Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Are All Religions Valid?

Leslie Basham: “Pop spirituality” redefines certain words, according to Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: These New Age and eastern mysticism sorts of teachings often use terminology which sounds or seems biblical but is not. They will use words like God or Christ or redemption and mean something very different.

As one commentator said, “They use the same vocabulary but a different dictionary.” They use a lot of the same words but define those words differently.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, January 28th.

“Jesus presents one way to God. Other religions also provide an equally valid path to God.”

This is a very popular idea, but is it true? Nancy’s been helping us develop discernment this week, and she continues with some very practical applications in our day. She’s in a series called Discerning Truth in a World of Deception.

Nancy: We’re talking during this series about deception. The Scripture says that in the last days—which we find ourselves in—there will be many deceivers who will be in the world and in the church, even feasting with us at our potluck suppers or our church dinners or our Communion services, who will try to draw us away from Christ.

Maybe they themselves are deceived. But they will deceive many.

Many will follow after them. And we have many, many millions of people sitting in our churches today who have been deceived by some type of teaching that is contrary to Christ.

Over the next couple of days, before we get into the subject of discernment, which is where we’re headed, I want to teach some things about how to discern truth from error. I want to first take a couple of sessions to spell out some of the areas where deception is prevalent today.

We could actually spend a year on this, based on the research I’ve been doing over the last several weeks, and still only skim the surface of all the deception that’s out there. So as I said in the last session, the best way to deal with this is not to focus in on deception; it’s to focus in on truth.

I hope that after you hear a session like this, you’ll go and get your heart saturated in the Word of God; because I’m going to take time today and in the next session to do what I don’t normally do, which is focus on the error. I’d much rather focus on the truth.

But I do want to do what they did in the New Testament, which is to point out some examples of error that we find in our 21st-century world.

To set the stage here, I think we need to recognize that there are levels of error. This has helped me as I’ve been researching and trying to figure out which ones to focus on in this series.

Dr. Al Mohler has written an essay on this. You’ll also find some discussion of it in a book I highly recommend to you called The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment by Tim Challies. That book is available through our resource center, and I’ll be talking more about it in this series.

In that book, Tim Challies quotes Dr. Al Mohler, who is the president of Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, about three levels of theological issues, in terms of the priority of addressing them.

The first-level theological issues are those that are fundamental, cardinal doctrines of our Christian faith. For example:

  • the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture
  • the authority of Scripture
  • the Trinity
  • the virgin birth of Christ
  • the full deity and full humanity of Christ
  • the substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross
  • justification by faith, etc.

These doctrines are crucial and essential to the Christian faith.

If you deny these doctrines, you deny Christianity. You cannot deny these doctrines and . . . well, you can call yourself a Christian, but you can’t deny these doctrines and be a true Christian.

These are fatal errors, to be wrong on these doctrines. These are doctrines that, if you deny them, you can’t be saved. They can keep you out of the kingdom of Christ.

We cannot have spiritual unity and fellowship with people who deny these cardinal doctrines of the faith. That doesn’t mean we can’t go to lunch with them. It doesn’t mean we can’t work with them in the workplace. But you cannot have spiritual unity or fellowship with people who disagree on the core, first-level issues of our faith.

Then we have what Dr. Mohler calls second-order, or second-level theological issues. These are issues on which believing Christians may disagree, and these issues may create some organizational or denominational boundaries between us.

But we still accept and love each other as Christians and can fellowship around the gospel of Jesus Christ because we hold that in common. Our common faith in Christ allows us to have fellowship with one another even though we may go to a church of a different denomination.

There are some questions on which issues would fit into this category. It’s more of a concept, that there are levels of these issues.

But I think that we could safely say that examples of things that would fit into this category would include the meaning and the mode of baptism. You would have those Presbyterians who would disagree with Baptists and others as to when and how somebody should be baptized.

It’s not that these things are unimportant. It’s not that the Scripture doesn’t deal with them. But it’s that they’re not core issues to the gospel, to our faith in Christ. You can have differing positions on those things and still be a true Christian. We could add to that category:

  • some issues about gifts of the Holy Spirit and how those work out
  • eternal security
  • perseverance of the saints
  • women’s role in the church

These are all important issues. We talk a lot about the latter one.

