Discussing the Bible with New Agers

DISCUSSING THE BIBLE WITH NEW AGERS

You might have a conversation such as the following. Know what they will most likely say will enable you to respond accordingly.
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Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute.
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“Discussing the Bible with New Agers, Part One” (an article from the Effective Evangelism column of the Christian Research Journal, Fall 1994, page 9) by Elliot Miller. The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is
Elliot Miller.

Any conscientious effort to present the gospel to a New Ager eventually leads to a discussion of the Bible. Although such a debate is engaged on Christian turf, it is often the New Ager, not the Christian, who afterwards feels satisfied with the discussion.
For example:

*Christian:* Do you believe in Jesus?

*New Ager:* Yes, I believe in Jesus — and in Buddha, and
Ramakrishna, and my own guru, too.

*Christian:* But Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and
the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through
me.”

*New Ager:* That’s right! _I Am_ is the truth and the only way.

*Christian:* What?

*New Ager:* The _I Am Presence_ or spark of divinity in each
one of us!

*Christian:* Wait a minute. Jesus was speaking about
_Himself_…

*New Ager:* Yes, and only when _each one of us_ can say with
Jesus, _I Am,_ will we realize God as Jesus did.

*Christian:* But 1 Timothy 2:5 says _the man Christ Jesus_ is
the only mediator between God and men.

*New Ager:* Oh, that means the only mediator is our Christ
Consciousness or Higher Self.

*Christian:* You’re taking the Bible out of context.

*New Ager:* The problem with you fundamentalists is you hang on
its every word. We’re in a New Age and much of the Bible is
obsolete! Yet there are also timeless truths within it, and only
when you accept the Universal Wisdom in _all_ religions will you
recognize those truths.

*Christian:* Second Timothy 3:16 says _all_ of Scripture is
God’s Word and profitable, so you can’t prove what you’re saying
from the Bible.

*New Ager:* You quote the Bible to prove the Bible and then
tell _me_ I lack proof? Actually, my guru does prove her teachings
from the Bible, because she can unlock its esoteric meaning. But
you fundamentalists are so obsessed with literal meaning you don’t
understand your own book. [End of discussion.]

In such a conversation the New Ager’s faith in mysticism and
his guru have hardly been shaken. The Christian, on the other hand,
has hardly become encouraged about further witnessing to New Agers.
Their words seem to miss each other as they speak from very
different presuppositions. How can the Christian scale this barrier
to effective evangelism? Let me suggest a basic approach.

Underlying the Christian-New Age debate is the question of how
much respect one should show the Bible. For Christians the Bible is
the authoritative Word of God. All of its teachings are true and in
agreement. Each passage has one objective interpretation that must
be sought.

To find the Bible’s true meaning, careful consideration must be
given to context — in the immediate passage, Scripture as a whole,
and the surrounding historical situation. In this way the Bible can
speak for itself.

New Agers, on the other hand, not only disregard the Bible’s
claim to be uniquely inspired by God — they don’t even show it the
respect any piece of literature deserves: to be understood
objectively, on its own terms. This is because they approach it
with biases derived from the authorities they _do_ respect:
intuition and experience.

Because they have drunk from the well of mystical and psychic
experience, and because they have become immersed in the occult
teachings drawn from that well, New Agers usually accept only those
ideas that seem to confirm their own intuitions. For example, if a
teaching denies the divine oneness of all things and the underlying
harmony of the world’s religions, they reject it. However, since
Christianity is one of those supposedly harmonious religions, many
New Agers cannot accept that its Scriptures actually deny that
harmony and oneness — it must be that the “fundamentalists” are
misinterpreting them.

New Agers consequently have great difficulty allowing the Bible
to speak for itself. Looking for its hidden or mystical meaning,
they completely miss its obvious historical meaning — that is to
say, its true meaning. For biblical revelation has always been
primarily exoteric (plain and public) and not esoteric (cryptic and
exclusive) (Isa. 45:19; 48:16; Mark 4:22; John 18:20; Acts 26:26).
The God of the Bible made Himself known _in history_ through
prophetic words and miraculous deeds. Biblical salvation is
therefore _objective:_ it is first presented to the mind from
outside sources as received through the five senses.

When New Agers subjectively remold Scripture in the image of
esotericism they make a mistake a seeker of truth should never
make. They presuppose that their own understanding of Ultimate
Reality is the only possible one without seriously looking into
opposing claims to truth.

We Christians should point out to such New Agers that they,
too, are guilty of the “sin” of exclusivism. But while we exclude
other views by forthrightly denying them, they do so by dishonestly
affirming (i.e., redefining) them.

We are not asking them to blindly accept our interpretation of
the Bible, but to seek an objective understanding of its teachings.
If they find that it does present a view of reality in conflict
with their own, we further ask them as truth-seekers to seriously
consider the evidence in support of its claims before rejecting
them.

Once New Agers agree to approach the Bible objectively, we have
grounds for calling them to honesty when they take the Bible out of
context. And once they begin to consider the claims of the Bible in
context, the power of the gospel will have an opportunity to
penetrate their minds and hearts.

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