The New Age movement is committed to the inward journey. It is a movement that asserts the deification of the “Self.” The so-called enlightened goals of the New Age movement are grounded in Satan’s Edenic lie to Eve, “then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). Although the self-love, self-confidence, self-potential, self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-image, self-esteem, self-fulfillment, self-development, self-assertion, self-actualization, and other present-day manifestations of prideful arrogance would have been severely condemned in most pulpits thirty years ago, today these words now readily roll off the tongues of modern-day preachers.
Robert Schuller, pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, is one of the leading proponents of the self-love gospel. His Sunday morning T.V. service, “Hour of Power,” has become the nation’s most widely watched religious program. In his new book, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation, Schuller writes that “self-esteem … or ‘pride in being a human being,’ is the single greatest need facing the human race today.” According to Schuller, sin is to be defined as “any act or thought that robs myself or another human being of his or her self-esteem.” The new birth, Schuller says, consists of being “changed from a negative to a positive self-image — from inferiority to self-esteem, from fear to love, from doubt to trust.” According to Dr. Schuller, the “greatest need facing the human race today” is not being saved from its sin by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, but “self-esteem.” So that it is clear we are not misrepresenting him, it is important to note that Time magazine quoted Schuller as saying:
I don’t think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition.
Furthermore, at the Unity School of Christianity just outside Kansas City, Missouri, headquarters for the Unity churches, an openly professed New Age group, Schuller addressed a large number of Unity ministers and ministers-in-training concerning techniques they could use to make their churches grow. In response to a question, asking for the one single thing that has most contributed to the success of his ministry, Schuller replied, “… it’s our positive approach.”His response to another question is most enlightening. “Dr. Schuller,” he was asked, “we hear a lot of talk these days about the New Age, the Age of Aquarius, the type of New Age thinking that we are involved in with Holistic healing and various other things that are part of what is called the New Age. Will you describe the role of what you might consider the New Age minister in the ’80s and beyond?” Schuller did not say he did not know anything about the New Age or that he was not a New Age minister. Instead, without hesitating, he replied:
Well, I think it depends upon where you’re working. I believe that the responsibility in this Age is to “positive” religion. Now this probably doesn’t have much bearing to you people, being Unity people, you’re positive. But I talk a great deal to groups that are not positive… even to what we would call Fundamentalists who deal constantly with words like sin, salvation, repentance, guilt, that sort of thing.
So when I’m dealing with these people… what we have to do is positivize the words that have classically only had a negative interpretation.
On an Amway motivational tape, Schuller says:
You don’t know what power you have within you! … You make the world into anything you choose. Yes, you can make your world into whatever you want it to be.
Such preaching, purported to be in the name of Christ, is nothing less than an abomination. Schuller is clearly not preaching and teaching the truths taught in God’s Word; instead, he is teaching and preaching the occult/magic formula of Napolean Hill, which Hill unabashedly identified as the “Supreme Secret” (i.e., “Anything the human mind can conceive, the human mind can achieve”).Of course, Schuller changes it a little (“Now — Believe and You Will Achieve”) and so do others (“Vividly imagine, sincerely believe, ardently desire, enthusiastically act and it must inevitably come to pass”), but it is still the doctrine of demons.
Paul Yong-gi Cho, pastor of a Korean church that is the largest one in the world (some 500,000), teaches that God, through the power of “imagination,” created the world. Because man is a “fourth-dimension” spirit being like God, he too can use the power of imagination to create his own world. According to Yong-gi Cho, “We taught our people to visualize success … Through visualizing and dreaming, you can incubate your future and hatch the results.”In the foreword to Yong-gi Cho’s book, The Fourth Dimension, Schuller wrote:
I discovered the reality of that dynamic dimension in prayer that comes through visualizing. Don’t try to understand it. Just start to enjoy it! It’s true. It works. I tried it.
