Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I heard about a television News Magazine segment that pitted John MacArthur against Doug Pagitt on the issue of Christians and the practice of Yoga, and it was quite interesting to see the exchange. This news segment really aligns well and adds further confirmation to my own views on yoga that I wrote about in “Yoga and the Christian: Do They Go together like Apple Pie and Baseball or Oil and Water?”

You can watch the video of this exchange on youtube, but the folks at Pulpit Magazine have transcribed the exchange as well.

Mike Galanos (host): Alright, let’s say I do decide to try yoga, head to the local gym, give it a shot. What am I opening myself up to spiritually that could go against my Christian faith?

John MacArthur: Well that would depend on how the yoga is conducted. If it’s just purely exercise, and you’re a strong Christian, it probably wouldn’t have any impact on your faith. But in the big picture, why would Christians want to borrow an expression from a false religion, from pantheism (god is everything, you’re god, everything is god), when we believe there’s only one true God (the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ). Why would we need to import that? If you want to exercise, exercise. But why borrow a term that has been part of a false religion for centuries?

Mike Galanos (host): Doug Pagitt, let’s get you in on this. And as we do, I want to read the definition from Webster’s on “yoga.” It says it’s “a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation.” Kind of tough one to cipher but, on a spiritual front for a Christian, that does not sound like Christ-centered faith to me. On the surface of that definition, what’s going on here? Help us out.

Doug Pagitt: Well, for people who perform yoga, what they’re normally trying to do is to find a whole and complete and healed life. So when people participate in yoga, most of them aren’t on some kind of a yoga agenda. What they’re trying to do is use whatever practices they can find that would help them have a whole and complete life. And for a Christian, that’s certainly what we’re after. The Jesus agenda is a whole life, is a complete life, is a healed life. So when people use it to relieve stress, to be healthy in their relationships, to feel good in their body, that’s a really good thing.

In fact, there’s a great little verse in the New Testament where it says, “Whatever is good, whatever is right, whatever is noble, whatever is praiseworthy, think upon such things.” And for so many of us, yoga has been one of those ‘whatevers’ that’s such a positive thing in our life.

Mike Galanos (host): So you say, Jesus is alright with yoga?

Doug Pagitt: Yeah, are you asking if I think Jesus was alright with yoga?

Mike Galanos (host): Yeah.

Doug Pagitt: Yeah, I’m not sure exactly how to answer a question like that. My assumption is that Christianity and yoga are not in competition with one another and are not enemies of one another. So to suggest that I could speak clearly for everything that Jesus would have been okay with – if Jesus was familiar with yoga when he was alive, and yoga has certainly around from before the time of Jesus, I don’t think Jesus ever spoke out against yoga and said, don’t perform yoga. But that kind of question that you’re going to ask somebody – “If Jesus was okay with it, then I wouldn’t do it” – that’s the kind of thing that says, would Jesus be okay with pastors wearing suits? Would Jesus be okay with having Christmas trees? These are the kinds of questions that just don’t move forward.

Mike Galanos (host): Let’s get back to the yoga — Doug, let’s get back to yoga real quick – as you do the postures, and this again, again I have not done yoga, but you do the postures, and they’re, one of the concerns is that it’s an offering to some of the millions of Hindu gods. Is there a part of you in the spirit that’s tweaked at all by this? Are you bothered at all. You practice yoga yourself. How do you go through with it?

Doug Pagitt: Hey, I have to confess that I’m not very good at it? Yoga, it’s really hard to hold these postures, to hold these positions. And I’ll tell you that from my own experience, and the many, many people that I know who participate in yoga, none of them have ever found themselves to be opened up to something negative or something demonic or something evil. In fact, many of us find the high benefit that comes from body mind connection, and from knowing that we are pushing, that we are stretching, that we are sending our body into an exercise. And that exercise is not wholly disconnected from our will or from our mind or from our spirit; it’s a complete practice. And I’ve never known anybody who has had anything detrimental come into their spirit because of their practice of yoga.

Mike Galanos (host): John MacArthur, real quick, want to get you in on this as well, is all yoga bad yoga for the Christian?

John MacArthur: Well, let me just respond to what I’ve been hearing. That doesn’t sound anything like Christianity. If you want a whole life, if you want your life to be what it should be, you don’t put yourself in some weird physical position, empty your mind, center on yourself and try to relieve your stress. You go to the word of God, to the gospel of Jesus Christ, you embrace in faith the sacrifice of Christ in his death and resurrection as your savior and redeemer. God comes, regenerates you, transforms your life, makes you a new creation, and you’re saved and you’re on your way to heaven, and you can live a life of peace and joy. That’s the promise of the gospel. There is no contribution made to that by any physical position or any kind of meditation.
The idea of Christianity is to fill your mind with biblical truth and focus on the God who is above you. That’s Christian worship. The idea of yoga is to fill your mind with nothing except to focus on yourself and try to find the god that is inside of you. From a Christian viewpoint, that’s a false religion. Exercise is a different issue.

