New Age Christianity

New Age thinking began in the 1960’s, especially in the United States and in California, as a product of the global social and ecological crisis.  It involves new thought and actions in every sphere of life, from diet to science and politics.  It also involves a commensurate new awareness of self and the world.  It calls itself holistic and spiritual, thought not religious, in contrast to traditional religions such as Christianity.  It opposes the dualistic, rationalistic, and mechanistic worldview that has been commonly known in the United States.  Instead it advocates a worldview that integrates science and mysticism and nature and humanity, man and woman, God and the world.[1]  The New Age movement endeavors to help individuals recognize their inner divinity, which goes by a number of names, such as God-consciousness or Higher Self.  Implicit in this idea is that our capacities extend well beyond the range of our present abilities.[2]

Although welcomed by some, the New Age Movement has come under criticism; on the one had, from intellectuals, who oppose its flight from social and political responsibility and its abandonment of the gains of the Enlightenment, and on the other hand, from the churches, which note its highly individualistic approach and anti-institutionalism, and which see in its spirituality a pseudo-religion with a vague, pantheistic view of God.  Pantheism is the belief that god is all and all is god.  This viewpoint makes no distinction between the creator God and creation itself.

The conception of God in view of the pantheist is incoherent.  To say that God is infinite and yet somehow shares its being (ex Deo) with creation is to raise the question of how the finite can be infinite.  Yet this is what absolute pantheists believe.[3]  The Bible teaches that Adam is a creation of God, not an extension of him.  Creator and creation are distinct.  That is the clear understanding of the Judeo-Christian worldview.  In contrast to Eastern religions, where God is seen as everything (pantheism), or in everything (panentheism), the biblical teaching is that there is an eternal, personal and infinite God who is not to be confused with his creation.

For millennia the West was based on the monotheistic religions which viewed creation as the finite result of an infinite God, while the East has been shaped by monism (the belief that all is one) and pantheism.[4]  But recently these two opposing worldviews have experienced a massive crossover.  Part of the reason why the new Age appeals so much to Westerners is that it offers the Eastern religious system without its more demanding religious and ethical emphases.  People are free to choose in the New Age spirituality what they like, and little or no demands are made on them.  It is all very Western really, fitting our consumerist lifestyle.  Thus Eastern thought and concepts have very much become a part of Western life.  Instead of a creator God who stands outside of us, and places expectations and demands upon us, in the new Easternised spiritualities of the West, people are free to call the shots and determine what is right and wrong, true and false.  Indeed, they get to be God.

That is the real attraction of the New Age worldview.  Instead of a transcendent God with whom we must do business, and bow to, we in fact are all a part of the divine already.  We just need to realize that we are already God, that we are already divine.  And sadly, many Christians have bought into this explicitly non-Christian worldview as well.  Many Christians seem to think they can simultaneously hold to Christianity while dabbling in New Age beliefs and practices.  New Age ideas are so pervasive in Western culture that they have become a very real threat to the moral basis of Western culture and society and Christians are not immune to this influence.  When a ‘nominal’ Christian fails to appropriate the promises of God in their life and does not “love the Lord thy God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength” (Dt. 6:5; Lk. 10:27),  and seek the Lord and “meditate on His word day and night” (Js. 1:8), and thereby does not receive the satisfaction from the Lord which God has intended for his children, they remain dissatisfied and begin to search for other means of obtaining satisfaction.  Often in the search for greater satisfaction, rather than deny their Christian beliefs altogether, Christians attempt to meld there Christian beliefs with New Age concepts.

Evidence of the pervasive merging and intermingling of Christian thought and New Age pantheism are the number of books which have been written and published by Christian authors and publishers on the topic of “Finding God.”  Books such as, “Your Best Life Now”, “Becoming a Better You”, “The Secret” and “The Shack” have become best-sellers in both Christian and secular bookstores.  The common story line is that we are sufficiently powerful to create reality.  If we visualize our succeeding at whatever goal we set, it will happen.  We are in charge of providence.  We can rearrange the universe — Jesus is a force waiting to be activated — by you, knowing what you want.  Implicit in this philosophy is the New Age pantheistic concept that god is in you and you are in god; therefore, call on your inner divinity to make things happen and live your best life now.

The Bible says that if you are a forgiven child of God, this is not your best life now.  It has some pleasures, sure.  But it also has a lot of pain.  Our best life is what is to come; the Bible makes this point clear from cover to cover.  For children of God, this is the worst we will ever experience.  We look for that which is to come.  In First Peter chapter one, Peter is writing to some scattered believers.  These are the elect that are scattered. The theme of being called to suffer for righteousness sake pervades First Peter.  Peter calls on these troubled believers, who are living their worst life now, to wait patiently for the inheritance that Christ has purchased for them.  This is a call for exuberant joy.  In this, our worst life, we live in hope for the possession of the inheritance to be received.  In Second Corinthians chapters 3 – 4, Paul tells the believers in Corinth that they should not place their hope in the things that are temporary.  Rather, they, like we, are to look forward to the glorious salvation to be revealed.

[1] Norman L. Geisler, Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976), 174.

[2] Steve Wilkens and Mark L. Sanford, HIDDEN WORLDVIEWS:  Eight Cultural Stories that Shape Our Lives.  (Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 2009), 121

[3] Norman L. Geisler and William D. Watkins, Worlds Apart: A Handbook on World Views, 2nd ed.  (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1989), 101-06.

[4] Norman L. Geisler, Christian Apologetics,  176.