Or: Why I joined a Facebook group called “Yoga and Eastern Martial Arts are NOT Christian!”
In which the Author, having No Wish to cause un-Biblical Offense to a Sister in Christ, Nevertheless attempts to show what Scripture says actually causes Human Sin.
Firstly, for those of you who don’t claim Christianity, or who have issues with major ideas like “God is love, so He made it clear what He wants us to know by inspiring His Word” — that is a far more important discussion. Isn’t this far more important than whether yoga is good or bad, or whether Christianity is against every element ascribed to yoga?
What is important is whether God is real, loving and holy. And does He see any of us worthy of Him, to delight in and enjoy Him forever? Have any of us kept all Ten Commandments? If not, will we suffer the punishment, or has Someone suffered it for us?
Now with that in mind, those of you who are not Christians can see (I hope; help me, Lord!) what it is like when Christians respectfully disagree with each other or discuss issues. Welcome to the inside. You’re in the treehouse now; make sure you pull the rope-ladder up after you.
For starters, [group founder], I think that you are misunderstanding a key part of what I’m saying.1
What I say: “ ‘Meat sacrificed to idols’ (i.e., a Thing someone does with evil intent) is not sinful. What someone makes of it is sinful. Therefore the Thing is not at fault; the person can be.”
What you seem to hear: “Idols (i.e. a Thing that’s intrinsically opposed to God or His standards) are not sinful. We can enjoy an idol and still be Christian. Freedom and love are the way, man!”
Does Scripture have a balance between two Biblical truths that God doesn’t see as contradictory at all: Christians’ freedom in Christ, and the need to discern and avoid evil influences that are “not profitable”? I borrow that phrase from 1 Corinthians 6. The Apostle Paul warns Christians not to fall into the extreme view portrayed by a popular secular proverb, “All things are lawful for me.” No, Paul clarifies, “not all things are helpful. … I will not be enslaved by anything.”
We are in full agreement that some things are not helpful. In a recent Tweet, you mentioned internet porn. This is like an idol — at best it is a vanity, useless and there is no point to it; at worst it is corrupting. But I do not see all of yoga as an idol. Do you think all of it is?
Please note also that everything I say here applies equally to martial arts, television or the internet, musical instruments, movies, science fiction, or anything else that can be abused.
Real idols vs. meat meant for idols
I will keep coming back to a clear Biblical truth about how Christians handle “meat sacrificed to idols” as mentioned in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-10. In short: “meat sacrificed to idols” was a Thing that someone meant for evil, in anti-Christian religious ceremonies. Paul said such meats were not themselves evil, for an idol is nothing compared with the real God (1 Cor. 8:4). Romans 14 makes it clear he’s talking about more than food — Paul singles out holidays. Wise Christians also take this principle to include choices of media, music, books, or where to live.
But is yoga an idol, as you’re saying, or a meat sacrificed to an idol? Let me set up two scenarios. True discernment would sort out the differences between them:
1. Some yoga classes might include everyone assuming a painful-looking position (at least it looks painful to me) breathing a certain way, maybe doing strenuous exercise. They may reference energies or something (I’m likely messing up the particulars here; please bear with me). As you’ve said, participants may use this as part of an attempt to channel a demon (or spirit, or whatever). They may say things that contradict God’s Word.
Which parts of this are wrong?
a) Assuming a certain body position?
b) Breathing a certain way?
c) Strenuous exercise?
d) Talking about “energies” or saying anti-Biblical things?
e) Trying to get in touch with a spirit/demon?
f) All of the above?
It sounds like you’re saying “f” when you say: “Yoga is basically channeling a demon.” All of it?
2. My wife used to teach and take dance at a private Christian-oriented dance school. In one of my wife’s classes, her teacher (a solid Christian) incorporated, with discernment, “yoga moves” into the training. Did this include the whole package above? Not at all. It only included positions — which really hurt in hard-to-reach places, my wife assures me — concentration and breathing, and strenuous exercise. No chanting. No channeling. No false teaching or religion.
Do you think such activities, away from any pagan anti-God context, are still themselves so evil that a demon can utilize them to infiltrate any Christian?
Disclaimer: don’t cause stumbling
Here I want to be very clear. [Group founder,] I know from elsewhere about your real background. But let us assume you are a newer Christian, or truly a more-sensitive sister. Such a person could have experience with an actual pagan-saturated practice of yoga, and want to avoid it. Why? For the same reason that a new Christian with an alcoholic past might avoid any restaurant with a bar: He might be tempted to fall back into that sinful habit that dishonors the Lord he loves.
So if you had a background in New Age practices, paganism or religion-saturated yoga, I would not be telling you like this that certain parts of yoga might be okay. Instead, I would encourage you to think about where the real sin comes from — as I’m doing now. But then I would back off and let God and you make your own decisions and whether it would be sinful for you.
‘Stopping the indulgence of the flesh’
However, I understand that isn’t your background. Instead you’ve simply said, “I hate yoga.”
Why? Do you mean all the parts of it, including anything yoga teachers may have stumbled upon, apart from the pagan stuff, that happens to help dancers or athletes train their bodies? If so, then isn’t this not following Biblical discernment? Isn’t this instead making up regulations that ultimately can’t prevent real sin from within?
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
The Apostle Paul, Colossians 2: 20-22
So what is of value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh? Paul goes on (and the rest of Scripture agrees) to urge a focus on Christ and Who He is. He has disarmed spiritual authorities! Yes, they are still out there, still dangerous and can cause temptations, but He has “put them to open shame” (Col. 3:15). As Christians hold fast to Jesus as our Head, our priorities change. We depart from a rule-driven lifestyle and love Him. Thus gradually our minds are being conformed to His (Rom. 12: 1-2). His Spirit changes us from within.
Colossians 3 goes on to describe the dual-sided process of putting to death old-earthly, evil things (this requires discernment) and becoming like who Christ wants His people to be. This is how we stop the indulgence of the flesh. It’s not by telling ourselves or others, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch,” but by saying: “Know, love, become like and touch Christ.”
Conclusion, for now
That is why I joined this group, why I believe your premise is flawed, and why I believe there are more important things to be saying to Christians and non-Christians.
To Christians, we should say: “Christ is our all in all; let us be more like Him.”
To non-Christians, we should be saying: “Jesus is Lord, righteous, loving and holy. Apart from Him, your worst problem is not just being in the wrong environment or doing the wrong things, but failing to love and respect Him above anything else. Repent and believe in the Gospel!”
I know you are sharing these truths elsewhere. But when anyone is at the same time collecting shiny things — lesser spiritual causes — like magpies, what does that say about the Gospel? Doesn’t it say to others something like: “Yes, the Gospel is a huge priority for Christians and deadness in sin is the main problem — but also, vote this way! Reject this! Do this!”?
Alas, no! Our main priority is the Gospel. All other issues are secondary. What do you think?
I would urge you to consider the weight of these Scriptures, and particularly the emphasis in the New Testament on how we fight sin and the way demons really exploit it. (They are not making up the sin; only bringing it to the surface from the sin-shrapnel in our own hearts.) Furthermore, do you see how little the Scripture says about fighting demons directly, with exorcisms and all that? The battle is simpler and yet more complicated than that.
In fact, if I were a demon, do you know what I’d do? I would make Christians so focused on avoiding obvious things like yoga that they let me smuggle paganism into their lives through bad novels, sappy worship songs and false teachers. After all, Satan dresses up not as an obvious villain, but an angel of light.