by Travers and Jewel van der Merwe

Chapter 10: Neo-Gnosticism

Truth is absolute! That is why Jesus could say, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." His words give understanding to the simple. Those who perish are those who do not have love for the truth. When the love for the truth is absent, . . . God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. The delusion is interpreted in the text as "straying from orthodoxy".

The orthodox position on truth, or "sound doctrine" is being slowly undermined by a desire to build an earthly political kingdom, self-centred ministries and marketing the anointing. As a third generation Pentecostal, it is sad to see the inroads the New Age is making amongst our own ranks. Sadder still, Shepherds are too busy hooking up to the latest fad to realise that in the process they are selling the truth. Proverbs 23:23 tells us to Buy the truth and sell it not . . . God's truth is to be valued above thousands in gold and silver. (Psalm 119.72)

Today people are so "experience" oriented and so busy looking for a "new anointing" and "new thrills" that they are willing candidates for just about anything!

An evangelist from South Africa (Rodney Howard-Browne) is drawing huge crowds because of an unusual phenomenon. People roll on the floor and howl with hilarious laughter. Upon watching a videotape of several services, it was amazing to note how the laughter broke out, cackling and derisive, during the reading of the Word of God. The overtones of the comments of those laughing were sexual and very carnal (i.e. comparing their "experience" with that of those drinking alcohol in very graphic terms). Amid all the hilarity they were trying to find a Scriptural basis.

It is very interesting to note that New Age writers refer to laughter as being "healing", "therapeutic" and "a way to break down reserves".

Solomon (a king to whom God granted wisdom) also speaks of laughter in Ecclesiastes:

It was heart-rending to note pastors, leaders of the sheep, falling for this absolute deception! Listening to the bedlam was like hearing all the demons let loose from their abode.

There isn't time to worry about being labelled "critical", "judgmental", or "touching God's anointed." This is the blind leading the blind! First it was "falling out" that was the anointing. Everyone swoons and falls and believes that they have a "new anointing". Now it is taking leave of one's senses as they roll on the floor thinking the "anointing" is being drunk! What on earth is next? It will have to be a good one. Will it be levitating? Rodney Howard-Browne needs to be strongly rebuked and taught the Word of God!

What has put so many of the NEW ANOINTERS beyond the Word of God? In Acts 18:24-28 there was Jew names Apollos who was very fervent, an eloquent man and MIGHTY in Scriptures! He spoke very diligently the things of the Lord - but his DOCTRINE WAS NOT RIGHT! Obviously this was very important because when Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly! Today Aquila and Priscilla would be called heresy hunters. Yes, they were! Praise God! They loved the Word of God! They were jealous with a Godly jealousy for truth! As a result Apollos left Ephesus and mightily convinced the Jews from the Scriptures! The truth is powerful! It convinces the soul of righteousness and true standing before God.

Gnostic Thought and Practices

When a high value is placed on personal experiences or revelations, Scriptures are then unscrupulously twisted and misquoted. We find those who believe the feelings of a congregation must be hyped up in order to "feel" the Presence of the Lord or else the church is thought to be "dead". Instead of music being used to worship and glorify God, it is used as a means of "connecting" or "feeling" the Presence of God. If the "location" (or a feeling within) of God is not aroused and sensed, the Spirit is said to be either absent or bound. To counter this passive situation, worship is intensified, the devil is "bound" and certain forms of excitement are encouraged until "God's Presence" is "felt". Many times music is used as the conduit for the "feeling". A popular slogan to advertise a certain music company is: "Feel the Presence of the Lord". The church has been taken down this primrose path for so long that they equate the Presence of God with a certain feeling that they obtain by doing certain things. The "goose bumps" or the "warm fuzzies" or tears of comfort, is their way of "knowing" that God is present. So what this thinking boils down to is simply: "To know God's Presence you must feel Him." In actuality this is pure Gnosticism.

If knowing God is contingent on feeling, then Gnosticism and pantheism have a place in Christian thinking.

Gnosticism is linked with pantheism in that it supports and overlaps the idea of the sould (self) harmonizing with nature and the universe as the means of perceiving God. The common tie between Gnosticism and pantheism is that both purport to find "God" in creation. Gnosticism finds "God" within man - relating to the feelings and pantheism finds "God" in creation as a whole. The two blend in that both worship and serve the creature more than the Creator. The Gnostic god is localised in a subjective experience, a soulish feeling of being in union with creation and God. It rejects the relationship with the Creator based on faith in His written Word - regardless of feeling. A very tough pill for experience-driven Christians to swallow.

