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Oct 15 2010

Namaste Nemesis

By John Immel

Read on or Click Here for Audio Mp3  of this Namaste Nemesis Article(48 Min)

“Namaste, I kill you,” says Yogi Maha Gumby.

Hmmm… that does not have the same ominous ring as Achmed the Dead Terrorist’s “I keeelll you!”

Somehow yoga is on the Theological watch list of Albert Mohler. It seems that the bending and breathing of the far eastern practice is subverting Christian doctrinal purity. Reports that went far and wide attributed Albert with saying that you can’t practice yoga and be a Christian. Since I’m no a fan of media outlets–particularly the Associated Repress when it comes to covering Christians–I decided to look it up myself on his blog: www.albertmohler.com. And, yup, it’s true. Al Mohler is anti-yoga.

Albert Mohler opens his article on Monday, September 20, 2010, with this:

When Christians practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga. The contradictions are not few, nor are they peripheral.

Sounds ominous, doesn’t it?

Soooo… in the grand scheme of threats: the tides of European Collectivism washing across the face of America; the Social Gospel preached with ever increasing regularity from church pulpits; Islam’s overt declaration of Christian/Western destruction; and Communism’s enforced Atheism perpetrating despotism throughout entire continents, the threat befuddling Christians is yoga?

Oh no, don’t bend, and breathe, and let your mind take a break.  Yoga will suck you into ideological perdition.

Uh… yeah… I see the sense of proportion.

Nothing like giving Christians yet one other excuse to represent the fat American cliché:  Physical exercise “profits little” after all, and the Baptists need moral clarity to beat the Lutherans to the Golden Corral. Gluttony is such a spiritual effort.

I know… I know… that isn’t what Al Mohlerishi Antiyoga is trying to say. I am being absurd to illustrate a point.

Everyone has twisted themselves into knots over Namaste nemesis Al Mohlerishi Antiyoga’s antagonistic comments about Christian yoga practitioners. I heard a lot of fuss and feathers on the radio and in an October 7th rebuttal, Al Mohler said he received hundreds of email taking him to task: the rated PG theme seems to be that he’s a narrow-minded idiot. I must confess I heard worse adjectives.

Here is the problem… Al Mohlerishi Antiyoga is not an idiot and his commentary is really not about yoga.

Outrages, right?!  His article “clearly” denounces yoga.

Yeah, yeah, yeah… Just hang on a bit: this is going somewhere. I want to have a little fun—at Namaste nemesis’ expense—and along the way point out the real source of a longstanding historic Christian failing.

So, breathe deep and assume the position Dear Spiritual Tyranny readers: Brainyasanas.

(An inside joke for you intellectual yoga practitioners.)

>snicker<

Anyway… for those of you who don’t know, Namaste carries a few meanings:

  • “I honor the Spirit in you which is also in me.”
  • “Your spirit and my spirit are ONE.”
  • “The God in me greets the God in you.”

My Hindi speaking Indian friend (yes, just one) tells me that the sense of the word is reverence and respect, carrying a very similar concept to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And even if she is wrong, a Google search will explain the same thing. Namaste is not a doctrinal assertion in the Christian dogmatic tradition, but a recognition of human fraternity based on an indwelling spiritual value. Now that doesn’t have ANY Christian counterpart at all, does it? ?

Rumor has it that many yoga practices open with this greeting: pause, palms together, a slight bow of reverence: “Namaste.” Now that is an overwhelmingly subversive ideological event, totally antithetical to Christian doctrine… totally… uh… absolutely… uh… hellfire and brimstone is our lot if we syncretise such a sentiment.

Anyway, Namaste nemesis Al Mohlerishi Antiyoga continues his September article like this:

Some questions we ask today would simply baffle our ancestors. When Christians ask whether believers should practice yoga, they are asking a question that betrays the strangeness of our current cultural moment — a time in which yoga seems almost mainstream in America.

