I’ve often been taken off guard when Christian friends or acquaintances have spoken highly of New Age books such as Eckard Tolle’s widely acclaimed The Power of Now or Rhonda Byrne’s bestselling The Secret. Oprah Winfrey-dubbed “spiritual gurus” such as these promote an insidious form of false teaching under the guise of a benign self-help ethos. Although these teachings mask a treacherous departure from the gospel of Jesus Christ and claim to hold the key to a new spiritual awakening, they are appealing to some Christians who are evidently sucked in by the self-esteemism, widespread popularity, and aggressive marketing of such books. Indeed, Tolle has sold more books than almost any other spiritual author. His #1 New York Times bestseller, The Power of Now, (translated into 33 languages) and his vastly popular follow-up, A New Earth, are frequently touted as two of the most influential spiritual books of our time.
The widespread influence of New Age teaching poses a very real, albeit inconspicuous, threat that the church should take seriously. Despite popular belief to the contrary, the multifaceted movement is still going strong, but less overtly now that many of its concepts have become more subtly ingrained into our collective consciousness. The movement is not relegated to a trippy-hippy, tie-dye clad fringe group, but has been embraced by mainstream culture thanks in large part to the army of celebrities that promote its teachings.
For example, there’s been growing respect for, and adoption of, the practices and philosophies of Eastern religions among Christians. One example is Hatha Yoga, which involves poses and hand positions many of which are depictions of Hindu deities. The hand positions are traditionally called mudras and are thought to help manipulate and channel prana, a supposed divine force or breath of the universe. The purpose of Hatha yoga is traditionally a spiritual practice designed to foster the realization that the true self, the Atman, is divine. Many Christians who practice yoga, however, do not buy into the spiritual side of it, using it for the physical benefits of exercise, flexibility, and muscle-strengthening alone. But some argue that by dabbling in such practices, Christians are opening the door to ungodly spiritual influences. The meditation and relaxation practices in yoga that encourage the emptying of one’s mind, for example, is unbiblical in that contradicts our God-given ability to exercise reason and sound judgement. It also conflicts with Jesus’ command to love God with all of our minds—which necessities a conscious mental state (Matt. 22:37; Luke 10:27). Furthermore, some hold that mindfulness and mind-emptying meditation hold the potential to open us up to demonic persuasion. Due to the popularity of yoga among a significant number of Christians, however, this is a touchy subject. The question becomes, can (or perhaps should) Christians safely practice yoga without compromising themselves spiritually? I will default to former New Ager turned Bible-believing Christian, Marcia Montenegro, in her article on this one.
While the strains of New Age thought that have seeped into our churches may not be immediately evident to us all, those who have been saved out of the New Age movement into Christianity are all too aware of the wolves in sheep’s clothing that lurk around us. Two former New Agers who were miraculously saved into the Christian faith, sister bloggers Christine Pack and Cathy Mathews, have expressed their “concern over false teachings that we realized were coming into today’s Church. Having both been saved OUT of the New Age and occultism, we were alarmed when we began to see some of the same things we did in the New Age creeping into the church…only now, these practices have been cleverly repackaged with Christian terminology, rendering them all the more deceptive.”
In his book, O God: A Dialogue on Truth and Oprah’s Spirituality, Josh McDowell demonstrates how Oprah uses words that might sound like they are based in Christianity, but her real message is radically different from the Christian faith. Likewise, many of Tolle’s ideas are derived from pre-existing, often ancient beliefs with Christian influences. As Montenegro further explains, “The New Age is always a blend of beliefs; intermingling strands from Eastern accepted wisdom, New Thought, Gnosticism, the occult, and even Christianity.” Yet New Agers believe they are rescuing the enlightened parts of Christianity from centuries of male-imposed dogma and have rediscovered its truth through mystical interpretations of the Bible. And for the undiscerning Christian, their use of Christian terminology can be dangerously misleading.
And where is Jesus in all this? Unfortunately, right up front; the name of Jesus is misused frequently within New Age teaching. Many psychics, astrologers, etc. display crosses or pictures of Jesus on their walls. But the New Age Jesus is aCounterfeit Christ who represents an unapologetic departure from the “constraints” of biblical teaching. New Agers unabashedly claim to have freed Jesus from the shackles of religious dogma (i.e. biblical truth) and consequently, on closer inspection, he bears very little relation to the Son of God we know as Christians.
Indeed, the New Age Jesus is devoid of any salvific purpose, being presented an imparter of wisdom, rather than a savior from sins, despite the fact that Scripture clearly claim His purpose on Earth was to do just that (Matt 1:21; Luke 2:11; Luke 19:10; John 4:42; Acts 13:23; 1 Tim 1:15; 1 Tim 4:10; Titus 2:13; 1 John 4:14).
In fact, the New Age Jesus is generally believed to be a mere man who achieved a high level of spiritual enlightenment, which afforded him godlike attributes. He is esteemed as one of the “Masters,” along with Buddha, Krishna, and others, all of whom illuminate the path for humanity to spiritual enlightenment.
