The Paganization of Biblical Studies

by Dr. Peter R. Jones

Director of Christian Witness to a Pagan Planet (

January 4, 2007


Home  |  Emphasis added in bold letters


Given the institutions where I have taught during my professional life, it is appropriate to begin my overview of the Paganization/Gnosticization of NT Studies with a quote from J. Gresham Machen, speaking of the inroads of Liberalism into the American church at the beginning of the last century:

"The truth is that liberalism has lost sight of the very centre and core of the Christian teaching. In the Christian view of God as set forth in the Bible, there are many elements. But one attribute of God is absolutely fundamental in the Bible; one attribute is absolutely necessary in order to render intelligible all the rest. That attribute is the awful transcendence of God. From beginning to end the Bible is concerned to set forth the awful gulf that separates the creature from the Creator. It is true, indeed, that according to the Bible God is immanent in the world. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without Him. But He is immanent in the world not because He is identified with the world, but because He is the free Creator and upholder of it. Between the creature and the Creator a great gulf is fixed.

To be sure, Machen does mention Gnosticism, but he does define the essence it religious belief. Gnosticism, which builds on the common pagan notion of humanity as divine. Plato taught that the soul "was immortal by its very nature." This notion is integrated into Jewish thinking by Philo, and developed by later Gnosticism as the alien "divine spark" within humanity. Hans Jonas defines Gnosticism as radically dualistic--a dualism between man and the world, "an anthropological acosmism." "The essence of man is knowledge, of the self and God." As the famous Messina Colloquium on Gnosticism in 1966 clearly recognized, "the idea of divine consubstantiality" is a defining notion of Gnosticism. Such a notion effectively eliminates the uniqueness and transcendence of God.

The Gospel of Thomas appears to reflect this notion in its view of redemption, proposing a "'backwards' creation" for Mary, moving from the "female rib into the male Adam, and back into the 'living spirit.'" This is nothing less than the undoing of creation, expressed most powerfully in sexual/gender transformation and liberation. There is here proposed the destruction of the opposites and a return to primordial unity. The cosmos is an ordered universe, but "an order with a vengeance, alien to man's aspirations." Such a world view eventually finds the biblical notion of a transcendent Creator, distinct from the creation, creating an ordered cosmos, as insufferable foolishness, indeed, the epitome of evil, and Yahweh is unceremoniously thrown into Hell.

The essence of liberalism throughout its history is the importation into the church via the use of Christian terminology, of the various historic expressions of pagan notions, in particular, the denial of God's transcendence. In this sense, the first "liberals" were the Gnostics. Certainly a form of Gnosticism, sometimes called proto-Gnosticism is behind the denial of the incarnation in the Johannine epistles, and of the resurrection in the early and later Paulines. Interestingly, the Liberals of the modern period have had great admiration for the proto-Gnostics, in particular, Marcion. In A.D. 150, Marcion, a theologian from Pontus in Asia Minor, was excommunicated from the Church in Rome for heretical teaching. He dismissed God the Creator, the Old Testament, the Mosaic law, and three of the gospels. From the few epistles of Paul that he accepted, he expunged Old Testament quotations and claimed to worship the "alien god" behind the God of Scripture.

Tertullian (AD 160-225) called Marcion "the Pontic mouse who has nibbled away the Gospels . . . abolished marriage," and . . . tore God almighty to bits with [his] blasphemies," and Polycarp (A.D. 69-155), who knew the apostle John, called Marcion "the first-born of Satan."

In spite of Marcion's massive rejection of early Christian orthodoxy, and his denunciation and excommunication by the second century Church, the great nineteenth century Liberal historian and theologian, Adolf von Harnack, called Marcion "the first Protestant." For Harnack, "Protestant" meant "liberal." The similarly sympathetic judgment by Helmut Koester, a Bultmannian New Testament scholar, lately at Harvard, calls Marcion "a textual critic, philologian and reformer." When these church fathers are dismissed by contemporary liberal scholars as "myopic heresy hunters," and the terms "Protestant" and "reformer" are associated with the Gnostic Marcion, making him a virtual second-century Martin Luther, we must see that we are in the presence of a "palace revolution."

The popularity of Marcion can only be understood in the light of the present-day Gnosticization of Biblical Studies. Liberal Lutheran Koester is disarmingly clear. He urges scholars to abandon the New Testament canon in order to allow the other early Christian voices--"heretics, Marcionites, Gnosticism, Jewish Christians, perhaps also women---. . . to be heard again." The contemporary promotion of the Nag Hammadi Gnostic texts as a valid expression of early Christianity is a further example of liberalism's predilection for Gnosticism. This is in no sense a "reformation": it is rather a profound revisionism of Christian history leading to a major theological revolution, namely, the normalization of heretical Gnosticism in contemporary mainline Christianity.

[NB. I use the terms "Gnosticism" and "paganism" virtually interchangeably. Paganism is the general religious belief in the divinity of Nature; Gnosticism is a specific and somewhat rarified application of that general belief that becomes associated with the early Christian movement. I thus agree with the early church fathers, who, according to modern scholarship, falsely described Gnosticism as a "relapse in heathenism." If paganism is monistic, Gnosticism is, to quote Kurt Rudolf, dualism on a monistic background].

As at the time of Gnosticism, today the great biblical doctrine under attack like non other is the doctrine of God the transcendent Creator. In this sense, Gnosticism has returned to the Church with a vengeance.


The role of Gnosticism in the paganization of Biblical Studies was initially the result of the work of one man, Rudolf Bultmann. One cannot underestimate the importance and influence of Bultmann. Schmithals, An Introduction to the Theology of Rudolf Bultmann (1967), 1:

"…no living theologian's work is noted and discussed more than that of RB. B is for our time what Karl Barth was to the German speaking world between the two world wars. The main difference is that B's theology has aroused lively interest transcending all boundaries of churches, languages and indeed religions ….one of the theological giants of the twentieth century." David Ferguson, Bultmann (1992), viii.

Of very few is it said: his work is "a towering achievement." [3]. James Robinson says, "The new quest…the later Heidegger, hermeneutic and Gnosticism find in Bultmann their unity."

Bultmann believed a great deal of the NT, especially John and Paul, had profound relationships with Gnosticism.

TNT I, 165: "Whereas to ancient man the world had become home -- in the OT as God's creation, to classic Greece as the cosmos pervaded by the deity -- the utter difference of human existence from all worldly existence was recognized for the first time in Gnosticism and Christianity, and thus the world became foreign soil to the human self."

He claimed that "the cosmological dualism of Gnosticism has become in John a dualism of decision." (TNT II, 21). Though he only had knowledge of pre-Nag Hammadi Gnosticism, and wrongly believed that the Gnostic redeemer myth is at the base of Christology, which has never been established, he did understand the Gnostic impulse.

Bultmann's fascination with Gnosticism doubtless arose from the connection he saw between it and 20th century existentialism which was Bultmann's fundamental inspiration for understanding the NT. James Robinson makes the same connection, characterizing the ancient Gnostics as the "dropouts" of Roman imperial society, comparing them to the "counter-culture movements coming from the 60's." Rudolf calls their interpretations of Scripture as "protest exegesis," and Hans Jonas draws fascinating parallels between ancient Gnosticism and modern existentialism. Heidegger's view of God, according to Jonas, approximates to that of the Gnostics, who is the "other, the unknown." This God, says Jonas, is "a nihilistic conception: no nomos emanates from him, no law for nature and thus none for human action…" In Gnosticism, the true pneumatic is radically free from psychical essence; in existentialism no "determinative essence is permitted to prejudice the freely self-projecting existence." Jonas notes that Heidegger's description of Dasein as "having being thrown"-Geworfenheit, is originally a Gnostic notion, because in the Mandean literature it is "a standing phrase: life has been thrown into the world…the soul into the body."

