I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Oprah and Spirituality

I thought I would post a few videos on Oprah and her views on spirituality that have been circulating on Youtube recently.

The first two are mostly Oprah's take on spirituality, religion, and God. The last one is something of an anti-Oprah hit-piece; it is mainly a summary of clips from the first two videos but with a "beware of false teachers" motif.

In certain ways, I sympathize with Oprah's position. I do not agree with her belief that ideology necessarily means that one's spirituality is closed; I think in many cases it is ideology itself that serves to advance and cultivate goodness and true spirituality. For example, there are ideals that say, "I believe that rape is wrong," "I believe people should not be hated based on their skin color," and "I believe that recreational genocide by insane facist minded leaders is immoral." Surely these and other beliefs advance the goodness and spirituality/truth in the world. I think this is an important point that Oprah is missing; sweeping all ideology under the rug is perhaps a bit hasty.

On the other hand, I do not fall in step with the popular alarmist reactions that believe Oprah's thoughts on spirituality completely undermine the message of Christ or the Gospel of Paul. I am a strong John 14:6 believer, but I would not define it along the terms of popular Christianity today. I agree with Oprah, for example, when she suggests that Christ did not come to start Christianity. That gets an "Amen" from me. Christ's message of reconciliation is not confined strictly to a particular creed or belief system. I think it is possible to experience the power of Christ without necessarily doing so through a propositional dogma. So, in this sense, my understand of Jesus as "the way, the truth, and the life" is far more robust than most Christianity. As Truth, Jesus was (and is) not limited to dogma or doctrine; rather, he is the person of truth whose message and ministry of redemption is far bigger than can be contained within the creeds, denominations, or church buildings to whom we often pay the most homage. Religion does often become an end in itself and the various religions founded on the name of Christ often have the smallest view of Jesus and the reconciliation he came to bring. Jesus merely becomes a means to an end.


T. Michael W. Halcomb said...

Interesting, I just posted on this earlier in the morning. Glad you're writing on it; I'm going to do a series on the New Earth book. Here's the linke to article # 1: Oprah, False Prophetess.

Jonathan Erdman said...


Michael, I have always had problems getting to your blog, if you have one. I click on the "blog" tab on your website and I can only see one post. Right now it is a post on heaven or hell. Maybe you've got things set up a bit differently over there than I am used 2.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Doug Groothuis (way overreacting, imo!) on this topic:
What's Left of the New Age
Once more to the O

Jonathan Erdman said...

Yea, Michael. As I said on your blog, I think Oprah's just opening up a market for the spiritually inclined b/c the church has failed to understand spirituality and failed to cultivate the spiritual being of its members. Unfortunately, someone in American who is seeking to explore their spiritual nature would be ill-advised to go to church. I wouldn't recommend it, anyway.

Emily said...

I haven't seen all the clips, but enough to get an idea. I agree w/ Doug Groothuis. They're painting Jesus as a way-shower and not The Way. Yes, Jesus lived a good life, but people need to get passed his good life and listen to claims he made about himself. There's too much manipulation and twisting going on in "spirituality."

daniel said...

I agree with Oprah, for example, when she suggests that Christ did not come to start Christianity.

Not so fast, Jon. Are you kidding? What did Jesus mean when he prayed this to God?

I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. (John 17:4)

Jesus completed this work before going to the cross. What was this work? It was raising up sons of the Kingdom. In other words, starting Christianity!

This was so that Jesus could die as an Everlasting Father, as prophesied by Isaiah (Isaiah 9:6). Praise Him!

Remember Jesus telling Peter something like "I will build my Church"? (Matthew 16:18). This implies that Jesus is still acting with His Church at heart, just as he was in his ministry on earth 2000 years ago. He is still doing his saving work in people's lives.

While I understand your point is based on "the creeds, denominations, or church buildings to whom we often pay the most homage", don't neglect the clear meaning of scripture on account of these distortions. We who believe in Jesus (the saviour) are His Church, and he came for us specifically and purposefully.

Christ came to start Christianity in the most profound of spiritual senses - you can't be serious in your statement that this is not so????? He came to reconcile us to God as sons, in the most practical of ways, not in some meaningless mysticism.

And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. (Revelations 5:9)

Jonathan Erdman said...

Yes, Daniel. I agree that we should not take things fast! Let's slow down and not move too quickly!

The first thing to do is ask you what you mean by the term "Christianity." What does this word mean? This is an important question b/c it means so many different things to so many different people.

When it comes to language I take a rather simple approach: words have meaning in the way that people use them. If we all raise our heads to the ceiling when someone says, "look up," then it is obvious that the term "up" has to do with something above, right? The meaning is found in our act of communicating.

So, if someone says, "Christianity" what does that mean? It means a religious system of dogmas or a particular way of life. But was this God's objective in Christ? To establish people who gather together b/c they claim they all have the same belief and/or they all go to church on Sunday and/or they all think sex before marriage is immoral? Or was there something deeper?

