Almost lost amidst the vociferous opposition to the 1988 film The Last Temptation of Christ was the fact that the Jesus of the film espouses New Age theology. The movie has Jesus pantheistically proclaiming that “everything is a part of God,” a remark that caused Time magazine to think of this revised Jesus as “a recent graduate of the Shirley MacLaine school of theology.” After picking up some dirt and stones, Jesus says, “This too is my body,” signifying the cosmos. Not surprisingly, several New Age thinkers hailed the movie as a challenge to the church to radically rethink the orthodox image of Jesus.
The New Age movement claims Jesus as one of its own. Rather than being exiled to the lore of religious legend or debunked as a messianic pretender, Jesus is favored as an enlightened master who manifested a divine power available to all. He is, according to New Age author John White, “a harbinger of the New Age.”
The New Age movement is an eclectic and confusing conglomeration of spiritual seekers who have despaired of finding personal and cosmic satisfaction in either religious orthodoxies or secular materialism. Instead, they have turned to exotic and esoteric sources—increasingly available and mass marketed—in the hopes of finding what they seek in the unorthodox ambiance of the mystical, magical, and metaphysical. Given these tendencies, the biblical Jesus holds little fascination. Jesus, they think, must be rescued from a parochial orthodoxy that claims he had a monopoly on deity. The issue with New Agers is not whether Jesus is God in human form. They affirm this. The issue is whether Jesus is uniquely God incarnate, or whether we are all God in human form.1