"Of all the horrible religions, the most horrible is the worship of the god within." (G. K. Chesterton)
Intellectual and cultural context of the New Age Pantheism: (1) Epicurianism; (2) Epicurian Stoic Pantheism; (3) Christian Theism.
New Age thinking is not just an oriental philosophy nor is it new. The message of New Age affirms that (1) You are valuable; (2) You are worth something; and (3) You are divine. New Age Pantheism finds fertile soil in egocentric Western post modern culture. This makes New Age Pantheism because it caters to our narcissism. Should we worship ourselves? (See my paper, "Journey of the Self-Centered Self"; and C. Lasch, Culture of Narcissism, T. Clark & Geisler, Apologetics in the New Age).
G. K. Chesterton has warned, "that Jones shall worship the god within him turns out ultimately to mean that Jones shall worship Jones. Let Jones worship the sun or moon, anything rather than the Inner Light; let Jones worship cats or crocodiles, if he can find any in his street, but not the god within." (Orthodoxy (Garden City, NJ: Doubleday, 1959), p. 76).
I. Developing an Apologetic Stance: The critical issue in dealing with New Age thinking is its strong aversion to rationality. New Agers resist the conceptual, evidential and analytic approach to religion and faith.
1. Discussion between alternative modes of understanding requires "common ground" if the discussion is to be profitable.
2. New Agers evade rational criticism by an appeal to subjective, intuitive knowledge or insight. Fruitful confrontation demands a sound "reasonable basis" for the acceptance of truth based in "evidence."
3. The discussion ground rules should include:
a. Commitment to consistency and coherence. It is acceptable to hold contradictory ideas.
b. Emphasis on proper evidence.
c. Achieve clarity of concepts. We only communicate in a dialogue when both participants use words in the same way. This is crucial, as New Agers often use Christian terms in decidedly non-Christian ways.
4. This raises the question of reasons relating to faith. This classical problem is at the heart of apologetics.
5. Faith in Scripture is "belief" in a person (Abraham's faith; Christ's trust in The Father's promises, etc. See my study on Faith in Biblical Context; Faith is believing and trusting a person and a person's words).
6. Faith in Scripture means turning from false gods ("No other gods before you.")
7. Biblical Faith also entails "belief that" or a cognitive understanding of something.
8. Reason and faith cannot be separated. At the same time, reason and faith cannot be identified. Believing in Christ as both Savior and Lord, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God", says Paul.
9. Here we see the fusion of reason and faith and rationality to apologetics.
10. The role of rationality is critical but not sufficient. Rationality does not replace faith.
11. Apologetic dialogue seeks to join forces with the partner in a cooperative journey toward truth. (Schaeffer's "True Truth").
12. We cannot argue people into the Kingdom of God, nor can we preach or witness them in either. Apologetics is "speaking the truth in love."
13. Apologetics entails love, patience and confidence.
14. The degree admonitions are relevant is person-relative.
15. Apologetics is a concrete business, not a generic business.
16. Apologetics only gives a reason for the hope within us; the Holy Spirit converts the partner to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (Belief in and Belief that).
II. Arguments in Review
1. Metaphysics: New Age Pantheism is entailed in difficult conceptual tangles. When a New Ager speaks—that God is absolute and that concepts make God subject to language which limits God's unlimitedness and unconditionalness, New Agers deny that God is describable, cognitively.
2. Epistemology: New Age mysticism entangles them in difficulties. When New Age Pantheists use language that engages in two modes of knowing: the mystical mode and the empirical mode. The first mode is non-inferential, unmediated knowledge. Ordinary knowing, ordinary language, is not a source of knowledge of "god." Mutism (silence is the only reasonable response to this position). The minute they speak or write they have undercut their foundation.
3. Religious Experience: When New Agers speak of salvation they are speaking about their epistemology. Since New Age Gnosticism locates all evil and causes of human problems in ignorance, the remedy must include an elimination of ignorance. For the mystics, the mystical consciousness eliminates ignorance.
4. This New Age claims are universalistic. This mystical experience is pluralistic and universalistic. Pluralism is entailed in Pantheism, which is resistant to conceptual modes of thought. Pluralism is parasitic on exclusivism. It is impossible for New Age pluralism to avoid relativism.
a. Debate between religious and non-religious viewpoint;
b. Debate between religions of Christianity or Islam;
c. Debate between Roman Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, etc. Biblical Christians must be exclusive at all three positions; including: What is the criteria of halting complete Relativism?
5. Good and Evil: Every worldview must encounter the omnipresent human experience that we call evil and death. Evil is both a theoretical and existential problem: New Age Pantheism often takes the extreme view that evil is not real. Does God cause certain evil? (Tell a person that his cancer is no illusion). New Age Pantheists tend toward the illusionist view of evil.
6. God's Self-Limitation (creation, incarnation, scripture, etc.)
a. Sense of divine mystery (Isaiah 6, "awe" and worship)
b. The Bible preserves both the worth and sinfulness of the human person in magnificent balance.
c. The New Age view of reality can only counterfeit the biblical mode.
d. The Cross and Resurrection; For genuine personal transformation, social revolution, and cosmic reconciliation comes not from us but from God!!! The thirst for peace and hope that drives the New Age Pantheist will be quenched in Jesus Christ.
James D. Strauss