2010 West Coast Conference - Session 5 - Peter Jones
Dr. Peter Jones is the director of truthXchange, a ministry devoted to equipping the church to combat the rising tide of neopaganism in Western culture. He is also scholar in residence and adjunct professor of practical theology at Westminster Seminary California, and he has also taught at several other seminaries and colleges. Dr. Jones is the author of several books including The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back, Spirit Wars, and Stolen Identity: The Conspiracy to Reinvent Jesus.
Dr. Jones addressed us on the topic of A Gnostic Gospel. Gnosticism is both an ancient heresy that the church faced and defeated, but it is also associated with the revival of a new paganism that seeks the obsolescence of Christianity. Yet paganism has always been fought both within and without the church. It is not uncommon that what happens in the church is a reflection of what is happening in the church at large.
A series of important Gnostic texts were discovered in the early days of WWII. These ancient Gnostic texts, upon discovery, were published. A leading scholar then argued that these texts perceptively explained the culture of the 1960s and 70s, and that these texts had a great deal in common with ancient Christianity.
Where do we see modern Gnosticism today? Peter Berger talks about a “spiritual canopy” that hangs over society - it used to be a Christian one, but now that is being replaced. Free masonry, radical feminism and witchcraft, these all speak of a new apocalyptic age. Dan Brown’s book seeks to mainstream occultic thinking, arguing that it ultimately merges with Christianity.
The argument is that all these subterranean streams flow the same way (many paths leading to Enlightenment). The god of Gnosticism wants to join opposites into One. We see their symbol of a Goddess who is androgynous - who copulates with herself.
Gnostics cannot affirm creation - they believe, rather, that they are uncreated — as old as God. There is pantheism, for example, in the Gospel of Thomas. They are ultimately monists. They seek to show us “the spirit behind everything” who reveals “the truth about everything” (namely, that we are as divine as God).
GNOSTICISM IS RADICALLY ANTI-GOD
Gnostics consider the God of the Bible foolish. He doesn’t know that the goddess Sophia is behind everything.
What is Gnosticism? A Judiazed form of paganism that has always been with us. The statement of an English witch makes this clear: “Gnosticism serves as a helpful bridge between paganism and Christianity.”
From the beginning of this movement, there was an effort to kill off God. We are all One together - there is no separate God who created a world that was and is distinct from Him. When this idea becomes more ascendant, we will be public enemy One. Gnosticism seeks, however, to bill itself as complementary to Christianity.
Gnosticism is both an ancient and modern heresy.
THE FUTURE OF GNOSTICISM
A planetary civilization - a new world order - is what they seek. A connection between Eastern thought and Western technology. They argue that tomorrow’s culture will be post-Christian. They begin with denying a physical resurrection of Christ, and then move toward a desire to remove all Christian vestiges. The loving care of Modern Earth will replace any sense of rendering obedience to God the Father.
Thomas Berry is an important Gnostic thinker. He lays out a whole new explanation of creation. A new geopolitical program, a new legal morality.
Ken Wilbur is a new Gnostic prophet. In 2001, he published a book called A Theory of Everything. The new term is not “new age” but “integral spirituality”. The latter have a worldwide agenda, not some small agenda terminating on themselves. Wilbur seeks to argue that everyone is right, that the world is getting better, as a global consciousness descends upon humanity. Specific religious beliefs can be included by being transcended (hence “post-Christian”).
The ultimate goal is integrated spirituality - the putting together of all ideas. Wilbur is read by leading politicians and policy leaders (in the USA, UK, Germany, UN, and the center for climate change). Their thought: The US Constitution was “first tier” thinking. We now seek the founders of a higher order.
Some of these folks call themselves ex-evangelicals. Interfaith mysticism and social justice ideology are merged. They seek a shared spiritual experience and service. The idea is that we should meet “beyond our belief systems”.
It is a massive movement driving itself through our culture under the guise of doing good. Some say the rivers of progressive liberalism are running dry. But this “integrated faith” movement is a fresh stream that is contributing to progressive liberalism. (Look at some in the Emergent movement.)
EXAMPLES OF GNOSTIC INFLUENCES AND INFLUENCERS
Some Emergent leaders promote the idea the Emergent is bigger than Christianity. A female Emergent pastor of Journey Church in Dallas, TX argues that experience is a greater authority than the Bible. She argues that Jesus, not the Bible, is the Word of God.
There is a conference occurring at Point Loma Nazarene University called “Nurturing the Prophetic Imagination”. This conference has the goal of deconstructing Christian witness into social justice.
Brian McLaren should no longer be seen as a provocative thinker seeking to stimulate the church. He sees the Fall the same way the Gnostics do. The spirit of Marcion lives on in McLaren. McLaren was invited by the Vision Project to add his vision to a list of that of many other progressive liberal thinkers. Their vision is based on synthesis. McLaren says he got there with the help of Ken Wilbur. He comes to the position that there is nothing distinctive about Christianity. It is simply one expression of mysticism, the experience of the “spirit” within, and an impetus (one of many) toward social justice.
RESPONDING TO THE REVIVAL OF LIBERALISM
The Gnosticism in our day is associated with a revival of liberalism.
How do we respond? With the model of Daniel and his friends - who, even with regard to the pagan philosophies, were “ten times wiser” than the pagan thinkers. Our young people have to be trained to confidentially speak into this integrated monism. Just as the early church defeated ancient Gnosticism, so the church today must defeat its revived form.