Monday, January 29, 2018

A Review of God Calling by Two Listeners

I'm presently working on manuscript for a book entitled Jesus Called (and Here is What He Said). As you can probably tell by the title, the book is in response to the bestselling devotional Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. But more than being a criticism, I want to teach people what Christ has actually said in His word, the Bible. That's how Jesus speaks -- not in your head or through strange women who claim God has personally addressed them.

In case you're not familiar with it, Jesus Calling is written from the first-person perspective of Jesus, as though Jesus actually said the things Young wrote in her book. If that were true, then Jesus Calling is Scripture. Young has said that she was inspired by another book entitled God Calling by Two Listeners, an admission that her publisher, Thomas Nelson, appears to be trying to conceal.

Both Jesus Calling and God Calling were written by way of a new-age spiritual technique called "automatic writing." It is a pagan practice, not a godly one. A blogger for the website Mind Body Green describes this process here, which is eerily similar to how Sarah Young and the Two Listeners say they wrote their respective books.

You'll have to wait for the finished manuscript to read my critique of Jesus Calling (or maybe I'll post some of it on the blog at a later time). I hope to be finished by next month and maybe have the completed book available in late spring. I've been asked a few times to do a critique of God Calling by Two Listeners, edited by A.J. Russell. The following is an excerpt I have written. Some of this has been adjusted for use in a blog.


In 1932, English journalist Arthur James Russell published a book entitled For Sinners Only about the Oxford Group and its founder Dr. Frank N.D. Buchman. The Oxford Group was an evangelical movement that combined social life with Christian ethics, containing "no hierarchy, no temples, no endowments, its workers no salaries, no plans but God's plan." Perhaps their most recognized contribution to the world today is the addiction recovery program Alcoholics Anonymous, started by two men from the Oxford Group.

The Oxford Group followed four spiritual practices that included sharing with other Christians about sins and temptations, making restitution with all who have been wronged, listening for God's direction, and then surrendering to that direction and following it. Buchman believed that if you gave God enough quiet and uninterrupted time, He would tell you what to do. "Listening means an unhurried time when God really can have a chance to imprint His thoughts in your mind," he said.

Buchman used to begin every morning with Bible study and prayer, but he found this to be unproductive. Evangelist F.B. Meyer, friend to D.L. Moody, convinced Buchman that he needed to be silent and "let the Holy Spirit guide you in all that you are doing." So for an hour every morning, he would sit in what he called his Quiet Time, just listening for God to speak. The results were so life-changing that he wanted to share his new method of meditation—which he considered thoroughly biblical—with the whole world.

As Buchman's teachings were gaining notoriety, two English women read A.J. Russell's book and were captured by the practice of what the Oxford Group called Guidance. Russell shared of a time he told Buchman about visions he had, and Buchman interpreted his visions for him. At the end of their meeting, they sat in "prayerful silence," pen and paper in hand. Russell wrote down all the thoughts that came to his mind, and Buchman "pronounced them to be God-given thoughts."

The two women were so inspired by Russell's account of receiving thoughts from God that they decided to try Buchman's method for themselves. What they wrote from their meditations was compiled into a book entitled God Calling by Two Listeners, edited by Russell and published in 1935 in England (today it's published as simply God Calling). The two women remained anonymous; "They seek no praise," Russell wrote in his introduction.

One of the Listeners explained at the start of the book how the book was written: "We sat down, pencils and paper in hand, and waited. This was in December 1932." She described herself as skeptical, but her friend as deeply religious. Here is what she said:
"My results were entirely negative. Portions of texts came and went, then my mind wandered to ordinary topics. I brought it back again and again, but with no success. To this day, I cannot get guidance in this way alone.  
"But with my friend a very wonderful thing happened. From the first, beautiful messages were given to her by our Lord Himself, and every day from then these messages have never failed us. We felt all unworthy and overwhelmed by the wonder of it, and could hardly realize that we were being taught, trained, and encouraged day by day by Him personally, when millions of souls, far worthier, had to be content with guidance from the Bible, sermons, their Churches, books, and other sources."
She concluded, "This book, which we believe has been guided by our Lord Himself, is no ordinary book. It is published, after much prayer, to prove that a living Christ speaks today, plans and guides the humblest, that no detail is too insignificant for His attention, that He reveals Himself now as ever as a Humble Servant and Majestic Creator."

Where Two or More Are Gathered?

In the opening of God Calling, Russell featured a single page with these words from Jesus in the Bible: "Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:19-20, but the reference isn't given in the book.)

Russell meant to suggest that because these revelations were shared by two women who were "gathered together" in Jesus' name, the Lord was with them and the words they wrote were His. But when you look at that verse, Matthew 18:19-20, in context, you will see it's about correcting an offending brother or sister in the body of Christ concerning their sin:
"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."
Jesus was talking about church discipline, not how to authenticate secret voices or visions or messages from God!