Bultmann made existentialism his heuristic principle for unlocking the code of the NT message. George Eldon Ladd, Bultmann (Chicago: Inter-Varsity Press, 1964), 30: "The heart of Bultmann's positive message [is] the interpretation of the gospel in terms of authentic [eschatological] existence." Indeed, Heidegger and Bultmann did joint seminars together at Marburg, and to Heidegger Bultmann dedicated Faith and Understanding, the first volume of his collected essays, in 1933. [Tillich was another colleague at Marburg during that period].

"…the work of existential philosophy, which I came to know through my discussion with Martin Heidegger, has become of decisive significance for me. I found in it the conceptuality in which it is possible to speak adequately of human existence and therefore also of the existence of the believer."

"Without this philosophy, 'it is a mistake to think we can understand a word of the New Testament"; without it, the Scripture will have nothing to say to the present.'"

Bultmann believed that Heidegger's existentialist analysis of the structure of being "is nothing more than a secularized, philosophical version of the NT's view of human existence." The difference is that Jesus makes authenticity happen, by faith. Bultmann said about Heidegger: "I learned from him not what theology has to say but how it has to say it. [c. 1950]" Or again, "…we all not necessarily subscribe to Heidegger's philosophical theories when we learn something from his existential analysis."

Taking Heidegger's analysis as the grid of interpretation, "revelation" is not God's self-disclosure. It must be understood in existential terms…[about me and my future, not revelation about God or cosmology or the future of the world]. Theology must arise out of anthropology. As Bultmann says, "Paul's theology is, at the same time, anthropology." According to Schmithals, Heidegger asks the question of being in a new way, not in terms of the cosmos, but in an analysis of human existence. Human existence, according to Heidegger means that man [in the words of Schmithals] "always has himself before himself as his own possibility; to exist in an authentic way means to keep oneself open at all times for…the future." If man is his own possibility, authentic existence means to keep oneself open for the future. According to Heidegger, "Dasein has Always fallen away from itself and into the world…It goes over to the world. It allows itself to be determined…by the world…which is nothingness. All this happens on the basis of an anxiety in which the insignificance of my Dasein and the nothingness of the world dawn upon me."

Bultmann boldly affirms that the observer has no objective place on which to stand from which to observe reality. He thus anticipates the postmodern critique of modernity. Bultmann nevertheless observes existence -- with the aid of existentialism, which gives "the ontological structure of being." In other words, he does claim to make statements about existence, but inevitably from within a world view and its presuppositions about existence. Bultmann calls this "pre-understanding." It is an appropriate or "right philosophy." He calls this "a scientific-religious understanding of the ontological and abstract features of the understanding of existence which lie behind the particular beliefs of the [NT] writers." "…real meaning yielded by existential analysis is for Bultmann the meaning of Scripture as the word of God." In other words, existential analysis is the word of God. This makes what is believed to be inherent within nature the determining truth about existence. This is surely a fundamentally pagan concept of knowledge and truth, which eliminates the transcended Lord and Creator and special revelation. G. Kuhlmann argues that Bultmann's dependence on Heidegger means that he only ever describes the "natural" man. Bultmann argues that Christian theology gives the "how": philosophy only describes the "that." Bultmann states that Heidegger's philosophy was "atheistic" in the sense that God is not the subject of the philosophy of the early Heidegger, thus leaving room for theology.


Heidegger was one of the great philosophers of the modern age, certainly, but two things catch my attention: 1. His moral failings, and, 2. his religious commitments. Heidegger's major moral failings included his commitment to Nazism, which he never ever repudiated, and the decades-long affair he had with his major apologist in the English-speaking world and former student, Hannah Arendt. Edward Oakes believes these were not blind spots but failures that flowed directly from his philosophy.

Heidegger's religious commitments trace the course of his life. He began "as an ultraconservative Catholic, destined for the priesthood, after 1917 bec[a]me deeply involved in a dialogue with liberal Protestant historical theology. After 1928 Heidegger deeply antagonistic to, even an aggressive opponent of, Christianity." In 1928 he also became an enthusiastic reader of Nietzsche, where the myth of Being is purged of any Jewish or Christian notions, and his philosophy became Judenrein.

His rejection of Catholicism included his denial of metaphysics, that is, in essence, the biblical account of existence, which includes the transcendent God of Creation. In the name of human existence, Heidegger denies the biblical doctrine of God and creation. For him there is no such thing as "human nature" nor purpose to human existence save the freedom of "self-actualization." This notion fundamentally undermined any concept of objective morality. These two notions, self-actualization and the lack of objective morality doubtless explain his interest in National Socialism.

Grounding Dasein in freedom "as the inner source of its possibility," against traditional metaphysics, certainly accords with a Gnostic view of existence. In Gnosticism, freedom is likewise gained via the elimination of the transcendent God of Scripture. Heidegger does not ground the reality of Dasein in God but in its own structure, in nothing outside of itself. This is its the ultimate transcendence. It cannot transcend to something outside itself. There is nothing out there.

Realizing the failure of traditional metaphysics thus brings one to the fact of nothing outside of being, so that the arrival at nothing unveils being. In this account of existence there are shades of Buddhism, as a number of scholars have pointed out. Heidegger seeks to root objective thought "in something more primal than a metaphysically understood subject." In other contemporary words of Harold Bloom, who, on becoming a modern Gnostic, declared: "I am as old as God." According to Heidegger, metaphysics "is Dasein's effort to ground itself…in some supreme being, itself an uncaused cause." This is an objectifying kind of thought in which the subject establishes itself as the basis of reality…reality becomes merely the subject's picture." Metaphysics has no existence.

This understanding of being that is the result of overcoming metaphysics is called "non-conceptual thought….A return to the soil out of which metaphysics grew." In Heidegger's What Is Metaphysics, he clarifies the metaphysics implicit in his earlier existentialist analysis. It is not a simple, objective description of human existence in the world. It is human existence devoid of classic metaphysics. When asked if he had changed, Heidegger said truth was the way, not any particular moment on the way. J

Just how pagan is existentialism? What is the inner principle of that world view contained in existential philosophy? Is it Christian or pagan?

It is often claimed that it was only the early Heidegger who influenced Bultmann. Casuto, 173, argues that it was Being and Time that influenced Bultmann, which came from the period prior to his anti-Christian, pro-Greek polemic -- it was a demythologized, existentialist map of existence that Christian theologians believed they could use.

However, Bultmann, himself, did not consider the later Heidegger's thought as a conversion, "but sees the 'late' Heidegger in unbroken continuity with the 'early' Heidegger." Indeed, Heidegger claimed that his work on existentialist analysis was not "for its own sake, but rather in order to awaken new questions as to the meaning of being." [against Bultmann's claim to merely using description]. How does this affect Bultmann's "Christian" theology?

Bultmann's view of God

Bultmann's approach to the NT is uniquely through human experience. That which does not fit the existentialist grid is demythologized. In other words, like Heidegger, he rejects classic Christian metaphysics. If we may call a spade a spade, Bultmann rejects the biblical worldview of God the transcendent Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, and thus stands in some real sense, within so-called "Christian" Gnosticism. Little wonder Bultmann can claim that the difference between the dualisms of Gnosticism and Christianity is that in Gnosticism it is the dualism between the evil created world and the divine soul; in Christianity, it has become "a dualism of decision," "the decision against the world for God." Is this finally merely a difference of terminology, thus a distinction without a difference? Otherwise, how could Bultmann compare identification with Christ's death as analogous to the death of the divinity in the mystery religions (TNT, I, 297), and claim that "the Gnostic view of redemption offered the apostle an equally appropriate form of expression."

