Continued from Part One
Whenever asked for input on evangelistic endeavors, especially by those young in the faith or those who have little experience with evangelistic outreach, I generally recommend that people spend time prayerfully reflecting on Paul’s actions in Athens as described in Acts 17. We are told that Paul was deeply troubled by the many idols and religious shrines that he saw in all parts of the city. He immediately set about speaking in the synagogues and also with the Gentiles, telling them about the One True Light. However, Paul never went on the attack. Instead, scripture reveals that the great apostle treated his listeners with respect. When speaking to the philosophers of Mars Hill he says:
“Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about. He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples and human hands can’t serve his needs – for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything.” (Acts 17: 22-25 NLT)
As we can readily see from this passage, Paul opened the dialogue by honoring the Athenians’ evident spirituality. Rather than chastising them for worshipping many Gods, he used one of the existing shrines as an avenue for him to introduce the true God and his great story to the assembled philosophers. It is this sort of approach that we should use whenever we want to introduce our faith to someone of another belief system. In the case of New Age adherents, there are many positive aspects to their spirituality and we should mention these as we seek a way whereby we might introduce them to Christ and the Father of Lights.
Furthermore, it is important that as followers of Christ we recognize that the New Age Movement has filled a vacuum created by the church. For several centuries now, the church has been overly focused on doctrinal “belief” at the expense of fostering an experiential relationship with God. Additionally, since the Enlightenment and the rise of analytical exegesis and the dismissal of the supernatural aspects of the faith, many sincere spiritual aspirants have had to seek elsewhere for a well-rounded, balanced spirituality.
The mass exodus from the church over the last half-century should speak volumes to those of us who remain within the Christian faith. It should serve as a clarion call to do things differently, especially where rigid, legalistic, and over-dependence on doctrine is concerned. Many decent, sincere seekers, more than a few who are in the church, are in need of a balanced, holistic, and vital faith that does not kill the spirit with doctrinal doldrums and discount the existence of the supernatural realm by being too rational and analytical. Rev. Maurice Fuller, quoted above, continues:
The very best antidote for the New Age teachings is for Christians to enter into and live fully in the supernatural. This is certainly no time to draw back from supernatural living and retreat into a mere defense of orthodoxy. Because we have adopted this stance for the last half-century, we have opened the door for the New Age to fill the vacuum. There is a longing in the human heart for communication and a relationship with the Divine. Since the dawn of history, when God’s people do not preach, proclaim and model the genuine article, men and women will wander into whatever appears to offer the fulfillment of their spiritual quest. We need to cast aside our hesitation and proceed strongly forward, the Word and Spirit as our unfailing guide.
There is much wisdom in what Rev. Fuller is telling us here. As followers of Christ, we must recognize that those spiritual seekers who follow paths other than ours are not “evil heathens” or morally bankrupt people. Granted, there are some cults and organizations that are unsavory and should be avoided, but it should also be noted that the same can be said for more than a few Christian ministries and organizations. My point here is that we will not be able to engage in any sort of serious spiritual dialogue with people from other belief systems if we approach them with a condemning, belittling, or condescending attitude. Like Paul in Athens, it is better to acknowledge the positive aspects of a person’s spiritual endeavors and use that respectful encounter as a starting point.
Think about it.
© L.D. Turner 2012/All Rights Reserved
- The New Age Movement: Filling a Void Left By the Church (Part One) (lifebrook.wordpress.com)
- The Charismatic and New Age Movement are Intertwined… (endtimeebooklibrary.com)
- Practical Spirituality: The Law of Encouragement (lifebrook.wordpress.com)