Articles by Steve


by Dr Steve Kumar

Many people approach religion the way they approach food: “I like it because it satisfies my need.” “If it feels good do it.” “Try it and you will like it.” Religion is not a matter of food or feeling. We must not see religion as being in the line of a cafeteria picking a principle in one religion and value system from another. For example: Taking a carrot from Islam, a tomato from Judaism, a potato from Buddhism, some garlic from Hinduism, and trying to cook up a religious soup.

In a world of many religions the idea of a multi-religious soup appears attractive, but before we whet our spiritual appetite, remember that there are no religious cooks who have such a recipe. Whatever is being cooked and served by religious syncretists falls short of our need. Religious questions are too valuable to reduce to the level of human taste.

Religion is not like food–it is not a matter of taste but a matter of truth. It is not a matter of feeling but of facts. It is not how it makes you feel but whether it is true. It may sound impressive to say, “I believe because I have a burning in the heart,” or because “I have a shiver in my liver.” Feelings do not validate a belief.

1. ALL RELIGIONS ARE DIFFERENT

No truth is as dangerous as half truth:

  • Humanism is atheistic.
  • Tribal religion is polytheistic.
  • Hinduism is pantheistic.
  • Buddhism is agnostic.
  • Islam is unitarian.
  • Judaism is monotheistic.
  • Christianity is trinitarian

He who says all religions are the same knows very little about religions. R.C. Sproul states, “That Jesus claimed to be God and Mohammed claimed to be a prophet is an essential difference. That Buddha was an atheist and Christ a theist is an essential difference. That Confucius died and Christ resurrected is an essential difference. That Jim Jones advocated suicide while Jesus preached patient endurance is a radical difference. That most religions teach salvation by good works while Christianity teaches salvation by grace is an essential difference. That Christianity features an atonement and a mediator who reconciles and redeems is an essential difference. That some men worship idols while others worship a transcendent God is an essential difference. The worship of Yahweh is a far cry from the worship of a cow.

Only the non-religious say all religions are the same. The World’s religions differ on:

  • Who is God;
  • What is the nature of the problem?
  • What is the nature of man?
  • What is sin?
  • What is salvation?
  • What is the ultimate destiny of life?
  • How do we solve the human problem?

For the Moslem, Mohammed is a prophet of God, for the Buddhist, Buddha is the path to Nirvana, and for the Hindu, Brahman is the invisible essence. But for the Christian Jesus Christ is not only the revelation of God but God himself.

2. ALL RELIGIONS CONTRADICT ONE ANOTHER

As we study world’s religions we discover that they are not only different but that they are contradictory. World religions give a confusing view of life and reality. A leading historian, after studying the World’s religions to determine what they have in common came to the following conclusion: belief in God–if there is a God, and life is worth living–sometimes.

The question is that if all religions are from God why do they all disagree? Why is there so much confusion? I agree with G. Bailey, “If all religions lead to God, how is it most of them, having been given a thousand years at least, haven’t yet arrived?” To say all religions are the same is: Not logical, not factual, and not honest.

What is the evidence that all religions are one? How do we know all religions are one? What is the basis for this belief? I spoke to a lady who said she believed in all religions. So I asked her, “Do you believe the Christian message that Jesus is God?” She said, “no.” She actually rejects Christianity but gives the impression that she is broad-minded. There is nothing like comparative religion to make a person comparatively religious! To reconcile the basic teachings of Jesus with those of Buddha would require the skill of a magician.

3. ONLY ONE RELIGION CAN BE TRUE

How can all religions be one when they contradict each other? Religious relativism which accepts all religions as equally true commits intellectual suicide. Where all views are right the word “right” loses all possible meaning. “Right” has meaning only in the context of wrong (true and false, positive versus negative, yes and no). When everything is right nothing can be wrong. When nothing can be wrong, nothing is right.

Ultimately religious relativism leads to the death of all religions. When a religion cannot be tested or falsified nothing true can be affirmed about that religion. Hence statements like, “All religions are true” are empty phrases which have no logical or empirical basis. One cannot hold to this view and be a serious thinker.

In a country of many religions we must respect the rights and the freedom of others to hold their view. Tolerance is a virtue which we must prize highly, but we must not, in the name of tolerance, compromise the truth by regarding all views as equally true. A world where two opposing or contradictory views are right is cosmic madness. Honesty and respect must dominate our search for truth but unity must never be achieved at the expense of truth. Truth would often require that we agree to disagree but one should always do so in love.

If all religions contradict one another there can be only two logical choices: either all of them are false, or only one of them can be true. The French philosopher Pascal was right: “I see a number of religions in conflict, and therefore all false, except one.”

WHY CHRISTIANITY?

Christianity is different from all other religions. There is no faith like the Christian faith. Billy Graham says it rightly, “There are many religions in the world, but only one Christianity, for only Christianity has a God who gave Himself for mankind. World religions attempt to reach up to God; Christianity Is God reaching down to man.” In world religions we have man’s answer to man’s problems but in Christianity we have God’s answer to man’s problems. Christianity is the story of the God who searches for man.

C.S. Lewis, the former atheist, expresses my conviction, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.” Religion is man’s search for God; man’s effort to find God, Christianity is God’s solution to man’s dilemma. In religion man asks the questions but in Christianity man finds the answers.