In Faith and Understanding, 45, Bultmann denies that God is a being. He talks of God as "Creator" of man, but "not in the sense of a cosmological theory which professes to explain the origin of the world. Rather it is a proposition that concerns man's existence." Though Bultmann, in Faith and Understanding, 263, argued that liberalism had read the NT through the lens of a "pantheism of history," where religious meaning is implicit in historical events. Bultmann, it seems, has opted for a "pantheism of existence." Ridderbos says it well:

"Bultmann's conception is a grandiose attempt to effect a synthesis between the Christian faith and immanence philosophy (the view of life which seeks to find the absolute within the limits or boundaries of the human spirit), here conceived of in its existential form."

Ridderbos argues that insofar as this affirmation of man as spirit is within man's own reach, God is entirely superfluous, but he claims that Bultmann is different from existentialism because man is brought to decision through the address of God's word, thereby "join[ing] the Christian faith to existentialism." But if Roberts is right, only existentialism is God's word.

After three hundred and twenty two pages of profound analysis, hailed by Paul Homer, professor of theology at Yale Divinity School as "the most penetrating study of Bultmann that I have read," Robert Roberts, professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Western Kentucky University. summarizes the whole project of Bultmann as an attempt to reduce the content of Christian theology to a single idea: that of an act or decision in which man draws his self-understanding and thus his self into conformity with his authentic being as potentiality to be. Though aesthetically pleasing, Roberts calls this tour de force "a disaster" for failing to do justice to the Christian faith and thus failing to aid people in their relationship with God.

I agree with the judgment of Ladd, who observes: "…Bultmann's existential interpretation is the contemporary adaptation of the gospel to the prevailing philosophy [of the day]," which, in this case, I would add, was a subtle form of paganism, delivered in the new, beguiling clothes of existentialism


Bultmann did his deconstructive work, ridding the Christian faith of genuine transcendence, but James Robinson suggested in an SBL "fireside chat," that Bultmann did not go far enough. "I would have liked to get involved in the death-of-God controversy…,[I]n demythologizing, Bultmann did not carry through consistently with regard to God talk."

Robert Funk, in a public lecture at the SBL Meeting in New Orleans, November, 1996, entitled "The Incredible Creed," argued that Bultmann had not gone far enough, but had hastened the demise of the kerygma because already he did not believe in heaven and hell, good and evil spirits, miracles, eschatology as an event produced by God, divine determination, death as the punishment for sin, the atonement and the resurrection. But Bultmann's radical stance was attenuated by working within the neo-orthodox confines of the kerygma and the Christ event.

Following Bultmann and Heidegger, Funk states: "The God of the metaphysical age is dead. There is not a personal god out there external to human beings…" Funk, Weststar website.

Here you have the model for a consistent carrying through of the demythologization of biblical God talk, which owes much to the Later Heidegger.


James Robinson wrote in and edited a book in 1963 entitled The Later Heidegger and Theology, in which Robinson can hardly curb his wild enthusiasm for future theologizing. He speaks of the "explosive potentialities of the 'later Heidegger' for theology." Certainly a new wave of Protestant theologians saw in the later Heidegger new possibilities for theology.

These post-Bultmannians went beyond Bultmann, just as Heidegger did. Where Bultmann tried to eliminate the mythic overlay of heavenly messengers and angelic powers, in a sort of closed-system rationalism, the later Heidegger sought to re-instate them. Heidegger demythologizes the Bible and remythologizes the world in the accents of a Greek neomythology. So Heidegger and the later Bultmannians went beyond Bultmann into religious pagan mysticism.

The Later Heidegger

Generally, for Heidegger, one can speak of "a shift away from a biblical religion to a certain Greek religion….Heidegger now invokes not no god but new gods…" Heidegger never gave up his commitment to Greek mythology. Heidegger was fascinated by Greece and spoke as much about "the gods" as about "God." He speaks of "'the gods [who] are the beckoning messengers of the Godhead,' in himself incomparable and ineffable."
"Indeed, the later writings invoke a certain pagan mythic world of mundane gods and divinized cosmic powers."
[See C.S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength]

After the war, the so-called later Heidegger becomes more mystical and meditative, and returns to Meister Eckhart, who had fascinated him earlier in his life.

In this "religious" phase, he spoke of the possibility of a "coming destiny of Being, of a New Age, a coming Dawn, an Other Beginning, a new dispensation of Being and the Holy in which the last god will…make a new manifestation of the Holy possible." In 1959 Heidegger said that in his thinking "the door remains open for a non-metaphysical God…"

Barth argued that theology gives priority to God over man, and that Heidegger gave priority to Dasein over being, but, according to Robinson, the later Heidegger gave priority to being. But this is the typical confusion where faith of all kind is ok., where the very nature of being determines everything. It is reflected in John Macquarrie's judgment: "a holy or sacred reality at the heart of all being [is that which] is central to [Eastern and Western] religion," not a specific definition of God. In this deep sense, argues Macquarrie, Heidegger is religious." [This is also the position of Tillich, the third of the triumvirate at Marburg].

John D. Caputo, has a chapter, "Heidegger's Gods." Here is his incredible thesis:

"In the 20s Heidegger took the jew-greek world of biblical Christianity seriously and moved in a demythologizing, ontologizing direction. From the 30s on, Jews and Greeks were shown the door and replaced by a pantheon of "pagan" "gods," pure Greeks, and celebrated in an openly mythologizing thinking, which culminated in the hope that one day one of them would come along and save us." "The myth of Being, of Hellas and Germania, was made possible by the exclusion of Semitic myth -- not only the myths of creation, fall and redemption, but above all by the myth of justice…and compassion."

At the same time, Heidegger was deeply religious. He is reputed to have said quite often, noch nur ein Gott kann uns retten -- "Only a God can save us." What kind of God would that be? He agreed with Nietzsche that the God of classical biblical orthodoxy was dead. He said he was neither "an atheist or a theist." Thus it can be argued, as Casuto does, that "Heidegger's later writings are more suggestive of a certain Buddhism…than of Judaism and Christianity and the emancipatory power of biblical justice."


Example of Paul Tillich

Tillich was the other member of the Marburg triumvirate. Tillich became fascinated with both existentialism and Buddhism.

In Hanna Tillich's book, From Time to Time, written after her husband's death, she describes her husband's deep, existentialist/Buddhist spirituality.

"Now I was seeing Paulus, the man with the golden mouth…He called on ecstasy as the tremulous instigator of sacred action. He dared open 'the doors of the deep' to the monsters of his convulsed wishes and unfulfilled desires. By boldly naming them and showing their faces, he coined a new philosophical-theological language. Courageously, he pushed the image of God beyond the concept of heaven. By dematerializing and depersonalizing Him, he threw the weight of sin and grace back upon the human soul. He said "yes" to his own being. Paulus was a cosmic power. There was no danger of his becoming submerged. It was easy for him to call the demons by name. He (24) transformed the terrifying thicket into the crystalline forests of his mental vision.

"He was never mine, because he could never protect. He was ecstasy and despair, with no discrimination. For him, every-thing was power and force. The seduction of women was not a matter of individual attraction. It was an act of submission to the power of the female. He transmuted his personal experience by shaping it into golden words meant for a world audience. He forsook life for the word. His knowledge of love was not personal. He dove into it and then formulated its cosmic aspects with words. Mother Earth gave Paulus the final power, that of transgressing life for the sake of the spirit."

