November 18, 2001

OPRAH THE EVANGELIST

“Watch out for false prophets.” Matthew 7:15

The most powerful television evangelist in the world is Oprah Winfrey. There are others with sizeable audiences and significant influence, but Oprah dwarfs them all. She spreads her religion to far more people than any other preacher on the planet. She’s the world’s most powerful evangelist.

Oprah is more than an evangelist, of course. She’s a master entertainer. Year after year, the Oprah Winfrey Show is the top rated talk show on television. In fact, it’s the top talk show in TV history. Oprah is a publisher. O, The Oprah Magazine, is a huge success. Oprah is a book lover who wants others to read. Any books she promotes through Oprah’s Book Club instantly becomes a bestseller. Oprah is an internet powerhouse. Her website Oprah.com is visited by millions. She finances an internet and cable conglomerate called Oxygen that specializes in feminist programming. Oprah is a business tycoon who owns her own production company and studio. Oprah is a financial powerhouse worth hundreds of millions of dollars. She’s a philanthropist who gives money to many causes.

Oprah Winfrey is many, many things, but on this program we’re going to focus on Oprah the evangelist. Oprah’s warmth, her down-to-earth charm, her talent for connecting with ordinary people, and her vast multimedia empire have given her a platform that no preacher can match. And Oprah is using that platform to spread religion. The Oprah Winfrey Show has a regular segment called “Remember Your Spirit.” Oprah offers her own spiritual ideas and frequently features her favorite spiritual teachers on the show. Her website offers answers to many spiritual questions. There’s no question that Oprah is spreading religion. The only question is, What religion is she spreading?

Oprah vs. the Bible

Oprah is an evangelist for New Age religion. She said, “As I study the New Age Movement, it all seems to say exactly what the Bible has said for years, but many of us were brought up with a restricted, limited understanding of what the Bible said.” Oprah rejects the “limited” historic Christian understanding of the Bible in favor of New Age religion. Oprah claims New Age thinking agrees with the Bible, but it doesn’t. There are huge differences–life and death differences.

Oprah says, “I believe in the FORCE-I call it God.” This is her first and most fundamental error. The Lord is not an impersonal force but an all-powerful Person. Oprah believes the New Age notion that God is a force, that each of us is part of that force, and that we reach our potential by going deep inside ourselves to tap into that force.

We don’t really need Jesus to benefit from this force. Oprah says, “One of the biggest mistakes humans make is to believe that there is only one way. Actually, there are many diverse paths leading to what you call God. There couldn’t possibly be only one way.” If Oprah is right, then Jesus is a liar. Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus says every path without him leads to destruction in hell, but Oprah contradicts Jesus and preaches many roads to God. She insists that God cares about your heart more than he cares whether you call His Son Jesus. But Oprah is wrong. God cares very much about the name of Jesus. In fact, the Bible says, “There is no other name… by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Oprah claims to communicate with the spirits of her ancestors and other dead people. She calls it a “go there” experience in which old spirits contact her and she enters another realm. She says that she knows these spirits by name. After lighting candles, she calls on them and seeks their help to guide her in her work. New Age religion encourages such things, but the Bible fiercely forbids trying to communicate with dead people or with other spirit beings. “Should not a people inquire of their God?” says the Scripture. “Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?” (Isaiah 8:19) If you want supernatural guidance, go to God’s Word, the Bible. Trying to contact old spirits will connect you either with your own misguided imagination or with demons who are out to trick you and destroy you. But Oprah ignores the Bible and seeks the very type of contact with spirits that God forbids.

Oprah makes up her own ethical standard based on her own feelings, rather than on the commands of God’s law. Jesus says in Scripture, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). The Lord commands a man and woman to get married before they live together or sleep together. But Oprah lives with boyfriend Stedman Graham, unmarried, and feels it’s perfectly okay. She says, “It works so well the way it is, I wouldn’t want to mess it up.” By disregarding marriage, Oprah slaps God in the face and encourages her countless fans to take marriage lightly. In Oprah’s ethics, feeling matters more than fact. If you feel like living with a man, you ignore the fact that God commands us not to do that. The ultimate standard is your subjective feelings, not God’s objective commandments.

Oprah claims that the New Age movement says what the Bible says. That’s false. Oprah’s religion contradicts the Bible. She is spreading falsehoods about the most basic things: the nature of God, the way of salvation, the source of supernatural truth, and the standard for moral living.

Oprah’s Guru

Where does Oprah get her ideas? Her favorite spiritual teacher is New Age guru Gary Zukav. Oprah features various New Agers on her program–Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, Shirley MacLaine, Betty Eadie, James Van Praagh, and others–but since 1998 Zukav has been her favorite. The Oprah website devotes a big section to Gary Zukav’s answers to various spiritual questions. Let’s take a closer look at what Oprah’s guru says.

