Book Reviews

Spirit Wars: Pagan Revival in Christian America, by Peter Jones. Mukilteo, WA/Escondido, CA: Wine Press Publishing/Main Entry Editions, 1997. 331 pages. $18.95 (paper). [Reviewed by the editor.]

Spirit Wars is the second book by the author on the resurgence of pagan religion in America as the revival of the Gnostic heresy, damned by the early church. The first was The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back: An Old Heresy for the New Age (P&R, 1992). The Standard Bearer reviewed The Gnostic Empire in the February 1, 1994 issue.

In Spirit Wars, Peter Jones demonstrates that the spirituality and worship of the heathen religions are rampant in the United States. This spirituality is pantheistic: all is god. It is mystical: a religion of feeling (this is the "knowledge" of gnosticism). It deifies man: all is god, but every human is especially god.

Weird as the beliefs and practices of this paganism are to the average American, to say nothing of a Christian, it is effecting tremendous change in the whole of the Western way of life. Jones remarks that "few in the church and the popular culture realize the enormity of the revolution going on around us" (p. 251).

Heathen worship of the gods is openly practiced in, and promoted by, the (nominally) Christian churches. Jones examines the notorious, revealing meeting of women from the liberal Protestant churches in 1993 that was called the "RE-Imagining Conference" (see pp. 142ff.). This is where "Gnosticism" comes in. The ancient heresy attempted to unite Christianity with pagan religion.

Driving the revived paganism in the United States are feminism and perverted sex. In a chilling quotation, Jones cites the feminist Naomi Goldberg:

The feminist movement in Western culture is engaged in the slow execution of Christ and Jahweh. Yet very few of the women and men now working for sexual equality within Christianity and Judaism realize the extent of their heresy (p. 195).

The advocates of heathen worship are wicked. Many are apostates from Christianity; some, like Virginia Mollenkott, are apostates from evangelical Christianity. God has given them over to a reprobate mind. They are also fools. One, a self-proclaimed "ecofeminist lesbian witch" (probably explained by the fact that she got a theological degree from Harvard Divinity School), announces to the world that she experiences "deep spiritual communion (with) her cat."

There is nothing funny about the movement. Peter Jones, a solid Presbyterian theologian, professor at Westminster Seminary in southern California, warns the saints that "we are witnessing the first signs of an assault against the truth of Christ the likes of which the church has never seen before" (p. 257). With the other signs of the return of Christ, including the formation of a "new world order" (which the neo-pagans enthusiastically promote), this sign—apostasy accompanied by lawlessness—points to the nearness of the Day of Christ. Immediately prior to the revelation of Christ must come the revelation of Antichrist (II Thess. 2), the kingdom of the beast.

That Jones does not spell out this significance of the movement is a weakness. Perhaps we are to expect this in the book that is to follow.

A practical warning to Reformed Christians with reading children, as well as to our Christian schools, is that Madeleine L'Engle is one of the revivalists of the "pagan revival in Christian America." L'Engle is a popular writer of books for children. According to Jones, "Madeleine L'Engle judges that the new worldview needs a new god 'who's big enough for the atomic age' since the God of Christ's time 'has deteriorated'" (p. 141). He quotes her uttering this blasphemy: "the paternalistic male chauvinist pig Old Testament God" (p. 183).

Princeton Seminary: Faith and Learning, 1812-1868 and Princeton Seminary: The Majestic Testimony, 1869-1929, by David B. Calhoun. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1994, 1996. Pp. xxvi-495 and Pp. xxi-560. Vol. 1 $35.99, Vol. 2 $29.99 (cloth). [Reviewed by Prof. Robert Decker.]

Here is a detailed history of what was for over a century a bastion of Reformed/Presbyterian orthodoxy. The first volume contains excellent chapters on Archibald Alexander, Samuel Miller, and Charles Hodge. Likewise volume two contains excellent chapters on Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield and J. Gresham Machen. Calhoun also treats in detail the "mighty battle," as he calls it, between the conservatives and the modernists in the Presbyterian Church, a battle which commenced around the turn of the century. This mighty battle finally resulted in the establishing of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia by Machen and several of his colleagues in 1929. Interestingly enough, though they were staunch supporters of Machen, Geerhardus Vos, Caspar Wistar Hodge, and William Park Armstrong chose not to join Machen at Westminster. Said Machen in the main address given at the formal opening of Westminster on September 25, 1929, "Westminster Seminary would endeavor to hold the same principles that old Princeton maintained.... We believe, first, that the Christian religion, as it is set forth in the Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church, is true; we believe, second, that the Christian religion welcomes and is capable of scholarly defense; and we believe, third, that the Christian religion should be proclaimed without fear or favor, and in clear opposition to whatever opposes it, whether within or without the church, as the only way of salvation for lost mankind" (v. 2, p 396). 

These two volumes, in the opinion of this reviewer, make clear three main points concerning Princeton Seminary. One is that really up until the 1920s the Seminary held fast to Reformed orthodoxy, especially over against the higher critics in Hermeneutics. At the turn of the century through the outstanding work of men like John D. Davis, Robert Dick Wilson, and Geerhardus Vos, Princeton was still resisting higher criticism, when virtually all of the other prestigious seminaries in America (Yale Divinity, Union Seminary, e.g.) had yielded to the critics. Great emphasis was placed on careful and faithful exegesis of Sacred Scripture using the original Hebrew and Greek languages. Princeton theology was derived from Scripture.

Second, the Princeton faculty was graced by several outstanding theologians. Some of these "big names" are of course A. A. Alexander, Samuel Miller, Charles Hodge, A. A. Hodge, B. B. Warfield, and J. Gresham Machen. These were men strongly committed to the Reformed faith. Warfield told his students that, "A 'Christianity' which can dispense with the immediately supernatural, to which the pre-existence and the proper deity of Christ are unknown, which discards the expiatory work of Christ, and which looks for no resurrection of the body, may readily enough do without the fact of the resurrection of Christ. But when it comes to that, may we not also do very well without such a 'Christianity'? What has it to offer to the sin-stricken human soul?" (vol. 2, p, 249). 

Third, however, there was some very "strange fire on Princeton's altars." A. A. Hodge claimed that, "The difference between the best of either class (Arminianism and Calvinism, RDD) is one of emphasis rather than of essential principle. Each is the complement of the other. Each is necessary to restrain, correct, and supply the one-sided strain of the other. They together give origin to the blended strain from which issues the perfect music which utters the perfect truth" (vol. 2, p. 73). If Hodge were right, the Westminster Standards and the Canons of Dordrecht are hopelessly one-sided! D. L. Moody and Ira Sankey were cordially received by the seminary as well (cf. pp. 24-26, vol. 2). In addition to these Arminian influences, several of the faculty, notably Warfield and Machen, were weak at best in their evaluation of evolutionism (cf. pp. 256-257 and 360 of vol. 2).

All in all this is a fine account of Princeton seminary. It's written in a pleasant, readable style as well. Those who wish to learn from the past would do well to read these two volumes on Princeton.