Thursday, April 2, 2015

The New “Gnosticism” of the 20th and 21st Centuries

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:18-31

            In the “Christian History Magazine – Issue 96: The Gnostic Hunger for Secret Knowledge,” there is a subheading under “Defining the Faith” that spells: “Gnosticism emerged during a time when Christians faced an identity crisis.”  Church Fathers such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement, and so on, battled Ancient Gnosticism fiercely.  Gnostic heresy led a lot of Christians astray.  One of its dangerous teachings is mentioned in the Christian History Magazine – Issue 96:

Gnostics believed they were the elect, spiritual ones who alone had the “seed” of the divine trapped inside their earthly bodies. Salvation for them meant escape from the material world. Some Gnostics believed in reincarnation for imperfect souls who might have another opportunity in this world for salvation through knowledge.[1]

Their teaching is far remove from authentic Christian teaching.  The recent discovery in the caves near the town of Nag Hammadi in Egypt in the 70’s led to much deeper understanding of the heresy.  One particular most important manuscript is what is called “The Gospel of Judas” among more than 40 Gnostic writings found in those caves.  The Gospel of Judas” was eventually published in English in 2006.  And one most disturbing teaching found in “The Gospel of Judas” is the teaching that says that “the God of the Jews was an evil or ignorant creator who deceived people.[2]  In a nutshell, R. C. Sproul, a prominent Reformed Theologian of the 20th and 21st centuries, warns about the danger of Gnosticism:

In the early centuries of the expansion of Christianity, the greatest threat to biblical Christianity came from a heresy called Gnosticism. The Gnostics (from the Greek word gnōsis) were those people who claimed to have special knowledge. They claimed to be the gnōstikoi, those in the know, and they made a decided effort to supplant the authority of the biblical Apostles. They argued that their knowledge was higher and superior to the knowledge proclaimed by the Apostles of Jesus, and they wrote a massive amount of literature to put forth their claim of superiority.
One of the champions of the Christian faith in that day was a theologian by the name of Irenaeus. Irenaeus was an apologist for Christianity. One of his most important works was titled Against Heresies. The chief heresy he addressed was Gnosticism. In his refutation of the Gnostics, Irenaeus used a line of reasoning that’s important to us today. That line of reasoning played on the fundamental meaning of the term apostle. Again, the word apostolos means, literally, “one who is sent or one who is given duly constituted authority to represent the one who sends him.” Irenaeus said that the Gnostics not only rejected the authority of the Apostles, but by an irresistible logic, they rejected the authority of Christ and the authority of God.[3]

In our modern era, it is said that the remnant of the Gnostic philosophy remains.  Some attribute it to the Scientology or even the DaVinci Code by Dan Brown.  While I do not doubt that there surely traces of Gnostic philosophy in them, what is most disturbing is the most prevalent and less detected and more readily acceptable stream of discipline which we know as Science that in turn is exploited to become a philosophy on its own with its own world view.  This theologians call as scientism.  Theologians and historians connect this scientism to the person by the name of Thomas Henry Huxley.  Huxley based his scientific conviction on the genesis of the universe on the Darwinian evolutionary theory.  He was recognized as “Darwin’s bulldog” because of his zealous defense on Darwin’s theory of evolution.  Now, Huxley believed in evolution as the “world view” for the correct explanation on how the world came into being.  And by doing so he opposed the Christian view of Creation.  The famous debate between creation and evolution was when Huxley met with Samuel Wilberforce, the bishop of the Church of England.  The debate took place in 1860.  And that debate became the start of the scientism in the west.

            The reason I bring Huxley and Scientism is to make us aware of this danger that has taken over the world view of most people under modern schooling and regrettably some Christians also who under postmodern philosophical methodology attempt to marry theology and scientism.  Even though Huxley is probably to be associated more to Agnosticism rather than Gnosticism, but I will show you here how Huxley and Scientism is actually similar to the Ancient Gnosticism.  Now, Huxley coined the term “Agnosticism.”  And many scientists since then consider themselves agnostics.  Their position is more of hiding behind “not knowing” things that are not yet proven through scientific methods.  How the world came into being falls under that category.  So they make their fortress on the basis of progressive knowledge instead of absolute truth.  Agnosticism itself is the kind of belief that stands on the limitation of human reason to know things of metaphysical realities, simply because the metaphysics is out of human ability to reason.  This metaphysical reality includes the existence of God and how the world came into being.  Actually such notion was touched by Immanuel Kant when he spoke about noumena and phenomena.  But this is not the place to discuss Kant.  Now, the Gnostics are those who believe they have special knowledge.  Ancient Gnostics believed they had special knowledge of the secrets and mysteries of heaven.  They in turn produced extra biblical materials, which none of them were in the Scriptural Canon.