Hanna Tillich records her husband's fascination with Buddhism:

"A Japanese Zen master, sitting with him in earnest confrontation, once described him as 'not one of the enlightened yet.' He still made the distinction between 'good' and 'evil.' The Zen master had banned good and evil in his world, acquiring physical immobility and perfect quietude. He listened with the inner ear and would not permit demons to enter his five orifices. He was not tortured by nightmarish dreams. He had found the dissolution of his 'koan.' Paulus lived in fear. His nervous body was tense; his desires -- many. His fingers would fiddle with a pebble from the beach, a silver coin, or a paper clip. He breathed unevenly and sighed heavily, an ever guilt-ridden Christian in distress. His was the Temptation of Saint Antony in Grunewald's altar, attacked by demons. His solution was to suffer the demons, take them into his being and describe them in words. He was the martyr of the mind. The Zen master talked to him about 'austerity' of the mind. But out of the ecstatic shambles of Paulus's mind came his visions of the coming, his penetration of the present, his knowledge of the past, and his compassion and understanding. Only rarely, when watching the constant motion of the ocean waves, did he find the onemindedness of nonbeing. Occasionally he found it in terror, but never in quietude.

"I used to find small notes, short letters, all sorts of signs from his lady friends, [including a] pornographic letter under his blotter, left there when he departed for a lecture trip one early morning. I had been so troubled I had shown it to a psychologist friend. He had advised me to burn it. I did not. It seemed to me that this was one sign of his real life, the expression of his needs, which I could no longer share with him, the overstraining of an intellect to live with the demon. It had seemed to me in my later days that the demonic was something you could dissolve in meditation.

"I unlocked the drawers. All the girls' photos fell out, letters and poems, passionate appeal and disgust. Beside the drawers, which were supposed to contain his spiritual harvest, the books he had written and the unpublished manuscripts all lay in unprotected. I was tempted to place between the sacred pages of his highly esteemed lifework those obscene signs of the real life that he had transformed into the gold of abstraction-King Midas of the spirit."

Here paganism fools us into thinking that we can take our evil and turn it into the gold of human courage-to-be, a perverse nobility of the spirit. Heidegger becomes at Nazi; Tillich Buddhist and pornography addict; Jung a serial adulterer and occultist.

Example of Carl Gustav Jung

As this rehabilitation of paganism/Gnosticism was happening in theology and philosophy, it was happening in psychology with Jung, who was deeply involved in the finding and promotion of the Gnostic texts. Jeffrey Satinover, once president of the Jung Foundation, describes the Gnostic character of Jung's life and work: "Jung's theory of archetypes…provides a brilliant model of the way natural human personality arises and organizes its longings around the instincts…[became] a modern Gnosticism," embracing both good and evil, "two equal, balanced cosmic principles that belong together in one overarching synthesis represented in the Self, and in their union they are transcended...[which becomes] instinctive gratification."

The reappearance of these archaic Gnostic notions in psychological guise,…likely reflects both the influence of Jung in divinity schools (where he is commonly and wrong-headedly seen as the only 'spiritual' alternative to a relentlessly triumphant materialism), and the truly astonishing number of clergy who have become Jungian analysts.

Joining the opposites of good and evil in a pagan pantheism, he justified, like Tillich, his immorality as behavior necessary "to admit the tendencies bound up with the shadow," and thus achieve "self-reliance" or "individuation." He spoke of drawing strength from the "dark" or "shadow" side of the self." Note Caputo's great critique of Heidegger is the lack of good and evil.

C. J. Jung, erstwhile disciple of Freud, actually based his own therapy on the ancient mysteries, of which he was an avid reader and expert interpreter. Jung became convinced that the initiate literally became one with the god, not the Christian god, but "a solar deity…in the form of an inner sun." So for him, fighting the darkness of "the Terrible Mother" to get back up to the light, is the timeless experience of individuation, that is, of human spiritual maturity.

In the Jungian system therapy means "adaptation to the forces of the unconscious," which he otherwise labels the archetypes. In the ancient mysteries adaptation to such forces would correspond to meeting face to face the gods and goddesses of the underworld and the overworld. For Jung, individuation means doing this alone without dependence on the therapist. It is a "mystical" process, whereby one cuts oneself off "from one's former anchors in the world or in society." Individuation is "spiritual liberation." "It demands breaking bonds with one's family, one's society, even one's God, for 'by cutting himself off from God,' the individual becomes 'wholly himself.'" According to Jung's biographer, Noll, "this experience includes the destruction of moral ideals so the first step in individuation is a sense of "tragic guilt." Guilt demands "expiation." "Every further step in individuation creates new guilt and necessitates new expiation .…individuation is continual rebirth through sinning (breaking bourgeois-Christian norms) and redemption (translating transcendent insights into social action." Individuation is "spiritual liberation." "…contact with the collective unconscious [Heidegger's Being?] meant one could theoretically access the wisdom and experiences of the whole human species." This is the depository which enables the individuated soul to follow his own inner law. "Jung conceived of the individuated person as one who was reborn as a genius, as one who could directly perceive the universal in the particulars of life." This is the illumined Gnostic. The individuated were Nietzsche's ubermenschen --[see Nietsche's transvaluation of values]. "The ubermensch allows himself to be possessed by the divine genius within."

Says the non-Christian Noll, tongue in cheek, Jung with his notion of individuation "redeemed generations of his followers from the burden of original sin. Society as a whole could potentially be reformed, and he could lead us all into the temptations of the promised land of genius."


A powerful wing of Biblical Studies has been committed to the promotion of this Later Heideggerian pagan spirituality, particularly via the rehabilitation of ancient Gnosticism as a valid form of early Christianity. Robinson states that Bultmann's pupils agree that theology must work with the later Heidegger. Robinson and Koester apply the deconstructive program of their mentor, Rudolf Bultmann, the "demythologization of the New Testament." Thereby dismantling the theistic understanding of the New Testament. Constructively they propose to fill the void the spirituality of monistic Gnosticism. 26 "Despite the vast cultural differences between North American Protestantism and ancient Gnosticism," says Philip Lee, noted author on this subject, "the parallels between the two . . . can no longer be ignored."4 Lee could see that the interest in Gnosticism was not purely historical. As Robinson says about the Nag Hammadi texts: "The focus of this library has much in common with primitive Christianity, with eastern religions, and with holy men of all times, as well as with the more secular equivalents of today, such as the counter-culture movements coming from the 1960's." (ibid., 1)

Why would Bultmann's disciples be so interested in Gnosticism? In 1985, as president of the prestigious Society of Biblical Literature, James M. Robinson issued a programmatic statement for the twenty-first century. He called upon his fellow Bible scholars to deconstruct their discipline in order to "lay bare [its] . . . biblicistic presuppositions." The Bible would no longer serve as the ultimate source of authority and as the definition of true Christianity. We were warned. Ever since, Robinson's agenda has picked up momentum not only because the time was right and his message fitted the mood of the modern world, but also because James M. Robinson and his colleague Helmut Koester of Harvard Divinity School have done seminal work to bring it about. As a measure of Robinson's importance, Robert Funk of the Jesus Seminar calls him "the Secretary of State of the biblical guild . . . (an) academic counterpart . . . (to) Henry Kissinger." Both Koester and Robinson are past presidents of the Society of Biblical Literature. Both have been committed to a clearly defined program: "The Dismantling and Reassembling of the Categories of New Testament Scholarship," as one of Robinson's articles is entitled. One category they have successfully dismantled is heresy and orthodoxy.

Both separately and together, Koester and Robinson sought to uncover the radical pluralism in the earliest church, causing Christian theology to develop along various trajectories.18 Orthodoxy was one trajectory, but not the only deposit of the true gospel, making the others heretical.19 Koester contests that there is not "one gospel" as Paul said, but at least "four."

