In my last blog I shared my varied responses over reading Deepak Chopra’s book, The Third Jesus. I didn’t share the title in the piece because I was speaking generally about the benefits of reading books which might not reflect my own views. I stick by my observations that reading of disagreeable books can stimulate thinking and clarify one’s views. I hope the following post is a demonstration of just that.
My comments for this post are specific to the Chopra book which is being read and discussed in my Wednesday morning book club. Chopra attempts to present a “third” alternative to what he considers the two traditional views of Jesus. The first Jesus, he identifies as the historical Jesus, about which Chopra says we “know next to nothing about him”. The second Jesus, he says, is the one “created by the Church to fulfill its agenda.” p. 7-8. As Chopra reveals his “third Jesus”, I’ll just quote verbatim:
“These two versions of Jesus—the sketchy historical figure and the abstract theological creation—hold a tragic aspect for me, because I blame them for stealing something precious: the Jesus who taught his followers how to reach God-consciousness. I want to offer the possibility that Jesus was truly, as he proclaimed, a savior. Not the savior, not the one and only Son of God. Rather, Jesus embodied the highest level of enlightenment.” p. 9-10
As I said in my previous blog, I felt defensive, angry and stressed as I read these words. But these reactions are not simply the reaction of reading something with which I disagree. These reactions, I would insist, are felt strongly because of my own “God-consciousness”. (This is his term but I have retro-fitted his term into my theology for this short thesis in an attempt to compare and contrast ideas using some of Chopra’s terms.)
Much of Chopra’s writings…..and he has written tons of books…. speak of leading a life of enlightenment. This book continues that theme. On page 21, he writes: “Making others enlightened was his (Jesus’) purpose, but a huge gulf yawned between Jesus and other people—the gulf between darkness and light …”
I cannot address Chopra’s treatment of enlightenment in his other books because I have not read them. Regarding this book, however, I have these observations to make.
Chopra is not a follower of the Christian faith. He certainly leans toward the Hindu religion but I’m not sure he is an adherent to any singular faith. I do know that he makes his observations and launches his critique from outside the circle of those who follow Christ as resurrected Messiah. My observation is that I consider it a poorly chosen and “unenlightened” endeavor to seek to define the central character of a faith from outside that circle.
Let me explain. While I would openly express my disagreements with other world religions and the tenets they might espouse, I would consider it presumptive to point out to a Hindu, for instance, that they have missed the real meaning behind their religion and that I, a Christian, can help them discover the “real essence” of Hinduism. I find Chopra’s attempt to explain to us Christians how we have missed the essence of Jesus as somewhat insulting and condescending.
A second observation stems from Chopra’s tendency to “dim the lights” on those statements and narratives which do not support his “third Jesus” model. It seems he has more appreciation for the fuzzy and shadowy Gnostic gospels than the biblical accounts. I suggest that Chopra is intent on making Jesus more agreeable to all mankind. He clearly finds much in the teaching and life of Jesus with which he finds agreement. But when there is an element of Jesus which he resists, he dims the lights so these details cannot be seen. It is tantamount to seeing a blemish on one’s face in the bathroom mirror only to turn the light down or off so as to diminish what is unpleasing. A better choice: grab the Clearasil……This is not enlightenment…..it is denial.
If something about Jesus doesn’t fit with our world view, perhaps we need to turn up the lights and examine our views or the lens through which we view it.
To be enlightened about Jesus I recommend we turn the lights up. Way up.
For additional critque of The Third Jesus try these two links: