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions for Kids to his little girls in the mornings.

Sounds harmless enough on the surface.

In fact, to most people, this sounds like a major step in the right direction as many Christian fathers say they’re “too busy” for such interactive devotional times with their growing children.

So kudos to this dad for striving to teach his children about God and for having a daily devotional time with them in the morning. May his tribe increase!

Yet there was also something here that troubled me.

It wasn’t the activity that concerned me; rather it was the chosen resources that many Christian parents are using and endorsing without much discernment or caution.

I’m reminded of the scene in Narnia where Edmund enjoys the Turkish delight candies offered by the White Witch. It tasted delicious… and he was seduced.

In true satanic fashion, the candy itself wasn’t harmful; but it was inescapably linked to something deadly to his soul when he continued to crave it.

The first appearance of evil and error is usually the most attractive and beguiling.

It seems that evangelical Christianity in America is growing sicker and weaker by the day. This is due to its imbibing and devouring a thousand delightful heresies.

Biblical discernment is like the spiritual immune system that recognizes error and avoids it. With little or no discernment, the American church has the equivalent of spiritual AIDS; no immunity against error.

I believe this lack of health and discernment in the church is directly related to a widespread lack of biblical exposition in most churches. They always go together.

Most preachers are apparently not explaining the Bible to people. And someone might ask, “Then what in the world are they doing with their open Bibles?”

Well, too often they are telling jokes, citing a verse here and there, then showing video clips from movies and sporting events to make their sermons seem more “relevant” and “cutting edge” (even though some of these video techniques have been used in sermons since the 1990s).

The point is that when Scripture isn’t properly explained, people aren’t hearing God’s voice from His Word and they begin to hunger for something to fill that emptiness.

The Christian publishing world is loaded with various resources designed to make money even when truth and accuracy are increasingly absent from the content.

So there’s a good reason why pastors like me are typically cautious whenever a new trendy book becomes wildly popular among the broadest range of religious readers.

It’s because almost without exception, these books either teach error directly which is in contradiction to Scripture, or as in the case with Sarah Young’s book, its premise is rooted in error from the outset, so it indirectly conveys error.

In Jesus Calling, this premise was clearly defined in the original preface to the book, written by Young herself. This original introduction has since been edited with entire paragraphs removed by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

The reason–it contained too many “red flags” for the discerning reader, so they removed or nuanced those parts and softened the language considerably.

Originally, Young wrote: “I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more.”

So she yearned for more than the Bible as a way of hearing from God. This is the premise that introduces the contents of everything that follows in Jesus Calling.

The enemy loves to fill that longing with something other than truth.

In the original introduction, Young gave high praise to the 1932 devotional book, God Calling which was the inspiration for her similarly titled book, Jesus Calling.

The 1932 God Calling book was edited by a British author (A. J. Russell) from the writings of two unnamed women who received their messages by an automatic writing process, an occultic practice associated with demonic activity.

This book comes across as a simple devotional book, but it’s filled with spiritual errors. The Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs says God Calling is “replete with denials of biblical teaching.” But Sarah Young began her writing journey with this book in mind.

Young’s original introduction said that God Calling “became a treasure to me,” and that it “dove-tailed remarkably well with my longing to live in Jesus’ Presence.”

The year after reading it, she writes, “I began to wonder if I, too, could receive messages during my times of communing with God.” Thus began her mystical quest for “more.”

Once we start looking for messages from God outside the Bible, we open ourselves to every satanic deception and they are filled with appeals to Scripture as messages of light.

Even the cultic Book of Mormon contains numerous direct quotes from the King James Bible that were copied verbatim by the original author and used by Joseph Smith. The book of Second Nephi alone contains 18 entire chapters from Isaiah!

Satan is all about using Scripture in order to market his deceptions. (See Matthew 4:6.)

The underlying premise of Jesus Calling is that “Scripture is good, but it’s not enough. It’s helpful, but insufficient. We need something fresher; something more.”

Apparently, thousands of misinformed and spiritually naïve readers have agreed. Others have bought into the book without inquiring about its origins or premise.

And all the while, Satan is calling with the alluring whisper that “Scripture isn’t sufficient; we need something more. You can have a vibrant devotional life outside of Scripture. You need to listen to the voice within.”

Meanwhile, Sarah Young’s 2004 book, Jesus Calling has become a runaway bestseller. In fact, this single book has now sold more than 10 million copies to date.

And that doesn’t include all of the spin-off versions for teens, women, and children. It has also been translated into 26 different languages. Thomas Nelson (the publisher) loves it!

So we’re talking about a very influential book here.

It is this phenomenal degree of influence and popularity that merits a higher level of concern and exposure for me as a pastor commanded by Christ to keep watch over His sheep and to shepherd His flock (1 Peter 5:2-3).

Anything I would write in a blog, I would freely say from the pulpit too.

However, the pulpit is best reserved for the preaching and teaching of God’s truth. After all, that’s the primary way God’s people are protected from these errors in the first place.

This is where I spend the great majority of my time. Yet sometimes, teaching God’s truth requires exposing popular errors in the Christian family because there are consequences.

I get concerned when I see any of Christ’s sheep eating the devil’s candy, even in small doses and even when they’re grazing in another under-shepherd’s pasture.

While most pastors might be reluctant to be as forthright as I am to call Sarah Young’s book harmful or dangerous, I’m once again compelled into an unpopular position by my convictions as a student of God’s Word.  It’s her premise that is dangerous!

Much of the content reads like a paraphrase of Scripture put into the first person as if the author were writing in the voice of Jesus Himself. But it’s a dangerous thing when one presumes to speak for Christ after concluding that His Word isn’t enough. One pastor says Young’s book “comes dangerously close to blasphemy.”

My pastoral heart breaks over the errors I see being embraced by so many professing Christians. But given the state of the church, I’m not at all surprised by its popularity.

As in Narnia, people in the church are craving for more and more of the White Witch’s tasty candy… and they are being seduced by the devil’s errors.

I’m further grieved by those within the church who criticize pastors who are obeying God’s command to “expose the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph. 5:11).

Pastors who speak out regarding dangers to the church are going to be increasingly scorned by a naïve and error-loving population in the church… a population that has grown dull of hearing the Word and reluctant to think critically about anything.

I have nothing to gain and plenty to lose by warning Christians of this and similar devotional books, movies, trends, false teachers, etc. It’s certainly not the “in-thing” to warn people… but then, it never has been.

However, my desire for a healthier, more discerning church at large compels me.

For a return to Scripture,
Pastor Kevin