I was fortunate to be the respondent to Dr. Melton's paper, and among other things I shared the following:
"[W]hile evangelicals have tended to marginalize and dismiss those involved in Western Esotericism with simple labels like “the occult,” often followed by simplistic responses that involve denunciation through biblical proof-texting, Dr. Melton reminds us that “we are not dealing so much with a marginal phenomenon, but a significant aspect of the popular culture.” Although the numbers of people involved directly with Western Esotericism remains small, as Dr. Melton himself has discussed, nevertheless the impact of Western Esotericism in popular culture is significant, so much so that scholars like Christopher Partridge refer to “popular occulture.” In Partridge’s discussion of this he states “(1) that occultural worldviews have been an important source of inspiration for popular culture, (2) that popular culture has in turn been an important source of inspiration for the formation of occultural worldviews, and consequently, (3) that popular culture is beginning to have a shaping effect on Western plausibility structures.” Western Esotericism represents a respectable and enduring religious phenomenon that must be taken seriously by evangelicals in the twenty-first century.
".. near the end of his paper in his brief sketch of an initial Christian response to Western Esotericism Dr. Melton includes several helpful thoughts, including the need to conceptualize it as “a distinctive religious tradition analogous” to various world religions rather than as a deviant tradition to be marginalized, the call for the Christian community to own up to and move beyond its unloving and unChristian responses to esotericists that fall far short of the divine calling to love our neighbors as ourselves, and the reminder that in our daily experience we are likely to live and work with esotericists and thus new ways of living the Christian faith must be developed that move us positively into the future."
It is my hope that viewpoints like those expressed at the recent conference at Trinity, the Trinity conference itself, and volumes like Gus diZerega and Philip Johnson's Beyond the Burning Times: A Pagan and Christian in Dialogue (Lion, 2008), represent new and increasingly influential senses of understanding of the new religions, including Western Esotericism, and a new ways of interacting with its practitioners. Even so, while a new evangelical model is gaining strength it does so against the backdrop of more traditional evangelical treatments of the new religions and the Western Esoteric tradition as evidenced by new books appearing this year, including those commented on previously on this blog: Dillon Burroughs and Marla Alupoaicei's Generation Hex (Harvest House, 2008), and Linda Harvey's Not My Child: Contemporary Paganism and New Spirituality (Living Ink Books, 2008). A new book has recently been released that adds to the evangelical literature from this perspective, the late Walter Martin, Jill Martin Rische, and Kurt Van Gorden's The Kingdom of the Occult (Thomas Nelson, 2008). I have high expectations for this recent volume in that I hope it rises above the recent volumes on Western Esotericism that operate from a confrontational tone. In addition, I hope that this new book engages the growing body of academic literature on Western Esotericism, and compliments more informed understandings of this religious tradition with more positive aspects of engagement such as interreligious dialogue.