Jesus was just a great teacher (ugh!)…

there will be many within Christianity that will offer criticisms and attacks on the central notions and claims made by Eckhart Tolle in his New York Times best-seller and Oprah Winfrey Book Club selection A New Earth.  and while Tolle sometimes twists the words of Jesus, misunderstands what “a new heaven and a new earth” actually means, and reduces Jesus to a wise teacher, Christian leaders should pause before going on the attack.

i am not an eckhart tolle apologist, nor am i a fan of A New Earth (and yes…i have read the book and am participating in the webinar with Tolle and Oprah).  in fact, any book or movement that strips Jesus of being the fullness of God in flesh and one who defeated sin and death becoming the firstfruits of new creation through bodily resurrection, loses my respect.  but…this book is wildly popular and it’s message is resonating, not only with those who have been disengaged from the Church for awhile and those who have never been associated with the Church, but with many people in the Church.

so what is the message of this book and why are so many, including those in the Church, latching onto it?  Tolle explains that humanity is facing a crisis and we are at the next evolutionary step.  we must evolve or die.  this next evolutionary step is to a higher consciousness and away from the egoic self.  the egoic self is the voice inside…i want…i need…me…me…me…I…I…I.  in order to begin that movement from the ego to a higher consciousness one must be in this moment.  listen to your breath…be here now…be in the moment…there is power in now.  once we can identify and leave the ego, we can find stillness in life.  we won’t be consumed by feeding our ego and the collective consciousness of humanity will begin to evolve into a Christ-consciousness which will lead into a new earth.  Tolle explains that the great teachers understood this and many of them tried to explain this to their contemporaries but were misunderstood.  some were even killed.  others were made into gods.  Jesus, he explains, spoke of this through his parables and teachings but his disciples misunderstood his message and ultimately deified him (made him a god).

Tolle believes all the world religions, in essence, are speaking of the same experience but each explain it with different terminology.  for instance, the ego to a Christian would be sin, higher consciousness would be the Holy Spirit, etc.  he says that there is inherent danger of language because it limits and categorizes, and this ultimately results in religions saying that their way of explaining it is the only right way, or that their way is exclusively and exactly the right way.  Tolle would suggest that religion is archaic and limiting because of the language and symbolism and the egoic power it creates, and people need to be free to pursue their own spiritual awakening that will lead to a higher consciousness.

i am going to switch gears here for a second to make a point to Christians in the Church.

many times when we talk about the parable of the Good Samaritan we are very quick to dismiss it as just a story of helping someone who is in need.  this is right, so far as it goes.  but…if we were to dig into the cultural aspects of what is going on in this story we would learn a profound truth.  jews hated samaritans.  and contrary to what many believe, the samaritans did not receive their name based on their geography but rather by the phrase “observant ones,” or  Shamerim, and later Samaritan.  they believed that their observance of the Law was the true religion over Judaism.  Jesus used a Samaritan to teach the Jews, who had in many ways forsaken their responsibility as God’s chosen people, a lesson in who they ought to be as God’s image bearers, as a light to the world. 

the profound truth and application that we can learn from this simple historical lesson is that God can use those who believe something radically different than the way and truth of Jesus (New Agers) to teach and help Christians rediscover the beautiful elements of the faith that we lost a long time ago and that the world so desperately needs, like peace, reconciliation, forgiveness, wholeness, completeness, beauty and a detachment from materialism and consumption, while finding the awe and beauty of nature and relationships.  this is not a statement in support of Tolle’s mix of a little truth and ALOT of lies, but please don’t miss this point…followers of Jesus OUGHT TO BE the ones known for justice, peace, reconciliation, forgiveness, wholeness, etc.  we OUGHT TO BE the specialists in these matters…since we are to be like Jesus in all things.

as a follower of Jesus, i am deeply disturbed by every false claims and assertion Eckhart Tolle makes about Jesus.  but as an honest person, i can not blame anyone but the Church for missing out on the life that God has called us into and the new creation he has made us to be, and missing out on every opportunity to share that richness with the world.  and unfortunately it is taking someone who reduces Jesus to a good and wise teacher, and who is convincing millions of people to buy into his new age thinking, to teach us and call us, as the Church, to deeper lives and richer relationships that look more Jesus.

