Doug Pagitt and John MacArthur discuss Yoga on CNN

The practice of yoga is one which many Christians (or so-called Christians, thank you Neil) indiscriminately partake in.

Pastors Doug Pagitt, a leading (facilitating?) voice in the Emergent Conversation, and John MacArthur presented 2 perspectives of yoga on CNN of all places (click here to see the video).

Here’s the last part of the panel,

Mike Galanos (host): Let’s get back to the yoga — Doug, let’s get back to yoga real quick – as you do the postures, and this again, again I have not done yoga, but you do the postures, and they’re, one of the concerns is that it’s an offering to some of the millions of Hindu gods. Is there a part of you in the spirit that’s tweaked at all by this? Are you bothered at all. You practice yoga yourself. How do you go through with it?

Doug Pagitt: Hey, I have to confess that I’m not very good at it? Yoga, it’s really hard to hold these postures, to hold these positions. And I’ll tell you that from my own experience, and the many, many people that I know who participate in yoga, none of them have ever found themselves to be opened up to something negative or something demonic or something evil. In fact, many of us find the high benefit that comes from body mind connection, and from knowing that we are pushing, that we are stretching, that we are sending our body into an exercise. And that exercise is not wholly disconnected from our will or from our mind or from our spirit; it’s a complete practice. And I’ve never known anybody who has had anything detrimental come into their spirit because of their practice of yoga.

Mike Galanos (host): John MacArthur, real quick, want to get you in on this as well, is all yoga bad yoga for the Christian?

John MacArthur: Well, let me just respond to what I’ve been hearing. That doesn’t sound anything like Christianity. If you want a whole life, if you want your life to be what it should be, you don’t put yourself in some weird physical position, empty your mind, center on yourself and try to relieve your stress. You go to the word of God, to the gospel of Jesus Christ, you embrace in faith the sacrifice of Christ in his death and resurrection as your savior and redeemer. God comes, regenerates you, transforms your life, makes you a new creation, and you’re saved and you’re on your way to heaven, and you can live a life of peace and joy. That’s the promise of the gospel. There is no contribution made to that by any physical position or any kind of meditation.

The idea of Christianity is to fill your mind with biblical truth and focus on the God who is above you. That’s Christian worship. The idea of yoga is to fill your mind with nothing except to focus on yourself and try to find the god that is inside of you. From a Christian viewpoint, that’s a false religion. Exercise is a different issue.

Leave it to Johnny Mac not to mince words.

(Both Pagitt and MacArthur posted the video of the show on their websites, here and here)

30 Responses to Doug Pagitt and John MacArthur discuss Yoga on CNN

  1. osipov says:

    I think this is ridiculous.

  2. Pingback: More Yahweh Yoga Deception, This Time On CNN « Primitive Jesus Christology

  3. Francis says:

    Eastern religion (of which yoga is a huge part) is NOT compatible with authentic Christianity. Yoga is about worshiping Hindu dieties and achieving an altered state of conciousness through “meditation.”

    Any “Christian” who condones or promotes Yoga in any fashion sets himself against the Word of God, the Bible.

    John Mac Arthur is spot on as is usually the case.

  4. Tim Victor says:

    Personally, I feel that MacArthur is quite closed-minded and, to me, doesn’t even seem to have heard what Pagitt is saying.

    Fact: Many people, among them Christians, do in fact practice Yoga and follow Christ. Not all of them admit to it. Those that do usually experience the benefits of greater flexibility, improved circulation, etc.

    Fact: Yoga is a form of exercise and a spiritual discipline . There are various forms of Yoga and both the students and teacher have goals when practicing, some of which may or may not be spiritual.

    In my opinion, we can appropriate Yoga as a form of exercise (which Doug Pagitt seems to be doing) and perhaps even as a spiritual discipline (which I’m not sure I hear him saying but would like to hear more). The latter excites me as there are rich spiritual disciplines lying beyond the West and evangelical Christianity that are more experiential, more meaningful, and have benefits other than helping us catch up on sleep.

    To argue that a Western Christian adopting the practice of Yoga is buying into Hinduism is akin to arguing that an Eastern Christian taking up a gym membership is buying into Scientism, Capitalism and everything that goes together with the history of Westernisation. That sounds a bit silly and ignorant to me.

    Looking deeper at ourselves, let’s acknowledge that Western Christianity is bound by modernity and capitalism and we see examples of this in every part of the world that Christians do mission. Do I need to cite examples? Its probably better if you go to South America, Africa and the East and look at how we’ve bundled culture and religion together. To argue against Yoga and make an enemy of Christians who practice it is to, similarly, bind the culture and religions of the East together.

    Currently there is a mutual cross-polination of cultures, which to a degree happens in religion but not as much. The culture basis of the West should not and may never not become synonymous with Christianity. The emerging culture, particularly in the West, is seeking to appropriate truth, beauty, health, etc. from all major cultures.

