04 March 2017

Gnosticism through a Dominionist Lens Part 5

In the world but not of the world

Reeves and the Dominionist camp seek to celebrate and sanctify every-day life. While the New Testament doesn't denigrate every-day life and rejects ascetic elitism it does stress otherworldliness.
This otherworldliness and antithesis is once again not rooted in legalistic frameworks, false cosmologies or works salvation. But clearly there is an indifference to the security and respectability the world has to offer. Money, status and cultural integration are not concerns of the New Testament.
The New Testament doesn't present the Dominionist confidence in the long road of patient cultural triumph. Instead it presents a supernaturalism, a spiritual warfare that (at times) almost smacks of the same celestial dualism found in Gnosticism. Once again I argue the affinity is the means of infiltration and holds the potential danger that had to, and still must be guarded against. Although Dualism, while the dominant cosmological motif found in movies and occasionally in geopolitics is not often found in the Church of today. The problem of the present hour is that of Monism.
Calvinism has never been able to reckon with the Spiritual duality (not absolute dualism) found in Scripture wherein Satan and his legions are real viable forces at work in the world and working against the Church and often located within its ranks. The Cosmology of Scripture is itself presented in a dualistic form. God is over all to be sure and yet running parallel to this reality is a secondary order in which Christ, particularly as the Son of Man battles, overcomes and destroys the gods of the nations and the demonic forces of death and darkness.
The Scriptures present the New Testament believers with a vision of insecurity and instability in the world, persecution, suffering, warfare and a pilgrim life that finds solace only in the fellowship of the Christian community and the spiritual meat and drink it affords.
It is no wonder that many if not most Dominionists come to downplay the Lord's Supper and Baptism. They've have so sanctified everyday life, the life and rites of the Church cannot stand out. The everyday common labours and even the partaking of food are so sanctified that virtually all of life becomes sacramental. Some openly teach this. And yet this must be decried as pantheism in a Christian form and just as dangerous as the absolute dualism of some Gnostics.
The New Testament places no emphasis on the acquisition of money, nor does it value it. It's not something to steward (as we're often told) but a means and one that is to be happily dispensed with. The New Testament view of money is closer to the Gnostic affinity with asceticism than with the Judaized views of the Dominionists. The early Church almost universally understood this. It was post-Constantine that the Church's attitudes to money, possessions and power changed and thus the ethics of the New Testament were inverted. Worldliness became spirituality. This is yet once again a form of world-affirming Judaizing.
We might refer to it as a 'Kingdom Now' theology and yet even this is misleading. There is a sense in which the Kingdom is indeed found in the now, in the present. And yet it's through the Spirit that we participate in the Kingdom. It's now but it's not here other than through it Spirit-led exilic community. The Kingdom Now viewpoint finds expression in all forms of millennialism that understand the reign of Christ to be focused on This Age as opposed to finding its reality in The Age to Come, the New Heavens and New Earth.
After Constantine, the older Gnosticism was no longer the primary threat. In fact by that time Manichaeism had become perhaps the more dominant form or expression of the same ideas. And while it was prevalent it was clearly something 'other' than Christianity and thus in that sense no longer presented the same type of threat. Instead it was the Hellenistic Judaizing tendency which would come to dominate. Facilitated by the Constantinian Shift it would essentially establish itself as orthodoxy. The Judaizing-Gnostics won so to speak, at least by their own worldly terms and standards.
Later in the Middle Ages there would be a true Gnostic resurgence among groups like the Bogomils and Cathars. The remnant that trod the narrow way of Biblical truth persevered through this dark era and yet all but disappeared with the Reformation. It was swallowed up. Like the 'victory' of Constantine, the Magisterial Reformation through its triumph seduced and largely destroyed the Biblical witness which had survived the preceding centuries.
The Magisterial Reformation which in many ways reformed and corrected the abuses of Medieval Catholicism in other ways re-infused and solidified the ethics of Christendom. Roman Catholicism which had developed a series of tensions and a broad spectrum of doctrine and spirituality was now narrowed and under Reformation theology grace transformed nature to such an extent that any form of antithesis vis-à-vis the world was all but lost. The utter sanctification of the common order produced a new ecclesiology, sociology and civilisation that in the end was just as evil and in some ways worse than the Medieval synthesis of Late Antiquity and Germanic cultures.
The attempts at correction found in Pietism and many of the 19th century Restorationist movements provided some improvement but in an increasingly complicated intellectual and cultural milieu were unable to sufficiently address the foundational problems. These movements while positive on many levels ultimately failed to correct the core problems and we (in the Protestant spectrum) find ourselves in the 21st century further removed from the Biblical position than we were even a few centuries ago. Calls to return to the Reformation are at best wishful panaceas that may temporarily stop the cancerous decay but will by no means eradicate it.
Contrary to our modern Evangelical and increasingly Roman Catholic Dominionist Consensus, the Scriptures do not celebrate material goods or the works of this world. The Christian is not to value possessions, lands, money and status. The Creation and all the works of man are to be burned.
Even marriage is a temporary arrangement for This Age, and is eliminated at the Eschaton. Marital relations will not continue.
Once again this sounds a little bit like Gnosticism, at least something closer to it than Dominion theology's Pantheistic-Judaizing tendency. It must be said again and again. Gnosticism was dangerous because it often came close to the New Testament and yet totally missed the mark.
Dominionism finds it scriptural home as it were in the Old Testament with its typological heaven on earth. But like the Jews, the Dominionist spectrum of Christianity misunderstands that the earthly Kingdom was temporary, type and even shadow. It only hinted at the real and true. This kind of imagery presented in the book of Hebrews would once again resonate with certain Gnostic tendencies and was evidently exploited by Scripture twisters. It is no wonder that next to Revelation the book of Hebrews is probably the most misunderstood and neglected book of the New Testament. It utterly lays waste to the assumptions of both Dominionism, Dispensationalism and the Easy-Believist intellectual and solely forensic focus when it comes to saving faith and the doctrine of salvation. Though the New Testament as a whole is at odds with the Evangelical spectrum, the book of Hebrews in particular is its bane.
Remember the New Testament is fighting a two front battle against Hellenistic Judaizers and Hellenistic Paganism as forms of Gnosticism. This is everywhere in the epistles. The error of the 'Hebrews' is still debated. Was it a pure reversion to Judaism? Were these Jewish Christians returning to Moses, or were these Gentile converts embracing a form of philosophical and practical Judaism? If it's the latter as Geerhardus Vos contends, the nature of error in the New Testament is greatly illuminated and all the more pertinent to today.
Reeves lecture while in some ways provides a helpful introduction it nevertheless contains within it assumptions and errors as dangerous as the movement he critiques. While many points he makes are prima facie factually accurate the whole tenor of the lecture is in the end somewhat misleading. The average 'layman' stumbling onto this audio track or even attending his seminary and sitting under his tutelage risks being misled.