Thinking Out Loud

March 27, 2010

Sometimes You Just Know

Part One — The Apocrypha

There are a number of reasons why the Apocrypha doesn’t appear in the majority of Bibles that will be sold today.   The issues of canonicity (it’s a word now!) are varied and complex, and have more to do with authorship and authenticity.

But after reading almost every chapter and verse several years ago, I sensed there was a different “tenor” to those books.   That’s subjective on my part, and I know that by applying the same criteria, others have rejected the book of Esther or Song of Solomon, while still others will be quick to remind us all that the original edition of the 1611 King James Bible actually contained these extra books, something KJV-only advocates are not quick to mention.

But sometimes you just know.   It just doesn’t feel right.   I think that’s the application of the gift of discernment.    There is much accuracy in the books of I and II Maccabees.   There is much wisdom in the book of Sirach.  But these things are true of a host of extra-Biblical writings, not to mention the contribution of contemporary authors.

Part II — God Calling

I’m all for devotional readings to start or end the day — I include a link on this blog’s sidebar to Daily Encouragement in case you missed this morning — but I’m not sure that it should be one’s entire source of spiritual input for the day.

Some of the books available are published by general-market publishers and simply contain the odd Bible verse here and there.   Others are simply too short.   And then there’s God Calling, written by “The Two Listeners” and edited by A. J. Russell.

This book came out of the Oxford Group (don’t Google ‘Oxford Movement,’ that’s different) which also was the ground zero for the Alcoholics Anonymous program.    The unknown authors ‘received’ the book through a process called ‘automatic writing,’ sitting with pads of paper in a room and waiting for God to speak to them.

Several years ago it’s origins were reconsidered in an article in the Christian bookstore trade magazine Christian Retailing which resulted in many such stores pulling it off the shelf.    Others don’t have a problem with it however, and two Christian publishing giants, Baker Books and Barbour Publishing, each continue distribution to this day.

If you negate the book’s orthodoxy on the basis of automatic writing alone, you’re also negating every prophetic word ever published by Charismatics, the “Footprints” poem and the book and video of The Father’s Love Letter. (And yes, there are some reading this who are quite prepared to do this.)

But God Calling presents other challenges as well, and if someone can find one or two good critiques online, I’d be happy to post them here and in my book industry blog.

There is a huge sometimes-you-just-know factor at play here.

Part III — 66 Love Letters

Applying all the above discussion to a new book by respected Christian author Larry Crabb, 66 Love Letters, (Thomas Nelson) it’s hard to see a difference.    The book is based on major themes from each of the 66 books in the core Biblical canon, but again written in the first person as though from God.

I haven’t read the book, but I subscribed by e-mail to the Lenten reflections based on 40 of the 66 chapters.   After negotiating the first few, I found myself skimming the remainder or filing them away for future reference if I ever wanted to consider those major themes.

It’s a personal thing; I just find there’s a danger in putting words in God’s mouth in a format like this.    I’m not questioning the theology or the doctrine contained in Crabb’s writing, and it’s not about him in particular.  And I am in no way dispensational when it comes to “Thus Saith the Lord” prophetic messages from persons having that gift, if it’s truly God speaking.

It just doesn’t feel right; it just doesn’t resonate with my personality or with my spirit; and it brings me back to the same position:  Sometimes you just know.

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3 Comments »

  1. We are all called to discern but I think some actually have a special gifting in discernment. I agree with all three of your assesments outlined in todays posting.

    Further to the topic of devotionals, as one’s source of Biblical input, there is certainly a place for devotional ideas as the jump start in the morning. But the Bible is a living book and the Spirit will make certain truths in scriptures leap from page to heart depending on what we need to hear. Leaning too heavily on someone elses insights short changes us.

    Comment by Cynthia — March 27, 2010 @ 8:19 pm

    • I like what you wrote, but especially the last sentence.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — March 27, 2010 @ 9:30 pm

  2. Regarding God Calling

    Article ID: DG100

    By: Edmond C. Gruss

    Christian Retailing’s list of “Christian” best-selling books in April 1988 included in the top five a book enti­tled God Calling. Its prominence on the list testifies to the lack of spiritual discernment in contemporary evangelical Christianity, for God Calling was written by the occult prac­tice of automatic writing. John Weldon, author and Christian expert on the occult, remarked: “God Calling is spiritistic literature; a demon makes the ranks of evangelical best­sellers!” Weldon is not the only Christian who has come to this conclusion.