Mike Galanos (host): Gentlemen, we’re going to have to leave it there. Pastor Doug Pagitt and John MacArthur we appreciate your time, both of you. Thank you very much.1

I find it interesting that Mr. Pagitt is unable to clearly state what he believes Jesus’ position would be when it comes to Christians practicing Yoga. Perhaps I’m not as involved in the emergent conversation as I should be, but shouldn’t that be one of the first things that is discovered with any activity or issue? But sadly, this is just one of the big problems with the philosophy surrounding Christians and yoga.

In an attempt to defend his position, Mr. Pagitt used a debate tactic and a contemporary theological argument that I am so tired of hearing because it is just plain nonsense. Mr. Pagitt said, “I don’t think Jesus ever spoke out against yoga and said, don’t perform yoga.” First of all, this is such a horrible way of communicating and understanding what Scripture has to say on any subject. Did Jesus ever say anything specifically about yoga? Nope. But He also didn’t specifically mention raping women or abusing children when referring to proper sexual expression. He also didn’t discuss the value (or lack thereof) of dog-fighting or gladiator contests as forms of entertainment, or a host of other issues. Furthermore, Jesus doesn’t make any specific comments about the sin of homosexuality. So, on Mr. Pagitt’s logical grounds, if Jesus doesn’t specifically condemn yoga, then it is (or it could be) fine if a self-professed Christian practices yoga. If that is the case, then we should likewise be able to explore the possibility of the rape and abuse of women and children for sexual expression as well as have a conversation about whether or not we should relax and enjoy some recreation while dogs or humans fight to the death. As a side note, I believe that Solomon’s Porch, Mr. Pagitt’s church, is not concerned with the sin of homosexuality. And the reason for their apathy on this issue, I would guess, is rooted in the same logic as he showed in the interview.

This hermeneutical travesty is so odious that it seems to scream at me whenever I hear someone use it. The Bible condemns any and all sexual expression outside of a marriage between a man and a woman (cf. Lev 18), and this would include rape, incest, molestation, masturbation, fornication, and homosexuality (see also Romans 1:20-32 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). The Bible encourages us to dwell on good and lovely things (cf. Phil 4:8), not on the brutal maiming and killing of people or animals for sport. The more I see people advocating Christians practicing yoga, or even defending it with the kind of nonsense that Mr. Pagitt used, the more I see the slimy fingers of the enemy closing around the throat of the slightly alive, but mostly apostate group that is American evangelicalism.

Dr. MacArthur hit the nail on the head with his condemnation of the “goal” that Mr. Pagitt described of those people that he knows who practice yoga. The Hindu practice emptying and focusing on nothing or on self is in complete and total contradistinction from the purposeful and discerning practice of faith and focusing our affections and actions on God through the power of the Holy Spirit because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

I would actually have a lot more to say in refutation and correction of Mr. Pagitt’s errors, but I believe that it was said to him already by Dr. MacArthur. What a blessing it is to have a man of God who has been given, not only a platform but also a mind and heart to use that platform for the sake of Christ and the gospel instead of his own agenda.

As a side, and humorous, note, a while back I was assisting some friends of my parents in finding a local church near where I live. During the e-mail correspondence back and forth with them I happened to mention that a Baptist church I had attended during college was slipping toward emergent error, I believe they even were including yoga in their programs. In part of his responding e-mail to me, this gentleman wrote the following,

“It's interesting that you mentioned that the one church you went to in college has teamed up with the Emergent Church Movement. One of my college mates, Doug Padgett, is apparently one of the 'leaders' of the Emergent movement. I never thought of him as a Pastor or deep theological thinker at the time... but then... okay, so maybe I just answered my own question there - didn't I?”

1 http://www.sfpulpit.com/2007/09/13/john-macarthur-doug-pagitt-and-yoga/

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post, I've been looking for the transcript of this debate. You may be interested to know that there is an audio clip of Padgit and an unknown woman after this debate, and in it, Padgit scoffs at MacArthur's assertion that you can relieve stress by reading your Bible. I don't know where you can find the clip (I heard it on the radio), but if you can find it, I think that the tone of voice Padgit uses for the phrase "read the Bible" is very revealing.

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