Don't Check Your Brains at the Door part 1
The Church of "O"
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
May 11, 2008

[This message series examines several of the spiritual concepts that are dominant in our society but are contrary to Biblical teaching. In particular, we are looking at the spirituality being promoted by Oprah Winfrey and Eckhart Tolle in their webinar based on Tolle’s book, “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.” The videos used are not available on the Sunrise website. However, you may still be able to find them on iTunes or YouTube. In the event that you do find them, the start times for the clips are included in the notes below.]

Sometimes people just don’t think. They don’t investigate. They don’t check things out. And as a result, they get taken.

Like the person who paid $372 on eBay for an empty box. Well, not quite empty. The person was looking to buy an XBox 360 game system, so they did a search on eBay and came across this particular listing, they quickly scanned the details, they read that in the box would be included the instructions, the controllers, the power cord… and that’s what they received: The box containing the instructions, the controllers, the power cord… but no XBOX!

Someone else looking for an XBOX on eBay ended up paying $611 for a picture of an XBOX. And that’s all they got… an envelope in the mail with a picture of an XBOX. They had failed to read the fine print. If they had, they would have read the words, “"This auction is not for an XBOX system, but rather a picture of one."

People are taken in buy things like this all the time. How many emails do you get that are from scammers? How many telemarketing-type phone calls do you get that are from people trying to pull oe over on you?

There are all kinds of scams out there. Some are pretty obvious, and some take a little bit of investigating before you uncover the truth.

That’s even true when it comes to spiritual things. There are all kinds of claims out there… all kinds of belief systems… how do you know what to trust? How do you know what to believe?

You’ll often hear people say, “What you believe is true is true for you.” But is that statement even true? Or how about the claim that God is all-loving? That sounds good and I believe it. But often people will add that since God is all-loving, then Hell can’t be a reality. There’s no way that an all-loving God would ever judge anyone. Yes, God is a God of love. But isn’t He also a God of justice? Hasn’t He warned us of the coming judgment? Does the love of God turn Him into a pushover that will never hold us accountable for anything?

Or how about the idea that we want to be an inclusive, tolerant society? That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? I want to be a tolerant person. But does that mean everything goes?

You see, there are a lot of things that sound good on the surface, but you need to dig a little deeper to get to the truth. To get a full understanding you’ve got to investigate. To avoid getting caught up in a lie, you’ve got to examine and probe for the truth.

This morning, we’re beginning a brand new message series that will explore some of those types of claims. Things that sound good, ideas that are gaining momentum in our society, spiritual claims that appear to be progressive and compassionate… but they just don’t stand up to honest investigation.

Because there are a lot of ideas being thrown around right now and it would be easy to be deceived unless you learn to keep your brain in gear and think things through.

And do you know who’s right at the forefront of these types of spiritual claims? Oprah. That’s right, the most powerful and most influential woman in the world is putting forth all kinds of spiritual claims that desperately need to be checked out. So that’s what we’re going to do.

Now, I want to make it clear before we get into any of this that I don’t have an vendetta against Oprah. In fact, in many ways I admire her. She came from poverty and a dysfunctional family, she was molested and raped as a child, she gave birth when she was 14 only to lose the baby within a few weeks… and she’s overcome all of that to rise to the level of success she’s attained. She’s become very wealthy and has used that wealth in some very good, positive ways.

•    On 1998 she began Oprah’s Angel Network, a charity that has raised over 50 million dollars to help the underprivileged around the world.
•    She personally gives more money to charity than any other celebrity in the U.S.
•    In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Oprah was right there to build homes for people who had lost everything.
•    She has put 250 African American men through college.
•    She has been award the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award for the good she has done through television.
•    And you’ve probably heard about the $40 million she invested in establishing the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, a school in South Africa.

So Oprah has overcome some pretty serious obstacles to become on of the most influential and richest people in the world. And she has used that influence and that money for some terrific causes. So I don’t want to personally attack her on any level.

But what I do want to do is examine her spiritual truth claims. Because over the past decade, spirituality has become a focus of her talk show that reaches between 15 and 20 million people daily. Over that course of time, she seems to have embraced the teachings of a variety of spiritual gurus, and she has encourages others to do the same. Her spirituality seems to be a buffet of Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism along with some Eastern mysticism and New Age feel-good philosophy.

And it’s culminated over the past couple of months as she has partnered with author Eckhart Tolle to offer spiritual classes over the Internet. So over the past ten weeks, she’s been teaching over 2 million people each week about her brand of spirituality.

