The False Gospel of Oprah and Her Friends/Program 4

By: Dr. Erwin Lutzer; ©2009
Comparing what the spiritual teachers promoted by Oprah believe on the issue of death and the afterlife and compare it with what the Bible says on these issues. What you’ll find are some major differences that make the teaching of these new spiritual views clearly incompatible with Christian beliefs.



Oprah Winfrey is one of the most popular television personalities in America. She has founded a media empire, publishes two monthly magazines, gives money for many philanthropic causes, and is considered by many as the most influential woman in the world. USA Today says, “Over the past year Oprah has emerged as a spiritual leader for the new millennium.” Thanks to her influence, Oprah’s friends promoting the new spirituality such as Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, and Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love, have all become best-selling authors. Because of these and other New Age teachers Oprah promotes to her 40 million viewers each week, some claim she has done more to spread New Age spirituality than any other person on planet Earth. Oprah describes herself as a freethinking Christian who turned against the traditional teachings of Christianity. And now she appears to believe the new spiritual principles that she promotes. On our program today, you will hear from one of the most well known and highly respected Christian theologians in America, Dr. Erwin Lutzer. He says it’s time to help faithful Christians separate the truth from the lies found in the new spirituality being presented, so that regardless of who emerges as the next Oprah-approved spiritual teacher people won’t be misled.

Dr. Erwin Lutzer: Maybe there are those who say, “I’m not into watching Oprah Winfrey, so all of this is irrelevant.” No, my friend, it isn’t irrelevant. And the reason is because your children, perhaps your grandchildren, your relatives, they are reading this kind of literature; they are watching Oprah. And therefore, what we need to do is to understand we’re speaking about a cosmic battle that is engulfing America, and really the whole world. And we’d better understand what’s at stake.

In his new book, Oprah, Miracles and the New Earth, Dr. Lutzer explains how Oprah and her friends have redefined God, morality, death, heaven, and conversion; while misrepresenting Jesus and totally changing who He claimed to be. Join us on this special edition of the John Ankerberg show as we investigate The False Gospel of Oprah and Her Friends.

Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. We’re talking about Oprah Winfrey and her friends and we’re critiquing some of the spiritual ideas that they are promoting. She has had guests on her program that have sold best-selling books, gone into the millions. What are they teaching? And my guest today is Dr. Erwin Lutzer. He’s a renowned theologian and an award-winning author of more than 20 books. He’s the senior pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, IL. And he is talking about how Oprah and her friends have redefined God, as we’ve seen, they’ve redefined conversion, redefined death. And today we want to talk about this thing of redefining death. Erwin, one of the things that is a real hindrance to people that are considering this new spirituality is they come face to face with this thing called death. If you’re God, why is it that you die? Talk about that.
Lutzer: Well, that is a problem, you see, because underlying all of these teachings is the deity of mankind – and God doesn’t die. So what do you do about the reality of the fact that we do have funeral homes and cemeteries and most of us have known people who have actually died? So the way in which they answer it, and now I’m referring specifically to Helen Schucman in her book entitled A Course in Miracles, the way in which she handles it is to say that all of that is an illusion. And it’s an illusion because in their mind this physical world isn’t real after all.
When Oprah Winfrey on her program says, “I am spirit,” you know, people wonder, “Well, isn’t that partially true? I mean, we all have spirits, we all believe that we are spiritual beings.” She means something more by that, namely that the real world of who I am is spirit; and therefore, the world of pain, the world of the physical world that we see, all of that is somehow secondary and an illusion. And that’s why Helen Schucman in her book A Course in Miracles says that “Death is the central dream from which we must all awake.” And she says that there can be no compromise, that death does not exist.
Now, tied up with this also, is the fact that the Bible, of course, contradicts this and says that “it is appointed unto man once to die and after death the judgment.” And remember now, those who have been following our programs will know that the God in whom they believe, we’re speaking of these false teachers, the God in whom they believe, there is no judgment. In fact, He doesn’t exist outside of our minds. You see, that’s another thing that has to be emphasized here. If true reality is in my mind and I’m to go into my inner consciousness to be converted, as we discussed in the last program, then, of course, I don’t need to deal with this nasty, embarrassing thing called death, because really it does not exist.
Ankerberg: Yeah, explain this thing more about how they get to the fact that they are deity themselves, that they are God. We are confusing people that have just joined us this week with the fact of thinking about God as the one who made the stars, God as the one that made the world, God brought the universe into being at a specific point. The fact is, are we talking about that God, or are we talking about another god? In fact, they’re talking about another god. How do they get there?
Lutzer: Well, you know, and I might say that what you believe about God may be the most important thing about you. Because the way in which we believe in God and the God in whom we believe, that is very, very critical. And today when a person says, “I believe in God,” it’s a totally meaningless statement. Someone has said that we need cows for milk, we need goats for cheese and we need God to come along and to meet our every craving. So you have all of these different conceptions of God. Their conception of God is that God is the sum of our consciousnesses. But I’m God, you’re God, everybody’s God. And especially if we add our consciousnesses together, that is the totality of God. It is not a God who exists outside of us; it is not God as creator; it is not God who is going to judge; it is not a personal God; it is a force. And all of us can be connected, if we have the conversion experience that we’ve spoken about before.
Ankerberg: Yeah. They piggy-back on a gift from God and come to the wrong conclusion. God has given us life: we do have acknowledgement that we are here. And they’re saying that that didn’t come from God, that’s just the part of the stuff that’s here, and therefore we are all interconnected. And that’s the God that they believe in.
Lutzer: And you know this fits exactly with what Satan wants. You remember the Bible describes him, and he says, “I shall be like the Most High.” And we’ve gone back into Genesis 3 to show that: “You shall be like God.” And therefore….
Ankerberg: What you’re saying is these doctrines come from Satan, because it goes back to the garden of Eden, and the serpent, the devil himself, promulgated these lies to Adam and Eve. And he said back there, you know, if you disobey God, you will surely not die. And that same lie is going on today. In fact, Helen Schucman in her book A Course in Miracles, talks about death and says that death is an illusion. She says if there is reality in life, death is denied, no compromise in this is possible. In another place, she’s so dogmatic about this, that she says this, “Teacher of God, your one assignment could be stated this way, accept no compromising in which death plays a part. What seems to die has been misperceived and carried to illusion. Now it becomes your task to let the illusion be carried to the truth.” So, there can be, I mean, very dogmatic here, can’t be any compromise and you’ve got to affirm life by denying death. You can’t look at that. Tolle, Eckhart Tolle, what does he say about death?
Lutzer: Actually, so far as I know, he says very little. But what he says is he never thinks about it because he lives in the now. Now, think of how foolish that is. That means that because I had a good meal today and I left a restaurant satisfied, I never think about tomorrow, I never think about going to a grocery store. And I never think about where I’m going to stay as long as I have a place tonight, because I just live in the now. Very foolish.
There are people today, John, who may even be listening to this program, who have spent more time in a travel book store looking at books because they plan to go to Europe or some other place in the world, to learn about their destination, they have spent more time doing that than they have ever given thought to where they are going to spend eternity. The fact is, all of us think about death. I venture to say that before Eckhart Tolle dies, if he does not die suddenly, he’s going to be very seriously concerned about death. And these optimistic statements may at that time seem rather empty. But the fact is that wise people think about the future, and death is real.
Now, for the Christian, that does not mean, of course, that when we die we go out of existence, because it is true that our soul goes into God’s presence. And the soul takes on the characteristics of the body until the day of resurrection. So people in heaven recognize one another. My father died several months ago at the age of 106. I assume that he was well-known in heaven and he met some of his friends. But, eventually the body is also going to be raised from the dead, because in Christian theology we do not deny the material world. It is true that it is a very fallen world, but in the end God will restore it. And because of that, we certainly are not in the very hopeless position, the foolish position, of trying to deny the reality of death. It is a result of sin; it is very real. When God said to Adam and Eve, “You shall die,” God was right, and the serpent was wrong.
Ankerberg: Yeah. Oprah and her friends, not only are redefining death, but they are redefining heaven. Instead of a place outside of ourselves, someplace in the future that God has prepared for us that He’s going to give to us, no, heaven is now, and you find it by switching channels of this consciousnesses into another consciousnesses that supposedly is deep inside of yourself. And when you have that conversion experience, you get to heaven is here inside of us and you experience peace, which we’ve talked about before is a satanic conversion. And it’s being dressed up as being the thing that you really want to get to. Now, they deny death, they deny heaven, and if you deny death, obviously, you’ve got to deny sickness.
Lutzer: That’s right.
Ankerberg: Well, we see a ton of sickness all around. We’re going to take a break and when we come back, we’re going to talk to those people that right now, are experiencing cancer, or those who actually have AIDS, or those who have some other disease, or those who are just getting up there in years and they’re looking up ahead. What do you say to the person that is sick, who does have these diseases? The new spiritual thinkers, the people that are on Oprah’s program and the books that she’s promoting, they have a lot to say about it, and you’re going to be really surprised. We’ll talk about that one when we come right back.

Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. We’re talking with Dr. Erwin Lutzer and we’re critiquing Oprah Winfrey and her friends, and what they’re saying about the new spirituality. And one of the things they’ve done is they have redefined the definition of death. And they’re saying it’s an illusion. And if death is an illusion, then of course sickness can’t be real either. And of course that’s what they say. In fact, Marianne Williamson in A Return to Love, she says that you can actually talk to the AIDS virus. So those people that have cancer, those people that have AIDS, in the Law of Attraction, alright, that she is talking about, the Law of Attraction is what?
Lutzer: What it means is this, okay. Let’s suppose we are God, as these teachers say. Well, that means anything that comes into my life has been invited to come into my life, because after all, I’m God and it’s unthinkable that God would have to accept something that He didn’t invite. So the whole idea is, if I’m sick, it’s because of my thoughts. It’s something like Rhonda Byrne in the Law of Attraction, it is my thoughts that have brought it on me. And that’s why the statement is even made that the Jews during the holocaust, they had it coming because of the thoughts that they had. They attracted this suffering. So on the one hand, death is an illusion and sickness is an illusion, but on the other hand, they do have to deal with it.
So I want to read Marianne Williamson, as she has a guy by the name of Carl who’s dying of AIDS. And he’s speaking to his AIDS virus. And I need to say to our friends, if you’re watching TV right at this time, whatever you do, this is not the time to get up and get a drink of water, because you have to hear this. Okay, so he speaks to his virus and now the virus is speaking back to him. So this is the virus speaking, so you need to listen carefully as to what the virus says. He says, “I don’t understand this any better than you do. I don’t mean you and your loved ones any harm. I am just trying to exist like you, doing it in the best way I know how. Unfortunately it ends up hurting people. I just want love, just like you do. I’m crying out, but no one seems to hear me. Maybe if we try listening to each other and talking to each other, we can find a way to exist in peace, with peace of mind, without hurting each other. Right now, I feel like you only want to destroy me rather than dealing [notice] with whatever it is inside of you that brought me here. [Don’t miss that. Carl is dying of AIDS because something inside of him brought the AIDS virus. Because after all, Carl is God, and this can’t happen without God’s permission.] Please don’t hate me and try to destroy me. Love me. Let’s talk and listen to each other and try to live in peace. Thanks, signed, Your AIDS virus.”
Now, you see what’s going on here, is again, this idea that somehow we attract whatever happens to us because we are divine and we are God. Now, one could argue this is also an exercise in optimistic thinking. And the power of positive thinking has some limitations, however. John, I’ve only gone golfing three or four times in my life. But the first time I went was in 1972, and I got the highest score, and yet they told me I lost. And I said, “This game is not for me.” But I hit the ball near a pond. As we went to the pond, a duck flew up and so we went over to where the duck had been, and we noticed that she was sitting on a golf ball. Positive thinking has its limitations. No matter how optimistic she was that someday she’d have a little duckling, the fact is that no matter how positive you are, no matter how wonderful you think your AIDS virus is, that you can speak to it and somehow I have control over it, death is a very horrible thing and it happens. And the Bible speaks to it and says that it is our enemy, it is not our friend.
Ankerberg: Talk about the little engine that could.
Lutzer: Yeah, the little engine that could – “I think I can, I think I can.” It had a much better shot to get over the hill than the little engine that said, “I know I can’t, I know I can’t.” But if that little optimistic engine got to the top of the hill and discovered that the tracks were washed out, it would not matter how optimistic it was, because it would be in the ditch. And in the very same way, all of this positive thinking, this idea that I can control disease with my mind, has some very serious limitations.
Ankerberg: Which brings up the question, who are we going to believe? Are we going to believe these authors, like Helen Schucman, or Rhonda Byrne, or Oprah, or Eckhart Tolle, or any of the others that are on the program that are saying death is an illusion? Or are we going to believe Jesus, who had a lot to say about death?
Lutzer: You know, years ago I did a study of those who believed in near-death experiences and how they came back and told various stories. Isn’t it wonderful that in the Bible we actually have someone who wasn’t near-death, but actually dead, who can tell us what is on the other side. And that of course is Jesus. He said, “I am He who lives and was dead and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen.” And what we need to do is to accept Jesus Christ’s idea of death and what He taught about it. And He did not see it as a friend at all. He saw it as the enemy that it is. It is the result of sin. It is very serious because after death comes the judgment.
