Monday, October 12, 2009
~~ by James Fire
In today’s global climate of political entities and religious bodies we can see that from all fronts, the various elements of what we can call the ‘philosophy of Babel’ which will coalesce the many theses and anti-theses into a singular synergized whole, are working most effectively to bring about the goal of “. . . the god of this world . . .” (see 2 Cor. 4:4), that is a one world religion, operating hand in hand with the one world government, as stated in Revelation 17: 3-5.
In a previous article HOW EASTERN RELIGION INVADED THE WEST, we examined the Hegelian Dialectic’s methodology in bringing Hinduism/New Age thought and practice into the Christian church, here in the West. There are however still more elements that are involved with this panoramic endeavor which we will look into in this ongoing series.
This article is entitled “How Near-Eastern Religion Invaded the West” and we will now turn our attention to something called Gnosticism; some of the founding philosophies of which were born in ancient Greece (thus “Near-East”), and how it has had a profoundly devastating effect on the 20th century church.
We will resort to the writings of Dr. Walter Martin, Norman Geisler, Roger Oakland, Greg Reid, and others to examine Gnosticism and how it influenced, even perverted Christian thought and the Holy Scriptures (which also attempted to undermine many of the exclusive claims of Christianity) and so we will examine the basis of the various Bible translations available today and their history. We will also take a look at how incontrovertible ties between Theosophical and New Age thought has influenced the Emergent Church Movement which seeks to do to the modern church, what Constantine desired and generally accomplished in the 3rd century church.
Now what would an ‘oldy, moldy’ Greek philosophy/religion like Gnosticism have to do with the modern church today? Until you appreciate the foundations of this ideology, and the 20th century adherents that gave credence to its tenets, you would shrug off such an ancient belief system as having no significant relevance today. Do you think that Gnosticism is a long-dead philosophy and that there are no modern day Gnostics by name? If you do, you’d be wrong! I was surprised to learn this myself; look at these videos posted on youtube.com:
Gnosticism Revival Today
From the link above, you can also access parts 2 and 3 of this presentation that supports and validates the so-called ‘truths’ of Gnosticism!
It’s vital that as Christians we give heed to the scriptures and to the very words of Christ Himself, and He Himself stated:
“Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing (emphasis mine).” JOHN 18:20
Thanks to the likes of Dan Brown and his “The DaVinci Code” much of the Gnostic belief systems and their writings (which some claim are on equal par with scripture canon) have come into the forefront today.
GETTING TO KNOW YOUR GNOSTICS
What is Gnosticism? According to Norman Geisler’s Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, pages 273-275, “The Gnostics followed a variety of religious movements that stressed gnosis or knowledge, especially of one’s origins. Cosmological “dualism was also a feature of the system- opposed to spiritual worlds of good and evil. The material world was aligned with the dark world of evil.
"No one is certain of the origins of Gnosticism. Some believe it was rooted in a heretical group within Judaism (see The Apocalypse of Adam and The Paraphrase Shem). Others give it a Christian context. An incipient form may have infiltrated the church is Colosse.
(For scriptures that refer to Gnostic influences, refer to: Col. 2:18, 20-23 and 1 Tim. 4:3 for its ascetic branch, and 1 Cor. 6:12-18 for the licentiousness that other Gnostics promoted; the false (secret) knowledge or “science” of the Gnostics is referred to in 1 Tim. 6:20; as well as the sect of Docetism (a branch of Gnosticism that held that Christ did not appear in the flesh, but was phantasmal in essence) is addressed by 1 John 4:1-3.)
“Or it may have had a totally pagan root. During the second to fourth centuries it was addressed as a major threat by such church fathers as . . . Irenaeus, Hyypolatus, Tertullian and others.
According to Zondervan’s Pictorial Encyclopedia, “Continental scholars have often argued that Gnosticism is of pre-Christian origin; the figure of a cosmic redeemer being taken over from Eastern, specifically Iranian, sources, which are also the prime source of its dualism. [Gnosticism] being a phenomenon arising essentially from a particular historical and cultural situation, [it] was not likely to outlast that situation long, The Crisis for Gnosticism probably came with the emergence of the genuinely Iranian, radically dualistic religion of Mani (d. A.D. 277), which was spreading in the Roman empire from the 3rd century onward. Manicheism must have faced many Christian Gnostics with a crucial choice: it could not long be possible to occupy a middle ground between mainstream Christianity and the books of Mani.”
Such Gnostic texts as addressed by Irenaeus’ book Against Heresies, are as follows:
“Three Coptic codices (books) were published. Two were discovered in “Nag Hammadi” in Egypt in 1945. Codex Askewianus contains Pistis Sophia (“Persuasion or Conviction of Wisdom”) and Codex Brucianus contains The Book of Jeu. Best known among the Nag Hammadi documents is the Gospel of Thomas. A third work from this period, Codex Berolinesis, was found elsewhere and published in 1955. It contains a Gospel of Mary (Magdalene), a Sophia of Jesus, Acts of Peter, and an Apocryphon of John. The first translation of a tractate, The Gospel of Truth, appeared in 1956 and a translation of fifty one treatise, including Gospel of Thomas, appeared in 1977.”
“Gnostic Leaders: The early church fathers of the church held that Gnosticism had first-century roots and that Simon the Sorceror (Acts 8) was the first Gnostic. According to church fathers, Simon practiced magic, claimed to be divine, and taught that his companion, a former prostitute was the reincarnation of Helen of Troy.
“At the beginning of the second century, Saturninus asserted that the incorporeal (non-physicality) Christ was the redeemer, denying that Christ was really incarnated in human flesh. This belief is shared by “Docetism”.