Such teaching is a clear misunderstanding of the nature of God and of man. Man is the creature, not the Creator. Consequently, man does not have the power to create as God does. Furthermore, as James Bjornstad pointed out in an article in the Moody Monthly magazine, “it can be dangerous and spiritually unhealthy to try to do what God does because it can lead one into the development of occult (demonic) powers while thinking they are of God.
In practice, there is no appreciable difference between occult powers and the so-called modern-day mind-powers. The only difference is in theory. According to the occultist, forces (viz., demons, et al.) assist the practitioner in achieving his wishes; but according to the mind-power practitioner, the “power” that assists him in achieving his wishes is “faith.” Such “faith” is not to be confused with faith in God, but is, instead, “faith in faith.” As Napolean Hill said:
This is a universal law… that we translate into physical reality the thoughts and attitudes we hold in our minds. no matter what they are.
Charles Capps, a leader of the positive confession movement, adds to this technique the power of verbal affirmations by saying:
This is not theory. It is fact. It is spiritual law. It works every time it is applied correctly … You set them [spiritual laws] in motion by the words of your mouth… everything you say will come to pass.
As Yong-gi Cho declares:
By the spoken word we create our universe of circumstances.. .
You create the presence of Jesus with your mouth … He is bound by your lips and by your words …
When people are told to place their faith not in God Himself, but in laws that force God to do their bidding, it strips God of His sovereignty and His omnipotence. Such a god could best be described as a “vending-machine god” who dispenses goodies to those who have learned how to use the right combination of tokens and correctly push the right buttons. Such a god is clearly not the One who has identified Himself in the Bible.
The mind science, faith in faith, self-image, self-esteem, self-worth gospel has so pervaded our society that it is no longer perceived as anything but the most familiar and acceptable way of thinking. To illustrate this point, it should be mentioned that just recently, at a secular gathering made up mostly of Christians, the emcee, himself a gospel preacher, approvingly quoted Napolean Hill’s “Anything the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve.” Of course, such reasoning is blatantly false and is nothing more than the mumbo jumbo of false religion. If we are, in fact, creatures, created by an omnipotent God, then there are plenty of things we cannot do even if we can conceive of them in our minds. Of course, any Christian in his right mind ought to know better, but most of us, if honest with ourselves, would probably have to admit to at least the occasional uttering of the many popular shibboleths of the New Age.
Just recently, [Remember, this was written originally back in 1986] a church of Christ in Kentucky announced a special series of lessons about Jesus specifically geared toward teenagers. In the announcement of one lesson entitled “Jesus, [He] loved Himself, therefore [H]e could love others,” it was said:
A major problem today among youth and adults is poor self-esteem… It is essential to have a positive self-esteem and self-image as we encounter the tremendous challenges of the teen years and young adulthood.
Another church of Christ recently conducted a Vacation Bible School geared toward teenagers, entitled “Giants, Grasshoppers, and God: A Study for Teens on Developing a Positive Success Image.” Although there was much good, scriptural advice given during these lessons, the teenagers attending were also told that PMA could help them be better Christians. Norman Vincent Peale’s book, The Power of Positive Thinking, was even recommended as a good Christmas present for Christians. Furthermore, in the lesson booklet, the students were taught that the ten spies in Numbers 13 who brought back the evil report concerning Canaan were suffering from the “grasshopper” complex, i.e., low self-esteem or poor self-image. Of course, what those ten spies were suffering from was a lack of faith in God, and although the author of the lesson plan pointed this fact out, it was his “further insight” that caused him to manipulate the Scriptures into teaching a lesson on low self-esteem. According to this gospel preacher:
The problem with these Israelites was that they lacked confidence, they were afraid, and they envisioned themselves as mere grasshoppers. In other words, they did not have a positive success image. Their personal esteem and image was as tiny as a grasshopper.
