The warnings have been sounded and like many before me, I have been called "paranoid," "uptight," "reactionary," and oh so closed minded all for insisting that everything that claims to be "Christian" or that is purported to be compatible with our faith must be tested and inspected under the unfailing microscope which is the Bible. Whether it be in discussing Islam, exposing theological liberalism, or dialoging with Jehovah's Witnesses, I find myself constantly referring to Paul's admonition to "prove all things" (I Thess. 5:21) and to always examine each and every facet of any suggested belief system to see if it squares with the genuine Apostolic faith (Gal. 1:8-9). Regardless of who may endorse or forward a teaching or a practice, or how "Christian" it may sound it must always pass the careful test of the Scriptures.
New Age Christians?
From its very beginnings, leaders of the New Age Movement have suggested that before the "age of transformation" could dawn and man could evolve and lead himself to utopia that much must transpire. One doesn't have to examine far into the writings of Mrs. Blavatsky, Alice Bailey and others to see the satanically inspired goals laid out. One common theme is that all peoples and all religions must join in unity and line up with compatible spiritual goals, such as seeking after a cosmic consciousness and revering the planet itself as a living thing. Those previously disposed to conjuring up negative vibes and "standing in the way" (i.e. real Christians) must undergo a total mind and spirit makeover for "the goal" to be achieved. Either through a process of assimilation - or elimination - those antiquated, narrow, bigoted believers must give up the idea that there is only one way to "the consciousness" (God). Dear friend, we are watching the very assimilation New Agers have long envisioned become a reality in our day.
Space here only allows for brief definitions and a few short examples but each person reading this - who cares about the Bible and has any understanding of the importance of following what the Scripture says - needs to examine the question at hand. "Is Your Church New Age, Emergent, or authentically Christian?"
A generic definition of New Age could be "Any system of belief that requires one to look inside him or her self for enlightenment, wisdom, or power." Besides this, I have taught our seminar attendees for years that the New Age is a spiritual experience that requires no repentance, no salvation, no savior and no God.
Though in the late 1990's the Emergent Church Movement may have started out with good intentions, it has come to symbolize a blatant apostate religion that has usurped and is now replacing authentic Christianity in theological institutions, denominations, and local churches worldwide.
The Emergent Church Movement takes its name from the idea that the culture has changed, and a new church should emerge in response.
In the pamphlet "How to Spot the Emergent Church in Your Church" I defined Emergent as:
- Experience over Reason
- Spirituality over Doctrine and Absolutes
- Images over Words
- Feelings over Truth
- Earthly Justice over Salvation
- Social Action over Eternity
There is no soft or diplomatic way to portray it other than to say that Emergent Christianity really isn't Christianity AT ALL. It is a new religion which has extracted much of the terminology and trimmings of Christianity but is thoroughly void of the doctrines, beliefs, and saving power of the Gospel, its God, and its Christ. This is the reason that wherever I go, whether on radio, television, or in public meetings I have been repeating the challenge for Emergent leaders to come clean and just admit that what they are advocating isn't Christianity and that what they are teaching is instead a hybrid New Age philosophy. Regardless of their insistence, this hybrid is in no way just a revived version of our faith which has been lost for centuries, until they rode onto the scene to rescue it. They may call it the Donald Duck Movement but biblically-aware Christians will correctly call it cultic, aberrant and demonic.
Where Emergent Meets the New Age
One ingredient of the glue that cements Emergent to the New Age is their common infatuation with the green movement. Having been a card carrying New Ager (if they carried cards...) I can tell you that hyper-environmentalism and the notion of saving the planet from mankind is the end game of both movements. Though well-intentioned but misguided, some of these folks still ought to know better. Those who have been sucked into the Emergent mess may have read the Scriptures which clearly teach that God actually created the planet for man and not vise-versa but, like the crux of Emergent leaders, they seek to question or just flatly deny what the Bible states on this. Several generations have been taught to believe the earth worshipping model as fact - regardless of how much reliable science or little Bible one can site for their position. So, in the latest round of reconditioning the postmodern mind in this area, numerous heretics have taken to simply abandoning the authority of the Bible in context and are now busy redefining Christianity as a socialist, pagan religion who's stated goal is to revere planet Earth. For example, as I reported in "The Errors of the Emergent Church," I personally heard arguably the most heralded Emergent leader, Brian McLaren, tell an audience in Nampa, Idaho that the word "salvation" was actually about we humans saving the planet and that Jesus' use of the phrase "the world" was actually referring to the earth and not to lost humanity. (McLaren clearly states the same on pages 65-66 of his book A Generous Orthodoxy.)
Close behind is their insistence to make up their own rules and do their own thing at all costs. To these folks (and the majority of postmodern thinkers) truth is simply situational. Absolute truths are rejected and an "anything goes" theology reigns. In fact, one could quite correctly say that the only absolute that Emergent and New Age followers agree on is that there is no absolute truth. For those intent on abandoning absolutes that verges on being dogmatic absolute doesn't it? This is how so many "Christians" could be brought into accepting the next commonality between Emergent and New Age...mysticism.
Third, through contemplative prayer and practice, Emergent followers are being introduced to experiential mysticism too. Numerous authors and leaders now claim a renewal to labyrinths, incense, chanting, meditation and the like is actually a return to authentic Christianity. All experience now appears to be acceptable and without the sure leading of the Scriptures to rely on what is holy is being confused or cast aside for what is actually demonic by postmodern seekers. The popularity and acceptance of the Hindu practice of Yoga is a prime example of just how far removed from biblical Christianity some leaders and churches have moved.
