What is New Age spirituality? What do adherents to New Age teachings believe? How do New Age views compare to Biblical revelation? How might Christians be better ambassadors of Christ to people who have embraced New Age teachings?
Those are four questions I want to answer in this article.
What is New Age spirituality?
New Age spirituality is a diverse blend of teachings from ancient religions like…
• The occult
Mix all those together and you get what people call “New Age spirituality” or even more simply “New spirituality” (abbreviated NA here in this article). And it is immensely popular today in America, for reasons why we will see shortly. But, despite its label, New Age spirituality is not new. In fact, several of the popular beliefs embraced by New Age adherents can be found in basic form in the lies Satan told Eve in Genesis 3…
1 “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
Of course, this is the grieving account of Satan deceiving Eve there in the Garden of Eden long ago. But thousands of years later Satan is still doing the same thing, even telling many of the same kinds of lies. As I said a moment ago, some of the popular beliefs embraced by New Age adherents today can be found right here in our text. Notice again the lies Satan told Eve….
• “You will be like God” (v. 5)
(similar lie to the NA view on human divinity)
• “You will not surely die” (v. 4)
(similar lie to the NA promise of reincarnation)
• “Your eyes will opened” (v. 5)
(similar lie to the NA promise of enlightenment)
• “Has God indeed said?” (v. 1)
(similar challenge to NA view on moral relativism)
So, Satan’s still around, and he’s still deceiving people with the same kinds of lies. And I’ll talk more about these New Age beliefs in just a bit.
The kinds of lies above were widely introduced to people here in America and Europe for the first time in the 1960’s. It was then that a band known as “The Beatles” were influenced by a Hindu spiritual guru by the name of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. They appeared with Maharishi on the news, at Transcendental Meditation conferences, seminars, and lectures, and even spent time with him in India in the late 1960s. From then on, in the West, there was a surge of interest in:
• eastern philosophy
That interest continues to this day. Two of the persons fueling the ongoing acceptance and embrace of New Age concepts and practices are Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra.
By promoting the books of several New Age authors, Oprah has probably done more than anyone to promote New Age spirituality. (And I’ll be quoting her a bit later). If you haven’t heard of Deepak Chopra, he is an alternative medicine guru, spiritual counselor, and New York Times best-selling author. By 1999, TIME magazine had already hailed him as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.” [Time, June 1999].
His list of friends and admirers runs from Hollywood movie stars to the Dalai Lama. Chopra’s 85 books (including 22 New York Times best-sellers) have sold millions of copies in English alone and have been translated into 43 languages. [chopra.com]
The Huffington Post global Internet survey ranked him the 17th most influential thinker in the world and 1st when it comes to medicine. [chopra.com/bios/deepak-chopra#sm.0000ixav70ciye10rny1ui4lcjobw]
Two of his best-selling books include The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success and How to Know God. Oprah has had him on her television program numerous times. He also has an ongoing advice column on her website. So, he’s very popular and unfortunately leading multitudes into a New Age, unbiblical view of God and reality.What does Deepak teach people? What do New Age adherents believe?
Well, there are a wide variety of beliefs people within New Age circles have adopted, but there are eight common beliefs that most of them share…
New Agers believe that everything and everyone is interrelated and interdependent. Individuality is considered an illusion. Ultimately, to New Agers, there is no real difference between humans, animals, or rocks.
According to the New Age way of thinking, all of these are of the same substance. All things are simply parts of, or manifestations of one undivided reality. Any differences between these entities are considered only apparent, not real. This belief (that “all is one”) is called “Monism” (based on the prefix mono meaning one, or single).
New Age proponents believe we are one with everything! Everything, even golf balls! In his book, Golf For Enlightenment, Deepak Chopra shares spiritual tips for improving your game, including “Be one with the ball.”
And you’ve been wondering all these years why you still aren’t very good at golf! There’s the secret apparently! He encourages his readers to think this way because he really thinks you are one with the ball. Deepak Chopra says, “You can talk to trees and stars, everything is part of your body.” [Source: LA Times]
One of Chopra’s newest books is titled You Are The Universe.
