THEOLOGY & APOLOGETICS
Witnessing to New Agers
By Beth Hyduke
New Agers pose a particularly difficult evangelistic challenge. Because they have no official creed or doctrine, there is a range of variety, from New Ager to New Ager, in what beliefs they actually embrace. As a result, the New Age Movement is a fairly fluid, freeform spiritual movement that is practiced by a collection of people who share somewhat nebulous yet vaguely similar beliefs. As a result, when talking to a New Ager about Christianity your strategy will be different than it would be if you were witnessing to, say, a Muslim who adheres to specific dogmatic teachings.
Generally, a few of the commonly shared beliefs of New Age are:
• Monism (the belief that all is one)
• Pantheism (the belief that all is god)
• Divine humanity (the belief that we are god)
• Enlightenment (the belief that humanity must undergo a shift or evolution of consciousness in order to remember that we are god and to embrace and realize our true divine natures)
• Religious syncretism (all religions are equally valid spiritual paths that lead to the same destination)
• Reincarnation (perpetual cycle of life and death with no judgment or afterlife)
• Moral relativism (moral right and wrong are abstract and subjective)
• A "New Age" marked by peace and prosperity (which they believe will dawn when humanity finally accepts and realizes its divinity)
Christianity hinges on the identity — the Person and Work — of Jesus. So starting with Christ is an excellent point on which to focus your efforts. New Agers typically recognize that Jesus Christ is "an enlightened one" of some sort but they draw the line at identifying Him as the Son of God and the only true way of salvation. If a person recognizes that Jesus was an enlightened spiritual teacher, then what He taught about Himself must carry substance and weight. If Jesus was "enlightened" He must therefore be credible. Fortunately for us, Jesus was not shy about commenting on His identity and purpose. John 14:6 & 3:36, Matthew 16:13-17 and 26:63-64, Acts 4:12, and 1 Timothy 2:5 are all good starting references to show that what Jesus taught about Himself does not line up with New Age teachings that Jesus is just one of many ways.
Secondly, focus on the universal condition of sin in the human race (Romans 3:23). The existence of sin in the world poses a significant problem for New Agers who maintain that there is no such thing as right and wrong and that every human being is god. You might challenge a New Age believer by asking, "If we are all god, why is there so much evil and injustice in the world? Why do human beings behave so badly towards each other?" Additionally, New Agers commonly maintain that the solution is found within us — that once we realize the potential inside of us, we will assume our divine reality as god. The Bible stands in stark opposition to this teaching. What comes out of a man, Jesus says, defiles us (Mark 7:15, 21-23). Our hearts are opposed to God (Romans 5:10) and our sin alienates and separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2).
The solution that Christianity presents to the universal human dilemma of sinfulness is not one of self-improvement or self-actualization, but one of external salvation. The Bible teaches that we are helpless rebels, dead in our sins, bent on self-destruction, and that God reaches out to us and acts on our behalf to save us out of that state. That is why, inspired and motivated by Divine love, Jesus came to this world as Savior (John 3:16), so that He could accomplish what we could not ever hope to do for ourselves — to save us out of our sin (Matthew 1:21) and its eternal consequences (Romans 6:23), and to reconcile us to God (Ephesians 2:15-16). "While we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly...But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:6-8; emphasis added).
Because the beliefs of New Agers are so diverse and individual to each practitioner, I would not assume that any New Ager adheres to any particular belief. Investigate what the individual you are engaging personally believes. Start out by asking them what they hold to be true spiritually. That will open up the dialogue and provide you some context to start working with.
Of course, general guidelines for witnessing hold just as true for the New Ager as for any other unbeliever. As Christians, we have what no other belief system has — God's own inspired Word. God hasn't promised to make my words effective, but He has promised to make His Word effective (Isaiah 55:11). So, if what I say to someone is soundly grounded in what He has said, my evangelism is much more likely to be productive and to have an impact. Do your homework and be comfortable with using the Bible. Remember that the power of your argument does not lie in your eloquence or human ability to craft an irrefutable case but in the power of the Gospel. So, utilize it and utilize it effectively. In other words, be prepared; arm yourself before you go to battle.
Secondly, be mindful and wise in your approach. In Acts 17 Paul's approach is recorded to the idolatrous Athenians. He engaged rather than disparaged and drew them into a meaningful and thought-provoking debate that challenged the credibility of wrong beliefs in which they were entrenched. Jesus is another good example to emulate. One of the strategies He employed was to ask questions of His listeners to which He already knew the answers in order to get people to think and reason for themselves. Unlike many other belief systems, Christianity is eminently reasonable. It encourages us to engage our minds and logically examine the evidence of what we believe and why we believe it: 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21, 1 John 4:1, Romans 14:5, 2 Timothy 1:8-12, 2 Timothy 3:14. We can use this to great advantage as we engage and reason with others about what they believe and why.
Finally, when engaging unbelievers about Christianity, it's important to have the right attitude. Look in any internet forum on religion or Christianity and you will see multiple examples of how not to address or engage others, especially in the name of Christ. As Christians we are called to be gracious and kind and to speak the truth in love. Nowhere is this more important than when engaging with an unbeliever because you represent Christ to them, and may quite possibly be the only exposure they have had to Christianity. Keep in mind 2 Timothy 2:24-25 which helps engender the right heart attitude when seeking to minister to those outside the faith: "The Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth..."
CARM has a brief but excellent article that you might want to check out: "Witnessing to New Agers".
Image Credit: raiPR; untitled; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Other-Religions | Witnessing-Evangelism
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