by Travers and Jewel van der Merwe

Chapter 7: Spirituality

Much of the error we are witnessing today is coming along in just enough orthodox garb to make it seem acceptable. As long as the terminology seems to sound right, many are afraid to warn others of the inherent errors that are abounding in the midst of the Church. We do have to be very cautious and realise that many purporting these "strange doctrines" are sincere and feel that they have entered new depths of spirituality. They are caught up in their experiencing of "new revelation" and are eager to share their knowledge with others.

We all have different ways of measuring spirituality. It is probably because of this we are so disappointed when someone we consider "spiritual" fails. It seems to be normal to get our eyes on man. However, there is an area where man is exalted to such a degree that his feet are no longer clay.

The "Gnostic" sense of spirituality is derived from an inner gnosis (experiential mystic knowledge) that goes beyond reason, logic and most of all, the Holy Scriptures. For many, spirituality is perceived intuitively or psychically, as opposed to Biblical faith, i.e., simply believing and obeying the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Spirituality experienced mystically is thought to be a witness of an inner union with God, the basis of which is self-consciousness which means it is no longer a matter of reason, faith and grace. An inner self-conscious feeling of holiness seems to be of primary importance. To arrive at a high spiritual level, all objective consciousness of the external world must be lost. The Persons of the Trinity, the Holy Scriptures, doctrine and morality becomes irrelevant. The ideal sought after is a higher consciousness of union with the divine inner self called the "Christos". When this union is experienced, a sense of spiritual worthiness as well as a feeling of being a "Son of God" equal with Jesus Christ is felt. This subjective experience is seen as a baptism into the Christhood and a knowledge of one's own worthiness.

A danger of "Gnostic spirituality" is that it creates an attention to self that supersedes the worthiness of the Word and the need for faith. False prophets have actually been heard to say that their spiritual experiences have been so great that they have no need of faith. They boast to having a deep communion with the Holy Spirit, the depth of which is equivalent to the extent of their feelings. How they feel and perceive their spirituality determines the measure of their communion with God. The "Christian Gnostic", especially the current false prophets, have a problem accepting the Holy Scriptures as God's only sure link between the Church and the Holy Spirit. The present day Gnostic theosophical concepts will, as always, remain in conflict with the Holy Spirit and the Bible standard of spirituality.

Gnostics believe that either a passive or an emotional subjectivity is at the core of true spirituality. It has been described as "A passionate subjectivity". Church history reveals that this form of spirituality or anything that resembles it, invariably leads to spiritual dualism (two extreme opposites) namely "asceticism" or "libertinism".

It is significant to note in the history of Christianity through to the current time, that wherever and whenever Christianity subsides into a form of mysticism "Christianity" assumes a path of one of the aforementioned extremes. It is this element of Gnostic mysticism that causes cultish extremism to arise. The fact that "gnosis is not concerned with a moral life, but with mystical enlightenment and freedom from the bondage of creation" [Gnosticism, Its History and Influence, Benjamin Walker, the Borgo Press pp 126] makes it a theosophy, free to flow in any spiritual direction it chooses. The essence of the gnosis spirituality lies in its mystic knowledge, not only of the "deep things of God", but also of the "deep things of Satan".

"It comes by divine grace through the revelation of the Saviour", says Benjamin Walker, but then he exposes the error of his thought as he adds, "Whoever achieves gnosis, says the Gospel of Phillip, becomes no longer Christian, but Christ". [Gnosticism, Its History and Influence, Benjamin Walker, The Borgo Press, pp. 101]. This is typical of much of modern preaching.


The Spiritual Paradigm Shift

Christian Gnostic authors have observed the following: Theosophical concepts of the new birth and spirituality are fast becoming very much part of the Christian thinking. Many forms of spirituality experienced and expressed are Gnostic in nature and pseudo in character.

The doctrine, "the just shall live by faith" for which the great reformers paid an enormous price, some with their own lives, is now under the New Age influence and is being discarded in exchange for a form of spirituality justified by self gnosis. The impact of New Age Gnostic thought has subtly changed the Biblical meaning of faith to a modern Gnostic version which in reality is a recall of the "Dark Ages" of mysticism and superstition. The Church is on a spiritual path of mysticism which by all accounts is cultish. It is only a matter of time and it will fall to demonic forces - the worst apostasy hell can afford. Already the attitude of the Church toward sin, repentance, morality and God has changed to such an extent that one wonders why they bother to use the Bible. For instance: "Sin - the transgression of the law" has now come to mean a maladjustment or merely a psychological disorder.

True repentance, which is an admission of guilt, confession of sin, forwaking of sin and surrendering to God, now has come to mean simply a change of attitude toward God. Morality and keeping the commandments of God has become irrelevant. God, the first Person of the Godhead has become localised within the physical frame of man, who is now co-substance with God.

