The Menace of New Age
Society around us is more and more rejecting, often in a very conscious way, the teachings of the Bible and is so increasingly losing touch with whatever is still left of its Christian moorings. As this process has been accelerating in the last decades, the result is not a society without religion. Rather, substitutes for what has been thrown overboard are sought. One of the most insidious and tempting religions of our day is the so-called New Age. This religion, for that is essentially what it is, despite disclaimers by some, has no head office, no official set of doctrines, and no official organization. Instead, it seems to blend in perfectly with the spirits of our present age so that it often is not even recognized as a religion.
Many magazines have been paying some attention to this new movement. The immediate occasion for this press review is the May/June issue of Faith Today: Canada's Evangelical News/Feature Magazine, which devotes several articles to examining the New Age. What follows is based on this issue.
What is It?
J. Stanhope in a lead article suggests that,
New Age can best be described as a growing social and religious movement that blends Eastern philosophy and religion with Western culture, incorporating ancient beliefs such as astrology, reincarnation, occultism and pantheism with new phenomena such as trance-channeling (i.e., spiritism or the living communicating with the dead, C.v.D.), and which threatens to take over our society" (p. 20).
Although it is not a tightly organized movement, the momentum that the upsurge of New Age presently enjoys is such that it will only be a matter of time and their particular philosophy and presuppositions will become the dominant ones in our society. This movement therefore seeks to do nothing less than transform our society. It is with reason that Stanhope can quote P.M. Bowman as saying that many evangelicals,
believe the New Age movement is effecting a 'cultural shift' – bringing about a new philosophy of life that will underline the next generation's educations, arts, and social and political policies, much as secular humanism is the reigning philosophy of our non Christian culture today" (page 20).
What are the main ideas of this all-embracing philosophy and religion?
The Age of Aquarius
New Agers believe that a new age is dawning, the age of Aquarius or as it is also referred to, the Age of New Beginnings or the New World Order. New Agers compare the imminent changes that are coming to the changes that the Renaissance and the Reformation brought. The movement offers new understandings of ecology, spirituality, health, and what is right and wrong. Occultism will also figure prominently in this age. The result is to be a new stage in the history of man in which,
man's mind will be transformed into God-consciousness and his society will be one of peace and harmony (N. Geisler and J. Yutaka as quoted on page.22)
This brings us to some other cardinal beliefs.
Monism, Pantheism, and "We are God"
Basic to monism is that everything that exists is the same. Should there appear to be any differences, it is only apparent, like an optional illusion.
The truth, says New Agers, is that you only perceive them (God, man and nature) to be different when, in reality, they are not. They are one (page 22).
New Agers thus do not believe that there is a separation between God and His creation, "since creation emanates from and is made of the same stuff as God" (page 22).
Besides this monism, pantheism, the teaching that everything is God, is also important to New Age.
Everything – an apple, rock, pencil or man – is part of the divine force, that impersonal energy New Agers call God (page.23).
The final major belief of the New Age ties in with this pantheism, namely the belief that "we are all Gods.” Stanhope calls this ''the cornerstone of all New Age beliefs" and he quotes New Agers Shirley MacLaine as exclaiming, "You must never worship anyone or anything other than self, for you are God" (page 23).
To love oneself is therefore to love God.
Consequences and Concerns
If man is in fact God, the consequence is that any teaching of the Scriptures is opposed by New Age, and the sin of paradise, that man wanted to be as God, is promoted by these people. This has frightening implications. Not only is Christ rejected, as the divine Savior sent by the Father, but even the very notion of sin is strange to these people. Anything can therefore be justified or even considered a normal part of life, like adultery, theft, false witness, and for that matter, even murder. Man is a law to himself. He is God! Since New Age believes in pantheism, there is no such thing as a personal God as the Bible reveals only an impersonal force or energy which is present in everything and everyone. Man can therefore consider himself as God of the universe and individually as masters of their own lives. Here we have the perfect "justification" for the self-seeking and individualistic mentality of our times in which everything goes as long as it suits us.
It is this appeal of New Age to our degenerate post-Christian society of today that makes New Age such a frightening menace. Already its influence is noticeable in many ways. Read only the newspapers and listen to the radio with the realization that there is a New Age movement with the abovementioned beliefs. One then notices how many things now seem to fit together better. For example, the increased interest in mysticism, mind control, occultism, clairvoyance, etc., is understandable when one realizes that for the New Agers these are prime means in which to realize one's divinity and achieve one's God-consciousness. Or to give another example, the great and often exaggerated concern for the ecology is for New Agers fully justified in view of their belief that everything is God (pantheism). This is not to suggest that all those involved in these examples are necessarily New Agers, but the above does indicate how New Age and its concerns underlie much that is of current interest and concern.
Reaching New Age with the Gospel
New Age fits in with the spirits of the present age. It is just the thing that suits searching secular man at the end of the twentieth century. He can retain himself as his own master and need not bow down to any other. There is no sin, no judgment, and no need for repentance. There are no absolutes. Each man does what he feels is right and creates his own world and reality. All these factors make it very difficult to reach out to New Agers with the gospel.
Faith Today interviewed an ex-New Agers (pages 30-32) and asked him how he would recommend that the gospel be brought to New Agers. The response was that witnessing is difficult. There is no official set of beliefs and therefore only by means of getting to know the person well are you even sure what he or she believes. Secondly, since all is relative, the attitude of New Agers is "Don't try to impose your truth on me. What is true for you (the gospel), is not for me. I have my own reality." His advice was that in bringing the gospel we should show the bankruptcy of relativism in the real world and keep questioning what the New Ager believes, introducing the gospel as the opportunity arises.
Be on Guard
May our eyes be more and more opened to the menace of New Age. There is only one way to be equipped to counter this threat and to be prepared. That is to study the Scriptures and drink in the regular proclamation of the Word, so that not the spirits of this age, but the Spirit of the living God may more and more take over our lives and renew us after the image of the One true God with whom alone there is the new age. That is what we may look forward to with longing.