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NEW THOUGHT

by D.J. Quinn

Also See

Esotericism and Biblical Interpretation

Roots of Evil

While the majority of people may be unable to define New Thought, hundreds of thousands are increasingly becoming influenced by it, since it is the cornerstone for most of the formulas for happy and successful living. Reduced it to it’s essentials, New Thought very simply believes that your thoughts play a crucial role in the kind of life you experience. It is unlikely that many Christians are aware of the common roots of some popular beliefs in the church and the New Thought beliefs without. From Clement Stone’s Positive Mental Attitude to Robert Schuller’s Possibility Thinking and Oral Roberts’ seed-faith principles, they all stem from common sources.

What Is New Thought?

“New Thought, as defined in the dictionary, is a modern spiritual philosophy stressing the power of right thinking in a person’s life, the idea that our thoughts and attitudes affect our experience and that God (or whatever other name a person might have for a Higher Power) is within the individual.

New Thought is a logical and scientifically based understanding and method of changing our experience by changing our thinking. New Thought is simple and easy to learn. It has a tradition that reaches back over one hundred years and is founded on principles that embrace many of the world religious and spiritual practices spanning thousands of years.

New Thought recognizes that human beings function on many levels: that the individual is a mental, spiritual, emotional and physical being. In realizing our fullness, our wholeness and maximizing our potential we are, in essence, finding fulfillment…..

New Thought teaches people tools, which put us on the path to fulfillment. The natural extension of this fulfillment is that as an individual’s life is better, their family’s life is better, their community’s life is better and this extends out across the planet”. (ANTN. Affiliated New Thought Network. http://www.newthought.org)

The Origins of New Thought: New Thought originated in part with an unschooled Maine clockmaker and inventor named Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, who believed that he had rediscovered the lost healing methods of Jesus. The loosely organized movement that began with him eventually became known as New Thought, and consisted of a number of independently developed branches such as Unity, Religious Science, and Divine Science. (New Thought: A Practical American Spirituality by C. Alan Anderson and Deborah G. Whitehouse. Chapter 1). However there were other influential people in the progress of New Thought… See Roots of Evil:

Teachers: Two of the best known teachers of New Thought today are Mary Manin Morissey (Living Enrichment Center, Wilsonville Oregon) (on television every Sunday morning) and Della Reese… co-leader of the organization called Upchurch, who has been showcased as a Christian Minister. (See related article [See Touched by an Angel].

New Thought And The Bible: New Thoughters superficially appears to be in tune with Christian doctrine by selectively quoting from the Bible, but a complete reading of the very Scriptures that they maintain forms their “primary textbook” would nullify all their claims. There is no intellectually honest way to carve up the documents according to ones own liking and philosophical preferences. There is overwhelming historical reliability of the extra-biblical and biblical source documents concerning the Bible and Jesus’ life. (See Section A Remarkable Book ).

The simple question could be asked… Whose word is more reliable? Those closest to Jesus who, walked with Jesus, were eyewitnesses, who signed their testimonies with their lifeblood, or those (like Quimby) who are often two thousand years removed from the events and have absolutely nothing to back up any of their claims or teachings? (See The Uniqueness of Jesus and Jesus Plain And Simple).

A ‘Metaphysical’ interpretation of the Bible is little more than an excuse not to respond to the demands of its message, and is often based on preconceived theories, which are themselves unproven or unproveable. (See Esotericism and Biblical Interpretation)

The frequent references to Scripture to back arguments, and the effort to show Jesus to be one with New Thought doctrine is dangerously deceptive. The sheep’s clothing on the outside hides a deeper and more sinister wolf, one that without doubt needs to be kept as far as possible from the pulpits of Christ. Below I have taken some of New Thought’s fundamental beliefs and weighed them against that which the Bible preaches, showing beyond doubt that the two are not only incompatible but are in fact adversaries.

Some New Thought Teachings

THERE ARE ABOUT 20 MORE NEW THOUGHT TEACHINGS AT THE LINK BELOW

New Thought is expressed in Romans 12:2, “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” New Thoughters seek nothing less than total life transformation, empowerment through changing their thoughts and keeping them changed. The linchpin of New Thought is the Law of Mind Action: thoughts held in mind produce after their kind. (1)

Unfortunately this is a classic case of taking a verse completely taken out of context thereby altering the meaning.. “ Conversion and sanctification are the renewing of the mind; a change, not of the substance, but of the qualities of the soul. The progress of sanctification, dying to sin more and more, and living to righteousness more and more, is the carrying on this renewing work, till it is perfected in glory…. The work of the Holy Ghost first begins in the understanding, and is carried on to the will, affections, and conversation, till there is a change of the whole man into the likeness of God, in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness”. (Matthew Henry. Emphasis Added)

Romans 12:2 is only a continuation of Romans 12:1 which says “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service”.

Neither verse has anything to do with ‘empowerment through changing ones thoughts’ but a transformation from sin to righteousness.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new”. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

“New Thought is what all Christianity could have become if it had been able to avoid the stultifying tendencies needed to become a religion capable of competing with mystery religions for the title of official religion of the Roman Empire. It is what all Christianity could have become if it had allowed freedom of belief, concentrating on following the loving, healing example of Jesus rather than developing a rigid superstructure of teachings about Jesus”. . (1)

No one could show as much love and compassion for humans as the Lord did. Besides dying for us it is true that He healed many many people. However it is selective reading at its best to focus solely on His ‘loving, healing example’. He devoted more than half His parables to God’s eternal judgment on sin. “Of the twelve uses of the word gehenna (the strongest word for hell) in the New Testament, eleven come from the lips of Jesus himself! In fact, the Savior taught more about hell than He did about heaven! Of the more than 1850 verses recording the words of Christ, 13% pertain to the topics of judgment and hell. Of the 40 or so parables uttered by Jesus, more than half relate to God’s eternal judgment on sin. Surprisingly, the much beloved “Sermon on the Mount” contains some of Jesus’ most straightforward words about hell”. (Rick Rood) (See Section on Hell )

Additionally Jesus was a Jew, born to into a religious system that is perhaps one of the most structured and demanding in history. Nowhere in the Bible does it indicate that Jesus deviated from His commitments as a Jew; much to the contrary we see several examples of Jesus attending the Synagogue, participating the Passover rituals and regularly going to the Temple.

Not only did Jesus command His followers to keep the Old Testament law, He made it harder to do. A classic example of this is the Old Testament commandment “Thou shalt not commit adultery”;

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart”. (Mat 5:27-28)

“Fundamentalists might have difficulty with the idea that the only Power in the universe is good. New Thought teaches that evil is insubstantial, that it is only immature or misused good. The Devil is the invention of our minds, and goes as fast as he comes. When you walk into a dark room and turn on the light, the darkness vanishes; you don’t have to chase it away. (1)

In the light of such ‘philosophically profound’ belief I find myself at a loss for words. The misguided belief that good is the only force in the universe is indeed an interesting concept, especially when one takes into consideration the book of Job.

“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.” (Job 1:6-7)

Now according to new thought philosophy, God (the “good power”) Himself is not only having a conversation with ‘immature good’ or an ‘invention of His mind’ and asking where it has come from, but astonishingly, the “immature good” replies to God and says it has been walking to and fro in the earth. An amazing achievement for a thought. Surely God being God should have known that all He had to do was ‘turn a light on’.

There are even more example of the personification of the devil in the Bible … the most notable being …

“And when the tempter came to him, he said, if thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread … (Mat 4:11) then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.” (Mat 4:3-11)

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:’ (1Pet 5:8)

“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Rev 2:10)

Is one truly expected to believe that the Devil is merely a wrong thought, when faced with the Bible’s indisputable evidence to the contrary? In the Matthew quotation the Devil comes to Jesus and speaks to Him, takes Him to the highest points of earth, tempts Him and eventually leaves Him; In the Peter quotation the Devil is referred to as a roaring lion that seeks to devour/destroy Christians; In the Revelation quotation the Devil casts Christians into prison and makes them suffer tribulation. Thoughts are not capable of roaming the earth, they are not capable of casting someone into prison and persecuting them, they are not capable of physically coming and going of their own accord and they are not a roaring lion (singular) that seeks to devour believers. One of the Devils greatest achievements is to make humanity believe that he does not exist, that he is merely a thought or an invention of the human subconscious, after all why fear that which does not exist… right? To that end New Thought philosophy is in perfect alignment with his strategy and to the believer at least is very dangerous.

The Bible was written by Oriental minds for Oriental minds, and most of it was never intended to be taken literally. Jesus cast out demons, which is to say in the language of today, that he straightened out people’s thinking; and our fear thoughts are demonic indeed”. (1)

The Bible itself contradicts this notion over and over again. The Gospel message contained in the Bible is essentially concerned with God’s future plans for the earth and for mankind. The Bible is the record of God’s continuing activity, centered in the work of His Son Jesus, and leading ultimately to man’s redemption. The Bible is the Word of Salvation, which draws a road map for humanity to come out of the world of sin and into harmony with the will of God. The Bible is God’s will and has a purpose to achieve and will not stop until it has achieved that purpose.

Isaiah 55:11 ‘So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.’

Furthermore God had every intention of the Gospel being spread through out the globe, a fact that clashes with the concept that the Bible was written by Orientals for the Oriental mind.

‘And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.’ (Matthew 24:14)

‘And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.’ (Mark 16:15)

“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.” (Revelation 14:6) All emphasis added.

God over and over again stressed to ancient Israel that they must keep His commandments, that the disobedience would bring the strictest punishment and that the wages of sin is death.

“Therefore shall ye keep my commandments, and do them: I am the LORD.” (Lev 22:31 )

“Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee.” (Deut 6:17)

“But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Josh 22:5)

It would have been more than unfair of God to demand obedience to commandments that were ambiguous and hard to understand. God’s commandments were given very clearly and the people understood them perfectly, hence totally negating any possible argument that God’s Word is not to be taken literally. The Bible also comes with a very strict warning about the Scriptures, one that should be carefully considered before deciding to add ‘meaning’ to the recorded words …

“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” (Deut 4:2 ‘)

Also see Scientific Facts In The Bible (For those who believe that the Bible is merely symbolic)

Casting out of demons: If Jesus’ casting out of demons was merely straightening out people’s thinking how did the herd of swine come into it? Did the persons wrong thoughts beg Jesus to send them into the swine who then proceeded to commit mass suicide? (Matt 8:28-33). Perhaps the swine’s wrong thinking was that they imagined they were lemmings.

Fear Thoughts: If our ‘fear thoughts’ are demonic I wonder what the Lord meant when He said

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge”:(Proverbs 1:7)

“The fear of the LORD prolongeth days” (Proverbs 10:27)

“…fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell”.(Matthew 10:28)

But New Thought does not concern itself with most religious doctrines. If the Virgin Birth literally happened, wonderful; if it didn’t, that’s fine, too. (1)

Of course New Thoughters do not concern themselves with religious doctrines… it does not serve their interests to do so. Christianity believes that Christ was the promised Messiah; a fact that depends heavily on His fulfilling ALL the prophesies of the Old Testament, including His being born to a virgin. Likewise Christianity rises or falls on the resurrection and should it be true that Jesus did rise from the dead then the implications are enormous. He is no longer the ‘way shower’ but Almighty God Himself. As C.S. Lewis once said “

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.” (‘Mere Christianity’) (See The Empty Tomb and The Resurrection)

If this is a universe of thought, then changing one’s thought changes the universe, at least a smidgin”. (1)

Reading this comment I had two thoughts… both interesting. The first is what would happen if a New Thoughter found himself/herself in the place of Job, standing before the thunderstorm and God spoke, saying

“Who is this who darkens counsel, by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding …” (Job 38:2-4).

Somehow I find it difficult to believe that even the greatest disciple of New Thought knows the treasury of snow or can send out lightning or restrict the sea to its boundaries. To believe that merely by thoughts man can change God’s eternal plan is not only dangerous and arrogant it also puts man on a collision course with the God of the Universe.

Secondly New Thoughters must have a very ugly vision in mind for the world. With the significant numbers of New Thoughters springing up worldwide surely this earth must be (by now) a mirror image of the sum of their thoughts. A beautiful place of crime, drugs, wars, violence and hate; a world that is rapidly spiraling out of control, on a one-way, nonstop track to Armageddon. Contrary to New Thought doctrine the condition of the world as it is today is a perfect fulfillment of Jesus’ prophesy of the end of times as told in the book of Matthew (Mat 24). See How Old Is Grandma?

http://www.inplainsite.org/html/new_thought.html

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Is Christian Science Christian?

