Top Ten Heresies and Remedies for Them: #10 (Again)

Jason Micheli —  September 8, 2013 — 3 Comments

UnknownTo my surprise, this series of half-serious, half-crotchedy reflections on ancient heresies has generated an enormous amount of hits and new readers.

A couple of you discovered and pointed out that I didn’t tag the first in this series, making it hard  to find on the blog.

Because of the series’ popularity, I thought I’d go ahead and repost it.

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: 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

The authors and many readers of the Left Behind novels

Funeral Directors

Most Contemporary Christian songwriters

Fundamentalist Evangelicals


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.

Have sex.

Or just hold a baby.

Related Posts

Jason Micheli


3 responses to Top Ten Heresies and Remedies for Them: #10 (Again)

  1. Jason, Laddie:

    I feel a bit like Alex Trebek to your Sean Connory:

    So, you say to believe the Saints go to Heaven when they die is to be a Gnostic? That leaves very few alternatives. Lessee, there’s the Lake of Fire…..then there’s Dublin. That’s it. And both by way of Frankfurt a. Main international Airport, which the Pope has officially sanctioned as “Purgatory”.

    I might submit that a bit of qualification might be needed.

    Where was Jesus referring to in his discussion with the thief on the Cross? I think I read “Paradise”
    What was Paul talking about “being ever with the Lord”? To me, being ‘ever with the Lord’ is heaven.

    Personally, from my understanding of the end times, there is no actual ‘evac’, there is an airlift that touches back down to a world that is made new. Thus, there IS ….not a New Creation of planet earth, but a RE-Creation, and the Saints are a part of that.

    Old School Reform types like me reject the dichotomy of the Spiritual and the Secular. The term and notion of “Secular” is a johnny come lately, late of the Renaissance, no doubt sparked by Gnostic Heresy.

    Jason, one can infer a lot of things from what you have said, it was written with a verrrrry broad brush. If we are not admitted into the Kingdom as per Christ’s own description, if Jesus said Paradise when He really meant something else (Dublin?) or if to ever be with the Lord means to actually NOT be with the Lord, pray Brother Jason…..where WERE these references referring to?

    In John 14, when Jesus said “I go to prepare a place for you”, and “Where I am, there you will be also”….where was He speaking of ? ( maybe Dublin 🙂

    • You should go Sean Connery on NT Wright then! I think it’s a distinction that’s ultimately important: Jesus isn’t referring to a ‘where.’ That ‘heaven’ isn’t a place but attempts to name God’s presence. What happens to us after we die, besides ‘sleeping in the Lord,’ is a mystery about which scripture doesn’t speak. What is clear is that our ultimate destination is here. It’s material not spiritual, as the gnostic tendency has it.

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