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SHOULD NEW AGE CHANGE STRATEGY BE USED IN
EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN CHURCHES?
A Term Paper
Dr. V.L. Mike Mahoney
In Partial Fulfillment
Of the Requirements of ACED 680
Richard N. Olivieri
(c) May 1986
Should New Age change strategy be used in
Evangelical Christian Churches?
(c) 1986 By Richard N. Olivieri
To answer this question it is necessary to first define "New
Age" and survey the basic root components and origins of New Age
change strategy. In addition a comparison of the resultant philosophy
of "New Age" to Evangelical Christian theology is needed to determine
if the two are compatible.
New Age change strategy is being formulated by a very diverse
collection of special interest groups, political positions and
philosophical views which has been given the name "New Age Movement."
There are two major publications that are voices for the movement;
The New Age Journal and The East-West Journal. Because of the
diverse nature of the groups within the movement it would appear that
there is no single coherent position that binds the members of the
movement together. This is not at all the case.
Origins of the New Age Groups
The New Age groups are apparently brought together by underlying
concepts and philosophies from several origins. These origins
MYSTICISM: Mysticism here is that belief which relies on an
intuitive body of knowledge that is hidden, but can be known through
transcendental reality and which leads to union with the divine.
Mysticism is linked with magic, theurgy, prayer, worship, religion,
metaphysics, science and occultism. It is easy for a Christian to
see that mysticism when it is involved with magic, metaphysics and
occultism is not Christian and should be avoided. This distinction is
less clear in the areas of prayer, worship, religion and perhaps even
theurgy (compelling or persuading the God to do or not to do
The aspect of mysticism is seen through out the origins of the
New Age Movement and seems to be a distinctive quality of the
movement's diverse groups. There is a valid Christian mysticism
which can be seen in the functions of prayer, worship and the work of
the Holy Spirit in the believer. It seems that the prime difference
between New Age mysticism and Christian mysticism lies in the purpose
and source of the mysticism. In New Age mysticism the purpose of
mysticism is to enable the mystic to be empowered with secret hidden
knowledge and power which will allow the mystic to control the
elements of nature.
The source of New Age mystical power is from an impersonal "Life
Force" or also called the "Other". This Other or Life Force is a
reservoir of spiritual power located or comprising a spiritual
dimension or sphere which surrounds the earth. An advertisement from
the May 1986 issue of New Age Journal best illustrates this concept.
The advertisement describes the "Reiki" program; "The inherent
Purpose of Reiki science is to give YOU direct contact and personal
experience with universal energy without harm. This whole energy can
be applied to ANY particular." (emphasis the same) The advertisement
defines "rei ki" as "...a generic Japanese word meaning universal
life energy." Here the purpose of New Age mysticism is clearly to
plug the individual into the "socket" of Power, a power which is an
impersonal Life force (shades of Star Wars!). The individual having
been plugged in can then use this power on any particular area of
SWEDENBORG, EMANUEL was an 18th Century mystic theologian and
philosopher who influenced science, philosophy and religion.
Swedenborg believed that the end goal of creation could only be
achieved through man, but the process of achieving that goal is
presently disrupted by man's misuse of freewill.
TEILHARD de CHARDIN, PIERRE was a 20th century Jesuit philosopher who
attempted to blend Christianity with evolution. He coined the words
"cosmogenesis"-man is central in the world and "noogenesis"-growth of
man's mind.[actually the word was first used by Vladimir Vernadsky]
In Teilhard de Chardin's philosophic interpretation of Christian
theology a cosmic process of evolution is moving all things toward a
perfection in an "Omega" point. To Vernadsky earth is evolving from
a biological stage to a stage of global conscious human effort
(nooshpere). Chardin merely elaborates Vernadsky's view into a
convergence of all things into the "Great Christ". Thus, to Chardin
all roads lead to Christ and all things are accepted into Christ.