“Some questions we ask today would simply baffle our ancestors… betrays the strangeness of our current cultural moment…”

Here is what Al Mohler’s comments are really about. He has some general objections to yoga, (I’ll address some of those shortly.) but his real fuss is in service to an unnamed, undefined moment when our ancestors—some peeps back in the day, when everyone who was anyone knew ALL the right answers. His real fuss is over Post Modern syncretism creeping into Christian doctrine aided and abetted by a female-dominated worldview. Yoga just happens to be one manifestation of what he considers an encroaching ideological pollution into purist biblical doctrine and a corresponding cultural decay.

Before I address the roots of this fuss, I want to ask this question: Who are these baffled ancestors?

“Ancestors” implies genetics but I doubt Al Mohlerishi Antiyoga means that ideas travel by heredity. So that leaves intellectual pedigree, which means that somewhere in the annals of American history (or world history??) is a magical moment when a specific Christian pure-bred doctrine pervaded everybody’s consciousness and everybody knew the right answers. And somehow they—in their doctrinal certitude—would be bamboozled by the Namaste insurgency.

I’m a little fuzzy, but where was this Mayberry RFD moment of Christian absolutism located, and what happened to its inhabitants?

That was irony for those of you who didn’t know.

Here is the reality: Al’s “ancestors” are a blogging fiction designed to imply that there is a purist culture where all theological questions have been forever answered and they are masters of the cultural universe. This fictional ideal is designed to contrast how far down the cultural slide we’ve come.

Let us do a flash review of Christianity’s travels through cultural and ideological mayhem so we can get a sense of proportion for my subsequent comments.

Christianity was born into a Hellenistic world that would make modern day New York look positively WASP-ish and it survived in that ideological free-for-all. Historically, Christianity showed itself superior to Gnostic insurgency of the first and second century, and Pagan insurgency through the Christian European expansion, and Druidic insurgency as Saint Patricius evangelized the Celts through the 10th and 11th century.   In the modern age, Christianity prevailed in the face of the barbaric cannibal tribes of Irian Jyra.

Sooo….

our “ancestors” did not live in Christian absolutist Mayberry RFD, and they found a means to demonstrate the superiority of Christian truth to generations—to entire continents—for a very, very long time.  Many of these world views were militant, barbaric, and evangelistic, and yet Christianity PREVAILED.

Now let us contrast.

Yoga is not militant. The only thing that The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi might assault you with is a hug and a bouquet of flowers. And Yoga studios are filled with flexible women, which is its own brand of interesting. The most fearful thing about yoga practitioners is their determination to only eat veggies and evangelize the world to become two-legged rabbits. My only concern is that they get a hold of the government because I like my ribeye with a red hot center.

So, when I hear a preacher moaning about the subversive affects of a fundamentally ANTI-aggressive, anti-evangelistic body of thought, with no orthodoxy and missionary organization; an ideology of mental vacancy, peace, flowers, and cosmic oneness—its power to transform a culture and subvert Christian purity, my lightning fast mind perks right up.

Let me get this straight. We should be scared of some INTENTIONALLY, empty-headed souls bending and breathing their way to enlightenment?

OMG! This is akin to an Olympic sprinter fearing a lobotomized turtle—that will kiss him if it catches him—in a gold medal race. Forget some mythical baffled ancestors. How can contemporary Christianity even think this is a threat?

Interestingly enough, for the last 500 years, the institutional Church has shown itself increasingly incapable of challenging prevailing ideological trends. Through the Middle Ages, the church did not prevail by offering ideas, (until Aquinas) but rather forced doctrinal solidarity by government means. In other words, they killed you if you chanted “ohhhhmmmm” to the Universe. Thinkers, take note. This time frame and its relationship to church force are very, very important.

Back to Al Mohlerishi Antiyoga’s article: on September 20th he wrote to address the question: should Christians practice yoga?

(As always read for yourself the full content of his comments and shape your own thoughts.)

He identified a book called The Subtle Body as the source authority for yoga’s insurgency into American Consciousness. He uses the book to make this direct unbreakable equation:  Hinduism and Buddhism = Eastern Mysticism = Yoga = Body Positions. The relationship between the Eastern mysticism and American yoga practice is an “unsanitary” syncretism into Christian thought and leads to an erroneous cultural action.

