A few weeks, Al Mohler, the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY posted an essay on his blog about yoga. Like most things Mohler writes, this article was a well-argued critique based on careful research, sound logic and biblical teaching. In fact, for the past twenty years he has proven himself to be one of the sharpest Christian minds around, with a thorough knowledge of history, philosophy, culture and theology. Saying he has a “sharp Christian mind” is not intended in any way to minimize his intellect compared to non-Christian thinkers. I have yet to hear any non-Christian offer an argument against any one of his positions that holds a candle to his erudition and persuasion. So saying that he has a sharp Christian mind is actually a complement because his thinking tends to be thoroughly sound and thoroughly Scriptural.
Mohler’s article exposing the New Age roots of yoga is nothing original, as he admits. Yet, when an AP writer’s response to Mohler was picked up by Yahoo, a firestorm ensued. Mohler’s blog was swamped with protests, many of them angry at his “ignorance” on the issue. What was so disappointing (though not all that surprising) was the fact that the majority of the responses were from professed Christians. Mohler wrote another post expressing his puzzlement and dismay at the nature of the responses.
The tenor of many responses reveals several stunning failures of American Christianity:
First, many Christians are biblically illiterate, knowing very little of the Scriptures they claim to believe is the Word of God. This is evident in Mohler’s observation that none of the comments–not a single one–makes a biblical or theological argument engaging the issue.
Second, because of biblical illiteracy, many Christians are completely lacking in discernment when it comes to ethical and cultural issues. Most responses sent to Mohler defended yoga on grounds of the personal spiritual benefits of the practitioner with no concern for the heathen origins of yoga. By such logic, almost any practice could be justified on the basis that it “helped a person spiritually.” This is the essence of paganism–one’s happiness or enlightenment becomes the standard by which everything is judged. Jeremiah encountered the same response to his preaching against the pagan practice of offering cakes to the Queen of Heaven (Jer. 44). Even in the face of Jeremiah’s confrontation, the people insisted on continuing the practice because “it was beneficial.” Mohler writes,
I have been treated to arguments like these. From a “devoted Southern Baptist church member who resents your ignorance”: “I get much more out of yoga and meditation than I ever get out of a sermon in church.”
From “a Christian who goes to church every service”: “My favorite image I use in yoga is that of Jesus assuming a perfect yoga position in the garden of Gethsemane as he prays.”
And, to cap it all off: “How do we know that the apostles and early Christian guys did not use yoga to commune with Jesus after he left?”
The final failure of American Christianity is a result of the first two: the faith and lifestyles of many Christians are so indistinct as to be syncretistic, a mixture of weak Christianity and heathen ideas. Such faith would be unrecognizable to the apostles and many Christians throughout history. Syncretism is seen in the runaway popularity among Christians of such syncretistic expressions as The Shack, The Secret, Avatar, and Glen Beck’s revivalism. It is seen in the lives of Christians who proclaim their love for Jesus on the same Facebook that shows pictures of themselves scantily clad in bikinis or trashy Halloween costumes.
Yoga is not close to being the greatest danger to biblical faith in America, yet this exchange between Al Mohler and his critics reveals that it is symptomatic of deeper problems. Those Christians who do not return to a faith grounded in Scripture that shapes a lifestyle consistent with Scripture will descend into a syncretism indistinguishable from paganism and unbelief.