Tim Challies and Ann Voskamp: The New Sensation Seekers

By Grant Swart

Thank you for forwarding the two links to me. I have read them and I still cannot fault Tim Challies’ original critique of Ann Voskamp’s rubbish, just as I could not do at my first reading of it.

Below are a few points I would like to make, although these do not represent all points which need to be made regarding this unsavoury matter.

1. I have never attached much value to what Tim Challies has written on previous occasions, although I have not read all of his work. I never felt the need to pay attention to his opinions, not because he is a bad author, which he is not, but simply because I have always found his work lacking in substance and based more on human reasoning and not particularly on Scripture. He seems to prefer being the modern man with modernised needs, slightly besotted with technology and the social media and less concerned with the reality of the Truth.

2. On the matter of Ann Voskamp’s book, he was clearly never convinced of his original position regarding her work, which makes it more obvious that it was an attempt at gaining the admiration of his conservative followers and colleagues, to publish that which he did. That is almost the same thing that Ann Voskamp did, the only differences being their original target audiences and the intended effect on them. As the trends in his readership change, he more than likely feels the need to adopt a more ecumenically inclusive approach to accommodate them. As Hollywood increasingly glorifies panentheism, pantheism, mysticism and other forms of false religion, so those who need to rouse sensationalism are urged to keep step in the social media.

3. No one can deliver meaningful commentary on a book without having made an in depth study of it. That much should be clear, and not unrelated to other similar instances. Once that study has been made, Tim Challies’ original approach should be investigated through the lens of Scripture and compared with his latest affected stance. I have not read Ann Voskamp’s book and I doubt I ever will – no need for that. I do, therefore, not claim to be in any position to comment on the content. I have no interest in dissecting rotten material, and there is more to learn from Scripture than any one can cover in one lifetime.

4. Surely, it must be Tim and Ann who are in the best position to comment on the nature of their personal relationship, as others do not have the advantage of firsthand contact. In what Tim has recently written on the matter there are obviously some important omissions, which might have given the issue a completely different colour. Before we can make proper assessments, we need to have access to his colour pallet.

5. Tim Challies made a grave mistake in bringing these alterations in detail to the public’s attention. I fail to see what business others have with it as it cannot provide edification, but rather it simply presents controversial subject matter for bloggers and those who are of inquisitive disposition. On the other hand, Ann Voskamp made an even greater error in publishing the rubbish that she did. Not only was it of unbiblical content, but has proven to be divisive and most “embarrassing” to Christian believers who, for an array of reasons, become associated with it. Her book should have remained in the secular realm, it is not Christian work and based on that alone, we should not grant to it any great importance.

This controversy is far from over and the repercussions seem to be extending outward. As I have mentioned, Tim’s original commentary was rooted in his personal opinion and, although it was admirably correct, it has now provided him with doubts regarding his stance toward falsehoods. As a result, Ann Voskamp has been able to seduce him to close ranks with her. This moves him further from the simplicity of the Truth, and closer to increased confusion. Of course, this is bound to place him in an even deeper predicament in time to come, but as always the world will ignore his error, while believers will continue to ignore his work.

6. Christians should avoid this subject, and others similar, to the best of their ability. To share in it cannot bear fruit and we cannot assist in God’s sovereign work. The Word of God provides sufficiently to distance us from what these two people have offered to their subsequent readers. It now seems that their newest intention is to unite their two very distinct groups of readers.

There are far greater expectations of the believer and with which we have been commissioned than to pay attention to this type of controversy. This nonsense belongs in the tabloids, not in discussions in the church. Lets us compare this matter of secular books posing as truth to the struggles and challenges which face believers in Zimbabwe, Korea, Sudan and even in the streets of America. These precious brothers and sisters are of far greater importance to us, than the overly comfortable lives of Tim Challies and Ann Voskamp.

I would hazard a guess that neither of them have ever gone to bed being unable to sleep due to the pains of hunger or other forms of deprivation gnawing at there beings. Neither of them have ever been too far from basic living necessities, nor have either of them ever been totally separated from God’s Word by forces political, economical or geographical. Yet the audacity shines through to make a spectacle of the Truth and to misuse their advantaged comfortable platforms.

7. The sheep who follow our Lord Jesus, who cannot access Bibles in their own countries, who cannot hear the Truth, who have no pastors, radios, television or internet access, they need to hear His Word, not to read about worldly controversies. Not to read about fancy luncheons or dinners where panentheism and secularism are being strategically wrangled into Christianity. These sheep without warmth or comfort are our responsibility, and not Tim Challies and Ann Voskamp’s meal time plans and pretentious discussions. Tim and Ann have both clearly received Truth and food in excess and they are now engaged in wasting it with much ignorant gusto.

