Monday, April 7, 2008

Oprah: For the last time!

I don't really know how to effectively blog on this subject because to give it the fairest listen possible, we'd be listening for HOURS. And I'm personally getting tired of talking about Oprah on this blog. For some reason it keeps happening. Maybe it's because I have more time on my hands these days, and to be honest, I enjoy her show.

Oprah is leading an online class on Eckhart Tolle's novel, A New Earth. I haven't read the book. I've watched about 45 minutes of the first class online at Oprah.com, to see what all the rigmarole is all about. For me it is a tiresome hour and a half, a little man saying what we already know in obscure but lofty language, giving his keys to spiritual awareness and growth, quoting Jesus as an inspired teacher but not much more than that.

Some of it seems like it could be helpful. Some of it seems very dangerous. I wanted to highlight one part, because I think Christian women (and men, but I know most of you men out there could give a rat's buttooee about Oprah) should be informed, and I also have a question. For women and men.

I'll give a summary of this question posed by a Catholic reader/viewer to Oprah, and then Oprah's answer. But you can listen to it here. Just click on Chapter One and then go to about 21 minutes into the video: (Please do go listen if you have the time.)

Kelly: I'm a Catholic. My husband is Catholic and we've decided to raise our children Catholic. Tolle's book, A New Earth, is opening my eyes to a new way of thinking and form of spirituality that doesn't align with the teaching of Christianity. How do you, Oprah, reconcile this spiritual teaching with your Christian beliefs?

Oprah: Because of my experiences at a Baptist Church in my twenties, I have since opened my mind about the absolute indescribable hugeness of that which we call God. In my journey I began to search for something other than doctrine. I believe Jesus came to show us a Christ consciousness...to show us the way it's done...to show us principals and laws to know that way...in my belief, even as a Christian, I don't believe Jesus came to start Christianity. I am a free thinking Christian and believe other paths lead to God than just Christianity.

Again, please listen to her actual response if you can.

First of all, what does that mean..."I don't believe Jesus came to start Christianity"....huh? I'm seriously asking what she might mean by that. Trying to understand where exactly she's coming from here. Christ consciousness. What do you think that means?

Jesus commands us not to judge one another. When Oprah calls herself a Christian, and then describes Christianity in such an unorthodox way, should a Christian warn others that's she's not a Christian, and is in fact, a false teacher? Is that casting judgement? Is she a false teacher? Is she a Christian? Do I have a right to decide whether or not she's a Christian? What is our Christian responsibility here? Where is the line between judgement and discernment?

35 comments:

Seth Ward said...

I wouldn't necessarily say that she is not a Christian... I don't know her full belief, however, I would definitely say she is teaching a version of Christianity that is not Christian. So yes, to the false teacher question. And I hate making those kinds of statements.

"Christ-consciousness" reeks of Gnosticism and Pantheism. Mary Baker Eddy used it as the basis for her version of Christianity which is now known as Christian Science. Christian Science is sort of a mix between Buddhism and Christianity that teaches that pain and the material world are not really real, and that Christ, like Buddha taught us that we all have "the Christ" inside of us. But as far as being fully God, fully man, nope, I'm thinking she doesn't believe this. Because this is essentially what this cat is teaching in this book she is peddling.

However, there are many Christians that believe that all paths eventually lead to Jesus for those who earnestly seek God. Billy Graham being one of them. That's called universalism and the universalist believes that all paths will eventually lead to Jesus and God.

Whether Oprah is a Christian or not is not mine to judge, however, considering her comments, I'd say she does not believe that Jesus is God's only Son or that he died for the sins of mankind and rose. If that's the case, then the math is the math.

Chaotic Hammer said...

Great questions, Fancy. And I think it's good that you're using these things as a springboard to discussion. Oprah has a huge, massive influence over the thinking of a lot of people.

Unfortunately, I am quite familiar with the concept of "Christ consciousness", because I was heavily into New Age stuff before I became a Christian. I did as you recommended and listened to about 10 minutes or so of the show, and how they responded to the Catholic lady asking the question. You are correct to be concerned about what is being taught and advocated. It's poison in a brownie.

Christ consciousness. What do you think that means?

In a nutshell, it is the idea that each one of us has an innate but unrealized potential to rise to an enlightened state and become aware of God, because we're all part of God already. It sees a relationship with God in terms of "spiritual awakening", and "potential within" and "higher plane of reality". It sees Jesus as just one enlightened teacher who rose to a very high level of this consciousness, and who wanted to show us all the way to do the same thing.

It utterly and wholly rejects The Atonement, or that there is even need of such a thing. It rejects Jesus Christ as the unique, only-begotten Son of God, the second person of the Godhead, eternally co-existent and co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus commands us not to judge one another.

