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INTRODUCTION TO GNOSTICISM Rolan D. Monje, APLA 2011.

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Presentation on theme: "INTRODUCTION TO GNOSTICISM Rolan D. Monje, APLA 2011."— Presentation transcript:

1 INTRODUCTION TO GNOSTICISM Rolan D. Monje, APLA 2011

2 1.0 Why study Gnosticism?  Today we have to deal with numerous attractive teachings:  New Age Movement  Astrological Prophecies  But these have their roots in schools of counterfeit Christianity we find in Early Church History

3 1.1 The Threat of Gnosticism  First Christian Generation (AD 30-60)  Apostolic presence and effect of eyewitnesses  Strong Gentile missions  Second Christian Generation (AD 60-90)  Waning apostolic presence  Emergence of false prophets and false messiahs (2 Peter 2:1-3 etc).  Cooling off (Matthew 24:12)  Spurious writings

4 2.0 How did Gnosticism develop?  Combination of elements present before and during NT times with Christian teaching (blending religions).  To Aristotle and Plato it owed much of its philosophical form and tendencies.  It was further developed by Philo: To Philo, the creation of the universe was a gradual molding out of matter; hence, arises evil. He also teaches the preexistence of the soul, which is now imprisoned in the flesh. The wise man, therefore, will break the thralldom of the flesh, and will rise by a sort of ecstasy to the immediate vision of God.

5 3.0 What it is about?  Gnosticism is complex of religious philosophies (alternative Christianity, which is heresy )  Refers to different strands of philosophical interpretations of Christianity

6  [Gnosticism] involves, as the name denotes, a claim to 'knowledge,' (Grk: gnosis) knowledge of a kind of which the ordinary believer was incapable, and in the possession of which 'salvation' in the full sense consisted. - G. Orr  The Gnostics prided themselves in being gnostikos, i.e. having or claiming knowledge (Grk: gnosis, knowledge).

7 Key concepts  Gnosis: A claim on the part of the initiated to a special knowledge of the truth, a tendency to regard knowledge as superior to faith  Dualism: The essential separation of matter and spirit, the former of these being essentially evil, and the source from which all evil has arisen.

8  God-emanations: There are aeons or emanations extending between God and the visible universe.  Docetism: A denial of the true humanity of Christ, a docetic Christology, (which looked upon the earthly life of Christ and especially on His sufferings on the cross as unreal.

9 Gnostic Thought Characterized  This world is unredeemably bad.  Salvation is escape from the world, by means of self- knowledge.  God is completely transcendent.  Between God & the world are numerous intermediate spirit beings, called aeons, one (or more) of whom made this world.  Somehow, some of the divine spark was trapped in the world in (some) humans.  The Redeemer came down to give knowledge by which humans may be saved.

10 Gnostic "Aeons" in system of Valentinus  The Ogdoad, Decad, & Duodecad make up the PLEROMA.  Sophia, also called Acamoth (Wisdom), consists of spirit, animal, and matter.  Her child is the Demiurge, the God of everything outside the Pleroma, the Creator in Genesis.

11 From “Gospel of Judas”  “Come, that I may teach you about [secrets] no person [has] seen…” (GJ)  Characters such as Nebro, Yaldabaoth, Saklas, Galila, Yobel, Adonaios, Seth. “The first is Seth, who is called Christ” (GJ) Jesus is Seth, one of the five rulers of the underworld.

12 From “The Gospel of Thomas”  (supposedly quoting Peter) “Let Mary go away from us, because women are not worthy of life.” (GT)  Then Jesus allegedly tells Peter that he will make Mary male so that she may enter the kingdom of heaven.

13 4.0 So what’s wrong with it?  The intellectual pride of the Gnostics refined away the gospel into a philosophy.  Gnosticism puts knowledge in the place which can only rightly be occupied by Christian faith.  To the Gnostic the great question was not the intensely practical one, “What must I do to be saved from sin?” but “What is the origin of evil?” “How is the primitive order of the universe to be restored?”

