Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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 6 billion people here on the planet.

Leslie Basham: Welcome to this special edition of Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. With Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of Eckhart Tolle’s best-selling book, A New Earth, Nancy calls each of us to learn to discern how to recognize and respond to error in the culture.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, as you know at Revive Our Hearts our mission, our goal, is to call women to experience freedom and fullness and fruitfulness in Christ. Christ is at the heart of everything that we’re doing, what we’re teaching. We’re always seeking to point women to Truth, to Christ, to the Word of God, the living Word, the written Word.

Yet in the Scripture we’re told that at times false teachings, deceptions will arise even within the church. As believers we need to be prepared to discern, to know the difference between truth and error. Those of us who teach the Word of God, as I do to women, are called not only to teach right doctrine, but also to warn about false doctrine and false teaching.

Right now over the last ten weeks there has been something going on in our culture that I know many of our listeners, if not most, are aware of as Oprah Winfrey, who is considered by many to be the world’s most influential woman, has been posting a ten-week online course on the best-selling book, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.

This book, A New Earth, is by the New Age guru, Eckhart Tolle. It has already sold some 3½ million copies worldwide. I understand there are 2 million people taking this course. We felt that this is something we need to address on Revive Our Hearts. In fact, we’ve had some listeners write to us and say, “What are you saying about this? What should we believe about this? What are we to think about all this?”

So today to help me with that discussion we have two men who are men of God’s Word, committed to the Truth. First, Dr. Erwin Lutzer, who I’ve known for a number of years. His wife Rebecca is one my dear friends and praying partners. Dr. Lutzer is the senior pastor of the Moody Church in Chicago. He’s written many best-selling books. He’s a Bible scholar, but he’s got a pastor’s heart.

Dr. Lutzer, thank you so much for joining us for this discussion.

Dr. Erwin Lutzer: I’m so glad I can be with you today, Nancy.

Nancy: I know this is a matter of concern not only to you but to our other guest, Dr. Don Whitney, who is an associate professor of Biblical Spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He also has authored many books.

In fact, Dr. Whitney, I’ve never had a chance to tell you, but one of the earliest books that you wrote, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, had a significant impact on my own life back in the early 90s, which is, I think, when that first came out. So thank you for your heart for the Lord and the Word and for what you are doing to help us walk in Truth. Welcome to Revive Our Hearts.

Dr. Don Whitney: Thank you, Nancy. There are so many good things to say about your ministry as well. I’ve recommended your books many times. It’s a privilege to be on the program and an honor to be here with Dr. Lutzer, my friend.

Nancy: I know, Dr. Lutzer, that you have recently preached a message about this phenomenon and it really is that. This is something that has in a sense taken the world by storm, although nothing takes heaven by surprise or by storm. As you have studied and preached on this subject, for those who may not be aware of this whole New Earth course, can you just give us in a nutshell what this is about?

Dr. Lutzer: The interesting thing is that what is really being taught has been taught many times before, oftentimes in the New Age Movement. In his book, Eckhart Tolle indicates that he was about to commit suicide. In fact, he says this in his testimony. Then he went through a transformation of consciousness that brought him peace. So his book is an exposition of how we all can attain peace, supposedly, if we follow his lead.

The experience that he had was he had to walk away from the ego. Now let me define that a little bit and say that the ego is what gets us into trouble. It’s the experiences that we have in life. It is our memories. It is our hurts. It is our pains.

Once he was able to leave the ego behind and go into a new state of consciousness of awareness, suddenly in that new zone, so to speak, he found peace. He found a sense of rest. He discovered that if you live moment-by-moment in that particular state of consciousness, always being aware of this other dimension, it is then that peace can be attained.

So what he does in the book is he encourages other people to do the same thing with the hope that they will be changed and eventually the whole world will be. Well, you can imagine, Nancy, how appealing this is to the common person out there. Just imagine, you can have peace and you can eventually contribute to the peace of the whole world.

Nancy: We’re hearing a lot of testimonies, if you’ll go to some of the key websites involved here, of people who say as they’re reading this book, they really are finding this newfound peace, this ability to deal with eating disorders, with besetting sins we might call them. They say this is really helping them. So you’re getting some powerful testimonies coming out of this.

Dr. Whitney, I know that you’re a teacher of biblical spirituality. We hear that word spirituality being thrown around a lot with this Eckhart Tolle course. What’s the difference between the type of spirituality that he and Oprah are talking about and biblical spirituality?

