When the entity formerly known as the Christian Bookseller’s Association decided to go secular business model a couple decades ago, the inevitable diluting of doctrinally sound books began.
Traditional titles, ranging from Charles Stanley to Ruth Bell Graham to Charles Spurgeon, began to share shelf space with the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books (musing about such things as the “golden Buddha inside us all”). Pretty soon, it was a theological free-for-all, with no vetting process in place. Anyone self-identifying as “Christian” was welcome. The transformation was complete by, say, 2008, when CBA (newly named as “ICRS”: International Christian Retail Show) feted “The Shack” author William Paul Young and his universalism beliefs.
So it is that Sarah Young’s wildly popular book, “Jesus Calling,” first published in 2004 by Thomas Nelson, has now sold more than 10 million copies. It has spawned almost countless spin-off products and seems to be gaining steam, featured as it is in Christian bookstore chains and recommended by prominent leaders.
But is something amiss here? Researcher and writer Warren Smith thinks so. His response to Young, “Another Jesus Calling,” presents the case that the mega-seller is soaked in New Age teachings. He makes a compelling case that “Jesus Calling” was influenced by a decades-old title, “God Calling,” in which the authors introduce mainstream New Age teachings to Christian audiences.
For her part, Young claims that she wanted a closer connection to Jesus, so she waited with pen-in-hand until He spoke to her. The thoughts she then jotted down represent wisdom He wanted her to impart to the world.
Smith demonstrates in “Another Jesus Calling” the dangers in such thinking: “It is grievous that, as a longstanding Christian, Sarah Young did not see ‘God Calling’ for what it is – an occult/metaphysical book advocating a number of spiritually dangerous New Age practices and concepts. Now ‘Jesus Calling’ and ‘God Calling’ are bringing meditation, channeling and spiritual dictation into the Christian church, both with messages similarly arranged as a devotional.”
Warren notes the danger in opening oneself up to a spirit not found in Scripture: “‘God Calling’ is an example of what occult practitioners refer to as spiritual dictation. This is when a spiritual entity conveys information from the spirit world to a willing ‘channel’ or ‘listener.’ The channel usually speaks or writes what the spirit dictates. Many New Age teachings have been delivered in this way.”
In Part 2 of “Another Jesus Calling,” Smith lists 20 concerns with Young’s book, for example, the so-called “flattery of Jesus,” which Smith says appeals to today’s narcissistic generation.
“The ‘Jesus’ of ‘Jesus Calling’ consistently flatters Sarah Young and her readers,” Smith writes. “Many of his statements are wholly inconsistent with the way the true Jesus related to people as described in the Bible.”
Smith then goes on to provide examples of the bizarre fawning “Jesus” seems to heap on readers of “Jesus Calling”: “When you trustingly whisper My Name, My aching ears are soothed. … I am aching to hold you in My everlasting arms, to enfold you in My Love. … When your Joy in Me meets My Joy in you, there are fireworks of heavenly ecstasy.”
Aching? Fireworks of heavenly ecstasy? Certainly, Jesus is the very embodiment of love, but the language Young describes is inconsistent with the Jesus of Scripture.
When looking ahead, Young also claims Young’s “Jesus” takes a whimsical view of the future: “The future is a phantom, seeking to spook you. Laugh at the future!”
In actual fact, according to Scripture, this is not the case at all.
As Smith states in “Another Jesus Calling”: “In the Bible, Jesus Christ makes it clear that the future is no laughing matter. In Matthew 24 and in other verses, He describes the serious events that will transpire at the end of time as very real and not a phantom. He tells His disciples to ‘not be troubled’ by these future happenings, but He does not tell them to take the future lightly or to laugh at the future. Rather, He tells them to watch and be ready and to not be deceived by the false Christs and false prophets that will come in His name.”
Smith’s book has made waves, and though they won’t comment on it, the staff for Thomas Nelson (now owned by HarperCollins) has removed references to “God Calling” from “Jesus Calling.”
Of course, it’s impossible for publishers to find every old copy out there, and Smith points out the connection, from earlier editions of Young’s book: “A promotion on the front page of ‘God Calling’ describes the book as ‘a mine of spiritual treasures.’ And Sarah Young states in the Introduction to ‘Jesus Calling’ that ‘God Calling’ ‘became a treasure to me’ and inspired her to see if she, too, could receive messages from Jesus.”
In this day and (new) age, it is exceedingly difficult to get even evangelical Christians to listen to a researcher like Warren Smith. So many simply want to clamp their hands over their ears because their friends, pastor or family members simply “love” this new book, “Jesus Calling”! Yet Warren Smith has documented the presence of an insidious teaching that has burrowed into the church.
We can’t know what Sarah Young thinks about the controversy surrounding her book, since the publisher states that she won’t grant interviews. We can however know what her book is, thanks to a dogged investigative researcher.
Warren Smith is to be commended for exposing “Jesus Calling.” His antidote, “Another Jesus Calling,” should be read by every pastor in America.
Then pass it on to the laity and hope they listen.