Christianity says man is sick. Man has a problem–look around–look at the hatred, prejudice, murder, injustice, cruelty, greed, selfishness, envy. What will change human nature? Not education and not moral teaching but only the power of God. There is only one cure for the world’s sickness and that is the Gospel which is really God’s medicine for a sick world.

1. REMARKABLY UNIQUE?

What is so remarkable about the Christian faith? Why believe the Christian faith? What Is so special about it? Hinduism has the techniques of Yoga, Buddhism has the Eight-fold Path, Islam has the Five Pillars, Judaism has the Torah but Christianity offers a resurrected Saviour.

Christianity is remarkably different from all other religions. Take Buddha out of Buddhism and we will still have Buddhism; take Krishna out of Hinduism and we will still have Hinduism; take Mohammed out of Islam and we will still have Islam; take Confucius out of Confucianism and we will still have Confucianism, but take Christ out of Christianity and we will eliminate Christianity.

Christianity is not a system of ideas or speculations of a certain philosophy or a principle of ethics, but Christianity is a focus on a Person. The good news is that God has personally come to visit us in the unique historical space-time event of Jesus Christ. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1 & 14 NIV)

I will never forget the occasion when I was asked to speak at the University of Calgary with James Erwin, the American astronaut who walked on the moon. The most moving statement he shared on that occasion was that, “The greatest event in history was not when man walked on the moon but when God walked on this earth.” That is the greatest event!

Christianity is not essentially a religion about God but a relationship with God. What we need is not just religion but reality. In all other religions the leaders pointed a way to God but Jesus pointed to Himself as God.

2. RELIABLY TRUE?

There is much evidence for the Christian faith. But the greatest evidence is the resurrection of Christ. There are three major facts which prove the resurrection:

A. The Empty Tomb

(i) The Jews never denied it.

(ii) The Roman guards saw it.

(iii) Six of Jesus disciples saw it.

(iv) Peter proclaimed it to 3000 people who could have refuted it.

According to D.H.Van Daalen, “It is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds. Those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions.” There are many reputable scholars who accept that the tomb was empty.

B. The Appearances of Christ

The facts demonstrate that on several occasions different individuals and groups saw Jesus alive after His death. He was seen not only by believers but also by sceptics, unbelievers and even His enemies. On one occasion He was seen by more than 500 people.

C. The Origin of the Christian Faith

The origin of the church proves the resurrection. What gave birth to the church? How did the church come about? Why did the church come into being? All the scholars agree that Christianity came into being because the disciples believed that God had raised Jesus from the dead.

Professor Moule of Cambridge University says, “The origin of Christianity must remain an unsolved enigma for any historian who refuses to take seriously the resurrection.” If the resurrection is true then we don’t have to speculate on the meaning of life. We have something concrete on which to base our trust and hope.

3. RELEVANT FOR ME?

Is the Christian faith relevant to me? How relevant is it in the context of my 21st Century lifestyle and existence? How does Christ handle the great questions of life here and now?

If Christianity is true then it must be relevant. Christ answers the question of history; He offers a solution to the problem of sin; He removes the burden of guilt; He releases us from the fear of death; He changes despair into hope and He provides power to live a victorious life with God.

Confucius saw the evil of life and said, “Duty!” Buddha saw the misery of man and said, “Meditate!” Mohammed saw the cruelty of life and said, “Fatalism!” Krishna saw the suffering of life and said, “Karma!” Jesus saw the agony of life and said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”

Christianity is not a set of views, not a system of ideas but a change of heart. It is a vital and dynamic relationship with a living Christ. As disciples of Christ we can affirm that without Christ we cannot live and with Him we cannot die.

By Dr. Steve Kumar

In a time of intellectual, moral and spiritual crisis the West is being influenced by a new movement which promises peace, prosperity and a New Age of Enlightenment. The message of the movement is radical and its solution is unconventional, but many are joining the bandwagon thinking it is the panacea to the human predicament. This new mind-shift is transforming Western values, culture and life-style. Foreign ideas and bizarre beliefs are moulding the minds of many people who are desperately seeking for answers.

This new view of reality, popularly termed “The New Age Thinking” is quickly dominating education, science, medicine. business, psychology. politics, religion. cinema, media and even the military. It is estimated that up to 60 million in America and 20 million in Europe believe in some form of New Age Movement. The growing influence of New Age thinking is evident in the great success of actress Shirley MacLaine’s books, Out On a Limb, and Dancing in the Light. Her autobiographical occult odyssey was aired by A.B.C. TV as a “Mini-series.” Millions were exposed to her spirituality and occultic practices. Observing the trend, Brooks Alexander of the Berkeley based Spiritual Counterfeits Projects comments, “The twilight is ending. Night is descending. And angels of light come dancing in the dark.”1

What really is the New Age Movement? Why are Westerners dabbling in it? What are its basic views of life and reality? Is the New Age Movement really new or an ancient religion cleverly dressed up in a modern suit? Are the New Age beliefs adequate? Do they make sense in the light of what thinkers through the centuries have upheld, namely rationality and commonsense?

