How to Witness to New Agers
Just a few decades ago the New Age movement was a fringe and odd religious preference in the United States. However, the New Age is now culturally main-stream and widely accepted by Americans. American’s contemporary infatuation with a diversity of New Age beliefs and practices is demonstrated by the large “New Age” section now within our major bookstores.
Although the New Age is now culturally main-stream, we still confront difficulties in any discussion of the New Age movement because there is no internal cohesion within it. The New Age is a decentralized movement with no recognizable or advertised central authority. It consists of a broad and bizarre spectrum of beliefs and practices dispersed throughout our society by a diverse range of individuals and organizations.
Any conversation concerning the New Age movement usually produces nothing but confusion. New Agers often illogically claim that there are connections between Christianity, eastern religions (some New Agers like to say that Jesus spent 18 years in India absorbing Hinduism and the teachings of Buddha), and occultism. New Agers promote mysterious paths to happiness, health and spiritual fulfillment.
A sampling of contemporary New Age beliefs and practices reveals just how gullible people become when they reject the grace and hope of biblical Christianity. Read through any of the popular New Age journals, magazines or books and you’ll discover what I mean. For example, two of the more troubling practices within the New Age movement are rebirthing and channeling.
Rebirthing. This experience is supposed to deal with all the negative input people have received from their parents, which according to many New Agers, is often the root of many of the problems we face in life. If their parents weren’t very negative, perhaps the doctor who delivered them was. As they are led back through these experiences to the womb (some people go back to past lives!), they experience a rebirth in which they are set free from all the destructive influences which have hampered their lives, or so the “rebirther”–a kind of cosmic mid-wife–says. Of course, after the rebirth they usually pay the rebirther a hefty fee, which is likely to be the first negative experience of their rebirthed life.
Channeling. This is a new bent on the old occult practice of the seance. This phenomenon occurs when a medium allows a spirit to take over his mind and body. During a channeling session, the spirit’s personality is shown through the medium’s words, movements, speech, and the like. The medium is apparently unconscious during the channeling session.
In recent years, one of the more popular entities from the “other side” on the channeling circuit is a 35,000-year-old barbarian from the ancient lost continent of Atlantis. He has chosen to communicate the secrets of life with today’s mortals through a middle-aged housewife. One wonders what relevant things a 35,000-year-old barbarian could possibly have to say about the challenges of our globalized world.
A group of French Polynesians describe themselves as “a gathering of telepathically inspired researchers, creators and spiritual adventurers living in a multi-dimensional paradise, preparing and realizing contacts with civilizations of the future.” According to this group, the earth has become disconnected from the rest of the universe. In addition, an extraterrestrial dimension continually surveys the earth.
Certain people have been chosen by these extra-terrestrials for help in restoring this cosmic rift. To aid them in this endeavor, twelve planes have been integrated into the group’s daily activities. These twelve planes are spiritual unification, interdimensional telepathy, poetic inspiration, awakening of the consciousness, mental structuration, emotional harmony, psychological equilibrium, regulation of vital forces, physical purification, social integration, material stabilization, and universal resonance. And people from all over the world come to be instructed by the group in these twelve planes!
While it’s difficult for many of us to understand how people can seriously believe these things, the fact is there are millions of Americans and Europeans today that have cut themselves loose from biblical Christianity. As a result, they will believe almost anything that sounds “spiritual,” ranging from Eastern mysticism to occult practices like believing in the power of crystals, seances, or just discovering their “godness” within.
Although there is a claim of newness surrounding the varied beliefs and practices of the New Age movement today, these claims are actually anything but new. As I have emphasized, the New Age movement really only offers people a diversity of age-old, occult-based practices repackaged in contemporary and pop culture guise. One former influential New Ager simply describes the movement as a “Satan-controlled, modern-day mass revival of occult-based philosophies and practices in both obvious and cleverly disguised forms.”
It is clear that the New Age movement strongly opposes those who hold to a Judeo-Christian worldview. The New Age is actively subverting it with an Eastern world view of Hinduism and neo-paganism. New Age adherents are pursuing this goal with missionary zeal.
Uncovering the New Age Movement
Today New Agers come from all segments of society. Practicing New Agers are no longer simply fringe nut cases, they are influential leaders from every realm of society–education, government, mental health, medical, business, management, and the media. Which leads us to a key question: how did the New Age movement become so pervasive throughout America and Europe?
Many modern Christian writers have interpreted this rise of the New Age as the arrival of the final eschatological conspiracy of a one-world religion. Such an interpretation is interesting but the Church must be willing to accept the partial responsibility for the almost unopposed arrival of the New Age movement in the West. As segments of the Church modernized, began to reject the authoritative and objective truth of the Bible, it no longer functioned as a missional people of salt and light in our society.
As a result, a secular world view began to take prominence, and God and the supernatural were often rejected. Humans were devalued through the teachings of evolution and secularism. High technology and absolute rationalism were said to hold the answers to the needs of humanity. This resulted in a tremendous spiritual vacuum within the lives of millions of people.
During this growing spiritual hunger of Americans and Europeans, the West experienced the counter-culture movement of the 1960s and 1970s. During this time of tremendous upheaval we experienced a major cultural shift away from the Judeo-Christian worldview of Western civilization toward Eastern mysticism and occultism. Also during this time, a pre-occupation with psychedelic drugs brought an emphasis on altered states of consciousness and the perception of ultimate reality. Since then, a drugless alternative to this experience has been discovered in Eastern mystical practices like Buddhism and Transcendental Meditation.