Of all the biblically based cults in America today, Christian Science is one of the most interesting. Not only does it deny the essential doctrines of Christianity, but it has completely reinterpreted the Bible. It drastically redefines the Bible’s culture and terminology and rips thousands of scriptures out of their historical and biblical contexts. The result is a non-Christian mixture of metaphysical and philosophical thoughts. Christian Science is so foreign to the Bible that, if it didn’t use words like Jesus, Trinity, Love, Grace, Sin, etc., you’d never suspect it had anything to do with the Bible at all. Additionally, the book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, which is the Christian Scientist’s mainstay of spiritual knowledge, reads with a rhythm of pseudo logical statements that has the tendency to dull the senses when read long enough. Is Christian Science Christian? Definitely not.

Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures is the primary interpretive source of the Bible and source guide of Christian Science. It interprets the Bible in a radically different way. It is so different, in fact, that it absolutely rejects the substitutionary atonement of Jesus and states that it had no efficacious value (S&H, 25:6). It denies that Jesus is God, second person of the Trinity (S&H, 361:12-13). It says that sin is a false interpretation of Divine Mind and is nonexistent (S&H, 335:7-15). And it says that the Holy Spirit is Divine Science which is best represented by Christian Science (S & H, 331:31). The list can go on and, unfortunately, it does.

To the Christian Scientist, God (the Father-Mother) is a Principle known as the Divine Mind. It has no personhood and no personality. A catch phrase used in their literature is that God is “All in All.” In other words, God is all that exists and what we perceive as matter is an interpretation of divine mind. Since God is love, it means that sin and sickness are only errors of interpreting the Divine Mind and have no true reality (S & H, 330:25-274; 470:9-14).

To the Christian Scientist, Jesus is a Way-shower. He is someone who epitomized the true principle of the Christ Consciousness which indwells us all. Therefore, Jesus did not really die on the cross. He was not God in flesh. He made no atonement in shedding His blood (S&H, 25:6).

Christian Science teaches that man does not have a sinful nature and is a reflection of Divine Mind. To achieve “salvation,” he needs only to find the true reality of understanding, as revealed in Christian Science teachings. Unfortunately, these teachings are from Mary Baker Eddy a woman who founded the religion in the 1870’s and not from God.

The Christian Scientists consider their philosophy to be consistent with the original teachings of Jesus. They consider truth a matter of higher understanding and learning. But the reality is that Christian Science has only produced unbiblical and false doctrines. Eternal destruction is the only thing that will result from its false teaching. The fires of hell will be a bitter reality for those who have been taught that they don’t exist.

http://www.carm.org/christian_science/cult.htm

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What does Christian Science Teach?

The following doctrines are referenced out of the primary Christian Science work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy. It is supposed to be a companion to the Bible. Science and Health together with the Bible are called the Pastor of Christian Science.

God is infinite…and there is no other power or source, S&H, 471:18.

God is Universal Principle, S&H 331:18-19

God cannot indwell a person, S&H 336:19-20

God is the only intelligence in the universe, including man S&H 330:11-12

God is Mind, S&H 330:20-21; 469:13

God is the Father-Mother, S&H 331:30; 332:4

The Trinity is Life, Truth, and Love, S&H 331:26

Belief in the traditional doctrine of the Trinity is polytheism, S&H 256:9-11

Christ is the spiritual idea of sonship S&H 331:30-31

Jesus was not the Christ, S&H 333:3-15; 334:3

“Jesus Christ is not God, as Jesus himself declared…” S&H 361:12-13

Jesus did not reflect the fullness of God, S&H 336:20-21

Jesus did not die, S&H 45:32-46:3

The Holy Spirit is divine science, S&H 331:31

There is no devil, S&H 469:13-17

There is no sin, S&H 447:24

Evil and good are not real, S&H, 330:25-27; 470:9-14

Matter, sin, and sickness are not real, but only illusions,” S&H 335:7-15; 447:27-28.

Life is not material or organic, “S&H, 83:21

The sacrifice of Jesus was not sufficient to cleanse from sin, “S&H, 25:6.

True healings are the result of true belief, “S&H, 194:6”

Additionally, Christian Scientists prefer not to use doctors, medicine, or immunizations. Christian Science Practitioners are used to help people through the false reality of illness.

Proper prayer and training are employed to battle the “non-reality” of illness.

They have no ordinances like the Lord’s Supper or baptism.

Church services are interspersed with Bible reading and readings from Science and Health.

Mary Baker Eddy is highly regarded as a revelator of God’s word.

http://www.carm.org/christian_science/doctrine.htm
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Questions to Ask Christian Scientists

If God is all in all, then where did evil come from?

If everything is an interpretation of divine mind, then why do people have different understandings of God?

If sickness is an illusion, why do you have practitioners who go out to Christian Scientists in attempts to heal them?

If sin is not real, then why does the Bible say that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23)? As well as, “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us,” (1 John 1:8).

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy said, “The material blood of Jesus was no more efficacious to cleanse from sin when it was shed upon ‘the accursed tree,’ than when it was flowing in his veins as he went daily about his Father’s business.” Why would she contradict so plainly the teaching of Scripture that says, “but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Why would Mary Baker Eddy directly contradict the Jesus’ own claim of Himself? She said that “Jesus is not God, as Jesus himself declared, but the Son of God.” (S & H 361:12-13). Is she calling Jesus a liar?

If “Man is incapable of sin, sickness, and death” as Eddy said in Science and Health 475:28, then why do people die? Why does the Bible say that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23)?

Why would Mrs. Eddy say Jesus did not die (S&H 45:32-46:3) when the Bible clearly teaches that He died (Rom. 8:34; 1 Thess. 4:13; 1 Cor. 8:11; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 1:7).

If our physical senses do not tell us the truth about the material world then how can we trust them when we read the book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures or hear its message with our ears?

http://www.carm.org/christian_science/questions.htm
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Interesting Quotes from Mary Baker

The following quotes are from Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures

“One sacrifice, however great, is insufficient to pay the debt of sin. The atonement requires constant self-immolation on the sinner’s part. That God’s wrath should be vented upon His beloved Son, is divinely unnatural. Such a theory is man-made” (S&H, p. 23:3-7).

“The material blood of Jesus was no more efficacious to cleanse from sin when it was shed upon ‘the accursed tree,’ than when it was flowing in his veins as he went daily about his Father’s business” (S&H, 25:6-8).

“His disciples believed Jesus to be dead while he was hidden in the sepulcher, whereas he was alive . . .” (S&H, p. 44:28-29).

“. . . his body was not changed until he himself ascended, — or, in other words, rose even higher in the understand of Spirit, God . . .and this exaltation explained his ascension, and revealed unmistakably a probationary and progressive state beyond the grave” (S&H, p. 46:15-17; 20-24).

“His students then received the Holy Ghost. By this is meant, that by all they had witnessed and suffered, they were roused to an enlarged understanding of divine Science” (S&H, p. 46:30-32).

“A scientific mental method is more sanitary than the use of drugs, and such a mental method produces permanent health” (S&H, 79:7-9).

“It is contrary to Christian Science to suppose that life is either material or organically spiritual” (S&H, 83:21-22).

“The admission to one’s self that man is God’s own likeness sets man free to master the infinite idea” (S&H 90:24-25).

“The theory of three person in one God (that is, a personal Trinity or Tri-unity) suggest polytheism . . .” (S&H, p. 256:9-11).

“Father-Mother is the name for Deity, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation” (S&H, p. 332:4-5.).

“The word Christ is not properly a synonym for Jesus, thought it is commonly so used” (S&H, p. 333:3-4).

“Mind is the I AM, or infinity. Mind never enters the finite. . .but infinite Mind can never be in man . . .a portion of God could not enter man” (S&H, p 336:1-2,13,19-20).

“. . . and recognize that Jesus Christ is not God, as Jesus himself declared, but is the Son of God” (S&H, p 361:11-13).

Speaking of Gen. 2:7, “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being,” Eddy says, “Is this addition to His creation real or unreal? Is it the truth, or is it a lie concerning man and God? It must be a lie, for God presently curses the ground…”(S&H, p. 524:13-27).

In describing what the Devil is, it says, “Evil; a lie; error; neither corporeality nor mind; the opposite of Truth; a belief in sin, sickness, and death; animal magnetism or hypnotism; the lust of the flesh, which saith: ‘I am life and intelligence in matter. There is more than one mind, for I am mind, – a wicked mind, self-made or created by a tribal god and put into the opposite of mind, termed matter, thence to reproduce a mortal universe, including man, not after the image and likeness of Spirit, but after its own image.” (S&H, p. 584:17-25).

“If there had never existed such a person as the Galilean Prophet, it would make no difference to me.” (The First Church of Christ Scientist and Miscellany, pp. 318, 319).

http://www.carm.org/christian_science/quotes.htm

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Faith healing vs. the Law: Doctor wants legislation appealed that protects parents who rely on faith healing, not medicine

By William McCall THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: November 29, 2008 OREGON CITY, Ore.

When Dr. Seth Asser saw row after row of flat headstones marking children’s graves in a small cemetery not far from the end of the historic Oregon Trail, he knew many of these early deaths should not have happened.

The children’s parents relied on faith healing, instead of doctors.

The pediatrician published a landmark study concluding many of the deaths could have been prevented if the children had received medical care.

“What struck me was the fact that it was obvious from the expressions on the headstones that the children were loved,” Asser said. “So it was especially troublesome they were not afforded the care that most parents would give their children.”

His study 10 years ago brought attention to the issue, and yet today three criminal cases — two in Oregon and one in Wisconsin — have revived concerns about exemptions that most states grant to parents who rely on faith healing instead of doctors to treat sick children.

Faith healing has deep roots in American history, and yet it may seem surprising that in the 21st century, children still die because parents choose not to seek medical help from physicians.

State laws across the nation exempt members of religious groups from prosecution if they choose faith healing over science. Asser and a colleague, Rita Swan, have been trying to get states to repeal such laws, arguing that safety should always come first, no matter what the parents believe.

“We can’t legislate good parenting, but at least we shouldn’t have laws allowing bad parenting,” said Swan, who now heads the advocacy group Children’s Healthcare.

But Swan and Asser have been lonely voices, partly because tragedies are rare and partly because legislators are loath to challenge parental rights, especially when they are intertwined with the constitutional right to freedom of religion.

“There hasn’t been a groundswell of organized advocacy to get the laws changed,” said Shawn Francis Peters, a University of Wisconsin professor and an author of a book on faith healing. “I do think there’s broad public sentiment to do it, but that doesn’t get things through the meat grinder of legislation.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at least 30 states have specific exemption laws on the books.

What does federal law say? According to HHS, nothing in the amendments to the original 1974 Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, can “be construed as establishing a federal requirement that a parent or legal guardian provide any medical service or treatment that is against the religious beliefs of the parent or legal guardian.”

Five states have repealed exemption laws, Swan said: Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska and North Carolina.

Some states have revised their laws, including Oregon in 1999. After a stormy debate in the Oregon Legislature, then-Gov. John Kitzhaber, a doctor, signed a compromise bill into law that eliminated the Oregon spiritual-healing exemption in some manslaughter and criminal-mistreatment cases.

Many of the exemption laws were enacted in the 1970s, promoted by two top advisers to former President Nixon — Bob Haldeman and John Erlichman — and an influential senator, Charles Percy of Illinois, who practiced Christian Science.

The religion, founded by Mary Baker Eddy just after the Civil War, embraces a form of faith healing its adherents say is unique and different from the way it is practiced by some fundamentalists.

The Church of Christ, Scientist, emphasizes that it does not prevent any members from seeking medical care, and it is quick to distance itself from other religious groups that demand prayer be the only method for healing.

“One of the mistakes people make is lumping all these groups together,” said Stephen Lyons, a Boston lawyer who has defended Christian Scientists.

Church leaders also deny their lobbying efforts with state lawmakers across the country have kept the laws on the books, even though Peters and a fellow author on faith healing, Boston College historian Alan Rogers, say that the effort is intense and largely successful.

“It’s remarkable,” Rogers said. “Without exception, it has been the push of the Christian Science church.”

Two pending criminal cases expected to test Oregon’s revised law are against parents belonging to the Followers of Christ Church, the same religious sect that owns the cemetery visited by Asser in 2001.

Jeffrey Dean Beagley, 50, and his 46-year-old wife, Marci Rae Beagley, have been charged with failing to provide adequate medical care, in violation of their duties as parents.

Their 16-year-old son, Neil, died in June from complications of a urinary-tract blockage that triggered heart failure. Doctors said a simple procedure could have saved his life.

In the other Oregon case, Carl Brent Worthington and his wife, Raylene, have pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter and criminal mistreatment in the death of their 15-month-old daughter, Ava, who died at home from bacterial pneumonia and a blood infection, conditions the state medical examiner said were treatable.

The Beagleys and the Worthingtons have refused to talk to reporters, and their attorneys have declined to comment, along with prosecutors.