Yes, not to judge one another, as in set ourselves up as God and cast condemnation on others for their sins, particularly since we are sinners every bit as much as they are, and in need of grace just like they are. What we are exercising here, regarding patently false teachings, is not judgment, but is instead spiritual discernment. Discernment about the falsehood of the teaching, that is. It's ultimately between Oprah and God where she stands with Him. Our concern in this case should be the teaching.

Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. 1 John 2:22-23

Regarding "other paths to God", I really have one very real, very sobering thing that comes to mind whenever I hear this statement. In Gethsemane, Jesus felt the weight of what He was about to endure, and prayed fervently that this cup be removed from Him if it was in any other way possible. Can you imagine Him needing to suffer what He did, if it turns out "All you had to do was meditate and focus on a higher plane", or "All you had to do was follow the teachings of Buddha or Confucius", or whatever?

I know that people think they are being open-minded and magnanimous when they start talking about "many paths to God" and "blind men examining an elephant" and all that, but to me it's the ultimate rejection of the absolutely horrible, unavoidable reality that there was simply No Other Way. Jesus was the only One who could pay the price for our sins.

And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12

Popcorn said...

FancyP, if while you were listening to the online thing you had an inkling of "Huh?" in your spirit, then you can be assured that was the Holy Spirit checking you.Since we have the Spirit of God indwelling in us, He moves to confirm the truth, or steer us clear of false teachings, as I know you already know. I'm not saying anything new to you. Remember you were listening to the guy and to Oprah with fine tuned spiritual ears which gave you a warning.Non Christians won't even hear what you heard in Oprah's convoluted jargon. They'll just think oh, ok, Oprah said Jesus, and Christ, and faith, all key words, so she must be a believer... Unlike CH, Popcorn cannot site the whys and wherefores (thank you CH for your painstaking explanation btw, quite interesting)I can only go by God's nudging me towards or away from things. I also know I we can trust that inner voice that can only be Him.

The Aimful Wanderer said...

Interesting. The pastor at my church mentioned Oprah during his sermon this weekend. I don't know where he got his quote from, if it was the same thing or another incident, but he was saying that someone asked Oprah about Jesus being the only way and her response was that that was "ridiculous" and there were many paths to God. I don't know if she actuallY SAID that. Sometimes he gets excited and exaggerates things.

I agree with the statement that Jesus didn't come to start "Christianity" because I'm pretty sure Jesus wouldn't have gotten behind a staggering percentage of the things that have been labelled Christian in the last 2,000 years. And I think its always good to encourage Christians to step back and take a look at the religion they're following and see if its really the one about Jesus or just one that borrows his name like a celebrity endorsement.

But somehow I figure Oprah means that Jesus was just some dude with some nice things to say about life and didn't intend for anyone to worship him as God. And if you don't think he's God that would make him not the Christ and therefore it it just silly to call yourself a Christian since that basically means follower of the Messiah. So while its possible that Oprah does espouse some of the teachings of Jesus, its a bit of any oxymoron to call your beliefs Christian if you don't say Jesus is God. I could respect her different beliefs if she didn't try to pass them off as being the same as mine. That's just not cool.

Super Churchlady said...

Fancy - I agree with all said above. Trust your instincts (i.e., the Holy Spirit) on this one...I kept thinking of this warning in 2 Timothy 3 about the apostasy of the last days:

"People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud,....conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. 6They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth."

FancyPants said...

Just want to clarify... My beliefs in Orthodox Christianity, i.e. the basic fundamental truths about Jesus as the Son of God, God's salvation through the sacrifice of His Son, atonement, etc. are set, as I would assume they are for a majority of the readers of this blog. I'm not concerned about whether I believe Oprah's statements are true. I believe her statements are not in line with the fundamental beliefs of Christianity. Which raises another question: Being led astray by false doctrine could be a tricky thing to avoid because it requires a head knowledge of belief in order to deny the false teaching. How many Christians hearing this doctrine miss the warning because they have no knowledge of basic theology? So then, can we really rely on the Holy Spirit "nudging" or "feeling" or "instinct" to deny these teachings, or do we need more of a head knowledge, a defense to our faith?

My questions are first, what exactly are Oprah's beliefs, because the terminology is vague and unfamiliar to me. And second, what is our response to Oprah, who calls herself a Christian but makes statements of belief that are off the path of fundamental Christian doctrine. Do we go around telling people she's not a Christian. Is that OK? Is that judgment? Or is that necessary to protect our faith?

C-ham, thanks for the explanation of Christ consciousness. Very helpful.

More to say...have to run to an audition. Might be there all day but am enjoying everyone's thoughts. Keep 'em coming....

Seth Ward said...