            Now, the modern Gnostics, similarly, are those who also believe they have special knowledge.  But this time their knowledge is not supernatural knowledge, but instead it is the natural knowledge.  Their methodology is science.  They use fancy terms and categories foreign to the ordinary people.  They are the ones investigating “the general revelation” (borrowing the term from Christianity) and they claim that they have found the secret of the universe, even how the world came into being.  And this all started when Huxley proceeded in making science some kind of philosophy or belief system – the only way to view the world – thus a world view.  And now it has been widely accepted that science is the way to view the universe.  How the world came into being?  Many modern people no longer consult the sacred writings of old, but instead they consult the “sacred” findings of science.  Even Christians attempt to get the Scripture walk side by side with science.  In their argument, Scripture is the special revelation, whereas the other book of revelation is nature that is understood as general revelation, and the way to decipher this general revelation is through science and science alone.  So many Christians do not even consider whatever the Bible says in relation to the general revelation as true and valid.  They consult the “Modern Gnostics,” those who have the special knowledge, those who are on the know of the secrets of the universe.  This is the modern Gnostics.  Huxley and those after him.  They proclaim to others with great zeal that in their hands are the secret of the knowledge of the universe.  And with that they have infiltrated the church and start tweaking the interpretation of the Scripture with their extra biblical materials.  And today, many Christians have rewritten the orthodox theology into what I would call as the Post-Neo-Orthodox theology.  This new theology based on the modern Gnostics challenges the concept of Creation, and thus of humans being created in the image and likeness of God, the historicity of Adam and Eve, the reality of sin, the meaning of salvation, and even the historicity and authenticity of Jesus Christ.

            The first gate to be challenged is the doctrine of Creation.  Why, because there is no historical records of it other than Genesis 1 and 2 (even up to Genesis 11).  If this gate falls, then all other gates will follow suit.  Creation is a very difficult doctrine to defend using reason, and extra biblical historical data.  Genesis 12 is easier to defend because there is other historical data about the existence of Abraham.  But Genesis 1-11 do not have other data apart from the Scripture.  If we succumb to their methodology, the scientific model, then Genesis 1-11 cannot be defended at all.  Thus it is open to any interpretation.  But the mode of the Scripture is always faith.  So Genesis 1-11, as well as the rest of the Scripture, is to be accepted with faith.  The Scripture has no need to be assisted by science in order to be believable.  Now, the modern schooling with the modern curriculum that is heavily based on the scientific methodology has dictated the way people think nowadays.  Modern people often think that science is “the” true interpretation of the universe and beyond.  So everything said in the name of science is to be taken as gospel truth.  Anyone standing up to challenge science will be sidelined, considered uneducated, primitive, outdated, fanatics, and so forth.  The scientists are the new Gnostics.  They believe they hold the special knowledge.  Scripture is no longer enough as God’s special revelation for the faith.  Science is required to reinterpret the Scripture because science now has gained prominence and is seated on the throne of special knowledge.  Scripture, for these people, are in need of the guidance of this special knowledge – “gnosis.”  And it all started from Agnosticism remark by Huxley.

            The mode that is hailed as “the” mode of knowledge is the mode of waiting.  Waiting for new findings.  So the hiding behind the saying “I don’t understand” gives precedence to doubt people who have strong faith.  These people would corner people of faith saying “nobody has the corner on the truth.”  Meanwhile, by saying that they have established themselves as the only one knowing the truth that “nobody has the corner on the truth.”  If they are truly true to their own statement, they would not so adamantly defend their very statement that “nobody has the corner on the truth.”  For even that “truth” they do not have their corner.  I hope you readers understand.  If you don’t, then you will need to pause and think this carefully, and be honest with yourself.  The start with agnosticism – I don’t understand – is just a safe corner for them every time they make statements or argue against those who stand on absolute truth.  For they would argue that because they don’t understand, there is no way anybody can understand either.  And they augment their argument by attaching this argument to “nobody knows everything.”  Though it is true that nobody knows everything, they are two different statements.  “Nobody knows everything” does not breed that “because they can’t understand a certain thing, thus nobody can.”  But the foolishness of human being, combined with self deception, makes way to champion that scientific methodology is the only methodology there is to verify the truth – so if scientific methodology is not used there can’t be truth.  Such foolishness attempts to kill faith.  And ironically they do it by “faith.”  I say that they also use faith, because believing that scientific methodology is the only valid way to verify the truth in itself cannot be proven with scientific methodology.  It can only be accepted by faith.  It requires a great deal of faith to blind oneself with “I don’t understand” and yet at the same time act as if they are the only people who understand – who know – who have the special knowledge, thus the Gnostics.

            As a servant of the Lord, I stand here today to warn all of you who consider yourselves Christians.  Wake up!  Repent!  General Revelation is not on par with Special Revelation.  Special Revelation is far more superior to General Revelation.  The full writing of the article 7 of Belgic Confession should help us understand this theology:

We believe that those Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein. For since the whole manner of worship which God requires of us is written in them at large, it is unlawful for any one, though an apostle, to teach otherwise than we are now taught in the Holy Scriptures: nay, though it were an angel from heaven, as the apostle Paul says. For since it is forbidden to add unto or take away anything from the Word of God, it does thereby evidently appear that the doctrine thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects.
Neither may we consider any writings of men, however holy these men may have been, of equal value with those divine Scriptures, nor ought we to consider custom, or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God, since the truth is above all; for all men are of themselves liars, and more vain than vanity itself. Therefore we reject with all our hearts whatsoever does not agree with this infallible rule, as the apostles have taught us, saying, Prove the spirits, whether they are of God. Likewise: If any one cometh unto you, and bringeth not this teaching, receive him not into your house.[4]

