Fundamentally Gnostic

Gnosticism and its influence

Gnosticism and Us

More than we care to admit, we are influenced by platonic thought [the body is a prison to the soul] and Gnosticism [the physical and spiritual worlds are inviolably separate]. And a number of texts can be read to imply such meaning. For example, 2Pe 2:10 speaks of those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires. And Ro 8:3 references ‘sinful flesh.’

In Gnosticism, the physical and spiritual worlds are inviolably separate. Paul addressed Gnosticism in seminal form. A sophisticated belief system, Gnosticism displayed itself in differing forms wherever it was established.

Incipient Gnosticism

In Corinth, Gnosticism took on a very base form. Since the spiritual world [the soul] and the physical world [the body] are separate, it doesn’t matter what you do with the body. ‘Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food’ [1Co 6:13]! Since my soul is hidden with God in Christ, it doesn’t matter what I do with my body.

In Colosse, Gnosticism took on a very ascetic form. Since the spirit is what mattered, the body should be starved of its affections. They delighted in self-abasement [Co 2:18, 21, 23], practiced man-made rules that treated the body harshly — but had no spiritual power.

Someone in the Corinthian church believed incest was acceptable. At Colosse, this would be considered abhorrent. But whether it led to fleshy ‘indulgence’ or ‘denial,’ the common link was the separation of the material and spiritual worlds which is the Gnostic heresy.

And Sunday Services are different because ……………

Gnosticism and Christianity

‘Christian Gnostics’ try to merge these differing belief systems. There are Gnostic interpretations of the gospels and other texts. And there are ‘Gnostic gospels.’ Gnosticism is recognized as an heresy, but the church never quite eliminated it entirely. We’ve never been as good at recognizing Gnostic heresies as say the Arian-Sabellian family of heresies.

Nothing is helped by our ignorance of this belief system, especially since Gnosticism seems to be undergoing a resurgence. Yet a strain of Christianity still regards the body as a prison of the soul. There, the ‘gospel’ serves to free souls [‘save’ them] from the corruptions of the flesh. And Fundamentalism seems particularly vulnerable to this.

Gnosticism Today

If you’ve ever heard, ‘forget feeding the hungry and save the soul,’ if you’ve ever heard ‘the body is for a few years, but the soul is for eternity,’ those are Gnostic ideas. If you’ve ever heard Col 2:21 mishandled to affirm ‘do not handle/taste/touch’ rules, the same applies.

Shaming and/or treating the body unsparingly and demanding a practice of strict asceticism — all this would get cheering Gnostics on their feet.

Paul is utterly clear that such man-made rules/religious precepts have NO value to restrain fleshly indulgence [Co 2:23]. Myriads of fundamentalist sermons contradict this and make Paul a liar. Were an intelligent Gnostic well studied in the Gnostic interpretation of the Bible to align with an IFB sect, few preachers would sense anything wrong with their belief system.

Answering Gnosticism

The obvious answer to Gnosticism is Jesus Christ in whom ‘all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form’ [Co 2:9]. In the incarnation, God who is spirit assumes flesh. But if so, Gnosticism is finished. While Christian Fundamentalists confess Jesus’ incarnation, few have any clue what this means theologically. They’ve no idea how to use the incarnation to ply apart the spirit/material dualism selling Gnosticism as Fundamentalism.

Further study

While I’ve not read the whole thing and won’t vouch for every argument made, an intelligent and insightful paper looks more extensively at the similarities between Gnosticism and Christian Fundamentalism. Fundies who review it may the discussion of Gnosticism strangely familiar.

Christian College and Sanctified Sadism


Christian College

Summer is ending and fall nears. Teachers assemble and arrange lesson plans and accompanying materials. Students pack their bags and resign to another year at Fundy U. For some, it’s more looking forward to seeing friends again. For others, it is a sentence to an institutional existence, one designed to stunt maturation by removing any basis for responsibility.

Where You’ll Go

Be their destiny Pensacola Christian, West Coast Baptist, Maranatha Baptist University, Snob Clones or some other equally contentious College contender for the faith, these youths can expect that all their decisions will be made for them. Presented as a policy to cultivate maturity, this is in fact a recipe for the opposite.

What You’ll Hear

In mandatory classrooms, chapel homilies and church services, youths will hear, implicitly or explicitly, that America’s wars are holy wars and God requires their support. They will hear that the best calling for women is to marry a good man and serve him well as a faithful wife and mother. They will hear that Christians are under attack on all sides, that science is not to be trusted, and that authority is not to be questioned.

Whether by direct instruction, by practice, or by both, it will be clear that dissent is not tolerated. They will know that they should be the vanguard of the most right-wing, regressive causes in the land. Some will witness young people being recruited for Cesar’s legions. They will receive status and they will be elevated for emulation by all.

What You Won’t Hear

But students will not hear of the intersection of power and corruption. And if that intersection is named at all, it will be in connection with causes the board and administrative arm of such schools deemed to be anti-Christian, un-American, left-wing, radical, and more. They will not hear that corruption and power meet in the law enforcement community.

What You’ll Do

powerBut some will question. Some will read Os Guinness’ quote. Some will land in disciplinary hearings for infractions of rules which are not Biblical, but which reflect someone’s idea of what being Biblical might look like or mean.

Others won’t question; but they will see through the superficial rationales, the pathetic, self-serving explanations, the self-gratifying power-trips of room spies and administration lackeys and the sheer superficiality of practices which pay endless lip-service to grace and faith while inwardly dying for any lack of connection with the Spirit.

What Happens Then

Some will quit on faith. They will go through the motions, say what must be said to remain in the community, and on graduation turn their back not only on all they heard, but on faith itself. Some will go deeper, and will emerge from that process with a faith deeper, wiser and certainly more gracious than the finest faculty professions. Others will walk away but come back many years later, demonstrating that the best efforts of ‘Christian institutions’ to eradicate student faith may come to naught.

Have a good year!