(No powerpoint file is available for this sermon)
April 18, 2010
Grace Bible Church
Experts in Enigmas: Errors of Mystical Based Religions – the New Ages Movement
This morning we will be continuing in our study of anti-Biblical worldviews and their faulty foundations by taking a look at the fastest growing religion in the United States, the New Age Movement. Now when I call the New Age Movement a religion, I’m actually oversimplifying things a bit because the New Age Movement is more of a collection of many religious traditions. The Illustrated Guide to World Religions calls it a “smorgasbord for spirituality.” John Stott describes it this way:
The New Age Movement is an uneasy blend of eastern mysticism and western materialism, of science and superstition, of yin and yang, of space and time, of physics and metaphysics, of ancient wisdom and new consciousness, and its ideas are seeping into our culture through the media, through science fiction, through schools, colleges, and business courses.
Within the last decade, the Christian publishing company Intervarsity Press resisted printing books on the subject of the New Age Movement simply because they were under the impression the movement itself had died. They were wrong. The New Age Movement has not so much died as it has become mainstreamed to the point that most people don’t even recognize it anymore. It is the air we unthinkingly breathe. Every facet of our society has been infused with New Age Theology. So it’s important that we know what it is, why it’s around, and how to recognize it so we ourselves don’t adopt its way of thinking. We are going to further define and describe the tenets of this philosophy, but first I’d like to tell you a story about an individual I know who did fall prey in the most extreme sense to New Age philosophy.
In the spring of 2008 when I was finishing community college, I met a girl who went to the Christian group on campus – we’ll call her Heather. Heather attended every meeting and directly involved herself in the planning and execution of almost all the events the Christian Fellowship undertook. Heather went to a larger evangelical church, was – and actually still is – very into Christian Contemporary music, and participated in leading praise music during her teen years. One of her close friends told me that she was at one point a strong Christian, but something changed. Sometime in her teen years Heather came to the conclusion that she was a lesbian. According to her story, she tried to fight this tendency at first. Apparently she was at the tail end of fighting it when I first met her, but then grew to embrace it. Her embracement was granted legitimacy by her own dabbling in New Age books such as God is a Verb by David Cooper, Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsch and the book that opened her to all of it was Velvet Elvis by post-evangelical pastor Rob Bell. It wasn’t long before Heather cut her hair short, started wearing men’s clothes, and at least on occasion taking hormones. I would like to read to you what this former self-proclaimed Christian describes as her religious beliefs now: “Agnostic pantheism, Humanism, Buddhism, Kabbalah; Christianity as a spiritual path; and Truth-seeking.” I don’t know exactly what all of those things mean to her, but I can guarantee one thing, she’s looking for anything but the truth. She has adopted a wide spectrum of views, some of them seemingly contradictory, but all of them freely giving their stamp of approval to the sin she wants to act on, because they all share the assumption that man is god. Heather’s situation is a sad, but an all-to-common case. When man tries to justify his sin by recruiting God to his team, he has no choice but to crown himself upon God’s throne. This is the desire, this is the tactic, this is the danger of New Age Philosophy.
Turn with me in your Bibles if you will to Genesis chapter 3 starting in verse 1.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.'” And the serpent said to the woman, “You surely shall not die! “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.”
I want you to notice the drawing card Satan used to deceive Eve. It was an offer to partake in secret forbidden knowledge in order to what? Become like God! The desire that was cultivated in Eve’s heart was for wisdom, but not the type of wisdom Solomon received. Solomon went to the right source. It was a secret knowledge, a prohibited knowledge, a mysterious knowledge, that would make her God’s equal. Did you know in the last six thousand years Satan’s strategy hasn’t changed any? It may be wrapped in new paper, but it’s the same old empty box. There’s nothing new about the New Age Movement. In fact, the Apostles had to deal with the same exact thing.