I think you are on to something here Fancy. I think a universal "creed" is loooooong overdue in the whole Christian Church. (A creed that is based wholly upon Scripture and truly IS Scripture, like the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed.) I think that eventually it will be necessary. Again, the world is filling with people calling things "Christianity" when they are NOT. And Christians find themselves bumbling around, trying to figure out why they are not.

I think too long we have all just "leaned" on our own Holy Spirit voice without submitting to a tried and true doctrine. Either that or we've been saying that we don't submit to a doctrine but all the while teach from a set of doctrines.

That's how Oprah got into the space she is in now, by simply listening to her own special inner voice. The truth is, that you can't just figure it all out yourself. And you can't just trust your own "inner voice" when it comes to understanding the whole show.

All Oprah would have had to do was picked up an old theology book and it would have helped her along in understanding the questions that she had. Instead, she grabbed a New-age book and listened to her "inner-prompting" and "let God out of the box"

What box? That's like saying because I can't understand relativity that I decided to "let relativity out the box" and gave the theory the confines of my own understanding instead.

As far as her saying Jesus didn't come to establish a Church.... well, I'm thinking he did. "Peter, you are the little stone. And upon this rock I'll build my Church, and the Gates if Hell will not prevail against it."

And I don't even have to mention all the verses from the letters to the different Churches about the body.

Oprah is talking nonsense when it comes to Christianity. She has rejected the notion of absolutes and plunged deeply into plain old Pantheism. She has replaced an infinite, unfathomable God with one that is a floating around spirit that is "IN all things" and we just need to awaken ourselves to Him. As if we could without Himself making Himself known.

I haven't heard her say that she doesn't believe that Jesus is the Son of God sent for the redemption of mankind, but I can say that the garbage she is propagating with this psuedo-Freudian-New-Age guru, well, it sure ain't Christianity. And if that's what she is saying she believes, then I'm sorry, 2+4=4 and she's not Christian.

Her eternal destination is not my decision, nor was it ever. I don't have the power to send her to Heaven or Hell. God is just, and the only judge. I can tell her what the Church teaches about the Bible, but it would be her call on whether she wants to take her chances before the throne someday.

Just as a Judge has mercy on souls who broke the law, I believe the "God will have mercy upon who He will have mercy." I can't pretend to know that list.

Julio said...

I just got an email yesterday whit more information about Oprah and her "Religion". There is even a book (you can download) on this webpage www.csteeleonline.com
"Don't drink the kool-Aid" is the title of the book...you could have an idea the point of picking that name for the book.

Seth Ward said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seth Ward said...

I just re-read my comments and it sounded like I was dogging Superchurch, and popcorn about listening to the Holy Spirit. I wasn't! But you guys know me well enough to know I'm not that mean.

I just think it is tricky to say "Listen to the Holy Spirit" when it is unchecked. What you are really doing is listening to the Holy Spirit and testing it against the teachings and Doctrine of the Church. It sounds stuffy, I know, but there ain't a soul here who is your own personal Guru. Every Christian, when it comes to Doctrine and theology, leans on one another, and specifically those that have come before us and present that have certain wisdom and gifts that we do not have. We don't just lean on our own understanding or unidentified inner-promptings. Praise God.

Chaotic Hammer said...

Fancy asked: ...what exactly are Oprah's beliefs, because the terminology is vague and unfamiliar to me.

I hope these don't run too long. I found a transcript of the show online and think letting Oprah speak for herself may be helpful:

-------------------------------
"I grew up in the Baptist church and there were, you know, rules and, you know, belief systems in doctrine...this great minister was preaching about how great God was and how omniscient and omnipresent, and God is everything. And then he said, 'And the lord thy God is a jealous God.' And I was, you know, caught up in the rapture of that moment until he said 'jealous.' And something struck me. And...I was thinking, 'God is all, God is omnipresent, God is—and God's also jealous? God is jealous of me?' And something about that didn't feel right in my spirit because I believe that God is love and that God is in all things. And so that's when the search for something more than doctrine started to stir within me..."

"...this is one of my favorite quotes...where he says, 'Man made God in his own image. The eternal, the infinite, and unnamable was reduced to a mental idol that you had to believe in and worship as 'my god' or 'our god.'"

"And you know, it's been a journey to get to the place where I understand...that what I believe is that Jesus came to show us Christ consciousness."

"...Jesus came to show us the way of the heart and that what Jesus was saying that to show us the higher consciousness that we're all talking about here. Jesus came to say, 'Look...I'm going to show you how it's done. These are some principles and some laws that you can use to live by to know that way.'"

"And when I started to recognize that, that Jesus didn't come—in my belief, even as a Christian, I don't believe that Jesus came to start Christianity."

