Reason, Faith and Certitude

Reason, Faith and Certitude

“From about half-past ten in the evening until about half-past twelve … FIRE … God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, and not of the philosophers and savants. Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.”[i] Blaise Pascal

Reason will never take you to the certitude of God.  If it’s pure, which it never is, it regularly leads to doubting.  On the other hand, love will always lead to trust (faith) and acting on faith will lead to certitude.  However, in the end certitude is a gift of God, given to those who love Him and have true faith in the Christ.  The apostle John says, “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son” ( 1 John 5:10).  In chapter  two of his letter John refers to this inner witness as an anointing of truth.

Moreover, Jesus also speaks about faith as a revelation from the Father.  When he asked his disciples who they believed he was, in Matthews gospel, the conversation reads like this; “Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:16-17).  This inner witness that Jesus speaks about is the revelation in the believer’s heart through the spirit of God, which gives them certitude that Jesus is the Christ.  It is this revelation in the believers heart that is the rock on which Christ would build his church[ii].  This measure of faith cannot be accessed by reason alone or any human effort.  It is a gift of God given to all true believers.  It is being born from above.  It is given to all who truly put their faith in the Christ and love God.  It is for the pure in heart

This inner witness, that Jesus is the Christ, is not the same as the promise which Jesus made to his apostles that they will be led into all truth (John 14:16).  The all truth promise was made to his apostles who form the foundation of the new temple of God (Eph 2:19-22).  The early church looked to the apostles as the ultimate authority in matters of the faith and except for a few Gnostics heretics, never claim, “the all truth promise”.. It is obvious, that if every Christian had received “the all truth promise” there would have been total unity and no division in the church from the beginning, to which we know there is, and therefore was not the case.  Plus there would have been no need for the first-century church to ask the apostles questions about the faith, as we see early Christians do in the New Testament.  Many of the writings in the New Testament are made up of the apostles answering questions that were sent to them by individuals and churches.

From the above we gather that when John said, “all of you know the truth”, he was taking about the fact that believers had received through the gospel the revelation that Jesus was the Christ. (1John 2:20-21).  There is no reason to separate this faith experience from the acceptance of the gospel and hearing the word of God preached, for that Word or Gospel is the bearer of the Spirit. This simply means that if a person hears the good news preached and believes it, the Holy Spirit will confirm their faith in their heart that Jesus is the Christ resulting in a certitude giv

[i]  Pascal’s conversion experience was recorded on a small piece of paper and sewed into the inner lining of his coat and was found after his death. It read, “The year of grace 1654. Monday, 23 November, feast of Saint Clement. . . From about half-past ten in the evening until about half-past midnight. Fire. The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. Not of the philosophers and intellectuals. Certitude, certitude, feeling, joy, peace. The God of Jesus Christ. My God and your God. Forgetfulness of the world and everything except God. One finds oneself only by way of the directions taught in the gospel. The grandeur of the human soul. Oh just Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you. Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy. I have separated myself from him. They have abandoned me, the fountain of living water. My God, will you leave me? May I not be separated from him eternally. This is eternal life, that they may know you the one true God and J.C. whom you have sent. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ. I have separated myself from him. I have run away from him, renounced him, crucified him. May I never be separated from him. One preserves oneself only by way of the lessons taught in the gospel. Renunciation total and sweet. And so forth.” (pp. 95-96

[ii] it is incorrect to assume that the rock was Peter or Peters faith. The rock is the revelation that Jesus is the Christ given to believers by the Holy Spirit.

Ratings and Ravings of Atheists And other Nonsense

Ratings and Ravings of Atheists And other Nonsense

Ravings-irrational, incoherent talk-A rant-extravagant or violent declamation 

Sometimes there is fine line between truth and nonsense, and we live in a culture where that line is being increasingly blurred.  One reason for this is the volume of information and the corresponding specialization that is needed to consume it. In some ways, this knowledge explosion is good, but it is also is dangerous, because with it comes with a lot of pseudo-knowledge that the average person has a hard time sorting out from the truth.  Plus, given the intelligence of the new atheist and their ability to communicate, it is easy for them to deceive large numbers of people.  Therefore, many of my articles are not about the existence of God, because to me, the existence God is a self-evident truth, which needs no proof.  Therefore, you will find many of my writings are more about atheism, its belief and its rants and ravings.