In a third case, in Wisconsin, Leilani and Dale Neumann face reckless homicide charges in the death of their 11-year-old daughter due to complications from diabetes.

Leilani Neumann has said that the family believes in the Bible and that healing comes from God, but she said they do not belong to an organized religion or faith and have nothing against doctors.

The Followers of Christ figured prominently in a state legislative battle over the Oregon exemption that began in 1998 with the discovery of the children’s graves, and the death of an 11-year-old member of the sect from complications caused by diabetes.

The political battle ended with revision of the law, but not its repeal.

“I was there” — for repeal, said Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney. And, he notes, so were churches, child health-care advocates, law enforcement and plenty of parents.

What stopped the Legislature from an outright repeal of the law was an effort to protect religious freedom and parental rights and at the same time protect children.

“We tried and tried and tried to figure out a way to speak to, to be sensitive to, and balance all those influences,” Courtney said. “Did we do it? I don’t know.”

“These are extremely sensitive cases nationally,” said Josh Marquis, an Oregon district attorney who has been part of the debate over how to balance those conflicting rights. “It’s where faith meets the law.”

In a 1998 study published in the medical journal Pediatrics, Asser and Swan, herself a former Christian Scientist, documented 172 faith-related child deaths in the United States between 1975 and 1995. They found that 140 of the children died from conditions for which survival rates with medical care exceeded 90 percent.

Asser notes that no government agencies systematically collect data, and reliance on faith healing is not a category listed on a death certificate.

Before federal medical privacy laws were tightened, he was able to talk to medical examiners about cases, but that has become more difficult.

Asser has tracked a handful of cases that have gotten media attention in the past decade, including deaths in Philadelphia, Massachusetts and California. But he still learns about many of the deaths only through concerned friends or family members who contact him or Swan.

And death is not the only troubling outcome when children avoid doctors because of their parents’ religious beliefs.

Beth Young, a professor at the University of Central Florida, says her hip dysplasia, which could have been easily corrected when she was an infant, went unnoticed and untreated by her Christian Scientist parents. Young finally went to a doctor in her 20s to find out why it was such a struggle to walk and climb stairs.

She learned her hip joints were deteriorating — but that it was too late for a surgical fix.

“It’s not going to get any better,” Young said in an interview. “I think about that every day. If my parents knew how simple the treatment was, I don’t think they would have ignored it. So I do feel cheated.”

She added: “I can remember times when I would pray and pray and pray, and I would think that maybe I’m healed now, and then I would go check, and I’d go walk in front of a mirror or something, and then I would discover, no I’m not.”

Lyons, the Boston lawyer, has drawn national attention for defending parents in faith healing cases.

He successfuly represented David and Ginger Twitchell, Christian Science parents in Boston who were acquitted of manslaughter charges in the 1986 death of their 2-year-old son from a congenital defect that caused the bowel to twist and become obstructed.

The landmark case caused enough concern to persuade Massachusetts lawmakers to abolish the religious exemption, said Jetta Bernier, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Children.

But even when such exemptions are abolished or revised, prosecutions can be difficult so long as parents show they are sincere in their religious beliefs, legal experts say.

“The status quo is very difficult to upset,” said Jesse Choper, the Earl Warren Professor of Public Law at the University of California, Berkeley.

http://www2.journalnow.com/content/2008/nov/29/faith-vs-the-law-doctor-wants-legislation-appealed/living/

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Some Thoughts about Faith Healing

 

Stephen Barrett, M.D. 

The notion that prayer, divine intervention or the ministrations of an individual healer can cure illness has been popular throughout history. Miraculous recoveries have been attributed to a myriad of techniques commonly lumped together as “faith healing. During the past forty years, several investigators have studied this subject closely and written about their findings.

Louis Rose, a British psychiatrist, investigated hundreds of alleged faith-healing cures. As his interest became well known, he received communications from healers and patients throughout the world. He sent each correspondent a questionnaire and sought corroborating information from physicians. In Faith Healing [Penguin Books 1971], he concluded, “I have been unsuccessful. After nearly twenty years of work I have yet to find one ‘miracle cure’; and without that (or, alternatively, massive statistics which others must provide) I cannot be convinced of the efficacy of what is commonly termed faith healing.” [1]

During the early 1970s, Minnesota surgeon William Nolen, M.D., attended a service conducted by Katherine Kuhlman, the leading evangelical healer of that period. After noting the names of 25 people who had been “miraculously healed,” he was able to perform follow-up interviews and examinations. Among other things, he discovered that one woman who had been announced as cured of “lung cancer” actually had Hodgkin’s disease — which was unaffected by the experience. Another woman with cancer of the spine had discarded her brace and followed Ms. Kuhlman’s enthusiastic command to run across the stage. The following day her backbone collapsed, and four months later she died. Overall, not one person with organic disease had been helped. Dr. Nolen reported his findings, which included observations of several other healers, in Healing: A Doctor in Search of a Miracle , a book that I heartily recommend [2].

C. Eugene Emery, Jr., a science writer for the Providence Journal, has looked closely at the work of Reverend Ralph DiOrio, a Roman Catholic priest whose healing services attract people by the thousands. In 1987 Emery attended one of DiOrio’s services and recorded the names of nine people who had been blessed during the service and nine others who had been proclaimed cured. DiOrio’s organization provided ten more cases that supposedly provided irrefutable proof of the priest’s ability to cure. During a six-month investigation, Emery found no evidence that any of these 28 individuals had been helped [3].

The most comprehensive examination of contemporary “healers” is James Randi’s The Faith Healers [4]. The book describes how many of the leading evangelistic healers have enriched themselves with the help of deception and fraud. Some of Randi’s evidence came from former associates of the evangelists who got disgusted with what they had observed.

Randi’s most noteworthy experience was the unmasking of Peter Popoff, an evangelist who would call out the names of people in the audience and describe their ailments. Popoff said he received this information from God, but it was actually obtained by confederates who mingled with the audience before each performance. Pertinent data would be given to Popoff’s wife, who would broadcast it from backstage to a tiny receiver in Popoff’s ear. After recording one of Mrs. Popoff’s radio transmissions, Randi exposed the deception on the Johnny Carson Show. First he played a videotape showing Popoff interacting with someone in the audience. Then he replayed the tape with Mrs. Popoff’s voice audible to illustrate how Popoff used the information.

Randi also exposed the techniques used by evangelist W.V. Grant, who calls out people in the audience by name and describes their ailments. Grant obtains this information from letters people send him and by mingling with the audience before his show. To help his memory, he uses crib sheets and gets hand signals from associates who also use crib sheets. After one performance, Randi was able to retrieve a complete set from the trash Grant left behind! Following another performance, Randi found that some members of the audience had given false information about themselves, their ailments, and their medical care. For example, after “Dr. Jesus” had “put a new heart” into a man supposedly awaiting open-heart surgery, Randi found that the details (including the doctor and hospital named by Grant) could not be corroborated.

Grant’s subjects typically are “slain in the spirit” and fall backward into the arms of his assistants. In 1986 I observed from a few feet away what happened when he encountered an elderly woman who did not wish to fall backward when he touched her forehead. Grant pushed his fingers into her neck so hard that she could not remain standing. I also watched him “lengthen” the leg of a man who limped up to the stage, supposedly because one of his legs was shorter than the other. The audience may have been impressed with this feat, but I was not. Before the show began, I noted that the man was one of Grant’s assistants and walked normally.

Intercessory Prayer

In 1988, two investigators reported that their thorough search of the scientific literature had located only three controlled examinations of the effects of prayer by third parties on people who were unaware of the prayers [5]. Of these, one (the Byrd study described below) claimed benefit but was poorly designed, whereas the others found no benefit and were well designed [6,7]. Surprised by the small number of published studies, Witmer and Zimmerman asked 38 journal editors whether they had ever received but rejected a manuscript on the subject of intercessory prayer. They also asked the editors to ask their readers whether they knew of any such study, published or unpublished. No editor or reader responded affirmatively. Since that time four more studies have been published, two showing no benefit and two claiming a positive result.

The Byrd study, involving patients in the coronary care unit at San Francisco General Hospital, compared 192 patients who were prayed for by Christians located outside the hospital with 201 patients who served as controls [8]. The published report stated that the prayed-for group had fewer complications. However, the author’s tabulation was not valid because he scored interrelated complications separately and therefore gave them too much weight. The average length of hospital stay, which was not subject to this type of scoring error, was identical for the treatment and control groups [5,9].

Another study examined what happened to anxiety, depression, and self-esteem in 406 patients who received intercessory prayer or no prayer. The prayer was offered for 15 minutes daily for 12 weeks. The researcher reported improvement in all of the subjects but found no differences between the prayer and no-prayer groups [10]. A study of the effects of intercessory prayer on 40 recovering alcoholics also found no benefit [11]. A 6-month study of 40 advanced AIDS patients exposed to 10 weeks of “distant healing” reported fewer new illnesses, physician visits, and hospitalizations in the “distant healing” group [12].

In 1999, the American Medical Association’s Archives of Internal Medicine published a better-designed study of nearly a thousand consecutive patients who were newly admitted to the coronary care unit of a hospital in Kansas City. The researchers created a 35-item score sheet that was used to measure what happened to the patients during a 28-day period in which 15 groups of 5 persons (“intercessors”) prayed individually for about half the patients. The intercessors were given the patients’ first names and were asked to pray daily for “a speedy recovery with no complications.” The prayed-for group had a 10-11% reduction in total scores even though their average length of hospital stay was similar to that of the “usual-care” group. The researchers also noted that: (a) some patients had asked hospital clergy to pray for them; (b) many, if not most patients in both groups were probably receiving intercessory and/or direct prayer from family, friends and/or clergy, so that the study was most likely measuring the effects of “supplementary intercessory prayer”; (c) although the difference would be expected to occur by chance alone only 1 in 25 times such an experiment were conducted, chance still remains a possible explanation of the results; and (d) using the scoring method of the San Francisco study yielded no significant difference between the two groups [13].

The researchers concluded that “the result suggests that prayer may be an effective adjunct to standard medical care” and that further studies should be done [13]. I disagree. The “10-11% reduction in the score sheet” may be statistically significant but is not clinically significant and probably occurred by chance.

In 2001, Mayo Clinic researchers have found no significant effect of intercessory prayer (prayer by one or more persons on behalf of another) on the medical outcomes of more than 750 patients who were followed for 6 months after discharge from in hospital coronary care unit. The patients were randomized within 24 hours of discharge into a prayed-for group and a control group. The prayer involved at least one session per week for 26 weeks by five randomly assigned individual or group intercessors [14].

Intercessory prayer studies accomplish nothing. “Believers” won’t change their view if further studies are negative, and nonbelievers won’t change theirs if additional studies appear positive. Prayer may help some people feel reassured when they are worried, but to me it makes more sense to spend one’s time and energy on more constructive health-promoting activities. Although luck is still a significant factor, I think it is more sensible to believe that health is more likely to be influenced by prudent living than by magical thinking. Also, if praying for people worked, would strangers praying against them cause them to become sicker? Or, as one of my religious friends put it, “Is God is so stupid that he or she would respond to popularity contests?”

Fraudulent “Spiritual” Advice

Many “psychics” and “healers” offer to help with life’s problems through the mail or by telephone. Some call themselves Sister, Madame, Reverend, Doctor, Father, Prophet, Madame Queen, Reverent Mother, or Reverend Sister. The purported benefits may include better luck, better health, and/or a financial benefit. Some of these individuals attempt to persuade respondents to send money repeatedly for their services. During the 1970s, for example, a “spiritual reader” who operating as “Mother McGown,” “Mother Luther,” and “Mother Alma” guaranteed help within three days for illnesses, loneliness, and other problems. All respondents to her ads received identical mimeographed letters stating: “I have received your letter and found out that I could help you. I have found that you have hoodoo [bad luck] in your home along with sickness and love life problems. As soon as you read this letter, call me immediately.” Those who telephoned were told that their problems would be solved if they sent a specific sum of money, usually $50 (but no personal checks). Follow-up letters would then ask for more money because the problem was worse than it was initially believed to be. The Postal Service took action in response to complaints from victims who had spent money but received no results. It turned out that the perpetrator belonged to a gypsy clan whose female members operated under various names in many states. The scheme was ended when one of them was prosecuted by the Postal Service and sentenced to three years’ probation by a federal judge in Austin, Texas.

Is Anyone Helped?

Is there any evidence that faith healing works? The first step in approaching this question is to specify what should be considered proof that an ailment has been healed by a supernatural method. In my opinion, three criteria must be met: (1) the ailment must be one that normally doesn’t recover without treatment; (2) there must not have been any medical treatment that would be expected to influence the ailment; and (3) both diagnosis and recovery must be demonstrable by detailed medical evidence.

