Cindy was exposed to the New Age movement through a human potential seminar sponsored by the company she worked for. The teacher of the seminar informed each attendee, “You are your own god,” and “You can create your own reality.” By embracing these ideas, he claimed, each employee could become much more successful at the workplace, ultimately leading to increased profits for the company.
Cindy was confused. If she was a god, wouldn’t she already know it? Why does a god have to attend a seminar to discover that he or she is a god? She later found out that this seminar was part of the New Age movement. It didn’t sit right with her. She decided to be very cautious in evaluating the New Age ideas she learned at the seminar.
The New Age movement first emerged in the West in the 1970s and then mushroomed in popularity in the 1980s. Even today the movement continues to influence people on the religious landscape around the world. Many no longer use the term “New Age”—they prefer the term “new spirituality” or something similar, but it is all part of the movement that emerged in the 1970s.
A major problem one encounters in discussing the New Age movement is defining it. Some have attempted to categorize it as a single unified cult.1 It is probably wiser, however, to define it as a loosely structured network of individuals and organizations who share a common vision of a new age of enlightenment and harmony. Those who share this vision typically subscribe to a common set of core religious and philosophical beliefs—that is, they hold to a particular worldview. This worldview centers on monism (all is one), pantheism (all is God), and mysticism (the experience of oneness with the divine).
Despite these core beliefs, the collective body of New Agers around the world is organizationally diffuse. For this reason, we cannot properly categorize it as a unified cult. Cults are typically exclusivistic groups made up of individuals who subscribe to a uniform set of beliefs and operate according to a rigidly defined organizational structure. Movements, on the other hand, have an element of unity (core beliefs) but are also multifaceted—involving a variety of individuals and groups with different emphases. This is the case with the New Age movement. (More on this shortly.)
There are a number of factors that contributed to the emergence of the New Age movement in the 1970s. First and foremost is nineteenth-century transcendentalism, a school of thought that was heavily dependent on Eastern scriptures, such as the Hindu Vedas. Transcendentalism emphasized intuition as a means of ascertaining truth. It also held that all religions contain divine truth, and affirmed that the goal of religion is to obtain conscious union with the divine. Such ideas helped set the stage for the eventual emergence of the New Age movement.
We can also point to the revival of occultism that took place in the late nineteenth century. This revival took form in the emergence of such groups as the Theosophical Society (1875), the Anthroposophical Society (1912), the Arcane School (1923), and the I AM movement (1930s). We need not investigate the unique teachings and features of each group. It is sufficient to recognize that spiritistic phenomena—that is, contact with entities from the beyond, such as “ascended masters”2—was common in such groups. This helped set the stage for the emergence of modern New Age psychics and channelers.
Also contributing to the emergence of the New Age movement was a lesser movement called neo-gnosticism. As a backdrop, Gnosticism—from the Greek gnosis, “knowledge”—was a heresy that emerged in the second century A.D., purporting to offer knowledge of otherwise hidden “truth” as the indispensable key to human salvation.3 Though gnosticism with its secret knowledge is long gone, a revival of certain gnostic ideas (called neo-gnosticism) occurred in the late nineteenth and early-to-mid-twentieth centuries. These ideas include (1) Man has the spark of the divine within, (2) Man is ignorant of his divinity, and (3) Jesus came as a way-shower to bring enlightenment to humankind. These ideas eventually became prominent in the New Age movement.
We might also point to the counterculture of the 1960s. Indeed, in the 1960s many people reacted against the West’s traditional way of doing things. During the turbulent '60s, people were open to new ideas—religious and otherwise. The counterculture became saturated with fringe ideas. Common were antimaterialism, utopianism, communalism, interest in the occult, and a rejection of traditional morality. All this helped to lay the groundwork for the emergence of the New Age movement.
Also during the 1960s, the West experienced an Eastern tidal wave. The most pervasive interest was in transcendental meditation, reincarnation, chanting, visualization, and the idea that all of reality was divine and sacred. These ideas would soon become pervasive in the New Age movement.
Finally, we must recognize the failure of secular humanism. Cultural observers in the '60s and '70s recognized that human reason had not been able to solve all of humankind’s problems, as had been imagined by its proponents beginning in the Enlightenment. Moreover, with its relentless overemphasis on secularized reason, one’s sense of the divine, the sacred, and the transcendent faded. In the New Age movement, people therefore sought a return to the divine and the sacred in all things. This is an example of the cultural “pendulum effect”—that is, there was a swing from the secular to the sacred, a swing from the merely rational to the transcendent and the mystical.