    I’m all for it. Let’s do it.

  5. Nic Paton says:

    “Hindu dieties” – is this like samoosas, or what?

  6. Tim Victor says:


    I think they could be, but that’d be a kind of health food banned to Christians. Maybe that’s what we’d catch heebie jeebies from?

  7. Nic Paton says:

    Actually I hear all that Ghee is not good for your cholestral. However I do commend the fact that they are dieties, so there is at least SOME attempt to be healthy.

  8. Laz says:

    Nic, what of the pantheist base of yoga?

    In your opinion, should we even mix in any discernment when it comes to spiritual practices, say praying to the dead?

  9. timvictor says:

    Laz, What about the materialistic basis of gym? How do you apply discernment to such practices?

  10. Laz says:

    So people go to the gym because they want to be one with the universe? You’ve actually answered your own question by using “materialistic”. Think about it.

    Does not Paul speak of physical training? Was he then a materialist?

  11. timvictor says:


    My question is in response to your question.

    How do you distinguish between the physical and spiritual aspects? Paul certainly recommends physical training, as anyone should, and we should pay attention to the whole soul – body and spirit. What “exercise” meant in Paul’s or the NT era differs in practice from what exercise means to us in our era. Our appropriated versions of Yoga are fairly distinct from Yoga found in the East. The religious/spiritual foundation is replaced by a western framework, which denies the reality of the supernatural ensuring that the little that may be considered spiritual in yoga is a buy-product of the exercise and not the focus. I feel this is quite sad as we can appropriate more than just what the five physical senses have access to.

    So, if you’re not buying into materialism by doing exercise, then how so can we accuse Christians practicing Yoga of buying into pantheism, panentheism and/or Hinduism by adopting a westernised version of yoga? Is this position not a form of moral panic?

  12. Laz says:

    Does yoga involve emptying one’s mind?

  13. Tim Victor says:

    Is the question that simple for you? Can one ever truly empty one’s mind? Do you mean “empty one’s mind” in the narrow Christian sense or the Eastern sense where it speaks more of connectedness through dynamic self-emptying – something even Christ engaged in to the point that S/He took on the the human body!

    Sure, some forms of yoga and meditation involve emptying one’s mind in the sense many Christians are superstitious about. Let’s leave those aside.

    Western yoga is most often a form of yoga called Hatha Yoga, which focuses on purifying the physical body which leads to purifying the mind as well as the vital energies of the whole person. The primary tools involved are postures and breathing. If anything, here people focus their mind!

    Cynthia Worby (The Everything Yoga Book) cites the benefits as: renewed energy, improved circulation, relieving chronic ailments, reducing stress, inner fulfillment, improved posture, increased bone density, emotional balance, improved sex life -and I’d add increased flexibility as an enormous bonus. Does that sound particularly dangerous to you?

  14. Laz says:

    Tim, I’m not sure what your defensiveness suggests, but suggestive it most definitely is.

  15. Tim Victor says:

    Well, the blog does state “so-called Christians” with reference to those Christians who practice Yoga…

  16. Laz says:

    Surely we can agree that not everyone who claims Christ belongs to Christ. As to who does or doesn’t, well I think we can agree that only He knows for sure, for He sees not only what we see but sees the heart.

    While I do not doubt that genuine Christians practice yoga (the rightness of this, well that is what is up for discussion, whether or not Romans 14 applies to yoga well we can certainly discuss) there must be those who claim Him and practice yoga yet do not belong to Him.

    Whether or not yoga is the reason, well, it’s not since the reason for not being in Christ is rebellion. If yoga is sinful, it would be merely a symptom of a bigger problem.

    Hope that clears up the usage of “so-called”, and my apologies for the ambiguity of the post.

  17. timvictor says:

    We must concede that yoga is a practice, and that there a couple of versions or varieties of yoga. The kind of yoga Pagitt and many Westerners promote generally has few spiritual roots and none that lead one toward any form of worship any form of god/-ess. To simply bundle everything under the label “East = Satan” (perhaps an overstatement) is not a mature response.

    Hence, MacArthur’s statement is far to simplistic a reduction of Yoga just as his portrayal of true Christianity seems to deny the unity of body, mind and spirit and the need to, in this life, take care of all of them. Such simplicity leads toward division – as is the case when MacAurthur comments on Pagitt and MaClaren – as his “version” is a caricuture. It also leads to denying not just truth available in other worldviews but also their contributions.

  18. Laz says:


    To simply bundle everything under the label “East = Satan” (perhaps an overstatement) is not a mature response.

    Who’s doing this?

    What does “yoga” mean?

  19. timvictor says:


    Did you listen to MacArthur? That’s pretty much what he does and many who support his line of reasoning on this subject.