Partaking in meaningless controversies such as this publicizes our ignorance of those who need our effort, prayer, care and time. It provides those who crave sensationalism with a platform from which to condone wasted opportunities in which the Gospel of Grace could have been taken to just one, just one, in need of those precious minutes. People please let this type of egotistical nonsense be!

I pray the Lord Jesus comfort all those who are experiencing hardship and truly suffering for His Truth, and that He enfolds them in His arms this day.

Much love and grace to all.

Grant Swart

1Timothy  1:3-7  As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine,  (4)  nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.  (5)  The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.  (6)  Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion,  (7)  desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. (ESV)

Tit 3:8-15  The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.  (9)  But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.  (10)  As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him,  (11)  knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.  (12)  When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there.  (13)  Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing.  (14)  And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.  (15)  All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. (ESV)

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14 thoughts on “Tim Challies and Ann Voskamp: The New Sensation Seekers

  1. I’m challenging you to dig a little deeper. Have you read Tim Challies’ book The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment? I was very excited about the book when it came out and it has many good endorsements. Check this page: http://www.challies.com/writings/books-e-books/the-discipline-of-spiritual-discernment
    I purchased the book as soon as it was out and read it but I would NOT recommend it, because after Tim states the biblical principles and states them clearly and strongly he then turns around and “unsays” every thing that he’d just said that was biblical. I just wanted to cry that I’d spent good money on a book that in the end I considered garbage because he kept tearing apart and deconstructing all the good things he’s said. This little fiasco comes as NO surprise to me. It is more of the same garbage that was in his spiritual discernment book. There was so much doublespeak that what was potentially good in it was ruined. Shame on the people that endorsed that book with out reading it. I expected better of them as well. This is just same song second verse.

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    • Can you please give me examples of the ‘doublespeak’? My friend & I just went through it & didn’t find anything wrong with it. We thought it was quite good, in fact. And we are not new believers.

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  2. Excellent point have been made in this article that too many are over looking. Thank you for your strong stance and unwavering defense of God’s Word!

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  3. If it’s impossible to delivery a meaningful commentary on a book without having read it, then perhaps you should limit your posts to slamming books you’ve actually read.

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    • Sarah

      Thank you for commenting here. Unfortunately there is error in your reasoning, as I will explain in the simplest way possible.

      1. If you started reading a book and realized, after going through the first few chapters, that you were actually busy with the Satanist’s bible, would you need to study the entire book in depth before you made the decision that it is not a Christian opinion?

      2. Similarly, if you were served a meal and after taking a bite out of two sides of it, realized with disgust that it was rotten, would you need to finish the whole meal before making an informed decision on that?

      3. Were you attend a church ceremony and found that the teacher was actually blaspheming the Holy Spirit, would you need to sit through the entire length of the service before you were convicted to leave?

      If you answered yes to the three points above, then I would suggest that you are not a very discerning person.

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    • Admin Edited, ( your comment was very unbecoming from a professing believer. Hence the removal of your comment. Please do not comment again, unless you can do so in a manner that is becoming of a believer)

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  4. I take great offfense that you are calling someone’s work rotten without even re.ading it. Ann is a gifted writer and the she has great insights into God’s word never contridicting scripture as she shares the struggles she has faced in this world where we are told we will have troubles. She beautifully shares how she has been able to give thanks in all things and encourages the reader to do the same. As far as living comfortably if you ever read her blogs you would know she acknowleges the disparity of her comfort with the vast majority of the world’s peoples. She just returned from a mission trip to Haiti with her 16 year old son. Just wondered what your comfort level is? Where were you born and were do you reside? Why are you even mentioning this? I think we have better things to talk about than putting down other believer’s before you have all the facts

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    • Carol Ciresi

      Ann Voskamps writings are sadly wrapped up in a shiny paper of Mysticism and Panentheism. Her book also contains offensive THEOLOGICAL EROTICA. Voskamp offers a higher order experience for Christians, described in most sensual and provocative terms. This is not Biblical. This experience is to be had now, and is not the eschatological consummation all Christians await. It helps to go to Paris and a Roman Catholic cathedral to find this experience. There is nothing in this that is Biblical. There are not two types of Christians—ordinary ones and others who have achieved the ultimate, mystical union. This sort of false thinking is what lead people into monasteries to waste their lives looking for something that evidently the gospel itself does not offer. Do we need to mimic the error of the monastic mystics?

