Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

Ten questions to help you determine 'Christian or New Age?'

by Susan Brinkmann


The following is an excerpt from "Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the 'New Age,'" a document published by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Larger Work

Colorado Catholic Herald

Publisher & Date

Diocese of Colorado Springs, July 30, 2007

1. Is God a being with whom we have a relationship (Christian) or something to be used or a force to be harnessed (New Age)?

The Pontifical councils explain, "The New Age concept of God is rather diffused . . . The New Age god is an impersonal energy. '[G]god' in this sense is the life-force or soul of the world. Divinity is to be found in every being," from a single crystal up to and beyond God himself.

"This is very different from the Christian understanding of God as the maker of heaven and earth and the source of all personal life," the councils say. "God is in himself, personal, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who created the universe in order to share the communion, of his life with creaturely persons."

2. Is there just one Jesus Christ (Christian) or are there thousands of Christs (New Age)?

Jesus is often represented in New Age writings as one among many wise men or great prophets.

Christians believe Jesus Christ is God, the Second Person of the Trinity, the same Jesus of Nazareth about which the Gospels speak, who is the only Son of God, true man and true God.

3. The human being: Is there one universal being (New Age) or are there many individuals (Christian)?

The concept of "holism" — which is the theory that complete entities, including human beings, are components of a larger reality, that has an existence over and above the sum total of themselves — pervades New Age thought and practice, where union with the whole cosmos is sought.

"The real danger is the holistic paradigm. New Age thinking is based on totalitarian unity and that is why it is a danger," the councils write.

The Christian approach is that each man and woman is a unique creation, made in God's image and likeness. Our human "wholeness" does not come about by achieving union with the cosmos.

"The human person is a mystery fully revealed only in Jesus Christ," the councils explain, "and in fact becomes authentically human in his relationship with Christ through the gift of the Spirit."

4. Do we save ourselves (New Age) or is salvation a free gift from God (Christian)?

The Pontifical councils put the question this way: "Do we save ourselves by our own actions, as is often the case in New Age explanations, or are we saved by God's love?"

The response: "For Christians, salvation depends on participation in the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, and on a direct personal relationship with God, rather than on any technique. The human situation, affected as it is by original sin and by personal sin, can be rectified only by God's action: Sin is an offense against God, and only God can reconcile us to himself."

5. Do we invent truth (New Age), or do we embrace it (Christian)?

"New Age truth is about good vibrations, cosmic correspondence, harmony and ecstacy, in general, pleasant experiences," the councils' document states. "It is a matter of finding one's own truth in accordance with the feel-good factor."

Christians believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

"His followers are asked to open their whole lives to him and to his values. In other words, to an objective set of values which are part of an objective reality ultimately knowable to all," the councils write.

6. Prayer and meditation: Are we talking to ourselves (New Age) or to God (Christian)?

"The tendency to confuse psychology and spirituality makes it hard not to insist that many of the meditation techniques now used are not prayer," state the councils. "They are often a good preparation for prayer, but no more, even if they lead to a more pleasant state of mind or bodily comfort."

Christian prayer, by contrast, is a double orientation which involves "introspection but is essentially also a meeting with God. Far from being a merely human effort, Christian mysticism is essentially a dialogue, which 'implies an attitude of conversion, a flight from "self" to the "you" of God.'"

7. Are we tempted to deny sin (New Age) or do we accept that there is such a thing (Christian)?

"In New Age, there is no real concept of sin, but rather one of imperfect knowledge; what is needed is enlightenment, which can be reached through particular psycho-physical techniques," the councils say.

Those who ascribe to New Age philosophies "are never told what to believe, what to do or what not to do [but, rather] 'There are a thousand ways of exploring inner reality. Go where your intelligence and intuition lead you. Trust yourself.'"

In the Christian perspective, "only in the knowledge of God's plan for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another. Sin is an offence against reason, truth and right conscience; it is a failure in genuine love for God and neighbor," the Vatican councils say.

8. Are we encouraged to reject suffering and death (New Age) or accept it (Christian)?

"Some New Age writers view suffering as self-imposed or as bad karma, or at least as a failure to harness one's own resources . . .," the councils explain.

"Reincarnation is often seen as a necessary element in spiritual growth, a state in progressive spiritual evolution which began before we were born and will continue after we die. . . .

"Reincarnation is irreconcilable with the Christian belief that a human person is a distinct being who lives one life for which he or she is fully responsible . . . . The Redeemer suffered in place of man and for man. Every man has his own share in the redemption. Each one is called to share in that suffering through which all human suffering has also been redeemed. In bringing about the redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the redemption."

9. Is social commitment something to be ignored (New Age) or positively sought after (Christian)?

"Much in New Age is unashamedly self-promotion. . . . The fusion of individuals into the cosmic self, the relativisation or abolition of difference and opposition in a cosmic harmony, is unacceptable to Christianity," the councils state.

On the other hand, they write, Christians believe that "where there is true love, there has to be a different other (person). A genuine Christian searches for unity in the capacity and freedom of the other to say 'yes' or 'no' to the gift of love. Union is seen in Christianity as communion; unity as community."

10. Is our future in the stars (New Age) or do we help construct it (Christian)?

A fundamental New Age belief is based on the idea of an imminent astrological Age of Aquarius, which will end the period of the last 2,000 years, known as the Age of Pisces — which is referred to as the Christian age.

According to the pontifical councils: "[New Agers believe that] the New Age which is dawning will be peopled by perfect, androgynous beings who are totally in command of the cosmic laws of nature. In this scenario, Christianity has to be eliminated and give way to a global religion and a new world order."

Aside from the fact that astrology is not a science, but rather, an ancient belief system, Christians do not believe in the passage of astrological ages.

Christians believe that the true new age began 2,000 years ago with the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Because Christians believe he will come again, they are always vigilant, not knowing when will be the day or the hour of his triumphant return.

Other articles in this series:

PART I: Popular Movement Is One of the Most Pressing Challenges to Christian Faith

PART II: Divination: Consulting Psychics and Mediums

PART III: Reiki and Healing Touch

PART IV: The Enneagram: What's Your Number?

PART V: Is Acupuncture Acceptable for Catholics?

PART VI: Bewitched by Wicca

PART VII: Ouija Boards and Tarot Cards

PART VIII: Energy Medicine: Part One — The Science

PART IX: Energy Medicine: Part Two — The Theology

PART X: The Exercise of Religion: Yoga

Ten questions to help you determine 'Christian or New Age?'

© The Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs

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