Identifying a New Age Seminar

Space does not permit us to describe all the organizations engaged in

New-Age-oriented seminars. Our time is better spent listing a few signposts

that signal possible New Age activity. Just because a seminar displays one of

these characteristics doesn't necessarily mean that it is New Age in

orientation. Nevertheless, it does mean that we should proceed with care,

cautiously discerning the assumptions behind what is being taught.

We should be wary of two errors in evaluation. The one rejects any

new management or personnel strategies in business without considering

possible worthwhile features (the quarantine mentality). For example, if a

business seminar stresses an affirmative and hopeful attitude toward business

and gives some practical helps for achievement, well and good; the whole

program need not be rejected. Also, a non-occult concern for developing

intuition may be helpful in some areas of business. Legitimate elements

should be conserved. Yet the opposite error uncritically inhales anything and

everything with the scent of success, positiveness and optimism and in so

doing becomes asphyxiated by the erroneous (the chameleon mentality).

The first signpost relates to seminars that stress visualization as

the key to success: they emphasize the purportedly limitless power of the

imagination to "create reality." What is simply a natural function of many

people's thinking is absurdly elevated to the status of a magical principle.

Seminar participants may be led through long and exotic "guided

visualizations" for either relaxation or empowerment. In some cases this may

induce a hypnotic trance in which one becomes vulnerable to suggestion. In

other cases people may feel the rush of omnipotence, as they measure their

abilities by the vividness of their visualization--much like balancing one'

checkbook by figuring out what one wishes were there.

Second, seminars that strongly emphasize positive affirmations are

suspect. Some seminars sell the science of self-congratulation. They say

that our problems are, in large part, based on our poor self-talk. To be

"captains of our own destinies" we need to recapture the helm by praising

ourselves mercilessly. Believing in oneself--that is, believing only the good

things and stubbornly disbelieving the rest--is the key. Though blind

positive thinking is not necessary the product of the New Age, it is

consistent with the world view and often used by its practitioners.

Although it is true that business people can be hindered by an

unhealthy self-hate, and that a healthy sense of self-regard should be

conserved, in many cases self-deception is hailed as self-liberation. Yet when

Scripture says "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor"

(Ex.20:16), the principle extends to giving false witness on our own behalf.

A lie is a lie whether it be spreading false bad rumors about Jones or equally

false good rumors about ourselves. Proverbs charts the course of humility:

"Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your

own lips" (Proverbs 27:2).

Third, business seminars may include Eastern/occult forms of

meditation or other "psychotechnologies" under the guise of "stress reduction"

(although all that is labeled stress reduction does not involve meditation).

Some seminars wear away peoples' common sense and rational reflection through

long hours of psychic assault, resulting in an artificial and inappropriate

change in consciousness.

Fourth, caution is appropriate in evaluation any business seminar that

"promises you the world" or guarantees they will "change your life." Although

dramatic claims in the New Age mode about total personal transformation are

nothing less than religious appeals. These usually pander to the pride that

desires self-actualization as opposed to the humility required to receive

salvation from a source entirely foreign to our fallen frame. Some of those

who believe they have indeed "gained the world" end up with an inflated sense

of power that sets them up for major disappointments.

Fifth, an exorbitant cost for these miracle seminars may tip us off to

their dangers. Paying a substantial sum of (nonrefundable) money serves as a

good psychological adhesive to insure that people endure these seminars even

when their better judgment would normally propel them toward the door at the

first few signs of aberration.

Sixth, excessive secrecy about the actual content of these seminars

should cause us to wonder if they are hiding something sinister instead of

simply protecting a marketable commodity. This may take the form of promoting

the charisma of a particular speaker rather than divulging the content of his

teaching. A typical tactic of some sects is to conceal their more bizarre

teachings--such as Mormon polytheism and "sacred undergarments"--until the

recruit is "ready" for them. Some business seminars may mirror this tactic by

concealing activities that would initially--and rightly--repulse many.

