I remember going to the Bodhi Tree Bookstore which is the famous New Age bookstore on Melrose Avenue popularized in Shirley Maclaine’s television movie “Out On A Limb.” I rented a video that dealt with the “Higher Consciousness Movement.” The topic was world peace.
The video featured people like Baba Ram Dass, who was formerly Dr. Richard Alpert – Timothy Leary’s assistant at Harvard; Barbara Marx Hubbard; Ken Keyes, Jr., who is the author of The Handbook to Higher Consciousness and The Hundredth Monkey; and Daniel Ellsberg, the peace activist whom former President Richard Nixon investigated during Watergate.
As I listened to these people talk, I couldn’t help but hear their sincerity and passion for world peace – a passion that we all share. Yet, as they talked about developing a planetary consciousness and an end to nuclear weapons, I noted a fervency that religion engenders. I didn’t particularly have a problem with that; I could appreciate their zeal for creating a world of understanding and harmony. But, the more I listened to them, the more it dawned upon me that these people had turned the corner somewhere in their thinking. They were attempting to build a kind of heaven on earth – without God.
Something haunted me in their words, and I believe it was the fact that they were attempting to build peace without the Prince of Peace and create love without the true source of love, which is the personal, living God of the universe. The peace activists talked of a planetary consciousness. They spoke of becoming one with the universe. This sounds legitimate until you stop to think that these efforts at building one world and global peace without God are somehow quite empty and shallow.
This was difficult to comprehend because these people were so kind and compassionate. On the human level they displayed a remarkable integrity.
Beloved do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and that is the spirit of the anti-Christ, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. (1 John 4:1-3, NAS)
It is a difficult thing to grasp this concept. But, if we take what the Bible says seriously, then we must come to understand that there is a conflict between God and Satan happening right here on earth. If there is salvation in no one else besides Christ, then a real problem emerges when we discuss the teachings of the various gurus, human potential and higher consciousness movements, Eastern religions, meditation, planetary consciousness, and so on. In fact, things like Scientology, Est, Lifespring, and the whole gamut of pseudo-spiritual empowerment programs take on a new perspective.
It is not that these programs and religions cannot offer limited benefits and assist in the release of human potential. It is a real mistake to paint such things in either black or white. In addition, I have seen people who have emerged from these human potential movements with a real release of creativity and power in their lives. The danger is that ultimately the leaders of these groups become substitute Messiahs. Their teaching begins to depart from the Bible often producing bondage and slavery to incorrect doctrines. Finally, these movements can take on a real spirit of the Antichrist in that they are offering a kind of personal and planetary salvation apart from Jesus Christ.
Most of these groups offer some limited degree of good. But then they become counterfeit Gospels that lead people astray. Also, when these principles of “higher consciousness” or “enlightenment” teach that it is possible to build a kind of paradise on earth without Christ, they become dangerous and reminiscent of the serpent who promised Eve in the Garden that “they would be as gods.”
Confessions of an Ex-Radical
There was a time when I shared the general consensus of our time and dreamed of what Beatle John Lennon wrote about in his song “Imagine There’s No Heaven.” His dream of a global unity appealed to me. I grew up in what could be termed a secular humanistic, but loving home. I was matured on the Sunday New York Times, art, culture, and political discussion.
For me, biblical Christianity was not even a viable option. I thought that all Christians were ignorant and superstitious. I believed this religion was blood stained, anti-sex, anti-joy, and anti-love. I thought psychologist Eric Fromn was right when he called Christianity a primitive religion, which invented for its own needs the concept of God the Father.
To me, Christianity was the Bible Belt and men wearing dark, three piece suits screaming hallelujah and dunking people in the river. When the sixties counterculture revolution took off, I joined in. At the age of fifteen I joined radical activist Abbie Hoffman in demonstrating and marching on Washington, D.C. In addition, I read Marcuse, Allen Ginsberg, Alan Watts, William Burroughs, Norman Mailer, and became thoroughly radical.
I spent my free time in high school hanging out in New York’s East Village and joining YIPPIE and the Youth International Party. I experienced the counterculture revolution on New York’s lower east side. I can remember going to see the Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead and Bill Graham’s Fillmore East and listening to Timothy Leary on St. Mark’s Place.