The sources and roots of yoga are not debatable: it comes from cultural assumptions not based in Western thought and yoga does not have roots in specifically Kerygmatic teaching. Kerygma is a word used to summarize the historic Christian message and tends to mean the broader evolution of Western religious thought and cultural practice.

Al Mohlerishi Antiyoga is right:  the source of yoga is undeniable and the intentions of the purist yogis and gurus are inarguable. He summarizes The Subtle Body in a subsequent criticism like this:

Reading The Subtle Body is an eye-opening and truly interesting experience. …  the growing acceptance of yoga points to the retreat of biblical Christianity in the culture. Yoga begins and ends with an understanding of the body that is … at odds with the Christian understanding. Christians are not called to empty the mind or to see the human body as a means of connecting to and coming to know the divine. Believers are called to meditate upon the Word of God — an external Word that comes to us by divine revelation — not to meditate by means of incomprehensible syllables.

I don’t want to get too bogged down in defending yoga. I don’t really care whether yoga is sanitized for Christian consumption. If someone wants to empty themselves of consciousness and chant to the universe in pursuit of enlightenment, they can go be about that. I think that an absurd proposition: abandoning Consciousness to find Consciousness. Such a state is utterly irrelevant to effective human existence. And if you assume that such a mindset is harmless, do a casual study of Indian history and notice the ideological stagnation. Then notice the millennia of subordinated men bowing to live creatures and images chipped out of stone. There is a reason that Mother Teresa spent her life combating poverty in Calcutta. Anti-reason, and cultural stagnation, and poverty are inseparably linked.

Hmmmm… that sounds a lot like modern American culture … I need to ponder that…

Oh well, free men (and women) can pursue silliness if they are inclined.

I further assert that Christianity is far and away a superior world view. There is no such thing as emptying self for the cause of achieving higher spiritual attainments. Men subordinating their minds and spirits—to some Zen, zero, nihilism is at the core of all ideologies that usher in death. Christianity is the antithesis.

Unfortunately, the Church’s track record in being able to discriminate between good and bad ideas is not too stellar. Wisdom sits in many places. The Church has not been successful in identifying Wisdom spoken across the globe to the minds of men. Somehow we have decided that if it didn’t originate in an anthology written over the span of 3,000 years and compiled into 66 books, it is “worldly error.” We have vilified endless ideas because they are practiced in context to philosophies that are spiritually and intellectually bankrupt or they threatened the Church’s definitions of Orthodoxy.

Oh well, I’m not gonna fix the roots of that historic bigotry in one article.

So back to yoga: the health and wellness benefits implicit to yoga practice are equally hard to argue against. Ever seen a fat yoga instructor? Ever seen a fat preacher? So is our motto: Fat for Jesus? Sit on your butt down in that pew in the name of doctrinal purity? There is something wrong with the contrast between yoga instructors and fat preachers.  So maybe Christians have something to learn?

Could it be?

Al Mohlerishi Antiyoga complained with the following on October 7th:

I have received hundreds of emails and comments against my article from those identifying as Christians. Not one–not a single one–has addressed the theological and biblical issues. There is not even a single protest communication offering a theological argument.

Well… strictly speaking, Al Mohlerishi Antiyoga in his September 20th article didn’t make a theological argument. So it is disingenuous for him pretend he is above-it-all and hold his critics to a purist standard. I didn’t notice one cited bible passage. Nor can I think of one that specifically forbids the practice of yoga. But hey, maybe I missed that one. His September article is merely a series of ideological denigrations based on what he offers as evidence of the syncretistic efforts of female-dominated Christian yoga practitioners. The effective rationalization of Mohler’s September 20th article goes like this:

  1. Yoga’s source = corrupt spiritual philosophy.
  2. Yoga practice = inseparable from spiritual philosophy.
  3. Christian doctrine = authentic spiritual philosophy.
  4. Christian Doctrine (does not equal)  Yoga
  5. Ergo, Christians practicing yoga are engaged in spiritual treason.
  6. (And even if that isn’t exactly true, can you really risk it?)

