The New Age Movement and the Biblical Worldview: Conflict and Dialogue. By John P. Newport. Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans, 1998. xv + 614 pp. $35.00 (paper).
The Way of the (Modern) World. Or, Why it's Tempting to Live as if God Doesn't Exist. By Craig M. Gay. Foreword by J.1. Packer. Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans, 1998. xii + 338 pp. $22.00 (paper).
John Newport has done for all Christian people an enormous service by writing a massive yet very readable survey of New Age movements in this country. In fact, the everyday reader will be amazed by the sheer number of New Age groups that have come to permeate our culture and by the depth of their penetration.
Retired from Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, Professor Newport has made his study of the New Age a life's work. We are the beneficiaries. Beginning with a profile of leading New Age ideas, the author goes on to describe with objectivity and abundant, fascinating information the range of New Age teachers and organizations that now contribute to almost every facet of thought. He covers channeling in its many forms, ecology and the New Age, health issues and the New Age, business and the New Age, also education, science, the arts, academic scholarship and finally modern Satanism! Newport's personal knowledge and experience of these movements from the 1950s to the 1990s is astonishing. I became glued to the page and actually had to read the whole long thing without skimming.
A strong unity of ideas characterizes the New Age: "All is One" or Monism, Everything is God (Pantheism), and God is within You (pp. 3-5). Reincarnation and Karma, together with the mandate to "Change your Consciousness" (p. 7), fill out the basic perennial philosophy that to greater or lesser degree links together almost all schools of thought that make up the New Age.
Professor Newport, who is coming from a conservative evangelical standpoint himself, uses the solid method of description then discussion. He gives a detailed and non-polemic description of a phenomenon, such as the Gaia Concept (p. 281), sets the concept within its broad historical context, then offers a critique, and not just a Christian critique. At the end of each topic, he presents a "Christian Response." He wishes to review the concept in light of the broad themes of the Bible, highlight (in most cases) its contrast with biblical ideas, and then ask the question: what can Christians learn from this teaching? To what questions is this teaching responding that Christianity needs to take seriously, or more seriously?
I found the book riveting. Its analysis of est (Erhard Seminar Training) alone (pp. 93-96, also pp. 385-386), which had such impact in American urban centers during the 1970s, is worth the price of the book. See also the revealing discussion of A Course in Miracles (pp. 172-1718). Episcopalians will be especially interested in Newport's analysis of Carl Jung's ideas (pp. 103-117) and their impact on "mainline" Protestant denominations.
Without ever actually saying it, this study suggests an undercurrent of occultism within many New Age projects. Newport is never hysterical, nor even alarmist. At the same time he describes the links of many New Age ideas to magic. This climaxes in the influence of writers such as Anton LaVey. (Did you know, by the way, about Jayne Mansfield's lethal encounter with LaVey in the mid-1960s? This is not tabloid stuff but thoroughly, unsettlingly documented.)
The New Age Movement and the Biblical Worldview is a home run and can be recommended to everyone, even if only for the sheer fascination of the human quest for fulfilment and happiness that fills, for better and for much worse, its every page. …