In Acts 8, Philip encounters Simon the Sorcerer who ended up becoming a Gnostic leader and threat to the early church. The whole book of 1 John was written against Gnostic dualism. Paul wrote against it. The early church fathers wrote against it. So what was so damning about it? The word “gnostic” itself comes from “gnosis” and means “knowledge.” It was and is a combination of Greek rationalism with Eastern mysticism. The Gnostics believe that we were originally meant to be spiritual beings but the God of the Bible did a stupid thing and decided to create the material universe. They despise the male creator God because He essentially imprisoned all of humanity by making them captives of their own fleshly bodies so they couldn’t participate in the bliss that was intended for them as part of the spiritual world. Unfortunately for God, he accidentally infused some spark of the divine life into humanity making it possible for them to achieve their full potential as spirit beings. According to them, Eve was a spirit endowed woman who saved the human race by unlocking the key to salvation – the hidden knowledge – for the whole world. Dame-wisdom is the heavenly Eve, superior to the God of Scripture. She possessed the snake and showed Adam and Eve the true way of salvation becoming what Gnostics call, “the redeemer.” It is believed that in the process of looking inward mankind can break his ties with this physical world and self-actualize his divine nature. The feminist movement has been resurfacing these ideas and incorporating them with the New Age phenomenon. New Age guru Shirley MacLaine writes in the dedication of her book Going Within, “Dedicated to . . . (all the) women and men who seek the spiritual feminine in themselves.”
The most powerful woman in America, Oprah Winfrey has routinely invited Gnostics and New Agers such as Wayne Dyer to be on her television program. Although she considers herself a Baptist this is what she had to say about the movement. “As I read more of Shirley MacLaine, crystals, and The Aquarian Conspiracy (those are other New Age writings) it seems to me to say what the Bible has said for years. It is just that many of us were brought up with a more restricted, limited vision of what the Bible said.”
Many of you may remember a couple years ago when Rhonda Byrne’s book, The Secret, came out. Oprah became a huge advocate of its teaching which to summarize said, “You create your own reality. The goal of life is getting to know yourself, and in that process you will actualize what you want to come true.” We aren’t dealing with anything fundamentally different from what the Apostles had to deal with. The scary thing about this is that Oprah thinks she’s a Christian! She thinks she’s following Jesus! She thinks the Bible somehow teaches the same thing! It doesn’t.
This is partially why it’s so difficult to pin down exactly what New Age philosophy is. While many followers will simply call themselves “spiritual,” as opposed to religious, many claim to actually believe in Christianity or some other religion, yet in practical terms they buy into the New Age thinking which teaches that we must partake in some kind of mystical experience or secret knowledge to realize our full potential as divinity. There’s no official church, no authorized order of clergy, no universal sacred book, but there is a world-view. Perhaps this is why Dr. Norman Geisler, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary simply defines the New Age Movement as “a widespread network of Eastern orientated groups.”
Now what is an Eastern orientation? When I spent the summer in California, I introduced myself as a man from the East, meaning to them I was uptight and in a hurry to get somewhere. I couldn’t take time to smell the . . . forest fires. But that’s not the kind of East we’re talking about when we refer to philosophy. It is not geographical, even if it did originate in places like India, rather it’s a whole way of thinking. People from California actually have more of an Eastern mind-set than we do here, although we’ve just about caught up. Eastern philosophy encompasses many religions, but the three most influential are Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism. All three are Monistic meaning that their adherents don’t believe in any distinctions between things.
A Christian can clearly recognize that God exists, that human beings exist, and that each is different. We believe that there is a God, and I’m not Him. A Monist says there is no distinction. When a monist refers to God, he is really referring to an aspect of himself, and when he refers to himself, he is really referring to an aspect of God. And if there exists no differentiation between myself and God that can only mean one thing. I am God. Pantheism, the belief that everything is God, is the logical conclusion of Monism. So when we refer to an Eastern orientation, we are referring to folks who think they are a part of God.
We are also referring to groups which believe in reincarnation which is the idea that there exists a mechanism by which our non-material essence is recycled to a new material being. Supposedly, our actions will determine what we come back as. Silvester Stallone thinks he was once a soldier in the French revolution. According to a CNN poll, 35% of Americans also believe in reincarnation. The goal is to eventually come back as nothing being completely absorbed with the universe. Buddhists call this Nirvana, and the way to achieve Nirvana is to break all ties with the material world. They do not see the problem as being not sin like the Bible teaches, they believe the problem is ignorance. They claim we are all part of the divine, but are unaware of this fact, and because we are unaware we can’t break free from our attachment to earthly things. Therefore they exert themselves in the effort to realizing how we are part of God through the emptying of our minds by means of transcendental meditation, and through awakening our inner Kundalini force by means of yoga, and through focusing our chi energy in the martial arts. All these have become accepted American practices and share in common original roots in the demonic. These beliefs are the core of New Age theology. Now that doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to drop out of Karate, many programs have become westernized and the spiritual components are removed, but beware because some of the components are still there in some places. In addition to Hinduism and Buddhism, the New Age has sucked in animism (tribal religions), Wicca, Gnoticism, the extra-terrestrial movement, Kabbalah, and I could go on. Channeling, witchcraft, sorcery, and astrology have become just as much a part of the New Age as meditation, and yoga.
