Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: You’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss in the second of a two-day special edition series responding to the claims of Oprah Winfrey and the book by Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth, "Learn to Discern: How to Recognize and Respond to Error in the Culture.”

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: In His Word, God has given to us the Truth—the truth that is in Christ, the truth about who God is. He has revealed Himself to us, and He’s revealed the truth about our sinfulness, our fallen dilemma, and God’s great solution—the good news of the gospel, that through Jesus Christ there is forgiveness for sin. We who know Christ and love His Word love these great truths, but we also need to be prepared to defend them when they are under attack.

In fact, in the epistle of 1 John chapter 4, the apostle says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (verse 1). There are many false prophets, particularly as the time of the return of Christ approaches, there is deception in this world. We need to be prepared to recognize it and express it.

On Revive Our Hearts yesterday, and continuing again today, we’re talking about some deception that has arisen that is drawing many believers into its snare and people worldwide.

We’ve been talking about the ten-week course that Oprah Winfrey has been hosting. It’s a webinar. Over two million people, I understand, are participating in it. She’s been promoting and talking with Eckhart Tolle, who is a New Age teacher, about his best-selling book, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.

Undoubtedly, you’ve heard about that and perhaps have wondered:

  • Is this something I should read?
  • What should I think about this?
  • How do I discuss this with the person I work with who is reading it and talking about it?

Here again to help us with that discussion is Dr. Erwin Lutzer, who is the pastor of the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago. Dr. Lutzer and his wife Rebecca have been friends of mine for many years.

Dr. Lutzer, thank you so much for addressing this subject and for joining us here on Revive Our Hearts again today.

Dr. Erwin Lutzer: Well, I’m so glad I can be with you, and I do hope that everyone who is listening will continue to do so because this is very important.

Nancy: Joining us also in this discussion today is Dr. Don Whitney, who is an associate professor of Biblical Spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, in addition to being an author and a conference speaker.

Both of these men have a warm heart for Christ. Dr. Whitney, thank you so much for taking time today to talk with us about this important subject.

Dr. Don Whitney: Glad to do it, Nancy. Thank you for inviting me.

Nancy: It’s interesting to me, Dr. Lutzer and Dr. Whitney, that, and I say astounding, but maybe it shouldn’t be, that so many people in our evangelical churches seem to be drawn into teachings like those that Oprah’s promoting. You have in Oprah just a very winsome, articulate, warm-hearted, nurturing spokeswoman, and is that why it is that so many, in our churches even, are being tempted to embrace some of this teaching?

Dr. Lutzer, you’re a pastor. Why is it, do you think, that Christians even are being drawn into some of these kinds of teachings?

Dr. Lutzer: I think, yes, some of it has to do with the fact that Oprah is a very appealing personality, but I think there’s another reason, and that is that these books all use our terminology.

If you were to ask Eckhart Tolle, “Do you believe in Jesus?” He would say, “Of course.” “Do you believe in God?” “Yes.”

You see, what’s happening in these books is that you have a total redefinition. You have a redefinition of God, as we noticed in our last program. You have a redefinition of what it means to connect with God. You have a redefinition of conversion.

Remember that the serpent said to Adam and Eve, “Your eyes shall be opened” (Genesis 3:5). There is, in all of these books, the opening of the eyes. It’s the transformation of consciousness. It’s the ability to go from this world, with all of its pain and its hurts, the world of ego, to use Eckhart Tolle’s phrase; and to get into that other zone, that universal consciousness, enlightenment. This is done through meditation, primarily, and it’s a wrong kind of meditation.

Don Whitney (who’s on the program here, and Don, it’s such a pleasure to be with you), I’ve benefited so much from your book on the spiritual disciplines. You know, as all of us do, the importance of meditation, but we’re meditating on the Word of God. We have content.

Dr. Whitney: That’s right.

Dr. Lutzer: The kind of meditation that’s spoken of here is contentless meditation, where you simply clear your mind to get into that other zone. So I think that is one of the reasons why people are attracted.

I heard someone say, “Well, of course, Oprah’s a Christian because she’s always talking about God.”

Well, as we’ve already learned in this discussion, it’s not the God of the Bible; it’s the god of this world actually who exists in that other zone that we’re talking about. So I think it’s the deception. It is a very subtle deception.

One more comment. It’s interesting as I read these books, none of them are attacking traditional Christianity or saying that we as Christians are wrong. What they are saying is, “Bring your beliefs; keep your beliefs. All that we are doing is going deeper.”

