Can Yoga be Christian?
Mohler, Driscoll, and others weigh in on the controversy.

A few months ago, Al Mohler set off a firestorm when he pronounced yoga to be incompatible with Christian faith. The comments came in a review the Southern Baptist leader wrote about Stephanie Syman's book The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America. Mohler said:

Yoga begins and ends with an understanding of the body that is, to say the very least, at odds with the Christian understanding. Christians are not called to empty the mind or to see the human body as a means of connecting to and coming to know the divine. Believers are called to meditate upon the Word of God – an external Word that comes to us by divine revelation – not to meditate by means of incomprehensible syllables.

To his surprise, Mohler received a significant backlash from Christians who use yoga as part of their exercise routine as well as those who believe the practice can mesh with Christian forms of reflection and meditation. But Mohler would have none of it. He wrote, "Most seem unaware that yoga cannot be neatly separated into physical and spiritual dimensions." In other words, those who merely use yoga as a form of stretching and muscle strengthening are mistaken. He continued:

Christians who practice yoga are embracing, or at minimum flirting with, a spiritual practice that threatens to transform their own spiritual lives into a 'post-Christian, spiritually polyglot' reality. Should any Christian willingly risk that?

Not to be ignored amid a cultural controversy, Mark Driscoll added his $.02 into the discussion. In this video the pugnacious pastor calls yoga "absolute paganism" and says it opens the door to demonism. But he adds this caveat: "Is it possible for a Christian to do stretching and read scripture and pray and do so in a way that is exercise that is biblical? Yes, it is possible. But if you just sign up for a little yoga class you're signing up for a little demon class." (BTW, Driscoll also warns against watching Avatar…the "most demonic movie ever.")

Of course not everyone agrees with Mohler and Driscoll. David Sapp, senior pastor at Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Atlanta says the form of yoga taught at his church has "sort of been de-religionalized."

"What we do is yoga as stretching, exercise and relaxation technique," he said. "We don't do yoga as Buddhist philosophy." Sapp also believes that when yoga stretches and breathing techniques are combined with Scripture meditation, it can be used as a way of communing with God."I believe that God can come to us in all experiences in life," Sapp said. "God has lots of ways of revealing himself to people, and if he chose to do it through yoga, he could sure do that."

Displaying 1–10 of 22 comments

rob

July 09, 2013  7:42am

It has already been stated in the comments but what was once demonic has a habit of slipping into accepted culture. going back quite sometime, it was considered demonic for a common man to read and interpret the scriptures, dictation suggested that only a priest was qualified to interpret the word of god. equally the devilish moors and their evil algebra and maths how very dare anyone try and count. And lest we forget the founding fathers of all non roman Christianity who were punished for heresy and devil worship for trying to liberate the religion. This subsequently went on to provide impetus for universal education and in deed democracy. I for one am glad that they "worshipped the devil". as for yoga, people confuse the exercises with the actual term yoga which loosely translates as mind work. I would challenge the average yoga instructor to fully understand hindu (yes hindu not Buddhist as mentioned above) mind work, therefore is the average practitioner actually practicing hindu mind work or a set of exercises which emanate from another religion but the instructor is not fully versed in the true underlying teachings (and no 20 something instructor carries all of the information that an 80 year old Brahmin is still learning its just not possible) in short there are demonic issues all around if you try and look for them, the current trend in psychology is for mindfulness (a Buddhist practice) are we to prevent our brothers and sisters from seeking medical help because we do not agree with it? for that matter Christian medicine consists of bleeding out humours and purgitation of the system. why are doctors getting a free ride when their practice of medicine is clearly demonic (stemming from Ayurveda a hindu practice which passed through the moors an Islamic race before finally being accepted by us Christians, after all people who practiced lotions and potions out with bleeding and purgitation were burned as witches) Im in favour of moving with the times, but being mindful of christs purpose for us.

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elegance

December 13, 2010  5:36pm

Jan, you really lost me as I tried to follow your comment. Can you clarify?

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Jan

December 13, 2010  11:33am

Elegance, I always wonder if you are striving for one with the One doesn't that mean you are striving toward non-existence? One is one, not one plus you. However, not only is the goal for union with Brahman (becoming one with the One), but the meditative practices strive for out of body experience. God created our souls and our body to be united not severed, the only time of separation is at death, something God vows to undo at the Resurrection.

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Elegance

December 12, 2010  9:19am

Amazing Love, Christians want what everyone else wants; an easy life that doesn't require them to give up their sinful self. The real Christian life is not easy, "I have spoken these things to you so that you might have peace in Me. In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world." John 16:33. Many 'Christian' leaders take a very light view of Scripture choosing instead to follow the dictates of their own minds. Because they don't view the bible as 'inerrant', they are then able to decide for themselves what seems right or wring to them. Rather than engage in serious Bible study and willing obedience to the mandates of Scripture, they prefer to rationalize their own desires into their own brand of spirituality.

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Amazing Love Blog

December 11, 2010  1:32pm

Thank you for this interesting article. I think we should listen to the Hindu yoga practitioner. Yoga is a spiritual path. Why would Christ followers want to wander onto another path?

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Elegance

December 11, 2010  8:20am

Jan, Thanks for the link. I appreciated this quote, "The goal of all yoga, Laurette explains, is to obtain oneness with the universe. That's also known as the process of enlightenment, or union with Brahman (Hinduism's highest god). The word "yoga" means "union" or "to yoke.""

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Jan

December 10, 2010  7:57pm

Kyria (Christianity Today's digizine for women) published this article warning others of the pitfalls of Yoga: "The Truth About Yoga" http://www.kyria.com/topics/spiritualformation/theologyspiritualissues/14.40.html

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Jarrod

December 10, 2010  9:58am

There's a natural tension between "purity" and "accomodation." I'm reading the book "Bonhoeffer," which is an excellent example of a man standing for purity and against the ever-so-gradual accomodation of the "German Christian Church" to Hitler's agenda. And this is in contrast with the accomodation of Yule logs and Christmas trees as part of celebrating Christ's birth, which is fairly well accepted "baptising" of paganism into Christian observance. I'm not sure blanket condemnations of either puritanism or baptised paganism are appropriate. Just as Jesus upheld the law and yet redefined it, so we too must uphold the purity of our faith and belief while incarnating it in different cultures, including our current syncretistic culture.

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Karl Udy

December 09, 2010  9:02pm

I am concerned about the xenophobia that is latent behind a lot of these comments. The comment by Driscoll against "Easternism" strikes me as particularly xenophobic, but the overall idea that if it is a set of relaxation and stretching exercises that originates from an non-Western European culture then it must be "demonic" is the root attitude behind these comments. It is also behind the comments of those who say that certain forms of music or exercise (eg martial arts) are evil or demonic. Yes, many Yoga schools and practitioners are Hindu in their instruction and practices. However, in most people's minds a form of yoga where these religious elements have been removed is still "yoga" despite what Al Mohler and others might say. Even if they are technically right, they are fighting a losing communication battle by railing against yoga. Wouldn't it be better to instruct people who are interested in yoga or martial arts to check first to see what spiritual elements the school or instructors include and to use their wisdom as to whether to participate on the basis of that information.

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nathan

December 09, 2010  7:40pm

yes. the Church is responsible for the consumer capitalist bastardization of the Church year.

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