These six factors, among others, collectively provided a rich and fertile soil for the emergence and worldwide growth of the New Age movement. The so-called Age of Aquarius blossomed and flourished.
We’ve already noted that core beliefs of New Agers include monism (all is one), pantheism (all is God), and mysticism (the experience of oneness with the divine). Along with these primary core beliefs are some secondary characteristics that are true of most New Agers. For example, most New Agers are highly eclectic. By this I mean that New Agers typically draw their religious and philosophical ideas from a variety of religious sources. They consult holy books like the Bible and the Hindu Vedas, but also feel free to consult psychics and channelers, whose “revelations” from spirit guides are considered just as authoritative as those found in holy books. They have no hesitation in consulting astrologers and others who practice the occultic arts of necromancy, palm readings, ball gazing, tarot cards, etc.
Not surprisingly, New Agers are also syncretistic. By this I mean that New Agers combine and synthesize religious and philosophical ideas from Jesus, the Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, alleged “space brothers” aboard UFOs, Ascended Masters who live on planet Venus, and many others. New Agers believe there is truth in all religions and religious traditions. This willingness to pick and choose what they believe from various sources of enlightenment is a vivid demonstration of the arbitrary and inconsistent nature of the worldview.
Most New Agers are also transformational on two levels. First, New Agers believe that personal transformation takes place when a human being recognizes his or her oneness with all things in the universe. Second, planetary transformation takes place when a critical mass of human beings come into this same awareness. We are allegedly transforming—or transitioning—into a New Age with a new consciousness.
Not unexpectedly, New Agers are typically relativistic in their view of truth and ethics. One New Age curriculum that found its way into some school districts in the United States taught students how to discover their own values. The idea in this curriculum is that values are not to be imposed from without (such as from Scripture or from parents) but must be discovered within. The underlying assumption is that there are no absolute truths or values. New Agers are well known for their view that “you can have your truth and I can have my truth,” and that “your truth should never infringe upon my truth.” And yet, it is interesting that they are willing to impose (infringe) this alleged absolute truth upon everyone! This is a self-refuting position as it creates an illogical internal inconsistency within the worldview.
We might also observe that most New Agers are open to meditation. I am not referring to meditation on the Bible (e.g., Psalm 119:148). I am referring to an Eastern form of meditation in which one goes into a trance-like state and seeks to attain a sense of oneness with all things. The goal of meditation varies, but the common belief is that it allows one to connect to the divine or the force that permeates the entire universe. Emptying the mind and directing energies within the body allows the balancing of vital energies (present in meridians or chakras) which is used to promote spiritual and physical healing.4
The use of crystals, essential oils, body positions (Yoga asanas), breathing practices, mantras, and other methods are used to connect to the divine force and release and balance divine energy within the person doing these practices.
Closely connected to meditation is the New Age view of visualization, which basically involves the idea of “mind over matter.” One New Ager said, “Your thoughts are always creating your reality—it’s up to you to take charge of your thoughts and consciously create a reality that is fulfilling.”5 Another said, “We literally create our reality through the beliefs we hold, so by changing those beliefs, we can change reality.”6 Today, this idea of manipulating reality through focus practices is called “mindfulness” and is commonly taught in arenas from public schools and children’s programming to self-help seminars and corporate trainings.
If New Agers are eclectic (open to many religious and philosophical sources) and syncretistic (combining and synthesizing religious and philosophical ideas from many different traditions), then one would naturally expect them to have deviant views on the key doctrines of the Bible. This has indeed turned out to be the case.
The Bible is a good case in point, for New Agers believe it is merely one of many holy books communicating revelation from God, or the divine. New Agers believe it is incorrect to read the Bible in a straightforward way. Rather, they look for truth by seeking hidden, secret, or inner spiritual meanings of Bible verses, especially in the teachings of Jesus. For example, when Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33), he was allegedly teaching people to seek an awareness of their own inner divinity. Such Scripture twisting is common among New Agers.
Moreover, in place of the biblical Creator-God with whom we can have personal relationships is a pantheistic concept which says that God is all and all is God. In pantheism, all reality is viewed as being infused with divinity. The God of pantheism is an impersonal, amoral “it,” and not a personal, moral “He.” The distinction between the Creator and the creation is completely obliterated in this view.
