Emerging "Christianity" - Part 2
From Gnostic Roots to Occult Revival
by Berit Kjos - April 2006
A flood of mystical suggestions are sweeping through churches and culture. They beckon us "let go" of the old inflexible Word and explore the latest mystical thrills -- highlighted in books, videos, etc. -- in our increasingly corrupt world. Naturally, a growing consensus of "open-minded" seekers claim that God's truth is "too divisive" to fit the new vision of global unity and experiential spirituality.
“It used to be that Christian institutions and systems of dogma sustained the spiritual life of Christians. Increasingly, spirituality itself is what sustains everything else," wrote Pastor Brian D. McLaren, a "key figure" in the Emerging Church and author of A New Kind of Christianity. "Alan Jones," he continued, "is a pioneer in reimagining a Christian faith that emerges from authentic spirituality. His work stimulates and encourages me deeply.”1
Do you wonder what McLaren means by "authentic spirituality?" Or by "reimagining a Christian faith?"
I did wonder. So I read Reimagining Christianity. In it, Alan Jones, the Episcopal Dean (priest) of San Francisco's huge gothic Grace Cathedral atop San Francisco's Nob Hill, offers some provocative clues:
"I am no longer interested, in the first instance, in what a person believes. Most of the time it’s so much clutter in the brain.... I wouldn't trust an inch many people who profess a belief in God. Others who do not or who doubt have won my trust. I want to know if joy, curiosity struggle, and compassion bubble up in a person’s life. I’m interested in being fully alive. There is no objective authority...."2
Wrong! There is an objective authority: our Sovereign God, the Creator of the universe. He has revealed His will and authority through His Word! But, as in Old Testament days, today's masses "love evil more than good!"(Psalm 52:3) Despising His authority, they deny the only Truth that can set us free! Their earthly destiny is summarized in 2 Timothy 3:7:
"...always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."
In Reimagining Christianity, Jones explains that "Any journey toward belief must begin with the task recognized by mystics throughout history. They realized that merely knowing about things (science) wasn't enough. In fact, it was a distraction."3 Then he points to a major goal of mystical insight -- one that is emphasized in Purpose-Driven as well as emerging churches:
"They realized that there was a deeper and potentially frightening task of self-knowledge. Knowledge of God and knowledge of self were sides of the same coin. It was a knowledge that had no end.... Those on a spiritual path share this vision of the universal and unending character of our Journey to and in God. The principle is that all things are lights guiding our way—even a stone or a piece of wood—but they are not what we seek. What stops our drive for facts from going haywire? The discovery of a higher form of knowing."3
Let's summarize his main points, then compare them with some occult systems formerly hidden in secret societies:
1. Biblical beliefs are out. They are irrelevant -- to be discarded as mere "clutter in the brain."
2. Being "fully alive" is in -- no matter what spirit or religion inspires the obligatory passion.
3. There's no room for objective reality or absolute truth.
4. This "higher form of knowing" would be based on mystical experience, intuition and self-knowledge. The latter supposedly leads to knowing (gnosis) a universal god -- or the spirit of love in everyone.
This worldview lies at the heart of Western occultism! Alan Jones' quest for a "higher form of knowing" is simply a new version of ancient Gnosticism and the mystical "Jewish" Kabbalah. Starting in the first century, the two occult threads intermingled and formed new pathways to secret knowledge (gnosis). Those dark, mystical paths hid for centuries underground. Then, starting in the 12th century, Kabbalah began to sprout mystical "brotherhoods" and secret societies that laid foundations for Alchemy, Theosophy (which would embrace Hinduism), Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism (these two incorporated Egyptian myths and symbols), the teachings of Swedenborg, Anthroposophy (Rudolf Steiner and Owen Barfield), and Hermetic magic. 4
During the 20th century, this hidden "knowledge" began to spread into mainstream culture and churches through revered poets and authors such as Alfred Lord Tennyson, William Blake, George McDonald, Tolkien, Charles Williams, and C. S. Lewis. Suddenly, the hidden mysteries of occult masters were laid bare to a thrill-seeking world hungry for a "fresh" and exciting spirituality -- purged of the old offensive truths. But even before these dark secrets were exposed, Georg Hegel, who was deeply involved in the several branches of Western occultism, provided educators and globalist visionaries with the dialectic process needed to transform both church and world.5
Not only did these enticing glimpses of forbidden mysteries affect beliefs and worldviews, they helped change the way we think and communicate. Even people who still treasure God's Word are learning to approach information in radically new ways. Nothing seems absolute anymore! Even God's Word is being adapted to the global values spawned by this cultural transformation.
