JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)--In America's celebrity-driven culture, perhaps the most harmful "Pied Piper" of heresies leading millions astray is Oprah Winfrey. Her adoption of anti-biblical doctrine is on display every day this year through her satellite radio network channel "Oprah & Friends." It's time for Christians to "just say no" to the big "O."
In recent weeks, I have received multiple copies of the same e-mail warning Christians about Oprah Winfrey's promotion of New Age teaching.
Oftentimes, broadcast e-mails are baseless and erroneous -- like the one that warns Madalyn Murray O'Hair is attempting to get the FCC to ban all Christian broadcasting. In spite of numerous repudiations of this bogus warning (to which I contributed with an April 2001 editorial), the claim continues to float around the Internet.
Sometimes, however, e-mails turn out to be true and worthy of our attention. Such is the case with an e-mail currently in wide circulation concerning Oprah Winfrey's promotion of A Course in Miracles (ACIM). After receiving multiple copies of the e-mail warning about this matter, I decided to check it out for myself.
Most of the e-mails about this include an article by Warren Smith, a former New Ager and student of ACIM, who devastatingly critiques this false teaching. His November 2007 article is online here: www.crossroad.to/articles2/007smith-oprah.htm. As I'm not familiar with Smith or this Web site, I cannot more broadly attest to him or the site. But concerning ACIM, his warnings are accurate and worth attention.
At the center of ACIM is megastar Oprah Winfrey -- perhaps the most well-known woman in the world. Winfrey's media empire centers on her long-running and popular television talk show but also includes magazines, movies and her book club, and she is well-regarded for her many philanthropic efforts. Unfortunately, too few understand Winfrey's devotion to unbiblical teachings, especially the New Age Movement.
Cky Carrigan, an evangelism professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in a helpful article, "How to Evangelize New-Agers" (http://www.ontruth.com/newage.htm), notes Winfrey is the "most influential preacher of New Age ideas," winning "converts every day in staggering numbers -- many from Baptist churches."
Carrigan quotes Oprah's view of Jesus from one of her programs:
Oprah: "There are many paths to what you call God."
Audience Member: "There is one way and only one way and that is through Jesus."
Oprah: "There couldn't possibly be just one way!"
What is the New Age Movement? Carrigan writes: "The New Age Movement is an American and European form of ancient eastern religious beliefs (Hinduism and Buddhism), combined with divination, earth-based religions, self-help theory, alternative healing techniques, astrology and other non-Christian religious practices. Therefore, the New Age Movement is not really new at all, though it is new to America."
Although New Agers rely upon many sources, ACIM is among the most popular. New Age guru Marianne Williamson is responsible for popularizing the work through her book, "A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles," while Oprah is to be credited with launching Williamson's career through her appearances on Winfrey's talk show.
And now, Williamson is one of the featured stars on the "Oprah & Friends" channel on XM Satellite Radio, reprising her role as advocate of ACIM through a year-long series on the course.
ACIM, however, was not written by Williamson, but by a tag-team of psychologists from Columbia University in New York, Helen Schucman and William Thetford. Schucman, on the ACIM Web site, defers credit for the work, which she merely "scribed." An "inner voice," she says was Jesus, told her, "This is a course in miracles. Please take notes."
From 1965 to 1972, Schuman experienced "Jesus'" voice through "inner dictation." Thetford joined Schucman in scribing the voice, resulting in ACIM.
Thetford defined the purpose of ACIM as: "To help us change our minds about who we are and what God is, and to help us let go, through forgiveness, our belief in the reality of our separation from God. Learning how to forgive ourselves and others is really the fundamental teaching of the Course. The Course teaches us how to know ourselves and how to unlearn all of those things which interfere with our recognition of who we are and always have been."
As would be expected from this definition, ACIM is full of heresy, often wrapped in confusing, contradictory, nonsensical rhetoric. Sometimes, however, ACIM is blatantly clear in its false doctrine. And, since Jesus was supposedly the voice heard by Schucman, these assertions are especially outrageous.
For example, Lesson 70, headlined: "My salvation comes from me," opens with this comment: "All temptation is nothing more than some form of the basic temptation not to believe the idea for today. Salvation seems to come from anywhere except from you. So, too, does the source of guilt. You see neither guilt nor salvation as in your own mind and nowhere else. When you realize that all guilt is solely an invention of your mind, you also realize that guilt and salvation must be in the same place. In understanding this you are saved."
Contrary to the Bible's clear teaching that our guilt is the result of the fact that we truly are sinners, separated from God by our sin, and rightfully under God's judgment for our sin, ACIM teaches that we must realize "all guilt is solely an invention of your mind" and in this realization is salvation.
Warren Smith has helpfully summarized some of the other false doctrine of the course in the previously referenced article:
-- "There is no sin."
-- "Do not make the pathetic error of 'clinging to the old rugged cross.'"
-- "The name of Jesus Christ as such is but a symbol.... It is a symbol that is safely used as a replacement for the many names of all the gods to which you pray."
-- "God is in everything I see."
ACIM is in wide use, even at the grassroots level in local churches. I came across a promotion of ACIM in the Lufkin (Texas) Daily News Feb. 29 for Unity Church of Christianity which offers the course, noting the "class is designed to teach people how to apply spiritual principles in their daily lives. No experience is necessary, just an open heart and an accepting mind."
Such is the result of Oprah's promotion of ACIM. Winfrey's influence is vast. Tragically, far too many Christians -- including many who would consider themselves conservative, Bible-believing evangelicals -- are more likely to take their theological cues from Oprah than they are from their faithful pastors.
These Christians need to pattern their lives after those of the Bereans who "received the Word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether" what they were being taught was true (Acts 17:11). Because they were rightly concerned with testing what they were taught according to the Scriptures, the Bereans were not likely to fall prey to false teachers.
The Apostle Peter describes the challenge of false teachers and how believers should respond to them in his second letter (2 Peter 2:1-22). He warns against "false teachers ... who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them ..." (v.1). He says "many" believers will be beguiled by the false teachers' "sensuality," resulting in the maligning of the truth (v.2). These false teachers are "springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved" (v. 17).
Peter's warnings are clearly applicable to Oprah, Williamson and A Course in Miracles for undermining the faith with a false gospel and counterfeit "Jesus," which in the end bring no actual spiritual nourishment or relief. Tragically, these teachers are leading people straight to hell.
Christians should flee from Oprah and her cohorts and recommit themselves to careful Bible study, in the context of a local body of believers with whom they have covenanted for mutual edification and accountability, led by a faithful pastor.
Of course, this isn't as glamorous as Oprah -- but neither is eternal punishment in hell.