In 1977, the demon Ramtha appeared to JZ Knight with the words, “I am Ramtha the enlightened one.” Ever since then, Knight has continued to channel Ramtha and she describes him as a warrior made of light robes of purple light against a dazzling display of color. Let us not forget that our adversary is also referred to as an Angel of Light. Allegedly, Ramtha is a warrior who lived 35,000 years ago on the lost continent of Atlantis. What does Ramtha teach? Exactly what the New Age Movement teaches – the divine nature of the individual. He says, “Don’t you know that you are gods, that god is within you, dissolve your limitations, be immaculate human beings.” In this philosophy, “all have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard,” was the old way of thinking, but now we’ve finally reached a point in our evolution (and by the way evolution does fit into this) that we know in actuality that we are God. That’s The Secret, that’s Hinduism, that’s Buddhism, that’s Gnosticism, that’s New Age.
In Hindu thought, Avatars are incarnate beings who having reached a higher level in their journey to spirituality have decided to help human beings reach the same level. Sometimes they show up as animals, sometimes ghosts, and lately extra-terrestrials. In modern vernacular we refer to these channeled beings as “spirit-guides,” and they are nothing short of demonic impersonations who promise freedom but only bring chains. Many New Agers believe Jesus was an avatar. This is the reason why if you go to a New Age shop – there’s a couple in New Paltz I believe – you’ll see primitive and Eastern idols along with books on crystals and even Christian symbols. These items are seen as tools in contacting whatever spirit-guide you’re trying to communicate with.
The Bible has a great deal to say on the subject of channeling, astrology, and sorcery. Leviticus 20:6 – “As for the person who turns to mediums and to spiritists, to play the harlot after them, I will also set My face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.” Deut. 18:14 – “For those nations, which you shall dispossess, listen to those who practice witchcraft and to diviners, but as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do so.” Isaiah 2:6 – “For Thou hast abandoned Thy people, the house of Jacob, Because they are filled with influences from the east, And they are soothsayers like the Philistines . . .” (A soothsayer is simply someone who predicts the future using spiritual forces other than God) Micah 5:12 – “I will cut off sorceries from your hand, And you will have fortunetellers no more.” Galatians 5:20 – Sorcery is mentioned as one of the “deeds of the flesh.” Rev. 21:8 – “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” God doesn’t take this kind of thing lightly because it directly competes with the worship that rightfully belongs to him. Satan’s chief goal is to take glory from God, and if he can get you mixed up in this stuff, then he has succeeded.
Currently, about 40% of people in the United States believe astrology is legitimate and there are more than 10,000 professional astrologers ready to welcome their business. Indeed the very term used to name this pagan movement, “New Age,” comes from an astrological belief that we are living at the dawn of the Age of Aquarius which is a 2000 year post-Christian period of world unity, enlightened realization, and peace. In short, it is the utopia dreamed about in John Lennon’s song “Imagine.”
“Imagine there’s no Heaven It’s easy if you try No hell below us Above us only sky.” That’s the end of Christianity. “Imagine all the people Living for today.” That’s hedonism. Give yourself all the pleasure you want because you’re after all God. “Imagine there’s no countries, It isn’t hard to do.” That’s globalism. Since we are all one we might as well act like it. “Nothing to kill or die for And no religion too.” That’s pacifism. Principles aren’t worth fighting over because truth is relative. “Imagine all the people living life in peace.”
Some of you may know that the Beatles were very heavily influenced by Eastern teaching and it comes out in many of their lyrics. Their personal guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, introduced transcendental meditation to the world. That’s the type of meditation in which a “mantra,” one word or a phrase usually connected with demonic deities that is said over and over again to help an individual to go into a trance. In fact, popular culture is so flooded with New Age philosophy its overwhelming. We could spend two months looking at Star Wars alone. I just want to read one quote from self-proclaimed Buddhist Methodist George Lucas. In 2000, the Orlando Sentinel reported: “Much of the debate (on what the force is) centers on the nature of the Force, which Lucas told Time magazine in 1983 was God. Sixteen years later, Lucas told Bill Moyers that he put the Force into Star Wars to try to awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people – more a belief in God than a belief in any particular religious system.”