The new atheist’s deception is often in the form of pseudoscience or by making assertions that are not grounded in truth or facts[1].  They are experts at the use of rhetoric in spreading misinformation about science and religion.  At their best, most of their material is based on very thin scientific hypothesis and theories. Consider as an example, Richards Dawkins’s hypothesis of selfish genes as the driving mechanism for natural selection.  Unfortunately, thousands have read this book and have accepted it as fact when it is nothing more than a hypothesis[2], which is n more like a guess without any evidence.  Not only is the evidence for his hypothesis nonexistent, it is a hypothesis that can never be proven by the scientific method because genes cannot be observed being selfish or for that matter, of having any direction or motives.  People need to remember that an explanation of something is not in itself the evidence and that assertions are a very poor map to the truth.

In their rants and ravings, the new atheists are constantly claiming that explaining everything naturally destroys the need  for God and proves that he does not exist.  They use the expression, “the God of the gaps” when they’re inferring that a belief in God was only needed to explain the mysteries of the universe.  In their thinking, now that we have figured out the universe, we no longer in need of a God[3].  The problems with this idea are too numerous to be expressed in this article, but one of the greatest is the self-evident truth that the more science discovers about the universe the more mysteries appear.  Quantum mechanics has created a world of possibilities and of mysteries.

An even more fundamental question about the God of the gaps’ hypothesis is, do we really know that much about the universe?  I have read that the universe is made up of 4.9% ordinary matter, 26.8% dark matter and 68.3% dark energy.  Since we don’t know what dark energy or dark matter are, we would have to conclude that we don’t know much about 95.1% of what is known as the dark universe or space.  Remember, we are talking about the known universe which we observe today and some scientists believe that this universe is just one of many.  Moreover, how much can we truly say that we know about the 4.9%  part that we call ordinary matter? And out of this ordinary matter how much do we really understand?  Even when we try to explain this 4.9%, our explanations are veiled and shrouded in metaphors.

For example the question of, what is light. Is it is wave or a particle?  Is it really a wave or a particle or does it simply behave like a wave or particle? Aren’t the word’s wave and particle just similes or metaphors that describe what light does or how it behaves?  Can we say that we truly know something if we understand it metaphorically?  In view of how little we actually know about the universe, I would think that atheists would be cautious about throwing around the God of the gap’s hypothesis as their source explanation of faith.

I personally believe that the new atheist’s argument on the God of the gaps says more about them than it does about the how’s and why’s of faith in the existence of God.  It tells of their intellectual arrogance and their ‘know it all’ attitude toward the universe, which borders on ridiculous.  They actually believe that specks of dust like human beings, can know enough about the universe to say that there is no God.  The God of the gap’s hypothesis also demonstrates the complete misunderstanding, which the atheists have, of faith and people of faith.  At best some atheists who were religious can understand a religious man, but a religious man many not be a man of true faith and only a man of faith can totally understand faith or a person of faith.  The God of the gap’s hypothesis infers that atheists know something about the source of faith and people of faith, which is simply an assertion that comes from their intellectual hubris.  The truth is that they know little about true faith and for that matter, humility.  Their God of the gap’s hypotheses actually reflects an archaic view of human knowledge set forth by the philosophers of the Enlightenment who believed in the perfection and completion of human knowledge, which most thinking people would laugh at today.

At the outset, I want the readers to know that I am not writing to address the old non-theist type of atheist, whose unbelief was either grounded in faulty reason or perhaps an indifference to religion.  My writing is about a group of atheists called the “new atheists” whose beliefs are grounded in a hatred for religion and an exaggerated faith in science.  Unlike, the old atheist type the new atheists are organized and evangelistic in trying to convert people to their faith.  In this, they seem to be taking on the very nature of the thing that they disdain and hold in contempt i.e. organized religion.  The new atheists, like organized religion in the past, are now using the strong arm of government to spread their faith by the hindrance of religious expression and by using the courts to restrict religious freedom.  They also are twisting the Constitution so it also can be used to hinder the free expression of religion instead of protecting it.  Ironically, all the time that they are doing this, they are depicting themselves as Angels of light that are liberating the world from faith, which they claim poison’s everything.

