Thoughts on the Second Edition of Christian Apologetics

The mail recently brought me two hardbacks of the second edition of my book, Christian Apologetics, published by InterVarsity Press. It was originally published in 2011. The Kindle version came out on February 8 of this year. The hardback was delayed by supply chain problems. We cannot take books and magazines for granted now. World Magazine recently spoke of their concern about getting enough paper to print their magazine.

Holding a book you have written in your hands for the first time is always rewarding. (It is nothing like holding your newborn, I’m sure; but, I have no children.) This book is 839 pages long. The first edition was 758 pages. The second edition has smaller print, so there is much more material. Every chapter is updated and the book sports seven new chapters:

1. Original Monotheism

2. Doubt, Skepticism, and the Hiddenness of God 

3. In Defense of the Church

4. The Atonement: Stating It Properly

5. The Atonement: Defending It

6. The Resurrection: Prolegomena on Miracles

7. Lament as Apologetic

Not much has been removed in this edition, although I omitted a few arguments with emergent church authors (since that movement seems to be over) and with a few other Christians. I wanted to be more positive, and to have more room for my own apologetic as opposed to critique of other apologetic ideas.

Has my mind changed on anything? Yes and no. I take the case for the truth, rationality, and relevance of Christianity to be stronger today than in 2011, given the advances especially in the intelligent design movement. Recent work on miracles by Craig Keener and (more popularly) Lee Strobel strengthens the case for the resurrection and for all biblical miracles. I could go on—and I did in the book.

However, my views on the possibility for salvation for those who have not heard the Gospel through direct human contact (oral or written)  have cautiously opened up a bit. I take this up in the chapter, in “The Challenge of Religious Pluralism.” I carefully state my views and explain what level of confidence I have for certain outcomes. Of course, I still affirm that salvation is through the work of Jesus Christ, the Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5; John 14:6)! The question is how much one needs to know to benefit from that gracious work of Jesus Christ. 

I am grateful to God that at age sixty-five, I was able to complete a second edition to my major life work. I am honored by the kind endorsements from J. P. Moreland, Paul Copan, Sean McDowell, J. Warner Wallace, and William Dembski. 

I often reflect on how much time my Lord has given me to read, write, and teach ever since my conversion in 1976. I did not have to work my way through college (thanks, Mom!), so I had plenty of time to study for my classes as well as engage my own parallel curriculum as a Christian thinker, reading the likes of C. S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, James Sire, and Os Guinness. My five years in campus ministry at the McKenzie Study Center (1979-84) allowed me protracted time for study. (Thanks, Wes Hurd.) And such has been the case ever since. 

I really don’t know how to do anything except study, write, teach, preach, and mentor. I’m generally helpless (or dangerous) otherwise. But God has made a way for me, a way that has helped others through my labors. Thanks be to God.

I will likely not write any more tomes (or bricks), but two more books should be published this year, and I am working on two others. I have ideas for about ten more after that, but this must be placed in God’s hands. 

Reflections on the Film The Birds

British director Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) was the great master of suspense films. His 1963 classic, The Birds, is haunting and perplexing. I saw it as a boy, and ever since I’ve wondered what birds could do to us if they had a mind to. As seagulls were hovering over me at a Florida beach recently, I remembered the film. I was hoping they did not. Not long after, my wife and I watched The Birds on a lark.

You may know the plot: various birds—mostly seagulls and crows—in a small coastal town, Bodega Bay, California, begin attacking people for no apparent reason. The action starts when a seagull dive-bombs the beautiful San Francisco socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippy Hedren) and bites her perfectly coifed head, drawing blood. In the love story that’s threaded amidst the tension and terror, Melanie had come to the town to bring two love birds to lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor). The seagull’s assault is inexplicable. 

The inexplicable builds. A seagull crashes against a door. Chickens stop eating their feed. Birds attack a children’s party. The birds get nastier and nastier until they launch an all-out attack on a class of school children, their teacher, and Melanie as they all flee for their lives down a long street. The birds then take on the whole town in a terrifying scene. Melanie seeks refuge in a telephone booth as the birds crash into the glass. Now she is caged.

It is Eerie

The plot is eerie for two reasons. What is horrifying is not simply the bird attacks, but the unlikelihood of the threat. Who expects birds to go rogue? My parakeet once attacked me and somehow survived my father’s counterattack. But the damage was minimal to either of us. We know that bears attack people. Alligators attack people. Even the ungainly moose will attack if provoked. Mighty raptors may be fearful, but they do not star in this film, nor are they known for coordinated attacks on humans. They have other prey. It’s all in the order of nature. Who would fear seagulls and crows?

Another eerie element is that the enigmatic birds attack randomly. They do not relentlessly assault the featherless bipeds. Perhaps the most terrifying scene is when Mitch, his mother, sister, and Melanie are attacked as they sequester in a house that Mitch has fortified for a bird assault. The birds nearly peck through doors to get into the house. Melanie is almost killed when she opens the door to the attic where birds are lurking. (That scene took three days to film. Hedren was bitten on the lower eyelid by a real bird, which stopped the filming for a week while she recovered physically and psychologically.) The eeriness is increased by the film’s lack of a soundtrack and by the synthesized sounds of the birds, making them sound bird-like and ghost-like.