The 1960s and 70s created a literal explosion of thought and action. It was a time of deep soul searching, sexual experimentation, and spiritual searching. What fueled the sixties was a deep, spiritual hunger reflected in the poetry of men like Gregory Corso and best-selling novelist of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Ken Kesey. The middle class church consisting of neatly dressed men and women sitting in pews looking like participants in Tricia Nixon’s wedding were not match for the raw spiritual hunger and pure rebellion of the period.
I too surveyed American middle class Christianity with its churchianity, its boredom, and lack of legitimate miracles. I ran to the gurus like Baba Ram Dass and Stephen Gaskin, founder of the Farm. It wasn’t until fleeing a middle class Christian religious retreat on the back roads of Missouri (hitchhiking) that I had a miraculous encounter with the Person of Jesus Christ. It changed my life forever, and I realized that Jesus Christ was God and not some plastic statue plopped on a dashboard of a Chevrolet.
Until then, I was militantly opposed to Christianity and wanted to see a global revolution of consciousness that would usher in a new world order. It was only after accepting Jesus Christ, and understanding that Christianity was Truth and not a religion, that I began to understand that there was indeed a great cosmic battle occurring on plant Earth. A battle between good and evil or God and the devil and that political, spiritual, and even economic ideologies were direct expressions of this battle.
Once I entered into a personal relationship with the personal, living God of the universe, I understood that history was not just a random collection of events. There was a definite plot with many sub-plots. I understood that the major plot concerned man as a fallen creature. Jesus Christ came to redeem mankind. He shed His blood for the forgiveness of sins. Until that point I did not even believe in the concept of sin. To me, sin was some archaic concept. It was a relic from an ancient belief system. After accepting Jesus Christ, I felt and experienced an acute awareness of my sinfulness as well as the release of the spiritual, psychological, and soulish manifestations and bondages that this sin creates in the human personality.
Who is God?
Christians, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, Buddhists, and other mystics believe in a concept of God. The big question is, “Who is God?” If he exists, “What is He like?” and “What is God’s character?” It is somewhat strange to me that as a culture we do not publicly ask ourselves this question. There are no television specials on God’s existence. I think our cultural silence about God demonstrates our collective fear of Him. Sex is no longer the great taboo in our culture, God is. You can talk about any sexual act on television in pornographic detail. However, if you talk about God in any serious manner, you will be kicked off most television shows. If God did not exist, then why would people spend so much energy trying to push Him out of existence?
The reason militant atheists and groups like the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) are trying to eradicate manger scenes and any references to God and religion in our culture is because they are reacting to God’s existence in the first place. The ACLU and other groups that hate Christianity know deep within themselves that God does exist. God exists and God has a character and definition. God is called the personal, living God of the universe because, like the men and women He created in His image, God has a distinct character and personality. If we were to describe God’s personality, we would use the words love, righteousness, creative, and holy.
Unlike the Eastern mystical or New Age view, God is not “perfect nothingness,” “consciousness,” “non-personal energy,” nor is God the collective product of our imaginations. God is not non-personal as the mystics, Hindus, and New Age people believe. God revealed the essence of His personality to the human race when He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to planet Earth. Here we see God’s character revealed.
The King of the universe temporarily discarded His royal stature to walk and talk to men in the form of a man – Jesus Christ. God showed us what He was like in Jesus Christ who was loving, humble, compassionate. He raised the dead and cast out demons. Jesus Christ obediently went to the cross and died for the sins of all mankind. Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead and broke the power of sin and death over the entire human race.
The personal, living God of the universe came to us as the Son of God – Jesus Christ – the Savior of mankind. Thus, we can see that the real God is a God of absolute love and that He loves each one of us on a personal level. The infinite God of the universe knows you personally and wants to embrace you with His arms. God wants to free you and remove your frustrations, bitterness, and disappointments. When we talk about Jesus Christ as Savior, this is what we mean. We are not talking about Jesus Christ as the Savior in religious terms. True biblical Christianity is about an intimate one- on-one relationship with Jesus Christ. Believers in Jesus Christ are those people who share a common friend in Jesus Christ. They are people who know God and walk with God on a personal level.
Who is God? All that we can know about God is wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ. Personally, I think it is tremendously liberating to know that each of us is not alone in the universe or in this world. There is no problem too great for God. The incredible news is that we are not in this world alone. It is not “us against the world.” If we understand what is real, we can know that once we accept Jesus Christ into our lives by faith, we can walk with the personal living God of the universe through all our problems and share all our joys and victories with Him.