But, John, here’s the good news, the Bible says that in Jesus Christ death has been conquered. Because you see, we have the resurrection of Jesus and that indicated His triumph over death. The fact that death is terrible, but death does not have the last word. Death has been overcome, “O death, where is thy victory? O grave, where is thy sting?” And what we do as believers is know that our triumph over death is going to be eternal thanks to Jesus Christ our Lord, who proved He had the ability to overcome it. We are not like those who stick our heads in the sand and then say to ourselves that death does not exist. Disease exists, people die, but thankfully it’s not the end of the story if they believe on Jesus.
Ankerberg: There’s also a hairy verse that you can find in Matthew 23:33, where Jesus asked this question of the religious leaders who were hypocrites. He says, “How are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” So, it’s not only death, but this judgment. There’s a real hell. The new spirituality redefines heaven, that’s not a real place, there is no hell, there is no judgment. The Bible says, Jesus says, that’s a lie. Who are you going to believe at this spot? Now, people that are sweating out the judgment, people that believe that death is real, that judgment is real, there’s a real God that they’re accountable to, they want to know what’s the good news? You’re a Bible believing Christian. What is the good news that they can escape from the judgment, they can go to heaven when they die, and they can know it, Erwin?
Lutzer: Absolutely, they can know it. Very quickly I want to say also a word also about Hamlet. You remember in Shakespeare where Hamlet says: “To be or not to be, that is the question”? He is contemplating suicide. And he says: “Life is so miserable I want to die, but if I commit suicide, in that sleep of death, what dreams may come when we have shuffled off our mortal coil.” In other words, maybe if I die and commit suicide it’ll be worse there than it is here.
Notice the contrast with the apostle Paul. Paul says: “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Hamlet says: “Live or die, I lose.” Paul says: “Live or die, I win.” That’s the difference. Now the question is, how can one have assurance of salvation? How can you know that when you die you’re going to go to heaven?
You know, we’ve all had the experience, John, of being at an airport and sometimes we’ve flown with a ticket and sometimes we’ve flown on stand-by. When I’m on stand-by, and I’m not sure that I’m going to be on the plane, if it’s an important trip, you know, I’m pacing the floor, I’m bothering the ticket manager. And they’re saying, you know, “Be quiet, we’ll call you eventually.” But if you have a ticket, you’re relaxed because you can know you can get on the plane. And I’m saying to our people today who are listening, you can have a ticket.
And the truth of the gospel is this, that when Jesus Christ died on the cross and He proved His triumph over death by His blessed resurrection, He won such a victory and He paid such a price for us, that if we transfer our trust to Jesus Christ,… Let me put it this way as clearly as I can. If you believe that when Jesus died on the cross He did all that ever will be necessary for you to stand in God’s presence and to be accepted by God, and you embrace what Jesus Christ did for yourself, and you trust Him, then the blessed Holy Spirit of God comes into your life to give you that sense of assurance, that connection with God. And the assurance that you have been forgiven, the ticket if you please, is not because of your performance, not because of your goodness, not because of your “loveliness,” but rather because of what Jesus Christ did, completely and freely, for those who believe on Him.
You remember that old story about a man walking, and he falls over a cliff, and he hangs onto a stump. And pretty soon an angel comes and says, “Do you believe that I can save you?” The man sees the strong arms of the angel and says, “Yes, I believe you can save me.” And then the angel says, “Do you believe that I will save you?” The man said, “I believe that you will save me.” And then the angel said: “If you believe I can and I will, let go.” My friend, today the Jesus whom we are offering you is not the new age Jesus. He is a Jesus who is God, who entered history to redeem us. Right now you can receive Him as Savior. You can let go of your own goodness and your own rituals. Trust Him alone and you’ll find Him to be as good as His Word.
Ankerberg: Yeah. Folks, one or the other is true: either Jesus is correct or these new age teachers are correct. They’re not true at the same time with contradictory views. And why should we believe Jesus? Because there’s evidence that He rose from the dead. He claimed to be God, not a part of God, He claimed to be God. And the fact is that we want folks to come to know Him personally.
Now, next week we’re going to continue this and we’re going to be looking at how Oprah and her friends are redefining morality, of all things. Good and evil, they say, doesn’t really exist. And even crime is an illusion. And none of us are responsible for our actions, so you don’t have to ever apologize. Alright, is all that true? What else are they saying? We’re going to look at redefining morality next week. I hope you’ll join us.


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