I know that's a long and complex title for a blog, but as I consider my perspective of where we are in Christianity today, they all come into focus. In fact, the history of how we got here is indeed long and complex. I hope to give you some information to contemplate and research so you can develop and understand your worldview.
It is precisely because I have worked to mature my own worldview [and from a decidedly biblical stance] that I began to see how these philosophies have infiltrated what the religion of Christianity has become. I had a somewhat simplistic and basic understanding of each belief system, but was naive enough to consider them as separate entities and did not conceive of the possibility that each could have influenced the others and infiltrated the Christian religion. But as I began to study the Bible more and the history of the world and religion, I also saw how tenets of each philosophy began to corrupt the teachings about the Bible, and even the various versions of the Bible down through the centuries.
So, let me just start with Gnosticism and see how it interacts with the others and discern what picture begins to emerge. Both the Disciple John and Apostle Paul expressed their argument against Gnosticism in the Bible. What is Gnosticism? At its core, Gnosticism believes that matter (as represented by the body) is evil and the spirit is good. According to the gnostic belief system, one need not worry about a moral lifestyle in the physical; it was the attainment of "sacred, divine" knowledge that was important and significant. Furthermore, they believed they had knowledge of God that was exclusive; specifically that the "spirit" of man was ignorant and needed to be "awakened". They believed they had the special knowledge that could liberate or "activate" the human spirit, or "illuminate" it.
Is this beginning to sound familiar? Remember my post from a few days back about the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden? And how God shared His knowledge with Adam, but that depending on whether man descended from the line of Adam's evil son, Cain, or his righteous son, Seth, that knowledge was used to either corrupt the world, or was for the good of the world? God bequeathed knowledge to man to control the universe, provided that he mastered the wisdom given to him, and did not use this divine gift for evil. But everything that God entrusted to Adam became susceptible to the corruption of this "sacred and divine" knowledge after the Fall. The Gnostics claimed they were the repository of this sacred knowledge from antiquity, but in reality, what they inherited were the "sacred mysteries" in the religious rites and ceremonies instituted by Cain and his evil son, Enoch (not to be confused with Enoch, the son of Jared, whom God took to Heaven without dying). And this corrupted knowledge came because Adam disobeyed God in the Garden, and Satan gained access to the knowledge from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
These Gnostics are the "false teachers" referred to in the Bible and specifically in 1 John 4:5-6 ... They [who teach twisted doctrine] are of the world and belong to it; therefore they speak from the [viewpoint of the] world [with its immoral freedom and baseless theories—demanding compliance with their opinions and ridiculing the values of the upright], and the [gullible one of the] world listens closely and pays attention to them. 6 We [who teach God’s word] are from God [energized by the Holy Spirit], and whoever knows God [through personal experience] listens to us [and has a deeper understanding of Him]. Whoever is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know [without any doubt] the spirit of truth [motivated by God] and the spirit of error [motivated by Satan].
The Apostle Paul emphasizes the same warning in 1 Timothy 6:20-21 ... O Timothy, guard and keep safe the deposit [of godly truth] entrusted to you, turn away from worldly and godless chatter [with its profane, empty words], and the contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge” and spiritual illumination 21 which some have professed and by doing so have erred (missed the mark) and strayed from the faith.
That word "knowledge" is the Greek word gnosis, from which we get the word Gnosticism. But how has this concept of false and corrupted knowledge come to relate to Freemasonry, Moral Relativism, and the modern Church? For a comprehensive understanding of this ancient religion [for that is what it is], I invite you to go back and read my multi-part discourse on Freemasonry, its origins and infiltration of the Church. For the sake of brevity, let me simply say this: Freemasons see themselves as the recipients of the mysteries and secrets of what was revealed to Cain and his progeny by the Fallen Angels. They believe themselves to be "the illumined ones" [think Illuminati], and they believe this divine knowledge is to be kept exclusive and reserved for the elite. The masses are undeserving of it. Furthermore, as guardians of the corrupted Sacred Sciences, they are a force against pure religion. Gnosticism became a major challenge for the Early Church by the middle of the Second Century, and Freemasonry is steeped in Gnosticism in the oaths it takes, and the rites and rituals within the Lodge.
