Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Saturday, March 22, 2008

    Pluralistic Facade (Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth, Oprah Winfrey)

    I was just reading The Wisdom of the Ages, for Now Anyway which highlights the ministry of Eckhart Tolle, a "German-born teacher on spiritual enlightenment and a best-selling author. He is not identified with any religion, but uses teachings from Zen Buddhism, Sufism, Hinduism and the Bible."

    I was reminded in reading that while the trend of many today (including Oprah) is to suggest that by combining religions or "taking the best from what each of the religions has to offer" is either subject to the subjectivism or relativism of deciding for themselves what to accept and what to reject (and therefore set themselves as the ultimate determiner/aribiter, and perhaps creator of truth) or as in the case of following Eckhart Tolle to submit themselves to the subjective beliefs of another who has chosen and rejected along the same principles and thus become the de facto determiner, arbiter, and creator (if not borrower) of truth.

    What's interesting is the infinite number of "truths" and "creators/determiners/arbiters of truth" that can and will not only result from trust and dependence on such foundational presuppositions, but infinite number of conflicts and oppositions to the truths held by others. The point being that when one assumes truth is relative (or can be found even among combinations of systems of belief which are self-exclusive or oppose one another), then the result is not one "higher" good that can and will be obtained by those who give themselves to such belief and practices, but to a numerous mirage of beliefs and possibilities that not only will lead to disunity and disfunction, but to confusion, irrationalism, and division.

    In effect, those who espouse and practice pluralism, while seeking and claiming greater wisdom, ultimately are found to delve deeper into the wisdom of man, which not only cannot save but results in the things mentioned above. While seeking to become wise, they prove themselves to be foolish.

    As shown in the article, speakers continue to come and offer something (perhaps a little different but in ways) in essense the same.... the suggestion that man controls (or can control) his own destinity and success. I love the quote "Mr. Tolle suggests that by living in the moment and in touch with what he calls 'the totality,' good things MAY start happening to you." [CAPS, my emphasis] Seems the one thing these self-help geniuses can't get over is the curse itself. Seems no matter how much "embracing the present", "turning off the ego", "turning off the mind's chatter", "meditating" (which by way, it you can determine truth, why meditate?)... they just can't get over the fact that things don't always go they way they want, and it seems aging, difficulties, even death keeps staring them in the face. Funny that so many "wise" people would follow one whose best advice only promises that things "may" begin to go their way. (By comparison, Christianity recognizes One - Jesus Christ - in whom peace, strength, confidence and hope may be found even though trials, troubles, suffering, tribulation and even death will come.)

    The only thing new with today's speakers, advocates and followers, is that they use words and phrases like "globalism", "packing thousands of years of teaching", etc., along with the fact they address issues more pressing upon modern minds ("war", "conflict", "world at large", etc.), and perhaps that they now see the
    "worlds religions" as a new source to look to in order to provide a measure of "authenticity" or "believability" or "global" or "pluralistic" perspective to their message, but in the end, it's no new message, just more of the same of that which is old dressed up in new clothes!

    It's another opportunity and occurrence of a person getting rich by speaking to the felt needs of man and offering a solution that comes from man but in the end will prove powerless, though the very claims made include words such as "power", "wisdom", "a New Earth", potententially "world changing", etc.

    Should it surprise us that "not much is being revealed about the author and speaker's own life, except that he's living with his girlfriend and failed to follow through with his educational pursuits, and yet the masses are following him as if he has all the answers?

    As the writer of Ecclesiastes states "There's nothing new under the sun." Seems many followers could learn from the writer of Ecclesiastes who shows that living simply in the moment (or for the "now", or "present") apart from God doesn't produce or result in the satisfaction, peace or lot that many believe it will.

    "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, 'I find no pleasure in them -" (Eccl 12:1)

    It's not that God has left us without the truth, or that God has dispersed or confused his truth; rather he has provided a consistent and continuous revelation of Himself by his Word, most clearly revealed in Jesus Christ himself, about whom the Scriptures testify and proclaim. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved... and this... not in the absence or always in the alleviation of suffering, war, etc., but in spite of it and even in it's midst as we wait for the return of him who will restore all things.

    In essence in Tolle's writings (along with the statements of his followers), you have a gospel presented which denies the necessity of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus as revealed in Scripture. While Tolle and his followers may claim Jesus was an example or one who has gone before us in reaching a state of consciousness (of surrendering, of renouncing ego and the world, i.e., "thy will be done", etc.), they reject Jesus as Son of God and Savior sent from God. Rather than looking to the forgiveness based on Jesus' sacrifice and the justification that comes through the imputed righteousnes of Christ, they look to their own abilty, actions, and merit as enabling them to reach the goal. Hence it is salvation (even of a different sorts) by works, not by grace. Conversations with Tolle's followers reveal a quickness to talk about God as "love", but unwilling to talk about the "justice" of God. One in particular was willing to say Jesus was crucified according to the wrath "of man', but refused to acknowledge the wrath "of God" was involved. In the end, Tolle and his followers present another gospel, which while some may claim fits with Scripture, does not. One the one hand they present a different gospel (which depends on what man does rather than on what God has done for us), and on another hand is no gospel for if salvation could have been accomplished through the law (or by man's efforts), there would have been no reason for Jesus to come and to die for us.

