Friday, June 3, 2011

Vaun Swanson's Gnostic Christ

I met with Vaun Swanson today and we talked for about a half an hour before it became very clear to me further conversation (at that time) would be fruitless so I excused myself and left.  It was a wide-ranging conversation in some respects but there are only two areas of concern that need to be mentioned at this juncture.

The first area of concern is Denver Seminary's involvement in promoting Pomegranate Place. Vaun made it very clear that Pomegranate Place is not a ministry, it is a women's community center. She couldn't tell me why Denver Seminary President Mark Young would refer to it as a ministry (as he did repeatedly in his public response to Sarah Flashing's coverage of the situation).  Nor did she indicate she had ever tried to correct that erroneous impression.  Related to this, Vaun told me that she was approached by Denver Seminary to do the interview for the video which was up on their website until recently.  Let me say that again, it was on Denver Seminary's initiative that the work of Pomegranate Place was promoted on their website.

In addition, two things to note:  1) Six weeks after Denver Seminary was first notified about questions regarding the "ministry" of Pomegranate Place, the video is still available on their YouTube channel, even if it has been taken off their website; 2) According to Vaun, she still has not met with any official regarding Denver Seminary's questions about Pomegranate Place. The appointment that was set up according to Young's public response was cancelled.  Swanson indicated that it had not yet been rescheduled. Apparently, when Jim Howard (VP for Advancement) told me during our meeting that they wanted to protect Vaun in this, that meant they weren't going to meet with her in any sort of timely fashion.

The second area of concern is the supposed Judo-Christian philosophy underpinning the work of Pomegranate Place.  Sometimes I really, really do not want to be right. When I was first made aware of the situation myself and then the more I researched the Affiliate Guides and Events listed on Pomegranate Place's website, the more a sulfurous smell of esoteric/gnostic teachings rose up.  Like others, I tried to convince myself it was some sort of misguided attempt at what is called, "pre-evangelism".  Unfortunately, it is not.  Vaun may tell others that she is reaching out to women who would never darken the door of a church and is solely motivated by Christ's love, her words belie that claim.

In her recent sermon at Bloom Church, she twice referred to, "this female body" she had.  How could God give her all these gifts and desires if she wasn't allowed to "do them because I am in this female body?"  Then, today, when we were talking about men and women and I had asked her to describe God to me, and Christ, when I disputed her description of God as (only) spirit, she responded, "Christ had a male body when he walked on the earth."  Christ does not now have a male body, according to Swanson. To be in the presence of someone who had so clearly embraced a gnostic anthropology and christology was truly chilling.  It was at this point that I excused myself and left.  Because that, dear readers, is gnosticism to the core and has no fellowship with orthodox Christianity whatsoever.  It chilled me to the bone.

Finally, I am going to respond to this notion, occurring in Mark Young's public response and echoed in several comments, that anyone covering this matter has acted in a hit-and-run fashion or been on an expose' driven rush to judgment.  For myself, I can say that I spent a considerable amount of time researching the affiliate guides at the women's center as well as studying the therapies, practices and philosophies on offer by these guides.  In fact, my initial reaction was that it was some sort of spoof or hack.  Sadly, that is not the case.  And, although I don't yet know her well, I have been thoroughly impressed with Sarah Flashing's desire to act honorably in this and I can tell from her article that she put a great deal of thought and research into her response.


Fr. Bill said...

I'm not at all surprised that Ms. Swanson would think Jesus no longer has a male body, for this is an almost ~necessary~ consequence of egalitarian anthropology: a gnostic Christology, particularly Gnostic in the shape that Swanson's is. As Brother Hutchens observed long ago (paraphrasing from memory): "Because of the nature of the incarnation, errors in anthropology lead straightway to errors in theology proper."

Thus far, I've not run across one of the "professionals" among egals (seminary profs, the high priests of evangelical religion) expressing this Gnostic error with the refreshing candor and clarity that Swanson does. I suppose one's repudiation of orthodoxy has to move sufficiently east of Eden before one denies this or that feature of Eden itself. For example, Rob Bell's repudiation of Jesus' teaching on Hell.

But, just wait (and, I predict, now, that if my lifetime is at least as long as statistics would forecast, I'll see this in my lifetime), one or more evangelical muckety-mucks in some august chair of evangelical learning will insist that divine justice leads us to conclude that Jesus laid aside his maleness once his "work on earth" was completed. Of course, at that point they will no longer worship the Jesus of the Bible, but a grotesque idol wrought by their own twisted hearts.

Anonymous said...

This gnostic Christ used to adorn the entry to Iliff School of Theology's library. It may still, I don't know. See, there are no theological ramifications of gender. It could just as well have been "Christa" as "Christ". Gal. 3:28, you know:


Anonymous said...

You should put a jacket on...

Anonymous said...

She is a kind, gentle person