Onward Christian Soldiers: The Church as a Militant Body -- By: David T. Tharp

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 25:0 (NA 1993)
Article: Onward Christian Soldiers: The Church as a Militant Body
Author: David T. Tharp

Onward Christian Soldiers:
The Church as a Militant Body

David T. Tharp

Dr. Tharp (M.D., University of Rochester School of Medicine) is a 1991 M.Div. graduate of ATS.


As the human race approaches the twenty-first century, an increasing number of individuals are speculating as to what society will be like in the next millennium and what factors will be significant in influencing its developments. J. Naisbitt and P. Aburdene note that humankind is at the threshold of the third millennium, and there are clear signs of a worldwide, multidenominational religious revival. The American baby boomers, noted for their having rejected organized religion in the 1970s, are now either returning to church or are becoming involved with the New Age movement.1

New Age groups share no orthodox theology, but many adopt the East’s belief in reincarnation. Unlike the Judeo-Christian God pictured far above humankind, there is a strong sense that humanity partakes of the divine.

This drives fundamentalists mad. “This notion that man is somehow God is just blasphemous,” most would say. Yet even the most orthodox catechism states that man is made in the image and likeness of God. . .

Fundamentalists may dominate the cable channels, but New Agers have sewn up the market in channel mediums — individuals who say they permit their bodies and voices to be used as vehicles for teachers and messages from the great beyond — and sometimes grab a lot of the headlines.

Charlene Pittman, in Tampa, channels for a spirit named Boyaed, a teacher born in India A.D. 324.

Jack Pursel of San Francisco grosses more than $1 million a year on seminars, counseling, and videocassettes as the channel for “Lazaris, the consummate friend.”

J. Z. Knight, a women [sic], channels Ramtha, a thirty-five-thousand-year-old man. Some reportedly pay $1,500 to attend her seminars.

To your average fundamentalist, this is the devil in action.2

Rivals to the New Age movement are numerous. These may range from astrology to Tarot cards, or from religious cults, such as the Hare Krishna or Mormons, to outright Satanic worship. What effect do these trends have on the Christian church and on its view of itself and its role in society? Perhaps a more significant question is whether they have any effect at all.

At times, it almost seems that the secular world grasps the essence of certain religious issues better than the church. In a newspaper editorial, C. Reese describes how Ch...

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