Well of course, for those of us who believe Biblical revelation, we disagree. All that exists is not an undivided unity but a diverse plurality of things and beings, created and held together by God (Gen. 1:1; Col. 1:17).
More could be said in response to this New Age belief known as Monism, but let’s consider a second belief common to New Age adherents. It’s closely related to Monism, and that is…
New Agers believe everything that exists is God. This is called pantheism. Pantheism comes from two Greek words: pan = “all” and theos = “god”. Pantheism is the belief that “all is God and God is all.” And pantheism is similar to monism. As we just noted, monism is the belief that “all is one.” Well, pantheism takes monism a step farther. Pantheism says that the oneness is deity…divine.
What’s this new age deity like?
According to New Age adherents, God is more of an it than a He. They reject the idea of a personal creator who exists outside of creation and exercises control and authority over His creation.
According to New Agers, God is more of an “it” than a “He.” New Agers reject the idea of a personal creator who exists outside of creation and exercises control and authority over His creation. Most New Age adherents believe that God is (cue Star Wars theme song)…a force (an energy, that pervades all things, contains all things, and is found within all things).
In other words, the universe is God and God is the universe.
Well, in response to this monism and pantheism, of course, all of this is unbiblical. The Bible says the heavens and the Earth are creations of God.
Genesis 1:1 doesn’t say, “In the beginning God was the heavens and the earth.” No. It says…
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
God is distinct from the universe. He isn’t the universe, He created the universe.
“All things were made through Him [a reference to Jesus], and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
And Colossians 1 makes it clear that God existed before all these things even existed.
“All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things…”
So, pantheism (this idea that the universe is God) is unbiblical. But it’s not just the Bible that proves problematic for the pantheistic view of God…
Scientific discoveries have proven problematic for pantheism.
How so? Well, Scientific discoveries have demonstrated that the universe is finite. That is, it had a beginning. It’s not eternal. Why is this a problem for our New Age friends who hold to pantheism?
Well, pantheists have historically held that the universe is eternal. For them, it must be eternal. Because if it is not eternal, that means it had a beginning. If it had a beginning, it must have had a maker because things don’t just pop into existence from nothing. And if the universe had a maker, the universe cannot be God as pantheists believe.
Well, this is precisely what we’ve discovered to be true about the universe (that it had a beginning). Astronomers are pointing to things like..
• The Background Radiation Echo
• The Second Law of Thermodynamics
• The Motion of the Galaxies
…all of which have led them to conclude that the universe had a beginning. Well, this is just devastating to the pantheistic New Age view of God. Surely the universe is not God! And pantheism is not true.
3. The Belief in Human Deity
Follow their logic. It’s based on faulty premises, but if “all is one” (monism) and “all is god” (pantheism) then “We are god.” And that is what New Agers believe: Humans are divine.
Joseph Smith’s followers (Mormons) have been telling people for two hundred years that we can become gods. New Age adherents say, “We already are God!”
Deepak Chopra says…
“In reality we are divinity in disguise…gods and goddesses in embryo.”
[Deepak Chopra, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, in Acknowledgements, no page number.]
