All spiritual belief systems must come to grips with the evidence that humanity does not always act in kind, compassionate, or loving ways. How do we explain hatred, prejudice, crime, acts of war, and other manifestations of man’s undesirable traits?
An increasingly popular worldview today that has mainstreamed in Western culture is what was once called the New Age, and now also called the New Spirituality, or simply spirituality. How are man’s failings explained in this worldview and what are the proposed solutions? When the term “New Age” is used in this article, it includes many views defined as “spiritual” that are not usually affiliated with any specific religion or doctrines. The terms “New Age” and “the New Spirituality” will be used interchangeably. The writer herself was involved in and followed these beliefs for most of her life.
Identifying New Spirituality and New Age Views
The label “New Age” is an umbrella term that covers a broad spectrum of beliefs stemming mainly from Eastern, Gnostic, New Thought, mystical, and humanistic religions and views. Since there is no central authority or doctrine, the best way to identify New Age thinking is through some common beliefs that one finds overlapping in these systems. These include some of the following: God is usually impersonal, or personal and impersonal; all is energy; God and creation are the same (pantheism), or God is contained in creation (panentheism); the world and matter are illusory, or are denser forms of vibratory energy; man is basically good; man comes from God and shares God’s nature; man and God are the same; there is no absolute truth, or absolute good or evil; man must think in certain ways to cast off illusion and see truth; man is spiritually evolving through reincarnation; and man will eventually merge with God.
The New Age is fluid and adaptive, drawing from different belief systems as it flows river-like through cultures and time. Its adaptability is what gives it endurance, since its open-ended, changing nature is difficult to challenge in a postmodern culture. The New Age borrows terms from other beliefs, but often redefines them or adapts them within the context of a New Age worldview, which is essentially positive, transcendent, and life-affirming. This use of terms familiar to other religions is highly appealing, since the recognized expressions may waylay initial suspicion about something new or different.
In New Age beliefs, what is normally designated as evil in some religions is labeled as negative energy, as illusory, as projected fear, or as challenging lessons. The concept of sin is not accepted since there is no acknowledged judgment from a holy being on man’s actions, no absolute good or evil, and thus no absolute standard by which man can measure himself or by which he can be judged. Since man is basically good and is divine, there is no need for salvation, only a need for liberation or enlightenment from false views of self and the world
The New Age God and Man: Into the Looking Glass
The New Age often refers to God, but this God is not distinct from man. Indeed, since man comes from God and is part of God, man is inherently good, having a divine inner nature [Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love (NY, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1992), 28; Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations with God (NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995), 52, 85; Jane Roberts, The Nature of Personal Reality (NY: Bantam Books, 1974), 159; Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi (Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1998), 197-198, 568. This is just a sampling of sources; the number of books that convey this central New Age teaching are too numerous to list]. Therefore, when examining the New Age God, one must also look at the New Age view of man, because when man looks into the New Age mirror, he is taught that he is gazing at God. According to one writer, when God told Abraham to “Go forth,” he was actually telling Abraham, as well as mankind, “Go to your self, know your self, fulfill your self” [Daniel C. Matt, The Essential Kabbalah (NY: HarperSanFrancisco and HarperCollins Publishers, 1994), 127].
In some beliefs, man originally did not have a body, but was god-like, and merged with materiality, thus gaining a body [Rabbi David A. Cooper, God is a Verb (NY: Riverhead Books, 1997), 55, 56. The suggestion is that Eve had sexual relations with the serpent and thus vitalized matter, giving Adam and Eve bodies]. Some say the body was not made by God, but is a result of wrong perception that keeps us in the illusion of separation from God [A Course in Miracles (Glen Allen, CA: Foundation for Inner Peace, 1992), 105]. This view seems to have originated in early Gnostic teachings that a lower evil God, the Demiurge, created matter as an attack on the light, equating matter with evil [“The Hypostasis of the Archons,” introduction by Roger A. Bullard, trans. Bentley Layton, in The Nag Hammadi Library in English, rev. ed., ed. James M. Robinson (Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1988; NY: HarperSanFrancisco and HarperCollins Publishers, 1990), 162-163, 167; Kurt Rudolph, Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism, trans. P. W. Coxon (pages 171-274), and K. H. Kuhn (pages 274-376), (Leipzig, Germany: Koehler & Amelang, 1977; Edinburgh; T. & T. Clark, 1984; NY: HarperSanFrancisco and HarperCollins Publishers, 1987), 60, 65-67, 95]. Even though man was created from matter, he was superior to the evil Demiurge who had created man’s body, since man was secretly equipped by the highest God with a divine spirit, which gave him inner light, and thus higher status over the Demiurge [Rudolph, 92-95].