If I wanted to demonstrate that I had an effective new treatment method, I would take pains to document the basis for my belief. For example, if I thought I could cure cancer with prayer, I would begin by making certain that patients I worked on actually had cancer. I would obtain their records, talk with their doctors, and have independent physicians examine them to determine their current status. After administering my treatment, I would conduct careful, long-range follow-up studies and report the outcome in detail.

Has any “faith healer” ever sent for the medical records of a client? Or had a client examined by a doctor before and after healing is administered? Or inquired about a client’s health months or years after the healing? Or even kept statistics to indicate what percentage of people with various ailments appear to have been helped? Or compiled data that an independent investigator could verify? As far as I know, no healer has ever done any of these things. On the other hand, many cases have been documented in which people with serious disease have died as a result of abandoning effective medical care after being “healed.”

Thus, as far as I am concerned, there is no reason to believe that faith healing has ever cured anyone of an organic disease. What about functional ailments — in which the symptoms are bodily reactions to tension? Some people who visit “healers” may feel better because the experience causes them to relax or because of a placebo effect. But any benefit of this type should be weighed against the fact that people who are not relieved may conclude that they are “unworthy” and become depressed as a result. Money spent for a fruitless experience with a healer is another negative factor.

Christian Science

A number of religious sects favor prayer over medical care. Christian Science is probably the best known of these groups and is the only form of faith healing that is deductible as a medical expense for federal income tax purposes. Christian Science contends that illness is an illusion caused by faulty beliefs, and that prayer heals by replacing bad thoughts with good ones. Christian Science practitioners work by trying to argue the sick thoughts out of the person’s mind. Consultations can take place in person, by telephone, or even by mail. Individuals may also be able to attain correct beliefs by themselves through prayer or mental concentration. “You can Heal,” a pamphlet of the Christian Science Publishing Society, states that “every student of Christian Science has the God-given ability to heal the sick.” Two weeks of class instruction are required to become a practitioner.

The weekly magazine Christian Science Sentinel publishes several “testimonies” in each issue. To be considered for publication, an account must be “verified” by three individuals who “can vouch for the integrity of the testifier or know of the healing.” During the past few years, believers have claimed that prayer has brought about recovery from anemia, arthritis, blood poisoning, corns, deafness, defective speech, multiple sclerosis, skin rashes, total body paralysis, visual difficulties, and various injuries. Most of these accounts contain little detail, and many of the diagnoses were made without medical consultation.

As far as I know, no systematic, medically supervised study of the outcome of Christian Science healing has ever been performed. However, a recent study suggests that devout Christian Scientists, who rarely consult doctors, pay a high price for avoiding medical care. The study was performed by William F. Simpson, Ph.D., an assistant professor of mathematics and computer science at Emporia State University. Dr. Simpson compared alumni records from Principia College, a Christian Science school in Elsah, Illinois, with records from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, and published his findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Even though Christian Science tenets forbid the use of alcohol and tobacco, the death rates among those who had graduated from Principia between 1934 and 1948 were higher than those of their University of Kansas counterparts — 26.2% vs. 20.9% in men, and 11.3% vs. 9.9% in women [15]. A subsequent study comparing the mortality of Christian Scientists and Seventh-day Adventists (who also are admonished to abstain from cigarettes and alcohol) found even greater differences [16].

Rita and Douglas Swan, whose 16-month-old son Matthew died of meningitis under the care of two Christian Science practitioners in 1977, are not surprised by these statistics. Angered by their experience, she founded CHILD, Inc., to work for legal reforms that can protect children from inappropriate treatment by faith healers. She and a colleague collected and reviewed the cases of 172 children who died between 1975 and 1995 when parents withheld medical care because of reliance on religious rituals They concluded

  • 140 of the deaths were from medical conditions for which survival rates with medical care would have exceeded 90%. These included 22 cases of pneumonia in infants under two years of age, 15 cases of meningitis, and 12 cases of insulin-dependent diabetes.
  • 18 more had expected survival rates greater than 50%
  • All but three of the remainder would probably have had some benefit from clinical help. [17]

Information about CHILD can be obtained online or by writing to P.O. Box 2604, Sioux City, IA 51106.

Membership in the Christian Science Church has been declining steadily. The number of practitioners and teachers listed in the Christian Science Journal has fallen from about 5,000 in 1971 to about 1,800 in 1996; and the number of churches has fallen from about 1,800 in 1971 to about 1,100 in 2003..

Is Spirituality Helpful?

A 1996 poll of 1,000 adults found that 79% believed that spiritual faith can help people recover from disease [18]. This idea is also popular among physicians. Although many studies have found associations between various measures of religiosity and health, no well-designed study has demonstrated that religious beliefs or prayer actually benefit health [19]. In fact, one well-designed study found just the opposite. The study involved patients whose progress was followed for nine months after discharge from a British hospital. They evaluated the outpatient records and the responses of 189 patients to questionnaires. the researchers concluded that the health status of patients with stronger spiritual beliefs were more than twice as likely to be unimproved or worse [20]. Although some studies have found that churchgoers tend to be healthier and to live longer than nonchurchgoers, church attendance itself is unlikely to be responsible for the difference [21].

Recommendations

Can anything be done about faith healing? Believers don’t see it as a problem, while most nonbelievers don’t see it as a priority issue and have little sympathy for its victims. But a few things might help lower faith healing’s toll on our society:

  • Laws to protect children from medical neglect in the name of healing should be passed and enforced. In states that allow religious exemptions from medical neglect, these exemptions should be revoked. Maybe the practice of faith healing on minors should be illegal.
  • Faith healing should no longer be deductible as a medical expense.
  • Reporters should be encouraged to do follow-up studies of people acclaimed to have been “healed.”
  • “Healers” who use trickery to raise large sums of money should be prosecuted for grand larceny.

References

http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/faith.html

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Kenneth Hagin and “Positive Confession”
By Dave Hunt
(from Occult Invasion, Harvest House, 1998)

Among charismatics, the largest churches and the most popular ministers on radio and TV tend to be those associated with what is known as “Positive Confession,” or the “Faith movement.” Positive Confession is simply Norman Vincent Peale’s Positive Thinking carried one step further: expressing the thoughts aloud. Kenneth Hagin is generally credited with founding this latter movement, and his teachings have an authority among his followers almost equal to that of Mary Baker Eddy among hers.

Frederick K. C. Price says: “Kenneth Hagin has had the greatest influence upon my life of any living man… his books … revolutionized and changed my life.” Charles Capps gives a similar testimony: “Brother Hagin was the greatest influence of my life.”26 Kenneth Copeland credits Hagin’s tapes with having revolutionized his ministry.27

Kenneth Hagin’s gospel can be traced back to the writings of E.W. Kenyon, who first taught “the positive confession of the Word of God”28 and must be recognized as the real founder of today’s Positive Confession movement. Kenyon studied at the Emerson College of Oratory in Boston, a hotbed of the emerging New Thought philosophy.29 Kenyon’s teaching about “the power of words” and his warnings never to make a “negative confession”30 deeply influenced Hagin and many others who are recognized today as leaders of this movement. Kenyon also taught that man is a little god “in God’s Class” and therefore can use the same faith-force that God does.31 We allegedly create our own reality with the words of our mouths: “What I confess, I possess.”32

Hagin complains that people often think he is teaching Christian Science. He claims he is not, yet he teaches that the power of God works according to laws. Science is based upon laws. Thus, if what Hagin teaches about God’s power being governed by laws is indeed “Christian,” then it must be “Christian Science.”

“Positive Confession” means to verbalize positive thought and speak it aloud—precisely what shamans have believed and practiced for thousands of years in all cultures. The connection with the Positive/Possibility Thinking taught by Peale and Schuller is acknowledged by Kenneth Hagin, Jr.:

Somebody will argue, “You’re talking about positive thinking!” That’s right! I am acquainted with the greatest Positive Thinker who ever was: God…!

The two most prominent teachers of positive thinking [Peale and Schuller] are ministers.33

The entire “Faith movement” rests upon the occult belief that “faith is a force just like electricity or gravity”34 which obeys laws, and thus even non-Christians can use it. David Yonggi Cho, pastor of the world’s largest church, located in Seoul, Korea, declares: “Think positively and prosper.” Cho’s brand of Christian Science is based upon “the law of the fourth dimension,” a law which both Christians and non-Christians can follow in order to create miracles. He says, “Sokagakkai [a Buddhist sect] has applied the law of the fourth dimension and has performed miracles… .”35 The Sokagakkai are occultists.

The Wall Street Journal observed that Cho’s Christianity has elements of Korean shamanism in it.36 Kenneth Hagin also acknowledges that his variety of Christian science (as must be the case with any science) likewise allows non-Christians to obtain miracles by 2 scientifically applying its laws. Hagin writes: It used to bother me when I’d see unsaved people getting results [miracles], but my church members not getting results. Then it dawned on me what the sinners were doing: They were cooperating with this law of God—the law of faith.37

A “Law of Miracles”?

The blessings of God’s natural order (sun, rain, etc.) fall “on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). His miracles, however, are special blessings of His grace which are reserved for those who know and love Him. God will not extend His grace and blessing to those who reject Him. The “laws of faith,” however, according to the Positive Confession leaders, work for anyone, saint or sinner, just like the laws of science.

The teaching that non-Christians can create miracles by following “God’s laws of faith” or the “laws of the fourth dimension” is a serious heresy. Tragically, this tempting lie opens the door into the occult, where evil spirits gladly respond with a seeming “miracle” in order to deceive and seduce the unsuspecting into further delusions.

Charismatic leaders who imagine they have discovered laws of faith are promoting a Christianized version of naturalism. Their “God” is not the transcendent Creator who exists outside of the physical universe which He created out of nothing (as Sir James Jeans argues must be the case). The “faith God” is tied to this physical universe and bound by its laws. John and Paula Sandford, well- known practitioners of “inner healing,” profess this irrational heresy as clearly as anyone:

Miracles happen by the cooperation, union, and interplay of spirit and matter together…. Confused… men have thought… there had to be a violation of principles for miracles to happen…. What rot and bunk! Miracles happen by releasing power within matter according to God’s principles…. Nature, being filled with the Spirit of God, has immeasurable power, locked within its tiniest cells…. Miracles happen by the operation of the Holy Spirit within principles far beyond our ability to comprehend but nonetheless scientific…. I have sometimes been called a Christian Scientist when lecturing on these
subjects.…38

The Charismatic’s “Mary Baker Eddy”

The Sandfords studied under Agnes Sanford, the charismatic’s Mary Baker Eddy. She is the founder of the Inner Healing movement in the church. Her serious heresies are too numerous to recite here, yet she remains highly honored in the evangelical church to this day. John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard movement, enthusiastically promoted her books until his recent death. Much like Norman Vincent Peale, Sanford calls God “the very life-force existing in a radiation of an energy… from which all things evolved.”39 She declares that “God… made everything out of Himself and somehow He put a part of Himself into everything.”40 This is pantheism.

