Last month our church had the privilege of hosting its annual Regarding Him Women’s Conference! It is a day I always look forward to, and I love having the opportunity to spend such a full day learning about God’s Word and worshiping Him with other women!
This week’s blog post is the first of a two part series (part two coming next month!) adapted from the conference breakout session I had the privilege of giving about New Age Spirituality in the church.
You can also listen to all of the main session and breakout session talks here:
For the first five years of our marriage, my husband and I worked together at a local university doing college campus ministry. One of our favorite things to do with our college students was to take them on summer mission trips to Western China.
It was always fun watching farm town kids navigate city life and Eastern culture. There are few things more entertaining than watching a group of 19 year olds figure out how to use chopsticks for the first time! But something that always stood out to them, and to me, during our time overseas was the spirituality of a culture I had always thought of as atheistic- or at least agnostic. However, while walking through our city we would notice red-robed Tibetan monks, men and women rubbing crystal beads, and Buddhist prayer flags flying everywhere.
For my students and I during those weeks in China, our hearts broke seeing image bearers of God embracing an empty spirituality. Embracing a lie. But when we would arrive back in Ohio after a summer abroad, I noticed that people here are likewise longing for spiritual answers. They are likewise looking to empty lies. It may not look like trusting in yak butter sacrifices or hanging prayer flags around town, but our culture also embraces empty spirituality.
While there are many different examples of this empty spirituality all around us, let’s take some time to explore deeper into New Age Spirituality (also called New Age Mysticism) and the ways it is creeping into the hearts and minds of Christian and non-Christian women alike.
A Brief History Lesson
So, what is New Age Spirituality? In short,
-It includes practices which have roots in Eastern Religion and the occult.
-It believes that all gods are pretty much the same and that purpose and meaning can be found by becoming one with the world around us.
-It rejects the One True God.
Now, despite the name, New age spirituality is actually not new at all.
It has been around for some time, but began really gaining steam in America during the 1960’s. The 60’s were chaotic years in the US with Vietnam, a new wave of feminism, civil rights, the cold war…the world felt wild, untrustworthy, and people were longing for peace in a very un-peaceful world. They turned to things like crystals, drugs, and mysticism looking to find peace and spiritual answers.
Fast forward through the hippie crystals of the 70’s, the New Age healers of the 80’s, and Oprah’s favorite New Age authors of the 90’s and 2000’s and as we arrive in this decade we see that New Age spirituality is very much alive and well. People are still looking for spiritual answers in an uncertain world. And, I think, largely in part to social media, New Age Mysticism is quickly on the rise. I would actually argue that it is more prevalent and normalized in our culture now than it ever has been before. Typing in “crystals” on Instagram returned over 25 million posts and, according to Google maps, there are dozens of new age, crystal, and reiki stores in the Toledo area.
But New Age Spirituality isn’t just in the world around us… it is quickly creeping into Christian culture as well. A few years ago, Barna did a survey among people who identify as Christian. They were looking at the extent that New Age beliefs have integrated into Christian culture.
Do you know what percentage of Christians they surveyed strongly agreed with at least one fundamental New Age belief? Over 61%.
Over 61% of Christians strongly agreed with the beliefs that all gods are pretty much the same, and that our meaning and purpose come from becoming one with the world around us.
So, what is it that makes New Age Spirituality so popular with Christian and non-Christian women alike? What is it about New Age Mysticism that has been so attractive and enticing to generations across decades? Well, it’s the same thing that makes it attractive to us today. New Age Mysticism offers an enticing promise. It is the same promise that tempted Eve in the garden and is a lie that continues to entice us today: it is a promise that we can be God.
You are probably familiar with the story in Genesis 3 of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. The crafty serpent approaches Eve and asks her “Did God really say not to eat from any tree of the garden?” And Eve says they just can’t eat from the tree in the middle of the garden…because if they eat from it or touch it they will die.
The snake then replies with a lie- and I think this lie is still why our hearts are so drawn to things like New Age Mysticism- the snake tells Eve this lie:
“’You surely will not die!
