Posted in asceticism, essenes, gnosticism, hermits, mysticism, visions

Swiss town’s resident hermit resigns. Problem? Too many people stopping by

And now for something completely different. This is not, I repeat, NOT, an article from The Onion.

In Switzerland, City Seeks a Hermit Who Also Likes People

Switzerland’s “Katholisches Kirchenblatt,” a Catholic weekly, recently carried an unusual job ad: “Are you an idealistic, religious person who enjoys meeting people?” The ad was placed by the small Alpine city of Solothurn. But Solothurn isn’t looking for a new social worker or priest. It is searching for a hermit.

The town’s hermitage, built into the rock face of a striking gorge, has been empty since March, when its resident hermit, and the first woman to hold the post since 1442, resigned after five years.

Her complaint: People. The constant stream of tourists to the hermitage and neighboring chapel was just too much to handle, according to the city. This time around, Solothurn has updated the job description. “Along with acting as caretaker and sacristan, responsibilities include interaction with the many visitors,” the ad warns potential applicants.

“There’s a bit of a discrepancy between the job title of hermit and the fact he or she has to deal with throngs of visitors,” says Sergio Wyniger, the head of Solothurn’s city council. So far, the city has received 119 applications and expects to make a decision by next week.

The Hermitage of St. Verena, near the small Swiss city of Solothurn,
is searching for a new hermit.

Some thoughts:
–The Catholics still have actual hermits??
–since 1442??
–The Catholics turned a lifestyle into a job description?
–‘Hermit wanted: must like people’. Hmmm, HERMIT…

All kidding aside, and believe me, I’m restraining myself right now, in the false religion of Catholicism, hermits actually have a long history. That history not only exists through to today, but is increasing in popularity. Even as recently as last year, Catholics were putting out the call for hermits. In the Swiss town mentioned above, 120 people applied for the job of “hermit”.

Modern-Day Hermits: Answering the Call to Solitude, Prayer

While we might think of hermits as relics of the Church’s medieval past, today there are many who devote their lives entirely to solitary prayer.

There are Catholic hermits in the US. There are male and female hermits. There are even hermits who are not affiliated with a religious order. Hermits are consecrated by taking certain vows and following certain rules.

In the article above, a US hermit named Maria, who raised her kids and now wants to answer the call to hermit life, explains the rise in recent Catholic hermitism.

“Maria, who lives on the Gulf Coast, thinks the increase in hermits may also be a sign of the times. “The call was answered in the early Church when there was heresy and persecution,” she said. “The world had become so wicked; people could not exist in it anymore.” “

That is the point, the world IS wicked. Christ came to provide the Light of the way to heaven, and imputed His righteousness to Christians, who by the power of the indwelling Spirit by His grace and love for people, we transcend the mundanity and wickedness of the world and point the way to Christ.

In living the life of a hermit, Brother Martin said he imitates Christ. “In the hermitic life one retreats from the world, much like Christ did when he went off for 40 days in the desert to pray or when he went to lonely places to pray,” he said.

Catholics see no discrepancy between the life of a hermit and the mandate to evangelize. Brother Martin mentioned above explains that a hermit’s call is to evangelize the souls of others in the form of intercessory prayer in private and in solitude-

Although Maria is discerning whether she has a call to the hermitic life, she, like Brother Martin, sticks to a strict schedule called an horarium. Some of her daily activities include prayer, daily Mass, lectio divina, meditations, study, physical exercise, household chores, and gardening. “It’s a very intensely busy life,” she said. “But it is all centered in silence and solitude, so you grow to the point where you can hear and discern God’s word.”

Catholic solitary ascetic life-styles are not just expressed in hermit-living. Anchorites and anchoresses were common in medieval times. Wikipedia explains the anchorite’s lifestyle:

Wikimedia commons

Anchorite or anchoret (female: anchoress) “one who has retired from the world”, from the verb anachōreō, signifying “to withdraw”, “to retire”) denotes someone who, for religious reasons, withdraws from secular society so as to be able to lead an intensely prayer-oriented, ascetic, and—circumstances permitting—Eucharist-focused life. Whilst anchorites are frequently considered to be a type of religious hermit, unlike hermits they were required to take a vow of stability of place, opting instead for permanent enclosure in cells often attached to churches. Also unlike hermits, anchorites were subject to a religious rite of consecration that closely resembled the funeral rite, following which – ideologically, at least, they would be considered dead to the world, a type of living saint.

Of course, most of us are familiar with the notion of Catholic cloistered monks and nuns. In fact, the Catholic Church has codified the different forms of ‘Christian’ living, or as they call it, ‘The Consecrated life.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church states

From the very beginning of the Church there were men and women who set out to follow Christ with greater liberty, and to imitate him more closely, by practising the evangelical counsels. They led lives dedicated to God, each in his own way. Many of them, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, became hermits or founded religious families. These the Church, by virtue of her authority, gladly accepted and approved. [emphasis mine]

Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts. To do righteousness and justice Is desired by the LORD more than sacrifice... (Proverbs 21:2-3)

Some of the different consecrated lifestyles approved by the Catholic church are, consecrated virgins, consecrated widows, hermits, anchorites, or new forms of consecrated life not yet invented. The United States Lutheran church recognizes the hermit lifestyle, but they call those who choose to separate from the world “solitaries”.

What does the bible say?
Of course the bible does not in any way endorse separating from the world. Jesus did not pray that the Father take us out of the world, not at all.

“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:15). We may not leave the world until we die or are raptured. Until then, as Jesus prayed, for the sakes of those who would believe in Jesus, we remain so the world will believe God sent Jesus. (John 17:20-21)

Loner Sects have always existed, though.

Non-religions hermit Valerio Ricetti lived in a cave
in New South Wales, Australia.
The site is now on the State Heritage Register. Source

Essenes, according to the Jewish Virtual Library, were a faction group who  believed the Pharisees and Sadducees had corrupted the Temple (the Essenes were not wrong on this point) and split apart from the other two Jewish groups to live a celibate, monastic life in the desert. (They were wrong on this point, though).

GotQuestions explains who the Essenes were, The Essenes were a Jewish mystical sect somewhat resembling the Pharisees. They lived lives of ritual purity and separation. They originated about 100 B.C., and disappeared from history after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The Essenes are not directly mentioned in Scripture, although some believe they may be referred to in Matthew 19:11, 12 and in Colossians 2:8, 18, and 23. Interest in the Essenes was renewed with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were likely recorded and stored by the Essenes.

GotQuestions continues with an explanation of why John The Baptist, though thought by some to be an Essene, wasn’t. The main reason is that John lived in the desert but was at the same time a very public figure, and had disciples and followers. Solitary living apart from the world is not in view here, since it is not what Jesus wants of us.

This is because we are to interact with the world while maintaining a Kingdom perspective. After all, the lost are in the world, and it is they to whom we are called as Christ’s Ambassadors to share the Good News. (Matthew 28:16-20). Living a private and solitary life denies the Christ who told us to go into the world among men. It also denies us the opportunity to edify one another, (1 Thessalonians 5:11), to bear one another’s burdens, (Galatians 6:2), to pray together, to break bread together. (Acts 1:14). Removing one’s self from the world into a cloistered (enclosed) or solitary life also denies the power of the Holy Spirit to keep us strong and resist temptation while we are faced with daily pressures. Resisting these temptations and living a life in His glory is an important way to show His glory to the lost world.

We are to be IN the world but not of the world. (John 17:14-15). The world is ruled by satan, and whether one is in the middle of Times Square in NYC or alone in a desert cave in Australia, one is still in the domain ruled by satan. Removing one’s self only tells the world that you are relying on your own self to live a life pleasing unto God. A hermetic life, a ‘consecrated’ life; or a cloistered life, is just all about you, and not about Jesus. Sin will still get you. Read this anecdote from a sermon of John MacArthur’s:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Oscar Wilde, once told a story. It wasn’t true, he just made it up but I [think] it illustrates the point. He said:

The devil was crossing the Libyan desert and on his way across he met a whole pile of his demons who were really working hard on an old hermit. Now this hermit was a saint. He had been, you know, set aside by the church and held had taken his vows and he was a very holy hermit. And so hes out there in the middle of the Libyan desert, you know.

He said, “No” to everything in the world and he had taken his cross and he had gone to the desert.

And so, these demons were out there really trying to get him to stumble … really trying to tempt this old hermit. And they were going at it full bore. And Satan came along.

And Wilde says this: “Steadfastly, the sainted man resisted their suggestions.” They weren’t successful, they couldn’t get him to fall into sin. “Finally, after watching their failure in disgust, the Devil whispered to the demons, ‘What you’re doing is too crude, permit me one moment.’ And then the devil whispered to the holy man, ‘Your brother has just been made the bishop of Alexandria.”‘

And Wilde says: “A scowl of malignant jealousy crossed his face. ‘That,’ said the Devil, ‘is the sort of thing I recommend.”‘

Get the point? They can’t get us in some places, they’ll get us someplace else

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Dangers of the ascetic, solitary life

Living alone or within a very small group is dangerous, as well. Mysticism runs heavily through the cloistered life, as we saw from the description above of the Oregonian hermits’ daily schedule. It included contemplative prayer accompanied by Lectio Divina. Lectio Divina (“Sacred Reading”) is a mystical, Gnostic practice whereupon the seeker seeks not to understand the revealed word, and not to ponder the attributes of the God who revealed it, but to experience it in a two-way conversation with God. It is an example of a spiritually sounding exercise that is devoid of the power of God. (2 Timothy 3:5).

Most of the world’s false religions, cults, and sects were started by one or two disaffected persons usually having had received a vision. The Essenes were disaffected Jewish mystics who retired to the desert alone. Famously, Muhammad was living alone in a cave when supposedly the Archangel Gabriel appeared to him and revealed the Quran.

Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:16)

Founder of Mormonism Joseph Smith said that when he was younger he participated in religious folk magic. One night alone upon a hillside in prayer he received the first vision that led him to found the cult of the Latter Day Saints.

Wikipedia:

“According to the account Smith told in 1838, he went to the woods to pray about which church to join but fell into the grip of an evil power that nearly overcame him. At the last moment, he was rescued by two shining “personages” (implied to be Jesus and God the Father) who hovered above him. One of the beings told Smith not to join any existing churches because all taught incorrect doctrines.”

From the article I quoted above, we read the hermit Maria saying,

“In the ’70s, I became very ill, and on many occasions, the Blessed Mother actually came to me in various ways, and brought me comfort,” said Maria.

