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
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".
The ascetic believes that the love of the body (philosomatia) is
a hateful evil, and he who cherishes the body and lusts after the flesh
lives in erotic error, remains wandering in the darkness, and suffers the
things of death. The libertine on the other hand takes great care of the
body, tends it night and day, washes and anoints himself, feasts on strengthening
foods to make his body strong, so that he can devote himself to fornication,
and be able to render its fruits whenever required. [Gnosticism, Its History
and Influence, Benjamin Walter, The Borgo Press, pp 126]
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
The Spiritual Paradigm Shift
Christian Gnostic authors have observed the following:
In Christianity, there is a great deal of mystical thinking which
goes on almost unnoticed in the most conservative parts of the Church .
. . Another kind of Christian spirituality if not exactly mysticism, is
the Charismatic movement which has seen a revival in recent years. But
a more general Christian hunger for mystical experience has expressed itself
in the proliferation of Christian groups for spirituality. Christianity
is rapidly adding to its repertoire for the laity such enterprises as silent
retreats, ecumenical meditation groups, and practices combine Buddhist
and yogic techniques with Christian prayer and meditation. In doing this
it is undoubtedly going to make up some of the deficit, the congregations
it has lost through a lack of direct religious experience for the parishioners.
The remainder of the deficit will be further reduced when Christianity
adjusts itself to the science-fiction culture. But despite these relatively
superficial desiderata, Christianity is bound to have a vital part to play
in the mission of mysticism as here conceived. [The Mission of Mysticism
by Richard Kirby, pp.114-115, SPCK London]
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
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 show of humility with deep piety charactgerised by mysticism. Having
a form of godliness but denying the power thereof (2 Tim. 3:5).
Spirituality is structured around subjective experiences with little
regard for the Scriptures.
Superior knowledge, new discoveries and new revelations are a sign of
spiritual depth and maturity.
Spirituality is centred on a subjective Christ-consciousness rather
than on faith in the person, Jesus Christ.
Continually seeking for a deepening spiritual experience rather than
a deepening faith in God's Word.
Spiritualising the Word of God rather than taking the literal meaning
of the Word.
Spirituality is measured by experiences.
Look to an inner voice (gnosis) for divine direction.
Love feelings and self, more than God.
Look inward for solutions.
Spirituality is sought in success, achievement and works.
"Have faith in yourself" and "The way to know God is feel Him", is thought
to be the true mark of spirituality.
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
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:
The two spiritual powers of gnosis and magic, masquerading under
the cloak of religion, threaten more than any other powers the insight
into the religious reality . . . the tribes of Jacob could only become
Israel by disentangling themselves from both gnosis and magic . . . [Against
the Protestant Gnostics, Philip J. Lee, Oxford University Press, 1987]
New Age Threat
A "New Age" writer around 1917 wrote the following:
. . . the church movement, like all else, is but a temporary expedient
and serves but a transient resting place for the evolving life. Eventually,
there will appear the Church Universal, and its definite outlines will
appear towards the close of this century . . . This Church will be nurtured
into activity by the Christ and His disciples when the outpouring of the
Christ principle, the TRUE second Coming has been accomplished . . . The
Christian church inits many branches can serve as a nucleus through which
world illumination may be accomplished . . . the church as a teaching factor
should take the great basic doctrines and (shattering the old forms in
which they are expressed and held) show their true and inner spiritual
significance. The prime work of the church is to teach, and teach ceaselessly,
preserving the outer appearance in order to reach the many who are accustomed
to church usages. Teachers must be trained; Bible knowledge must be spread;
the sacraments must be mystically interpreted, and the power of the church
to heal must be demonstrated. [The Externalisation of the Hierarchy, Alice
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
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.