To substantiate such heresies, Sanford cites Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin as her authority. Declared a heretic even by the Roman Catholic Church, Chardin was known as the father of the New Age movement. Sanford taught that the “God-force” can be turned on in one’s life by simply saying to it, “Whoever you are—whatever you are—come into me now!” What a great invitation to Satan! The true God, who identifies Himself clearly in Scripture and must be known and acknowledged for who He is, would not answer such a call—but Satan and his minions, who hide behind any mask, would gladly accept that invitation. 3

Bringing occultism into the church, Sanford taught that everything is a matter of thought vibrations which if “negative” make us ill, and if “positive” heal us. Indeed, “positive thought vibrations” projected upon sinners can even turn them into Christians. Sanford wrote, “A new age is being born… when love-power [projected] at the command of ministers [and others] is sufficient to change hearts… we [have] an inner source of power that can be tapped at will.”41

Notes:
26. Taped interviews on file at the Holy Spirit Research Center, Oral Roberts University
cited in Daniel Ray McConnell, The Kenyon Connection: A Theological and Historical
Analysis of the Cultic Origins of the Faith Movement a thesis submitted to the Theological
Faculty Oral Roberts University Tulsa, OK, May1982, p. 11.
27. McConnell, Kenyon Connection, p. 11.
28. E.W. Kenyon and Don Cossett, The Positive Confession of the Word of God (Tulsa:
Custom Graphics, 1981), pp.133-37, 152-55.
29. John Coffee and Richard L. Wentworth, A Century of Eloquence: The History of
Emerson College, 1880-1980 (Alternative Publications, 1982).
30. Kenyon and Gossett, Confession, pp. 129-36, 152-55, 182-85, etc.
31. E.W. Kenyon, what Happened from the Cross to the Throne? (Kenyon, 1945, 5th ed.),
pp. 62, 173-76.
32. E.W. Kenyon, The Hidden Man: An Unveiling of the Subconscious Mind (Kenyon,
1970), p. 98.
33. The Word of Faith magazine, November 1984, p. 3.
34. Kenneth Copeland on TBN interview with Paul and Jan Crouch, February 5, 1986.
35. Dr. David Yonggi Cho, The Fourth Dimension (Bridge-Logos International, 1979), pp.
30, 64.
36. Urban C. Lehner, “New Faithful: Static in Some Nations, Christianity is Surging Among
South Koreans,” in The Wall Street Journal , May 12, 1983.
37. Kenneth Hagin, Having Faith in Your Faith (Rhema, 1980), pp. 3-4.
38. John and Paula Sandford, The Elijah Task (Logos International, 1977), pp. 142-3.
39. Agnes Sanford, The Heating Gifts of the Spint (Fleming H. Revell, 1966), p. 22.
40. Ibid., p. 27.
41. The Healing Light, 1947 edition, pp. 21-22, 60, 75.
3NAHunt1100

http://www.ankerberg.com/Articles/_PDFArchives/new-age/NA3W1100.pdf

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“The Jesus of the New Age Movement”
Part Two in a Two-Part Series on New Age Christology PART 1 is HERE
by Ron Rhodes

In her best-selling book, Out on a Limb, Shirley MacLaine recounts how a friend once said to her: “You know that nothing is recorded in the Bible about Christ from the time he was about twelve until he began to really teach at about thirty years old. Right?” “Yes,” MacLaine replied, “I had heard about that and I just figured he didn’t have much to say until he got older.” “Well, no,” her friend responded, “a lot of people think that those eighteen missing years were spent traveling in and around India and Tibet and Persia and the Near East. They say he became an adept yogi and mastered complete control over his body and the physical world around him[he] tried to teach people that they could do the same things too if they got more in touch with their spiritual selves and their own potential power.”[1]

Did Jesus travel to the East to study under gurus? Did He become “the Christ” as a result of what He learned and accomplished there? Are there mystical “gospels” that have been suppressed by the church, keeping us from knowing the real Jesus? In this article, we will look at these and other important questions related to the Jesus of the New Age movement. We begin by examining the claims of a controversial Russian writer.

THE LIFE OF SAINT ISSA

As the story goes, in 1887, Nicolas Notovitch – a Russian war correspondent – went on a journey through India. While en route to Leh, the capital of Ladakh (in Northern India along the Tibetan border), he heard a Tibetan lama (i.e., monk) in a monastery refer to a grand lama named Issa (the Tibetan form of “Jesus”). Notovitch inquired further, and discovered that a chronicle of the life of Issa existed with other sacred scrolls at the Convent of Himis (about 25 miles from Leh).

Notovitch visited this convent and was told by the chief lama that a scroll did in fact exist which provided details about the Prophet Issa. This holy man allegedly preached the same doctrines in Israel as he earlier did in India. The original scroll, the lama said, was written in the Pali language and later translated into Tibetan. The Convent of Himis possessed the Tibetan translation, while the original was said to be in the library of Lhassa (the traditional capital of Tibet).

Notovitch eventually persuaded the lama to read the scroll to him, and had it translated from Tibetan by an interpreter. According to Notovitch, the literal translation of the scroll was “disconnected and mingled with accounts of other contemporaneous events to which they bear no relation,” and so he took the liberty to arrange “all the fragments concerning the life of Issa in chronological order and [took] pains to impress upon them the character of unity, in which they were absolutely lacking.”[2] He went without sleep for many nights so he could order and remodel what he had heard.

From the scroll, Notovitch learned that “Jesus had wandered to India and to Tibet as a young man before he began his work in Palestine.”[3] The beginning of Jesus’ alleged journey is described in the scroll this way:

When Issa had attained the age of thirteen years, the epoch when an Israelite should take a wife, the house where his parents earned their living began to be a place of meeting for rich and noble people, desirous of having for a son-in-law the young Issa, already famous for his edifying discourses in the name of the almighty. Then it was that Issa left the parental house in secret, departed from Jerusalem, and with the merchants set out towards Sind, with the object of perfecting himself in the Divine Word and of studying the laws of the great Buddhas.[4]

According to Notovitch, the scroll proceeds to explain how, after briefly visiting with the Jains, young Issa studied for six years among the Brahmins at Juggernaut, Rajagriha, Benares, and other Indian holy cities. The priests of Brahma “taught him to read and understand the Vedas, to cure by aid of prayer, to teach, to explain the holy scriptures to the people, and to drive out evil spirits from the bodies of men, restoring unto them their sanity.”[5]

While there, the story continues, Issa sought to teach the scriptures to all the people of India – including the lower castes. The Brahmins and Kshatriyas (higher castes) opposed him in this, and told him that the Sudras (a lower caste) were forbidden to read or even contemplate the Vedas. Issa denounced them severely for this.

Because of Issa’s controversial teachings, a death plot was devised against him. But the Sudras warned him and he left Juggernaut, establishing himself in Gautamides (the birthplace of the Buddha Sakyamuni) where he studied the sacred writings of the Sutras. “Six years after, Issa, whom the Buddha had elected to spread his holy word, had become a perfect expositor of the sacred writings. Then he left Nepal and the Himalayan mountains, descended into the valley of Rajputana, and went towards the west, preaching to diverse peoples the supreme perfection of man.”[6] Following this, we are told, Issa briefly visited Persia where he preached to the Zoroastrians. Then, at 29, he returned to Israel and began to preach all that he had learned.

According to Notovitch’s “scroll,” by the end of Issa’s three-year ministry, Pilate had become so alarmed at his mushrooming popularity that he ordered one of his spies to accuse him falsely. Issa was then imprisoned and tortured by soldiers to force a confession which would permit his being executed. The Jewish priests tried to act in Issa’s behalf, but to no avail. Issa was falsely accused and Pilate ordered the death sentence:

At sunset the sufferings of Issa came to an end. He lost consciousness, and the soul of this just man left his body to become absorbed in the Divinity. Meanwhile, Pilate became afraid of his action and gave the body of the saint to his parents, who buried it near the spot of his execution. Three days after, the governor sent his soldiers to carry away the body of Issa to bury it elsewhere, fearing otherwise a popular insurrection. The next day the crowd found the tomb open and empty. At once the rumor spread that the supreme Judge had sent his angels to carry away the mortal remains of the saint in whom dwelt on earth a part of the Divine Spirit.[7]

Following this, some merchants in Palestine allegedly traveled to India, came upon some people who had known Issa as a casual student of Sanskrit and Pali during his youth in India, and filled them in on Issa’s demise at the hands of Pilate. And, as the story concludes, The Life of Saint Issa was written on a scroll – author(s) unknown – three or four years later.

Reactions to Notovitch

This alleged manuscript generated a number of lively responses. Let us briefly look at a sampling of these.

F. Max Muller. In October 1894, preeminent Orientalist Max Muller of Oxford University (who himself was an advocate of Eastern philosophy and therefore could not be accused of having a Christian bias) published a refutation of Notovitch in The Nineteenth Century, a scholarly review. Four of his arguments are noteworthy: (1) Muller asserted that an old document like the one Notovitch allegedly found would have been included in the Kandjur and Tandjur (catalogues in which all Tibetan literature is supposed to be listed). (2) He rejected Notovitch’s account of the origin of the book. He asked how Jewish merchants happened, among the millions of India, to meet the very people who had known Issa as a student, and still more “how those who had known Issa as a simple student in India saw at once that he was the same person who had been put to death under Pontius Pilate.”[8] (3) Muller cites a woman who had visited the monastery of Himis and made inquiries about Notovitch. According to a letter she wrote (dated June 29, 1894), “there is not a single word of truth in the whole story! There has been no Russian here. There is no life of Christ there at all!”[9] And (4) Muller questioned the great liberty Notovitch took in editing and arranging the alleged verses. Muller said this is something no reputable scholar would have done.

Notovitch promptly responded to Muller’s arguments in the preface to the London edition of The Life of Saint Issa which was published the following year (1895). But his response did little to satisfy his critics. He said: (1) The verses which were found would not be in any catalogues because “they are to be found scattered through more than one book without any title.”[10] (But in his first preface he said the Convent of Himis contained “a few copies of the manuscript in question.”[11]) (2) Regarding the unlikeliness of Jewish merchants encountering those who knew Issa as a child in India, Notovitch said “they were not Jewish but Indian merchants who happened to witness the crucifixion prior to returning home from Palestine.”[12] (Even so, it would still be unlikely that – among the millions in India – the merchants would come upon the precise people who knew Issa as a child.) (3) As for editing and arranging the verses in The Life of Saint Issa, Notovitch said that the same kind of editing was done with the Iliad and no one ever questioned that. (But how does this legitimize Notovitch’s modus operandi?) (4) As to the refusal by the lama of Himis to affirmatively answer questions about the manuscript (as he apparently did with the lady who wrote Muller), Notovitch says this was because “Orientals are in the habit of looking upon Europeans as robbers who introduce themselves in their midst to despoil them in the name of civilization.”[13] Notovitch succeeded only “because I made use of the Eastern diplomacy which I had learnt in my travels.”14 (This was a convenient rationalization, for Notovitch could always point to a lack of “Eastern diplomacy” on the part of a European challenger whenever a monk refused to corroborate the Issa legend.)

Assuming (wrongly) that his response to Muller laid criticism of his work to rest, Notovitch suggested that in the future his critics restrict themselves solely to the question: “Did those passages exist in the monastery of Himis, and have I faithfully reproduced their substance?”[15]

J. Archibald Douglas. J. Archibald Douglas, Professor at Government College in Agra, India, took a three-month vacation from the college and retraced Notovitch’s steps at the Himis monastery. He published an account of his journey in The Nineteenth Century (June 1895), the bulk of which reproduced an interview with the chief lama of the monastery. The lama said he had been chief lama for 15 years, which means he would have been the chief lama during Notovitch’s alleged visit. The lama asserted that during these 15 years, no European with a broken leg had ever sought refuge at the monastery.

When asked if he was aware of any book in any Buddhist monastery in Tibet pertaining to the life of Issa, he said: “I have never heard of [a manuscript] which mentions the name of Issa, and it is my firm and honest belief that none such exists. I have inquired of our principal Lamas in other monasteries of Tibet, and they are not acquainted with any books or manuscripts which mention the name of Issa.”[16] When portions of Notovitch’s book were read to the lama, he responded, “Lies, lies, lies, nothing but lies!”[17]

The interview was written down and witnessed by the lama, Douglas, and the interpreter, and on June 3, 1895, was stamped with the official seal of the lama. The credibility of The Life of Saint Issa was unquestionably damaged by Douglas’s investigation.

Nicholas Roerich. In The Lost Years of Jesus, Elizabeth Clare Prophet documents other supporters of Notovitch’s work, the most prominent of which was Nicholas Roerich. Roerich – a Theosophist – claimed that from 1924 to 1928 he traveled throughout Central Asia and discovered that legends about Issa were widespread. In his book, Himalaya, he makes reference to “writings” and “manuscripts” about Issa – some of which he claims to have seen and others about which people told him. Roerich allegedly recorded independently in his own travel diary the same legend of Issa that Notovitch had seen earlier.

Per Beskow – author of Strange Tales About Jesus – responded to Roerich’s work by suggesting that he leaned heavily on two previous “Jesus goes East” advocates: “The first part of his account is taken literally from Notovitch’s Life of Saint Issa, chapters 5-13 (only extracts but with all the verses in the right order). It is followed by ‘another version’ (pages 93-94), taken from chapter 16 of Dowling’s Aquarian Gospel.”[18] (We will consider the Aquarian Gospel shortly.)

Edgar J. Goodspeed. Notovitch’s The Life of Saint Issa refused to die; it was republished in New York in 1926. This motivated Edgar J. Goodspeed, Professor at the University of Chicago, to publish a Christian response. He commented that “it is worthwhile to call attention to [The Life of Saint Issa] because its republication in New York in 1926 was hailed by the press as a new and important discovery,”[19] even though first published over thirty years earlier (1894).