It is interesting to note that two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua, disagreed with the evil report and said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.” God described Caleb as a man with “another spirit.” Yes, indeed! He had the spirit of trust, confidence, belief in himself, in his fellow soldiers and in his God. In a word, he had the spirit of a positive success image [emphasis added, AT].
In other words, the ten spies who brought back the evil report did not believe in themselves, and everyone worth his salt today knows that we have to believe in ourselves. Right? Wrong! Jesus said, “Have faith in God” (Mark 11:22). As Warren E. Berkley pointed out in a very good article in The Preceptor:
Some of the things taught in the PMA seminars and books may constitute good advice. And, it wouldn’t be fair to criticize those who get some good from it. The problem is, some of the things being taught by those who advance PMA are carnal, materialistic and humanistic. And, there are Christians who read these PMA books and attend these seminars without exercising discernment. At these humanistic fountains, they may be drinking a lot of polluted water! There is the real danger of rushing into these man-made fads, getting all involved in the “psyched-up” enthusiasm of self-development speakers — and coming out with some false concepts.
Under the subtitle “What Is The Problem?,” Berkley went on to write:
What many of these modern [self-esteem, self-love] preachers and writers say, when they talk about faith isn’t what the Bible says. They have a lot to say about faith. By “smooth words and flattering speech,” they sing the praises of faith. but the songs they sing are not in God’s book!
To this we add a hearty amen. The power which we preach is not in the misdirected think-sos of modern man, but in God’s Word. There is something very suspicious about a Christianity that turns its sail to every wind that blows. The Bible says, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (I Peter 4:lla). Consequently, one of the first things Christians can do to fight the influences of New Age thinking is to get back to the Word of God. We must realize that when we accommodate the Scriptures to popular ideas in a desire to be relevant, we really have nothing more to say to this generation.
The current effort on the part of Christians to accommodate the Scriptures is illustrated from the aforementioned cases as well as this next one. While discussing the dangers of the various PMA techniques with a Christian who is an active practitioner of several of them, I was shocked to learn that the scripture, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18), was being used by this knowledgeable Christian to justify his use of a visualization technique clearly associated with sorcery. There would seem to be absolutely no reason for this misuse of the Scriptures other than to accommodate the current popular ideas concerning imaging or visualization. According to one excellent commentary on this passage:
“Vision” (chazon), prophecy in its widest sense, denotes the revelation of God’s will made through agents, which directed the course of events, and was intended to be co-ordinate with the supreme secular authority. The prophets were the instructors of the people of Divine things, standing witnesses of the truth and power of religion, teaching a higher than mere human morality. The fatal effect of the absence of such revelation of God’s will is stated to be confusion, disorder, and rebellion…
How both inappropriate, yet telling, that one would use Proverbs 29:18 as a proof-text for a practice that is clearly condemned in God’s Word. When one is determined to misuse the “vision” (i.e., God’s Word) by accommodating it to current, so-called “wisdom” (i.e., paganism), then for that person there is no longer a true vision. The effect is confusion, disorder, and rebellion. Quite frankly, the threat to the church today is not so much Secular Humanism as it is the secularization (i.e., paganization) of the church.
Furthermore, the current leaders of the “gospel of individualism” among churches of Christ (viz., Charles Holt, Dusty Owens, et al.) have been thoroughly enmeshed in New Age thinking. Charles Holt is a Success Motivation Institute (SMI) instructor and Dusty Owens has admitted to being a believer in and teacher of PMA for the past twenty years. Is there a connection to be made between their association with these PMA techniques and their effort to replace the congregational nature of churches of Christ with a “do your own thing,” “responsible to no one” individualism? We believe there is. In her book, The Aquarian Conspiracy, Marilyn Ferguson, speaking of the personal, individual nature of the New Age movement, wrote:
The networks of the Aquarian Conspiracy — self-organizing forms that allow both autonomy and human connection are at once both the tools for social change and the models of a new Society.