The human heart cannot remain in a state of emptiness. People are made for something deeper than the physical. Disappointed by materialism and disillusioned by formal liberal Christianity, many are desperately searching for something more personal, intimate and fulfilling. To these empty hearts and uncertain minds the New Age prophets are promising peace, power and prosperity.

UNDERSTANDING THE NEW AGE

The New Age Movement is unlike any other movement the West has ever had. It has no single leader, no definite doctrine and it has no headquarters. The term “New Age Movement” covers a loosely-structured network of organisations and people who are united by common convictions and values. It is also known as New World Consciousness, New Orientalism, Cosmic Consciousness, Cosmic Humanism, The Aquarian Conspiracy, Mystical Humanism, Human Potential Movement and Holistic Health Movement. Although the label may differ, yet the basic convictions are the same. Westmont Sociologist, Dr. Ronald Enroth, suggests that the Movement is a very loose network of organizations, individuals, and philosophies that share a common world view, a common vision of humanity, and a common basis for hope and change.2 It is a new perception of reality, a move away from traditional western rational realism to the mystical oriental idealism.

Dr. F. LaGard Smith, Professor of Law at Pepperdine University and author of many books including Out on a Broken Limb, notes, “To understand the New Age Movement, you have to understand that we are talking about a world-view with completely new definitions of who man is, who God is, where we come from, and where we’re going. Understanding the New Age Movement requires a major thought shift whereby we’re looking at everything from a new perspective. The New Age Movement is a custom-made religion for each person. It doesn’t follow any of the traditional notions of churches, but it draws from Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Secularism and Selfism. Each person then mixes all that stuff together and arrives at a custom-made religion for him or herself.3

Russell Chandler, the best selling author of Understanding the New Age, points out, “People buy in at various levels. There are a of people who are New Age and don’t know it. There are a lot of people who borrow the world view and assumptions of the New Age. They wouldn’t label it New Age but that’s what it is.”4 The New Age specialist Douglas Groothuis rightly observes, “The New Age Movement is not simply another new cult; it has no one leader or unified organizational structure. It’s more of a creeping Influence that advocates a change in people’s thinking by returning to an ancient but appealing message.”5

Essentially the New Age Movement is a strange combination of Mysticism and Humanism. Borrowing a few ideas from Christianity, a technique from Hinduism and a dose of Buddhist Witchcraft, you can create your own personal religion. The New Age offers you a large cafeteria of religious goodies to choose from. As one writer puts it, “There’s something for everyone. Feel good about making lots of money. Feel good about having none at all, but most of all, feel good. Do it right and you can do anything you want. And there are a lot of people out there who want to show you how–for a price of course.”6 You can choose anything from astrology, biofeedback, clairvoyance. crystals, channelling, E.S.P., meditation, hypnosis, rebirthing, self-healing, visualization, witchcraft, yoga and others. According to Chandler, “It is a religion which appeals to those who want to be rich without working, smart without studying, and holy without giving up any vices.”7

Surprisingly the approach of the New Age appeals to many people living in the post-Christian West. A new convert to the Movement declares, “I once was a failure, struggling with bitterness and hurt, but now I am free. I can create my reality; I can do whatever I want; I have found the resources within to climb the mountain. No longer do I fear death, for I have discovered that it does not exist.”8 This type of testimony is frequently proclaimed by the New Agers. A New Zealand singer states, “It’s fantastic. Life in the New Age is really exciting, a wonderful thing to be involved in.”9

THE MESSAGE OF THE NEW AGE

At the heart of the New Age thinking is the belief that mankind is entering into a new millennium which will bring not global disaster but a new Spiritual awareness. As N.Z. Listener puts it, “Humankind has passed through the agricultural age, the industrial age and the communications age. Now we’re entering the consciousness-raising age.”10

The West has been dominated by science, rationality and technology, these they insist need to be brought together by spiritual and psychological progress. In order to achieve our highest potential we must move from our traditional dependence on the left brain, which they regard as our logical faculty and the “masculine” nature, and shift to the right brain, our “feminine”‘ nature which is the intuitive. By focusing deeply on our inner essences we will recover the ancient wisdom of our true self.

THE WISDOM OF THE NEW AGE

The fundamental assumption of the New Age is that all reality is fundamentally one. This assumption, technically called Monism, has its roots in Eastern and Greek philosophy. Ramakrishna used to say, “Reality is One, sages call it by various names.” Plotinus, the Greek mystic, proposed that the purpose of life is to be “One with the one, alone with the all.” All diversities are illusory and only exist in the finite realm. The mistake of the West is the rational division and separation which we maintain in our analysis. This division they believe is the root cause of our environmental exploitation, nuclear escalation and the reason for out alienation between humanity and creation. The wisdom that will lead us to paradise is that all is one. “You are God. Honest,” says Jack Underhill. “I know your driver’s license says differently, but what does the D.M.V. know?”11 Edgar D. Mitchell, a leading light of the Movement, states, “God sleeps in the minerals, awakens in plants, walks in animals, and thinks in man.”12 This novel idea appears profound on the surface to many Westerners, but some hard thinking on the subject will disclose many of its shortcomings.