It is well-known that ascetic and mystical practices that focus on an ascetic interior life, including Lectio Divina and Contemplative Spirituality, actually provides a fertile breeding ground for visions and apparitions. In other words, if you want to gt a vision, live like a hermit according to man-made rules, and eschew solid biblical study for personal experiences, elevate yourself and your thoughts and your life above everyone else’s by showing the world how spiritual you are and go live in a hermitage or a cloister.

Or, if you want to please Jesus, live a life of unremarkable faith, persevering in His statutes, living in the world, resisting sin,  and loving your neighbor. And that doesn’t mean the neighbor hermit in the next cave over.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Further reading:

Some famous non-religious hermits

What is New Monasticism?
Christian monasticism is based on an extreme interpretation of Jesus’ teachings on perfection (Matthew 5:48), celibacy (Matthew 19:10-12), and poverty (Matthew 19:16-22). Monks and nuns attempt to control their environment and surround themselves with like-minded devotees. Many followers of Eastern religions also practice monasticism, the Buddhist monk perhaps being the most recognizable.

Smith’s Bible Dictionary: The Essenes

Posted in creator, gnosticism, music of the spheres, pythagoras

This is My Father’s World", Music of the Spheres, Maltbie Babcock, and Pythagoras, part 3

Part 1
Part 2
In part 1 of “This is My Father’s World”, Music of the Spheres, Maltbie Babcock, and Pythagoras, I looked at how Pythagoras intuitively understood the harmony and order of the natural world, and the cosmos. Pythagoras in effect discovered music theory, and within it, musical spacing, octaves, and vibrations. He extrapolated from his discovery that a similar harmony and order in the planetary cycles and orbits must exist, and named his astronomical theory Music of the Spheres because of the order and harmony within it. Pythagoras even thought the planets made music in their courses. When you sing Pastor Maltbie Babcock’s hymn “This Is My Father’s World, Babcock references music of the spheres and it is specifically to Pythagoras’s concept Babcock refers.

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought

In Part 2 I looked at how Pythagoras is thought to the be the progenitor of string theory, the notion in physics that everything vibrates and strings are the elements that make up the universe. Pythagoras was very smart, and his experiments were carefully done. However, he was too smart for his own good, and wound up on the other side of God, promoting knowledge as the thing to be worshiped. More on that in a moment.

We looked at Kepler, the 16th century astronomer whose brilliance pushed forward Pythagoras’s theories much further, and we ended up in the twentieth century by looking at modern string theory.

Al this to say that Romans 1:18-23 are amazing verses.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

Pythagoras, and Plato who brought Pythagoras’s concept to the people, for that matter, had incredible intellects. Yet when the truth was shown to them, they went away from it. See what Pythagoras and his followers believed:

Pythagoras conceived the universe to be an immense monochord, with its single string connected at its upper end to absolute spirit and at its lower end to absolute matter–in other words, a cord stretched between heaven and earth. Counting inward from the circumference of the heavens, Pythagoras, according to some authorities, divided the universe into nine parts; according to others, into twelve parts. The Pythagoreans believed that everything which existed had a voice and that all creatures were eternally singing the praise of the Creator. Man fails to hear these divine melodies because his soul is enmeshed in the illusion of material existence. When he liberates himself from the bondage of the lower world with its sense limitations, the music of the spheres will again be audible as it was in the Golden Age. Harmony recognizes harmony, and when the human soul regains its true estate it will not only hear the celestial choir but also join with it in an everlasting anthem of praise to that Eternal Good controlling the infinite number of parts and conditions of Being.

Pythagoras and Plato saw a creator, but not the God in creation. You see the almost in Pythagoras. he almost got it right. There is a cord which connects us to the Creator. Job 30:11 speaks of it, and Solomon speaks of our connection to eternity by God’s setting it in our heart. (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

You see the almost in the belief that all creatures have a voice and respond to the Creator. Jesus said in Luke 19:40 that we cannot keep silent, if we did, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” And we know from Romans 8:22 that “For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” and that “all creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” (Romans 8:19).

However, it is not true that ‘Man fails to hear these divine melodies because his soul is enmeshed in the illusion of material existence.’ We fail to connect to the ‘divine’ because of our sin, we are separated from God and in a discordant relationship with Him. We are His enemy and He is our judge. The material world isn’t the enemy, our flesh and sinful nature is.

Pythagoras was not only the first to call himself a philosopher but also a priest -initiate of a mystery religion influenced heavily by Orphism, which taught that the essence of the gods is defined by number. Numbers, indeed, expressed the essence of all created things.” (source)

Out of Pythagorean cults came Gnosticism, which teaches based on Gnosis, the knowledge of transcendence arrived at by way of interior, intuitive means. This is exactly as Pythagoras said, we escape the material world by self-empowered actions.

Pythagoras suppressed the truth about his helpless state, and instead believed he could raise himself to a satisfactory level of spiritual attainment on his own power. God had made it plain to them. Yet they suppressed the truth in unrighteousness and worshiped the creation. In Pythagoras’s case, he worshiped self, knowledge, and numbers. As far as numbers go, Pythagoras saw God’s harmony but worshiped the numbers. Out of his teachings came Sacred Numbers and Occult Mysteries:

Pythagoreans … believed that man can realise his divine nature by knowing the universal principle which governs the cosmos (a word coined by Pythagoras himself, meaning “world-order,” a world ordered in a state of mathematical harmony). This principle is Number, which is “the principle, the source and the root of all things”.

Wikipedia explains, The tetractys, or tetrad, is a triangular figure consisting of ten points arranged in four rows: one, two, three, and four points in each row, which is the geometrical representation of the fourth triangular number. As a mystical symbol, it was very important to the secret worship of the Pythagoreans.

Plato was one of the three sources from which we understand Pythagorean theories, since no writings by Pythagoras survive. Plato said, “Geometry is knowledge of the eternally existent. Numbers are the highest degree of knowledge. It is knowledge itself.”

Out of Pythagorean mysticism came Rosicrucianism, a secret society still around today and which heavily influenced the Freemasons.

is it so surprising that one man who responded to the harmony and order of the world could go so wayward with the truth? No, for the bible explains it. In Genesis 3 when the serpent spoke with Eve, a few simple sentences gave rise to the false doctrines. 1 John 2:16 says “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

Johannes Kepler saw the same thing as Pythagoras yet he was a committed Christian. According to this essay from Answers in Genesis, “
During his youth, Kepler had become a committed Christian and dedicated himself to serving God. As he said shortly before he died, he believed ‘only and alone in the service of Jesus Christ. In Him is all refuge, all solace. Kepler intended to serve God as a Lutheran minister after completing his university education. However, God had other plans for this uniquely gifted young man. … Kepler strongly believed that ‘The world of nature, the world of man, the world of God—all three fit together.’ In particular, Kepler reasoned that because the universe was designed by an intelligent Creator, it should function according to some logical pattern. To him, the idea of a chaotic universe was inconsistent with God’s wisdom.”

Where Pythagoras, brilliant as he was, saw the logical pattern, he attributed it to Number, where Kepler attributed the logical pattern to God.

In the 20th century, plenty of scientists are born again but not one I mentioned who is an important contributor to understanding of string theory: Dr. Brian Greene. In answering an interview question whether he is religious, he said,

I think there’s a compatibility as long as your religious sensibility’s not literal. If you try to literally interpret teachings of the Bible you run smack into some pretty significant problems with what we’ve discovered in science. But if you’re willing to view religion more in a Spinozan or even Einsteinian way—that there is an overarching order and harmony that the laws of physics represent and reveal, and that order and harmony, if you want, ascribe it to some deeper theological origin—then I don’t think science has much to say about that.

As this writer at the University of Connecticut Physics Department stated, “Most of the founders of Quantum Mechanics started out with studying music. Strangely enough, the motion of the electron in a hydrogen atom actually does follow the Music of the Spheres, to a certain extent.”

Yet many of them went the way of Pythagoras or Greene, and not Kepler. And lest one think that Pythagorean theory is old news, it is still influencing people today with its Gnostic appeal. This article from Psychology Today attests, “Can Pythagorean Philosophy Help You to Live a Better Life?”

In keeping with these musical/mathematical aspects of the universe, a key construct of Pythagorean philosophy was maintaining personal harmony. In my book, How Plato and Pythagoras Can Save Your Life (Conari, 2011), I describe the Bios Pythagorikos (The Pythagorean Way of Life), whereby a person endeavored to “tune” themselves in order to be in harmonic alignment with the larger universal harmony via a healthy mind, body and spirit that are nurtured by rigorous physical exercise, a healthy diet, daily meditational walks, as well as deep contemplative meditations on math, music, cosmology and philosophy.”

“Once a person was well-tuned and in vibrational alignment, they could then self-actualize and become fully engaged human beings. The mystic Pythagoras even believed that such a well-tuned person could raise their level of consciousness and awareness and thus be able to “peek behind the veil” and experience what some have called “ultimate reality”.

When you hear that claptrap, of vibrations and harmony of the body and self-actualization and contemplative endeavors and alignment…now you know where it came from. Solomon, wise Solomon, said there is nothing new under the sun. All false doctrines, and all false reactions to true doctrines come from satan, who began his quest to divert us from the truth in heaven and then on earth in the garden.

Look at Maltbie Babcock’s reaction to the creation. He responded to the harmony and order of creation and the progression of the planets and included the phrase ‘music of the spheres’ rightly in his hymn. Maltbie Babcock saw the creation, the order and harmony of the advance of seasons, the planets, and the natural world itself, and worshiped the Creator. Same knowledge, different reactions.

When Maltbie Davenport Babcock lived in Lockport, he took frequent walks along the Niagara Escarpment to enjoy the overlook’s panoramic vista of upstate New York scenery and Lake Ontario, telling his wife he was “going out to see the Father’s world“. (Wikipedia)

Babcock saw beauty and harmony in his Father’s world, and praised the Creator for it. What is your reaction? Do you praise Jesus Christ, the sustainer and Redeemer of our fallen world? Our Creator who paints sunsets int he sky and twinkled the named stars for his own pleasure? Praise and worship of God is the only reaction acceptable. Not worship of numbers or intellect or the spiritual world or the body. God. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Creator, and He saw fit to create us and put us on our Father’s world.

Don’t be seduced by the Music of the Spheres, be entranced with the Maker of the heavenly harmony, which He has set in our heart.

—————-

Part 1
Part 2

Posted in false doctrine, gnostic, gnosticism

Gnosticism: Conclusion

This is the conclusion to a series exploring the ancient philosophy of Gnosticism. Gnosticism was the main source of heresy in New Testament times. The Apostles’ writings in John, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Jude, and 1 John all combat various elements of it.