Oprah Winfrey said…
“One of the most important books I have read in my life is a book by [Eric] Butterworth, Discover the Power Within You, and what Eric Butterworth says in that book is that Jesus did not come to teach how divine he was but came to teach us there is divinity within us.” [YouTube video]
Eric Butterworth (whose books Oprah has promoted on her television show) says on his website…
“Quite often, I am criticized for saying that Jesus is not Divine. Actually, I am not saying that Jesus is not Divine, but I insist that all persons are Divine. Jesus made the discovery of the Divinity of man. He proved and demonstrated it in his own fulfillment. But the discovery was of the potential of all human beings.” [http://www.ericbutterworth.com/read/truth-nutshell]
Rhonda Byrne, the author of the New York Times best-selling book, The Secret, said…
“You are God manifested in human form, made to perfection…You are God in a physical body…You are a cosmic being. You are all power. You are all wisdom… You are the creator.” [Rhonda Byrne, The Secret, 164]
Shirley MacLaine, the famous actress turned evangelist for New Age spirituality, said in one of her books…
“I know that I exist, therefore, I AM. I know that the god-source exists. Therefore, IT IS. Since I am part of that force, then I AM that I AM.” [Shirley MacLaine, Dancing in the Light, Epilogue, no page number]
Shirley MacLaine hijacks the title that God revealed to Moses (“I AM”) in the burning bush (Exodus 3:14) and applies it to herself! She says, “I AM that I AM.” And that is what New Age adherents believe, that they are divine. Everyone is divine! You’re God! I’m God! We’re all God.
The lie Satan told Eve in the Garden of Eden was that if she ate the forbidden fruit she could become “like God” (Gen. 3:5). Well, he’s pulled off an even bigger deception in our time. He’s convinced millions of people that they are God.
Well, in response to this, of course the Bible makes it very clear that…
Humans are not God.
The Bible condemns the belief that humans are divine. Far from being God, the Bible says quite the opposite.
The Bible teaches that humans are ungodly.
“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
Not only are we not God—in our natural condition, we don’t even behave consistently in a godly manner! We are “ungodly” this verse says. And Jesus tells us how ungodly we are in Mark 7…
“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
A fourth belief that is common to adherents of New Age spirituality is this…
For many New Age adherents today, salvation from sin and a coming judgment is considered totally unnecessary. What is needed, they say, is a change in consciousness. Why? According to New Age proponents, we have forgotten that our true identity is divine.
New Agers say the human race suffers from a collective form of “spiritual amnesia.”
[Deepak Chopra, The Path to Love, 90]
This is, allegedly, what has led many of us to be ignorant of our divinity. So, what is the cure?
According to New Agers, we must undergo a…
CHANGE OF CONSCIOUSNESS
…to discover our divinity and achieve our true human potential.
How does one bring about this change of consciousness? New Age proponents encourage a variety of practices and techniques to enable individuals to make that discovery. These practices and techniques include:
(wherein the person seeks to achieve an altered state of consciousness)
(The poses and breathing are said to aid meditation and increase a person’s awareness of their divinity. For a good article on Christians practicing yoga, see: “Do Yoga Exercises Work With Christianity?” by Elliot Miller)
(Crystals are thought to be great reservoirs of energy that can be released to purify our body and mind’s energy systems)
(Contacting spirit guides)
• Creative visualization
(using mental imagery to imagine himself in the presence of a divine being or being healed of sickness, etc.)
• Visiting psychics
• Past life regression
(a form of hypnosis therapy aimed at uncovering previous lives trapped in your unconscious)
• Astral projection
(Training your soul to have out-of-body experiences)
Their insistence that we need to do these kinds of things to remind ourselves that we are God, actually helps to prove that humans are not God! What kind of God forgets He’s God? Not a God you want to be following!
Wouldn’t you rather follow the true and living, omniscient God—the God who knows the number of hairs on your head and forgets not the smallest sparrow (Luke 12:7)? I don’t want to follow a god who needs crystals and psychics to remind it that it’s god. And it’s not god anyway. You are not God! And, in addition to that, many of the practices New Age adherents use to move further along the path to “self-realization” are condemned by Scripture.
Take, for example, the practice of “channeling.”For those of you who don’t know what channeling is, it’s a practice wherein a person seeks to receive messages from angels or the spirits of the deceased, through a person (the “channeler”) who claims to be able to receive messages from the spirit world.
Well, over and over in the Bible, God condemns attempts to contact the dead. For example, God says…
Leviticus 19:31, 20:6
“Do not turn to mediums or spiritists [people who seek to consult the dead]; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God….As for the person who turns to mediums and to spiritists, to play the harlot after them, I will also set My face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.”
“There shall not be found among you anyone…who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.”
