In Defense of Fear and Hate

Ideas are often rejected because “they are based on fear.” I have never understood this, since in our dangerous world many people, events, ideologies, and things are fearful and should, not surprisingly, be feared. God is the chief object to be feared, as I will argue. Ideas and people are also castigated for “hate” and for being “haters.” If you take a stand on traditional morality, for example, you may be hailed as a hater of those outside your “heteronormative” viewpoint. (I sometimes sense hate in these denunciations of hate.) But again, some many things are hateful and should be hated (although I cannot give a detailed list). A charming expression of sympathy in the Southern United States is, “I hate it for you.”

I am going to argue, against the age, that neither fear nor hate are wrong in themselves. (Neither is love always good in itself, since one may love hateful things, such as pornography or torturing animals.) Fear and hate can be wrongly applied, of course. Those who hate everyone of another race or everyone of another political party are wrongfully hateful. Those who fear UFO attacks or the evil effects of fluoridation in water supplies are paranoid. Further, there are those who use fear to manipulate people against reality. For example, when congresswoman Alexandria Octavio Cortez says that unless we take radical action immediately, the world will be destroyed by climate change in twelve years, her fear-mongering should be ignored. Examples of bad fear and bad hate—as well as bad love—could be multiplied at length. But on to defending good versions of fear and hate.

Appropriate Fear in a Dangerous World

Fear is appropriate in a perilous world. I fear getting into a car accident and being thrown from my car or smashing my head against the windshield. Thus, I put on my seat belt. Fearing eye problems (I have had a few retinal issues), I am regularly examined by an optometrist. I don’t consult medical experts for social reasons, but out of fear. I encourage my friends to heed the same fears concerning their physical wellbeing. These concerns need not be hypochondriacal. They are examples of proper self-care.

When I was in first grade, during the height of the US Cold War with the USSR, the school conducted air-raid drills. We clambered under our desks to practice avoiding death by bombs. (How effective that might have been is another matter.) People around the country constructed bomb shelters. This was driven by the legitimate fear a nuclear attack on the United States by the USSR. The country was on the very brink of war during the thirteen days of Cuban missile crisis in October of 1962.

We may fear evils—which pose a threat to body, soul, and society–and act accordingly. But we may also fear what is good and act accordingly. In education, students worry about receiving bad grades from a good teacher. Their grades (at least ideally) indicate how close they came to attaining a proper standard administered by a fair teacher. So, the fear of the teacher (in this sense) motivates students to do well, to avoid bad grades and to achieve good grades. Instead of ducking under a desk to prepare for a bombing raid, students spend more time at their desks studying to avoid displeasing their teacher. I tell my students, “Fear of the professor is the beginning of good grades.”

The Fear of the Lord

Although it is anathema to a watered-down, subjective, feel-good, and gutless religion, we should fear God. The Proverbs tells us that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7; see 2:5; 5:12; 9:10; 15:33; Psalm 111:10).

The sage of The Book of Ecclesiastes concludes his matchless receipt of wisdom with this.

  Now all has been heard;
    here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind.
  For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every hidden thing,
    whether it is good or evil.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

We ought not fear God because he is evil, but because he is perfectly good, as well as all-powerful. He keeps score and judges rightly—in time and in eternity. We are accountable to our God, the Creator and Lord of the universe.

We do not hear it much today, but people used to be commended for being “God-fearing.” They recognized God as the highest authority who would hold them accountable. They wanted to please him by their actions, so they controlled their desires and tried to put others first. Thus, a non-Christian could be God-fearing.

But some may object, didn’t Jesus reveal the love of God and didn’t he want us to love him in turn? Indeed, he did. But Jesus also said this:

I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. 

Luke 12:4-5

This is not Jesus “meek and mild,” but Jesus, the prophet issuing a warning. He knew his Old Testament, apparently. But he goes on.

Yet right after these works, Jesus says:

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Luke 12:6-7

Jesus is not contradicting himself. We should fear God in the sense that God is a just judge. But God is also providentially concerned about all his creatures. Jesus himself is the ultimate evidence of God’s love. As he said:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

John 3:16-18; see also Ephesians 2:1-10

Whoever believes in Jesus as Lord and Savior need not fear punishment, since Jesus, the Lamb of God, substituted himself for us on the Cross in the ultimate act of love. However, the Christian still ought to fear God in the sense that we do not want to displease God, nor do we want to stand before God on the Great Day with many regrets.

1 Corinthians 3:12-15

The Fear of God and Holy Hatred

There is a connection between the fear of God and holy hatred. “To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech” (Proverbs 8:13). Besides wanting us to fear God, Jesus also hated a few things. In speaking to the church at Ephesus, Jesus says, “But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate” (Revelation 2:6). We are not told anything more about the Nicolaitans (although two church fathers said they were licentious heretics), but their practices were hateworthy, according to Jesus.

Jesus also wanted his followers to hate some things. It may surprise some readers to read these words of Jesus:

If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:26-27

Jesus used hyperbole to make strong points, as did other Jewish teachers of his day (see also Matthew 5:27-32). Jesus affirmed that parents should be honored, but our love of God must come first. As he said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38). He went on: “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’”(Matthew 22:39). Sometimes, devotion to Christ can bring divisions even in families, as he warned (Matthew 10:16-21).

Jesus famously (and outrageously) also told us to love our enemies (Matthew 543-44), even those involved in hateful activities and with terrible characters. Yet by hating their behavior, we are loving them, since their behavior is bad for everyone, both themselves and others. In love, we should want the best for them.

These reflections on fear and hate are not meant as contrarian bombshells lobbed onto the field of contemporary culture. I offer them as points of reflection in the hopes that we find our moral bearings in a world adrift in mindless groupthink, cliches, slogans, and talking points.

