Sacred Writings and Enlightened Teachers

The following question / comment is from a young man who had been raised in a strong evangelical church but was obviously seduced away from pure devotion to Jesus Christ.

BJ, 

My position is that the Bible is a good introduction to spiritual life but we need the guidance of other sacred writings and spiritually enlightened gurus / teachers to have a complete understanding of God. Personally, I do not see any conflict between what is taught in the Bible and what is taught in New Age thought and Eastern religions.

John

Answer

John,

I have had the opportunity to study New Age thought and Eastern religions, and they are not compatible with biblical Christianity. The following are some of the reasons why this is the case. I pray you receive them with an open mind.

According to New Age and Eastern thought, knowledge comes about through two modes: self awareness –– looking within oneself, and guidance from self-aware teachers. This mode in arriving at truth is in direct opposition to the Christian mode of arriving at truth.

First, in Christianity you are never called to look within yourself for the answers. The Bible warns of the futility of human reason and understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 14:3; Romans 3:11; 1 Corinthians 1:21), and warns of the foolishness of trusting in your own heart. Consider the following Proverb, "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool" (28:26). Scripture describes the mind, heart and conscience of man as evil (Genesis 6:5), deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), suppressing the truth (Romans 1:18), foolish (Romans 1:21), and incapable of pleasing God (Romans 8:8).

In addition, when it comes to looking to others for spiritual guidance, we need to have discernment. There are many self professing prophets or spokespersons for God. John, how do you know which of these individuals are true spiritual teachers? We cannot appeal to experience alone as the sole determiner in identifying who is truly a spiritual guide for God, because human experience is finite and does not have the capacity by itself to determine truth. The Bible never appeals to the experience of a prophet to authenticate their true identity. Instead, the Bible provides us with some objective guidelines to be able to discern who is truly from God. This is the case, because the Bible identifies that false prophets actually exist (Matthew 7:15; 24:23-25; Mark 13:21-22; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Peter 2:1-2; 1 John 2:18). Thus, the Bible gives us the following guidelines to discern between true and false prophets: Their doctrine, the accuracy of their predictions, and their fruit (Deuteronomy 13:1-3, 18:21-22, and Matthew 7:15-20).

Since we are not to look within, or to the experience of others as the determiner of truth, what are we to look for in understanding who God is, and what He requires of us? We are to look to the Bible as the final and ultimate source in determining truth. Psalm 119 echoes this reality: His precepts give understanding; His Word gives light and is a lamp unto our feet and a light to our path; the sum of the Word is truth (Psalm 119:104, 105, 130, 160). Paul echoes a similar sentiment in his letter to Timothy, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Added to this, truth rests in a person. This person is Jesus Christ of the Bible. When Jesus stood before Pilate they had a discussion on the issue of truth: "Pilate said to Him, 'So You are a king?' Jesus answered, 'You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice'" (John 18:37).

Second, New Age and Eastern thought teaches that the problem of mankind is one of ignorance. In other words, people need to go through a process of self-realization. This is in contrast to what the Bible teaches. The Bible asserts the problem of man is not ignorance, but sin. At creation, man was given the choice to either obey or disobey the command of God (Genesis 3). Man chose to disobey and as a result fell into sin. This plunged the entire human race into guilt and depravity (Romans 3:23). Man now finds himself in a desperate state where he is enslaved to sin and alienated from his holy and righteous Creator.

The question now is how man can get out of this predicament. The Bible is clear that man is incapable through his own effort to resolve his problem. Instead, God provides the solution, through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. As the Bible states, "For it is by grace that you have been saved through faith (in Jesus Christ) and it is not from yourself, it is a gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8-9). Through His death and resurrection, Jesus triumphed over sin and death.

Even though the wages of sin result in eternal death, faith in Jesus Christ provides man with the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23). Thus, the predicament of man is sin, not ignorance (lack of self-realization); and the help of others (such as self-realized teachers) cannot resolve the sin problem. It is ONLY by putting FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST ALONE that we can be saved. As Jesus Himself stated, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father, but by Me" (John 14:6).

John, the teachings of New Age and Eastern teachers and writings present a different gospel than the one that Jesus preached. The apostle Paul warns in one of his letters to avoid following after teachings that are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ, "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:6-8).

When you compare the gospel of the New Age and Eastern religions with the gospel of Jesus Christ they are in conflict as they have a different problem for mankind –– ignorance vs. sin –– a different authority source –– spiritually "enlightened" gurus and writings vs. the Bible –– and a different solution to the problem –– self realization with the help of self-realized teachers vs. faith ALONE in Jesus Christ.

John, in light of the fact that the teaching of the New Age and Eastern religions are in opposition to the teaching of biblical Christianity, you need to seriously consider the following two questions and the ETERNAL implications that will arise from HOW you choose to answer them.

1. In what "divine" authority source are you going to place your eternal destiny?

2. In whom are you going to place your eternal destiny?

After all of my study, there is only one answer for me, I choose to look to the Bible and place my faith in Jesus Christ. Consider Jesus' resume: He fulfilled numerous Old Testament Messianic prophecies, lived a sinless life, performed miracles, provided the remedy for man's sin condition, and demonstrated His authority over death by rising from the dead.

When you compare Jesus' resume to any other spiritual figure, you will discover He alone is worthy of entrusting our eternal destiny. As Peter stated, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." (John 6:68).

The ultimate aim of the teaching you follow is to go through a process of self realization and enlightenment. In contrast, the ultimate goal of the Bible is for believers to experience God's love and forgiveness. At the heart of the Christian faith is the message about a God who loves us and is passionate about His relationship with us. The greatest way He could demonstrate His love for us was by dying on the cross.

I pray that someday you come to know the Jesus Christ of the Bible and experience His love.

BJ