Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tares in Protestantism: Rosicrucianism and Evangelicalism

I once thought that Rosicrucianism was confined to those fringy ads in magazines advertising hidden power and knowledge, but after studying it extensively, I’m seeing that it’s like tares sown among the wheat of Protestantism. More and more amazing connections are emerging between the ideas of Rosicrucianism and hermeticism and the intellectual life of contemporary evangelicalism.

One example is Charles Williams, one of the Inklings and the dear friend of C. S. Lewis, whom Lewis called the most holy man he ever knew. Williams was a member for a while of the hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in England, which was just a variation of Rosicrucianism. The notorious Satanist Aleister Crowley led it for a long time. Rosicrucianism is basically alchemy that is expressed through literary symbolism, and it integrates all sorts of bizarre, occultic themes, such as the Cabala, the hermetic teachings, neo-Platonism, astrology, alchemy, mystery religions, Egyptian-Babylonian religions—you name it.

Unfortunately, most Christian apologists, in order to maintain the image of C. S. Lewis and the Inklings as wonderful Christian intellectuals, ignore or rationalize these weird aspects of their thinking and personalities. John Warwick Montgomery, for example, spends a lot of time defending Tarot cards as useful for Christians because Charles Williams thought Tarot cards were a symbolic avenue to the divine. We spent years immersed in studying and using the Tarot cards and other forms of divination when we were in the occult, and they have absolutely nothing to do with Jesus Christ, the Bible, or any biblical or godly truth. Charles Williams’ book The Greater Trumps, is like a trip into an occult hell, and reading it is to experience once again immersion into that weird world of the occult from which Jesus rescued us. Sadly, Regent College in Vancouver, B.C. is republishing Williams’ books. And—no surprise—Regent is a graduate school in the Anglican stream.

Speaking of Regent College evokes memories of our trip there over 15 years ago when we were exploring the possibility of attending. What we experienced was like a scene out of a novel. First we met with a professor and his wife who seemed like they were up to their eyeballs in Tolkien. We also met with the founder, John Huston, who treated us in a totally impersonal manner and who, after we explained our ministry of many years, dismissed it and told us that what we were really looking for was spiritual formation (his big focus). Then we met J. I. Packer, who staunchly defended psychology as a means of sanctification. So in a way it is not surprising that Regent College would be republishing Charles Williams’ novels. (By the way, we were so repelled by what we encountered at Regent that we decided not to attend.)

Years ago these odd kinds of syncretism and occultism remained more confined within the Anglican Church, with some overflow into the Roman Catholic Church, but now, through the Emergent Church movement, this syncretistic or imaginative Romantic evangelicalism has spread throughout the denominations to the extent that you would be hard put to find any denominations without it, except perhaps a fundamentalist Baptist church. However, interestingly enough, the original Bob Jones of Bob Jones University was very positive about C. S. Lewis.

The only writings about Lewis by well-known church leaders I’ve ever encountered that were critical of his work were by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Dr. Cornelius Van Til.

So, the beat goes on.


Gus G. said...

I am very pleased to inform you that you are wrong. For a trenchant denial of the Christian status of CS Lewis please see and the works of Dr. Gordon Clark. Dr. Clark and his popularizer Dr. Robbins held to the Christian philosophy of Scripturalism which is a consistent development of the Reformation principle of Sola Scriptura. Dr. Robbins seriously doubts that CS Lewis was even a Christian. When you get to the site just do a search for "CS Lewis" and the relevant Trinity Review will be brought up.

Dr. Gus Gianello

Katie Jo said...

I've read many of your writings, sir, and I have to say your perspective seems quite legalistic and pharisaical. You seem to discount any kind of experiential element to a relationship with God and Jesus Christ, minimize God's creativity of expressing himself and His truths, as well as being overly critical of others' so much so as to find fault with any statement that does not fit within your own rigid definitions of Christianity. Be careful so you do not fall into the trap of self-righteousness and lean on the supremacy of your own understanding.