Give Profits a Chance

As I was driving on Santa Fe in Littleton, I passed a light rail station and read this on an RTD car, “Caring for people, not profits.” Is that a good motto for Denver’s light rail system? Or is it a false dichotomy? I am not complaining about the RTD service per se. Rather, I am raising the basic issue of profits and social benefit—a question germane to Colorado politics and to all politics. 

To many, “profit” is a dirty word and must be paired with “greed,” which is always vice. So, if you want to make a profit, you are greedy or will become greedy if you make profits. Is that right? We need to move beyond images of the greedy old Mr. Potter of “It’s a Wonderful Life” to get a better picture.

First, to greed. Even if someone is greedy (which is a vice), he still needs to provide goods or services that are markable to people’s needs. His greed may lead him to expand production and thus hire new workers who would otherwise be unemployed. Yes, his greed is a moral vice, but it may translate to a public good. But one may seek profit and not be greedy, but rather act out of legitimate self-interest. As Adam Smith said in The Wealth of Nations (1776).

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages.”

Those who make vast amounts of money through savvy self-interest may also become great benefactors. Whatever you think of Bill Gates, and whatever his motives may have been, his great wealth came from profits made through Microsoft products. These products benefitted his many workers and consumers. He and his wife now dedicate much of their time and give large sums to philanthropic enterprises. 

Second, let’s get clear on what making a profit means and what it does not mean. Profits indicate economic success and allow businesses to produce goods and services demanded by the market, and the consumers generally benefit from this. A business’s profit is not like stealing that amount from the consumer. 

Third, to make a profit in a fair market means that the producer is providing goods or services to consumers who find these items worthwhile enough to purchase. Businesses have to care about people to the extent that they provide them with items they desire and can afford to purchase. Further, some measure of profit is needed for a business to stay in business at all.

Fourth, profits fuel innovation. If business merely break even or fail to make significant profits, they are unable to dedicate much money to research and development in the products they provide. Had Apple gone broke in 2000, there would be no iPhone.   

Fifth, if a service like RTD is controlled by the civil government– which does not need to make a profit—that does not automatically make the service better than what private profit-making business might do. The saying, “Close enough for government work,” may ring true. When services are not accountable to consumers in order to make profits, and when they are not in competition with other private businesses providing the same service, the quality of these services may suffer. Why should be think that the motto, “Caring about People, not Profits,” will motivate RTD managers and workers to care more about people than the profit motive would motivate them?

Since Colorado has turned from blue to red, the prevailing mentality of politicians is to take a dim view of profit-making ventures and to favor government-run services. I say, give profits a chance to profit people.

Easter Life and the Facts of History

Easter commemorates and celebrates a historical event unlike any other: the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  But what is the significance of the resurrection? And how can we know it really happened? 

The four Gospels report that Jesus predicted his death, burial, and resurrection. He was born to die. All of his wondrous teachings, healings, exorcisms, and transforming relationships with all manner of people—from fishermen to tax collectors to prostitutes to revolutionaries—would be incomplete without his crucifixion and resurrection. Shortly before his death, “Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priest and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Matthew 16:21). Peter resisted this grim fact, but Jesus rebuked him.  There was no other way (vs. 22-23).  For, as Jesus had taught, he “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

And give his life he did, on an unspeakably cruel Roman cross—impaled for all to see before two common criminals. We call this day Good Friday because it was good for us; but it was dreadful for Jesus. Before I became a follower of Christ, I always associated this day with the Alaskan earthquake on Good Friday, 1964, one of the largest ever in North America. I was there in Anchorage. After the death of Jesus, the earth quaked on the first Good Friday as well, heaving with a significance that far exceeds any geological upsurge in world history. As Jesus’ disciple Matthew recounts: “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split” (Matthew 27:50-51). When the guards at the crucifixion experienced the earthquake and the other extraordinary phenomena, “they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely he was the Son of God!’” (v. 54). Yet another miracle was waiting, waiting—as the dead Messiah was pried off his bloody cross, embalmed, and laid in a cold, dark tomb, guarded to the hilt.

All seemed to be lost. The one who had boldly claimed to be “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), the prophet who had announced that “God so loved the world that he sent his one and only son that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)—this man now had died.  The man who had raised the dead was dead.

On the first day of the week, two women, both named Mary, came to visit the tomb of their master. They had stayed with him as he died; now they visited his tomb in grief.  Yet instead of mourning a death, they celebrated a resurrection announced by an angel, who rolled back the stone sealing the tomb and charged them to look at its empty contents.  He then told them to tell Jesus’ disciples of the resurrection and to go to Galilee where they would see him. As they scurried away, Jesus himself met them, greeted them, and received their surprised worship (Matthew 27:8-9).  He directed them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (v. 10).

The rest is history, and it changed history forever. The fact that women were the first witnesses to the resurrection puts the lie to the notion that the idea of Jesus’ resurrection was concocted at a later point to add drama to his life. Women were not taken to be trustworthy witnesses in courts of law at that time (although Jesus always respected them).  If someone had wanted to create a pious fraud, they never would have included the two Marys in their story. Moreover, all four Gospels testify to the factual reality of the resurrection. They were written by eyewitnesses (Matthew and John) or those who consulted eyewitnesses (Luke and Mark); they were people in the know, not writers of myths and legends (see Luke 1:1-4; 1 Peter 1:16).

After the resurrection, the gospel of the risen Jesus was quickly proclaimed in the very area where he was crucified.  This upstart “cult” would have been easily refuted by someone producing the corpse of Christ, which both the Jewish establishment and the Roman government had a vested interest in doing, since this new movement threatened the religious and political status quo. But we have no historical record of any such thing having occurred.  On the contrary, the Jesus movement grew and rapidly spread. Christian Jews changed the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday, in honor of Jesus’ resurrection. Pious Jews would never do such a thing on their own initiative, because it would set them against their own tradition and their countrymen. Nor would they have ceased offering the prescribed sacrifices their Scriptures required had not Jesus proven himself to be the final sacrifice for sin, the lamb of God (see John  1:29 and the Book of Hebrews). The resurrection best accounts for this change in their day of worship, their manner of worship, and the transformation at the core of their lives.  Moreover, the two key rituals of the earliest church—communion and the baptism—both presuppose the historicity of the resurrection and are very difficult to explain without it.

