Christian Gnosticism is really a contradiction in terms. Although some gnostic groups believed themselves to be Christian, they clearly were not. Gnostic beliefs appeared shortly after Christianity began to flourish. In fact, many of the early Christian creeds were formed in an attempt to guard the faith from heresies such as Gnosticism. There are many points at which so-called Christian Gnosticism diverges from true orthodox Christianity. This article is not meant to be comprehensive but to point out a few of the crucial differences.
Christian Gnosticism – What is it?
Gnosticism is distinctive for its dualistic belief in spirit and matter, where spirit is seen as good and matter is seen as evil. They believe that real life exists only in the spirit realm, implying that anything done in the body, including the grossest of sins, is meaningless. The Gnostic believes that this material world was created by a lesser god and is evil. Of course, this flies in the face of the creation account. Genesis 1:31a, states, "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good..." It is not from the physical, material world that mankind needs to be saved, but from sin.
More specifically, one of the central tenants of so-called Christian Gnosticism is the belief that Jesus Christ was divine but not human; Jesus only appeared to be human. This gives the Gnostic more in common with the spirit of the antichrist than with Christianity. The Apostle John stated that every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and those who deny this reality have the spirit of the antichrist (1 John 4:2–3). John also informed us in his gospel that Jesus Christ (the Word) became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1–18). The Apostle Paul proclaimed that in Jesus Christ "the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" (Colossians 2:9). The writer of Hebrews stated that Jesus Christ took on flesh and blood in order to identify with us and save us from our sins, death, and the power of the devil (Hebrews 2:14). To deny the humanity of Jesus Christ is to deny the possibility of being reconciled to God through His death (Colossians 1:21–22). Even after His resurrection, Jesus Christ had a body. No doubt Christ's resurrected body was perfect and glorified, but it was still a body which could be touched and felt (John 20:27). There was nothing sinful about Christ having a human body (Hebrews 4:15).
Gnostics also claim that there exists a secret or elevated knowledge known only to a select few. This knowledge comes from a mystical source and those who possess it—namely the Gnostics—are considered to be of a privileged class with a deeper knowledge of God. Christianity, on the other hand, asserts that God's truth has been made available to all. The Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God by which truth can be known (2 Timothy 3:16–17; Hebrews 4:12), and it is illuminated through the Holy Spirit who abides in all who believe on Jesus Christ as their Savior (John 16:13; Ephesians 1:13–14; Romans 8:9). The Gnostics use heretical writings known as the "Gnostic Gospels". These writings are clearly forgeries and were unanimously recognized as such by the early church fathers.
Whereas the Gnostic believes there is an element of the divine in each person, the Christian believes that the Divine (God) took on human flesh in order to save the world. It is not the spark of divinity in us which is reaching out for God, but God who reaches out to us (1 John 4:10). Whereas the Gnostic believes that people are saved through "secret knowledge," the Christian believes that people are saved by grace through faith in the God-man, Jesus Christ, who reveals Himself to whomever He chooses (Ephesians 2:8; Matthew 11:27).
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