In the Kabbalah teachings, a mystical and Gnostic form of Judaism that has become part of New Age thinking, the true God is unknowable and is called the Ein Sof, an “Infinite Nothingness” [Cooper, 35] emanating into creation so that “all existence is God” [Matt, 24, 81]. Indeed, God cannot really be known; it is wrong to conceptualize God in any way, and we should give God no names at all [Yogananda, 566; Cooper, 65].
The New Spirituality emphasizes knowledge of God through experience, usually a mystical one, over any revelation outside of man. Theologian Matthew Fox, drawing heavily on the teachings and revelations of mystics such as Meister Eckhart, Hildegard of Bingen, St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, and others, whose supernatural experiences parallel those of the New Age, writes that God can only be truly known through these otherworldly experiences, because this “mystical dimension of our psyches is part of our true self,” a part denied by our culture [Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ (HarperSanFrancisco and HarperCollins Publishers, 1988), 41-42, 48]. Thus, external doctrine or sources of truth take an inferior or even irrelevant role in this theology, as they do in most New Age beliefs.
An interesting but complicated history of God is presented by Seth, an entity channeled by Jane Roberts, now deceased. Roberts explained that Seth began contact while she and her husband were experimenting with a Ouija Board in 1963. This led to Roberts feeling compelled to speak Seth’s words aloud, and this eventually resulted in her becoming a channel for Seth by letting him speak through her [Jane Roberts, Seth Speaks (NY: Bantam Books, 1972), vii]. Ultimate Reality is not really a god, but is something called All That Is, a reality from which we all spring [Roberts, 385]. Seth explains that man originally felt a part of nature and knew that he was one with all reality, but decided to challenge himself with a new consciousness. This led to man projecting his idea of God outward, and so “the god inside became the god outside” [Roberts, 382-383]. This projection of God played out in various religious dramas, which allowed man to live out his spiritual search and struggles. This projection of ego led to man’s increasing sense of separation from nature, so that man fell into using his power over nature.
The narrator’s vision of creation in the New Age bestseller, The Celestine Prophecy, is that energy transformed into ever-higher vibrations until conditions existed for man, and the narrator realizes he is part of creation; God is not mentioned in this account, though later God is acknowledged as being within man [James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy (NY: Warner Books Inc., 1993), 98-101, 239]. This identification of man with creation is echoed by bestselling author Deepak Chopra who teaches, “Your body is not separate from the body of the universe,” and the “larger quantum field — the universe — is your extended body” [The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success (San Rafael, CA: Amber-Allen Publishing and New World Library, 1994), 69]. The result of this is a man-centered universe where God is so remote or so depersonalized an energy — the permeating “Divine Intelligence” as defined by Chopra — that God becomes almost irrelevant, leaving man to be God.
God can also be changeable and incomplete in the New Age. Chopra states that “the source of all creation is pure consciousness” and “when we realize that our true Self is one of pure potentiality, we align with the power that manifests everything in the universe” [Chopra, 7]. In contrast, the Biblical God is perfect and unchanging; he lacks nothing in his perfection and so has no potential, since having potential means a need for something more or something else. If Chopra’s God is pure potentiality, then he is a changing and imperfect God. In his introduction to the Kabbalah, one writer says that God is not static, but is “dynamic becoming” who is incomplete without man, and that “it is up to us to actualize the divine potential in the world. God needs us” [Matt, 1-2]; in other words, we have a needy God who depends on man for completion.
