Many Christians are unaware that New Age practices have slowly been creeping into the church. While the expression “New Age” wasn’t coined until the 1970s, its beginnings go all the way back to the roots of the Hindus and Buddhists who have been practicing Eastern Mysticism for thousands of years.
In the western world, the New Age religion gained popularity when the book The Aquarian Conspiracy by Marilyn Ferguson was published in 1980. New Age beliefs garnered even more attention when Shirley MacLaine discussed her conversion in her book, Out on a Limb. The book chronicled MacLaine’s experiences with out-of-body travel, channeling sessions, and guided tours of an unseen world. Eventually, with the help of her spirit guides, she came to believe that each individual is God.
For many Christians, this all sounds like a bunch of nonsense. What they may not realize however, is that without even knowing it, they could be caught up in some of these same practices and beliefs.
Because Bible-illiteracy is at an all-time high in this country, many Christians are not able to discern between true and false teachings. The “Prince of Preachers”, Charles Spurgeon, was right when he said, “Discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.”
The reason that some New Age practices are such a huge problem is that engaging in them makes Christians believe they are having a truly spiritual experience, which indeed they are. But what spirit is present? Many Christians believe it’s the Holy Spirit. There is a reason, however, that the Bible tells Christians they are to “test every spirit.” (1 John 4:1).
It doesn’t help that many so-called Christian celebrities, like Oprah Winfrey and Roma Downey, and popular pastors like Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes promote New Age concepts. This is why it’s more important than ever for Christians to do their homework regarding New Age practices. Though some of them may seem harmless, the Bible tells believers they are to separate from anything that is unholy and not of God.
Here are some of the most popular spiritual practices that seem Christian but are really New Age.
Sometimes referred to as “centering prayer,” this type of meditation involves choosing a word or short phrase and then repeating it over and over as a way to clear the mind of any distractions so that God’s voice can be heard more clearly. The goal is to listen for God’s guidance or to feel His presence. This is not a Biblical way to pray, however, as prayer is supposed to be about communicating with God, instead of doing mystical meditation exercises.
Many Christians argue that Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God” is an invitation to engage in contemplative prayer. However, when read in context, this passage is not about being still in order to listen to God, instead the words “be still” translate as “cease striving.” Upon studying this verse in detail, Christians will realize it is actually a rebuke from God to pay attention to His might.
Prophetic Gifts and Knowing the Future
Despite the fact God warns his people several times throughout the Bible to steer clear of divination (the practice of seeking knowledge of the future by supernatural means), many Christians read their horoscope or engage in other seemingly harmless ways to know their future. While many people associate divination and knowing the future with the occult, these practices are often used by both New Agers and Christians as well.
Instead of using tarot cards, one so-called Christian ministry uses destiny reading cards as a way to help others. They state their cards were developed by “intuitive and prophetic artists.” Many Christians leaders, like Shawn Bolz, Havilah Cunnington, and Steve Shultz, who claim to have a prophetic gift, might actually be dabbling in divination.
While some Christians may have a prophetic gift, or a strong sense of the future, they need to be careful to never consider their words above the Word of God or to use it for monetary gain.
There is also celebrity medium, Theresa Caputo, who claims to be a practicing Catholic, but does not take heed of the warning in Deuteronomy 18: 10-12 that states, “There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.”
Part of the goal of a Christian is to become more Christ-like through a process called sanctification. What Christians need to be careful of however, is that Christ consciousness is something completely different. While it might sound Biblical, it is steeped in Eastern mysticism. In New Age beliefs, Christ consciousness is about achieving enlightenment and becoming “one with the universe,” and that this can be done by connecting with the divine.
Because New Age followers believe they can become God and that they have the same capabilities as Jesus had, New Agers think that instead of being saved by the death of Jesus, they can save themselves. Despite the fact this belief is a denial of the atonement, many popular Christians including Rob Bell, Steve Chalke, and Michael Gungor are beginning to embrace this line of thought.
There are many other practices that might seem Christian that are steeped in New Age thought and origins including universalism, the power of positive thinking, Law of attraction, angel communication, mindfulness, and spirit travel.