Someone sent me a link to this YouTube video on “The Church of Oprah Exposed.” Oprah Winfrey has launched a series of webcasts in partnership with New Age author Eckhart Tolle, and claims viewership of 2 million people. I invite you–Christians, in particular–to view the YouTube video. I think it’s pretty persuasive, especially for those who begin with a Biblical mindset, but I’m not going to comment further on that here. Instead I’ve gone to Oprah’s website to see what she has to say for herself. (I’ll come back to the video in a bit also.)
Actually, the most telling reading on Oprah’s site was from Tolle. There is, for example, an excerpt from his book A New Earth. It gets off to a classic New Age beginning:
Is humanity ready for a transformation of consciousness, an inner flowering so radical and profound that compared to it the flowering of plants, no matter how beautiful, is only a pale reflection? Can human beings lose the density of their conditioned mind structures and become like crystals or precious stones, so to speak, transparent to the light of consciousness? Can they defy the gravitational pull of materialism and materiality and rise above identification with form that keeps the ego in place and condemns them to imprisonment within their own personality?
The possibility of such a transformation has been the central message of the great wisdom teachings of humankind. The messengers—Buddha, Jesus, and others, not all of them known—were humanity’s early flowers. They were precursors, rare and precious beings.
This online class is not for or against any religion. It is intended to help all human beings, all over the world, bring about a shift in consciousness. Eckhart says, “How spiritual you are has nothing to do with what you believe but everything to do with your state of consciousness…. When I occasionally quote the words of Jesus or the Buddha…or from other teachings, I do so not in order to compare, but to draw your attention to the fact that in essence there is and always has been only one spiritual teaching, although it comes in many forms.
I do not accuse Tolle of willful deception. For all I know, he may be fully convinced this is true. Nevertheless this is entirely wrong. These sorts of things are commonly believed among adherents of new spirituality, but they are quite simply and thoroughly false.
In one aspect, the New Age is not wrong: in its calling persons to spirituality. I have written in support of that, as has Christian psychologist and author Henry Cloud. I fully endorse the search for something deeper, stronger, better than day-to-day material existence.
But this new spirituality is wrong–most obviously wrong, that is–in its claim that it supports, completes, and unites all the sages’ wisdom. This cannot be done, and I object in strongest terms to the distortion of Christianity–and of Jesus Christ himself–that this entails.
Jesus Christ did not say that spiritual fulfillment is about developing a new state of consciousness. He most decidedly did not say (as new spirituality proponents typically do) that it’s about recognizing one’s own divinity. He did not say, as Oprah did in the video linked above, that “There couldn’t possibly be one way;” that there are millions of paths to God. He did not say, as Oprah said in the video, “God, in the essence of all consciousness, isn’t something to believe, God is; and God is a feeling experience, not a believing experience… if God for you is still about a belief, then it’s not truly God.”
In fact, when Jesus rebuked his followers it was for their lack of belief. He said he was the one way to the Father. He said that spiritual fulfillment comes from recognizing we are not God, that we need God, and that we can only come to God through recognizing and believing who he is, how we fall short, and how he graciously draws us to himself anyway through Christ. Tolle cannot reconcile that with his supposedly all-inclusive teachings.
Supposedly all-inclusive, I emphasize. In another video Tolle says that “the moment you say that only my belief or our belief is true, and you deny other people’s beliefs, then you’ve adopted an ideology, and then religion becomes a closed door.” Mr. Tolle, I ask you this: do you believe that? Do you then deny what I wrote in the previous two paragraphs? You say you are not for or against any religion; but Christianity does claim to have an exclusive claim through Jesus Christ: are you not opposed to that exclusive claim?
Christianity’s scandal in today’s mindset, which I have fairly emblazoned in fire across this page, is its exclusivism, its claim that it is true and contradictory beliefs are false. For this I do not apologize. It is nothing more nor less than saying that what we believe is true, we believe is true. Tolle, for his part, is saying that if his way is true, then Christ’s claims are false. He excludes my religious beliefs. In fact all belief systems are exclusivistic. (Hindu teachers in Asia are appalled at Western versions of Eastern religions that claim to accept all truths as equal. They at least know better.)
Yet, oh, this new spirituality sounds so inviting! It sounds so marvelous that we could enter into a new form of consciousness and find the freedom we so desperately want! Indeed there is freedom to be sought and to be found, in Christ. There is light, and enlightenment, and spiritual guidance, and refreshment, and all the things the New Agers tell us they can provide. There is also one thing they cannot offer: truth. For their way is patently self-contradictory, and further, it requires us to believe that we are God ourselves, that we have it within ourselves to solve all our own eternal problems (really, now!) and that Christ’s life, his death on the cross, and his resurrection were just one among many of the universe’s nice ideas.
I have great sympathy with the new spirituality’s rejection of modernist materialism. Thus far, so good. The rest, however, is rubbish.
Related: Knowing the True God