New Age writer Neale Donald Walsch claims that God answered his questions as recorded in several books. The God in these books blatantly states, “If you believe that God is the creator and decider of all things in your life, you are mistaken. God is the observer, not the creator,” (italics in original) [Walsch, 13]. Man, God says, is only here to remember “Who You Are,”[CWG, 21; Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations with God for teens (NY: Scholastic, Inc., 2001), 28, 42, 196], that is, we are God [Walsch, CWG, 26, 52, 127, 131, 157, 200; Walsch, Conversations with God for teens, 147, 153, 262; Neale Donald Walsch, Friendship with God (NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1999), 395]. In fact, man is the Alpha and Omega [Walsch, Friendship with God, 249] and this God does not judge [Walsch, CWGFT, 117, 163; Walsch, CWG, 183] since there is no such thing as right or wrong; therefore, there is nothing to judge [Walsch, CWG, 13, 38-40, 98, 133, 152; Walsch, CWGFT, 117-118, 120, 122].
The New Age God is usually impersonal yet at the same time has personal qualities such as intelligence and love. According to a writer of “Christian metaphysics,” God is “Love, Truth, Life, Intelligence, Soul, Spirit and Principle” [Conny Mendez, Power Through Metaphysics (Caracas, Venezuela: Bienes Laconica, C.A., 1991), 37]. God does not judge, and the Ten Commandments were merely statements of fact, not commands; i.e., “thou shalt not kill” means we cannot kill because our spirits live forever, and “thou shalt not bear false witness” means we cannot really lie because “there is truth on all planes”[Mendez, 18, 46, 54].
Man is divine spirit with a “direct knowledge of Truth,” and when man knows the spiritual laws and thinks correctly, he will have what God wishes for him, because God is the “principle of perfect harmony” [Mendez, 79, 160]. Writing about Roman Catholic mystic Julian of Norwich, a theologian states that Julian believed that God did not create man in order to rule over him, but created man “in order to share divine life with human nature” [Kerrie Hide, The Soteriology of Julian of Norwich (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2001), 78]. God becomes a sort of colleague of man, concerned about man’s desires while sharing his own divinity with man.
Thus, the New Age presents a God who is not necessarily perfect, who does not care about evil or sin and does not judge it, or a perfect God who is not unique because man is also part of that perfect God and is actually perfect himself. If God is not perfect, there is no absolute standard by which man can be judged. If God does not judge sin, then sin can be rationalized or dismissed. If man is like God in being perfect, then sin is an irrelevant issue.
New Age Sin: “Not Sin” Rather than “Sin Not”
Not surprisingly, since man is viewed in these beliefs as divine or on the way to godhood, sin plays a secondary or even non-existent role, or is redefined or dismissed in a myriad of ways. Many New Age teachings declare sin to be part of the illusion of what we perceive as reality. Since we are perfect, what we see as ugly, wicked, flawed, or imperfect need only be denied since they are illusions [Mendez, 55, 130; Walsch, CWG, 37-38; Williamson, 20-21]. The concepts of good and evil are symbolic and not real, but useful for man as guides at his present level of consciousness, even though all acts are actually a part of the greater good [Roberts, Seth Speaks, 369, 387-388]. Another view embraces evil. Giving his view of the Kabbalah, Rabbi Cooper states that even “evil has divine nature” in it, and that “evil as we know it can never be eradicated, even if we wanted, for it fulfills a primary function in creation” [Cooper, 160].
There is no need for guilt, because there is no sin; sin is illusory [A Course in Miracles, 527; Walsch, Conversations with God, 51, 115]. Man’s development of a conscience was a consequence of “artificial guilt” [Roberts, The Nature of Personal Reality, 158]. No devils or demons actually exist [Roberts, Seth Speaks, 387; Walsch, Conversations with God, 51] nor does hell; hell is feeling this unnecessary guilt [A Course in Miracles Workbook for Students, (Glen Allen, CA: Foundation for Inner Peace, 1992), 61, 303; Walsch, Conversations with God for teens, 281], or is a state of mind, as is heaven [The Metaphysical Bible Dictionary (Unity Village, MO: Unity Books, 1995), 271. Note: Though no author is listed, Charles Fillmore is given credit for the teachings in this book].
