Donald is the Associate Professor of Biblical Spirituality and the Senior Associate Dean at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is also the founder and president of The Center for Biblical Spirituality. His website is www.biblicalspirituality.org.
A Review of Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth
By Donald S. Whitney
I first heard of Eckhart Tolle during a medical examination. After learning that I was a professor of biblical spirituality, the doctor asked, “Have you read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now?”
I said no, I had not. A brilliant, multi-talented man with a Catholic background, the physician began to commend the book to me as insightful and profound. Weeks later, in order to familiarize myself with it prior to my next trip to the doctor’s office, I leafed through the bestseller at Barnes & Noble. My initial impressions were confirmed with every passing page. The Power of Now was just another New Age, man-centered, self-help manual claiming to be the solution to every problem. And whether by design or default, the net effect of the book was to present itself as a replacement for the Bible and the Christ-centered faith the Bible produces.
Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (1) is simply more of the same.
Who is Eckhart Tolle?
Tolle and Oprah
Energized by the success of The Power of Now, Tolle followed with his 2005 book, A New Earth. But why did a book released in 2005 become the best-selling book in America in 2008? In a word, the answer again is “Oprah.” On January 30 she made it her monthly book club (with over a million online members) selection, and immediately sales of A New Earth skyrocketed.
Then Oprah did something she hadn’t done with any of her previous sixty book club choices, even calling it “The most exciting thing I've ever done.” In addition to having Tolle on her television show, she hosted ten live webcasts with the author. Millions of people worldwide either watched or downloaded the interviews. And so in less than four months, Oprah — arguably the world’s most famous woman — made Tolle perhaps the world’s most famous guru.
Repeatedly in A New Earth we read things like this:
Tolle’s teaching is the oldest blasphemy in the world. It is the same lie to which Satan wanted Eve to “awaken” in the Garden of Eden: “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:5). Sadly, just like Eve, many still fall for it.
And if this weren’t bad enough, it isn’t the only deception in A New Earth. One of the quickest ways to expose a false teacher is to examine what he says about mankind, Jesus, and the Bible. Notice what Tolle says.
Tolle’s heresy regarding man
Like roaches, uncovering one major heresy usually indicates the presence of many others. Tolle’s heretical deification of man means that our great problem is no longer separation from God due to sin, but separation from ourselves. And since there is no separation from God (a problem for us all which, incidentally, began when the lie “You will be like God” was first believed), there is no final judgment, wrath, or Hell to fear.
Tolle does mention sin, but as a word “that has been greatly misunderstood and misinterpreted” (p. 9). For him it is not the transgression of or lack of obedience to the law of God, but “to live unskillfully.” And the “salvation” (p. 13) we need is not the forgiveness of sin, but enlightenment.
So if there is no separation from God, there is no need for a Savior to restore the broken relationship with God and to deliver us from judgment, wrath, and Hell. Indeed, contrary to the Bible’s teaching that our greatest need is to hear the good news of what God has graciously done for sinners through Jesus Christ (Romans 10:13-14), Tolle says that our greatest need is to hear “the good news of the possibility of a radical transformation of human consciousness” (p. 13).
Tolle’s heresy regarding Jesus
An example of how Tolle quotes Jesus for support, then divorces that teaching from Jesus’ great mission of salvation is in a section quoted earlier:
The very Being that you are is Truth. Jesus tried to convey that when he said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”. . . Jesus speaks of the innermost I Am, the essence identity of every man and woman, . . . He speaks of the life that you are (p. 71).
What Jesus actually said was, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). Tolle takes just the first half of Jesus’ words, and then outrageously implies that every person on earth could make the same claim. But the second half of the sentence makes plain that Jesus made this claim only of Himself. Beyond that, Jesus teaches here that each of us is separate from God the Father and that He (Jesus) is the only way by which anyone can come to God.
What Tolle seems unable or unwilling to realize is that if Jesus is not the only way to God as He claimed, then He’s not a great teacher. Any person who would make such a declaration about himself falsely is either a liar or a lunatic, not a spiritual guide. But unlike anyone else who would dare assert such a claim, Jesus validated His authority to do so by rising from the dead.
Tolle’s heresy regarding the Bible
Like Rhonda Byrne in The Secret, Tolle is shrewd enough to scour the Scriptures and wrench a few verses from their contexts to give the false impression that the Bible supports his views. And yet, in the end he points his readers to themselves as the ultimate authority: “Yes, you are the Truth. If you look for it elsewhere, you will be deceived every time” (p. 71).
Jesus said that He is the truth (John 14:6) and that Scripture is truth (John 17:17). Tolle says “you are the Truth” and not to look elsewhere. These are mutually exclusive claims. Both can’t be right. You choose.
The truth about Tolle’s A New Earth
The truth about Christ’s “a new earth”
Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth (New York:
Dutton 2005; Plume, 2006) 316 pp.