James Robinson put content to his manifesto. He founded and is director of the Institute For Antiquity and Christianity at Claremont, California. It is devoted to the rehabilitation of texts and a theology that the early Church denounced as heresy. Within this organization Robinson launched the Coptic Gnostic Library Project, which translates, publishes, and promotes the Gnostic texts. A great service to the scholarly world, it is also a powerful tool for the neo-Gnostic theological revival. "Secretary of state" is not an exaggeration. Robinson has been the leading force behind the "Q Seminar" (whose importance for the new understanding of Jesus we shall discuss below); an active member of the Jesus Seminar (founded by a colleague, Robert Funk); and director of the Coptic Magical Texts Project, which promotes heretical Gnostic and magic Christianity.

Robinson describes the Church fathers who opposed Gnosticism as "myopic heresy hunters." The future lies with inclusion. Gnosticism (heresy) and orthodoxy are two trajectories of early Christianity. What was a marginal position just a generation ago is now touted as majority conviction. Robinson encourages modern theology to extract values from both trajectories in order to produce a new formulation of Christianity for today.20 Robinson's 1985 manifesto explodes the constraining limits of the orthodox biblical canon. Koester readily admits that this is not value-free, objective science. The old liberal historical-critical method was, he grants, "designed as a hermeneutical tool for the liberation from conservative prejudice and from the power of ecclesiastical and political institutions."24 In the same way, future New Testament studies should have as their goal "political and religious renewal . . . inspired by the search for equality, freedom and justice" in the "comprehensive political perspective" of our modern world.25

In November, 1995 at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, victory was declared. Leading New Testament scholars rejoiced that the heretical Gnostic Gospel of Thomas had finally made it into the club, and that now we could disband the club. By club they meant the New Testament canon of Holy Scripture. They were referring to the elevation of Thomas alongside the four canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These backsliders from Christianity seem to be succeeding where their ancient spiritual cousins failed. In a second century list of New Testament books to be received as canonical, it is stated that the books of the heretical Gnostics have no place in the Bible because one cannot mix "gall with honey." James Robinson declared the elevation of the noxious Thomas into the life-giving Gospels as "the coming of age of American New Testament scholarship."

Christianity has been Americanized by infusing Gnosticism into the message of the Bible. In a parallel universe, scholars now speak of the Americanization of Buddhism. "It is something of an article of faith in US Buddhist circles that Americans are improving the traditions-by making [Buddhism] more democratic, more practical, more socially engaged, more [feminized]." The same goals mark this new Bible study. But there is also an aspect of triangulation here, since Marcus Borg's new vision of Jesus compares him to the Buddha.

Helmut Koester, in the epilogue of a collection of essays in his honor,21 gives his own prospective for future directions of the New Testament field. Early Christianity, he says, is

"just one of several Hellenistic propaganda religions, competing with others who seriously believed in their god and who also imposed moral standards on their followers."22

Only contradictory understandings of the Christian faith can explain the divergent evaluations of Gnosticism we noted above. Orthodox Christianity has always maintained the antithesis separating all expressions of paganism, including "Christian" paganism, from biblical truth. Liberalism has always tried to muddy the waters. Today liberals are claiming that ancient Gnosticism is an alternate, authentic expression of early Christianity.44 Is this estimation plausible? The early Church fathers said no. Modern liberalism says yes.
What would a modern Gnostic, with no pretensions to Christianity either orthodox or liberal, say? Duncan Greenlees is just such a Gnostic, an adept of the theosophical/occult tradition. His evaluation of Gnosticism is therefore most interesting:

"Gnosticism is a system of direct experiential knowledge of God . . . the Soul and the universe; therefore it has no fixed dogmas or creed. . . . In the early centuries of this era, amid a growing Christianity, it took on the form of the Christian faith, while rejecting most of its specific beliefs. Its wording is therefore largely Christian, while its spirit is that of the latest paganism of the West . . ." [emphasis mine]45

Here is no claim that Gnosticism is a valid though alternate form of Christianity. On this issue modern Gnostics and ancient church fathers agree. Both affirm that Christianity and Gnosticism are different religions, even if they sometimes use common terminology. One religion is pagan humanism, the other divinely revealed truth.

The program of the insertion of pagan religion into Christianity nevertheless is carried through in recent academic publications in order to deliver the real Jesus, the original Christian community and a radical redefinition of the Christian faith.

This has produced what Tom Wright calls -


Peasant cynic, Jewish teacher, social revolution, apocalyptic prophet, the first feminist, mystical guru. Robert Funk, founder of the Jesus Seminar has a new book, Honest to Jesus: Jesus For a New Millennium (HarperSanFrancisco, 1996). His new Jesus is a classic. Funk's goal is to liberate Jesus "from the scriptural and creedal and experiential prisons in which we have incarcerated him." This new Jesus is a teacher rather than a divine being, emphasizing forgiveness and freedom over punishment and piety, endorsing "protected recreational sex among consenting adults."

Marcus Borg, Conflict, Holiness and Politics in the Teaching of Jesus (New York/Toronto: Edwin Mellen, 1984) cp Jesus: A New Vision (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1987) -- Borg's approach is an interesting case study in the nature of this new Gnosticizing quest, and is wonderful example of scholarship that prepares the bed it intends to lie in, perhaps without even realizing that this is what is going on cp. the Liberal Jesuses of the 19th century.

In his writings, Borg begins by noting a "major shift," what he calls "the lessening interest in eschatology and apocalypatic." This, you remember, was what Schweitzer noted about the liberal 19th century Jesuses. Borg is a man with a mission. He believes his "charismatic" Jesus "radically challenges the flattened sense of reality pervading the modern worldview, and much of the mainline church," in other words, a purely this worldly, social reformer, the result of previous NT critical work!

Borg hails the emergence of

Here is scholarship preparing the bed it intends to lie in, for Borg then goes on to underline a new consensus. It is a consensus growing out of the new methodology, questions and groups that employ them.


Koester, Trajectories, 270: "The distinctions between canoncial and non-canoncial, orthodox and heretical are obsolete…One can only speak of a 'History of Early Christian Literature.'" This again is an example, not of objective history but of theological prejudice that rejects the very notion of canon from the outset. Thus the pluralism and syncretism of today is read into the history of the Early Church.

The essential strategy is to incorporate ancient Gnosticism as a valid expression of early Christianity. Since Nag Hammadi Gnosticism is ascetic, it is much more palatable for a program of rehabilitation of Gnosticism for the general Christian public. Includes the complete text of the Gospel of Thomas, considered by left-wing scholarship as close to Q and earlier and more authentic than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John -- hence the massive attempt to elevate Thomas to Christian canonical status -- see Robert Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus (New York: Macmillan, 1993), 1.

This scholarship grants the gift of existence to a purely hypothetical document Q, as a number of recent titles indicate -- The First Gospel, The Lost Gospel , and Q Thomas Reader, (hailed on the back cover as "The Earliest Sayings Gospels,") - as well as to the "Christian" community in which Q was born. On these hypothetical creations hangs a radical interpretation of Jesus as a pagan guru.

Says one of the spokesmen for the Jesus Seminar: "[our work] is not answerable to any church....Our purpose is simply to let the gospels speak, as much as possible, on their own terms..." The only problem with the image is that it is false. There is as much theological commitment here as in any openly religious group. Moreover, the "science" on which the image is based leaves a lot to be desired.

Wenham's judgment in 1992 is that the Q hypothesis, since "no one knows for certain whether a Q-document ever existed," is still held as a working hypothesis "but with decreasing confidence." James Robinson, in the same lecture in which he claims that Q is the most important Christian text we have, admits to the ongoing debate about the Synoptic Problem. William Farmer takes him to task:

"...contra Robinson, would it not be more reasonable to conclude that if the ongoing debate about the Synoptic Problem raises questions about whether 'Q' ever existed, which it certainly is doing, should not theologians like Robinson acknowledge the hypothetical character of their reconstruction, and admit that their projects depend upon a premise that may be false, a premise which an increasing number of competent scholars are prepared to say probably is false."