The Davinci Code has helped in bringing the Gnostic accounts of Christ to the mainstream. The Lion King and its theme of the circle of life is very pantheistic. The most popular movie to come out this year is pantheistic. In fact even the New York Times called Avatar an “apologia for pantheism.” It’s portrayal of a tree goddess which connects the planet as one and its highly environmentalist message are extremely monistic. To quote director James Cameron, “I just have loved every thing, the mythology, the entire Hindu pantheon, seems so rich and vivid . . . I didn’t want to reference the Hindu religion so closely but the subconscious association was interesting . . . ”
According to the New York City Pagan resource guide there are at least twenty-one pagan groups in the Mid-Hudson Valley, most of which are witch covens. Perhaps the most infamous New Age center near us is the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck. It is a retreat and conference center for individuals who want to gain spirituality. On their website they advertise the following, and please hear what’s being said here because advertisements can often show us the motives behind a persons actions.
Your body is as sacred and miraculous as any part of creation . . . Working with your body on your path of personal growth and self exploration can help you bring this wisdom to consciousness. Omega workshops in yoga, tai chi, qigong, massage, reflexology, and sports focus on your body as a means to understand and transform your life . . . With workshops in Western psychology, meditation, psychic intuition, past-life regression, or the latest developments in energy medicine, you can explore the nature of your consciousness and learn how to put the power of your mind to work for you . . . (and) because there are as many paths as there are people, Omega offers programs based on many of the world’s spiritual traditions-including Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Sufism, Christianity, Native American traditions, and more-to explore the breadth and depth of human existence and the sublime and divine mysteries within and all around us.
Did you catch that? The word “you” was used nine times because that’s exactly what this worldview is about. You choose the path, you choose the exercise, you choose the technique, just so long as you don’t worship the God of the Bible. “Christianity” is mentioned as a valid spiritual tradition, but I can guarantee you it’s a Gnostic Christianity.
You may be sitting here thinking, “Well gee, I don’t contact spirits or believe in pantheism, what does this have to do with me?” Let me tell you. The implications of New Age thinking are so prevalent it’s incredible. Let’s briefly examine some facets of our culture and see if we can recognize the Eastern influence.
We’ll start with politics. We’ve already discussed feminism a bit. How about globalism? The forty year secretary general of the United Nations, Robert Muller believes we need a one world government and religion. After retiring from the U.N. he started a school to attain this goal, “United Nations University for Peace,” which uses the curriculum of Alice A. Bailey who received knowledge from the demon Khul. In fact, the very concept of “global citizenship” comes from the monastic idea that “all is one.”
How about education? Some of you may be able to relate with me on this one. In college I was required to do both yoga and meditation in a basic health and fitness class.
What about music? There is a New Age music designed to make you feel as if you’re in harmony with nature. Yanni and Stephen Halpern are good examples of New Age artists. Just as a side note: I think it’s kind of interesting that their primary instrument seems to be a synthesizer. Could anything be more artificial and out of sync with nature?
In the sciences we have Fritjof Capra’s the Tao of Physics.
In business we have “Organizational Transformation.”
In medicine we have holistic health, Therapeutic Touch, and the teachings of Deepak Chopra.
In psychology we have the self-esteem movement and trans-personal psychology. There are actually people out there being treated because of things which have supposedly happened to them in past lives.
How about philosophy itself? Relativism seems to be the dominant force. This is the idea that there are many diverse truths which are equally valid. And so we can both be right at the same time while believing opposite things.
Ecology seems to have been completely hijacked by the New Age Movement. Listen to what Al Gore says in his book Earth in the Balance: “The fate of mankind, as well as of religion, depends upon the emergence of a new faith in the future. Armed with such a faith, we might find it possible to re-sanctify the earth.” What kind of faith are we talking about here. Gore continues, “The last vestige of organized goddess worship was eliminated by Christianity . . . [I]t seems obvious that a better understanding of a religious heritage preceding our own by so many thousands of years could offer us new insights . . .” Certainly sounds in keeping with the whole idea of a “Mother Earth.” Let me give you one more quote from our former vice-president. “(The) pan religious perspective may prove especially important where our global civilization’s responsibility for the earth is concerned . . . Native American religions, for instance, offer a rich tapestry of ideas about our relationship to the earth . . . All things are connected like the blood that unites us all.”
