The Old Testament does not, Chopra writes, depict God as a person, but rather a being beyond "physicality" who is "abstract and unimaginable" (41-42). Chopra argues that Jesus used the term "father" for God but that it was just a term of convenience because the Jews did not want to pronounce God's name (42).
While it is true that God the Father is spirit and does not have a physical body, it is also extraordinarily clear in the Old Testament that God is personal; he is not a mere principle, idea, or abstraction. God speaks personally with people like Adam, Joseph, Abraham, Isaac, Jonah, David, all the prophets, and numerous others. God reveals himself as Judge and Redeemer, and discloses his attributes of righteousness, omniscience, mercy, wrath on sin, love, grace, and others. He tells the Hebrew people that they will be his sons and daughters (Isaiah 43.6, quoted in 2 Corinthians 6.18), he instructs them on how to build the tabernacle and how to build the temple, and he talks of being their shepherd (Isaiah 40.11, Ez. 34.12).
God displays will, intelligence, communication in words, joy, sorrow, anger, mercy, compassion, patience, and other qualities impossible to find in a force or mere concept. Indeed, the examples of God as a personal God are so numerous, that to give these would require quoting almost the entirety of the Old Testament. To reject this and say God is an abstraction is to do the gravest disservice to the text. But since Chopra believes God is a principle of divine intelligence, he seemingly is choosing to read his own meanings into the content, even though such meanings are totally incongruent with the text.
In fact, according to this book, the kind of God
you believe in is irrelevant; what matters is that you realize that you
are in an illusion: "By praying to whatever deity or higher self you
believe in, you are essentially making a connection with reality, asking
to be reminded that illusion isn't real" (28). Redemption is finding "an
inner state that is free from images of pain"
The twist Chopra applies is to turn the exoteric (outer) into esoteric (inner), rendering Jesus into "a teacher of enlightenment" (62). Objective reality is irrelevant; what counts is the inner knowledge and experience. After discussing faith and admitting that the Bible states that one must believe in Jesus as the Messiah, Chopra confesses this is in conflict with enlightenment (60-61). He resolves this by deciding that Jesus could have been referring to faith "as experienced in a higher state of consciousness;" that is, one has faith when one is "in God-consciousness, as Jesus was" (62).
Viewing Jesus from this vantage point means, "You don't need to have faith in the Messiah or his mission. Instead, you have faith in the vision of higher consciousness" (62). Chopra's main proof text for this is "the Kingdom of Heaven is within you" (62, 144-45). According to Chopra, this statement from Jesus "points the way to hidden dimensions" in which you find the connection to "inner reality" (144).
Chopra recommends several meditative exercises, such as repeating phrases to yourself, letting them become "softer and deeper" for up to twenty minutes (144-45). Phrases he suggests are "Our Father, who art in Heaven" or "Hail Mary, full of grace" (144-45). After this, you gaze at a "sacred image, such as an icon, a picture of Jesus, a statue of Mary" and ask the figure "to embody itself through you" in order to connect with this essence and "remove the artificial boundary between the isolated ego-self and the higher self" (145).
Fond of "Be still and know that I am God," which Chopra takes out of context from Psalm 46 (as do an increasing number of Christians), he states that "be still" refers to meditation (which it does not -- see CANA article on "Be Still and Meditation" about Psalm 46.10). Continuing, Chopra states, "At the source, you are connected to pure awareness" and the phrase "Know that I am God" "refers to the unfolding of a deeper reality than the ego-mind was ever aware existed" (152). Chopra gives an exercise based on this in order to work toward "union with God" (153).
Chopra writes this book from the Eastern-New Age premise that man is part of God and has a divine nature, but we have forgotten this and fallen prey to the illusion of the world and the separatist ego-self. A proponent of the New Age misapplication and misunderstanding of quantum physics, Chopra proclaims that you are "blinking in and out of existence countless times per minute" and always "in flux," not "anchored in physical reality" (168). Indeed, the reader, says Chopra, should remind him and herself that "I am not fixed in time; I am not fixed in space; the person I think I am is actually a lingering memory," among other similar ideas (169).
You are not a separate individual; rather, "you are in everyone else, and everyone else is in you...you see them as essence, or pure Being" (168). "God-consciousness" is the realization of these principles and of one's divinity, and is the goal of the spiritual journey for Chopra. All of the misinterpretations of Scripture and all of the exercises offered in this book are designed to lead the reader to this conclusion, and to thus encourage him or her to start the journey to this state of God-consciousness.
The Third Jesus is a Gnostic, New Age Jesus that exists with no defensible historical or textual evidence. This "third Jesus" does not even tenuously resemble the Jesus proclaimed in the Gospels, nor is there any evidence that early Christians or the early Church confessed this Jesus.
There is a difference between disagreement with the claims in a text and unsubstantiated misinterpretations of that text -- any text. In essence, Chopra denies every essential of the historic Christian faith and overturns basic principles of hermeneutics in order to misuse the biblical text to prop up his own beliefs. Like the old-fashioned cloth doll that would change into another figure when held upside-down, Chopra puts aside the historical Jesus Christ of Scripture for an ethereal and vague Jesus-figure who seemingly meant things other than what he said. This action imbues the words of Jesus in the Gospels with meanings at odds with his Jewish heritage and contrary to the historical Middle Eastern cultural context, transforming the Bible into a puzzle book that requires people like Chopra to guide us to a hidden meaning. To remain silent in the face of such flagrant misrepresentations would be seen as ludicrous were such things written about a religious text other than the Christian Bible. Therefore, I cannot remain silent.
Chopra commits numerous straw man fallacies, false dichotomies, and uses loaded language. He also makes self-refuting statements such as, "Absolute truth is blind truth" (229). Is this statement true? It can't be, because this statement is an absolute statement or absolute truth claim, and thus it defeats its own assertion. However, Chopra suggests here an analogy between the "jihadis" and a Christian he met who believed in absolute truth. But if truth is not absolute, then everything Chopra asserts is without value, because truth is meaningless if it is relative. The term "relative truth," if true, must also be relative and therefore cannot itself be proclaimed as true. On what standard does Chopra base truth if there is no absolute truth?
If you have tended to agree with Chopra on what he writes about Jesus or the Bible, I plead with you to read the Bible for yourself, and perhaps even read some of the recommended books or links below in order to come to your own conclusion.
These books, although they do not respond
specifically to The Third Jesus, do address some of the claims
made by Chopra in The Third Jesus, or explain textual evidence
for the Bible. Listed alphabetically by author:
The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, Craig L. Blomberg
Dethroning Jesus: Exposing Popular Culture's Quest to Unseat the Biblical Christ, Darrell L. Bock and Daniel B. Wallace
The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities, Darrell L. Bock
The Canon of Scripture, F. F. Bruce.
The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? F. F. Bruce
The Origin of the Bible, F. F. Bruce
Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels by Craig A. Evans. Read sections on the Gnostic books.
From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible, Norman Geisler and William E. Nix
Jesus in an Age of Controversy, Douglas Groothuis
Reinventing Jesus, J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel B. Wallace
The Case for the Real Jesus, Lee Strobel
Links on the Gnostic Gospels and the Gnostic Christ
"What Are the Gnostic Gospels?"
"Gnosticism and the Gnostic Jesus" by Douglas Groothuis
"The Gnostic Gospels, Part Two" by Douglas
"The Gnostic Gospels"
"Is the New Testament Reliable?"
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