    First published in the mid-1930s, God Calling has long been stocked by many Christian bookstores, where it has been a per­petual best seller. The cover of the current paperback edition describes it as “the inspir­ing classic” in which “Christ’s words cut a daily path of joy and peace through our trou­bled and confused world.”

    THE ORIGINS OF “GOD CALLING”

    One of the anonymous “two listeners” who received the messages con­tained in God Calling explained the listeners’ background in the book’s introduc­tion. In 1932 she received a copy of A.J. Russell’s book, For Sinners Only. She was so impressed with it that she wrote down more than 100 names of people to whom she wanted to send it;

    A few months later I read it again. It was then that there came a persistent desire to try to see whether I could get guidance such as A.J. Russell reported, through sharing a quiet time with the friend with whom I was then living. She was a deeply spiritual woman with unwa­vering faith in the goodness of God and a devout believer in prayer…. We sat down, pen­cils and paper in hand and waited…. My results were entirely negative…. But with my friend a very wonderful thing happened. From the first, beautiful messages were given to her by our Lord Himself, and every day from then these messages have never failed us.

    Russell, his book, and his form of “guid­ance” are significant here. Louis Talbot stated that one “must examine writers such as A.J. Russell” and his book For Sinners Only to understand the Oxford Group (which has been called Moral Rearmament since 1938) and its teachings and that it “practically con­stituted a textbook for the Group” (The King’s Business, Jan. 1962, p. 14). In The Oxford Group Walter Clark listed Russell among the “journalistic converts to the Oxford Group” (p.19).

    In the January 1962 edition of The King’s Business, Talbot wrote of the book:

    When Russell’s For Sinners Only was first pub­lished, it was denounced by churchmen as “deplorable” and “dangerous,” but to me the worst thing about it was that it was not clear on the way of salvation….The atonement was scarcely mentioned (p. 14).

    The Oxford Group also practiced the guid­ance method advocated by Russell and used by the listeners. When William Irvine sur­veyed the opinions of other evangelical lead­ers on this method he found them in one accord in their warnings against it (Heresies Exposed, third edition, p.49). What was their concern? Pastor Harold T. Commins, who had been a former member of the Oxford Group, gave one response:

    Finally, their idea of “guidance” is false to the Scriptures….Sitting down with paper and pencil in hand and letting the mind go absolutely blank and then writing down whatever flashes across the mind as God’s orders for the day is beyond anything promised or sanctioned in Scripture. Indeed this “passivity” of mind is a very perilous condition to be in for it is precise­ly at such moments that Satan gains control and does his devilish work (pp, 50.51).

    Late in 1926 the Oxford Group’s base of operations moved from the United States to England. By 1935, their annual “House­party” at Oxford University, which began in 1930, had 10,000 in attendance (Clark, p.76). With the prominence of the Oxford Group in England during the 1930s, one might conclude that the listeners, who lived in England, were not only familiar with Russell and his book, but also with the Oxford Group (with which he was associat­ed) and its teachings. This conclusion is veri­fied in God Calling where the “Living Christ” (as he is called in the book) often uses the terminology of the Oxford Group and pro­motes its philosophy (e.g., see the entry for Feb. 15).

    It would appear that even the book’s title originated from the Oxford Group. Walter Clark observes: “Expressions such as ‘God calling’….can be found on nearly every page of the volume of his [i.e., Oxford Group founder Frank Buchman’s] collected speech­es” (p.108). We must also remember that Russell edited God Calling for publication.

    With the connection of God Calling to the Oxford Group firmly established, one must conclude that the woman who was so impressed by For Sinners Only and the method of guidance presented in it, although sincere, lacked discernment and an adequate knowledge of Scripture.

    As for the Oxford Group/Moral Rearmament, a number of evangelical writers have written on it, identifying it as a cult (see, for examples, Spittler’s Cults and Isms. Van Baalan’s The Chaos of Cults, Irvine’s Heresies Exposed, and Gaebelein’s Buchmanism).

    THE TEACHINGS OF “GOD CALLING”

    What about the contents of God Calling? Many have stated that they have read it with benefit and some have made reference to its ministry to them. How might these positive experiences be explained?

    There is no denying that many statements in the book are inspiring. Scripture is often quoted in God Calling. But cultic literature often quotes Scripture. Reading Scripture wherever it may be found and being blessed by it does not automatically legitimize the publication in which it is included.