Spoiler alert: In the final scene, Mitch, Melanie, and the rest leave their bird-bombed home with throngs of birds sitting and perched all around them. Mitch is gently bitten a few times, but nothing more. They all—including the caged love birds—make it to the car and drive off. There is no resolution or explanation or musical accompaniment. The end.

Religious and Philosophical Questions

The Birds has no overt religious meaning, but a few theological themes can be discerned. In one scene, Melanie sits outside a schoolhouse, pensively smoking, while birds menace nearby. The viewer sees a church building behind her with a cross on the roof. Shortly after, the birds launch their massive, coordinated attack on the town. Why did Hitchcock put that church in the scene?

During the avian assault, townspeople gather in a local diner to regroup. A drunk seated at the counter proclaims, “It’s the end of the world!” and quotes a few passages of divine judgment rom Ezekial, chapter six. The biblical context is that of God declaring judgment against Israel because of her false worship and evil actions. The unnamed drunk is then rebuked by a waitress who quotes a Bible verse against drunkenness. 

The film has several layers of philosophical meaning. Hitchcock’s filming of the church is purposeful. It seems to ask, “Where is God in all this? There is a church, but where is God?” None of the terrified victims of the bird attacks pray or call out to God for help. No clergymen or religious person appears, except the Bible-quoting drunk. Is he merely an inebriated crank or an ersatz prophet? 

Read one way, the film is nihilistic. What happens is absurd in the sense of the meaningless misfortunes of Camus’s novel, The Plague. Mitch’s little sister asks him why the birds are attacking, but he has no answer. They have declared war on the town, but no one can read their minds. Evil strikes as people are killed, injured, and terrified. At other times, the birds are quiescent. The two love birds Melanie gave Mitch remain in their cages throughout the film and are taken along when the family escapes by car in the end.    

Read another way, the attacks are a judgment by the birds against their fellow creatures, who have caged, enslaved, and eaten them for centuries. The attacks start after Melanie brings the caged love birds to town. That act might have sparked the revolt, symbolizing human oppression and domination over the birds. The caged birds wreaked no havoc, but they had no opportunity to flock and plot with the assassins, either. Just before the all-out blitzkrieg on the hapless town, an older woman who is an amateur ornithologist lectures Melanie about birds not being aggressors; it is we humans who have abused them. The ornithologist is quickly refuted by the avian apocalypse. 

A Theological Context 

We can put this film into a larger theological context if we are allowed a few more biblical references that what Hitchcock allowed. The Creator gave humans dominion over the animal world (Genesis 1:26-28) and they were never forbidden from killing and eating animals. After the judgment of the flood, God says that the “fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands” (Gen 9:2). But sometimes we fall into their hands, as this film highlights, albeit in a far-fetched manner.

Animals were sacrificed in Israel’s religious rituals of atonement. Nevertheless, Jesus said that God cares for “the birds of the air” even though he cares more for people (Matthew 6:26). The Fourth of The Ten Commandments required that animals be given their rest along with people (Exodus 20:8-11). Proverbs 12:10 teaches, “A righteous man has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercies of the wicked are cruel.”

Nature has been disrupted by the entry of sin into God’s good world at the fall (Genesis 3). The Apostle Paul wrote that the whole universe will be in travail until it is ultimately restored by God (Romans 8:18-23). That restoration will end all human-animal hostility in a new world of inter-species peace. 

The wolf will live with the lamb,
    the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
    and a little child will lead them.

Isaiah 11:6-9

That time is not yet nor is The Birds is not for everybody, and especially not for children. There is already plenty of suspense and terror in our broken world without resorting to suspenseful cinema, one may judge. Nevertheless, one can enjoy the artistry and suspense of this classic film and ponder the philosophical and theological questions that it raises concerning our relationship to birds and to the larger animal kingdom. 

Vietnam and Afghanistan: A Reminder and Jeremiad

Some compare the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban to the fall of South Vietnam to the Communist North Vietnamese in 1975. There is one titanic difference. 


The United States had defeated North Vietnam, and this was sealed at the Paris Peace Accords. It was not an unwinnable war. But the victory had to be secured by keeping the peace, which mean giving ongoing US aid to South Vietnam. The US Congress (controlled by Democrats) refused do that, over the pleas of President Gerald Ford. Then Saigon fell. The Viet Cong took over South Vietnam. Millions fled or tried to flee. Remember the “boat people,” escaping yet another worker’s paradise? Vietnam became another Communist prison state that imprisoned, tortured, and killed untold numbers. Then, because South Vietnam fell, Cambodia fell to Pol Pot, another Communist (trained in France), who killed about two million of his own people for being counterrevolutionary. That was about 25%-30% of the population. Mao killed the most, 70,000,000, but Pol Pot holds the record for killing the highest percentage of his own people. They can argue in hell whose achievement was greater.

This may surprise you, since Vietnam has been falsely depicted by the press and in films. The war was procured to stop Communist aggression. It was not imperialism. What I write is true. America was humiliated without reason; it betrayed its allies; and it sentenced millions to tyranny and death. 

Today, the world faces something similar, but different. The war in Afghanistan was longer than the Vietnam war, but I’m not sure it was ever won. The US presence insured a more stable and more tolerant government. The war started because Afghanistan, controlled by the Taliban, gave save harbor to ben Ladin, the mastermind beyond the 9/11 attacks on America. That war had to be fought. 

