Pagans in the Pews by Peter Jones

In this carefully researched and documented book (there are hundreds of footnotes), Jones builds a case for a new spirituality invading not only society but the church as well. This new spirituality is really not new at all, however; it is the revival of ancient Gnosticism. Gnosticism, which had its roots in the mystery religions (p. 64), was the first major heresy faced by the early church beyond the New Testament era. It has gained new life today because of the collapse of secular humanism and the emptiness of postmodern deconstruction (pp. 42-43). Something must fill this void and that something appears to be a casserole of Gnosticism, Eastern mysticism and stripped-down Christianity. The result is a new spirituality which bares no resemblance to biblical Christianity. As a matter of fact, Jones points out that in order to change civilizations built on the Bible, you must change the Bible (p. 72). And this is being done in numerous ways even within evangelicalism.

Pagans in the Pews is not an easy read and much of its material is beyond the experience of most who will read it. His quotes and examples are from scholars unknown to most, fringe New Agers, ultra-liberal “Christians” and self-avowed evangelicals who fit no definition of evangelicalism (e.g. Virginia Mollenkott —lesbian feminist). One has to wonder if these influences have really penetrated the evangelical church or even society, to the extent indicated. While this is an excellent book and should be mandatory reading for all Christian leaders, there is a missing link. It would have been most helpful, and would probably require another whole book, to show how this new spirituality is being embraced in less radical form and eased in the side door of the church. There is absolutely no mention here of “moderate” Christian mystics such as Richard Foster and Brennan Manning. Nothing is said about the adoption by evangelicals of Eastern mystical practices such as contemplative meditation and the Labyrinth; nor is the role of Roman Catholic mysticism, which has become so popular of late, explored. Connecting these dots would have been of great value. So Mr. Jones, how about another book? In the meanwhile, I would recommend Ray Yungen’s A Time of Departing.

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