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New age heresy hunters are creating an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion in the church. They have produced a new genre of books concerned with spiritual deception, but which blurs all distinctions between ideas and thinkers. A sampling of the titles: The Rainbow Conspiracy, The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow, The Seduction of Christianity, and Set the Trumpet to My Mouth.

Very orthodox Christians are indicted because some of their thoughts touch common interests with an occasional secularist, humanist, or cultist. Employing guilt by association, these books lump the innocent with the guilty. Norman Vincent Peale is equated with the Science of Mind founder Ernest Holmes because both recognize the mind as a source of power. And Bruce Larson is labeled “seduced” because he quotes Maslow, Perls, and Jung.

Sorcery And Psychology

The incredible thesis of David Hunt and T. A. McMahon, authors of The Seduction of Christianity, is that the ancient practice of sorcery is equivalent to modern psychology and contemporary applications of meditational prayer. Attacking everything from motivational psychology to the use of imagery in prayer, the book condemns prayer for the healing of the memories as a form of occult practice. Although visualization in prayer has been used by the church for centuries, the authors call these practices a demonic ruse to deceive believers in the end time.

Hunt and McMahon’s limitations become obvious when they declare that psychology is not really a science nor is there any such thing as the unconscious mind. Of such, Flannery O’Connor observed, “Ignorance is excusable when it is borne like a cross, but when it is wielded like an axe and with moral indignation, then it becomes something else indeed.” Indeed!

Almost everyone gets chopped. The authors describe a Noah’s ark full of the seduced—including Mother Teresa, John Wimber, Robert Schuller, Richard Foster, John and Paula Sandford, Paul Cho, Calvin Miller, Norman Grubb, Francis MacNutt, and Frank Laubach. Even James Dobson takes his licks.

To my surprise, I found my name inscribed among the errant! Frankly, I felt honored to be in such company—until I found that I was neither quoted nor identified accurately. All of which made me wonder about the rest of the citations, many of which are simply misleading. Apparently the business of zealots is too urgent for accuracy.

Although this book appears to be scholarly, documented research, it lifts much of its material out of context, distorting the original author’s view. For example, the writers imply that Agnes Sanford held shamanistic beliefs and was in some way sympathetic with occult practices, when, in fact, in Sealed Orders she strongly denounces anything of this sort.

Similar attacks have blighted the history of the church. Heretic hunters have always killed good and bad with the same stroke. However, in this instance, a new level of silliness is reached as these cult busters even condemn the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for using the title “New Age Dawning” for an evangelism program. As a result, such barrages of innuendo leave the casual reader worrying about the possibility of a demon crouching behind every pulpit.

New Climate

In contrast to what these books assert, we are now living in an exciting time in which the meaning and promise of the Holy Spirit is being recovered. Christians since the Enlightenment have often kept the faith with their reasons; but they were rarely in touch with their souls. All that is changing. For the first time in over a century, we see instances of a psychology that respects religion and a science that finds validity in the spiritual. Calling this new climate the work of the Devil is at best presumptuous, and at worst blasphemous.

Today the church needs an environment in which new inquiry can be made without condemnation. Of course, there are mixed blessings in both psychology and the modern charismatic movement. Certainly no one has all of the answers for integrating the best of psychology with theology. Nevertheless, ministries on the cutting edge of such investigations should be encouraged rather than castigated for their courage to seek new and creative expressions of God’s grace.

Jesus was crucified by people who claimed to have the total truth and insisted that his miracles were done with the power of the Devil. Twenty centuries later the same assault is being mounted against people of integrity. Labeling those who work with new expressions of the Holy Spirit’s ministry as the children of the Devil is, perhaps, the greatest deception of all.

ROBERT L. WISEThe Reverend Dr. Wise is the founding pastor of Our Lord’s Community Church, Oklahoma City. An ordained clergyman, in the Reformed Church in America, he is the author of numerous books and articles, and a frequent contributor to Leadership Journal.

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