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Book Reviews

column from the Christian Research Journal, Summer 1988, Volume 11, Number 1, page 29. The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot Miller.

"God Calling" by A. J. Russel, Ed. (Revell, 1972). Reviewed by Edmund C. Gruss.

Christian Retailing's list of "Christian" best-selling books in April 1988 included in the top five a book entitled God Calling. Its prominence on the list testifies to the lack of spiritual discernment in contemporary evangelical Christianity, for God Calling was written by the occult practice of automatic writing. John Weldon, author and Christian expert on the occult, remarked: "God Calling is spiritistic literature; a demon makes the ranks of evangelical best-sellers!" Weldon is not the only Christian who has come to this conclusion.

First published in the mid-1930s, God Calling has long been stocked by many Christian bookstores, where it has been a perpetual best seller. The cover of the current paperback edition describes it as "the inspiring classic" in which "Christ's words cut a daily path of joy and peace through our troubled and confused world."


One of the anonymous "two listeners" who received the messages contained in God Calling explained the listeners' background in the book's introduction. In 1932 she received a copy of A.J. Russell's book, For Sinners Only. She was so impressed with it that she wrote down more than 100 names of people to whom she wanted to send it:

Russell, his book, and his form of "guidance" are significant here. Louis Talbot stated that one "must examine writers such as A.J. Russell" and his book For Sinners Only to understand the Oxford Group (which has been called Moral Rearmament since 1938) and its teachings and that it "practically constituted a textbook for the Group" (The King's Business, Jan. 1962, p.14). In The Oxford Group Walter Clark listed Russell among the "journalistic converts to the Oxford Group" (p. 19).

In the January 1962 edition of The King's Business, Talbot wrote of the book:

The Oxford Group also practiced the guidance method advocated by Russell and used by the listeners. When William Irvine surveyed the opinions of other evangelical leaders on this method he found them in one accord in their warnings against it (Heresies Exposed, third edition, p.49). What was their concern? Pastor Harold T. Commins, who had been a former member of the Oxford Group, gave one response:

Late in 1926 the Oxford Group's base of operations moved from the United States to England. By 1935, their annual "House-party" at Oxford University, which began in 1930, had 10,000 in attendance (Clark, p.76). With the prominence of the Oxford Group in England during the 1930s, one might conclude that the listeners, who lived in England, were not only familiar with Russell and his book, but also with the Oxford Group (with which he was associated) and its teachings. This conclusion is verified in God Calling where the "Living Christ" (as he is called in the book) often uses the terminology of the Oxford Group and promotes its philosophy (e.g., see the entry for Feb. 15).

It would appear that even the book's title originated from the Oxford Group. Walter Clark observes: "Expressions such as `God calling'....can be found on nearly every page of the volume of his [i.e., Oxford Group founder Frank Buchman's] collected speeches" (p.108). We must also remember that Russell edited God Calling for publication.

With the connection of God Calling to the Oxford Group firmly established, one must conclude that the woman who was so impressed by For Sinners Only and the method of guidance presented in it, although sincere, lacked discernment and an adequate knowledge of Scripture.

As for the Oxford Group/Moral Rearmament, a number of evangelical writers have written on it, identifying it as a cult (see, for examples, Spittler's Cults and Isms, Van Baalan's The Chaos of Cults, Irvine's Heresies Exposed, and Gaebelein's Buchmanism).


What about the contents of God Calling? Many have stated that they have read it with benefit and some have made reference to its ministry to them. How might these positive experiences be explained?

There is no denying that many statements in the book are inspiring. Scripture is often quoted in God Calling. But cultic literature often quotes Scripture. Reading Scripture wherever it may be found and being blessed by it does not automatically legitimize the publication in which it is included.

An experienced administrator from a mission agency observed after reading the book: "An evangelical reader can read his understanding into the text and enjoy it. A Modernist or mystic (or in some cases, even Muslim) can read his presuppositions into the text and equally enjoy it. This is not an evangelical book except as read with evangelical presuppositions."

Tim Timmons's conclusion should also be noted: "The book is full of good thoughts, but careful examination will show that many of the concepts sound as though they originated from the angel of light (II Cor. 11:14), rather than the Living Christ. This whole experience is inconsistent with God's Word, that is, our only reliable guide to examining this kind of activity" (Chains of the Spirit -- a Manual for Liberation, p.30). The following statements, made by one of the "two listeners," should cause a Christian reader concern: "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." "So to us this book, which we believe has been guided by our Lord Himself, is no ordinary book."