The Apostle Paul, a man revolutionized through an encounter with the risen Christ (Acts 9), taught that “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14).  Paul listed many witnesses of the risen Christ, some of whom were still living when he wrote (1 Corinthians 15:3-8), and confidently affirmed that “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead” (v. 20).  He also proclaimed that Jesus “through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4).

Easter is the core of Christian faith and life.  Without the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, there is no gospel message, no future hope, and no new life in Christ. With the resurrection, Christianity stands unique in all the world: no other spiritual movement is based on the resurrection of its divine founder.  When Jesus announced, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 10:25), he meant it and he demonstrated it.  Let us, then, leave our dead ways and follow him today and into eternity.

Spiritual Dangers of New Age Meditation and Yoga

Harper’s ran an in-depth article on the fate of a young woman who did intensive Easterm meditation at a retreat and contacted mental illness as a result. It ended tragically. The piece reviews significant scientific literature on the deleterious effects of meditation.


I warned of the psychological, physical, and spiritual dangers of yoga and meditation in my book, Confronting the New Age (InterVarsity Press, 1988). Back then, a New Age organization was set up to help people who experienced mental problems through New Age involvement, The Spiritual Emergency Network. I also quote yoga teachers who warn of the psychological and physical dangers of yoga when (in their mind) done wrongly. I have excerpted part of that book below from the Kindle version. (Sadly, the footnote references do not appear, but they will if you purchase the book from Amazon, which is only $2.99.)

We were made for worship, relationships, and work. We were not made to sit for hours on end focusing on our breath, having little external stimuli, and blanking out our God-given minds. Our minds are to be renewed through the Holy Spirit and according to the Word of God (Romans 12:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 4:12; Psalm 119), not annulled or deconstructed into oblivion.

The article mentions that Buddhist writers of old warned of “demonic” dangers of meditation. Remember that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light and his ministers as ministers of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14; see also 2 Peter 5:8; 1 John 4:1-6). 


Please read the Harper’s article with what I wrote in mind–in mind! Don’t waste your mind or direct your consciousness to nothing or Nirvana. “The mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

Spiritual Dangers (from Douglas Groothuis, Confronting the New Age)

Those who trust in Christ are given access to spiritual discernment and power in spiritual combat. Yet those outside of Christ are fair prey of the enemy. In communicating to New Agers it is sometimes wise to warn them that psychic sojourns may lead them into raging spiritual storms. 

As New Age seekers dive into their spiritual experiences, they leave themselves vulnerable to both fraud and spiritual deception Some seekers are primed for deception because they are desperate, hurting people looking for an answer—any answer. If Christians encounter such souls, a word of warning is a good tonic. Even if we can’t lead them to Christ just then, we can warn them of occult dangers and offer the safety of knowing Christ as victor over sin and Satan. 

It should be made clear that the Bible prohibits all occult activities for at least two reasons. First, God alone is worthy of worship, and he is rightfully jealous of our affections and obedience. Since he is supremely good, this jealousy translates into a desire both to glorify himself and to have his creatures live as they ought to live. Second, God also knows the reality of fallen spiritual beings who entice humanity to follow their destructive ways. For these reasons he vetoes any suggestion of occult involvement. Although many biblical passages condemn the occult, this passage from Deuteronomy, originally given to God’s people who were to possess the Promised Land, is the most exhaustive: 

When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God. (Deut 18:9–13; see also Lev 19:31; 20:6) 

Isaiah echoes this and points us in the right direction: “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn” (Is 8:19–20; see also 47:8–15). 

Although there are scores of other biblical warnings, consider the stark finality of Jesus Christ’s words concerning those who will not enter the eternal city: “Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Rev 22:15). If the biblical warnings are not heeded, cautions can be given from New Age literature itself. For instance, if a friend wants to take a yoga class at the local YMCA to help calm her nerves, we might quote the following, written by an advocate of yoga: “Yoga is not a trifling jest if we consider that any misunderstanding in the practice of yoga can mean death or insanity.”26 Practitioners of yoga often warn of the power of the kundalini energy, represented as a serpent coiled at the base of the spine. The purpose of many forms of yoga is to “awaken the kundalini” and release its energy upward through the seven chakras (energy centers) of the body. But the yogis themselves caution that this is no child’s play. One might get burned (literally!) by the serpent’s hot breath—or go insane.27 

In an issue of ReVision, a scholarly New Age journal, consciousness researchers Christina and Stanislav Grof speak of “transpersonal crises” that are often linked to “various meditative practices which are specifically designed to activate spiritual energies.” These include “the practice of yoga, Zen, various movement meditations, pranayama, Kundalini maneuvers, Tibetan Buddhist psychoenergetic exercises, Christian prayer and other forms of deep and systematic spiritual involvement and self-exploration.”28 (Given the substance of their article, it is clear their concept of “Christian prayer” is not a biblical spirituality, but pantheistic introspection falsely labeled Christian.) 

