(Unfortunately, many New Age practices and beliefs have been adopted by many who call themselves Christians. It is my prayer that this series has brought to light the incompatibility of Christianity and New Age theology. This is the last segment of “Goo Goo G’ Joob,” and if you’ve not already done so; I hope you will take the time to read parts 1&2 of this series.)
If the capstone of New Age theology is the divinity of man, the cornerstone upon which their theology is built would have to be pantheism. Indeed, it is the New Age concept of pantheism on which all New Age theology is built. In New Age theological pantheism, god is all and all is god. In fact, there is nothing but God. Consequently, in New Age theology, there is no distinction between the creator and the creation. At the beginning of this discourse it was stated that various elements of New Age thought had integrated into modern ecclesia, and the concept of pantheism is one such example. Some “Christian New Agers” such as Matthew Fox have adopted a compromised pantheistic position. They believe that while God “may be found in everything, God is something more than the totality of all things. “[This form of] Pantheism attempts to retain Christian notions of a fundamental divide between God and creation, while at the same time emphasizing their unity and interactivity.”
It has been said that the “force”as depicted in the Star Wars movies best characterizes New Age pantheism in which nature is not only a manifestation of God; it is very much alive, and its life- force is considered one great organism. In Star Wars, Yoda declares, “My ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it and makes it glow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us…Feel the Force around you. Here… between you and me and the tree and that rock.” Dr. Sandra Clifton agrees that this Yodistic Star Wars Pantheistic concept is crucial to New Age thought. In her book, New Age Lies Exposed: How to Stand Firm in God’s Truth she quotes Theologian and researcher James Herrick as saying, “…and pantheism is crucial to the New Religious Synthesis [Herrick’s term for New Age or New Thought]. Pantheism rejects the notion of God as personal or sovereign, instead finding divinity to be an impersonal force, energy, spirit, consciousness or mind in all things…The Other Spirituality’s god is a force to be managed, a potential to be tapped, a consciousness to be experienced.”
Perhaps it is the New Age Pantheistic concept of intuitive epistemology that has extended its tendrils furthest into the modern ecclesia and consequently provides the most “danger” to orthodox Christian theology. The New Ager would contend that since god is the ultimate truth and since god is in all things; truth can therefore be perceived in all things. Nowhere is this mindset more clearly depicted than in the Postmodern theological arena. In fact, Frederick Ferre`, author of Knowing and Value: Toward a Constructive Postmodern Epistemology, indicates that it is often the practice to view the term “postmodern” as synonymous with New Ageism. Indeed, a common trait of both New Age theology and Postmodern theology is their reaction against Modern epistemology.
“The fundamental issue in the move from modernism to postmodernism is epistemology– i. e., how we know things, or think we know things. Modernism is often pictured as pursuing truth, absolutism, linear thinking, rationalism, certainty, the cerebral as opposed to the affective- which in turn breeds arrogance, inflexibility, a lust to be right, the desire to control. Postmodernism, by contrast, recognizes how much of what we know is shaped by the culture in which we live, is controlled by emotions and aesthetics and heritage, and in fact can only be intelligently held as part of a common tradition, without overbearing claims to being true or right. Modernism tries to find unquestioned foundations on which to build the edifice of knowledge and then proceeds with methodological rigor; postmodernism denies that such foundations exist (it is “antifoundational”) and insists that we come to “know” things in many ways, not a few of them lacking in rigor. Modernism is hard-edged and, in the domain of religion, focuses on truth versus error, right belief, confessionalism; postmodernism is gentle and, in the domain of religion, focuses on relationships, love, shared tradition, integrity in discussion.”
Many contend that it is the postmodern reaction against modernity that has fostered renewed spiritual interest which has taken on the form of New Ageism. In New Age / Postmodern spiritualism, these spiritualities are relativistic, and tend “to be subjective and syncretistic. Often pantheistic, or even pantheistic, they are not searching for the transcendent god “out there” but are rather on an eminent search within the practitioner to find the spirit within.” And, according to the New Age Postmodernist, this search for truth can be achieved by any number of means.
“Pete Rollins of ikon (Belfast, U.K.) reports, ‘We have been actively engaged with other faiths through the evangelism project. Evangelism has an important role but is seen as a two-way process designed to open others and ourselves to God.’ Their evangelism project is the reverse of most forms of evangelism. They visit people of other faiths and spiritualities and allow themselves to be evangelized in order to learn more about other walks of life. ‘We deemphasize the idea that Christians have God and all others don’t by attempting to engage in open two-way conversations. This does not mean we have lapsed into relativism, we still believe in the uniqueness of our own tradition, but we believe that it teaches us to be open to all. We are genuinely open to being wrong about parts and perhaps all our beliefs- while at the same time being fully committed to them.’”
“Spencer Burke’s community is prepared to learn from faith traditions outside the Christian field. There is a Buddhist family in their church. As a community, the church visited a Buddhist temple. They participated in a guided meditation with this family. Burke celebrates the many ways God is revealed. He recognizes that the Spirit as been with these people all along. The community celebrates other traditions, and they see them as beloved children of God.”
In light of the two quotes cited above, both coming from leaders in the Postmodern/Emergent movement; it is clear that New Ageism and Postmodernism have a shared epistemology- one that cannot be embraced by the Christian.
New Age theology claims that every person and all reality is God, and therefore, any “truth” our inner selves discovers is God’s truth. By contrast, Christianity asserts that man and everything that has been created, both seen and unseen, has been created by the will of God and for his glory, that truth is found in the person of Jesus Christ, not by a realization of our own innate “Christ-consciousness.” One must therefore contend that despite the fact that many within Postmodern ecclesiastical circles have embraced various New Age tenets, an exploration into New Age epistemology and the way in which New Age theology elevates both man and creation to the level of deity proves that it is incompatible with orthodox Christianity.
1. Ron Rhodes, New Age Movement, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 9.
2. Daren Kemp, New Age: A Guide, (George Square, Edinburg- University Press, 2004), 57.
3. Norman L. Geisler, Christian Ethics, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- Baker Academic, 1989), 339.
4. Dr. Sandra Clifton, New Age Lies Exposed: How to Stand Firm in God’s Truth, (Alachua, Florida- Bridge Logos, 2009), 102.
5. Frederick Ferre`, Knowing and Value: Toward a Constructive Postmodern Epistemology, (Albany, New York- State University of New York Press, 1998), xvi.
6. D. A. Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- Zondervan, 2005), 27.
7. Lee Martin McDonald, William H. Brackney, and Craig A. Evans, (Macon, Georgia- Mercer University Press, 2007), 279,280.
8. Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger, Emerging Churches: Creating Community in Postmodern Cultures, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- Baker Publishing Group, 2005), 132.