THE NEW AGE’S VAIN DREAM
With the turn of the twenty-first century there has been a dramatic increase in the popularity and influence of New Age thought. It is also called Human Potential, New Spirituality, Self Spirituality, Self Empowerment, Alternative Spirituality, and Global Transformation.
Two decades ago the New Age seemed to be more the doctrine of Hollywood movie stars (Shirley MacLaine’s “I am God”) and Star Wars enthusiasts (“may the force be with you”) and the magic-crystal pop culture of rock & roll hippies than the philosophy of the average person or something to be taken seriously in churches.
As we will see, this wasn’t true then, and it definitely isn’t true today. The New Age is on the move!
The New Age philosophy has permeated the self-help, personal transformation field; it has leavened education and reached deeply into business, health care, psychological counseling, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, politics, government, sports, even the military.
Neil Anderson says: “It is safe to say that the prevailing religion in America ... is no longer Christianity but is instead New Age” (Christ Centered Therapy, 2000, p. 61).
A trip to the average national-chain book store will verify this. New Age philosophy is found not just in the religious, spiritual, and metaphysical sections. Ray Yungen, who has done extensive and excellent research into the New Age, observes:
“If the self-help and personal growth sections of most secular commercial bookstores were examined, the only conclusion to come away with would be that New Age mysticism is the prominent spiritual viewpoint of this country. A case in point. One day while strolling through a shopping mall, I noticed a New Age bookstore and a secular bookstore just around the corner from each other. Upon examination, it was clear the secular bookstore had far more New Age books than the New Age bookstore did--hundreds more. Moreover, the vast majority were not in the New Age section but in the self-help, health, and other sections. Thus, New Age bookstores have almost been rendered obsolete by the explosion of practical mystic books stocked in traditional bookstores” (A Time of Departing, p. 20).
“It would not surprise me if the majority of people in America have a family member or close friend who does mantra meditation, practices yoga, has either encountered Reiki or Therapeutic Touch, or is an avid fan of the Oprah Winfrey show” (p. 108).
This reminds us of the urgency for Bible-believing Christians to know the foundational principles of the New Age so they can protect themselves and warn their friends and neighbors.
At its essence, the New Age is a bold rejection of the Bible’s doctrine that God is the Almighty thrice-holy Creator, that man is a sinner estranged from God, that salvation is only through the cross-work of God’s Son Jesus Christ, and that heaven or hell is man’s eternal destiny, depending upon what he does with Jesus Christ in this life.
The New Age is casting off God’s restraints. It is a fulfillment of the ancient prophecy in Psalm 2:
“Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us” (Psalms 2:1-3).
In reference to the New Age, this vain dream began in the 19th century with the rise of such things as critical philosophy, unitarianism, evolution, atheistic communism, spiritualism, and humanistic psychology.
Theosophy brashly said that the Mosaic account of creation was “imposed” upon the West by “ignorant monks and theologians” and that it has been a drag on man’s evolution (William Judge, The Ocean of Theosophy, p. 18). Theosophy proclaimed that the idea that man is “bad, sinful, weak from their birth” is a lie, that actually man is “the most intelligent being in the universe” and an “immortal thinker.” Theosophy claims that the doctrine of original sin is “no light at all” and the idea that there is an Almighty God who judges men on the basis of their actions in this life is “a huge and cruel joke” that has plunged mankind into darkness (pp. 76, 93, 101).
The vain dream gained more ground in the first half the 20th century. In 1935, for example, Harvey Hardman, one of thousands of New Thought metaphysics teachers promoting the same vain dream, proclaimed:
“Modern man, released by science from his prison of fear; no longer harassed by the spectre of hell; freed from the hypnotic spell of the belief in Satan, is moved by the impulse of a searching curiosity about religions. He is examining the foundations of the ancient faiths in the light of a new conception of the universe” (Making Yourself the Master).
The vain dream put on a little more steam with the 1950s Beat Generation. Its guru, Alan Watts, observed that Zen Buddhism “appealed to the youth because it did not preach or scold as did Hebrew-Christian beliefs” (David Stuart, Alan Watts, p. 181). Watts’ biographer described the mood of the post-World War II generation:
“A new generation of Americans had weighed the old, found it wanting in a sense never before seen on the American shore, and in rejecting the old ways of the generation above thirty-five, had turned to a freedom that the older people called license. ... And high among the leaders of this new society, foremost among the gurus who would convert the youth to new ideas about religion and philosophy, was a slender, youth-oriented Englishman by the name of Alan Wilson Watts--one of the first ... to be an advocate of free love and free wine and free spirit, and NOW--which he called Zen Buddhism” (Stuart, pp. vii, viii).
The Watts’ way was “women and ideas, and liquor and LSD and pot and irreverent people who were all doing their own thing” (Stuart, p. 205). His Zen was “me, myself, and I,” and as such he was a fitting guru for the ME generation.
That was the 50s Beat Generation, which became the 60s Hippie Generation, which is still with us today.
In about 1965 “Jesus” allegedly told Helen Schucman:
“Do not make the pathetic error of ‘clinging to the old rugged cross.’ ... This is not the gospel that I intended to offer to you.”
She wrote this message down in A Course in Miracles, which has since become a best seller.
In 1983 Jeremy Rifkin wrote,
“It is our creation now. We make the rules. ... We no longer have to justify our behavior, for we are now the architects of the universe. We are responsible to nothing outside ourselves. for we are the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever and ever” (Algeny, p. 244).
In 1992 God allegedly told Neale Walsch:
“I have never set down ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ a ‘do’ or a ‘don’t.’ To do would be to strip you completely of your greatest gift--the opportunity to do as you please, and experience the results of that” (Conversations with God, book 1, p. 39).
In 1994 Robert Aitken and David Steindl said:
“Unfortunately, over the course of the centuries [the idea developed that] there was this gap between us and God, somebody had to make up for it--all that business. WE CAN DROP THAT” (The Ground We Share, p. 45).
In 1997 Frank Tuoti said:
“... the quotation ‘No one comes to the father except through me’ (John 14:8) is often used to declare that no one except the Christian can attain to God--or for that matter be ‘saved.’ THIS WE KNOW IS NONSENSE” (The Dawn of the Mystical Age, p. 86).
In 2005 the New Age Group of 1000 proclaimed:
“We believe that divinity does not judge, and neither does it condemn or punish. We believe that we have been given the power by God to create our own reality, individually and collectively. ... We are committed to creating a Civil Rights Movement for the Soul, freeing humanity at last from the oppression of its belief in a violent, angry, and vindictive God” (http://www.thegroupof1000.com/Belief.htm).
In January 2008 Oprah Winfrey said:
“The old way is the ... Church authorities tell you how to worship and how to behave outside of church. The new spirituality is that you are your own best authority as you work to know and love yourself, you discover how to live a more spiritual life.”
With each passing decade the vain dream grows stronger and gains more adherents.
It is indeed the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, and the Age of Aquarius is the age of ME!
The New Age says that sin is not real, that man is not separated from God, that, in fact, man is God, and there is therefore no need for guilt or fear. Man can tap into his Higher Self and create his own reality and enjoy life to the fullest, and death is simply a transfer to a higher realm.
At its heart is the devil’s age-old lie, “ye shall be as gods” (Gen. 3:5).
It is indeed a New Age, and God’s people need to understand something about it in order to protect themselves, their children, and their grandchildren from its tempting heresies.
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