Document Lists Key Differences Between New Age and Christianity

Jesus as a «Wise Man»; God as a «Force»

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 3, 2003 ( The New Age movement might be seeking the «divine,» but it is certainly no religion, says a new Vatican document.

The document, published today, is entitled «Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the ‘New Age.'»

Signed by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, it lists the fundamental differences between New Age and Christianity.

It states, for example, that New Age «is not, properly speaking, a religion, but it is interested in what is called ‘divine.'»

«The essence of New Age is the loose association of the various activities, ideas and people who might validly attract the term,» it adds.

«So there is no single articulation of anything like the doctrines of mainstream religions,» the document continues. «Despite this, and despite the immense variety within New Age, there are some common points:

— «The cosmos is seen as an organic whole.

— «It is animated by an Energy, which is also identified as the divine Soul or Spirit.

— «Much credence is given to the meditation of various spiritual entities — humans are capable of ascending to invisible higher spheres, and of controlling their own lives beyond death.

–«There is held to be a ‘perennial knowledge’ which predates and is superior to all religions and cultures.

— «People follow enlightened masters.»

The document emphasizes some fundamental differences between Christianity and New Age.

For the Christian, God is a person with whom man is in relation, and not «something to be used or a force to be harnessed,» as is the case with New Age, the document states.

Christianity affirms that Jesus is the only Savior of mankind. New Age often presents Christ as «one among many wise men, or initiates, or avatars,» or as an «impersonal universal Christ.»

In general, for the New Age «the death of Jesus on the cross is either denied or reinterpreted to exclude the idea that he, as Christ, could have suffered,» the document continues.

For the New Age, salvation is a personal achievement — «self-fulfillment, self-realization, self-redemption,» are typical terms. «For Christians, salvation depends on a participation in the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, and on a direct, personal relationship with God rather than on any technique,» the document stresses.

For New Age, truth depends on personal well-being. The evaluation of religion or ethical questions «is obviously relative to one’s own feelings and experiences.» The document emphasizes that «Jesus Christ is presented in Christian teaching as ‘the way, the truth and the life.'»

According to the text, in New Age there is a «tendency to confuse psychology and spirituality,» which «makes it hard not to insist that many of the meditation techniques now used are not prayer.»

«Far from being a merely human effort, Christian mysticism is essentially a dialogue that ‘implies an attitude of conversion, a flight from ‘self’ to the ‘you’ of God,» the document explains.

Other New Age characteristics that are opposed to Christianity are its denial of sin, of social commitment, its rejection of suffering and death, the desire to discover the future in the stars or other techniques, instead of helping to construct it.

In conclusion, the document appeals to pastors in particular to improve Christian formation as a way to counter the attraction of New Age.

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