When I came home a couple of weeks ago, I found my daughter watching Oprah. The show that day caught my attention (I know, I am now busted admitting that I was watching Oprah!). I heard Oprah talking about a ‘webinar‘ being offered based on the book entitled, “A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose“. Since I just recently preached a sermon at my church from Rev. 21:1-5 on the New Heavens and New Earth, my interest was peaked.
In the book, A New Earth, New-Age, spiritual teacher and author Eckhart Tolle advocates that we begin to heighten an awareness of the present. At the same time he asserts that we must dismantle the “ego” as the path towards awakened living. A New Earth unapologetically gets its title from the verse in Revelation referring to the coming of “a new heaven and a new earth.” But, according to Tolle, there is a different twist. For Tolle, “heaven” is merely the awakened state that will bring about “a new earth” in the outer world, which he calls, the world of form.
OK, so what’s new here? Oprah always has people on her show advocating and hawking “new age” themes and world views. You can feel free to argue with me over this point, but I think that Oprah has ratcheted it up a notch. How did I come to this conclusion? All because I decided to give away a hour and a half of my life to watch Oprah’s first ever worldwide, “webinar”.
What did I learn under Oprah’s tutelage?
First, Oprah is on a mission.
These days, Oprah is not interested in simply pushing the latest book on her show. She is on a mission and she has a new calling. Oprah has become an uber-evangelist.
If you have ever talked to a foreign missionary you know that one of the issues they face when they bring Christianity to a new people and tribe is syncretism. Syncretism is when the new converts to Christianity blend and fuse together their old religious beliefs with their new found Christian faith. This is the style of Oprah’s evangelism – merely old school syncretism.
The fun starts right out of the gate during the webinar when a viewer, Kelly, asks Oprah how she has reconciled her Christianity with this “new spirituality”. Oprah doesn’t miss a beat. She admits that she is attempting to reconcile Christianity and Tolle’s ideas. Her “reconciliation” superficially blends and borrows a peppering of biblical imagery with Tolle’s ideas of self-actualization and “new age” thought.
Not only did Oprah identify herself as a new kind of Christian, she also proclaimed to a world-wide audience that she does not believe “Jesus Christ came here to start Christianity.” “God can’t be contained in a church.” she said. She went on to say that Christ’s purpose on earth was to show people “Christ consciousness”. Oprah has officially transcended from well-meaning talk show host to evangelist.
Second, Oprah has influence and brand loyalty.
It doesn’t do an evangelist any good if no one is listening to their message. But with Oprah, she has an audience. She had over 500,000 people attend her first webinar – that is incredible! Seeing those raw numbers made an indelible impression on me concerning the scope of Oprah’s influence and the trust and loyalty of people to the Oprah “brand”. Most likely your neighbors are reading what Oprah is recommending. Some of them may have even attended the webinar.
Third, Oprah, the evangelist, is giving Christians opportunities to evangelize on a silver platter.
I believe God can use a book like A New Earth as a conversational bridge for us to be able to discuss with our neighbors the real and eternal “hope” that is within us. Our message though will be unlike what Oprah’s been peddling- Jesus and Tolle can’t be reconciled.
Tolle’s views aren’t the “new spirituality” that he suggests but rather a warmed-over, Gnostic view which sees only the spirit as important and enlightened, while diminishing our physical bodies and the physical world we live in. All Tolle is concerned with is embracing a Christ consciousness. In contrast, for Jesus it was all about the physical. He came to dwell among us not as a disembodied spirit, but as fully human – the incarnation. He was physically tortured, crucified, and buried. He then physically rose from the dead three days later.
This Sunday we are celebrating the resurrection of Christ. We are going to remember what Christ did on the cross and how He conquered sin and death by bodily rising from the dead. Real hope can only be found in the resurrection. Any alternative message like Tolle’s that offers hope that doesn’t include the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is no message of hope at all. Without the bodily resurrection of Jesus -death hasn’t been defeated, sin hasn’t been paid for and we have no hope. This is not only a real message of hope for our neighbors who do not yet know Christ, but also for us – who await a day when every tear will be wiped away, when true justice will prevail, when mourning will turn into dancing, when all of creation will be restored and when we will live with resurrection bodies in the New Heavens and the New Earth.