More and more I find in my pastoral work as minister of the church that I am involved in, that people are believing a more diverse set of ‘truths’ than ever before. There are all sorts of influences to this style of belief:
- The pluralistic values that most people buy into (all roads lead to Rome, all religions are equal)
- Political correctness (that we are unable to judge other beliefs)
- The church of Oprah (see below for a previous post)
- A lack of basic doctrinal training and teaching in the church (Doctrine is irrelevant and experience is everything)
But what I see is Christians believing a very alternative set of truths and spiritual ideals that fall far outside the realm of orthodox Christian doctrine. Whilst I am all for a diversity of opinions and a tolerance towards other beliefs I do find some of this hard to stomach in so far that it really takes liberty of opinion further than I believe Jesus or the scriptures would allow us. For those outside the church: believe whatever makes you happy to believe. But my concern lies with those in the church. I am not a wildly charismatic believer where anything not directly approved by the Bible is evil, but I do have my deep reservations about the spiritual origins and influences that some of these beliefs have, and particularly that many who call themselves followers of Christ believe these things. The problem for me is a dumbing down of Christian belief to a set of universally accepted principals that other religions might also believe. And as long as these basic ideals are the same another religious belief will be compatible with Christian faith: For example many Reiki masters abide by five principals:
- Do not be angry
- Do not worry
- Be grateful
- Work with integrity
- Be kind to others
These are great principals that any Christian would be happy to live by, but to contend that because these ideals are compatible with some of the ideals of Christianity that Christianity should accept Reiki (or any other similar new age religion or teaching) is a stretch that I am not prepared to make.
Almost all new age teachings or spiritualities speak of an unseen "life force energy" that flows through us. And what happens is most people say “wow that kind of makes sense – they must be talking about the Holy Spirit” – well I am convinced that this is not the Holy Spirit. A spiritual force that all people are able to access is not the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is given only to believers in Jesus and to equate the third person of the trinity with some universal and impersonal force (I have visions here of Darth Vader “The force is strong with you young Skywalker!” ) is erroneous at best – blasphemous at worst. The Holy Spirit is God, and he is the one who guarantees those who belong to Jesus a hope for eternity (Eph 1) and empowers us to be Jesus agents in this world, to bring truth, justice and reconciliation in Jesus’ name (1 Thess 1). Finally the Holy Spirit will always testify to Jesus work ministry and truth (1 John 5).
This is not the same spirit that is proposed by a myriad of New Age religions that are punted by Oprah and the likes. Not everyone has the Holy Spirit and to suggest that they do is to misunderstand the New Testament witness at a substantial level. The abundance of teachings like The Secret, A New Earth, Reiki, Body Talk and a countless host of other influences are infecting the church and eroding the truth that the early church fought and died to pass on to the next generation.
So I find myself asking myself the question: How do we as leaders in the church deal with this?
Do we simply clamp our eyes and ears shut and see no evil, hear no evil? Do we pretend this is not an issue and hope it goes away (I am pretty certain it won’t)
Or do we speak strongly against this? ( possibly undoing the work of the grace of Jesus or chasing some away from the church)
Or is there a middle path?
I am still not sure of my answer.