Changing Jesus Calling
Damage Control for a False Christ
By Warren B. Smith
(Editor’s Notes: Warren Smith is a native of Connecticut. He has degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Tulane University. Before becoming a Christian evangelist, he spent most of his life as a community social worker. Over the years, he became deeply involved in the New Age Movement, even serving as a teacher of New Age principles.
After becoming a Christian, he began writing extensively on the subject of spiritual deception. He has written six books and numerous booklets and has been a popular conference speaker for the last 25 years. For more information, visit www.warrenbsmith.com. For more detailed information about Jesus Calling, see his book titled, “Another Jesus” Calling. His fascinating life story is contained in his book, The Light That Was Dark.)
What if you are a major publisher like Thomas Nelson and you suddenly discover that your mega best–selling book Jesus Calling was inspired by a channeled New Age book? And what if you find out that some of the “messages” your author “received” from her “Jesus” weren’t really from Jesus because they contradict what the real Jesus Christ says in the Bible?
And what if your best–selling author has introduced a host of other problems in her book that your usually sharp editors had somehow overlooked?
What do you do given these issues are already in the pages of ten million previously published books? If you want to be fair to your readers, you deal honestly with these problems as they are brought to your attention. However, if you are more interested in protecting your product rather than in protecting the truth, you do everything in your power to make these problems disappear.
One thing is for sure — the author, Sarah Young, and the publisher, Thomas Nelson, have made some of their problems suddenly disappear in recent editions of Jesus Calling, most especially in the special 10th anniversary edition of the book that was released in September 2014.
Like the Watergate Tapes
Perhaps taking their cue from the missing eighteen–and–a–half minutes from Richard Nixon’s Watergate tapes, Sarah Young and Thomas Nelson have been systematically deleting controversial material from Jesus Calling.
Adding, subtracting, cutting, pasting, and completely eliminating problematic words, sentences, and even whole paragraphs, Young and her editors do not hesitate to put words in the mouth of their “Jesus,” even as they take others away. But like the Watergate tapes, the missing evidence and their in–your–face tactics are doing more to expose their problems than cover them up.
Another Jesus Calling
In the fall of 2013, my book “Another Jesus” Calling was published by Lighthouse Trails Publishing. I was not the first person to express concern about Jesus Calling, but not much had been written up to that point. As our concerns were publicized, Sarah Young and Thomas Nelson obviously became aware of our objections. Without a word of explanation to anyone, significant alterations began to be made in subsequent editions of Jesus Calling.
With “now you see it, now you don’t” editing, some of their major problems suddenly disappeared from the pages of Jesus Calling. To illustrate the lengths to which Sarah Young and Thomas Nelson have gone to protect their book and their multi–million dollar Jesus Calling industry, I will provide five specific examples — and there are many others — to demonstrate how readers of Jesus Calling are being managed and manipulated. Make no mistake about it — damage control is in full swing at Thomas Nelson, and it is especially evident in their special 10th anniversary edition of Sarah Young’s book.
1. Jesus Calling was inspired by a channeled New Age book titled, God Calling.1
In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, author Sarah Young said that her journey with Jesus Calling began with the book God Calling. She stated:2
My journey began with a devotional book (God Calling) written in the 1930s by two women who practiced waiting in God’s Presence, writing the messages they received as they “listened.” About a year after I started reading this book, I began to wonder if I too could receive messages during my times of communing with God… So I decided to “listen” to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever I sensed He was saying.
