New Age Imagery Helps Popularize Prophecy
Reviewed by Berit Kjos - 2002
"He saw himself asleep on the couch.... He felt weightless, moving higher.... Though he knew he was unconscious, he had never been so attuned to his senses.... He raced through the vast universe itself, with its numberless galaxies and solar systems. The only sound was his own breathing, and to his amazement, it was rhythmic and deep.... the darkness turned to the brightest light..." From The Indwelling by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins
"For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God...." 2 Corinthians 2:17
Out-of-body experiences fascinate Christians and non-Christians alike. Mystical meetings with angelic beings and "a bright light" seem to sell books whether the author speaks from a New Age perspective as did Betty Eadie in Embraced by the Light or from a "Christian" perspective as do Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins in the Indwelling.
Few have popularized such mystical encounters more effectively among Christians than Betty Eadie. During her supposed "near-death" experience [her doctor refused to verify that she nearly died], she sensed herself float up toward heaven, saw her own body below, approached a bright light and met a loving person who appeared "more brilliant than the sun." Three "angels" answered her questions about eternal life and explained an occult spiritual system that merged her Mormon and Native American heritage with contemporary New Age teachings. Her experience contradicts the Bible on every point, but that seems insignificant to those who love her message.
In the Indwelling, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have used a Jewish Christian character, Tsion Ben-Judah, to take their readers on an imaginary journey toward another "bright light." Their story echoes the details described in countless new age and neo-pagan testimonies. Ponder this portion:
Tsion began feeling a tingle, much like when he had tried to intercede for Rayford. ...The clock still read 12:57, but he felt as if he were floating.... Kenny slept unmoving in the playpen, blanket still tucked around him.
Tsion saw this from above now, as if in the middle of the room. He saw himself asleep on the couch. He had heard of out-of-body experiences but had never had one, or dreamed one. This didnít seem like a dream, didnít feel like one. He felt weightless, moving higher.... despite his incredible lightness of being, he felt as conscious and aware as he had ever been. Though he knew he was unconscious, he had never been so attuned to his senses....
Yes, he had drifted through the first floor, but he could still see Kenny.... The fall air was crisp above the house.... He reached for the earth, because it seemed to recede too quickly....
... he had never before felt so thoroughly alive. He was not dead. He was somewhere in his mind.... He raced through the vast universe itself, with its numberless galaxies and solar systems. The only sound was his own breathing, and to his amazement, it was rhythmic and deep....
... the darkness turned to the brightest light, obliterating the utter darkness of space.... He hung motionless in soundless, weightless animation, a sense of expectancy coursing through him. This light, like a burst of burning magnesium so powerful as to chase even a shadow, came from above and behind him.... If this was the very image of God, could he see it and live? The light seemed to beckon him, to will him to turn. And so he did.
After a six-page interlude, the heavenly scene continues with the appearance of a "face ringed with hair massive as prairie grass." "Are you Jesus the Christ," asks Tsion.
"No, son of the earth, I am merely one of his princes," answers Michael, the archangel.
The earthly man and the heavenly angel begin a discussion of theological questions -- some of which God Himself had left unexplained in His Word. But never mind the uncertainties, the authors have created both the needed answers and the authority figures to communicate them. Caught up in the thrills of the plot, it's easy to forget that -- unlike astro-traveler Tsion -- neither Tim LaHaye nor Jerry Jenkins have divine access to the extra-biblical visions they plant in the minds of their captivated readers.
Instead they illustrate a key danger of Biblical novels: re-imagining God's Word in the context of enticing man-made visions. Yes, the book teaches some Biblical principles, godly truths and the message of salvation. But planting truths in a deceptive context makes the deception all the more dangerous. A semblance of truth in an unbiblical setting will always help validate the lie and distort the truth.
God didn't give us freedom to adapt His Word to our personal perceptions. When we do so, we alter the holy and absolute nature of the Bible itself. In a culture of biblically illiterate people eager for new revelations, even "Christian" writers and marketing experts are tempted to add new thrills to timeless truths. They may argue that the ends (global appeal of the gospel) justify the means (imagining words from God's mouth that He never spoke), but in the end, they have compromised truth and twisted our sovereign God into an advocate for their own crusade.
Many people see out-of-body experiences as opportunities to preview heaven. Few know the darker side. In pagan cultures, shamans often "met" their personal animal spirit (spirit guide or demon) during childhood near-death experiences which opened doors to demonic spirits and visions. Apparently, Betty Eadie did. During a serious illness after her mother, a "full-blooded Sioux Indian", had left her at a boarding school, the girl slipped into a coma. While in this trance-like state, she saw a spiritual being whose beard sparkled with light. "Most shamans receive an 'initiatory call' ... during a personal illness serious enough to induce a coma (a form of trance)," wrote William Lyon in his biography of Indian shaman Black Elk.
When authors blend God's truth with occult images, they corrupt the truth but strengthen and validate the deception. When marketed through tempting suggestions and stirring images in a context of Biblical prophecy, the deception tends to bypass mental scrutiny. Fantasy or not, it merges with the memories, knowledge and impressions that define a person's understanding of reality. Failure to resist a popular deception will always weaken our resistance to other distortions of truth. One result is "itching ears" -- a growing preference for feel-good fables rather than solid truth. 2 Timothy 4:3-4
A culture desensitized to spiritual deceptions has little resistance to leaders who say what people want to hear. The Church Growth Movement with its emphasis on meeting the "felt needs" of "consumers" (potential church members) tempts many church leaders to give feel-good answers to questions God hasn't answered. [See The Global Church] But the Bible warns us not to tamper with His Word.
It tells us that the "secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." (Deuteronomy 29:29) No matter what kinds of contracts are held by Bible publishers, God, not man, owns His Word and He alone can explain the "secret things" -- in His time.
"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor? Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him? For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)
1. Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, The Indwelling (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2000), pages 232-248.
2. Betty Eadie, Embraced by the Light (Placerville, CA: Gold Leaf Press, 1992), pages 4-5.
3. Wallace Black Elk and William S. Lyon, Black Elk: The Sacred Ways of a Lakota (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1991), page xviii.
4. "If anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ." Galatians 1:9-10. See also Jeremiah 23:25-26; 2 Corinthians 2:17 and 4:2; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 1 Timothy 4:3-4.
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