However we assess all this, the armed forces departure from Afghanistan is an unmitigated disaster and human rights tragedy, sentencing the brave Afghan people to untold oppression and misery under a Taliban demonocracy. Joe Biden is the Commander in Chief. It is ultimately his fault. We can pray and we can welcome as many refugees to our shores and into our homes as possible. 

America is imploding at home and abroad. Our liberties are at stake, given the rise of statism and surveillance. Our taxes support abortion on demand. Our streets were ablaze and may be again. We have insecure borders. Our standing abroad is further blemished if not poisoned by the Afghanistan apocalypse. The Executive Branch is occupied by a radically incompetent man (or worse), who is failing mentally and falling America and falling the world. 

“Titanic” and Christian Faith

Believe it or not, I had never seen “Titanic” (1997), one of the most well-known films of all time–until yesterday and tonight. It’s long, so we divided it. I shall make but a few theological comments.


Near the end of the film, a man with a clerical collar is shown speaking to a small group of people on board the sinking ship. They are not clamoring for a life boat, but simply listening. He recites the “Hail Mary” but later, he quotes from Revelation from memory (!), which speaks of a time when there is no more sea, when every tear is wiped away, and death is no more.


This was the only reference to Christianity–besides the profaning of God’s holy name—I found in the film up to that point. Neither Jack nor Rose ever cry out to God for help. None of the major characters give the slightest indication of Christian conviction.


The cleric was leading his little doomed flock to remember and count on what was to come for the faithful. I often read from Revelation 21-22 to my dying wife, Rebecca. It is no mere desperate or romantic hope. It is as real as the resurrection of Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15), which is a well-established fact of space-time history. (See my chapter, “The Resurrection of Jesus” in Christian Apologetics. This has become two chapters in the 2nd edition of the book.) 


The Titantic’s string quartet finishes their performance by playing, “Nearer my God to Thee,” a Christian hymn. (Whether this happened is debatable, but it is another upsurge of truth in an otherwise secular film. People not familiar with hymns will not catch this.)


The final scene features a dream or perhaps an afterlife experience of the surviving Rose, who is now elderly. She returns to the great banquet hall of the Titanic and is greeted by all who died and by her beloved Jack, who died just before she was rescued. They kiss to the applause of all. You cry. (This is similar to the final scene of “Places of the Heart,” which is more specifically Christian, since all are taking the Eucharist.)

Yes, there will be a great eschatological reunion. This is why followers of Christ do not “grieve as the world grieves.” We have hope. This hope, however, is not some vague, misty, romantic wish that all will turn out well. This hope, as the Apostle Paul affirms, “does not disappoint us.” But this hope is reserved for those who have been redeemed through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior. It is not automatic for all. You must be converted.


The elderly Rose says that “Jack saved me in every way I could be saved.” That is false. Jack inspired her, inflamed a deep bound of friendship and romance. But only Jesus Christ can save us from the curse of the law, since the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is the work of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross on our behalf. We are saved, rescued, and redeemed by lifting up the empty hands of faith, trusting in his saving achievements. By God’s grace and love, I did this in June of 1976. Have you done so?

Kindle and the Writer

I long resisted any reading of books in electronic form. Books are superior in many ways—their ability to carry memories, hand-written annotations, their physical heft, their inability to have more than one set of messages per page (unlike screens), and more. I wrote of this in The Soul in Cyberspace (Baker, 1997). However, using Kindle has advantages for the writer.

  1. Kindle is more portable than a book. When one travels or is away for the summer (as I am), Kindle supplies needed information without the bulk of a book. Still, I miss my voluminous library.
  2. Kindle may provide the complete works of a noteworthy philosopher theologian for a small amount of money. 
  3. Kindle allows the writer to search a huge corpus quickly and efficiently. I found this invaluable when researching the atonement of Jesus. Assuming the search technology is accurate, I could look for references to “imputation” or “atonement” in the collected works of John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, Augustine, and others, as well as particular books by Charles Hodge, John Calvin, and others. A Kindle search is comprehensive, unlike the index to a book, which is selective. (And some books that need indexes lack them.) However, a Kindle search is only as good as what you decide to search for. A book index supplies the names and topics for you to consider.
  4. My publisher (InterVarsity) and some others (Cambridge) allow Kindle citations in references. Kindle enables the writer to capture and paste text quickly. Thus, if I want a Francis Schaeffer reference to “open system of cause and effect,” I can search for it, capture it, and paste into a chapter I am writing. 

However, one must be sure that the Kindle text and citation format are worthy of being referenced in a book or article. Some of the Kindle texts are junky and unreliable. But that is true of some books as well.

So: “Two Cheers for Kindle.”

Give Profits a Chance

As I was driving on Santa Fe in Littleton, I passed a light rail station and read this on an RTD car, “Caring for people, not profits.” Is that a good motto for Denver’s light rail system? Or is it a false dichotomy? I am not complaining about the RTD service per se. Rather, I am raising the basic issue of profits and social benefit—a question germane to Colorado politics and to all politics. 