"Well, let me share this with you too...There's another book...called The Seeker's Guide...And she talks about old spirituality versus the new spirituality, and she says the old was—the old way is—the hierarchy has the authority. Church authorities tell you how to worship in church and how to behave outside of church. The new spirituality is that you are your own best authority as you work to know and love yourself, you discover how to live a more spiritual life. The old is, 'God and the path to worship him have already been defined, and all you need to do is follow the directions.' The new is being able to listen within for your own definition of spirituality, your deeper longings are under search."

"And the old says...That there's only one path. It's the right way and all other ways are wrong. And the spirituality says that many paths lead to spiritual freedom and peace. You have a rich array of gems from which to draw illumination. The world's religious traditional, mythology, psychology, healing methods, scientific wisdom, your own experience and that you can begin to string a necklace all your own."

"...I am a Christian who believes that there are certainly many more paths to God other than Christianity. I'm a free-thinking Christian who believes that, who believes in my way, but I don't believe that it's the only way..."

-------------------------------

So you can sort of see why it's so confusing, and difficult to nail down what she's really saying. Because like many other cults and false teachings, there are lots of the same words being used that you'll hear among Christians or the Bible, but those words are being completely redefined to mean something different.

Chaotic Hammer said...

Fancy asked: what is our response to Oprah, who calls herself a Christian but makes statements of belief that are off the path of fundamental Christian doctrine. Do we go around telling people she's not a Christian. Is that OK? Is that judgment? Or is that necessary to protect our faith?

Really, this is the trickier of your two questions, Fancy. It's difficult to know the balance between lovingly speaking the truth while patiently trusting God to convict hearts to draw people to Himself, versus seeing the inherent danger and allure that these subtle but deceitful teachings are spreading and needing to boldly speak out about it.

Because I was a genuine seeker during the time I went through my New Age exploration phase, I tend to think that sooner or later all this "spiritual enlightenment" talk will leave the seeker empty and knowing they have not yet found Truth, just like it did for me. Ultimately, Jesus was calling me to Himself, and though I took "the scenic route" to get to Him, in the end I did get there.

I certainly feel no anger, malice, or defensiveness against Oprah herself, and don't believe that she's some sort of evil subversive agent trying to poison the minds of millions of people. I think she may very well be a genuine seeker of spiritual truth. But unfortunately, while she works that process out for herself, she works it out in front of millions and millions of impressionable and often uninformed people, who are being led astray.

I have always very much enjoyed and agreed with Seth's view of this -- that it's important that followers of Jesus be able to reach a consensus on the essentials of our faith.

As long as we are divided and the basic doctrines seem ambiguous, we are wide open for false teachers to come in entice people away from the truth.

I think the primary thrust of our approach is to speak and teach the truth, utilizing Scripture in clear and correct context, and live in loving pursuit of Jesus Himself, first and foremost. Our testimonies of the true freedom we know in Christ are more powerful than lots of spiritual mumbo-jumbo.

If a friend or family member comes to us excited about all this stuff, and says "I've found this great new teaching stuff from Oprah," or whatever, we need to be ready to give a solid answer for the hope that lies within us.

If the argument is framed in the context of "here's what I believe" vs. "here's what they believe", as a purely intellectual argument, then undecided people may walk away feeling confused, and having no firm basis for knowing which "version of God" is the real one, and which one is fake.

Since the Jesus of the Bible is real and alive, and has sent the Holy Spirit to testify of the truth, it is really His job to be concerned about drawing people with Truth. That means we can simply rest in Him, that He hears what is being said, and will see to it that His Word reaches those who are ready to hear it.

All these words, and I'm still not sure I've said anything helpful. I hope so, though.

truevyne said...

My 14 year old son watched the Oprah clip with me. He shook his head afterwards and said, "Mom, she's contradicting herself. You can't say you are a Christian and believe there are other paths to God than the narrow road."

I only wish I had his clarity.

I have other friends who call themselves Christians who are in step with Oprah on "many paths to God". I don't judge them as not Christians. I think of them as friends who do not believe what I do. I think it's God's call on whether or not someone else is a Christian.

False teacher? She hasn't changed my belief with hers. Is she leading others astray? Good question. I pray for people to see through my own mixed up beliefs to the heart of Christ, and I pray that for those watching Oprah's book study as well.

Super Churchlady said...

Seth - Because I know Fancy and I happen to know that her faith is theologically sound and mature - I feel comfortable telling her that her "instinct" about Oprah is the Holy Spirit. Obviously - as you so aptly pointed out - I wouldn't tell just anyone to follow their instinct with the assurance that it was spiritual discernment. In this case, however, I feel that it is.

Seth Ward said...

Tee hee hee.

You know you think she's going down the path of crystals and dreamcatchers!

FancyPants said...