Three of Goodspeed’s arguments are noteworthy. (1) Goodspeed suggests a literary dependency of The Life of Saint Issa on Matthew, Luke, Acts, and Romans. This would not be odd except that The Life of Saint Issa was allegedly written three or four years after the death of Christ, whereas Matthew, Luke, Acts, and Romans were written two or three decades later. An example of this dependency relates to how The Life of Saint Issa attempts to fill in the silent years of Jesus between the ages of twelve and thirty: “these two ages are taken for granted by the author of this work, who unconsciously bases his scheme upon them. We know them from the Gospel of Luke alone, and the question arises: ‘Has the author of Issa obtained them from the same source?'”[20]

(2) Notovitch describes Luke as saying that Jesus “was in the desert until the day of his showing unto Israel.” This, Notovitch says, “conclusively proves that no one knew where the young man had gone, to so suddenly reappear sixteen years later.” But, says Goodspeed, “it is not of Jesus but of John that Luke says this (1:80), so that it will hardly yield the conclusive proof Notovitch seeks. At this point in Luke’s narrative, in fact, Jesus has not yet appeared.”[21]

(3) Goodspeed comments that The Life of Saint Issa does not purport to have been deciphered and translated by a competent scholar: “The lama read, the interpreter translated, Notovitch took notes. He could evidently not control either the lama or the interpreter, to make sure of what the Tibetan manuscripts contained.”[22]

Throughout the twentieth century, many individuals have responded positively to the work of Notovitch, including Janet and Richard Bock (makers of the film, “The Lost Years of Jesus”), Swami Abhedananda, Sai Baba, Paramahansa Yogananda of the Self-Realization Fellowship, and Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Evidence abounds that the Issa legend is alive and well today.

Max Muller, J. Archibald Douglas, and Edgar J. Goodspeed have all presented solid refutations of the legend. These should challenge any serious Issa advocate to reevaluate his or her position. I shall offer further arguments later. But first, it is necessary to examine additional features in the New Age profile of Jesus.

THE AQUARIAN GOSPEL OF JESUS THE CHRIST

Another major source for the New Age Jesus is The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, written by Civil War army chaplain Levi Dowling (1844-1911). The title page of this “gospel” bears the words: “Transcribed from the Book of God’s Remembrances, known as the Akashic Records.” (Occultists believe the physical earth is surrounded by an immense spiritual field known as “Akasha” in which is impressed every impulse of human thought, will, and emotion. It is therefore believed to constitute a complete record of human history.) Hence, unlike Notovitch whose conclusions were based on an alleged objective ancient document, Levi’s book is based on an occult form of subjective (nonverifiable) illumination.

The bulk of Levi’s gospel, first published in 1911, focuses on the education and travels of Jesus. After studying with Rabbi Hillel (a Jewish scholar), Jesus allegedly traveled to India where he spent years studying among the Brahmins and Buddhists.

Jesus supposedly became interested in studying in the East after Joseph (Jesus’ father) hosted Prince Ravanna from India. During his visit, Ravanna asked “that he might be the patron of the child; might take him to the East where he could learn the wisdom of the Brahms. And Jesus longed to go that he might learn: and after many days his parents gave consent.” So “Jesus was accepted as a pupil in the temple Jagannath; and here he learned the Vedas and the Manic laws.”[23]

Jesus then visited the city of Benares of the Ganges. While there, “Jesus sought to learn the Hindu art of healing, and became the pupil of Udraka, greatest of the Hindu healers.”[24] And Jesus “remained with Udraka until he had learned from him all there was to be learned of the Hindu art of healing.”[25]

Levi proceeds to chronicle a visit to Tibet, where Jesus allegedly met Meng-ste, the greatest sage of the East: “And Jesus had access to all the sacred manuscripts, and, with the help of Meng-ste, read them all.”[26]

Jesus eventually arrived in Egypt, and – in what must be considered a climax of this account of the “lost years” – he joined the “Sacred Brotherhood” at Heliopolis. While there, he passed through seven degrees of initiation – Sincerity, Justice, Faith, Philanthropy, Heroism, Love Divine, and THE CHRIST. The Aquarian Gospel records the bestowal of this highest degree: “The hierophant arose and said, upon your brow I place this diadem, and in the Great Lodge of the heavens and earth you are THE CHRIST. You are a neophyte no more; but God himself will speak, and will confirm your title and degree. And then a voice that shook the very temple said, THIS IS THE CHRIST; and every living creature said, AMEN.”[27]

Later, following his three-year ministry as THE CHRIST and his subsequent death, Jesus’ resurrection is described by Levi in terms of a “transmutation” which all men may accomplish. He made many appearances to people all over the world to substantiate this transmutation. For example, he appeared to the “Silent Brotherhood” in Greece and said: “What I can do all men can do. Go preach the gospel of the omnipotence of man.”[28]

THE READINGS OF EDGAR CAYCE

Like Levi, Edgar Cayce claimed the ability to read the Akashic Record while in a trance. During his life, he gave over 16,000 readings, 5,000 of which deal with religious matters. It was from the Akashic Record that Cayce set forth an elaborate explanation of the early years of Jesus.

The person we know as Jesus, Cayce tells us, had 29 previous incarnations: “These included an early sun worshipper, the author of the Book of the Dead, and Hermes, who was supposedly the architect of the Great Pyramid. Jesus was also Zend (the father of Zoroaster), Amilius (an Atlantean) and other figures of ancient history.”[29] Other incarnations include Adam, Joseph, Joshua, Enoch, and Melchizedek.

This particular soul did not become “the Christ” until the thirtieth incarnation – as Jesus of Nazareth. The reason Jesus had to go through so many incarnations is that he – like all other human beings – had “karmic debt” (sin) to work off.

Jesus received a comprehensive education. Prior to his twelfth year, he attained a thorough knowledge of the Jewish law. “From his twelfth to his fifteenth or sixteenth year he was taught the prophecies by Judy [an Essene teacher] in her home at Carmel. Then began his education abroad. He was sent first again into Egypt for only a short period, then into India for three years, then into that later called Persia. From Persia he was called to Judea at the death of Joseph, then went into Egypt for the completion of his preparation as a teacher.”[30] During his alleged studies abroad, Jesus studied under many teachers (including Kahjian in India, Junner in Persia, and Zar in Egypt), and learned healing, weather control, telepathy, astrology, and other psychic arts. When his education was complete, he went back to his homeland where he performed “miracles” and taught the multitudes for three years.

JESUS THE CHRIST AND HIS TEACHINGS

There are many differing views regarding how Jesus attained “Christhood.” As we have seen, Levi said Jesus went through seven degrees of initiation, the seventh being THE CHRIST. Cayce said Jesus became “the Christ” in the thirtieth incarnation. Many modern New Agers say the human Jesus merely “attuned” to the cosmic Christ, or achieved at-one-ment with the Christ by raising his own “Christ-consciousness.” But, however, Jesus attained “Christhood,” New Agers agree that he was a teacher par excellence of New Age “truths.”

New Agers generally do one of two things with the teachings of Jesus. Some merely reinterpret the gospel sayings of Jesus to make it appear that Jesus was actually teaching New Age “truth.” Others add that long-lost (New Age) sayings of Jesus have been rediscovered. These “rediscovered” sayings can have one of two sources: reputed ancient extracanonical writings (like the “Gnostic gospels” which were allegedly suppressed by the early church and rediscovered at Nag Hammadi in 1945) and the Akashic Record. Let us now consider samplings of each of these.

The Gospel Sayings of Jesus. According to New Agers, we must all seek first the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 6:33), recognizing that the “kingdom” has reference to our inner divinity.[31] For indeed, Jesus said “Ye are gods” (John 10:34). The parable about those who foolishly build a house on sand (Matt. 7:24-27) teaches us that those who fail to recognize their divinity will not be able to stand against the storms of life.[32] But if we come unto Jesus, we will find rest, for his yoke (i.e., yoga) is easy and his burden is light (Matt. 11:28-30).[33]

“Newly Discovered” Sayings from Extracanonical Sources. Jesus taught a form of pantheism according to The Life of Saint Issa, for he said that “the Eternal Spirit [God] is the soul of all that is animate.”[34] He also taught that all humans have unlimited potential: “I came to show human possibilities; that which I am, all men will be.”[35] And, according to the Gnostic gospels, Jesus spoke of “illusion and enlightenment, not of sin and repentance.”[36] Indeed, man can save himself: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you.”[37]

“Newly Discovered” Sayings from the Akashic Record. According to Levi’s Aquarian Gospel, Jesus was just a way-shower: “And all the people were entranced, and would have worshipped Jesus as God; but Jesus said, I am your brother man just come to show the way to God; you shall not worship man.”[38] Jesus also taught pantheism and monism: “The universal God is one, yet he is more than one [i.e., he takes many forms]; all things are God; all things are one.”[39] Jesus also tells us that “the nations of the earth see God from different points of view, and so he does not seem the same to every one.”[40]

THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN RESPONSE

A Christian response to the New Age rendition of Jesus may begin with the observation that the accounts of Jesus going East have irreconcilable contradictions. This fact alone should make any objective investigator suspicious of the reliability of these documents.

Each of the accounts differ, for example, regarding the beginning of Jesus’ trek. The Life of Saint Issa portrays Jesus departing secretly from his parent’s house with some merchants on their way to India so he could perfect himself by studying the laws of the great Buddhas. Levi’s Aquarian Gospel depicts Prince Ravanna from India asking Jesus’ parents if he can escort Jesus to India where he can learn Indian wisdom. Cayce’s reading of the Akashic Record has an Essene teacher sending Jesus to India to study astrology and other psychic disciplines.

What is particularly revealing is that both Cayce and Levi allegedly obtained their “revelations” by reading the Akashic Record, yet their readings blatantly contradict each other. Since both Cayce and Levi are highly respected in New Age circles, how do New Agers account for the obvious failure of at least one of them to properly “read” the Akashic Record? Furthermore, if one of these top-rated New Age seers cannot be trusted, which one can be?

Not only do the accounts disagree with each other, they all disagree with the gospel accounts in the New Testament. And the New Testament has solid, irrefutable manuscript evidence – something that should be considered by those wanting to replace it so easily with Gnostic gospels or alleged ancient manuscripts claiming that Jesus went East.

The New Testament gospels are based on eyewitness testimony. Moreover, they were written very close to the time of the events which they report. It is crucial to recognize that the four canonical gospels are all dated much earlier than the Gnostic gospels. The earliest Gnostic gospels date from A.D. 150 to 200. The New Testament gospels date from A.D. 60 to 100 – approximately one century earlier. Clearly, the New Testament gospels are the authentic and reliable source for information on the life and teachings of Jesus.

On the other hand, all of the “Jesus goes East” accounts contain historical inaccuracies, several of which have already been mentioned. Other examples include: (1) Levi’s Aquarian Gospel said Herod Antipas was ruler in Jerusalem. Antipas, however, never ruled in Jerusalem but in Galilee. Dowling meant to say Herod the Great. This is especially significant since Levi’s transcriptions are claimed to be “true to the letter” in the introduction of his Aquarian Gospel![41] (2) Levi’s reference to Jesus visiting with Meng-ste was probably meant to be the great Chinese sage, Meng-tse (tse, not ste). Dowling apparently didn’t realized, however, that Meng-tse died in 289 B.C.

The deeper one probes, the clearer it becomes that the Jesus of the New Age movement lacks any basis in history. To many, The Life of Saint Issa appeared to provide this. However, the world still awaits bona fide hard evidence that can be physically examined by all interested parties. Even a photograph would be helpful. But as Notovitch lamented: “During my journey I took a considerable number of very curious photographs, but when on arrival at Bombay I examined the negatives, I found they had all become obliterated.”[42] I don’t want to be cynical, but

In order to find a New Age Jesus in authentic documents, New Agers are forced to deal with the language of the New Testament in a manipulative fashion. Tal Brooke comments: “It is a little like the problem of the Marxist who wishes to change the common understanding of the United States Constitution so that a gradualist skewing of word meaning can enable a socialistic interpretation of words whose intended meanings in the original were clearly different.”[43]

Though the New Testament does not directly address this issue, there are strong indirect evidences that Jesus never traveled East for eighteen years. First, Jesus was well-known as a carpenter (Mark 6:3) and as a carpenter’s son (Matt. 13:55). That His carpentry played a large role in His life up to the time of His ministry is clear from the fact that some of His parables and teachings drew upon His experience as a carpenter (e.g., building a house on rock as opposed to sand, Matt. 7:24-27). Moreover, the people in and around Nazareth displayed familiarity with Jesus, as if they had had regular contact with Him for a prolonged time. At the beginning of His three-year ministry, Jesus “went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read” (Luke 4:16). After He finished reading, “all spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. ‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son?’ they asked” (Luke 4:22). This implies that those in the synagogue regarded Jesus as a local resident.

It is important to note that when Jesus stood up to read, He did so from the Old Testament Scriptures. And the Old Testament – for which Jesus often displayed reverence (cf. Matt. 5:18) – (1) contains numerous warnings and admonitions about staying away from false gods and false religious systems (cf. Exod. 20:2; 34:14; Deut. 6:14; 13:10; 2 Kings 17:35); (2) clearly distinguishes between the creation and the Creator, unlike Eastern thought; and (3) taught the need for redemption, not gnosis (knowledge). It is no coincidence that Jesus is often seen quoting from the Old Testament in the gospels, but not once does He quote from (or even mention) the Vedas!