Walsch’s God starkly declares: “I do not love ‘good’ more than I love ‘bad.’ Hitler went to heaven. When you understand this, you will understand God” [Walsch, CWG, 62].
New Thought finds that sin is an act more against man than against God. The New Thought Movement arose in the late 19th and early 20th century based on teachings from Phineas Quimby and hypnotist Anton Mesmer that all is mind and that illness is an illusion. This movement influenced the founders of the Christian Science church, the Unity School of Christianity, and the Church of Religious Science, each of which incorporated further teachings that became foundational to the New Spirituality. Unity’s Metaphysical Bible Dictionary defines sin as “a departure from the law of our being” [The Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, 620]. Failure to exercise “domain” over our thoughts and states of mind is a sin, since God commanded man to have dominion over the creatures of the land and sea, and such creatures represent our states of mind, according to this book.
Walsch’s God finds nothing to forgive in man, since there is no right or wrong at all [Walsch, Conversations with God for teens, 120, 122, 124; Walsch, CWG, 38-40]. Adam’s disobedience in eating from the forbidden tree was actually an “upliftment” and “first blessing,” that gave mankind the power of choice [Walsch, CWG, 55, 56]. In a similar vein, Julian of Norwich claimed the fall in the Garden was an “accident” for which man was not blamed by God, but only offered “healing love” [Hide, 119-120]. Sin is not ours anyway, says a metaphysical writer and teacher; it was Eve’s sin [Mendez, 165].
In some Gnostic writings, which heavily influence New Age beliefs, the serpent in the Garden that tempts Adam and Eve is actually a representation of the good, highest God (as opposed to the evil one who created matter), and eating from the forbidden tree gave Adam and Eve “the light of knowledge (gnosis)” [Rudolph, 97, 99, 104]. Adam and Eve are punished for this by the jealous commanders (or spirits) ruled by the evil Demiurge who wanted man to remain entangled in matter and ignorant of his true state [Rudolph, 100, 105]. In this scenario, the serpent becomes the liberator, the bringer of wisdom to man (a philosophy of Luciferianism).
The Adam and Eve story is allegorized by a Hindu guru into a tale of how man and woman (reason and feeling) became enslaved to bodily desires through sexual relations, represented by eating from the forbidden tree, and thus were enslaved to death and illusion [Yogananda, 197-198]. Another version of Adam’s fall declares that his sin was in not fully enjoying the delights of the earth as he was meant to do [Fox, 26].
Referring to the bestselling A Course in Miracles, New Age teacher Marianne Williamson states that sin is “loveless perception” [Williamson, 21]. Since man is perfect, nothing we can do “can mar our perfection in the eyes of God” [Williamson, 28]. Although we can make mistakes, the perception of sin is an error to be corrected [A Course in Miracles, xiii]. Metaphysical teacher Mendez tells us that when Jesus said “Go and sin no more,” He was “referring to the error of negative thoughts, words or deeds that had brought illness” on people .
According to the “God” in Walsch’s books, the concept of sin is a sort of hoax perpetuated by the world’s religions on man, who is perfect [Walsch, CWG, 85, 119]. The belief in absolute right and wrong keeps us in an illusion that there is a need for guilt or judgment [Walsch, CWGFT, 118, 122, 124, 127]. Indeed, evil itself does not exist, only “objective phenomena and experience” [Walsch, CWGFT, 133].
Where there is no sin, there is no need for judgment or penalty of sin. Sin would cause anger from God, but since God cannot be angry with us, there is only error, not sin, and thus there is no judgment on sin, only God’s desire to heal error [Walsch, CWGFT, 85]. There is also the idea that sin needs no punishment, for it brings on its own punishment and suffering [Cooper, 246, Hide, 119].