To many, “profit” is a dirty word and must be paired with “greed,” which is always vice. So, if you want to make a profit, you are greedy or will become greedy if you make profits. Is that right? We need to move beyond images of the greedy old Mr. Potter of “It’s a Wonderful Life” to get a better picture.

First, to greed. Even if someone is greedy (which is a vice), he still needs to provide goods or services that are markable to people’s needs. His greed may lead him to expand production and thus hire new workers who would otherwise be unemployed. Yes, his greed is a moral vice, but it may translate to a public good. But one may seek profit and not be greedy, but rather act out of legitimate self-interest. As Adam Smith said in The Wealth of Nations (1776).

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages.”

Those who make vast amounts of money through savvy self-interest may also become great benefactors. Whatever you think of Bill Gates, and whatever his motives may have been, his great wealth came from profits made through Microsoft products. These products benefitted his many workers and consumers. He and his wife now dedicate much of their time and give large sums to philanthropic enterprises. 

Second, let’s get clear on what making a profit means and what it does not mean. Profits indicate economic success and allow businesses to produce goods and services demanded by the market, and the consumers generally benefit from this. A business’s profit is not like stealing that amount from the consumer. 

Third, to make a profit in a fair market means that the producer is providing goods or services to consumers who find these items worthwhile enough to purchase. Businesses have to care about people to the extent that they provide them with items they desire and can afford to purchase. Further, some measure of profit is needed for a business to stay in business at all.

Fourth, profits fuel innovation. If business merely break even or fail to make significant profits, they are unable to dedicate much money to research and development in the products they provide. Had Apple gone broke in 2000, there would be no iPhone.   

Fifth, if a service like RTD is controlled by the civil government– which does not need to make a profit—that does not automatically make the service better than what private profit-making business might do. The saying, “Close enough for government work,” may ring true. When services are not accountable to consumers in order to make profits, and when they are not in competition with other private businesses providing the same service, the quality of these services may suffer. Why should be think that the motto, “Caring about People, not Profits,” will motivate RTD managers and workers to care more about people than the profit motive would motivate them?

Since Colorado has turned from blue to red, the prevailing mentality of politicians is to take a dim view of profit-making ventures and to favor government-run services. I say, give profits a chance to profit people.

Easter Life and the Facts of History

Easter commemorates and celebrates a historical event unlike any other: the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  But what is the significance of the resurrection? And how can we know it really happened? 

The four Gospels report that Jesus predicted his death, burial, and resurrection. He was born to die. All of his wondrous teachings, healings, exorcisms, and transforming relationships with all manner of people—from fishermen to tax collectors to prostitutes to revolutionaries—would be incomplete without his crucifixion and resurrection. Shortly before his death, “Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priest and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Matthew 16:21). Peter resisted this grim fact, but Jesus rebuked him.  There was no other way (vs. 22-23).  For, as Jesus had taught, he “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

And give his life he did, on an unspeakably cruel Roman cross—impaled for all to see before two common criminals. We call this day Good Friday because it was good for us; but it was dreadful for Jesus. Before I became a follower of Christ, I always associated this day with the Alaskan earthquake on Good Friday, 1964, one of the largest ever in North America. I was there in Anchorage. After the death of Jesus, the earth quaked on the first Good Friday as well, heaving with a significance that far exceeds any geological upsurge in world history. As Jesus’ disciple Matthew recounts: “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split” (Matthew 27:50-51). When the guards at the crucifixion experienced the earthquake and the other extraordinary phenomena, “they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely he was the Son of God!’” (v. 54). Yet another miracle was waiting, waiting—as the dead Messiah was pried off his bloody cross, embalmed, and laid in a cold, dark tomb, guarded to the hilt.

All seemed to be lost. The one who had boldly claimed to be “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), the prophet who had announced that “God so loved the world that he sent his one and only son that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)—this man now had died.  The man who had raised the dead was dead.

On the first day of the week, two women, both named Mary, came to visit the tomb of their master. They had stayed with him as he died; now they visited his tomb in grief.  Yet instead of mourning a death, they celebrated a resurrection announced by an angel, who rolled back the stone sealing the tomb and charged them to look at its empty contents.  He then told them to tell Jesus’ disciples of the resurrection and to go to Galilee where they would see him. As they scurried away, Jesus himself met them, greeted them, and received their surprised worship (Matthew 27:8-9).  He directed them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (v. 10).

The rest is history, and it changed history forever. The fact that women were the first witnesses to the resurrection puts the lie to the notion that the idea of Jesus’ resurrection was concocted at a later point to add drama to his life. Women were not taken to be trustworthy witnesses in courts of law at that time (although Jesus always respected them).  If someone had wanted to create a pious fraud, they never would have included the two Marys in their story. Moreover, all four Gospels testify to the factual reality of the resurrection. They were written by eyewitnesses (Matthew and John) or those who consulted eyewitnesses (Luke and Mark); they were people in the know, not writers of myths and legends (see Luke 1:1-4; 1 Peter 1:16).

