Part 3 of my series on the New Age Movement
In my previous post I highlighted some of the fundamental beliefs of the New Age Movement (NAM). In this post I will briefly catalog some of the differences between Christianity and the NAM. I originally intended to launch into a critique of the NAM following my previous post, but since so many in the NAM claim that their spirituality is compatible with the Christian faith I thought it might be helpful to draw a bright line between the two. My aim is to show that a correct, biblical understanding of the Christian faith is incompatible with the NAM.
This isn’t an argument for the superiority of one view or another, but is simply an explanation of their differences. I will not attempt to cite sources for the beliefs of the NAM below, but will rely on my previous post to do that for me.
NAM: “God” is an impersonal cosmic energy that permeates all things, including us, and unites it all together as one.
- Think of the “force” from Star Wars.
Christianity: God is a personal, triune, creator, omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, holy God who desires to be in a relationship with His children.
- Think of a king, a father, or a husband.
- (Ps. 115:3; Ex. 34:6-7; Luke 15; 1 Pet. 1:2; 1 John 3:20; 1 John 4:7-8)
NAM: Jesus is a wonderful spiritual teacher, like the myriad of other spiritual teachers and gurus from other religions. He taught a path of love and peace, and was tragically killed by religious leaders for it. The story of Jesus has been embellished by the church over history and loaded with lots of unnecessary doctrine that Jesus never actually taught. The teachings of Jesus is one way among many that leads to enlightenment.
- Think of the Buddha, Krishna, Ghandi, Mohammed, Moses, etc.
Christianity: Jesus Christ is the second member of the trinity, God Himself. He is the eternal God who was never created, but created all things that have been created, and is of the same substance of the Father. He took on flesh as is recorded in the gospels and taught that He was God who had come to save His people from their sins by His death on the cross and resurrection from the grave, and that He was the only way to come to the Father. His teaching and life is faithfully preserved in the pages of Scripture, by His apostles.
- Think of an author writing himself as a character into the story.
- (John 14:6-11; John 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-20; 1 Cor. 8:6; 1 Cor. 15:1-8; John 14:26; Acts 4:12)
NAM: Humans are a part of cosmic consciousness of the universe, and therefore are all connected and therefore divine, like everything else. While all humans are essentially good, most are blinded by culture, religions, and society and remain unawakened to their true potential.
- Think of a tangle of roots beneath a slumbering tree.
Christianity: Humans are made by God, but are distinct from God – He is the Creator, we are His creation. Human’s are made in God’s image and thus are bestowed with inherent dignity, a desire to worship their Creator, and a moral conscience. Yet, all humans inherit a broken sin nature from their parents, Adam and Eve. So, while they are bestowed with inherent dignity and morality, they are marred with sin and separated from God.
- Think of a broken mirror, a scratched record, or a marred statue.
- (Gen. 1:28; Gen. 3:1-6; Rom. 3:23; Rom 1:18-23; Rom. 2:14-15)
NAM: This world and everything we see is a projection that we have collectively created as a means to entertain ourselves. We are the creators of this world, and will at some point create another world all over again, therefore all history is cyclical.
- Think of a movie or a child playing make-believe.
Christianity: This world, and everything in it (including us), was created by Jesus Christ, the Word of God. It was made for Him and through Him and He upholds it by His power. History is not cyclical, but linear; Christ shall return and bring an end to history and establish the New Heavens and New Earth – all of creation groans in eager expectation of this.
- Think of an author writing an epic story and concluding it with a “happily everafter”.
- (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16-17; Rom. 8:19-21; Rev. 21-22)
Evil and Suffering
NAM: There is no such thing as “evil” – evil and suffering is an illusion. There only is what there is. Our greatest suffering comes from thinking we should not suffer, and the anxiety we experience trying to avoid suffering. If we just accept suffering as another part of this entire illusion, it wouldn’t be as bad as it is.
- Think of a monk or a Stoic who react to tragedy the same way they react to good news – it is not “good” or “bad”, it just is.
Christianity: “Evil” is not an illusion, but is an immediate by-product of sin, a rejection of God. Death, suffering, evil, and pain all are consequences of sin. As long as we live in this world, we will experience suffering and evil till Christ returns. Instead of viewing suffering as an illusion to be dismissed, Christianity teaches that, while suffering is a by-product of sin, God uses it in a Christian’s life to refine them and mature them. But God does not delight in evil or suffering. Lastly, in Christianity God Himself experiences the pain and anguish of evil and suffering when He takes on flesh as Jesus Christ and is put to death.
- Think of a man walking with a broken leg (non-Christian), or a man having his dislocated shoulder put back in joint (Christian).
