I know that I'm coming in really, really late on this topic, but unfortunately, Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts is still influencing Christian women today. Her book encourages a highly inappropriate, intimate experience with God. Since there are as many internet articles supporting Voskamp's book as there are against it, it's difficult to warn sisters in Christ of the dangerous and unbiblical advice promoted in her book. Even though it's the most prominent, intimacy with God is not the only thing wrong with Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts. Bob DeWaay does a great job of addressing all of the problems: Panentheism; Romanticism; God and Time; New Age Sensibilities; A Romantic Encounter with God; Purgation, Illumination, Union: Mystical Union with God; and Sensuality. For a more in-depth review, you can read his article here.
Just like Christian men struggle with the sin of pornography, Christian women struggle with the sin of erotic material (I'm generalizing here; both sins can affect both genders). One sin just happens to be more socially acceptable than the other. A man who is addicted to pornography is shamed, but a women who is addicted to erotic material has no social consequences. As a matter of fact, many women are encouraged to read erotic books like Voskamp's. In general, women don't experience the erotic material like men experience pornography (through their external eyes), but women experience it through fantasy (their internal eyes), or what the Bible calls vain imaginations (Rom. 1:21). This fantasy life is fueled by books like Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts because it puts a "Christian" veneer on an ugly sin.
It is the sin of adultery for any woman, married or not, to imagine herself having an intimate encounter with another man (Exod. 20:14; Matt. 5:27-28). Voskamp openly admits that she flies to Paris and "discovers how to make love to God." The wording is intentionally provocative, and there are too many sensual images and terms used in this book for it to be a purely "spiritual" statement. If you think that I am reading too much into her book, let's say that she doesn't mean the actual physical act; however, because of her word choice, the word picture generated has already been planted in the mind of the reader (consciously or subconsciously--that's the purpose of erotic material). I watched a video with Ann Voskamp herself on Chapter 11 of her book, and she talks about being "intimate with God", that she "can caress God" and "mak[e] every moment love for Him." Ultimately, this is the sin of adultery, and it is blaspheming God by bringing Him down to man's level and forcing our ungodly desires on Him. "God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him," (Psalm 89:7).
For those of you who promote Voskamp, or if you have friends and family that do, let's look at a few basic questions and answers to help discern why her book is not grounded upon the Bible (but upon her own experience):
- First, where does the Bible describe an intimate encounter with God? Answer: It doesn't. The Song of Solomon is about a man and a woman, not God and a woman. If you do allegorize it, it is about Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:32).
- Next, do you violate the Second Commandment (Exod. 20: 4-6; Deut. 4:15-16; Acts 17:29) as you experience an intimate encounter with God as describe by Ann Voskamp? Answer: Yes, it is a Second Commandment violation because a man has to be pictured and you're calling him God. No one knows what God looks like, so any representation you purposely make of Him in your mind is a sin. If you break the commandments of God, then you do not love Jesus (John 14:15).
- Is it biblical when the author (or anyone else for that matter) says that God talks to her outside of the Bible? Answer: No. Adding to the Word of God is strictly prohibited in Rev. 22:18. God only speaks through His Word, so anyone claiming to hear from God outside of His Word is listening to a familiar spirit (a devil), not God.
- Would God have such an intimate relationship with a Christian here on earth, when it's not something that will continue in heaven? Answer: No. It is clear in Scripture that no one is given in marriage in heaven (Luke 21:34-38). Therefore, there is no procreation in heaven. Again, the Church is the bride of Christ, not individual Christians. True believers are children of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).
- Does Voskamp have any biblical basis for encouraging the erotic behavior she describes in her book? Answer: No, we are not allowed to use our imagination in worshiping God (Lev. 10:1-2), and as Christians, we are told to cast down our imaginations (2 Cor. 10:5).
- Finally, how does a man imagine his intimacy with God? Answer: He can't. Homosexuality is strictly forbidden in Scripture and Sodom & Gomorrah were destroyed for it. If Voskamp's book can't be used by ALL believers, then it's not good for ANY believer. A women doesn't have a deeper relationship with God just because she is a woman--THAT is not biblical.
I pray that someone finds this post helpful. Even as Christians, it is difficult to bring down the idols in our life when we are not willing to see them. It's also difficult to admit that as silly Christian women laden with sins, we are led captive by deceivers (2 Timothy 3:6-7). The more Christian women fight against the role that God has placed them in (Titus 2:4-5), the more they will live in her own fantasy world. Voskamp paints a beautiful picture that Christian women can escape to because it's more appealing than the real world they live in day in and day out.
Don't be deceived, God is not mocked; you will reap what you sow (Gal. 6:7). The vain imaginations that Christian women allow to fester in their minds day after day will negatively impact not only their real relationships with family and friends, but also their own sanctification and holiness. Christians should think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report (Phil. 4:8).
The Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that God can change you. If you are a Christian, then repent of your sin and turn to Jesus Christ for forgiveness. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us," (1 John 1:8-10). If you are not a Christian, or you're not sure, then pick up the Bible and read because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). Repent and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15) that Jesus Christ died for sins of His people, that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day (1 Cor. 15:3-5). Amen.
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God," (Rom. 12:1-2).