True spirituality centers on Christ, Whitney says on DeMoss’ radio show

Communications Staff — May 9, 2008

The only true spirituality is one that centers on Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life, Donald Whitney said last week on Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ radio program, “Revive Our Hearts.”

Whitney, who serves as senior associate dean of the School of Theology and associate professor of biblical spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, joined Erwin Lutzer, senior pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, on DeMoss’ program May 1 and May 2 as part of her “Learn to Discern” series.

Whitney and Lutzer examined Oprah Winfrey’s embrace of New Age philosopher Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, providing a biblical critique of the best-seller’s philosophy.

Asked to distinguish between the spirituality of Tolle and Winfrey and biblical spirituality, Whitney said the Christian spirituality is Trinitarian in nature and is shaped by Scripture.

“I assume by spirituality what a lot of people mean is a more inward kind of [focus with] principles and not so much external and materialistic motivations and so forth,” he said. “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.”

Lutzer said Tolle’s prescription for peace is to walk away from one’s past memories, hurts and pains — which he calls one’s ego — and embrace the present.

“In his book, Tolle indicates that he was about to commit suicide. Once he (Tolle) 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,” Lutzer said.

“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 could be attained.

“So in the book he encourages other people to do the same thing with the hope that they will be changed and eventually the whole world will be.”

Whitney said Tolle’s message appeals to people because everyone faces hurt and loss, and wants to experience something that transcends such realities.

“People are looking for something that will give them hope. They are looking to deal with some of the pain in their lives,” Whitney said. “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.

“So here comes someone who says, ‘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. Especially if it’s on a program as popular as the Oprah Winfrey show.”

Whitney said Christians should respond to such aberrant teaching with the only message that brings lasting peace, the Gospel.

“Charles Spurgeon, that great British Baptist preacher of the 1800s, one time 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,’” Whitney said.

Winfrey is in the midst of a 10-week online course that centers on Tolle’s book. DeMoss played audio clips where the acclaimed talk show host said she is a “free-thinking Christian” who doesn’t believe Christianity is the only way to God with six billion people on the planet.

In his book, Tolle twists Jesus’s statement in John 14:6 that He is the only way to the Father and applies them to all mankind, Whitney notes.

“Tolle says that (each) person is god,” Whitney said. “He says on page 71, ‘Yes, you are the Truth. 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, speak of every person.

Whitney noted that the resurrection of Jesus sets Him apart as the only one who can claim to be the way to the Father.

“Jesus said He was the only way, and He rose from the dead,” Whitney said. “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.

“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. 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.”

To listen to either of the radio programs that addressed this topic, visit www.reviveourhearts.com.

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