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.