The Grofs believe these “emergencies” are merely difficult stages often required for greater growth, which they interpret as New Age enlightenment Yet their descriptions of the “crises” are bone chilling, especially when describing the “awakening of the Serpent Power (Kundalini)” which they say “can be accompanied by dramatic physical and psychological manifestations called kriyas,” which include “powerful sensations of heat and energy streaming up the spine, associated with tremors, spasms, violent shaking, and complex twisting movements.” They also mention “involuntary laughing or crying, chanting of mantras or songs, talking in tongues, emitting of vocal noises and animal sounds, and assuming spontaneous yoga gestures (mudras) and postures (asanas).” Other physical manifestations include “nausea, diarrhea or constipation, anal or uterine contractions, clenching of the jaws, rise and drop of temperature, and bulimia or loss of appetite. The entire body can be rigid or limp, and feel unusually large or small.”29 

Although the Grofs also list supposedly positive benefits of kundalini such as “ecstasy, orgiastic raptures, and states of indescribable peace and tranquility,”30 one must risk a total breakdown (or worse) for that prize. Yet all the subjective enjoyment in the world cannot yield the forgiveness of sins or the peace of mind offered by Jesus Christ, who requires no such psychological and physical violence from his followers. 

The Grofs found these “transpersonal emergencies” prevalent enough among New Agers that in 1980 they founded “the Spiritual Emergency Network” to help enlighten the “psychotherapeutic community” to the reality of the issue and to offer assistance through education and referrals to those undergoing various crises. The headquarters for the Spiritual Emergency Network is on the campus of the California Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in the San Francisco area and has 42 regional centers worldwide.31 

Yoga may also open up a person to spiritual contacts and all manner of occult activity. Transcendental Meditation—while claiming to be a neutral, psychological technique—uses yogic methods to alter consciousness. Maharishi, its founder, has said that the purpose of chanting the mantra in Transcendental Meditation is “to produce an effect in some other world, to draw the attention of those higher beings or gods living there. The entire knowledge of the mantra . . . is devoted to man’s connection, to man’s communication with the higher beings in a different strata (sic) of creation.”32 

If a person says he is interested in yoga simply as a physical discipline, he should be told that it was not invented by the mystic masters of old simply to cultivate better physiques. Yoga teachers such as R L. Hittleman admit that any health benefits are secondary He also admits to having used the health angle to hook Westerners on the Hindu world view.33 

An article in Yoga Journal on parapsychology even warns psychic sojourners that the use of divination (through Ouija boards, automatic writing and other methods) “in a frivolous or disrespectful manner” makes one “liable to attract ‘lower’ discarnate communicators, including ghosts or poltergeists, and one runs the risks of becoming obsessed or possessed.”34 Christians need not use quotation marks for the word lower, because they believe in an active “Lowerarchy.”35 of demonic mischief-makers capable of possessing, obsessing and oppressing those outside the protection of the risen Christ. Although the article in Yoga Journal issues a small warning, it falls tragically short of Christian discernment It tantalizes readers by saying that “two of the most famous ‘channeled’ teachings of recent years—the Seth books and the ‘messages from Michael’—got their start on the Ouija board.”36 

Christians may challenge New Age aspirants by concretely relating dangers of various New Age practices. Many of these—channeling, psychic healing, mind-altering meditations and so on—are nothing but modernized occultism, and occultism exacts too high a price in the end. The late Kurt Koch, Christian theologian and occult counselor for over forty-five years, has given hundreds of examples of occult bondage in his many writings. His seasoned analysis was that “no one makes use of occult powers without harm.”37 We are not suggesting that all people involved in some occult/New Age practice will suffer similar symptoms, but that these practices are outside the will of God and thus generally dangerous. 

Confronting the New Age: How to Resist a Growing Religious Movement (pp. 76-80). InterVarsity Press, 1988. Kindle Edition.

Mike Shreve on Yoga, Christianity, and the New Age Worldview

Mike Shreve was deep into eastern religion and yoga before he converted to Christianity in 1970. He has since written books and done many media and speaking appearances to expose the errors of eastern mysticism and yoga and to promote the Christian gospel. Although I have been writing and researching in these areas for decades, I have just discovered his work through his excellent booklet, Seven Reasons I No Longer Practice Yoga. I asked Michael several questions related to yoga, Christianity, and the New Age worldview and found his answers insightful and needful for Christians today.

  1. Tell us about your life before you converted and how you got involved in Eastern religion.

I was raised Roman Catholic and very devoted, anticipating a day when I would probably enter the priesthood. However, having never been “born again,” I was easily wooed by the world as a teenager and drifted away from religions altogether, eventually becoming a keyboardist in a rock band. It was just a matter of time before I got swept up in the megatrend of psychedelics so dominant in the latter 60s. This eventually resulted in a near-death experience at the age of 18, but the “curse” became a “blessing,” because it showed me the brevity and frailty of life, and put me on a search for truth and ultimate reality. In desperation, I dropped out of college to study under an Indian guru named Yogi Bhajan in a sect referred to as “Kundalini Yoga.”

  1. How did you come to hear and accept the message of Jesus?

Several events led to my personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ and my salvation. Because I was running a yoga ashram in Tampa, Florida, and teaching Kundalini Yoga extracurricularly at four colleges in the Tampa/Sarasota area (University of South Florida, University of Tampa, Florida Presbyterian, and New College), the Tampa Tribune newspaper did a half-page story on me. I thought it would dramatically increase my class attendance. Instead, it alerted a local 24-hour Christian prayer group to start praying for me. Every hour of every day someone was interceding in my behalf.

Then the second link in an amazing Holy-Spirit-inspired chain of events took place—I received a random letter from an old college friend explaining to me how he had been “born again,” emphatically insisting that Jesus was and is the only way. Trying to politely refuse that concept, I countered that Christianity was a lesser “Bhakti Yoga” path (devotion to an individual god), and that I embraced all religions as being equally legitimate and effective means of achieving oneness with God. However, Larry’s letter kept resounding in my mind until one day I decided to deal with it. Attempting to push my way through all the objections I had to the exclusivity of Jesus Christ, I decided to open my heart to the possibility that His teachings were true. Also, it dawned on me that if He really did die on the cross for the sins of humanity, I owed it to Him to at least explore His claims.