The philosophy of the Gnostics is re-emerging today, and it doesn’t look that much different from the Gnosticism in the former days, either. It is a wide-ranging philosophy, with different aspects appearing in Hinduism, Buddhism, New Age, Liberal Christianity, Catholicism, Wicca, Psychology, and many other false religions and secular practices. However, there is a set of main elements that do regularly appear in Gnosticism. 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

In my opinion, the most telling element is the promotion of secret knowledge. After all, Gnosis means knowledge.

“Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Cor 8:1). Strong’s explains the word knowledge as used here, “Gnostics boasted of their “applied knowledge” gained by their personal spiritual experiences – and it was (is) disastrous!” Gnosticism is literally, “the cult based on having special, personal knowledge.”

Many people today boast they have personal knowledge gained directly from God, and they have been charged with sharing it. Even some so-called reformed or Southern Baptist teachers, preachers and authors do this in these apostate days. There is no religious corner, no denomination, no church that is free from the possibility of this infection.

Such false doctrine will spread like gangrene, as Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:16-17. Gangrene spreads fast. If you believe that your church can withstand a false teaching once it has infected, Paul’s deliberate use of the word gangrene via inspiration of the Holy Spirit should shake that notion right from your head.

The Spirit didn’t say false teaching is like leprosy, or like influenza, or like syphilis. He said gangrene. So what are the properties of a gangrenous infection?

First, the medical definition states, “Gangrene is the death of tissue in part of the body.” We know the global born-again church is a body. Jesus uses the metaphor of us being the body and He being the head. (Colossians 1:18). Gangrene is literally the death of some of the living tissue. How much gangrene does it take to kill living tissue? A pinprick. Further, gangrene is described as occurring when the affected tissue loses its blood supply. In the metaphor, when a person is apart from Jesus they do not have His blood covering, washing them clean from sin. The wages of sin is death, and gangrene is a disease that kills if left unattended.

Third, gangrene spreads fast. If you have been reading about the ‘new’ flesh-eating bacteria that has killed several people, this disease is really a form of gangrene. Within a day or so of the infections’ spread, large amounts of tissue must be excised in order to save the body. So in continuing the metaphor, if the infectious doctrine is not excised immediately, it will spread like a toxic wildfire and consume the flesh of all who absorb it.

The most famous recent example of this is the sermon Pastor Jim Murphy of First Baptist Church of Johnson City NY last July. One blogger summed up his sermon this way,

“Murphy clearly traces the disintegration of Christianity and its falling away from the truth of the gospel and into more and more error through history – from the attacks on the authority of scripture in the late 1940s, through 1960s liberalism, to modern day mysticism and contemplative spirituality. But in the final ten minutes of the message it becomes crystal clear that this is not mere academics for Pastor Murphy, he is brokenhearted by the error he sees within his own church body and frustrated by the lack of discernment which is due entirely to people not knowing and studying the Bible.”

In his sermon, Pastor Murphy said, “I’m here to ask your forgiveness. I expressed my concerns along the way in several areas but there were some things that I heard and saw that I was not comfortable with and I thought well, let’s just roll with this. It may be not that bad.”

It is that bad. Pastor Jim lamented that left unattended, the vines of false doctrine began choking their church library, the teaching curricula used in Sunday School, and eventually infected the minds and hearts of those in his congregation. They were being strangled by the kudzu tendrils of mysticism, gnosticism, paganism and every other -ism inching their way around their necks, stifling the life out of them. Pr. Murphy said he was rooting all that stuff out, and he was starting right then. I wrote about him and his sermon, The Subtlety of Satan, here, and here.

We started this series by mentioning the first Gnostic, satan, and his deception in the Garden. We end with it too. MacArthur said in his sermon The Danger of False Teaching,

“The people of God have always been plagued with false doctrine. The invasion of false prophets, false teachers, false apostles, false Christs has been something which the people of God have endured through all the ages of time. Satan attempts to oversow the truth with lies. He attempts to confuse the world so that they cannot perceive the truth of God by drowning them in a sea of deceit. It was Satan’s evil intended and clever misrepresentation of truth to Eve that plunged the whole of the human race into sin.”

People all want to be ‘in the know.’ The quest for secret knowledge is alluring, hence the success of satan in the Garden, and the success of Gnostics around the world. Yet what did the LORD say?

He says “the secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)

For example, John the Revelator was caught up to heaven and shown the things of the Day of the Lord. We know this as the book of Revelation. Because the Lord showed John, told John to write these things down, and they are now in the bible, we are supposed to know them. (Revelation 1:1-3). As a matter of fact, a person who hears the things in Revelation and takes them to heart is blessed. Therefore, we do not need to run after modern day prophets or Neo-Gnostics who claim they have an additional word to share, or a special prophecy about the end time, or have had a visit to heaven and must now tell others. I’d much rather stick with the promised blessing Jesus gave than some internet person or Christian celebrity who says he had an experience that is as authoritative as divine revelation.

Secondly: as to the secret knowledge, what is secret is secret! Even though John was given a thoroughly detailed prophecy, there is still a secret in Revelation.

“And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.” (Revelation 10:4)

If it is secret, it belongs to God. If it is revealed in the bible, it is for us to know. Period. How rebellious it is to continue to seek what is God’s!

I hope this series has illuminated to you the importance of seeking knowledge from Whom the one who has all knowledge. His knowledge does not puff up, but instead awes us and humbles us. The truth is in the Word, not a person’s experience … not secret knowledge privately gained (2 Peter 2:20), not an emotional response to an event. At root, Gnosticism is a self-religion, and isn’t that exactly what the first lie is, anyway? Hath God said…? indicating that his word is not sufficent and we must do other things to gain the knowledge that will make us be like Him. (Genesis 3:4-5).

How wrongheaded this is!

If someone tells you they have the secret key to anything regarding God, run in the other direction. We are not God and no amount of secret information will make us be like Him. The saving knowledge is only repentance and trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus is, and that’s the Gospel truth.

——————-

For further study related to this topic:

What Is Spiritual Formation and Why Does It Matter?
John MacArthur on Spiritual Formation and Biblical Sanctification
The Steps of Biblical Sanctification
The Importance of Careful Bible Study
The Pitfalls of Biblical (Mis)Interpretation, Part 1

Pastor Jim Murphy’s sermon The Subtlety of Satan

Previous Gnosticism entries:

Introduction
Part 1: Secret Knowledge
Part 2: Asceticism
Part 3: Depreciation of Jesus
Part 4: Ceremonies & Rituals
Part 5: Worship of Angels
Part 6: Human traditions

Posted in gnosticism, gnostics, neo-gnosticism, religious tradition

Gnosticism Part 6, Reliance on Human Wisdom and Traditions

What is the meaning of life? Why am I here? Is there more to life than this? Is there life after death?

These are the eternal questions that man has asked almost from the beginning. That’s because God set eternity in our hearts.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Barnes Notes explains, “God has placed in the inborn constitution of man the capability of conceiving of eternity, the struggle to apprehend the everlasting, the longing after an eternal life.”

This is part 6 looking at the origins of Gnosticism and its impact on today’s church, I will examine the sixth element that Zondervan’s NIV bible lists as the main components of the philosophy/religion: reliance on man’s wisdom and traditions. Though Gnosticism encompasses a wide range of beliefs, there are 6 main elements that Paul refutes in Colossians-

1. secret knowledge, (refuted in Col 1:27; 2:3)
2. asceticism, (Col 2:18)
3. depreciation of Christ (lowering Him in name and in glory), (Col 2:18b)
4. strict rule-keeping, ceremonies, or rituals (Col 2:23)
5. worship of angels, (Col 2:18)
6. and reliance on human wisdom and traditions (Col 2:20b-22)

Paul wrote in Colossians 2:20b-22:
“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?”

It is the fact that we ask the eternal questions that unites us as humans. We all feel the need to ask, to find out, to search for meaning above and beyond ourselves. Every human on earth lives in a creation that God made. That He made it is evident. (Romans 1:20). It is the individual’s response to His creation that makes the difference in our eternity.

Romans 1:18-19 discusses the wrath of God against those who see what He has plainly made evident in creation but have suppressed it. However, those who suppress the fact that God revealed Himself plainly, still seek the answers to the eternal questions. So they make up philosophies to satisfy the longing. This is aptly demonstrated in the modern Gnostic’s own words. From Gnosis.org:

“All religious traditions acknowledge that the world is imperfect. Where they differ is in the explanations which they offer to account for this imperfection and in what they suggest might be done about it. Gnostics have their own — perhaps quite startling — view of these matters: they hold that the world is flawed because it was created in a flawed manner.”

The truth is, the world is imperfect because man is imperfect, sinful, as a matter of fact. It was made perfectly and God declared it very good. (Genesis 1:31). Man brought imperfection and thus introduced sin into God’s perfect creation. (Genesis 3:14-19.) But when a religion or a philosophy suppresses that fact, people seek that answer elsewhere as to why things are so messed up. Since they do not understand that they themselves are imperfect, they decide the world must be the problem.

That is why the Gnostics’ philosophies are so appealing to man. It is why Gnostic human wisdom and traditions are so readily absorbed by those who suppress the truth of God. It releases them from responsibility. Or they think it does. Yet all humans sin (Romans 3:23) and all will stand before God to give an account. (2 Cor 5:10, Job 34:11, Matthew 16:27…)

Reliance on human wisdom and philosophy is a tremendously appealing method to attempt to find answers to life’s problems. Buddha certainly thought so.

A gnostic belief system with its reliance on human traditions is like trying not to drown by hanging onto a rock.

Mark Fairley is part of the Fuel Project. He finished the “Know Your Enemy” series recently and has begun a second series called “Stay Free”. In the Enemy series, he explored the coming New World Order from a Christian perspective. He looked at the rise of false religions from the Fall to the current time. In his sequel Stay Free series he looks at morality and how society cannot survive without Christ.

In this 13-minute part, the series looks at the rise of Phariseeism. These were the worst of the worst as far as applying rules and traditions to human wisdom, which are no substitute for God. Indeed, even if one does not substitute tradition for God, man-made rules are not even helpful alongside true faith, as Paul wrote in Colossians 2 and as the narrator demonstrates. Reliance on human tradition and rules will only ever get you tangled up:

Stay Free (Part 18 – The Rise of the Pharisees)

John MacArthur preached on this verse in a sermon titled Philosophy or Christ?

Paul said there were two inadequate sources for wisdom, philosophy and vain deceit. (Col 2:8)

“Two inadequate sources: #1 ‑ tradition. It’s always been the case. People have always believed it. You know what that does? That just perpetuates inadequate, depraved human thinking patterns. Tradition doesn’t mean anything. Just because it’s handed down doesn’t mean it’s true. If you’ve got error to start with and hand it down, it doesn’t make it any better than what you started with. Here he’s saying, “Philosophy comes after the tradition of men.” One of the things that’s so interesting and we don’t really have time to develop this … when you study philosophy, almost all philosophers, build on other philosophers.”

