LL asks: “There is so much spiritual confusion out there! People are blending all kinds of beliefs and practices, Christian, Hindu, New Age. How are we supposed to tell what’s Christian and what isn’t without having to read the catechism from front cover to back?”
Great question, LL! We devote ourselves to helping people to discern this very thing so you came to the right place!
In fact, one of the appendices in my book, The Learn to Discern Compendium: Is it Christian or New Age, contains a simple “10 Question Test” that you can use to apply to any spirituality, practice, or therapy that you come across to see if it is derived from the teachings of Christ or the New Age. These questions and answers came from the Pontifical document, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life and are an easy way to learn the basic principles of the New Age and how they differ from Christianity.
To follow are the 10 questions to ask in order to discern Truth from falsehood:
1. Is God a being with whom we have a relationship (Christian) or something to be used or a force to be harnessed (New Age)?
The Pontifical Councils explain that “’The New Age concept of God is rather diffuse . . . . The New Age god is an impersonal energy . . . ‘god’ in this sense is the life-force or soul of the world. Divinity is to be found in every being,” from the lowest crystal up to and beyond God Himself.
“This is very different from the Christian understanding of God as the maker of heaven and earth and the source of all personal life,” the document says. “God is in himself, personal,
the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who created the universe in order to share the communion, of his life with creaturely persons.”
2. Is there just one Jesus Christ (Christian) or are there thousands of Christs (New Age)?
Jesus is often represented in New Age writings as one among many wise men or great prophets.
Christians believe Jesus Christ is God, the Second Person of the Trinity, the same Jesus of Nazareth about which the gospels speak who is the only Son of God, true man and true God.
3. The human being: is there one universal being (New Age) or are there many individuals (Christian)?
The concept of “holism” – which is the theory that whole entities are components of a larger reality, and have an existence over and above the sum total of themselves – pervades New Age thought and practice where union with the whole cosmos is sought. “ . . . The real danger is the holistic paradigm. New Age thinking is based on totalitarian unity and that is why it is a danger,” the Councils write.
The Christian approach is that each man and woman is a unique creation, made in God’s image and likeness. Our human “wholeness” does not come about by achieving union with the cosmos.
“The human person is a mystery fully revealed only in Jesus Christ,” the Councils explain, “and in fact becomes authentically human in his relationship with Christ through the gift of the Spirit.”
4. Do we save ourselves (New Age) or is salvation a free gift from God (Christian)?
The Councils ask, “Do we save ourselves by our own actions, as is often the case in New Age explanations, or are we saved by God’s love?
“For Christians, salvation depends on a participation in the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, and on a direct personal relationship with God rather than on any technique. The human situation, affected as it is by original sin and by personal sin, can only be rectified by God’s action: sin is an offense against God, and only God can reconcile us to Himself.”
5. Do we invent truth (New Age), or do we embrace it (Christian)?
“New Age truth is about good vibrations, cosmic correspondence, harmony and ecstacy, in general pleasant experiences,” writes the Pontifical Councils. “It is a matter of finding one’s own truth in accordance with the feel-good factor.”
Christians believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. “His followers are asked to open their whole lives to Him and to His values,” the Councils writes. “In other words, to an objective set of values which are part of an objective reality ultimately knowable to all.”
6. Prayer and meditation: are we talking to ourselves (New Age) or to God (Christian)?
“The tendency to confuse psychology and spirituality makes it hard not to insist that many of the meditation techniques now used are not prayer, “ writes the Councils. “They are often a good preparation for prayer, but no more, even if they lead to a more pleasant state of mind or bodily comfort . . .”
Christian prayer, by contrast, is a double orientation which involves “introspection but is essentially also a meeting with God. Far from being a merely human effort, Christian mysticism is essentially a dialogue which ‘implies an attitude of conversion, a flight from ‘self’ to the ‘you’ of God.’”
7. Are we tempted to deny sin (New Age) or do we accept that there is such a thing (Christian)?
“In New Age, there is no real concept of sin, but rather one of imperfect knowledge; what is needed is enlightenment which can be reached through particular psycho-physical techniques,” the Councils explain.
Those who practice New Age “are never told what to believe, what to do or what not to do. ‘There are a thousand ways of exploring inner reality. Go where your intelligence and intuition lead you. Trust yourself.’”
In the Christian perspective, “only in the knowledge of God’s plan for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving Him and loving one another. Sin is an offence against reason, truth and right conscience; it is a failure in genuine love for God and neighbor . . .”
8. Are we encouraged to reject suffering and death (New Age) or accept it (Christian)?
“Some New Age writers view suffering as self-imposed or as bad karma, or at least as a failure to harness one’s own resources,” the Councils explain. “ . . . Reincarnation is often seen as a necessary element in spiritual growth, a state in progressive spiritual evolution which began before we were born and will continue after we die . . .”
“Reincarnation is irreconcilable with the Christian belief that a human person is a distinct being who lives one life for which he or she is fully responsible . . . . The Redeemer suffered in place of man and for man. Every man has his own share in the redemption. Each one is called to share in that suffering through which all human suffering has also been redeemed. In bringing about the redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the redemption . . .”
9. Is social commitment something shirked (New Age) or positively sought after (Christian)?
“Much in New Age is unashamedly self-promotion . . . . The fusion of individuals into the cosmic self, the relativisation or abolition of difference and opposition in a cosmic harmony, is unacceptable to Christianity.”
Christians, on the other hand, believe that “where there is true love, there has to be a different other (person),” the Council explains. “A genuine Christian searches for unity in the capacity and freedom of the other to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the gift of love. Union is seen in Christianity as communion; unity as community.”
10. Is our future in the stars (New Age) or do we help construct it (Christian)?
A fundamental New Age belief is based on the idea of an imminent astrological Age of Aquarius, which will end the period of the last 2000 years, known as the Age of Pisces – which is referred to as the Christian age. “The New Age which is dawning will be peopled by perfect, androgynous beings that are totally in command of the cosmic laws of nature. In this scenario, Christianity has to be eliminated and give way to a global religion and a new world order.”
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