In his Olivet Discourse Jesus warned, “Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many” (Mark 13:6). Seldom has this warning been so explicitly fulfilled as in our day. On every side individuals and groups are making sweeping messianic claims. Some of these plainly set themselves up in opposition to the historic Christian faith, but others—and these are probably more dangerous to Christians—claim to be legitimate developments or fulfillments of Christ’s work and teaching.
The young “guru” Maharaj Ji, acclaimed by his devotees as the “perfect spiritual master,” has always addressed himself to Westerners in the syncretistic terms characteristic of Hinduism, but recently he has begun to make so pronounced an effort to appropriate the Christian heritage for his purposes that it may be difficult, in the initial stages, for people to distinguish his message from that of Christianity. His principal collaborators, originally called “Mahatmas” (great souls), he now designates “Apostles.” Specifically addressing himself to “real Christians,” he claims to be fulfilling the work of Jesus by giving them, instead of a dead Teacher and religious theory, a living Master and direct religious experiences.
According to Michael Mildenberger, a German Protestant pastor and analyst of religious movements, “evidently even ‘post-Christian’ youth, largely estranged from the Church, from which the ‘Divine Light Mission’ recruits most of its devotees, still bears such a strong Christian imprint that it is necessary to present oneself in familiar [Christian] images and ideas in order to win them” (Materialdienst, Sept. 15, 1974, p. 282). This attempted takeover of the Christian heritage, combined with much valid criticism of the ...1