“There’s an incredible sequence that flows through the history of philosophy. And one guy goes this far, the next guy chops off a little bit of his philosophy and develops it, and the next guy…so what you have today in philosophy can go all the way back and almost all philosophy finds its roots in Aristotle and Plato. It’s all just a changing and a variation in the flow of the tradition of man. The errors are perpetuated, perpetuated, perpetuated, perpetuated. Look at Judaism. By the time Jesus arrived on the earth, the Jews had built up such a monstrosity of philosophy, such a mess of human wisdom, that they were unable any longer to tell what the traditions of men were and what the Word of God was. … There’s nothing sacred about tradition. It’s just perpetuated human ignorance.” (source)

God warns us against seeking after human wisdom in our own vain deceit: “For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” (1 Corinthians 1:19)

Solomon had something to say about that search for wisdom-

“I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” 17And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:16-17).

Matthew Henry says of Solomon’s search for wisdom- “Solomon tried all things, and found them vanity. He found his searches after knowledge weariness, not only to the flesh, but to the mind. The more he saw of the works done under the sun, the more he saw their vanity; and the sight often vexed his spirit. He could neither gain that satisfaction to himself, nor do that good to others, which he expected. Even the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom discovered man’s wickedness and misery; so that the more he knew, the more he saw cause to lament and mourn. Let us learn to hate and fear sin, the cause of all this vanity and misery; to value Christ; to seek rest in the knowledge, love, and service of the Saviour.’

The only hope is Jesus and the only wisdom is His. He has generously made that wisdom available to us in the bible. His death on the cross and gift of grace through salvation makes His wisdom understandable to us. Once we are a born-again believer, we can rely on the Holy Spirit to help us understand it!

Why would we want to rely on our on wisdom when we have perfect truth upon which to lean on? The message doesn’t take 800 Pharisaical rules to apply. There is only this:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
————–
Gnosticism series:

Introduction
Part 1: Secret Knowledge
Part 2: Asceticism
Part 3: Depreciation of Jesus
Part 4: Ceremonies & Rituals
Part 5: Worship of Angels
Conclusion 

Posted in gnosticism, gnostics, neo-gnosticism

Gnosticism Part 5: Worship of Angels

This is part 5 looking at the origins of Gnosticism and its impact on today’s church, I will examine the fifth element that Zondervan’s NIV bible lists as the main components of the philosophy/religion: Worship of Angels.

Though Gnosticism encompasses a wide range of beliefs, there are 6 main elements that Paul refutes in Colossians-
1. secret knowledge, (refuted in Col 1:27; 2:3)
2. asceticism, (Col 2:18)
3. depreciation of Christ (lowering Him in name and in glory), (Col 2:18b)
4. strict rule-keeping, ceremonies, or rituals (Col 2:23)
5. worship of angels, (Col 2:18)
6. and reliance on human wisdom and traditions (Col 2:20b-22)

“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).” (source)

Everything old is new again, and elements of it are infiltrating even the most conservative evangelical, fundamentalist churches today. That’s why I call it “neo-Gnosticism” when referring to the modern version of it.

“Neo-Gnosticism is the philosophy that invites you to search deep inside yourself and discover some exciting things by which you must then live. It is the philosophy which declares that the only real moral imperative is that you should then be true to what you find when you engage in that deep inward search.” source.

In refuting the false doctrines that had infiltrated the church at Colossae, Paul wrote:

“Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize.” (Colossians 2:18a).

Why would Paul combine false humility and worship of angels in the same sentence? It seems like those two warnings are completely disparate. But they aren’t. “Because of the belief that the spirit of a person was trying to get back to heaven, worship of angels and astrology was a common tenet of Gnosticism, since angels and the patterns of stars and planets were believed to hold keys to this spiritual journey. At the core of Gnosticism is the belief that knowledge, typically secret knowledge – knowledge from angels, from the stars and planets, from the ancients – was the path to holiness and salvation,” David Grabbe wrote in Forerunner Commentary.

Paul warned about this again in Galatians 1:8, writing, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”

How many false religions were started by or are perpetuated by a fallen angel? Most. Mormonism, Islam, Seventh Day Adventists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses were started via “angels”, and Catholicism and New Age Mysticism make heavy use of angelic visits though angelic-seeming spirit guides and Marian apparitions. Many New Age sects began through the contact of “Spirit Guides”.

Why be so (falsely) humble? Because that way, neo-Gnostics can appear to be pious and make up their own rules at the same time. They say, “I’m too humble to know God’s word for sure, but THIS I know for sure, I was visited by an angel who showed me … And I know it’s true because it happened to me!” This aspect of neo-Gnosticism is re-emerging today in increasing amounts. Many are straying away from God’s word and substituting mystical experiences and intuition for truth.

Mike Ratliffe wrote, “These reactions are rooted in the “Hermeneutic of Humility,” which is a way of looking at our faith and interpreting the very Word of God through a filter that sees certainty as a product of pride and uncertainty as a virtue. … people contend that to be certain divides people while uncertainty creates an environment of unity. I contend that the “Hermeneutic of Humility” is that decaying point from which the godlessness in these days has become so manifest in the visible church in our time. Carefully read the passage (2 Timothy 3:1-5). This is a warning of what happens in the Church when the Christian leaders forsake their true duty, which is to minister according the very clear commandments from God’s Word. When Christian liberalism in any form is embraced by those in control in our churches, the Gospel will be neglected. It will be watered down.”

Now, angels are not divine and worship of them is explicitly prohibited (as in Col. 2:18; Rev. 19:10; 22:9).

Mr Grabbe wrote, “In Genesis 3:1, in this first message to mankind, Satan sows seeds of doubt as to whether God can be trusted. Satan’s very first words were, “Has God indeed said. . . ?” Spoken or not, this sentiment that God is untrustworthy, and that His Word is suspect, has been a regular feature in mankind’s relationship with God ever since. The Gnostics were no exception—in fact, they are a prime example. In its most basic sense, Gnosticism is knowing, but its knowledge, while sometimes including the Word of God, does not have it as its foundation. Instead, more than what was contained in Scripture, Gnostics valued what they experienced, what elders told them, or what they learned from “angels,” astrology, or chemistry (alchemy). Thus, we see elements of Gnosticism in Galatians: a mixture of “lucky days,” to which they ascribed spiritual significance (part of their worship prior to conversion) and a belief, brought in by Judaizers or perhaps even an “angel” (Galatians 1:8), that justification could come by works of the law.”

Heresy doesn’t always mean that a sect or a doctrine denies Jesus outright. The most successful sects and heretics preach Jesus, but they preach a different Jesus. They say that more must be done to attain salvation, that Jesus isn’t sufficient. They chip away at His sovereignty and slowly build man up as a partner on the sanctification process. Did you ever wonder why the verse in Acts 1:11 says, “Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”

Because if an angel should come and preach a different Jesus, a different Gospel, let him be accursed! We look for, listen to, and worship this same Jesus who came and died and rose again! A Gnostic’s Jesus will be different from the same Jesus who incarnated into flesh, ministered on earth, and died on the cross as God’s sacrifice for sins, and was resurrected on the third day.

Paul referred to a Gnostic’s false humility. A false humility goes something like this: “‘so humble unworthy me can’t think of worshiping a Holy God. I’ll worship this angel instead.” But what is true humility? One can find a definition at Christian Research and Apologetics Ministry (CARM):

“Humility is the right understanding of who you are before God. Notice, I did not say it means that you have to hate yourself, or call yourself names, or say you aren’t worth anything, etc. Humility is that quality of a Christian that demonstrates a right relationship and position before God. This demonstration is manifested in attitude, words, and deeds.”

Paul referred to real humility in Colossians 3:12- “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,” and the word for humility is translated “lowliness of mind.” Quite the opposite of the Gnostic’s puffed up sense of self and the high importance he places on his visions and experiences and knowledge!

CARM again, “We need to start with our relationship with Him that can only come through a proper relationship with Jesus. We need to be humble before God and dependent up Him, seeking His will. Therefore, prayer, the place of dependence upon God, is the practice of humility before God. When we let our souls bask in the presence of God, we find out who we really are: sinners, saved by grace, and kept by His love. And, as Moses’ face shined because of being in the presence of God, so too will your heart reflect the humility and love of Jesus as we spend time with Him in prayer. Seek Jesus and you will find perfect Humility.”
——————

Gnostic buzzwords to watch out for,
–“received” as in ‘received a text’, ‘received a revelation’,
–ascend,
–spirit guide, spirit being, ascended masters (other terms for false angels and their worship),
–fullness (that is why Paul used fullness in Col 2:9-10),
–mystery, alchemy, altered states of consciousness,
–elementals (Paul refuted the necessity of seeking elemental forces in Col 2:8)

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Col 2:8)

The Lord Jesus is GREAT! He is mighty to save. I pray for us all “That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:12)
———————
Gnosticism series:
Introduction
Part 1: Secret Knowledge
Part 2: Asceticism
Part 3: Depreciation of Jesus
Part 4: Ceremonies & Rituals
Part 5: Worship of Angels
Part 6: Reliance on Human Traditions
Conclusion

Posted in beth moore, bill hybels, gnosticism, gnostics, neo-gnosticism, prophecy, rick warren

Gnosticism Part 4: Ceremonies & Rituals

If you read Colossians, you quickly become aware that Paul was busy refuting some false teachings that had begun to affect the church at Colossae. Epahras had sent Paul a letter about this, and Colossians was Paul’s response. Though Paul never mentioned “Gnosticism” by name, it becomes obvious that’s what he was referring to, because of his use of certain words and phrases.

Gnosticism is less a religion than a loose patchwork of philosophies and doctrines from other religions and disciplines, blended into an amorphous set of beliefs that taint the true faith as delivered by Jesus. There never was a church of Gnostics, or a firm set of Gnostic tenets, just beliefs certain people promoted as a subtle blend of Christianity and good-sounding religious practices from elsewhere, mostly the Eastern mystical religions. But in general, we can list six elements contained in most Gnostic teachings, courtesy of the Zondervan NIV bible, which in turn is based on Paul’s mention of them in Colossians.