However, are the new atheists really Angels of light as they claim, or are they really Angels of darkness?  I will let one of the old atheist types answer that question.  An honest unbeliever, Dr. E. Wengraf once confessed, “Every piece of anti-religious propaganda seems to me a crime.  I surely do not wish it to be prosecuted as a crime, but I consider it immoral and loathsome.  This not because of zeal for my convictions, but because of the simple knowledge acquired through long experience, that, given the same circumstances, a religious man is happier than the irreligious.  In my indifference and skeptical attitude toward all positive faith, I have often envied other men to whom deep religiosity has given a strong support in all the storms of life.  To uproot the souls of such men is an abject deed.  I abhor any proselytizing.  But, still, I can understand why one who believes firmly in a saving faith tries to convert others.  But I cannot understand propaganda of unbelief.  We do not have the right to take away from a person his protecting shelter, be it even a shabby hut, if we are not sure, we can offer him a better, more beautiful house.  But to lure men from the inherited home of their souls, to make them err afterward in the wilderness of hypotheses and philosophical question marks, is either criminal fatalisms or criminal mindlessness.”

If by chance a new atheist reads this, they will immediately dismiss Dr. Wengraf’s statement that religious folks are happier than unbelievers.  However, science seems to be moving in the direction of proving that people of faith are happier than unbelievers.  For example, Jonathan Haidt who is an atheist has written a book on his study of what makes people happy and concedes that faith in a transcendent is one of the things that makes people happier than others[4].  Ernest Becker in his book “The Denial of Death” points out that religion helps people to meet their basic psychological needs which in turn make them happier[5].  Arthur C. Brooks has written a book entitled “Gross National Happiness” and it demonstrates that people of faith are happier than those that lack it.  Of course, the new atheist will reply, “that’s not science.”  My reply is, that it is more scientific than you’re ranting and raving about the God of the gaps and how religion poisons everything.  Where are the real studies which prove that people believe in God because they do not understand something about the universe?  Where are the statistical studies that religion poisons everything?  These are nothing but assertions of angry and desperate men who want to poison’s people’s mind with their propaganda and rhetoric.

Now, this brings me to one of my rants and ravings against the new atheists.  My rant is that, they have super stars who remind me of the TV evangelist that sells religion.  In fact, almost all of the leaders in the new atheist movement have become quite wealthy by selling their new brand of atheism.  The high priest of the movement Richard Dawkins has made millions of dollars selling books.  But even worse is the herd that follows Dawkins and the other super stars of the movement.  How can these atheists criticize religion when their movement looks more like a fundamentalist religious cult every day?[6]  Lenin once referred to his followers as “useful idiots”.  I often wonder what Dawkins and his cronies actually think of the people that follow them and y give credence to their rants and ravings.

You will find that my writings are not only about the rants and ravings of the new atheists, but also about some of the nonsense and myths propagated by believers of different sorts.  This nonsense continually provides ammunition for the new atheists, and also can be the very cause of some unbelief.  I will address their nonsense and myths in the context of answering the attacks on Christianity by the new atheists, who often allege that nonsense and myths are part of Christianity.  I will demonstrate that these subjects are not a part of the faith handed down to the Christian community by Christ, but rather they’re just theories or subversions of the ancient faith.  Much in the same way  these atheists are subverting science to prove their hypothesis. I have addressed a number of these religious subjects in my book “From Jesus to Religion.”

In many ways, I am thankful to the new atheists, for they have forced believers to refine and bring the faith to higher levels of reason.  Moreover, they have forced believers to re-examine and correct some ill-conceived ideas about God, human knowledge and science.  Sometimes God uses the most unlikely people in his effort to grow up mankind.  Of course, the new atheists will deny that religion even corrects its hypothesis and theories, which again is one of their fallacies that I’ve addressed in other articles.

Some have accused me of being anti-scientific, which is just not true.  I love science and enjoy reading it and exploring its ideas.  However, I do believe that many in science have made a grandiose assertion that it alone has true knowledge, an assertion which I cannot accept.  This assertion has led to almost every discipline claiming to be science.  This in turn has led to the discrediting of true science.  If science is going to maintain its place of authority, it must cease its over-speak about its ability to know certain things.  It also must rigorously enforce the scientific method.  Like all human knowledge, science has its limits and it should know and confess those limits.  When I speak of science in a negative way keep in mind that I am not denying science or human knowledge, but rather I am simply trying to whittle it down to a realistic size.

