Growing up in the 1960s, I had exposure to many occult and New Age influences. My mom, although she in some respects had turned away from her Christian Science upbringing, introduced me and my sister to horoscopes, Ouija boards and yoga. The liberal Presbyterian church (PCUSA, of course) encouraged my fascination with occult and paranormal phenomena. On a youth group ski trip the pastor’s daughter read our palms.
Very soon after that ski trip, the Lord graciously brought me to Himself, and within a few months He allowed people to confront my interest in astrology. Over the next few months He helped me renounce other forms of occult and New Age practices.
But readers of my Autobiography With Purpose series will recall that I attended Pentecostal and Charismatic churches for the first 31 years of my Christian life. True, after 18 years the Lord showed me that the sign gifts ceased when the Canon of Scripture was completed, but He let me remain in the church for several more years. Throughout those 31 years, I occasionally observed random incidents that reminded me of my occult past.
At the height of my embrace of Charismatic teaching, for instance, I read some books on inner healing to augment my ministry with Love In Action. One evening, as I poured over LeAnne Payne’s book, The Broken Image (which, just to be clear, I do not recommend), a close friend and co-worker came by my house to deliver stuff from the office. (I worked from home because the office was up two flights of stairs.) Instead of greeting him properly, I looked up from the book and complained, “A bunch of her stuff reminds me of the occult.”
Despite writing about her “deep concerns” regarding “Jungian Christianity,” LeAnne Payne believed heavily in many Freudian-Jungian models by which people could assess root causes of their homosexuality. Then, through techniques such as listening prayer, they could break free of the psychological forces that kept them in bondage to that sin. She particularly relied on dream interpretation as a tool for psychological healing.
My co-worker understood why I had problems with the book (as well as other inner healing methods that the ministry used), but he advised me to “chew on the meat and spit out the bones.” So I ignored my misgivings with the rationalization that the correspondence aspect of the ministry was somewhat divorced from the rest of their work.
I also remember a time after I’d became convinced that the sign gifts are no longer operational. A preacher who supposedly had the gift of knowledge (and was noted for people being slain in the “Spirit”) came to our church. Although I refused to attend the meeting, people afterwards excitedly told me how this man “knew things” about them that they’d never confided in anyone.
When I countered that their stones reminded me of fortune tellers, they were offended. In their eyes, his “discernment” abilities validated his ministry. Not that anyone ever explained exactly what his ministry was beyond telling people about themselves and slaying people in the “Spirit,” but they all admired his ministry and flocked to his annual visits.
I’ve recounted only two of many incidents that felt uncomfortably close to my knowledge and experience of occult and New Age influences. Yes, it’s only anecdotal evidence that most people may dismiss as my personal bias. But I ask you to consider what I’ve written today as you prayerfully ponder Paul’s words to the Corinthians:
13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. ~~1 Corinthians 11:13-15 (ESV)