For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened,
and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food,
and that it was a delight to the eyes,
and that the tree was desirable to make one wise,
she took from its fruit and ate;
and she gave also to her husband with her,
and he ate.”
Adam and Eve desired to be like God not in a sense of pursuing holiness. They wanted to be God. They desired to be wise, all-knowing, and all-powerful. If we are honest with ourselves, we are not that different from Eve. We are sinful and are tempted to want to be God- wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, in control. We even see this throughout the Bible. Generations of people enticed by this lie, this false promise that we can be God.
New Age Mysticism is one of the many things in our world that tells us we can be god. That we are good enough and everything we need can be found within. That we are able and capable of healing ourselves. These are the same lies that Eve believed in the garden and they are the same lies that we, as Christian women, need to be on guard against.
Our goal in diving deeper into how New Age practices have crept into Christian culture is not to discuss whether these things work. Our goal is not to discuss how effective these things may be. Surely many of them do truly work! Our goal is to think about, regardless of how well something works or doesn’t, whether we should allow it into our lives and whether or not it honors God. King Saul sought out a fortune teller who really did summon Samuel from the dead. Many new age practices may actually “work.” But do they honor God? Should we allow them in our lives and homes?
…Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
My prayer for us as we talk about these facets of New Age Spirituality, is that we will grow in discerning the spiritual things around us, see how we may be believing lies within our own hearts, and trust God to help us live lives that glorify Him.
Crystal Clear: Crystals
In high schools, college campuses, and beyond, crystals are growing tremendously in popularity. They’ve gone far beyond the classic “crystal ball” and are now used in a wide variety of products. The belief behind crystals is that they possess properties and energy which promise something beneficial to the user- whether happiness and peace from sapphire, trust and harmony from rose quartz, or emotional healthiness from turquoise.
People can then “harness” this energy in different ways depending on the crystal. Some crystals go in a water bottle- kind of like lemon water, but instead of drinking in tasty lemon, your water is infused with healing energy. Other crystals are believed to give off their powers like a magnetic field, and just by being near them or touching them you can harness their energy. The products and methods of harnessing crystal energy really are limitless. Amazon offers over 6,000 types of crystal water bottles and 100,000 types of a la cart crystals for sale. If either of those don’t suit your taste, there are crystal towers, diffusers, lamps, paperweights, jewelry…you name it.
So, what is a crystal? It’s always good to start with definitions!
Do you remember those kaleidoscope toys we had as kids where you would take it and look at a light and as you spun it you would see geometric patterns? A crystal, when under a microscope, will have a pattern similar to that. If you were to take my wedding ring and look at the diamond under a microscope, you would see a beautiful pattern of shiny triangles and shapes, because a diamond is a crystal.
Alright, why does that matter.
It matters, because God made crystals- their beauty and order testify to that. New Age crystal enthusiasts will be quick to tell you that crystals are okay to use because they were made by God. But we know, we need to use discernment here.
Here is what a new age mystic will want you to know about crystals:
A new age mystic will want you to know that crystals were made by God.
And we can agree with them here!
In Genesis, we see that God created the world and everything in it, including crystals. When looking at the patterns within a diamond or an amethyst stone, it is incredible to see the structure, beauty, and order that lie within them but are unseen to the naked eye. The beauty and order of crystals testify to the magnificence of our Creator.
A new age mystic will want you to know that crystals are in the Bible.
This too, we can agree with!
The throne room in Revelation 4 is adorned with jasper and sardius, a sea of glass like crystal, and a rainbow like emerald. In the Old Testament in Exodus 39, the high priest’s breastplate was adorned with crystals: ruby, topaz, emerald, turquoise. Yes, we do see crystals in the Bible.
A new age mystic will tell you that because crystals were made by God and are in the Bible, we can use them to harness their “special properties” to benefit ourselves.
With this, we disagree.
When we look to anything outside of Christ for peace or happiness, we are likely dabbling in idolatry. When we look to meet our needs in crystals, we are like the people in Romans 1:25 where it says “they worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.”
Do crystals have a place in the life of a Christian?