True Worship vs Gnostic Worship

Worship is an integral part of the Christian faith. Sometimes feelings of ecstasy are experienced. The Presence of God is rightly acknowledged by true worship. However, when emotional feelings become the doctrine of God's Presence, then God has been reduced to a "gnosis" form of Presence. For many, the doctrine of "knowing the Presence of God" is sought in a subjective experience. An emotional experience, especially a repetitive one during a worship service, if not kept in proper perspective or check, can lead to an altered state of consciousness in which the capacity for rational reasoning is greatly reduced. At this point the congregation is open to delusion and can be easily led astray. In many charismatic groups an altered state of mind is explained as "getting into the Spirit" or as a manifestation of the presence of God. Uncontrolled spiritual feelings transcend sound scriptural rationalism and give rise to the doctrine of "the Presence of God" built on an experience.

The Serious Gnostic Deception

A very serious practice which gives deceiving spirits the opportunity for deception, is the notion that God is localised in them (consciously) or around them (consciously). The desire on the part of some is to "feel" the presence of God through prayer, worship or otherwise as evidence of His presence. They are disappointed if they leave a service and don't think that they have "felt" God. They will run from church to church looking for this "feeling".

Sensing the presence of God is revered. We do "enjoy our religion". God has made us emotional creatures. However, when experience becomes the evidence of our relationship with God, it is then dangerous and could prove spiritually counterproductive. "The just shall live by faith" is still the only principal the righteous live by and relate to God.

Some believers so live inwardly in communion, worship and vision, that they become spiritually introverted, and cramped and narrowed in their outlook. As a result, their spiritual capacity and mental powers become dwarfed and powerless. Others become victims to the "inner voice". They go about declaring, "God told me this, God told me that". Many times very impractical decisions come as a result of that which is thought to be God speaking.

"New Age" thought with its strong emphasis on the supernatural, feelings and paganism is so preponderate in today's society that it is no wonder the present generation of Christians are becoming more and more Gnostic in thought.

The Gnostic Approach to the Bible

The Gnostic believes it is wrong to use only the Bible to interpret the Bible. Besides the Bible they believe there are additional inspired manuscripts and books on a par with the Bible and hearing the Voice of God apart from the Scriptures. A Rosicrucian writer neatly puts it:

Preaching today is filled with allegory. Symbolism has replaced substance and in the modern day "prophetic" movement it is revelation apart from the Scriptures. A pamphlet advertising a newsletter ("Streams of Shiloh", John Paul Jackson) gives some topics that will be discussed in the future such as:

Pick up any New Age magazine and what is it full of? Dreams, visions, trances, impressions, visitations, translations and transportations! Yet the "prophetic" enjoys cloaking their delusion (departure from orthodoxy) in such ethereal terms as: "Intimacy with Christ" and "renew the body of Christ."

It is no wonder that the Word warns us all, the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears (2 Tim. 4:4).

John Paul Jackson goes on to say:

Heavy duty occult activity sanctioned and encouraged! Numerology, auras, symbology, astrology, out-of-body experiences, trances given prominence. At the expense of what? The Word of God! Rather than training believers in the fear and admonition of the Lord, develop "revelatory" skills. You might even end up thinking you are David Koresh.

There is a concentrated effort, especially in psychology, to bring about a blending of ancient wisdom and modern techniques. Shamanism is being reintroduced in an unprecedented manner to the modern society. One of the ancient practices is Huna (a Hawaiian esoteric philosophy.) This philosophy teaches that we are to be able to

We cannot separate Christ from His Word. He is the Word and the word became flesh and dwelt among us. We can not know Christ apart from His Word. John 5:39, Search the Scripture; for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me.

There will never be any revelation apart from the word of God. Revelatory gifts apart from Scripture take the soul into fables, myths and gnosticism.

For the Scriptures to be properly understood, the Gnostic holds that they need to be interpreted symbolically, spiritually or allegorically. The literal interpretation is thought to be presumptuous and unspiritual. Most of the theological controversy dividing the church stems from the rejection of the literal interpretation of the Bible. In the 2nd and 3rd century the church came to prefer the allegorical interpretation to the literal. It was this change that opened the church to Gnosticism. No wonder Gnosticism is so deeply entrenched in Christian theology. As long as the allegorical method of interpretation is used, Gnosticism will continue to have influence on Christian thinking.

It is quite common to find Christians interpreting the Bible allegorically. In fact, most of the preaching behind the pulpit today is allegorical. The literal method is steadily being phased out in preference for the spiritualising/allegorical method. Generally, Christians are so accustomed to subjecting their ears to allegorical preaching they automatically make good candidates for Gnosticism. It comes as no surprise why this new wave of Gnosticism is flooding the church and why the Gnostic prophets have a hold on the Christians.

A Note of Warning to the Churches

The church that strays from the literal method of interpretation and fails to use Scripture to interpret Scripture is in danger of being absorbed into Gnosticism or mysticism. The church that slides into the Gnostic school of thought will inadvertently depart from the authority of Scripture and become a law unto itself. Most of the new and weird teachings can be traced to the allegorical method of interpretation. The only way for the fundamental and evangelical churches to guard against this Gnostic method is to stand firm on the literal method of interpretation, i.e., on the literal meaning of all Scripture.

