Alienation or salvation?

How do you respond to the New Age movement?

Kenneth R. Wade is an associate editor of Ministry.

How do you respond to the New Age movement? How should Christians react to this ever-growing phenomenon?

I must confess that my first reaction was one of apprehension, if not fear. The first time I attended a New Age-oriented meeting as part of a research project, I really wondered what I would find there. Would I encounter starry-eyed dreamers? Or long-haired ex-hippies? Or might I even encounter out right hostility if I let on that I was a Christian?

I did encounter a starry-eyed dreamer or two, and maybe even a few ex-hippies. And a lot of perfectly normal people who were interested in improving their world and who were open to new ideas. I didn't encounter any hostility. And subsequent contacts with New Age-type groups has so far yielded the same lack of hostility.

But I wonder what sort of response a New Age-oriented person might expect if he or she were to attend a Christian church. I am beginning to worry that there is more hostility directed from Christians toward the New Age movement than vice versa.

This is partly the product of several sensational books about the movement that have become popular in Christian circles. In our March issue we will publish reviews of most of the recent Christian books about the movement. Perhaps it is sufficient to say for now that after reading some of these books, a Christian might be surprised to find out that not everyone who believes in the New Age has a Nazi storm trooper uniform hidden in a back closet.

Sensational accounts of Nazi-like activities among some people connected with the New Age movement certainly make interesting reading. But to the ex tent that they engender fear of the movement among Christians, they are counterproductive.

The same is true of books, sermons, and magazine articles that encourage Christians to be fearful of other groups or cubs with unorthodox views.

I've spent quite a little time knocking on doors with religious surveys and other approaches. The one group of people I wish I could figure out is those who, as soon as they find out that my visit has anything to do with religion, simply shut or slam the door in my face.

I've observed that often these people have the trappings of religion about thempictures of Jesus in the entryway and suchyet are apparently afraid to discuss anything religious. I wish I could get to know one of these people and find out what makes him or her so fearful of any encounter with a person of different religious views. But their fears cut them off from me.

Fear of people who believe differently keeps us from growing and keeps us from helping those around us. One of the most interesting things I do is carry on correspondence with people who write in with negative or questioning responses to articles we publish. It is intriguing to me to hear various viewpoints and to have to make a response as to why I agree or dis agree.

In relation to the New Age movement, I appeal to Christians to keep open minds and open hearts. Certainly we cannot agree with the New Age concept that Jesus Christ will not return again in the flesh. Nor can we accept messages delivered via New Age channels that purport to be from Him yet contradict what He taught while on earth. We can not agree that human beings without the power of God can establish a new civilization in which peace and justice will reign.

We also need to stand up against the commercialization of religion that is characteristic of so many individuals and groups who have associated themselves with the New Age movement in order to profit financially from people's spiritual quests. This facet of the movement serves only to discourage people who have genuine spiritual longings from pursuing answers.

And we need to be alert to the subtle infiltration of our schools, vocational training centers, and media by Eastern and New Age religion under the guise of self-improvement. We need to take a stand against such things when they appear in our communities.

But we must not allow fear of the New Age movement to close our hearts against people who are seeking spiritual things.

Jesus' example at Jacob's well (John 4), Paul's at the Areopagus (Acts 17), and Philip's chariot ride with the eunuch (Acts 8) demonstrate creative ways to reach out to seekers whose beliefs differ from ours.

We mustn't let fear or pride of opinion alienate us from the very people who most need the message of salvation we bear.

How do you respond to the New Age movement? Please respond to the people involved as spiritual seekers who need our Saviour. Kenneth R. Wade.

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Kenneth R. Wade is an associate editor of Ministry.

January 1989

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