Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Gnostic America by Peter Burfeind – Book Review

The sub-title of this book is: A Reading of Contemporary American Culture & Religion according to Christianity’s Oldest Heresy.  Peter Burfeind has accomplished that by identifying Gnostic traits and following the movement of this heresy as it was vigorously opposed and suppressed in the early church, through to emergence during the Reformation and Enlightenment, then coming to full bloom in modern manifestations both politically (fascism, communism, and nazism) and religiously (Liberalism and Neo-Evangelicalism).

The interplay between political and religious elements was fascinating.  Early on, the close ties of Church and State suppressed gnostic ideas from becoming a force.  As this barrier began to crumble across Europe and into the U.S., gnostic thought flourished and became more ingrained in the psyche of whichever society had as its head a leader adhering to the principles. Gnostic traits would then seep into the Church causing multiple splits, as more and more splinter groups sought (and seek) to work toward the utopian “other” not bound by the strictures of any specific doctrine or practice.

Especially disheartening is the role of Anabaptists in fomenting gnosticism.  Most of my Christian years have been spent in this part of Christendom, and it causes me to question some of the truths I learned, while reinforcing what had already been changing in my mind.  In addition, the author shows how music has been used to subvert the Church from within, leading to the current state of Contemporary Christian Music and its use in worship.  Western Christianity needs a “gut check,” and this book can do it.

A great deal of research and analysis went into this work, and it is written at an academic level.  I was glad for my previous reading of Irenaeus which gave me background to follow, as the author traced the movement and pointed back to the early heresy.  The reader needs to keep the gnostic traits and the spirit entities in relationship while going through this, but the reward will be a solid understanding of how Western Civilization got to this deplorable state.

There are some proofreading errors in the text, but nothing prevents comprehension.  All in all, this is definitely worth reading.

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