This is what Fox News says about this…

“Is Oprah starting her own cult? Oprah Winfrey may have gone too far in exploiting and distributing the teachings of a questionable New Age writer.”
~ Fox News,2933,351545,00.html

So who is this questionable New Age writer? Well, thanks to endorsements from people like Oprah, Eckhart Tolle the most popular spiritual author in the U.S. His books are right at the top of the New York Times best-sellers lists. But strangely, very little is known about who he is.

“For all his fame, many details of Mr. Tolle’s personal history are murky.”
~ New York Times

According to some interviews he’s given, he dropped out of school when he was 13 but later graduated with top marks from London University. However, the University will not confirm that. He moved from Europe to Vancouver in 1996 where he still lives. We know that he’s prone to depression, and when he was 29 he was on the verge of suicide when he had a spiritual awakening. And we know that he’s written four books, the  most recent being “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose” which is the text for the Oprah and Echkart Internet Class.

Okay, so this morning, I’m just going to expose you to a few of the things that are being taught through this class and compare it with what the Bible says. And then in future weeks we’ll go a little deeper into a few of the issues.

So let’s start with this. Listen to this clip from their Internet Class where they deal with a question from a caller…

VIDEO 1 – Week 1 from 20:32 to 22:44
(Oprah "I was able to open my mind... I took God out of the box" - Oprah complains about the "rules and belief systems and doctrines" of the church she grew up in, and about hearing some preaching that didn't make her "feel right")

False Claim #1:
Truth is subjective. If you don’t like it, change it.

You’ll notice that Oprah talked about how she felt. What she was hearing didn’t make her “feel” right. So what did she do? She altered her beliefs until she came across something that made her feel good.

In that clip, you heard Oprah complaining about "rules and belief systems and doctrines." But really, what's wrong with those things? Isn't it a good thing to know what you believe? And besides, Oprah didn't do away with those things. She just rejected what she didn't like and replaced it with her own "rules and belief systems and doctrines"... as long as they make her feel good.

Now, it’s true that when something feels wrong, sometimes it is wrong. But sometimes you don’t feel right because if what you’re hearing is true then it’s going to force you to do something about it. You’re going to have to change. And nobody likes change, right?

Plus, feelings change. They change from day to day, they change minute to minute. Is it really a good idea to formulate doctrine that could determine your eternity based on how you feel at any given moment? Feelings are important, but they shouldn’t dictate our theology.

Now, let’s look at the specific issue Oprah faced. She heard a pastor talk about how God is a jealous God, that didn’t feel right to her. She couldn’t understand how God could be jealous of her. And you know what? She was actually right in that. God isn’t jealous of her. He’s not jealous “of” her, He’s jealous “for” her. And there’s a big difference.

You know how there’s two sides to pride? You can have an egotistical kind of pride, and that’s a bad thing. Or you can take pride in your family or in your work, and that’s a good thing. Well, it’s  the same way with jealousy. Normally when we think about jealousy, we think of the insecure, selfish kind of jealousy. But there’s also a kind of jealous that expects and demands faithfulness. That’s the kind of jealousy God has.

Think about it like this: say you’re married. Don’t you expect loyalty and faithfulness on the part of your spouse? Aren’t you jealous for their affections? If they start to flirt with someone else, doesn’t that jealousy surface?

That’s not a bad jealousy; that’s good. And that’s the kind of jealousy God has. He expects us to be faithful to Him. In fact, He knows that’s for our own good. We can only experience true meaning in life and happiness and fulfillment within a healthy relationship with Him. So He’s jealous for us… not of us but for us.

But instead of thinking it through and finding out what the Bible talks about when it says God is a jealous God, Oprah decided to adapt her doctrine. She decided to chase after doctrines and beliefs that conformed to her opinions and desires and feelings.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NLT)
For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.

Biblical Response:
Truth is eternal. It does not change with the wind.

If something is true, it’s true whether you feel like it or not. If something is a lie, it’s lie whether you feel like it or not.

Hebrews 13:8-9 (NLT)
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas.

And you know what? There are a lot of strange new ideas out there. Or at least repackaged ideas that look new. Be alert. Be aware. Seek for truth, even when it makes you uncomfortable.

A lot of people don’t want to seek truth because they’re afraid that when they find it, they’re going to have to change the way they live. If they discover that God is real and that He has real expectations of them, then they’re going to have to do something about it.

