A common thread in dueling schools of Christian theological (or philosophical) thought is to characterize “them” (whoever “they” may be) as embracing some sort of heretical position.
I’ve been reading a few posts recently that try to pigeonhole the emerging church as gnostic. I forget some of the other places I’ve seen this recently, but this post is the latest. I am at quite a loss. I don’t feel like writing a whole lot on the subject right now, but if the emerging church is in danger of any heresy, gnosticism would not be it.
Here are some characteristics of gnosticism (I’m being generous and using theopedia’s definition of gnosticism here):
- The real world is not the world of the senses. I’ve read not a single “emergent” who remotely believes this. Postmodern emergents are wary of the captivity of our theology to Platonism, along with the thought that “the world” and the “flesh” are evil and that our only hope lies in being whisked away to some incorporeal spiritual state known as heaven. Instead, they believe that the gospel has to do with the redemption of this world because it was this world, this real world, which was created good by God (Genesis 1) and is the object of Christ’s redemption (Colossians 1:15-20).
- There is a world outside the world of our experience which is the realm of truth it is very distant from the Kosmos. The world of our experience is created by a lesser and flawed being, a demiurgos. No. I’ve never heard anyone remotely say that there is a lesser God that created the world. The God who redeems this world is the God who created the world.
- Christian Gnostics were gnostics who considered themselves part of the Christian faith. In their view there are really two Christian faiths a lower faith for the masses and a higher faith for the elite. This fails as well. Most emergents are very aware of the historic apostolic faith, holding firmly to the creeds of the Church and seeking to embody the one true faith in a way that is most fitting to our current cultural context.
- [T]here simply is no notion of Canon in the Orthodox Protestant sense. There is literature that contains revelation but there is simply no way to speak of “authoritative scripture”. Every emerging author I have read is deeply committed to the Bible. Perhaps it is not in the propositional, systematic sense of some of their detractors, but the Bible is still the rule and norm for faith and life.
- For docetic Christianity we can have either a complete rejection of the incarnation (Jesus is mythically in the same way that Zeus is mythical) or a rejection of the humanity of Jesus. Yet again, no, I repeat, no emergent author I have ever read has ever diminished the humanity of Jesus. No, not one. Ever. Every one I have read believes that Jesus died in a bodily, historical, this-world sense. Tony Jones considers the death of Jesus the “pivot point in the entire history of the cosmos.” No gnostic overtones there.
Now, this is not a comprehensive examination of gnostic thought. But I think it is a fair characterization of gnosticism’s major points. From my experience, the emerging church is not even in the same hemisphere as gnosticism. Come on folks, show some theological discernment. Don’t just throw heretical labels our direction so that your following will stay away from us. It’s slanderous. And sinful.
At least characterize us correctly, even if you disagree.