The New Age Jesus is disturbingly more Jedi than he is biblical. A widespread New Age belief is that Jesus is actually a separate being from a divine entity, which is often referred to as “the Christ.” Many prominent New Agers, like Tolle and Byrne, perceive “the Christ” as being impersonal, cosmic, and abstract in nature—in essence, a “Christ-force” or “Christ-consciousness.” New Agers claim that this Christ-force took possession of the body of the man, Jesus, in order to guide humanity towards a process of spiritual evolution. “The Christ” is said to lie dormant within each person, waiting to be fully realized so that humanity as a whole may experience spiritual awakening. As Andrew Harvey puts it in his virtual seminar, The Christ Path, “By seeing Jesus’s life with fresh eyes, we take him off the pedestal as an untouchable Savior and begin to see him as a way-shower for all of us to embody more of our innate divinity as we co-create a more just and compassionate world.”
The Christ-force theory finds its origins in the Gnostic movement that begun in the second century AD, as a heretical sect of early Christianity. Basic Gnostic beliefs hold that humans are emanated from a Supreme Being and are divine spirits trapped inside physical bodies. In Gnosticism, salvation of the soul from the material world is achieved through the realization of gnōsis—esoteric or intuitive knowledge of the truth—rather than the atoning death of a Christ figure. Some Gnostics identify Jesus as an embodiment of the Supreme Being who became incarnate in order to bring gnōsis to the earth. Others, like contemporary Gnostic Reverend Todd Ferrier, founder of The Order of the Cross, suggest that the word “Jesus” was merely a codeword assumed by a historical being. Most Gnostics believe that there has been more than one authentic Messiah, and that “the modern Christian claim that Jesus was the only Christ (or Messiah) is simply not tenable.”
While the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus are central to the Christian faith, in Gnostic tradition the crucifixion is deemphasized (along with the Trinity and other inconvenient truths about Jesus). The Institute for Gnostic Studies states:
For the Gnostic, pain and suffering are part of the fallen world’s condition…certainly Jesus suffered perhaps inasmuch that he had to take a fallen physical vessel as in the indignities of his crucifixion. However, there is no grace in suffering. The aim is to transcend matter, not wallow in its more painful aspects. The suffering and death of Jesus illustrated the reaction of the ignorant to the Gnosis, while his resurrection illustrated how death and matter could be overcome. It is irrelevant whether Jesus physically came back from the dead or not, since the Gnostics and Jesus have such contempt for matter, it seems highly unlikely that the resurrection had much to do with a re-enlivened corpse. It was an awakening to light, a Transfiguration rather than some ghastly re-animation.[10 emphasis added]In Gnosticism, Jesus’ role is not to die on the cross as ransom for our sins. Instead, “Jesus comes as a revealer, a bringer of Gnosis, an opener of doors, he works to shatter the prison that locks the true Self into the body and awaken the light which is hidden within the heart of man.” The New Age Jesus paves the pathway for humanity to spiritual enlightenment.
Another manifestation of the New Age Jesus is the astrological Jesus, aka the Piscean Avatar. Former astrologer, Montenegro, explains how in astrology, Christ has become the living symbol of the Piscean Age that spans from His birth to 2,000 years later. Montenegro states: “Since Jesus is considered a higher spiritual being, an Avatar, by many astrologers, he embodies the highest aspects of Pisces: universal love, compassion, sacrifice, intuition, servanthood, martyrdom, and spirituality.” Like the biblical Jesus, the astrological Jesus possesses character traits that set him apart from most men—yet thisCounterfeit Christ is not unique in his deity. In keeping with New Ageism, “The astrological Jesus is still a New Age Jesus, or, in more contemporary terms, the Jesus of the new spirituality. Jesus is the man who realized Christ-consciousness, the innate divinity in all men.”
And therein lies the rub. It’s that old Satanic lie that we can attain personal godhood—the same lie that’s been repeated over and over throughout history in Gnosticism, the Religion of Reason, Marxism, Mormonism, secular humanism, selfism, and the New Age movement—to name just a few—which all hinge on the belief in human perfectibility/deification though human effort. These false religions, spiritual awakenings, and philosophies each distract from—or attempt to completely negate—the human need for a supernatural Savior. (For more on this refer to our previous post on “A Brief History of Bad Ideas“).
And so there is, in fact, nothing “new” about the New Age Jesus at all…He’s been slithering around since the original fall of man in Genesis 3 when Satan tempted Adam and Eve with the lie that if they accessed secret knowledge or wisdom (Gnosticism), their eyes would be opened (enlightenment), and they wouldn’t need to submit to the sovereign God anymore, for they themselves would be as God is. (Gen. 3:1-5). Satan knows exactly how to appeal to our innate desire for self-deification now—just as he did then.
Rather than flatly rejecting Jesus altogether based on the biblical claims about Him, then, New Agers have incorporated the figure of Christ into their occultist beliefs. And by using Christian vocabulary and loosely reappropriating Christian concepts, they have pulled the wool over the eyes of an alarming number of Christians. This strategy of deception is an age-old ploy of Satan: high-jacking God’s truth by using partial truths to lure people in and ultimately to dupe them altogether. Remember that Satan “disguises himself as an angel of light” and “his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:3, 14-15). In the same way, the New Age Jesus masquerades as one who will lead us to our own inner light.
For this reason, it is important for us as Christians to be aware of the erroneous ideas about Jesus that are propagated by the New Age movement—along with its books, its proponents, its self-esteem gurus, its practices and teachings—so we may escape its ungodly influence, and cling instead to God’s Word on the authentic Son of God, who is the only way, the truth, and the life.