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WE said last time that the New Age "movement" may well be a revival of the old Gnosticism that threatened to engulf the Early Church. If this be so, then Reformed Christianity today needs to continue insisting upon the truths of Scripture, even if this is contrary to the current trend. Our first line of defence against the attacks of New Age thinking has to be an understanding of and belief in the Trinitarian doctrine of God. As such, a study of his attributes is necessary, especially if we are to see that he is a personal God who has covenanted to have intimate dealings with us. These dealings are particularly manifested to us through his Son.
Nowhere does the movement betray itself more than in its view about the Lord Jesus Christ. His deity as understood in the Scriptures is denied, for he is not regarded as a full member of the Godhead. Instead, he is termed the "Cosmic Principle". By this is meant that Christ's spirit pervades all things, "an ethereal figure in no place or time in particular."(1) As such, it is believed, he is to be found in everyone, irrespective of religion or experience of life. Once we have "gone within" through meditation, Christ will be found there. Indeed, we shall discover, it is claimed, that we too are divine, not merely a Christian, but a Christ.(2) At a more subtle level, some New-Agers (along with liberal theologians) try to separate what they call the divine Christ from the human Jesus. The results are always the same. Christ's full deity is emptied, the Bible's teaching of him is denied and human nature is deified.
In John 3:16 we read of God's "only begotten Son." This phrase is important for our purposes here as it is a reference to Christ's trinitarian sonship, i.e., to the fact that he is the Son of God from all eternity.(3) The Lord is fully God, of the same essence and substance as the Father and the Spirit. He has always been the Son within the Godhead and will continue to be so.
As the "begotten Son", he is unique and special. There are no other Christs filling the earth or heaven. As such, he is a real and distinct Person, who at a definite point in the history of the world left heaven's glory and assumed a genuine and full human nature. This he obtained from the virgin Mary through a miracle of the Holy Spirit. It is impossible to separate the two natures, for both the fully human and the absolute divine combine in the one blessed Person. Like Thomas of old we are led to exclaim: "My Lord and my God!"
Herman Bavinck made some interesting points concerning the Lord and his eternal Sonship. He made it clear that he is exalted far above angels and prophets; holds a special relationship to God; is his beloved and only begotten eternal Son and is equal to the Father in knowledge, honour, creative and redemptive power, as well as in work and dominion.(4)
The divine Son of God walked the streets and lanes of Palestine clothed in a true and full human body. He experienced a proper birth, lived a perfect and holy life, dying on the cross in his early thirties. Three days later he was raised from the dead by heavenly power and after numerous appearances to his followers, ascended up into heaven. where he sits at the Father's right hand. Christ is exalted in his sitting at the right hand of God, in that as God-man he is advanced to the highest favour with God the Father, with all fullness of joy, glory, and power over all things in heaven and earth; and doth gather and defend his church, and subdue their enemies; furnisheth his ministers and people with gifts and graces, and maketh intercession for them.(5) Now that he is seated in heaven he has poured out the Holy Spirit upon elect sinners causing them to believe and repent.
This is seen is such phrases as: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son..." (John 3:16). This is but a summary of a vast army of texts from the whole of the Bible that make it clear that Christ is constituted by the Father as the only Saviour of men. In eternity God covenanted to redeem and save a people for himself. His Son was given as the covenant-head of his people. He readily offered himself and agreed to fulfil the terms of this covenant (called by theologians, the Covenant of Grace). Part of the terms of the covenant required the Lord to come in the likeness of sinful flesh, render up perfect obedience to the Law of God and then die upon the cross of Calvary for the guilt of elect sinners. In this he was becoming "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:8). By obeying fully the terms of the Covenant of Grace, the Lord was giving what is called Active and Passive obedience to the Father.
Through this means the righteous justice and holy anger of God for sin was satisfied and believing elect sinners have become acceptable to a holy God. According to the demands of the Gospel, sinners are to believe solely upon Christ and repent of their sins. Such concepts as these, however, are far removed from New Age thinking, which at its very heart is totally opposed to the biblical Gospel.
What do we find within our hearts? Certainly not deity naturally speaking. According to the Lord the following exist: "From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness..." (Mark 7:20-23). (Lasciviousness means general moral filthiness and impurity; lustfulness. An "evil eye" indicates an envious, covetous spirit.) The prophet Jeremiah also adds: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked..." (17:9). See also Romans 3: 9-18.
Our only hope is to go without [i.e., to look ouside ourselves] - to Christ himself. All else is self-deception and folly. For the New-Agers, truth becomes whatever we want it to be. Francis Bacon put it well: "What is truth; said jesting Pilate; And would not stay for an answer."(6) The truth is, all men are under judgment until they repent and believe upon Christ. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36). An early church leader called Irenaeus said of the gnosticism of his day that it was: "An abyss of madness and blasphemy against Christ." The same can be said of the modern day New Age movement. Should any reader be tempted to stare over the abyss, let them draw back and wisely run to Christ who is the one and only Saviour.
(To be continued, D.V.)
1. Peter Jones, The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back, pp.26,27.
2. All very familiar. cf. Genesis 3:5.
3. William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary on John, The Banner of Truth Trust, p.87.
4. The Doctrine of God, The Banner of Truth Trust, p.270. See the page for a full list of Bible references.
5. The Larger Catechism, Q&A 54.
6. Opening words of Bacon's essay, Of Truth.