New Agers also have twisted views of Jesus Christ. Notice I said “views,” for New Agers set forth many strange ideas about Jesus. Foundationally, New Agers distinguish between the human Jesus and the divine Christ. New Agers agree that Jesus became the Christ, but they have different interpretations as to how that happened. Some say that a divine cosmic Christ spirit descended upon the human Jesus at His baptism. Others say that Jesus underwent seven degrees of initiation—an occultic ceremony—in Egypt, the seventh degree being “the Christ.” Still others claim Jesus traveled to India as a child and learned from Hindu gurus, and this eventually led to his Christhood. Regardless of how he became the Christ, New Agers agree that Jesus was an enlightened way-shower for humankind, demonstrating to humans how they, too, can become the Christ.
Since New Agers hold to monism (all is one) and pantheism (all is God), it is not surprising that they view human beings as divine. Because humans are divine, they are believed to have unlimited potential. Many Fortune 500 companies have sponsored human potential seminars.
The New Age view that humans are divine has powerful implications for the doctrines of sin and salvation. New Agers claim there is no sin, and hence there is no need for salvation. If human beings have any problem at all, it is allegedly an ignorance regarding their divinity. This being so, humankind’s need is enlightenment, not salvation. All we need is “God-realization.”
With their twisted views of the Bible, God, Jesus, humanity, sin, and salvation, it is no surprise that New Agers have also completely redefined the end times. New Agers offer different interpretations of the Second Coming. Some believe that prophecies of the Second Coming are fulfilled in the coming of a specific individual named Maitreya, who will allegedly take the primary role of leadership in the New Age. In this view, Maitreya has allegedly been living incognito among human beings since 1977 when his consciousness entered a specially created human-like body of manifestation, the Mayavirupa. In the near future, Maitreya will allegedly manifest himself to all humanity and usher in a new era of peace and happiness.
Other New Agers interpret the Second Coming in terms of the “cosmic Christ” (a divine spirit) falling upon all humanity so that human beings around the world come to recognize their divinity. This Second Coming is thus viewed as a “mass coming” involving not just one “Christ,” but all humans coming to recognize their “Christhood.”
It is difficult to assess how many New Agers there are in the United States and around the world. After all, they are not a monolithic group that keeps membership roles like the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Moreover, as noted previously, not all who hold a New Age worldview actually call themselves New Agers today.
During the early '90s, it was estimated that around 12 million Americans were active participants in the movement, with another 30 million avidly interested in one or more different aspects of the movement. At present, the New Age tome titled A Course in Miracles has sold well over 1,000,000 copies and has spawned over 1,000 study groups in the United States alone. Such statistics point to a broad penetration of New Age ideas in Western culture. This broad penetration has been reflected in Hollywood movies (for example, Ghost and The Sixth Sense) and TV shows (for example, Medium and Ghost Whisperer).
Another way to gauge New Age influence is to consider statistics related to specific paranormal beliefs.7 A Gallup poll reveals that 32 percent of Americans believe in some sort of paranormal activity. This statistic holds true for even graduating college seniors and college professors. Meanwhile, 28 percent of Americans believe we can communicate with the dead.
Among teenagers, some 73 percent have participated in psychic activities. Four out of five have had their horoscopes read by an astrologer. Seven million claim to have personally encountered a spirit entity, such as an angel or a supernatural entity. Two million claim to have psychic powers.
Even the United States government has been interested in the occult and the paranormal. According to government documents that were declassified in the 1990s, America—during the years of America’s cold war with the Soviet Union—spent a whopping $20 million studying extrasensory perception and other psychic phenomena.
Such facts reveal that the New Age movement has indeed broadly penetrated American culture. For this reason, Christians ought to be equipped to answer the primary claims of New Agers.
Someone said that the New Age movement is a target-rich environment when it comes to opportunities for critique. In what follows, I will provide a brief biblical response to some of the primary ideas set forth in the movement.