So, one day, instead of following my normal yoga routine (14 hours daily of asanas, mantra-chanting, pranayama, raja yoga disciplines, reading of the Bhagavad Gita and the Vedas, etc.). Veering drastically from the norm, I only read the Bible that day (the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation primarily) and only prayed to Jesus—pleading that if He was the only way, He would give me a supernatural sign.

high-school-picture-with-yogi-picture

That afternoon I was hitchhiking to teach a yoga class at the University of South Florida. One of the members of the prayer group was two miles away walking in a laundromat when God spoke to him to get back in his van and start driving. Thinking it quite strange for God to direct him that way, he reluctantly got back behind the wheel and started driving, turning whenever he felt an impulse. Then everything fell into place—he saw me hitchhiking, felt compelled to pick me up, and pulled over. When I opened the door to climb in, the first thing I noticed was a picture of Jesus he had taped to the ceiling. I knew it was my answer. Within a few minutes he began witnessing to me and shortly after that, I was on my knees asking Jesus to dwell within my heart. It happened! I was born again. I had a genuine encounter with the true God, and everything changed. I went back to all my yoga classes, explaining that I had unknowingly misled them and that from that point forward, classes would no longer be held. I also shut down my yoga ashram. Many of my main students became followers of Jesus as well. Thank God, He brought me out of darkness into His marvelous light!

  1. What kinds of spiritual battles have you experienced since becoming a Christian?

In fifty years of walking with the Lord, I have faced numerous spiritual battles, but I have learned through the Word of God how to overcome them all (Romans 8:37, 1 John 5:4). One of the first major spiritual attacks I experienced occurred about two weeks after I was saved. I was laying in bed, reading the Bible, when a demon spirit visibly appeared and attempted to re-inhabit my body and pull my soul out into something referred to as “the astral realm” (an experience I had previously pursued as a student of yoga called “astral projection”). I was deeply concerned if that spirit achieved its purpose, I could lose control completely. I felt paralyzed. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even open my mouth to rebuke the demon. But at that critical moment, I remembered counseling I had received from some mature believers and acted on it. Though I couldn’t talk, in my mind I declared, “The blood of Jesus be upon you.” When I merely formed those words mentally, the evil spirit backed away from me. That freed me up enough so that I could speak those same words out loud, commanding the spirit to depart from me and flee from the room—which it did, and I was never attacked that way again. So, I learned early on the authority that rests in the blood of Jesus. I know this story may sound a little farfetched to those who have never experienced a literal demonic attack, but things like this really do take place. In fact, people contact me from all over the world asking me to pray for their deliverance from something they call “spontaneous kundalini awakenings”—uncontrollable surges of spiritual energy that feel very evil and demonic in nature—that began happening to them because of their involvement with yoga.

  1. What is the key to freedom if someone has been oppressed by demons through the practice of yoga or other pagan practices?

There are several keys to freedom. Shortly after becoming a follower of Jesus I burned all of my books on eastern religions and new age practices and all my yoga paraphernalia, which is a biblical pattern for severing ties to the evil spirits behind occult practices (Acts 19:19). Also, being prayed for by mature believers who understand deliverance can be very helpful and needful. Fasting has always been a key for spiritual cleansing to take place also—coupled with lengthy times of focused prayer.

  1. Why do think yoga is so popular today?

I believe there are at least four reasons yoga has become so popular: (1) many versions of yoga have deemphasized the connection to Hinduism and emphasized just the physical and health aspects of the practice, but it still becomes a door to demonic intrusion, spiritual oppression, and religious contamination. (2) often people turn to yoga because they have never been exposed to authentic New Testament Christianity. They have only experienced a brand of nominal Christianity that offers information about a historical Christ, but fails to inform seekers about the transformation available to them spiritually through His indwelling (Ephesians 3:17). (3) I personally believe the hugely popular yoga movement is a satanic strategy helping to prepare humanity for a “one-world religion” that accepts all paths as legitimate approaches to God. I feel this will be one of three pillars supporting the platform of the Antichrist (a one world religion, a one world political system, and a one world currency).

  1. Do you think there can be Christian versions of yoga?

I believe the very term “Christian yoga” is an oxymoron. It is impossible to extricate it completely from its Hindu foundation. Through the years I have talked with many people practicing what they called “Christian yoga” and often discovered their worldviews contain a mixture of biblical ideas and far eastern concepts (such as a belief in chakras). I actually caution believers never to practice yoga. There are low impact exercise regimens that are helpful alternatives offering similar physical results without the spiritual trappings. Even if classes seem benign, with Bible readings and Christian music going on, attending “yoga” sessions is an endorsement of the entire belief system out of which yoga springs, which is very non-Christian.

  1. What does the church need to know about yoga and New Age religion in order to stay true to her calling?

The very word “yoga” means yoke or union and implies “union with God”—but the “God” (ultimate reality) enshrined in the Hindu worldview is usually Brahman—an impersonal life force, not a personal God. Educating believers about the true nature of practices such as these is essential to sharpen the discernment in the followers of Jesus. As a yoga student I often did “breath meditation” in the hope of increasing intimacy with God through an increased intake of prana (a Hindu word for the elemental life force in all creation, which the Chinese call Chi). Now as a Christian, I explain the fallacy of this belief by using the following acrostic for the word yoga:

Y = you
O = only
G = get
A = air

You cannot “breathe” your way into an intimate relationship with God. You must use the biblical plan of salvation and approach Him from the heart.

Furthermore, believers need to be informed about the nature of the New Age Movement so they can interact intelligently with those who embrace that worldview and show the uniqueness of Jesus. It is very important to approach New Agers and yoga advocates in a very peaceful and loving way—which are characteristics they value, instead of resorting to arguments over theological points—something I call “confrontational apologetics.”

