I deal in hope : Carolyn R Scheidies

Blog Dangers of “Jesus Calling”

Right now there is a publishing phenomena going on. It is called “Jesus Calling.” What started as a devotional has become a sensation with all sorts of spin off material for all ages. Churches are using the material. Families are using the material. Individuals are using the material.

The original “Jesus Calling” is a devotional. Many of us use devotionals in our daily quiet time. The purpose of a devotional is to clarify a passage of a given scripture with information and an example and usually ends with a prayer. Devotionals can be helpful in drawing us closer to God while encouraging us to dig deeper into God’s Word.

What makes the “Jesus Calling” devotional different? Most devotional material is written in third person, making clear the writing comes from an author. By their nature, devotionals are based on the author’s understanding of scripture. Devotional authors don’t claim their words as the infallible, inerrant Word of God. The authors hope to lift up, not speak for God.

The author of “Jesus Calling” has turned this on it’s head. She puts her thoughts and concepts into the mouth of Jesus as though He is speaking. While she uses scripture verses to bolster her concepts the impact is that “Jesus” speaks to the reader. Don’t get me wrong, in her preface she is clear to say only the Bible is the infallible, inerrant word of God. Despite this statement, the implication is clear that the “Jesus Calling” devotionals are not only for inspiration, but to be, in effect, conisdered on par with the Bible.

Of course, many are inspired by the material. There is no doubt one can be inspired by the “Jesus Calling” materials. But we are inspired by many things—a beautiful sunset, a movie, a song, interactions with others. I’ve even been inspired by a Star Trek episode. Inspiration can motivate us to do better, try harder, and help us appreciate our lives and faith in a deeper way. Inspiration can be a positive experience even in a secular sense and, often, inspiration can draw us closer to Christ. However…

One problem of “Jesus Calling” is how the material is presented—as Jesus speaking into our lives. This includes using quotes which implies the speaker actually spoke those words. Not so long ago such an approach would have been considered blasphemous. Today such an approach is being embraced by those claiming to follow Christ. It does catch not only our attention, but also our hearts.

There is only one inerrant Word of God and that is the Bible. I remember growing up learning about certain Christian off shoots who used another book along with the Bible, considering the two on par with one another. This was considered a path away, not toward God. One of the problems with “Jesus Calling” material is that, often without realizing it, Christian are reacting as though what the very human author has written isn’t her interpretations, but the actual thoughts and concepts of Jesus.

This is dangerous to say the least. The situation gets muddied when sharing “Jesus Calling” material with children. When parents can’t seem to separate the Bible from the writings of “Jesus Calling,” how can kids be expected to understand the difference? The situation is further muddied when individuals, Bible study groups and churches are using materials not to study God’s Word, but to study “Jesus Calling.” If many come to accept “Jesus Calling” speaks for Jesus, what is the next step away from the truth found only in the Bible?

In CS Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, he has the demon mentor tell the underling they don’t have to turn believers completely away from Jesus and his Word, just send them down a related rabbit trail and they will follow that path away from Christ. (My interpretation of Lewis’ words.)

An unexpected consequence of “Jesus Calling” is that it puts into our heads that this material is actually the thoughts and words of Jesus. They aren’t. But that is something to remember when reading the book on a regular basis. It does set us up to follow other rabbit trails away from a firm stand and knowledge of God’s Word. (Not saying it will, but it is a danger.)

If someone spends more time reading “Jesus Calling” than in reading and studying God’s Word, there is a problem. If when a person thinks of a situation and instead of a Biblical application coming to mind, the mind goes to something from “Jesus Calling,” there is a problem.

One needs to ask of “Jesus Calling,” am I mixing up this material with the truth found only in God’s Word? Am I encouraged and motivated to read and study God’ Word beyond “Jesus Calling.” (The author does include scripture one can look up for each devotional.) Do those bursts of inspiration from reading “Jesus Calling” provide me just enough lift that I am no longer motivated to truly deepen my faith walk by reading the Bible and spending quality time in prayer?

There are serious problems with the “Jesus Calling” approach. The question is will we recognize the rabbit trail in time to find our way back to a faith founded and grounded on the true words of our Savior? Will we use this book without going down other trails, recognizing its limitations and use it to deepen our knowledge God’s Word?

It is and should be a concern for all who use this material.

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(c) 2020 Carolyn R Scheidies

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