CHRIST AND/OF THE NEW AGE
"We are not contending against flesh and blood but against the powers of this dark world." (Ephesians 6.12)
The book, This Present Darkness, which sold over 1 and 1/4 million copies, is a novel about how a few Christians fight for the soul of a small town named Ashton that is being taken over by a conspiratorial form of the New Age movement. The Author, Frank Peretti, is an Assemblies of God preacher. We must appreciate all efforts to call Christians to spiritual battle in our time of radial New Age development, but I would like to propose three cautions:
1. Peretti portrays the New Age as a conspiratorial movement, thus encouraging a morbid preoccupation with New Age conspiracies. The novel's sole individual, Sandy, is being entangled by the philosophical web of the New Age. The main plot has to do with the movement of the New Age as it rolls over the town (egs. Ashton's grocery store, the police department, the courthouse, the liberal church, and in the process of taking over the 'Bible-preaching Church,' the newspaper, and local college). Peretti suggests that New Agers are beyond the evangelistic influence of the gospel.
2. A second caution is Peretti's thesis that the primary purpose of prayer is to give power to angels (eg. Tal, the leader of the 'good angels').
3. Peretti verges on giving too much power to demons in their ability to influence people's thoughts and actions. We must caution against finding a demon under every bush, though he does not say in so many words that he disregards individual responsibility for sinful acts. The movement of the main theme of the work encourages those who find exorcism the primary work of Christians (cf. The present preoccupation with 'Power Encounters' in global witness) for every spiritual malady. (Ephesians 2: 2; 6:10,12,16).
How must we respond to this Present Darkness? I propose two fundamental stages of awareness:
(1) Educationally the Church must make it possible for every disciple to be aware of the essential content of the theological/Biblical world view, and (2) The radical departure of all New Age thought from the Biblical paradigm. For our purposes I present ten theological themes to be held in tension with their counter themes in New Age thought:
1. God is eternally transcendent or "other" than creation (although He is immanent or omnipresent (Acts 17.28). Creatures are individual and unique (Isaiah 55.8,9; 48.11; II Cor 4.7; Col 1.16,17).
2. God is a personality or infinite person. He is holy and to be worshiped (Rev 4.11) The Holy Spirit is a person (John 16.13,14).
3. Humanity is fallen and sinful. Moral evil is a reality. Satan is a personal, wicked entity, with his will set against God (Jeremiah 17.5-9; Isaiah 64.6; Romans 3.23; John 3.19; 8.44).
4. Existence of evil necessitates God's action. Forgiveness is offered via the death of Christ to die for sin (John 3.16; Romans 5.8).
5. Linear view of history and each individual. The problem of evil and suffering is permanently resolved by Christ's redemption with the creation of the New Heaven and New Earth (Hebrews 7.15-18; 9.12; 9.25-28) "Once for all."
6. Cosmology—the physical world is real and good (although fallen); not to be discounted. It has ramifications for spirituality and is to be integrated with spiritual reality (Genesis 1.31).
7. Free Grace, Atonement, Forgiveness (Ephesians 2.8,9) We are saved by the mercy and initiative of God.
8. God's perfection is not affected by the imperfection of the world (although He is moved to compassion) (James 1.7; John 11.35)
9. Human language is rooted in reality. The Bible is valid and adequate to transmit God's message to humanity. Hence, we see Jesus as "The Word made flesh." (John 1.1,13)
10. Jesus of Nazareth is the unique, one-time incarnation of God (Hebrews 9.25-28) He does not have to "offer himself repeatedly."
We fail to heed the challenge at our own spiritual peril. The New Age world view is that the self is all there is, that right and wrong are mere projections of whatever seems permissible to one at the time. From this perspective there are no rules or absolute moral imperatives, and therefore one is ultimately not responsible for one's actions. Since there is no reality beyond that of one's own making, all is ultimately illusion and with transcendent meaning.
Incarnation vs. Re-incarnation (Will the real Jesus please stand up?)
I. Biblical Christ as Lord and Savior: God incarnate vs. Re-incarnate guru (John 18.37; Col I.17; Eph 1.10; Rev 'Alpha/Omega').
A. Both human and divine: creator, preserver, redeemer
B. Incarnation of God for the salvation of the fallen world: "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself."
C. Person and work of Jesus Christ:
1. Virgin conception
2. Vicarious atonement
3. Resurrection from the dead
4. Ascended to the throne of God
5. Return (consummation of creation)
D. Who do you say that I am? Matt 16.13-16; John 6.67-69 E. Christ and Christianity—Jesus' life and teaching
II. New Age Christ as human potential guru: "I say unto you, you are gods." (John 10.34) (see Ron Rhodes, The Counterfeit Christ of The New Age Movement (Baker, 1990); Douglas Groothius, Revealing the New Age Jesus (InterVarsity Press, 1990); Elliot Miller, A Crash Course on the New Age (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989).
A. August, 1988 - Nikos Kazanthzakis' novel. The Last Temptation of Christ was released. His Jesus is tormented over the ambiguities of his divine calling; he admits to personal sin, saying, "I am a liar, I am a hypocrite, I am afraid of everything.. .Lucifer is inside of me," and barely resists his "last temptation" to leave the cross and his calling in pursuing of sexual satisfactions. Kazantzakis' Jesus is a pantheist who proclaims that "everything is part of God." (John Leo, "A Holy Furor," Time. August 15. 1988,, p. 35; Weldon, The Facts on the Last Temptation of Christ (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1988), p. 47; Jaroslov Pelikan, Jesus Through the Centuries (Harper, 1987); Arid Romarheim, Various Views of Jesus Christ in New Religious Movements, a typological outline available from Christian Research Institute, Box 500, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92693; John Wenham, Christ and the Bible (Baker, 1984); D.C. Halverson, "A Course in Miracles: Seeing Yourself as Sinless" Spiritual Counterfeits Project Journal, vol. 7, no. 1 (1987):! 8-29; A Course in Miracles: Manual (Farmingdale, NY, Foundation for Inner Peace, 198H: A Course in Miracles: Workbook. 1981.
