I was contacted a while back by the publicist for the book, “The Redeeming Power of Presence” and asked to review the author’s work. The author is Andrew Cary and I can find little information about him on the internet. All I know from the book jacket is that he lives somewhere in Pennsylvania, is a professor of counseling at an unnamed university and a faculty advisor to something called “Christian Fellowship.” Aside from this scant information, I cannot verify or elaborate any of the details of who he is, so I will get right to the review.
The content of the book is difficult to follow for two reasons. First, there is not a single footnote in the book. Cary’s lack of references makes it impossible to measure his words against other books which could help bring clarity. Second, Carey’s sentence structure often leaves the meaning ambiguous. For example, on page 8 he writes:
“Love cannot exist without God’s presence – and love cannot regularly exist in the reality of our lives on this earth without us being present to be one with his presence… Love depends on God’s presence, and us being present with His presence is foundational for regularly experiencing and expressing the reality of His love. Being present so as to experience God’s presence is the foundation for all good things.”
I’ll be honest, after reading a book full of sentences like this, I have no idea what it means to ‘be present with God’s presence in the present.”
The most surprising thing as I read this book, was the slow realization that Carey had penned a contemporary form of 2nd Century Gnostic heresy. Since he never footnotes his writing, I have no way of knowing if Carey is aware of his Gnostic theology, but, no matter his intent, the substance of the book is in no way connected with the Orthodox teaching of the Church or Scripture.
I don’t think I have ever dropped the “H” bomb on a book before… but this one sadly qualifies!
To illustrate Carey’s Gnosticism, I will utilize his book based on a summary of Gnosticism written by N.T. Wright in his book, “Judas and the Gospel of Jesus.” Wright notes there are four distinct characteristics shared by all early Gnostic systems.
1. The Physical World and Time are the Enemy
The most striking feature of Gnosticism, marking it out against the main line of Jewish and early Christian thought, is a deep and dark dualism. The present world of space, time and matter is an inexorably bad place, not only a place where wickedness flourishes unchecked but a place which, had it not been for an evil god going ahead and creating it, would not have existed at all. The world as we know it, in other words, is evil through and through. What is more, human beings, consisting as they do of physical matter, and living in this wicked space and time, are themselves essentially bad—unless, as we shall see, within this shell of evil matter there lurks something very different (Wright, pp. 31-32).
Throughout Carey’s book, the two clear enemies are time and our earthly bodies. He encourages his readers to guard against “the folly and darkness of the thinking and emotions of the sinful mind within our body of flesh (p. 86).” He constantly tells the reader that they must abandon thoughts of past and future because only when they live in the moment of the present, will they find true and accurate knowledge (p. 60). Carey’s book outlines his own “way of the cross” that has no connection with the historic death and resurrection of Jesus. Instead, Cary’s “cross” is the revelation knowledge that we must abandon all earthly attachments.
God knew that our only help was the way fo the cross being brought into our lives (that of suffering or losing earthly “riches” and ways). Through the cross that strips us of our fleshly, earthly self, and identity, our true spirit self and identity is freed (p. 34).
Carey teaches that mankind’s outer shell of existence is evil, and only as we discover the inner “Christ” within us can we discover salvation. Carey writes,
“As the old self dies, along with its focus on time (future and past), we become awakened to being in teh present moment with true Presence that makes al things new. We become awakened to the present moment such that we join, bow to, and become one spirit with Presence so that all else begins to bow.
As we regularly bow to true Presence through walking in the present moment with the Lord at hand, we worship Him in sprit and truth. We become joined with Him in one spirit, and we become one nature with Him. All that can be shaken will fall away, and all that reminas becomes and is indestructible. We posses our new name and our new true identity by partaking in the divine natue that excapes the corruption fo the world (pp. 69-70).”
Compare Carey’s thoughts above with Wrights summary of the traditional Gnostic message that”…the people who have discovered that they possess the true divine spark within themselves, and who, enlightened by this knowledge, can sit loose to the affairs of the present world and look forward to a happily disembodied life hereafter, even if it means rejection in the present by those who still stupidly worship the creator god (Wright 52-53).”
Let me be clear, Carey has presented a salvation message that is stripped of its historic meaning and replaced it with a Gnostic ideal of salvation by self-discovery. Once again, Wright offers a very clear summary that relates directly to Carey’s book.
“At the center of the whole picture we find the question: is “salvation” an act of undeserved divine love and grace, reaching out to those who had nothing to commend them, as Paul and John so dramatically put it? Or is it an act of revelation, and of discovery of what is already there, with the “revealer” revealing what is already true about a person, and the person in question discovering who he or she truly is? (Wright. p. 105)”
2. The God Worshipped by most Jews/Christians is a False God
This already points to the next main feature. The world as we know it was made by a bad, stupid and perhaps capricious god. There is another divine being, a pure, wise and true divinity who is quite different from this creator god. Sometimes this ultimate high god is called “Father,” which is confusing for Christians who associate that title with the god who made the world. For Gnosticism, the god who made the world, along with various other intermediate beings who may have had a hand in the project at some stage, is at the least misguided or foolish, and at worst downright malevolent (Wright, p. 32).
Carey teaches that the Jewish Covenant was false and unreal (p. 17). Glimpses of how Carey reinterprets biblical events are seen throughout his book. Take, for example, Carey’s reinvention of creation and the fall of Adam and Eve. In line with the Gnostic tradition, Carey strips events from their historical foundation and reinterprets them with a “spiritual” meaning.