      As fraught with theological error that this book is, its basic premise is true: as Christians we ought to be thankful people who give thanks in all things. The Bible teaches us that. But do we need to jettison Christian theism in favor of panentheism and objective truth in favor of romantic feelings and higher order experiences to become thankful? No! God has already provided everything that pertains to life and godliness (2Peter 1:3). When Peter urged Christians to grow in their faith and in Christian virtues, he did not point to a higher order experience based on romantic feelings—he called them to remember:

      Therefore, I shall always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. And I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, (2Peter 1:12, 13)

      Peter also mentions sensuality and it is not good: “For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error,” (2Peter 2:18). There is enough sensuality in the world without us having sensual desires stirred up under the guise of a higher order religious experience in the context of a panentheistic worldview. Voskamp’s book feeds into the romantic sensibilities of its postmodern readers. But it does nothing to promote the faith once for all delivered to the saints. It pushes the church even further down the unbiblical road of mysticism that so many are already on. We need to reject this and instead return to objective, Biblical truth.

      I strongly suggest you also read these articles warning about her writings :

      1)A Commentary On Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts” – http://solasisters.blogspot.com/2012/04/commentary-on-ann-voskamps-one-thousand.html
      2) Romantic Panentheism: A Review of One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp – https://fortheloveofhistruth.com/2012/05/29/romantic-panentheism-a-review-of-one-thousand-gifts-by-ann-voskamp/

      Why are we warned through out NT by Jesus and the Apostles about FALSE Teachers and teachings ?

      1John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

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  5. Firstly, sorry for the belated comment but I didn’t read this article fully first time around…must have gotten distracted as often happens! It is a very challenging article for me as I follow Tim’s blog, but extremely helpful at the same time for a number of reasons.

    I have seen other reviews of Ann Voskamp’s book by people whose views are consistently in line with Scripture such as those you posted in your response or this one from Bob DeWaay via the Lighthouse Trails site: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=6614. None of them have found her writings biblical. I can’t see anything defensible in them either. I hadn’t read Tim’s review so went back and did so. I am sad to see Tim back down from his review, which at best lacked conviction in the first place but at least offered a warning and no recommendation.

    @BlessedHope213 – you have identified something in the book you mention that I had noticed in the reviews and articles, but was not sure if it was just my imagination. Thanks for the heads up. A great illustration of how we need to be ever vigilant in our discernment and not just go on how much we like someone’s writings (or how much they ‘inspire’ or ‘help’ us!!), which also illustrates the point well in relation to Ann Voskamp!

    I am genuinely unsure of why anyone would be offended by someone else’s view of Ann Voskamp? It isn’t personal. I have friends who like Jim Carrey. I find him repulsive and bizarre. They don’t take it personally…even though I am right! 😉 Elmarie (and MANY other Christians) are concerned that Ann’s writings are unbiblical, and even blasphemous. If the conclusion is that they are both, then ‘rotten’ is a very appropriate term. The fact that Elmarie had to write the term ‘theological erotica’…something I never thought I would see in all my days on this earth…should be a clue to how concerning Ann’s writings are. Grant and Elmarie are definitely of the “stick-in-the-mud” variety when it comes to aberrant theology. God bless them for that!

    By the way, ‘theological erotica’ in all its forms makes my skin crawl beyond belief. Just so I am clear on my position regarding Ann Voskamp and anyone else in this mystical camp. On her website she has a defense of this type writing. Whether intentionally or not, she mistakenly uses some of Surgeon’s writings to back herself up. If you read his quotes on her site, you will see that in NO WAY is he saying anything the slightest bit erotic. He actually clearly spells out the meaning of the metaphors:

    (directly from http://www.aholyexperience.com/intimacy-with-god/)
    C.H. Spurgeon: Morning and Evening
    Song of Solomon 1:2

    NOTICE WHAT HE SAYS TO QUALIFY HIS OTHER COMMENTS:

    By kisses we suppose to be intended those varied manifestations of affection by which the believer is made to enjoy the love of Jesus.

    Notice…not actual kisses. Anyway, perfect union with Christ in whatever form that takes in eternity surely cannot be achieved while we are still sinners here on earth in corruptible bodies. Otherwise,what exactly is the point of eternity in heaven? Whatever it is that mystics are achieving, I am very concerned for their spiritual safety. How can they know they are in ecstatic communion with Christ and not the Angel of Light? I can see no testing of the spirits. Why did Jesus not teach these practices if they are so important and something that can be achieved now. It would seem to be more likely that the lusts of the flesh cannot wait until our eternal reward is received, and so seek out gratification now. No suffering or perseverance, they want it all and they want it now. Ironically, the same words were once sung by Freddie Mercury (Queen) and look where that got him. Be careful folks, I hear the serpent’s lie whispering through the ages….