But Sarah Young and her editors somehow missed the fact that God Calling is a channeled New Age book. It consists of a collection of channeled messages presented in the form of daily devotionals. The messages were channeled through two English women in the 1930s and could easily have been titled “Jesus Calling” because they claimed it was dictated by “The Living Christ Himself.”3
The Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, published by Harvest House Christian publishers, specifically describes God Calling as a channeled New Age book. In their lengthy chapter on channeling and spiritual dictation, authors/apologists John Weldon and John Ankerberg explain that channeling is a form of New Age “mediumship” and according to the Bible it is a practice that is specifically forbidden (Deuteronomy 18:9–12).4
Under the subheading titled “Impersonations of Christianity,” the authors describe God Calling as a New Age book “replete with denials of biblical teaching”5 as it “subtly encourages psychic development and spiritistic inspiration under the guise of Christ’s personal guidance… and often misinterprets Scripture.”6 Yet Sarah Young wrote that it was God Calling that inspired her to receive her own messages from “Jesus.” In her original introduction to Jesus Calling, Young praised God Calling as “a treasure to me.”7
The Damage Control
In recent editions of Jesus Calling — including the 10th anniversary edition — the paragraph regarding God Calling has been removed from the author’s longstanding introduction. No explanation. No apology. Nothing. Suddenly and completely gone is any mention of God Calling — how it had inspired her to receive her own “messages” from “Jesus” and how it was a “treasure” to her.
The unexplained changes have caused many former supporters of Jesus Calling to stop using the devotional book. Christian online newspaper WorldNetDaily (WND) picked up on the controversy and published two articles,“Top Christian Bestseller Accused of Heresy”8 and “Is Hit Book ‘Jesus Calling‘ Pushing New Age?”9 Charisma magazine followed up with a similar article that noted the growing controversy. It was titled “Critics Accuse ‘Jesus Calling‘ of Mixing Truth With New Age Error.”10
For Sarah Young to not have initially recognized God Calling as a New Age book should raise some serious red flags. For her to praise God Calling as “a treasure to me” should raise those red flags even further. But for Sarah Young and her publisher to remove all references to God Calling without any explanation or apology to her millions of readers is perhaps the reddest flag of all. It is the height of spiritual irresponsibility for Sarah Young to pretend it is no big deal after her original endorsement of God Calling re–ignited the sales of this blatant New Age book, especially when God Calling — thanks to her — now sits alongside Jesus Calling in thousands of bookstores across the country — including countless Christian bookstores.
2. Sarah Young originally wrote that she “received messages” from “Jesus” Himself.
The Damage Control
In recent editions of Jesus Calling, all ten references to the words “message” and “messages” have been deleted from her otherwise longstanding introduction. What were originally described as “messages” she “received” from “Jesus” are now being described as “writings” and “devotions” that she “gleaned” in her “quiet moments.”
Changing the “messages” she “received” to the “writings” and “devotions” she “gleaned” in her “quiet moments” attempts to counter any suggestion that Sarah Young might be getting deceived by a seducing spirit that is presenting itself as the real Jesus (1 Timothy 4:1, Matthew 24:4–5).
3. Sarah Young’s “Jesus” contradicts the Bible’s true Jesus Christ.
In two separate messages, Sarah Young was told by her “Jesus” that the last words he spoke after his resurrection and before ascending into heaven were “I am with you always.” But this statement made by the true Jesus Christ on a Mount in the Galilee was not His last words before ascending into heaven. His last words were spoken from the Mount of Olives as recorded in Acts 1:7–9, 12. The two “messages” Sarah Young received from her “Jesus” contradict the words of the true Jesus Christ in the Holy Bible. What her “Jesus” said was totally unbiblical.
The Damage Control
Since this unbiblical contradiction was brought to light in my book “Another Jesus” Calling, Sarah Young and Thomas Nelson have eliminated this obvious contradiction in their 10th anniversary edition. In other words, they had their “Jesus” correct himself.
4. Sarah Young’s “Jesus” stated that Abraham was guilty of “idolatry” and “son–worship.”
In the August 23rd message in Jesus Calling, Sarah Young’s “Jesus” says that Abraham was a man of “undisciplined emotions” and was guilty of “son–worship” and “idolatry.” Many believers have recoiled at these strange, extra–biblical remarks.
The Damage Control
Sarah Young and Thomas Nelson have attempted to make this particular problem disappear by deleting all references to Abraham and Isaac, replacing them with a reference to Jacob and Joseph instead.
5. “Jesus” complains about the night of his birth.
Creating considerable controversy and confusion, the “Jesus” of Jesus Calling says he was born “under appalling conditions” in a “filthy stable” and that the night of his birth “was a dark night” for him. To many readers, this did not sound like the voice of their Savior — it sounded like the voice of a stranger (John 10:5) and that Satan — not Jesus — would be the one describing the night of Jesus’ birth as “that dark night for Me.”
