Walking through the biblical Letter to the Colossians, one discovers God has provided Christian believers true and powerful defenses of the Christian faith against Gnosticism. What is Gnosticism, and why does it matter today? Gnosticism is the ancient name for the “Special Knowledge” that began to pervert pure Christian beliefs within the first 50 years after Christ ascended to Heaven. The two largest threats to early Christianity came from:
- “Judaizers” or “Hebrew legalist”
- “Gnostics” or “Greek pagan influencers”
Whereas the Apostles Peter and James were commissioned by God to serve the Jewish race with the New Testament Gospel of Jesus, the Apostle Paul was commissioned by God to serve the Gentile (non-Jew) ethnicities (ex. Greek, Roman, Scythian, etc.). And, whereas Judaizers pertained to Hebrews, Gnosticism pertained to Greeks. So, it is no surprise to see the Apostle Paul writing defenses of the Christian faith against Gnosticism to Gentile believers.
The aim of both Judaizers and Gnostics was to meld Christians into the same belief system (either Judaism or Paganism) which those Christians had rejected in order to become Christian. Both Judaizers and Gnostics did not demand that Christians should reject Jesus Christ altogether, but rather, these systems sought to pervert Christian belief by:
- Adding to faith in Christ alone (ex. laws or rites/sacraments must be kept in order to be made right with God)
- Taking away from faith in Christ alone (ex. one can believe in other gods along with Christ; many ways or paths or beliefs to God)
- Changing the identity of Christ as fully God AND fully Man (ex. Jesus was just an emanation, or just a good man, or just a prophet but not Messiah, or not fully God; the true “Source of All” cannot be known, etc.)
- Changing the nature of Christ’s sacrifice and/or resurrection (ex. He suffered only in the body, not the spirit; it was not really his body that was put to death; he did not really die; he did not really rise from the dead)
- Changing the nature of sin and evil (ex. Only light vs. dark in the Universe… no being is God, per se; all things material are evil, all things spirit are good… instead of sin being any offense made against God, as God describes what offends Him in the Tanakh—Old Testament)
Yet, as one can read in Parts 1-2 of this study, to do any of these things to Christian faith is to waver from the faith. The Apostle Paul gives warning that to move off of Christ in any of these ways is to lose one’s soul.
EVEN TODAY, believers are tempted to “water down” or “alter” the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the ways mentioned above in order to ‘fit in’ with the heathen, pluralistic and humanistic beliefs around them. Strikingly, ALL of the humanistic and pluralistic beliefs pulling and twisting Christianity today show hatred for the exclusivity and the supremacy of Jesus Christ. Yet, they accuse the Christians who hold these historic essentials of Christianity as being intolerant. Their problem is with Jesus Christ, as defined in the Holy Scriptures by His Apostles… not with the Christians who hold fast to that faith.
MOREOVER, the tactics of the heathen, pluralistic and humanistic systems of our day mimic those of the ancient world in their efforts to get Christianity to meld with them. Esoteric belief—special knowledge for a few elite—is Gnosticism reborn. Theosophic study—finding “God” through the common wisdom of all religions—is pantheism repackaged.
Just like Christians in the ancient world, Christians today are being led astray—mostly through ignorance—and losing their souls by following the kinds of groups which claim to be the cousin of or “the same as” Christianity. These are called cults. For example:
- ‘Christianity’ which demands Christians must return to Jewish law and ceremony, if they are to be “right with God.”
- ‘Christianity’ which befriends evolutionary theory, denying direct Creationism
- ‘Christianity’ which befriends Deist belief that God made and supervises the world at “a distance” allowing evolution to take its course.
- ‘Christianity’ which bows to naturalist worldview vs. supernaturalist worldview.
- Jehovah’s Witnesses
- Mormonism (a.k.a. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
- Moonies (a.k.a. Unification Church)
- World Council of Churches (a.k.a. National Council of Churches in USA)
- Catholicism (Roman, Irish, etc.)
- Non-Essentialist (Christian) Orthodoxy
- Non-Essentialist Protestantism
- Non-Essentialist Evangelicalism
- Freemasonry (a.k.a. Masonic Lodge / Temple)
- Eastern Star
- Job’s Daughters
- Rainbow Girls
- Royal Order of Jesters
- Unitarian Universalist
- Secret (invitation only, sworn in, elitist) fraternal brotherhoods or sororities: Elks, Lions, Kiwanis
- Globalist (International) groups/clubs, unions: Rotary International [UN / UNESCO], Teamsters International Brotherhood
- Seventh-Day Adventist
- World Wide Church of God (a.k.a. Grace Communion International)
For a fuller list of cults, please see Walter Martin’s Kingdom of the Cults. Thankfully, since the time of the Apostle Paul, there has been and IS today a counter-cult movement.
16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:16-18)