    An experienced administrator from a mis­sion agency observed after reading the book: “An evangelical reader can read his under­standing into the text and enjoy it. A Modernist or mystic (or in some cases, even Muslim) can read his presuppositions into the text and equally enjoy it. This is not an evan­gelical book except as read with evangelical presuppositions.”

    Tim Timmons’s conclusion should also be noted: “The book is full of good thoughts, but careful examination will show that many of the concepts sound as though they originated from the angel of light (II Cor. 11:14), rather than the Living Christ. This whole experience is inconsistent with God’s Word, that is, our only reliable guide to examining this kind of activity” (Chains of the Spirit — a Manual for Liberation, p.30).

    The following statements, made by one of the “two listeners,” should cause a Christian reader concern: “We were being taught, trained and encouraged day by day by HIM personally, when millions of souls, far worthi­er, had to be content with guidance from the Bible, sermons, their churches, books and other sources.” “So to us this book, which we believe has been guided by our Lord Himself, is no ordinary book.”

    If the above is accepted as true, the impli­cations are immense: 1) Personal guidance is better than the Bible. 2) God Calling has more actual words of Christ than the Bible. 3) Extrabiblical revelation is being received today. This is what the “Living Christ” told the listeners: “Truly, I said to my disciples, ‘I have many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now.’ But to you, and the twos who gather to hear Me as you do, I can declare those things now, that then I left unsaid” (p.69).

    As is often true in God Calling, Christ in the above quote is made to violate the meaning of His words in Scriptural context. John 16:13 indicates that in Christ’s absence further revelation of truth would come to the apostles through the Holy Spirit: “Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of Truth is come, he will guide you into all truth….”

    The discerning Christian would question the spiritual source of a book that employs such a cult-like misuse of Scripture. Space permits only a few additional examples:

    · “When the Bible says, ‘God has purer eyes to behold evil,’ it means to impute evil in His people. He always sees the good in people…” (p.50). This portion of Habakkuk 1:13 is clearly understood when the rest of the verse is read: God’s holiness cannot regard evil with complacency or tolerate it.

    · “Remember now abideth these three, Faith, Hope and Charity….Hope, which is confidence in yourself to succeed” (p.110). Titus 1:2 explains that hope is not in self but in God, who can be trusted to carry out His promises.

    · “I and my Father are one. One in desire to do good” (p.1 52). The first sentence is a direct quote from John 10:30. It is followed by an interpretation often given by cults in their rejection of the deity of Christ.

    Then there are the statements attributed to Christ that do not borrow from scripture:

    · “I need you more than you need me” (p. 60).

    · “I await the commands of my children” (p. 63).

    · “Looking to Me all your thoughts are God-inspired. Act on them and you will be led on” (p.104).

    · “See Me in the dull, the uninteresting, the sinful, the critical, the miserable” (p.111).

    · “I do not delay My second coming. My followers delay it” (p. 177).

    · “Remember this beautiful Earth on which you are was once only a thought of Divine Mind” (p. 20l).

    · “Wherever the soul is, I am. Man has rarely understood this. I am actually at the center of every man’s being, but, distracted with the things of the sense-life, he finds Me not” (p. 55).

    · “Love is God. Give them love, and you give them God” (p. 72).

    · “How often mortals rush to earthly friends who can serve them in so limited a way, when the friends who are freed from the limitations of humanity [i.e., the dead] can serve them so much better, understand better, protect better, plan better, and even plead bet­ter their cause with Me” (p. 145).

    · “Yes! But remember the first hail must be that of the Magi in the Bethlehem stable” (p. 204).

    “Christ” slips up on this last one. Matthew 2:9-11 indicates that the Magi arrived at Bethlehem a considerable time after Jesus was born. Note that verse 11 mentions their being at the “house.” The Magi never did visit Jesus at the stable, but the shepherds did (Luke 2:1 5-20).

    Much more could have been given to illustrate the errors and problems in God Calling. One need not question the sincerity of the “two listeners,” but the method of guidance they employ is not Christian. Automatic writing is never accepted in Scripture. Indeed, it is a form of the medi­umship which Scripture unequivocally con­demns (e.g., Deut. 18:10-12). The good thoughts and inspiring statements attributed to Christ in God Calling often are combined with faulty theology and the misinterpreta­tion of Scripture. True communications from the “Living Christ” would not have these defects.

    Comment by Sam — July 17, 2012 @ 11:25 am


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