Tolle, Christ and the distinction

Echardt Tolle is the author of the book “The New Earth”. After the widespread promotion by Oprah Winfrey, it is now selling really well, and has made several best seller lists. While there are plenty to write about in the book, one specific quote jumped out at me.

“Don’t get attached to any one word. You can substitute ‘Christ’ for presence, if that is more meaningful to you. Christ is your God-essence or the Self, as it is sometimes called in the East. The only difference between Christ and presence is that Christ refers to your indwelling divinity regardless of whether you are conscious of it or not, whereas presence means your awakened divinity or God-essence.”
– Eckhart Tolle
The New Earth

Now while some Christians may be willing to give Mr. Tolle the benefit of the doubt and argue that he is merely referring to an indwelling of the Spirit here, I am not quite inclined to accept that. When I see words like “your indwelling divinity” and “your awakened divinity” equated with Christ Himself, the warning lights are shining brightly.

When we start to read more we should not be surprised to learn that Mr. Tolle see that “higher level of consciousness” as the result of millions of years of evolution. Not only does he state that we as humans share in some sort of cosmic consciousness with all the other results of evolution, but he also implores us to evolve further…so that we, the human race, may survive.

Cornelius van Til writes: “The Bible requires men to believe that God exists apart from and above the world and that he by his plan controls whatever takes place in the world. Everything in the created universe therefore displays the fact that it is controlled by God, that it is what it is by virtue of the place it occupies in the plan of God. The objective evidence for the existence of God and of the comprehensive governance of the world by God is therefore so plain that he who runs may read. Men cannot get away from this evidence. They see it round about them. They see it within them. Their own constitution so clearly evinces the facts of God’s creation of them and control over them that there is no man who can possibly escape observing it. If he is self-conscious at all he is also God-conscious. No matter how men may try they cannot hide from themselves the fact of their own createdness. Whether men engage in inductive study with respect to the facts of nature about them or engage in analysis of their own self-consciousness they are always face to face with God their maker. Calvin stresses these matters greatly on the basis of Paul’s teachings in Romans.”

While at first glance it seems not to differ too much from the earlier quote from Tolle, it does lift out a crucial difference. That difference is the distinction between the Creator and the created. Mr. Tolle, with his apparent reverence for the creative powers of evolution, seemingly missed that part. (I’ll note in passing that it is of course fallacious to appeal to evolution as having creative power, neither staunch evolutionists nor Christians do that. Not only is it fallacious, it is also illogical because an object cannot create itself.)

We learn from Scripture that there is a very definite distinction. From the very first words of the Bible there is a definite separation between the eternal Creator, who made all of creation come into existence, and the creation itself.

But the most graphic illustration of that distinction is found in Romans 9:

Rom 9:21  Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?

Here it is very clear that the relationship between man and God is analogous to that of a potter and the clay he uses. The clay can be nothing without the potter. The potter decides what the clay will be, and forms the clay in such a way that it performs the function that the potter wants. If we have to be consistent with what Mr. Tolle is saying then somehow the clay is turning into the potter.

With the best imagination in the world that is not possible. God, in His mercy and grace, imparted the breath of life into man at the time of creation, and gave man enough spiritual awareness so that he would be without excuse, even in his natural state. After regeneration, in itself a gift from God, man is endowed with the wisdom of the Spirit.

Joh 14:16  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,
Joh 14:17  even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

There is nothing that we can do to entice the Spirit to come to us, the Father gives us the Spirit. The result of having received the Spirit is the ability to discern the things of God, and to glorify and worship the Creator forever. All we do is unto the glory of God, not that of man, because that is what He purposed for us, His creation.

There is no way that we can ever become God, and assume divinity as Christ did. He lowered Himself to become man, exactly because we are totally and utterly unable to imitate the divine and be sinless. So I am afraid to say that not only is Mr. Tolle logically fallacious, he is also gloriously overestimating the spiritual status of man.

I hope and pray that those Christians who become interested in the teachings of Tolle will see the truth, and steer clear.

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16 responses to “Tolle, Christ and the distinction

  1. A very good and honest response to Tolle, but there are some differences in what he says and how you interpret it. Tolle is not saying we “are” God, but that we are “part” of God. Our personality, ego, body, etc. are form-manifestations and not who we are in our deepest essence which is children of God. There are many quotes from the Bible that reference this truth, such as “The Kingdom of heaven is within.” In Gnostic Christianity this essence is referred to as the Divine or Spirit Spark … that part of us which is still connected to God, but is overshadowed by the ego, self-will, etc. Tolle only advocates returning to and becoming aware of this deepest aspect of our being which will only serve to enhance our Christianity.

  2. Craig, thanks for the comment.

    However, I cannot see how you can say that terms like indwelling divinity or God essence does not mean that we are God. In fact, you confirm that right after you deny it when you say “but that we are “part” of God”. Can the clay ever be part of the potter?

    Also, where in the Bible do you read that “The Kingdom of Heaven is within?”. I read Tolle’s book, and I am well aware of his gratuitous use of Scripture. That quote, however, is not from the Bible, it is from the gnostic book the Gospel of Thomas (v3).

    I also find it interesting that Tolle, and you here, have to refer to gnosticism to justify what you are saying. If necessary, I can elaborate on the history and false teachings of gnosticism, but I would urge you to study it anyway. No-one can be a Christian and a gnostic.

    A couple of questions for you…
    1. How do you define God?
    2. What is the role of Christ?

