f The Wittenberg Door: The Return of Gnosticism

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Return of Gnosticism

A while back my aunt died from complications related to Alzheimer's. At her funeral, the “minister,” who was somehow associated with Calvary Chapel, made several references to her spirit being “released from the prison house of the body.” This terminology comes from an ancient heresy called Gnosticism. Gene Edward Veith, in a World Magazine article titled Return of the Cainites, provides this helpful definition:

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).
Although Gnosticism is primarily considered a second century heresy, a precursor to it known as Docetism was present in the time of the Apostles. John addresses this heresy in 1 John 4:1–6. Like Cher and her annual “farewell tour,” this heresy just won’t admit defeat and remain on the ash heap of history.

Today the Gnostics are back in vogue. Feminist theologian Elaine Pagels of Princeton argues that Gnosticism is more open to women, since the body makes no difference to the spirit. She maintains that the early church labeled Gnosticism a heresy as part of a patriarchal plot to oppress women. And the Cainites have come back in pop literature. Philip Pullman, in the His Dark Materials fantasy novels for young people—currently being made into a motion picture—presents God as the villain and Satan as the hero. Dan Brown in the mega-seller The Da Vinci Code draws on Gnostic writings and continues their tradition by making up history to create the impression that Christ's real message was feminism and sexual liberation.

Gnosticism lets you be "spiritual"—as an inner mysticism—without worrying about objective truth or what you do with your body. But, like Judas, it betrays Christ.

Read the rest of Mr. Veith’s article here.

--The Catechizer



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