Maybe it is just me. But a reasonable New Testament comparison would be eating meat sacrificed to idols. We have the physical action of eating, mixed with Polytheistic sacramental meaning of sacrifice to another god. Paul never argues for or against the competing religions’ doctrinal intent. The fact that others used the sacrifices as a means to THEIR God was irrelevant. Paul does not imply a syncretism into Christianity by assuming the physical position of eating. At no point does he insist that Christian intention is subordinate to the false teachings of other world views. The conflict was individual and internal. Some Christians could not separate themselves from the sacramental intent of the competing religions. Paul resolved the issue by establishing individual intent as supreme to clear the believer’s conscience. The sacrifice, the meat to be eaten—a.k.a. the non-Christian part of the equation—was sanctified by the faith of the mature believer. Paul considered the unclean conscience a manifestation of Christian immaturity, not spiritual treason.

The solution:

  • For those not condemned in conscience, eat.
  • For those who are condemned, abstain.

Now let’s contrast Namaste nemesis Al Mohlerishi Antiyoga’s specific effort at ironclad logic in his September 20th article:

Nevertheless, a significant number of American Christians either experiment with yoga or become adherents of some yoga discipline. Most seem unaware that yoga cannot be neatly separated into physical and spiritual dimensions. The physical is the spiritual in yoga, and the exercises and disciplines of yoga are meant to connect with the divine.

At face value, this means YOUR intention in the matter is irrelevant. Merely executing the poses is tantamount to Christian spiritual sedition. It doesn’t matter WHAT you intend; it only maters what the Indian gurus assume those positions represent.

So if you stand with your hands at your side, that would be called Tadasana.

For you military types that were commanded Lean to Rest, that pushup you were executing is Ardha Chaturanga Dandasana.

I bet you Chariots of Fire fans, never knew you were being seduced down the path of false religion when you saw the runners stretching in Anjaneyasana.

These are all body positions that people encounter with regularity. By Al Mohlerishi Anityoga’s logic we are on the hook for the encroaching spiritual sedition because our bodies assume the position. You don’t have a choice in the matter. That FACT that some religious sect, somewhere, happens to use these elements to attain a spiritual … something, is all that matters. You are compelled to a specific ideological failure because of BODY positions.

Where does that logic end? Because a sex cult uses the missionary position as a means of enlightenment, believers must take that page out of their Christian Kama Sutra? Dude, take more than two pages out of that book and we are all on the hook for abstinence.

So, let’s apply this logic in reverse. Christians intend that going to church and sitting in a pew is a specific manifestation of spiritual discipline. So by Al Mohlerishi Antiyoga’s definition, when an unbeliever physically takes a sitting posture in church, they are automatically on the road to salvation?

Absurd you say? Of course it is. That is my point.

I suspect that Al Mohlerishi Antiyoga had a glimmer of the trap he’d laid himself so he offered this hedge. (Editorial note: I insert two place markers called [Part A] and [Part B] to help distinguish my following responses.)

[Part A] There is nothing wrong with physical exercise, and yoga positions in themselves are not the main issue. But these positions are teaching postures with a spiritual purpose. Consider this — [Part B] if you have to meditate intensely in order to achieve or to maintain a physical posture, it is no longer merely a physical posture.

Al Mohlerishi Antiyoga got some heat over his September 20th comments and on October 7th he offered this rebuttal:

5. I have heard from a myriad of Christians who insist that their practice of yoga involves absolutely no meditation, no spiritual direction, no inward concentration, and no thought element. Well, if so, you are simply not practicing yoga. You may be twisting yourselves into pretzels or grasshoppers, but if there is no meditation or direction of consciousness, you are not practicing yoga, you are simply performing a physical exercise. Don’t call it yoga.

Here are my [Part A] comments:

This is a hilarious manifestation of intellectual yoga; an effort to open some wiggle in the argumentative room. He opened the September article by insisting that the issues were not peripheral. If this is all magically wrapped up by changing the definition, then what is the fuss? If this is all circumvented by calling it Pilates, then why do the expose on the Subtle Body? The question being answered is: Should Christians practice yoga?  The answer is one line: Sure… just call it something else.