Dr. Whitney: Everybody’s spiritual today, Nancy. I have a survey from the front of USA Today—I think from early last year—where a majority of atheists consider themselves spiritual people. So everybody’s spiritual today. The Association of Theological Schools, which is the accrediting agency for most of the seminaries in this country, say that spirituality is the fastest growing area of theological education. So it is a hot topic in good ways and kind of strange ways throughout the culture. So there’s this interest in all places.

I assume by spirituality what a lot of people mean by that, certainly the atheists would mean that they try to operate, I suppose, from more inward kind of principles and not so much external and materialistic motivations and so forth. It’s something I’ve got to assume they would say.

Spirituality in the Bible—and in many cases it’s in the context of the word Spirit with a capital S having to do with the Spirit of God—I define it this way. Spirituality in the Bible is the pursuit of God and the things of God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit in accordance with God’s self-revelation—that is, the Bible. So there is a Trinitarian aspect to true spirituality, but it is guided by the Bible.

Nancy: That’s so key for us to realize as we’re trying to learn to discern what we hear in the culture. I want us to listen to a clip that came from the first week of this ten-week course. The course is now coming to a close. But in the very first week, I want you to hear something that Oprah said as she was in dialog with the author of A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle. Let’s listen to what she had to say about her perception of God because that really does drive our whole understanding of spirituality.

Oprah: I took God out of the box because I grew up in the Baptist church and there were rules and belief systems and doctrine. I happened to be sitting in church in my late 20s. I was going to this church where this great minister was preaching about how great God was and how omniscient and omnipresent and God is everything.

Then he said, “The Lord thy God is a jealous God.” I was caught up in the rapture of that moment until he said jealous. Something struck me. I was thinking, “God is all. God is omnipresent. And God’s also jealous? God is jealous of me?”

Something about that didn’t feel right in my spirit because I believe that God is love and that God is in all things. So that’s when the search for something more than doctrine started to stir within me.

Nancy: Dr. Lutzer, you hear that. How should we process that? How should we understand what she is saying, and how should we respond?

Dr. Lutzer: Well, Nancy, that was an excellent, excellent clip to play because it leads really to the heart of the issue and that is the kind of God that we are talking about.

Unfortunately, it seems as if Oprah misinterpreted what the Scripture means when it says that God is a jealous God. God is not jealous of her in that sense. Rather God does desire that we worship Him and we worship Him alone and there are good reasons for that.

This leads us to the heart of the issue. What kind of a god is Eckhart Tolle talking about versus the God of the Bible? I’m going to give some principles here that I think will be helpful to those who are listening to be able to identify the errors in the New Age Movement and in books like the one that we’re talking about.

First of all, the God of the Bible is a God who is outside of us. He’s a God who is transcendent. That is to say He exists everywhere to be sure, but He is a God before whom we bow.

The gods of the New Age Movement and Eckhart Tolle’s god is a god actually who you find within. That’s why all of these books talk about finding god by going within. You don’t go to Jesus the Son of God. You find god within, and you can connect with him directly.

So he is not a personal god in these various books. He is a force. He is an energy. He’s not to be worshiped at all. In fact, if anything you’re to worship yourself. There’s a reason for that as well because in the New Age Movement you really have what is known as pantheism. Maybe I could just take a moment to explain it.

When Satan said to Adam and Eve, “You shall be like God knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5), there’s no way in which they could be like God in the sense of the Creator of the universe. The only way that they could become like God is to say that all is god and god is all so my consciousness is also a part of God. Therefore, the god that we worship, according to these folks, is really the god who is within us and we end up worshiping ourselves.

I have a quote from Terry Cole-Whittaker, who used to teach this. She says it directly. She says, “You are god. I am god. Together we are god and together with our own consciousness awakening and choice, we can create the kingdom of god. Worship yourself. You are the light.”

Bottom line: All of the statements that are taken from Scripture—and by the way, Eckhart Tolle’s book is filled with passages of Scripture—I think something like 30. All of the statements about God are attributed to us. He quotes favorably the words of Jesus: “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:7), but then he says in effect this is true for all of us.

So what you have, and this is one of the reasons it is so subtle, is a redefinition of God. So we’re talking about an entirely different god. Turns out that we’re talking about the god of this world actually, because this is Satan’s grand lie—that man is god. People are being deceived because the same words are being used and Scripture is being quoted.

Nancy: Yet in spite of the fact that it is deceiving, and maybe because it is deceiving, this is something that is hugely popular teaching. It seems to be that it’s tapping into something in people’s hearts. If we’re going to minister the gospel and introduce the Christ of God’s Word and the true God to people in our culture, we need some sense of what it is that they’re longing for.

Dr. Whitney, do you have some thoughts about what it is that is making people reach out and be drawn into this kind of teaching?

