Deepak Chopra, the second coming and cafeteria Christianity

Christ will come again! The Bible promises his return, although it says that that none will know the hour of this Second Coming (e.g., Matthew 24:42, Revelations 3:3). In recent years, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins have written their popular Left Behind series which tries to flesh out at least one interpretation or the often obscure language of the description of St. John in his Revelation. Deepak Chopra, M.D., "one of the world's greatest leaders in the field of mind body medicine" according to his website, has now chimed in by writing a short essay for entitled "Is Jesus Coming Back?"

Dr. Chopra begins by dividing people into two camps. The first camp is composed of the moderate and liberals (who are seen as the sensible Christians), and what he will consistently reference as "fundamentalists" who take the Bible literally, including the end-times discussions of Daniel, the Gospels, the Revelation to St. John and 1 Thessalonians (among other places), are in the second camp. One would think based upon this division that Dr. Chopra would discount such a "literalistic" belief as a second coming because it would require that the claims of the Bible be treated as literally true, right? No, Dr. Chopra apparently believes in a second coming of some sort:

We are indeed waiting for the return of Jesus, and in this "we" I include those non-Christians who want to live in a tolerant, compassionate relationship with everyone.

If he awaits the return of Jesus while asserting that only "fundamentalists" would take the Bible literally, it remains to ask: "What Jesus will return?" Dr. Chopra lists three alternatives, and the first two are, of course, wrong in his eyes. The first Jesus is the historical rabbi of the Jesus Seminar and some mainstream denominations whose "life profoundly changed religious belief in the West." While he doesn't say so, this Jesus was not God incarnate, but merely a man who had keen spiritual insight. Personally, I agree that this view of Jesus isn't correct, nor do I see how this Jesus, being merely a man, could have a "second coming".

The second Jesus is the God of the "fundementalists" (which is, of course, an ad hominem used to describe anyone who takes the Bible seriously):

The second Jesus is the core of a religion, which has its particular dogmas, rituals, priests, churches, and scriptures. These two Jesuses are undeniably real, but the second one--the Jesus of organized religion--has been subject to human whim and change. Right now, if you are not a fundamentalist, he seems to have been hijacked in the service of intolerance, bigotry, and war. A religion that began in the name of love has reached almost its exact opposite--not for the first time, of course.

Let me rephrase what I think Dr. Chopra is saying: if you are an Evangelical Christian or a Roman Catholic who accepts the truth of the Bible (which includes most Roman Catholics), you have taken a God of love and, through "whim and change", turned him into a God of intolerance, bigotry and war. Never mind what the Bible says about his second coming -- all enlightened people know that Jesus will not be judgmental when he comes but rather will be a loving shepherd who will accept everyone into heaven. To think otherwise would be intolerant.

There is, of course, a third Jesus who Dr. Chopra heralds as the real thing:

The third Jesus is not rigidly sectarian. He falls into the world tradition of spirituality. This Jesus speaks for peace and love; his morality includes all peoples; his Father is a universal deity. I was well acquainted with the third Jesus as a child in India. I could love and revere him. It never occurred to me that he would ever become an enemy. This Jesus doesn't speak of non-Christians as pagans. He raises human nature to its highest ideal, along with the saints and sages who have guided humanity for centuries.

This is a classic case of cafeteria Christianity. Each person is free to pick and choose those parts of Christianity that one likes, and reject the others. Dr. Chopra apparently agrees that Jesus will come again, but doesn't believe it will be exactly in the way that the Bible portrays his second coming. Basically, Dr. Chopra suggests that Jesus will be coming as the tolerant God of the New Age movement. But what about all of those things that Jesus said about "separating the wheat from the chaff" (Matthew 3:12, Luke 3:12), separating the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25: 31-46), and the Lake of Fire for those whose names were not written in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:15)? Dr. Chopra doesn't say, but he does suggest that the problem is that "fundamentalists" have not heard of the third Jesus that he knows.

I don't think that well-intentioned fundamentalists mean to pervert the third Jesus; I suspect they've never heard of him. He has one great disadvantage, however. You can't own him. You can't say "he's all mine and nobody else's." The third Jesus won't work if you need to justify a war, if you need evil enemies, or you want to brand "them" as godless.

Sadly, many fundamentalists need Jesus for all these purposes. So the third Jesus might not return to them, but if Christianity is to survive among moderate and liberal believers, who used to be the mainstream of the religion, won't it take the return of the third Jesus? The first one is long deceased, the second has fallen prey to politics and narrow-mindedness.

What alternative is there? Loss of faith and a slide into deeper and deeper meaninglessness. that would be a terrible fate for all of us, not just the Christians.

With all due respect to Dr. Chopra, your vision of Jesus is rather stunted. Yes, Jesus has a radical love for each of us. Every "fundamentalists" has certainly heard -- and probably memorized -- John 3:16 which expresses the great depth of love that God has for all of the world. But Dr. Chopra's vision of God does not take into account the entire Word of God as taught in both the Old and New Testaments. I am fairly certain that Dr. Chopra would gladly accept all of the verses in both the Old and New Testaments that suggest that God is loving and forgiving (which he is), but if anything suggests that God will be judge, then such a verse is rejected as God being changed at the whim of people.

I am glad that Dr. Chopra recognizes God as a God of love, but he he is looking at only a limited aspect of God. I pray that someday he will recognize that God is not a two-dimensional being mallable to meet his limited vision, but is the God of love, passion, holiness, judgment, and reason that the Bible consistently portrays. Dr. Chopra and his followers will never meet that God if they continue to treat the Bible like a cafeteria.


Catez said…
Very interesting. I've mentioned this at BlogWatch
BK said…

Thank you for the link, and that you for all you do on BlogWatch. I try to go there regularly because you find such interesting essays. Thank you.

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