Duh?

So if this whole thing is semantics, where is the pernicious descent into Post Modernist Polyglot hell?

>snicker<

Al’s [Part A] (and Point 5) is an effort to give concession to a physical A-Spirituality. In other words, he is trying to allow that some physical activity is not by default connected to a spiritual element, which is true. However tied together, the human, mind, spirit and body is, intent must account for the content of action. But Al Mohler has a problem:  for his yoga criticisms to remain valid he cannot concede that Christians can sanitize yoga. Somehow he must keep the ironclad relationship between the consciousness-seeking Hindu mystical practice and the physical actions. This is fun to watch because in his October 20th article, he removed any shred of this hedge with this comment:

Douglas R. Groothuis, Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary and a respected specialist on the New Age Movement, warns Christians that yoga is not merely about physical exercise or health. “All forms of yoga involve occult assumptions,” he warns, “even hatha yoga, which is often presented as a merely physical discipline.”

By singling out the most harmless branch of yoga practice as still offering occult assumptions, he has closed off any escape. He was trying to catch yoga practitioners in his irrefutable trap. And it is wonderfully glorious that he caught himself. I’ll let him defend the ironclad relationship between unintentional action and subsequent spiritual sedition.

Since Al Mohlerishi Antiyoga was interested in theological arguments, this issue of intention and compulsion is at the root of his whole underlying preoccupation. I told you at the outset this article has little to do with yoga. Al Mohler’s real preoccupation is Post Modernism, driven by females, and the dangers of failing to maintain some high-minded Christian doctrinal purity and culture. The truly insidious undertone in Al Mohlerishi Anityoga’s thought is directly tied to his insistence that YOU don’t have a choice about the content of your believing. You cannot choose your participation in ideological subversion.

Now notice [Part B] and Al Mohlerishi Antiyoga’s use of the word “meditate.” Here is the [Part B]  of his thought again for reference: “… if you have to meditate intensely in order to achieve or to maintain a physical posture, it is no longer merely a physical posture.”

The implication being if you have to apply a specific consuming intensity to your body positions, you have crossed the threshold of merely physical action and slid into a mystical, cultish realm of MEDITATION.

Uh… so now we have a Christian Doctrine of Intensity?

Does this doctrine only apply to yoga positions or are all physical actions that cannot be sustained by a non-intense “meditation” subject to the same… uh… yard stick?

What is the appropriate Christian measure of intensity?

At what point in said intensity does a man lose his will to shape his intentions?

Absurd you say? Of course it is. That is the point.

I suspect that Al Mohlerishi Antiyoga will jump up and down—or whatever non-intense action he can muster—to point out the operative word in [Part B] is meditation. I want you to see the linguistic sleight of hand. Al Mohlerishi Antiyoga is using the word in the Eastern Mysticism sense of becoming zero, seeking to achieve oneness with a cosmic divine. He is trying to tie Christian yoga practitioner to this specific definition of meditation. If you are practicing YOGA, then you have no choice but to practice cultic MEDITATION.

I want you to notice how hard he is pounding on your inability to choose your own personal intention. You can’t choose what you meditate because of some cosmic plot to force you to empty your mind and seek a false path to God. Even if you define mediation as mulling over Bible passages, by the sheer force of assuming mystical positions you MUST necessarily be succumbing to erroneous ideologies.

By the way, if you are that weak, if you have so little control of your own consciousness that you are subverted by any stray thought… run! Go tie yourself  in a closet somewhere. And don’t go to church either. You will be prey to any man pretending and asserting authority to shape your thoughts. You are a danger to the rest of us in your automaton-ish-ness.

>snicker<

Maybe some people are trying to merge Christianity with yoga in every wrong sense. Since people insist on merging Christianity with Socialism and the predicates of Marxist ideology and Kantian philosophy and the Platonist world view, I suppose we all have to tolerate profound error.

