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~ New Age and Old Age ~
No doubt you have heard or perhaps participated in the "New Age" philosophy and movement. Entire book store sections are devoted to it and even churches. While many evangelical circles consider it a "cult," in reality it's a composite of diverse people and organizations with no central leader or spokesperson. Its philosophy espouses monism, the paradigm that all is, in essence, connected and, more importantly, are one.
Most evangelicals consider the New Age movement as an intrusion of Eastern mysticism into Western culture when, in fact, the movement is rooted in European philosophy. Until the Reformation, Christians relied upon three sources of truth: written revelation, oral tradition (later written) and reason. Oral tradition was the most highly prized, as affirmed by the letters of St. Paul who frequently wrote that he desired not to have to write and but rather be physically present to the first century churches to orally instruct them. Writing was a less preferred way of communicating in the days when "word was bond". Today, if it isn't in writing, we tend to disregard its legitimacy, whether in the realm of contracts, legal transcripts, and spiritual truths.
European philosophers discredited written revelation and oral tradition
and relied solely on the logic of reason and science, introducing the Renaissance.
In the centuries following, Western philosophy grasped for answers that
were unattainable and resorted to a "new age" comprehension of reality.
This paradigm espoused the notion that there is no absolute authority of
truth, relegating the explanation of reality to personal experience and
science. Thus we were confronted with the argument that "my truth is not
the same as your truth, and both truths are valid and to be respected."
This, of course, is irrational and beyond acceptability in any philosophical
or religious realm.
Logic and reason are considered "illusion" by New Age adherents. The conversion happens when we are enlightened with the "experience" of being "one with the universe." While in an Andean mineral bath, Shirley MacLaine wrote of her revelation: "Slowly, slowly, I became the water . . . I was the air, the water, the darkness, the walls, the bubbles, the candle, the wet rocks under the water, and even the sound of the rushing river outside...I am God, because all energy is plugged into the same source. We are all individualized reflections of the God source. God is in us and we are God."
Shirley MacLaine came to the conclusion that she was not herself a distinct
entity, but that she was instead completely identified with all that surrounded
her. This belief that everything is essentially one leads New Age followers
to believe in pantheism, the idea that all is God. The unity of all reality
tells them that everything is divine, including themselves. If all is one,
then there are no distinctions, and all is God. Again, Shirley MacLaine
writes, "I am God, because all energy is plugged into the same source. We
are all individualized reflections of the God source. God is in us and we
are God." I will not dignify the claim that "I am God" or that "we are God"
with a response in this Weekly Reflection, a claim I would be happy to tear
apart upon request from my readers.
We must be informed about the perspective of New Age adherents. Given that, we must also recognize that the reformation evangelicals also reject anything that isn't in writing, namely that recorded in the Scriptures, although John ended his Gospel account with these words: "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written" (John 21:25). The secular historians of the first century did record many words and deeds of the Christ that were not included in the New Testament canon.
Christians can learn from the New Age adherents about the validity of experience. Christians of the fundamental persuasion typically place experience in the category of irrelevance. "It does matter if you feel saved or not, if you prayed the 30 second long prayer of 'accepting' Jesus into your life, you are assured of salvation." While the experience of "oneness with the universe" is a hallmark of the New Age movement, experience (feeling) one with Christ has been unfortunately relegated to unimportance by too many Christian churches.
If I don't feel loved by the Christ and if I don't feel a deep, devotional love for Him, it really doesn't matter what is written in the Scriptures. "We in Christ and Christ in us" merits that experience. The Scriptures proclaim that all things are held together in Him, the Word. When I examine a cell of a plant under a microscope, I see the Christ. When I see photos of electronic microscopic images of atoms, I see the Christ, "for all of creation is held together in Him." When I examine my life, I see the Christ in all.
When I see Him, I can feel Him. When I see the sun, I feel it. When I
see a tree, I feel it. When I see a loved one, I feel him or her. How can
some evangelicals proclaim, "Don't trust your feelings"? No, I don't trust
my feelings to discern absolute truth. But when I am peering into the eyes
of truth, I should feel something powerful and transcendent. Otherwise I
am not engaging with truth.
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
~ Education, Research and Advocacy
in the Christian Faith ~
Spiritual Resource Services © February 23, 2006