This is the title of the latest article by Pastor Larry DeBruyn,* just published in the most recent Discernment Ministries newsletter. This is one of Pastor DeBruyn's best articles. He explains clearly and concisely how the occult-based philosophy known as "New Thought" has come to be part of the doctrines and practices of the evangelical movement.
Below is a brief snippet from this excellent and informative article:
The Occultization of Evangelicalism
Over the last generation, a similar spell appears to have overtaken evangelicalism, something that has not gone unnoticed by those without the movement. In their opinion, evangelicalism has been “occultized.” In a book titled Occult America, Mitch Horowitz,** a spokesman for the occult and esoteric ideas, notes that New Age religion possesses “a core set of beliefs and a definable point of view.” He then enumerates these beliefs as follows:
- Belief in the therapeutic value of spiritual or religious ideas.
- Belief in a mind-body connection in health.
- Belief that human consciousness is evolving to higher stages.
- Belief that thoughts, in some greater or lesser measure,
- determine reality.
- Belief that spiritual understanding is available without
- allegiance to a specific religion or doctrine.
Of their attitude toward this New Age system of spirituality, Horowitz notes the double minded attitude of evangelicals toward it (See James 1:8.). He notes that even while evangelicals “heaped scorn upon the New Age,” they adopted “some of its most popular therapeutic premises.” Then he continues: “Late-twentieth- and early-twenty-first-century megachurches and media ministries rapidly took to counseling congregants, readers, and television audiences on everything from the spiritual laws of debt relief and weight loss to the mental secrets of success.”
As evidence to the point, we witness the formulaic systems of self-improvement and self-help (By the way, this is legalism—a humanly contrived system of rules and principles that can operate in life without God.) that have come to dominate the evangelical message. By plugging into the power of the mind, whether it’s of the “positivity, possibility, or prosperity” variety, American Christians expect to tap into their human potential in order to experience success ’n life, and this they can do by harnessing the mental powers within or by manipulating the spiritual powers without. Not only are mainline evangelicals using this approach, but also adherents of the charismatic Word of Faith message.
The challenge for “human potentialists” is first, to become conscious the laws of attraction by and through which they can create their success, and then to consciously apply themselves to live in harmony with those psychological and spiritual laws. Though these human “potentialists” might give token assent to God’s working in their lives, the system is designed to work independent of Him.
Through the influence of the movement’s media outlets—personalities, preachers, publicists, and publishers—evangelicalism has come to be dominated by a “formulaic” and Word of Faith spirituality that enshrines principles for success and exalts, even idolizes, those who in their life and ministry achieve it. A seeming never-ending stream of how-to and feel-good books, CDs, and DVDs emanate from Christian publishers for whom ministry has now become industry. If you don’t believe it, check out your local Christian book store, note the genre of books that become overnight Christian best sellers, and observe the “mega” ministries that feed the fleshly appetite for worldly success and personal significance residing in the human heart. In some form or fashion, positivity, possibility and prosperity themes dominate the evangelical media, and by the droves, evangelical ministries sell it and people buy it. Truly we are seeing the fulfillment of Paul’s prediction that in the last days people will “lovers of their own selves . . . lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1-2, 4, KJV).
Nevertheless, accepting Horowitz’s observation that New Age beliefs are enshrined in the ministry and message of megachurches and ministries, the question arises, how has the “evil eye” come to bewitch evangelicalism? How has this “different gospel” grown to cast its spell over the movement?
To understand the “occultization of evangelicalism,” something of the philosophy and history of New Thought and its impact upon American Christianity in general, and the evangelical movement in particular, needs to be known. To this end, Horowitz’s recent book Occult America is most helpful, for it amplifies and confirms the researched material previously stated by this pastor in his book, Church on the Rise.
New Thought—the Philosophy
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the New Thought movement asserted itself in America by offering an intellectual, spiritual and mystical alternative to orthodox Christianity. Though similar to New Age religion (Horowitz of course, suggests New Thought is New Age religion!), by a couple of centuries New Thought preceded the 1960s introduction of the New Age spirituality to American culture. As New Thought advocates argue, the principles and practices of it have been around for 1000s of years. New thought was just “new” to America. But just what is it?
In general, New Thought is a theory of living which states: “Change your thinking and you can change your life.” To devotees of this theory, the game of life is mentalist; it’s primarily played out in the brain. According to ANTN (Affiliated New Thought Network), New Thought is,
a modern spiritual philosophy stressing the power of right thinking in a person’s life, the idea that our thoughts and attitudes affect our experience and that God (or whatever other name a person might have for a Higher Power) is within the individual.
A prominent American religious historian labeled this approach to life and faith “Harmonial religion,” which he defined as follows:
Harmonial religion encompasses those forms of piety and belief in which spiritual composure, physical health, and even economic well-being are understood to flow from a person’s rapport with the cosmos. Human beatitude and immortality are believed to depend to a great degree on one’s being “in tune with the infinite.”
In brief, this is the New Thought and Harmonial philosophy of life. We turn to note some of the players.
New Thought—the Players
The philosophy became popularized in America through the transcendentalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) and the Christian Science of Mary Baker Glover Patterson Eddy (1821-1910). Others positivity thinkers like . . . .
To discover who the major players are in the evangelical church, and their historical and ideological interconnections, read Pastor DeBruyn's complete article in the current Discernment Ministries newsletter, now posted on the web HERE
For more interesting reading, see the previous Discernment newsletter article by Pastor Larry DeBruyn, "EMERGENT WORSHIP--WONDER OR WASTELAND? All's not Well with Smells and Bells," posted HERE.
*Pastor Larry DeBruyn is the author of the following books: UNSHACKLED: Breaking Away from Seductive Spirituality and Church on the Rise: Why I am not a Purpose Driven Pastor, and Drumming Up Deception. All of these books can be ordered HERE.
**Footnotes and citations can be accessed by reading the original article posted at http://www.discernment-ministries.org/NL_MarchApril2010.pdf