If the above is accepted as true, the implications are immense:

As is often true in God Calling, Christ in the above quote is made to violate the meaning of His words in Scriptural context. John 16:13 indicates that in Christ's absence further revelation of truth would come to the apostles through the Holy Spirit: "Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of Truth is come, he will guide you into all truth...."

The discerning Christian would question the spiritual source of a book that employs such a cult-like misuse of Scripture. Space permits only a few additional examples:

Then there are the statements attributed to Christ that do not borrow from scripture:

Christ" slips up on this last one. Matthew 2:9-11 indicates that the Magi arrived at Bethlehem a considerable time after Jesus was born. Note that verse 11 mentions their being at the "house." The Magi never did visit Jesus at the stable, but the shepherds did (Luke 2:15-20).

Much more could have been given to illustrate the errors and problems in God Calling. One need not question the sincerity of the "two listeners," but the method of guidance they employ is not Christian. Automatic writing is never accepted in Scripture. Indeed, it is a form of the mediumship which Scripture unequivocally condemns (e.g., Deut. 18:10-12). The good thoughts and inspiring statements attributed to Christ in God Calling often are combined with faulty theology and the misinterpretation of Scripture. True communications from the "Living Christ" would not have these defects.

-- Edmond C. Gruss (A longer version of this article was originally published in The Discerner, April-June 1984.)

"What Your Horoscope Doesn't Tell You" by Charles Strohmer (Tyndale House Publishers, 1988) Reviewed by Elliot Miller.

Last spring, after former White House Chief of Staff Donald Regan publicly revealed the longtime reliance of President and Nancy Reagan on astrology, the focus of the national media turned to this popular occult art. On ABC's "Night-line" Ted Koppel moderated a debate between a professional astrologer and a skeptical scientist. As usual, neither side could make a single point with the opposition. An impassible gulf seemingly separates the believers and unbelievers in astrology.

Why is this? I have concluded that it is because both sides are reenforced by disparate elements of truth. The skeptics' case against astrology's claim to be scientific is irrefutable. But the believers are not as irrational as the skeptics think -- astrology often "works." It may not work with the precision necessary to satisfy science, but in a personal context an astrologer's accuracy can be impressive enough to satisfy even a critically-minded person that something more than mere coincidence is involved.

Although a few Christian books have been written wholly or partly to answer astrology, none to my knowledge has addressed this crucial factor in astrology's longstanding popularity -- until now. In What Your Horoscope Doesn't Tell You, former astrologer Charles Strohmer devotes three chapters to evaluating this phenomenon.

Based on his personal experience and subsequent research, Strohmer proposes an explanation which has nothing to do with the astrologer's horoscopic charts: "Adherents of this system -- without knowing it -- are banging on the door through which communication is established with knowledgeable yet deceptive spirit beings. Eventually that door opens. And that opening produces an appalling development in the adherent's life. He or she matures in the craft in a most unthought-of manner: as a spirit medium" (p.51).

What Your Horoscope Doesn't Tell You is a good book to give to acquaintances attracted to astrology. It is written directly to them, in eminently readable language that is free of Christian jargon and unencumbered by undefined technical terms.

Chapter by chapter, Strohmer builds his case against astrology. For instance, he argues that a central test of a belief system is whether it is able to provide "authentic answers" to life's "big questions." How can astrology's answers be authentic when it is based on myth and deception (i.e., it falsely claims that the planets exert specific influences on our lives, when historically it is really Greek and Roman gods such as Jupiter, Mars, and Venus who exert such influences)? In the concluding chapters the author favorably applies the same test to the gospel.

The book is not without its flaws. For example: in arguing that the only possible explanation for why astrology "works" is evil spirits, Strohmer overlooks the explanation that most occultists would choose once astrology itself was proven spurious -- "psi," or psychic ability.

In spite of such weaknesses, What Your Horoscope Doesn't Tell You lucidly sets forth the case against astrology while making an original contribution to Christian thought on the subject.

End of document, CRJ0021A.TXT (original CRI file name),
"Book Reviews"
release A, February 7, 1994
R. Poll, CRI

A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.

Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute.

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