5 Ways Progressive Christianity and New Age Spirituality Are Kind of the Same Thing

by Alisa Childers

Think about the phrase “New Age.” What comes to mind? Old documentaries of hippies at Woodstock experimenting with LSD and yoga? Shirley MacLaine holding a cluster of crystals on the cover of Time Magazine back in the ‘80s? Deepak Chopra teaching Oprah how to move things with her mind in the ‘90s? As old or out of touch as these images may seem, New Age beliefs are hotter than ever and have permeated our culture—but with a slick new image. The psychic hotline of the ‘80s has been replaced by winsome hipster gurus who have traded robes for skinny jeans—often translating Eastern religious ideas into Christianese.

Many Christians aren’t even aware of how New Age beliefs have infiltrated Christendom through the Progressive Church. I’ve written about Progressive Christianity here, and talked about it here, here, and here.  It wasn’t until I recently did a study of New Age Spirituality that I realized how much Progressive Christianity has in common with it.

Here are 5 ways Progressive Christianity and the New Age Spirituality are kind of the same thing:

1. The redefinition or abandonment of the concept of sin

New Agers believe all people are inherently divine….that there is no such thing called “sin,” but only the failure to remember our divinity. In her master class on the Oprah and Friends network in 2008, New Age leader Marianne Williamson led countless Americans through the book, A Course in Miracles. Participants were encouraged to affirm “There is no sin,”(1)and were taught, “The Atonement is the final lesson [a person] need learn, for it teaches him that, never having sinned, he has no need of salvation.” (2) And all of this information supposedly came from Jesus Himself. (3)

Several years ago I heard a Progressive pastor teach on Genesis 3, the famous passage in which Eve was tricked by the serpent into eating the forbidden fruit. Rather than reading the account as historical fact, he was unpacking the moral “truth” we could all learn from this creation story. He made the point that when this first couple took that fateful bite, it was their shame, not their sin, that separated them from God. In other words, they failed to recognize their belovedness…their inherent goodness and worth. If they were “separated” from God, it was they who were distant….not God. Progressive writer Brian McLaren describes it this way: “They lose their fearlessness in relation to God.”(4)

Notice the similarity of language. Without original sin we are all good, and we are only distant from God in our own minds when we forget that…

5 Ways Progressive Christianity and New Age Spirituality Are Kind of the Same Thing