Gnosticism has entrenched itself in the major religions of the world and not least of all
Christianity. Gnosticism, while appearing to be a complex system of thoughts, is really quite
simplistic and can be rather easily defined and understood.
Gnosticism is "an occult salvational system...stressing [knowledge of spiritual things] as essential...combining ideas derived especially from mythology, ancient Greek philosophy, ancient religions, and eventually, from Christianity."
The doctrinal core of Gnosticism is basically a form of mystical religious or philosophical doctrines which other adherents and some early Christian sects spread and which the early Church leaders vehemently rejected as heresy. Believers in Gnosticism are called Gnostics. The word "Gnostic" is derived from the greek word gnostiko or gnosis (inner mystic knowledge). The Gnostics believe that "gnosis" is subjective (internally perceived by the mind or feelings) knowledge of the divine element or spark in every man that needs to be discovered to be known. They believe the divine spark originally came from the "realm of light" (totally alienated from the world and the flesh), and is resident in the soul of man and is held there in captivity by the flesh (a product of demons). The only way to release the divine spark is through divine "revelation knowledge", experienced within the spirit. Also they believe that only when the unconscious spirit in man is awakened by revelation from the "realm of light" can he come to know his real self - the god within.
Explained in a nutshell:
God is within, waiting to be revealed. Any external influence (matter) is evil. Finding the god within comes only via your mind or feelings. There are no external checks or balances, only those which your inner spirit appropriates as you progress in your revelation.
Characteristics of Gnosticism
1. Man is Co-Substantial with God
As soon as man by "gnosis" (self knowledge) discovers and releases the imprisoned divine spark (spirit), he then starts on a mystic ascent to divine substance and on into the "realm of light." Through divine revelation knowledge experienced in self, man becomes conscious of his self of man (the unawakened inner spirit) is co-substantial with the Godhead, i.e. having the same substance or essential nature. This is the kernel Gnostic thought that has led to the creature being defied, worshipped and served more than the Creator.
The mystic "gnosis" (or knowledge) is only taught to the elite - those who have a special capacity beyond the force of reason and the flesh. According to Gnostic writings, this special capacity was imparted by a messenger bearing a "spark" of light from the "realm of light" even before the creation of the world. The goal of the Gnostic is the release of the inner man by virtue of gnosis (inner knowing) and his return to his native "realm of light". There seems to be a special "place" for a special "people" who are called out or chosen. That is how the spiritual elitism comes forth. It is this Gnostic thought that is behind many of the aberrant teachings of the Latter Rain Movement. (This will be discussed later in this Bible Study.)
The Gnostic concept of God is determined by the depth of illumination and revelation subjectively (by mind or feeling) experienced "about God". The concept rejects external faith in God the Person. The reference point for godhood is in self. Gnostic revelation must be distinguished from Christian revelation because it is not rooted in history and transmitted by Scripture. It is rather the intuition of the mystery of self. The dark cloud of mysticism that overshadows the Church can readily be traced to the Gnostic's "intuition of the mystery of self."
The Gnostic believes that gnosis (self knowledge) is redemptive and as such needs to be discovered and known. As a result of gnosis, man subjectively discovers as a creature, the reality of his lasting unity with the transcendent God. He discovers that his life is immortal and that he is an ongoing manifestation of the light and the god that dwells in his inner self. This knowledge, it is believed, has a redemptive quality that takes the spirit in man to the ultimate realm of light such as the fulness of God.
5. Redefinition of the New Birth
Love and salvation are reckoned obvious consequences of "gnosis." Pure knowledge without subjective reality provides intellectual enlightenment that comes from force of reason and must be avoided because it suppresses the gnosis of Divine Reality. The only substantial evidence of Divine Salvation comes from within the self-consciousness of man. It is in the experience of the inner gnosis that the Gnostic is "born-again." The redemptive quality in man must not be sought in the incarnation of God in Christ through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Holy Scripures of in faith through grace, but rather in the self-conscious seat of his own divinity. In other words, the fullness of divine self-consciousness is the source and evidence of the Gnostic's "New Birth".
To the Gnostic the mystery of God was already unveiled (at least in secret) long before the birth of Jesus Christ and even before the Scriptures were written. In fact, they say it was revealed and buried in man before the creation of the world. Therefore, the only way for man to know about God is through gnosis (self knowledge). As a result, he will experience and know the Divine Spark within himself and know he is a member of the Elite - a "Manifest Son of God."
The Gnostic strives to find God in the creation, i.e., in "self" rather than in the Person, Christ who is the Creator! This pursuit winds up in pantheism.
Unfortunately, Gnostic trends are developing at an alarming rate within the Church. As early as the Second Century, Gnosticism infiltrated Christian theology. Since that time, it has gradually saturated the Church and is now, in these last days exploding not only within the Church, but also within secular institutions. The world is being prepared for a predominant Gnostic religious form, a New Order that will govern a great part of the world before Christ returns.
Because certain "popular" theological concepts are not being measured and subjected to strict Scriptural scrutiny, Gnosticism is gaining a stronghold. As a result of new theological thought, even fundamental orthodox doctrines are being grossly changed into seed-beds for Gnosticism.
FUNDAMENTAL ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY:
"...they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also other Scriptures, unto their
own destruction" (II Peter 3:16)
A GNOSTIC GOSPEL?
Having defined and illustrated the doctrinal core of Gnosticism, we can now effectively identify Gnostic thought as it emerges in the church today. There is a growing network comprised of loosely linked groups with a common Gnostic theme. They refer to themselves in many ways. They use Biblical sounding titles such as "Overcomers", "The First Fruits", "Manifest Sons of God", "The Elect", "A New Breed", "Son of Man Company" and even "The Manchild Company". These groups can be involved in a wide spectrum of teaching from anti-Semitism, Prophets and Apostles, Restoration, Kingdom Now Theology, and most sinister of all - the New Age philosophy.