If the standard of true revelation is simply that two people heard a voice or shared a vision, then Mormonism must be true. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery claimed to receive the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood from John the Baptist in the woods of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, and were then baptized together in the Susquehanna River.

But we can verify without a doubt that Mormonism is not true. We do this by using the Bible. Smith said he received the Melchizedek priesthood, but Hebrews 7:24 says that Jesus Christ holds that position aparabaton, which in the Greek means "permanently" and "without successor." That word appears in all of the earliest texts that we have of the book of Hebrews. Which is more likely: that the Bible is wrong, or Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were conspiring liars?

Now, whether these two women "gathered together" to conspire and lie, I cannot say regarding the intentions of their hearts. We don't even know who they are, as A.J. Russell never gave up their names—or if they, ahem, even exist at all. What I can say is this: using the same standard we use to test Smith and Cowdery's claim—testing them with the Bible—we can likewise verify without out a doubt these Two Listeners did not hear the voice of God.

The book was written as daily devotionals from the perspective of God speaking to them. Most of it is rather choppy spiritualism: "Love Me and do My Will. No evil shall befall you. Take no thought for tomorrow. Rest in My presence brings Peace. God will help you. Desire brings fulfillment. Peace like a quiet flowing river cleanses, sweeps all irritants away" (January 5).

Some of it borders on the weird and insensible: "You will absorb an atmosphere" (January 7). What on earth or in heaven does that mean? "Joy is the God-given cement that secures the harmony and beauty of my mosaic" (January 16). Uh huh.

But then there are the parts of God Calling that are clearly unbiblical. The Listeners, in the voice of God, wrote, "You need me. I need you" (April 19). No, the Bible is unreservedly clear that God does not need us or any thing. Acts 17:25 says that God is not "served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything." Romans 11:35-36 says, "Or who has given a gift to Him that He might be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen."

The women claim God said to them, "I await the commands of My children" (April 3). That is absurd. If I knew a word other than "prideful" to describe such a deep level of human arrogance, I would use it. Do you believe we can command the Creator of the universe? A mouse would sooner tame a lion, teach it to roll over and play dead, enroll in college, receive his doctorate in dental surgery, and remove all of the lion's teeth before any one of us command God to do anything!

Psalm 115:3 says, "Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases." Lamentations 3:37 says, "Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?" Acts 17:30 says, "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent." We do not command God. He commands us, and we must obey Him. It is our delight to obey Him! Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15).

The women wrote that God said to them, "I do not delay My second coming. My followers delay it. If each lived for Me, by Me, in Me, allowing Me to live in him, to use him to express the Divine through him, as I expressed it when on earth, then long ago the world would have been drawn to Me, and I should have come to claim My own" (November 6). This is a common false teaching among new-revelation charismatics, claiming that we determine when the Lord returns.

Seventh-Day Adventist prophet Ellen G. White said she knew when the world would end. She made multiple predictions in 1843, 1844, 1845, and 1851. When the end of the world didn't happen, White blamed her followers: "Thus the work was hindered and the world was left in darkness. Had the whole Adventist body united upon the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, how widely different would have been our history."

Mike Bickle, founder of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, teaches that the second coming of Christ is either sped-up or delayed based on the church's spiritual maturity and readiness. Most Christians are passively waiting for Christ to return, but if they want it to happen, they're going to have to make it happen. Bickle said, "There's a number of really crystal-clear precepts or principles or things that God wants done, and He's not going to do it except that the praying church prays and releases them." Is Bickle also saying that we command God?

We have absolutely nothing to do with what day Christ returns. In Acts 17:31, the Apostle Paul preached that God "has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness." That day is fixed. He knows which day and what hour He will judge the world (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32). Jesus said that the one who says to himself, "My master is delayed," is a wicked servant (Matthew 24:48). Peter said to watch out for scoffers who will say, "Where is the promise of His coming?" (2 Peter 3:3-4).

The two women of God Calling quote familiar Bible phrases like "Take up your cross daily and follow me," or "In my Father's house there are many mansions." But these verse fragments are often taken out of context. They wrote, "Is not the message of My servant Paul now plain: 'Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers,' because My Guidance is intensified immeasurably in power, when the two are one in desire to be with Me—but so few have understood it" (April 14).

Well thank heavens those women were around to tell us what God really meant! It's ironic they cited that passage—2 Corinthians 6:14. Paul was not talking about gaining more Guidance power. He was confronting those who were in rebellion against true Apostolic teaching!

If one is familiar with the Scriptures and then reads God Calling by Two Listeners, they will notice a distinct difference in tone between the Bible and this cheeky book. God Calling doesn't sound like the voice of God that we read in the Bible—it sounds like an early-nineteenth century English woman.