Christian responses to the New Age movement

A review of various resources on the New Age

By the staff of Ministry.

The New Age movement has in some ways been a boon to Christian publishing houses. Many books on the topic have been printed in the past five years, with the majority having arrived in 1987 and 1988. The following list is not exhaustive, but represents a good sampling of the most commonly available Christian books about the movement.

The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow Constance Cumbey, Huntington House, Inc., Shreveport, Louisiana, 1983, 268 pages, $6.95, paper.

In many ways this is the book that got it all started as far as Christian concern about the New Age movement goes. Cumbey feels she has carefully documented the basis for her fear that the movement is a closely knit conspiracy to wipe out Christianity, but she tends to draw on quotations from people on the fringes of the New Age movement to prove her point. Using her tactics, one could easily make a similar case against almost any highly diverse movement, including the Christian church. In one chapter she draws parallels between the New Age movement and the Third Reich. While there is some validity to the point she makes, the fact is that the movement includes people with such diverse beliefs that it is unfair to attribute the evil motives of some to all.

The Seduction of Christianity Dave Hunt and T. H. McMahon, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 1985, $7.95, 240 pages, paper.

The chief point of this book, which has been one of the most popular books dealing with the New Age movement, is that New Age philosophy is infiltrating the church and turning Christian leaders into New Age apostles unawares. The authors are careful to document all of their charges with quotations from the offending Christians, yet the book aroused enough of a furor that Hunt wrote Beyond Seduction to answer the charges of those who felt Seduction had been unfair.

Beyond Seduction Dave Hunt, Harvest House, 1987, 282 pages, $7.95, paper.

This is Hunt's defense of the thesis of his previous book. The subtitle indicates that this book calls for a return to biblical Christianity, but the majority of the book follows the pattern of its predecessor in documenting the move away from true Christianity. Both books suffer from the tendency of the authors to read ideas into the writings of other authors, yet these books are valuable as correctives to protect Christians from being led astray because of an inadequate biblical foundation.

Peace, Prosperity, and the Coming Holocaust Dave Hunt, Harvest House, 1983, 282 pages, $6.95, paper.

As one of the first Christian books to address the movement, this helped to spread the "Nazis in New Age disguise" fear that alarmed many Christians. Hunt here posits the demise of civilization as we know it at the hands of many devious forces that will unite against Christians. But not to worry, Hunt believes the true Christians will be raptured away from all this trouble. The book does have several good chapters that are helpful in explaining various facets of the movement.

Dark Secrets of the New Age Texe Mam, Crossway Books, West- Chester, Illinois, 1987, 288 pages, $8.95, paper; Mystery Mark of the New Age Texe Marrs, Crossway Books, 1988, 288 pages, $8:95, paper.

The dark secret is that New Agers are just revitalized Nazis who are awaiting their chance to destroy Christians. Much like Cumbey, Marrs delights in quoting people from the fringes of the movement and attributing their thoughts to the movement as a whole. When that won't do, he quotes New Age leaders out of context and implies that they are saying something different from what they intended. If that is the best way he can find to prove his point, the point shouldn't be made. The alarmist methodology employed in these two books can only serve to alienate Christians from people who may be attracted to New Age philosophy but could just as well be attracted by true Christian spirituality.

The New Age Rage Karen Hoyt and the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, Fleming H. Revell Company, Old Tappan, New Jersey, 1987, 263 pages, $6.95, paper.

This book has been carefully written by eight authors, each of whom has dealt with a particular area of expertise. There is no intention to alarm here; rather there is a chapter that points out that conspiracy claims are easy to make but difficult to prove. And another chapter deals with ways of building bridges to reach out to New Age people. The one weakness of the book is that the collection of essays is never brought together to form a unit that the reader can easily grasp.

Unmasking the New Age Douglas R. Groothuis, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, 1986, 194 pages, $6.95, paper.

Groothuis takes a calm, rational stance similar to that found in The New Age Rage. Indeed, he is one of the contributing authors of that book. This is one of the best introductory works available for helping a person to understand the movement.

Groothuis offers an easily comprehended definition of the major tenets of the movement, complete with examples, in the first chapter. From there he deals with leaders of the movement and what they teach, gives a critique of the major tenets, and suggests ways to reach out to people involved in New Age activities.

Confronting the New Age Douglas R. Groothuis, InterVarsity Press, 1988, 230 pages, paper, $7.95.

Groothuis wrote this book to develop further some aspects of Christians in relation to the New Age movement that were touched on lightly in his earlier book. He has continued his balanced approach to the New Age movement, and suggests that there are six pitfalls to avoid in dealing with the New Age. These pit falls range from the quarantine method that totally avoids contact to the chameleon method that absorbs too much of the New Age culture.

The book not only suggests positive ways of reaching out, it provides good sound theological arguments for use in confronting the New Age movement.

New Age Medicine Paul C. Reisser, Teri K. Reisser, and John WeMon, InterVarsity Press, 1987, 204 pages, $7.95, paper.

This specialized book deals with just one area of New Age activity—holistic health. It gives good, well-thought-out consideration to many of the "new" therapies. The section on acupuncture is especially enlightening. The authors have not been content to deal only with techniques, but have taken a probing look at the philosophy that undergirds holism and the search for alternative forms of medicine. In doing this, they set the stage for one of the final chapters in which they suggest ways an individual can make his or her own decision about a therapy.

The Universe Next Door James S. W. Sire, InterVarsity Press, second edition, 1988, 246 pages, $8.95, paper.

Sire deals with several philosophies that confront Christians today. The fact that he deals with the New Age movement near the end of the book contributes to the strength of his treatment, because he points out how the movement has absorbed or reacted to the other philosophies he has mentioned. Sire also ventures to define the basic tenets of the movement, and gives examples to help the reader understand. The definitions are accurate, but somewhat complex.

Understanding Cults and New Religions Irving Hexham and Karla Poewe, William B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1986, 192 pages, $8.95, paper.

This is one of the most helpful books for giving a basic understanding of the background of the New Age movement. Hexham and Poewe (who now, incidentally, share the same last name) have produced a thoroughly researched book dealing with the mythological background of many of the belief systems that contribute to the New Age movement. This book is required for anyone who wishes to understand the basis of New Age belief.

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By the staff of Ministry.

March 1989

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