Here are a few thoughts about Doreen Virtue’s book, The Joy of Jesus, which recounts her recent conversion to Jesus Christ, after having been a successful teacher (of new age spirituality), for some decades. I will list, first, what I find positive and admirable about her message. Secondly, I will make a couple of points in critique in light of Christian tenets.
Here’s what I admire about Doreen Virtue’s personal witness, her message, and her book.
- The Courage to Take a Stand: DV has fearlessly and courageously sought the truth. Upon realizing that Jesus is the savior — through a vision, prayer, and study — she has been willing to act upon her faith, even at risk to herself. She gave up her lucrative business, and her status, as a new age spiritual teacher in favor of a Christian evangelism for which she receives comparatively few rewards. This courageous example speaks volumes in favor of the life-changing reality of God that she describes.
- The Gospel is for Everybody (Finding/Seeking): DV honestly and graphically recounts the emptiness (indeed, the torment) of a life that is dedicated to spiritual seeking, for its own sake. In her own career as a successful spiritual teacher (so, she confesses), she tirelessly tried to track down special or esoteric knowledge. Yet, if the prize was forthcoming, the pleasures were temporary and elusive. She likens the promise of esoteric knowledge to Eve’s temptation: the shiny apple is the secret wisdom that will finally make one like God. Esoteric knowledge — or special wisdom — in new age circles can become a commodity and a badge of superiority. By contrast, the gospel is at once fully satisfying and freely accessible– (the wisdom revealed to babes). If Christ exhibits the nature of God, then it is God’s nature to be generous, truthful, and forgiving. We may touch God, in the here and now, and rather than searching, relentlessly and restlessly, for something to make us whole, we may find–and be found by–a limitless and loving God. Healed, we are whole.
- Joy: DV reveals, through her conversion, an encounter with Jesus Christ that fills the heart with causeless and boundless joy — no matter one’s trials and tribulations. We are all seeking such joy, aren’t we? As DV shows, through Christ, that joy is real.
Here are some points of critique.
- Guilt and Judgment: DV seems to believe that she was duped and deceived by the devil up until her conversion and her meeting with Jesus Christ. Yet, against this self-castigating narrative, it may be urged that the Christian gospel is about forgiveness, which releases one from guilt. In the light of forgiveness, one may see the beauty — and truth — that have been present, even while one has been hindered by various vices and sins. Surely, DV had lots of good things to say, in her earlier books, even if she made some “mistakes,” when measured against her current standards of belief. While writing her books about angels, and portraying Jesus as an ascended master (rather than as the unique Son of God), DV showed an enthusiasm for spiritual things, and curiosity about various ideas, which inspired many. These gifts ought not to be so sternly condemned. Guilt toward self, furthermore, gets transmuted into judgment toward others. For instance, DV believes that hell is real and that theological universalism is misguided. So, anyone holding these beliefs, so she judges, must be deceived and duped, just as she used to be. Surely, Jesus embraced theological pluralism, on a number of points, even if he also preached certain universals (such as the Great Commandment). Heterodox opinions do not amount to grave sins.
- Biblical Literalism: I honor DV’s respect for the Bible. Yet, to lapse into rote biblical literalism is to take the easy way out when faced by controversial or difficult passages. For instance, DV claims that God (through the Bible) condemns mediumship and witchcraft. Yet, Jesus himself was accused of magic and of being in league with demons. These accusations against Jesus were argued on biblical grounds –which draw upon similar passages (from Deuteronomy) as those on the basis of which DV derives her biblical prohibitions against mediumship. If Jesus (the Son of God) “broke” such biblical rules himself — or if he was suspected of doing so– then perhaps the biblical rules, here, are liable to be misinterpreted. Could it be that the surface meaning of the Bible needs to be probed, more carefully, so that a deeper truth will emerge? Biblical doctrines about hell are equally complex and open to interpretation.
DV’s book, The Joy of Jesus, is available as a free PDF download on her website.