I have strong convictions on all of these things that I believe the Bible teaches. But to disagree with me on those issues will not keep you out of heaven.

Disagreeing about the gospel will keep you out of heaven. But these are issues that would be second-level, second-order theological issues.

Then we have what Dr. Mohler calls third-order, or third-level theological issues, where Christians may disagree but can still maintain close fellowship with each other even within the same church.

Some aspects of how we observe the Lord’s Supper or how frequently would be an example of that.

Eschatology—within my church there are those who would disagree about the timetable and the sequence of the events surrounding the return of Christ. But we’re in the same church. We worship together; we fellowship together. These are third-level issues.

  • interpretation of obscure or difficult Scripture passages
  • issues of Christian liberty—some who feel they may, some who feel that they may not on certain practices
  • styles of worship
  • women’s dress.

Now, we could say that modesty and femininity are clear biblical standards. But as to exactly how that is applied, I may apply that differently than you do, and we could still be close spiritual friends, have close fellowship in the same church.

Some of those things we won’t know until we get to heaven who was right and who was wrong, or even if in some instances the Lord really cared about some of the things we disagree on.

So we need to keep things in perspective and make sure, when we’re talking about doctrine and deception, that we make a big deal about first-level issues. And we need to make sure that we don’t break fellowship over third-level issues.

There are two dangerous tendencies you’ll find among believers today. One is that they overlook first-level issues and say, “Well, it’s not that big of a deal,” and pretend that we can have meaningful fellowship with people who do not believe in the same Christ and the same gospel.

That’s the danger of liberalism. We need to be careful about that.

But then there’s the danger of legalism, which is to elevate third-level issues to matters of absolutes. Both are dangerous.

I say that in order to then bring up what clearly to me are some areas where there is deception taking place on first-level, theological issues. There are millions of believers being deceived, and very few people standing up and calling a spade a spade.

I want to give you some issues of first-level spiritual deception. It really is hard to know where to start, because there is so much of it.

I’m going to leave some things out, and I’m not going to give full treatment to any of these. But today I just want to focus on some of these areas of deception that relate to the category of New Age or eastern mysticism influence.

You say, “Christians are being deceived by that?” Yes. “Christians are led astray by things with New Age origins or influence?” Yes. Christians are buying into many of these things, and I feel like this is an area where a lot of caution and discernment is needed.

Let me give you a few illustrations. In these cases I’m going to name the things I’m talking about, because these are not anywhere close to the gospel of Jesus Christ. These are false teachings, and we need to be aware of them.

Again, I’m not going to give you the full scoop on any of this. There are lots of websites. We’re going to link you to some websites.

Probe Ministries has some outstanding resources that will help you if you’re dealing with somebody who’s falling into one of these issues. They can help give you a lot more background. I’m just going to touch on them.

Let me give you some examples. The Secret is a DVD and a book by Rhonda Byrnes that is one of the bestselling self-help books of all time. It deals with the “law of attraction,” she calls it.

The essence is, whatever you think about will come to be, which makes you the most powerful force of the universe. It allows you to have anything you want and to exercise absolute control of your own life and your own destiny. What it does is ultimately put man in the place of God.

Let me read to you just a couple of quotes out of The Secret, which for a number of years now has been a huge bestseller.

The earth turns on its orbit for You. The oceans ebb and flow for You. The birds sing for You. The sun rises and it sets for You. The stars come out for You. Every beautiful thing you see, every wondrous thing you experience, is all there, for You.

Take a look around. None of it can exist, without You. No matter who you thought you were, now you know the Truth of Who You Really Are. You are the master of the Universe. You are the heir to the kingdom. You are the perfection of Life. And now you know The Secret.

You are God in physical body. [This is the essence of New Age teaching right here.] You are Spirit in the flesh. You are Eternal Life expressing itself as You. You are a cosmic being. You are all power. You are all wisdom. You are all intelligence. You are perfection. You are magnificence. You are the creator, and you are creating the creation of You on this planet.

