Monday, 6 April 2009
Evangelicalism = Neo-Gnosticism?
There has been some recent discussion in articles and on many Christian blogs on what constitutes Orthodoxy. I have done one recently (see here), as has Jc_Freak (see here). It really has started to get me thinking: What does being a Christian mean? There tends to be two main Christian groups: The conservatives and the Liberals. The Conservatives tend to be obsessed with what is the right thing to believe usually characterised by long sermons and an obsession with the Bible, at the detriment to social action. The Liberal tends to be concerned with Social action usually characterised by RAC (Random acts of kindness-see here) and other out-reach with a lacking on doctrinal understanding.
I would like to take a few minutes to look at what the Evangelical church (although many churches will fit into this understanding) seems to believe a Christian is. There seems to be a list of doctrines one must adhere to make you a Christian and as long as you do then you're in. My worry is that:
1) Holding a certain belief doesn't mean that you live by it or, in-fact, that you are necessarily saved by it anyway. James tells us that even the Demons believe in one God! (James 2:19).
2) It is bordering on a form of Neo-Gnosticism: The Church has a secret knowledge that as long as you believe then you'll be saved, but if you don't know it then you are lost. Repeat the following creed, hold the following doctrinal basis, use the following Version of the Bible, etc.
This is not in anyway to say the have doctrinal Basis' are a bad thing. On the contrary I believe them to be a good and often vital thing for a church/Organisation to have. What it does mean however if that we need to be careful in how we approach them. If Mr. X used the TNIV instead of the KJV is that a legitimate reason to refuse him membership/leadership? If Mr.X holds to 'Christus Victor' instead of 'penal substitution' does that mean the he is not saved?
Paul tells us in Romans:
"That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." (Romans 10:9-10)
We see various confessions of the sort in the Bible. If we declare that Jesus is Lord [over everything, including Caesar] and believe that he was raised from the dead [after dying on our behalf on the cross] then we will be saved. It is also worth noting that it is only a modern characteristic that we separate belief and behaviour. Neither the Greeks nor the Jews did this. To believe was to act in relation to that belief. If we believe that Jesus is Lord then we will follow him as such and do as he commands including telling others about him, caring for those in need, etc.
I do not believe that Evangelicalism has got to a point yet where it is close to Gnosticism, and there are in fact other false teachings that it needs to be cautious of (i.e. Health, wealth and prosperity Gospel-" The Lord giveth and the Lord giveth more), however it is one which it needs to address so that it doesn't develop further.
Looking forward to you thoughts as always.
Till next time!