8.  What resources do you suggest for those who want to be more knowledgeable in this area?

I invite anyone reading this short explanation of my personal transformation story to visit my comparative religion website: www.thetruelight.net. There are many helpful articles and personal testimonies featured on the site.

On that website also, you can download a free mini-book titled The Highest Adventure: Encountering God that goes into more detail about my former beliefs as a yoga teacher and the biblical response to those beliefs. This mini-book is available in other languages including Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish.

For those who want a very in-depth examination of these issues, I suggest my 336-page comparison of over 20 religions titled In Search of the True Light.

My ministry website is www.shreveministries.org

My YouTube channel is Shreve Ministries where our two series of television programs are posted: (1) In Search of the True Light TV programs, and (2) Discover Your Spiritual Identity TV programs, a biblical study of the names and titles of the children of God.

Philosophy of the Lecture Outline

Having been a public speaker for over forty years, I have realized that offering an audience a lecture outline can fortify and increase the knowledge the speaker wants to communicate. Outlines help the listener follow the speaker, as well as giving the listener the opportunity to follow up on the topic presented. Consider the parts of a lecture outline—or at least how I make them. 

1. The speaker should be identified by his or her full name, title, and institutional affiliation. This helps give a strong ethos to the presentation, if the speaker is so qualified. You can also include contact information. For my outlines, I write:

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary. DouglasGroothuis.com

2.Putting the date and occasion of the lecture grounds it in history and place, which may end up being important.

Vertitas Forum, Anchorage, Alaska, April 10, 2021.

3. The title of the lecture should be accurate, interesting, but not too cute, since unnecessary wit can detract from one’s gravitas. The title may include a subtitle.

Critical Theory: A Biblical and Logical Critique

4. An opening quote can set the tone for the lecture. It may be a Bible verse or a quote from a noteworthy figure, such as Blaise Pascal. 

5. Sections and subsections structure the lecture and assist the listener in following the speaker. Be consistent in the form you use. I use the following:

  1. God and Suffering
    1. The biblical view
      1. Creation (Genesis 1-2)
      2. Fall (Genesis 3)
      3. Redemption (Romans 4-8)
    2. Philosophical issues
      1. God’s perfect goodness
      2. God’s unlimited power
      3. The existence of evil
      4. Are (1), (2), and (3) logically compatible?

6. Leave space between each major section so that the listener can add notes if desired.

7. The outline may include more quotations from the Bible or other sources, but they should not be too long. It is good to give the reference to the quotation, so the listener can look this up.

8. Ending the lecture outline with a bibliography encourages the listener to follow up on the topic with further reading and discovery. I emphasize books and journals, but sometimes include DVDs and web pages. I don’t usually give a full bibliography reference—as would be required in academic writing, but enough to properly identify the source.

For Further Study

  1. Francis Schaeffer, The God Who is There (InterVarsity Press, 1968).
  2. Apologetics web page for Reasonable Faith, the ministry of William Lane Craig: reasonablefaith.org. 
  3. Videos on Intelligent Design by Illustra Video. Illustra.org.

Lecture outlines are not required for every public lecture or sermon, but the more demanding the material, the more a clear and compelling outline is needed. Some argue that lecture outlines should be avoided, since listeners may get distracted by the outline and not listen to the speaker. True enough, but if the speaker and listener follow the outline and the lecture is compelling, this is unlikely to occur. 

I view lecture outlines as part of God’s mission to bring truth and reconciliation to the world (Matthew 6:33). As such, we should value them highly and work on them diligently. 

Apologetics After the Two Deaths of Ravi Zacharias

Apologetics After the Two Deaths of Ravi Zacharias

Douglas Groothuis, Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary

I am a Christian philosopher who has defended the Christian worldview for nearly forty-five years. I have a compelling interest in the well-being of my fellow apologists and their ministries. I lead a master’s degree in apologetics and ethics that has trained many young philosophers and apologists in the last thirty years. When Christian apologists and apologetics thrive, I rejoice. I have seen my students get doctorates, secure academic and ministry positions, become colleagues, and publish articles and books. I exult in their achievements and in those of my seniors and peers. I regularly pray for apologists, well-known and otherwise (Ephesians 6:19). When apologists fail, either through bad arguments or bad living, I mourn. But the moral failures are harder to take and more damaging. Ravi’s shameful downfall raises many questions I cannot answer here. I address what I know best: apologetics. 

The Two Deaths of Ravi Zacharias

Ravi Zacharias and I never met or interacted. I had esteemed him as our preeminent itinerant apologist-evangelist. Others, such as settled academics, could go deeper intellectually, but Ravi presented solid arguments in winsome ways and around the world for decades. He consistently published credible books and built the largest apologetics organization in the world, which, at its height, employed one hundred apologists worldwide. 

Then Ravi was diagnosed with aggressive cancer and died shortly after in May of 2020. Millions mourned but thanked God for his life and for the ministry that would live on. Although allegations of sexual impropriety (and the inflating of his academic credentials) had surfaced before, further accusations of sexual abuse were made shortly after his death. They ended up being true, and Ravi died again. This is not the place to catalogue the extent and heinousness of his sins. You can find it all online in the official report released by RZIM. Suffice to say that Ravi was guilty of using his position to manipulate and abuse dozens if not hundreds of women over many years, leaving a long trail of heartbreak and betrayal—even before it was revealed to the general public. And he used ministry funds to pay for his pleasures. So, after the death of the man came the death of his reputation. Even The New York Times aired it for all to see. But, what of his ministry and what of apologetics after the two deaths of Ravi Zacharias—that savvy, successful, suave, and intelligent man we took to be an exemplary apologist?

Apologetics after Ravi Zacharias

I will not speculate about the fate of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), which, even with the highest ideals and deepest contrition, may face an impossible task of preserving a once-flourishing ministry which was so associated with a man now twice-dead. Some of the publishers of Ravi’s books have withdrawn his books from print. Lee Strobel will remove his interview with Ravi featured in his book, The Case for Faith. Ravi’s videos, audio recordings, and other writings will be removed from official platforms. His once-secret life lives after him and threatens to undermine everything he stood for. If someone this good at apologetics turns out to be this bad morally, what good is left for apologetics?