So, channeling is just of several New Age practices that we believe are dangerous and unbiblical. Now, obviously more could be said about their other practices, but I’ll point you to Christian Answers for the New Age for help with those. But I would be remiss if I did not at least briefly address the practice of yoga, because I am asked about it everywhere I teach on New Age spirituality.
Yoga, if you do not know this, is deeply rooted in the pantheistic religion of Hinduism. The postures in yoga, the breathing, and chanting were originally designed not to bring better physical health and well-being, but a sense of oneness with Brahman (the pantheistic god that Hindus worship).
Now of course, the God of the Bible does not have a problem with you stretching. Stretching is very good for you actually. The danger with yoga classes is not the poses or the stretching, it’s the teaching that regularly accompanies the stretching. Many yoga instructors have a New Age or Hindu worldview, and they are not just interested in helping you become more limber, they are seeking to teach you about becoming one with your surroundings, realizing your oneness with the divine, and so on. This is what we’re concerned about, and this is why I advise Christians to just stretch in the privacy of your own home. Meditate on the truth of God’s Word.
All right, there’s a fifth belief that is common to adherents of the New Age…
Most adherents to New Age teachings believe the world’s religions are simply different ways of putting us into contact with the “ultimate reality” or “god-force.” This belief is called “religious syncretism.”
Many New Agers visualize the religions of the world to be a mountain, with many spiritual paths to the summit. According to New Age teachings, there is no one correct path.
George Lucas, who holds to some new age views of God, said:
“I remember when I was ten years old, I asked my mother, ‘If there’s only one God, why are there so many religions?’ I’ve been pondering that question ever since, and the conclusion I’ve come to is that all religions are true.” [Time Magazine, April 26, 1999]
Oprah Winfrey said…
“One of the mistakes that human beings make is believing that there is only one way…there are many paths to what you call God.” And elsewhere, “There are certainly many more paths to God other than Christianity.” [Charlotte Observer]
That is what New Age adherents generally believe: All paths can reach the top. But what is the top for New Agers? Often, it’s not everlasting life in Heaven, as revealed in the Bible. The destiny New Age adherents usually have in mind is enlightenment (the realization of their divinity) followed by an ongoing cycle of life, death, and reincarnation.
New Age adherents are often not longing to live in the presence of a holy, praise-worthy God. They don’t believe that kind of God exists. Their goal is often just being reincarnated over and over again. And I’ll talk more about reincarnation in a couple of minutes. But when it comes to the top of the mountain or end destination according to the Bible, we learn…
The summit or chief goal of life according to the Bible is not “awakening the God within.” It is knowing the God of Heaven, the one and only true God, in this life and throughout eternity. And to the top of that mountain, the Bible says there is only one path.
Jesus Himself, God in the flesh, said:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
The apostle Peter said:
“There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name [than Jesus] under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.”
The Bible is crystal clear on this issue. If you want to have your sins forgiven, if you want to be rescued from spending eternity in Hell, if you want to go to Heaven, you must repent and put your faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12, 17:30) who died on the cross for your sins and rose from the grave three days later. He is your only hope. He is mankind’s only Savior!
And its important to note that the Bible doesn’t just make these claims. The Bible demonstrates itself, unlike any other ancient religious writing, to be trustworthy with…
• Hundreds of fulfilled prophecies
• The Bible’s amazing internal unity
• The Bible’s amazing scientific accuracy and foresight
• Thousands of archaeological discoveries
• Numerous details that have been corroborated by extrabiblical historical sources
• And so on
Reincarnation, of course, is the belief that upon death, a person’s soul is reborn into, or migrates into, another living creature. And then when that creature dies, the soul moves on to another creature. And on and on the cycle goes.
According to a 2018 Pew Research survey, 33% of Americans say they believe in reincarnation. [Source: pewresearch.org]
Well, in response to this growing belief in reincarnation, Christians believe that reincarnation is unbiblical and untrue. The Bible knows nothing of reincarnation. Resurrection? Yes (1 Corinthians 15). Reincarnation––coming back as another living creature? No.
