Should New Age change strategy being used in Evangelical Churches?
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 include:
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 something).
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 life.
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
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
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 religious
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 and Timothy).
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.
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
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 change.
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 taught).
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, 1985.
Cairns, Earle E. Christianity Through the Centuries . Grand Rapids :
Zondervan Publishing House, 1967.
Crouse, Bill. The New Age Movement . Dallas: Probe Ministries, n.d.
Hunt, Dave and T.A. McMahon. The Seduction of Christianity . Eugene
: Harvest House Publishers, 1985.
New Age Journal . Brighton, MA: Rising Star Associates, May 1986.
Ryrie, Charles C. A Survey of Bible Doctrine . Chicago: Moody Press,
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”