    For more, see here and here.

    See also a comparison of Eckhart Tolle and Christianity on subject of Death.


    Steve Burri said...

    After the fall, I consider the 'confusion of language' result from the tower of Babel a quantum leap of the type of thinking/philosophy of which you speak.

    To quote the old 'X Files' mantra, "The Truth is out there." He isn't swayed by any perversions, however slick.

    peter1234567 said...

    Wow. It saddens me that you do not even read the book before commenting on it. Have you read the bible? Stop living in the sad dogma of your religion and actually listen to Jesus' message. Be accepting and open not rigid.
    Read the bible and listen to its lessons the way they speak to you. I challenge you to open your mind and read this amazing book "A new earth." The author does not promote a religion but promotes being open to god who is inside each of us. He does not say "dont go to church" or denounce Jesus.
    If you read the bible and are present without the ego you actually might see that the lessons Mr. Tolle teaches are from the bible in many ways. Jesus taught the lesson of being present in nature when he spoke of the "lillies of the field." For thousands of years man has tried to take Jesus' teachings bottle them up and sell them as a religion. The bible says that man is made of sin yet it fails to address the fact that man(the ruling class of the age) has translated the bible and picked and chosen what to include over thousands of years. Is it not possible that man made some errors in judgement. Oh and don't say god would not let that happen either. The trouth is that god tells you that man is made of sin and can not be trusted. What he refers to is the ego. The conditiioned human mind. God has taught us many teachers and speaks to us today if you could just open your mind. Man created religion to divide. God created man and yes he ate a poisonous apple it was the ego. If you could read a new earth and see that god works through every man every day and has so many lessons to learn. Open your eyes and stop deviding up the world into the rightous and those that go to hell. Live like Jesus and be open to a new earth. If you honestly read his book and try out what he says...Which by the way all he says is to be still in nature and stopp worrying about the past and focusing on the future and be present. Try and master this very difficult task and you will find that god is always there right by your side.

    August said...

    Peter, I read the book. In fact, I read it two or three times. It is pantheistic, gnostic new age junk. So don't come and shill here for Tolle and make false assumptions.

    Do you believe that you are god, or a part of god?

    swordbearer said...


    I see you have opened your mind so wide and ANYTHING can fit in. I see that you have bought into Tolle's philosophy hook line and sinker.

    We would love to discuss these matters with you. Please answer August's question, and then tell us:

    1. What is the central message of Scripture in your understanding and if it involves salvation or Christ, where does Jesus fit in?

    2. What is the nature of God? Is he a God of love only, of is he also a God of justice, and if so, to what degree is he just?

    Doulos said...

    It saddens me to see such divide as well, Peter. It saddens all people. Nobody wants to create divisions, but not all things are good. In fact, most things that a human being feels are rooted in evil, because like you said, we are egotistical. We sin, we fall short of righteousness. I think you're missing a crucial element of Jesus' teaching, though. Jesus (though perhaps most notably the Apostle Paul in Romans 3) seems to indicate that humanity has some kind of righteousness deficiency. This means that we are helpless in regard to sin, and, though I'm not sure exactly why or how, have become somewhat incapable of discerning what is really truth. The problem with New Age philosophy/religion is not necessarily whether or not it excludes Jesus Christ or not. The problem is that it puts far too much trust in humanity, which as we've established, is morally deprave. While human beings are capable of some good, we cannot accomplish much good at all outside of a complete dependence on God, a dependence which has been highlighted by Jesus Christ. The message that needs to be preached is not our ability to do what is right, the message that needs to be preached is that humankind needs to place its loyalties in God not in ourselves. But, like I said, I haven't read the book. Hope that's a decent contribution.

    MessianicTeacher said...

    It amazes me how many people can subscribe to this spiritual mumbo jumbo and honestly believe that Jesus would have done the same. Jesus was not open minded. He said - plain and simple - there is one way to God, and that is through Him - more specifically, His blood. Jesus wasn't accepting of new ideas and religious philosophies. In fact, He called the Pharisees - who were accepting of such - hypocrites!

    Everyone who reads this book needs to understand that it is the job of Satan - yes I believe that the devil is real - to deceive any way he can. Just as the nature worshipping Druids knew when they came to America that this country would not accept their religion in its pure form and came up with the Masons to mix their religion with Christianity, Satan has done the same thing with the New Age Movement. We wouldn't accept all out Satan worship, so he filters in through this deceptive "spiritual higher consciousness."

    My friends, you are being deceived. This is a movement straight from the very pit of hell inspired by demonic entities that infiltrate your mind when you leave it so open that anything can come in. Please, I beg you!!! If you allow yourselves to be drawn into this, you are playing with fire.

    Jim Clark said...


    I just wrote an article which address many of your comments here:

    Have a read if you can.
    And again I maintain, the cohesiveness of the worlds Mystical traditions is obvious to anyone that has spent any real time studying them. Im not saying that they are all the same, or that the do not have disputes. But that underlying Spiritual Laws & Principles can be consistently found in many different cultural writings.

    Thank you,
    Take care,
    God Bless,
    Jim Clark