The peaceful and life-filled fruits of the tree of life, in contrast, can only truly be received when we walk in a way of trust. Being accepting and regularly honoring of the present moment at hand, which includes accepting self with sin and all, demonstrates that rust. It is the way of the cross of acceptance and surrender of the present moment. The way of the cross is losing of all of our earthly agendas and simply being present in the moment and through this way of the cross we find that His initiative does move us with grace – in His time. The tree of life and all of its life-filled fruits are regularly available to us when we are simply present (64).
3. Offers a “Greater” & “”Truer” Path
The main aim of any right-thinking human being, therefore, will be to escape the wicked world, and the outward human existence, altogether. “Salvation” means exactly this: attaining deliverance from the material cosmos and all that it means. Only so can one make one’s way to the pure, higher spiritual existence where, freed from the trammels of space, time and matter, one will be able to enjoy a bliss unavailable to those who cling to the present physical world and who mistakenly worship its creator (Wright, pp. 32-34).
From the beginning of his book, Carey makes it clear that he is writing a new and “fresh” revelation of Jesus (p. 4). Carey believes he is presenting a new knowledge that defines the “narrow way” that will lead to a higher truth that removes the reader from the constraints of earthly existence. In the introduction to the book alone (pp 1-6), Carey promises that his special revelation knowledge will bring;
- ‘deeper healing’
- ‘greater restoration’
- ‘greater freedom’ from previous learning
- become ‘more present’
- give ‘more power’
- offer ‘more victory’
- offer ‘greater degree of choices’
- ‘reveal great secrets’
- bring ‘more wholeness’
- provide ‘much growth’
- bring ‘greater fullness’
- ‘fuller revelations’
- ‘more connectedness’
- ‘greater love’, etc…
All in all, Carey claims to offer a new “knowledge” that is higher and better than any other message in the Christian church of the past.
Carey’s deeper teaching is in line with the Gnostic belief that promotes special, “teachings that will enable the recipients to attain the gnostic-style salvation, that is, escape from the wicked world by acquiring knowledge about themselves as sparks of light, about the origin of the world, and about the true god whom Jesus is revealing and to whom they already, in truth, belong (35).”
Carey believes that the “Christ” light is within every person and knowledge of this light will bring salvation. Again, Wright puts this view into proper perspective.
“Gnostics were telling, the story of a higher god who trumps the wicked, world-creating god of Israel and enables some humans, led by a mysterious revealer-figure, to discover the true divine light within themselves and so to be liberated from the created order, and the created physical body, and all the concerns that go with the material world (Wright, p. 71).”
4. Deeper Knowledge Offers Salvation
The final feature is not so immediately obvious, but it plays a central role in gnostic thought, and indeed is the feature because of which the word “gnostic” and its derivatives are appropriate designations. The way to this “salvation” is precisely through knowledge, “gnosis.” Not just any old knowledge. Certainly not through knowing the sort of thing you might be taught in school, or for that matter in an ordinary church. Rather, this special gnosis is arrived at through attaining knowledge about the true god, about the true origin of the wicked world, and not least about one’s own true identity. And this “knowledge” can only come if someone “reveals” it. What is needed, in other words, is a “revealer” who will come from the realms beyond, from the pure upper spiritual world, to reveal to the chosen few that they have within themselves the spark of light, the divine identity hidden deep within their shabby, gross outward material form (Wright, p. 33).
In line with the above summary, Carey explains his own view of salvation based on gaining new knowledge about mankind’s “true” identity.
“Christ and the “hope” of His resurrection are not really about some future or past event. The hope of His resurrection is always about now… It is a sure hope that is always about now rather than some wistful event in some future time… Jesus’ point was for us to be constantly ready for His showing Himself in various ways… being very present focused so that we would be able to receive the fruits of His coming regularly in the present moment (p. 45)”
In Carey’s view, when a person embrace this ‘resurrection’ that exists only in the present moment (already inside of every person-beliver and non-beliver alike) then we have the knowledge needed to be freed from our false earthly identity.
“I still perceived Christ within as “additional” to my new self. It was as if we were still two separate entities. However, the spiritual principles that God set up is that those who join with the Lord become one spirit with Him – not two entites but one. That is mind boggling, at least for the earthly mind (pp. 49-50).”
“In other words, Christ was always within people, but people had not learned to participate with Christ.
There are various Scriptures that make it clear that the only way to become complete in Christ is to turn to and join with Him. This spiritual truth, however, unfortunately was often taught in much of Christianity in a way that portrayed Christ as only outside us and that He would enter our heart only upon confessing him. Here the scriptures[sic] point toward Christ always having been within people. In fact, thats how God made us. He breathed His Spirit ino us, a portion of His Spirit to each one that cries out “Abba, Father” greatly desiring to be joined in full again with the Godhead… we (not the old self) must actually become fully transformed into the indestructible Christ identity (pp. 50-51).”
Carey’s salvation is clearly a Gnostic-styled “salvation by introspection (Wright, p. 57)” that has nothing in common with the historic Christian teaching found in the Bible.
I can only warn people to avoid this book. It presents a false Gnostic heresy similar to what was present in the 2nd century. It is a false Gospel with a false Christ and Christians should be careful not to fall into its deception. I have to give this book my lowest rating of 1 Star, but only because I don’t have a 0 Star Rating.