Out of New Age spiritual concepts, demonic schools of thought and practices are bound to arise. This warped form of spirituality is taking over the churches, dividing Christian families and causing strife on an unprecedented scale. Christian Gnostic forms of spirituality are manifest in one or more of the following ways:


A Fine Line

Sometimes the line dividing the Christian from the Gnostic is so fine that it is hardly visible. The only way for a Christian to safely discern Gnosticism is in the light of the Holy Scriptures.

A "Christian Gnostic" is easily identified by his show of piety and especially by his air of humility. The more mystic he appears or sounds, the more spiritual he feels. He takes great pleasure in believing he has attained to a high spiritual level and sees himself as being a member of a special breed of people. Sometimes it is called "The Manifest Sons of God", "The Melchizedek Order" or "The New Breed". His spiritual inspiration comes from a mystic source sometimes described as a "still small voice" purported to be the voice of the Holy Spirit. Confidence in the "still small voice" takes precedence over the Scriptures. The written Scriptures are used only in so far as they seem to support particular convictions and concepts. The whole motive behind the "Christian Gnostic" is to make himself and others believe HE is a GOD. In fact, his ultimate dream is to prove to the world that he has power and is a god with limitless potential.


Why Such an Outcry?

The question may be asked, "Why such an outcry against shades of Gnostic thought in the Gospel presentation? Doesn't the adage, 'unity in diversity' apply in this case? Shouldn't we as Christians show tolerance towards Christians who don't quite believe as we do? Is it not true that within Christianity there should be room for diversity of thought and belief? After all is said and done, is not love the unifying bond over the doctrines that often prove so divisive? The answer to these questions is two-fold. Yes, within Christianity there is ample room for diversity and tolerance. However, there are limits to creative diversity. When a concept, a teaching or an action in the name of Christianity exceeds the basic tenets of faith, or is utterly different from the "faith which was once delivered to the saints", it becomes a contradiction of Christianity. When that level of contradiction is reached, the church, as well as the advocates of the Word of God, must aggressively content for the faith. The defence of the "most holy faith" is one of the greatest functions of the Church, without which the Church loses the truth that distinguishes her from error. EXCEPT THE CHURCH EARNESTLY CONTENDS FOR THE FAITH, SHE FORFEITS HER RIGHT TO BE THE VEHICLE OF GOD'S TRUTH.


Repudiation Necessary

The worst moments in the history of Israel came when Israel was seduced by false prophets to follow after gods of their own making. It was for this very reason that Jesus rebuked the Pharisees as the enemies of God. Jesus warned His disciples against the religion of the Pharisees. "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees" (which is hypocrisy). The Pharisees claimed to embody the essence of the faith, Jesus called them "hypocrites".

Teachings and practices that are wholly different from the Gospel of Jesus Christ must be opposed, even if they come from within the Body of Christ. Gnosticism plagued the early church. In fact, some of the Pauline and Johanine epistles were written to address the Gnosticism that was edging its way into the Gospel of Christ. In the writings of the early Church Fathers, Gnosticism was addressed and condemned in the strongest terms. It was on account of Gnosticism that the early church found it necessary to draft the "Apostolic Creed" and form the "Canonicity of Scripture". A study of Church History whill show that within the church there has always been the temptation to accommodate Gnostic thought. As in the past, and more so now, it poses a persistent danger to the biblical faith.


Gnosis and Magic

According to the great Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber, the perpetual enemy of faith in the true God is not atheism (the claim that there is no God), but rather Gnosticism (the claim that God is known). At another point Buber wrote:

New Age Threat

A "New Age" writer around 1917 wrote the following: According to Alice Bailey, the Church is being used as merely a part of an overall plan to bring in world peace, world domination and to set up the "Kingdom on earth". In the church there are "disciples of the Great Ones" (Gnostic or New Age apostles) to be found. They are steadily gathering momentum and before long they will enter upon their designated task.

When it is observed how far the "New Wave" is taking us from the absolutes of the literal Word of God, it would not be surprising to find before long the Church and the New Age merging into ONE FORCE.


Note of Caution

Ever since the inception of the Church, Gnosticism has been the arch enemy. Now, in these last days, it is proving to be one of the most formidable threats to the Church, to the Christian faith and to the written Word of God.

Because a Christian ignorantly happens to hold to some Gnostic views does not necessarily mean he is a Gnostic or that he is not a Christian. However, it does mean he is in serious error and, in certain respects, alien to the simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus. Gnostic views conflict with the sound doctrines of the Bible and for that reason always influence a Christian against the written Word of God.