Earlier in the book, Tolle says that "sin" means "to miss the mark" in Greek, which is true. But what is the mark? According to God, the mark is the standard of a perfectly righteous God. God revealed his character through the Ten Commandments, a standard so high man could not keep it. This was to teach people how far off the mark they are. Jesus pushed this home by pointing out that calling someone a fool is a form of murder, or lusting after a woman is like adultery. Jesus was revealing that nobody can follow the Ten Commandments; no one is without sin. The Ten Commandments were meant to be a tutor to lead people to Christ (Galatians 3.24), so that we can "be justified by faith," not by works, because no one can keep God's law.
The angel Gabriel declared to Mary that she would bear a son and "you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1.21). This was the mission of Jesus: not to save us from an illusion of a false self, but from sin. And sin as God describes it is clearly that which is in man that is in rebellion to God. Jesus agreed with this, many times affirming the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) as God's word.
Man's natural self is the sin nature, in need of a Redeemer. We cannot match the standard, or mark, of God. But Tolle believes that man is basically good since he is part of God (13). He asserts that we are all "I Am," "consciousness" (which he equates with the word "God") expressed in form. "When I no longer confuse who I am with a temporary form of 'me,' then the dimension of the limitless and the eternal 'God' can express itself through 'me' and guide 'me,'" declares Tolle (251). And "God ....is formless consciousness and the essence of who you are" (219). This is the spiritually lethal premise of the book.
Tolle rails against the "ego" and claims this is what makes us sick and "insane." We need to realize that we are not our ego - it is running the show and trapping us in illusion. Many of the things Tolle says about the ego would be true if the words "fallen nature" or "sin nature" were substituted for "ego." When he describes the failings of the ego, he is describing man's sin nature. But since Tolle believes man is essentially divine, he separates our failings from who we are by claiming that we are not the ego, thus divorcing the sin nature from man.
Jesus spoke of sin:
"...for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26.28).
"Therefore I said to you that you would die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins" (John 8.24).
"Jesus answered them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin'" (John 8.34).
Tolle writes, "the notion of ?my life' is the original delusion of separateness, the source of ego....I don't have a life. I am life...How can I lose something that I Am?" (128).
By using the phrase "I Am," and capitalizing the "Am," Tolle seems to be suggesting, along with other things he states, that we are all divine. God gave his name to Moses as "I AM," a term that indicates God as eternally living and active, in stark contrast to the localized pagan gods with proper names who were worshiped as idols, dead and lifeless in their stone and metal statues. Man is not God but is to submit to God, but we rebel against this, wanting to go our own way, formulating a god we are comfortable with, one that does not judge our moral failings and who is a vague cosmic force that we are part of. In contrast, Jesus modeled submission to God's will many times over on earth, so men could see this as a pattern for what God desires from them.
Tolle quotes the Bible often and refers to Jesus frequently, but he takes most of it out of context, and/or he puts his own meaning into the biblical text. There are so many examples of this, I can only discuss a few.
Tolle rejects the historical Jesus of the Bible, and recasts Jesus as an enlightened, awakened teacher like Buddha. This comparison could be torn from the page of many a New Age book. In doing this, Tolle completely erases the context of Jesus as the prophesied Messiah. Tolle declares that Eastern enlightenment and liberation are the same as salvation taught by Jesus. To say this is to ignore and do violence to the biblical text and ignore the teachings of 2,000 years of Christianity. Salvation is not a matter of realization of one's inner divinity; it begins with the opposite -- a realization of one's sin nature and the need for redemption. Salvation results not from a change in awareness but from repentance, turning from sin to faith in Christ.
Tolle declares that when Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14.6) Jesus was saying we are all the Truth (71). This is astonishing because this is not in the text at all. If anything, Jesus was saying the opposite: He was claiming to be the prophesied Messiah, the Redeemer, the unique Son of God (which means he had God's nature), and the only way to God. Tolle ignores the rest of Scripture about man falling into sin, the resulting separation from God through this sin, and the theme of the Hebrew Scriptures about man turning away from God and in desperate need of a Redeemer.
Tolle also avers that when Jesus said, "Deny thyself," he meant, "Negate (and thus undo) the illusion of self" (79). Of course, even a schoolchild looking at the context of this comment (Matthew 16.23-25) can understand this is not what Jesus meant. Jesus said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (16.24). Jesus is speaking to his disciples and goes on to say that some may lose their lives for believing in Jesus, but that in doing so, they are saved. That is, belief in Christ brings real life, eternal life, even if physical death comes. This is supported by other statements from Jesus.
Jesus never said anything about the "illusion of self" nor did he even hint at this. Tolle is reading his own meaning into the text and thereby doing it a grave injustice. Would Tolle want his readers to read his books this way? Should we ignore the points he is clearly making and put our own meaning into it, unsupported by the text and context?
Tolle writes that what Jesus means by "eternal life" is that one can awaken to the "dimension of the formless within yourself" (81). Naturally, Jesus never said or taught this. Jesus was quite clear about what is in man: "But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders" (Matthew 15.18, 19).
Early in the book, Tolle declares that heaven "is not a location but refers to the inner realm of consciousness" (23). He claims that this is what Jesus taught but there is no evidence for this. The Kingdom of heaven was among men, or in their midst, because Jesus was there as the Messiah, and they should have recognized him.
According to the book, "The man on the cross is an archetypal image. He is every man and every woman" (102). But this is not true: no one can die for the sins of anyone else because no one has lived an unblemished life. Only a sinless life can pay the debt of sins of others. Jesus, who died at Passover, was the Passover Lamb, the Lamb without blemish.
"The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'" (John 1.36)
"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing" (Revelation 5.12).
"How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrew 9.14)