First, the Monistic teaching has a destructive effect in the East. Can the West expect anything better? Second, by assuming that all is one, are we not arrogantly elevating ourselves to the level of the Creator? It’s a hopeless assumption to maintain that man is the master of the world when in reality he can’t even create a blade of grass. If man is equal to God, what type of God is he? Man hates, kills, rapes, envies and destroys. Also, a God who needs reminding of his divinity and wisdom has neither of these. Third, there is no rational basis for Monism. The reality of human life demonstrates conclusively the obvious diversity of existence. Both man’s conscious experience and rational thinking provide sufficient evidence to reject the Monistic viewpoint.

COSMIC CONSCIOUSNESS

One of the most striking features of the New Age Movement is its way of getting in touch with reality. The emphasis is not only that reality is one but that people achieve cosmic consciousness by means of meditation, visualisation, yoga, drugs, chanting, hypnosis, martial arts, sensory deprivation and others. The New Ager believes that it is through cosmic consciousness that we attain cosmic oneness. On the conscious level, man is separated from God, but in his essential essence he is one with God. His conscious sense deceives his real self as a separate being, but he must transform his conscious thinking by spiritual technology. Shirley MacLaine in her book, Dancing in the Light, says, “You are unlimited. You just don’t realise it.”13

New Age advocate Fritjof Capra describes his cosmic experience which altered his life view: “I saw the atoms of the elements and !hose of my body participating in the cosmic dance of energy; I felt its rhythm and I heard its sound, and at that moment I knew that this vas the Dance of Shiva, the Lord of Dancers worshipped by the Hindus.”14

The experience of cosmic consciousness is expressed by various terms including self-realisation, enlightenment, God-realisation, atonement, satori and Nirvana. This mystical experience produces the feeling of cosmic oneness where all distinctions of good/evil, male/female, reality/fantasy, light/dark and man/God disappears.

NEW AGE THINKING IS NOTHING NEW

These ideas only appear new to those who do not know their origin. The thinking of the New Age was first expressed by the serpent to our first parents in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). It is the lie of the serpent that man’s destiny and his salvation is within himself. Modern man finds the old lie gratifying. When a man does not stand for the truth he will fall for any lie. Modern man is no exception to the rule; he finds the message of the serpent appears to offer hope and power. It exalts man to the place of God, gives him a false sense of security and makes him believe the key is in his hands. This is a delusion.

The tragic experience of the New Age is graphically illustrated in the life of a young woman, Cindy Williams, who moved into the New Age to find hope after experiencing the trauma of divorce. Even though admitting that she was “cautious” during the first encounter she says her life has changed, the problems have vanished, and now she is seeking to get in touch with her true self. She is looking forward with great expectation to the promise of the New Age and says, “I’ve got my feet firmly planted on this illusion.”15

To think man is the master of his destiny is not only arrogant but madness. The facts of human experience and history provide more than sufficient evidence to dispel any possible notion of the divinity of man.

How many wars have we fought, how many crimes have we done, how many injustices have we committed? How could the New Age man not see the truth? Is it any wonder that the Scripture says, “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie,” (2 Thes. 2:10,11).

End Notes

1. “Brooks Alexander: New Age Movement” by Ronald Enroth. Fundamentalist Journal, Feb. 1968, p. 49.
2. Ronald Enroth, ibid.
3. F. LaGard Smith, The Door, p. 18.
4. Russell Chandler, The Door, p. 7.
5. Douglas Grouthuis, The New Age Wave, Moody Monthly, 1985.
6. N.Z. Listener, September 23, 1989.
7. Russell Chandler, ibid., p.7.
8. Erwin Lutzer & John DeVries, Satan’s “Evangelistic” Strategy for this New Age, 1988.
9. N.Z. Listener, ibid.
10. Ibid.
11. Jack Underhill, “New Age Quiz,” Life Times Magazine, 6.
12. Edgar Mitchell, Bridging Science and Metaphysics in the 20th Century, 1983.
13. Shirley MacLaine, Dancing in the Light, 1985, p.133.
14. Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics, 1975, p.11.
15. Erwin Lutzer & John DeVries, ibid, p.49.

by Steve Kumar

An Eastern sage once said that he could write the biography of’ a Westerner in three words, “Hurry, worry and bury.” In our rush for successful living we often fill victim to tension and stress. In our crisis nothing sells better than a recipe for relaxation. In TV, sports, business and even in education yoga is promoted as a panacea for stress, health, success and peace. It is attractively packaged as an exercise for the body and cleverly presented as a science of the mind. The sales person for yoga tells us it has nothing to do with religion. What is the real truth?

The verdict of Professor Ruth Tucker, a leading authority on contemporary religious, should be noted, “The true religious nature of yoga is frequently disguised in the West, and individuals frequently practice the exercises without, they claim, becoming involved in the actual religion. But the two are deeply entwined and ought to be viewed in that light,” (Another Gospel, p. 386). Another authority, Professor Irving Hexham of Calgary University, in answer to the question “is yoga truly a religion?” declares that people who practice yoga, “gradually and imperceptibly begin to accept other concepts which involve definite religious convictions.” He argues that, “despite claims to the contrary . . . yoga cannot be practised in isolation from other Indian beliefs. The whole concept of yoga is based upon a carefully worked out theory of beliefs about the human condition. The terminology used to explain the practice itself involves acceptance of presuppositions with religious origins,” (Update, Sept. 1986, p.6). US. District Judge H. Curtis Meanor declared the practice of T. M. yoga “is religious in nature.” There are five reasons that one could propose to establish the religious nature of yoga.