According to Ferguson:
Such a movement, which could happen within twenty years, would be non-violent. Its constituency would be Americans already eager for new direction, including old and young, conservatives and radicals, all social classes. “The Middle class has begun to listen and to be moved,” [New Age psychologist Eric] Fromm said. Neither state nor political parties nor organized religion could provide either an intellectual or spiritual home for this thrust. Institutions were too bureaucratic, too impersonal.
Speaking of both the means and the ends of the movement, Ferguson further elaborated:
And this aligned, principled, sophisticated, committed, and creative minority must also be irrepressible. It must make waves large enough to set off a reordering of the whole system — fluctuations, in the language of the theory of dissipative structures. Difficult? Impossible? Seen another way, the process cannot fail because it is also the goa1.
Apply these same words, with some slight modification, to the Charles Holt, et al., movement among churches of Christ and you have a very accurate description of the gospel of individualism as it is advocated and advanced by these individuals. In other words, the teachings are consistent with the views of those who have taken the autonomous, self-exalting, self-actualizing inward journey of the New Age movement. The Holt movement is gaining momentum not because its position can be substantiated by God’s Word, but because many Christians have drunk heavily from the New Age fountain of the self-actualized, autonomous self.
Undoubtedly, some of my brethren will think me both rude and crude for mentioning the specific incidences involving Christians. Therefore, I hope you will believe me when I say that I have tried to avoid interjecting personalities into this study. In truth, the recounting of these various incidences was in order to illustrate just how pervasive and insidious New Age thinking really is. What I have sought to do is to identify the ideas, concepts, and doctrines currently being publicly advocated by New Testament Christians, which can be clearly identified as Humanistic, occultic, and New Age. This I understand to be my responsibility as a preacher of the gospel. But I wish to make it perfectly clear that to say a person has inculcated Humanistic, occultic, and New Age ideas is not the same thing as saying that person is a Humanist, occultist, or New Ager. Although this should be readily understood by all, I mention it here because some have not understood such an obvious distinction.
The Humanistic, “you can be your own god,” New Age, “inward journey” Pied Pipers of self-love had a devastating effect on the twentieth-century church. No longer are Christians comfortable with the gospel of repentance preached in God’s Word. Preachers are being terminated because, instead of making their hearers “feel good,” they are making them feel guilty with what the Pied Pipers are calling a sin-oriented, negative message. Conversely, other preachers are being actively sought after because they make people “feel good.” “Feeling good,” long the anthem of the New Age, has become the buzzword of a new generation of Christians who believe that everything that occurs in the local church should be geared toward their personal needs. Many of the “I’m not being fed” complaints we hear today are the result of the preoccupation with self. This obsession with the inward journey has created in too many Christians the desire to be served rather than to serve. Instead of Christians caught up in the selfish inward journey of the New Age, foolish, what churches desperately need today are more bent-kneed, wet-eyed Christians with contrite hearts who love God and their fellow man (Matthew 22:37-40).
As we conclude this series of articles on the New Age movement, it is appropriate to end with the very keen insight of Marilyn Ferguson, the chronicler par excellence of the New Age, who wrote:
Cultural transformation announces itself in sputtering fits and starts, sparked here and there by minor incidents, warmed by new ideas that may smolder for decades. In many different places, at different times, the kindling is laid for the real conflagration — the one that will consume the old landmarks and alter the landscape forever.
In Democracy in America Tocqueville wrote that the hallmark of impending revolution is a critical period of agitation, in which there is enough communication for a few key reformers to stimulate each other, for “new opinions to suddenly change the face of the world.” A revolution, as we shall see, is first visible in tendencies — altered behavior and trends that are easily misunderstood, explained within the context of the old paradigm as something they aren’t. And to confuse matters further, these new behaviors may be mimicked and exaggerated by those who do not understand their basis in inner turnabout. All revolutions attract mercenaries, thrill seekers, and the unstable, as well as the truly committed.
