Making of the New Spirituality: The Eclipse of the Western Religious Tradition

Making of the New Spirituality: The Eclipse of the Western Religious Tradition

by James A. Herrick
     
 

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A 2004 ECPA Gold Medallion Finalist!

One of Preaching magazine's 2004 "Top Ten Books Every Preacher Should Read"!

Neo-paganism.
The paranormal.
Astrology.
Nature religion.
Holistic thinking.
Healing.
New Age.
New spirituality.

A massive shift in Western religious attitudes has taken place almost without our noticing it. The Judeo-Christian

Overview

A 2004 ECPA Gold Medallion Finalist!

One of Preaching magazine's 2004 "Top Ten Books Every Preacher Should Read"!

Neo-paganism.
The paranormal.
Astrology.
Nature religion.
Holistic thinking.
Healing.
New Age.
New spirituality.

A massive shift in Western religious attitudes has taken place almost without our noticing it. The Judeo-Christian tradition of Western culture has slowly but steadily been eclipsed by a new way of viewing spirituality.

This shift has been in the making for some three hundred years. James A. Herrick tells the story of how the old view has been dismantled and a new one created not primarily through academic or institutional channels but by means of popular religious media--books, speeches, magazines and pamphlets, as well as movies, plays, music, radio interviews, television programs and websites.

Although the new spirituality is diffuse and eclectic in its sources and manifestations, Herrick demonstrates a significant convergence of ideas, beliefs, assumptions, convictions and images in the myriad ways this New Religious Synthesis makes its way into our culture. In fact, the new spirituality, says Herrick, directly calls into question each major tenet of Judeo-Christian tradition and so represents a radical alternative to it.

Interest in spirituality increases while participation in institutional religion wanes. Many welcome this evolution of religion. However, few are familiar with its roots, and fewer still have critically examined its prospects. As we stand at a spiritual crossroad, Herrick questions whether we are wise to discard the Western religious tradition and adopt the new spirituality.

Editorial Reviews

The Discerning Reader
"A compelling analysis . . . must-reading for those of us who are called to engage our culture with the gospel."
Ken Myers
"I think that this book should be considered must reading for all pastors and seminary students."
Nancy R. Pearcey
"Herrick reminds us that the main opponent of Christianity today,
especially in popular culture, is not secularism but New Age spiritualism. He offers a detailed taxonomy that will help readers trace the richly varied sources giving rise to the new synthesis of East and West."
James W. Sire
"God is not dead in our culture. Only his identity has changed. The claim of autonomy for human reason has led to its own deification and the rejection of the importance of history, the development of a spiritualized physics and a return to an ancient gnosticism--in short, a New Religious Synthesis. The dominant god today is the cosmic spirit embodied in the self. Herrick shows us how this shift has come about. A lucid intellectual history with important implications for navigating the religious currents of our day."
Mark Noll
"Once in Western societies to be 'religious' was to be 'Christian.' Why that is no longer the case is the subject of James Herrick's compelling new book. It is a volume that both raises key questions and clarifies 'the spiritual' in an unusually helpful way."
Irving Hexham
"This is an excellent overview of the development of Western religious thought and life that reveals the roots of much of 'modern spirituality.' As such it is a must-read for anyone who simply wants to understand the spiritual ferment all around us."
Glenn Tinder
"James Herrick's book surveys a variety of spiritual movements subversive of traditional Christianity that often broadcast intoxicating messages of self-improvement and self-deification. . . . Herrick illuminates both the historical origins of these movements and the current scene in which they thrive so abundantly."
Publishers Weekly
In this wide-ranging survey, Herrick (a professor of communications at Hope College) explores the historical roots of what he calls the "New Religious Synthesis." This synthesis, which brings together streams of thought from Darwin to Swedenborg to Jung, is challenging the "Revealed Word" tradition of historical Christianity with increasing success thanks to its doctrinal flexibility and knack for public relations. (Herrick amply documents the popularizing instincts of several centuries' worth of spiritual innovators, from medieval kabbalists to Joseph Campbell.) Herrick is clearly no fan of the New Religious Synthesis, and his tone wavers between academic detachment and disdain. But he does an impressive job of showing just how continuously a tradition of pantheism, evolutionary thinking, mysticism and shamanism has existed in Western culture, thus dispelling the notion that today's alternative spiritualities are either genuinely new or a leap over history into a purer past. He shows particular insight into the long relationship between magic and science, and his chapter on Darwin admirably charts the legacy of evolution in spiritual thought. A final chapter unveils Herrick's own evaluation of the New Synthesis's claims and scores some telling points. Unfortunately, Herrick's prose (and a small type size) do little to engage the reader, and his cover-the-waterfront approach diminishes the book's analytical vigor. Still, this is a solid introduction to a vast subject. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Evangelical author Herrick (communications, Hope Coll.) theorizes that a "New Religious Synthesis" has formed from a combination of numerous non-Christian movements that have arisen in the wake of the Enlightenment and that this synthesis poses a threat to the "Revealed Word." By this latter term, Herrick means Christianity only (with a nod to Judaism), primarily in its strict Protestant evangelical form. Appealing to committed believers, this book is a polemic against a conspiratorial combination of anti-Christian ideas-gnosticism, pantheism, shamanism, pluralism, science, the ascent of reason, evolutionary theories, etc.-that Herrick sees in the "New Religious Synthesis." In a legitimate quest to critique human intellectual and spiritual hubris, he lumps together every disparate movement, even mutually contradictory ones, that evangelical Christians have criticized over the past two centuries. Further, his definition of "Revealed Word," while understandable from a committed evangelical Christian, exhibits a tremendous ignorance of the "Revealed Word" bases for Zoroastrianism, Islam, and the Baha'i Faith. This book may be useful for religion collections as a record of a particular kind of orthodox Protestant argument against modern spiritual trends and may appeal to Christian users of public libraries who already agree with the author's views.-William P. Collins, Library of Congress Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780830832798
Publisher:
InterVarsity Press
Publication date:
01/28/2005
Pages:
332
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.74(d)

Meet the Author

James A. Herrick is Guy Vander Jagt Professor of Communication at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. He has also written The Radical Rhetoric of the English Deists (University of South Carolina Press), Argumentation (Strata), The History and Theory of Rhetoric (Allyn & Bacon) and The Making of the New Spirituality (IVP Books).

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