C-ham, I'm glad you posted that transcript. I tried to download it myself and had trouble. Thanks for doing that.

Besides Christ consciousness and the free-thinking Christian, this is disturbing:

and she says the old was—the old way is—the hierarchy has the authority. Church authorities tell you how to worship in church and how to behave outside of church. The new spirituality is that you are your own best authority as you work to know and love yourself, you discover how to live a more spiritual life. The old is, 'God and the path to worship him have already been defined, and all you need to do is follow the directions.' The new is being able to listen within for your own definition of spirituality, your deeper longings are under search.

Church authorities have also written Epistles, written Gospels, given us the Bible, stamped out heresies, passed down creeds, warned of false teaching, shepherded the flock. Excluding "the old way" is excluding a lot of key components of the Christian faith. The funny thing is that Protestants have the same gripe about the heirarchy of the Church having the authority.

Uh oh. Should we go there? =-) Why not?

Bill Hensley said...

I'm not going to touch that last one (been there, done that!) but I do want to make one observation: many people today reject Christianity because they reject all authority over their lives. I have spoken to atheists who freely admit that they just hate the idea of a Supreme Being who gets to tell all of us what's right and what's wrong. It's just pride, pure and simple. The enemy has had a field day with this.

You see exactly the same streak of prideful independence in the popularity of New Age thinking (such as in Oprah's case). It is ironic, too, because Eastern thought actually centers around the idea that individuality is an illusion. We are all One. The goal of Eastern religions is to fully realize that individuality is an illusion so that the self can disappear into the Universal One. This is called Nirvana: the extinction of self.

New Age religion takes the idea that we are all a part of the Universal One - the Divine - and distorts it to come up with the ultimate form of individual empowerment: we are all God! (When I even type that last phrase I feel as though I might get struck down for blasphemy. Ugh!) It's as though they weren't listening very carefully when they started learning about Buddhism and Hinduism, adopting only the bits that made them feel good.

This is actually another characteristic of the New Age movement: comprehensive syncretism. Everybody's got a little bit of the truth so we can just pick and choose the parts we like. So you also see New Age adherents like Oprah claiming to be Christian. They adopt the terminology of Christianity and claim Jesus as one of their own, but their actual belief system has essentially nothing to do with historic Christianity. This is exactly what Mary Baker Eddy did when she founded "Christian Science" in the 19th century.

As a consequence, actual Christians need to work extra hard to go past the uninformative label of "Christian" and let people know what we really believe. In this context, I agree with those who have said we need to correct the errors in what folks like Oprah say. But there is a right time and a right way to proclaim truth in love. The particular failing of the evangelical church today has been to convey only our disapproval of what people do and say, without conveying our love for them or the grace which Christ offers through the cross. In short, we come off as angry legalists and busybodies. (I wrote about this at greater length a while back.)

Thanks for this post, Fancy. It has stimulated a lot of wonderful commentary and thinking. I have been encouraged and enlightened by what people have written.

FancyPants said...

Bill, so have I.

SuperC, the verse you mention is really interesting. Almost scary, right? I'm a little wary of attributing verses like that to current situations, just because it seems easy to misattribute or misinterpret. But on first look, it does seem crazy relevant.

Anyone have any thoughts on that? Any Bible scholars out there (Cach? MB? Bill? Any one else...) want to expound on it?

C-ham, I also enjoyed hearing about your personal experiences with this. I am especially encouraged when I hear you say that it ultimately led you to Christ. That it was your path. And I think that's definitely the thing to keep in mind with Oprah. She does seem like a seeker and I relate to her in that way, as I'm sure many of us do. I think she's sincerely searching here, and it's important with anyone we know or meet in the same place to understand and be sensitive to it.

I agree with Aimful and Seth, as well, that it bothers me when she calls herself a Christian, linking her belief system to mine, when our beliefs are very different. It's misleading and, well, theologically speaking, incorrect.

Anonymous said...

So Oprah doesn't believe that Jesus was the son of God? She doesn't believe that he was born from a virgin? That he was the only perfect person to have ever lived? That he died on the cross and therefore gave everyone a chance at eternal life? That he was resurrected? That the only way to connect with God is by believing all of this?

She needs to get over the jealousy thing. Has anyone told her that the Bible says she'll be going to hell to burn for ever and ever? I wonder how she'd respond to that?

Fork said...

Actually, in Matthew 7, there's an implication that we WILL have to judge at times. We just have to make sure we're seeing the full picture when we do.

FancyPants said...

Fork, good point.

Matthew 7:1-5: Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

In which times do you think judgment is OK? Does the use of the word "brother' mean anything?

Anonymous, welcome. How do I think she'd respond to that? First, I'd ask her if it was the message she got when she read the Bible, or was it the message she got from a Christian's evangelistic tactics.

