I’ve been reading Roger Olson’s new book Counterfeit Christianity: The Persistence of Errors in the Church, a book about Christian heresies that is vastly superior to my own writing on them. Nonetheless, I thought this would be the perfect time to pull my ‘Top Ten Heresies‘ posts from 4 years ago out of the vault.
Heresy = Beliefs considered anathema by the ecumenical councils of the Christian Church
If Orthodoxy = ‘right praise’ then heresy = ‘wrong praise.’
*Leviticus 10: wrong praise = a very big deal
If Stanley Hauerwas is correct to assert that most Christians in America today are ‘functional atheists;’ that is, most Christians live in such a way that it makes no difference that God raised Jesus from the dead, then surely even more Christians today are inadvertent heretics, trodding paths of belief the ancient Church long ago labeled dangerous detours.
Today these ancient errors of the faith can be found wearing many different guises. For all you know, you might be wearing one too.
By pointing out what Christians DO NOT believe, we can get one step closer to what we do.
Heresy #10: Gnosticism
What Is It?
From the Greek word, ‘gnosis,’ meaning ‘knowledge.
Gnosticism believes that the material world in which we live was created not by God but by a demiurge. The material world then, ‘the world of the flesh,’ is inherently imperfect and was never an occasion for God to declare ‘it is very good.’ This led Gnostics to disavow the human nature of Jesus.
The material world is to be shunned and overcome in favor of the ‘spiritual world’ where God resides, ie, ‘heaven.’
One achieves salvation, escape from the world of the body to the world of the soul, by means of wisdom available only to a few.
Who Screwed Up First
Though not the first, the prophet Mani (216-274 AD) was a gnostic whose teachings exerted the most influence on ancient Christianity.
Mani’s gnostic dualism between the spiritual world of light and the material world of darkness led him to distinguish between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New and to a rigid dichotomy between good and evil people.
How Do You Know If You’re a Heretic?
If you think Christianity is about ‘spiritual’ things- or timeless ‘truths,’ then you’re probably a Gnostic.
If you think Christians believe that our souls goes off to heaven when we die, then you’re most likely a Gnostic. And if you think the goal of Christianity is to go to heaven when we die, then you definitely are a Gnostic.
If you’ve forgotten that Christianity teaches the redemption of all creation (New Creation) and not evacuation from creation (‘the rapture’) then you’ve slipped into Gnosticism.
If you think God does not care about the Earth or that the physical, material things in your life are not good gifts from God (thus means of grace) then you’re a Gnostic whom St Augustine would declare ‘anathema.‘
Persons Most Likely to Commit This Heresy Today
Marcus Borg (rest his soul)
The authors and many readers of the Left Behind novels
Most Contemporary Christian songwriters
Baby-Boomers who excuse their lack of discipleship by describing themselves as ‘spiritual but not religious’
Read Genesis 1 and take God at his Word.
Prepare and eat good food.
Pour and drink a glass of good wine.
Or just hold a baby.