To answer, let us start by considering the three essential elements of rhetoric (or the art of persuasion), according to Aristotle: ethos, pathos, and logosEthos concerns the credibility of the speaker or writer. Ravi had, we thought, a strong ethos. He was articulate, humble, and presentable. We trusted him and deemed him worth listening to. Now we know of a dark and sinister side of the man that, had it been known during his lifetime, would have disqualified him for ministry and destroyed his ethos. Pathos is the ability of a speaker or writer to rouse an audience’s affections, to make them care about the subject. Ravi excelled at pathos, illustrating his points from poetry, literature, and personal stories. Yet he did not manipulate his audience and seemed to care for them. He also applied rational force (logos) as well as pathos.

Logos addresses the rational arguments or logic presented. Ravi’s basic method in apologetics was sound and he did not accentuate ethos or pathos at the expense of logos. Ravi’s apologetic method is called “The 3.4.5 Grid.”  In a nutshell, this grid tests a worldview logically (Is it consistent?), factually (Is it empirically adequate?), and existentially (Is it livable and meaningful for life and death?). This agrees with my apologetic method I articulate in Christian Apologetics. Ravi used the 3.4.5 grid to great and global effect. But where does that leave us?

Arguments have rational power or lack rational power irrespective of the arguer’s ethosor pathos. We test logos by stating the argument in premise-conclusion form and then assessing its cogency. Are the premises well supported? Do the premises lead to the conclusion through some inductively, deductively, or abductively valid manner? If so, it is a good argument and should be believed. It matters not who gives that argument, even Ravi Zacharias. So, the first point is that Ravi’s moral catastrophe do not, in themselves, affect any of the rational arguments he gives, since his logos and his pathos remain credible. Those Christians who discovered apologetics through Ravi—and I know many of them—need not repent of their discovery. Those who found Christ as Lord and Savior through the Holy Spirit’s use of Ravi’s apologetics need not question their conversion or the worth of apologetics. Moreover, all of Ravi’s best argument can be found in the work of other apologists whose reputations have not been sullied by sin. 

Another problem still hounds us, though—and it was a question that Ravi often took up in his apologetics; it is the problem of evil. Why does an all-good and all-powerful God allow so much evil in his world? Why did God allow Ravi Zacharias success as a speaker and writer given his long record of sexual abuse? Why did the God allow so many of us to respect and be grateful for Ravi when he did not deserve it? The Apostle Paul gave part of the answer two thousand years ago when he said that he rejoiced whenever the gospel was preached, even when preached by those with bad motives (Philippians 1:15-18). This is because the gospel possesses an intrinsic power irrespective of the character of those who explain or commend it (Romans 1:16-17). But, since God is not a utilitarian, this in no way justifies immorality on the part of the messenger.

But tough questions remain. Given the character and power of God, why did he not bring Ravi to repentance? Why did he allow him to sin so badly in the first place? Why did God allow Ravi to bring so much misery into the lives of so many through his secret sexual sins? I ache as I think of what his family, friends, co-workers, and many victims, must be feeling. 

Although the apologetic case for Christianity is strong and stronger than any other worldview, it is unrealistic to expect finite and fallible mortals to be able to read the mind of God in everything. Mysteries remain, as much as we hate it. The Apostle Paul has another word for us.

 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!
   “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?” 
   “Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay them?” 
   For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever! Amen

Romans 11:33-36; see also Deuteronomy 29:29

Ravi Zacharias is accountable to God for his life. God is accountable only to himself. We are accountable to live within the circle of what we can know, given God’s revelation and the use of our God-given powers to know what matters (Hebrews 5:11-14). Nonetheless, we should also be good stewards of our ineluctable ignorance, and part of that ignorance involves God’s ways with Ravi Zacharias (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20).

Why Do Leaders Fall?

Those with external ministry success coupled with secret lives of sin may deceive themselves by thinking that they need not repent since God is still blessing their ministry. They may feel God’s power as they teach or preach, and see objective results. God must be overlooking their sins, they think. Or, as Kierkegaard wrote, these ministers may put off coming to terms with God since they tell themselves that “there is an eternity in which to repent.” On the contrary, today is the day of repentance and salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 3:7-19). Tomorrow may be too late. We have no evidence that Ravi repented.

I will not venture to fathom what lead Ravi into such egregious sin for so long. However, I think it had much to do with pain. Ravi had chronic back pain which was exacerbated by constant travel. (He should not have traveled so much, but I’ll leave that aside for this essay.) Pain, whether physical or emotional, offers us a dramatic choice. If God will not take away the pain, we can choose to identify more deeply with the sufferings of Christ and to seek his grace. That grace is sufficient, as the suffering Paul well knew (2 Corinthians 12:9). Or we can alleviate or ameliorate the pain through the pleasures of the sinful flesh. The Devil always has many options at hand, which is why we must resist him always (1 Peter 5:8). Ravi may have needed physical therapy for his back, but that turned into something more and something terrible, as has been revealed. 

Pain, whether physical or emotional, offers us a dramatic choice. If God will not take away the pain, we can choose to identify more deeply with the sufferings of Christ and to seek his grace.

Ravi’s second death further underscores our need for a theology of suffering and pain that instructs to lament and suffer well before God and others. We need to pray the psalms of lament (22, 39, 88, 90, etc.); we need to own the depths of our suffering; and we need to seek healing in godly places. And we need to cultivate the habit of eschatological hope. In the end, all things will be well for the redeemed, come what may in the here and now (Revelation 21-22).

