I have had some insomnia recently, so I have been listening to things online while trying to sleep. I mainly listen to religious things: Unbelievable with Justin Brierley, sermons, etc. It just dawned on me when I was trying to sleep one night, and the hours were going by: why not use this as an opportunity to learn something? And, if I fall asleep and do not get to finish what I am listening to, as has happened in the past, then so be it. Part of my goal is to get to sleep at nights.
Last night, I was listening to one of Nick Peters’ podcasts. Peters is a Christian apologist who has Asperger’s Syndrome, and his podcasts often feature interviews of high-profile people from the realm of biblical scholarship and Christian apologetics. See here for his web site.
The podcast that I was listening to last night featured an interview with Marcia Montenegro. Montenegro used to be involved in Eastern religions, New Age spirituality, astrology, and the occult. She was talking in the interview about her past experiences in that, and how she became a Christian and left those things behind. See here for the podcast, and see here for her web site.
There were many things that she had to say that I found interesting. For one, she struck me as an intelligent, well-read person. She spoke for most of the two hours, and she was enjoyable to listen to. Second, while she was definitely not intending to promote her old beliefs in the interview, I found what she had to say about them to be interesting: about how different beliefs are facets of the one truth, how Jesus came to teach self-sacrifice and how that related to Pisces, how we all become one with an impersonal God and lose our individuality (she said that this idea bothered her even when she believed it, but she hoped that she would arrive at the point of desiring such a union), etc. Obviously, there are things about the occult and the New Age movement that I would rather avoid: as Montenegro was saying, even many occultists are wary of oija boards, believing that they can attract malevolent spirits; what she was saying about the Seth revelations and channeling discouraged me from wanting to pursue those things further, lest I come into contact with a demon (as Montenegro was saying, Jane Roberts’ face was contorted when “Seth” spoke through her). I have to admit, though, that I read more about the Seth revelations this morning, and they seem to me to be typical New Age (i.e., Jesus as an ascended consciousness, positive thinking). In any case, I can understand Montenegro’s point that New Age teachings can be pretty seductive, even for Christians. I would add that they can also be seductive for people burned out with conservative Christianity, like yours truly.
Third, I enjoyed listening to Montenegro’s story about how she became a Christian. Essentially, she felt led to go to a church, so she attended a liberal Episcopalian church. While at a service, she was flooded with a feeling that she was loved by a personal God. She came to be convicted that the occult was wrong, and, when she was reading Matthew 8 and the story about Jesus’ control of the wind and the waves, she accepted him as her savior. She later learned that a Christian she worked with and his small group were praying for her, even though the Christian was not overtly trying to convert her. She offered advice on how to engage people involved in New Age spirituality or the occult—-learn about their views on God and Jesus, and do not stereotype them inaccurately (i.e., she said that Wiccans do not believe in Satan and thus are not Satanists). She also said, however, that trying to convert them probably will not work, since they are not particularly receptive to the Gospel, even though many may have positive views of Jesus.
A question that was in my mind concerned religious experience. Both Peters and Montenegro did not care for how many people make their religious experience the criterion of truth, when they should be interpreting their experience in light of Scripture. My problem with this aspect of the discussion was that Montenegro herself seemed to believe in Christianity on account of her own religious experiences. What makes those valid, whereas experiences that do not fit a conservative Christian mold are invalid? And does not Peters, on some level, highlight the importance of religious experience in discerning truth when he appeals to the disciples’ experience of Jesus’ resurrection as a reason that we can believe that Christianity is true?
In any case, I am reluctant to engage the occult because I do not want to play with fire. At the same time, I am somewhat drawn to the pluralistic aspects of New Age beliefs, especially since there are times when Christian conceptions of God do not look, well, all that lofty or appealing to me.
I do not want to encourage people to check things out that may be harmful. I just felt like writing this post because I found the podcast to be interesting.