 REASONS WHY YOGA IS RELIGIOUS

1. The Origin of Yoga

The origin of yoga goes back to Hinduism. It is the outworking of Hindu religious metaphysics. In other words the Hindu perception of reality gave birth to the techniques of yoga. This notion is irrefutable as virtually all respectable scholars disciplined in the field would agree.

The New Encyclopaedia Britannica states, “Yoga assumes the existence of God, who is the model for the aspiration to spiritual release.” (Vol. 12., p.846). Mary Ann Lind in her book, From Nirvana to the New Age insists, “Ask any Hindu living in a village in India and he will tell you that yoga is a very intrinsical part of his ancient religion.” (P. 74). She correctly points Out, “When we trace the origins of yoga, our search takes us to the ancient Hindu sacred text, especially to the Bhagavad Gita, in which the Hindu hero god, Lord Krishna, introduces yoga as a pathway to heaven,” (p.75). T. George Harris, editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, insists, “All the Eastern exercises grew out of religious roots, and all are designed to evoke specific religious experiences. The word yoga literally means yoked with God. ” (Dec. 1975).

2. The Meaning of Yoga

The very meaning of yoga confirms its religious element. The word (Sanskrit) yoga literally means “yoking” or “union.” The question is “union with what.” The consensus view is union with Brahman; the individual (Purusa) soul must unite with the cosmic being. According to Hindu scholars yoga is designed to reverse the process of evolution and get back- to the original cosmic stage. Since the mind dominates the body and causes the soul to experience pain and pleasure the mind must be mastered and emptied in order to reach its original stage. It is a method by which one brings self-redemption or self salvation. It would be meaningless to talk about union with nothing. According to Hinduism the answers to our problems and suffering, are found in yoga. It is the key to humanity’s liberation. In the practice of yoga, as professor Arindam Chakrabarti of University Delhi affirms, “A self can get back to its pure essence and stop suffering,” (The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, p.355). Hindu thinkers have always understood yoga as the uniting of the individual with the cosmic force. The Encyclopaedia of Philosophy states, “The object of yoga is to isolate this eternal element (the soul) and to free it from implication in the material world” (Vol. 8, p.358). The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, explains, “Yoga is the discipline or yoke necessary for the pure subject to recognize itself, and separate itself from the empirical reality with which it is confused”

Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary declares that yoga is, “A Hindu theistic(God) philosophy teaching the suppression of all activities of body, mind and will in order that the self may realise its distinction from them and attain liberation.” The Encyclopaedic Edition of Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary confirms that yoga is, “A Hindu system of mystical and ascetic philosophy which involves withdrawal from the world and abstract meditation on any object, as the Supreme Spirit with the purpose of identifying one’s consciousness with the object.”

3. The Practice of Yoga

When one practices yoga one is engaged in performing a religious ritual and activity that has its origin in Hinduism and is an essential practice of the religion. The Hindu text says, “Disciplined action, study of the self, and Surrender to the Lord, constitute the practice of yoga” (Yoga Sutra 11.1). Bruce Nicholls confirms, “Yoga has come to be universally practised by the religious sects of Hinduism, however much the metaphysical interpretations may vary” (p.148). The yoga physical postures (Asana) are specifically developed to control consciousness. It is meaningless to deny that an activity is nonreligious when its origin and practice are intrinsically Hindu. Redefining something and calling it nonreligious does not deny its essential nature. A rose with another name is still a rose. Yoga is central to Hinduism, without yoga Hinduism has no meaning. Trying to isolate yoga from Hinduism is like attempting to isolate fish from water. They are mutually dependent. You cannot have one without the other.

William Watson, author of A Concise Dictionary of Cults and Religions, states, “The practice of yoga, with its various postures and exercise, leads man to self liberation and god-realization,” (p.259). Ronald L. Carlson in his book, Transcendental Meditation: Relaxation or Religion, points out, “Yoga’s practical motive is to attain salvation or liberation through disciplined activity,” (p.41).

A leading authority in Hindu philosophy, Sarvaepalli Radhakrishum in his work, A Source Book in Indian Philosophy, confirms, “The special feature of yoga system is its practical discipline, by which the suppression of mental states is brought about through the practice of spiritual exercises” (p.453). Dr. Ruth Tucker, a research specialist on contemporary religions, points out, “Yoga is a Hindu system of mental and physical exercises, the goal of which is to separate the soul from the body and mind in order to release the soul from the endless cycle of reincarnation” (Another Gospel, p. 385).

