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(How) Are Evangelicals Gnostic?

June 8th, 2010 | 1 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

Hang around evangelicalism long enough and you’re bound to hear the “gnostic” critique.

It was given the most legitimacy by N.T. Wright in Surprised by Hope, who reminded the world that our bodies are raised up in the last day.  And yes and amen to that.

But before that, Michael Horton offered this takedown of many of the central themes of evangelical piety and worship:

“It would seem that the critics of modern American religion are basically on target in describing the entire religious landscape, from New Age or liberal, to evangelical and Pentecostal, as essentially Gnostic. Regardless of the denomination, the American Religion is inward, deeply distrustful of institutions, mediated grace, the intellect, theology, creeds, and the demand to look outside of oneself for salvation. This, of course, has enormous implications for the Christian life and worship, as well as theology.”

Of course, “gnostic” is a loaded term and one that demands some precision.  The sort of features that drive evangelical suspicion of the physical may not, in fact, be the same as those that motivated the actual gnostics in the second century.  My working hypothesis is….

Well, I’m not going to say my working hypothesis.  At least not now.

Instead, I’m curious to hear your opinion.  Read Horton’s article.  And then let me know.

(How) Are evangelicals gnostic?

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.