Though diverse in their outworking, these groups have a common origin in three main bodies of teaching: the Latter Rain Movement, the New Order and the Rosicrucian Order. We will study these three groups in detail, and as we do, the underlying Gnostic philosophy will be evident. Bear in mind, the essence of Gnosticism is finding your divinity - the god within you, by subjective experience.
The Latter Rain Movement
Most Pentecostal history books date the historic Pentecostal revival of the Latter Rain movement to 1948 and attribute its geographical origin to North Battleford, Canada. Its beginning was explosive among the Pentecostals and like a wild fire spread quickly throughout North America and many places around the world. The movement was characterized by many miraculous phenomena. There was an emphasis on spiritual gifts which were to be received by the laying on of hands.
Leaders felt that God was giving the Church, in these last days, great insight into the mind of God by prophetic revelation and manifestations. With the outburst of the revival the ministry of an apostle and a prophet was elevated to the rank of an "office". The ministries were not restricted to penetrating the mysteries within the Bible but included the unveiling of people's lives and heart. New revelations into the spiritual world emerged - communication with angels, divine visitations, and out-of-body experiences.
Revealing a "new thing" or gaining knowledge either by allegorizing the Scriptures or by personal prophetic revelation was the spirit of absurdity that overtook what initially seemed to be a move of God. The records show that the revival started out well. Unfortunately, in certain major respects, it ended in abuse and apostasy, thus showing once again the need for the teaching of true Biblical doctrine.
The Latter Rain Movement had a notorious reputation for imparting an assortment of strange teachings. The origin of these teachings, which have no thread of Scriptural foundation except where the Scriptures have been applied out of context, can be traced beyond any reasonable doubt to the occult. These teachings are accompanied by what seems to be supernatural manifestations, which when examined, are characteristically of the occult. There is evidence that with the Latter Rain revival came blaze of subjective theology that centered on man, his senses, imagination and intuition above the objective and scriptural knowledge of truth.
This new emphasis started a paradigm shift. The initial paradigm, and orthodox perspective of Christ shifted or changed, caused Christians to be receptive to subjective impressions of Christ, experiences and ideas. To maintain the interest of followers, new ideas and new revelations were (and are) continually in the making.
Most people who have had any history in Pentecostalism at all have been influenced at some time in their lives by the Latter Rain Movement. There have been many sincere people who felt they were part of the move of God for the Last Days and were earnestly partaking of the fruit that was offered. Since 1948 the Latter Rain influence has permeated the churches, Bible Colleges, evangelism and Christian television broadcasting networks. The overall of its influence makes it more difficult to warn of the inherent dangers that are involved.
As a result of the Latter Rain influence in the Christian Church two basics streams of thought exist side by side. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish the one from the other. Like the tares and wheat they have grown together. Only through God's written Word can a true separation be discerned. The first stream in "Gnostic" thought - the inspiration of many masquerading as apostles and prophets. The second is "Christian orthodoxy" thought based on the Holy Scriptures. It is the Gnostic stream of though that drives the Christian Church into a dichotomy.
Here are some of the subtle doctrinal concepts the Latter Rain fraternity have come to popularise:
There are many more names and new ways these streams are flowing together now. In spite
of these erroneous teachings, many souls around the world have come to recive Jesus Christ
as Saviour. However, through these aberrant doctrines, many Christians have or are being
swept into a form or religion that too often fits the description of the cults and occult.
Prophets and The New Order
Today with the rise of new "prophets" and "apostles", we are hearing terminology that is clearly unscriptural. Yet, enough Scripture references are used to make the teachings palatable to the average Christian. The elevation of prophets and apostles obviously made way for individuals to abuse Scripture. It allowed some to give the 'Spoken Word' equality with Scripture. There could be no greater error. Predictive prophecy has resulted in untold disaster wherever it had been given free course. The history of Pentecostalism and recalled numerous prophecies has come to nothing. The New Order of the Latter Rain in fact was nothing new. The ground has been covered before with lessons learned through costly mistakes. Now a new generation seemed to want to repeat it all.
This "New Order" has survived and has influenced the course of Pentecostal history. All along there has been interaction among the salvation/healing revivals and the Charismatic movement for the past 40 years. Now another generation later, we are facing the same situation that our forefathers faced, only this time it is exacerbated because of the mass media, telecommunications, huge conferences and a strong interlocking network.
When the terms "Illumination", "New Revelation" and "New Order" are used, immediately the imagination is titillated into wondering, "What does God have new in store for me?" Promises of a "New Anointing" and a "New Thing" keep the conferences filled and the tape and book sales rolling! When the term "New Thing" is used, the following are some of the thoughts behind the term:
These thoughts are the bedrock of Gnostic experience and its objective of self-realisation of
the god within and its subsequent fruit of love and works (born not out of the working of the
Holy Spirit but of connecting with your inner self.)
Numerous Christians, in spite of all of their experiences, are floundering in doubt for lack of faith in God's Word and instead are searching for answers in mysticism - the spirit of Gnosticism. No wonder the masses are receptive to the modern Gnostic apostles and prophets.
"I know that that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee" (Job 42:2)
"Shall any teach God knowledge? Seeing he judgeth those that are high" (Job 21:22)
"O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!" (Deuteronomy 32:29)
"Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD" (Jeremiah 23:24)
"Jesus said,...in secret have I said nothing" (John 18:20)