“In this period Cerinthus of Asia Minor was teaching adoptionism, the heresy that Jesus was merely a man upon whom Christ descended at his baptism. Since Christ could not die, he departed from Jesus before his crucifixion (Here we can observe some thought that’s echoed by New Age adherents). Basilides of Egypt was called both a dualist by Irenaeus and a monist by Hippolytus.
“One of the more controversial, though atypical, Gnostics was Marcion of Pontus. He believed that the God of the Old Testament was different from the God of the New Testament and that the canon of scripture included only a truncated (shortened) version of Luke and ten of Paul’s epistles (all but the Pastoral Epistles). His views were severely attacked by Tertullian (ca. 160s-ca. 215). Marcion became a stimulus for the early church to officially define the limits of the canon.
“Valentinus of Alexandria was another prominent Gnostic. He came to Rome in 140 A.D. and taught that there were a series of divine emanations. He divided humanity into three classes: (1) Hylics or unbelievers, who were immersed in material and the fleshly nature; (2) psychics or common Christians who lived by faith and pneumatics (spiritual life); and (3) spiritual Gnostics. His followers included Ptolemaeus, Heracleon, Theodotus and Marcus. Heracleon’s interpretation of John is the first known New Testament commentary.
1) A Cosmic dualism between spirit and matter, good and evil.
2) A distinction between a finite Old Testament God, Yahweh, who was equated with Plato’s Demiurge or Craftsman, and the transcendent God of the New Testament. 3) View of creation as resulting from the fall of Sophia (wisdom); from Zondervan’s Pictorial Encyclopedia we learn further about what Gnostics believed re: creation- “God is conceived as being remote from all material creation. The gap between is filled by a hierarchy of intermediary beings, in a descending order of magnitude. These are ‘aeons’ usually linked in pairs or ‘syzygies’ (usually male and female), and are collectively given the name “the pleroma” (that is, fullness). The earliest may be the result of God’s creative act; the others emanate from them. There are different myths as to the origin of our world; but all agree that it was a mistake, an accident [can we say, “The random chance of evolution”?], the work of an ignorant being or mischief of an anti-god. One picture of the material universe is that of an abortion self-generated by the inordinate desire of a female aeon (Sophia-‘wisdom’); and some systems attempt to reconcile this view with such passages as John 1:3 by describing the Logos in creation as giving form to the misshapen abortion, which thus combines the principles of good and evil. In other systems, of which the most influential was that of Marcion, creation is the work of a Demiurge, an inferior divinity” (end note from Zondervan).
4) Identification of matter as evil. 5) Belief that most people are ignorant of their origins and condition.
6) Identification of sparks of divinity that are encapsulated in certain spiritual individuals. 7) Faith in a docetic Redeemer, who was not truly human and did not die on the cross. This Redeemer brought salvation in the form of a secret gnosis or knowledge that was communicated by Christ after His resurrection (Emergent church leader, Brian McClaren has written a book, The Secret Message of Jesus). 8) A goal of escaping the prison of the body, traversing the planetary spheres of hostile demons and being reunited with God. 9) A salvation based not on faith or works, but upon special knowledge or gnosis of one’s true condition. 10) A mixed view of morality. Carpocrates urged his followers to engage in deliberate promiscuity. Epophanes, his son, taught that licentiousness was God’s law. Most Gnostics, however took a strongly ascetic view of sexual intercourse and marriage, contending that the creation of woman was the source of evil and procreation of children simply multiplied the number of persons in bondage to the evil material world. Salvation of women depended on their one day becoming men and returning to the conditions of Eden before Eve was created. Oddly enough, women were prominent in many Gnostic sects. 11) Interpretation of baptism and the Lord’s Supper as spiritual symbols of the gnosis. 12) View of the resurrection as spiritual, not physical.”
“Gnosticism as an organized movement acknowledging it source all but died. The sole surviving remnant is in southwestern Iran. However, many Gnostic teachings live on among New Agers, Existentialists, and Bible critics. The revival of interest in the Gospel of Thomas by the Jesus Seminar is a case in point. There is also a tendency, even among some evangelical scholars to deny the physical nature of the resurrection. However, Gnosticism lives today in the New Age Movement in an extensive way.”
The above information taken from Baker’s Publishers Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics by Norman Geisler.
There seems to be a correlation between the Gnostics and their attempts to make Christianity more contemporary with the prevailing (Greek) philosophies of their day and what we see happening in our current world: how fundamental Christianity along with the Bible itself is being called into question by a generation that deems itself as post-modernist in their perspective, ‘emergent’ by name and seek to bring a kind of unity between Christianity and world religions. By so doing, they desire to become ‘contemporary’ or the word used most often today is, ‘relevant’.
“Knowledge and salvation were keynotes of much 2nd century religion: this is what the people wanted from the mystery religions and explains their contemporary popularity. The Gnostic teachers sought to provide for these longings in a way which was both Christian and compatible with the basic assumptions about God and the world held by most people of their day. These assumptions might be formed by contemporary philosophy, by mythology, or by astrology; and in different Gnostic systems; these factors appear in differing degrees. What they had in common was a desire to be contemporary.
For more on the history of Gnosticism please visit the following site:
Gnostic History and Practice
And that’s all we have time for right now. I apologize if all of this seems a bit dry, but it’s necessary to lay the ground work with this information before we proceed. In the mean while I pray that the LORD bless us all and that we remain diligent in His Word and in the matters of our hearts. Next time we will get into how the Gnostics tampered with the scriptures, perverting their Truth to conform to their own view of things, and how this in turn influenced 19th century liberal theologians who deliberately and knowingly used these Gnostic texts rather than Textus Receptus, the manuscript from which our KJV is derived.
Posted by A.M. Kisly at 10:39 AM