Sometimes we overcomplicate what is apparently (apparent to us at least) a complex problem. I have written before about a topic I spent some of my Army career dealing with, “wicked” problems, those tricky sorts of messes that often seem to only get worse if strings are pulled and actions taken to address symptoms rather than causes. There remains, in my estimation, much value in design thinking as a means to address wicked problems. In fact, true design methodology is really not that much different than nature of the thing thinking. If we simplify complex problems to root causes it is possible to ignore symptoms.
When I began again to write and think in the public domain around 2018 everything centered on a thematic view of trying to describe the nature of the thing. I have at times stumbled into the weeds of symptoms, but the thoughts in my head were always focused upon the what, and less the why.
I am of course not the first, nor the last and certainly I am not the most proficient at whittling away at the noise to detect signal. Some have simplified it as evil or unrighteousness of man in a fallen world, and this is accurate. Others have overcomplicated it, seeking esoteric and mysterious connections across time. There is truth in such claims, but these are symptoms and not the disease, effects rather than drivers. I have sought to operationalize my understanding of the problem, to find a way of explaining it between the strategic view of the simple explanation above and the more complex tactical view that opposes it.
The problem is the very same thing it has been since Genesis chapter 3. If we consider that in the story of the Fall we find more than disobedience and unrighteousness but the establishment of a competing worldview – dare I say a religion. When the Serpent says to Eve, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”. To be like God, through knowledge, this is the central promise at the foundation of the religion established that day in the Garden. All of human history can be defined by the conflict between these two worldviews. “Take and eat” versus “take and believe”. In a real sense it is gnosticism, a belief system that man can acquire knowledge and through that acquisition become a god. This small “g” gnosticism took many forms, we can see it in established religions, it became capital G Gnosticism for a time in the West and once it was called out and shamed it went underground. It found a home in secret societies and its adherents continued their work in seminaries and universities.
I worked through this back in 2020 in a paper that fell short of the mark, pinning the problem on Kant and Hegel. At one point I thought perhaps we ought to lay some blame at Locke also for his absurd state of nature claims. But Kant, Hegel and Locke present problems for the same reason that Rousseau and Foucault do. In essence they are of the same religion as Joseph Smith, Muhammed, Buddha, and Madame Blavatsky, they all are gnostics, each with their own view of the source of special knowledge and path to godhood. Stated more plainly, each share in common a view of knowledge deriving from a falsehood and has elevated that view to a near-religious or openly organized religious state.
But it is not nearly as simple as an easy divide with teams and jerseys. This is not a problem of Christian and not Christian. Within Christianity, since Gnosticism was declared a heresy, gnosticism itself has persisted. Mysticism ruled the Catholic church in the middle ages, and the Reformation and protesting enabled the virus to take hold in various sects at various times. Every cult to derive from protestant Christianity from Mormonism to Jehovah’s Witnesses has been of gnostic origin. The Catholic church to this day remains rooted in the gnostic notion that there are those with special knowledge and those without.
And yet, it is not as simple as merely pointing to an obvious error and thinking we have discovered the divide. Go to an evangelical Bible study and listen as the group attempts to interpret scripture using words like “I think and I feel.” Listen to someone tell you that “God told them”. Sit in a megachurch small group and hear heart-knowledge spoken about as special and good. All of this is of gnostic influence, all of it purports to have knowledge from a source where knowledge likely does not exist. It is emotional, almost mystical, it comes from the heart and we are told in Jeremiah that no man can know his own heart, it lies to us.
The root of this wicked problem relates to the first principles we operate from, the choice in the Garden in Genesis 3. Do we believe in an ordered universe with rules or do we believe ultimate knowledge is obtainable by us and empowering? Many that say they believe the first, very often act upon the second.
This gnosticism surrounds us polluting philosophy and giving rise to the ideologies that imprison us in perpetual war and conflict. It pollutes organized Christianity, allowing sophists to use word magic and isogesis to twist Scripture, refusing to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture but instead adding their own meaning to it. It has given rise to our broken and depressed culture, where people gleefully mutilate their bodies in search of a mystical meaning to their existence.
I have to give credit where it is due. When I took a stab at The Rise of Absurdity in Western Philosophical and Political Views, I had not yet read Stephen Hicks. After reading Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault by Hicks I found that my feeble attempt was not wrong, but I was left with a sense this did not explain the problem. These were explanations of the disease in a later stage.
James Lindsey however, has provided the diagnosis of the disease from inception better than anyone I have heard. I have thrown around the term gnosticism to describe the methodology of Druckerite megachurches and I am aware of the gnostic nature of secret societies but Lindsey has wrapped it up in a package that fully describes the virus. He places the absurdity of enlightenment philosophers in a thematic explanation of all the various iterations of this problem we can observe across history.
It is fascinating that Lindsey is an atheist. As an atheist, he is obviously incapable of discerning the difference between a right interpretation of Christian scriptures and a wrong one, and yet, he has summarized the big story of the Scripture and man’s rebellion across redemptive history as well as any theologian ever has. A theologian can accurately describe it as unrighteousness, but few have operationalized the description across history to show how it practically works. I disagree with his prescription, but he likely will also as he thinks it through, but it is his diagnosis that we ought to pay attention to.
Watch and ponder the claims, ignore the messenger for a moment. I wrote recently about how throughout history good things and ideas have often come from unregenerate men. This is all part of a high mystery, it is a function of common grace. Lindsey may or may not be wrong about everything else he ever says, he may be as unlikeable in person as he appears on social media but I find it hard to argue with the main theme he discusses in the video below. He has captured something that is true and profound, in this case at least, I cannot speak for anything else he has or will say.
Lastly, we have to remember the important work of Chris Rosebrough in the video below. All of the major denominations are afflicted with the virus of gnostic ideas and influence, the fruits of that are evident in the SBC, LCMS, PCA and others that we once hoped would hold strong. It cannot be understated however the impact that Peter Drucker and Bob Buford had on evangelical Christianity. Millions attend megachurches designed according to their model, the influence of the movement is felt in other denominations. The plan did much of what Drucker intended. Chris identified the virus too, his work essentially agrees with Lindsey's. The video below presents how gnostic ideas intentionally attacked Christianity in order to build something new.