I won’t try to speak for everyone’s intent on this subject, but I will offer this:  The issue here is not meditation in the mystic sense but focus. I suspect that most yoga practitioners that happen to be Christians, approach breathing deeply while performing a Sun Salutation, feeling the flow from one pose to the next is the iterative experience of self-mastery: a mind/body harmony akin to dance. For many people who will never be professional grade athletes, what they really gain from a yoga practice is focus, an activity that galvanizes every part of them to an achievable end. In yoga, they have a venue that challenges their head and muscles to integrate towards personal mastery.

This pursuit of focus can be seen in most any physical activity. Athletes of all stripes seek to achieve this sublime state—from golf to football to Chinese badminton—a transcendent moment where all the physical preparation, all the intellectual focus, the sum of self merges into a flawless execution. I suspect that they have the Chariots of Fire experience: “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” The fact that it is sublime does not mean it is competing for the replacement of God’s sacrifice for the remission of sins.

Anyway, enough about the peripheral of yoga, now let’s talk about Post Modernism and the coming Polyglot hell of Al Mohlerishi Anityoga’s nightmare.

What is Post Modernism?

Well, Al Mohler assumes that his readership knows because he makes no effort in his September 20th article to define.  He has probably spent a sufficient amount of time, at least in his own mind, detailing so he feels no need to reiterate. Since I’ve never addressed it here on www.spritualtyranny.com, I need to give a thumbnail sketch.

Of all cultural descriptors, this won’t be too hard. Think “Alternative” music as a genre. What does that mean exactly? What music falls into the alternative category? Uh… just about anything that someone decides is a different choice, a contrasted option to the popular, institutional, or the standard.

Post Modernism is the philosophical Alternative music genre.

Think of it like this: Post Modernism in a conversation would sound like a teenager: “You’re the establishment. You’re not cool. You’re out of touch. This is new and fresh and you’re tired and worn out!  Whatever!  Talk to the hand!”

And whoever they were talking to would sound like the parent: “You’re not authentic.  You’re immature. We’re the standard of measure. Do it because I said so. This is my house and you will live my the rules. Tut, tut, tut.”

In our time, this conversation translates into these bumper sticker debates.

Gay marriage is an alternate choice to heterosexual marriage… Alakazam poof! Post Modernism.

The Constitution is a living breathing document and Originalists are out of touch white racists… Alakazam poof! Post Modernism.

LeBron James is the best player in the world and Kobe Bryant is a punk. Alakazam poof! Post Modernism.

>snicker<

Uh…

Hmmmm….

Anyway, you get the idea.

Those are the individual manifestations of Post Modernism. Now understand this: by definition, Post Modernism is a reaction to establishment assumptions which means it has no defining philosophy. The guiding principle is “no standard exists.” So as a mass movement, it represents intentional ideological chaos.

Now you can understand Al Mohlerishi Antiyoga’s fuss with yoga. He sees the Church as the undisputed leader of cultural definition and yoga as an unsanitary interloper. This is why I said the key element of his article was summarized in this thought: “Some questions we ask today would simply baffle our ancestors. … betrays the strangeness of our current cultural moment…”

Strangeness is a subjective judgment. In a culture that is driven by a philosophical free-for-all, the strange people are the ones demanding adherence to any standard. Al Mohlerishi Antiyoga’s underlying assumption is the existence of a penultimate moment of utter Christian clarity and prevailing cultural acceptance.

And here is the problem: this has never existed, nor can it ever exist with truly free men.

Historically, Christians have assumed that cultural breakdown was a problem from without. So we have approached the solution with two methods. Retreat into highly xenophobic enclaves ruled by doctrinal absolutists who burn Harry Potter books because the gremlins of bad will bite them in the keester if they are in the same room with subversive, devilish instruments of darkness. Or, seek government power to impose broad cultural standard. The logic is that God is King of the world, and his Church is the Queen. If everyone would just submit to his rule, via the Glorious Church, all would be hunky-dory. The reason people believe bad stuff is because they won’t let the very righteous, very pious, very qualified Stewards of Good Revelation dictate the cultural standard. It’s everybody else’s fault for not submitting to our authority.