Moreover, I want to emphasize that my articles are not written to be read by atheists for if they were, they would be read by few people.  In the numerous encounters I have had with atheists of all flavors, I have had little luck in getting many to read anything meaningful on theism.  In this, I see little difference between them and a fundamentalist religious person who bases their beliefs on dogma and feelings, and seems to be satisfied with an argument or feelings, instead of the truth.  Most of my writing is for believers and honest agnostics that wish to know more about atheism, science and God, and how they fit together.  I am also hoping to introduce several new ways of framing a number of old ideas.  Not for the purpose of creating new ideas, but simply to stimulate thinking and a different way of looking at old truths.

I hasten to point out that I do not speak for all Christians in anything I write.  Christianity is a big tent belief system, which can accommodate a large diversity of opinions.  However, in most of my writings I will attempt to stay within the parameters of the scripture and the ancient faith.

[1] They pray on people who cannot tell the different between a fact and a presupposition.

[2] It does not rate the label of a theory.

[3] The expression the God of gaps was first used by theologians to discourage using the gaps in human knowledge as an argument for the existence of God. God is not the god of gapes. He is the God of natural law and nature, and works through natural laws and the miraculous. He does what he wants through any means he wishes.

[4] “The Happiness Hypothesis, Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom” By Jonathan Haidt.

[5]  Ernest Becker in his book “The Denial of Death” makes a strong case for faith as a plus for dealing with life and death. Thought is arguments do not prove the existence of God. They do demonstrates that faith does not poisons everything as the new atheist claim, but rather is beneficial to many people.

[6] John Gray an European intellectual and naturalist see the new atheist as a religious cult. “Heresies: Against Progress And other Illusions”

The Good News for America

The Good News for America

In a society that is all about comfort, ease, pleasure and feeling good, how can we call a person to suffer and die to themselves and live for others?  In other words, what is good about the good news of Christ?

What is the good news of Christ?  Is it good health and worldly blessing or is it something different? The gospel is that Christ died for our sins, and that God raised him from the dead,  nothing more and nothing less. Why are the death and resurrection of Christ the good news?  Well, it is only good news if you recognize that mans greatest enemies are sin and death.  If you recognize this, then the gospel of Jesus Christ is the best news in all the world. Let’s take a look at the trouble that the apostle Paul called the law of sin and death.

The literal meaning of sin is, to miss the mark.  It was the term in which the spotter, who stood next to the target, would yell back to the archers when an arrow missed the bulls-eye.  You sinned; you missed the mark you were aiming at.  When the New Testament says you have sinned it is saying that you have missed the mark that God has set for you as a human being created in His likeness. You have missed what it means to be truly human.

What is his likeness?  Now the likeness of God is a deep subject, but we can easily grasp some things about it. The Bible tells us that God is love and from this, we can gather when we were created in his image that we were created for love.  That is we were created to have a love relationship with God and reflect that image to all around us.

But, how can this be if God is a spirit?  How can we love a spirit?  That is a tough question for a three dimensional being to comprehend.  Even so, one thing I do know is that we can reflect God by loving those that have been created in his image.  Human beings are living symbols of the living God. In fact, they are the only thing in all of creation that image’s God. So, to love or hug a person is to hug God. To smile at another human is to smile at God.  To do good to another human is to do it to and for God (Matt.25:30-40).  It is here we can also see what sin really is.  It is doing something to hurt a fellow human created in God’s image or neglecting to do something one ought to do to help a fellow human.  It is breaking or being unfaithful to the love relationship we have or should have with our fellow-man.  When you act in an unloving way toward your brother, you have sinned.  If you break faith with the image of God, you have sinned against God.

Now the next question is what is love? We have seen that God is love, and this is where Jesus comes in. Jesus came here to reveal the father (John 17).  He came to teach us what true love looks like.  In making known the father he made known what is true love.  He did it by living and dying a sacrificial life for others.  In this, he lived for God and fulfilled the great commandment “to love God with your whole heart, soul and mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  This work of revealing the Father as sacrificial love reached its peak and fulfillment in his death on the cross. As he died, he said, “it is finished.”  In this act of dying for others Jesus fulfilled the law of love and opened a new living way of approaching God, not through religion but through love, not just any kind of love but through the kind of love demonstrated by Jesus.

