Blanketing God in Theology: Non-theism in neo-pelagianism and neo-gnosticism

The discernable tendency in the theology of twentieth and twenty-first centuries has been that theology blanketed God. Moreover, theology created a vacuum by carpeting God under the theologies which are intended to “resolve” various problems in the world. However, this shift in focus from God,aggravated problems rather than resolving them. This happened as the vacuum produced by God substituted by non-theism in different forms. Non-theism has been engenderedas neo-pelagianism, neo-gnosticism etc. This is the reason for the present impasse in theology which amounts to blanketing God. Interestingly, non-theism is a self-emerging reality which surfaces within the ideological vacuum of theology. Since non-theism is not denial of God, it remained unconfronted and unbridled until Pope Francis’s theological encyclical,Gaudete Et Exsultate.

The new encyclical of Pope Francisis on the Call to Holiness in Today’s World. In its second chapter, Francis alerts on two enemies or dangers to the holiness in today’s world namely, neo-gnosticism and neo-pelagianism. These two dangerous predispositions are not new ideologies but they have been trending in the Church for many centuries. Gnosticism could be traced back to the first century and pelagianism emerged in the fourth century. Gnosticism implies knowledge which comes through revelation. It maintains that matter is basically evil and spirit is good. God who is transcendent is different from the immanent creator. Consequently, first of all, there is an ontological dualism in the world view.  Secondly, a total separation from the world is necessary to obtain salvation.[1] Pelagianism elevates humanism and, therefore, anthropocentric world view. Pelagius thinks that one could attain salvation through ascetism, good works and chastisement. Furthermore, he holds that human beings do not need the interior assistance of God’s grace in life.[2]

It is discernable in these two tendencies thatnon-theism Is the foundation. Apparently, pelagianism and gnosticism are upholding theism but in practice they blanket God. Thus, the difference seems to be “subtle”[3] but effect appears to be destructive.  Non-theistic approach of neo-gnosticism emerges as intolerance to the human endeavours to and promotes a “globalization of indifference” in the postmodern world.[4]Neo-pelagianism propagates a spirituality that can change God through some kind of practices in favour of oneself. Ultimately, it affirms human will not the will of God in personal life. Therefore, neo-pelagianism generates non-theism in the modern Church. As Pope Francis reminds in his encyclical that God should be “the object and motive” of everything.[5]

Apparently, it is neo-theological elements that blankets God in theologizing process. It means that non-theism enters into theology through non-theological categories applied in theology. While applying non-theological categories, the theologians should differentiate those categories from the works. If they are not differentiated, those non-theological categories could generate and build up ambiguity. This is significant while doing the theology of religions. When theological categories like revelation, scripture, tradition etc. are substituted by non-theological categories, ambiguity and impasse would set into the theological reflections as non-theological categories limit the theological possibilities in doing theology. As Francis reminds us we should be alert against masked “anthropocentric immanentism.”[6]

 Dr.  Franz Stiftung

[1] Michael Allen Williams, Rethinking Gnosticism: An Argument for Dismantling a Dubious Category (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1996), p. 26.

[2] See John Ferguson, Pelagius: A Historical and Theological Study (Cambridge: W. Heffner and Sons, 1956).

[3]See Pope Francis, Gaudete Et Exsultate, Chapter Two http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione- ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsultate.html [Accessed on 16/04/2018].

[4]Pope Francis, “Lenten Message”  https://www.google.co.in/search?q=globalisation+of+indifference+pope+francis&rlz=1C1RLNS_enIN693IN693&oq =globasialsation+of+indifference&aqs=chrome.2.69i57j0l2.12250j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8 [Accessed on 16/04/2018]

[5] See Pope Francis, Gaudete Et Exsultate, para 60.

[6] See Pope Francis, Gaudete Et Exsultate, para 35 http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsultate.html [Accessed on 16/04/2018]

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