Yoga is a central part of many pseudo-religious groups including Divine Light Mission, Hare Krishnas, Transcendental Meditation, Sri Chimnoy, Sathya Sai Baba, Theosophy, and Eckankar. Hindu gurus have long insisted the discipline of yoga is religious both in purpose and practice,

4. The Consensus of Scholars

Virtually all scholars who have specialised in the study of yoga unanimously agree that yoga is a spiritual activity. Even to attempt to justify the above assumption is as futile as trying to inform mode mind that our world is global. One only has to read standard texts on religion and encyclopaedias to see the truth. Hindu teachers, priests and philosophers including Sri Ramakrishna, Vivekenanda, Gandhi, Aurobino Ghose, Sai Baba, Bhagwan Rajneesk all agree on the religious nature of yoga. Even the most popular work The Encyclopedia of Mind, Magic & Mysteries by Francis X. King admits, “Many, perhaps most, Westerners tend to think of yoga as no more than an unusual type of culture, characterized by strange postures and breathing exercises. In reality this physical yoga–hatha yoga is vastly more complex than is generally appreciated, there being a great deal more to it than its purely physical component” (p. 194). In his insightful book, The Spirit of Hinduism, Dr. David Barnett notes, “Hatha yoga was not developed to stand on its own, but as a preparation for Raja yoga” (p.203).

Why Yoga Should Be Rejected in Schools

Introducing yoga to our schools is a subtle means of introducing Hinduism. It is politically wrong to use taxpayers funds to promote a religious practice in the name of education. This is essentially proselytising which clearly violates the stated purpose of neutrality claimed by educationalists. We believe in freedom of religion in New Zealand and if religion is to be kept away from schools then Hinduism should not be promoted in the name of creativity, arts, drama or even therapy in the fight of overwhelming evidence that yoga is religious. To promote it in schools is to impose Eastern religious systems and beliefs on our youth.

Yoga advocates must not ignore the warning of Julio Ruibal, a former yoga master and guru; his experience is most revealing. He states, “I became the youngest guru in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the most advanced and powerful. Twice a week I taught yoga on television. Hatha Yoga sounds like a nice simple set of exercises; everyone thinks it is just gymnastics. I want to warn that it is just the beginning of a devilish trap. After I became an instructor in Hatha Yoga, my guru showed me that the only thing these exercises do is open your appetite for the occult. They are like marijuana; they usually lead you on to a drug that is worse and stronger, binding you so completely” (A Mirage from the East, p. 8). Yoga teacher R.L. Hittleman admits that in yoga, health benefits are secondary and that he used the health angle to hook Westerners on the Eastern metaphysical view. (Guide to Yoga Meditation, pp. 9-14).

It does not take too much reflection to understand the devastating consequence of the practice of yoga in the son of India. As researcher Dave Hunt points out, “Hinduism has turned India, in spite of its vast natural resources and manpower, into one of the poorest and most suffering countries on earth.” (Peace, Prosperity and the Coming Holocaust, p. 82). A sensible mind must ask the crucial question, What is the fruit of yoga? The test of the fruit is in the roots. If the teaching and practice of yoga has been such a miserable failure in the East would it help us any better in the West.

by Dr Steve Kumar

A skeptic is someone who thinks that nothing can be known for sure while an agnostic is someone who thinks nothing can be known about God, or doesn’t know for sure whether there really is a God. It is even suggested that an agnostic is a person who hasn’t had time to become an atheist. Since the rise of secularism the philosophy of agnosticism is escalating. Individuals who reject atheism as arrogant and theism as incoherent turn to agnosticism to nurse their unbelief. Agnosticism is often accepted as a viable belief system and a sensible alternative in the face of modern sophistication.

HISTORY AND ETYMOLOGY

The word agnostic was first coined by Thomas H. Huxley, the grandfather of Aldous Huxley, and it comes from the Greek word “agnoo” which simply means “I do not know.” Huxley did not categorically deny the existence of God but affirmed that we don’t have any knowledge of God, who is beyond the knowledge of man. There may be a God but we can know nothing about him. Thinkers who followed this line of thought in the history of philosophy were Herbert Spencer, David Hume, Auguste Comte, J.S. Mill, Leslie Stephen and Immanuel Kant. The popular agnostic Robert Ingersoll expresses the general sentiment of his fellow agnostics when he declared, “Is there a God? I do not know. Is man immortal? I do not know. One thing I do know and that is that neither hope nor fear, belief nor denial, can change the fact. It is as it is and it will be as it must be. We wait and hope.” The Apostle Paul on his visit to Athens confronted the agnostics who built an altar “To the Unknown God” (Acts 17: 23). Agnosticism is not a modern invention but an ancient illusion.

The philosophy of agnosticism has two main classifications which we may call the “hard-boiled” and the “soft-boiled.” The soft-boiled or the ordinary agnostic believes, “We do not know God.” The hard-boiled agnostic argues that, “God cannot be known”.

THE BASIC ASSUMPTIONS OF AGNOSTICISM

1. Immanuel Kant reasons, “we know not this (God) thing as it is in itself but only know its appearances, namely the way in which our senses are affected by this unknown something.”

2. Since the human mind is limited it cannot think about reality.

3. Nothing can be known or said about God.

4. The wise man will always suspend judgement about matters of ultimate reality.

CRITIQUE OF AGNOSTICISM

First, Agnosticism is self-contradictory and self-defeating for it presupposes some knowledge about God in order to reject all knowledge about God. Christian philosopher Stuart C. Hackett rightly replies to Kant’s position, “If there were no reality, and if I therefore had no knowledge of it whatever, it would never occur to me to deny the possibility of knowing such a reality.”