After the resurrection, the gospel of the risen Jesus was quickly proclaimed in the very area where he was crucified.  This upstart “cult” would have been easily refuted by someone producing the corpse of Christ, which both the Jewish establishment and the Roman government had a vested interest in doing, since this new movement threatened the religious and political status quo. But we have no historical record of any such thing having occurred.  On the contrary, the Jesus movement grew and rapidly spread. Christian Jews changed the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday, in honor of Jesus’ resurrection. Pious Jews would never do such a thing on their own initiative, because it would set them against their own tradition and their countrymen. Nor would they have ceased offering the prescribed sacrifices their Scriptures required had not Jesus proven himself to be the final sacrifice for sin, the lamb of God (see John  1:29 and the Book of Hebrews). The resurrection best accounts for this change in their day of worship, their manner of worship, and the transformation at the core of their lives.  Moreover, the two key rituals of the earliest church—communion and the baptism—both presuppose the historicity of the resurrection and are very difficult to explain without it.

The Apostle Paul, a man revolutionized through an encounter with the risen Christ (Acts 9), taught that “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14).  Paul listed many witnesses of the risen Christ, some of whom were still living when he wrote (1 Corinthians 15:3-8), and confidently affirmed that “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead” (v. 20).  He also proclaimed that Jesus “through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4).

Easter is the core of Christian faith and life.  Without the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, there is no gospel message, no future hope, and no new life in Christ. With the resurrection, Christianity stands unique in all the world: no other spiritual movement is based on the resurrection of its divine founder.  When Jesus announced, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 10:25), he meant it and he demonstrated it.  Let us, then, leave our dead ways and follow him today and into eternity.

Spiritual Dangers of New Age Meditation and Yoga

Harper’s ran an in-depth article on the fate of a young woman who did intensive Easterm meditation at a retreat and contacted mental illness as a result. It ended tragically. The piece reviews significant scientific literature on the deleterious effects of meditation.


I warned of the psychological, physical, and spiritual dangers of yoga and meditation in my book, Confronting the New Age (InterVarsity Press, 1988). Back then, a New Age organization was set up to help people who experienced mental problems through New Age involvement, The Spiritual Emergency Network. I also quote yoga teachers who warn of the psychological and physical dangers of yoga when (in their mind) done wrongly. I have excerpted part of that book below from the Kindle version. (Sadly, the footnote references do not appear, but they will if you purchase the book from Amazon, which is only $2.99.)

We were made for worship, relationships, and work. We were not made to sit for hours on end focusing on our breath, having little external stimuli, and blanking out our God-given minds. Our minds are to be renewed through the Holy Spirit and according to the Word of God (Romans 12:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 4:12; Psalm 119), not annulled or deconstructed into oblivion.

The article mentions that Buddhist writers of old warned of “demonic” dangers of meditation. Remember that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light and his ministers as ministers of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14; see also 2 Peter 5:8; 1 John 4:1-6). 


Please read the Harper’s article with what I wrote in mind–in mind! Don’t waste your mind or direct your consciousness to nothing or Nirvana. “The mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

Spiritual Dangers (from Douglas Groothuis, Confronting the New Age)

Those who trust in Christ are given access to spiritual discernment and power in spiritual combat. Yet those outside of Christ are fair prey of the enemy. In communicating to New Agers it is sometimes wise to warn them that psychic sojourns may lead them into raging spiritual storms. 

As New Age seekers dive into their spiritual experiences, they leave themselves vulnerable to both fraud and spiritual deception Some seekers are primed for deception because they are desperate, hurting people looking for an answer—any answer. If Christians encounter such souls, a word of warning is a good tonic. Even if we can’t lead them to Christ just then, we can warn them of occult dangers and offer the safety of knowing Christ as victor over sin and Satan. 

It should be made clear that the Bible prohibits all occult activities for at least two reasons. First, God alone is worthy of worship, and he is rightfully jealous of our affections and obedience. Since he is supremely good, this jealousy translates into a desire both to glorify himself and to have his creatures live as they ought to live. Second, God also knows the reality of fallen spiritual beings who entice humanity to follow their destructive ways. For these reasons he vetoes any suggestion of occult involvement. Although many biblical passages condemn the occult, this passage from Deuteronomy, originally given to God’s people who were to possess the Promised Land, is the most exhaustive: 

When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God. (Deut 18:9–13; see also Lev 19:31; 20:6) 

Isaiah echoes this and points us in the right direction: “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn” (Is 8:19–20; see also 47:8–15). 

Although there are scores of other biblical warnings, consider the stark finality of Jesus Christ’s words concerning those who will not enter the eternal city: “Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Rev 22:15). If the biblical warnings are not heeded, cautions can be given from New Age literature itself. For instance, if a friend wants to take a yoga class at the local YMCA to help calm her nerves, we might quote the following, written by an advocate of yoga: “Yoga is not a trifling jest if we consider that any misunderstanding in the practice of yoga can mean death or insanity.”26 Practitioners of yoga often warn of the power of the kundalini energy, represented as a serpent coiled at the base of the spine. The purpose of many forms of yoga is to “awaken the kundalini” and release its energy upward through the seven chakras (energy centers) of the body. But the yogis themselves caution that this is no child’s play. One might get burned (literally!) by the serpent’s hot breath—or go insane.27 

In an issue of ReVision, a scholarly New Age journal, consciousness researchers Christina and Stanislav Grof speak of “transpersonal crises” that are often linked to “various meditative practices which are specifically designed to activate spiritual energies.” These include “the practice of yoga, Zen, various movement meditations, pranayama, Kundalini maneuvers, Tibetan Buddhist psychoenergetic exercises, Christian prayer and other forms of deep and systematic spiritual involvement and self-exploration.”28 (Given the substance of their article, it is clear their concept of “Christian prayer” is not a biblical spirituality, but pantheistic introspection falsely labeled Christian.) 

