While each of these people probably needs their own blog post, I decided to lump them together, since Oprah is Tolle’s poster child for his spirituality. There’s no way you’ve never heard of Oprah, but for those of you who don’t know who Eckhart Tolle is, he is a spiritual guru and author of the books The Power of Now and The New Earth. They were wild bestsellers, and I know several people who say that his books changed their lives. Fortunately for Tolle, his books struck a chord with Oprah – whose endorsements often rocket books up the bestseller lists.
Tolle doesn’t subscribe to any one religion, but claims that his influences include the Bible, Zen Buddhism, Sufism (a mystical branch of Islam), and Hinduism. That should tell you that he’s picking and choosing from different religions, which would make any adherent to any of these religions pretty irritated. His teachings focus on “being present in the Now” and searching your inner person to find enlightenment. He talks about God as a being, which we are not really separate from if we are connected with him. When you live life in the present moment, you just allow it to “be,” rather than labeling it or judging it as a good or bad experience. This acceptance leads to surrender to the present moment. The goal of all of this is some spiritual transformation, which can happen at any moment.
Oprah has endorsed Tolle’s spirituality whole-heartedly, and even sponsored a 10-week online seminar with Tolle. The thing is, Oprah still claims to be a Christian. Can you be a Christian and subscribe to Tolle’s spirituality?
That may sound harsh, but let’s look at what you lose when you jump onboard with Oprah and Tolle:
1) The Uniqueness of Christ. Oprah and Tolle aren’t against certain religions, but they are very much pluralists – it doesn’t matter what your religion is, because religions are all different paths to the same goal: inner transformation. Therefore every religion and spiritual inclination is valid and true. But Christianity makes the bold claim that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). Christianity means rejecting other religion as false, which is not a popular stance in today’s cultural climate.
2) The Divinity of Christ. Oprah claims that she is a Christian, but only in the sense that Jesus was a great teacher who came to show us how to do things to bring us that inner transformation. Jesus didn’t really leave room for such a bogus stance. He claimed to be God. He called himself “I AM” (the name God gave to the Israelites as God’s unique name), he referred to himself as the Son of Man (a divine image from Daniel), and he kept claiming that he and the Father were one. In C.S. Lewis’s famous “trilemma” from Mere Christianity, Lewis states that Jesus’s teachings make him one of three things: a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. Either he knew the things he said were false and was lying, he didn’t know the teachings were false and was therefore a lunatic, or the teachings were true and he is therefore Lord. There is no room for Jesus to just be a “great teacher.”
3) The Gospel. The Gospel is offensive to us, because we first have to realize that humanity is deeply sinful and cannot help itself out of its sin. We need a sinless Savior who took on himself the wrath of a holy God that was directed towards us. The substitutionary death of Christ is the heart of the Gospel. Tolle’s spirituality claims that you can find inner transformation and peace by doing his methods. The Bible says that any such striving still comes up short and results in death. We need the grace of Christ to cover us with his righteousness, and we need the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us. The popular notion regarding sin in our culture is that, sure, we mess up, but it isn’t that bad. We’re really all basically good, and we can work to balance the scales toward the good. Scripture says that our hearts are so deeply sinful and abhorrant to God that we have no hope outside of Christ. (Please see my post on the Offensive Justice of God for more on this).
If you take away the uniqueness of Christ, the divinity of Christ, and the substitutionary death of Christ, then you have nothing left but a raped Christianity, void of any power or meaning. No, Oprah is not a Christian. And Tolle’s teachings are lies and anti-Christ.
These teachings are nothing more than the outworkings of our cultural ideas. Of course they are popular. They affirm what our culture holds dear: our ability to transform ourselves without being dependent on another Being, the ability to make God in our own image, and the freedom from accountability from any God. Your truth is truth. You’re basically okay. No one is wrong.
At every turn, we are bombarded by the lies of our culture and the popular teachings. We need to filter these through Scripture to reject what is false.
What do you think about Oprah and Tolle?