Christ, Illusions, and the Way Out
Despite the fact these philosophies redefine or deny sin, there is still an acknowledgement of a problem since obviously life is not stress-free, and entails suffering and pain, though it might be illusory. Even if the problem is that sin is an illusion, there is the issue of what to do about this. Not surprisingly for the view that man is basically divine that part of the solution is to realize one’s inner divinity in order to combat and conquer the illusion of being separate from God. One’s own holiness becomes one’s own salvation [A Course in Miracles Workbook for Students, 60].
Other answers lie in realizing that what we perceive as evil is illusion; this realization can begin to free us [Mendez, 150-151]. This echoes the Gnostic teachings that one must break through the bonds of ignorance, arriving at the knowledge that he is a spiritual man and is divine, and that the material world is not his true home [Rudolph, 113-115]. Spiritual progress comes also through reincarnation, the process of the soul being born again after death in another body. As we go through each reincarnation, we learn lessons and are “meeting self,” so that we can grow from our experiences [Mary Ann Woodward, “Karma ? Our Jot and Tittle,” in The Edgar Cayce Reader, Hugh Lynn Cayce, ed., (NY: Warner Books and The Association for Research and Enlightenment, Inc., 1969), 109-110, 113].
Sometimes Christ becomes part of the solution, but not because He paid a penalty for sin. The Atonement, Christ’s death on the cross, is redefined as a way to cancel errors man could not correct, and when one is “restored” to his original state of realizing his guiltlessness, he attains Heaven and becomes part of this Atonement [A Course in Miracles, 8-9, 281]. Christ becomes an allegorical figure, or an example of someone who broke through illusion and realized his divinity, as we all can do. Yogananda’s guru, Sri Yukteswar, taught that Jesus was “the Christ or Divine Consciousness in man” [Yogananda, 335]. This divine consciousness was lost when Adam and Eve had sexual experience, thus falling into delusion, and must be regained. Jesus was not the only Son of God, but rather someone who taught that by dissolving our ego and awakening to our oneness with a Christ Consciousness, we can return to our divine consciousness [Yogananda, 198-199]. When Jesus stated in John 14:6 that he was the way, the truth, and the life, and the only way to God, he actually meant that no one can regain their unity with the “Absolute” until he has first activated the Christ Consciousness within, as Jesus did [Yogananda, 198]. The method for this awakening to Christ Consciousness is through reincarnation [Yogananda, 199].
Christ is defined in metaphysical terms that tend to depersonalize him. He is “the ultimate outward expression of the three attributes of Life: Consciousness, Intelligence and Love, in their highest essences” [Mendez, 107]. By meditating on the Metaphysical Christ, one can be re-formed into a pattern of perfection [Mendez, 108]. Christ is not just the New Testament Jesus, but is also the Cosmic Christ, “alive in each one of us,” who incarnates every 2,000 years as a perfect Being [Mendez, 108]. Christ is the “true self” [Fox, 65]. In these teachings, Christ becomes merely a depersonalized tool to effect the realization of our inner divinity.
In some cases, sin itself is equated with what is seen as the patriarchal church and male-dominated society, and Jesus is an awakener who came to remind man that God is maternal, and that we have suppressed the “goddess in every person” [Fox, 31, 139, 146]. This was Jesus’ mission as well when he was on earth, and his crucifixion was the result of his “frontal assault on patriarchy” [Fox, 31]. Matthew Fox claims that to unite the First Century historical Jesus with the Cosmic Christ will make Christianity “whole,” though Jesus had to pay a price for incarnating the Cosmic Christ [Fox, 7, 133].
Fox’s Cosmic Christ dwells in every person and in all creatures with a purpose to change us so that we live fuller, richer lives, including having a “deep ecumenism and interaction among all religions of the planet” [Fox, 7-8]. A major sin has been man’s war on creation, which Jesus came to heal [Fox, 13-17, 93, 143-149]. Aside from awakening us to the goddess within, to our war on Mother Earth, and to our connection with all humanity, Jesus also came to awaken us to our own divinity, to be “other Christs” ourselves [Fox, 118, 121, 138, 139].