You mention Revelation 5:9. That's a fantastic reference! What it tells me is that Christ came to establish a fellowship that respected difference and Otherness. But historically "Christianity" has not joined people "from every tribe and tongue and people and nation." From a historical perspective, Christianity has divided people. In other words, it has done the exact opposite of the heart of the fellowship of love and brotherhood that we find in Revelation 5:9 and in other passages such as 1 Corinthians 13, where we find that if one has wonderful prophesies (dogma/doctrine/etc.) and can do fantastic supernatural acts they have nothing to show for it if love is not at the center.

Because love has not been and is currently not at the center of Christianity, I reject it as not Christ-like.

I do agree with you, though, in rejecting empty mysticism. Remember, in this post I rejected Oprah's belief that ideals and ideology close spirituality. Dogma/doctrine/ideals are important, but Christianity has misused them and as such we don't really understand their purpose and function anymore.

The whole "Christianity" mess needs to be rethought! Words mean things. What words mean depends on their use. "Christianity" does not refer to Christ. Historically, it has been a religion that has protected the power-hungry and has rejected those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Melody said...

'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.
Humpy Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't - till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knowckdown argument for you!"'
'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knockdown argument",' Alice objected.
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.'
'The question is,' sid Alice, 'whether you can make words mean different things.'
'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty,'which is to be master - that's all.'
Alice was much to puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again.
- Through the Looking-Glass
by Lewis Carroll

Jonathan Erdman said...

I'm giving out bonus points for the LC quote.

daniel said...

Jon, if you want to talk about experience of Christianity, my experience of becoming a Christian was because I recognised that love was central, and that it brings people together from diverse backgrounds to worship God in spirit and truth. I dispute your points and believe you have a distorted view of Church history and the contemporary Church of Christ.

Have you ever traveled beyond America and spent time with churches elsewhere? The body of Christ (his Church) is the most exciting and dynamic group of people on the planet.

Sure we all have problems, and there have been massive mistakes along the way and not just Constantinople for all the criticism that gets laid there.

But if you discount my experience for what its worth, look at the Bible and what God says about the Church - it is glorious. That is the ultimate truth. You may not see this on TV and it may be hard to find, but I bet you will find a Church in every community in America when you look beyond the surface. And I don't mean a building! I mean the people, the living stones that are the Church of God.

Your blog in my opinion is a great place for Church. I love your Church. It demonstrates love and brings people together. When it gets bogged down in doctrinal disputes it can get a little hevy going, but in the main we sense God's presence here.

And you never once took a collection... but you know if you did, I'd consider sowing into your ministry! Well, not that you have to go full time and that might kill it for you, but it is clear you give a lot of your time to this blog and I appreciate you and your insights and your efforts here.

You have a apostolic gifting, to take ground for the Kingdom. It is happening. It is part of your calling as you describe. Your Church fast is a ruse... this is Church buddy!!!!!

Love from Daniel

daniel said...

P.S. are you looking for a worship leader?????

Jonathan Erdman said...


Thanks for the very kind comments. I do believe in the glory of the church. It's just that movements and institutions have celebrated the glories of men far too often in the United States. We've used our greatest resource (the bling, bling: $$$) to advance the Kingdom, but we've neglected about everything else.

Restoring the glories of the church in this day and age, I suggest, means focussing on the purity of our fellowship and learning to understand our faith as a dynamic exchange with others. Corporate worship is hollow if those who attend are not living their lives in communion with other believers and constantly growing in sacrificial love.

But I agree with you: It is happening.

Blessings, Jon

P.S. Oh, and yes, we do have a worship leader at the time. Is wl ur calling, Daniel???

daniel said...

Hi Jon

To answer your question I'm not specifically called to worship leading, but to music yes I am called to music so its kind of in there somewhere. I'll do it, apply myself because I can play instruments if there is a need or opportunity but I'm not particularly gifted to lead worship as such. I have an anointing to minister with music but not leading worship, in terms of where God has called me in the world of music its to be a light there and be the best I can, touch people with the inspiration.

My wife has a calling for worship leading with music, getting people together and motivated and on their feet etc. in a worship setting. I'm into that too but not as a leader up til now... as a participant!

I'm into psalmistry and prophetic worship, in small groups with other musicians or just on my own. Presenting this kind of thing to others is for listening, exhorting, encouragement that sort of thing.

It would be rad to have a worship section in your blog where there are songs to listen to, devotional type stuff and no contentious issues. Maybe every time we visit your blog we could go there and chill out and worship God before proceeding to the posts.

Jonathan Erdman said...


Do you create music, then? Have you ever thought about about putting some stuff on myspace where it could be appreciated by others (like myself)?

daniel said...

Here is a myspace to check out with a recording taken at one of our band's performances last year.


My brother in-law's myspace page is here:


both recently created. Hope you enjoy the music!!!!!