B. Diversity of New Age Jesuses
1. Jesus is revered or respected as a highly spiritually evolved being who serves as an example for further evaluation. Jesus may be called a master, guru, yogi, avatar. Shaman, or a way shoer. His miracles are accepted as manifestations of his mastery of divine energy (cf. See above, A Course in Miracles): New Age author Michael Grosso relates that John White wrote him a note concerning Christians' outrage over The Last Temptation of Christ that read, "It's a lot of noise by immature/juvenile Christians who want to keep Jesus on a pedestal rather than grow up and relate to him as an elder brother." (Grosso, "Testing the Images of God" Gnosis. Winter, 1989, p. 43).
2. The individual, personal, historical Jesus is separated from he universal, impersonal, eternal Christ or Christ consciousness, which he embodied but did not monopolize.
3. The biblical understanding of Jesus as the supreme and final revelation of God is dismissed as illegitimate (Jn 1.14,18; Heb 1.1-4).
4. Jesus' death on the cross is not accepted as having any ethical significance for salvation (we are living in a decade in which 'universalism' is rampant).
5. Jesus' resurrection from the dead is not viewed as a physical fact demonstrating his victory over sin and death and Satan but is rather understood as a spiritual triumph not unique to Jesus. There are many other 'ascended masters.'
6. Jesus' "second coming" is not a literal, physical and visible return in the clouds at the consummation of creation but is rather a stage in the evolutionary advancement of the race when the Christie energies escape the confinements of ignorance.
7. Exotic, extra-biblical documents are regarded as sources for authentic material about the life of Jesus not available from the canonical scriptures. The quest for the 'lost Christianity.' (See B.B. Warfield, Lord of Glory (Joplin: College Press reprint); Wm. L. Craig, Apologetics (Moody Press, 1984); N. Geisler, Miracles and Modern Thought (Zondervan, 1982); F.F. Bruce, Jesus and Christian Origins Outside of the New Testament (Eerdmans, 1982); G. Habermas, The Verdict of History (1988); New Age writer Levi H. Downing, The Equarian Gospel of Jesus The Christ (Marina Del Ray, CA: DeVorss & Co., 1981).
The Classical doctrine of the person and work of Jesus Christ is rejected and replaced by an 'esoteric interpretation' of biblical texts that yield heretical results.
III. Christ is Christianity: Caricature is a terrible enemy of truth.
A. In light of the enormous propensity for error and confusion, a careful look at some of the biblical data is imperative (see my paper "Christ, Incarnational Model" for extensive analysis and bibliography). According to the New Testament, Jesus alone is virgin born—He alone saves from sin; He alone is Christ.
1. Virgin Birth - Isaiah 7.14f; Matt 1.18-25; Luke 1.26-38; 46-47.
2. The name Jesus (Jesus Christ) - Joshua - Jehovah is salvation or savior (Lk 2.10-11)
3. Jesus in public perspective - Matt 3.2; John 1.20,27,29.
4. Jesus and His Kingdom - Matt 4.17 - "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near."
5. Jesus' view of God - Matt 6.9-10; 24.24; John 17.24; Mark 13.19)
6. Jesus' words distorted by New Agers: "The Kingdom of God is within you" Luke 17.21 b. "I have said you are gods" John 10.34-38 quoted from Psalms 82
7. Jesus' view of sin - Mk 7.20-23; Mt 12.35-37; Jn 5.28-29; 7.19
8. Jesus' ethics - Matt 5-7; 22.37-40; 23.37; 25.3 Iff; Jn 14.6; 8-9; "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life"
B. Christ's Claims and Credentials:
1. "To seek and to save what was lost", Lk 19.10; entire Roman epistle is the inseparability of Jesus Christ and salvation
2. ManofMiracles.Matt8.26; 11.4-6; 12.13-14; 38-45; Lk 11.16-28; Jn 2.11; 11.4
3. Mission - Isaiah 61.1-2; Luke 4.18-19.
4. Man of Authority, Lk 16.17; 7.48-50; Mk 2.8-12; Matt 25.46.
5. Uniqueness, Jn 1.13,18; 10.30; 14.6 "No one comes to the father but by me"; 17.4-5; 10.8-9; 11.15 "I am the resurrection and the life." Mt 11.27; 14.33.
6. Death of Christ, Mat 16.22f; 20.18-19; 26.53-54; 63-64; Mk 15.34 "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
7. Resurrection of Jesus, Lk 24.46-47; Jn 20.27
8. Ascension and glory. Rev 8.12; Phil 2.6-11; Isa 45.23.
IV. Jesus and the New Age Cosmic Christ: Incarnation vs. Re-incarnation—the New Age is hospitable to Jesus as a Gnostic revealer, a well-traveled, mystical magus, an Essene initiate or a Christ-conscious master.
A. Can the biblical Christ answer the spiritual longings of those seeking universal reality?
B. Can Jesus be both the unrepeatable incarnation of God on earth and the cosmic Christ? (See my book. The Seer, Commentary on the Revelation for "Christ in the Revelation" and North American Christian Convention tape, 1988, "The Christ of the Revelation" Media Center, Lincoln Christian College, one of three NACC tapes on themes in the Revelation.)
C. Jesus Christ is Unity of Personal and Cosmic:
1. Colossians 1.17 - the Cosmic Christ as the orderer of creation.
2. Ephesians 1.10 - the Cosmic Christ as the orderer of creation
James D. Strauss