The Grofs believe these “emergencies” are merely difficult stages often required for greater growth, which they interpret as New Age enlightenment Yet their descriptions of the “crises” are bone chilling, especially when describing the “awakening of the Serpent Power (Kundalini)” which they say “can be accompanied by dramatic physical and psychological manifestations called kriyas,” which include “powerful sensations of heat and energy streaming up the spine, associated with tremors, spasms, violent shaking, and complex twisting movements.” They also mention “involuntary laughing or crying, chanting of mantras or songs, talking in tongues, emitting of vocal noises and animal sounds, and assuming spontaneous yoga gestures (mudras) and postures (asanas).” Other physical manifestations include “nausea, diarrhea or constipation, anal or uterine contractions, clenching of the jaws, rise and drop of temperature, and bulimia or loss of appetite. The entire body can be rigid or limp, and feel unusually large or small.”29 

Although the Grofs also list supposedly positive benefits of kundalini such as “ecstasy, orgiastic raptures, and states of indescribable peace and tranquility,”30 one must risk a total breakdown (or worse) for that prize. Yet all the subjective enjoyment in the world cannot yield the forgiveness of sins or the peace of mind offered by Jesus Christ, who requires no such psychological and physical violence from his followers. 

The Grofs found these “transpersonal emergencies” prevalent enough among New Agers that in 1980 they founded “the Spiritual Emergency Network” to help enlighten the “psychotherapeutic community” to the reality of the issue and to offer assistance through education and referrals to those undergoing various crises. The headquarters for the Spiritual Emergency Network is on the campus of the California Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in the San Francisco area and has 42 regional centers worldwide.31 

Yoga may also open up a person to spiritual contacts and all manner of occult activity. Transcendental Meditation—while claiming to be a neutral, psychological technique—uses yogic methods to alter consciousness. Maharishi, its founder, has said that the purpose of chanting the mantra in Transcendental Meditation is “to produce an effect in some other world, to draw the attention of those higher beings or gods living there. The entire knowledge of the mantra . . . is devoted to man’s connection, to man’s communication with the higher beings in a different strata (sic) of creation.”32 

If a person says he is interested in yoga simply as a physical discipline, he should be told that it was not invented by the mystic masters of old simply to cultivate better physiques. Yoga teachers such as R L. Hittleman admit that any health benefits are secondary He also admits to having used the health angle to hook Westerners on the Hindu world view.33 

An article in Yoga Journal on parapsychology even warns psychic sojourners that the use of divination (through Ouija boards, automatic writing and other methods) “in a frivolous or disrespectful manner” makes one “liable to attract ‘lower’ discarnate communicators, including ghosts or poltergeists, and one runs the risks of becoming obsessed or possessed.”34 Christians need not use quotation marks for the word lower, because they believe in an active “Lowerarchy.”35 of demonic mischief-makers capable of possessing, obsessing and oppressing those outside the protection of the risen Christ. Although the article in Yoga Journal issues a small warning, it falls tragically short of Christian discernment It tantalizes readers by saying that “two of the most famous ‘channeled’ teachings of recent years—the Seth books and the ‘messages from Michael’—got their start on the Ouija board.”36 

Christians may challenge New Age aspirants by concretely relating dangers of various New Age practices. Many of these—channeling, psychic healing, mind-altering meditations and so on—are nothing but modernized occultism, and occultism exacts too high a price in the end. The late Kurt Koch, Christian theologian and occult counselor for over forty-five years, has given hundreds of examples of occult bondage in his many writings. His seasoned analysis was that “no one makes use of occult powers without harm.”37 We are not suggesting that all people involved in some occult/New Age practice will suffer similar symptoms, but that these practices are outside the will of God and thus generally dangerous. 

Confronting the New Age: How to Resist a Growing Religious Movement (pp. 76-80). InterVarsity Press, 1988. Kindle Edition.

Mike Shreve on Yoga, Christianity, and the New Age Worldview

Mike Shreve was deep into eastern religion and yoga before he converted to Christianity in 1970. He has since written books and done many media and speaking appearances to expose the errors of eastern mysticism and yoga and to promote the Christian gospel. Although I have been writing and researching in these areas for decades, I have just discovered his work through his excellent booklet, Seven Reasons I No Longer Practice Yoga. I asked Michael several questions related to yoga, Christianity, and the New Age worldview and found his answers insightful and needful for Christians today.

  1. Tell us about your life before you converted and how you got involved in Eastern religion.

I was raised Roman Catholic and very devoted, anticipating a day when I would probably enter the priesthood. However, having never been “born again,” I was easily wooed by the world as a teenager and drifted away from religions altogether, eventually becoming a keyboardist in a rock band. It was just a matter of time before I got swept up in the megatrend of psychedelics so dominant in the latter 60s. This eventually resulted in a near-death experience at the age of 18, but the “curse” became a “blessing,” because it showed me the brevity and frailty of life, and put me on a search for truth and ultimate reality. In desperation, I dropped out of college to study under an Indian guru named Yogi Bhajan in a sect referred to as “Kundalini Yoga.”