Already in 1955 A. M. Farrer argued there was no need for Q if Luke used Matthew. Everything that was common was the result of Luke incorporating Matthew into his gospel. The simplicity of this argument has convinced more than one contemporary scholar, one of whom described Farrer's article as a 'firecracker.' Farrer's argument still sparkles, awaiting a satisfactory refutation. Without Q, the whole reconstruction falls to the ground like a house of cards.


Robert Funk, founder of the Jesus Seminar, recently set up The Weststar Institute, producing a bi-monthly journal, The Fourth R, and housing Polebridge Press. Polebridge Press has published The Complete Gospels (1992), edited by Robert J. Miller.43 This volume began as a new translation of the Bible, known as the Scholars Version. But since the translators attempted to avoid any overlay of orthodox theology, they refused the limitations of the orthodox canon as well. The implicit message of the title is that the canonical gospels are incomplete, and those who do not think so are biblically illiterate. The canonical gospels are 'completed' by apocryphal gospels such as the Infancy Gospel of James and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, (a text long dismissed by critical scholars as popular folk literature of little theological interest). Also included in this complete canon are number of Gnostic gospels: The Gospel of Thomas, The Apocryphon of James, The Dialogue of the Savior, and The Gospel of Mary, all of which, Miller admits, witness to the blending of Christianity and Gnosticism.

If the science is not convincing, what ideology propels the movement? Notably, it is the "Christian" pagan syncretists who exult at the publication of The Five Gospels. The radical Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong, who denies the virgin birth and accepts ordained homosexuals, hails the book as "a probing, penetrating, and deeply spiritual journey into the hearts of the gospels . . . and might well become the means whereby the secularized post-Christian world discovers its own deepest roots."79

Feminist rhetoric also avails itself of this new scholar-ship. Notably absent in the "Jesus seminar" at the RE-Imagining Conference in 1993, attended by some five hundred participants, was the orthodox, New Testament image of Jesus. The proceedings began with songs to the goddess Sophia, and presenter Dolores S. Williams, a "womanist" theology professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York City stated bluntly: "I do not think we need a theory of the atonement at all." A leader of the seminar, Kwok Pui-Lan, asked: "Who is this funny God that would sacrifice a lamb?" She went on to explain, in terms that recalled the Gospel of Thomas, that the Chinese do not believe in a God outside the creation, and that the Confucianist tradition emphasized the propensity for good in mankind.84

As we await the new Bible, various mainstream publishers have already entered the market. Harper San Francisco announces the arrival of The World's Wisdom: Sacred Texts of the World's Religion, by Philip Novak [1994]. "Virtually a World Bible for an age of intercultural understanding," says the publisher, the book "presents the world's most enlightening wisdom." 92 Penguin Books brings us The Portable World Bible [ed. Robert O. Batlou, 1994] which includes selections from the bibles of the major world religions: the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita of Hinduism, the Lotus of the True Law and The Tibetan Doctrine from Buddhism, The Gatas from Zoroastrianism, the Koran from Islam, the Li Ki and the Book of Filial Piety from Confucianism, the Tao-Te King from Taoism, and "substantial selections from the Old and New Testaments" from Judaism and Christianity.

The World Scriptures, a gender and religion inclusive interfaith planetary Bible is part of the brave new world of the Age of Aquarius awaiting us in the third millennium.


The Jesus Seminar prides itself on its objectivity. In the introduction to The Five Gospels Funk argues that, in the aftermath of the Scopes Trial (1925), American biblical scholarship retreated into the closet while the "fundamentalist mentality generated a climate of inquisition that made scholarly judgments dangerous." "The Christ of the creeds and dogma…can no longer command the assent of those who have seen the heavens through Galileo's telescope." But thanks to the Enlightenment and the dawn of the Age of Reason, biblical scholarship has nevertheless pioneered in its research to discover the real Jesus behind the "Christian facade of the Christ." In taking the findings of the Seminar to the public, Funk states: "The public is poorly informed of the assured results of critical scholarship." He gives a definition of "critical": "The Fellows of the Seminar are critical scholars. To be a critical scholar means to make empirical, factual evidence…the controlling factor in historical judgments. Non-critical scholars are those who put dogmatic considerations first and insist that factual evidence confirm theological premises."

Faith in reason is nevertheless qualified. Funk claims that the JESUS Seminar had constantly before it the reminder: "beware of finding a Jesus entirely congenial to you."

Are not all these scholars coldly objective scientists giving us a Jesus liberated from church dogma and irrational faith? Not every member of The Jesus Seminar is an evangelical believer. Indeed, for "objectivity" there are even non-Christian fellows. But a number of the leaders are apostates from Christian orthodoxy.

James M. Robinson

Robinson, a fellow of The Jesus Seminar was raised on the Westminster Confession of Faith by his father, the highly respected southern Presbyterian theologian William C. Robinson. "We were soaked in family prayers, bible reading and the recitation of the psalms…I have moved steadily left ever since." He was an evangelical minister in the old PCUS. Retired Presbyterian Church, US missionary to Brazil, Frederic R. Dinkins tells of his providential meeting with James Robinson in 1946 at a youth camp which turned Dinkins' life around:

"Jim Robinson had just finished Columbia Seminary and was working at the First Church in Hattiesburg...with a very conservative and evangelical pastor, Dr. McIntosh. Late one afternoon, at the Youth Camp, Jim Robinson spent about four hours with me -- taking me through the Bible to show me some basic positive Reformed doctrine based on the Scriptures as God's Word. He taught me and challenged me that I needed to study God's Word if I was to be a minister....He taught me to rely on God's Word."

Soon after this encounter Dinkins went to Brazil where he worked for thirty five years. Robinson went to Germany to study under Bultmann. During his successful academic career Robinson has been committed to application and extension of Bultmann's teaching. From that deeply orthodox beginning, Robinson states, "I have moved steadily to the left ever since." James Robinson, general editor of The Nag Hammadi Library in English (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1977), and director of the Institute For Antiquity and Christianity and the Coptic Gnostic Library Project excoriates the Church Fathers on whom we have depended for our knowledge of gnosticism until this point. Eight times in the scholarly introduction to this quasi-official English translation, Robinson uses the term "heretic" as in the phrase: "[The Gnostic view of existence] has until now been known almost exclusively through the myopic view of heresy hunters." (3). This is unusually emotive language in such a scholarly work. Something is going on.

Marcus Borg

Marcus Borg, another fellow of The Jesus Seminar and author of the recent book on Jesus, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time is also a deeply religious man. Raised an evangelical Lutheran, he now has discovered a new view of the Spirit and of Jesus. The Jesus he met again for the first time is not the Jesus of scriptural orthodoxy. Says New Testament scholar Borg,

"Like Socrates, Jesus was a teacher of a subversive wisdom. Like the Buddha, he had an Enlightenment experience. Like a shaman, he was a healer. Like Gandhi, he protested against a purity system."

Borg is not merely comparing Jesus with elements in the lives of other holy men. Borg is recognizing the validity of other religious traditions. For Borg's new view of the Spirit, according to a recent study of Borg's development, is actually "rooted in the pantheism of Huston Smith." So we need to ask not merely who is Jesus. We need to ask who is Huston Smith.