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  6. This is nonsense. Ann Voskamp’s book is enlightening and brought me closer to The Lord than ever before. You are very wrong Sir, and all your followers.
    I read the Bible with much more clarity and understanding than ever before. There are so many scriptures in her book, AND she visits foreign countries where people in villages have no technology or money, and she spreads the Gospel!
    You should refrain from ignorant ideas and comments that you so plainly have and enjoy writing about. You don’t know what you are even talking about. I laugh at you for commenting about Ann Voskamp when you haven’t even read her book. HA! You know nothing of what you speak. Shame on you.

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    • Rhubarb777

      This is nonsense.

      Thank you for providing the world with that great wisdom.

      Ann Voskamp’s book is enlightening and brought me closer to The Lord than ever before.

      No person, group of people, institution, book, university degree, programme, experience or perception can bring you even one inch closer to the Lord, lest He draw you Himself. You give way too much credit to a mere book written by a sinner such as myself, and yourself, for that which the Lord alone can do. Shame on you.

      …and all your followers

      I certainly hope I do not have any followers. I cannot lead them to where only the Lord can. Let this be warning to anyone who follows me – DON”T! Follow the Shepherd, I beseech you, do not follow me.

      I read the Bible with much more clarity and understanding than ever before.

      I can assure you that it was certainly not Ann Voskamp’s book that enabled you to reach clarity on the Scriptures. That is according to the sole work of the Holy Spirit. You blaspheme the Spirit of God by ascribing Holy ability to a mere person such as Ann Voskamp. Shame on you, again.

      There are so many scriptures in her book,…

      We can all copy and paste verses from digital media such as Bible Gateway, Biblios and e-Sword. The big issue is whether we can interpret those verses in Truth.

      …AND she visits foreign countries where people in villages have no technology or money, and she spreads the Gospel!

      There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of preachers and teachers visiting third world countries under the guise of Christianity. Most go there in search of fame and fortune, or in order to feel good about what they think they are “doing for God“. I live in a country where the majority of people have very little. I have not checked, but I would guess you live in either the USA, Australia or the UK? You have no idea what suffering is….. you have no idea what being deprived of the Word means… how many meals have you had to skip in your life? How many people have died in your street because they followed Christ?

      You should refrain from ignorant ideas and comments that you so plainly have and enjoy writing about.

      There is nothing I hate more than writing about false teachers. It takes time to address these vile issues. There is not a single moment, or stroke on my keyboard, that I enjoy when addressing people who think they own God, own the church, or have the right to spread a false Gospel. If it is your opinion that I am ignorant, then feel free to have it and express it.

      You don’t know what you are even talking about.

      Well then, that must be why I write. When did we meet? You seem to know more about me than I feel comfortable with. How do you know that I don’t know? My beautiful wife whom I have been married to for 32 years does not even know this! My adult children don’t know this either! Your opinion is of zero importance to me. The truth is all that matters.

      I laugh at you for commenting about Ann Voskamp when you haven’t even read her book.

      Did you take note of the date of when this article was published? Do you think I have not read the book since? Do you think I have read the book since?

      HA! You know nothing of what you speak.

      Thank you, once again, for pointing that out to me. I never knew that I knew nothing! I always thought I knew a little, but I must have been so wrong. As a matter of fact, I now realize that the sounds I have been making for decades were never actually human speech, but monkey gibberish!!

      You are free to follow charismatic legalists, if you so choose. You are free to follow any religious individual of your liking, Ann Voskamp, John Hagee, Rodney Howard Brown, John Piper, Tim Challies, the Dalai Lama or the Romanish Pope. Please do not let anything I write influence you, other than the Word of God. If God wants you, you are already His without Voskamp or Challies’ influence. If you belong to God, nothing I do or say can ever change that. Even better, nothing you do or say can change that. Isn’t that miraculous?

      If you do not belong to God, there will be eternal shame on you. The same goes for me. Rather than praising Voskamp’s questionable ministry, attend to that which matters.

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    • Rhubarb777

      Your comment is laughable and sad. I suggest you pray for discernment that you obviously do not have in any way. And another point is Women are not to usurp authority over men in the church because God’s say’s so. But you would not understand that. It seems you have Ann Voskamp instead of the Holy Spirit to teach you and that is just very sad. Idolatry is forbidden in the Bible and you seem to use Voskamp as an Idol.

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