A Course in Smoke and Mirrors

Okay, it isn’t called A Course in Smoke in Mirrors. It’s A Course in Miracles. First published in 1976, A Course in Miracles was catapulted to new popularity in 2008 when Oprah Winfrey began promoting it. It’s a mix of education (the materials include workbooks and manuals for students and teachers), psychotherapy (“mind training” with the Course as our “Holy Spirit”), and Eastern religions (escaping the pain of this world by awakening to a higher state of consciousness), all communicated in Christian terminology.

It speaks in lofty language. The course considers itself a miracle. The course materials capitalize “Course” and speak of the course as something mysteriously divine:

“The Course was authored not by a person, but by an ‘inner voice’ that dictated the material … in the midst of a remarkable, unfolding story. … A Course in Miracles is seemingly itself a miracle – a breakthrough of God into the world.”

The course says that there is one problem that is the central problem of human existence:

“From the external tragedies of war, famine, disease and death; to the deeper, inner crises of loneliness, emptiness and despair, to the cosmic spiritual dilemma of separation from God, they are all the same. One problem, one solution. Salvation is accomplished.”

What is this problem?

“It is an inner malady that lies deep within us. It is not an unfair conflict between ourselves and outside forces. It is a conflict in our own mind.” “We are almost all unconsciously ruled by a mind-set of extreme separateness and attack, a condition of mental isolation in which we look upon the world through condemning eyes of judgment and anger.”

The course promises that if we will apply its remedy to this problem, we will undergo an inner transformation that will bring healing and inner peace. And the remedy is simple. We must realize that the problem we think exists … doesn’t.

“To heal this mind-set we must realize that it is this [the mind-set of separateness, isolation, condemnation, and judgment], and not the world, that causes our pain. … this mentality is not a true picture of reality. It is an illusion. Therefore we can let go [and] become innocent, peaceful and joyously happy.”

Did you get that? The conflict we sense in our mind is really an illusion. In reality, there is no conflict between ourselves and outside forces (i.e. God). There is no separateness, no isolation, no condemnation, no judgment, no anger. All of those things are an illusion. If we will let go of them, we will have heavenly awareness. “One problem, one solution.”

One Problem. One Problem
There’s only one problem with this. It flatly contradicts the core of the Christian faith which it presumes upon and from which it borrows its terminology. If you want to have your Course in Miracles, then have at it. But don’t call it Christian. The two are irreconcilable and incompatible.

The course does get one thing right. According to biblical Christianity, there is one problem that is the root source of all the problems in the world – like war, famine, disease, death, loneliness, despair, and separation from God. But it is a real problem, not an imagined one.

The root problem is sin. We really are separated from God because of it.

“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you,” (Isaiah 59:2)

We have a sense of separation because we are separated. We have a sense of condemnation because we’ve done wrong. We have a conscience that tells us (if we will listen to it) when we’ve done wrong. This is one of the ways God calls to us. A Course in Miracles would have us deny what our consciences are telling us – that we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. It ignores and dismisses what was blatantly explicit in the Bible:

“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

And it would have us ignore God’s call to come to him for forgiveness.

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)

Which would leave us still in our sinful state – lost, desolate, spiritually dead.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

An ancient Hebrew proverb says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12) A Course in Miracles is alluring because it tells us what we like to hear – that we don’t have a sin problem. In the end, A Course in Miracles denies, rather than addresses, the sin problem. In the end, it leads to death.

As odd as it may sound, God is pro-choice. We can ignore our consciences and tell ourselves we don’t have a sin problem. But we still will.

Or we can face the sin problem and acknowledge it before God. When we do that, we find that Jesus has already dealt with it.

Then we really don’t have a sin problem. Anymore. How cool is that?

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