Posted on Mar 28, 2008
ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)--"One Jesus is historical and we know next to nothing about him," writes Deepak Chopra in his new book, "The Third Jesus." The New Age philosopher continues, "Another Jesus is the one appropriated by Christianity. He was created by the Church to fulfill its agenda. The third Jesus, the one this book is about, is as yet so unknown that even the most devout Christians don't expect he exists."
In the book, released in February by Harmony, Chopra states, "I have written what I think the New Testament means…" And what it means to Chopra, the author of more than 40 books, is quite different from the way orthodox Christians have understood it through the centuries.
Chopra believes that the "real" Jesus -– the third Jesus -- is much less than the New Testament makes him out to be.
"I want to offer the possibility that Jesus was truly as he proclaimed, a savior. Not 'the' savior, not the one and only Son of God," writes Chopra. "Rather, Jesus embodied the highest level of enlightenment… Jesus intended to save the world by showing others the path of God-consciousness."
According to Chopra, Jesus was nothing more than an adherent to what we now call New Age philosophy.
"Jesus did not physically descend from God's dwelling place … nor did he return to sit at the right hand of a literal throne," writes Chopra. "What made Jesus the Son of God was the fact that he had achieved God-consciousness."
We shouldn't discount Chopra's book and assume no one is reading it. Sadly, the opposite true. "The Third Jesus" -- full of New Age, heretical pabulum –- was ranked third March 30 on The New York Times' list for hardcover advice books.
Jesus' teachings, Chopra contends, were in-line with other "enlightened" teachers.
"The salvation Jesus offered was the same as Buddha's: release from suffering and a path to spiritual freedom, joy and closeness to God.'
According to Chopra, Jesus was not –- as the Bible states -- God who became flesh for the purpose of dying on the cross to pay the penalty for sin.
"Christianity is burdened by some impossible expectations," asserts Chopra, "and one of them it that God forgave all sins through Jesus."
Chopra contends that Jesus was nothing more than a man who tapped into his inner divinity through self-effort. And it is something, Chopra says, that we all can do.
How does Chopra deal with quotes where Jesus claims to be God? Such quotes pose no problem for the New Age guru, who contends that Jesus simply was misunderstood.
"This audacious claim that Jesus was the same as God infuriated the priests," Chopra writes. "They couldn't comprehend that 'I am God' is the simplest statement for someone in God-consciousness."
According to Chopra, "He [Jesus] meant something much more mystical when he says that he and the Father are one or that he is in the Father and the Father is in him."
In order to deconstruct the orthodox Christian understanding of Jesus, Chopra finds it necessary to undermine the credibility of the gospels.
"The writers of the gospels set out not to tell the facts of a life but to convert nonbelievers and support their own belief in Jesus as the Messiah," he writes. "To this end they almost certainly exaggerated events, invented miracles, and put words into his mouth."
According to Chopra, among the words the gospel writers put in Jesus mouth have to do with his claim to be the only way of salvation. "Jesus spoke of the necessity to believe in him as the road to salvation," Chopra writes, "but these words were put in his mouth by his followers' decades later."
To further render the gospels as unreliable, Chopra asserts, "It is likely that many unknown scribes altered the original texts of the New Testament before a final version was settled on between the third and forth centuries AD."
"Unless you believe that the gospels are revealed truth," Chopra writes, "there are enough internal problems with the four gospels, I think, to question –- and open to interpretation -– the Jesus we meet in the Bible."
In order to advance the New Age version of Jesus -– the "third Jesus" -– Chopra asserts that the orthodox version of Christianity is nothing more than a sham perpetrated through the centuries by a self-seeking church with its own suspect agenda. In essence, the Christ that is worshiped today by millions world-wide is a false version of Jesus, Chopra believes.
And I thought New Age adherents were tolerant. Can you imagine if an evangelical Christian made the same assertion about a religion -– any religion? He or she would be branded as a narrow-minded bigot and figuratively stoned in the mainstream media.
What is most interesting is how Chopra has no problem using the "unreliable" gospel accounts to support his argument for his "third Jesus." He quotes from Matthew 42 times, Luke 28 times, John 27 times and Mark five times. If the gospels are so unreliable and suspect, how can Chopra justify trusting them at any point?
It is obvious that when Chopra approaches the New Testament he is so blinded by his New Age "light" that he can only see that which supports it. As such, he cherry picks quotes of Jesus and twists them to fit his New Age version of a "third Jesus."
Chopra's "third Jesus" is no Jesus at all. He is nothing more than the figment of a New Age imagination.
Kelly Boggs, whose column appears each week in Baptist Press, is editor of the Baptist Message, the newspaper of the Louisiana Baptist Convention
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