Evangelical Reflections on New Religious Movements and Western Spiritualities

Religion continues to play a significant role in the spiritual marketplace of the religiously unregulated West.  The corresponding decline of religious fervor once associated with the secularization thesis is challenged by the notion that a significant majority of Westerners identify themselves as religious and/or spiritual.  Today’s Christian will be confronted with multiple religious worldviews, whether in ministry, the workplace or their neighborhood.  Developing the academic knowledge and practical skills to effectively engage these worldviews is a necessary part of equipping Christians to engage their local and global contexts. 

“There is here a wealth of information and careful analysis which will enable better understanding of an often confusing subject. The concern throughout is to understand the [new spiritualities], not to castigate or ridicule. The contributors write from a desire that fol-lowers of the new religious movements would come to faith in Jesus Christ. Responsible scholarship about new religious movements need not be incompatible with missiological objectives. To the contrary, as the essays which follow demonstrate, the latter actually depends upon the former.”

– Harold A. Netland, professor of philosophy of religion and intercultural studies, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Table of Contents

Forward
Harold A. Netland
Chapter One
From Christendom to Post-Christendom – Michael T. Cooper
Chapter Two
From the Occult to Western Esotericism – J. Gordon Melton
Chapter Three
From the Ancient to the Contemporary – Gerald R. McDermott
Chapter Four
From Counter Cult to Missional Apologetics – Ross Clifford
Chapter Five
From Cult to Sect? – James Chancellor
Chapter Six
From Dialogue to Contextualization – Craig L. Blomberg
Chapter Seven
From a Marginalized Community to a New Spiritual Order – John W. Morehead
Chapter Eight
From Western Enlightenment to Eastern Enlightenment – Michael L. Yoder
Chapter Nine
From Secular Rights to Sacred Rights – Stephen P. Kennedy
Chapter Ten
From Identity Replacement to Identity Construction – Terry C. Muck
Chapter Eleven
From New Age to New Spirituality – Ole Skjerbaek Madsen
Chapter Twelve
From the Areopagus to the Marketplace – Michael T. Cooper

About the Contributors

Craig L. Blomberg (PhD, University of Aberdeen): Dr. Craig Blomberg is Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary in Littleton, Colorado.  He holds the B.A. from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, the M.A. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and the Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.  He is the author of twelve books and has co-authored or co-edited four more, along with dozens of journal articles and chapters in multi-author works.  His books include three on the historical reliability and interpretation of the gospels (one specializing in John), two on interpreting and preaching the parables, two commentaries (on Matthew and 1 Corinthians), a textbook on Jesus and the Gospels and another on Acts through Revelation, and two books on material possessions in the Bible.  

James D. Chancellor (PhD, Duke University): Dr. James Chancellor has served as the W.O. Carver Professor of Christian Mission and World Religions at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary since 1992.  Prior to that, he served as Dean of Arts and Sciences and professor of History and Religion at Colorado Christian University.  He has a BA from Bellevue College, an MA from University of Nebraska, an MDiv from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a PhD from Duke University.  Dr. Chancellor is the author of Life in the Family: An Oral History of the Children of God (Syracuse University Press, 2000) and has contributed to a number of scholarly publications on new religions and Islam in America from a variety of perspectives, including ethnography and missiology.

Ross Clifford (ThD, Australian College of Theology): Dr. Ross Clifford has been Principal of Morling College since 1997, and has served as Lecturer in Theology, Ethics and Apologetics from 1992. He joined the College faculty after twelve years of pastoral work at South Windsor and Gymea. Before he entered the ministry he practiced law in New South Wales and the Northern Territory. He is a graduate of the Australian College of Theology, Simon Greenleaf, University of Sydney, as well as Morling College.  He is the author/co-author of eight books including Leading Lawyer’s Case for the Resurrection, John Warwick Montgomery’s Legal Apologetics, Jesus and the gods of the New Age, The Gods of Sport, Riding the Rollercoaster: How the Risen Christ Empowers Life and is a contributor to books such as A Spectator’s Guide to World Views.   Ross is currently President of the Baptist Union of Australia. He has served on a number of significant interdenominational committees including being President of the New South Wales Council of Churches (evangelical churches) and Chair of the Australian Lausanne Committee. He often speaks at conferences, conducts seminars and has his own Sunday night radio program – Connections. In particular, Ross is known for his work and writing in the areas of theology, apologetics and ethics.  

Michael T. Cooper (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School):  Dr. Michael Cooper earned a BED from Texas A&M University, MA from Columbia Biblical Seminary and School of Missions and a PhD from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  He is associate professor of Religion and Contemporary Culture and director of the MA in Communication and Culture at Trinity Graduate School.  He has contributed numerous articles and chapters dealing with missions in Western society and the revival of Pagan religions and has presented conference papers at London School of Economics, University of Bordeaux, San Diego State University Dominican University, Baylor University and others.  He is editor of Sacred Tribes Journal, a member of the American Academy of Religion and an academic advisor for the Lausanne Committee’s Issue Group addressing new spiritualities in a postmodern world.