Our Christian ancestors—that would be so befuddled by our strange questions—do not have a laudable track record when it comes to how they dictated cultural standard. The reason for their befuddlement is because they wouldn’t even consider allowing the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi the freedom to chant to the universe. They would put him on the rack and pull until the only unintelligible babbling was from agony.

The implicit world view of Al Mohlerishi Anityoga’s ancestors is defined by one filter: an argument about authority—who is morally justified to use force to achieve cultural outcome?

This is the historic failing of Christianity. When Augustine merged Platonism into Christianity—the most dramatic manifestation of syncretism ever—and then merged that hybrid with the power of the Roman state, the face of Christianity changed forever. From that point forward, the underlying assumption was exactly Al Mohlerishi Antiyoga’s expectation: the Church’s job is to play idea cop. Every subsequent theological issue is in service to man’s subordination to Church authority. Church history is long and bloody. The outcome is obvious:  We stopped persuading the world, and started dictating the world.

Actually it is worse than that. We stopped even thinking we had to persuade, that we had to offer a better body of ideas and a better qualitative life. This conclusion is flat bizarre considering the very reason the disciples remained with Jesus is because they could honestly say: “Where would we go? You have the words of limitless life.” For three years the disciples lived an endless demonstration of the superiority of Jesus’ words and ideas. But somehow the sum of the modern Christian argument is: The Bible says it, you’d better believe it, or God will burn you.

And Mohler’s posts are a perfect example of this very mindset. At no point does he explain why Christianity is superior to yoga. His implicit assumption is that he stands unique, supreme, by the sheer force of advocating “biblical” authority. He is bothered that he even has to address the departure from what he considers to be unarguable. Yet his argument reduces Christianity to one revelation in a pantheon of revelations.

Al Mohler said this in his September 20th article: “Believers are called to meditate upon the Word of God — an external Word that comes to us by divine revelation — not to meditate by means of incomprehensible syllables.” He is trying to make the contrast between “biblical” Christian practice and “unbiblical” yoga practice. But in doing so, he defines Christianity as a product of revelation—an external revelation. Here is what I want you to notice. His characterization makes the only difference between Christianity and Yoga the means of revelation.

  • Christian = Word of God.
  • Yoga = incomprehensible babbling.

The TRUTH, the Tao, the Enlightenment, in both instances is revelation. Any time an argument concedes the premise, the only question that remains is how much. My point is not that Al Mohler is wrong, but by characterizing the argument in this fashion, he has ultimately conceded any argumentative leverage. He has already accepted that revelation is the means to spiritual truth. The only argument left is to justify why one means of revelation is better than another.

The “My revelation is better than your revelation,” gets some traction when one of those revelations declares jihad and everyone knows that means a sword in the eye. But I guarantee, this is positively mystifying against an ideology that is based in care bears, rainbows, flowers, hugs, kisses, and oh, the added practical benefit of health and flexibility.

People frankly don’t care which one is better. And if they can integrate bits and pieces of a grand theological smorgasbord, even better. Man has shown himself willing to suffer ANY indignity in the pursuit of effective knowledge. And I do mean ANY. So “incomprehensible babbling” doesn’t really rank on the so what meter to most people. And if they can persuade themselves that babbling produces anything of value, they will babble like babies for the rest of their lives.

This is why I said: “The only thing left to argue is authority,” which is the underlying theme of Al Mohlerishi Antiyoga’s October 7th rebuttal.

Al Mohler declared his Post Modern assessment right because the women-dominated response offered no “biblical” counter argument. He further observed that people are unapologetic in creating religions of their own. These are both criticisms assessing authority. The Bible is the supreme authority and you are not authorized to make up your own religion.

Is Al right to assert biblical authority? Are the yoga practitioners right to insist they can define their subjective spiritual pursuits? They prayed and God said it was OK? And here is the problem: Force and Authority are ultimately the same thing: the power to compel an outcome. So the issue is not over right and wrong; the issue is over a subsequent justification for force. It does not matter if the Bible is the authority if no force exists to compel an outcome. So the inevitable conclusion of this argument is who can beat people into submission to their authority. And our befuddled ancestors have written that history LARGE.