The foundation for Freemasonry began in pre-flood antiquity, and it has been shrouded in secrecy and mystery ever since. The modern era of Freemasonry became popular in the 18th century, and coincided with the birth of modern science which began to separate itself from religion. This new effect of science on Christianity resulted in a theology that began to reject and deny the literal truth of the Bible in favor of one that became infected with allegorical interpretations. [This created a huge schism between literal and interpretative translations of the Bible.] Just read any of the oaths of Freemasonry and you will see the truth of the Word of God mocked in their pagan and idolatrous rituals. But remember, what is done in the world is of no consequence. They believe they are the keepers of the sacred knowledge of their god. But who is that god? To start at the beginning of my research, start here to find out.
Moving on, since ancient gnostics only prized "spiritual and illuminated knowledge", and discarded matters of the physical body and material world as irrelevant to "divine enlightenment", then moral laws regarding the actions of the body in the material world are of no consequence. In other words, they regard the moral law of God [regarding sexual sin and perversion, for example; or lying, or cheating, or even killing] as of no use or obligation because faith alone [in the spirit] is necessary to receive salvation. Furthermore, the literal death, burial, and resurrection of the physical Jesus comes under scrutiny.
Can you see how erasing the moral laws of God from the "the divine knowledge of God" is corrupted and can lead to Moral Relativism? When you understand this term to mean the worldview that ethical standards, morality, and positions of right and wrong are culturally based and therefore subject to a person's individual choice, then you can see how easily it is to lessen the supremacy of God in a society. We see this worldview in the "My body, my choice" mantra in regards to the abortion issue. Any concept that God is involved in the creation of that baby is part of the belief system that the creation of the visible world is useless. Therefore, there is no need to keep the body pure. The distinction between male and female genders is immaterial and marriage is seen as a disembodied and subjective relationship between any two (or more?) people. And since the body is of no importance, then a belief in the resurrection of the body is baseless.
That is irreconcilable for any true Christian, and although Gnosticism was rejected successfully in the Early Church, it never really went away. It can be seen in our culture that advances the ideas of self-discovery, self-awareness, and any rejection of authority -- it's all about self, and can be summarized in this quote by John Lennon: "The only true Christians were the Gnostics, who believe in self-knowledge, i.e. becoming Christ themselves, reaching the Christ within". This worldview is perpetuated when Christians seek a closer relationship with God outside of what God reveals in His Word. Yes, I believe God wants us to press into Him, to get closer, but if we are embracing our own subjective understanding of spirituality and of God, apart from the wisdom we receive from Holy Spirit and Father God, then we are in danger of elevating our self-generated gnosis above God's.
I will tell you this is a fine line to walk in the faith life of today. There is nothing wrong in seeking more of Jesus and God. It delights the Father when He conceals a matter in His Word, and we seek it out (Proverbs 25:2). And I believe just as John and Paul were able to discern the man-made teachings that didn't line up with God's moral laws or Jesus's teachings, we in the 21st Century are able to discern the man-made doctrines that have clouded our understanding of God's infallible Word that have come down to us in denominationalism. But when you consider the early Gnostic's belief that gnosis could only be found through a "spiritual" experience, then you can see traces of rejection of the material body in our existence through the pursuit of uploading our brains to "the Cloud", and embracing everything "virtual". It may look different in the 21st Century, but Gnosticism is alive and well.
Consider the emerging beliefs in the modern Church that the Bible can be read, but not considered "inspired"; that the authority of God is not implicit in a life of faith; that the testimonies of the writers of the Gospels are not trustworthy to be recognized or preserved; or even that the birth, death, and resurrection of our Lord never actually happened. These false ideas are once again introducing Gnosticism to a new generation. I fear that the ancient belief system of Gnosticism is prevalent in our society and has never given up on its false teachings or desire to infiltrate the True Church. Let us take heed of the warning of the Early Church Fathers, who said, "These men .... overthrow the faith of man, by drawing them away, under a pretense of knowledge, from Him who founded and adorned the universe" (Irenaeus, c. 130-202 AD) .... "I want to forewarn you not to get snagged on the hooks of worthless opinions but instead to be fully convinced of the birth and the suffering and the resurrection [of Christ]" (Ignatius, c. 35 - 108 AD). Let us heed their warnings and stay true to the inspired Word of God, even as we carry out our assignments for His Kingdom on earth.
Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception [pseudo-intellectual babble], according to the tradition [and musings] of mere men, following the elementary principles of this world, rather than following [the truth—the teachings of] Christ.