  1. How did you come to hear and accept the message of Jesus?

Several events led to my personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ and my salvation. Because I was running a yoga ashram in Tampa, Florida, and teaching Kundalini Yoga extracurricularly at four colleges in the Tampa/Sarasota area (University of South Florida, University of Tampa, Florida Presbyterian, and New College), the Tampa Tribune newspaper did a half-page story on me. I thought it would dramatically increase my class attendance. Instead, it alerted a local 24-hour Christian prayer group to start praying for me. Every hour of every day someone was interceding in my behalf.

Then the second link in an amazing Holy-Spirit-inspired chain of events took place—I received a random letter from an old college friend explaining to me how he had been “born again,” emphatically insisting that Jesus was and is the only way. Trying to politely refuse that concept, I countered that Christianity was a lesser “Bhakti Yoga” path (devotion to an individual god), and that I embraced all religions as being equally legitimate and effective means of achieving oneness with God. However, Larry’s letter kept resounding in my mind until one day I decided to deal with it. Attempting to push my way through all the objections I had to the exclusivity of Jesus Christ, I decided to open my heart to the possibility that His teachings were true. Also, it dawned on me that if He really did die on the cross for the sins of humanity, I owed it to Him to at least explore His claims.

So, one day, instead of following my normal yoga routine (14 hours daily of asanas, mantra-chanting, pranayama, raja yoga disciplines, reading of the Bhagavad Gita and the Vedas, etc.). Veering drastically from the norm, I only read the Bible that day (the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation primarily) and only prayed to Jesus—pleading that if He was the only way, He would give me a supernatural sign.

high-school-picture-with-yogi-picture

That afternoon I was hitchhiking to teach a yoga class at the University of South Florida. One of the members of the prayer group was two miles away walking in a laundromat when God spoke to him to get back in his van and start driving. Thinking it quite strange for God to direct him that way, he reluctantly got back behind the wheel and started driving, turning whenever he felt an impulse. Then everything fell into place—he saw me hitchhiking, felt compelled to pick me up, and pulled over. When I opened the door to climb in, the first thing I noticed was a picture of Jesus he had taped to the ceiling. I knew it was my answer. Within a few minutes he began witnessing to me and shortly after that, I was on my knees asking Jesus to dwell within my heart. It happened! I was born again. I had a genuine encounter with the true God, and everything changed. I went back to all my yoga classes, explaining that I had unknowingly misled them and that from that point forward, classes would no longer be held. I also shut down my yoga ashram. Many of my main students became followers of Jesus as well. Thank God, He brought me out of darkness into His marvelous light!

  1. What kinds of spiritual battles have you experienced since becoming a Christian?

In fifty years of walking with the Lord, I have faced numerous spiritual battles, but I have learned through the Word of God how to overcome them all (Romans 8:37, 1 John 5:4). One of the first major spiritual attacks I experienced occurred about two weeks after I was saved. I was laying in bed, reading the Bible, when a demon spirit visibly appeared and attempted to re-inhabit my body and pull my soul out into something referred to as “the astral realm” (an experience I had previously pursued as a student of yoga called “astral projection”). I was deeply concerned if that spirit achieved its purpose, I could lose control completely. I felt paralyzed. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even open my mouth to rebuke the demon. But at that critical moment, I remembered counseling I had received from some mature believers and acted on it. Though I couldn’t talk, in my mind I declared, “The blood of Jesus be upon you.” When I merely formed those words mentally, the evil spirit backed away from me. That freed me up enough so that I could speak those same words out loud, commanding the spirit to depart from me and flee from the room—which it did, and I was never attacked that way again. So, I learned early on the authority that rests in the blood of Jesus. I know this story may sound a little farfetched to those who have never experienced a literal demonic attack, but things like this really do take place. In fact, people contact me from all over the world asking me to pray for their deliverance from something they call “spontaneous kundalini awakenings”—uncontrollable surges of spiritual energy that feel very evil and demonic in nature—that began happening to them because of their involvement with yoga.

  1. What is the key to freedom if someone has been oppressed by demons through the practice of yoga or other pagan practices?

There are several keys to freedom. Shortly after becoming a follower of Jesus I burned all of my books on eastern religions and new age practices and all my yoga paraphernalia, which is a biblical pattern for severing ties to the evil spirits behind occult practices (Acts 19:19). Also, being prayed for by mature believers who understand deliverance can be very helpful and needful. Fasting has always been a key for spiritual cleansing to take place also—coupled with lengthy times of focused prayer.

  1. Why do think yoga is so popular today?

I believe there are at least four reasons yoga has become so popular: (1) many versions of yoga have deemphasized the connection to Hinduism and emphasized just the physical and health aspects of the practice, but it still becomes a door to demonic intrusion, spiritual oppression, and religious contamination. (2) often people turn to yoga because they have never been exposed to authentic New Testament Christianity. They have only experienced a brand of nominal Christianity that offers information about a historical Christ, but fails to inform seekers about the transformation available to them spiritually through His indwelling (Ephesians 3:17). (3) I personally believe the hugely popular yoga movement is a satanic strategy helping to prepare humanity for a “one-world religion” that accepts all paths as legitimate approaches to God. I feel this will be one of three pillars supporting the platform of the Antichrist (a one world religion, a one world political system, and a one world currency).

