Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Oprah, Miracles, and the New Earth

Erwin Lutzer, Senior Pastor of the historic Moody Church in Chicago, has recently released a popular critique of Oprah and friends entitled Oprah, Miracles, and the New Earth. By friends I mean three of the most influential people who form the basis of Oprah's theology. They are Eckhart Tolle (author of The Power of Now and A New Earth), Rhonda Byrne (author of The Secret), and Marianne Williamson (author of A Return to Love, a popular exposition of A Course in Miracles). Lutzer also interacts heavily with the book A Course in Miracles written by Helen Schucman. He acknowledges that Oprah has promoted other authors such as Gary Zukav and Eric Butterworth but Tolle, Byrne and Williamson are the most prominent. Readers may be disappointed by not finding more material from Oprah herself. The book is more interested in those from whom Oprah has been feeding and developing her own philosophy. Lutzer makes it clear that what is at stake here is a cosmic battle owned and operated by Satan and that what is being promoted by Oprah and friends is nothing more than repackaged New Age spirituality. The book's intended audience are Christians who have been seduced into thinking that Oprah's philosophy is really harmless and can be integrated into a Christian lifestyle or for Christians who want to better understand the nuances of her beliefs. The book devotes four chapters to the way the New Age thinkers have redefined four central concepts: God, conversion, death and morality. Here caution must be observed. I sometimes felt that Lutzer made the authors a little more monolithic than they actually are. There are subtle differences between some of these authors and I understand that writing a popular work like Lutzer has done cannot always treat those subtleties but a brief acknowledgment would have been helpful. Essentially the movement holds to a pantheistic view of God (God is in everything), conversion is a transformation of consciousness (ala Hinduism) and Jesus is certainly not necessary for it, death and morality are illusions and are better understood by Eastern traditions (again Hinduism). The last chapter on "The Lie and End Times" was a bit anticlimactic for me as Lutzer gives a thumbnail sketch of the end times in the premillenial/pretribulational tradition. Overall I think this is a good book for its intended audience. I've seen far too many who have been star struck with Oprah and can't sense the danger underlying her beliefs. This would be a great book for a small group looking to explore these issues. Each chapter concludes with discussion questions.

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