The historical Jesus and Christ are separate beings in the beliefs of the Unity School of Christianity, and the symbolic meaning of these two beings overshadows any historical significance. The historical Jesus represents the “I in man” and the self [Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, 345]. Christ is the divine “I AM” identity that Jesus was able to realize, thus demonstrating this possibility to man [Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, 150, 345]. Indeed, Christ is the “real self” of all men, and embodies the “divine ideas” of “intelligence, life, love, substance, and strength” [Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, 150, 345]. By looking within, all men can realize this inner Christ, which is the “higher self” of man, and thus see that the material world has put them under the “material law” rather than the spiritual realm to which man truly belongs [Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, 150]. This realization, it is claimed, induces a new process that transmutes man’s inner self and raises his vibratory energies to higher levels, which will allow him to conquer death [Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, 347]. A Gnostic duality between the material and spiritual is strongly present in Unity’s thinking, which can be easily seen in these beliefs where the spiritual dominates and clashes with the material. A purification of the self from the worldly and material in order to attain a higher spiritual status, as well as an ability to rule the passions, was required in Gnostic tradition [Rudolph, 117].
The crucifixion of Christ represents the end of the “human consciousness of a perishable body,” a necessary event for awakening to the spiritual I AM consciousness, represented by the angel at Jesus’ tomb, who was, in fact, the resurrected Jesus [Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, 348, 349]. The salvation in this worldview is to conquer ignorance and sin through “understanding and righteousness.” Jesus demonstrated this victory by what many call his Ascension, but which, according to Unity, actually was his entrance into the spiritual realms, a feat accomplished through “refining, spiritualizing, and raising both soul and body to higher degrees of power.” In this way, we gain the kingdom of heaven, which is a state of consciousness [Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, 349, 266].
A more unusual Christ is explained by the channeled Seth: Jesus was actually three personalities, incarnating two of them at the same time, John the Baptist, Jesus the Christ, and Paul [Roberts, Seth Speaks, 370, 391]. All three were clairvoyant and skilled in visions, telepathy, and psychic healing [Roberts, 390-391]. The Christ will come again, but not to reward the righteous or punish evildoers, but rather to set Christianity, which will be “in shambles,” aright, and to initiate a “new system of thought” [Roberts, 371]. This future Christ will also affect what we know about the historical Jesus [Roberts, 379].
Christ can also be redefined as a principle of love. Thus, if sin is lack of love, then we are redeemed by a return to love. Williamson puts it explicitly when she claims that Christ is “a psychological term” that “refers to the common thread of divine love that is the core and essence of every human mind” [Williamson, 29]. Therefore, redemption, or “the way out of sin or fear,” which are seen as equal, is “through opening the mind to love” [Williamson, 21].
James Redfield asserts that man’s spiritual evolvement involves realizing that all is energy, and that we have a connection with all people and with the universe. Becoming connected and tapping into this energy is proposed as the true way of being “saved” [Redfield, 235, 236]. One of the characters contends that the New Testament is the story of people “being filled with some kind of energy that transformed them” [Redfield, 236]. As man evolves, his vibration level becomes higher until he dematerializes. Christ was an example of this, which is why he was able to walk on water and seemingly ascend to heaven, although actually he “was the first to cross over” to the other world from which we came, and the first “to expand the physical world into the spiritual” [Redfield, 241].
The Jesus of Walsch’s writings was crucified to show man he had the same power to create his own reality, and that man’s own way to heaven is Self-realization [Walsch, CWG, 52]. Man cannot “not be saved;” there is no hell, and there is no heaven for heaven is realizing you are already there [CWG, 98, 115; Walsch, CWGFT, 140, 142, 264, 281]. In order for man to free himself from the false teachings of sin and hell, God advises that one should read Walsch’s first book “over and over again,” until he understands every word in the book [Walsch, CWG, 120; this is interesting in light of the fact that the same God also tells Walsch early on that words are mere noise and truth cannot be found in them (p. 3)]. Interestingly, the God of this book claims authorship for the landmark New Age book, A Course in Miracles, which teaches many similar ideas [Walsch, CWG, 90]. In Walsch’s book for teens, God tells teens that man, as a Divine Being, will eventually “meld” with God for a time, then go out to be reborn again; this will happen over and over for eternity [Walsch, CWGFT, 260, 261, 281, 296].
A more subtle anti-sin interpretation of Christ’s death on the cross is expressed by the mystic Julian of Norwich, who taught that Christ’s crucifixion did not pay a price for humanity, nor was it reparation for sin, nor a propitiatory sacrifice, but rather it was a way for man to unite with or have “one-ning” with Christ [Hide, 112, 113, 133, 206]. The Fall was merely an interruption of God’s “greatest longing” to make humanity his “dwelling place” [Hide, 122]. Since Julian believes that God does not blame man for sin and expresses no wrath on sin, but merely wants to rescue man, [Hide, 119, 120, 123, 206] it is not surprising that her view of Christ’s atonement has no connection to man’s sin.
A Christless view of grace is offered by Seth, the channeled entity. Seth explains that man was born in a state of grace, and that it is impossible for man to leave it [Roberts, The Nature of Personal Reality, 157]. Man will die in this state of grace, with no need of “special words spoken” over him, or oil or water poured on his head, obvious references to certain Christian rituals. Seth advocates various techniques for one to realize and feel this state of grace [Roberts, The Nature of Personal Reality, 161-162].
Conclusions: Out of the Looking Glass
As seen from examining various New Age views on God, man, and sin, there is a consensus that man is basically good and divine; God does not judge man since man is part of God; God is changing or incomplete; God is part of the universe; God is love, but judgment on man’s sin is not part of this God’s character; sin is denied or defined as illusion; evil is rationalized as ignorance or as illusory; and man’s salvation is not necessary, though his liberation from the material and/or illusory world is, and his need to awaken to his true divine self is a priority. This liberation or enlightenment rests on man’s efforts to discover his true nature, through knowledge, understanding, lessons learned from reincarnation, and through various techniques such as mystical forms of meditation.
Julian of Norwich, who taught that man fell into sin by accident, and that God used Jesus to rescue man, presents an idea similar to an atonement view called the moral influence theory. Christ’s death was an example of divine love, so that we would be softened and turn to God. Julian rejected the Biblical view of Christ being offered as a sacrifice for sins in order to take the punishment of God’s wrath for us [Romans 5: 8-9; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:14-15; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 4:10]. Instead, Julian’s view over-emphasizes God’s love and diminishes man’s accountability for sin so that God’s attribute of love is exaggerated at the expense of His judgment and wrath on sin. Such judgment is clearly presented in passages like Romans 1:18, 2:5, 5:9, 9:22; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6. For the unrepentant, God’s wrath “remains on him” [John 3:36].
In Matthew Fox’s earth-centered theology (creation spirituality), one purpose for Jesus’ visit to earth was to teach man lessons and to serve as an example for us so we could strive to set things in the world aright. This is nearest to the atonement theory that Jesus came to be an example for us. But the Jesus whom Matthew Fox discusses is not a Jesus concerned with man’s sin against a transcendent, holy God, but rather with man’s tormenting of the earth, which is given a central place in Fox’s theology. Fox teaches a panentheistic God: God is contained in the universe and the universe is contained in God [Fox, 57, 117, 124]. Declaring that Jesus taught this view, Fox asserts that part of the “inbreaking” of God’s Kingdom among us is the move from theism to panentheism [Fox, 70], that is, shifting from belief in a transcendent and immanent God to belief in a God contained in creation. Therefore, the earth with its creatures, because it is a vessel for God, becomes a “special word of God,” and a feminized Jesus becomes a symbol for Mother Earth [Fox, 145-146, 147]. The crucifixion of Christ is transformed into the crucifixion of the earth, “the most poignant and urgent pain of our time,” and the risen Christ serves as a call to humans to save Mother Earth [Fox, 83, 146-149].
