Christian History Sampler: History Behind the News
The New Age Movement isn’t really new. In the second century, Irenaeus taught Christians how to confront it.
An insightful poster reads: “There are two important facts about the universe: (1) There is a God; (2) You are not he.” This is Christianity in a nutshell. The Creator God is not confused with creation. Humans are not now, nor will they ever be, divine. God is a personal being, not an impersonal principle, force, or essence.
A New Age version of this poster would read: “There are two important facts about the universe: (1) There is a God; (2) You are it.” Or, in the words of Joseph Campbell (from the television series and book The Power of Myth): “You are God, not in your ego, but in your deepest being, where you are at one with the nondual transcendent.” This is the heart of New Age spirituality: people are divine and must rediscover this potential in order to better the world.
Old Roots of the New Age
G. K. Chesterton, Christian apologist par excellence, observed in 1930 that “We hear much about new religions; many of them based on the very latest novelties of Buddha and Pythagoras.” The perennial war of ideas develops few new weapons systems. In the intellectual combat between the New Age Movement and orthodox Christianity, the points of conflict were recognized by the early church eighteen hundred years before New Age celebrity evangelist Shirley MacLaine spoke to her first disembodied spirit.
Prophets of the New Age such as Joseph Campbell frequently hark back to Gnosticism for spiritual inspiration, saying that people can live out of the sense of Christ in them, as Jesus lived out of the Christhood of his nature. Campbell quotes from the Gnostic text The Gospel of Thomas to the effect that Jesus’ mission was to reveal ...