Monday, April 4, 2016

Paleo-Orthodoxy: Ancient and Modern Gnosticism

One of the most prominent threads to run through almost all false teaching or aberrant philosophical thought is that of Gnosticism. We find it in the writings of the Freemasons, New Agers, many Conspiracy Theorists, UFOlogists, Historical Revisionists, such as Scott Wolter, Scotty Roberts, Giorgio Tsoukalos, and many others. This gaggle of heretics would also include those from the Word of Faith movement and from fringe evangelicalism; people such as Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Benny Hinn, Cris Putnam, Tom Horn, and others. The sad truth is that Gnosticism, through such false teachers and Historical Revisionists, has actually enjoyed a resurgence in interest, which has been difficult for many Christians to respond to adequately, since the Church hasn't had to deal with it for centuries. The Gnostic Christian heresy emerged after the deaths of the Apostles, and so we can see the heresy took the opportunity for a perceived vaccum in leadership to take root.

"When the sacred band of apostles had in various ways completed their lives' work...then did the confederacy of godless error take its rise through the treachery of false teachers. For upon seeing that none of the apostles were living any longer, they at length attempted with bare and uplifted head to oppose the preaching of the truth by preaching knowledge, falsely so called."- Hegessipus

Gnostic Theology Explained
The word Gnostic comes from the Greek word 'gnosis', meaning "knowledge." This knowledge was considered secret and could be accessed only through occult initiations and discipleship to various Gnostic teachers in much the same way as a Hindu guru. This approach to spirituality meant one must leave themselves open to potential demonic influence through said rituals, initiations and practices. Not to mention that, unlike the true teachings of Christ that are coherent and fixed, Gnosticism was without any coherence or fixed standard of truth, and thus was incredibly different from Gnostic guru to Gnostic guru. 

"I showed you, my very dear friend, that the whole (Gnostic) system developed in  divergent and opposite ways.."- Irenaeus

There is no question, as any serious researcher could tell you, that Gnostic writings contain very strong pagan philosophical, Hindu and Buddhist commonalities. Gnostics were in effect the New Agers of their time, taking from various pagan cults, eastern religions and philosophies whatever tickled their fancy, so when Christianity emerged, it was only to be expected that the ecumenical Gnostic mystery religion borrowed from the faith and created a syncretistic collection of  "Christian" splinter movements.  The numerous Gnostic writings extant are all contradictory, of course, because they were never a part of the legitimate historical stream of Christianity to begin with.

"You may have fallen in with some (Gnostics) who call themselves Christians...Do not imagine that they are Christians."- Justin Martyr

"But the rest, who are called Gnostics, take their rise from Menander, Simon's (Simon Magus) disciple, as I have shown."- Irenaeus

The apostle Paul perhaps confronted Gnostic lies in Ephesians and Colossians wherein he counters the Gnostic heresy by co-opting its jargon to express Biblical truth.  "Pleroma" was a term used by the Gnostics to refer to the realm of spiritual beings and "aeons" that they claimed acted as agents between God and humanity. The word actually carries the meaning "fullness". Paul prays for Christians to be "filled with all the pleroma of God" (Eph. 3:19), that "It pleased God to have His pleroma live in His Son" (Col. 1:19), and "in Him, bodily, lives the pleroma of all that God is" (Col. 2:9).  Thus it was that the apostle Paul confronts the Gnostic lies by clearly stating the pleroma cannot be reached by any mystical means of meditation, secret teachings, pagan rites, or initiations carried out in dark chambers, but only by trusting in and being faithful to Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God.

The Basilidian Gnostics
An example of the lies of Gnosticism can be found in the Basilidean Gnostic mystery cult, which taught that the Christian God is an evil, perverted creation of one of the Gnostic Immortals named Sophia. She rejected him, while he went on to create the universe, ensnaring 'spirit' in matter, which was inherently evil according to this cult. In their mystery religion the Christian God and Satan are the same being. Humanity was created, but seduced by the attractions of matter into ignorance. Humanity must discover the secret knowledge of the inner self (god within) and be liberated from the material realm.  Those who achieve such 'enlightenment' become "messengers of light" (like Buddhas) and become part of the Oneness (like the Buddhist Nirvana).

The Gnostic 'immortal ones', Abraxas and Sophia sent a spiritual 'Christ' into the material realm, bypassing this evil Christian God, to teach humanity this secret knowledge. Abraxas is the embodiment of all contradictions and is the highest being of all the "immortal ones." In short, he embraces both truth and lies. It should be noted here that in orthodox Christian theology, demons are immortal and will use both truth and lies to lead us astray, seeking the ruin of souls.

The Gnostic Jesus
Jesus wasn't really so special according to Gnostic teachings. When Mary gave birth to Jesus, he was possessed by this Gnostic 'Christ'.  This Gnostic Christ never had his own physical existence. It was an illusion. He therefore never suffered. never died on the cross for our sins and never rose again for our eternal life. 

"The unbelieving say that He only seemed to suffer."- Ignatius

"How does anyone benefit me if he praises me, but blasphemes my Lord- not confessing that He was possessed of a body?"- Ignatius

"Those who maintain the wrong opinion say that there is no resurrection of the flesh."- Justin Martyr

"They deny that the Son assumed anything material. For, according to them, matter is incapable of salvation.."- Irenaeus

Christ's purpose was not to teach faith or works as fruit of faith, but occult knowledge of your own divinity. These secret teachings contained all one needed for escaping the material realm and the influence of the evil Christian God. Not to be content at that, since creation itself was entirely evil, it was therefore necessary to  stop the propagation of physical life or at the very least not prolonging it so that the inner self could be liberated. Sexual intercourse was absolutely forbidden by some Gnostic cults, while at the other extreme some engaged in ritual orgies, with the lofty claim that this aided the Gnostic adept in transcending matter and material enjoyment. 

"So unbridled is their madness, that they declare they have in their power all things that are irreligious and ungodly. And they are at liberty to practice them. For they maintain that things are evil or good simply because of human opinion."- Irenaeus

Shades of Post-Modernism and Moral Relativism.

Final Thoughts
Gnostic mystery teachings are really nothing more than the doctrines of demons, borrowed from Philosophy, Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as various pagan cults of antiquity. Like anything of importance we must look to its source to determine its veracity and efficacy. When we accept a teaching, we are also embracing the origin of that teaching. Once Satan is able to make one doubt the legitimate and historical stream of Christian teaching-the orthodox Church- he is then able to lead people into unwitting acceptance of his control over their lives. It is essential to counter Gnostic pablum with the orthodox and Biblical truths found in the Church alone, not in any Fringe Evangelical book or movement, New Age cult, Hindu guru, Buddhist Dalai Lama, or Gnostic writing. 

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