This means all religions on earth will evolve into Christ. To the
Evangelical Christian this is not Christian but anti-Christian. When
Christ said "I am the way and the truth and the life. No man comes
to the Father except through me. John 14:6 NIV", he did not mean that
anyone believing anything could come to the Father. Christ meant
that through personal faith in Him as Savior one has access to the
Father. Chardin's theology is universalism mixed with evolution.
THEOSOPHY is a religious philosophy with emphasis on mysticism,
esoteric doctrine, occultism, monism and Eastern philosophy.
Theosophy though ancient in origin is presently promoted through the
Theosophical Society, founded by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and is
espoused by the New Age Movement. It is through the ideas and
tenents of theosophy that the many diverse groups within the New Age
find a common ground of purpose.
The Theosophical Society affirms the following
objectives: (1) to form a nucleus of the universal
brotherhood of humanity, without distinction of race,
creed, sex, caste or colour; (2) to encourage the
study of comparative religion, philosophy, and
science; and (3) to investigate unexplained laws of
nature and the powers latent in man.
...One of the society's most controversial claims
concerns the existence of a brotherhood of Great
Masters or Adepts, who, it is asserted, have perfected
themselves and are directing the spiritual evolution
of humanity. (Ency. Brit:Vol 18, pg. 277)
One of the fundamental principles of theosophy is that all souls
are identified with the Universal Over-Soul and are obliged to
undergo a cyclic pilgrimage through the Cycle of Incarnation.
NEW THOUGHT is a metaphysical mind-healing movement that stresses
"constructive thinking" (also known as "positive thinking");
Transcendentalism and "mind over matter" .
Phineas P. Quimby is viewed as the leading originator of
the New Thought movement. Quimby was a practicing hynotist and
firmly believed that illness is a matter of the mind. From
Quimby's writings a number of persons were influenced who then
spread New Thought ideas into other groups and movements. These
groups are not in total agreement on all of Quimby's or today's
New Thought principles, but they all share in placing emphasis
on the importance of the mind and proper thinking. According to
New Thought principles, problems in life including illness are a
matter of incorrect thinking.
Groups which are usually considered to be within the New Thought
movement or have adopted New Thought concepts include; Christian
Science, Unity, Psychiana, and The I Am movement. Not all of these
groups have prospered, but the basic principles of New Thought have
been accepted into a wide range of modern day movements. Concepts
like; mind-healing, divinity of man, and material prosperity as a
result of "right thinking" can all be seen today in both secular and
It should be noted that several groups within the New Thought
camp consider themselves Christian. The purpose of this paper is not
to dispute the claims of groups, but to show the origins of New Age
and to determine whether the New Age change strategy should be
applied to Evangelical Christian churches. This author is well aware
that many groups claim to be Christian and dispute of that claim
would be and has been the subject of extended debate.
There are certain aspects of New Thought which in themselves are
not anti-Christian. Christians are to be constructive and positive
in their thinking, but Evangelical Christian thought does not and
should not encourage Christians to place their trust in
"constructive/positive thinking" as their savior. Christians are to
place their trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Christians are to
believe in miracles and that prayer is a viable way to communicate
their praise and requests to God. (Ryrie:14-15) But prayer is not
some power to be conjured up with which the Christian then uses to
cast a spell on the events of life. In Evangelical Christian thought
prayer is not used to manipulate God so that the Christian may then
live in wealth and good health. To accept such a view of prayer as a
power to achieve wealth and health is to deny the very ministries of
Paul, Peter, John, Stephen, and others in the New Testament who died
without wealth and sometimes lived with enduring ailments (eg. Paul
Resultant Philosophy and Change Strategy of the New Age Movement
From the origins of mysticism, Swedenborg, Chardin, theosophy
and New Thought there emerges a resultant philosophy and change
strategy of the New Age movement. Within popular circles this
philosophy is quite benign and unobtrusive. New Age is well
represented by activists from a variety of popular causes. The
"global consciousness" expressed by Chardin fuels the purpose of
conservationists, environmentalists, Anti-apartheid, anti-nuclear
groups causes . The onward momentum expressed in Chardin's mystical
evolution suggests to New Age social change agents that solutions to
society's problems cannot be found in the empiricism of the past.
