In the video clip above, N.T. Wright makes the statement,
“Gnosticism isn’t about redemption, but about self-discovery.”
As soon as he said this, I thought about our culture’s current obsession with personality tests, especially the Enneagram, which has bizarrely infiltrated the church. If you aren’t familiar, it is a “pathway” of learning about oneself with very suspect (although it gets deemed “ancient” and “mysterious”) history, that a great portion of the church has begun using as a discipleship tool. These “self-discovery” resources, as Wright references, are everywhere: from best-selling books, to online coaching businesses directed at achieving your “best self,” to bad doctrine. Wright also mentioned the language of “inner spark,” which has become common in our society, both as a phrase and as an idea of the “divine” within. Many eastern-based and new age religions are rooted in this very concept.
The one point that I would love to sit down with Wright and discuss would be his reference to an “inner” spiritual reality as opposed to one of the external/real life. I agree with him that Christ came in the flesh, of course, and was bodily raised! But I would also add that there doesn’t have to be a false dichotomy between inner (being Gnostic) and outer (being orthodox) spiritual belief.
I think that all of our belief, and especially the reality of Christ in our lives personally, must primarily happen in that deep, inner place. Yes, thankfully, we have physical evidence of the resurrection. We also share in the sacraments of Eucharist (or, the communion table) and water baptism to experience a tangible reminder of our internal truth. But the real dichotomy lies not between an inner vs. outer kingdom, but between ourselves as reigning from the “throne” of our hearts vs. Christ reigning in his rightful place. One day we will see the ultimate fulfillment of this in every form (physical, spiritual, etc.) but in our time, during the in-between, Christ must rule from the inner place of our hearts before any external evidence or change can happen. We share love with God first, and then the love for our neighbor is expressed.
I’d love your thoughts on this…do you think this is what Wright was describing? Or something else?
p.s. And just in case you haven’t seen a good Enneagram roast lately…
p.p.s. I’ve since come across this detailed history from the CRI on the Enneagram’s introduction to the West. Worth considering.