Last month I read two books which exposed some of the New Age influences in today’s evangelical churches. Deceived on Purpose and A Time of Departing each showed some different areas where the New Age has had great influence in evangelicalism. Both authors, to no one’s great surprise, singled out Robert Schuller as being one of the primary influences in this movement. Schuller efforts in bringing the New Age into Christianity are well-documented in these books and elsewhere. Being a pessimistic sort of person, it did not surprise me to see that the New Age has made great inroads into Christianity. However, what did surprise me, is how New Age leaders have begun to use the same words and phrases that we find in Christianity.
Read this editorial description of one of Marianne Williamson’s books:
In this relatable, down-to-earth book, Williamson explicates A Course in Miracles, which she describes as “a self-study program of spiritual psychotherapy.” Both A Course in Miracles and Williamson’s work borrow heavily from the Christian lexicon: she refers to God as “he” and speaks often of the Holy Spirit and Jesus. Her take-home message is that we must submit not to our egos, which tell us we are separate from God, but instead surrender to God, of whom we are all a part. While she does refer to all minds being joined and describes the world we know as a dream from which we must awaken, she differs from other New Thought and New Age thinkers by balancing an assumption that the negative things of this world (especially illness and adversity) are illusory with the fact that they feel real to us and that we must take practical steps to overcome them. She recommends embracing love and eschewing fear, arguing that we will encounter a loving world when we stop assuming it is hostile. She says that while we are not responsible for the bad things that happen to us, the universe is always primed to give us a new beginning, if only we can forgive, atone and trust that our loving attitudes and good works make a profound difference. (emphasis mine)
Here are Williamson’s ten keys for transformation:
- From Forgetting Who We Are to Remembering Who We Are
- From Negative Thinking to Positive Love
- From Anxiety to Atonement
- From Asking God to Change the World to Praying That He Change Us
- From Living in the Past and Future to Living in the Present
- From Focus on Guilt to Focus on Innocence
- From Separation to Relationship
- From Spiritual Death to Rebirth
- From Your Plan to God’s Plan
- From Who We Were to Who We Are Becoming
Observe all the words she uses that borrow from the Christian lexicon. Some of the examples are Atonement, Praying, Guilt, Innocence, Seperation, Spiritual Death, Rebirth. I have little doubt that reading through the book would turn over many more examples.
Though I have provided only one example (A Course in Miracles could serve as another), there is clear and bountiful evidence that the New Age is attempting to veil their teachings in Christian language while maintaining their anti-Christian distinctives. In the past two years, since the release and wildfire success of The Purpose Driven Life, Purpose and Christianity have become closely allied. In an email I wrote to a friend this morning I wondered whether Rick Warren cashed in on an increasing awareness of purpose, or if others are taking advantage of the awareness towards purpose awakened by The Purpose Driven Life. Either way, Purpose has become an increasingly popular word. Did you know that New Age motivational speaker Anthony Robbins released an audio series in 1996 entitled Powertalk – Power of “Why?” – Living the Purpose-Driven Life: An Extraordinary Collection of Life-Changing Thoughts and Principles (Powertalk Series)? (Thanks to Chris at Junkyard Blog for the tip). Notice the words “Living the Purpose Driven Life.” I wonder how many times Robbins has regreted not Trademarking the words Purpose Driven. This series was co-authored with none other than Marianne Williamson. I was not able to find much useful information about Robbins’ Purpose-Driven series, but did find a newer one interesting. Read the description of one of Robbins’ latest series:
Get the Edge
A 7-Day Program to Transform Your Life
Anthony Robbins is known throughout the world for helping people make positive and fulfilling changes in their lives. With his new program, Get the Edge, you can transform your life in just seven days! Within these seven days, this program will awaken your “sleeping giant,” and it will give you the strategies and the schedule you need to keep it awake as you master both the art of fulfillment and the science of achievement. Instead of just giving you ideas, inspiring you, and giving you a couple strategies and saying, “Go do it!”
Robbins stops in the middle and says, “Let’s walk through this together and do it while I’m here with you.” He will also ask you questions such as What do you really need to maximize the quality of your life? What are the strategies that will give you the edge physically, emotionally, financially, and in your relationships? In this powerful program, Anthony Robbins will personally coach you and passionately entertain you as you begin to implement the proven strategies and tools for achieving the results you want and deserve – faster than you may ever have imagined!
In Get the Edge, you’ll learn to:
- Triple your energy and increase your strength by at least 30%.
- Identify what’s missing in your life and learn how to take control by making time for yourself.
- Find out what’s really stopping you and change it once and for all.
- Discover the 12 financial traps that keep most people from becoming wealthy, how you can avoid them, and how you can turn them to your advantage.
- Use the “hour of power” to create energy, momentum, and passion every day of your life.
- Make negative emotions work in your favor and cultivate the 10 emotions of power that create an extraordinary quality of life.
- Create a results-focused, purpose-driven, massive action plan (RPM plan)to revolutionize your results in only seven days.
- Create a diet and lifestyle that will restore your body to its natural weight and recapture your body’s innate energy.
- Discover what creates conflict in any relationship and learn how to solve it.
- Get the edge and win the game of life by living your unique purpose.
Notice again the similarity in the language of Robbins’ New Age inspired motivational message and Rick Warren’s Biblically-based message of purpose. There are further similarities. On October 27, 2003, Rick Warren sent an email to his huge mailing list which indicated he was beginning a 5-step global P.E.A.C.E Plan which would change history, though recently information about this P.E.A.C.E. plan has been removed from the Saddleback web site. At the time Warren said that it was “the most important series of messages we’ve ever taught in 23 years here at Saddleback church” and that “We believe it is part of the beginning of a Spiritual Awakening, a Global Movement, a New Reformation.” A year earlier, Neale Donald Walsch, another prominent New Age leader, claimed that God unveiled to him a 5-Step PEACE Plan which heralded the end of the age of the “Single Savior” and create a “New spirituality.” (note the word “age” was conveniently removed). It is difficult to know who is leading and who is following; who is creating and who is adapting.
The lines between Christian and New Age are being increasingly blurred. Many who call themselves Christians are simply not equipped to differentiate between them, especially when the differences may come down to mere nuances. Is the following written by a Christian leader or by a New Age leader? “Yes, people who are spiritually and emotionally connected to the Eternal Creative Force discover their powerful potential as a creative personality and win the big prize in living.” Are discussions about “the driving force in your life” likely to be conducted by Christians or by New Agers? Which of the following three quotes is from a Bible translation, which from a New Age author, and which from the pastor of a Christian church?
- “Yes, God is alive and He is in every single human being.”
- “God is in everyone and everything.”
- “He rules everything and is everywhere and in everything.”
The point is clear. The New Age, which we so often regard as being entirely foreign to us, is making increasing inroads into Christianity. The thrust of this article is not to discern whether Christianity is moving into the New Age or whether the New Age is moving into Christianity (or both). Rather, it is show that these changes provide just one more reason to be on guard, to know the Scriptures, and to be able to defend our beliefs. As the lines become blurred, we need to be able to discern Christian from New Age, truth from error. We need to know not only the language of Christianity, but also the underlying concepts and definitions, that we will be able to distinguish between ever-small differentiations.