Science as one tool among many to interpret the General Revelation, therefore, cannot be on par with the Scripture.  It cannot be put side by side.  It can’t even be put side by side with orthodox theology, simply because the source of orthodox theology is far more superior to the source of science.  The world in itself relies heavily on interpretation in order to be understood.  The Special Revelation, on the other hand, is God’s interpretation of who he is, what his works are, and how he views the matters of faith, of salvation, of the purpose of man and the world, of his rules, of his commands and desires, and everything that touches anything in the world – be it history or culture or the physical universe – is absolutely accurate, because God is the creator of everything and he is the supreme being.  So beware of those who attempt to put science on the level of the Scripture.  Even beware of those who attempt to downgrade the level of orthodox theology to the level of science.  There many like it among Christians today.  And let me tell you that they are gaining.  They are riding the momentum of the influence of modern schooling in our modern era.

            This situation is dire.  It is very concerning.  Modern people still believe that school is neutral ground.  The fact of the matter is, it is not!  School is not neutral ground.  Academic is not neutral.  It is a wishful thinking to say that academic is neutral.  That’s what the devil wants you to think.  Schooling in itself is not evil.  But the devil has used this institution to deceive people into thinking that it is neutral therefore anything taught there can be swallowed without careful consideration.  Since formal education has taken a very important seat now in the social structure, everybody on this planet has been or will be or is being, at some point or another, affected by it.  We educators know that the best way for any ideas or teachings to be passed on is when the learners are young.  The younger the learners the better.  So schooling has been overtaken by the scheme of the devil to win the cosmic battle.  Science has been set up there as “the” way and “the” mode of thinking, of believing, of the truth, and even of life.  It has replaced faith and orthodox theology.  There was time when everybody going to college had to study theology and deepen their faith before venturing into many different disciplines.  But then that era ended.  Faith and theology are now sidelined as merely one department among many in the university.  In the meantime, science becomes the neutral ground, of which the faith of every college student must be placed.  The modern Gnostics insist that that is the only way.  For them it is the absolute truth now.  And they have the authority, or so they think, because they have the special knowledge of the world.  And so, now, and again, I am warning all of you to be aware of this deception.  Stand up for the truth.  For the real truth.  And do everything for the glory of God!

            Our Scripture passage from 1 Corinthians 1 reminds us of the foundation of faith.  It does not rely on human wisdom.  It does not rely on human strength.  It relies on God alone.  Faith is not the popular route to knowledge in our modern era today.  Modern scientific community considers faith as the lesser mode – the primitive mode – of knowledge.  The enlightened people – the higher level people – go through the scientific mode.  The special knowledge, for them can only be known through science.  This is modern Gnostics.  But God is not using that mode.  God is utilizing the mode of faith.  It is the basic mode.  It is about trust.  People mock this mode.  Because for them it is the mode of children.  For them it is the backward mode.  It is a weak mode.  For Jews it is a stumbling block, for Gentiles it is foolishness.  But what is considered foolish by the world is what is used by God.  Through faith God reveals to man the greatest knowledge.  The knowledge of himself and his Son (John 17:3) – which is the eternal life.  The modern Gnostics jeer at it and mock the people of faith, because for them faith is laughable – scientifically unproven – and inferior to the scientific methodology.  But through this laughable mode of faith Paul says “24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”  The most scrutinized person in the entire history of humanity is Jesus Christ.  His existence is doubted more than anyone in the world.  But yet believed by billions people, more than any other man ever lived on the face of the earth.  What he did was the most talked about in the world.  The modern people scrutinize Jesus as well.  They doubt Jesus.  They attempt to isolate Jesus.  They endeavor to put him on the lab.  They can’t get a hold of him physically, so they resort to other things that obscure people think to be the artifacts related to Jesus.  And from those obscure artifacts people conjure up theories about him – whether he is real or not, whether stories about him is true or false.  These people think that with the “special knowledge” that they have through the mode of science, they may steer people’s view on the Scripture and the orthodox theology and faith toward the new ways of seeing.  Modern Gnosticism indeed.  Be careful of this.  Ancient Gnosticism sprang up when church had identity crisis.  Modern Gnosticism is no different.  It also springs up during the identity crisis of the church.  Now without doubt church has a great identity crisis.  This is when modern Gnosticism attacks the church at full speed.  Beware!  “Those who have ears let them hear.”

- The Business of Christian Education XCVIII  -

[1] “Gnostics: Did You Know?,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 96: The Gnostic Hunger for Secret Knowledge (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, 2007).
[2] “Gnostics: Did You Know?,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 96: The Gnostic Hunger for Secret Knowledge (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, 2007).
[3] R. C. Sproul, What Is the Church?, First edition, The Crucial Questions Series (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2013), 52–53.
[4] Historic Creeds and Confessions, electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Lexham Press, 1997).

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