1. secret knowledge, (refuted in Col 1:27; 2:3)
2. asceticism, (Col 2:18)
3. depreciation of Christ (lowering Him in name and in glory), (Col 2:18b)
4. strict rule-keeping, ceremonies, or rituals ( Col 2:23)
5. worship of angels, ( Col 2:18)
6. and reliance on human wisdom and traditions (Col 2:20b-22)

When we come through the door of justification, and before we exit life through the door of glorification, we engage in a life-long process of sanctification. This is the work of the Holy Spirit upon us to make us more Christlike and to consecrate us for holy work on earth. “There are many false paradigms of sanctification, and there always have been. The problem is, there is only one method of sanctification and that is through the Spirit. The false paradigms of sanctification cannot restrain the flesh. Though some paradigms or strategies of sanctification purport to restrain the flesh and make one holy, they don’t do that, any more than a false Gospel could save. … [Gnostic/Mysticism] “is the notion that there is within a person a mystical, intuitive capability that causes, if manipulated correctly, a person to rise in spiritual formation”, said John MacArthur, in his new blog series addressing mysticism/gnosticism and spiritual formation, in his part 2 called “Spiritual Formation and Biblical Sanctification.”

BibleGateway summarizes Gnosticism, “The heresy taking root in Colossae was a form of gnosticism, which taught (among other things) that humans could transcend evil and the corruptions of the world through asceticism and their own strength of will. …”

The early church was much plagued by Gnostics throughout the first through third centuries. Colossians and 1 John are the most pointed refutations of this false doctrine, but several other New Testament books dealt with it too, including 1 Timothy 6, Titus, and other books as well.

Gnosticism is a self-centered, and not a Jesus centered doctrine, meaning, they attempt to attain sanctification themselves. They also believe in a progressive sanctification. It was through completion of rituals and participation in ceremonies that Gnostics believed progressed one’s sanctification ever upward. Mormonism, Scientology, and many of the ‘secret societies’ like Odd Fellows, Red Men and Freemasonry have steps for the devotee to attain. Sometimes these steps are called “degrees”, as in Freemasonry. In Scientology they are called “levels”.

Gnostics brought a teaching, but their rituals varied widely, that is, until Aleister Crowley wrote one. Crowley was a British mystic and occultist who, when in Egypt in 1904, “received” a text known as The Book of the Law from what he believed was a divine source. From this basis Crowley built a theology of Gnosticism called Thelema. In 1913, he wrote a Gnostic Mass. The mass contained Crowley’s scripted rituals. Crowley was also a pansexual and a recreational drug user, which may explain his crazy eyes.

Left, Aleister Crowley in ceremonial garb. Wiki source

Crowley explained why he undertook to codify Gnostic teachings into spiritual practices expressed through a ‘mass’. He said in his Confessions, “Human nature demands (in the case of most people) the satisfaction of the religious instinct, and, to very many, this may best be done by ceremonial means. I wished therefore to construct a ritual through which people might enter into ecstasy as they have always done under the influence of appropriate ritual.”

But Paul said, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.” (Colossians 2:16).

As for ecstasies, “Some charismatic Christians practice ecstatic states (called e.g. “being slain in the Spirit”) and interpret these as given by the Holy Spirit.” 

Since Gnostics deny the sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross in His flesh, and they deny the Spirit’s work in sanctification, they need these rituals to make themselves thing they are accomplishing their own sanctification. All false religions, including Gnostics, focus on what the individual can do to attain heaven, or a higher consciousness, or transcendence, or any other phrase they claim will be the result of performing a certain ritual. In other words, I can do it, no God needed, thanks.

In Colossians 2:20, Paul exhorted, “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—”

The above verse is explained, “‘Your union with Christ in his death has caused you to die to the rudiments of the world’, meaning, your union with Christ in his death has caused you to be separated from human religion, and human reli­gion is based in legalism and mysticism and self denial and all those works kind of things. But he says the redeemed are set free from self-styled, man made rules designed to make you holy.” (source)

For a pagan, including Gnostics, “salvation is not brought from above to below by divine visitations, but rather occurs through the Gnostic’s contemplative ascent through ever higher levels of the divine realm.”

“One version of a Gnostic ritual or ceremony was marking the various stages of a visionary ascent with certain baptisms, sealings, washings in various “waters.” Another ritual was utilizing a self-performable technique of successive stages of mental detachment from the world of multiplicity, and a corresponding assimilation of the self to the evermore refined levels of being.” You’ll find this is in Roman Catholic asceticism and Buddhism.”

“Other rituals and ceremonies included sexual sacramentalism, verbal performances through ritual speech, which can include glossalalia, traditional verbal formulae, spells, oaths, conjuration, invocations, evocations, voces mysticae, and prayers of various sorts addressed to transcendent powers, good and evil alike, and/or symbolic actions such as a ritual handshake. (source, University Nebraska-Lincoln)

You will note the incipient Gnosticism inherent in the Pentecostal ‘language of tongues’ (glossolalia) and levels of spiritual maturity through having had a “baptism of the Spirit.”

As you read the examples above, perhaps the modern re-emergence of these old Gnostic practices will have already been brought to your mind. The current evangelical craze for contemplative prayer, Lectio Divina, meditation, “Christian yoga“, expressive praise dance & mime performance, labyrinth walking, and becoming detached from the world to await a small voice in which conversations are held with the ‘Divine,’ are now apparent to you in the Gnostic teachings of Beth Moore, Ann Voskamp, Sarah Young, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, Mark Driscoll, and many others.

The devilish influence of these practices are collectively known as “spiritual formation” and I mentioned them in part 2 four days ago. Since then, John MacArthur has also begun a blog series on spiritual formation and he is defining these false practices, blog by blog, so that the believer can be aware of their evil influence.

In 1932 the Polish cracked the Germans’ war codes. Just weeks before WWII broke out in 1939, they gave the information to the Allies. We called it “The Enigma Machine“. “The intelligence gleaned from this source, codenamed “Ultra” by the British, was a substantial aid to the Allied war effort. The exact influence of Ultra on the course of the war is debated; an oft-repeated assessment is that decryption of German ciphers hastened the end of the European war by two years. Winston Churchill told the United Kingdom’s King George VI after World War II: “It was thanks to Ultra that we won the war.”

You know, Solomon said that there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Every false religion can be traced back to the Garden of Eden. Satan’s first words in the bible are recorded as ones which question the sufficiency and accuracy of the information God delivered to humans. He went on to imply that God was holding out on Adam and Eve, (God is a liar) that if Eve performed an action (eat the fruit) she would know as much as God, and that we can be like God. Gnosticism can be traced to those very words. There is no new false doctrine. They are all recycled bits from old satanic lies.

We do not need an enigma machine! We do not need to decipher our enemy’s plans! Why? Because we are not unaware of his schemes! (2 Cor 2:11). God has generously given us His word, inside of which is everything profitable for us (2 Timothy 3:16) to live and work out our salvation in fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12). He laid out for us that satan is a liar and the father of lies. Under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the bible is replete with examples of the lies of satan, warnings that he seeks someone to devour, (Luke 22:31; 1 Peter 5:8). He shows us what kind of lies he perpetrates (Genesis 3:1-5, Colossians 1-2; and many other NT books).

If we read the bible diligently we will be solidly infused with His word. Saturate yourself in Truth! When you come across falsity, for example if your church wants to institute contemplative prayer, build a labyrinth,  send you to a yoga workshop, or start a praise dance ministry…you will be able to detect it.

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” (John 16:13). “He shall not speak of himself means He shall teach nothing contrary to what I have taught you:” we read in Clarke’s Commentary.

Just to reinforce for a moment that there is no new doctrine under the sun, here is the culminating prayer from the 1913 Liber XV Mass that Crowley wrote, which adheres to a position that Gnostics of earlier centuries believed, right down to Paul’s time:

“Lord most secret, bless this spiritual food unto our bodies, bestowing upon us health and wealth and strength and joy and peace, and that fulfilment of will and of love under will that is perpetual happiness.”

It is the Prosperity Gospel!

I am against Expressive, Choreographed Dance in Worship. I do not believe it to be an acceptable form of worship in a service. With that in mind, here is Stephen Colbert in “Just Say No to Liturgical Dance”. He provided his own liturgical dance version of the hymn “King of Glory” on the show Strangers with Candy. I think this shows the ridiculousness of praise dancing. I do not doubt the sincerity of many who perform this kind of dance in church, and I applaud them for wanting to serve Him, but I think it detracts from the fact that we must always keep Jesus as the focus, especially in these Gnostic days.

Gnosticism series:
Introduction
Part 1: Secret Knowledge
Part 2: Asceticism
Part 3: Depreciation of Jesus
Part 4: Ceremonies & Rituals
Part 5: Worship of Angels

Part 6: Human Traditions 
Conclusion 

Posted in gnosticism, gnostics, neo-gnosticism

Gnosticism Part 3: Depreciation of Jesus

In this part of the series on Gnosticism then and now, we’ll look at the third element of this philosophy-slash-religion: a depreciation of Jesus. Though Gnosticism contains many elements, and many other elements from different philosophies and religions overlap with Gnosticism, Zondervan’s NIV Bible lists 6, which are the ones I am looking at:

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 tradition.

The best summary of Gnosticism I’ve found is from Gene Edward Veith. He 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).”

There is nothing more blasphemous than taking away one iota of praise for the work Jesus did on earth, the cross, and the resurrection, and the reasons for it: our sin. The very things Gnostics deny are the very elements of the Gospel that Paul laid out for us in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures”.

Jesus died for sins. Gnostics claim He died to release us from an evil creation. Yet God called creation “Good”.

Gary Zeolla wrote, “The first to deny the Christian doctrine of a bodily resurrection were the Gnostics of the first through third centuries. Many involved in the New Age Movement today hold views similar to the early Gnostics. And the modern-day group know as Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the bodily resurrection of Christ.”

“Kurt Rudolph explains the concept of resurrection in gnosticism, “For the Gnostic any resurrection of the dead was excluded from the outset; the flesh or the substance is destined to perish. ‘There is no resurrection of the flesh, but only of the soul’, say the so-called Archonites, a late Gnostic group in Palestine.” [Kurt Rudolph, Gnosis (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985)]

Marcion was an early Gnostic philosopher and a Christian bishop. Born in c.80AD, he lived until c.AD 160. Marcion believed Jesus Christ was the savior sent by God, and Paul of Tarsus was his chief apostle, but he rejected the Hebrew Bible and the God of Israel. Marcionists believed that the wrathful Hebrew God was a separate and lower entity than the all-forgiving God of the New Testament. This belief was in some ways similar to Gnostic Christian theology; notably, both are dualistic, that is, they posit opposing gods, forces, or principles: one higher, spiritual, and “good”, and the other lower, material, and “evil”. (Wikipedia).

Marcion was eventually excommunicated for his heretical beliefs. Yet to this day his assertion that there is an ‘Old Testament God of wrath’ and a ‘New Testament God of love’ lives on.