You’re grimacing, and some of you are wondering, “How in the world can people believe that stuff?” I’m just telling you, they do.

It goes back to Genesis chapter 3. That’s essentially what the serpent said to Eve. “You are it. You can be your own God.”

It elevates man. It pulls down God. This is what we see in New Age and eastern mystic teachings.

Another one that we’ve addressed on Revive Our Hearts is the book by Eckhart Tolle called A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. It’s a bestselling book by a New Age guru that was really platformed and came to prominence by Oprah making it a big deal on her program and offering, some of you remember, a ten-week online course.

At the time we’re recording this, it’s sold over three-and-a-half million copies worldwide. Some two million people took the ten-week course.

You may remember, if you saw any of this, that in the course of this teaching, Oprah said, “I am a Christian who believes that there are certainly other paths to God other than Christianity.”

Do you get that line? “I am a Christian,” she says, “who believes that there are certainly many other paths to God other than Christianity.”

Right there, this should be a huge red flag, in spite of the fact that it comes out of the mouth of a woman who is probably one of the most influential women on the planet today, and has for years been convincing people that she is a Christian.

You cannot be a Christian—and I say this with compassion in my heart and with a burden that Oprah would come to true faith in Jesus Christ; she’s been exposed to a lot of truth, but she has bought into a lie of error—you cannot be a Christian and hold to something about the gospel and about Christ that is contrary to the truth.

She says, “I am a free-thinking Christian who believes in my way, but I don’t think that it’s the only way, with six billion people here on the planet.” This is deception, and millions of people have bought into it.

You say, “Well, certainly Christians would not buy into this course, A New Earth.” That’s what you think.

In fact, what sparked me to do this series—and this has been a hard study, because I really don’t like delving into things that aren’t truth—but what prompted me to do this was the response we received from someone to the series we aired about this Eckhart Tolle book, A New Earth, some months ago, and finding how many Christians were being drawn into this teaching.

Let me read you some of the things that were said to us. One listener wrote and said,

Never in my life did I think that something like this would actually affect my home, my family, or my friends, until my husband told me that his Christian counselor told their study group that they should get this book and read it because it is changing lives.

Christian counselor.  Another woman wrote,

Please pray for me. I’m in a real spiritual battle. My husband, who was once a pastor and preached the truth, is now involved with the New Age movement and this class of Eckhart Tolle.

I know for a fact that the devil is real. It is a real struggle for me in dealing with this man that was so committed to the true and living God. And now to see him serve this other god. It has brought great division and pain in our home. He has become a completely different person. I just want people to know that this Eckhart Tolle and Oprah Winfrey are destroying people’s lives and deceiving the very elect.

The Scripture says, “[Deceiving] if it were possible . . . the very elect” (Matthew 24:24). Those who truly are elect and belong to Christ will not be led into another gospel.

But there are those who think that they are among the elect, who claim to be Christians, who are populating our churches—members of our churches in good standing, some of them in our pulpits—who have never been truly converted and who are being sucked away, drawn away into this kind of teaching.

Let me mention another book. Again, I’m a little hesitant to do this, because by the time we air this there will be new ones. But I want to get you some ideas, examples that have been recently making their way into the church.

This one is called The Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing. If you go to Amazon.com, the description of this book reads like this:

What sets Anatomy of the Spirit apart is [the author’s] ability to blend diverse religious and spiritual beliefs into a succinct discussion of health and human anatomy. For example, when describing the seven energy fields of the human body, she fuses Christian sacraments with Hindu chakras and the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life” [Kabbalah is a sect of Judaism].

That whole concept of fusing Christian concepts with Hindu concepts is what we call syncretism—attempting to unite or fuse differing systems of belief.

Christianity cannot be fused or united with any other system of belief. It is unique. It is distinctive. And this book The Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing, which did not start out in the church, is now making inroads into evangelical churches.

Here’s another one I came across recently: Enneagram, which is a popular system of classifying personality types. It has to do with a circle; it has nine points on it. Some of you may be familiar with this. I wasn’t.