    To illustrate:

    MacArthur said,

    “The idea of yoga is to fill your mind with nothing except to focus on yourself and try to find the god that is inside of you. From a Christian viewpoint, that’s a false religion.”

    Francis said,

    “Any “Christian” who condones or promotes Yoga in any fashion sets himself against the Word of God, the Bible.”

    You ask, “What does ‘yoga’ mean?” to which I’d respond, “What does ‘cool’ mean?” Wikipedia has an excellent article on yoga and rightly points out that there is a discinction between yoga in the East and yoga in the West.

    Laz, what does ‘yoga’ mean to you and why?

  20. Laz says:

    Tim, no need for vagueness, all you had to do was answer with what the Sanskrit word means.

    “Yoga” literally means “union”. What it means to me or anyone else is irrelevant, it is what it is.

    I suppose the next question would be “Union to what?”

  21. timvictor says:

    The form of yoga practiced by most westerners means “union to nothing” as few, especially Christians, use it as more than exercise. At best it makes on more supple and more in tune with oneself and brings a little “salvation” from the Fall, which disconnects us from many things including our self.

    Laz, where do you stand on this issue? Are you against Christians practicing yoga? Are you for Christians practicing yoga? Do you practice yoga? Do you want to practice yoga?

  22. timvictor says:


    I will be blogging on this subject on Monday and invite you to comment.

  23. Laz says:

    I must first ask you, who do you say Jesus Christ is?

  24. timvictor says:


    You haven’t yet defined your position? I’ve also asked you to answer a few questions. Are you willing to do so?

    With regard to who I say Jesus is: Jesus, in his day, is a fully historical man as well as God/-ess incarnate. We encounter Him today as the Risen Lord, at work through the Spirit.


  25. Laz says:

    Fair enough, Tim. I’m not sure where I stand in regards to yoga.

    Not sure if its practice by Christians falls is a “Romans 14” issue (like say, pole dancing which might or might not be a permissible form of exercise), if don’t know what I’m talking about, I’d invite you to read that chapter.

    A voice I thoroughly respect, John MacArthur, is obviously against it so I must weigh that against other voices whom I’m not as familiar with.

    No I do not practice yoga and have no interest in yoga either way, whether it is permissible or not.

    Goddess? Care to elaborate?

  26. timvictor says:

    Laz, thanks for clarifying your position. I’m still busy with my post on yoga as well as my post on this very topic (work is hectic).

    WRT Goddess…

    This is my year for referring to “God” in the feminine and seeing what comes up and changes for me and for others. My language choice has really led to some fruitful conversations along these lines.

    There are two legs to this, for me.

    Leg One: contextual engagement

    The biblical Hebrew reference, despite their culture, is more gender inclusive and makes some radical shifts toward equalising women and men. The NT similarly values women much more highly than the culture its in and the kingdom picture points toward a thorough breakdown of divisions.

    In our setting texts originally used to liberate women (e.g. Paul’s teachings) are often used to limit womens’ options in our day and push them toward a subservient position (e.g. women can’t be leaders in churches unless attached to a man and even then only as a secondary or preach or whatever) despite Paul’s other refences to women as apostles and co-workers. Additionally, in worship our language is male-focused and hence takes cogniscence of male approaches and experiences. We could do more to be progressive in our context in keeping with the biblical example.

    Leg Two: theological implications and personal development

    Theologically we teach that male and female, individually and collectively, are the imago dei or image of God/-ess. Practically we only seem to be comfortable referencing God/-ess in the masculine.

    God created man in his image as male and female. Here the concept or notion of “God” is the origin of male and female, masculine and feminine. We are reflections of who and what God/-ess is.

    But often our language is only masculine with reference to this Being and the implication is a higher value for the masculine than the feminine in Godself as well as in ourselves and our communities.

    Where we’re comfortable with masculine references to “God” (bearing in mind that our language is actually not gender-inclusive) we’re likely to validate and be comfortable with the male and the masculine. Where we’re uncomfortable with references to “Goddess” as a valid reference to “God” there are probably some issues worth uncovering and exploring. The feminist issue relates to whether we’re somehow denigrating “God” by referencing Godself in the feminine (the issue really in leg one)? The issue here goes beyond that. Do we not value in Goddess what is reflected in and among us as the female or feminine? I believe we (speaking about the royal “we”) don’t and this exercise has highlighted that further for me.

  27. timvictor says:

    Hi Laz,

    My post is up at

    I look forward to hearing some thoughts.

  28. Pingback: reflections on embracing the feminine in God: does God have a penis? « tim victor’s musings

  29. Pingback: Your Typical Worldly Seeker-Sensitive Emergent Type Worship Service « The Official Blog Of God's Only Inerrant Party

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