Spirituality and The Beatles
By the mid 1960’s George and Patti Harrison were deeply into Eastern mysticism, evidenced in a number of George’s songs he had written for the Beatles during that time. But on Thursday, August 24, 1967 their involvement in Eastern mysticism went to a whole new level. Patti heard that the Maharishi Yogi was lecturing in London, prior to a self-imposed vow of silence he was soon to observe; and she encouraged the Beatles to go along with her and George to hear him. The Beatles were so taken with the Maharishi that they followed him the next day to Wales where he told them how thirty minutes per day of Transcendental Meditation would change their lives. The next day the Beatles held a press conference where they declared they would abstain from drugs, that they had moved past all that. In February, 1968 they spent several weeks in India with the Maharishi and other musicians like Mike Love of the Beach Boys, Donovan, and actress Mia Farrow.
I suggest that the Beatles, more than any other person or group, are responsible for the new spirituality which is so pervasive in our culture. The old spirituality was historical, biblical, theological, objective, propositional Christian faith. Thirty years ago when one was described as spiritual we easily understood that this person was a zealous Christian, one who walked in the Spirit. Today when one is described as spiritual it can mean almost anything, but certainly not a zealous Christian. The new spirituality is private, subjective, suspect of the church, propositional truth, and doctrine. It brings the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth down from their exalted position and makes Jesus one of the many gods in the pantheon of modern day spirituality. It says that while Jesus is a way to God, He is not the way to Him. It places equal value on all the religions of the world, suggesting that Mohammed, Buddha, Hare Krishna, and the spirit deities of animism are all equal with Jesus.
Paul was writing to Timothy, either from Macedonia or Rome,1 urging the young pastor who was serving in the church at Ephesus to guard the flock against false teachers, those who were paying attention to myths and genealogies. It is probable that Paul is referring here to the earliest forms of gnosticism which were causing trouble in the church at Ephesus, discounting the deity of Christ and His person and work, stressing the search for a higher level of consciousness apart from Scripture.
The things Paul told Timothy, in a historical context remarkably similar to ours, are the same things we need to hear today. We are not to give an inch on gospel essentials. There simply is no room for theological or religious tolerance of truth issues. Paul says five times in the pastoral epistles, “It is a trustworthy statement” (1 Timothy 1:15, 3:1, 4:9, 2 Timothy 2:11, Titus 3:8) and this means, “This is the unbridled, unadulterated, unmitigated truth founded on historical fact – Christ Jesus came into the world, sinners to save.”
This means at least two things. First, negatively stated, this means that Christ Jesus, by His incarnation (becoming human flesh) and His passion (His suffering and death) has set us free from at least three things – condemnation (Romans 8:1); slavery to sin, Satan, and death (Romans 7:24, 25); and punishment in the form of God’s wrath, hell, and separation from our Creator (Ephesians 2:1-3).
Second, positively stated, this means that the Lord Jesus Christ has given us righteousness (Romans 3:21, 22); freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17); and joy which comes from the love of God, the promise of heaven, and communion with God our Father. There is so much to say here, but one thing on which I wish to expand briefly is the issue of liberty. To be free in Christ does not mean that we are free now to do whatever we want; rather it means we are free not to do those things we ought not to do. If internet pornography or other forms of sexual sin held you in bondage before you became a Christian, then why would you want now to return to them? Because of Christ you are free to not go back into that sinful lifestyle.
I suggest that the new spirituality does not address these fundamental issues, and consequently offers an anemic remedy. It denies that man is under condemnation for anything, except perhaps his self-imposed and unnecessary guilt. It denies that we are enslaved to sin, and it rejects the concept of judgment. It sees no need for righteousness for it believes we are already righteous or divine. It rejects the idea of joy coming from God because of anything He has done for us; rather it says that joy ought to be inherent because we are one with all nature.
I remind you, as Paul was reminding Timothy – you cannot, you must not give an inch on the fact of Christ’s incarnation (the Word became flesh and dwelt among us); and His passion (that He lived, suffered, and died for His people). There is no room in the apostolic, biblical, propositional, historical, and theological Christian faith for a denial of man’s utter depravity and Christ’s utter humanity and deity. Islam does not adequately address these issues, nor does Buddhism, animism, materialism, or any form of the new spirituality.
Hold fast to the glory and majesty of Jesus. Live a life which declares Him to be King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Live a life constantly given over to praise and adoration of the One who loved you from eternity past. Live in such a way that you model the grace, mercy, and patience of God, realizing that if God could save such a wretched sinner like Paul, then surely He can save someone like you or me. Always be gracious toward those who deny the sufficiency of Jesus, but never give an inch in gospel essentials. Jesus, not Hare Krishna, Buddha, or Mohammed, came to save sinners. There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. Don’t allow your mind ever to consider any other alternative. Paul was clear on this to Timothy, and we should be too.
- Some scholars believe Paul had been released briefly from the Roman prison and made a fourth missionary tour, writing I Timothy from Macedonia, later being arrested a second time, and then imprisoned and executed in Rome.
Al Baker is pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.
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