While some in Nazareth were impressed at the graciousness of Jesus’ words, others were offended that He was attracting so much attention. They seemed to be treating Him with a contempt born of familiarity. We read in Matthew 13:54-57: “Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. ‘Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?…Where then did this man get all these things?’ And they took offense at him.”

Among those that became angriest at Jesus were the Jewish leaders. They accused Him of many offenses, including breaking the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-14), blasphemy (John 8:58-59; 10:31-33), and doing miracles in Satan’s power (Matt. 12:24). But they never accused Him of teaching or practicing anything learned in the East. The Jews considered such teachings and practices to be idolatry and sorcery. Had Jesus actually gone to the East to study under “the great Buddhas,” this would have been excellent grounds for discrediting and disqualifying Him regarding His claim to be the promised Jewish Messiah.

It is noteworthy that the self-concept of the New Age Jesus is that he is just a man who became enlightened in the East, eventually achieving Christhood. The self-concept of the New Testament Jesus, however, is one in which He singles Himself out as God (cf. John 8:58).

It is understandable why the “Jesus who went East” refused to accept worship (cf. Dowling). The New Testament Jesus, by contrast, accepted worship on numerous occasions because He knew Himself to be the one and only God (note especially Matthew 28:17). Of course, only God can be worshiped (cf. Ex. 20:4-5; Deut. 6:4-5, 13). It is thus significant that even when Jesus was just a babe, the Magi (from the East) “fell down and worshiped Him” (Matt. 2:11).

The final word on this matter must belong to God the Father, for there is no higher authority in the universe. He Himself is quoted as saying to Jesus: “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever” (Heb. 1:8). It is Jesus – the second Person of the Trinity – that we as Christians look forward to seeing; ‘we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). And, as Christians, we exult in the truth that Jesus has a name that is above every name, and that at His name, every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth (Phil. 2:9-10).

A CLOSING REFLECTION

What if – despite all the arguments presented above – a manuscript should one day surface in India which speaks of Issa? Would this prove that Jesus did in fact go East during His youth?

Christians acknowledge that news of Jesus eventually reached India and Tibet as a result of the missionary efforts of the early church. It is conceivable that when devotees of other religions heard about Jesus, they tried to modify what they heard to make it appear that Jesus and His teachings were compatible with their own belief systems. It is possible that – sometime between the first and nineteenth centuries – these unreliable legends were recorded on scrolls and circulated among the convents in India. This would not be unlike the distorted versions of the life of Jesus that emerged among the early Gnostics (and recorded in the Gnostic gospels).

But for such a manuscript to be convincing, it would have to have the same kind of irrefutable manuscript evidence as the New Testament, the same quality of eyewitness testimony, and be written very close to the events on which they report like the New Testament. Until such an authoritative document surfaces, is it wise to base one’s eternal destiny on a manuscript that has as little evidential support as Notovich’s?

Douglas Groothuis issues this challenge: “Should any supposed record of Jesus’ life come to the fore, let it marshal its historical merits in competition with holy writ. The competitors have an uphill battle against the incumbent.”[44]

NOTES AND GLOSSARY ARE HERE
http://home.earthlink.net/~ronrhodes/JesusNAM.html

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

 

“The Christ of the New Age Movement”
Part One in a Two-Part Series on New Age Christology PART 2 is HERE
by Ron Rhodes

“Who do you say I am?” (Luke 9:20, NIV) The question was first asked of Peter by Christ nineteen centuries ago, and has continued since then to the present day to be the litmus test of spiritual authenticity. Perhaps never in the history of the Christian church has this question been more relevant than it is today. One reason for this is that New Agers have taken the New Testament sculpture (if you will) of Christ, crafted an esoteric/mystical chisel, and hammered away at this sculpture until a completely new image has been formed.

The new sculpture is one that fits nicely on a display shelf with sculptures of Buddha, Krishna, and other “holy men.” This Christ is broad-minded and nonjudgmental. He is a “Master” among “Masters,” who – with the others – is leading the human race into a New Age of enlightenment and harmony.

Fundamental to any discussion of New Age Christology is the recognition that New Agers distinguish between Jesus (a mere human vessel) and the Christ (variously defined, but always divine, and often a cosmic, impersonal entity). Part One of this series will therefore focus on the Christ of the New Age, and will provide a brief history of the various views as to his (or its) identity, his purpose, how he aims to accomplish this purpose, and his relationship to humanity. Part Two will focus on the Jesus of the New Age, and will address such issues as the “lost years” of Jesus (as described by Levi Dowling, Edgar Cayce, and others), his supposed training in Eastern/occultic concepts, his “attunement” to the Christ, and his “New Age teachings.”

Regarding methodology, this article will anchor on two reference points – one primary and one secondary – from which the history of New Age Christology will be traced. The primary reference point will be Theosophy; the secondary reference point will be the teachings of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby. We might liken Theosophy and Quimby’s teachings to two trees which grew side by side, having been planted close to the same time (the mid to late 1800s) in the same soil, fertilized with common ingredients (nineteenth-century transcendentalism, the philosophy of Emmanuel Swedenborg, the influx of Hindu monism, etc.). Certainly, in many respects these two have distinct beliefs and different goals, but they both took root and flourished in the same mystical climate. Taken together, these represent an appropriate starting point for a study in New Age Christology.

THEOSOPHY AND ITS OFFSHOOTS

Theosophy, founded in 1875 by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, teaches that each human being evolves through seven planes of existence (the physical plane, the astral plane, the mental plane, etc.). Each plane a person evolves through brings him or her ever closer to union with the Absolute (God). Theosophists reason that this process can take a very long time, hence requiring innumerable reincarnations.

According to “revelations” received by Blavatsky, it is not only individuals who evolve; the human race as a whole also evolves. So far there have allegedly been three races: the Lemurian, the Atlantean, and the Aryan. Each of these three (which Theosophists call “rootraces”) are divided into “subraces.” Mankind is now in the third rootrace – the Aryan rootrace – and is about to enter the sixth subrace of the Aryan rootrace.

Theosophy teaches that at the beginning of each subrace, the Supreme World Teacher (also known as “the Christ,” the bestower of divine wisdom) enters the body of a disciple in order to assist and guide the spiritual evolution of man. Each “incarnation” reveals more to man about God than the previous one. The five incarnations of Christ in the five subraces of the Aryan rootrace were Buddha (in India), Hermes (in Egypt), Zoroaster (in Persia), Orpheus (in Greece), and Jesus (at the River Jordan, where the Christ came upon Jesus at His baptism).[1]

Jesus is said to have volunteered his body for use by the Christ. Annie Besant, who took over Theosophical leadership when Blavatsky died, said: “For Him [the Christ] was needed an earthly tabernacle, a human form, the body of a man. The man Jesus yielded himself a willing sacrifice, ‘offered himself without spot’ to the Lord of Love, who took unto Himself that pure form as tabernacle, and dwelt therein for three years of mortal life.”[2]

Theosophists reject any suggestion that Jesus died on the cross to pay for man’s sins. Man saves himself through continual reincarnations. This spiritual evolution leads men further and further away from the physical plane and closer and closer to spiritual planes of existence. Because of this process, every human being – regardless of race or religion – is a potential “Christ.”

Human beings who continue to evolve through reincarnation eventually become “Masters.” This is a group of formerly historical persons who have finished their earthly evolutions and voluntarily help lesser-evolved human beings to reach their level.

Because Theosophists believe the fifth subrace of the Aryan rootrace (the subrace of intellectual man) is about to give way to the sixth subrace (the subrace of spiritual man), they believe another incarnation of the Christ will soon take place. Note that since this will be the sixth appearance of the Christ in the Aryan rootrace, it is not spoken of as the “second coming.”

Annie Besant first announced the coming of this Messiah in 1906. Her aim was to groom Jiddu Krishnamurti for the role of World Teacher or Messiah. In 1925 she claimed for this young Indian man the title of “Messianic Leader and Reincarnation of the World Teacher.” But by 1929, Krishnamurti became convinced it was all a mistake. On November 20 of that year, he “refused to receive further adoration [saying frankly], ‘I am not an actor; I refuse to wear the robes of a Messiah; so I am again free of all possessions.'”[3] Theosophy’s Christ remains to appear.

Under the leadership of Annie Besant, dissension took its toll on Theosophy. The result of growing discontent within the Society was a four-pronged theological fork in the road. Theosophy continued along its traditional path (the first prong). But Rudolf Steiner broke away to form the Anthroposophical Society in 1912 (the second prong); Alice Bailey broke away to establish the Arcane School in 1923 (the third prong); and Guy and Edna Ballard broke away to lead the “I AM” movement in the 1930s (the fourth prong). Each “prong” has made an impact on New Age Christology.

The Christ of Anthroposophy

Dr. Rudolf Steiner was an active member of the Theosophical Society and headed the German charter of the group. However, when a Theosophical subgroup, the “Order of the Star of the East,” began promoting Krishnamurti as the new incarnation of the Christ, Steiner threatened to expel any member of the German charter who joined the Order. Annie Besant retaliated by canceling Steiner’s charter. Steiner then founded the Anthroposophical Society in 1912, and most of the German membership of Theosophy joined with him.

Steiner’s emphasis represents a significant departure from his Theosophical roots. Instead of arguing for a Christ who periodically incarnates into individuals as each new “subrace” begins, Steiner’s emphasis is on what the Christ accomplished through his decisive “incarnation” in the human Jesus.

Steiner’s Christology is based on his investigation into the “Akashic Records.” Occultists believe that the physical earth is surrounded by an immense spiritual field known as “Akasha” in which is impressed – like a celestial tape recording – every impulse of human thought, will, and emotion. It therefore constitutes a complete record of human history. Steiner claimed to be able to “read” the Akashic Records, thus enabling him to investigate human history without use of written records. Based on this, he discovered that the descent of the Christ on the human Jesus was the absolutely central event of human evolution.

In Steiner’s theology, the Christ’s descent on Jesus became necessary because man’s consciousness had progressively become too focused on the material realm and had completely lost touch with the spiritual nature behind physical reality. The danger was that this situation could become permanent.

To prevent this, the Christ’s initial goal was to “incarnate” into a human being (Jesus) so he could accomplish his greater goal of “incarnating” from Jesus into the “etheric earth.” Occultists believe an etheric earth exists behind the physical earth. The etheric earth is thought to be made up of a fine energy substance from which is created the mold for every form that is manifested in the physical plane. Every material object on the physical plane has an etheric counterpart. All material forms in the physical universe find their ultimate source in this energy substance of the etheric realm. The Christ desired to enter this etheric earth so he could bring about spiritual changes among people living on the physical earth. But in order to transfer from his spiritual realm to the etheric realm, he needed a human instrument through which to work. This instrument was found in Jesus.

The Christ “incarnated” into Jesus, and three years later was crucified. At the crucifixion, the Christ left Jesus’ body and “incarnated” into the etheric earth:

The blood flowed from the wounds of Jesus Christ. This blood must not be regarded simply as chemical substance, it must be recognized as something altogether unique. When it flowed from His wounds and into the earth, a substance was imparted to our earth which, in uniting with it, constituted an event of the greatest possible significance; this blood passed through a process of ‘etherization’…since the Mystery of Golgotha, the etherized blood of Christ Jesus has lived in the ether of the earth. The etheric body of the earth is permeated by what the blood that flowed on Golgotha became.[4]

Because of this, “ever since the Mystery of Golgotha man lives in a spiritual environment, an environment that has been Christianized because it has absorbed the Christ impulse.”[5]

Having mystically entered the etheric earth via his “etherized” blood, the Christ now seeks to “mass incarnate” into all humanity. This will lead to man’s redemption. Steiner says that the “Christ impulse will penetrate humanity. He belongs to the whole earth and can enter all human souls, regardless of nation and religion.”[6] This, says Steiner, is the true “second coming.”

The Christ of the Arcane School

Alice Bailey had been an active member in the Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society (an inner group of trusted members who faithfully practiced Theosophy). But she eventually became critical of the organization’s policy that one could not become a disciple of a Master (which Bailey believed she already was) unless one was notified by Annie Besant (who seemed to have overlooked Bailey in this). This led to her dismissal from the Society, and shortly thereafter in 1923, she and her husband Foster founded the Arcane School.

Like Theosophy and Anthroposophy, Bailey believed that Jesus was a medium who allowed the Christ to use his body. But Bailey distinguished her beliefs from Anthroposophy by arguing that the “second coming” referred to the Christ coming in a single Avatar, not in all humanity.[7] According to Arcane thought, the Christ – along with his disciples, the Masters – will draw closer and closer to humanity and eventually appear on the physical plane. Bailey said this return necessitated three conditions that either have already come or are currently coming to pass: (1) catastrophic planetary conditions; (2) a spiritual awakening; and (3) a steadily mounting invocative prayer. This last condition involves use of The Great Invocation, a prayer which is intended to speed the reappearance of the Christ.