Relativism is not logically satisfying. One might interpret the statement “all truth is relative” to mean it is an absolute truth that all truth is relative. Such a statement is self-defeating. Or, one might understand the statement as saying it is relative truth that all truth is relative. But such a statement is ultimately meaningless. In contrast to such nonsense, absolute truth and morals are grounded in the absolutely true and moral God of the Bible (see 1 Kings 17:24; Psalm 25:5, 43:3, 100:5, 119:30; John 1:17, 8:44, 14:17, 17:17; 2 Corinthians 6:7; Ephesians 4:15, 6:14; 2 Timothy 2:15; 1 John 3:19; 3 John 4, 8).
All religions do not teach the same truths. One cannot rationally claim that the various world religions are teaching the same basic truths. This becomes evident by examining key doctrines in each religion. The doctrine of God is a good example. The Christian Bible reveals that there is one personal God who is triune in nature (Matthew 28:19; Mark 12:29; Romans 8:15). The Muslim Quran teaches there is only one God, but God cannot have a son, and there is no Trinity. The writings of Confucius affirm polytheism (there are many gods). Krishna taught a combination of polytheism and pantheism (all is god). Zoroaster set forth religious dualism (there is both a good god and a bad god). Buddha taught that the concept of God was essentially irrelevant. Clearly, the world’s major religions hold completely contradictory views regarding the nature of God. The same is true in their view of Jesus and their view of salvation. This means that the New Age claim that all the religions teach the same basic truths is wishful thinking.
Pantheism—the view that “all is God”—is fraught with problems. In pantheism, all distinctions between the creation (which is finite) and the Creator (who is infinite) are destroyed. Biblically, God is eternally distinct from what he created (Hebrews 11:3; see also Genesis 1:1; Psalm 33:8–9). Moreover, pantheism contradicts common sense. If everything in the universe is truly God, then there is no difference between myself and anything else (or anyone else) in the world. Such an idea is nonsensical.
The truth is, the pantheistic God is an impersonal force, not a personal being with whom personal relationships can be established (see Mark 14:36; Galatians 4:6). The God of the Bible is infinitely more appealing and is the only source of the existence of everything in the universe (Colossians 1:15–18; Hebrews 1:3).
There are many problems with reincarnation. The concept of reincarnation finds its roots in Eastern religions and has no basis in any real experience. Even the most sophisticated views of ongoing cycles of birth and death are filled with logical inconsistencies and practical evils.
Occultism is dangerous. Deuteronomy 18:9–12 warns that all forms of occultism are detestable to God. Exodus 22:18 even instructs that sorceresses were to be put to death—a penalty in Old Testament times that demonstrates how serious the sin of divination was. Leviticus 19:26 commands, “You shall not . . . interpret omens or tell fortunes.” In Acts 19:19 we read that many who converted to Christ in Ephesus rightly destroyed all their paraphernalia formerly used for occultism and divination.
The New Age openness to channeling—consulting psychics in order to contact the dead, or to contact a guardian angel, or to contact “space brothers” aboard UFOs—is an especially heinous sin against God. Deuteronomy 18:10–11 is clear: “There shall not be found among you anyone who . . . [is] a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead.” Leviticus 19:31 instructs, “Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.” In 1 Samuel 28:3 we read that "Saul had put the mediums and the necromancers out of the land." Later, we read that “Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance.” (1 Chronicles 10:13; see also Leviticus 20:27).
New Age meditation can be injurious. New Age (Eastern) meditation’s stated goal of transforming one’s state of mind into a monistic (“all is one”), if not an outright pantheistic (“all is God”), outlook lies in direct contradiction to the biblical view of the eternal distinction between God the Creator and His creatures (Isaiah 44:6–8; Hebrews 2:6–8). Moreover, Christian experts in occultism note that altered states of consciousness (which occurs in New Age meditation) can open one up to spiritual affliction and deception by the powers of darkness. Additionally, some New Agers may use drugs like LSD to enter these altered states, a practice Christians must avoid. Contrary to such Eastern meditation, Christians ought to practice biblical meditation. This involves objective contemplation and deep reflection on God’s Word (Joshua 1:8) as well as God’s person and faithfulness (Psalm 119, see also 19:14, 48:9, 77:12, 104:34, 143:5).
The New Age method of interpreting the Bible is faulty. The New Age method of seeking hidden, secret, or inner spiritual meanings of Bible verses violates the scriptural injunction to rightly handle the Word of God and not distort its meaning (2 Peter 3:16; 2 Corinthians 4:2). Among New Agers, the basic authority in interpretation ceases to be Scripture, but rather the mind of the interpreter (i.e., man is seen as the supreme authority over God and His Word). They rely on their own inner illumination as opposed to reliance upon the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 2:9–11; John 16:12– 15). More often than not, New Agers superimpose mystical meanings on Bible verses instead of objectively seeking the biblical author’s intended meaning.
