Kathy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church:

If Sarah Young, the author of the words attributed to Jesus, had only used “He” instead of “I” in her book, about half of my objection to it would be gone. However, in publishing these as messages she received from “listening to God,” she has left us in a quandary.

Although in the Introduction she acknowledges that she “knew that these writings were not inspired as Scripture is” and a few pages later she says “The Bible is, of course, the only inerrant [without error] Word of God,” then why are the messages she received from Jesus put in the first person? If it is not truly Jesus speaking, she could have said “Jesus wants you to come to him and have rest in him.” But when she says “Keep your ‘antennae’ out to pick up even the faintest glimmer of My Presence,” and those words are attributed directly to Jesus (and they don’t sound like anything else he has ever said), then they have to be received on the same level as Scripture, or she has put her own thoughts into the mouth Jesus.

Read the whole thing here.

See also Michael Horton’s review.

Christianity Today recently profiled Sarah Young and included a roundup of some of the criticism.

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11 thoughts on “Kathy Keller: Why Sarah Young’s “Jesus Calling” Is Unhelpful and to Be Avoided”

  1. joe says:

    Tempest in a tea pot. What about hymns like “How Firm a Foundation,” that put words in God’s mouth? And I seriously doubt Young would say God only wants us to hear messages of peace from Him all the time. But her devotional is one aimed at being a balm. She goes out of her way to say these words are her creative renderings of God’s personal words to her, and not Scripture, not infallible. No different than the hundreds of songs written from the perspective of God. All sung for decades with gusto. Even by the Reformed!

  2. Ryan says:

    joe, you may want to choose your example a bit more carefully. That particular song says the opposite of what you’re saying, quotes Scripture, and begins:

    How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
    Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
    What more can He say than to you He hath said,
    You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

  3. Joe says:

    There are several more verses. Check them out. Not sure what it means, but sort of ironic the song both extols the Word and then puts words in God’s mouth.

  4. Tim Keller says:

    Hi Joe –

    Keep in mind that the hymn writer was simply putting Scripture passages into metrical rhyme for singing– Isaiah 40:11; 41:10; 43:1-3; 48:10-11 and probably Hebrews 13:5-6. When you do that it does change the shape of the Biblical texts. It’s something of a paraphrase. But I don’t think it constitutes ‘putting words in God’s mouth.’

  5. Danny says:

    Check this out
    http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/what-is-prophecy-today

    Shouldnt we give benifit of doubt to Sarah Young. She has clearly told that what she is saying is not inerrant word of God. This is what she sees in part and prophecies in part. I mean what is wrong with this? She hasnt given the whole counsel of God. she herself claims that she hasnt done that. Why blame her for what she wrote as she understood. I dont see any difference between what Piper says above and what Sarah Young writes here.

    I am confused. Please help me to see what i missed.

  6. Tim Keller says:

    Hi Danny —

    Most of those who believe that there is a continuing non-special revelational anointed utterance (often called “prophecy with a lower case ‘p'”) see it as simply a form of exhortation that is accompanied by strong spiritual clarity, unction, and illumination. None of those I’ve seen defend this view think that kind of prophecy should then take the form of first-person statements directly from God. If you truly think God has illumined your mind, but you don’t believe what you are conveying is infallible, inerrant revelation, then you should say, “I believe God wants us to…” not “I’m God and this is what I say to you.”

    1. Danny says:

      Hi Thanks for this. Helps me to think and understand. Will certainly analyze this along those lines.

  7. Kelly says:

    I was so interested in reading this… I have felt uncomfortable with this book since I first heard of it… and I can’t tell you how MANY of my friends love it and quote continually from it. Never heard anything negative about it until today, I heard a man today on the Janet Mefferd radio show who mentions that the book Sarah Young patterns her book on (God Calling) has numerous references that are unBiblical and the prominent New Agers recommend this book. And now seeing this referenced on Facebook. My issue is that people need to listen to what Jesus is saying to THEM, not Sarah Young. They need to seek out His Word in the Scriptures daily and they will hear Him talking to them. I don’t want to hear what He said to Sarah Young, but what He would say to me! It seems they are settling for second-best and not wanting to do the “work” of being still and listening to Jesus’ voice for themselves.

  8. Joe says:

    I may have missed something, but I thought Young said her writing was creative and not truly presented as special revelations. If that is true I think it is a stretch to say she blasphemes or is heretical. Since people can easily take things and run with them, I do see how there could be concern, but if she is qualifying her devotions (and that is what I took them for) as based on and secondary to the Bible, I guess I’d say Not My Cup of Tea and Bad are different things. “God Calling” is another book and another story. But Young’s book, while therapeutic, does not seems off track. And truly, is there any danger of anyone taking Young as Gospel any more than Paul Tripp or John Piper? I don’t think so. Maybe it is not obvious, but I still think that there is an “of course” factor here: of course Young is writing devotionals as I Jesus is on the other end of ht phone. Her meditations are just that, and NOT revelations. If she says otherwise, than I take it all back.

  9. Josh says:

    Would this rubric not disqualify The Imitation of Christ as well?

    I hear the heart behind your warning — a wise concern over loosey-goosey “dictation” from God — yet I struggle to see the need to put such a book down, particularly when the author disclaims the authority you worry about. Is it possible that God would work through a less-than-ideal pronoun?

    Nor do I hear Ms. Young putting down the Bible like you suggest. By this line of argument, one can imagine suggesting that Paul didn’t think highly of the OT, because he had a vision on the Road to Damascus instead of receiving illumination through the OT. (In fact, one can imagine the religious elite of the day saying precisely that–i.e. invalidating it because it didn’t come in the expected form.)

    Further, the fact that Ms. Young aims to present “Jesus’ peace”, does not require her to also describe every other attribute of Christ in the same place. (This is like saying a book on prayer is a bad book, unless it also describes suffering, and evil, and love–and therefore out goes most of C.S. Lewis’ work.)
    As Christ himself showed us in his encounters, there are times for truth and times for compassion, times for rebuke and times for tenderness. Can we not allow some deference for what God might be asking of someone else? (And/or: perhaps Ms. Young is called to a different path, i.e. to bring God’s peace and gentleness rather than his systematic width?)

    Certainly God can and does speak now. I agree this does not relieve us of the need to immerse ourselves in Scripture. As you note (rightly!), Scripture is a profound gift that WILL illumine us, if we submit ourselves to it–and this is so important!–but neither should we become so self-sure about the particular movement we know (i.e. his Presence through Scripture), that we stop our ears to the voice of God elsewhere; a voice that–taking Scripture as our guide–appears to specialize in unlikely messages from unlikely places.

    My spirit is troubled by the tone and need for certainty here. Let us be wary of danger, yes, and let us use the best pronouns, if possible, but let us also see the lives of others with the charity of Christ. Let us be true to His Word, but also His unsearchable greatness.

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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