Seventh, seminars that involve long hours outside of the normal work

schedule and/or require the spouse's attendance may have the implicit

intention of radically changing one's world view and manner of life to fit the

New Age mold.

If these seven point help alert us to New Age tendencies in business

seminars, what can be done to confront these practices and construct Christian


A Christian Approach to Business

What should be done if a Christian has identified a recommended or

required seminar as New Age in orientation? The ground of all successful

Christian action is spiritual awareness and discernment. The first issue is

spiritual warfare, with prayer wielded as the chief weapon.

With a preparation of prayer, several responses are possible depending

on the situation. If a particular seminar is simply being suggested, one can

politely demur explaining the spiritual roots of disagreement. This may serve

as a springboard for evangelism. In addition, reasons that are not

specifically based on one's spiritual commitment--for instance, the seminars

are ineffective or just too "weird"--can be given with the hope that the use

of the seminar will be reconsidered. The Christian employee may also suggest

that she attend an alternative seminar or read materials related to job

performance that do not conflict with her spiritual views.

It attendance at a seminar is being required and a compromise is

rejected, legal recourse is a possibility (as long as the employer is not a

Christian; see 1 Cor 6:1-7). Tom Brandon of the Christian Legal Society says:

"The employer is prohibited from discriminating against your religious

convictions, and if you said, 'I'm sorry, I cannot attend that, it violates my

religious principles,' then according to Title Seven they have to make

reasonable accommodation for that.

If attendance is being required by any civil governmental agency,...

an appeal can be made that the state is violating the First Amendment by

establishing a religion (through state-funded, required programs), in this

case the religion of the New Age. Of course, for this allegation to stick,

one must reasonably demonstrate that the practices and concepts used are in

fact religious in nature. Since many of the seminars are based on monism or

pantheism that case can be made.

Given the extent of New Age cultural influence and its targeting of

the business community, a few legal cases setting a precedent against coercing

people against their religious beliefs might be a boon for religious freedom.

Christians need the courage to confront the New Age wherever necessary---even

in the courts.

New trends in business indicate that workers, managers and

corporations are changing in many ways. To give a few examples: More women

are entering the work force; more workers are content with less that full-time

employment; and workers seem to be valuing the quality of their work and

entire life more highly than simply salary or prestige.

As society changes, some changes in business practices will follow.

Some of the emphases of New Age seminars and theory are acceptable and should

be conserved, such as increased worker ownership and responsibility, a

holistic concern for business, the importance of a vision for business venture

beyond mere profit and so on. Yet this does not necessitate a headlong plunge

into the pantheistic deep. Some New Agers claim that since Christianity

"doesn't work" (for business or anything else), we must embrace the New Age.

Yet I side with Chesterton who said that "the Christian ideal has not been

tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and let untried.

Just a brief glance at a few Christian ethical considerations

highlights the relevance of Christianity to business and work in general.

1. A God-ward Orientation. The biblical prohibition of idols (Ex.20:3-4;

Jer. 16:20) cautions us not to treat profit, prestige or power as ends in

themselves, but as means to serve the Lord in all we do. Thus business

ventures should be undertaken for the glory of God in order to contribute to

his righteous kingdom. A Christian should never make work itself an idol at

the expense of family and church life. A vertical orientation toward God is

necessary for an appropriate horizontal relationship on the job (or anywhere

else.) The Christian's "pursuit of excellence" is a divine calling for a

divine purpose, not an exercise in self-seeking.

2. The Standard of Stewardship. God is the giver of every good thing; he is

the source of all true blessing. We are all debtors to God. Failing to

realize this, we become cosmic ingrates. Any gift we enjoy--whether physical,

spiritual or material--is delegated to us that we may use it for him. We are

the absolute owners of nothing, save our sin. We are, rather, stewards or

caretakers of God's property.

This was so even before our fall into sin. Some have viewed labor

itself as the result of sin, as if Adam and Eve were created for perpetual

vacationing but somehow fell from leisure into labor. Yet Genesis 1 and 2

teach that Adam and Eve were created in God's image to cultivate the earth

according to his commands.

