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A Christian response to the New Age movement [part 6]

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CHAPTER SIX - The New Age and the Church

 

We have already mentioned some ways in which New Age ideas are Infiltrating the church. Once the church abandons its belief in the divine inspiration of scripture and the unique status of the Lord Jesus as the one mediator between God and humanity it is inevitable that these influences will abound. If the Bible is not regarded as the authoritative word of God there is nothing that can expose false doctrine. It is the Bible that bears witness to our need to be born again and filled with the Holy Spirit. Human beings who are created in the image of God have a 'God-shaped space' within them and if this is not Filled with the genuine experience of the Lord they will reach out for the counterfeit. Few people will be satisfied for long with the dry intellectualism of 'higher critical theology' and few will see much point in continuing church attendance if all the minister is telling them is that the Bible is unreliable and there is no supernatural or miraculous element possible.

 

For example Don Cupitt, condemning exorcism as an irrational superstition, has said, 'Imperfect as it is, we must accept that scientific knowledge is all we have.' Liberal Christianity. Yet it would seem that even in the extreme liberal wing of Christianity which Cupitt represents, there are dissenting voices to this rationalistic attitude. Where such dissent occurs and does not lead to acceptance of biblical teaching on the supernatural, there is often an open door to New Age mysticism. A church, which has become a leading example of this, is St James' Piccadilly, London. In April 1989 the Buddha's birthday was celebrated in the church with the following invitation given:

 

'For many people in the New Age movement Wesak - the full moon when the sun is in Taurus - is the most important spiritual event of the year. It is an opportunity for the most intense and focused spiritual work. This particular full moon is celebrated in the East as the Buddha's birthday. There is also a living legend, which states that at this full moon the Buddha and the Christ join together with all other liberated beings and with the communion of saints to invoke a great annual blessing for the planet. We shall be celebrating Wesak this year with an inter-denominational meditation ceremony in the church. We invite people of all cultures, religions and belief systems to join us in this great inner celebration'.

 

'St James' Piccadilly has a programme, which openly incorporates New Age thinking and practices - yoga, meditation, Zen Buddhism, alternative healing, parapsychology and New Age music concerts. The leadership of the church claim to give teaching on 'contacting and trusting your own inner voice' which appears to deny the work of the Holy Spirit communicating with us. They say: 'Everyone needs and wants guidance. Ultimately however the only true guidance comes from your own inner self, which alone truly knows the path and lessons that you need. But how do you contact this inner knowing and having contacted it how do you know whether to trust it?' This sounds very similar to the search for 'the god within ourselves, which we analysed in Chapter 3 of this booklet.

 

Creation-Centred-Spirituality

 

Also on offer at St James' is 'Creation Centred Spirituality.' The attraction of this approach is its concern for the environment and its attempt to discover ways in which we can live at one with creation instead of destroying it by technology. It also seeks to find ways of channelling human energy into harmonious and creative life styles and to break down the barriers between races and nations. The following programme was given the title The Global Warming of the Heart; the evolution of a loving Earth:

 

'Our myriad crises and difficulties share one underlying cause: our fragmented view of who we truly are, and our belief that we belong to separate nations, races and creeds. Out of this belief come so many ills - the wars and persecution, the growing catastrophe of the global environment, the poverty, hunger and pain that afflict so many.

 

And yet, a different music can be heard, stemming from a steady growth of commitment, determination and love by people all over the world; the music of the Global Warming of the Heart. By opening our hearts to embrace our true unity as one people, on one Earth, we release the creativity needed to take actions to honour Teilhard de Chardin's plea:

 

'The Age of Nations is past: the task now, if we would not perish, is to build the earth.'

 

The leading proponent of 'Creation Centred Spirituality' is Matthew Fox, a Dominican theologian who has a wide influence among Protestants and Catholics. From Fox's writings it soon becomes clear that 'Creation Centred Spirituality' is almost more than a concern for the environment and better international relations. He identifies 'Fall/Redemption' theology as the root of evil in Western civilisation. Fall/Redemption theology is defined as the belief that Adam's descendants are automatically sinners because of the sin of their ancestor and can only find redemption through repentance and faith in the sacrifice of Jesus at the cross. This is replaced by a theology of blessing, which is the theme of the book Original Blessing described as the 'primer of creation theology'.

 

In a review of this book in the magazine Resurgence, Colin Hodgetts describes Fox's four paths to blessing:

 

 

 

 

 

Gnostic Heresy Revived

 

In the teaching of Matthew Fox we see Christian terminology - the Cross, the Resurrection, the Holy Spirit - being used, but the direction we are being taken in leads into the New Age movement, not into New Testament Christianity. Instead of discovering God 'out there', God is understood as the 'great underground river' of our unconscious mind. Fox encourages us to immerse ourselves ecstatically in the created world, whereby 'we become like the Creator and lake on the Creator's characteristics' Whee! Whee, Whee All the Way Home (p.79) and experience 'our growth into divinity' Original Blessing (p.85).

