Christ-Centered Preaching For the New Gnosticism: Homiletic Strategy in a Strange New World

In his essential book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self,  Dr. Carl Trueman argues that expressive individualism is the principal philosophy of our current cultural moment. People become their authentic selves as they express who they are “inside.” Anything hindering that expression, including one’s body, is harmful and must be rejected. Those outside the individual cannot inform ideas of personhood, identity, or authenticity. These are inwardly self-determined concepts. 
In truth, Trueman is describing a regurgitated form of heresy that plagued the early church called Gnosticism. Gnostics believed in a definitive demarcation between physical and spiritual reality: The physical world was evil, and the spiritual world was good. Gnostics came to be aware of their need for redemption through an inner, secret knowledge (gnosis). However, the focus of that redemption was not on God but ultimately upon self-understanding and the consequent liberation it provided.
The apostle Paul addressed Gnostic ideology in 1 Corinthians, Colossians, and the Pastoral Epistles with a robust Christology powerfully preached. That is, Paul’s answer to Gnosticism was Christ-centered preaching. The same answer is required today when facing the rise and triumph of the modern self. 
This paper argues that expressive individualism is the prevailing life philosophy of our current cultural moment and that its necessary opponent must be Christ-centered preaching. The major headings of the work will include first a description of the cultural moment through a thorough interaction with Carl Trueman’s work and other supplementary sources. Next, the paper will briefly but carefully examine the letters of the apostle Paul to establish his framework for addressing Gnosticism in the early church. Finally, the discussion will shift to application, arguing for Christ-centered preaching as the necessary homiletic response to the risen and triumphant modern self. 
Evangelical pulpits must answer the new Gnosticism of this cultural moment, but not with culture war fright, political persuasion, or legislative mandates. Instead, doctrinally stable, Christ-centered preaching should create embassies of the kingdom of God on earth, training residents to find their identity outside themselves in the person and work of Jesus. Christ-centered preaching lights the path onward. 

5 thoughts on “Christ-Centered Preaching For the New Gnosticism: Homiletic Strategy in a Strange New World”

  1. I also don’t buy the “this is gnosticism redivivus” analysis
    Preaching to individualists (with habits of the heart probably now more narcistic than those of Bellah’s day) is indeed a real challenge, but . . . I’m not convinced this proposal is really going to help. . . .


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