How to Recognize and Respond to New Age Practices

The Great Commission was a radical endeavor. In Matt. 28, Jesus famously instructs His disciples to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:16–19) This may not seem peculiar to our modern sensibilities, but it was a significant departure from typical Jewish customs. Jewish teachers often gave group lectures in the first century and had disciples or people who followed them, but Jesus’ conversion and discipleship commission were revolutionary. He instituted a new systematic program that would welcome people of all ethnic backgrounds into the faith.

Today, the Great Commission is an inherent dimension of faith in Jesus. Sharing our faith means following His example, teachings, and loving others — adopting His lifestyle. However, when we share our faith with others, we will inevitably encounter people who believe and think differently than us. This requires the ability to give reasons for our hope in Jesus (1 Peter 3:15). The aforementioned verse in 1 Peter is the most well-known regarding Christian apologetics or the defense of the faith. We often think of apologetics as it pertains to conversations with a non-believer or someone of a different faith tradition. However, the church often needs apologetics to correct erroneous beliefs and teachings.

In a recent Everyday Theology episode, we discussed the New Age Movement and its widespread influence on the culture and the church. It has become so embedded in our society that many Christians fail to recognize it, implicitly or explicitly embrace parts of it, or are unsure how to respond. As Christians who desire to share the good news of Christ, we must know what we believe and why. Furthermore, we must respond with uncompromising conviction and winsome compassion to those that espouse these ideas, even within the church.

In 2006 a book entitled The Secret became a nationwide hit, being lauded by celebrities such as Oprah. The Secret suggested that “the complete order of the Universe is determined, including everything that comes into your life and everything that you experience. It does so through the magnetic power of your thoughts.”[1] In other words, you can create your world through your thoughts.

The autonomy that this idea suggests is attractive to many people. Our ability to control things and manifest our desires can be rather alluring. For example, perhaps you’ve heard people in your church say something like, “If you have a positive mindset, positive things will happen to you.” Or it’s often disguised in more Christian-sounding language: “If you only have enough faith, it will happen.”

There are two important words to consider in the last example: faith and you. The word “faith” is one of the insidious ways in which New Age teaching has permeated the church. Adopting language used within Christianity has resulted in many Christians embracing this ideology. But there’s also the focus on the individual . . . “if you only have enough faith . . .” So, the object of one’s faith is the self, or faith is only as good as its object. This is faith in faith, not faith in God.

When encountering such an idea, it’s essential to remind fellow Christians of what Scripture teaches. In John 14:6, Jesus states, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Trusting in Jesus means believing in Him alone. He is our sole object of faith. Having faith in ourselves or other things is a direct contradiction to His teachings. Our faith is solely in Him because only He has the power to save through His sacrificial death on the cross and resurrection. Placing our faith in other things reveals a lack of trust in Christ and His teachings.

The New Age movement espouses moral relativism or the belief that there are no objective moral truths. It suggests that morality is grounded in a subject, such as a person or a group. It also indicates that these morals change over time, so what’s a moral truth in 1885 may not be one in 2022.

With the emphasis on the self in the New Age movement, personal preferences are paramount. Tolerance in this context is adhering to others’ predilections, and intolerance is often voicing any level of opposition (even if done respectfully). Therefore, moral relativism is viewed as a positive because it respects the person’s individual moral choices.

Moral relativism has many problems, including the inability to objectively adjudicate moral choices when two conflict. However, Christians must remember that God is the objective source of truth. Our moral truths flow from His character (or essence) because He is all holy, incapable of immorality, and, therefore, has a morally perfect nature. His immutability, or inability to change, also means that the moral truths we glean from God and the teachings of Jesus are transcendent truths. Our faith in Him is grounded in His unaltering reliability.

One of the more explicitly prevalent New Age notions infiltrating the church is the idea that we are “little gods.” This phrase may come as a shock for some readers, but it has been commonly espoused in some hyper-Pentecostal[2] parts of the church. Essentially, it suggests that humans have a divine nature[3].

One of the primary texts used to corroborate this idea is Jesus’ words in John 10:34: Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods?”’ But a closer look at the context clears up any confusion. Jesus is quoting Psalm 82:6, which states, “Is it not written in your own law, ‘I have said you are gods?” In Psalm 82, Yahweh (God) used the word “gods” to refer to Israelite judges and civil magistrates who were supposed to serve as His representatives and administer justice on Earth. The reference to them as “gods” did not refer to their ontological status, but instead their role.

In John 10:34, Jesus addresses accusations of blasphemy. He quotes Psalm 82:6 in his response to his detractors because they would have been familiar with this verse from the Hebrew scriptures. Jesus was making the point that if Yahweh could refer to these representatives as “gods” because of their earthly role, then He should be referred to as the Son of God because of His divine nature. The Bible never asserts a divine nature to humans, only that we are made in His image [see also 2 Peter 1:4].

In discussing the end times, Jesus warned His disciples not to be deceived (Matt. 24:4). The same word of caution applies to modern believers. We live in a pluralistic society with various beliefs and teachings contrary to Christianity. Our friends and family partake in these ideas. Our brothers and sisters in the faith fall captive to them. We should be alert to these futile and opposing beliefs by knowing our Bibles well and being in constant prayer. But if we see a fellow believer embracing these ideas, we should love them enough to help lead them away from false doctrines and reorient their faith and dependence on Christ.

To learn more, check out this episode of Everyday Theology 🔽

Written by: Brandon Cleaver
Published by Woodside Bible Church,

[1] Law of Attraction | The Secret — Official Website
[2] I want to be clear that this isn’t a refutation of Pentecostalism proper, but just of the more aberrant, extreme version of it.
[3] Editor’s note on this point: this includes the doctrine that teaches that God is made up of ousia (essence) and energia (energies) — this doctrine is not found in scripture.



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Woodside Bible Church

We exist to help people belong to Christ, grow in Christ, and reach the world for Christ across Southeast Michigan and the globe.