August 28, 2010

Neo-Gnosticism...

From Tom Wright's essay, Decoding The Da Vinci Code:

...Let me sum up this lecture in the following way. The Da Vinci Code is a symptom of something much bigger, a lightning rod which has throbbed with the electricity of the postmodern western world.

One of the basic fault lines in the contemporary Western world is the line between neo-Gnosticism on the one hand and the challenge of Jesus on the other. Please note that, despite strenuous attempts to make this line coincide with the current sharp left-right polarization of American culture and politics, it simply doesn't. Nor, for that matter, does it coincide with the polarizations of British or European culture either. So what is this real, deep polarization which runs through our world?

Neo-Gnosticism is the philosophy that invites you to search deep inside yourself and discover some exciting things by which you must then live. It is the philosophy which declares that the only real moral imperative is that you should then be true to what you find when you engage in that deep inward search. But this is not a religion of redemption. It is not at all a Jewish vision of the covenant God who sets free the helpless slaves. It appeals, on the contrary, to the pride that says "I'm really quite an exciting person, deep down, whatever I may look like outwardly" — the theme of half the cheap movies and novels in today's world. It appeals to the stimulus of that ever-deeper navel-gazing ("finding out who I really am") which is the subject of a million self-help books, and the home-made validation of a thousand ethical confusions. It corresponds, in other words, to what a great many people in our world want to believe and want to do, rather than to the hard and bracing challenge of the very Jewish gospel of Jesus. It appears to legitimate precisely that sort of religion which a large swathe of America and a fair chunk of Europe yearns for: a free-for-all, do-it-yourself spirituality, with a strong though ineffective agenda of social protest against the powers that be, and an I'm-OK-you're-OK attitude on all matters religious and ethical. At least, with one exception: You can have any sort of spirituality you like (Zen, labyrinths, Tai Chi) as long as it isn't orthodox Christianity.

By contrast, the challenge of Jesus, in the 21st century as in the first, is that we should look away from ourselves and get on board with the project the one true God launched at creation and re-launched with Jesus himself. The authentic Christian gospel, which is good news about something that has happened as a result of which the world is a different place — this gospel demands that we submit to Jesus as Lord and allow all other allegiances, loves and self-discoveries to be realigned in that light. God's project, and God's gospel, are rooted in solid history as opposed to Gnostic fantasy and its modern equivalents. Genuine Christianity is to be expressed in self-giving love and radical holiness, not self-cosseting self-discovery. And it lives by, and looks for the completion of, the new world in which God will put all things to rights and wipe away all tears from all eyes; in which all knees will bow at the name of Jesus, not because he had a secret love-child, not because he was a teacher of recondite wisdom, not because he showed us how we could get in touch with the hidden feminine, but because he died as the fulfillment of the Scriptural story of God's people and rose as the fulfillment of the world-redeeming purposes of the same creator God; and because, in that death and resurrection, we discover him to be the one at whose name every knee shall indeed bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, confessing Jesus Christ as Lord to the glory of God the Father....
Posted by John Weidner at August 28, 2010 6:52 PM
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