Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How Should a Christian Relate to the New Age Movement? By Ted Cabal

Though the vestiges of a biblical worldview are still in evidence, polls reveal that doctrinal beliefs of perhaps a third of Westerners can be characterized as New Age. The ideas of this New Age Movement (NAM) are widely, and often subconsciously, disseminated through television (e.g., Oprah Winfrey's show) and movies (e.g., Star Wars). The NAM also has become big business through its myriads of self-help seminars, journaling/prayer guides (often mimicking Christian tradition), and books.

Adherents of the movement often reject the term New Age due to its connotations. At any rate, it is perhaps better termed "postmodern religion" in view of the assumptions its shares with philosophical postmodernism (see the article, "How Should a Christian Understand Postmodernism?" by Douglas R.Groothius). Generally rejecting a scientific or analytic (modernist) approach to life, adherents believe that knowledge is subjectively constructed and socially determined. Truth is not universal to all humans but may vary according to what "works" for some and not others. Moral values are not universally objective but are only properties of communities choosing to adopt them. People in the NAM view reality as an evolving unified whole; indeed, they often consider God to be one name for this whole. They especially disdain biblical Christianity due to its universal truth claims.

Since the NAM is under the authority of no particular religious text, proponents are best identified by various "symptoms," such as the following. They prefer the practice of spirituality over organized, classical expressions of religion. They believe that no single religious teacher can claim the allegiance of all; claims by Jesus as being the Way must be reinterpreted or rejected altogether. According to them, rather than the grace of God revealed in the Jesus of the Bible, "angels," paranormal powers, or even raw human potential serve as "saviors" from the race's predicament. Mixing and matching the objects of worship, they often identify themselves simultaneously in terms such as Buddhist, Jewish, and Presbyterian. Ultimately the NAM represents a return to polytheism, or the belief in many gods.

How, then, should Christians begin sharing Christ with those in the NAM? Frequently a truth discussion must pave the way. If objective, universal truth does not exist, then the claims of the gospel are false. But all people live as if everyday beliefs must correspond to reality (e.g., no one can just choose to live on poison instead of water). So why should anyone hold that belief in God and the afterlife is somehow different? Incoherence in everyday affairs is viewed as dishonest or irrational ("Yes, Officer, that double-parked car is mine, but it's not mine"). Why, then, accept claims such as "Christ can be true for you but not for me"?

At first glance the shoddy handling of truth in the NAM makes it appear more tolerant than Christianity. But actually it condescendingly views the claims of all other religions as wrong, ignorant, and divisive believing that only those in the NAM see the complete picture; other religions, fixated on their traditional teachings, are unaware of the deep, hidden unity of all religions. But is there good reason to believe that many ways to heaven actually exist? How can anyone claim to know this universal truth (especially if there are no universal truths)? Earthly road maps do not assume that just any path can reach a destination. Routes may be chosen by their ease of travel or scenic views, but not all lead to the same place.

Extracted from the Apologetics Study Bible.

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