Let’s go on to the second clip…

VIDEO 2 – Week 1 from 22:44 to 24:11
(Oprah - "Jesus came to show us 'Christ-consciousness'... to show us the way of the heart... show us how it's done")

False Claim #2:
Jesus came primarily to show us how to live.

This is the claim that says that Jesus was just a template for us. He was just an example. As Oprah put it…

“Jesus, came to show us Christ-consciousness…Jesus came to show us the way of the heart…Jesus came to say, ‘Look I’m going to live in the body, in the human body and I’m going to show you how it’s done.’”
~ Oprah

But the truth is, Jesus didn’t come just to show us how to live. That’s a byproduct… He did show us how to live… but it’s not the primary reason He came.

Biblical Response:
Jesus came primarily to rescue us from sin and death.

Hey, if you really want to know why Jesus came, take a look at what He said Himself…

Matthew 20:28 (NLT)
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Now when do you pay a ransom? When someone’s being held hostage, right? So what was Jesus saying? He was saying that you and I were being held hostage to sin and death, and the ransom that was required was for Him to give His own life for us. Oprah’s version of Christianity diminishes the Cross, but the Bible teaches that the Cross was the reason Jesus came. It’s central to Christianity and the pivotal point in all of history.

Luke 19:10 (NLT)
“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

What’s He talking about there? He’s talking about people who have wandered far from God… people who are spiritually lost… and He’s talking about bringing them back to God again. Jesus Himself told us that He came to give His life for a world that was lost so that we could be offered forgiveness and life. That’s why He’s called a Saviour and not just a life-coach.

Look, I believe that Jesus did set us an example to follow. I think “What Would Jesus Do?” is a great question to ask yourself in life. But if you think that’s all that Jesus came for… to show us an example, to show us Christ-consciousness… then you miss the whole point. Jesus came to sacrifice Himself so that we could go from death to life.

And any teaching that diminishes Jesus from being the Saviour of the World to being just another moral teacher does Him a great disservice.

VIDEO 3 – Week 1 from 1:11:17 to 1:14:48
(Tolle - "We are only forms that come out of consciousness" - also says that "God" is just another term for this universal consciousness)

False Claim #3:
We are all part of a universal consciousness or energy

So what you just heard Tolle saying is that we are not really individuals, we are just manifestations of a universal consciousness. And when we die, our life force will simply be re-assimilated into that consciousness.

It’s interesting, too, that Tolle referred to this consciousness as being God. So what he’s teaching is that we are all part of God. God does really exist as Christianity teaches – “God” is just the term that we use to describe the life-force that holds everything together.

So right there Tolle completely dismisses the idea of a personal God who created all things and oversees all things. He says there is no personal God, there’s just an energy. Which is way off. And that’s not where he or Oprah stop. Throughout the classes, they keep referring to God as the universe, as life, as energy, as nature… they keep stripping God of any personality or any essense or any rationality. So later in this series, we’re going to take an entire week to talk about the nature of God. Who is He? What’s He like?

But in Tolle’s view, we’re all part of God… just a universal consciousness or energy.

Biblical Response:
We are individual creations of an all-powerful God

God is real. And He planned out His Creation. He breathed life into each of us and we are each individually accountable to Him.

Psalm 139:13-16 NLT)
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born.

VIDEO 4 – Week 1 from 29:14 to 29:50
(Oprah - "I am a Christian who believes that there are certainly many more paths to God other than Christianity")

False Teaching #4:
Christianity is just one of many paths to God.

In my observation, this is one of the biggest lies out there right now. I mean, you hear this all over the place. Whatever path you choose is right for you. Yes, there are many religions, but it’s all the same God. So it really doesn’t matter what religion you choose. That’s a prevailing belief that’s out there right now. And this is another one we’re going to spend an entire week on. So let me just give this response right now.

Biblical Response:
Jesus is the one and only path to God.

And again, that’s not me saying it. Jesus Himself said it.

John 14:6 (NLT)
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

Either Jesus was lying and you can’t trust Him at all, or He was telling the truth and He really is the only path.

Okay, so there are just a few of the ideas being promoted right now by the most influential woman in the world. Whether you are personally affected by her or not, you should be aware of these false claims. Because they’re out there. A lot of people are buying into them. Some of the people you know have adopted some of these beliefs. So you need to know what they are and know how to tell the difference between truth and lies.

Ephesians 4:14 (NLT)
Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.

That’s why we’re doing this series… so you can tell the difference between lies and truth… so you can be ready to give a rational, Biblical response.

We’ll pick it up from there next week.



Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2008