The atonement is God demonstrating his sacrificial love in Christ for his creation.  How can the death of Christ be reduced to a payment of a debt, to a broken law?  The atonement must be grounded in God’s love, not the law.  Love freely given,  never demands its pound of flesh as the law does. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.”  In the death of Christ, God deals with the sin problem by covering it with his love; while at the same time demonstrating his love to man by covering over with his love their anger and hatred. “Father forgive them, for they know not, what they do.”  In this act of love, he revealed his love,  by forgiving freely, mans hatred and anger. (Colossians 1: 21, 22)

In the death of Christ, we also see a revelation or a revealing of man’s nature. Man is angry and filled with hate and a false sense of justice and righteousness.  Man needs his pound of flesh. The law is broken, someone must pay; someone must be punished for the law is their God.  I find it peculiar that many in the Christian movement have embraced a theory of the atonement which image’s God in exactly the same way as sinful man, strange indeed.

This work of revealing the Father is to be continued by his body, the church.  This revealing of the father begins in the church by believers loving one another, just as Christ has loved them. In loving one another as Christ has loved them, they show the world the Father even as Christ showed them the Father.  When the church fails to do this, it is missing the mark and is living in sin.  When it is living in sin it is living under sin and is walking in the flesh and cannot be pleasing to God.  It is a terrible sin to hurt or hinder the work of the church from revealing the Father.  This happens whenever a member of the church acts in an unloving manner toward a brother or for that matter, another human being.

We are not alone in this work of revealing the Father to the world. God has put his Spirit in the body of Christ and in each of its members, to help them in this great work of revealing the true God.  In truth, this work is the work of God and when he calls us, He calls us to join him in that work, and if we accept that call, we become his fellow workers.

We can gather from all this that we are most human and most godly when we are loving our brothers and honoring the love relationship with God and man. When we fail to do this, we sin. We miss the mark of loving one another, the very reason for which God has created us.

The gospel of Christ is the message that God has forgiven our unloving acts and has taken them on Himself. Furthermore, it tells us if we put our faith in Christ, he will put his divine life in our hearts to help us to become like the Father. When a person believes, they begin to find themselves being transformed into the image of God as their love for God and man grows.

However, the gospel could not be the good news of God unless it addresses the problem of death. In actuality, most people think of death as a problem at the end of one’s life, but when we take a closer look, it is something that affects all of life.  It is as the Bible said, the king of terrors that cast a shadowing doom over all of life.  It is the shadow of the abyss that robs life of all meaning. In the classic book, the “Denial of Death,” Ernest Becker shows how the fear of death operating on a subconscious level influences and actually controls a lot of our thinking and actions.  In view of this, one would have to conclude that to bring one’s life under control you would have to have something to deal with death on a conscious and subconscious level. Well, God gave us this when He raised Jesus from the dead. The message of the resurrection is the best news that mankind has ever heard.  It frees us from the fear of death and empowers us to live a life of freedom and meaning.

Of course, we did not need Mr. Becker’s book to tell us about the power of death, for scriptures long go echoed the same thought.  The writer of the book of Hebrews says, ” Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death, he might destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Heb. 2:14-16).  The apostle Paul actually says that death is the catalyst for mans sinning. “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:56-57).  Note that Paul does not say death is the sting of sin but rather that sin is the sting of death. Though Paul does not tell us how death causes us to sin it is  plain that he is pointing to the fear of death as the source of much of our sinning. However, he also shares with us the good news that Christ has overcome death in his resurrection.  In the resurrection, God has placed us with Christ above sin and death giving us a victory over them in Christ (Eph.2:6). Now, that is good news. LD

 

 

 

 

A Parable for Atheists

A Parable for Atheists

In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery? “The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.” “Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?” The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.” The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”

The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.” The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one has ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.” The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?” The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.” Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.” To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.”

I saw this on the net and had to pass it on. It speaks of the final transformation in the birth of the sons of God into a new creation.”

Coming Up Against God-C.S Lewis

Coming Up Against God 

“In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that—and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison—you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.  C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity 

What Lewis is taking about is probably one of his forms of experiencing God, but is something seldom experienced in our age.  Why is that?  It’s because we moderns look down on everything, even God, and have forgotten the meaning of pride and humility.  We have set ourselves up as judges of the world and of God Himself.  I often hear people say “I cannot believe in the God you believe in because He is too hard or that He is too easy.”  In this they are simply saying that any God which they believe in must conform to their standards and taste.  Now think about that for a minute.  What are these people really saying?  Are they not setting themselves up as the judge of God?  Moreover, if you were to stumble upon an all knowing and powerful God, how likely would it be that all of your values, judgments, and appetites would line up with His?  Before you answer, take awhile to think about it, for your answer will tell you where you stand with Lewis’s God.