Contrary to this New Age subjective approach to Scripture, it is better to interpret each verse in the Bible in its proper biblical context. Every word is part of a verse; every verse is part of a paragraph; every paragraph is part of a book; and every book is part of the whole of Scripture. It is wise to pay attention to both the immediate and broader contexts of Scripture. Moreover, one ought to consult history to get a better grasp on the historical milieu in which the biblical book was written. This objective approach will keep one on track in properly interpreting Scripture.
Jesus didn’t train in the East as a child. Many New Agers suggest that the man Jesus studied under gurus in India as a child, returning to Israel as a master to perform miracles and spread the teachings he learned. There are many factors that argue against such an idea. First, Scripture explicitly states that Jesus was raised in Nazareth (Luke 4:16). As he grew up, he studied the Old Testament, as did other Jewish boys His age (see Luke 2:52).
Once an adult, those in His community seemed quite familiar with Him as a long-standing carpenter (Mark 6:3) and as a carpenter’s son (Matthew 13:55). Had Jesus just returned from India, this likely would not have been the case (see Luke 4:22).
Some in His community were offended that Jesus was drawing such attention. They treated Him with a contempt born of familiarity (see Matthew 13:54–57). Again, had Jesus just returned from India, this likely would not have been the case.
Consider also the Jewish leaders. They accused Jesus of many offenses throughout His three-year ministry, but never once did they accuse Him of teaching or practicing anything learned in the East. If they could have, they would have. This would have been excellent grounds for dismissing Jesus as the promised Jewish Messiah. The truth is, though, that Jesus didn’t train in the East.
Jesus was the Christ; he didn’t become the Christ. Jesus did not become the Christ as an adult, but rather was the one and only Christ (Messiah) from the very beginning. The angel said to the shepherds in the field, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11). Jesus’ beloved disciple John wrote, "Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son." (1 John 2:22).
It is noteworthy that the 100-plus prophecies of the coming Messiah in the Old Testament were fulfilled in a single person—Jesus Christ (for example, Isaiah 7:14, 53:3–5; Micah 5:2; Zechariah 12:10). Of course, the New Testament counterpart for “Messiah” is “Christ” (see John 1:41). Jesus was uniquely the Christ.
We might also observe that when Jesus was recognized as the Christ, he never said, “You too have the Christ within.” Instead he warned that others would come falsely claiming to be the Christ (Matthew 24:5). Today, we see that fulfilled in the writings of teachers like Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Edgar Cayce, and others who teach that each person can attain to Christ consciousness as promoted by spiritualists such as Oprah Winfrey and other popular media outlets.
Human beings are not divine. Contrary to the New Age claim that human beings are God, Scripture portrays them as creatures who are responsible to their Creator (Genesis 1–2; Psalm 100:3). Because human beings are creatures, they are intrinsically weak, helpless, and dependent upon God (you may wish to consult 2 Corinthians 3:5 and John 15:5). The recognition of creaturehood should lead human beings to humility and a worshipful attitude (Psalm 95:6–7). They have confused the fact that we are made in the image of the divine God (Genesis 1:26–27, 9:6) with falsely being equated to the divine God.
One cannot avoid asking, If human beings are God, then why do we have to buy and read New Age books to find out about it? Wouldn’t we already know it? The fact that a person comes to realize he is God proves that he is not God. For if he truly were God, he would never have passed from a state of ignorance to a state of enlightenment as to his divine nature.
Still further, if it were true that human beings were divine, one would expect them to display qualities similar to those known to be true of God. This seems only logical. However, when one compares the attributes of humankind with those of God (as set forth in Scripture), we find more than ample testimony for the truth of Paul’s statement in Romans 3:23 that human beings “fall short of the glory of God.” Indeed, while God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere present (Matthew 11:21; Revelation 19:6; Psalm 139:7–12), man is none of these things (Job 38:4; Hebrews 4:15; John 1:50).
