Thinking Out Loud

July 14, 2018

Don’t Condemn What God is Using in Someone’s Life

Filed under: books, Christianity, doctrine, theology — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:53 am

I’m not going to tell you I’ve had a change of heart about the book Jesus Calling, because I’ve never really read the book in the first place. I’ve written about it here and have simply noted the concerns that some had over the use of the first-person narrative to speak as though it is God speaking, but also noted this is far from the first book to use that format.

Previously, I wrote,

I realize some of you haven’t been in touch with where the doctrinal issues in this book arise. Much of the discussion online has to do with the fact that this book is part of a very small subset of devotional literature where the words on the page appear as a direct message to the reader from God. In other words, the (human) author purports to be writing this as God, speaking in the first person; “I” instead of “He.” Consider Francis Roberts’ Come Away My Beloved, Larry Crabb’s 66 Love Letters, Sheri Rose Shepherd’s His Princess series, Paul Pastor’s The Listening Day and Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling and Jesus Always as examples of this; you’ll also find this type of writing on some blogs.

That’s not the entirety of some people’s objections, but it’s a large part.

Early this morning, unable to get back to sleep at 3:30, I read what I consider a generally excellent article on how to spot false teachers. I should say right here that the term “false teacher” leaves no middle ground, no room for nuance, no possibility of the person getting 90% of doctrine right, but 10% wrong. When people use that particular term, it’s all-or-nothing.

You can read the article at this link. (I don’t know the writer and have no idea why the URL is so complex, but it wouldn’t shorten.)

Toward the end he says,

When someone comes forward in the Christian community with a new fresh way of understanding certain doctrines or teachings, the general Christian community tends to eat it up. Think of William P. Young’s The Shack, or Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling, or Rob Bell’s Love Wins. All of these books abandoned Christian doctrine, and yet were immensely popular.

The false teacher uses their wit, uses their intelligence and uses their ‘godliness’ from a place of arrogance and pride for the express purpose of their own personal gain.

I think there’s a danger here that someone will conflate “fresh way of understanding certain doctrines…” with “arrogance…pride…personal gain.” I’m betting the writer has one or two more recent commentaries on his shelf that also provide us with fresh insights into the scriptures. But I’ll leave that aside.

My single purpose in writing this is simply to say that I think the article loses its overall value when it starts mentioning names.

That, and to return to my first paragraph, I have been noting lately the number of people who I know and respect who have benefited from Jesus Calling and have given away copies to friends. These are people who I consider discerning in their reading, and in a very Peter-and-Cornelius way, has caused me to avoid the rush to judgement that I previously associated with people who gravitated toward this particular product. (And it’s appeal to a wider readership means there are people far from Christianity who enjoy this resource, but that in itself doesn’t give cause to write it off. After all, it was the tax collectors and sex trade workers who gravitated to Jesus.)

Out of all the Christian literature out there, these acquaintances see Jesus Calling as their best bet in connecting with those in their own sphere of influence. At that point, I don’t argue or try to dissuade them from their purchase.

I would say two things:

♦ First, we shouldn’t be too quick to condemn a particular pastor, speaker, author whom God is using in the lives of someone else.

♦ Second, we shouldn’t be too quick to recommend a particular pastor, speaker, author about whom others have real concerns.

In other words, definitely write articles on how to spot false teachers. At least two of Paul’s letters have this as a primary focus.

But be slow to name names. Let the discerning process be cultivated in the individual as they mature in Christ and gently guide them to a place where their eyes are wide open.

 

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3 Comments »

  1. It has been my experience that 98% of articles that “name names” are there for that specific purpose and the rest is just fluff to make the article sound spiritual.

    ======================

    “I think there’s a danger here that someone will conflate ‘fresh way of understanding certain doctrines…’ with ‘arrogance…pride…personal gain.'”

    Given the proximity of the two phrases, I’d bet the farm that the article author does exactly that himself. It is the way of the name namer.

    I’ve never understood the mentality that “new = bad”. If that’s the case, then we need to reject literally everything that is post-Canonical, including everything written in English.

    ======================

    “And it’s appeal to a wider readership means there are people far from Christianity who enjoy this resource, but that in itself doesn’t give cause to write it off.”

    Your “in itself” seems to imply that “appeal to a wider readership” *could* go on the CONs list, but isn’t enough to tip the scales by itself. I would go further and state that it probably should be on the PROs list (though, again, not enough to tip the scales by itself).

    Paraphrasing Skye Jethani from his analysis of Chris Pratt’s speech, “It’s not Jesus that the world doesn’t like.” If something brings someone closer to Jesus, its imperfection is not a reason to reject it. That’s like scorning the shovel with a short handle and saying, “No, thanks. I’ll just keep digging with my fingernails.”

    Comment by brendt — July 15, 2018 @ 11:45 am

  2. I would recommend “Another Jesus Calling” to anyone with questions about “Jesus Calling”.

    Comment by Jon Williams — July 16, 2018 @ 4:19 pm


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