Now that you have thought about your answer, let’s analyze it in view of Lewis’s remarks.  If you said that your values, judgments, and your will line up with the God you believe in, it simply means that you have not experienced what Lewis refers to as “coming up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself.”  Moreover, it would mean that you are prideful and that you have not experienced the true God or at the least Lewis’s God, or if you have, you have forgotten the experiences.  However, either way it is a strong indication that you do not know the true God.

A further test of your standing before God could be calculated by asking a question of yourself which God might ask you someday.  What would your answer be if you knocked on heaven’s door and a voice said, “Why should I let you into my heaven?”  Would your answer be something along the line of, “Well, I am a good person.  I kept your commandments.  I did the best I could.  I was fair and honest.  I never hurt anyone.  I went to church every week.”  Unfortunately, there are some real problems with these answers if it is Lewis’s God that you are talking to.  One is that they are all self-judgments based on comparing oneself with others, which has little to do with the question.  Do you think God is concerned about how you compare with others?  His reply might be, “So you think you’re better than others?”  Furthermore, for most human beings these statements would, in themselves, be a lie.  Yes, you might be a good person, but by whose standards—yours or your neighbor’s?

What is the right answer?  It is an answer that only those who have experienced what Lewis is talking about can know.  Here it is.  You will lead me into heaven because that is the kind of God You are, and I know this because I came up against You in the person of Your Son and from that day on I knew You and my true self.  I knew that I could never measure up to Your standards, and if I were to be saved it would only be through Your grace and love.

 

 

The Gnostics Among Us-The Death of Christianity

The Gnostics Among Us

A Study in First John

1 John 2:7-8

Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

1 John 2:24-25

 See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father.  And this is what he promised us-even eternal life.

1 John 2:27-28

 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit-just as it has taught you, remain in him.

 And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.

1 John 3:11

 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

1 John 3:23-4:1

 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.  Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

1 John 4:4-6

 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.  They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.  We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

The book of First John is one of the most interesting books in the Bible and one of the most relative for the American Church.  Someone once said that America is a nation that has the soul of a Church.  Well, that is true but the church that it reflects is a Gnostic Church.  What do I mean by Gnostic?  Gnosticism was an ancient philosophy that was quite diverse in its beliefs.  However, there are a few general tenets in all forms of Gnosticism which we can note.  The word Gnostic comes from the Greek and means “to know.”  People that embraced this philosophy claimed to have special knowledge that was given only to them or their group.  They often claimed that this knowledge came to them through some form of revelation.  These revelations came in the form of impressions in the mind or a warm feeling that confirmed the thinking of the person or group.  If they are Christian Gnostics, they also claimed that this revelation and knowledge are greater or equal to that of the apostles of Christ.  They furthermore, believed that their revelations were personal, making them purely subjective.  By personal and subjective, I mean there was nothing outside of their own mind that they could appeal to as a source of authority.  In contrast, the apostles of Christ worked miracles to confirm their word and revelations (Heb 2:1-4).  Gnostics seem to feel no need to ground their teaching in scripture or the doctrine of the apostles of Jesus.  In fact, they often created their own scriptures –  sometimes forging the name of one of the apostles of Jesus.  The proof of their experience is and was only their own testimony, a subjective experience in contrast to the sign and wonders done by the apostles of Jesus. Of course, some Gnostics claim the same power of the apostles and worked counterfeit miracles, which are and were as subjective as their revelations (2 Thess 2:5-12).  The Gnostics tried to prove their revelations and miracles by their words. The apostles proved their words by their miracles.

Gnostics also embrace an extreme form of dualisms. Dualism is the separation of the spiritual and the physical.  Their dualism was extreme because they believed unlike other dualists that the material or the physical was evil and unclean.  This belief had some serious implications for how these people interpret the Christ story.  If the physical was evil, how could Jesus –  a spirit being who was completely holy enter into a physical body which was evil?  So they taught that Jesus was a ghost or illusion.  The apostle John addresses the false assumption that Jesus did not come in the flesh in a number places in his letter (1 John 1:1-4).  Because, of their negative view of the body, the Gnostics slip into the errors of ascetic and extreme pietism (thinking they were perfect); this led to the abuse or neglect of the body and the denying of any worldly or physical pleasures.  They often try to separate themselves totally from what they called worldly activities and people.  The desert fathers where gnostics to the highest degree and are still held by Gnostic Christians to be great heroes of the faith.

