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"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." G.K.Chesterton

"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion." G.K.Chesterton

"As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that."C. S. Lewis

"I blog, therefore I am." Anon

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Neo and the precipice

The spirit of Gnosticism is alive and well in the modern (and especially, postmodern) world. Any attempt to characterise it as an ancient philosophy that was banished by the fourth century AD is only partly correct. That there was a movement known as Gnosticism that was a challenge and rival to orthodox Christianity in the first centuries of Church history is a fact, as is that it was officially rejected by the Church in its councils as a heresy. However the Gnostics were merely forced underground - or further underground if you prefer. Gnosticism has never been eradicated; it has always had its proponents and adherents in all ages from the ancient past to the contemporary era.

In the 13th century for example the full force of the Crusades and the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church was employed to destroy the Gnostic heresy of the Cathars that was widespread throughout the Languedoc region of southern France. The Knights Templars were another Medieval manifestation of Gnosticism. Gnostic revivals have occurred repeatedly since then and have underscored many movements among intellectuals. The late 19th century saw the emergence of Theosophy and the revival of Druidism and Wicca. Carl Jung's influential psychological theories are based squarely upon Gnosticism. The emergence of the so-called "New Age Movement" and Environmentalism are contemporary manifestations of Gnostic ideas and beliefs. Gnostic ideas are everywhere becoming part and parcel of our mental landscape.

Christianity itself, in its mystical forms and even in both its liberal and evangelical manifestations - most recently in the Charismatic Movement - has continually flirted with Gnosticism. Liberal writers such as Barbara Thieiring and Elaine Pagels promote Gnostic heresies with their writings as well. So widespread have these ideas become, in fact, that some cannot tell the difference between Gnosticism and biblical Christianity.

On this issue I present ith a short article by historian and former Anglican Bishop of North Sydney, Paul Barnett entitled

New Demons and the Gadarene Precipice

The demons from the world are coming into the church and like the Gadarene Swine, many are galloping down the precipice into the sea to destruction. Or they will unless they recognise the demons in our midst.

What are those demons? They are two, in particular.

One is Neo-Gnosticism. This is the revival of the old Gnosticism or theosophy that swept across early Christianity from the latter part of the era of the New Testament into the first centuries of the history of the church. Gnosticism - ancient and modern - is a 'spiritual' disposition that inclines to the mystical at a personal level and to ritual at a corporate level.

Neo-Gnosticism is uncomfortable with God coming among us physically, in the flesh, as a body. It squirms at the bodily incarnation of the Son of God, his atonement as a sin-bearer that was achieved in his body and a resurrection in which his body was literally raised alive so that he ate food and was touched by his friends. Neo-Gnostics want a religion of pure spirit and light. Like early Gnosticism its modern expression expresses itself religiously and devoutly. It uses the language of the Bible but with a kind of 'double think' not literally believing the words, for example, about the bodily resurrection. It is in fundamental denial of theunique, once-for-all, 'God with us' insistence of the Apostolic Gospel. By a slippery use of words it can even pass itself off as orthodox, while being heterodox. It pillories those who accept the 'body' emphases of the New Testament as 'literalist' and 'fundamentalist.' It has the modern media on its side.

The Apostles' Creed, with its emphasis on the historicity of Christ's conception (through a virgin), his sufferings, his death, burial, resurrection, ascension and return, was devised precisely to lock out Gnosticism. It expresses well Christ's words to God in Hebrews 10:5, 'a body hast thou [God] prepared for me.' This, truly, is the 'catholic' faith to be upheld and defended at this time.

The other demon is Postmodernism, a temperament that encourages anyone to read the Biblical text any way the reader pleases. Discerning the intention of the original author ('authorial intent') is outmoded, 'yesterday's thinking.' This is 'today,' the new age of creative listening. According to postmodernism what you feel is true, because it is true for you. Incredibly, this wild subjectivity has been justified by Jesus' words, 'Let him who has ears to hear, hear.' Of course, Jesus meant no such thing. His point was to challenge his hearers to listen to what he was saying and to identify themselves as to what kind of 'soil' or hearer they were.

These are powerful demons. One rejects the objective content of the Gospel and the Bible that is outside us, over us and even against us. The other relegates God's involvement with the world to the non-tangible , the mystical and the ritualistic, rather than as it truly was, by way of flesh(the Word became flesh - 1 John 1:14).

Christ has not released these demons into the church. They have come into our midst from our contemporary culture that is 'feelings' dominated rather than truth dominated. Ultimately, however, this is the spirit of antichrist seeping into the churches from the evil one himself. I can say this because the outcome of Neo-Gnosticism and Postmodernism is the denial that that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, suffered in the flesh, been raised alive in the flesh and will return in the flesh (cf. 1 John 4:1-5).

Meanwhile many in our churches are following them, galloping down the slope to their spiritual demise like the Gadarene swine, to be drowned in the waters of the sea.

We need to recognise these demons and resist them.

5:17:00 pm