I could recommend reading the book for Parts I and II, but Part III was full of conclusory leaps from the authors socio-political soapbox. Lee made wild attempts to blame many of the socio-political failings (failings in his mind) of the 20th century Protestant church on its gnostic shift, including: - Irresponsible support of Americas involvement in the Vietnam War. - Irresponsible support of strong defense spending and nuclear armament, to counter the Soviet Union (Evil Empire) and the spread of communism. I believe Lee was aching to turn his book into a political treatise aimed at Protestant readers who, in his mind, have failed the world by not properly practicing their faith in the social, political, and economic arenas. As with most political arguments in every context, Lee sees these issues as having only two sides for Protestants the gnostic side and what he proclaims to be the correct side, the way real Protestants should believe.
Though he lays out a clear biblical foundation for his attack on the gnostic elements in Protestantism, he'll just give a nod to Jesus' poverty in support of socialistic programs. Without realizing it, in arguing in this, he was representing the elitist pro-communistic zeitgeist of academia during the time when the book was written (in 1987).
Despite all of this, the book is a must read for anyone in ministry or teaching in a seminary or who just wants to how the American church got into its current predicament. Then he gives a good bit of space to the rise of gnosticism in North America. Throughout he does a good job of showing how both conservatives and liberals in the church have adopted a gnostic mindset.
For example, Lee stresses, especially toward the end of the book, that the Lord's Supper has been transformed from a weekly meal, made of a single loaf of bread and a communal cup of wine, into a token sampler of unrecognizable bread and a teetotaler's shot of juice. The result of our gnosticized communion meal is that the power and meaning of it have been spiritualized away. Today he'd be considered a conservative, which says more about our culture today than about Lee. Much of the book is too long on words and arguments that are not particularly compelling or persuasive.
This is one of those frustrating books where you find yourself agreeing with many of the observations and criticisms of the author, but disagreeing in detail with the proposed solutions to the problems be being addressed. Individualism and elitism are the main complaints discussed, but those do not always arise from a formal (or even informal) Gnostic world view. The author is a Presbyterian minister and his solutions are those of the Mainline Denominations, see Mainline Protestant Denominations, such as return to formal sacraments, ritual, religious year, infant baptism, and preaching confidence in Christ. He accepts, without discussion, women ministers, a qualified endorsement of infant baptism and liberation theology, opposition to abortion, formal church support for nuclear disarmament and saving the planet ecologically, acceptance of homosexual Christians (with no further analysis of their status), and strong defense of the family, but opposition to childless marriages.
Lee then explains various ways that gnosticism has seeped into Christian belief during different times in history from the New Testament church, Catholics, Reformation, Puritans, and finally the North American Liberals. The final section, Gnosticism within North American Protestantism: Results and Reform, is gold.
In spite of these flaws, the basic premise of the book and its abundant evidence and analysis is enough to help any Protestant reader become more aware of his own Church's Gnostic tendencies and to prepare him to resist them.
Every believer should read this book and help return the church to its original calling and emphasize.
He likes Liberation Theology and Karl Marx, and thinks capitalism is evil. It's a great book for a liberal to have written.
It's easy to see the Gnosticism in the culture--it blares at you from every billboard and Tv commercial--but we Christians are so steeped in born again theology and dispensationalist eschatology that we think its normal.