Gnosticism, Sacraments, and Environmental Decline

May 13, 2009

Over at Front Porch Republic, Jason Peters has a great further post on the implications of our cultural gnosticism for the future. You’ll have to read the whole thing, but in brief, his argument is that the loss of sacramental imagination entails a disregard for the created world and our created selves. And that this loss has huge consequences, not the least of which is the destruction of the natural world.

He ends the peice with this very interesting question:

But the question I wish to raise here, and I consider it an open one, is this: assuming the abiding validity and efficacy of the institutional sacraments, what ‘spiritual’ consequences redound on us for consenting to an increasingly gnostic existence, wherein the life of the mind (or spirit) is given undue value, wherein our longing to live in the realm of pure mind or pure spirit is sanctioned by our education, economy, and technological determinism, and wherein the destruction of nature—the very means of grace—is the consequence of almost all that we do?

Its strikes me that so long as we are blinded to the work of providence in the world, the coming decline in our quality of life will either seem unfairly random or as the natural consequence of our  excessive lifestyle. Both of these are natural reactions, and ones that fit in well with the gnostic story.  However, gnosticisms will not be able to supply a positive project for ourselves moving out from those losses. Perhaps we will swear to be less hubristic in the future, or become even more anti-world, but to see grace, hope, and love in that loss will be very difficult. The religious will see the eschaton, and the scientific will see a balancing of the scales. Both will see a disaster, but only the sacramental imagination can see a plan.  And in the absence of that vision, finding a way forward will be a very hard, bitter experience.


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