the reason that so many people in the Church, as well as others, are interested in pursuing what Tolle is talking about and leaving the Church is multi-faceted and we could spend an entire book breaking down the issues and the problems within the Church.  let’s suffice it to say for tonight that people are hungry for answers, meaning, life, wholeness, completeness, joy, love, etc.  all of which are from God and embodied in Jesus Christ, but the larger society has lost confidence that the place to find those things are in the Church.  you see…the moment that we stop being the body of Jesus in the world by offering hope and life to the fullest…and start becoming a boxy, rigid religious structure that is more interested in tradition, dogma, ultra-orthodoxy, and entertainment…is the moment that people start flocking to shallow, syrupy, and empty philosophies.  and it is officially happening…in a big way.

 it is time for the Church to wake up.

 brandon

8 thoughts on “Jesus was just a great teacher (ugh!)…

  1. “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, The MacMillan Company, 1960, pp. 40-41.) (from http://www.allaboutgod.com)

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  2. A friend of mine struggles between new age and Christianity. She surveyed her friends (me included) when she took a philosophy course at a university to reply to “what is truth” I gave her truth is in the Bible. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word is God…” “I am the way, the truth, and the life” I tried to state what was so real and obvious for me and to have her THINK…and yet, when she replied she answered it humanistically as “truth is different for different people, what is true for you may not be true to another.” and I am saddened. Another friend was into Deepka and I couldn’t believe the twisted rubbish and asked her when she reads those does she find a need to go back to the Bible and ground yourself again. She said the Bible is a bunch of parables, no interest – believes in “higher being” could be God to you Budda to someone else. That God beat her and beat her with circumstances in her life to force her to conform to believing in Him and she hates the Church. I said, “God is Love (not the God she framed up) God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…” She did not believe in Jesus – I said, “Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life…” and Church was spiritual food for us to grow not who membership is individuals sinners hypocrites that it is a Celebration of Gods Gift to us thru Word and Eucharist of eternal life thru Him and I was sorry she did not see it that way. I anguish and cry often for them or when a truth is given in Church and there the “Body of Christ” deafly stands with ears yet they do not hear… I think of Jesus in Garden of Gesthemany and his anguish and tears must have been…crying out His pours…the Bible can only attempt at the constraining language we have to describe it. I wish more would THINK. But then I remember, key is to come to him “like a child”….and His grace and mercy and He is always faithful even when people are not….

    Anyway – I hear your anguish. I listen to Family Life Radio and they could step up to the plate – more apologetics shows are needed now more than ever. We need to reach people because we know they aren’t getting it in Church “Purpose Driven Life” fell short. Tolle jumps on the bandwagon and puts “Purpose” in his subtitle. People are struggling. You hit it – our purpose is to be more Christ-like – to be a light to the world of darkness (of shades of gray) – to be salt of the earth. I fall short, young in my Christian walk. I wish I could shine brighter, season others to be more fuller. Your words I hope are heard – PRAY – that Churches and Christain Organizations take the ball and run with it. SOON…that would be power in NOW. Thank you for listening to me…..So my friend I mentioned above said I should join Oprah’s web class. I will not do. I may be in the world but not a product of this world. When people are being sheeps, I swim the other way. I know who my shephard is and I shall not want…I live by Phillipians 4 “Rejoice in the Lord always!I will say it again Rejoice may your gentleness be known to all. The Lord is near….to Finally, whatever is TRUE, whatever is pure…noble…” I DO THINK ON THOSE THINGS, so the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ can be with me always. That is what I plan on sharing with my friend, along with your article. How is the class? Do you find your voice is out their heard or are your questions allowed to be asked – are the answers just adding to frustration of untruth and twists. The Lord bless you and keep you. Be strong and courageous…….NFF

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  3. Thanks for a well considered overview of a book I need to read, but have not yet read. I fear the fear that drives Christians to hide in doctrine they don’t live. We followers of Jesus are indeed often the obstacle that repels honest spiritual questions of seekers. Seems to me that most new-age philosophers and followers have at least put time into spiritual disciplines and practice, leaving some of us who profess orthodoxy with a bookish, while not relevant testimony. We gain very little, and lose much ground when we approach “witnessing” as know-it-alls. Paul at Mars Hill and Jesus with the Woman at the Well should correct such egotistic religion.

    Thanks again for your words and spirit. Keep loving people with your teaching. It reminds me of the way of our Leader.

