New Age Infiltrates Christian Bookstores:Further Along Peck's Wrong Road
In 1978, M. Scott Peck wrote The Road Less Traveled. It became an instantaneous success and best seller. It was (and is still being) sold by numerous Christian bookstores under the heading of Inspirational Christian material. Rarely do Watchman Fellowship missionaries teach in a church where Peck's works have not been read.
The Road Less Traveled was criticized by Christian authors because of its heavy New Age influence (see Watchman Expositor Vol. 7, No. 10). Since that time, Peck has made numerous statements that he has become a Christian. However, with the release of his latest book, Further Along The Road Less Traveled, it is apparent that by the term Christian, Peck means something other than biblical Christianity.
As he describes it, "The right road for one is the wrong road for another." What does this mean? Peck writes, "God, unlike some organized religions, does not discriminate. As long as you reach out to Her, She will go the better part of the way to meet you. There are an infinite number of roads to reach God. People can come to God through alcoholism, they can come to God through Zen Buddhism, as I did, and they can come to God through the multiple `New Thought' Christian churches even thought they are distinctly heretical. For all I know, they can come to God through Shirley MacLaine" (pp. 13, 155).
These statements set the entire tone for Peck's book. The following will give an overview of several key elements in Peck's theology as described in his latest work.
First, God is both male and female. Peck writes, "God loves variety. In variety, She/He delights." Peck continues with, "So what we are left with, once again, is another paradox: that God resides both inside of us in His or Her still small voice and, simultaneously, outside of us in all of His or Her transcendent, magnificent otherness" (pp. 173, 207).
Second, the doctrines of the Bible as well as the Bible itself are not necessarily true. Peck states, "The story of the Garden of Eden is, of course, a myth [which explains] how we human beings evolved into consciousness" (p. 18). Further, he explains, "I don't want to imply that the Gospels are totally accurate. Some things obviously seem to have been added. Others seem to me to be obviously missing" (p. 161). Apparently one section of Paul's book to the Romans should be questioned. For according to Peck, the reason people are homosexual, is because "God created [them] homosexual" (p. 104).
Peck's idea of The Fall and salvation are certainly non-biblical. In discussing The Fall, he said, "We lost that sense of oneness with nature, with the rest of the universe" (p. 19). Later in his book, he explains " salvation is the process of becoming increasingly conscious" and that "salvation is the result of some paradoxical mixture of both grace and good works for which we do not have nor will we ever any mathematical formula" (pp. 25, 208). Hence, salvation is, at least in part, due to good works.
Peck states that evil is actually just "militant ignorance," and that the human brain has been evolving over millions of years (pp. 26, 30). He rejects the biblical concept of hell by stating, "I simply cannot accept the view of Hell in which God punishes people without hope and destroys souls without a chance for redemption. He/She wouldn't go to the trouble of creating souls, with all their complexity, just to fry them in the end" (p. 171).
Third, Peck has retained much of the teachings from the Eastern religions he has studied. For example, he poses the possibility for reincarnation's validity by writing, "While I continue to make use of what I have learned from Buddhism, there are aspects of Buddhism [like reincarnation] that I am agnostic about. That means I don't disbelieve it and I don't believe it; I just don't know."
How does he justify this uncertainty with the biblical concept of the resurrection? He writes, "On the other hand, I find distasteful the traditional idea of Christianity which preaches the resurrection of the body" (pp. 168-169). Apparently reincarnation is a possibility for Peck, but Paul's teachings in First Corinthians on bodily resurrection are distasteful to him.
Fourth, Peck recommends philosophies and religions that are diametrically opposed to Christianity. After mentioning, Zen meditation, Sufi dancing, Peck writes, "I don't mean to discount workshops or other forms of self-inquiry; they can be valuable" (p. 107). He "highly recommended Zen Buddhism" for understanding the paradoxes in life and called A Course in Miracles " a very good book, filled with a lot of first-rate psychiatric wisdom" (pp. 195, 202).
Fifth, much of last half of Peck's book is concerned with what he describes as the Four Stages of spiritual growth.
Stage One is filled with people who are "absent spirituality" of any type. They have no need for any type of religious teachings.
Stage Two is the "formal/institutional" or "the Church" setting. Peck explains the people in Stage Two "generally envision God along the masculine model; they believe Him to be a loving being [and] ascribe to Him a certain kind of punitive power."
Stage Three are the "skeptics." These people have passed beyond the Stage Two need for a church and "silly myths." They are "ahead of people in Stage Two in their spirituality." If they continue on the Road they will arrive at the next stage.
Stage Four is called the "mystical/communal" stage. Peck says of people in this stage, "Throughout the ages, mystics have seen connections between men and women, between humans and other creatures, between people walking the earth and those who aren't even here" (pp. 121-125).
After defining these stages, Peck is quick to note that while people should progress from Stage One to Stage Four, that it is also quite possible to "get stuck" in one of the lower stages (p. 131). Thus, if a person still speaks of God exclusively in the masculine, believes Him to be a loving being who punishes His creation for not following His teachings as prescribed in the Bible and taught in Christian churches, then, according to Peck, that person is stuck in Stage Two.
Sixth, as Peck stated above, he believes that salvation may be found in many and varied places. One of these places that Peck feels salvation may come through is Alcoholics Anonymous. He writes, "Thus I believe the greatest positive event of the twentieth century occurred in Akron, Ohio, on June 10, 1935, when Bill W. and Dr. Bob convened the first AA meeting. It was not only the beginning of the self-help movement and the beginning of the integration of science and spirituality at a grass-roots level, but also the beginning of the community movement" (p. 150).
The greatest event, according to Peck, was not any of the great revivals that have taken place in America, Europe, or even the former Communist countries. Rather, it was the invention of AA and the community movement, which is Peck's Stage Four or "most mature" stage (p. 238).
As Peck so succinctly and heretically stated, "very probably, God deliberately created the disorder of alcoholism in order to create alcoholics, in order that these alcoholics might create AA, and thereby spearhead the community movement which is going to be the salvation not only of alcoholics and addicts but of us all" (p. 150).
Seventh, while Peck points out some serious errors in New Age theology, he also has some complimentary things to say about it. He explains, "The virtues of the New Age movement are absolutely enormous." He further writes, if the New Age "can keep on the path of reformation, then I think it will become a very holy thing, because we are in great need of reform" (pp. 216-217).
Where then does Peck's theology leave him? Perhaps his own statement will best demonstrate his self-imposed dichotomy with regards to orthodox biblical Christianity. "Those who think that they've got the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and that those other poor slobs who believe differently are necessarily not saved, as far as I'm concerned have a very small God. They don't realize the truth that God is bigger than their own theology. As I've said, God is not ours to possess, but we are His or Hers to be possessed by" (p. 166).
Certainly there can be no doubt that the Christianity which M. Scott Peck claims to be a member is vastly different from the Christianity as taught by Jesus.