That sounds so appealing, and people don’t understand that when you go deeper, as outlined in these books that we’re talking about, you have to leave Christianity behind, but people just don’t get that because it sounds so right. It sounds so possible.

Nancy: And it sounds so positive and warm and embracing of everyone. We have in this culture this mindset that we don’t want to be intolerant. In fact, a friend of mine had lunch with a friend of hers yesterday—a long-time church member. My friend said, “This is someone who I really thought would know better.”

The friend started talking about how she was reading this book, A New Earth. She was so enamored of what she was reading and did not want any talk in response that would sound critical or judgment or intolerant. I wonder, Dr. Whitney, if that’s not what makes some in our evangelical churches more vulnerable to this kind of false teaching.

Dr. Whitney: Sure it is. The secular media frequently gives us this message of tolerance as the chief virtue. We could do an entire program on that. I believe Dr. Lutzer’s done some material on that as well. People hear that enough from the secular side of things; they hear it on Oprah, that a lot of Christians have begun to accept that as the chief virtue. Of course, I find, as you do, that tolerance is for everyone generally except evangelical Christians—but so many Christians are following this book. Such people are in our churches. Surprising numbers are turning to this and finding it acceptable.

I’m looking at Oprah’s website right now on this book. One of her helpers is answering questions here, and she says, “The teachings in this book are not part of another belief system.” Well, yes, they are. She goes on, in fact, she compares the lessons to “the honey in your tea or sugar in your coffee.” “It’s really a sweetener,” she says. “If you are a religious person, and you practice being fully present and alive in the moment, and, let’s say, your moment is church or the mosque or temple, wow, that’s just going to make it even better.”

If undiscerning people hear that, they think, “Well, that’s great. This is just something from the outside that’s going to make things better,” but it is a different view. As Dr. Lutzer’s pointed out, it is a different God. It is a different Jesus. It’s frustrating because there’s so many things wrong with it; there’s so many difficulties that it’s hard to know where to go with it.

But plead with people to think through what Jesus said in so many places in the gospel, as we heard yesterday from Dr. Lutzer. Tolle points out (I’m looking here now at page 71 in the book) in one of the many places in the book, it says that the person is god. It says, “Yes, you are the Truth—capital “T. If you look for it elsewhere, you will be deceived every time. The very being that you are is truth. Jesus tried to convey this when He said, 'I am the way, the truth and the life,' and these words, if understood correctly, speaks of every person."

Well, Jesus also completed that verse by saying, “And no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).

Nancy: Now, let me stop you there, Dr. Whitney, and I want us to listen to just a short clip. This is Oprah speaking on the first of the ten weeks of this series, and, as we think about that familiar verse, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me,” let’s listen to what Oprah has to say. It just shows the distinction between what she’s teaching and biblical Christianity. Let’s listen.

Oprah Winfrey: There are certainly many more paths to God other than Christianity. I’m a free-thinking Christian who believes in my way, but I don’t believe that it’s the only way with six billion people here on the planet.

Nancy: Now, it should be clear to any who may be thinking, “Oh this is just something that’s innocuous, or maybe it’s helpful to a lot of people, or it can give people some enlightenment and awakening.” This is serious stuff we’re talking about here.

Dr. Whitney: Nancy, Jesus said He was the only way, and He rose from the dead. That’s a fact that’s never mentioned in the book—Jesus’ resurrection—as the verification of all His claims. Any of us could claim to be the way to God. Any of us could claim to be God Himself, but Jesus verified His claims by doing something no one else has ever done, will ever do, could do. He rose from the dead, and that’s what gives validity to His claim.

You said a little while ago for people to think about what Jesus has said, and that excludes these other things from being sweeteners in our religion or anything like that.

Nancy: This is not the first time that Oprah has addressed these kinds of issues. In fact, throughout the year 2008 on one of her radio outlets, you can hear teaching on A Course in Miracles. Dr. Lutzer, I know you’ve done some study on that.

Dr. Lutzer: Yes. As a matter of fact, Nancy, even years ago I read the book A Course in Miracles. It’s a very thick book. I wouldn’t say that I’ve read every page, but I scanned it. I read some parts in detail. The bottom line, and what’s really interesting about that book is it was written by automatic writing. Helen Schucman said that a spirit came to her, and she just wrote whatever the spirit dictated.

By the way, the book by Neale Walsch entitled Conversations with God, is actually in cahoots with the same movement and the same people. He also says that his book was written that way.

It wasn’t automatic in the sense that they could stop writing, that is to say, they could stop writing, I should say. But nonetheless, the books were dictated. Now, if you know anything about the occult, you know that automatic writing is a part of it. Actually, a demonic spirit writes the book, and I have never read a book that is so evident that it came directly from a demon as A Course in Miracles.