Then, I'd try to explain to her that it's our sin, one's own self, that condemns us, and it's a loving God that has freely offered us a way from death to light. That salvation from sin begins now, not in the afterlife, that Christ has set us free now, freedom from sin and death. That I would wish for her to accept the grace that is being offered to her, to receive the forgiveness. Instead of turning from it in anger at God's judgement, or in anger at a Christian's judgment, maybe in anger at God himself.

After that, I hope she'd respond by accepting what God has offered.

Popcorn said...

You guys are wearin' Popcorn out.

The Cachinnator said...

I must confess, I've only followed this discussion half-heartedly. I really don't know that I need to form an opinion. Yes, Oprah is a very powerful person with a very large platform and a great capacity to do good or bad. But I need to be concerned with my life and the people in my life.

I do worry sometimes that the overall message she gives out is that it's more important that people feel good about themselves rather than that they do good for others, but I don't worry about it enough to lose sleep.

I will just briefly say this, *(Sound of Can of Worms being opened followed by Cach's footsteps running away...)*, in response to Churchlady's comment earlier. I don't think it profits us one bit to speculate about the last days. Apocalyptic literature simply wasn't written for that purpose. It's supposed to be an encouragement for Christians during persecution. Too often, Christians spend an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to "decipher" end times prophecy rather than focus on the reality of their Christian life in the here and now. There's not a thing in the world we can do about the last days or the second coming. But there's a lot we can do about our lives and our neighbors right now today. So examining Oprah in the light of "last days" prophecy doesn't really get us anywhere; especially not to the point where we are contrasting her views of Christianity with the real thing.

Super Churchlady said...

Because the lawyer in me simply must have a rebuttal...

Mr. Cachinnator - your comment: "Apocalyptic literature simply wasn't written for that purpose. It's supposed to be an encouragement for Christians during persecution."

I would respectfully submit to you that these ARE times of persecution, my friend. The 20th century produced more Christian martyrs than any previous century. Let me know if you want the resources to back this up.

And...although I'm not obsessed with end-times or any one scripture... I think we would be remiss - negligent, if you will... if we as Christians aren't a little sensitive to how events around us are fulfilling prophecy.

Fork said...

The REALLY irreverent side of me wants to post something that would make this post PG-13.

So I'll refrain.

Wait...I know. I'll post it on my blog.

Rob said...

Y'all really do spend a whole lot of time on line! :-)

The discussion of whether or no Oprah is a Christian reminds me of the section in Mere Christianity where Lewis talks about the redefinition of words:

The name Christians was first given at Antioch (Acts xi. 26) to "the disciples," to those who accepted the teaching of the apostles. There is no question of its being restricted to those who profited by that teaching as much as they should have. There is no question of its being extended to those who in some refined, spiritual, inward fashion were "far closer to the spirit of Christ" than the less satisfactory of the disciples. The point is not a theological, or moral one. It is only a question of using words so that we can all understand what is being said.

We need to use the word "Christian" to mean what it means. Oprah is not a Christian, even though she might be a nice person.

Bill Hensley said...

Popcorn:
You guys are wearin' Popcorn out.

Rob:
Y'all really do spend a whole lot of time on line! :-)

Looks like we're starting to pick up some hints that just maybe we're running a bit long with this thread. Nevertheless, I plunge ahead with reckless abandon...

I think the passage from 2 Timothy 3, while specifically written in reference to the last days, is true of other times as well. Paul doesn't say that only in the last days will men be lovers of self, lovers of money, etc. So we can freely apply it to our day without having to parse out whether we are within 39.5 years of Christ's return, or whatever.

What Paul is describing in this passage is a post-Christian society: one in which men have heard and rejected the truth. And so they descend into deeper depravity and spiritual darkness than before, even while pretending to continue embracing the truth. That's a pretty fair description of a broad swath of American society, whether this is the last days or not.

The Cachinnator said...

Guys, I have to be honest up front and say that I don't have it in me to do a lengthy discussion on this. So please forgive me for dropping all this and running.

Well, Churchlady, yes and no. Are Christians being persecuted today? Certainly. Are we, the Oprah-watching American audience, among them? No, we're not. So to appoint her as some kind of "end times" wayfinder is inaccurate.

But the broader point is that we are actually remiss and negligent to apply any special meaning to the events around us as being specially pertinent to "end times" prophecy. We are not any more in the "end times" than the first century Christians were. They were expectant that Christ could and would return any day. We are called to do the same.

Now, I'm going to sort of agree with Bill here when I say that we are in the end times in the same sense that the original recipients of the letter to Timothy were. Spotting false prophets and such doesn't automatically signal a seismic shift in eschatology.