The Internal Deity/Authority

The Gnostic believes that the real spiritual birth comes from a consciousness of the divine spirit dwelling in every man. Through this experience the presence of the "Spirit" is perceived, the "knowledge" of God is learned and spiritual maturity is reached. Their reference point is not the Scriptures although sometimes they misapply Scripture in their support. Their reference is an internalised experience, based on the idea that "God" dwells in every man and knowing this is the start of spiritual life and maturity to godhood. On the authority of this concept they build their spiritual lives. It is from this viewpoint they emphasise "holiness', "intimacy with God", etc.

This form of Gnosticism is often detected in teachings and preaching. With the modern emphasis on the Holy Spirit, Christians are conditioned into thinking, sometimes unwittingly, that the Scriptures are insufficient to be a total effective authority. Therefore, they feel the Scriptures should be supplemented and substituted by some internal authority such as feeling, experience, conscience, intuition, inner voice, etc. The ever increasing problem with this form of authority is that it is being rated above the Scriptures in the name of the Holy Spirit. Christians are encouraged to give greater heed to their self-conscious internal authority over their faith in the voice of the Word.

When a Voice, be it conscience, intuition or a subjective impression replaces the authority of the Scriptures and takes precedence over "God's Word", then it is cultic. Cults have always sought divine authority in man, while Christians seek divine authority in God's Word. The cults, like many modern Christians, place the inner voice above all else. They teach that the real guiding Voice or Light comes from within. The emphasis and substance of their religion hinges on an inner voice or experience which they claim is the light of God. For example, consider the following statement by R. Swinburne Clymer, a Rosicrucian:

Any authority apart from Scripture will lead to apostasy. When the voice of Scripture is quenched in favour of a personal internal authority, disaster follows. History readily proves this:

As a result of a Gnostic emphasis on the internal authority of man as a substitute for the authority of the Scriptures, the church has and is being inundated with popes - "apostles and prophets" - exercising ministries centred on self, each being a law unto himself. The Gnostic "popes" interpret their internal authority to represent the presence of the Holy Spirit and divine inspiration. Here is where error, such as the New Age and satanism starts. Unfortunately many well meaning Christians at the expense of God's written Word have faith in an internal authority. Unknowingly they are grieving the Holy Spirit and could experience a strong delusion from Satan. Nationally acclaimed so-called prophets and apostles, are notorious for their claims to having internal authority and knowledge on a par with Scripture.

One of the prophets gave a word to a pastor and his wife regarding their personal affairs. As a result they resigned their pastorate and heeded the word of the prophet to move to another city. When questions, "How did you know it was God's direction?" The answer came back, "Oh, I felt it, I just knew it was God. The prophet told me things no one could ever know." The questioner persisted, "But how did you know it was God? What was your reference point?" The conversation couldn't get beyond the point of internal feelings. Shortly afterwards it was learned by the questioner that the prophet involved exercised an unscriptural ministry, sometimes prophesying the most bizarre thoughts and concepts to be imagined. His outrageous prophecies have been well documented. However, the point being made here is that the couple followed their own intuitive or internal dictates without regard whether or not the situation they were getting themselves into lined up with the Scriptures. Had they only turned to the authority of the Word, they would have found the prophet as well as the church in which he ministers in gross error. Unfortunately, they preferred to stay with their internal thoughts and feelings instead of with the authority of the Word.

The Hidden Voice

In the following quote, a typical "Christian Gnostic" position can be detected.

In essence, the above quote is a Gnostic testimony because the source of their knowledge is attributed to a personal subjective experience believed to be the voice of God. Their experience sets them apart as spiritual elitists. There is enough leaven in this short quote to trigger off a whole new doctrine in favour of Gnosticism.

According to the new Gnostic emphasis, spiritual maturity comes from being attuned to the inner voice of the Holy Spirit. Unless the Spirit is subjectivelyheard in one form or another on an ongoing basis, mature spirituality has not been reached. In other words, spiritual maturity comes from hearing God beyond the sacred page (Scripture).

Christians that insist on the Holy Scriptures as their only most trusted source of spiritual knowledge are considered to be into idolatry and bondage. Because Christians faithfully reverence the Holy Scriptures as the VOICE of GOD, they are accused of worshipping a book and of over-reverencing the Bible. The following quotes are typical examples:

Any Christian in his right mind will not worship a book, binding, pages or ink. But he certainly will utterly reverence God's inspired Holy Scriptures. It is impossible to over-reverence the written Word just as it is impossible to over-reverence God to the point of making Him an idol - absurd! Even God shows utter reverence for His Word when He says, . . . for thou has magnified thy Word above all thy name (Psalm 138:2)

The Peril of the Gnostic Voice

The "Christian Gnostic" religion is a mystical form of godliness experienced intuitively and all too often is construed to represent the Presence or Voice of the Holy Spirit. The peril of this concept relegates the inspiration of the Scriptures to a subordinate position to personal "inspiration" or to "private interpretation" of Scripture.