Agnostics are either stating something real or true about God or they are not saying anything real or true about God. If they are saying something true about God then they are no longer agnostics because they have true knowledge about God. But if they are not saying anything true about God then one should not believe what they say. Someone rightly told Herbert Spencer, the famous agnostic, “You know too much about your unknowable God.” It is for this simple reason that one popular writer insists that most agnostics are atheists; they say we don’t know anything about God but they act as if they had received a divine revelation.” Think for a moment of the aphorism of a mystical agnostic, “He who knows doesn’t speak and he who speaks doesn’t know.” Obviously he has just spoken hence he doesn’t know either. He destroyed his own assumption by his own criterion. In a similar vein the Greek philosopher Gorges spoke too soon, “There are no true statements,” then realized that he had just made one.

Sometime ago when the press published the evidence of medical research connecting smoking with lung cancer, one smoker was so annoyed by the finding that he cancelled his newspaper subscription. He had made up his mind and did not want to believe the facts. Agnosticism is not a neutral option but a definite denial of the evidence of God. It is not a conclusion one arrives at after observing the evidence but an a priori philosophical presupposition about God. The agnostic in essence insists, “I have made up my mind don’t confuse me with the evidence.”

Second, the agnostic position is either meaningless or self-destructive. How could one assert that there are no universal and ultimate truths about God yet at the same time maintain that this position is universally and ultimately true. The agnostic is not in a rational position to deny any knowledge of the existence of God. Given the agnostic’s finite and limited perspective it is logically meaningless for agnostics to categorically deny the possibility of knowing God. The former agnostic John Warwick Montgomery rightly charges the agnostics for failing to see their irrationality. Agnosticism, states Montgomery, “is tantamount to traditional atheism, and suffers from its basic fallacy: it presumes that one can (apart from any revelation of God, to be sure!) know the universe so well that one can assert the nonexistence of God or the non-existence of compelling evidence for his existence. But such comprehensive knowledge of the universe would require either (a) revelation, which is excluded on principle, or (b) divine powers of observation on the part of the atheist or hard boiled agnostic. In the latter case, atheism and the extreme agnostic position becomes self defeating, since the unbeliever perforce creates a god by deifying himself.” Philosopher Elton Trueblood points out, “We cannot know that nothing can be known unless we already know everything.” Arguing on the same promise the brilliant Christian philosopher Gordon H. Clark notes, “for if the object were quite unknowable, one could not know either that it existed or that it was unknowable.”

Third, if nothing can be said about reality and no truth can be affirmed of God, then agnosticism which speaks about reality (that reality is unknowable) is not true. The affirmation that no one can know anything about God is both an affirmation and a denial. If no one can know then the agnostic cannot know either. In which case he cannot say no one can know. How does the agnostic know that he cannot know? He merely substitutes one absolute (God’s truth) for another absolute (his subjective feeling that God is unknowable). If God is totally unknowable how did we arrive at this position? The Harvard philosopher William E. Hocking correctly observes, “When the agnostic says that we cannot know anything about the reality beyond nature or experience, he implies that there is such a reality.”

Finally, agnostics do not actually suspend judgement on matters of reality. Their judgement is in the negative and they live as though God does not exist. Consider Montgomery’s valuable analogy: If an agnostic receives a report that a bomb is about to go off in two hours in the room where he is presently seated, he will not ignore message. Because of the value of life and the seriousness of the circumstances he would not sit there, as Montgomery notes, “in blase indifference (the usual agnostic posture), but would clear the room and engage in a most diligent search of the premises to determine whether concrete evidence supported the claim or not.” If the agnostic is open-minded he will not sit in his chair of agnosticism and subjectively speculate the meaning of life but will seriously consider the evidence of God’s revelation. The Apostle Paul rightly declares that the knowledge of God’s existence is available to man, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse,” Romans 1:20.

A leader may boast of his leadership, a cook may boast of his cooking, but when a man boasts of his humility he is boasting of something he does not have. The same is true of an agnostic. He is so certain about what he does not know. He affirms that nobody can know about God, but says “I know you are wrong.” He knows for sure that no one can be sure of God.

by Dr Steve Kumar

In 1984 our world was horrified by the tragic news of the Avianca Airlines jet that crashed in Spain. But even more disturbing was the discovery of the reason for the accident. Investigators discovered that the “black box” cockpit recorders revealed the shocking truth. Just a few minutes before the tragedy, the computer-synthesized voice from the automatic warning system announced, several times, “Pull up! Pull up!” The pilot however dismissed the warning as malfunctioning, and said, “Shut up, Gringo!” and turned off the system. Moments later the plane crashed into the side of the mountain killing all on board. When truth is ignored our lives are at risk.

The search for truth has always been in the forefront of the thinking mind. The French philosopher Michael Montaigne once observed, “Man is born to inquire after truth.” The ancient philosopher Plato expressed it eloquently when he said, “Just as our heart is designed for love, our mind is designed for truth.” His student Aristotle, said, “A friend is Plato but a greater friend is truth.” Truth is vital to existence. Truth matters to the human race! But is there such a thing as absolute truth? Can we really know the truth?