Gary Zukav does not believe in a personal God but in an impersonal power. Zukav is a pantheist: he believes everything is God, and God is everything. He has much the same perspective as another Oprah favorite, Shirley MacLaine, who says, “If everyone was taught one basic spiritual law, your world would be a happier, healthier place.  And that law is this: everyone is God. Everyone.” Satan’s original temptation in the garden of Eden was, “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:5). Today Satan’s New Age evangelists are spreading the same lie. Gary Zukav prefers not to use any personal name for God. He speaks of the Universe, with a capital U. “The Universe is wise and compassionate,” says Oprah’s guru. “The Universe does not burden you with a destiny. It provides you with potential. How much of that potential you realize depends upon the choices that you make.”

But what if you make the wrong choices? Not a problem. According to Zukav, there are no wrong choices. “There are no correct choices or incorrect choices,” he says. There is no right answer or wrong answer. There is only your holy life, and the experiences that you create in it.”

What about salvation through Jesus? That’s a non-issue, in Zukav’s view. God is already in you and you’re already part of God, so there’s no barrier between you and God that needs to be removed by Jesus. If there are no right or wrong choices, there’s no sin, no judgment, no hell, no need for a Savior. Jesus spoke of people being slaves to sin (John 8:34) and warned of eternal fire for the wicked (Matthew 25:41). But Oprah’s guru says, “You do not suffer for eternity because you do the wrong thing once, or twice, or even time after time. It is not possible to do a wrong thing. You do what you do, and you experience the consequences of it. It’s that simple. If you don’t experience those consequences before you die, your soul creates another life so that you can. That is re-incarnation.” The Bible says, “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). But Zukav claims we live and die many times without ever being judged.

How could we be judged by the Lord? There is no personal Lord and Judge. There is only the impersonal but oh-so-nice Universe. “The Universe does not judge,” Zukav purrs. “It compassionately provides for us the consequences that we create with our choices, whatever those consequences are. That is how karma works.” Nothing happens to you that does not come from a choice you made, either in this life or a previous life. “The power to create your experience is fully in your hands. That is the lesson of karma.”

Oprah’s guru thinks that your own intuition and feelings are better guides than the Bible. He believes in psychic powers to read other minds and to receive messages from spirits of people who have died. He calls this multisensory perception. “As individuals become multi-sensory,” Zukav says, “their perceptual capabilities expand beyond the limitations of the five senses. We are all in the process of becoming multi-sensory. Your soul did not come into being when you were born and it will not cease to exist when you die. The same is true for each human. Our fundamental relationship is soul to soul. As we become multi-sensory, we become aware of that.”

In Zukav’s (and Oprah’s) view, psychic mind reading and communication with souls of the dead is normal. It’s what healthy souls ought to be doing. Zukav speaks of “guides and teachers” who communicate from the spirit realm to our intuition. The Bible says that such things open us to demonic influence and provoke God’s anger, but many of us would rather listen to our own feelings than to God’s Word. Zukav’s emphasis on intuition and personal voices from beyond fits Oprah’s emphasis of feeling over thinking. “Multisensory perception is replacing rational analysis as the primary decision making tool in millions of humans,” proclaims Gary Zukov. He envisions “humanity becoming a heart-centered species instead of a head-centered species.” Don’t listen to the Bible or think hard about the words God speaks. Just watch Oprah and her guru, and feel them emote.

With all that gooey emotion and no biblical standards, Zukav says it’s okay to break past promises. Oprah’s guru says, “All of the vows that a human being can take cannot prevent the spiritual path from exploding through and breaking those vows if the soul must move on.” So what if you’ve made promises? But, contrary to Zukav, Jesus taught that if you say yes and make a promise, you’d better keep your word. The Bible says that a righteous person keeps promises even when it hurts. If the Lord is right, then Zukav is wrong.

Zukav is also wrong about what it means to be male and female. He bases his ethics not on God’s created pattern for us but on the notion the we are evolving toward new and better things. “This transformation is occurring very fast from an evolutionary perspective,” he says. “In a few generations, the human experience will be very different from what it is now. The experience of what it means to be a female and what it means to be a male are already changing dramatically.” That’s the view of Oprah’s guru, but Jesus speaks very differently. In the Bible, Jesus teaches what’s good and bad in male-female relationships by going back to the beginning and the Creator’s design.

Satan’s Schemes

Gary Zukav and Oprah Winfrey may sincerely believe what they’re saying, but they have put their faith in lies, and they are spreading those lies to millions of people. They are speaking Satan’s lies, though they probably don’t realize that Satan is the source of the ideas they promote.

Satan himself knows full well that New Age ideas are lies. Satan knows that God is a personal being, that pantheism is false and that the universe is not God, but Satan, the father of lies, eagerly spreads lies about God. Satan knows that people are human, not divine, but he lies and says people are divine and can create their own reality. Satan knows that turning from sin and trusting Jesus is the only way people can be saved from hell, but Satan the liar wants souls to perish without Christ, so he says there are many ways to God. Satan knows the Bible is God’s Word, and he knows he’s lying when he urges you to put your faith in your own intuition or in messages supposedly from spirits who lived long ago. Satan knows the true standard for morality, and he knows he’s lying when he says you can make morality up as you evolve. Satan knows the basic facts but tries to hide them through his lies.