In my live seminar presentation and DVD "Is Your Church New Age, Emergent, or Christian?" I compare numerous quotes from Emergent leaders and New Age authors. This illustrates the likenesses of the two religious systems.
New Age, Emergent, or Christian?
To illustrate how New Age and Emergent thinking and beliefs closely align I want to quote from an extensive interview given by Rev. Duke Tufty to the Kansas City Star June 13, 1998. Tufty is the leader of a recognized New Age cult (The Unity School of Christianity). He was pastor of Unity Temple on the Plaza (Kansas City, MO) from 1991 until his election to become Chairman of the Board of Unity.
On the identity of God Tufty stated,
"You are an expression of God Spirit...of the oneness that exists with you and God...(life is) an experience of the oneness that exists with you and God."Author, speaker and Emergent "Christian Futurist" Leonard Sweet writes about Contemplative Spirituality and the need for Christians to find the "Christ Consciousness."
"New Light embodiment means to be 'in connection' and 'in formation' with other Christians...The church is fundamentally one being, one person, a communion whose cells are connected to one another within the information network called the Christ consciousness." (Quantum Spirituality, p.122)He continues,
"(There) are the traceable connections that exist between ourselves and others or objects, and the underlying holism of the universe. Transcendent state of consciousness" (p.234)TRANSLATION: We are all "one" with the Universe! (Note that Sweet was the featured speaker at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church "WIRED" Small Groups Conferences in February and May, 2008, held at Saddleback in California and in Atlanta, GA.)
Continuing with Tufty's interview in the KC Star, Unity's leader commented on the reality of sin.
"Contrary to some religious beliefs, you were not born a sinner, and there is no need for you to be reconciled with God for you are not separate from or in disfavor with God."Popular Emergent leader Rob Bell told a crowd in Grand Prairie, Texas that "repentance is not turning from sin. It is a 'celebration' of life in Christ." He further stated that anyone who tells you that you need to repent is not talking about Christianity. (The god's Aren't Angry Tour, Nov. 16, 2007)
Tufty was asked about the authority of the Bible.
"The Bible is a very holy and sacred book...one can make the Bible say anything she or he wants it to...An accurate guideline to assist you in your interpretation is to ask yourself (for the meaning)..."Bell says "(This is) part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that 'Scripture alone' is our guide. It sounds nice, but it is not true...When people say that all we need is the Bible, it is simply not true." (Velvet Elvis, p.68)
Tufty was asked about the relationship of Unity with other holy books. He stated,
"There are many holy books like the Bhagavad Gita, Tao, Koran, Torah and Dhammapada that provide similar direction and inspiration for life. Each holy book provides a uniquely different spiritual path, but all paths move in the same direction and have an identical destination." (Please note that there couldn't be a more pointed endorsement of classic universalism than that.)I and others have carefully documented that Paul Young, author of the wildly popular Christian book The Shack, not only introduced a form of universalism known as Universal Reconciliation into his manuscript but that he penned a 103 page paper defending this belief several years ago. However, Young is certainly not the only leader being heralded by some Christians.
Emergent Brian McLaren wrote about the need to make converts in his book A Generous Orthodoxy. He said,
"I don't believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (if not all?) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts. This will be hard, you say, and I agree. But frankly, it's not at all easy to be a follower of Jesus in many 'Christian' religious contexts, either." (p. 293)Continuing this theme, what does Unity teach about sin and salvation, heaven and hell?
On the Unity website (www.unityonline.org) we read "Sin is our separation from God, the Good, in consciousness. Salvation is now - not something that occurs after death... Heaven and hell are states of consciousness, not geographical locations. We make our own heaven or hell here and now by our thoughts, words, and deeds."
"The church has been preoccupied with the question, 'What happens to your soul after you die?' As if the reason for Jesus coming can be summed up in, 'Jesus is trying to help get more souls into heaven, as opposed to hell, after they die.' ...I don't think that the entire message and life of Jesus can be boiled down to that bottom line." (From a July, 2005, PBS special on the Emerging Church)On HELL Brian McLaren says,
"For many Christians, their faith is primarily about what happens to people after they die. That distracts them from seeking justice and living in a compassionate way while we're still alive in this life. We need to go back and take another look at Jesus' teachings about hell. For so many people, the conventional teaching about hell makes God seem vicious. That's not something we should let stand." (Beliefnet Interview Online)Again from the Unity website, does Unity believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ?
"Yes, Unity teaches that the spirit of God lived in Jesus, just as it lives in every person. Every person has the potential to express the perfection of Christ as Jesus did, by being more Christlike in everyday life."To see how many modern Emergents think on this we need to look to Henry Nouwen, a source quoted over and over by Emergent mystics and an author who, in a 1994 survey of 3,400 U.S. Protestant Leaders, ranked 2nd only to Billy Graham in influence. Nouwen wrote,
"The God who dwells in our inner sanctuary is the same as the one who dwells in the inner sanctuary of each human being." (Here and Now p.22)In Nouwen's last book (1998) he said "Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God's house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God." Sabbatical Journey, p.51)
These are just a few of the many similarities between New Age and Emergent thought and practice. When one compares authentic Christianity to these philosophies little similarity is found other than just the use of particular words or phrases which thinking Christians understand and that Emergents and New Agers have radically changed the definitions of.
The most troubling aspect of the question "Is Your Church New Age, Emergent, or Christian?" is that we should even need to ask such a question. However, the tragic fact is that today countless churches and even entire denominations have slowly moved from Christianity to Emergent and even some into what can only be called New Age.
Wise Bible believers will vigilantly watch, evaluate, test, and warn if and when we see Emergent or New Age come masquerading under the guise of "Christian."
By Eric Barger
Take A Stand! Ministries