Can Yoga be “Christianized”? John Mark Reynolds responds to Al Mohler on this Christ-and-culture question


Participants in yoga marathon (Wikimedia Commons)

As a student of medieval faith, I often see sophisticated appropriations of “non-Christian” cultural materials into a Christian framework. The original case of this, of course, was the 2nd-century apologists’ use of Greek philosophical material in explicating the faith to their contemporaries. Another example would be Gregory the Great‘s instructions to the monks he sent to evangelize England, that they should not destroy the pagan temples but “repurpose” them.

The same was done with Pagan holidays (much to the distress of some later Christians, including notably the Puritans, some of whom refused to celebrate Christmas on the grounds of its Pagan origins). And as C S Lewis points out in his Discarded Image, Christians in the Middle Ages continued to adapt and adopt pagan materials with great alacrity–though almost always with great care to “clean up” their sources and ensure their consistency with Christian orthodoxy.

Now BIOLA Torrey Honors Institute founder/director John Mark Reynolds has applied the same tradition of appropriation to the practice and culture of Yoga–already practiced by likely hundreds of thousands of Christians in America alone. Reynolds’s reflection (the gist: yes, this can be appropriated, but only with great care!) comes as a response to some warning words from Al Mohler about the dangers of Yoga. An excerpt of Reynolds’s remarks, which appear on a First Things blog:

A culture that takes a beautiful mountain and names it for their pagan god does not thereby force us to blow up the mountain. We need to reinterpret the mountain for the people in a way that enfolds their history and insights into the broader story of Christendom.

Christ’s Kingdom makes no colonies, it redeems nations. The nationals of every land reimagine their God given insights to make them part of the Christian story.

We must acknowledge that many good things come to mankind through the common image and grace of God in each human being. Christians of all stripes would never want to hide the truth that some great idea or good thing came from another faith. That is the false path of those Muslims who take Christian churches, turn them into mosques, and then bury the earlier Christian history as if it did not exist.

Better is the acknowledgment of what a thing was and then a joyful description of what it now is.

For example, in the United States of America the art of some city landscapes was often built on materialist or secular assumptions and ignored the needs of human beings. It needs imaginative redemption and artistic reconceptualization.

Such an appropriation of the best of the cityscape cannot be syncretistic, but must condemn the greed and the materialism that sent money makers soaring over cathedral domes. This can be done, however, without tearing down a single beautiful building or covering up their sordid histories. Just as the Narnia stories redeemed the image of Bacchus for generations of children, so better Christian story tellers can redeem the best of the skyscrapers in our cities.

You can finish Reynolds’s article here.

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