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Posts Tagged ‘gnosticism’

I was reading Hebrews today, and this verse:

 

Hebrews 10:22, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”

 

made me think of something.

 

I’m not going to even start to say I know exactly what it means.  But what it made me think of was Manichaeanism.  I know that most of my readers are very intelligent scholars who know terms for ancient heresies.  And if they’re not they are the independent learners who stopped to Google the word before reading another sentence.  And if they’re not, they’re wondering why I bothered using a word that my audience doesn’t know, and hoping that I mean to tell them more about it.  I do mean to.  That ancient heresy was related to Gnosticism, but specifically it taught that salvation came by escaping the flesh.  Flesh – body – material things, they were bad.  And yeah, if you want to know about it, I find Wikipedia an exciting source of information about theology.  (I’m not kidding!)

 

The verse in Hebrews has to do with that in that it mentions our hearts sprinkled (by the blood of Christ, metaphorically) accomplishing spiritual purification: regeneration (Titus 3:5 anyone?) and forgiveness (1 John 1:9 – all these “clean” words).  But it doesn’t ONLY mention that spiritual thing; it mentions having our bodies washed.  And that’s weird.  The rest of the chapter and the one before it were talking about how under the Old Covenant things were sprinkled with mortal blood; that blood was a picture of Christ’s blood, and our things down here: temple, book, priest are pictures or shadows of the original things, the eternal things, the spiritual things.  (Things that are seen are temporal, but the unseen last – and last goes on and on because there is nothing coming after to displace it – I’ve been reading Pilgrim’s Progress, too.)  All of a sudden in verse 22 he says something not about sprinkling with blood, but about washing with pure water.

 

Now, I’ve been doing a ton of thinking about baptism lately, and studying it too, and discussing it even, so my brain sort of goes that way when anything like baptism is mentioned.  I’m not going to say that the author of Hebrews was talking about baptism.  I don’t know if he was.  And I’m not going to say that baptism, the kind where you’re washed with water, saves you.  (This is because I don’t really believe that, even though, um, some parts of the Bible kind of say that baptism has to do with salvation, like Mark 16 and Acts 2.)  But if we keep with the flesh and earthly things being shadows of the eternal, like Hebrews is teaching, then salvation isn’t escape from the body.  Rather, we use our bodies to picture eternal spiritual realities.  And we make it real in the flesh.

 

I liked this thought – and really for me it was only one quick thought because all the other things I added in for your sake had already been founded for me over the past few weeks – so I decided to share it.  And I know that it confused a bunch of you readers, so I’m sorry.  I can’t say that I totally get my thought anyway; it’s more like a door into lots of thoughts that, if you are ever in the same room with me, I’d be happy to discuss, especially if we are eating at the time.  I’m not a Manichaenist.  (How many syllables do you need in one name for a cult, anyway?)

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

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“Have nothing to do with the unfruitful works of darkness.”

I’m a discernment person.  Heresies are a big deal to me.  I tend to notice when teachers or authors or pastors are preaching a different gospel.  But there are other issues, too.  Focusing on tolerance and friendliness with the world – the “seeker-sensitive” movement, for example – is dangerous.  Christians are a light set on a hill, not light camouflaged to look like darkness.  Or another popular… what should I call it?  Not a heresy in the traditional sense, but a dangerous and unchristian worldview or spiritual practice?  Anyway, another one is the borderline gnosticism.  This encompasses mysticism and individualism, focusing on poetic ideas of light versus darkness, denial (or even mistreatment) of the physical, and meditation.  I see connections between seeker-sensitivity and the postmodern mysticism.  Primary in these connections are the exaltation of human effort and experience.  They are ancient perversions of the Christian life, not new, but addressed in the New Testament.

Lately it has become popular to cite “church fathers” in theological debates.  This even if the quote or position contradicts the New Testament.  Though I’m not persuaded of the “sola scriptura” of the Reformation, it did rescue us from centuries of heretical tradition enforced as the authority of the fathers.  (Jesus rebuked the same sin in the Pharisees.)  Many of those historical theologians flirted with or embraced the para-Christian spirituality mentioned above, emphasizing either their personal wisdom or their own mystical experiences as sources of truth superior to the revelation of Scripture.  They practiced this outside of the protective peer-regulation of a Spirit-led Church.  Somehow the doctrine of the indwelling Holy Spirit got exchanged for a belief in inner divinity belonging to an individual.  All of which was much more compatible with the pagan religions encountered as the ancient “Christianity” spread.