  3. It is also in the Bible … “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.” Luke 17:21

    Neither Tolle nor I are referring to Gnosticism to justify what we are saying, but only using some of their terms it to clarify a point.

    While we are on the subject … the early Gnostic Christians were Christians. Yes, the Cathars (Albigensians) did counter the Roman Church, but with good reason. They paid the price of their dedication to true Christianity with their death and voila … the Inquisition began.

    The simplest definition is that God is Love and the creator of all things.

    Christ is both the example AND power for us to return to the Father.

  4. Ok Craig, so finally we get to the bottom of this, you believe that the gnostics were/are true Christians. Are you yourself a gnostic Christian?

    While I think we agree that the inquisition was a dark time and a perfect example of men trying to play God instead of letting God be God, that does not make gnosticism true.

    On the rendering of Luke 17:21, that is Jesus referring to Himself as the blessings of the kingdom present among them, not as a Messiah yet to come. Even the translation that Tolle uses renders this verse: Luk 17:21 …the kingdom of God is among you.” That “you” is a collective noun for all the Pharisees who asked the question, and cannot in this context mean that all of us have the kingdom in us. All of the Greek scholarly sources I consulted agree with that interpretation.

    But I do now realize what your hermeneutic is based on, and I can certainly understand where you are coming from a lot better. Having said that, I still disagree with you substantially and I guess we will continue to explore our differences.

  5. To quote from a Christian blog:

    “What Jesus is saying is that this Love of God is inside of all of you. As Christians we believe that at Baptism we are given the gift of Jesus who lives in and with us. That Christ and the Holy Spirit are always working inside of us and moving us toward that image of what God would have us be.

    So the idea that we have to wait for the kingdom until we die is a bit off. Baptized Christians (at least of them I can say this) carry Christ in themselves. The Kingdom of Heaven is therefore inside all of us working and guiding us …”

    Would you agree or disagree with this?

  6. Still in the habit of not answering questions, I see.

    I disagree with that statement from a “Christian” blog on many levels, not least of which is the principle of baptismal regeneration it seems to expound.

  7. The question of whether I’m a Gnostic Christian? It’s a personal question so that you can make a personal attack rather than discussing our ideas, beliefs and experiences of Christianity. Have I asked you what Church you belong to? It’s irrelevant. 🙂

  8. Any excuse not to answer, hmm Craig? Where have I made any personal attack on you? If you are a Gnostic Christian then you have to be prepared to have those presuppositions scrutinized, just like you and Tolle do with “traditional religion”.

    It is not irrelevant, since the truth of the Gospel is not relative, and there are many churches where the Gospel is either preached half-way or not at all. And by the way, it is clear from my blog which church I go to. I am not ashamed of it.

  9. I am not going to publish any further comments from Craig since he has a long history of refusing to answer questions, a necessary ingredient for a conversation, and his last response is again a non-answer.

  10. “It is also in the Bible … “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.” Luke 17:21”

    It might well be noted that this was said only to the regenerate, born again, orthodox Chrisians. Those who opposed the Lordship of Christ were of their father the Devil, and his will they did (John 8:39-44).

  11. From reading this passage that you have published, John, my understanding is that God is devine and we will never be Him. I agree, but I must ask when we walk in our daily lives isn’t it possible to reach out to Him even though we can not see Him? For example: when we are afraid, His presence is around us. Doesn’t that possibly mean that He becomes part of us physically, thus unifying us? I am wondering if I am alone in this?

  12. No, you are not alone in that, and there is some truth in what you are saying. It is however often misunderstood to mean that we are somehow god-like, or become god-like. We will always be the creatures, and God the Creator.

    God does not change and become us. You have to remember that He is a triune God, and that when we become Christians, we do get baptized by the Holy Spirit. Even when God manifested in human form as Christ, He was different to the rest of us, without sin.

    The purpose of the Holy Spirit moving in us is for the purpose of sanctification, to change us to become more like God. That cannot happen if God becomes part of us in terms of conforming Himself to us.

  13. I understand what you mean, and thank you for clearing that up for me. I appreciate it. I do, however, have one more question to ask: is it possible for God to give some people gifts that he does not give to everyone? I will give you a example (when I mentioned this to the person we spoke about earlier, he said that it is a god-like gift, which is why I am asking) : is it possible for normal people, to have a 6th sense? It is close to something that has been described as premonitions. You sense when something is wrong. Is this possible? Have you done any reading on this?

  14. I have done plenty of reading on this, and I’m afraid I’m not convinced that such an ability even exists and is a gift of God, or even a verifiable and provable experience.

    The only people that were endowed with the ability to see the future were the Biblical prophets, and that was purely to act as messengers to the people of God at that specific time. They exhibited very specific characteristics, as did their prophesies, and that did not happen again after that time, and basically ceased with John the Baptist.

    I know that there are many that claim to be contemporary prophets or clairvoyants or such, but I cannot find any Scriptural proof that justifies that is firstly can exist or if it does manifest, that it is from God.

  15. You misunderstand me, John. I am asking if it is possible to simply have a feeling of danger to yourself or those you love. I do not have physical proof for you but I can give you examples where other people are involved and then the feeling is proven right. What I am also asking is not whether there are prophets or clairvoyants, but if it is possible to not only have this gift of sensing danger but also knowing things about strangers that you have just met, that they have not told you. Is it not possible to have been given this as a gift from God?

  16. No, I did not misunderstand you. I think you may not have read carefully what I said. I cannot find any Scriptural proof for such a “gift”, so therefore I cannot confirm that it is from God.

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