Living Above Reproach and Before God

If we abhor the sins of Ravi Zacharias, we should abhor our own sins even more and seek to repent of them. True doctrine and godly living are equally necessary for ministry and all of life. As Paul wrote Timothy, “Watch your life and doctrine closely” (1 Timothy 4:16). Paul stipulated that an overseer must be “above reproach” (Titus 1:6-7, ESV). That applies to all Christian leaders. 

Those with high callings need high standards, lest the messenger discredit the message and the messenger lose integrity. Christians continue to sin, but no Christian should be controlled by sin (1 John 1:8-10; 3:6). High profile leaders fall hard when they fall and often drag down many others with them. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12, KJV). 

Since we are all vulnerable to immorality, we should heed Jesus’ words: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3, NIV). Paul paid close attention to his own integrity. “I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:27, NIV). Christian ministers should fear being disqualified and take radical measures to defend themselves against it. We do so by guarding our hearts and being accountable to wise friends, counselors, and leaders (Proverbs 1:7; 4:23-27; 27:17; Matthew 5:27-32). We must regularly have fellowship, worship, and partake of the sacraments (Hebrews 10:25). If one’s ministry travel schedule forbids it, then that schedule should be forbidden.

Ravi Zacharias and his good name are dead. This double-death is tragic. We should grieve and consider our own lives before “the audit of Eternity” (Kierkegaard). But apologetics lives on. We should rejoice and keep our hand to the plow, our hearts pure, and our eyes on the Lord. 

The Reality Czar Speaks

I have appointed myself as Reality Czar. Remember, reality stands independent of your whims, wishes, loves, hates, and apathy. Here are my first fourteen imperatives for straight thinking and reality apprehension. 

1. The laws of logic are unbending. They are necessary for thought and communication. You can break them, but they will break you. Learn what the law of noncontradiction is and abide by it.

2. You need rational arguments that appeal to logic and evidence to make a point count as knowledge.

3. To know something means you have a justified and true belief about it.

4. For a statement to be true, it must correspond to objective reality. You do not make a belief true by your own opinion, skin color, gender(s), passion, politics, power, or anything else. 

5. Learn the basic logical fallacies, such as false dichotomy, ad hominem, straw man, begging the question, and others, and avoid them. Expose them wherever you find them. 

6. Learn the basic means of argumentation: deduction, induction, and appeal to the best explanation. 

7. Read more than you watch.

8. Listen more than you talk.

9. Think more than you speak.

10. Pray for knowledge and wisdom.

11. Beware of clichés, factoids, and talking points.

12. If you hold to a position on religion, politics, or whatever, as yourself what the strongest objection to your position might be, Then try to refute it.

13. In discussions and writing, try to define and illustrate important terms in order to avoid ambiguity.

14. For any of your beliefs, determine how strongly you hold that belief and whether or not you have good reason to hold it in that manner. We may strongly hold some beliefs, not because of reason or evidence, but on the basis of feelings, tradition, or ego.

It’s All About Sex

The leading secular account of the world in the West denies any normative or sacred order. Freedom is found, not in following a divine design, but in indulging the unfettered self. Self-restraint, especially erotic self-restraint, is repressive and must be eliminated. Pleasure of the strongest kind is what matters most, since we need not fear God or conform ourselves to some alien pattern of behavior written in a heaven of ideas.

Thus, any viewpoint that opposes the totally free expression of sexuality must be silenced–not refuted, silenced. On this view, free speech is not a right; in fact, it can be ruse for the repressive ones (Christians or those believe in any sacred ordering of life). Any view that denies the erotic urgencies has no right to be heard. Herbert Marcuse advocated this in 1965 in his essay on “repressive tolerance.”

Thus, it all comes down to sex. Anyone who opposes abortion in any way wants to hinder women’s sexual freedom, since abortion allows for sex without the moral responsibility to bring a child to term. The expressive self is all that matters. Killing a viable fetus at nine months is fine, since women’s sexual freedom must be upheld at all costs.

Further, it is not enough to be tolerant of people who act in non-heterosexual ways. Legalizing same sex marriage is not enough either. Rather, everyone must endorse every sexual identity, because that is the more important thing about people–their erotic orientation and the pleasure therein. If a Christian baker will not decorate a cake for a gay wedding, he must be punished by force of law, since he is refuting to endorse two gay men’s sexual identity. How dare he?

The untrammeled will, fired by uninhibited eroticism, has the final say and shouts with a loud voice. You are not allowed to disagree with this power from below, this meaning-making faculty. Eros must be let loose in a world without design or constraint.

Along the way, Rousseau, Blake, Wadsworth, Shelley, Marx, Darwin, Freud, Nietzsche, Marcuse, Reich, Simone De Beauvoir, and others play their part to make a world safe for pansexuality.

For more on these themes, see Carl Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self (Crossway, 2020).

Virtuous Ignorance

Being charged with being an ignoramus is no compliment. However, some ignorance is virtuous. One should cultivate being an ignoramus in a few areas.

First, curiosity is often a sin. For example, you do not need to see the person lying on the side of the road being attended to by first responders. It is none of your business. Use the golden rule: Would you want people staring at you if you were in that condition? You can look away, but be sure to pray.

Second, you should be ignorant about what is in the realm of others’ privacy. There is no need to know, so you should not know. “Thou shalt not covet anything of thy neighbor’s (that you don’t need to know).” One’s medical history should not be public knowledge. Only God can know everything virtuously since he is perfect.

Third, it is not virtuous to know or make known unflattering, but irrelevant, matters about others. That is gossip, a serious sin in the New Testament. Think of how much of American popular culture feeds on and starves without gossip. What dysfunctional, idiotic, or criminal things have this or that celebrity done now? You should not want to know. You may know too much. Try to forget in order to make more room for virtuous knowledge.

I give the Apostle Paul the last word: “I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil” (Romans 16:19). Amen.