Dr. Whitney: What’s making them reach out is a number of things. It’s the hurts in their life. You know there’s a hurt in every heart. There’s a hurt in every home.

  • People are looking for something that will give them hope.
  • They are looking to deal with some of the pain in their lives.
  • They’re searching for significance or transcendence in life. They want to transcend the mundane. Looking for greater meaning in life.

Being made in the image of God, we all have this inward sense we’re made for something better, bigger, greater than the world we live in now—the fallen world with all of its problems and these sorts of things. So here comes someone who says, “Here’s something that will give meaning to life. Here’s something that will be an antidote or a balm to the hurts of your life. Here’s something that will give you a sense of transcendence beyond the mundane.”

Those things are beating in the heart of everyone. If they never encounter God’s solution for that, if they never hear the gospel, then where else do they go? They’re groping in the dark and someone seems to say this is the answer. So they’re drawn there. Especially if it’s on a program as popular as the Oprah Winfrey show—the most influential woman in the world you said, perhaps. When she says this is the way, and Oprah is so engaging and everything else, people are going to turn to that.

I’m convinced by 24 years of pastoral ministry and being in a different church just about every Sunday that perhaps even the majority almost of churchgoers in America may have never heard a clear presentation of the biblical gospel. We know most people in America don’t go to church. So it’s people who have never heard the good news of Jesus Christ who are hearing this from Oprah and thinking, “Well, maybe this is it. I don’t have a better alternative.”

Nancy: I have no doubt that we have people listening right now who may be in church every Sunday—maybe in Sunday school classes, may have read the Bible—that are being influenced. Seeds of doubt are being planted in their hearts as they’re hearing this course.

I wonder, Dr. Whitney, if you could just take a moment to restate that old, old story of Christ and His gospel. What is it that answers those deepest longings that we do have in our human hearts that you just referenced?

Dr. Whitney: O what a privilege. Thank you.

Well, the Bible begins with a statement that there is one God. He is the Creator. He made us. He made everything. We’re accountable to Him. He made it perfect, and we messed it up. Sin entered the world and it has affected everyone and everything since then. Because we are by nature corrupted in this way, we have all broken the laws of God. We have done so an infinite number of times. We have done so willingly.

As a result, we are under the wrath and condemnation of a perfect and righteous judge who, if He failed to judge righteously and perfectly, if He swept sin under the rug, He would not be a perfect judge. So we are under condemnation and the wrath and punishment of God because of our rebellion against Him.

But in His grace and love and mercy, He sent His Son Jesus who lived the life we should have lived. He lived a perfect life. He always kept the law of God. He never broke the law of God. He earned heaven by His life. As a result, He was qualified then to be a substitute for sinners.

He not only lived the life I should have lived, Jesus died the death I should have died. Jesus took the wrath of God on the cross for sinners like Don Whitney, taking what I should have received so that if I will repent, if I will turn from my sin, turn from living for myself and come and put my faith in Christ alone as my only hope to earn the smile of God, as my only hope for entrance into heaven, His works can open the door of heaven for me and bring me into the presence of God and into heaven forever and give up any hope that what I do can impress God.

The Bible promises over and over again that God will forgive me. God will give me credit for having lived the life of Jesus. On the cross He gave Jesus credit for having lived my life and that got Jesus an atomic bomb of the wrath of God. In return I get credit for the life of Jesus, which means I get heaven.

Best of all I get God and a relationship with Him forever. That begins as soon as God changes my heart, as soon as I repent and come to Christ and that is good news! It is the most glorious news of all.

The reason why God is a jealous God—not in a sinful jealousy like we associate with the word. The Bible condemns that kind of jealousy. But God is jealous in the sense that He does not want us to turn anywhere else, as Dr. Lutzer mentioned. He is jealous that we worship Him because any other way, any other god leads to our ruin.

God says, “There is no other god besides Me” (Deuteronomy 4:35). “Come to Me,” Jesus said, “and I will never cast you out" (John 6:37). All who come to Me I will receive” (Matthew 11:28). And God is jealous that we have that.

I saw a clip recently on Oprah where someone on her program in the audience said that Jesus is the only way. She said, “How could there be only one way?” I want to scream back, “The miracle is not that there’s just one way, but that there is a way!”

Nancy: That’s right.

Dr. Whitney: That there is any way. That we have broken the laws of God so repeatedly that He has been patient enough all these years still to give us a way to Him through Jesus. That’s the glory—that there is any way yet.

Nancy: Dr. Lutzer, it strikes me, as we listen to that telling of the very, very good news of the gospel, that what the enemy offers and what people are lining up in droves to experience and buying into is a counterfeit for the real thing that God wants us to experience through Christ.

