1. Please pray with me. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen. The message from God’s Word today as we continue our sermon series on a Christian Response to World Religions is taken from Genesis 3:5-6 (read the text). The message is entitled, “A Christian Response to New Age,” dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
2. There’s a basic difference between New Age thinking and Christian thinking in the interpretation of the fall of Eve in Eden. New Age interpreters see this event as a wonderful example of self-fulfillment. Eve desired to experience something new. She didn’t want the limitations of being human, of being dependent, of being under God. She wanted to be in control. Both Christian thinkers and New Age thinkers see rebellion in Eve’s action. New Age thinkers see it as an act of liberation. But, Christians see it as an act of slavery. New Age thinking in the West undermines and replaces Christianity. It uses Christian terms and Scriptures but completely changes the interpretation of the texts.
3. We Christians see in the event of the Fall the classic example of mankind’s refusal to let God be God. The first humans, Adam and Eve, wanted to be God. They didn’t want to be limited in their knowledge and experience. Satan rightly asserted that God had withheld from them the knowledge of good and evil. They only knew good. Why shouldn’t they also know evil? Little did they realize what evil would be and how it would bring about the collapse of all the goodness God had created for them and all living things. They didn’t trust God. They wanted to find out for themselves. They did, and now we all know what evil is.
4. But, New Age thinking is that we should praise Eve for her choice of eating the forbidden fruit. New Agers say that we should be like her. We shouldn’t accept any limits. We should want to be like gods. In fact, New Age proponents assert that we are god, if we would only realize it. That is the point of Shirley MacLaine’s books and Charles Manson’s teachings.
5. Charles Manson had a radical following in the 1960s and eventually conducted the ritual murder of actress Sharon Tate and others in Los Angeles. Manson got his followers high on LSD and taught them New Age principles of the unity of all things. He stated that there is no God, no truth, no absolutes. There is only what you choose. You determine what is right and wrong for you. In the great scheme of things, everything is good. In Manson’s words, “Everything and anything is good. Just follow your own karma.”
6. New Age thinking is really westernized Hinduism. New Age promotes the Hindu fundamentals of reincarnation, karma, and cosmic unity. There is no external God. There is no one to whom we are eternally accountable. There is no absolute right and wrong. There is no place for obedience to the will of a Creator God.
7. And since there is no disobedience, there is no sin. There is no holy wrath of God against sin. There is no need for a Savior. New Age promoters say there is no God to whom we are accountable. There is no sin. There is only ignorance of our divinity. Like Eve, we must seek to know and experience whatever we can and discover the truth for ourselves, whether through yoga or séances or LSD or astrology or goddess religions.
8. New Age thinking is to try anything and everything. Who is to say it is wrong for you until you’ve tried it? It isn’t wrong because someone doesn’t agree with it. Who says there is anything such as good and evil? Did God really say that? If he did, isn’t he just trying to keep you from real wisdom, from knowing all he does? It’s the temptation of the Garden all over again. This is the new serpent in our Garden.
“Satan always tells you the truth when he tempts you—but only half the truth.” When Satan told Eve that she would be like God, knowing good and evil if she ate the fruit, was that true? Yes, it was—but it was only half the truth. Adam and Eve would know both good and evil, but Satan didn’t tell them what evil would be like.
9. Take a New Age book, Developing Your Psychic Abilities. Some statements are dangerous. “It is possible to expand our psychic abilities!” “Some people have ESP and clairvoyance and déjà vu experiences.” Other statements contain an element of truth. “The mind helps heal the body.” It is true that God built amazing potentials into his marvelous creation. We may develop and use all these potentials he has given us. We can be open to discovering many more yet unknown resources in the world. But, all these resources are to be used for God’s glory, for his ends. They are often used in rebellion against his good will for our lives and for his world. It is good to pray for God’s help in using all his gifts to the fullest, but it is wrong to use them for selfish purposes, to seek to be our own masters—to try to be like God!
10. Here is where we Christians must be cautious. Some New Age emphases are actually rooted in Christian faith and disciplines. Just because it is different doesn’t mean it is bad. The old maxim is “All truth comes from God.” Meditation is not bad. You can use it to draw closer to God and his Word. Mind/body healing is not bad. God can use it just as he does medical healing. There is a proper reverence for the earth as our “home,” a source of many of God’s blessings, but not as a new religion. New Agers speak of a new world religion and a new world government. But will it be a pantheistic devotion to nature?
11. That’s the point. Does it all bring us closer to him and his good purposes for our time on this earth? The great temptation for any of us is to use religion to serve our own purposes, rather than God’s. New Agers want to use religion to find peace and power and expanded consciousness. What for? Just for the feeling of greatness. Just for the feeling of being godlike.
12. That’s our temptation too. We all want to use God, rather than be used by him. We want to use forgiveness—and even the Sacrament—so that we feel better about our sinning. We want to drop a few dollars in the offering plate and go home thinking how indebted God is to us. We too want to take the forbidden fruit because “it is a delight to our eyes.” We want to have our own wisdom. We don’t want to obey. We want to use God, not be used by him. All of us fallen creatures have a selfish soul, whether we are New Agers or Christians or whatever religion. We have a rebellious heart. We want peace and forgiveness and wisdom, healing and psychic power just for ourselves.
13. Yes, we are the rebellious children God loves so much. For us Jesus took the punishment of all our sins. He has washed us clean and now clothes us before him in the white robes of righteousness, washed in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 22:14). Through our Savior Jesus, there is peace, healing, and unity in this fallen world. It doesn’t come through all sorts of gimmicks and rituals and experiences. It comes as God’s beautiful gift. He declares us forgiven by grace because of Christ, and we receive it by faith—nothing more, nothing less.
14. Then God sends us out to share this gift. He sends us out with the Good News to all the earth, including New Agers. You don’t have to search here and there, or try this and that. We don’t need ever new experiences, ever new highs, to feel good about ourselves. God wants us to know that we are his children. He declared us his own through the waters of Holy Baptism. We are forgiven! At the start of every worship service we hear the absolution, “You are forgiven.” Each time we receive Christ’s body and blood, he assures us of peace, joy, confidence, fulfillment.
15. We are free, then. No longer do we have to yearn for peace and contentment of heart. We are free to let God use us all our days in his service. Our quest is no longer for our own fulfillment and satisfaction. We are free to live for others. As Paul said, “He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Cor 5:15). Now the peace of God that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.