What this course says is “it’s a new revelation from Jesus to help humanity work through these troubled times.” I was particularly interested in the sections that talked about the crucifixion of Jesus. It talks that it is a myth to think that there has to be a sacrifice made in order for us to come to God. It belittles the fact that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and that Jesus is the Lamb of God slain from before the foundation of the world.

As a matter of fact, here’s a quote, “A slain Christ has no meaning.” Then another quote, “The journey to the cross should be the last useless journey, and do not make the pathetic error of clinging to the old rugged cross.”

So what you have also is that the name Jesus, and I’m paraphrasing now, the word Jesus is a label that can be used for any god or any goddess. So what you really have here is a primer on occultism, and that is being promoted.

A Course in Miracles, of course, is revised and, I believe, condensed, and is being taught by a Marianne Williamson, and this is also being promoted by Oprah, and people are being deceived by it. It is also self-salvation. You save yourself through your own good deeds, through your own ability to come into that other zone that we’ve been talking about, and in this way, you are actually made whole, and you are healed.

I might say, if I could just add a further word, the Bible says in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 (see verses 1-12), when the anti-Christ comes, people will believe the lie, which I interpret to mean the idea that man is god. Then it says, with all signs and wonders, and those same words are used in the New Testament of the miracles of Jesus. So what you have here, in A Course in Miracles is a really duplication, an attempt to duplicate the miracles of Jesus to deceive the masses.

Nancy: That’s exactly what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 24, where He said false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect (see verses 4-14).

Dr. Whitney: Once again, the key text that’s just at the crux of so many differences between biblical Christianity and Islam and the New Age, so many contemporary things, John 14:6, where Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, the life,” and I reiterate, “no one comes to the Father but through me.”

So this Christ-centered, biblically-based revelation from God that we find in Scripture, this is the way to God for all people. Because there was one man given, Jesus Christ, who came from heaven, a man who is God. He is the God-given way for people from every tongue and tribe and nation throughout the world. He is the one way, and we don’t have to go to these other ways, or say, “Well, I guess I wasn’t wired for that way.”

Nancy: I think, as we’ve had this conversation, this is a balancing act here. We’ve perhaps experienced a struggle of not wanting to sound like we’re bashing anyone or hammering on anyone, and yet, Dr. Lutzer, this is a subject that matters. It’s a serious thing to get it wrong when it comes to who God is and who Christ is and how you get to know God.

Just talk for a moment, if you would, why it matters to be aware and discerning about false teaching and false teachers.

Dr. Lutzer: Well, first of all, I think that the kind of teaching we’re speaking about, we all know the impact of the Da Vinci Code. What an attack that was against Christianity. Nancy, there are people who say, “Well, that was a flash in the pan. It’s all over now.” No, it isn’t. It’s like a tsunami. You have the headlines, and after the headlines are gone, people live with the devastation. It’s true in our universities and so forth that these kinds of ideas are being taught.

Getting back to the issue of Eckhart Tolle’s book, the reason that these matters are so serious is: Remember, Satan’s most dazzling deception is for people to be in contact with him when they think that they are in contact with the living God. So his desire is to duplicate spiritual experience so that we can say, on the one hand, that those who trust Jesus Christ are born again, and Satan can say, “Oh, yes, but I can have a born again experience for my followers, too.”

We certainly see that on the web where you have people indicating how transformed they have become because of this experience and so forth, and because of reading the book. Satan delights in that.

What’s at stake? Nothing less than the eternal destiny of people. In fact, what you really have, of course, is nothing less than the salvation and the deception of millions of people who are going to go through their lives believing that, because they had some kind of an experience, that surely God must accept them. So it is time for us to pinpoint the truth.

By the way, these kinds of ideas are not entirely new. The early church had to put up with them. You had the syncretism in early Roman times, and today, what we have, of course, is a different kind of face on it. But it is the same old heresies that Christ has not come in the flesh in a unique way, but the coming of Jesus really represents all of us, and, as we’ve already pointed out in these discussions, where statements about Him are applied to us, and statements about God are applied to us.

This is a deep, lasting deception on the part of those who follow it, except, of course, the hope is that they turn to the Living God through Jesus Christ.

Nancy: That’s why we’re taking time to do a program like this, and the conversation we had yesterday.

Dr. Whitney, how do we respond? Those of us who do know and love the truth, what’s an appropriate way for us to be responding in an era where there are false teachers, there is false teachings. Do we just hole up in our fortresses and hope it will go away? Biblically help us think through how we respond.