Dr. Lutzer: The reason it is so popular is because when you come to that god, the god of the New Age Movement, the god of Eckhart Tolle, there’s no need to repent of any sin because sin, strictly speaking, does not exist.

Even this world is something like a dream. It’s not the real world. It’s this super-consciousness. That’s the real world. So nowhere do you really have the issue of sin needing forgiveness. Now Eckhart Tolle does refer to sin as dysfunction, but I don’t recall anywhere in his book, unless I missed it, that he speaks about the need for anybody needing to be forgiven.

Dr. Whitney: That’s right.

Dr. Lutzer: There was a young woman who actually has her Ph.D. and is a lecturer in one of our universities who became a Christian about two years ago. People said, “Why did you become a Christian? There’s Buddhism out there. There’s all the other religions.” She said, “Christianity is the only religion that had an answer for my sin.” that really is true. The reason that there are not many ways to God, but only one way to God, is because of our sin. there’s only one substitute, one sacrifice, as Don explained, that God accepts.

Now as long as sin is redefined, if the worst possible sin is eating chocolate, then of course there may be multiple ways to heaven. But if sin is serious and if God is holy, the only One whose righteousness God accepts is that of Jesus Christ. So of necessity, Jesus is the only way to the Father—totally contrary to the whole teaching of the New Age Movement.

Nancy: It really does all come back to Christ. In fact, I’m thinking of that passage in Colossians 2:8. The Colossian church had some issues that needed to be cleared up about their understanding of Christ. Paul said to them, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, . . . and not according to Christ.” Christ is the beginning and the end of all things. He is God and He is the way to God.

I want to thank Dr. Erwin Lutzer and Dr. Don Whitney for joining us today on Revive Our Hearts as we’ve been talking about this New Earth movement of Eckhart Tolle that’s been promoted by Oprah Winfrey. We’re going to pick this conversation up tomorrow because there’s more that we need to understand about the nature of this deception.

Revive Our Hearts has written a helpful tool to encourage us as women and our loved ones to stand against the deception of Satan and not fall prey to the teachings of false teachers. It’s a booklet called Learn to Discern: How to Recognize and Respond to Error in the Culture. We’ll pick up this conversation tomorrow with Dr. Erwin Lutzer and Dr. Don Whitney.

Leslie: You’ve been listening to a special edition of Revive Our Hearts. There’s much more to come tomorrow. Nancy’s back with her guests, pastor Erwin Lutzer and Dr. Don Whitney. Learn to Discern is much more than a title for these broadcasts. It’s a call to action, to be biblically courageous, prayerful, and proactive for the gospel.

The team here at Revive Our Hearts has written a specially prepared booklet, Learn to Discern: How to Recognize and Respond to Error in the Culture. It will help you think and respond Biblically on this critical issue. Now is an important time to be discerning. So we’re making this booklet available at no cost. We encourage you to get these into your church by ordering additional copies (at a nominal cost).

As we develop the heart and a mind to discern Biblical truth, let’s join together in helping others do the same. Call us at 800-569-5959 or go online at ReviveOurHearts.com. At the website, we’ve also set up additional information links, including MP3s and much more. You can study and share with others so you can go deeper. For your donation today, we’ll send you a special edition CD containing the Revive Our Hearts program heard today and tomorrow.

Be sure to invite a friend to join you for tomorrow’s concluding broadcast. Now here’s Nancy.

Nancy: You may be like some women that I’ve heard from this week who are struggling to know what really is true or how to respond to those who are confused and deceived by this kind of teaching. That’s why it’s such a privilege to turn to the Wonderful Counselor, the One who is the Truth and to ask Him to guide us into all truth and understanding. So let’s close this conversation by praying together and asking the Lord to show us what is true.

Lord, thank You that You have revealed Yourself to us in Your Word. You are Truth, Lord Jesus. O God, You have made Yourself known as You really are through Your Word. Thank You for giving us Your Word. Thank You for showing us in the Word who we are, who You are and how we can come to know You through Jesus Christ.

O Lord, I lift up that listener who is confused, who perhaps has been following this study and doesn’t know what to think, doesn’t know what to believe. O Lord, I just want to pray for Oprah. I want to pray for Eckhart Tolle and others who have been blinded and deceived and they have even become instruments of deception. I pray for their salvation.

I pray for true enlightenment from Your Word. I pray that You would draw them to true faith in Jesus Christ and that You would send forth from Your people through the churches today the light and the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that people may come to believe and repent and be saved. I pray it in Jesus’ name, amen.

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

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