Are We Unintentional Gnostics?

*We might be Gnostic if:

  1. We find ourselves talking about heaven as an escape from this world, especially if we don’t need a resurrection of our bodies
  2. We think that a happy marriage (or other successful Christian goal) is achieved by attending a special seminar and learning the “secrets”
  3. We think that taking care of this world (ecology) is a waste of time because it is going to hell in a hand basket anyway
  4. We think that the goal is to know about Jesus rather than follow him
  5. We spend all of our time in the New Testament, ignoring the Old Testament

Do you agree that these are good litmus tests for whether Christians have been influenced by Gnosticism?
Do you think most churches in America are influenced by Gnosticism?

*quoted from Rediscovering Jesus: An Introduction to Biblical, Religious, and Cultural Perspectives on Christ, p. 171. See my complete review of the book here.

6 thoughts on “Are We Unintentional Gnostics?

  1. It makes sense on a larger overview of the christian religion. Unfortunately it seems to be true for many christians. It partly reflects people having a salvation mindset rather than a kingdom mindset.


  2. Classical gnosticism took many forms. But in terms of the matter/spirit dualism that marked all forms of gnosticism to various degrees, then you could say that, yes, some forms of modern Christianity have been unwitting participants. I can only comment from the American evangelical perspective, as that’s how I was raised, but I have personally witnessed attitudes/statements that fit the five points listed in your post.

    That being said, I also think there is scholar/layman divide, even among evangelicals. I went to an evangelical college for two and half years and that’s where I learned about gnosticism and we had lively discussions on the topic. Among the better-educated Christians I knew then (my professors), there was definitely less tendency to ascribe to dualistic ideas. I think it is more pervasive in made-for-media pop-theology and its literary equivalents.


    1. Matt,

      As always – a very cogent reply. There’s definitely a scholar/layman divide and I wonder if it is restricted to Gnosticism or simply part of the broader divide between the church and academy on all sorts of issues.

      Have you heard of/read Harold Bloom’s book “The American Religion” – he leaves no religion unturned in his analysis and finds heavy traces of Gnosticism in almost all forms of American religions (and he leaves no stone unturned when it comes to Baptists). If he is right, I wonder if that is a strictly American/Western phenomena or if Gnosticism is just so slippery of a philosophy that it’s hard to ever really lock the back door.


      1. I have not read that book, but it sounds interesting. I am always curious why certain points of view dominate in the church, even though they don’t really square with the whole testimony of Scripture when scrutinized. Does Bloom explore the origins of the current manifestation of gnosticism? I know many of the early church fathers flatly rejected it. Maybe it’s time for our churches to start teaching “Heresies 101!”


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