Many Gnostics embraced antinomian, which is the dislike of law and authority. These folks misused the apostle Paul’s doctrine of grace and turned grace into a license to sin (Rom 6:1-3).  There were many false teachers in the early years of Christianity, who taught that Christians were not under any law and therefore, could not sin.  Of course, Christians are not under the Mosaic Law, but they are under the law of Christ, which is the law of love (Gal 6:2, 1Cor 9:20).  The apostle Peter warns Christians to watch out for these lawless men who could lead them away from Christ (2 Pet 3:17).  John corrects both views of extreme pietism and antinomian by pointing out that Christians do sin, and yet they do not keep on sinning.  In other, words the Christian seeks a lifestyle that is free of habitual sin. (1 John 1:8-2:2).

My main interest in writing this article is to look at the Gnostics doctrine of the anointing which John speaks about in his letter. From the words of John, we can build a picture of some of the claims and teachings of the Gnostics, who were a part of the fellowship that John was addressing.  However, we know that at least some Gnostics have left the fellowship, believing they were too spiritual to be in the fellowship of mere believers who proclaimed their relationship with Christ through eating bread and drinking wine ( The Lords supper).

The Gnostic world of the first few centuries after Christ, as it is today was one of subjective impressions and feelings. Their truth was not out there in the physical world, in the church or scripture, but in each of their own minds.  Truth was what they believed and in the end only supported by their impression and feelings.  When someone would challenge their Gnostic beliefs, they would simply say they had an anointing from God that would teach them all truth.  Interpreted this means; I have this warm fussy feeling that I have the truth.  In this, there were as many faiths (religions) as people.  John and the other apostles saw this movement as the greatest damage to the true faith.  John refers to these people as anti-Christ.  In our day we see the identical thing in what we call religious relativism, which stems from the same sources of Gnosticism.  Religious relativism in its simplest form says that religious doctrines are not important and the only thing that matters is what an individual person believes and feels.  All beliefs are equal.  The authority to choose is left up to the individual.

This brings us to the question of what is the anointing that John speaks about in his letter? (1 John 2:27) Before giving my interpretation let’s note some general observations about this anointing that John speaks about.  First of all, whatever, it was; it was given to every Christian not just those with a personal knowledge or a personal religious experience (1 John 2:20).  Second, the truth that the anointing provided was a truth that was public and shared by all the body of Christ.  It was not personal or individual “all of you know the truth” All Christians had the anointing and the truth that came from it.  Third, the anointing came in the beginning of their faith when they placed their faith in Christ through the preaching of the gospel which is the bearer of the Spirit.  There is no room here for any second work of grace in the believer, which would create two kinds or classes of Christians[1] (1 John 2:24).  This anointing taught all Christians the same truth, a truth that was public and corporate.  If we were to boil down the teaching of the anointing to its simplest form, it would be a teaching of faith and love.  The anointing of the Spirit teaches all Christians to have faith in Christ and to love one another.  Faith and love are the sign and seal that someone has the anointing (Eph 1:13-14, Col 1:4-5, 1Thess 1:2-3).

The anointing comes when one believes the gospel and identifies with Christ in baptism, which puts one into Christ (Acts 2:38, Rom 6:1-3). It confirms in the heart of the believer that Jesus is the Christ in order that the believer may have a certitude of their relationship with Christ (I John 5:10).  It is faith in Christ and love for our brothers which gives the believer a mark or seal of assurance that we have the anointing and are saved (Eph 113-14)[2].  We need no subjective knowledge or religious experience to confirm our relationship with Christ other than our baptism, faith and love.  Because our faith, baptism and love are public, they are both subjective and objective.  That is, you can feel them and see them.