Preparation for the Second Coming is hence the responsibility of “attuned” human beings. Those who know about this Coming are to help create conditions of “spiritual alignment” which will ultimately draw the Christ forth into our midst. Without this, the Christ is impotent to act.

Bailey believed the Christ will come again in a way which will create no divisions or separations between men, either religious, social, or ideological. When he comes, it will be to establish through precept and example (in world service) the principles on which an interdependent world may create a new civilization.

While Bailey taught that the Second Coming will be in a single Avatar, she also affirmed that he will be mystically manifested in humanity: “There is a growing and developing belief that Christ is in us, as He was in the Master Jesus, and this belief will alter world affairs and mankind’s entire attitude to life.”[8]

The Christ of the “I AM” Movements

Guy and Edna Ballard were Theosophists up until Guy was contacted by Saint Germain, an “Ascended Master” who allegedly appeared to him in a physical body. Saint Germain informed him that he lived on Mount Teton with ninety-eight other Ascended Masters.

Saint Germain appointed Guy, Edna, and their son Donald as the only “accredited” spokespeople for the Ascended Masters. Saint Germain also taught Guy about the “Great Creative Word” (I AM). The “I AM Presence” is said to be in each person and represents a point of contact with divine reality. One can attune to the I AM Presence by chanting I AM decrees. Such chanting reportedly brings about dramatic results in the life of the one chanting.

The Ballards’ Christology is distinct in that Saint Germain is considered more important (in the dawning Aquarian Age) than Jesus, and is the primary object of worship among “I AM” devotees. Jesus – himself an “Ascended Master” – allegedly said that Saint Germain is “the Greatest Blessing that has ever come to mankind.”[9] The reason for this devotion to Saint Germain is that he has brought the Violet Consuming Flame: “The conscious use of the Violet Consuming Flame is the only means by which any human being can free himself or herself from his or her own human discord and imperfection.”[10] The I AM presence is invoked by chanting decrees, and this in turn activates the Violet Flame. The Violent Flame then burns away undesirable conditions in one’s life. Of course, this nullifies any need for Jesus’ work on the cross.

THE NEXT GENERATION

Having discussed the foundation for New Age Christology in Theosophy, Anthroposophy, the Arcane School, and the “I AM” movement, this article will now examine three representative contemporary New Age leaders to illustrate how this Christology has progressed historically.

Benjamin Creme and his Arcane Roots

From 1977 to the present Benjamin Creme has traveled around the world proclaiming that the coming of Maitreya (the Christ) is imminent. Maitreya, says Creme, is the leader of the Planetary Hierarchy and has been living incognito among human beings since 1977 when his consciousness entered a specially created body of manifestation, the “Mayavirupa.”

Creme originally claimed that by the end of spring 1982, Maitreya would reveal himself via worldwide television on the “Day of Declaration,” after which time would begin a new era of planetary happiness. This Christ would come not as a religious, political, or social leader, but as an “educationalist” who would solve all the world’s problems in these areas and usher in the New Age of love, peace, and shared wealth.

Obviously 1982 has come and gone and the Christ remains to appear. The most common explanation for the Christ’s no-show is that the media prevented it. Since the media represents humanity, the media’s apathy is indicative of the broader apathy of humanity. And since the Christ’s manifestation cannot occur against man’s wishes, his “declaration” has been delayed.

Some of Creme’s ideas are noticeably similar to Theosophy. For example, he divides the world and humanity into astral, ethereal, and physical planes. He also subscribes to the idea that the Christ inhabited the body of Jesus for three years.

But despite some Theosophical overtones, his ideas are primarily a reflection of Alice Bailey’s writings, particularly her book The Reappearance of the Christ. In this book are found almost everything Creme was later to propagate: the Age of Aquarius, world service, The Great Invocation, “overshadowing” (the occult means used by a Master to inhabit a human disciple’s body), and “transmission groups” (enlightened groups who “transmit” spiritual energy to the minds of other people in order to raise the Christ-consciousness of the planet).[11]

Despite such similarities, there are at least three notable differences between Creme and Bailey. First, Creme is a date-setter regarding Maitreya’s coming (i.e., spring 1982). Bailey was convinced the Christ would appear – and she had some idea about the general timing (sometime after 2025) – but she refused to set exact dates. She wrote: “It is not for us to set the date for the appearance of the Christ or to expect any spectacular aid or curious phenomena. If our work is rightly done, He will come at the set and appointed time.”[12]

Second, Bailey used the term “Christ” to refer to a person whereas Creme uses it in reference to an office or function. The present holder of this office, says Creme, is the Lord Maitreya, who has held it now for 2,600 years. It was Maitreya who – while holding this office – manifested himself through his disciple, Jesus, by the occult method of overshadowing.

Third, Christ and Buddha are the central figures in Bailey’s theology, while Maitreya is supreme in Creme’s thinking. Bailey mentions Maitreya on occasion, but never as the leader of the Hierarchy, as does Creme.

Creme’s following has understandably declined since 1982.

David Spangler and his Anthroposophic Roots

Like Rudolf Steiner, David Spangler understands Christ to be a cosmic spirit who utilized Jesus’ body to make the transfer from His own realm (the spiritual realm) to Jesus’ realm (the realm of matter).

Spangler sees the Christ as a cosmic principle: “Any old Christ will not do, not if we need to show that we have something better than the mainstream Christian traditions. It must be a cosmic Christ, a universal Christ, a New Age Christ.”[13] The Christ is not so much a religious figure, “but rather a cosmic principle, a spiritual presence whose quality infuses and appears in various ways in all the religions and philosophies that uplift humanity and seek unity with spirit.”[14]

Spangler believes a central purpose of the Christ is to act as a “universal educator.” He uses “educate” in the sense of the Latin root educare, which means “to lead out.” Most often he speaks of the Christ “leading out” man’s “inner divinity.”[15] The “universal Presence that calls out of form and spirit the higher potentials of Divine life waiting to be released into expression, is the Christ.”[16]

Like Steiner, Spangler believes the Christ entered the etheric earth at the crucifixion. By so doing, the Christ was able to reverse man’s “downward trend” toward a physical-oriented consciousness. The Christ is thus an “occult savior.”[17]

Spangler utilizes Christian terms to describe what the Christ accomplished through Jesus. For example, Spangler says that the Christ was occultly crucified (which resulted in placing his cosmic presence within the cross of matter, space, and time). The Christ was laid in a tomb (the tomb representing a level of life characterized by “great density” [i.e., the physical world], as opposed to the “low density” spiritual realm he was accustomed to). There he would stay until the resurrection (the outflowing of Christ-energies from the etheric earth) and ascension (the ascension of Christ-consciousness in humanity). Through this sacrifice, the cosmic Christ became a savior in that he no longer stood outside the evolution of the earth, but entered into that evolution by becoming incarnate into the earth.[18] There he would function as a guide of man’s spiritual evolution.

Like Steiner, Spangler believes the Christ is now incarnating into humanity from the etheric realm. This is not unlike what occurred in Jesus 2,000 years ago, for Jesus “was the prototype or the expression of the reality of the Christ consciousness which is inherent in us all.”[19] Spangler concludes that human beings can actually become “the Word made flesh.” In fact, he says that the Word will eventually be made all flesh.[20]

Elizabeth Clare Prophet and her “I AM” Roots

While the Ballards’ “I AM” movement has considerably declined since its heyday in the 1930s, another “I AM” movement has achieved high visibility and much popularity in New Age circles. This is the Church Universal and Triumphant, founded in 1958 by Mark Prophet and now headed by his widow, Elizabeth Clare Prophet.

Foundationally, certain aspects of the Prophets’ theology can be traced directly to Theosophy. These beliefs include (1) Masters who guide man’s spiritual evolution; (2) revelations to man from these Masters; (3) the Christ’s use of Jesus’ body; (4) human evolution through progressive stages; and (5) the belief that Blavatsky’s revelations marked the beginning of the Aquarian Age.

Beyond these similarities, the Prophets derived most of their theology from the Ballards. This is seen not only in their emphasis on the I AM Presence, but also on the prominent role of Saint Germain.

Elizabeth Clare Prophet says the I AM Presence has become hopelessly distorted within man due to negative energies from within and without. These negative energies impede spiritual progress, but are effectively combated by the “Violet Consuming Flame” which is poured out on the world by Saint Germain. This Flame changes negative energy into positive energy. It is therefore an antidote to sin.

This makes Jesus’ work on the cross unnecessary. In fact, Mark and Elizabeth Prophet dismiss the idea of Jesus’ atonement on the cross as an “erroneous doctrine which he himself never taught.”[21] Like the Ballards, the Prophets believe that Jesus attained Christhood as did other Ascended Masters. The “Christ” of “I AM” theology represents the divinity within all men: “God dwells in every man and not alone in His son Jesus the Christ. The only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth, is the Christ whose Image the Lord has reproduced over and over again as the Christ-identity of every son and daughter who has come forth from the infinite Spirit of the Father-Mother God.”[22] The Prophets conclude that “to become the Christ, then, is the goal of every child of God.”[23]

PHINEAS PARKHURST QUIMBY

Unquestionably, Theosophy and the groups that emerged from it are the source of many of the essential tenets of New Age Christology. But Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (who died in 1866) and the “metaphysical” groups his philosophy spawned also played a significant role.

Quimby espoused the metaphysical idea that the source of physical healing lies in the mind. He was convinced that physical diseases were caused by wrong thinking or false beliefs. These false beliefs are remedied by “the Christ.”

Like other metaphysical writers, Quimby distinguished Jesus from the Christ. Quimby credited Jesus with discovering the “Truth” of how to correct the error of sickness. “Not that He as a man was any better,” said Quimby, “but He was the embodiment of a higher Wisdom, more so than any man who has ever lived.”[24] This “Truth” or “higher Wisdom” discovered by Jesus was an impersonal mind-principle Quimby called “the Christ.” Quimby’s metaphysical concept of the Christ spawned several important movements.

New Thought

New Thought developed slowly during the nineteenth century after Quimby’s death in 1866. Quimby did not create an organization himself. But individuals he helped adopted his ideas and passed them on to others, adding to or modifying them along the way. Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Science is a major example of this, though this tradition is too exclusive to meld with today’s New Age movement. However, several smaller, more inclusive metaphysical groups also emerged, and in the 1890s the term “New Thought” surfaced as a way of describing them.

The Christ of New Thought was an outgrowth of Quimby’s metaphysics. The Christ was considered not a person but an impersonal Divine Nature or Principle. Jesus was believed to have embodied or appropriated the Christ-principle as no human had before. He had fully realized his Christ-nature. But Jesus was not a savior to mankind; he was merely a “way-shower.” Salvation is based not on Jesus but on the recognition of the Divine Nature or Christ-principle within.

Unity School of Christianity

The Unity School of Christianity, an offshoot of New Thought, was founded by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore in 1891. They are distinguished from mainstream New Thought by their belief in reincarnation.

In Unity, salvation is attained by “at-one-ment” with God – a reuniting of human consciousness with God-consciousness. Jesus attained this; all men can: “The difference between Jesus and us is not one of inherent spiritual capacity, but in difference of demonstration of it. Jesus was potentially perfect, and He expressed that perfection; we are potentially perfect, [but] we have not yet expressed it.”[25]

United Church of Religious Science

The United Church of Religious Science, another offshoot of New Thought, was founded by “Dr.” Ernest Holmes who wrote The Science of Mind in 1926. This book later became the textbook for Religious Science. Holmes was extremely eclectic, attempting to syncretize the metaphysical ideas he sifted from New Thought with psychology, philosophy, and the various world religions.

His ideas about Jesus, the Christ, and mankind are similar to other New Thought groups: “Every man is a potential Christ. From the least to the greatest the same life runs through all, threading itself into the patterns of our individuality. He is ‘over all, in all and through all.'”[26] Jesus was merely a way-shower who embodied the impersonal Christ.

NOTABLE MENTIONS

The groups and individuals described above have all contributed to the emergence of a mystical and esoteric theological climate. This has paved the way for numerous other individuals and groups to hop on the New Age bandwagon and offer their own reinterpretations of the person and work of Christ. Two of the more notable developments are the following:

A Course in Miracles. According to this New Age textbook, the “Son of God” was created by God in a state of “wakefulness.” Later, however, the Son fell asleep and had a dream of being separate from God. In the dream, the Son denied that he was created by God, asserting instead that he created himself. This usurping of God’s role as Creator marked the beginning of ego, and led the Son to conceive of himself as being separate from God.

God then created and commissioned the Holy Spirit to awaken the Son. But the Son wrongly interpreted the coming of the Holy Spirit as judge.

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