Huston Smith, born of missionary parents in China, is a well-known expert in comparative religions, deeply committed to monistic spirituality. Significantly associated with New Age and occult Theosophical thinkers, Smith is a sponsor of the Temple of Understanding, a organism of the Theosophical Society devoted to global syncretism which now has the privileged status of a Non-Governmental Organization in the United Nations. Smith was a faculty member with well-known New Ager and Assistant Secretary-General of the U.N., Robert Mueller, the Dalai Lama and Marilyn Ferguson, author of the book, The Aquarian Conspiracy, at an interfaith gathering in Malta in 1985, and in the same year gave a lecture at the Theosophical Society's "Blavatsky Lodge" in Sydney, Australia on the subject, "Is a New World Religion Coming? Huston Smith believes that there is, by the work of the "spirit" "an invisible geometry...working to shape (the great religious traditions of the world) into a single truth."

Needless to say, this syncretistic view of the Spirit when employed by Marcus Borg will only consider believable a Jesus-guru who can blend into other religious systems. It will reject as unacceptable and thus unauthentic the exclusive claims of the Jesus of orthodox confession. In his personal testimony Borg states quite honestly:

"I do not believe that Christianity is the only way of salvation, or that the Bible is the revealed will of God, or that Jesus was the unique Son of God."

Christianity is only one of many "mediators of the sacred." One certainly has to respect Borg's belief system, but it is just that - belief. When one comes "out from fundamentalism," as Borg has also done, if one is aware of the spiritual domain, and evangelicals are, one goes somewhere else, and it appears one often goes into some form of spiritual pagan monism. Is this why a Seminar member states with touching naivete that it is becoming more and more difficult to imagine a Jesus who reflected on his own death?

The reason is because the belief-system of many modern Bible scholars, not the facts of the matter, has changed. So, at the end of the day, when all the science has been paraded, and all the claims of cold dispassionate scholarship touted aloud, one still cannot help but think that The Jesus Seminar is one more ideologically-loaded attempt to serve the revival of pantheistic spirituality in our time. Behind the science lies spiritual apostasy.

The marketers know where Borg belongs. The Many Paths…Infinite Possibilities…One Spirit Book Club, giving you "resources for your total well-being: spirit, mind and body," offers selections in "self discovery, yoga, prayer, homeopathy, psychology, Ayurveda, Buddhism, astrology and Christianity." One of the featured book, along with Celtic Magic, The Druid, An Encyclopaedia of Gods, The Tarot Handbook and Awakening the Buddha Within is Borg's Jesus and Buddha, and The Complete Jesus, by R. A. Mayotts, giving all the sayings of Jesus from the New Testament and 19 other ancient sources.

Robert Funk

Robert Funk is the founder of The Jesus Seminar who is committed to bringing the fruits of his radical critical scholarship to the average Christian in the pew. According to Funk Christians need to mature in their knowledge and realize that most of what Jesus says in the Gospels was placed on his lips by later believers and that most authentic sayings of Jesus come from a hypothetical document, Q, which some scholars believe is embedded in Matthew and Luke, and from the heretical Gnostic Gospel of Thomas. In 1993 Funk published a best-selling book, The Five Gospels, setting this heretical text alongside the four canonical Gospels as an equally valid source for access to Jesus. This is like asking Christ and Belial to share the Sunday morning service. This can only confuse the average Christian and promote the coming of pagan religious syncretism.

According to another Seminar fellow, Marcus Borg, in a taped public debate at the University of Oregon, his colleague Funk has a past as an evangelical fundamentalist that he still is attempting to live down. According to Borg, as a youth, Funk, dressed in a white suit and white shoes was pushed forward as a boy preacher. If anyone knows the hot-house atmosphere of certain milieux where children are used as cute "Christian" performers, one sympathizes with Funk. But escaping "out from fundamentalism," is anything but a cold objective affair.

Funk has come a long way. He dedicates his book to Galileo "who altered our view of the heavens forever"; to Thomas Jefferson "who took scissors and paste to the gospels"; and to David Friedrich Strauss who "pioneered the quest for the historical Jesus."

Certainly the great scientist Galileo got an undeserving shaft from the church of his day, but should the work of Jefferson and Strauss on the Bible to be seen as "science" in anywhere near the same sense? Would anyone today accept the subjective Bible-study methods of Jefferson? With regard to Strauss, as a so-called biblical scientist, he is a most complex figure.

Strauss's biographer documents that though held up as the great example of critical, dispassionate scholarship and the father of scientific research on the historical Jesus, Strauss was in deep fellowship with the occult. Though his father Johann Friedrich Strauss was an orthodox Christian pietist, early in his theological training David immersed himself in the mysticism of Jacob Böhme, in "spiritism, clairvoyance and sopiritual healing," and came to believe deeply in the supernatural, but " any theistic sense, but rather as a belief in the pantheistic unity of the world." Strauss himself later recounts a meeting with a medium, the Seeress of Prevorst:

"I cannot in my whole life remember such a comparable moment. I was absolutely convinced that as soon as I laid my hand in hers [the medium's] my whole thinking and being would lie open before was as if someone pulled the ground away from under my feet and I were sinking into a bottomless abyss....she [the medium] praised my faith, and...[said] that I would never fall into unbelief."

According to this seeress, the father of modern New Testament scholarship would always be a believer -- in occult pantheism, something Strauss never repudiated. How can someone with such deep religious convictions of a non-Christian nature, antipathetic to orthodoxy, make a believable claim to objectivity when dealing with a theistic document like the New Testament! Monists will always find theism unacceptable. With admirable consistency they will always eliminate any expressions of theism as a possible explanation of phenomena in the life of Jesus. Miracles, unique divine nature, atoning death for sin, God distinct from the creation He made, and inspired Scripture, to name just a few, are all elements intrinsic to a theistic world view which are "objectively" and "scientifically" screened out by monists as later additions to a Jesus they want to make much more amenable to their theology. At the end of the day, such a theological agenda determines from the start what Jesus can and cannot say. Monists can only produce a monistic Jesus. This might be good [monistic] theology but it is not science.

In the above mentioned lecture concerning the critique of Bultmann, Funk stated that we do not need a heavenly redeemer, because Joseph Campbell, amongst others, gives us an "internal redee, mer." Joseph Campbell, guru to George Lucas, one of the spiritual creators of Anakin, the "Balancer," and Star Wars, was an apostate Roman Catholic and Jungian, who sought wisdom in the pagan myths, and delivered much of it on public television. He describes the calling of every human being, though born in one sex or the other, to transcend duality. This is to be done, as in the ancient mystery religions, by undergoing a series of initiations [or mystical experiences], whereby the individual "realizes that he is both mortal and immortal, male and female." Campbell was enamored of the goddess story because in it "the world is the body of the Goddess, divine in itself, and divinity is not something ruling over and above a fallen nature."

With his predilection for Strauss, Funk has also found the equivalent of Strauss's seeress in the person of Campbell. Recently Funk and the Jesus Seminar created the Order of D. F. Strauss to honor scholars who excel in this tradition.

If there is a Jesus in the new, liberated world of tomorrow, he will fit all the parameters of this world's new paganism. The Jesus Seminar will see to that. So much for their objective, neutral position. Stephen Neil and N. T. Wright identify the subjectivity:

"Within the study of the history of religions there always tends to be a bias. However much most scholars declare their neutrality, there is always a sense that proving some element of Christianity to be derived from, say, Gnosticism, or Qumran, might have a hidden value-judgment attached to it. Students who fail to see this tend to get tired of the endless arguments about 'background': but once the agenda is revealed, the battle can be smelt, and its implications for wider issues all too easily imagined. In scholarship, as in international affairs, fighting often takes place on secondary battlefields, with the superpowers taking an active interest in apparently small-scale local skirmishes."