Any philosophy, religion, or discipline that fails to adhere to the three elements of the Gospel as Paul has written to us is false. Period.

Any philosophy, religion, or discipline that fails to adhere to the three elements of the Gospel is an automatic lowering of Christ, a depreciation.

In biblical financial metaphors, Jesus is the ultimate asset, of precious and eternal value.

Investor Words describes the definition of depreciation as: “A noncash expense that reduces the value of an asset as a result of wear and tear, age, or obsolescence. Most assets lose their value over time (in other words, they depreciate), and must be replaced once the end of their useful life is reached.”

You note that modern Gnostics (neo-Gnostics) depreciate God by saying the OT God is obsolete, dry, or out of date. Or that OT God is of lesser quality or value.

There are many assets and as Investor Words claimed, most depreciate. Jesus said,

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21).

James wrote in James 5:2, “Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.”

There is only one treasure which does not depreciate, and that is Jesus. In financial terms, we have been given a deposit which will be redeemed on the Day of bodily resurrection:

“Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” (2 Timothy 1:14 NASB). That treasure is the Kingdom of God (Matthew 13:46) and the King of that Kingdom is the greatest treasure of all, Jesus, to whom has been given all authority. Paul wrote in Philippians 3:7-8 that all he has in this world is trash, but gaining Jesus is the treasure eternal. Compared to Him, there is no other treasure.

So that is why the Gnostics (via satan’s evil whispers) try to depreciate Christ. They do this by any means possible: by insinuating things which lowers Christ from His lofty position as satan did in the Garden to Eve (Did God really say?), by impugning His value (OT God is lower), His work (He never really came in the body), or His people (by drawing them away from Jesus as Paul warned in Col 2:8.). There are two ways to gain the top position, either raise yours higher than your competitor or lower his to below yours. Satan tries both.

‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” (Isaiah 14:13-14).

Satan said to Jesus on the Temple roof, “And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”(Matthew 4:9)

How does modern Gnosticism depreciate Christ? If a teacher or pastor were to show up and say “satan is higher than God” we would of course know he was a false teacher or pastor. Satan is more subtle than that. Yet many people refuse to entertain a contention for the faith unless the situation is as blatant as the verses in Isaiah or Matthew, where satan is directly saying I am higher and Jesus is lower.

Today’s neo-Gnostics’ attacks are subtle! They depreciate God by using three methods. Maybe there are more but I’ll address these three which I believe are the most prevalent.

They lower Jesus by:
–what they say God/Jesus is saying, (therefore implying the bible is not sufficient);
how they say it, (irreverently, and their conversations never seem to focus on the same things the God of the bible does: obedience, holiness, sin, or suffering)
–and by diluting His word through sheer volume and numbers. More people today than ever claim to have received authoritative statements from God as exemplified in utterances, visions, and ‘word of knowledge’ or by direct revelation; by the numerous “visits” to heaven or hell, guided tours conducted by Jesus; and by numerous “new” translations of the bible. More of something always depreciates the original.

Satan was the first to do this in the Garden. He intimated to Eve that God was holding out on her by saying that if she ate the fruit, she will know good and evil, subtly insinuating by reverse psychology that she doesn’t know good and evil now, which is bad. Secondly, by offering Eve secret knowledge he alone possesses, which depreciates God’s word.

I’d mentioned in the last part about the neo-Gnostic secret knowledge, the example of Jentezen Franklin. Mr Franklin subtly scares the brethren by intimating that unless believers fast, heaven is a locked door to them. He said, “fasting is the secret key that unlocks heaven’s door and slams shut the gates of hell.” That one statement contains all the elements of the original Gnostic attack on a believer as seen in the Garden, Genesis 3: Franklin has secret knowledge, the door to heaven is locked to you (but not to him), and by doing what Franklin says, you gain power (locking hell and unlocking heaven). Then you will ‘know.’

Beth Moore says that she also has secret knowledge from God, which she claims he tells her audibly. The two even have a deal, as if they were equal partners in the relationship, which of course, lowers God. She wrote in Praying God’s Word, “Before God tells me a secret, He knows up front I’m going to tell it! By and large, that’s our “deal.” There’s that word secret again, used to intimate the person has a higher or better knowledge than the treasured word in the bible and not coincidentally, intimidates others into believing their relationship is lesser, their Jesus is lesser.

So let’s compare what and how God spoke in the bible and what and how God speaks to neo-Gnostics. I made a comparison chart. On the left are statements several people have said they heard God say to them, and on the right are God’s words as recorded in the bible. I used the New Living Translation so that no one can say that because the KJV or the ESV used more formal language it isn’t a fair comparison.It is everyday speech to everyday speech.

In this exercise, you see that even in the NLT’s ‘friendlier’ more everyday language, the times when God spoke to bible people He was still formal, using imperatives, referencing death, obedience, and what they ‘must do’. As an aside, just once I’d like to read a neo-Gnostic saying God spoke to them about their sin. [Sorry about the slightly overlarge formatting but this was the 7th attempt and the best one…]

A lowering of God naturally means an elevation of ourselves. A gnostic will seek to equalize the teeter-totter. In the Beth Moore Living Proof conference I attended, she spoke of “reciprocal relationship.” Though we are co-heirs, and Jesus is both our Father and our Friend, we do not have an equal relationship, a reciprocal partnership, or a “deal”. He is God, ruling with a rod of iron! (Rev 19:15)

My hope is that through these essays you will have your spiritual antenna raised and when you hear the buzzwords and listen to sermons, you will be able to track if there is any infiltration of Gnostic influences. I pray that you are in a sound, doctrinally solid, bible believing church and you never have to contend with such pollution. I am looking forward to the day when we will be with Jesus and worship him perfectly, with no error or twisted interpretation. What a day that will be!

Meanwhile, let us do all we can to maintain our high view of the only one who deserves it: Jesus. He is the Holy God of Israel, the Groom to His Bride, and our safety in the storm. We owe all to Him. May our prayers and our lives reflect His high position.

Gnosticism Series:
Introduction
Part 1: Secret Knowledge
Part 2: Asceticism
Part 3: Depreciation of Jesus
Part 4: Ceremonies & Rituals
Part 5: Worship of Angels
Part 6: Human Traditions
Conclusion

Posted in ascetic, gnosticism, gnostics, jentezen franklin

Gnosticism Part 2: Asceticism

In Colossians, Paul warned the believers at that little church to beware the philosophies of the day which were encroaching upon them. Though never named, scholars indicate that the philosophy was Gnosticism. Gnosticism itself is an amorphous amalgam of various elements of many false religions, man-made traditions, and human philosophies. John Ritenbaugh in Forerunner Commentary says, “Here is the earliest indication of Gnosticism as a religion—or at least a philosophy, a way of life that eventually became a religion. … Gnosticism was ascetic and exclusivist, and it relied heavily on magic.”

Ritenbaugh meant exclusivist in that Gnostics claimed the way to salvation was delivered exclusively and uniquely to them, that they alone possessed the higher knowledge which would aid them in their paths to attaining heaven.

Ralphie, upon learning the secret knowledge
is just a crummy commercial

Paul spends time reminding the Colossian believers that man’s philosophy always has a disappointing end, especially when the message is presented as ‘the secret that will finally fulfill you’, as Gnostics claim. In part 1, I brought up the movie character in A Christmas Story, Ralphie, and his disappointment in the Little Orphan Annie decoder ring’s secret message when he finally deciphered it. “A crummy Ovaltine commercial!” he muttered bitterly. John MacArthur has a more eloquent discussion of the emptiness of man’s philosophies:

“Philosophy is empty deceit. It doesn’t give you what you expect. The word “deceit” is interesting in the Bible. One of the words that’s used in II Peter 2 is “guile” or “deceit”. The original meaning of the word is fish hook. And the interesting thing about a fish hook is that it is not what a fish expects. What you see is not what you get in that circumstance. And he’s saying that philosophy is the same thing. It’s a baited hook. You think it’s going to be wonderful ‑‑ it turns out to be deceiving.” (source, sermon, Philosophy or Christ?)

Plato (left) and Aristotle (right):
detail from The School of Athens
by Raffaello Sanzio, 1509

Paul said in Colossians 2:8 that they should not be taken captive by ‘philosophy and vain deceit’. The same notion is seconded in 2 Timothy 3:6, where weak-willed women laden with sins are taken captive by men who are always learning but never able to come to knowledge of the truth, captive here meaning hooked on a false doctrine and led away to destruction, as a fish taking the bait. Little Ralphie was hooked for sure, eagerly spending time and money to decode the message that he was sure to bring fulfillment/joy/peace/happiness, when at the end he discovered something about man’s empty and vain ways.

Secret knowledge is the main component to Gnosticism, but asceticism is also a part of it. Paul referred to the element of Gnostic asceticism in Colossians 2:21-23.

“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”

Man tries to attain higher wisdom and a deeper spirituality by doing certain works. Man also tries to attain higher wisdom by refraining from doing certain other things. In other words, abstinence. The works and the refraining of works are all listed out according to man’s philosophies, and are therefore not holy nor profitable to the body of believers nor do they glorify the holy name of Jesus, as Paul indicated in verse 23.

Source

Wikipedia defines Asceticism from the Greek: “áskēsis, “exercise” or “training”, describes a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from various worldly pleasures, often with the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals. Many religious traditions (e.g. Buddhism, Jainism, the Christian desert fathers) include practices that involve restraint with respect to actions of body, speech, and mind. The founders and earliest practitioners of these religions lived extremely austere lifestyles, refraining from sensual pleasures and the accumulation of material wealth. They practiced asceticism not as a rejection of the enjoyment of life, or because the practices themselves are virtuous, but as an aid in the pursuit of salvation or liberation.”

Gnostics believed matter was bad, therefore the body was evil and only the spirit was good. They believed in a strict separation of the two. That is why they deny Christ in the flesh, saying that He would never deign to incarnate into a fleshly body. In Gnostic asceticism we see both ends of the spectrum in their treatment of the body. Some Gnostics proposed that severe treatment of the body through rigorous denial of certain things was the way to deal with evil of the flesh. Others said that since flesh was evil but they had already attained the higher knowledge of the spirit, and since the two were separate, they could do anything they wanted in the body. They were libertines.

Wiki also states of Gnosticism: “Evidence in the source texts indicates Gnostic moral behaviour as being generally ascetic in basis, expressed most fluently in their sexual and dietary practice.”

This is not to say that abstinence from certain things is bad. This is the evil genius of Gnostic asceticism. Paul warned the single people to abstain from sexual relations and warned the married people to abstain from relations with others not their spouse. (1 Corinthians 7:1-8). Jesus said in Matthew 6:16-18 about fasting, stating “when you fast”, not ‘if‘ you fast, indicating that the activity is good and profitable, an activity that is welcomed by the Lord.