It is quite commonplace to read or hear messages sometimes by popular preachers saying, "Hear from God". This emphasis is ostensibly to improve a Christian's quality of life. The problem with this well-sounding phrase is that it invariably disregards the written Word of God and gives self preference over the Word of God. Christians hooked on "hear from God" without regard to Holy Scripture are not only open to serious error, but also disposed to strong delusions. This could lead to a self-centred "cult like" religion at the expense of God's precious written Word.

If a man truly hears from God, he will reverence and honour the written Word of God more than ever and over everything else. Many Christians are into a form of Gnosticism dangerous to themselves and to others. They have a real problem distinguishing the voice of God from their own thoughts, feelings and imagination. The reason is they don't align their minds with the written Word of God. Many have never learned to understand their experiences in the light of Holy Scriptures. How can anyone know God's voice or will apart from Scripture and how can anyone know the truth of God if he allegorises the Scripture or takes a text out of context in support of his own ideas, thoughts and wishes? Any other way of assuming to know God's voice apart from Scripture is perilous. However God chooses to minister to His children will always confirm and accord with Holy Scripture.

The Gnostic school of thought subtly divides the ministry of the Holy Spirit from the Holy Scriptures. This position demises the Scriptures and pits the church against God's final voice of authority. The switch of emphasis to the Holy Spirit at the expense of the Scriptures is seen by some as a NEW THING God is doing in the believer and the world. This is a strong delusion.

The Still Small Voice

Because God at one point in time chose to speak to Elijah the prophet through a still small voice, and at another time to Balaam the prophet through an ass, it no way obliges God to repeat the performance in our day and age. It would be wrong on the part of a Christian to turn inward to self in the hope of hearing a still small voice, just as it would be to go to an ass out in the country in the hope of hearing God speak.

The "still small voice" concept is such an obsession in certain segments of the church it is no surprise that bizarre messages and presumptuous judgments and decisions are made in the name of the Lord. The concept has sown more confusion in the church than any other presumption. If only Christians would learn to line up their thoughts and intuitions with Scriptures, we would have more of the Spirit and less of the flesh.

God's Sovereign Voice to the Church

God in His sovereignty gave man the Holy Scriptures. All we need to know about God, redemption, holiness, eternal life and ourselves is recorded in the written Word of God. The Holy Spirit provided the Scriptures so that by the preaching of the Gospel of Christ the world might come to know the Lord Jesus Christ. By the preaching of the Gospel of Christ according to the written Word, the Holy Spirit speaks to sinners and saints alike. Holy Scriptures remain the final Voice of God - whether the world believes it or not. The Holy Spirit uses the written Word of God to save, sustain and mature the believer. Any other source used to determine spiritual growth other than the Scriptures is false. It is wrong for a man to presume he knows the mind of God if it is not according to the Scriptures. To do so is to be grossly presumptuous. God is Sovereign. He will speak whenever He chooses and in whatever manner He wills. But, if and when He speaks, it will be a Sovereign Act. God's sovereignty is not negotiable. It cannot be monopolised or manipulated by our wishes, thoughts, prayers, cries, meditations or even by our communion with Him. It is impossible for man to control God's sovereignty. When God speaks or acts, He never contradicts His written Word.

Christianity vs Gnosticism

The Christian does not look inward for his redemption. He looks UPWARD to God who is seated in heaven far above principalities and powers. His redemption was bought and brought nigh by the blood of Jesus Christ. The Christian's approach to God is by faith in Christ's complete work of redemption at the cross. Redemption is not an experience, it is God's salvation bought by the precious blood of the Lamb - and is a free gift.

Christians know they are saved, not by any experience they might have had along the way, but because they believe on the Lord Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures. Even their faith from the heart is the witness of the Holy Spirit and their redemption. Sometimes Christians have great spiritual experiences, but refuse to glory in the flesh. Their glory is only in the Lord.

The only premise the Christian builds his life on is not by "self-consciousness", but by the written Word of God. The only God the Christian knows and desires to know is the God of the HOLY WRITTEN WORD. The god of the imagination and the god of self was resoundly crushed and defeated at Calvary some two thousand years ago.

The Christian's affections and thoughts are not turned inward, but rather upward toward heaven from whence they expect the personal and glorious appearing of the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. For at the wound of the trumpoet and the voice of the archangel, the saints in Christ, both the living and the dead, shall put on immortality, incorruption and see Jesus Christ face to face and be like Him. Amen!