Human beings are fallen in sin and need to be saved. Contrary to the New Age claim that human beings are God and merely need enlightenment about this reality, the biblical truth is that human beings have a grave sin problem that is altogether beyond their means to solve. Human beings are sinners (Isaiah 64:6; Luke 15:10), are lost (Luke 19:10), are capable of great wickedness (Jeremiah 17:9; Mark 7:20–23; Luke 11:42–52), and are in need of repentance before a holy God (Mark 1:15; Luke 15:10). Because of sin, human beings are blind (Matthew 15:14, 23:16–26), enslaved in bondage (John 8:34), and live in darkness (John 3:19–21, 8:12, 12:35–46).
Jesus came into the world to offer a salvation based on grace. The word grace literally means “unmerited favor.” Unmerited means this favor cannot be worked for. Grace refers to the undeserved, unearned favor of God. Romans 5:1–11 tells us that God gives His incredible grace to those who actually deserve the opposite—that is, condemnation. Eternal life cannot be earned. It is a free gift of grace that comes through faith in the Savior, Jesus Christ. As Jesus Himself put it, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” (John 6:47; see also John 3:15, 5:24, 11:25, 12:46, 20:31).
Jesus is the only way. While the Jesus of the New Age is open to all religions, the Jesus of the Bible is God’s exclusive means of salvation. Speaking of Jesus, a bold Peter proclaimed, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). The Apostle Paul affirmed, “There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Jesus also warned His followers about those who would try to set forth a different “Christ” (Matthew 24:4–5). Truly, Jesus is the only way of salvation, and the only Jesus who has revealed Himself in the pages of Scripture.
Jesus will come again at the Second Coming. Contrary to New Agers who claim either that the Second Coming has already taken place in the person of Maitreya, or through the cosmic Christ falling upon all humanity, Scripture reveals that the very same Jesus who ascended into heaven will come again at the Second Coming. Acts 1:11 tells us that angels appeared to Christ’s disciples after he ascended into heaven and said to them, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” This Second Coming will involve a visible, physical, bodily coming of the glorified Jesus, and every eye will see Him (Revelation 1:7). In Titus 2:13 Paul speaks of “Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Following are some key considerations to keep in mind as you dialogue with your New Age acquaintances.
Befriend the New Ager. Befriending the New Ager means being friendly to the New Ager. As 2 Timothy 2:24–25 puts it, “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.” The word gentle here carries the idea of being kind. When you witness, don’t quarrel; instead, be kind.
Don’t make false assumptions. Many New Agers use some of the same words Christians do—words like revelation, Jesus Christ, God, resurrection, and ascension. Do not make the false assumption that simply because they use such words, they mean the same thing you mean by these terms. You must be careful to define the terms you use.
Another false assumption to avoid is the idea that all New Agers believe exactly the same things. While they may be united in certain core beliefs, they also hold certain distinct beliefs. In view of this, it is important not to tell a New Ager what he or she likely believes. Ask questions about their views and then let the New Ager verbalize what he or she believes, and then you can accurately address what they’ve said (Proverbs 18:13).
Try to avoid unhelpful behaviors. For example, try to avoid arrogance and pride. Some Christians tend to carry a “spiritual chip on the shoulder.” Acting like a spiritual know-it-all is a real turn-off. It is better to be humble, speaking with grace and truth.
It’s also important to be patient. When witnessing, you will likely have to explain the same thing more than once. Expect this. Don’t say, “I already told you this,” or “Have you listened to anything I’ve said?” No matter how slow the New Ager may seem in grasping your points, be patient as you tell the truth about Jesus Christ.
Try to find common ground. As you interact with a New Ager, watch for common ground that you can use as a launch pad to dialogue about spiritual matters. (The Apostle Paul used this approach in Acts 17.) For example, if they speak about ecology, you might say that ecology is good, since God created the earth (Genesis 1:1–2) and the earth belongs to God (Deuteronomy 10:14). Or if you want to talk about Jesus, you might mention how John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16 tell us that Jesus is the Creator of all things. If you watch for opportunities, it is easy to segue to spiritual matters based on something the New Ager said.
Address the inadequacy of mysticism. The truth is, so-called mystical revelations are too uncertain and insufficient as a ground upon which to build our knowledge of God (i.e., they are arbitrary and lead to an arbitrary understanding). Talk to any three mystics, and you will likely receive three different views on the same issue.
The Bible stresses the importance of objective, certain, historical revelation. For example, John 1:18 tells us “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” In the empirical world of ordinary sense perceptions, Jesus was seen and heard by human beings on earth as God’s ultimate revelation to humankind. This is why Jesus said, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also” (John 14:7).