There is nothing in John’s words on the anointing that would lead anyone to think that God is guiding them into all religion truth or personal truth by putting impressions on their minds. If that is or were the case why did the early Christian ask the apostles for the answer to their questions?  Why did they not just pray for answers to come through revelation?  It is obvious the early church believed that only the apostles of Christ had the authority to speak on all religious questions concerning the faith, the faith that once and for all was given to the saints (Jude 3).  This faith was completely delivered to the apostles by the Lord and in turn the apostle delivered it to the fellowship (church) through their words and the traditions that they pass down to the church which words are recorded in scripture and interpreted by the spiritual mature.  There is no room for new revelation in regard to doctrine, which goes beyond the teaching of the apostles.  The church must reject any teaching or tradition that goes beyond the teaching of Christ and His apostles (2 John 9).  Only the apostles of Christ were promised to be led into all truth (John 14:26) and even among the apostles, it had to be confirmed by two or three of them (Matt 18:18-20).  The revelations were not private.  Even the apostle Paul set his teaching before the other apostles to be confirmed (Gal 2:2).

The apostle Paul put little stock in personal religious experience for he knew they were private and in the end proved nothing[3] (2 Cor 12:1-60).  It was this kind of personal subjective knowledge, which comes from individual experiences and subjective impressions that filled individuals with spiritual pride.  It is not book knowledge that fills people with spiritual pride as Gnostics would have us believe.  Book knowledge requires a person to submit to another and gives another credit for one’s knowledge.  It recognizes that it is dependent on someone else for knowledge and that knowledge is outside itself and public.  In other words, it looks to an authority outside itself for knowledge where subjective knowledge looks to itself.  One of the characteristics of Gnosticism is its anti-intellectualism, which stems from its hatred of objective knowledge.

Is there a problem with Gnosticism in the American Church? It seems that many evangelical leaders think so.  “Despite the vast cultural differences between North American Protestantism and ancient Gnosticism, the parallels between the two innovations can no longer be ignored.” Philip Lee, “Against the Protestant Gnostics.”

“The studied creedlessness of American Protestantism, its reliance on the guidance of the inner light, its resistance to the specific authoritative claims of Scripture, its ignorance of the teaching of Scripture, its preoccupation with the millennium, its anti-sacramental and anti-ecclesiastical biases are all indicators of an essentially Gnostic world view.” Jay Grimstead, Crosswind Spring/Summer

In his book “Gnosticism: The Coming Apostasy, D.M. Panton alerted Christians to expect Gnosticism the most dreaded foe the Christian faith ever confronted to reappear as a new Theology “ D.M. Panton.

Once we gain a historical perspective on the church’s continuous struggle with the Gnostic seed for over two millennia, we should not be surprised that much of the essence of Gnosticism has managed to permeate evangelical Christianity. The critical difference is that today, due to our disinterest in church history and distaste for doctrinal boundaries, the enemy stalks our camp unrecognized.”[4] Doner Colonel, “The Late Great Evangelical Church”

I could go on quoting church leaders from the Pope to R.C. Sproul and all would say the same thing, that this generation of American Christians are in a death struggle with Gnosticism or what we call the new-age movement which has already infiltrated the Church. Only time will tell whether we are ready for this battle with this anti-Christ.

[1] In the new testament there are not two kinds of Christians or class of Christians.  In Scripture all Christians are born again and all Christians have the Spirit.  The only thing that separated Christians are their  degree of  mature and the gifts given by the Spirit.  Spirit filled Christians were simply those that had yielded more to Spirit.  The expression “filled with the Spirit” is a metaphor denoting the level of control that the spirit has in one’s life.

[2] The mark in Eph 1:13-14 is the seal that a king would place on a letter sent with his authority. The mark of a Christian is the Holy Spirit that is manifested in a life of faith and love.  Nothing mystical in this passage unless you are a Gnostic and looking for something mystical to set you apart from ordinary Christians.

[3] Subject and provide religious experiences means nothing more than the fact that you had an experience which you believe came from God. However, your belief that it came from God may be wrong.  It may have come from Satan or your own imagination.  Every cult leader in the past and present uses their subjective and private religious experiences to prove their religious doctrines and to confirm their authority, to get men to follow them.  The greatest example of this is Joseph Smith the founder and first prophet of the Mormon church.  He had nothing to prove his cock and bull story other than his own personal revelation.  The Mormon Church now has 12 million members and is one of the most Gnostic groups among American religions.

[4] I highly recommend this book because of the author’s insight into the influence of Gnosticism on American Christianity.