Folks, that’s pantheism. Environmentalists want us to protect the planet not because we are to be good stewards as God has commanded, but rather because it itself possesses divine qualities. It is substituting the worship of the Creator for worship of creation, and it is idolatry. Hopefully you can clearly see the influence of the New Age in our culture.
The question remains however, “How did it get here.” Without going deep into the history of it, two major things occurred. First, the rise of modernism discredited traditional religion. Empiricism or Modernism says that truth can only be found through the five senses. Therefore science was elevated, and man through the observational process was supposed to become his own God. Secondly, after Christianity was allegedly discredited, man was left dry because we all crave spirituality. Solomon puts it this way, “[God] has set eternity in their hearts.” So man was discontent. But rather than turning around and bending the knee, man decided to climb even higher up the ladder of humanism, and this time he found the New Age when he reached the next level. Western man was allowed to keep the same lifestyle while tacking spirituality on as an added comfort. To summarize, the gap that modernism left was filled by the New Age and its companion, postmodernism. Rather than teaching apologetics and solid theology, the church as an institution has unfortunately embraced this movement by trying to incorporate its strong points. So in the last forty or so years we’ve seen a very deluded, feelings-orientated, feministic, ecumenical, self-centered, and lukewarm church emerge. There are many methods the church has used to accomplish this, but music has been a major one.
Now what should we be doing as Christians in response to the New Age Movement? I believe there are three things. First, we need to root out any ideas we harbor in our beliefs that may correlate to New Age teaching. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” If we walk around believing Christ, but also holding onto philosophies which directly contradict Him we are “double-minded” and Scripture teaches that a “double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”
Second, we must understand why the Bible is authoritative and New Age teaching is in error. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” Philosophically we can attack the New Age on many levels. They have a strong desire to have no desires. That goes back to the whole idea of non-attachment and breaking the desires and ties that keep you chained to this material existence. How can one desire to have no desire? They believe in a system of justice without a moral law. There’s no entity or moral law guiding reincarnation, but somehow or another people are punished and rewarded. Mechanisms can’t make moral judgments, only moral-agents can and they need a moral law to do it. That’s what Christianity teaches. In fact, if all is god, there is no way to make any ethical statement about anything. The best you can do is find out what this pantheistic god thinks by finding out what the majority opinion is. That’s why our culture is so obsessed with opinion poles when it comes to controversial topics. We are detached from any kind of objective foundation. Of course we should all know the statement “There are no absolutes” is an absolute statement. So is the statement, “Truth is unknowable,” because the person stating it is claiming to know that truth is unknowable. Of course what did Christ say? “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Pantheism cannot explain personhood. Why am I able to distinguish myself from another person or object? If all is one, there shouldn’t be any sense of autonomy. The Bible explains this very easily. “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” We are made in God’s image, not God ourselves.
Third, we need to find our satisfaction in Christ. “Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will (what?) give you the desires of your heart.” The reason so many get duped into the New Age is because they aren’t satisfied. They want to know the mysterious, the unexplainable, the secrets of the universe. Their desires are misplaced. The words “mystery” and “secret” occur in over 40 verses of the New Testament, and there exists no instance in which these words are used to draw us in or wet our spiritual appetites. Romans 11:25 says, “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in.” Now isn’t that interesting. The very reason people are attracted to the New Age is so they can have “secret knowledge,” and as the Scripture says, “knowledge puffs up.” However, Paul basically tells the church at Rome, “I’m going to tell you a secret for the purpose that you won’t be prideful.” What is the secret in this passage. That a significant portion of the Jewish people would be hardened to the Messiah until a select future point in time. Secrets and mysteries in the Bible are formerly hidden truths made known. Of course there are some things we are not meant to know. That’s why Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” We can rest assured that God is in control, and that he has the future taken care of. We don’t need to be anxious for what the future might hold like the folks who frequent astrologists, but we should instead by prayer and supplication “make (our) requests known to God.” What’s the result of this type of living? The peace of God which surpasses all comprehension. Exactly what New Agers are hungering for but can’t seem to find.
So not only is Christianity shown to be coherent and true when tested against the New Age phenomenon, but it is also satisfying. Adam and Eve may have bought into the New Age lie, but Christ has mercifully rescued us from believing it again. He is the true God who suffered in the flesh taking on the sin of this world so we could have a true, personal, real relationship with Him. If you don’t know Christ in a personal way, please don’t leave here without talking to someone. For those of us who do know Him, rest assured, we have a strong foundation grounded in fact. Let’s treasure it above all this world has to offer.
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