14  Creator God is an inferior being. Matter is evil: asceticism or hedonism as responses; no resurrection.  Jesus is not a true human. Docetism (dokeo + “seem”) troubled the communities of the apostle John (1-2 John).  Salvation is enlightenment, not freedom from sin.  Historian’s comment: “…they made it rather a redemption of the philosophers from matter, than a redemption of mankind from sin.”

15 5.0 How did the early church react to it?  They were passionate and relentless in dealing with false teaching.  Paul  John  Peter  Irenaeus

16 Some NT letters addressing Gnosticism  Colossians  1 Corinthians  1 and 2 Timothy  1 and 2 John  Jude  Sample verses in 1 Timothy: 1:3, 2:5, 2:12, 2:15, 4:3, 4:7, 6:3-5, 6:20-21.

17 NT addressing Gnosticism  Colossians: In the Epistle to the Colossians, accordingly, there are definite references to ascetic practices which were inculcated by the false teachers at Colosse. The very terms which they employed have been preserved, “Touch not,” “Taste not,” “Handle not.”  See Colossians 2

18  Corinthians: They thought themselves “wise,” they were always disputing, they professed that they “all had knowledge” (1Co 8:1) and they could “know all mysteries and all knowledge” (1Co 13:2); but this knowledge did not edify them, did not build them up, it only puffed them up (1Co 8:1)  Knowledge did not make them sympathetic or tender-hearted toward the weak (1Co 8:7-11).

19 Refuting Gnosticism - Pastorals  1Tim 1:7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.  1Tim 2:4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  1 Tim 3:9 …keep hold of the deep truths of the faith  1Tim 4:3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.

20  1Tim 1:4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work which is by faith.  1Tim 4:7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.  2Tim 4:4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.  Tit 1:14 and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth.

21  1Ti 6:16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.  1Ti 6:20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge,  2Ti 2:25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth

22  Tit 1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness  Tit 1:2 a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time,  Tit 1:14 and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth.

23 6.0 What should we do today? 6.1 Know the proponents 6.2 Know their terminology 6.3 Beware of watered-down Christianity

24 Popular proponents of New Age  Shirley Maclaine  Neal Donald Walsh  John Lennon  Deepak Chopra  Jane Roberts  Elaine Pagels  Hillary Clinton  John Travolta

25 Terms and Taglines  “Christ Consciousness” or “Raising Consciousness”  “Lost books of the Bible”  “The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus”  “We are all manifestations of Christ”  “Renewal of Moses”  “God in all of us” or “Universal Mind”  “Dream Induction”  “Field of Awareness” or “Field beyond the Mind”  “Channeling”

26 Beware of watered-down Christianity  Today, many popular churches and mega-churches teach ecumenism, fuzzy Christianity, and “easy believism.”  Remember, not everyone who calls themselves Christian is truly a Christian.

27 27 Irenaeus of Lyons, c A.D.  When we come to refute them [the Gnostics], we will show in its proper place that this class of men have been instigated by Satan to a denial of that baptism which is regeneration to God. Thus, they have renounced the whole faith…. For the baptism instituted by the visible Jesus was for the remission of sins. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), )  Salvation by mental assent (faith alone). Perhaps evangelicals don’t realize that by downplaying baptism they are being somehow ‘gnostic!’

28 Paul and Ignatius  According to Paul, the false teachers and their followers, were “lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, rollers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, implacable, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, no lovers of good, traitors, headstrong, puffed-up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…  They had “a form of godliness, but denying its power.” (2Ti 3:2, 2Ti 3:3, 2Ti 3:4).

29 Ignatius (Law, The Tests of Life, 30)  “They give no heed to love, caring not for the widow, the orphan or the afflicted, neither for those who are in bonds, nor for those who are released from bonds, neither for the hungry nor the thirsty.” Such persons professed that they knew God, but by their works they denied Him; they were “abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Tit 1:16). They enticed others into sins of impurity (2Ti 3:5, 2Ti 3:6).

30 Personal Learning  We need to seek and adhere to true knowledge.  One sign of false teaching is the lack of conviction about sin.  Let us keep growing in our love for the Bible and our passion to help people meet the true God!


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