From these historical roots, the New Age movement emerged to fill the spiritual void with promises of ultimate cosmic consciousness and discovering one’s “godness” within.
What Do New Agers Believe?
Since the New Age movement is such a varied collection of beliefs, fads, and rituals, it is difficult to define exactly what a New Ager believes. Instead, it is easier to define what they don’t believe.
New Agers do not believe in the biblical Jesus as the only One who can redeem humanity from sin. The New Age movement claims that Jesus is one of many enlightened masters or gurus who have appeared throughout history. Jesus is recognized as someone who evolved into the highest spiritual consciousness, something for which all people should strive. Jesus was simply one “christ” among many in the spiritual hall of fame, with such enlightened ones as Buddha and Krishna.
Nor do New Agers believe in a personal God. Instead, they define God as an impersonal cosmic force or energy. In the New Age worldview there is no distinction or discontinuity between God, humans and the physical world. As a result, New Agers reject a personal God, and proclaim the motto, “All is one.”
Instead of salvation through Jesus Christ, New Agers seek ultimate spiritual fulfillment through personal enlightenment. As a person taps into cosmic consciousness through the different spiritual practices and techniques such as meditation, yoga, channeling, astrology, witchcraft, and the like, they will evolve in their own personal “godness” or oneness with the universe.
New Agers don’t believe in heaven and hell, but replace them with reincarnation–a person’s spirit evolves to godness through many rebirths until they achieve the highest level of “christ consciousness.”
Perhaps most dangerous of all, New Agers do not recognize an absolute or universal standard of morality. The ethics of the New Age are established by each individual. Since New Agers believe that everyone partakes of “godness”, then almost anything is permissible. There is no clear ethical foundation whereby they can claim what is good and what is evil.
Many New Agers do believe in a new world order. Most of them believe a new age is dawning in the universe: the new age of enlightenment, or the mythical Age of Aquarius. The exact time this new age will actually begin is difficult to predict, but many of them believe a coming messiah will bring about a new world order which comprises a new world government and religion. Some New Agers see this future one-world religion united under the banner of the New Age movement.
At the center of the New Age world view is spiritual humanism or the deification of humanity. Overall, the New Age movement manifests extreme self-centeredness, self-glorification, and plain selfishness.
Communicating with New Agers
After reading all this information, it is easy to become pessimistic about sharing your life and faith with New Agers. However, whatever their reasons for embracing New Age beliefs and practices, the fact remains that these people are on a spiritual search for truth and reality. New Agers are not our enemy. More often than not, they are genuine and sincere people. It is important for us to distinquish between the religion of the New Age and the people trapped inside it.
If Christians fail to make the above distinction, we will find ourselves despising and condemning those active in the New Age instead of approaching them as seekers of a spiritual experience, worthy of Christ’s love, and desperately in need of the Gospel of grace and hope.
In witnessing to New Agers, it is important that we be informed and educated about the basic elements of the New Age worldview. Any New Age believer to whom we talk will have a keen interest in spiritual things. It is to our advantage to know generally what they subscribe to in their beliefs. Although older books, Unmasking the New Age by Dr. Douglas Groothuis and Out on a Broken Limb by F. LaGard Smith are very helpful and informative concerning the New Age.
The major obstacle in witnessing to devotees in the New Age movement is the person of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately for New Agers, Christ’s teachings do not fit into their system of “enlightened thought.” Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). He left no room for alternate realities.
Nor do New Agers like to address the concept of sin. Sin is an archaic concept to them, and they see it as irrelevant to modern enlightened humanity. Yet, when John the Baptist saw Jesus, he announced, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away sin of the world!” (John 1:29). New Agers should be compassionately challenged with such passages. They need to be prodded to honestly consider the whole life and teachings of Jesus. Much of what Jesus taught does not fit with other religions, no matter how hard people may try to synthesize them. Those involved in the New Age must be asked the same question Jesus asked of Peter, “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15, italics mine).
In the course of any discussion with a New Ager, it is important to define exactly what we mean by the word Christian. In the confused and ambiguous world of the New Age, the word Christian has been emptied of its biblical and historic meaning. This was made clear to me recently as I listened to a radio talk show. The talk show host asked listeners to call in so she could put them in touch with a woman who was, in her words, “a tremendous psychic and a wonderful Christian.” We must be careful to point out to New Agers the contradiction of such thinking.
The New Age is subtle and seductive. As we mentioned, it is rooted in self-deification and pride. When having a witnessing conversation with New Agers, we must be sure to remain spiritually dependent upon God. The New Age’s subtle appeal to self can be an overpowering temptation. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul said, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).
Christians must recognize that in the New Age movement we are not just dealing with human philosophies, but demonic powers. The New Age is nothing more than Satan masquerading “as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14), and we must remain spiritually alert.
Once a New Ager turns away from their occultic practices to Jesus as their Savior and Lord, it is important for them to willfully destroy all their New Age paraphernalia (crystals, jewelry, talismans, etc) and literature as was done in the New Testament church (Acts 19:17-20). A tremendous freedom comes with this act of repentance and obedience. It is also crucial that they become active immediately in a caring fellowship of believers where they can be nurtured in grace and hope and be taught the Bible.
A chapter from my book “The Way of Jesus”