Stephen P. Kennedy (PhD, University of Southern California): Dr. Stephen Paul Kennedy is associate professor of Communication and Culture at Trinity Graduate School on the California Campus. He earned his BA at the University of Southern California, his MDiv at Talbot Theological Seminary, and his PhD at the University of Southern California.  Dr. Kennedy was a Congressional Fellow in the United States Senate in 1986 and for the next three years was a speechwriter in the US Department of Health and Human Services. He has taught at Georgetown University, Concordia University (Irvine), and Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the Senior Research Fellow of the Foundation for Character Studies.

Ole Skjerbaek Madsen (University of Copenhagen):  Pastor Ole Skjerbaek Madsen has his theological degree from The University of Copenhagen combined with a special study and thesis on Coptic Eucharistic prayers. He has been a parish pastor in the Danish Lutheran Church from 1975-1999; since 2000 he is a mission pastor and project manager in the mission organization, Areopagos. He has started a bridge building work between Church and new spiritualities under the title In the Master’s Light. He has written several articles, papers and books on liturgy, renewal of liturgy, charismatic renewal and new religious movements and of sharing the Gospel in new spirituality milieus. Most of his publications are in Danish. He was the convener of the Lausanne Group on Religious and Non-religious spirituality (New Age) at the Lausanne 2004 Forum. 

Gerald R. McDermott (PhD, University of Iowa): Prof. Gerald McDermott earned a B.A. in New Testament and Early Christian Literature at the University of Chicago, a B.S. in history and education at North Dakota State University, an M.R.E. at Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary, and a Ph.D. in religion (history of Christianity and Asian religions) at the University of Iowa.  He is Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Roanoke College, Salem, Virginia, where he teaches the history and theology of Christianity and world religions.  An ordained Episcopal priest, he serves as Teaching Pastor at St. John Lutheran Church in Roanoke.  McDermott’s most recent books are God’s Rivals: Why God Permits Different Religions—Insights From The Bible And The Early Church (InterVarsity Press, March 2007), and Claiming Christ: A Mormon- Evangelical Debate, co-authored with Brigham Young University theologian Robert Millet, which just appeared in September 2007 from Brazos Press. His Baker Pocket Guide to World Religions will be released by Baker Books in June 2008.  McDermott lectures widely, both nationally and internationally.  

J. Gordon Melton (PhD, Northwestern University): Dr. Gordon Melton is the director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion, based in Santa Barbara, California and is a research specialist with the Department of Religious Studies, University of California-Santa Barbara.  He earned a BA from Birmingham Southern College, a Master of Divinty from Garrett Theological Seminary and a PhD from Northwestern.  He is the author of more than thirty books on American religion including the Encyclopedia of American Religion (7th edition, 2003), the Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America (2nd edition, 1992) and the Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena (2007).

John W. Morehead (MA, Salt Lake Theological Seminary): John Morehead received his MA in Intercultural Studies from Salt Lake Theological Seminary. He is the Director of the Western Institute for Intercultural Studies, and part of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization’s issue group on postmodern and alternative spiritualities. He is the co-editor along with Irving Hexham and Stephen Rost and contributor to Encountering New Religious Movements: A Holistic Evangelical Approach (Kregel Academic & Professional, 2004), co-editor of the 2004 Lausanne issue group paper on “New Age” and alternative spiritualities, and editor of Philip Johnson and Gus DiZerega’s Beyond the Burning Times: A Pagan and Christian in Dialogue (Lion, 2008). John lectures on inter-religious dialogue, theology and film, and spirituality and popular culture.

Harold A. Netland (PhD, Claremont School of Theology):  Dr. Harold A. Netland is professor of philosophy of religion and intercultural studies and the Naomi A. Fausch chair of missions at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He began teaching at Trinity in 1993.  Prior to coming to Trinity, Dr. Netland was a missionary in Japan with the Evangelical Free Church of America. He was in Kyoto for one year and in Tokyo for eight years. Dr. Netland taught at Tokyo Christian University for four years prior to coming to Trinity.   Dr. Netland received the Bachelor of Arts in biblical studies and history from Biola College, and then earned the Master of Arts and the Doctor of Philosophy in philosophy from Claremont Graduate School, where he studied under Professor John Hick. He has done postdoctorate work at the International Christian University (Tokyo), where he studied Japanese language and culture, and at Fuller Theological Seminary, where he studied theology and missions. Dr. Netland’s areas of expertise include religious pluralism, epistemology of religion, apologetics, and missions in East Asia. 

Michael L. Yoder (PhD candidate, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School): Michael Yoder is a PhD candidate in the intercultural studies program at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  Previously, he and his wife served for ten years in Berlin, Germany, including university student ministry among Germans and pastoral leadership in an international church.   He presently serves in international leadership training with Grace Brethren International Missions, including periodic teaching in both Europe and Africa.  A graduate of Grace College (B.A.) and Grace Theological Seminary (M.Div.), his research interests include religious pluralism, non-Christian religions in the West, religion and demographic change, and urban studies.

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