I am going to be frank – and this will be no surprise to those who have heard me preach – I am not a fan of most Christian “best seller” books. While there are, of course, exceptions it seems far more often that such books compromise on some area of theology to obtain their best seller status and to be palatable to the masses. We saw this with the plethora of “heaven tourism” books (see my review of Heaven is for Real here), we’ve seen it with various televangelists promoting a health and wealth Gospel that is anything but Biblical, and we see it regularly with books like Jesus Calling which contain just enough truth to confuse and cover over the deceit that they bring into the hearts of God’s people.
Those are harsh words, I realize. And what I am going to say next will probably turn most folks off from reading the rest of this blog post, but I ask, stay with me and I will explain. I need to lay all of my cards on the table and state that I have not read, nor am I planning to read, Jesus Calling. “But pastor, then who are you to critique it?” Great question, to which I will give two responses:
1) The first is that you don’t have to personally experience something to be able to critique it. Don’t misunderstand, there are some things that demand a close and careful rebuttal. Being familiar with the arguments is crucial to being able to refute them. But, as it has been often said before. “there is nothing new under the sun.” The problems with Jesus Calling are not new or unique, they are problems that the Christian church has already dealt with before, and so the solutions are the same. I don’t need to read each and every book spouting the same unBiblical practices to know how to respond to them.
To take another example, do you need to try cocaine to know it’s bad? I would answer no; I can look at the scientific and medical studies, I can look at the people I know who have tried it, and I can easily form my own conclusion that “yep, this is terrible stuff that does nothing good.” Similarly, I don’t need to jump off a cliff to prove that gravity exists – I can figure that out in other less painful ways, thank you.
So, my first point is that, especially when it comes to ideas that are not new or novel, such as those exhibited in Jesus Calling, we can refute them without wasting the time or money to carefully detail every problem with the book. I can say this because…
2) …other faithful Christians have done the work for us. There are those who, due to their local context or perhaps they have somebody they are mentoring who has been influenced by the book, feel the need to read Jesus Calling and write comprehensive reviews of it. Simply reading those reviews reinforces and upholds my point that this is not a book to spend your time or money on – this is a book that you should stay away from.
First, Tim Challies’ has done an admirable job of carefully quoting from and then analyzing some of the main issues with Jesus Calling. See his full post here, but let me point out one of the main issues:
Jesus Calling has been revised, including parts that Jesus Himself supposedly spoke to the author. That is problematic on any level: if those truly were Jesus’ words, then revising them cannot be acceptable on any level. Now, of course, the author says that these words are not inerrant, but how then does that work? Jesus speaks but He sometimes gets it wrong? That creates numerous heretical problems. Or perhaps Young hears Jesus but doesn’t always record it correctly? What’s the point of that then? Why not just go to the source – to the Scriptures – and be assured of having the real thing? No matter how you answer the quandary, the book is troublesome.
Kathy Keller (wife of pastor Tim Keller) has written a succinct review that is to the point – and worded far better than anything I would write. I encourage you to read it here.
If you’d like a more in depth review of some of the Biblical issues and problems with Jesus Calling, I’d encourage you to look at Michael Horton’s review here.
Challies’ original review of the book is located here.
In short, little that fills our bookshelves these days is actually new. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – we need to be reminded of grace and Gospel and resurrection time and time again, in each generation. But rather than jumping on the latest bestseller, which is so often theologically questionable these days, I would point you to the books which have stood the test of time and which have been recognized as being faithful and true. Don’t just look at the endorsements on the back, but look at who the author actually is – are they somebody that you can trust? Do you know what they believe? Do you know what they teach? And more importantly, do they point you to the Bible again and again? Or do they point you to themselves and their own insights? The first is faithful and good, the second is something that we should run from, far and fast.