- (Gen. 2:15-17; Rom. 6:23; Ez. 18:23; 2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 Pet. 4:12-19; Rom. 5:3-5; Rev. 21:3-4)
Truth, Goodness, and Beauty
NAM: There is no such thing as absolute Truth, only our own interpretations of our experiences. You should avoid anyone (especially religious people) who claim to have the absolute Truth. Goodness and Beauty are also determined by the subjective individual. Since we are all partakers of the divine cosmic consciousness, there is no higher standard that we must submit to.
- Think of a ball where everyone is dancing to their own music.
Christianity: There is an absolute Truth, Goodness, and Beauty that always exist, no matter what and no matter how many people acknowledge them. This is so because all of reality is built upon God, the eternal Creator who Himself is true, good, and beautiful. This means that there is a universal logic, morality, and desire to worship inherent in all of creation. Rather than remaining an abstract principle (like all other religions), Truth, Goodness, and Beauty came into the world as a person, Jesus Christ.
- Think of a ball where everyone is dancing to a massive, unified symphony, and the conductor Himself steps down and enters the dance.
- (John 14:6; John 17:17; Ps. 119:68; Mark 10:18; Ps. 27:14; Isa. 33:17)
NAM: There is no higher authority that we must submit to. This does not mean that members of the NAM disregard all authority or are anarchists. Rather, they seek to be in control of their fate and not need permission or instruction on how to live their lives.
- Think of the average American, or the hero in most popular movies who breaks all the rules but still wins the day.
Christianity: Christians submit to God’s authority as ultimate. Since God has created us, He owns us, and therefore we are not free to do whatever we like. This is doubly true for Christians, who are not only made by God, but have been redeemed from sin by His Son’s death on the cross – we are not our own. Christians pray daily for “God’s will” to be done, not their own, and seek to happily submit their will and desires to His, as is revealed in the pages of Scripture.
- Think of a child obeying his/her parents.
- (1 Cor. 6:19-20; Rom. 6:12-23; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Cor .14:37-38; Rom. 1:21-25; Matt. 6:10)
Morality and Justice
NAM: There is no defined morality. In fact, the very idea of things being “right” or “wrong” may itself be an illusion. We should simply seek to love one another because we are all connected. Therefore, people should not be punished for doing wrong things.
- Think of a painter with an immense canvas and unlimited color, freely expressing himself any way he chooses.
Christianity: There is an absolute standard of morality and justice because there is a Divine Law-giver, God. Being made in the image of God human beings are meant to live in such a way that accurately represents God’s goodness, truth, and beauty. And because God is totally good and pure, He will judge those who scorn Him and ignore His laws. In the Bible, those who take advantage of others (especially the weak and disadvantaged) receive the the most severe form of God’s judgment.
- Think of a composer who must abide by the laws of music to create a good song, or a citizen of a country that must abide by its laws.
- (Rom. 2:14-15; 1 Pet. 1:16; Rom. 12:19-21; Rev. 20:11-15; Matt. 25:31-46; Isa. 58:6-7)
NAM: Since there is no such thing as “sin” or a higher God with whom we are to be reconciled with, “salvation” in the NAM is centered on the individual’s enlightenment. It is a therapeutic kind of salvation, being freed from the anxieties and desires of this illusory world and realizing our true potential. Salvation is achieved by works; our own strength and discipline to pursue enlightenment.
- Think of most Western self-help books or positive self-esteem beliefs, mixed with an Eastern cosmology.
Christianity: Christianity teaches that salvation is from the Lord. Since all have sinned against the God whom they were made for, they have offended His holiness and generosity and thus deserved to be punished. But God, being rich in mercy, devised a way to pay the penalty of man’s sin (thus keeping His justice intact), and forgive His rebellious children (thus keeping His mercy intact). This Way, the Way, is Jesus Christ. God took on flesh, became a man and lived a righteous, law-abiding life, but suffered and died a sinner’s death as if He were guilty. Now, those who put their faith in Christ and submit to Him as Lord can receive His record of righteous living, and the payment for sins that His death achieved, thus making them right with God. Therefore, salvation is all by grace – all by God’s work, not our own; we simply believe.
- Think of a bank to whom you are in catastrophic debt to, and the CEO of the bank comes to you and gives you all of his own personal money, making himself poor, so that you can pay back your debt and now have a fortune in your account.
- (2 Cor. 5:21; 2 Cor. 8:9; Rom. 6:23; Jonah 2:9; Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 3:21-26)
Christianity and the NAM have a different understanding of the world, God, Jesus, authority, knowledge, truth, morality, humanity, evil, salvation, and on and on it could go. The only way that someone could state that these two religions are compatible is to ignore what they actually teach – and that doesn’t seem very honest.