It’s a system that has occultic origins. Now, I know that some who use it in our evangelical churches would undoubtedly say, “But I’m not using it for occultic purposes. We’re just using it as a means of identifying personality types.”

It is clearly tied into occultic practices. It was introduced to the west by an Armenian occultist who had a strong influence on the contemporary New Age movement. His writings are “filled with descriptions of planetary influences, astral bodies, clairvoyant and telepathic experiments.”

This Enneagram system has its origins in contemporary Sufism, which “is a mystical offshoot of Islam . . . claims over 40 million adherents,” and is “a mix of pantheism, magic and rationalism with the belief in telepathy, teleportation, foreknowledge, transmigration of souls and a denial of a personal God.”

Those are the roots, the foundations, the elements, aspects that underlie this teaching, which is now becoming popular in some of our church circles.

These New Age and eastern mysticism sorts of teachings often use terminology which sounds or seems biblical but is not. They will use words like God or Christ or redemption and mean something very different.

As one commentator said, “They use the same vocabulary but a different dictionary.” They use a lot of the same words but define those words differently.

I share these several examples—of which there are many, many others—just to say, there is a huge influence pervading and infiltrating our culture today, and even our evangelical culture, of New Age teachings. There’s nothing new about it at all. It really can be traced back to the Garden of Eden.

You see Christ being redefined, many christs, Jesus is not God. You see this impersonal god of the New Age, who is simply energy force.

You see calling man divinity. Man is the creator of the forces and is therefore God; the belief that man needs to awaken to the fact that he has powers of divinity that need to be creatively exercised.

You see the channeling of spirits, spiritual instruction and direction coming from the spirit world directly, the corruption of truth, the redefining of biblical terms.

But I want to close our time by going back to the Scripture, because that’s what is light and life and truth. If you want to be able to discern and identify and detect these types of deception, you need to be grounded in the Word of God.

As I’ve been reading and studying about these New Age movements and areas of deception, I’ve been reminded of the book of Colossians, where we read in 2:8, for example, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”

That’s what the deception is: pulling us away from the truth that is in Christ. “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (verse 9).

You are not God. You are not a little God. You are not a little Christ. If you belong to Christ, Christ lives in you. But He is Christ. It is His life. He is God; you are not God.

So we believe in a faith that is distinctively Christian, that elevates Christ to the supreme throne and place in the universe and says that we are His subjects. We are not little gods.

[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death” (Colossians 1:15-22).

The cross is central to the truth of Christianity. It’s core. It’s first-level.

This New Age stuff gets away from the need for redemption or the sacrificial death of Christ, or even the sinfulness of man. But the apostle Paul says you are sinful. You were alienated. You were hostile in your mind. You were doing evil deeds. You are not some little god.

[But Christ] has now reconciled you in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister (verses 22-23).

That’s the truth. That’s the truth that sets you free. That’s the truth that redeems you. That’s the truth that delivers you from your sin. That’s the truth that will give you eternal life.

Oh, God, how we pray that You will open the eyes of those who are being blinded, being deceived. May our lives point them to Christ.

May we never stray from the truth, the power, the life, the grace, the salvation that is in Christ and Christ alone. We love Him, and we love Him even more when we see all the deception, all the things that seek to strip Him of His authority and to give us more authority.

We surrender and bow, O Christ, before You, our Lord and Lover and King. You are the Savior of our souls, and we worship You in truth and in spirit. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been providing solid biblical thinking about some of the popular spiritual movements you hear about all the time. These deceptive messages aren’t new, and deception won’t end until Christ returns. So you need to know how to think these issues through for yourself.

I hope you’ll read the book by Tim Challies called The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. He defines what discernment is, explains why it’s so important, and helps you develop it.

This book will help you be prepared for the next big popular deception. We’ll send the book when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts.

When you donate online at ReviveOurHeartsRadio.com, look for The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. Or you can ask for it when you donate by phone. The number is 800-569-5959.

We’ve mostly been talking about error in the world. Tomorrow, learn to recognize error from Christian authors or pastors. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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