  1. Do you think there can be Christian versions of yoga?

I believe the very term “Christian yoga” is an oxymoron. It is impossible to extricate it completely from its Hindu foundation. Through the years I have talked with many people practicing what they called “Christian yoga” and often discovered their worldviews contain a mixture of biblical ideas and far eastern concepts (such as a belief in chakras). I actually caution believers never to practice yoga. There are low impact exercise regimens that are helpful alternatives offering similar physical results without the spiritual trappings. Even if classes seem benign, with Bible readings and Christian music going on, attending “yoga” sessions is an endorsement of the entire belief system out of which yoga springs, which is very non-Christian.

  1. What does the church need to know about yoga and New Age religion in order to stay true to her calling?

The very word “yoga” means yoke or union and implies “union with God”—but the “God” (ultimate reality) enshrined in the Hindu worldview is usually Brahman—an impersonal life force, not a personal God. Educating believers about the true nature of practices such as these is essential to sharpen the discernment in the followers of Jesus. As a yoga student I often did “breath meditation” in the hope of increasing intimacy with God through an increased intake of prana (a Hindu word for the elemental life force in all creation, which the Chinese call Chi). Now as a Christian, I explain the fallacy of this belief by using the following acrostic for the word yoga:

Y = you
O = only
G = get
A = air

You cannot “breathe” your way into an intimate relationship with God. You must use the biblical plan of salvation and approach Him from the heart.

Furthermore, believers need to be informed about the nature of the New Age Movement so they can interact intelligently with those who embrace that worldview and show the uniqueness of Jesus. It is very important to approach New Agers and yoga advocates in a very peaceful and loving way—which are characteristics they value, instead of resorting to arguments over theological points—something I call “confrontational apologetics.”

8.  What resources do you suggest for those who want to be more knowledgeable in this area?

I invite anyone reading this short explanation of my personal transformation story to visit my comparative religion website: www.thetruelight.net. There are many helpful articles and personal testimonies featured on the site.

On that website also, you can download a free mini-book titled The Highest Adventure: Encountering God that goes into more detail about my former beliefs as a yoga teacher and the biblical response to those beliefs. This mini-book is available in other languages including Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish.

For those who want a very in-depth examination of these issues, I suggest my 336-page comparison of over 20 religions titled In Search of the True Light.

My ministry website is www.shreveministries.org

My YouTube channel is Shreve Ministries where our two series of television programs are posted: (1) In Search of the True Light TV programs, and (2) Discover Your Spiritual Identity TV programs, a biblical study of the names and titles of the children of God.

Philosophy of the Lecture Outline

Having been a public speaker for over forty years, I have realized that offering an audience a lecture outline can fortify and increase the knowledge the speaker wants to communicate. Outlines help the listener follow the speaker, as well as giving the listener the opportunity to follow up on the topic presented. Consider the parts of a lecture outline—or at least how I make them. 

1. The speaker should be identified by his or her full name, title, and institutional affiliation. This helps give a strong ethos to the presentation, if the speaker is so qualified. You can also include contact information. For my outlines, I write:

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary. DouglasGroothuis.com

2.Putting the date and occasion of the lecture grounds it in history and place, which may end up being important.

Vertitas Forum, Anchorage, Alaska, April 10, 2021.

3. The title of the lecture should be accurate, interesting, but not too cute, since unnecessary wit can detract from one’s gravitas. The title may include a subtitle.

Critical Theory: A Biblical and Logical Critique

4. An opening quote can set the tone for the lecture. It may be a Bible verse or a quote from a noteworthy figure, such as Blaise Pascal. 

5. Sections and subsections structure the lecture and assist the listener in following the speaker. Be consistent in the form you use. I use the following:

  1. God and Suffering
    1. The biblical view
      1. Creation (Genesis 1-2)
      2. Fall (Genesis 3)
      3. Redemption (Romans 4-8)
    2. Philosophical issues
      1. God’s perfect goodness
      2. God’s unlimited power
      3. The existence of evil
      4. Are (1), (2), and (3) logically compatible?

6. Leave space between each major section so that the listener can add notes if desired.

7. The outline may include more quotations from the Bible or other sources, but they should not be too long. It is good to give the reference to the quotation, so the listener can look this up.

8. Ending the lecture outline with a bibliography encourages the listener to follow up on the topic with further reading and discovery. I emphasize books and journals, but sometimes include DVDs and web pages. I don’t usually give a full bibliography reference—as would be required in academic writing, but enough to properly identify the source.

For Further Study

  1. Francis Schaeffer, The God Who is There (InterVarsity Press, 1968).
  2. Apologetics web page for Reasonable Faith, the ministry of William Lane Craig: reasonablefaith.org. 
  3. Videos on Intelligent Design by Illustra Video. Illustra.org.

Lecture outlines are not required for every public lecture or sermon, but the more demanding the material, the more a clear and compelling outline is needed. Some argue that lecture outlines should be avoided, since listeners may get distracted by the outline and not listen to the speaker. True enough, but if the speaker and listener follow the outline and the lecture is compelling, this is unlikely to occur. 

I view lecture outlines as part of God’s mission to bring truth and reconciliation to the world (Matthew 6:33). As such, we should value them highly and work on them diligently.