by Mike Ratliff
5 Καὶ ἔστιν αὕτη ἡ ἀγγελία ἣν ἀκηκόαμεν ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀναγγέλλομεν ὑμῖν, ὅτι ὁ θεὸς φῶς ἐστιν καὶ σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδεμία. 6 Ἐὰν εἴπωμεν ὅτι κοινωνίαν ἔχομεν μετʼ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐν τῷ σκότει περιπατῶμεν, ψευδόμεθα καὶ οὐ ποιοῦμεν τὴν ἀλήθειαν· 7 ἐὰν ἐν τῷ φωτὶ περιπατῶμεν ὡς αὐτός ἐστιν ἐν τῷ φωτί, κοινωνίαν ἔχομεν μετʼ ἀλλήλων καὶ τὸ αἷμα Ἰησοῦ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ καθαρίζει ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ πάσης ἁμαρτίας. 8 ἐὰν εἴπωμεν ὅτι ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ ἔχομεν, ἑαυτοὺς πλανῶμεν καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν ἡμῖν. 9 ἐὰν ὁμολογῶμεν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν, πιστός ἐστιν καὶ δίκαιος, ἵνα ἀφῇ ἡμῖν τὰς ἁμαρτίας καὶ καθαρίσῃ ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ πάσης ἀδικίας. 10 ἐὰν εἴπωμεν ὅτι οὐχ ἡμαρτήκαμεν, ψεύστην ποιοῦμεν αὐτὸν καὶ ὁ λόγος αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν ἡμῖν. (1 John 1:5-10 NA28)
5 And this is the message, which we have heard from him and we proclaim to you, that God is light and there is not any darkness in him. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in darkness, we lie and are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his son cleanses us from every sin. 8 If we say that we do not have sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, that he may forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 if we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
The following definition for the word “esoteric” is from the New Oxford American Dictionary:
intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest : esoteric philosophical debates.
esoterically |-(ə)lē| adverb
esotericism |-ˈterəˌsizəm| noun
esotericist |-ˈterəsist| noun
ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from Greek esōterikos, from esōterō, comparative of esō ‘within,’ from es, eis ‘into.’ Compare with exoteric .
Not long after God had mercy on me in January 1986, saving me, I remember seeing a newspaper ad with the title “Esoteric Christianity” in bold letters. Below that in nearly as large bold letters was one word, “Gnosticism.” There was a phone number below that. I was a new believer, but I had heard in a Bible study about Gnosticism and how it was a heresy. What is a heresy?
“Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in on attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than truth itself.” Irenaeus Against Heresies 1.2
In other words, a heresy is something false that is portrayed or taught as the truth in such a way that is very convincing to professing believers who are not very mature and are have not been trained to be discerning.
What is it that makes Gnosticism a heresy? As the definition for the word “esoteric” above tells us, it was a religious mysticism that pirated Christian motifs to propagate a totally unchristian understanding of salvation than what we know of in our Orthodox Christian faith. In Gnosticism, salvation is based on esoteric “knowledge” (Greek γνῶσις or gnōsis). To the Gnostic, redemption is through affirming the divine light already in the human soul, not through repentance of sin and faith in Christ’s death to bring about spiritual rebirth.
Are there heretics in our time? You know, so-called Christian leaders in our time who sets forth their doctrines “craftily in on attractive dress” so that, through that, they may gain a large following of religious people who consider what they are being taught to be more true than the actual doctrines of the Bible. You know there are. When I first started this blog and Ken Silva brought me onboard to the discernment team at CRN, we had some long drawn out battles with some very determined people whose sole goal was to shut us down. What was their problem? We were telling people what the Bible said and would allow no compromise of it to be considered as the truth along with “other truths.”.
Now, what about the Gnostics? Do we have them in our time? Think of Tim Keller and his total focus on Spiritual Formation. Think of the arrogance of Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald as they attempt to dismantle Doctrines that have been at the heart of our Orthodox Christian faith for centuries. These doctrines, creeds, and confessions they want to ditch and redefine with that flippant YRR attitude of ‘we are smarter than these people you consider spiritual giants and we refuse to stand on their shoulders. We will develop our own doctrines’ and, of course, what they do is invite men like T.D. Jakes to come help them understand the doctrine of the Trinity better. Of course, T.D. Jakes is a Modalist, which means he is a heretic and these men, if they were legitimate Christian leaders, should have the discernment and wisdom to know better than to do this.
Ah, but you see, they consider us all “hicks from the sticks” who should be ignored much the way Bart Eherman does with true Bible scholars who believe that Sacred Scripture is the inspired, inerrant, complete, real Word of God. The New Gnostics are elitists who look at someone like you or I sitting in their church as a threat because we will raise questions when they begin quoting known heretics in their sermons or using sources that we know to be questionable and then they will begin referring to us as unteachable because we won’t be intimidated by a simple “because I said so” answer to our questions.
The New Gnostics seem to be overly willing to compromise with everyone who is willing to compromise with them, but then they quickly use the word “hater” to refer to any of us who question their associating with others who are outside the boundaries of Orthodoxy. However, never forget, they are all dabbling in mysticism like Tim Keller while substituting terminology within it using Christian sounding lingo.
Why should we call out these New Gnostics? We should do so for the same reason we called out heretics like Rick Warren who butchers the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The danger of Gnosticism is easily apparent. It denies the incarnation of God as the Son. In so doing, it denies the true efficacy of the atonement since, if Jesus is not God, He could not atone for all of mankind, and we would still be lost in our sins.
This is why we spend so much time looking at the atonement and the doctrine of imputation. The New Gnostics hate these things and this is why they want to rewrite our doctrines from the ground up.
My brethren, let us be wise as serpents in this, but as harmless as doves giving no opportunity for the flesh and our enemy to accuse us. Pray for wisdom and discernment as you obey Him in all you do.
Soli Deo Gloria!