Satan isn’t stupid. He knows that lies can be spread most effectively through people who really believe those lies. He also knows that a famous, friendly person is more likely to convince people than someone who is not well know or is not likeable. Who better than the most popular person on television, a talented, warm woman full of good intentions and eagerness to help people?

And why stop with Oprah? Why not add other evangelists who can make nonsense sound attractive? Oprah helped launch the media career of Iyanla Vanzant, a popular author, motivational speaker, and now host of her own show. Iyanla is backed by the production company of renowned TV personality Barbara Walters. The thrice-married Iyanla calls herself a Yoruba high priestess and a spiritual life counselor. She offers a high-priced “Full Moon Meditation” which allows you to attend “Meditation Dates” based on your astrological zodiac sign. Here’s a sample of Iyanla’s teaching: “The power is in your hands. You are now becoming conscious of your power to create with thought. You can create with words. It is as simple and as fast as that. Think it, say it and it will manifest according to your belief. The only reason you are on the planet is to awaken to your God-Self, to celebrate life, and to do what brings you JOY!” It’s just another rehash of Satan’s lie in the garden of Eden: “You will be like God.” But now Satan speaks not through a snake but through a TV personality backed by the two most powerful women in television, Barbara Walters and Oprah Winfrey. Oprah calls Iyanla “one of the world’s most admirable spiritual leaders.”

Now, even if people are sincere in their beliefs and don’t know those beliefs are lies from Satan, they’re still responsible. God has spoken to us in the Bible. If we choose to follow our own feelings rather than the Bible, we’re just asking to be dupes of Satan. In the Bible, God says, “Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit.” Woe to women “who prophesy out of their own imagination” (Ezekiel 13:3,17).

In some ways, Oprah is better than many trashy shows on daytime TV. Oprah probably feels good about getting beyond the worst, most degrading stuff of her early days in talk television. She may feel glad that she’s risen from very humble and painful beginnings to be a huge success. She may rejoice that she’s trying to do things to improve people’s lives. Oprah the evangelist may even encourage some people and help them make some positive changes in their lives.

But remember: Satan is perfectly happy to give us a little more of our own good if he can rob us of Christ’s perfection. Satan doesn’t mind making our lives on earth a little more pleasant if he can draw us to hell with him for eternity. Many false religions can help people make short-term improvements, but only the true gospel of Jesus Christ can bring us forgiveness for our sins and eternal life with God.

Forgiveness and Eternal Life

Why does forgiveness matter? If there is no personal God to sin against, and if there is no such thing as a wrong choice, there’s no need for forgiveness. Gary Zukav sometimes uses the word forgiveness, but he knows nothing about real forgiveness. Oprah’s guru says, “Forgiveness is an energy dynamic. It’s something you decide to do for yourself.” Rather than feel bad about something you’ve done, you simply forgive yourself by deciding not to feel guilty anymore. Rather than having bad feelings about what you’ve experienced from others, you forgive by deciding to feel good no matter what happens.

This view makes forgiveness self-centered. It’s all about keeping your own feelings positive. Never do you have to ask anyone else for their forgiveness. You forgive them; you don’t need them to forgive you. Never do you have to ask God for forgiveness. Don’t forget, you are God. You create your own reality. You “forgive” yourself by dismissing the notion that something is wrong with you, and you delight in your own evolving Godhood. Don‘t let yourself be troubled by the feeling that you’re a sinner and something is seriously wrong with you.

This phony “forgiveness” is a cheap counterfeit. What if your biggest need is not to “forgive yourself” but to have God forgive you? What if God is a personal being, and you’ve sinned against him, offended his holiness, provoked his anger, and are headed for his eternal punishment? That’s not fun to think about, but it’s the truth. You and I are sinners, and sin lands us in hell unless we can somehow be forgiven.

New Age religion pretends there’s no such problem, yet some New Agers try to say that their beliefs are supported by Jesus. But if we are good enough on our own, if we could come to God through our own efforts, then Christ died for nothing. What an insult to the Son of God! What a horrible blasphemy against the love that moved him to die for sinners! Jesus didn’t come to earth to show us that we are part of God. He came because we are sinners and enemies of God. Only by dying and suffering God’s wrath in our place could Jesus cancel our guilt and break the chains of sin. Only by rising again could he set us free from the fear of death.

Reincarnation is a lie. Resurrection is the truth. You don’t get one life after another to evolve toward perfection. You get one life. If you blow it this time around, there’s no second chance. If you reject Christ in this life, he will reject you at the final judgment. But the good news is that to those who receive him and believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God.

What you’ve heard on this program may be upsetting, especially if you’re an Oprah fan. Hey, I admire Oprah‘s talent and accomplishments, too. But Oprah the evangelist will destroy your spirit if you believe her and the gurus she promotes. God has provided only one message of salvation: the Bible. God has provided just one way to be saved: Jesus. If you reject him, you will perish in hell. But if you believe in him and him alone to save you, you will live forever in heaven. That’s the truth.

PRAYER

Father in heaven, thank you for sending Jesus to save us and for giving the Bible to reveal your truth. Help those who are confused or deceived by false religion. Touch their minds, transform their hearts, and lead them to faith in the living Lord Jesus. For his sake, Amen.

By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.