Maharishi Mahesh Yogi coming to your church?
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so; but are like chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous; but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”
New Age yoga, a form of Hinduism, is working its way into some of our churches.
Earlier this year, former LifeWay Christian Resources President Jimmy Draper offered this warning: “Our society is ripe for demonic activity. Our preoccupation – and even ‘flirting’ – with the occult invites demonic oppression. Even the seemingly innocent and careless use of occult tools is tragic. Things like the use of a Ouija board, astrological horoscopes, witchcraft, and even yoga are dangerous and provide openings for the demonic into unsuspecting lives.”
Books on yoga occupy the bookshelves of Christian bookstores. Churches offer it as a class. Some are calling it “Christian yoga,” but there is nothing Christian about yoga. In fact, rather than lead Christians to God as it claims, it actually leads Christians away from God. Many Eastern religions teach that the source of salvation is found in us and that the fundamental problem is ignorance. This is contrary to what the Bible tells us. The fundamental human problem is not ignorance, but rather our sin against a holy God, who gave His only son as our only source of salvation.
It is estimated that 20 million Americans practice yoga. It’s certainly “hip” among the rich and famous. Madonna, Oprah Winfrey, Monica Lewinski, Hillary Clinton, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Al and Tipper Gore are all yogis.
“Overstressed Americans are increasingly turning to various forms of Eastern meditation, particularly yoga, in search of relaxation and spirituality,” says theologian Douglas Groothuis. “Underlying these meditative practices, however, is a worldview in conflict with biblical spirituality – though many Christians are practicing yoga.”
A recent article by The Times of London predicted Christianity will be eclipsed by spirituality in the next 30 years. It said people will grow tired of the church and stop attending, shifting their interests to yoga and other New Age heresies. The Times said more people are now describing themselves as “spiritual” rather than “religious.” It also said people were tired of the church being judgmental. People do not want to be made to feel guilty or be told how to live their lives.
There have been many attempts by Hindu missionaries to integrate yoga with Christianity. This is dangerous. Christians who say they are just following the exercises and are not doing the meditation aspect of yoga must realize one cannot separate the subtleties of yoga the technique and yoga the religion. Churches are using “local church autonomy” as a defense when confronted about introducing yoga to their congregations, but to paraphrase former Southern Baptist Convention President James Merritt, the ocean of local church autonomy ends on the shores of Biblical authority. I am reminded of Deuteronomy 12:1-4 when Moses shared God’s decrees and laws that the Israelites were to follow before they could enter the Promised Land, warning them not to be ensnared in the practices of the pagans they encountered.
Yoga essentially means to be “yoked” with the divine. In other words, we supposedly can be united with God, thus “discovering” our own divinity because God and self are one. This is not Christianity, it is pantheism, a word coming from the Greek words pan and theos, which means “everything is God.”
New Agers, which embrace yoga, have seized the term “yoke” and misinterpreted Matthew 11:29, claiming it supports yoga. “All people are heavily burdened with sin and its destructive consequences,” said theologian Norman Geisler in offering a correct interpretation of the passage. “People can find rest for their souls only by coming to Jesus. By taking Jesus’ ‘yoke’ upon them, they become his disciples and trade their heavy burdens for this light ‘burden.’ Of course, to serve Jesus is not truly burdensome, for He is gentle and humble.”
Pantheism generally denies the transcendence of God, advocating his radical immanence, says theologian P.D. Feinberg. In other words God and nature are one. Yet the Bible clearly distinguishes between God and the world, declaring that God is active in history and in His creation, but He is not identical to it to a lesser or greater degree. Since pantheism identifies God with the material world it denies the personal character of God. In Scripture, God not only possesses the attributes of personality, in the incarnation He takes on a body and becomes the God-man. God is pictured supremely as a person.
Rather then invite the yogis into our churches, Missouri Southern Baptists ought to heed what has happened in Slovakia. Concerned about yoga’s links to Eastern philosophy, churches in that European nation have welcomed a government decision to shelve the introduction of yoga classes for children at public schools. Government sources said at least 400 teachers had been trained by the Yoga in Daily Life society to introduce the Hatha Yoga system on a voluntary basis at gym sessions in primary and secondary schools.
There is a Christian alternative to yoga: meditating on God’s Word, the only source of real peace. Psalm 1:1-6 says it better than anyone could. We best not forget.