A revolution that is just getting under way, like a scientific revolution, is initially dismissed as crazy or unlikely. While it is clearly in progress, it seems alarming and threatening. In retrospect, when power has changed hands, it appears to have been foreordained.
Unaware of how values and frameworks have shifted historically, unaware of the continuous yet radical nature of change, we tend to drift into and out of cultural revolutions without knowing who fired the first shot and why. We are untrained in expectancy, in feeling the tremors of coming cultural upheaval, in seeing subtle darkening or brightening on the horizon.
The Lord has told us that we have the responsibility to be “wise as serpents” while being at the same time “harmless as doves.”157 We know He accused many in His day of being unable to discern the “signs of the times.” It is unfortunate that we, as Christians, have been unable to discern the problems of these “perilous times” in which we live. And although it is true that we have been assigned the task of “watching,” many of us seem to have been caught totally unaware. Ignorant of Satan’s “devices” and unprepared, many of us have been “caught” in his various traps. The New Age movement is just one of those traps. The apostle Paul advised how we can avoid this snare:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
This can only be done by developing a worldview informed by those truths taught in God’s Word. Everything we say and do must be by the authority of Jesus Christ. As we do this we will be able “to give an answer to every man that asketh [us] a reason of the hope that is in [us] with meekness and fear. It must be understood that simply chronicling error is not good enough. False concepts must be refuted, not just exposed. Christians are not just to know something is wrong, but they are to know why it is wrong.
Furthermore, the religion of Christ does not interest itself with only what is wrong or in error. Instead, it is a religion that penetrates every facet of life and thought. As Douglas R. Groothuis wrote in the conclusion of his book, Unmasking The New Age:
If Christians abandon crucial aspects of culture — education, politics, science, psychology, health and others counterfeit philosophies will naturally and militantly fill the void. Because this has happened in the recent past, Christians are partially responsible for the rise of the New Age. When and where Christians retreat, the enemy advances.
Finally, let us “Put on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil … and having done all, to stand.”
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136 Robert Schuller, Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do, 1984, page 161.↩
137 A statement by Paul Meyer, the president of Success Motivation Institute, quoted in Mack R. Douglas, Success Can Be Yours, 1977, page 77.↩
138 I Timothy 4:1.↩
139 Paul Yong-gi Cho, The Fourth Dimension, 1979, pages 39-44.↩
140 Yong-gi Cho, op. cit., Foreword.↩
141 James Bjornstad, “What’s Behind The Prosperity Gospel,” Moody Monthly magazine, November 1986, page 21.↩
142 Hill and Stone, Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude, page 78.↩
143 Charles Capps, The Tongue—A Creative Force, 1976, pages 24, 131-132.↩
144 Paul Yong-gi Cho, Solving Life’s Problems, 1980, page 51.↩
145 Yong-gi-Cho, The Fourth Dimension, page 83.↩
146 Jay E. Adams, The Biblical View of Self-Esteem, Self-Love, Self-image, 1986, Preface.↩
147 Flier from the Lone Oak Church of Christ, 2960 Lone Oak Road, Paducah, KY 42001, advertising a weekend retreat called “Celebration ’86.”↩
148 Lesson plan on file.↩
149 Warren E. Berkley, “The Location of Faith’s Power,” The Preceptor Magazine, June 1986, pages 21-26.↩
151 Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 9. pages 555-556.↩
152 Ferguson, op. cit., page 205.↩
153 Ferguson, op. cit., page 57.↩
154 Ferguson, op. cit., page 205.↩
155 II Timithy 4:2-5.↩
156 Ferguson, op. cit., pages 37, 38.↩
157 Matthew 10:16.↩
158 Matthew 16:3.↩
159 I Corinthians 16:13; I Thessalonians 5:6; II Timothy 4:5.↩
160 Romans 12:1, 2.↩
161 Colossians 3:17.↩
162 1 Peter 3:15.↩
163 Groothuis, op. cit., page 174.↩
164 CF. Ephesians 6:10-18.↩