The Thistle

Review of Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation – J. Oliver Buswell Jr. Library Select Items

Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary president emeritus J. Nelson Kraybill writes an incisive review in The Christian Century (June 27, 2012) of Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation, by Elaine Pagels (Viking Press, 2011). He says in part:

“This readable and tendentious book repeats a formula that has become a winner in an era of spiritual self-empowerment: highlight parts of the canonical New Testament or early church orthodoxy that are most likely to ruffle modern progressive feathers and contrast those with selections from Gnostic writings that are most likely to resonate with contemporary preferences. In this context early church leaders and canonical scriptures come across as patriarchal, authoritarian and vindictive in contrast to the alleged inclusivity, generosity and feminism of Gnosticism.”

Later Kraybill quotes from the 1979 best seller by Pagels titled The Gnostic Gospels, in which she says: “Had Christianity remained multiform, it might well have disappeared from history,” and that “we owe the survival of Christian tradition to the organizational and theological structure that the emerging church developed.” Kraybill says that

“Orthodox Christians of the first centuries focused on finding consensus, fostering community and strengthening the church; Gnostics were on an individualistic trajectory that atomized the Christian movement and made it into a precursor of psychotherapy. In our increasingly fragmented modern church, we need intellectually rigorous orthodoxy a whole lot more than we need romanticized rehabilitation of the failed theologies of ancient Gnostics.”

Read the full review [students & staff only]

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