But beyond that, and something tells me this is where we'll differ, it's a misreading of Scripture to think that there will be a recognizable seperate chunk of time known as "the last days." We're already in them in the sense that we've been in them since Christ ascended. And we'll never be in them in the sense that we're not going to note a separation in time when once we were not in the last days and now we are. Nor should we concern ourselves with the matter! I think the most useful instruction regarding the matter is that none of us will know the time or day of the return.

So why waste an instant speculating on signs and wonders when there's a right now to live? Oprah's got nothing to do with the "end times." And I don't think we should particularly care if she's watering down Christianity. There's nothing to be done about that. But there's everything to be done about how we interact with our neighbors and how we represent Christ to those in our lives.

FancyPants said...

As long as someone has something to say, I'm willing to listen. Plunge ahead!

Bill, Cach, and Super Churchlady, a few thoughts: when Paul uses the words "last days" he refers to the days between Christ's ascension and Christ's second coming. Christians at that time believed Christ's return was imminent. So, with that in mind, when he addresses the last days, it seems to me that he's addressing his current time, because he says to Timothy in vs. 5, "Have nothing to do with them."

We can then apply the term "last days" to our current time as well, since we are still waiting for Christ's second coming. The "last days" have lasted longer than we originally thought.

The point being: I'm not so sure the attributes he's describing in Ch. 3 are so different of people today as they were during the 1st century. So can we use this passage (or passages like them) as a sign or a guidepost to how close we are to Christ's return, or attribute them to something as specific as Oprah? The main point of the passage is that Paul is telling Timothy: Watch out for these types of people, and hold fast to the faith and example I have given to you. Throughout the epistle Paul is giving Timothy instructions. Chapter 1: Do not be ashamed...Keep as the pattern of sound teaching... Chapter 2: Be strong in the grace... Remember Christ Jesus...Keep reminding them...Flee the evil desires...

Chapter 3: But mark this,,,

And all in a time of intense persecution and suffering, Paul being in prison, "for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal."

So I do think there is something to be said about the level of persecution here. It was densely proportioned to these Christians, the recipients of Paul's letters. The letter being of the "take heart" nature. And I do think that it's important to keep in mind that this letter was written during that time to the intensely persecuted community. The passage should be read in that light. I'm not sure America could be considered an equal parallel.

So how it applies to Oprah: I guess I am most concerned about nailing those characteristics to her: lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud,....conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God Maybe I'm must too die hard of a fan? =-) But that's when I feel it's easy to cast wrong judgments. And also, you know how we get all hyped up about stuff like this, and Christians (women especially) start sending these Christian propaganda forwarded emails about how Oprah's the antichrist and stuff, and I feel it can get out of hand. (Not saying you're doing that with this verse here, SuperC, just sayin... I totally see how the verse comes to mind.)

But hey y'all, I'm no Bible guru, so speak up if you think I'm off.

FancyPants said...

Sorry, Cach, if I repeated anything you just said...was writing when you posted.

Oh go on and run, ya wienie!

Just kiddin'. I mean, you are Wacoan Of The Year, and all. You've got place to be, people to shmooz. I totally get it.

Super Churchlady said...

Generally, I run from any eschatological discussions like the plague. Maybe because I happen to be studying Matt. 24 this week - I am especially "tuned-in" to this topic.

No one should be dogmatic about the interpretation of prophecy because (as many have stated over and over here) no one fully understands what will come to pass. Let's face it..we don't know the century or even the millennium.

It is correct to say that there's nothing we can do about it. However, I think it is a great mistake not to study it (for one...it's God's Word) and to "contemplate" it as it relates to current events. (note: contemplation does not mean obsession - or thinking that every earthquake or war that happens are "birth pains" or every person who speaks incorrectly about God is a "false prophet", etc, etc.)

God obviously feels it's important because one-fifth (one out of every 20 verses) of the New Testament concerns Christ's return. This is a huge body of scripture that I, for one, am unwilling to simply shelve until I feel that we are smack dab in the middle of "end-times" (whatever those are...)


Most importantly, our Lord Jesus Christ tells us to watch for His return. I don't think this means spending time deciphering biblical codes and analyzing every single headline, but a little attention to what is going on around us is OK, and in fact...Jesus told us to be watchful.

Since He said it..I guess I will do it.

klk said...

Funny that I ran across your post today. I posted about this same video that I think you watched just the other day. We simply have to be aware of what we are listening to and not be afraid to proclaim what we believe as truth.

mad scientist said...

Oprah and Universalism

I hope you guys will forgive me for hiding in the weeds until you all committed yourselves in writing. Your blogs were interesting—many valid points were made. Please let me join in as a Johnny-come-lately and add a couple of thoughts.

