Do You Agree With This? Robert Webber On The New Gnosticism In Contemporary Worship

Like many of my fellow worship leaders, my mentors are quite diverse. From John Wimber, to Robert Webber, to N.T. Wright, to Jeremy Begbie, to many of today’s worship leaders, all have encouraged me to both celebrate, and examine, the finer details of worship leadership. It was Socrates who said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I believe, with many of my peers, that “unexamined worship is not worth leading.” Scary quotes, like the one below from Robert Webber, makes me want to pull out a magnifying glass and do some hard analysis.

In this quote below, Robert Webber, famed ancient-future worship influencer, makes a bold statement about contemporary worship. If it’s still true, we have some intentional work to do.

The New Gnosticism In Contemporary Worship

Webber aims, and he fires in the quote below. And what is in his sights? A truncated, half-hearted view of what all worship practices and experiences are meant to accomplish – to experientially immerse us in God’s narrative from creation to re-creation.

Here is the quote, and I’d love to hear your response:

“A study of contemporary worship songs demonstrates that the current view of worship is not situated in God’s supernatural story. Instead, worship is situated within the worshiper and is offered by the worshiper to God, who often remains unnamed in the song lyrics. . . . This divorce of worship and spirituality from God’s story of creation, incarnation, and re-creation has resulted in a new kind of Gnostic worship and spirituality.”

– Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008), 135.

As a help, here is an 8 minute video with N.T. Wright discussing Gnosticism, and how it has always been Christianity’s greatest challenge. He adds some reflections on the spirit of our age and how Gnosticism has impacted the church thinking of today through movies and media (his book, Surprised By Scripture explores the new Epicureanism shaping Christian thinking today):


Question: What do you think of Webber’s quote above? Is he still right, or have things changed? [Leave your comment below]

Resource: I explore a remedy to our approach to worship in Worship White Noise, challenging Christian colleges, radio, pastors, songwriters, worship leaders and others influencing how we are discipling Christians through worship.

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