The Daily Beast has picked up on the publishing sensation that is Jesus Calling, a book which Todd Pruitt actually made me read for a forthcoming MoS podcast. That is ten dollars and two hours of my life which are gone forever. Am I a better person, though? I somehow doubt it.
The book is an odd mix of mysticism, sentimentality, and highly flawed theology. Tim Keller’s wife, Kathy, did a quite superb review of the book back in 2012 which, given Jesus Calling‘s continuing popularity, is well worth reading.
The whole phenomenon raises tangentially one of the cultural problems which seems to be emerging amidst the current popular evangelical market for books written by women. I consider that market in itself to be a good thing. No man could have written Wuthering Heights, after all, and what’s true for literature might well prove true for theology. Indeed, various genres of theological writing seem on the whole to have been enriched by women’s voices. It is interesting, however, that critiquing such literature seems to be becoming increasingly hard and subject to vehement reaction. Witness the response to Tim Challies’ comments on Ann Voskamp from a while back, or the author’s own preemptive publicity on Jesus Feminist which ruled any future criticism as unfair and hateful. And who in this age wants to be seen to be beating up on women?
Yet, when it comes to theological writing, a culture of silence, where all criticism is seen as sexist, where all critical interaction is seen as a personal attack, where reviews offering critique are always decried as ‘scathing’ or ‘hateful’, is going to prove very unhealthy in the long term. Sentimentalism will be treated like deep insight. Gruesome doggerel will be treated like great verse. Heterodoxy and even heresy may well be treated like truth.
Pastors have a responsibility to make sure people understand what they are reading. That must be done in an appropriate way; but it must still be done. The gender of the author should provide no special protection from rigorous scrutiny. That must certainly be done in an appropriate way; but it must still be done.