You covered two questions: (1) what is Oprah teaching? and (2) how does this relate to end times? At this point, I will tackle the first question only, but am tempted to tackle the second question later.

From your blogs (I didn’t see the show), it is clear that Oprah is teaching Universalism.

Universalism is not a new idea. There were early proponents before 200 AD. The most noteworthy early advocate was Origen of Alexandria (185-254 AD). He believed that even Satan would be saved. The church condemned Origen’s ideas and they fell into disfavor, but did not disappear completely. After the Age of Enlightenment, this doctrine began to make a comeback and, in the 1800’s, gained the support of many liberal theologians. Universalism is increasing in popularity today. The reason for its popularity is obvious—this is the age of political correctness. What religion, other that Universalism, would have widespread appeal in a PC culture?

There are (at least) two differing viewpoints among Universalists. Origen’s idea of Universalism does, in fact, depend on the finality of Jesus’ atoning work for the salvation of Christian and non-Christian (I will give you some Universalism scriptures in a minute). The other main kind of Universalism is often referred to as “religious pluralism.” This concept teaches that there are different paths to Heaven, i.e., Jesus leads Christians to Heaven, Mohammed leads Muslims to Heaven, Buddha leads his followers to Heaven, etc., etc.

Those who agree with Origen’s idea of Universalism point to several scriptures stating that Jesus died for all—Romans 5, with a parallel drawn between Adam and Jesus, is their main “proof text” with Verse 18 standing out (through the disobedience of the first Adam, all were condemned; by the obedience of the second Adam, all are made righteous). Verse 18 does says “all” while Verse 19 says “many.”

As Christians, we emphasize John 3:16 (“whosoever believes”), John 14:6 (“I am the way”), Acts 4:12 (“no other name”) and other scriptures pointing to Jesus as the way. We have to use the scripture to refute heresy. In each case, when Jesus was tempted by Satan, He began with “It is written.” We need to do the same. 2 Tim. 3:16 states (KJV) “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

I believe there is agreement that we need to use discernment when listening to any self-proclaimed guru. We are commanded to prepare ourselves (“study” as stated in 2 Tim. 2:15) so that when the occasion arises where we need to confront false doctrine, we will be able to point out what the scripture says--just as Jesus did (WWJD).

Don Johnston

FancyPants said...

Hi Don! Welcome, and thank you for your comment. Very imformative and I hope you will continue to share your thoughts.

Klk, that is the very video I saw. And it's being sent from female to female all over everywhere, and I think it's Christian propaganda that puts images and ideas into a person's mind that are unnecessary and misleading. She's not starting a church. She doesn't have a stadium full of people raising their hands torward her. You're right (I read your post and liked it very much) that the video is truthfully informative in ways, but why would someone put something like this video together? It's causing unnecessary fear among Christians, among other things. We should not freak out and be surprised about these teachings. These kinds of teachings have been alive since the 1st century. We need to be level-headed, as you were in your post, and purposed, instead of judgmental and melodramatic.

Super C, I agree with you that we should be watchful. After watching Oprah's Wednesday show, which was all about this book, I saw even more of these elements from the verse we were discussing:

"having a form of godliness but denying its power."

and

"always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth."

While I can't take those sections and "run with them" about the apostacy of the last days, (which, some might do, not you, but some) what I can do is just what Timothy would have done after Paul's letter. Beware. Be careful:

2 Tim 3:14: But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Susanne said...

I was very sad when I watched the Oprah clip. I haven't watched her in a long time because she's been promoting New Age teaching more and more, but I used to love her show. She helps so many people and does so many great things, but she has a hole in her heart that she's trying to fill with everything but Jesus. She obviously doesn't think that Jesus is big enough to fill that hole. In part of this particular show, one audience member said that Jesus is the ONLY way (sorry I don't have her exact quote here), and Oprah all but laughed and pretty much dismissed that as a crazy idea. This is scary to me because of how powerful this woman is. She has so many "followers" who believe every word she says is truth. I cannot judge Oprah...only God can do that. But my opinion is that she claims to be a Christian because it's her heritage and because that makes her more popular among her viewers. But her beliefs are far from Christian. She believes that all you have to do is believe in yourself. SELF is all-important to Oprah. She obviously thinks that having a need for a Savior makes you weak/ignorant. I'm not concerned about strong Christians (those who have a personal relationship with Christ and really know the Bible) being swayed by her; the Holy Spirit will show them that her teachings are wrong. But I do worry that people who know nothing about Christ or the Bible will hear her say that she's a Christian and will then assume that by following the teachings she promotes will make them a Christian too. I'm praying for Oprah, and I'm praying for her listeners. I pray that any seekers watching her shows will stop reading the books she promotes and will instead just read the Bible. Only then will they know the Truth.