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On New Age & Old Eastern Thought: Why a Larger Circle Can Never Be Drawn Around Christianity, Part 2
This is the second in a three part mini-series of 1994 Proclamation articles particularly addressed to those of you among our readers who are of an Eastern religious, dialectic philosophical, or New Age spiritual persuasion. If you missed the January issue, we’d be glad to mail it to you-free-upon request. In response to last month’s issue we have received a number of letters, one from a friend in New Hampshire who does not at all subscribe to the tenets of historic orthodox Christianity. He said he was writing “in the interest of greater understanding”, and his letter was a most thoughtful one. We very much welcomed it because, truth is, this thoughtletter is a deliberate effort on our part to promote just such an exchange for just such a purpose. While the material in this series is somewhat “heavier” than our usual fare, we believe it is of the absolute essence with regard to both an accurate apologetic and a workable epistemology. Once again I am trying here to demonstrate something of the impossible complications that seem to be raised by the basic epistemological proposals of dialectic and syncretistic thinking. But if there is some misperception to which you think I may have fallen prey, please know that you, like my friend from New Hampshire, are hereby invited to advise me of it.
The late Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, in his book Escape from Reason, ©1982 Crossway, wrote: “(Historically, man has always) thought in terms of antithesis. If a certain thing was true, the opposite was not true. In morals, if a thing was right, the opposite was wrong. This is something that goes as far back as you can go in man’s thinking… As a matter of fact it is the only way man can think. The sobering fact is that the only way one can reject thinking in terms of an antithesis and the rational is on the basis of the rational and the antithesis. When a man says that thinking in terms of an antithesis is wrong, what he is really doing is using the concept of antithesis to deny antithesis. That is the way God has made us and there is no other way to think.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean that there is no other way to think we can think, or to propose that we think, or even to try thinking. In fact, wherever Christianity has taken a stand on the (currently) politically incorrect premise that truth is exclusive, the common strategy of fallen humanity has been to oppose, avoid, or- perhaps most sophisticated of all-try to absorb that premise by proposing that, on some higher, transcendent, level of reckoning, choosing between opposites is not necessary at all-that we can, in fact, have it both ways -that “A” may even actually equal “non-A”. In religion, that’s a recipe for blind ecumenism. But historically and culturally, whether appearing in the form of Marxist dialectics, ancient Eastern religious tradition, or the New Age principles currently popular, such ideologies have tended to fail. Oh, they may survive, but they really never seem to go anywhere, because they consistently break down in the real world, as well as in theory.
One day Dr. Schaeffer was holding a discussion with a group of people at Cambridge University. At one point he pressed a young Indian, a Hindu, on the premises of his faith system. He asked him if it really was true that “cruelty and non-cruelty were ultimately equal-that there is no intrinsic difference between them”. When the Indian said “yes”, another young man in the room promptly picked up a kettle of boiling water and held it over the Indian’s head. When he looked up and asked the man what he was doing, he was gently re-minded of his own words-that there was no difference between cruelty and non-cruelty. They say that at that point, without a further word, the Hindu got up and walked out into the night. In his book Confronting the New Age, ©1988 InterVarsity, Douglas Groothuis suggests that the Hindu walked out, not because he didn’t know the truth in the core of his being (that senseless cruelty is wrong), but because he chose not to admit his error.
In the preface of A Course in Miracles (a truly remarkable New Age tome that identifies itself as revelation from Christ) we read: “The world of perception, however, is made by the belief in opposites… (Christ’s vision, i.e. true reality) is the one correction for all errors of perception; the reconciliation of the seeming opposites on which this world is based. Its kindly light shows all things from another point of view…” And yet earlier in the same preface are these words: “(The Course) makes a fundamental distinction between the real and the unreal; between knowledge and perception… From knowledge and perception respectively, two distinct thought systems arise which are opposite in every respect.” Now wait a minute-which will it be? If “opposites” are only a matter of perception, and all errors of perception are to be “corrected”, then the Course’s own charge that knowledge and perception are “opposites” must itself be “an error of perception” in need of correction.
Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias says, “The more you try to clobber the Law of Non-Contradiction (i.e., the concept of antithesis, opposites, A – non-A), the more it will clobber you. That’s why the Eastern mystic says, ‘He who knows does not speak; he who speaks does not know.’ But by speaking this, if what he says is true, then by speaking he proves that what he says is false.” Now just how will you extricate that one in order to lovingly assist those of us whom you believe to be tragically trapped in the hapless world of antithesis?