Free men cannot be compelled to right answers. They must be free to choose their intent. The intent of the individual must remain sovereign. This is why I spent so much time drilling down on Al Mohlerishi Antiyoga’s efforts to extract human intent from the pursuit of yoga. This is the insidious subtext of his comments. To declare men incompetent to will or to do GOOD is to lay the foundation for Dictators. If you cannot do GOOD by yourself, then you need someone to enforce GOOD in your behalf. This is THE historic justification for Church Autocracy. But free men are not so governed. They must be able to handle the truth for themselves and make up their own minds, and embrace truth in their own hearts.

The only way to impact a culture of free men is to offer better ideas. And our culture is in desperate need of better ideas.

Al Mohler is correct in this assessment. Our current cultural situation is a bad, bad thing. The intentional chaos of Post Modernism is indicative of a profound cultural bankruptcy. But moaning about the evils of Post Modernism is really illustrative of the utter inability to offer a galvanizing counterargument.

We have tried for centuries to offer the “The Bible says it, you better believe it, and get your butt into our church,” argument. We’ve tried prophesying every mystical portent and vague disaster to scare the bejeebers out of people. We’ve tried making churches the ultimate customer service organization and give away the world for free. We’ve tried glad-handing people into church pews. We’ve tried to manufacture familial collectivism into our sanctuaries. We’ve bullied people with Kantian philosophy and Altruism’s destructive ethic to join us in the cause of selflessness and its subsequent enlightenment. (A true irony in light of the criticisms of yoga) And yet people stay away in droves, growing increasingly defiant of any Christian effort to impact our cultural lives. Their reaction is very telling. They see our “revelation” as no different than a palm reader’s insight, and our churches as inferior to the local pub where everyone already knows their name, doesn’t judge, and has beer. But most importantly, even our own people who label themselves Christians see church leaders as a threat to liberty.

Al Mohlerishi Antiyoga has the relationship backwards. We are running a race against an intentionally lobotomized turtle and losing. Here is the disastrous truth: Post Modernism is not the cause; it is the effect of OUR philosophical bankruptcy.

All we have to do is offer the smallest amount of philosophical organization, the barest means to deal with the ideological chaos, and we win The World.

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    1. 6
      Jean Valjean

      Hi Mary,

      You said you won’t be upset if your Jewish friend won’t put up a Christmas tree. I would assume that would be because you’re a Christian and she/he is a Jew. But let’s say you’re both Jews and your friend puts up a Christmas tree. Does that mean you would be upset with your friend? Would this mean that your friend now believes in Christ or is worshipping Christ now because he/she put up a Christmas tree?

      Just curious,
      Jean Valjean

    2. 7
      Jacob

      Great Article John…Post-Modernism is not a cause but a symptom of our spiritual malady. I will post another couple thoughts later tonight….

    1. 8
      Yoga « For the scattered flock

      […] Read John Immel’s PWNing of Al Mohler. It matters to you because of a) the intellectual and spiritual dry-rot in contemporary Evangelical thought – let’s bawl in fear because of people doing Pilates by another name – and b) you will probably interact with a single Christian woman or two who, hopefully, is learning to be flexible. —- Edit: Take this to mean what it says; I am commenting on stretching, breathing, and contemplation. I do not mean to wink at attempts to syncretize pagan and Christian thought; nor minimize the significance of attempting to manufacture “spiritual” experiences; whether that is by Pentecostal hand-clapping rounds, Baptist pulpit-pounding and shreiking, chanting, or many practices found in Transcendental Meditation. I mean to point out that people who have the Holy Spirit in them do not need to be afraid. John’s link correctly points out the absurdity of, say, saying that the “missionary position” in bed for a married couple’s sex life is not rendered pagan by virtue of being mentioned in the Kama Sutra; nor is the military posture of “parade rest” demonic because it mimics something found in classical yoga movements. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Al Mohler’s No Little People, No Little Sermon on John 9Is the Trinity pluralist?2010 Shepherds Conference Downloads […]

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