The American Religious Purpose of Life

Product DetailsI just read a piece somewhere that said most Americans believe in God (better to say “believe in [a] god,” I think).  The piece also said many of these same Americans believe in reincarnation, UFOs, witches, and mystical encounters with some divine spirit.  In other words (as Wells and Horton have said before), Americans approach religion the same way they load their Ipods and order their drive-thru value meals: by selecting what makes them the most happy.

Deepak Chopra is the embodiment of this American spirituality.  He blends Buddhism and New Age mysticism with the New Testament (sucked dry of any hints of Christian orthodoxy).  Add to that recipe a huge dose of me, myself, and I, and he’s sold millions of books.  I just grabbed one of his latest from the town library: The Ultimate Happiness Prescription: 7 Keys to Joy and Enlightenment.

His opening statement of the book reveals the fact that this American “spirituality” is the exact opposite of historic Christianity.

“The purpose of life is the expansion of happiness.  Happiness is the goal of every other goal.”

In the political realm, that sounds something like this: “everyone has the unalienable right to pursue personal happiness – and no one should ever hinder that pursuit.”  In the Deepak Catechism, that’d be this: “The chief end of man is to glorify and enjoy self forever.”  This whole book is a disgusting orgy of self.  He says “Being fully in the present, you experience the timeless.  In the timeless you find your true self.”  This isn’t the prescription for happiness, it is the prescription for boredom and eventually depression.  If you worship yourself, you’ll always end up being quite bored and disappointed.

Our response is the Christian’s catechism: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”  This is the end of boredom and depressing self-worship and the beginning of utter excitement, amazement, and joy.  But this path hurts: we have to deny ourselves, renounce our own wills, take up our cross, and quit loving the world’s passing pleasures.  Or, as Bavinck so well wrote,

“Happiness leads us into paganism, but suffering leads us to Christ.”

shane lems

sunnyside wa

5 Replies to “The American Religious Purpose of Life”

  1. I love that last quote by Bavinck! Terrific–and un-American. Luther calls it the “theology of glory” vs. the “theology of the Cross.”


  2. Shane
    The article that CT ran 12/30/09 entitled ‘Journey to the Center’ by senior writer Tim Stafford highlighted and praised Joanna Quintrell for her ‘evangelistic’ efforts to reach New Agers with what amounts to a distinctively New Age spirituality that centered around a therapeutic gospel of personal happiness and well-being. The focus was on ‘Jesus the Healer’ who chief purpose is to heal all our personal disappointments and emotional bruises.Very disappointing that CT would give this a thumbs up.


    1. Thanks, guys.

      GLW – that is disgusting! “Journey to the Center” means “journey into self?!?!” Yikes.



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