It depends on what someone means by “crystal.” Enjoy the beauty of your wedding ring, the intricate patterns in a quartz countertop, but do not look to crystals to meet your physical or spiritual needs and desires. That is idolatry and that is where we see sin in the use of crystals.
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star: Astrology
A few summers ago when we were in China, I remember walking around our city and seeing Peppa pig everywhere. Peppa Pig is this little cartoon pig TV show, and even though I’ve never watched Peppa Pig, after that summer I feel like I am a Peppa expert. Everywhere I looked, there were Peppa Pig balloons, stickers, billboards, t-shirts. It turned out Chinese culture is not merely a big fan of Peppa Pig, but that year was the year of the pig according to the Chinese zodiac calendar. That meant the Chinese could expect a year of good luck, wealth, and joy based on the position of the stars when they were born.
Now in America, we may not adorn our streets and t-shirts with pigs, but astrology is still very much alive and well in Western culture.
So, what is astrology?
It is the study of how the stars and planets impact our daily lives, and it promises to explain why things happen or predict what will happen in our lives based on the stars. We see it in our culture today through horoscopes, zodiac signs, and even subtly in superstitions. For example, when I worked as a nurse, both in Indianapolis and Toledo, other nurses would always joke that patients get a little crazy when there is a full moon.
Does astrology have a place in the life of a Christian? Here is what a new age mystic would want you to know:
A new age mystic would want you to know that God created the stars for signs and seasons.
With this, we agree!
Genesis 1:14 tells us that “Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years.”
A new age mystic would want you to know that because God created the stars for signs and seasons, we can look to the stars and sky for signs and insight into our lives.
With this, we disagree.
Creation glorifies and points to God, not ourselves. In Matthew, the wise men see the star in the sky and it leads them to seek and worship Christ. When we look at the stars and planets, our reaction should be like the Psalmist in Psalm 8:
“When I consider Your heavens,
the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him,
and the son of man that You care for him?”
Looking to the stars should cause us to think less of ourselves, not more. They should cause us to praise God, not dwell on thoughts of ourselves. Horoscopes and astrology signs worship and focus on self. They seek to tell the future, and the Bible warns about this type of behavior:
“You are wearied with your many counsels;
let now the astrologers, those who prophesy by the stars,
those who predict by the new moons,
stand up and save you from what will come upon you.
Behold, they have become like stubble, fire burns them;
they cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame;
there will be no coal to warm by nor a fire to sit before!”
Does astrology have a place in the life of the Christian? No. It is easy to view checking the horoscopes as not a big deal. Or making a joke about our toddlers’ behavior during a full moon. Doesn’t everyone do it? Isn’t it just for fun? If you are someone who enjoys checking the horoscopes, I challenge you to stop and turn to God and His Word for wisdom and direction. He alone knows the future, and we must trust in Him alone, not in our own power and astrology sign.
Glad That’s Not Me!
How easy it can be to learn about a few of these popular New Age practices and pat ourselves on the back: “Phew, I’m glad I’ve never taken part in anything New Age!” or to be like the Pharisee in Luke 18:11 as he stands next to a tax collector while praying to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector…”
Yes, maybe you have never even touched or come close to a new age crystal. Maybe you don’t seek them at all for peace and wholeness. That is good! Yet it is still very possible to seek peace and wholeness from things apart from God. Maybe you seek these things not from amethyst water bottles, but from “me time,” cultivating your “image” on social media, or buying things you want.
Maybe you don’t check the daily horoscope or attribute events in your day to the moon phase- maybe you don’t look to your astrology sign to give you a feeling of being all-knowing or all-powerful. But do you trust that God is sovereign over all of His creation? Maybe you don’t look to the stars for explanations, but maybe you consistently look to the news for peace and an explanation behind the latest environmental event or health danger. Peace does not come from being fully informed by the news (or the stars). True, unwavering peace comes from God alone. Take your worries to Him, not your News App.
May we be women who run the race well as we persevere to walk as children of light and discern what is pleasing to God.
May we trust in Him alone for our deepest needs and desires.