Monday, April 07, 2008

What's Left of the New Age?

[In light of the Oprah flap or blip, I offer an essay originally written for Moody magazine (now defunct, sadly) a few years ago. It explains the essential ideas of New Age teaching and constrasts this with Christianity. Given biblical illiteracy and the lack of apologetic and worldview training in the church, it is no wonder that so many Christians end up practicing yoga, applauding Oprah, and falling for other New Age enticements. There is one word for what must be done: Repent!]


A staff member of Denver Seminary was concerned about several of our students who were getting very involved in a questionable organization. They were also aggressively recruiting other students. She asked my advice. I began investigate his organization and interview students. The group promised personal transformation through intensive and expensive seminars. It turned out to be a human potential outfit nearly identical to est, the Forum, and Lifespring—all New Age. I advised several Christians involved in it to withdraw. Because of situations like this—even some fifteen years after my first book on the New Age movement was published—I believe that Christians should continue to unmask the New Age, because it is a significant, stubborn, and harmful factor in American life.

Some think the New Age movement is outdated, because the term “New Age” is no longer in vogue. Several celebrities who sparked the public’s interest in spirit channeling, reincarnation, meditation, crystals, and occult practices have faded from the scene (although Shirley MacLaine recently released a best-selling book called The Cameo).

The New Age world view never left the American landscape. Instead, it adopted the generic label of “spirituality,” and put down deep roots into the fertile soil of America’s ignorance and gullibility. Some of the New Age players have changed, but the message remains. Many people today believe in reincarnation instead of resurrection, trust in their own divinity rather than turning to Christ for deliverance from sin, indulge in occult practices instead of relying on God through prayer and obedience, insist that there are many spiritual masters instead confessing Jesus as the only way, and believe they “create their own reality” rather than obeying God.

New Age influence is broad and deep. Several recent articles indicate that yoga, an intrinsically Hindu religious practice, is now a staple of America’s exercise culture. Many Christians think there is nothing wrong with it. The Clintons consulted with popular New Age teachers Marianne Williamson, Anthony Robbins, and Jean Houston. A series of best-selling books by Neal Donald Walsh were based on his “conversations with God.” Walsh’s “God” opposes traditional morality and announces that Hitler went to heaven—without repenting. This blasphemy is taken as wisdom by millions.

Deepak Chopra has spun out many best-selling books, all of which teach that we are divine and unlimited beings who tend to forget who we really are. He says: “You are not a human being who has spiritual experiences, but a spiritual being who has human experiences.” Chopra recently appeared in Denver at an event where the best seats sold for well over $100. His recent book, How to Know God, claims that God is “not a person,” but an infinite intelligence.” Instead of the “I am that I am” (Exodus 3:14), Chopra’s god is an impersonal and amoral “It is what it is.”
This pantheistic (all is divine) view makes a living relationship with God logically impossible. A relationship requires persons who are related. We relate to God as finite and personal creatures before our infinite and personal Creator (Genesis 1). But rather than believing that “God so loved the world, he sent his one and only Son…” (John 3:16), New Agers believe that God is the world. Love, then, could not have anything to do with it.

The New Age viewpoint fosters and furthers a sloppy and illogical approach to spiritual life because it is purely pragmatic, randomly eclectic, and relativistic. It maintains that there are many paths to enlightenment (see Matthew 7:13). We may follow whatever path “works” for us (except for narrow-minded Christianity). Such “spirituality” robs the self of its moral backbone and destroys discernment. The notion that we chose our own destiny and create our own reality weakens our God-given conscience and contributes to the ongoing decline of public and private morality. Reincarnation denies the titanic and eternal reality that a person may lose his or her soul in hell, as Jesus soberly warned us (Matthew 16:26; 25:41-56).

The New Age counterfeit remains a widespread spiritual danger. We must test the spirits (Colossians 2:8-10; 1 John 4:1-4) and offer good reasons for the hope that is within us to those who are ensnared by the darkness that masquerades as light (1 Peter 3:15-16; 2 Corinthians 11:14).


Sarah Geis said...

Excellent and informative! Thanks for posting this. Especially appreciated was: "The New Age world view never left the American landscape. Instead, it adopted the generic label of “spirituality,” and put down deep roots into the fertile soil of America’s ignorance and gullibility."

Well said.

Doug White said...

I am a pastor In Boulder so I have the blessing of ministering in a community that is marinated in New Age thinking. Thank you for your superb post. Cheering for Christ in Boulder!

David Paul said...

Repent of yoga?

Anonymous said...

Oprah's 4 interviews with Jill Bolte Taylor were the first that Oprah did after Eckhart Tolle and they take everything Tolle talks about to another level. Oprah's copy of Jill's book, MY STROKE OF INSIGHT, was dog-eared and all marked up and kept reading from it the way she read from A New Earth and recommended it highly.

Oprah's recommendation was enough for me. I read My Stroke of Insight and I loved it too. This story is as inspiring as The Last Lecture or Tuesdays with Morrie - and even better, it has a Happy Ending!

I bought the book on Amazon because they have it for 40% off retail and they also had an amazing interview with Dr Taylor that I haven't seen anywhere else - Here is the Amazon link:

Unknown said...

I read "My Stroke of Insight" in one sitting - I couldn't put it down. I laughed. I cried. It was a fantastic book (I heard it's a NYTimes Bestseller and I can see why!), but I also think it will be the start of a new, transformative Movement! No one wants to have a stroke as Jill Bolte Taylor did, but her experience can teach us all how to live better lives. Her speech was one of the most incredibly moving, stimulating, wonderful videos I've ever seen. Her Oprah Soul Series interviews were fascinating. They should make a movie of her life so everyone sees it. This is the Real Deal and gives me hope for humanity.