New Age change agents though in agreement with Marxist socialism in
form are not willing to wait the indefinite period of time for
society to develop into a utopia. New age agents are pushing for a
radical change in history within the immediate future. (Bennis:413-
The philosophers of the New Age readily combine Eastern
mysticism, evolution, chiliasm and Marxism into a change strategy
which claims to be egalitarian but in fact is power-coercive in
focus. Elise Boulding (whose view is echoed in the New Age Journal)
calls for a break in history which is brought on by a global
conscientization(Bennis:413-425). This conscientization is the
result of intentional learning communities who have been "awakened"
by making contact with the Other through the "dimension of
transcendence. " Having tapped into the "dimension of transcendence"
the members of these learning communities willingly, excitedly and
joyfully commit their lives totally to the learning community and the
task of being coparticipants with the Other in the awakening of
society. This concept is straight out of the principles of theosophy
placed within Chardin's global sphere.
As it has been noted, much of the New Age concepts and methods
for change are not compatible with Evangelical Christian thought. It
would appear that a few of the New Age ideas were in fact taken from
Biblical and early Christian sources and then merged with mysticism
and Eastern philosophy so that the result makes the ideas
unacceptable to Evangelical Christian churches.
Apart from the philosophy certain methods and concepts have been
employed and should continued to be used in Evangelical churches. The
sense of community within the church of believers and the aspect of a
teaching church society are concepts that are seen in Biblical
accounts of the early church and should be practiced in Evangelical
churches today. The key difficulty of accepting New Age change
strategy within the Evangelical Christian church lies in the focus of
In Evangelical Christian thought Christ is not merely a great
human who lived, died and was then raised to be a great master of the
human race. Christ is the God-man, the ONLY begotten and INCARNATE
Son of God who took on a perfect human nature. Ryrie states:
Orthodoxy has always held that Jesus Christ was fully
God and perfect man, and that these two natures were
united in one person without forming a third nature (as
Eutychius said) or two separate persons (as Nestorious
The central focus of the New Age is "man" and mankind's ability
to shape its own future through transcendental communion with each
other and the wholly Other. The "Other" is an impersonal supreme
being (or force) which surrounds the earth and other worlds [Note:
there are some variations of this description depending on the
group]. This is in sharp contrast to Evangelical Christian thought
which puts the focus on God who is directing a plan for the salvation
of man through His Son, Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the
Trinity. In Evangelical Christian thought God is a Tri-Unity of
three Persons in One; whereas in New Age thought there is only the
impersonal Other, a mystical force surrounding the Earth. In New Age
"all roads lead to God"; whereas in Evangelical Christian thought
there is only one way to God, Jesus Christ the Son of God.
Bennis, Warren G., Kenneth D. Benne and Robert Chin, eds. The
Planning of Change. New York: CBS College Publishing,
Cairns, Earle E. Christianity Through the Centuries . Grand
Rapids : Zondervan Publishing House, 1967.
Crouse, Bill. The New Age Movement . Dallas: Probe Ministries,
Hunt, Dave and T.A. McMahon. The Seduction of Christianity .
Eugene : Harvest House Publishers, 1985.
New Age Journal . Brighton, MA: Rising Star Associates, May
Ryrie, Charles C. A Survey of Bible Doctrine . Chicago: Moody
Wasserman, Harvey. "The New Age Movement: The Politics of
Transcendence." The Nation . 31 Aug. 1985, pp. 145-148.
Bible. New International Version
Encyclopaedia Britannica , 15th ed., S.v. "Mysticism, New
Thought, Teilhard de Chardin, Theosophy"