Culture: June 2015 Archives

Over at The Federalist (which is rapidly becoming my favorite site for news and opinion), Peter Burfeind has written an essay that explains the philosophical roots of the sexual revolution in this country, as part of a larger rebellion against nature and reality -- an ancient rebellion known as Gnosticism: "Gnostic Mysticism Grounds Modern Progressive Ideology." I want you to read the whole thing, but I need to quote a few points to pique your interest.

Marriage institutionalizes the reproductive system in the same way a restaurant or dinner table institutionalizes the digestive system. Again, cultural variances are granted, but the basic natural order of male sex organ depositing seed into female sex organ in order to propagate the species is simply what the reproductive organs and system are all about.

True, nature introduced attraction to the mix to draw male and female together, but, like tastes in food, the attraction fosters a greater biological purpose. Historically, societies have wrestled with the tension between the pure biological purpose and the element of attraction, in regards to both reproduction and digestion, but generally when the attraction becomes totally disconnected from the biological purpose, this has been seen as indulgence, gluttony, promiscuity, and immoderate behavior.

Such nature-based reasoning is downright offensive in a post-'60s world where sexuality has indeed been disconnected from its biological and natural purpose and rests in personal attraction alone. The spiritual pathology of this cultural revolution is exactly this revolution toward Gnostic paradigms of thinking, particularly its understanding of sexual love.....

Burfeind asks us to consider the absurdity of divorcing sexuality from biological reality with an illustration of the consequences of divorcing eating from biological reality:

Let's say I determined the biological "rules" of the digestive system were oppressive. Let's say I preferred to glory in the taste of food alone, but not its digestion, so that I vomited everything I ate. Let's say I got my nutrition intravenously, so that wasn't an issue.

Society currently calls this an "eating disorder," but isn't such thinking oppressively bound by the natural "rules" of the digestive system, the "rules" of our biology? ...

But what about biology? What about the digestive system and its clear biological purpose? Ahhh, this is where our Gnosticism comes in handy, because all nature-based or flesh-based "systems" are inherently unjust and oppressive, creating prison cells from which true redemption demands an escape. In a way, the vomiter is the truly liberated one, one of the few not oppressed by his biology....

Matching people against the standards set by biological realities has always been a trustworthy way of identifying disorders, and in the end it actually helped people. When that standard is removed as oppressive, people will be left to wallow in an understanding of humanity rooted not in nature but self-determination alone. Psychology categorized homosexuality a disorder until 1973 for a reason, because it was and remains a breach of the natural reproductive order.

Now that the Supreme Court has legalized gay marriage for all states, and the Rubicon of nature-rebellion has been completely crossed, what real authority remains to declare anything a disorder? As many conservative commentators have pointed out, what argument remains to say "body integrity identity disorder" is not simply the misnomer for transabled people who can only live out their "authentic" identity once they've cut off the limb they feel shouldn't exist?

Of course this is madness, but if madness is sacralized through a wave of pop-culture affirmation and nature is chased out with pitchfork, what real argument does society have to declare anything a disorder? We already allow a male who believes himself female to amputate his sex organ. Why not amputation of limbs?

Again, I urge you to read the whole thing, and you might find Burfeind's blog Gnostic America interesting.

Literary critic Harold Bloom's 1992 book, The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation, looked at popular religious movements in America through the lens of his own Gnostic faith, and found Gnosticism expressed in Mormonism, Word-Faith Pentecostalism, and the Southern Baptist Convention. Regarding the SBC, Bloom was specifically referring to the "soul competency" doctrine that became prevalent under the early 20th century leadership of E. Y. Mullins, and not the recapture of the SBC in the 1980s by adherents of Biblical inerrancy:

For Bloom, who argues that Americans are prone to a Gnosticism through self-worship. Mullins is the pioneer of the Southern Baptist tradition taken up by moderates in the inerrancy controversy, "the definer of their creedless faith." According to Bloom, Mullins' doctrine of soul competency so focuses all meaning and truth in the autonomous individual-"sanctioning endless interpretive possibilities"-that all religious authority is vaporized, even the authority of Scripture.

Mullins has been portrayed as a bold progressivist seeking to bring enlightenment to Southern Baptists, but thwarted by insularity and conservative opposition; and as a calculating denominational politician, who changed his colors in order to save his seminary and his personal leadership....

The central thrust of E. Y. Mullins' theological legacy is his focus on individual experience. Whatever his intention, this massive methodological shift in theology set the stage for doctrinal ambiguity and theological minimalism. The compromise Mullins sought to forge in the 1920s was significantly altered by later generations, with personal experience inevitably gaining ground at the expense of revealed truth.

Once the autonomous individual is made the central authority in matters of theology-a move made necessary by Mullins' emphasis on religious experience-the authority of Scripture becomes secondary at best, regardless of what may be claimed in honor of Scripture's preeminence. Either personal experience will be submitted to revelation, or revelation will be submitted to personal experience. There is no escape from this theological dilemma, and every theologian must choose between these two methodological options. The full consequences of a shift in theological method may take generations to appear, but by the 1960s most Southern Baptists were aware of a growing theological divide within the denomination, and especially its seminaries.

In 1990, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship was founded by dissenters from the conservative resurgence in the SBC. The CBF became a home for Baptist pastors, scholars, and leaders who embraced Mullins' emphasis on individual experience and elevated individual autonomy over doctrine. Although the CBF is miniscule compared to the SBC (roughly 1900 congregations to 46000; the CBF doesn't maintain membership counts), SBC pews are still full of congregants whose understanding of the Christian faith was shaped by the Mullins perspective, as expressed in the education materials produced by the SBC's Sunday School Board and in pastors educated in Baptist colleges and seminaries during the years of Mullinsite dominance.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Culture category from June 2015.

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