From The End Time

 

Gnosticism part 1: secret knowledge

Yesterday I introduced a new series on Gnosticism. I’m reading Colossians, which was a prison letter from Paul to the church at Colossae. Paul was responding to Epaphras’ news that the new Colossian believers were being quickly turned away from the faith by people who believed a different Gospel. What was that different Gospel? It was from the Gnostics, a group of cultish believers plaguing the church throughout the First Century, (and the second and third) and popping up here and there throughout the centuries since. Today, there is a resurgence of Gnostic belief encroaching and polluting even our fundamentalist churches among the Southern Baptist Convention. In other words, Gnosticism is a continual problem that never really went away.The Tribulation is a time when all sins will be released for their fullest iniquity. The Holy Spirit’s ministry of restraint will be taken out of the way, and all sins, spiritual and carnal, will explode onto the earth. We see the setting for this coming explosion now. All false doctrines that have ever plagued the church are rising to the fore, all at once. We are battling Gnosticism, Mysticism, Liberalism, Post-Modernism, Legalism, Ecumenism, Prosperity Gospel, and much more. Jesus’s Seven Letters to the Seven Churches contained in Revelation 2-3 are a listing of some of the false doctrines and behavioral failings the early believers were falling prey to. Those false doctrines and behaviors hinder us now.

Zondervan’s NIV bible lists 6 elements that comprise Gnosticism. They are not exclusive, as Gnosticism has several branches and many different elements can be said to comprise the philosophy. In addition, several other false doctrines overlap Gnosticism, such as Mysticism and Legalism, for example. But for the sake of brevity (sort of) we will stick with the Zondervan 6. They are:

1. secret knowledge,
2. asceticism,
3. depreciation of Christ (lowering Him in name and in glory),
4. strict rule-keeping, ceremonies, or rituals
5. worship of angels,
6. and reliance on human wisdom and traditions

Today we will take a look at the element of “secret knowledge”.

David Grabbe wrote in “Whatever Happened to Gnosticism?” that “Gnosticism was the predominant source of heresy when the New Testament was written. The books of John, I Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, I and II Timothy, Jude, and I John all combat various elements of Gnosticism. Even the book of Revelation cites a couple of Gnostic beliefs and practices, referring to “know[ing] the depths of Satan” and “the Nicolaitans” (Revelation 2:6, 15, 24).”

Gene Edward Veith wrote in World Magazine in this 2006 article “The Return of the Cainites,” “The Gnostics were eastern mystics who taught that the physical realm is intrinsically evil and that the spirit can be freed from its bondage to physicality through the attainment of secret knowledge (or “gnosis”). They rejected the Christian doctrine of creation (saying that the material world is evil). They denied the incarnation (saying that Christ was a spiritual being who brought the secret knowledge and denying that He became “flesh”). And they denied the redemption (saying that sin is not a moral failure – since what we do in the flesh does not affect our spirits – but simply a lack of spiritual knowledge).”

Jennifer Trafton and Rebecca Colossanov wrote in “Gnostics: Did you Know?” that “The Gnostics sometimes claimed that secret truth had been handed down by one apostle to a select group of insiders. But Christian opponents like Irenaeus argued that the true church represented the teaching of all of the apostles passed on in many locations.”

The word “Gnosticism” comes from the Greek word gnosis, which means “knowledge.” Gnosticism rejects the doctrines of original sin, human depravity and salvation through the substitutionary death of Christ. It emphasizes transcendence through inward, intuitive knowledge, i.e., “gnosis,” of the “divine spark in each individual.” (source)

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