Jesus may be an example and an awakener to Fox, but it is no longer the salvation of man at issue, but rather the salvation of the earth. The Biblical teaching on man’s need for salvation is twisted into Christ coming to effect salvation for the earth. In contrast, God tells us that although nature is fallen, and the earth will be redeemed, its redemption will come only through Christ [Genesis 3:17; Romans 8:20-22; Revelation 21:1]. This is the redemption of God’s created world, however, and not the redemption of a conscious organism indwelt by God.
A panentheistic God, that is, a God contained in the earth, cannot really save anyone, even earth, because God is then part of what needs saving, and is thus not the transcendent or perfect being he must be to save. He is a victim as surely as earth is, and what kind of God is that? And what is the point of any salvation, if there is no absolute perfection by which we are measuring the need for that salvation? In other words, what are we being saved to, or what is earth being restored to, if God is part of what is corrupt and victimized? If injustice is being declared, then there must be an absolute justice somewhere to know there is injustice.
God tells us in Romans 3:23 that sin is falling short of God’s standard. God is the standard for goodness, kindness, mercy, justice, and love. All men, viewed in God’s eyes, not only fall short of this, but also cannot ever match the standard on their own merits or efforts. God’s perfect judgment on sin demanded a penalty of death for sin, which is eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:14, 15). Man needed a way to be reconciled to God and avoid the penalty; the solution for this was Christ’s incarnation and death on the cross (Romans 4:25, 5:9-10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Hebrews 9:12, 10:12-14), which paid for that penalty.
In the New Age views of God, man, and Christ, man is at the center of the story as God or as a godlike being. In this way, everything is inverted so that man does not need God, much less salvation. God is devalued to an energy, to being contained in the universe, or he is strained into a pantheistic soup where he becomes indistinct and malleable, while man is elevated to divine status so that sin is a non-issue. The force of Christ’s atonement is blunted since the concept of sin is lessened or dismissed. Christ is presented as just another spiritual teacher who serves as an example for attaining the divine consciousness available to all mankind. [See “Who is Jesus?“].
The New Age mirror showing man to be God is shattered, however, when we examine ourselves through God’s word, seeing that as sinful people we are deserving of God’s wrath, yet are offered redemption through the atonement of Christ. Far from being impatient with us or cruel, God waits for man to turn to Him: “He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent” [2 Peter 3:9].
Jesus, Not An Esoteric Teacher
Jesus was not playing mind games when he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except by me,” (John 14:6). He was not hiding an esoteric doctrine in these words, and he was not talking about rising to a higher consciousness. Jesus was plainspoken. He meant what he said, that only through him, the one who suffered the penalty of sin on the cross and rose again, can you come to know God. Jesus was Christ eternally, even before he incarnated as man.
The bodily resurrection of Christ shows that we are not here to transcend the material. There is nothing evil about the material world, as the Gnostics asserted. It is not more spiritual to deny the material and try to dwell in a non-material state. There is no trick being played on us that we should believe that what we see as real is an illusion or mere projection of our thoughts; we do not need to mistrust our senses about the material world we see and touch. Our bodies and the earth were formed and fashioned by God and are something to cherish. When sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, sin spread its deadly infection, tainting the earth, our minds, our spirits, and our bodies. This brought decay, killing, and death. But one day, just as Christ defeated death on the cross by rising again, so will death and decay be thrown out.
Believing in Christ is not an external system as many charge; it is both an external and internal process, because while Christ is objectively real and outside of man, he dwells within us when we turn our lives over to him. We become transformed from within, but not through our own efforts, though we must cooperate. Believing in Christ is the only true holism, encompassing salvation of body, mind, and spirit, from an outside point of time at the cross and from a real external God, and then within through inner transformation wrought by God.
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-29.
“I have been heard by people everywhere, and I teach nothing in private that I have not said in public.” John 18:20
“And I came to bring truth into the world. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” John 18:37b
“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.” Luke 9:22
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Revelation 3:20
Hebrews 9:12 says:
“When Christ went through the tent and entered once and for all into the Most Holy Place, he did not take the blood of goats and bulls to offer as a sacrifice; rather, he took his own blood and obtained eternal salvation for us.”
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