And so might my blog, David Platt’s books, the latest from Mark Batterson, Tim Keller’s brilliance or even, gasp (this is for you, John) Dallas Willard.
But let’s address the thing about Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Calling, first. Clearly this is by far one of the most widely bought books in recent history. And, I assume, it is being read…
Within the Christian sub-culture there is a growing following of Sarah Young’s book – after all, there are calendars, versions for kids, etc. – you know, all the great things that allow us to be consumers first, disciples second, and still feel good about ourselves (maybe a topic for another post someday). There is also a growing contingent of people who are putting Sarah Young into the category of heretic, new age, occult, etc… I don’t need to put you, the reader, into either of those two camps – you know where you fit and I love you. 🙂
I have read good portions of Jesus Calling. Not all of it. I rarely actually finish a book and believe most books should be a third shorter than they are! I found the book to be a bit light theologically, designed to give us a feel good kind of experience. And, to be sure, the amazing love of Jesus that keeps us in the center of his hand (Gospel of John) and which can’t be overcome by anything powerful, big or wide (Romans 8), is a wonderful reality to experience and into which more of us should live rather than by rules. The book isn’t Scripture and doesn’t claim to be (I’m sure some of you disagree with me on this).
I am about to offend some of you now, maybe many of you…
Is Sarah Young the anti-christ and will reading her book lead you astray? No. And, well, maybe…yes. No because, well, its mostly harmless. Is everything Sarah wrote biblical? No. Does everything she claims to be her experience line up with Scripture as I read Scripture? No. But the same can be said of Andy Stanley, Mark Batterson, Michael Frost, Kevin DeYoung, John Piper, Tim Keller, Dallas Willard, Charles Swindoll, John Stott, C.S. Lewis or anybody else who might be your favorite author right now. As a Reformed pastor I should also include John Calvin in my list.
Yes, it might lead you astray and here’s why: Technically, it isn’t really Sarah Young or her book that might lead you astray, it might actually be you. Within the Reformed tradition there are a couple of theological truths that I want to highlight for us. The first being the reality that we are all sinners born with a sinful nature who do life as sinners in every context. The second is that it is only Scripture which is to be the rule for our faith and life. And that is the very problem! I bring my sinful nature into my understanding of Scripture and it isn’t perfect. I have a lens I read Scripture through and believe it or not, MINE IS THE RIGHT LENS AND YOURS MUST BE WRONG. Just kidding, but that is how most of us approach life isn’t it?
Let me put it another way. When John Calvin wrote The Institutes, he was sinning. When Billy Graham gave an altar call, guess what! Yep…
Let’s take this deeper, to two things I think part of the problem might be. The first is this: because of the very nature of the Bible, and our sinful natures, most of us are more likely to spend more time reading books about Scripture than reading Scripture itself. We prefer to read books about Jesus – whichever version of Jesus we prefer – rather than reading the Word. The problem isn’t so much that Sarah Young’s book, or anyone else’s for that matter, will lead you astray so much as it is that we make idols out of authors, Christian celebrities and what they write, say or sing.
Interestingly, we only make idols out of the Christian celebrities we agree with and we follow them more than we follow Jesus. We so quickly are willing to substitute that which is best – Jesus and the Word – for that which is good, sometimes really good and sometimes really not very good at all….
The second part of the problem, I believe, is our tendency to put everybody into right/wrong categories – along with everything they say, write, sing, pray, did, thought, or didn’t do throughout the entirety of their lives. And, often, we base this judgement upon the thoughts, writings, sayings, actions and etc. of the Christian celebrities we like. We have become really good haters within the Christian community and we are sending a very strong message to the world for whom Jesus died.
Don’t worry, I’m not bashing all books, teachings, music, etc… I read, I pray, I sing (in my car with the windows up and the subwoofer pounding) and I enjoy and benefit from it. But I am reminded of something one of my professors said in seminary:
Read the Gospels more. Read the Bible more. Read other books less and grow in your love for God and those he created.