John Scott gives us a biblical view of work: "Work is the expenditure

of energy (manual or menta or both) in the service of others, which brings

fulfillment to the worker, benefit to the community, and glory to God."

All work--whether church related or not--when done for God's glory,

according to his principle and through his Spirit, is valuable to our Creator.

Business people need not feel like second-class citizens because they aren't

pastors or foreign missionaries (the so-called full-time Christian workers).

The workplace is a full-time mission field and theater of divine drama.

3. The Value of the Person. By claiming that humans share the divine image,

Christianity values people as responsible moral agents. For business this

means not treating people as merely means to a better business, but as

valuable in themselves. Yet Christian realism--unlike New Ago utopianism--

recognizes the reality of human sinfulness and guards against employers having

inordinate expectations for employees or vice versa. And although the profit

motivation is not intrinsically immoral (the Bible affirms that value of

private property and industry), the Bible condemns a profit domination that

sacrifices the value of employees (or consumers) for the sake of greed.

Wayne Alderson, a Christian business consultant, courageously stresses

this pivotal principle in his Value of the Person seminars which he has

presented to both management and labor across the nation. He asks:

Is it asking too much for God's people to stand up for the values of

love, dignity, and respect in their places of employment? Not at all..As

Christians we are commanded by God to take the Biblical principles...into the

work-world to live for God....I believe God it is essential that both labor

and management exercise their moral obligation and raise the Value of the

Person above the Value of the Machine. The unrest that the workplace is

experiencing in whatever from, great or small, is just the symptom. The

underlying cause is a lack of human dignity.

By God's grace, Alderson has helped management and labor work together

harmoniously by using biblical principles. His gripping story as steelworker,

manager and consultant is recorded in Stronger That Steel by R.C. Sproul.

4. Honesty. Christian ethics affirms truthfulness as essential to moral

integrity. Honesty isn't the best policy, it's the only (Christian) policy.

"Speaking the truth in love" (Eph 4:15) means straight talk to employees, no

deception in advertising or merchandising, and no illegalities (in taxes or

elsewhere). The Bible repeatedly warns people to use "honest scales and

honest weights" (Lev 19:36)--that is, not to shortchange people through

deception, as was common in that time since there was no official bureau of

weights and measures.

5. Thrift. In a credit-happy (or unhappy) society, we should remember that

biblical ethics restricts large, long-term debt. Proverbs warns that "the

borrower is servant to the lender" (Prov 22:7), and Paul teaches that we

should "let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one

another" (Rom 13:8). In Old Testament times, loans were to be paid back

within seven years (Deut 15:1-6). This all goes to show that the modern

convention of massive, long-term debt is less than wise and should be avoided

whenever possible. The application of this principle minimizes economic risk

and focuses on the gradual development of businesses that grow according to

real assets, not according to exorbitant debt liabilities.

These five principles are just an appetizer of a business philosophy. I

have not even explored the rich tapestry of leadership examples to be culled

from great biblical leaders such as Moses, Nehemiah and Paul. If the Bible is

truly "God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and

training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped

for every good work" (2 Tim 3:16), it should be mined for principles,

strategies and attitudes relevant to the business world.

In the business world--as everywhere else--our strategy should be to

conserve what is already good, to reject and separate from the unredeemable

and to transform all we can in order to please the Lord. It is not enough to

oppose New Age's insinuation into business--though that is imperative--we must

erect alternatives whenever possible. This calls for informed Christian

activism at both the theoretical and practical levels, lest the world of

business become the captive of mystics in three-piece suits.

* This File was brought to you by:

So. MD Christian Information Service BBS

(301) 862-3160 USR HST

Sysop: R.O. "Buggs" Bugnon

P.O. Box 463

California, MD 20619

** This file was copied from:

Spiritual Fitness in Business

Vo. 7, No. 4

April 1989


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