Dr. Whitney: Well, for starters, we don’t panic. We don’t feel as though, “Oh, my, because Oprah has all these worldwide outlets and all this influence that we’re sunk here.” As Dr. Lutzer has already pointed out, this is nothing new. We go through these same sorts of deception all the time, so we don’t panic.

Second, we realize that part of our responsibility, though, as ministers, as leaders in our churches, as Christian witnesses, there is a time to speak against something. When it’s out there, it needs to be spoken against.

Third, take it as a great opportunity for the gospel. Spurgeon, that great British Baptist preacher of the 1800s, one time said, “If I were going to take a farm, I’d rather take a farm that grew something, that grew weeds, than grew nothing at all.” Then he said, “I’d rather speak with someone who believes something, and who talks about spiritual things to some degree, even if they’re wrong, than someone who never thinks about anything.”

So, this is a great open door for the gospel, where we can talk about spiritual things, and where the name of Jesus is part of the conversation. So it’s a great open door for the gospel that we can take advantage of.

The fourth thing I would say is make sure we are clear on the gospel, and use this as an opportunity, not to be condescending to people, not to bash other people, but as an opportunity to share the gospel with people. It will take no more grace for God to open the eyes of an Eckhart Tolle, or anyone else in this world, than it took for Don Whitney, and it will be the same message.

It will be the gospel that God will use to open the eyes of people. No one’s eyes will be harder to open than Saul of Taursus, who became the apostle Paul. So it’s a great moment for the gospel.

Nancy: Thank you for reminding us, Dr. Whitney, of the opportunity to pray, to seek the Lord on behalf of those who have been deceived, and then to plant those precious seeds of the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ.

We’ve prepared here at Revive Our Hearts a resource called, Learn to Discern: How to Recognize and Respond to Error in the Culture. It talks about the importance of being discerning, being alert, being biblical, courageous, prayerful, and proactive. It’s chock-full of Scripture and wise insights, and we want to send that resource to you, along with a CD of today’s program and the conversation we had yesterday with Dr. Lutzer and Dr. Whitney. We’ll send that to you when you send a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts.

You can call us at 1-800-569-5959 and request that brochure and the CD of these programs, Learn to Discern, or you can go to our website ReviveOurHearts.com and ask for those resources there.

I want to thank you, Dr. Whitney, and you also, Dr. Lutzer, for taking time out of your busy day to join us here on Revive Our Hearts, and to help educate and instruct our listeners in God’s way of thinking.

Thank you for the study you’ve done, for the prayer, for the wisdom that you’ve shared with us, and, Dr. Lutzer, I wonder if you would just close our conversation by praying.

Dr. Lutzer: Nancy, before I pray, I just want to give one suggestion to your listeners.

If every Christian listening were to remember this question (I’ve used it often). Simply ask someone, maybe on a plane, maybe a neighbor, maybe a friend, “Where are you on your spiritual journey?” That opens the door; they begin to talk, and then, of course, it gives an opportunity for you to say, “What do you believe about Jesus?” And you begin to dialog about the gospel. We can reach thousands about the good news.

Father, I ask in Jesus’ name, make us good witnesses. Open the hearts of those whom we meet and prepare them for that question, and for the good news of the gospel that is able to forgive us our sins and bring us safely into Your presence. We ask in Jesus’ name, amen.

Dr. Whitney: Amen.

Nancy: Amen.

Leslie Basham: Learn to Discern: How to Recognize and Respond to Error in the Culture is available in a booklet at no cost when you call or go online. The team here at Revive Our Hearts has prepared it as a call to action, a call to be biblically courageous, prayerful, and proactive for the gospel.

It’s Nancy’s desire that as many people as possible have a copy of this important booklet, and because of that, it’s free to download at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1-800-569-5959. For a very nominal cost, you can also order additional copies at the website. Let’s put Learn to Discern in the hands of tens of thousands to equip as many as possible to be discerners of God’s truth in our culture.

When you go to the website, you’ll find a page of information that allows you to study up and share with others more information about this deception, including MP3s and much more, and for your donation, we want to thank you with a special edition CD with the Revive Our Hearts program you heard today, as well as yesterday’s program. Call 1-800-569-5959, or go online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Thank you for being part of this biblical call to action to “Learn to Discern.”

Nancy: I pray, as we’ve said, that God will turn on the light, that the truth will penetrate the darkness, and that those who are confused or deceived will see the light and will turn to Jesus Christ and place their faith in Him.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

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