In her book “One Thousand Gifts,” Ann Voskamp shares her view that God is present in all things. This is panentheism. Without going into the theological implications of what Voskamp believes about God, I’ll just say that the Bible clearly teaches that God is not in time (or bubbles), nor is He a part of time, nor is time part of God. According to CARM: “Panentheism is unbiblical since it denies God’s transcendent nature, says that God is changing, confuses creation with God, denies miracles, and denies the incarnation of Christ along with the atoning sacrifice.”
So with this in mind, writer Jeff Maples makes it clear that the god Voskamp communes with is not the God of Holy Writ. “Outside of Scripture,” says Maples, “we really have no way of hearing directly from God, and the Bible is very clear that by attributing things to God that he did not say, you run the risk of blaspheming the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32).”
People familiar with author Ann Voskamp know that she is a charismatic, melodramatic writer who writes in a tedious, semi-poetic style that you either love or hate. Her grammatical style of placing adjectives after the noun or using uncommon words for rhythm that the average person would have to look up to understand what she’s talking about, can be very exhausting or very captivating depending on one’s preference. However, there is no doubt that many women have fallen victim to her impressionistic linguistic style and have been captivated by her insights into her “Holy Experience,” or what she proclaims to be a life transforming experience from God.
But are the experiences she writes about Biblical?
Recently, Ann Voskamp posted a blog, which is an excerpt from her devotional,One Thousand Gifts, titled When You’ve Been Looking for a Sign. In the excerpt, she speaks of a time when she seems to be depressed about certain situations in her life that aren’t going the way she expects. She and a high-school friend decide to take a walk, and she notices a chalk writing on the sidewalk that says “Hey Beautiful, you are loved!” She then says in the excerpt:
And she laughs loud and we’re carried and hey, who needs Ryan Gosling and his “Hey Girl” meme when you’ve got God with His “Hey Beautiful” promise?
She ultimately interprets this to be a sign from God, that in his grace, he is communicating to her that he thinks of her as beautiful, and he loves her. She then continues on to teach bad theology from her experience. She claims that through her new revelation from God, she now sees God in a new light. She claims that through this “epiphany,” she now understands God’s grace, and his timing.
But how does she know that this is a sign from God?
She is seeing a defacement on the sidewalk, and because, in her mind, she is seeing something that she wants to see, and hearing what she wants to hear, she is attributing it to God. But nowhere in Scripture does it say that God speaks to us this way. She is claiming that this writing is a revelation from God. My question to Ann would be, since that is God speaking to her, should we now add that picture she took of the writing to our canon of Scripture? Is God graceful to us in our daily lives? Yes. But does God speak to us, or reveal things to us through any means other than Scripture? No. So, outside of Scripture, we really have no way of hearing directly from God, and the Bible is very clear that by attributing things to God that he did not say, you run the risk of blaspheming the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32). And this is exactly what Ann Voskamp is doing. She is claiming that God has revealed himself to her through this writing on the sidewalk, through a personal experience, one that involves no Scripture whatsoever.
A Commentary on Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts” by Marcia Montegro