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  4. this is good stuff … you know, when i first heard about this book (and oprah’s endorsement of it) i realized that the bible and king solomon are right as ever, “there is nothing new under the sun.” his ideas are not new at all, and they are no less attractive to this generation than they have been to past generations. as a religion major, i took a “modern religious thought” class where i studied the ideas of wilfred cantwell smith and his book “towards a world tbeology.” (i think it was published in 1962?) i would be very surprised if tolle didn’t draw extensively from this work … the similarities are unmistakable. it made me sick to read smith’s book and see my classmates eat it up … but at the same time, i think that the desire to see this world unity and even the desire for some kind of universal ‘salvation’ (whether or not they would call it salvation) reveals something very true about our human condition. i’ve been thinking a lot about how the TRUTH, if it is indeed TRUE, will reveal itself in every aspect of creation. and the popularity of these ideas, if nothing else, shows that even the most mildly introspective person inherently knows that something isn’t right. this world, and the people in it, are a little bit broken. and in a post-modern, post-christian world, where it’s becoming increasingly harder to find the door for the gospel, isn’t that a GREAT thing?? they’ve just given us a door: they’ve revealed our ‘total depravity’ (sorry for the terminology). they have essentially asked us to give them the answer of the saving grace of jesus christ!! well, i’ll take that … even if it means a webinar with hijacked bible verses and oprah’s syncretism.

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  5. Well, I will start by saying that I have not read the book, but I resonate with your observation. Humanity is desperately seeking answers to why we are here, what we are to do and what the future holds. We are a needy group of beings and only Christ can provide what we are searching for. I made some observations the other day during lunch with a friend that I will share below. Its quite long, but its along the same wavelength of what Brother Andress is talking about. I shared a hard copy of this with Mr. Andress the other day and he thought I should post it somewhere. Its amazing how relavant it is. Well here is my little reflection story/entry:

    “Fortuneless Fortune Cookies”

    Have you ever been given a fortune cookie with your bill at the local Chinese restaurant only to find that your cookie did not include the slip of paper containing the fortune? Though this is rare it does occasionally happen. Many times you go through your meal containing many things you normally would not eat such as General Tso’s chicken, Mongolian beef and vegetable lo mein thinking that you would really like to go back up to the buffet to take part once again from the proverbial ye ole feeding trough. After eating your fill there is the heightened anticipation of the fortune cookies, something to provide encouragement. You may have thought to yourself at one point in time what your fortune would be or what Chinese word you will you learn to vocalize today from the back of the fortune or Chinese proverb. Some may view fortune receiving by way of cookie as a possibility for an encouraging word especially when they may have not received any encouraging news or been on the receiving end of something good for a while. Droughts of no good tidings can be extremely difficult in this world we live in today. We are in constant flux in this life; dangers come from all different sides and we are constantly asked to adjust either by individuals who lead us or by our inner conscience telling us we need to persevere. What this inner conscience tells us is that if we do not adjust we will die if we do not simply chew the leather of life and grind through. Life tells us that we will lose our footing and stumble into the abyss if we do not persevere by our lonesome. What this mindset leaves out is any chance that the Holy Spirit may intervene.

    Living simply to receive is what the world wants us to do. Simply, the fortuneless fortune cookie thought paints a picture of the fact that we want to receive. The “me” attitude tells us that we can go to the cookie and receive something that makes us go “hmmmm”, or possibly something that tells us a regurgitation of the golden rule or simply a goodness proverb. Many proverbs contain the word “but” in them stating a negative and then a positive way of interacting in this life. We crave direction, encouragement, insights, light bulb think tank ideas that will save life as we know it, we desire comfort but most of all everyone desires love. We feel that we should always have the opportunity to receive from or take love from someone. We tend to view our relationships as what we will receive from them and not what we can give. What happens when nothing comes our way; what happens when nothing good is available to you? What happens when the fortune cookie is empty? What happens when people do not come to your aid and take care of your problems, or better yet what happens when you use the things of this world to satisfy these empty voids in your life? We are constantly reminded that food, electronic gadgets, cool cars, houses, computer games, our yards, our friends or even our spouses are the answer.

    The fact is that the things of this world do fill a void momentarily and this momentary euphoria leaves us craving more. An example of this would be buying a new car, or an old classic car. You pick up your dreamy steel beauty at the dealer, drive down the highway with the windows down and the radio up. You feel good and your life seems to be complete at least you believe this to be true. Sooner or later you wake up to find cat prints on the hood or something worse a gift from one of our avian friends above right smack dab in the middle of your windshield. After a few weeks, that glamorous piece of machinery is now your daily driver. You may still open the windows and turn the radio up from time to time, but it just is not the same as it was. Constantly we want something else, something more, something to excite us, and something to comfort us. What we really need is to express and receive unconditional love. What was that….we need to express love?…what happened to our receiving love priority? The fact is love is not a one way street. The only time love has been a one way street is when it came from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are told of this love in Romans 5:8, while we were still sinners Christ died for us! We did nothing to deserve this love. We did not show love and then Christ died for our sins. Christ, in his love for us, died for us without anything in the love bank from humankind.

