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Tuesday, October 04, 2005 

Christian Yoga?

At the elder council

Today, the blogosphere and the radio were synced over the idea of Christians practicing yoga. One mother in particular was singled out; as she coped with single-parenting of two children as well as her job by engaging in Christian yoga. Quotes from the mother often regard her taking deep comfort and rejuvenation from her yoga practice.

The practice is run by fellow Christians who encourage participees to meditate on soothing sayings such as "And now, to the Father... and now, to the Son..." The yogitees (a What the Thunder Said term) practice traditional stretches and other physical activities unique to yoga.

Response to the new evangellyfish fad is mixed, but volatile. Many fellow Christians argue that it is merely a physical activity set to Christian meditation. (Some of these argue strenuously that this practice must find a different name.) Others, equally as strenous, find no compatibility between anything that smacks of Eastern religion/mysticism and Christianity. These have opposed ther terminology, the practice, and basically anything else they canget their grimy mits on. Finally, the last, and most interesting group, is represented by a swami from New Jersey. As the representative/orthodox Hindu, he maintained that yoga is an initiating and elemental practice to Hindu on an order that baptism or Eucharist would be to Christianity. He politely insisted (in the interview I listened to) that all Christians "practicing" yoga to stop.

I would like to critique the position from, what I feel like, is a completely different vantage point. I think all of life is divided into the spheres of cult and culture. Two principles apply separately to each: for cult, the Regulative Principle of Worship, and to culture, I Corinthians 10:31.

The Regulative Principle will be no doubt less familiar to most people. This Principle states that God is to be worshipped in ways only that He commands. This prohibits man from coming to God in ways that man has devised. Confessionally, Lutherans allow anything that is not expressly condemned in Scripture. Roman Catholics allow anything expressly advocated by tradition and papal authority. The Reformed, on the other hand, only allow into worship what the Bible explicitly commands. Thus, since a puppet show isn't condemned in the Scriptures, it theoretically could be approved in a Lutheran church. However, it would be barred from both Catholic and Reformed churches. The crucial difference, though, is that the Reformed defer due to exegetical merit.

Exegetically, the Regulative Principle of Worship is revealed most clearly in the Decalogue, commandment #2. We are not to worship God through a graven image, or any created thing. The positive way of saying that is to worship God ONLY in ways He has expressly provided. This is displayed more fully in God's wrathful display against Nadab and Abihu, who offered strange fire on the altar of the Lord. The lesson derived here is not what is the strange fire, but rather that this was not how God commanded He be approached.

Thus, anything that is cultic, that is - worshipful, is governed by the Regulative Principle. Therefore, IF Christian yoga is under the cultic sphere, then it is clearly forbidden, as God has not commanded His covenant bride to approach Him in that way.

Culture, while it never fully escapes the long shadow cast by the cultic, is governed by I Corinthians 10:31; "Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do all to the glory of God." Under this principle, all of life is subject to the believer, by grace in the power of the Holy Spirit through faith, is charged to attempt to live all of life as glorifying Christ.

So the defining question is, "Does Christian yoga fall under the cultic or culture sphere?" While there may be disagreements, it seems that at least the mother held up as example is using Christian yoga as form of devotion or worship. She is using it similarly to prayer. Therefore, I think it clearly is a case of cultic, thus not being sanctioned by the Regulative Principle; viz., God has not commanded us to approach Him through yoga.

Case closed.

Would one say that people drinking wine are necessarily practicing the Christian rite of communion? Would one say that people eating bread with a meal are practicing the Christian rite of communion? Of course not.

If one does physical postures outside of its context as a 100% spiritual practice, you cannot call it Yoga, any more than you can call merely drinking wine and eating bread Christian communion.

Here is a brief video entitled
"Can a Christian Practice Yoga?"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQXAYioSQ9I

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Transplanted from the artic blight of Minnesota to the sunny paradise of SoCal, I am attending school and learning to say "dude." I like to think of myself as equal parts surf rash, Batman, heavy metal, Levinas, poetic license, and reformational. Other than creating blund blogs, I enjoy reading, sporting, and socializing with serious and funny people.
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