The Damage Control
In the 10th anniversary edition of Jesus Calling, the controversial statement — “That was a dark night for Me” — was deleted and quietly replaced by the less controversial statement. “There was nothing glorious about that setting.”
Intrigued by the channeled messages of God Calling, Sarah Young was apparently not satisfied with the sufficiency of God’s Word. In her original introduction, Young stated: “I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more.”11 While this statement — along with many others — has been deleted in recent editions, it is clear the author of Jesus Calling “yearned for more,” and more is what she got.
As a result, she received “messages” from a “Jesus” that has proven himself to be one of the false Christs that the real Jesus Christ warned us to watch out for (Matthew 24:4–5, 23–24). Wanting a word from God more than the Word of God, Sarah Young ended up getting deceived. “Deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13), she has taken millions of Jesus Calling readers along with her.
The Bible describes those who love and respect the power and authority of God’s Word as those who tremble at God’s Word (Isaiah 66:2). The Bible also describes those who do not tremble at God’s Word but rather use and manipulate God’s Word for their own selfish purposes (2 Corinthians 4:2).
There is no nice way to say it. Jesus Calling is a gross affront to our true Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And the self–serving effort by Sarah Young and her publisher to cover up some of the many problems found in Jesus Calling is a gross affront to the body of Christ. It is one thing for Sarah Young to be deceived, it is quite another for her to be the author of deception herself.
The five examples provided in this article typify the unprincipled damage control that the author and her publisher have undertaken to preserve their multi–million dollar Jesus Calling industry — all at the expense of people who have put their trust in Sarah Young and her “Jesus.”
To those who would argue that there is a lot of truth in Jesus Calling and that the book has comforted many people, we need to be reminded of the words of former Moody Memorial Church pastor Dr. Harry Ironside who warned about “truth mixed with error:”12
Error is like leaven, of which we read, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” Truth mixed with error is equivalent to all error, except that it is more innocent looking and, therefore, more dangerous. God hates such a mixture! Any error, or truth–and–error mixture, calls for definite exposure and repudiation. To condone such is to be unfaithful to God and His Word and treacherous to imperiled souls for whom Christ died.
Jesus warned that great deception would characterize the time of the end and that the deception would come in His name. I am absolutely convinced that the “Jesus” of Jesus Calling is not the true Christ. Rather he is one of the false Christs that the real Jesus warned us to watch out for (Matthew 24:3–5):
And as He sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when shall these things be and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?” And Jesus answered and said unto them, “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.”
(Editor’s Note: Anytime anyone starts trying to put words in the mouth of Jesus, a red flag should go up. The fact that this book, Jesus Calling, is being sold in Christian bookstores and church bookstores is evidence of the lack of spiritual discernment that exists in Christendom today.
1) A. J. Russell, editor, God Calling (Grand Rapids, MI: Spire Books, 2005), page 5.
2) Q&A with Sarah Young, Author Profile, The Christian Broadcasting Network (www.cbn.com/entertainment/books/JesusCallingQA.aspx).
3) Russell, page 5.
4) John Ankerberg & John Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1996), page 80.
5) Ibid., page 103.
6) Ibid., page 104.
7) Sarah Young, Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2004), page xi.
8) Jim Fletcher, “Top Christian Bestseller Accused of Heresy,” WordNetDaily, www.wnd.com/2014/05/top-christian-bestseller-accused-of-heresy.
9) Jim Fletcher, “Is Hit Book, Jesus Calling, Pushing New Age?” WorldNetDaily, www.wnd.com/2014/06/is-hit-book-jesus-calling-pushing-new-age.
10) Gina Meeks, “Critics Accuse Jesus Calling of Mixing Truth With New Age Error,” Charisma News www.charismanews.com/culture/43855-critics-accuse-jesus-calling-of-mixing-truth-witherror.
11) Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, page xii.
12) Dr. Harry Ironside, “Exposing Error: Is it Worthwhile?” TBC Extra, April 2008, posted on The Berean Call website, www.thebereancall.org/content/tbc-extra-30.