    Giving love is what the resurrection life is all about. Christ died for us but he also was raised to new life. He conquered death and gave us hope. We were not meant to simply receive him as our savior and then hang out in the waiting room ready to cash our ticket to heaven when we cash out. Life A.D. is meant to be a life in which we, the people of The Way, the body of Christ give love by way of yielding to the Holy Spirit inside of us letting Him love through us. We, in our finite abilities were meant to rely on the Holy Spirit. Under our own power we wander aimlessly seeking more fortune cookies to open trying to find that latest and greatest thing to appease ourselves and satisfy our longing. Leading the resurrection life allows us to constantly reexamine the questions that race through our heads that revolve around our selves and our wanting more. Love without the Holy Spirit seems to have a goal of payback. We think we deserve something in tern for giving love. Loving as Christ loves involves taking our eyes off of ourselves and fixing our eyes on Jesus. Receiving is just not part of the deal sometimes, but that’s ok. With Christ we have hope.

    Being called to love is a tall order and is at many times difficult to do especially in this life we live in. There are so many needs of love out there and we feel inadequate. Watching a half hour of nightly news or attending a missions conference brings to light many of these needs. What we need to remind ourselves is that it is not our strength, but it is Christ’s strength that keeps us going (1 Peter 4:11). It is not the latest and greatest word of encouragement or tangible possession that fills the need. For some encouragement for this life we Christians are called to live read 1 John chapter 3.

    In Christ,
    //
    Jon

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  6. i want to respond back to a few of the comments above…so i will just do it by saying a few things not necessarily addressed to anyone in particular.

    one of the most important things that we have to remember (b/c it seems like christians are quick to forget paul’s importatnt words in situations like this) is that we do not judge the world…rather we judge those in the church, i.e. 1 Cor 5:12-13. sure Tolle’s words are completely heretical to the message of Christianity, but how do we love rather than judge? i think that this element is absolutely CRITICAL, not just in this situation but every situation.

    new age philosophies are definitely not new…just repackaged. there are several positions that Tolle takes that are either, deeply hypocritical, or just senseless. one position that many could agree with is the sense of becoming less self-indulgent, consuming, and inward focused. however, the notion of escaping this inwardness and attaining a higher consciousness is incredible bothersome on many fronts. first, Tolle makes the argument that language labels then divides and separates…which leads to us calling certain things bad and good. if this is true…then haven’t you essentially labeled certain things “bad” and certain things “good” by leaving the ego and pursuing higher consciousness? isn’t that a statement that there are certain thoughts, actions, and behaviors that are bad…and some that are good?

    further…what kind of things fall under the umbrella of “higher consciousness?” is it relative? is it up to the individual? if we do not label certain things bad and certain things good…then isn’t it subjective and up to the person to determine what “higher consciousness” is for him or herself? what if someone says that killing people is their highest aspiration or molesting children? since we do not label those things “bad” or “good” isn’t it open to interpretation for everyone? if everything is relative and open for everyone’s subjective opinion…doesn’t that necessarily mean there is no such thing as truth? i would argue that relativism and truth cannot coexist. if there is not “good” or “bad,” and if there is not such thing as “truth” then EVERYTHING is subjective and open to one’s own individual likes, dislikes, feelings, and persuasions. this is one reason why new age philosophy is so hollow.

    one final thing. new agers can not selectively choose the words of jesus that fit their position and ignore the other words of jesus. yes…he was the greatest teacher ever…but you can not say on the one hand that his disciples misunderstood him by what he was saying and teaching…YET USE HIS WORDS THAT ARE DOCUMENTED BY HIS DISCIPLES TO MAKE YOUR POINT!!! either the disciples misunderstood him or they didn’t. how do you begin determining which statements or teachings the disciples misunderstood him on and which ones they didn’t? you just can’t pick and choose the ones that are convenient to your teaching.

    there is so much more i would like to say….but i am going to cut it short.

    finally…i am actually listening to the webinar through the podcast and not live. sorry for the confusion on that. i would recommend you listening to the podcast…as many christians do call in…but unfortunately it is b/c they are buying into what Tolle is teaching.

    brandon

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