A Christian Reflection on the New Age

The document compares the choice between Christ vs the New Age to the choice the three wise men from the East made between Child Jesus vs King Herod, shown here from the 13th century Psalter of St. Louis.

A Christian reflection on the New Age refers to a six-year study by the Roman Catholic Church on the New Age movement.[1][2][3][4] The study, published in 2003, is highly critical of the New Age movement and follows the 1989 document Aspects of Christian meditation, in which the Vatican warned Catholics against mixing Christian meditation with Eastern approaches to spirituality.

The document's title is Jesus Christ, the bearer of the Water of Life.[2][5][6] The document discusses the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, which it characterizes as "a paradigm for our engagement with truth".[2][7]

The document considers the New Age based on "weak thought" and emphasizes the differences between Catholic thought and the New Age.[2][5][8][9] According to the review of the document in The Tablet, "there is never any doubt in the document that New Age is incompatible with and hostile to the core beliefs of Christianity."[6]

Expressing general agreement with the views expressed by the document, Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said that there would be widespread agreement among Baptists that New Age ideas are contrary to Christian tradition and doctrine.[8]

Background and overview

The document was prepared in response to the need expressed by Catholic bishops to have a clear directive about where New Age practices stand with respect to Roman Catholic doctrine.[4][10] In response to the requests, the document addresses and provides Christian guidance on New Age phenomena that involve yoga, meditation, feng shui and healing by crystals and was published in 2003 as a 90-page booklet titled A Christian reflection on the New Age.[1][3][4]

The document was presented at a February 2003 Vatican conference on A Christian Reflection on the New Age.[11] Monsignor Michael Fitzgerald stated at the conference that the "Church avoids any concept that is close to those of the New Age".[12][13] Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said that the "New Age is a misleading answer to the oldest hopes of man."[12][14][15] Poupard, the Vatican's minister of culture, also warned that the New Age was based on "weak thinking".[3]

The Water of Life Discourse between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, by Giacomo Franceschini, 17-18th century

The document presents a highly critical view of the New Age movement and considers it as incompatible with and hostile to the core beliefs of Christianity.[6][8] The document states that upon close examination it becomes clear that there is little in the New Age that is new, and that for Christians, the "New Age began 2000 years ago, with Christ". The document also criticizes the New Age movement, stating it is attempting to blur the distinction between good and evil.

By posing the question: Christ or Aquarius? the document states that the New Age often suggests an alternative vision of reality or an alternative way of improving one's current situation by magic. The document criticizes the view that the Age of Aquarius will replace the Christian Age. Referring to the Gospel of Luke (16:13) that "No servant can be the slave of two masters", it states that Christians have only to think of the difference between the wise men from the East and King Herod to recognize the powerful effects of choice for or against Christ.

The Jesuit magazine America commented that the Vatican directive was relevant to Catholic women in religious institutes because there are clear differences between Catholic teachings and the New Age that can become blurred within spiritual practices.[5]

The document was also discussed at June 2004 Vatican conference attended by representatives of the episcopal conferences of 22 countries, as well as members of the Roman Curia.[16][17] Following the conference, Alessandro Pennesi, a professor at the Pontifical Lateran University reiterated the Vatican warnings and stated that he agreed with the sentiment that the New Age is based on "ethical relativism" and that it is not possible to "isolate some elements of New Age religiosity as acceptable to Christians, while rejecting others."[9]

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