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Could Oprah be Wrong?

By Chris Carpenter
CBN.com Program Director

CBN.com - ORLANDO, Florida -- It seems that everywhere you turn these days someone is either reading a book called A New Earth, or discussing the teachings of Eckhart Tolle.  On airplanes, around the water cooler at work, and even on social network Web sites like Facebook, people have become fascinated with the spiritual teacher who was relatively unknown until Oprah Winfrey thrust him onto the national stage last year.

Award winning journalist Richard Abanes believes Tolle’s teachings are confusing and contradictory but more importantly refute the Gospel message found in the Bible.  In response to Tolle’s mega bestseller, Abanes has crafted a new book called A New Earth, An Old Deception (Bethany House).  In it, he provides biblical responses to questions raised by Tolle’s controversial views.

CBN.com Program Director Chris Carpenter recently sat down with Abanes to discuss Tolle’s basic message, why Christians should be cautious of Tolle’s teachings, and how people of faith can respond when asked about A New Earth.

Your book is called, A New Earth, an Old Deception.  It focuses on what you believe are the deceptive teachings of Eckhart Tolle.  What is his basic message?

The bottom line message from Eckhart Tolle is if you come to a place where you know who you really are and stay in the present moment of now, and by doing that, escape suffering, find peace, joy, fulfillment, purpose, and have a really good life.  This is why it appeals to people.  The only problem is when he tells you who you really are. Who you really are is God.  That is who you are.  It is the New Age movement through and through.

Is there anything this guy says that is biblically accurate?

Yes.  In fact, there are a lot of things he says that is fairly insightful and thought provoking.  For example, he talks a lot about how in this world, in this day and age, we need to start treating each other better as human beings.  He talks about the need to stay in the present moment and not worry so much about what has gone on in our past – not let the things we have endured and been through hurt us today.  We are not to worry too much about the future because the future doesn’t really exist yet.  We don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring so why worry about it.  All of these things are very consistent with what Scripture says.  But he sort of takes these life applications, practical living things and starts blending spirituality with it and that is where he becomes unbiblical.

If there is one thing that disturbs you the most about Tolle’s teachings what would it be?

There is no question.  The way he takes the Bible and perverts, twists, and abuses it.  He quotes in his book, A New Earth, the Bible more than any other source of spiritual teaching.  What he does is he will take a verse from Scripture, particularly the words of Jesus, and re-interprets them in a way that supports what he is trying to say.  He basically renders the words meaningless because he takes them out of context.  He doesn’t pay attention to what the grammar or the language is saying.  He just makes it say anything.

For example, in John 14:6 it says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life …” We know what that means.  Jesus was referring to Himself as being the only way to the Father.  Well, Tolle says, ‘No, no, no, you see, Jesus was really just indicating how that can be applied to anyone and everyone.’  Tolle even takes the divine name, “I am”, and applies it to himself as well as everyone else.  So, this is how he takes Scripture and just distorts and perverts it.

If Tolle’s message is so flawed and erroneous than why do so many people fall prey to it?

Of course, for unbelievers, they don’t believe in the Bible.  They don’t believe in a personal God.  They are looking for what Tolle can give to them so they can escape their suffering, anguish, and pain in life.  They can have a better life and be happy.  So, that is what they are going after.  For Christians, I don’t believe they are thinking.  They are listening to him present this stuff in a very clever way where a lot of the spirituality sort of escapes their notice.  Tolle is just talking a lot about having a happier and healthier life.  Some Christians want that, it seems, more than actually getting to know God more.  They are concerned more with their own lives and how to escape suffering and how to get everything they want rather than doing and being and getting what God wants.  That is part of the problem with Christianity today in the Church.  People aren’t looking to Scripture to see what it really says about such issues.  Then you have Oprah (Winfrey) and people love Oprah.  She says, “I am a Christian.  I believe in Christianity.  These teachings are compatible with Christianity.”  What is sad is that based on what Oprah says droves of people are flooding Christian bookstores looking for Tolle’s book.  Why?  Because Oprah suggested they get it.

Just who is Eckhart Tolle?  What is his background?