However, Gnostic ascetics went beyond scripture with their abstinence, and actually used it as a weapon of holiness that positioned themselves above others.

Colossian Christians were affected by an ascetic form of Gnosticism that included “ordinances” (KJV) or “regulations” (NKJV) that are not found in God’s Word but were the commandments and doctrines of men (Colossians 2:20-23), as well as demons, the “basic principles of the world.” (Colossians 2:8). [source]

CARM says “Asceticism is a lifestyle that denies worldly pleasures in order to gain spiritual benefit. There are different degrees of asceticism from casual to severe.”

Jentezen Franklin is a Gnostic Ascetic. He claims to have secret knowledge about fasting that if you perform, you will receive a spiritual benefit, such as “experience spiritual renewal and direction for your life . . . restoration of relationship . . . healing . . . release from bondages . . . and so much more!”

He is what modern Gnostic Asceticism looks like. Mr Franklin made up the Daniel Fast and wrote about fasting in his book “Fasting: Opening the door to a deeper, more intimate, more powerful relationship with God.” He said in his book:

“When I feel myself growing dry spiritually, when I don’t sense that cutting-edge anointing, or when I need a fresh encounter with God, fasting is the secret key that unlocks heaven’s door and slams shut the gates of hell. The discipline of fasting releases the anointing, the favor, and the blessing of God in the life of a Christian.” [more here]

Franklin’s Daniel Fast lists certain ingredients and foods that one may eat or not eat during the 21 days. It is based on the fast that Daniel asked the Babylonian overseer to allow Daniel to undertake, so that he would not defile his body with meats sacrificed to idols and could remain within God’s commandments.

If you read part 1, you know that the word “secret’ is often thrown around by Gnostics, who, you’ll remember, are the only ones in the know. So, according to Franklin, fasting is a secret key? How is that so, when Jesus talked about fasting in his most famous sermon in the entire bible, (Matthew 6) well-known and available for all to see, and the Holy Spirit to inspire understanding of? Or is the information about fasting from a man-made doctrine is what’s the secret, a secret that Mr Franklin will now reveal? It is the latter.

Release is also another buzz word. Because Gnostics claim they have the knowledge unto salvation, thus the path to heavenly power is contained within us, so all it takes it this practice, that discipline, that knowledge to release what is already inside us. A Gnostic will tell you how, if you buy their book…  

Manifest is another buzz word. Once the discipline is concluded, the power we release will be made manifest.

However, the truth is we have no power, we are weak. Only God has power. (2 Cor 13:4; 1 Cor 1:25; Eph 3:7). We can do nothing apart from God! (John 15:5)

Source

So let’s boil this down into plain language. Say I am a Gnostic seeking after the secrets Mr Franklin writes about. For 21 days I refrain from eating white pasta, potato chips, and hot dogs. According to Mr Franklin, on day 21, I will now have unlocked the heaven’s door. Silly, isn’t it?! Especially since heaven’s door was opened to me the moment I repented and Jesus forgave me! Heaven is not locked to a born again believer! It is that insidious subtlety that pollutes the faith. May the Lord repay Mr Franklin for scaring the brethren like that! (2 Timothy 4:14, Hebrews 10:30).

So of course nothing man can do will unleash the power of heaven, but if you were hooked into the Daniel Fast or another kind of Gnostic, ascetic practice and your “power” was not “released” nor made “manifest,” maybe you wondered if you had done it wrong. Maybe you were jealous of all the other, more successful people who claimed to have grown close to God. Maybe you just felt left out, and wondered how or what you could have done to ‘ascend’ on the higher, holier paths that others seemed to have attained. That’s Gnosticism’s subtlety in using ascetic practices as a weapon, and that is why it is wrong. For Paul wrote-

“The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.” (Romans 14:3)

Lest you think I took a tiny portion of his man-made ascetic fasting discipline out of context, let’s look at some more. On Rick Warren’s ministry page, Mr Franklin is speaking of the Daniel Fast again. He discussed reasons for starting this fast. He said that it is good to begin it in January, “after overeating at holiday season, after Christmas, people are looking for more discipline in their life.” Franklin says that Jesus said seek the kingdom first, and this means the first of the year. He said starting the fast at “the beginning of January is good, after getting through all the ball games and the parties.” But Paul said in Colossians 2:16

“Let no man disturb you about food or about drink or in the distinctions of feasts and beginnings of months and Sabbaths,”

And Paul said as far as indulgence goes, (or holiday over-indulgence) in Colossians 2:23, “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” In other words, will an ascetic fast stop you from overindulging at 4th of July? Or a family reunion? Or the Next Christmas? No? So does that mean the power of heaven was not released through your practice nor made manifest in the world? Did God fail? Or did you? How defeating it is to be on that hamster wheel!

Daniel Grabbe wrote, “This third [Gnostic] heresy is easily seen in the antinomianism (literally, “against law”) of the Gnostics, who may not have been against every law, but were certainly against any law—any standard of conduct or requirement of righteousness—that impinged upon their standard of conduct. Thus the ascetic Gnostics who grieved the Christians in Colossae held to manmade regulations of “do not touch, do not taste, do not handle” (Colossians 2:20-21), while rejecting the command to “rejoice” with food and drink during the God-ordained festivals.”

Look how big this church is.
They must have done the Daniel Fast!

Mr Franklin further stated, when his church does the Daniel Fast in January, “the church explodes numerically. Numbers go straight up through the roof. … Every year we’ve done this our church has grown and grown and grown, and we do it corporately.”

In attempting to meld man-made ascetic practices with holiness, Mr Franklin uses numbers to try and cement the success of his Daniel Plan. But Paul said in Colossians 18 and 19 in part:

“Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism … and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” In other words, a private, individual, Holy Spirit inspired growth of a person who then increases in fruits for the benefit of the body. Everyone wants to seem holy by doing a fast or completing some such ascetic dicipline, but that does not mean the church is growing disciple by disciple. It likely means the opposite.

Mr Franklin even goes so far as to say if you read his plan of asceticism contained in the Fasting book “I believe [you will] even hear the voice of God speaking through the words to you in a personal way…”

But the writer of Hebrews 1:1-2 said, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.”

Mr Franklin is really saying that ‘In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us through me, in my fasting book.’

Live a crucified life, but not an ascetic one. Brothers and sisters, fast as the Holy Spirit prompts you for the purpose of glorifying God, not as an antidote to holiday overindulgence, church growth or releasing personal power. Develop abstinence in the various things according to the bible’s outlines, not according to people who make up lists of approved foods and then claim if you adhere to them you will unlock heaven! Denial of the flesh is good, because in the flesh is sin, (Galatians 5:24; Romans 8:13-14) but not according to man-made philosophies, but only according to the Spirit.

Paul said to the Colossians, “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” (Colossians 1:9)

Note: In listing the buzzwords, understand that the words themselves are neutral. It is only using them in context of a Gnostic sermon or ascetic practice that one should have their antenna raised and investigate further, using the bible as your barometer. For example, fasting to commit something to God is good. Fasting to get a blessing or release power is bad.

Ascetic Buzzwords: release, power, seed, spiritual formation, fasting, consciousness, transformation, spiritual therapy

Note: as above.

Ascetic Practices: yoga, contemplative meditation or centering prayer, labyrinth walking, fasting, Lectio Divina
———————-
Gnosticism series:

Introduction
Part 1: Secret Knowledge
Part 2: Asceticism
Part 3: Depreciation of Jesus
Part 4: Ceremonies & Rituals
Part 5: Worship of Angels
Part 6: Human Traditions 
Conclusion

Posted in gnosticism, gnostics, neo-gnosticism

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)

Just to show how quickly satan sought to hinder Christ’s work, Simon Magus, the sorcerer from Acts 8:9-24 is said through tradition via Irenaeus to be the originator of Gnosticism.

As a kid, I used to be fascinated with the secret decoder rings you got in Cracker Jacks (back when they had good prizes!). And who could forget Ralphie’s excitement at getting closer to decoding the secret message from the Little Orphan Annie Radio radio show in the movie A Christmas Story. Ovaltine and other companies marketed early decoders to children which often included “secret messages” on their radio shows. These could be decoded for a preview of the next episode of the show.

This was creatively immortalized in the movie where the show’s announcer transmitted a secret message each week. Ralphie’s message deciphered to: “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine,” a message from the show’s sponsor. He muttered angrily, “a crummy Ovaltine commercial”.

Secret codes have a popular attraction for us, because we all want to know. We all want to be on the inside, no one wants to be left out.

The world is confusing and tumultuous, and in our fleshly pride we all want to make sense of it, and sometimes, even use that knowledge to get a leg up on the competition. Otherwise, why would Insider Trading of stock secrets be a Federal Crime, Corporate Spying be such a problem, and stealing plays and codes from football organizations be such a problem? We all want insider information the other guy has and we all want to protect our own information we already possess from the other guy.

Jesus said we have no power apart from Him, Gnostics say we have a Divine Spark that if we access and activate through secret knowledge, we will have as much power as Jesus. Jesus said to deny the flesh, and follow Him, Gnostics say the flesh (material world) is evil but we must be true to ourselves and follow our desires. Jesus said that all knowledge is from Jesus and has been delivered once for all to the saints, Gnostics say that accessing secret knowledge is the mechanism of salvation. The Gnostics claim that the early church “suppressed” the real knowledge, particularly the role of and contributions of women.

Additionally, people do not want to believe the reality and simplicity of the Gospel message, because people want to believe they have power and ability to save themselves. Nor do they hold the final truths to be in the bible, but instead should be explored from within, via mantras, rituals, and paths. In this way, Gnostics comfortably create their own truths rather than submit to One Truth. That is why, when yet another paper/book/doctrine comes along, people flock to it, triumphantly crowing, the real information is now out.

The bible says these people will be “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” Further, they are “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:5, 7). They know about God. But they do not know God.

In 1945, Egyptian farmers near Luxor found earthenware jars buried in the sand containing papyrus codices of ancient writings. When these papers at Nag Hammadi were discovered, many people thought that at last, the real information is now here. The codices included Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles, The Apocalypse of Adam, The (First) Apocalypse of James, The (Second) Apocalypse of James, The Apocalypse of Paul, The Apocalypse of Peter, The Apocryphon of James, The Apocryphon of John, The Book of Thomas the Contender, The Gospel of Philip, The Gospel of Thomas. Other Gnostic writings were discovered at other times, such as the Gospel of Judas, and The Gospel of Mary Magdalene.

Nag Hammadi codices, Source Wikipedia

The “Gospel” of Judas opens with one of Gnosticism’s famous buzzwords, secret. Specifically, it states “the secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot.”