Wright in Jesus and the Victory of God argues that their view of Jesus "… is a particular view of Jesus, working its way through into a detailed list of sayings that fit with this view."


Here is the real goal. The New Jesus of the Jesus Seminar gives us a new Christianity for the global era. With their new Jesus, the Jesus Seminar feels authorized to address the question of God, with the stated starting point: "It is no longer credible to think that there is a God 'out there.'"

John Shelby Spong, promoted by the Jesus Seminar's Westar Institute, gives us A New Christianity for a New World. Spong's mentor was J. A. T. Robinson, who popularised Tillich in the English-speaking world, and defended the publication of Lady Chatterley's Lover. Spong claims that stand helped him take a new view of sexuality, which presently includes him being the religion editor on a pornographic website.

Spong credits Lloyd Geering for creating "an audience for me in New Zealand and Australia." Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies at Victoria University, considered one of New Zealand's foremost thinkers, described by Bishop Spong as a "Presbyterian heretic," Geering takes this moment of human history very seriously, setting tomorrow's global culture in the context of Western intellectual history. Embraced by the Jesus Seminar, Geering's books are promoted as programmatic essays for the future earth community -- from the point of view of Christian apostasy and pagan orthodoxy.

According to Geering, tomorrow's culture will be post-Christian, global, and religiously pagan. This agenda is remarkably similar to that found in the ex-Roman Catholic Thomas Berry, The Great Work, which is working its way not simply through biblical texts but through the texts of the UN's global programs.

- Tomorrow's Culture Will Be Post-Christian:

-- because evolution proves that human beings, as they evolved, created language, then symbols, then religious explanations. The most recent human religious inventions are the monotheistic divine Creator of all things, and the dualism between the spiritual realm of a God who is believed to really exist, and the realm of created life. Classic Christian theology has called this the Creator/creature distinction. However, according to Geering, "The other-world of the dualistic picture…has been slowly dissolving from Western consciousness…," not least "through the most serious condemnation of traditional monotheism,…by feminist thought." Feminist thinkers have shown that "the transfer of the seat of sacred power from the earth to the heavens, and the demise of the earth mother occasioned by the victory of the heavenly father, upset the balance of values in the gender relationship… [which] in the pre-monotheistic cultures …were conceived to be in a state of complementary harmony."

Geering, following Spong, is thus categorical in his rejection of the God of the Bible: "The time for glorifying the Almighty (male) God who supposedly rules is now over." The end of Christianity is so evident "that some future generation may well be moved to discard the Christian calendar entirely, and rename the year 2000 AD as 1 GE, the first year of the global era. Soon the Lord's Supper will only signify human fellowship, and Christmas will be a holiday for the celebration of family.

- Tomorrow's Culture Will Be Global:

--because we live at a moment in time where "the process by which all scientific, cultural, religious and economic human activity is being integrated into one worldwide network." Thus Geering believes "the UN's time has finally come. It is only within the framework of that global organization that the common problems of mankind can be collectively addressed." Global consciousness is causing us "to discover and acknowledge both cultural diversity and cultural relativity," as well as to create "one unified species [through] a global consciousness/super-consciousness." This possibility leads the analytical intellectual, Geering, to deep expressions of optimistic spirituality, "…possibly the human species," opines Geering, "…could become so united in love and goodwill that there would be some kind of spiritual center…" Indeed, this possibility becomes a requirement. "If the global society emerges, it will require humanity to develop a new consciousness and a new form of spirituality." So, what kind of new spirituality will this be?

- Tomorrow's Culture Will Be Religiously Pagan:

-- because "the new story, which has become basic to the global world, begins with a new word or idea:…evolution. Geering takes this word "in its broadest sense of change and development from within." Following the logic of his thoughts, he states unambiguously: "Unlike the dualistic character of the Christian world, the new global world is monistic [italics mine]. That means that the universe is conceived as essentially one…" Of course, this is not new. It is classic spiritual paganism, and Geering, in spite of his all-pervading explanatory principle of evolutionary progress, has to admit with "surprise" that " the new story has… . "link[s] with the pre-[monotheistic]…nature religions in which the ancients thought of themselves as the children of the earth mother." In an odd turn of events, contemporary "spiritual" evolution goes backwards! Biblical theism disturbed our evolutionary progress. The clocks have to be put back. As C. S. Lewis said some fifty years ago, noting religious paganism's perennial character, [he called it 'pantheism'], and its appearance in Nazi ideology, even as he wrote: "…by a strange irony, each new relapse into this immemorial 'religion' is hailed as the last work in novelty and emancipation…so far from being the final refinement, pantheism is, in fact, the permanent natural bent of the human mind."

Not surprisingly, the same old symbol, Geering believes, will serve for the spanking new future planetary religion. In the religion of the coming global society "Mother Earth would be the a consciously chosen symbol referring to everything about the earth's eco-system." He notes that "The loving care of Mother Earth is in many quarters replacing the former sense of obedience to the Heavenly Father." …In the religion of the coming global society, the forces of nature, the process of evolution and the existence of life itself will be the objects of…veneration." Again, this is pure paganism, as the New Testament affirms -- "worship of the creation rather than the Creator." These expressions, without surprise, fit naturally "the Buddhist, Hindu and Chinese notions of non-theistic spirituality," so a coming together of all the pagan religions is on the cards.

Sounding like a paragon of tolerance, Geering states: "There will not be 'only one way'…groups must learn to be inclusive…" In other words, there will only be the "one, inclusive, pagan, way," and this "must" be the case. This is not tolerance, but a veiled and hence dangerous form of intolerance-but, for the survival of the planet, this is the way it must be!

We are in the presence of a powerful pagan/Gnostic theological agenda, claiming to be spanking new, objective and scientific, but as old as the hills. It is my belief that this trend in biblical studies is part of the setting in place of a pagan reconstruction of human culture for the planetary era.

I close this lecture with a warning that comes from a scholar whose work is independent of my own. Johannes van Oort, Professor of church history and the history of dogma at the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands, and world expert on Manichean Gnosticism, states a fact and gives a challenge:

"…Gnosis in one form or another is expected to become the main expression of secular religion in the new millennium. In order to equip the Church for this new age, the scientific study of Gnosticism is vital."

CWiPP Copyright 2006. Posted with permission.

Bio – Dr. Peter Jones

Peter Jones holds an MDiv from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a ThM from Harvard Divinity School, and a PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary.  He is Director of Christian Witness to a Pagan Planet and Adjunct Professor of New Testament, as well as Scholar in Residence at Westminster Seminary California.

Dr. Jones grew up in Liverpool, England and was a childhood friend of John Lennon. For seventeen years, he was Professor of New Testament  in Aix-en-Provence France at the Faculté de Théologie Réformée.  While there, he wrote La deuxième épître de Paul aux Corinthiens (Paris: Edifac, 1992), a commentary on 2 Corinthians.  While in France, he was actively involved in church-planting and served as the president of the board of a newly formed Christian school. In 1991, he returned to the United States, where he taught New Testament at Westminster Seminary until December, 2002. He is now Director of Christian Witness to a Pagan Planet (, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping Christians understand the rise of neo-pagan spirituality.
He has written The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back (1992) Spirit Wars (1997), Gospel Truth/Pagan Lies (1999), Capturing the Pagan Mind (2003), Cracking DaVinci’s Code (2004, co-author, James Garlow), Stolen Identity (2006) and The God of Sex (2006).
Peter Jones is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America, and is married to Rebecca (Clowney) Jones. They have seven children and ten grandchildren.  For recreation, Dr. Jones enjoys playing jazz piano and golf (3 handicap).  Rebecca is a writer and editor, serves on the board of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and does some speaking for women’s groups in the PCA and other churches.

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