The Apostle Paul also stressed the importance of objective, historical revelation. According to Acts 17:31, Paul warned religious people in Athens of the objective reality of a future judgment based on the objective evidence for Christ’s Resurrection from the dead. Based on how people respond to this objective, historical revelation, they will spend eternity in a real heaven or a real hell.
There is another related matter worth noting. Those involved in New Age mysticism seem blind to the possibility of spiritual deception by the powers of darkness. Second Corinthians 11:14 warns that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” We are also told that Satan has the ability to blind the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4). Through mysticism, a New Ager might think he or she is having a positive spiritual experience, when in reality they are being deceived by the devil, who is the father of lies (John 8:44). Mysticism is a breeding ground for spiritual deception.
Point to pantheism’s failure in accounting for the problem of evil. One great way to show the inadequacy of pantheism is to demonstrate its inconsistency with the problem of evil. If all is one and all is God, then God is evil as well as good, hatred as well as love, death as well as life. In such a view, life becomes an absurdity. How can it be said that Hitler’s extermination of six millions Jews was a part of God (pantheism)? As hard as they might try, New Age pantheists cannot satisfactorily deal with the problem of evil.
Talk about the appeal of a personal God. An important component of your dialogue with a New Ager ought to be contrasting the personal God of Christianity with the impersonal “It” of the New Age movement. The idea of an impersonal God is utterly unsatisfying because one cannot have a personal relationship with a force. In this context, a good idea is to share your personal testimony and speak openly about your own personal relationship with God.
Jesus was not a mere enlightened master. New Agers typically revere Jesus as an enlightened human being who came to help other humans attain enlightenment. Christians, by contrast, worship Jesus as the eternal God (John 1:1), who became a human (John 1:14), atoned for our sins at the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21), rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3–8), and ascended back to heaven (Acts 1:9–11), far above all other beings (Ephesians 4:10).
Let us be clear: Jesus was not a mere enlightened master. Rather he was and continues to be the Light of the world (John 8:12) who “gives light to everyone” (John 1:9). True “enlightenment” therefore involves believing in and following Him who is the Light of the world (see John 1:4–5). Note that the word believe occurs almost 100 times in John’s Gospel. Salvation is found in believing in Jesus Christ, the Light of the world. It is he—as the Light of the World—who has delivered us from the kingdom of darkness (Colossians 1:13–14).
At the top of this chapter, we learned that Cindy was exposed to the New Age movement through a human potential seminar sponsored by the company she worked for. The idea that she was a god who could create her own reality did not sit well with her. After all, why does a god have to attend a New Age seminar to discover that he or she is a god? This dilemma ended up motivating her to search for the truth.
Her search for truth led her to the following conclusions: there is such a thing as absolute truth; New Age mysticism can lead to deception; the idea that all is god is nonsensical; there is a personal and unique Creator-God; she herself is not a god but is rather a creature; her problems stem not from being unenlightened but rather from the sin that plagues all humanity; deliverance from this sin comes only in the person of Jesus Christ, the only true Savior.
Long story short—Cindy became a Christian, and now has a ministry that warns others about the New Age movement!
Teachings of New Age
Most hold a pantheistic view of divinity, denying the Creator-God of the Bible. All of nature is connected to the divine or vital force. Divinity is within every person, though it is veiled in most.
Jesus is not the Savior, but merely an enlightened master who can give guidance.
All spiritual views contain elements of truth, so various holy books (Hindu Vedas, Koran, Bible, etc.) are used to find hidden truths through mystical means. Revelation comes from spiritual guides who communicate those truths to humans through meditation, visualization, and channeling.
All of humanity contains the divine spark within but needs to be awakened or the individual enlightened to the divine within. Some believe each person is bound by the deeds of former lives (karma), and their position in society or circumstances are based on those experiences (reincarnation).
The biblical idea of sin is denied. Most believe in the ideas of positive and negative forces/energies that need to be balanced for life to be connected to the divine.
There is no need for salvation, in the biblical sense, since sin does not exist. The ultimate goal is to attain connection with the divine or vital force that connects all of humanity to the divine, vital force, or “Christ consciousness.”
Various creation myths are seen as viable explanations for the creation of the universe. The common core is of the universe emanating from one source to which all in existence is connected.
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