Notice what Jesus said in…
“Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who have done good, to a [Notice that. Just once!] resurrection [not a reincarnation] of life, those who have done evil, to a resurrection of judgment.”
According to Jesus, one day all people—the saved and unsaved—will have their bodies resurrected, believers to everlasting life with the Lord, and the unsaved to “a resurrection of judgment.” This will happen in a person’s life only once. Hebrews 9:27 says:
“And as it is appointed for men to die once, [And what happens after that?] but after this the judgment.”
So, standing again on Biblical revelation, we reject the New Age belief in reincarnation.
Moral relativism is the belief that there are no objective (real) moral laws, or sins. New Age adherents reject the existence of any firm, real moral laws that govern all humans. To many New Agers, truth regarding morality and spirituality is intensely personal and entirely subjective.
And this flows out of their pantheistic view of God. If we are all God, then how could any of us rightly point to some behavior and say, “God doesn’t approve of that!” He must approve of it. He’s doing it!
“Hey you [picture on screen of thief] breaking into that garage to steal that car. That’s wrong!”
It’s hard for a pantheist to say that with much conviction. Because that’s God breaking into the garage (according to their view).
So, in their view, it is the height of presumption to think that certain behaviors are actually sinful or that there are rules or guidelines that are morally binding on all people. Now, that’s not to say New Age adherents don’t strive to live decent lives and encourage others to do the same. But their worldview doesn’t provide any underlying basis or foundation for declaring that certain behaviors are actually right or wrong.
Well, in response to this moral relativism, the Bible, of course, teaches that there are absolute truths and moral laws that are binding on all people. The Bible speaks out very clearly in both the Old and New Testaments about lying, murder, stealing, adultery, drunkenness, kidnapping, etc.
So, standing again on the Bible, we reject moral relativism. According to the Bible, there are objective moral laws. And people are going to be held accountable for breaking them on the Day of Judgment (Romans 2:5-6).
Many New Age adherents believe the human race is progressing toward a “New Age” of peace and prosperity. This is where the movement gets its name.
This “golden age,” according to New Age literature, will be a time without hate, violence, wars, crime, racism, sickness, hunger, or death. They believe this will be a glorious time on Earth––a time, in which there will be one nation, one language, one government, and one religion.
Hmm…that’s interesting. The Bible says these are some of the very things the coming Antichrist will seek to bring about in the last days. What do New Age adherents believe will usher in this “new age”? They believe this age will be ushered in when more of the human race realizes their divinity. They really believe this!
Well, a world without crime and wars all sounds very nice and the Bible does say that a glorious future is coming on the Earth. But, it makes it clear that it is not going to happen until the one and only divine King (Jesus) returns and sets up His kingdom on Earth (Revelation 19–20).
And the Book of Revelation tells us that this is going to be preceded by a time of “great tribulation” (Matt. 24:21), when God will pour out a series of judgments on a sinful world (Rev. 6–18).
In Matthew 24:21, Jesus said:
“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.”
Some of the judgments that will be poured out on the Earth will include:
• An outbreak of wars (Rev. 6:4)
• Deadly famines (Rev. 6:8)
• Fires (Rev. 8:7)
• The oceans becoming blood (Rev. 8:8)
• Everything alive in the ocean being killed (Rev. 16:3)
• An asteroid hitting the earth (Rev. 8:10-11)
• A third of the ships being destroyed (Rev. 8:8-9)
• Demons will be unleashed and permitted to torment unbelievers for five months (Rev. 9:1-5)
• Incurable, open, oozing sores on the worshipers of the Antichrist, people who take the mark of the beast (Rev. 16:2)
• A prolonged drought (Rev. 11:6)
• Great heat that scorches the earth’s inhabitants (Rev. 16:8-9)
• 100 pound hail that will pound the Earth (Rev. 16:21)
• A worldwide earthquake so powerful, the Bible says the cities of the nations will fall (Rev. 16:19)
• Islands are going to disappear and mountains are going to crumble (Rev. 16:20)
• Darkness across the planet (Rev. 16:10)
The Earth, its environment, and its population are going to be devastated. The Book of Revelation tells us that more than half of the world’s population will die during this time (See Revelation 6:7-8 and 9:13-15). That is what’s coming upon an unrepentant world after Jesus comes for His people at the Rapture. Those who are expecting a new age to be ushered in as more people realize their divinity are in for a big shock. I pray they come to the knowledge of the truth and repent before it’s too late.