And isn’t that something to be concerned about?  Rather than being excited that the enemies of God, the spiritually dead men of planet earth, have portions of truth preserved in their religions, shouldn’t we be devastated at the subtlety of the deceits of the Evil One that has kept men captive to their sin?  (“What fellowship has light with darkness?”)  Instead of finding commonality in spiritual practices of meditation and monasticism and sacrificing to appease the gods – shouldn’t we question those practices?  If the pagans do those things, and if those things are not prescribed by our Lord in the early letters to the churches affirmed by the apostles, why not rather fear a resurgence of paganism within our faith – that the spiritual forces of wickedness have been also distracting us and leading us astray?

In our modern times we tend to disdain the primitive superstitions of pre-Christian peoples.  We think they should have been able to see through the cheap tricks of the medicine men, to rise up against the oppressive shaman and assert reason, the intelligence and ability of individuals.  But a Christian worldview suggests a different interpretation.  It teaches that the devil and demons are real, powerful, able to produce counterfeit signs and wonders to deceive men.  Demon possession is real.  And maybe those pitiable people, observing that reality, live with rituals and talismans approved by their devils – for a time – as a tax on the slaves of the Devil before they are consumed.

For us who have known only the relatively Christian Western world, it is difficult to remember the spiritual battle that is engaged even here.  We are not trained to recognize the spiritual activities of our enemy.  This may be because we have adopted it,  or excused and tolerated it…  False teaching, we believe, has been perpetrated by confused but well-meaning people.  Cultists are mostly nice people whose theology is just a little different from ours.  We wouldn’t want our children converting, but no big deal if our neighbors and coworkers believe in Jesus and good works for their salvation, God and their own divinity.  Many who identify themselves as evangelical Christians see no cause for concern when their church services begin to incorporate incense, or a ladies’ conference suggests repetitive chanting of a spiritual word or phrase as a means of getting closer to God.  Millions of us read and identify with a book that includes a manifestation of Sophia, the Gnostic “goddess” as the incarnation of wisdom.  These ideas and practices are more attractive to the unsaved world, after all (and to many inside the church).  And why shouldn’t they be; they’re familiar whispers, that we are like God, that we come to God on our own terms.

The word profanity is known as a synonym for cussing.  But who knows the word profane?  Who believes that there is a way God wants to be worshiped, a way He has set for people to come to Him – and any other way is so offensive to Him as to bring His righteous wrath?  What is fallen man to tell God why He should accept him?  Who is the liar and deceived to believe he has a hold of truth and wisdom apart from the deliverance and revelation of God?  How dare we think our filthy rags – our own righteousnesses – are acceptable sacrifices to pay for our trespasses against the ways of God?

But it is hard to reject these things, hard to point at those profanities and warn that they are part of the wide path to hell.  I don’t want to believe that my church leader is a false teacher.  I like to believe that my friends are going to heaven.  But how does that honor God?  Is my allegiance to Him or to men?  And how is that compassionate, to ignore the condition of my friends?  Making excuses is easy.  If a man says he believes in Jesus, is it such a big deal if he tolerates sin, if he keeps company with the world?  Also far too simple is reassuring myself that even though a person has not trusted in Jesus, he still seems to be a good influence, telling people to pray and read their Bibles and love their families and be wary of governments and religions out to destroy us.

Yet more and more I believe that those excuses and those subversive people are the biggest threats.  By them people are led from the power and truth of God, or worse – away from the gospel of the grace of God.  People are soothed into ignoring their spiritual neediness.  Those people, those false prophets, are the enemies of God.  And if they are enemies of God, they are enemies of His people.  They are not in your fellowship to encourage you or point you to God.  Though they may feign friendship, it is for diabolical purposes, and they can turn on you at any moment.

So what can we do?  Monasticism and individualism belong to the false religions.  We cannot run away from these dangerous people.  Tolerance and acceptance also correspond to the faith that exalts man over God.  So we cannot be silent or friendly.  Truth and God’s glory invite us to discern the lies and cast them down.  Holiness insists that we take our cues from God, supported by those men and women who exhibit the fruits of being His.  Love demands that we warn people of destruction.  Faith in God teaches us to hope for revival and redemption.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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