Francis Schaeffer, founder of L'Abri, saw the beginning of change back in the sixties. Ponder this warning from his 1968 book, The God Who Is There:
[read more] [Emphasis added]
"The present chasm between the generations has been brought about almost entirely by a change in the concept of truth. Wherever you look today the new concept holds the field. The consensus about us is almost monolithic, whether you review the arts, literature or just simply read the newspapers and magazines.... On every side you can feel the stranglehold of this new methodology—and by ‘methodology’ we mean the way we approach truth and knowing. ... And just as fog cannot be kept out by walls or doors, so this consensus comes in around us, till the room we live in is no longer distinct, and yet we hardly realize what has happened....
"Young people from Christian homes are brought up in the old framework of truth. Then they are subjected to the modern framework. In time they become confused because they do not understand the alternatives with which they are being presented. Confusion becomes bewilderment, and before long they are overwhelmed. This is unhappily true not only of young people, but of many pastors, Christian educators, evangelists and missionaries as well. So this change in the...way we come to knowledge and truth is the most crucial problem... facing Christianity today."6
When minds are no longer grounded in certain absolutes, there is no frame of reference that allows logical thinking. Without factual or Biblical certainty, a person cannot rationally resist today's enticing spiritual counterfeits. Alan Jones said it well:
"All the great religious traditions are in upheaval, and the divisions are within rather than between or among them. I have more in common with my friend Stephen, the rabbi at a large synagogue in San Francisco, than I do with many fellow Christians. I don’t mean that we simply find each other congenial. I mean that I am more ideologically compatible with Stephen than with, say, any Christian fundamentalist. ...
"Although there are some Christians who are unafraid of other spiritual paths and have learned from them... battle lines are being drawn between 'orthodox' and 'progressives.' And some people, like me, are at home on neither side. There’s a celebrated couplet by the poet William Blake that sums up for me much that is disturbing about exclusionary versions of Christianity:
"That vision of Christ, which thou dost see
Is my vision's greatest enemy."7
In light of this spiritual melting pot, it's not surprising that Rick Warren has announced that fundamentalism, of all varieties, will be "one of the big enemies of the 21st century."8 What, then, does Warren mean by Fundamentalism? In a May 2005 interview the Pew Forum on Religion, Warren stated:
"Today there really aren't that many Fundamentalists left; I don't know if you know that or not, but they are such a minority; there aren't that many Fundamentalists left in America.... Now the word 'fundamentalist' actually comes from a document in the 1920s called the Five Fundamentals of the Faith. And it is a very legalistic, narrow view of Christianity."
Actually, Jesus told His disciples that His way would be narrow and difficult. "There are few who find it," he said. But "wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it."[Matthew 7:13-14] But for those who walk with Him, there's abundant strength in Christ for all the challenges ahead! This promise is for us today:
1. Alan Jones, Reimagining Christianity (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2005), back cover.2. Ibid., pages 79, 83. 3. Ibid., page 78. 4. See "How mysticism & the occult are changing the Church at www.crossroad.to/Excerpts/warnings.htm. This page includes links to descriptions of the main occult societies that affect our culture today.
5. See Georg Hegel's vast influence, first in the Soviet Union, then the Western world at www.crossroad.to/Quotes/spirituality/hegel.htm
6. Francis A. Schaeffer, The God Who Is There (Intervarsity Press, 1968), pages 13-14. See excerpts at www.crossroad.to/Excerpts/books/schaeffer/who-is-there.htm
7. Alan Jones, page 83.8. Paul Nussbaum, "The purpose-driven pastor," 1-8-06 at www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/living/religion/13573441.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
9. The Pew Forum's biannual Faith Angle conference on religion, politics and public life, 5-23-05. http://pewforum.org/events/index.php?EventID=80