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A Form of Gnosticism in An Age of Overabundance of Information


We live in an age of overabundance of information and easy accessibility which the previous generations did not live to see or enjoy.  I am astonished at the amount of information that comes into my mail box (including Christian ads), not to mention my spam folder.   To top that, we have iphones (or smart phones), laptop computers and other devices such as ipads or tablets from which we can access numerous infos via wireless internet.  All you need to do is Google in for infos.  My guess is that some of you are reading this post because you either found it via Google search, facebook, email newsletter update, or twitter.   I have often warned that the internet is both a blessing and a curse.  Take a look at the number of Bible related/theological resources/content we have via Youtube, Livestreams, Facebook, Vimeo, church websites (and so on).  I am so thankful for the fact that (in some unreached places) missionaries, pastors, Christian workers can actually access some of the best resources on the planet to continue to educate themselves and stay informed about their countries and the world. They can now take online courses, without having to relocate to a certain geographical location to get more training. It’s great to have sermon videos and podcasts to download so that you can listen to them wherever you are in your devices. It’s a blessing to have access to sermons if you’re in your hospital bed, and let your favorite preacher edify you.

While it is a blessing to have easy accessibility, there is always a danger of deceiving ourselves into thinking knowledge equals spiritual maturity.  To be fair, you cannot be spiritually mature without the bible–but you can be deceived into thinking you are more mature than you are because you possess more bible knowledge.  In a consumer-driven culture, we need to realize that people are also shopping for churches that can give them more bible knowledge.  When Jesus sent His disciples out to go and make disciples of all nations, He said to teach but it was not just any teaching: “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28: 20).

Bible Knowledge Without Application Or Obedience Is Self-Deception.

James 1 warns:

22. …be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. 

Gnosticism comes from the Greek word gnosis which means “to know.”  Gnosticism was probably the most dangerous heresy that infiltrated the early church during the first three centuries. The Gnostics espoused dualism regarding spirit and matter.   In other words, they held that matter is inherently evil and spirit is good.  As a result of this presupposition, Gnostics believed anything done in the body to have no meaning because real life existed in the spirit realm only.

Furthermore, Gnostics claimed to possess an elevated knowledge, a “higher truth” if you will, which was known only to a collective few.  Sounds a bit like some of us in Evangelical camps.  Today some selected few get educated to be “professionals” or “experts” in the things of God.  This can be a little scary!  Moreover, Gnostics also claimed to possess a higher knowledge (though not from the Bible) but acquired through some mystical higher existence.  Does this sound like some of us in the charismatic/pentecostal camps who constantly claim to have a new “revelation” through mystical ecstatic experiences?  The most dangerous thing about the Gnostics was that they also saw themselves as a privileged class elevated above everybody else because of their deeper knowledge of God.

A Form of Gnosticism In Disembodied Knowledge.

Having said this, there is a danger of falling into a form of Gnosticism today.  Satan is the chief deceiver and may be quite happy if we are merely “a hearer of the word and not a doer” and so deceive ourselves.  Precisely because there is easy accessibility to more theological resources at our disposal, not only are we deceiving ourselves if we’re hearers only, but we may actually become more like the Gnostics whose “superior” knowledge was not embodied.

When more bible knowledge actually makes us feel more righteous than others, with an increasing disembodiment of that knowledge and devoid of real life application, we are deceiving ourselves and becoming like the Gnostics.  In a post titled, “Theologically Astute But Dramatically Immature” I warned that:

“The real danger comes if we think biblical maturity is about precision of theological knowledge and biblical literacy.”  

Our pursuit of knowledge or spirituality should lead us to deeper humility and deeper intimacy with Christ and thus becoming more like Him every day.

To learn more on a related subject click to watch DISCIPLESHIP FORUM. 


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