Christian or New Age? 10 questions (2/2)

6. Prayer and meditation: Are we talking to ourselves (New Age) or to God (Christian)?
“The tendency to confuse psychology and spirituality makes it hard not to insist that many of the meditation techniques now used are not prayer,” state the councils. “They are often a good preparation for prayer, but no more, even if they lead to a more pleasant state of mind or bodily comfort.” Christian prayer, by contrast, is a double orientation which involves introspection but is essentially also a meeting with God. Far from being a merely human effort, Christian mysticism is essentially a dialogue, which ‘implies an attitude of conversion, a flight from “self” to the “you” of God.’”

7. Are we tempted to deny sin (New Age) or do we accept that there is such a thing (Christian)?
“In New Age, there is no real concept of sin, but rather one of imperfect knowledge; what is needed is enlightenment, which can be reached through particular psycho-physical techniques,” the councils say. Those who ascribe to New Age philosophies “are never told what to believe, what to do or what not to do [but, rather] ‘There are a thousand ways of exploring inner reality. Go where your intelligence and intuition lead you. Trust yourself.’” In the Christian perspective, “only in the knowledge of God’s plan for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another. Sin is an offence against reason, truth and right conscience; it is a failure in genuine love for God and neighbor,” the Vatican councils say.

8. Are we encouraged to reject suffering and death (New Age) or accept it (Christian)?
“Some New Age writers view suffering as self-imposed or as bad karma, or at least as a failure to harness one’s own resources . . .,” the councils explain. “Reincarnation is often seen as a necessary element in spiritual growth, a state in progressive spiritual evolution which began before we were born and will continue after we die. . . . “Reincarnation is irreconcilable with the Christian belief that a human person is a distinct being who lives one life for which he or she is fully responsible . … The Redeemer suffered in place of man and for man. Every man has his own share in the redemption. Each one is called to share in that suffering through which all human suffering has also been redeemed. In bringing about the redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the redemption.”

9. Is social commitment something to be ignored (New Age) or positively sought after (Christian)?
“Much in New Age is unashamedly self-promotion. . . . The fusion of individuals into the cosmic self, the relativisation or abolition of difference and opposition in a cosmic harmony, is unacceptable to Christianity,” the councils state. On the other hand, they write, Christians believe that “where there is true love, there has to be a different other (person). A genuine Christian searches for unity in the capacity and freedom of the other to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the gift of love. Union is seen in Christianity as communion; unity as community.”

10. Is our future in the stars (New Age) or do we help construct it (Christian)?
A fundamental New Age belief is based on the idea of an imminent astrological Age of Aquarius, which will end the period of the last 2,000 years, known as the Age of Pisces — which is referred to as the Christian age. According to the pontifical councils: “[New Agers believe that] the New Age which is dawning will be peopled by perfect, androgynous beings who are totally in command of the cosmic laws of nature. In this scenario, Christianity has to be eliminated and give way to a global religion and a new world order.” Aside from the fact that astrology is not a science, but rather, an ancient belief system, Christians do not believe in the passage of astrological ages. Christians believe that the true new age began 2,000 years ago with the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Because Christians believe he will come again, they are always vigilant, not knowing when will be the day or the hour of his triumphant return.

Source: The Catholic Standard and Times, Archdiocese of Philadelphia

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