God does not speak secrets. If He speaks, it is for all to hear. “Draw near to me, hear this: from the beginning I have not spoken in secret, from the time it came to be I have been there.” And now the Lord GOD has sent me, and his Spirit.” (Isaiah 48:16).

“For there is nothing hidden, except that it should be made known; neither was anything made secret, but that it should come to light.” (Mark 4:22)

“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3)

“Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret.” (John 18:20).

Despite clear teachings of the bible that Jesus said His teaching is not a secret, Gnosticism is alive and well in Christianity. It is also alive and well in popular culture. The 2007 book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne exploded across the Western world as ‘the answer’ to life’s problems. It was featured in Oprah’s book club. If you think Gnosticism is dead, that people are satisfied with the sufficient and inerrant bible and its answers, just look at the numbers clamoring for the ‘secret’ knowledge Ms Byrne would impart. Challies wrote in his review of the book, “The week after Oprah’s endorsement sales of The Secret jumped from 18,000 to 101,000. The week after a second endorsement sales rose to 190,000.”

Ms Byrne isn’t done. This is the promo for her new book, The Magic: “For more than twenty centuries, words within a sacred text have mystified, confused, and been misunderstood by almost all who read them. Only a very few people through history have realized that the words are a riddle, and that once you solve the riddle – once you uncover the mystery – a new world will appear before your eyes.  In The Magic, Rhonda Byrne reveals this life-changing knowledge to the world. “

The Da Vinci Code is another book and movie with Gnostic origins. Pretty much any “Christian” insight or doctrine that emphasizes codes is Gnostic in origin. Carl Jung was much taken with Gnosticism and therefore Jungian psychology contains many elements of it. Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling is Gnostic, (Tim Challies reviewed it here).

Much these days from Beth Moore is Gnostic. She repeatedly claims insider knowledge delivered directly to her and that she is to teach it. Moore recently said Jesus lifted her into another dimension to see the global church as He sees it and told her to return with this information and teach it, essentially saying she has been given special, secret knowledge which she now shares with others. Moore also promotes Lectio Divina, a mystical spiritual discipline which emphasizes gaining special knowledge of God through personal experience by emptying the mind and repeating babbling mantras. 1 Timothy 6:20 has something to say about irreverent babbling.

Gnosticism emphasizes meditation, mantras, and extreme mysticism because salvation to the Gnostics came via intuitive, personal knowledge and direct experience. Salvation is derived internally by knowledge and works, not externally from God. Those who did not attain knowledge were associated with ignorance, a particular evil to Gnostics. To a Gnostic, direct revelation from the Spirit is always more important than the word.

Buzzwords to listen for: The divine spark, lost books/lost knowledge, secret teachings, new insight, duality, seed, ascend, the Divine Feminine or the Feminine Divine, oneness.

Seen in: Scientology, New Age, Freemasonry, Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God curriculum, Emergent Church, Benny Hinn…

This blogger wrote, “Gnosticism is Satan’s classic tool for combating the (difficult) truths of Christianity.”

Brethren, do not seek after books that purport to reveal new insights, deliver new knowledge, or have uncovered lost secrets. Jesus came to us visibly, preached, prophesied and taught, so that we would repent of our sins, have His Light of salvation through His grace. He delivered His word to us in the bible and nothing in there is a secret. It is open and available to all believers, and contains all one needs to know that is good and profitable. (2 Timothy 3:16).

My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments,
for length of days and years of life
and peace they will add to you.
(Proverbs 3:1-2)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshmentc to your bones
(Proverbs 3:5-8) [emphasis mine].
———————-
Gnosticism series:

Introduction
Part 1: Secret Knowledge
Part 2: Asceticism
Part 3: Depreciation of Jesus
Part 4: Ceremonies & Rituals
Part 5: Worship of Angels
Part 6: Human Traditions 
Conclusion

Posted in gnosticism, gnostics, prophecy, secret knowledge

Gnosticism is alive and well…and gaining. Introduction

In studying Colossians it occurred to me that an exploration of Gnosticism would be a good idea. We started studying the book last night at church, and I get so worked up over the Gnostic doctrines that influenced and polluted the church at Colossae, and affect us today, that I became almost inarticulate with anger. I hate Gnosticism. HATE. IT.

I get very upset because I see so much Gnosticism in this day coming in through many of the most popular teachers, and I’m not talking about the slick, money-grubber false preachers we can easily identify on TV as cranks, but teachers and preachers even in the Southern Baptist Convention who have huge followings. It hurts me so much to see precious brethren drawn away, because it is all so unnecessary.

In his essay, “Gospels, Gospels Everywhere? Gnosticism and the New Testament Canon”, Mark A. Pierson wrote, “For once Christians fail to defend their faith effectively, the new Gnosticism pounces, equipped with convoluted responses that many lay people are incapable of dismantling.”

Irenaeus wrote in “Against Heresies, Book 1, which was a detailed attack on Gnosticism: “Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself.”

So true! Gnosticism is difficult to dismantle it because it is so subtle, it sounds Christianese because scriptures are used (though not correctly), and there is no one smoking gun statement or creed one can point to and say ‘AHA! False!” If it was so easy to dismantle, I suppose the first century Christians at Colossae under Epahras and Paul’s preaching would have spotted it!

So I decided to write a 7-part series. The first part is this one, the introduction. I’ll define Gnosticism and list 6 elements that comprise this false doctrine. Then each succeeding part will individually explore each of the 6 elements in more detail. I’ll also name names, share book titles, and provide quotes from modern day Gnostics, so you know who they are and we can uncover their works of darkness.

So, in Colossians Paul wrote from jail to the believers at Colossae about man-made doctrines that were taking them away from their sure foundation of the faith: Jesus alone. Colossians 1-2 are especially poignant. Paul dealt with Gnosticism again in Galatians, and it is believed 1 John 4 was addressing the problem of Gnosticism, also. There is another mention in 2 Timothy 3 and again in 1 Timothy 6. It was a huge problem for the first-century church. It is a huge problem for us today.

What is Gnosticism?

Strong’s Concordance defines Gnosticism as “Gnosticism” is literally, “the cult based on having special, personal knowledge”.

It is seeking of knowledge apart from God, secret knowledge that will provide salvation to those few who found the secret. Gnosticism (the ‘g’ is silent), is from the word Gnosis. Wikipedia defines “Gnosis as the common Greek noun for knowledge. In the context of the English language gnosis generally refers to the word’s meaning within the spheres of Christian mysticism, Mystery religions and Gnosticism where it signifies ‘spiritual knowledge’ in the sense of mystical enlightenment.”

In other words, Gnostics seek spiritual enlightenment apart from God’s word. Gnostics seek enlightenment from visions, dreams, experiences, traditions of men, rituals, and philosophies. (Col 2:8). They believe they have the power or insight or luck to find and draw out mysterious knowledge that will put them on a better path or a higher path or a more spiritual path to heaven, and thus get closer to God.

They could not be more wrong.

Gnosticism has been around since the Garden, and is directly one of the reasons for the Fall from grace. Genesis 3:1-6 has the story.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”

Satan said, ‘if you eat the fruit, you will KNOW’ (be wise, have insights, Gen 3:4-5). Yet Eve already had the word of God as delivered through Adam. She had the direct Presence of God as she walked and talked with Him. But people fall for satan’s trick every day; saying, if you do this – read this – listen to this, you will KNOW.

Satan melded the truth and lies when he conversed with Eve. He said that if she ate, she would not die. He was right- she did not die … physically. But she did die spiritually. Satan said to Eve that she would know good and evil, and this was true, but not profitable for her. He omitted the penalty for disobedience. And the entire conversation was one where satan intimated that God was holding out on the humans, but satan had the key to the good stuff.

Gnostics in Pauls’ day used the same tactics to draw away the Colossians. Gnostics use the same tactics today. Gnostics will mention scriptures, refer to scriptures, twist scriptures, but Gnosticism’s foundation is not ON scriptures. The Forerunner Commentary explains, “more than what was contained in Scripture, Gnostics valued what they experienced, what elders told them, or what they learned from “angels,” astrology, or chemistry (alchemy).”

In Colossians 1:9, Paul wrote:

“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,”

His use of the word ‘knowledge’ is “epígnōsis (from Strong’s 1909 /epí, “on, fitting” which intensifies 1108 /gnosis, “knowledge gained through first-hand relationship.”

An intense first-hand relationship is where the knowledge comes, and that relationship between the penitent/disciple/ servant of Christ and Christ is the foundation of Christianity. Christianity is not an institution, it is a relationship.

A first-hand relationship with Jesus is such a wonderful basis for knowledge. That word ‘know’ in Colossians 1:9 is different from the word “know” (gnosis) as applied to Gnostics. Strong’s again-

1108 /gnṓsis (“applied-knowledge”) is only as accurate (reliable) as the relationship it derives from. For example, the Gnostics boasted of their “applied knowledge” gained by their personal spiritual experiences – and it was (is) disastrous!”

In 1 Timothy 6:20, Paul wrote, “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,”’ and Paul here used the word pseudōnumou gnoseos, meaning, what is falsely called knowledge.

Not all knowledge is good. Just knowing stuff doesn’t make a person more spiritual or better than the next guy, if the knowledge is from personal experience, man-made doctrines, or other sources apart from God’s revelation to us through the bible and His creation. (Special revelation, and general revelation.)

Another major part of Gnosticism is the Gnostics’ abhorrence of flesh, or actually, matter. They hated the material so much they disbelieved Jesus came in the flesh, was not actual matter. Forerunner Commentary explains, “Gnostic Christians borrowed the idea of redemption through Christ, but rather than believing that He redeemed them from sin, they believed that He would redeem them from matter – that is, from the flesh, which they considered to be inherently evil. At the core of Gnosticism is the belief that knowledge, typically secret knowledge – knowledge from angels, from the stars and planets, from the ancients – was the path to holiness and salvation. They believed that the path of redemption was through knowledge, and that the worst evil was ignorance. Thus, they did not endeavor to overcome sin, but ignorance.”

Zondervan’s NIV bible lists 6 elements that comprise Gnosticism. 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 tradition.

Tomorrow, God willing, I’ll write on the secret knowledge, a main element of Gnosticism, and who among those teachers and preachers and writers today is promoting it.

The best knowledge is from God. As Proverbs 2:5-7 tells us

“then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,”

Blessings!

Gnosticism series
Introduction
Part 1: Secret Knowledge
Part 2: Asceticism
Part 3: Depreciation of Jesus
Part 4: Ceremonies & Rituals
Part 5: Worship of Angels
Part 6: Human traditions
Conclusion