NYTimes – Gnosticism is New?


By: Warner Todd Huston

The New York Times seems to be quite confused by all this DaVinci Code stuff. All this focus on religion must be too much for them. The latest is a May 21st article by Laurie Goodstein titled “It’s Not Just a Movie, It’s a Revelation (About the Audience)” that claims, among other misleading things, that Gnosticism is said to be somehow new on the Christian religious scene.

Goodstein seems to imagine we live in “an era in which many Christian believers have assimilated a whole lot of new and unorthodox ideas, as well as half-truths and conspiracy thinking, into their faith, while still seeing it as Christianity.” She has decided to call it “Da Vinci Christianity.”

But, like too many in the media, Goodstein thinks she has discovered something “new” when she is merely seeing something that has been around for time immemorial.

Quoting several Christians about their unorthodox beliefs, Goodstein accepts the claim of one of her subjects that today we have a “pick and choose theology.” She goes on to say that it is an idea that is a “trend that Christian conservatives find scary and maddening.”

Goodstein makes several misleading comments about unorthodox Christianity. For instance, she seems to imagine that Gnostic ideas have just resurfaced, when they have been around for centuries. She also says that “modern Christians” have newly realized doubts “about the origins of the Bible and the authenticity of the Jesus story”. But, even the Founding Fathers had such questions. George Washington refused to take the sacrament in his church and Thomas Jefferson went so far as to carefully remove parts of the Bible that he deemed illegitimate, creating his own version of Jesus’ words. Last time I checked, the Founders were around well over 200 years ago.

Ignoring the age old saw that says “there is nothing new under the sun”, Goodstein goes on with one interview after another presenting people regaling us about their “new” and interesting version of Christian beliefs as if it is all so sudden.

However, this sense of “newness” begs the question of why exactly it is that we have umpteen different Christian denominations and have had for hundreds of years if Christianity has been so monolithic until The DaVinci Code was published? I’d imagine that we wouldn’t have so many different sects if there had never been an unorthodox belief that popped up here and there.

Has there really been a loss of the diversity the early Christians had until just recently? Has Gnosticism been re-discovered, having been lost for thousands of years? Has the Christian community been untouched by faction and divergence until Dan Brown first put pen to paper?

Hardly.

The Gnostic’s ideas have been around since they came about. Dozens and dozens of different unorthodox and new ideas have been introduced into Christianity causing innumerable splits and offshoots and people have “picked and chosen” the tenets they wish to believe in since Christianity first came about.

I don’t know about you, but this lack of knowledge about the history of Christianity doesn’t surprise me a bit. It also doesn’t surprise me that the New York Times seems utterly unaware of that history, unfortunately.

I wonder if hula-hoops come back, will the New York Times marvel at how “new” those are?

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