Beyond Gnosticism To God

The other week I read a quaint little communique that the publishers of a projected multi-volume religious encyclopedia had sent out to authors and editors. “It appears to us impossible,” said the circular, “to accomplish the articles on God in the short time we have before us.” Anyone who detected eschatological overtones or pious humility in that utterance would have been brought rudely to earth when the statement continued: “Therefore, Volume III will probably end with the article Gnosticism.”

I got to mulling that over. It could suggest that too many people get bogged down in Gnosticism and never get to God at all. Following the customary trend, these encyclopedic people have got their priorities wrong: A fair number of heresies get discussed first simply because we are the slaves of an arbitrary alphabetical system. Thus in a project of this sort we get more than we want to know about such things as Arians, Bogomils, Chiliasts, Docetists, Eutychianists, and Flagellants. (Eutychus, incidentally, is included, but being a good guy he gets very short shrift.)

This reluctance to get to God might be considered characteristic of an age for which nothing is heretical. What, it might be asked, would the WCC’s Faith and Order Department consider to be heresy today? When did one of the WCC’s American member churches last decide something on solidly biblical and theological grounds?

Some time ago I cut out from a religious journal some remarks attributed to Dr. Eugene Carson Blake at a COCU discussion in Chicago. “I am trying to keep theology out of this,” he reportedly said. “I am not going to take time to use Scriptures to base this, because time is running out.… We are not interested in what the Nicean Fathers ...

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