Sometime ago a group of students were invited to the White House. A spokesperson, in a carefully prepared speech, advised them to be good and moral, not to rob, get involved in drugs or bomb buildings. After the speaker had finished his speech, a student from Harvard asked, “Sir! Can you please tell us on what do you base your morality?” The official was puzzled and replied, “I’m sorry. I don’t know.”

The twentieth century provides many attractive ideas to the curious minds but the most subtle of all is the idea that there is no absolute truth. Allan Bloom, the philosopher from University of Chicago, reports in the opening pages of The Closing of the American Mind that “there is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of, almost every student entering the University believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.” “We are caught up in a revolution,” observes Dennis McCall which is ushering in “a cultural metamorphosis-transforming every area of everyday life as it spreads through educational movies, television, and other media.” A case in point is the Howard University professor Jane Flax, a radical feminist, who opposes conventional beliefs about truth, logic, knowledge, personality and language. Following other post-modernists she is crusading to replace it with radical feminism, multiculturalism and relativism. This new wave of thinking is radically transforming our large universities, including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Northwestern and others.

REVOLUTION AGAINST THE TRUTH

During a recent Harvard graduation address one student said, “I believe that there is one idea, one sentiment, which we have all acquired at some point in our Harvard careers–and that, ladies and gentlemen, is, in a word, confusion. They tell us it is heresy to suggest the superiority of some value, fantasy to believe in moral argument, slavery to submit to judgement sounder than your own. The freedom of our day is the freedom to devote ourselves to any values we please, on the mere condition that we do not believe them to be true.”

Historian Arnold Toynbee points out in the study of history we are the first of twenty-one civilisations to attempt “civility” without a moral reference point. Our post-modern age finds the idea of relativism very attractive. A number of recent movies The Mission, At Play in the Field of the Lord, The Black Robe, Do the Right Thing, and Dances with Wolves, portray Christian mission or western culture as guilty of cultural imperialism. The lyrics of musical groups like Offspring, Nine Inch Nails, Green Day, Bash, Nirvana, Hole, Live, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and many others express postmodernist cynicism.

One day a rabbi, a priest, and a liberal minister were discussing the nature of truth. The rabbi said, “I speak according to the Law of Moses.” The priest declared, “I speak according to the tradition of the church.” The liberal minister said, “It seems to me. . . .” Here we have classic relativism. According to relativism, moral judgements are individual opinions with no validity for anyone but oneself. The Encyclopaedia of Philosophy defines relativism as “the view that what is right or wrong and good or bad is not absolute but variable and relative, depending on the person, circumstances or social institutions.” In the words of Hamlet, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” What is true or right for one person may not be necessarily true or right for another person. Relativists insist truth is not based on a fixed absolute external reality but is decided by a group or individual for themselves.

Oscar winning actress Shirley MacLaine declares, “Everyone has his own truth, and truth as an objective reality simply does not exist.” Popular New Age guru Joseph Campbell teaches, “The person who thinks he has found the ultimate truth is wrong.” It is no exaggeration that many describe our century as the age of the Death of Truth. The spirit of relativism is the major force behind the rejection of absolute morality. It is the backbone of radical feminism, the liberalisation of homosexuality, euthanasia, the rejection of Christian particularism and the promotion of deconstructionism. The crisis of the West is the crisis of Truth. The tragic reality of our time is not the lack of knowledge but the rejection of Truth. Truth today is relegated to technology, beauty is confined to the beholder and goodness is ridiculed night after night as millions are idiotized before a box. We have become expendable entities in a disposable world. As we sink deeper into the abyss of nihilism there is still time for us to reflect and return to God’s transcendent Truth. While postmodernist prophets like Richard Rorty and Stanley Fish and others argue that “the truth is there is no truth,” what should the disciples of Christ say to our post-modernist prophets of despair?

For the modern mind the final truth is there is no final truth. Jean-Paul Sartre, the existential atheist, promoted this idea in the Sixties: “There was nothing left in heaven, no right or wrong, nor anyone to give me orders. . . . I am doomed to have no other law but mine. . . . For I . . . am a man, and every man must find his own way.” Michael Novok, in his Templeton address, observed that the most dangerous idea which dominates the West today is relativism. Theologian Carl F. H. Henry describes our generation as “Intellectually uncapped, morally unzippered and volitionally uncurbed,” and in an important work, The Death of Truth, the author captures graphically the modern betrayal of truth.

Theologian David Wells, in his significant book, No Place for Truth, illustrates the widespread influence of relativism in Western churches. The Barnes Report confirms that nearly four out of five Americans are relativists, of the 88 percent who claimed to be evangelical, 53 percent believed that there is no such thing as absolute truth. “Relativism,” observes Professor Arthur Holmes, “has intruded into religion too, so that the Bible’s teaching is too often viewed as culturally relative and in need of change.” According to sociologist Peter Berger the intellectual struggle of the West is. “One long effort to cope with the vertigo of relativity induced by modernization.” Philosophers Jack Meilland and Michael Krausz insist that “Relativism is one of the chief intellectual and social issues of our time.” The idea of relativism is not only gaining popularity within the intellectual community but it is increasingly becoming as Harold A. Netland rightly notes, “the creed of those outside academia as well.”