I can't be too hard on Ms. Young and her Jesus Calling for the simple fact that I've been in her shoes. I've had a couple of instances in my life when I thought I was speaking for God Himself, and both of them turned out not only to not be God, but to not even be the best version of me.
If you can imagine actually believing in God and then realizing you'd been speaking wrongly for Him over a series of years, you might imagine a knot developing in your stomach. And there's a part of you that wants to blame it on the people who told you God said it, and there's another part of you that blames yourself for thinking too highly of your thoughts. Either way you find yourself unwilling to do it again -- especially after the second time it happens; and beyond this you become extremely skeptical whenever anyone claims to be preaching the will of God too. At least, that's what you do if you have a conscience and you think. For people like Ms. Young and the majority of the "spirit-led" women in the church, it's obvious to me that they think very little about anything at all*.
To be fair to the early Christians, fake prophets continued to be a problem for the two millenia after Christ, and they've only gained popularity since the introduction of classical liberalism. Even Thomas a' Becket, whose Imitation of Christ remains one of the most popular Christian devotionals since the Middle Ages, may be fairly accused of doing exactly the same thing as Ms. Young -- with equal indecency, and a tendency to highlight the monkish aspects of our religion. But an extensive list of historical parallels, from the priests of Ba'al to Pat Robertson, is almost beside the point. What critics (including myself) of these mystical authors have failed to admit is that the Holy Spirit, if He exists, will primarily have a purpose in two things. The first is the communication of spiritual truths. The second is in the communication of spiritual affections**.
Sarah Young is the manifestation of the doctrine which every Christian claims to believe about himself and almost nobody believes in everyone else. Anyone who's ever had a really Christian experience knows the feeling known as revelation; the feeling, maybe alone in your room with your Bible or in the middle of a sermon, that you have learned something that wasn't exactly expressed, but deeply imbibed -- almost as if it was the rightest and brightest thing you'd ever learned in your life. Many of Ms. Young's thoughts correlate strongly with these most spiritual moments. And whether this is the experience everyone refers to as spiritual enlightenment or a new idea that resounds strongly with our guts is beside the question if everyone believes it to be bigger than simply learning itself. Christians go much further than that, and call it light itself. We think that it's God speaking.
The strangest aspect about this is that it's most usually kept to ourselves, as though it was an unspeakable secret between our Creator and us; and so few of us, while pretending that what we've received is the most precious and reliable thing in the world, are even interested in writing these revelations down for future remembrance. Many Christians in the West are likely to own books by CS Lewis while at the same time downplaying the voice inside themselves; as though the divine is to be thrown away after the moment and the earthly, which overtly denies its own inspiration, is to be kept for everyone for eternity. Sarah Young did not take this highly irreverent attitude seriously and we ended up with a book about it. Some people are upset that she would claim to be speaking for God Himself. If this is the case, then we ought to be asking them, who is speaking to them in their spiritual moments? And if it is God, why are we not hearing more about it?
My answer is solely from my personal experience: it's because they're afraid they'll be scrutinized and embarrassed and lose their faith -- very much like what's happened to me. But Ms. Young, whether out of stupidity, fraud, or the sincerity of a pure faith, isn't afraid. She's convinced our women that she speaks for Jesus Himself, probably because she's convinced that Jesus is really speaking to her. Why there aren't more Christians speaking with the authority of God is the question the church has yet to answer. It should seem strange that so many Christians claim to be inspired and so very few of them are actually inspiring.
*Paul's reason for not allowing women to teach the truths of God to men in church is more important than the rule. He believes that women, from the beginnings of Biblical history, have been mentally defective (1 Timothy 2:11-14). The kinds of things said and done by our Anglican female pastors, absolutely loaded with logical inconsistencies and heresies and unScriptural prescriptions, are not helping women prove the contrary; but we can be sure that if Paul is right and the problem with female pastors is their brains, that Nobody is speaking to or through them -- and if He is, that He isn't speaking enough to make them worth listening to on a regular basis. Paul shot himself in the foot when he ragged on women's brains. The Holy Spirit guides us towards truth or He doesn't guide us at all.
The reason I said Ms. Young isn't doing much thinking at all is because the overwhelming majority of her devotions, from even a casual glance at the substance of Jesus Calling, have more to do with giving up our problems than finding solutions -- the latter of which is the primary purpose of reason. Her advice is almost to not worry about advice. This may be one way to live your life, and perhaps if everything is already predetermined it might be the right way to lead your life; but it doesn't seem to be the prescription of the Apostles or even of the Catholic Church, who advise us in their epistles and catechisms to pursue virtue, which is a mastery of life, rather than what the New-Agers would call mindfulness, which is (ironically) an emptying of the mind. A reliance upon God is a healthy way to live; but only insofar as our attempts to avoid fear aren't attempts to avoid a manly struggle.
Ms. Young has also been kind enough, in the introduction to her book, to admit that while her teachings are reported to have come from Jesus Himself, they remain inferior to the irreproachable word of Scripture. To Ms. Young, Jesus may be authoritative, but He isn't as authoritative as He used to be. This leads us to wonder whether Sarah's God is getting senile, or whether maybe He tosses casual suggestions to His followers without checking His facts first. Her hesitation on this matter raises suspicion toward the sincerity of her following professions without entirely derailing them -- many of such thoughts, from my casual observance, which appear very similar to those of our most celebrated saints. Christ was never humble when He was speaking from authority.
**Regarding this subject, I would direct you to Jonathan Edwards' The Religious Affections. Nobody who's read Hume and Locke and Edwards can deny that Hume, who wrote his major treatises only several years before Edwards, and Locke, who wrote only sixty years before him, had a profound impact upon Edwards' best and most useful treatises. These are the rare theological works that have significance beyond the realm of theology -- especially his On the Freedom of the Will -- and you would be greatly helped in your understanding of both the human mind and the Christian religion if you read them. I'll be keeping them in my library for you.
On a side note, it should always be remembered that what we think affects what we do. Augustine was a product of Plato, whose philosophy dominated the Dark Ages. Aquinas was a product of Aristotle, whose philosophy dominated the Middle Ages. Edwards was a product of the British Empiricists, who ruled and enlightened the world by liberating themselves. You may decide for yourself whether you prefer the Dark Ages or The Age of Reason; or whether Plato's Republic, which advocated socialism and eugenics, was better for Western Civilization than Locke's Second Treatise of Government -- the pamphlet behind the Whig values, and the spirit of our Declaration of Independence. Both of them ought to be read. Only one of them deserves to be lived.
"As I've written before, it should seem strange that so many Christians claim to be inspired, and so very few of them are actually inspiring."ReplyDelete
Not to take either side -- but most people say that someone else is "inspiring" only when that person says what they want to hear. Let that person be "inspiring" for decades but then, one day, say something the "inspired" do not wish to hear, and then he is denounced, the moreso that what he has said today is logically rooted in what he has said on all those yesterdays.