 

He rejects the 'fundamental dualism of man or woman and nature' and even more 'the most gross of all dualisms. . the dualism between the divine and us.' Original Blessing (p.236). This is clearly a Christianised expression of the New Age belief in our potential godhood. In radical opposition to conventional Christian values. Fox advocates means of attaining 'God consciousness' through 'natural ecstasies' - including enjoying music, the arts, revelling in dance or natural beauties or lovemaking, and 'tactical ecstasies' such as fasting, chanting. Yoga, Zen, Transcendental Meditation and drug taking. His theology embraces evil as a 'vital part of our dialectical way of living. We need to allow sin its rightful and even instructive place in our own and others' lives.' Original Blessing (p. 161).

 

Fox recommends and clearly practices prolonged humming in a circle of the Hindu word for the divine force, OMM. In understanding the basis of all sin as 'dualism' Fox identifies evil with fall/redemption theology, 'a spirituality for the oppressor' which he claims is guilty of 'false thinking about God and creation.' Whee! We, Wee All the Way Home (p.l02). In creating a genuine spiritual renewal for the Age of Aquarius, Fox's main aim is not to co-exist with orthodox theology but to uproot and eradicate it and to 're-root' man in creation ecstasy, 'our true home'. (For further consideration of this subject see Margaret Brearley's article, 'Matthew Fox: Creation Spirituality for the Aquarian Age' published in Christian Jewish Relationships, vol. 22, no. 2, 1989.) Fox's paganised Christianity is a restatement of the grosser forms of Gnosticism which in effect said 'Love God and do what you like' and against which Paul wrote "What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase? By no means!" (Romans 6:1).

 

It is also an entry point for New Age concepts into the church. These ideas have already influenced Creation Festival liturgies, which have been used in British cathedrals. Fox himself is clear that his goal is the fundamental redirection of Christianity in a way, which would abandon the whole concept of sin and the redemptive work of Christ for our salvation. For evangelical Christians this is the heart of the Gospel.

 

Christian Response

 

All of this highlights the need for a sound biblical basis to the faith in order to resist these deceptions and false teachings which are flooding the church and Western society. We also need to seek God for the gifts of the Holy Spirit in order to discern the work of the enemy and to have power to minister to those who have been caught up in this web of deception. The tragedy of much of the believing church today is that it is so often divided between those who are meticulously concerned for 'sound doctrine' and yet deny the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in our day, and those who are caught up in a continual quest for the kind of supernatural experience that stirs the emotions but leaves the intellect behind. To be on the victory side in this battle we need both to eagerly desire spiritual gifts and to be adults in our thinking (I Corinthians 14:1,20).

 

We need also to keep our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith, understanding and being able to explain to others the vital doctrines of his pre-existence, his incarnation, his unique status as Messiah and Mediator on our behalf and his coming again in judgment at the end of this age. We also need to consider urgently and positively our response to the legitimate issues, which New Agers are concerned about, and which have been neglected by so many Christians, for example, environmental issues, health care and international relations.

 

To provide guidelines on how we should respond to these issues is beyond the scope of this booklet. However it should be clear from what we have said about the environmental issue that biblical theology showing why we should be concerned for the environment as God's creation, of which we are stewards, is of great importance if we are to respond adequately to the New Age challenge.

 

Conclusion

 

Christians who are concerned to counter the great deception of the New Age movement should learn from the bank which trained its employees to recognise forged bank notes by having them study every aspect of genuine notes. As a result they became so familiar with the genuine article that they could easily spot the counterfeit. This is relevant to our study of the New Age. There is a danger of becoming so alarmed at the deceptions taking place that we spend all our time studying deception in all its forms with the idea that this knowledge will save us from being deceived. Those who do this run the risk of ending up with a wholly negative ministry, analysing every word spoken or written for heresy and New Age influences and becoming narrow minded legalists with a critical spirit.

 

The First Letter of John is helpful to our study of this issue. It was written with the aim of countering the many deceptions, which were plaguing the early church towards the end of the First Century, many of which bear a strong resemblance to the issues we have raised in this booklet. John's message focuses our attention on the real Person of the Lord Jesus Christ and authentic Christian experience. Within the Epistle are three tests by which we may know that we are in him:

 

The doctrinal test by which we understand that Jesus is the Christ who alone has bought us salvation through his death and resurrection, cleansing us from our sins by his blood.

 

The moral test by which we walk in the light, confessing our sins and practicing righteousness.

 

The social test by which we love one another in deed and truth. It is vital that we lay hold of this as we challenge the New Age movement and apply each of these tests to our own walk with the Lord and that of our Christian fellowships. As we confront New Age and its allied deceptions we need constantly to remember that the New Testament reveals the Father as a God of Love who has the power to protect his children. John declared "He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" (I John 4:4).

 

The New Age movement is certainly an enemy of our faith and behind it we see the power of the enemy at work with the intention to harm us and to destroy the souls of those for whom Christ died. But we are told by the Lord to love our enemies and pray for them. There are those who would like to pretend that we have no enemies and make friends with all and sundry on the basis that we are all children of God. We should be in no doubt that we do have enemies but God has given us the power to recognise them and to discern their works. Having done that we should pray for them and seek to make them our friends by presenting them with the truth revealed in Jesus Christ.

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