A. Be friendly.
We need to remember that people we disagree with are human beings God loves. And God wants us to love them as well. What does that look like in our conversations with them? 2 Timothy 2:24-25 says:
2 Timothy 2:24-25
“Be kind to all…patient…with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition.”
God wants us to be kind, patient and gentle with people. This is easier said than done, but that is one of the reasons God has given us His Holy Spirit! To empower us to love people who disagree with us. Your witnessing efforts will be much more effective if all the truth you speak is spoken lovingly.
B. Identify common ground
When I talk with people of other religious persuasions, I have found it helpful to discuss some common ground before I bring up any points I disagree with them on. People tend to be more receptive to your point of view when they know they share some common ground with you.
With New Agers, you might point out that you agree with them in having rejected atheistic explanations for the existence of the universe. You might commend them on their love of reading or their search for the truth. You might talk about the fact that you agree with them on issues related to sports, or love of the outdoors…love of coffee. Find something!
C. Ask questions about their beliefs
Just because a person is taking a yoga class, or wearing a crystal, or is reading a book by a certain author, doesn’t mean that she is also a pantheist or holds to the beliefs of the average New Age adherent.
It’s always wise to ask friendly questions about a person’s beliefs rather than make assumptions. Questions like…
• Do you have any spiritual beliefs?
• What are your thoughts about Jesus?
• What do you believe happens to people after they die?
Their answers to those kinds of questions will give you some insight into where they’re at spiritually and help you know where to steer the conversation.
D. Lovingly challenge them about the credibility of their beliefs.
If your New Age friend can see that there are problems with his view, he may become more interested in what you have to say. Asking questions is a great way to help people discover the weakness of their view (or a flaw in their conclusion). Some possible questions would include:
• How did you come to that conclusion?
• Why should I believe that?
• What evidence do you have that is true?
• If we are God, how did we become ignorant of that fact?
• If we are God, why do we act so badly?
E. Open God’s Word with them and point out what the Bible says.
God’s Word is alive and powerful and the Holy Spirit has used it over and over again to open the eyes of people who have been entangled in a variety of errors. So, use it!
F. Be prepared to defend the trustworthiness of the Bible.
Many people who harbor New Age beliefs have had some exposure to the Bible but have concluded it’s not reliable. So, it will be immensely helpful if you are able to answer some of the common questions about its reliability.
For more help talking to New Agers, see “Evangelizing New Agers” by Doug Groothuis.
CHARLIE H. CAMPBELL
is the founder of the ABR Apologetics Ministry, a popular guest teacher at churches and conferences in the United States and internationally, and the author of several books and DVDs, some of which include:
• The Bible’s Scientific Accuracy and Foresight
• Scrolls & Stones: Compelling Evidence the Bible Can Be Trusted
• Evidence for God
• One Minute Answers to Skeptics
• Archaeological Evidence for the Bible
• Answering Atheists
• The Case for the Resurrection
• If God is Loving, Why is there Evil and Suffering?
• Homosexuality and the Bible: Answering Objections to the Biblical View
• Teaching and Preaching God’s Word
• Apologetics Quotes
WOULD YOU LIKE CHARLIE TO SPEAK AT YOUR CHURCH?
Charlie frequently speaks—free of charge—at churches, conferences, retreats, etc. If you are a pastor and would like to inquire about him speaking at your church or event, please contact ABR here and let us know the date(s) you'd be interested in, and someone will email you back shortly.