That is kind of a mystery.  He is a Cambridge University graduate who came out of nowhere.  We do know that he had a very rough upbringing.  It traumatized him greatly.  He wanted to commit suicide for most of his life – since he was a young boy.  He reached a point at around 29 or 30 years old when he was about to kill himself and had this sort of psychological breakdown which he equated with a spiritual breakthrough.  From that he sort of felt this oneness with the universe and actually became a street person.  That is how he started getting a following.  He started preaching to other street people.  Somehow, someway, no one is really clear on this, he ended up being this spiritual guru to all kinds of people.  I’m not quite sure and nobody has talked about how he eventually, from this position of being a street person, ended up with a book deal.  There is kind of a gap in there that no one seems to be talking about.  Then, all of a sudden, Oprah picked up on him and the rest is history.

Why should Christians be cautious about the teachings of Eckhart Tolle?

For the unbeliever he is leading people away from the one true God.  For Christians, because he claims to give the answers to how you need to live your life, how you need to face suffering.  If Christians listen to him, the pattern that God has set up in Scripture to deal with our suffering, pain, and traumas, is being short-circuited.  In Tolle’s teachings, he is trying to tell us how to escape suffering, pain, and anguish – utterly.  That is not what the Bible says.  Jesus said, ‘In this world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer because I have overcome the world.’  It is by suffering, pain, trials and tribulations that the Christian, with God, gets through those things.  You don’t escape them, you get through them.  And by them God molds, shapes, guides, and makes us more like the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.  So, the whole teaching on what suffering is, is changed by Tolle.  If you get Christians trying to follow what Tolle is saying than they are either not following what Scripture is saying and therefore there is going to be a break there.  It will hurt Christians in the long run.

Invariably, I get questions from neighbors and friends regarding a new spiritual movement that has become popular.  As a Christian, how should I equip myself to discuss the teachings of Eckhart Tolle and A New Earth with them?

If you are talking to a fellow believer, someone who really knows Jesus, they love the Lord and believe in the Bible, one of the first things you need to say is, ‘Let’s see what this guy says about some of the biblical teachings that are near and dear to us.  What does he say about Jesus?’  Tolle says Jesus was not God in the flesh.  He says He was just another great teacher.  Tolle says that Jesus never rose from the dead.  He says that we are God and that there is no God out there to believe in.  In fact, Oprah Winfrey, with Eckhart Tolle said if you have a God that you believe in it is not the true God.  You are God.  So, if you have a God out there you are believing in and have a faith in it is not the true God.  Oprah also said and Tolle agreed that she used to think the purpose for Jesus coming was to die on the cross for our sins.  Wrong.  She said the reason He came was to teach us the Christ consciousness and understand our own divinity.  So, if we talk to Christians and show them and share with them those things then they should be able to see that this is not someone I need to be listening to.  For unbelievers, one of the things you can bring up is the fact that Eckhart Tolle does not teach the reality of absolute evil.  It is all an illusion.  So, drive by shootings that kill innocent children, the Nazi Holocaust, serial killers, all of these things are not truly evil.  It is an illusion based on our attachments of our mind to the forms that we see that make us only think these things are evil.  As a Christian, I would say to the unbeliever, ‘Are you trying to really tell me that you are believing these things aren’t really evil?  That could launch a discussion into how Christians view good and evil as opposed to how Tolle views it.

As Christians, we know what our purpose is here on this earth.  According to Tolle, what is our purpose as a human being?

It is not that grand.  His only real purpose that he ever mentions is simply realizing your divinity and then living it out in life.  That is it.  And hopefully, he says, by understanding our divinity and living that out the world will be a better place.  That is our purpose: to make the world a better place.

Point blank, does Tolle believe there is a God?

No.  To be clear, there is no personal God who exists out there for us to love, to pray to, to be guided by, and to be led by.  The only “God” that exists is the impersonal, energy force essence throughout the universe that makes up all that is.  That is who we really are on the inside underlying the form that you see.

After people read this book what would you like people to take away with them? 

I wrote this book so Christians can have the answers they need to share the truth with family and friends and with unbelievers who have been influenced by or have heard of Eckhart Tolle.  I wrote the book in a way that is not only user friendly but is compassionate.  I want people to feel comfortable with the material so that they can share it with others.  I want people to be able to have the truth in their hands but also tell and show them that you don’t have to speak the truth in a way that is unloving but you can be truly compassionate, truly respectful, gentle, and full of grace when dealing with those who don’t know Jesus Christ.  The biggest thing when you are talking to someone else is not about you winning the argument or even saving a soul.  It is about you being a representative of Jesus Christ and loving them.

To purchase "A New Earth, an Old Deception: Awakening to the Dangers of Eckhart Tolle's #1 Bestseller

More Perspectives on Spiritual Life

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