Gnosticism Rejected

This morning I was writing an email response to some comments & questions I received from a dear Christian friend and thought I should make my response a blog post (minus any personal identifiers). This blog is not specifically about Biblical Theology but it does guide what I write here. So, especially for my non-Christian readers, please indulge a little theology.

Dear Sister,

From a Christian perspective you and I have previously discussed the dark powers behind today’s irrational/unspiritual Gender craze.  

Let me flesh this out some more.

First, we need to define what we mean by the word ‘spirituality.’

From a Classic Christian perspective, there are two spiritualities in the created world, and both are, simply put, God-Directed. That’s what makes them Spiritual.

I’m referring to (1) human spirituality and (2) non-human, for example, angelic spirituality.

If we want to be truly ‘spiritual’ as a human (1) we must be and become what we were CREATED to be and become, that is to say, God-Directed embodied souls. In other words, God-Directed earthlings.

Far too often Christians have erroneously thought that being ‘spiritual’ means transcending our created-ness. And this has led them to misread the biblical story. Of course, we humans are called to rise above our ‘fallen condition’ but the biblical story emphatically demonstrates that this was not our original created state. Recovery of God’s original intent for humans is the destiny described for us in the Biblical text.

In fact, the biblical story contradicts what many Christians believe about our final destiny. Most Christians believe that our final destiny is far away from this corruptible, and often painful earthly existence. They think we were created to spend our eternal destiny with God in an incorruptible resplendent realm called Heaven.

Well…part of that belief is correct. We will be spending an everlasting existence with God. But the Bible says very little about spending eternityin heaven‘ with God; or, in fact, going to heaven when we die. I’m sure that comes as a big surprise to many. (I don’t have time to discuss the interim state of believers today, that period between bodily death & bodily resurrection, except to say we will be in God’s good care.)

We should also not forget that heaven too was created, just like the earth, and angels are creatures, just like humans.

The Bible, written for humans, actually says a whole lot more about God coming down to spend time with us earthlings. The ‘travel plan’ revealed in scripture is overwhelmingly about God coming down to us, and dwelling with us. Not humans going up to God. (I’ll say something about spacial metaphors in a moment.)

Speaking Biblically, and I cannot stress this too much:

The central and often repeated biblical promise was that YHWH (GOD) would one day return to dwell with us.

I bet you didn’t learn that in Sunday School! I didn’t either. But we should have.

Okay. Time for some biblical exegesis. So hang in there.

For those who think corruption can’t possibly reside in heaven, read the words of Jesus written in Luke 10:18

I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

Or this one in Ephesians 6:10-12

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Apparently there is cleansing work to be done in God’s created heaven too. Several Old Testament texts imply the same. But let’s move on.

From the very beginning of the biblical witness (Genesis) to its end (Revelation), the Alpha and Omega of that witness is about God’s desire to dwell with God’s creation.

From ‘walking’ in Eden’s Garden Temple with humans (Genesis 1,2, & 3) to residing at the center of Heaven & Earth in the New Jerusalem Garden Temple, a city that will ‘come down‘ out of heaven (Revelation 21&22), THE BIBLICAL BIG PICTURE, is about THE GREAT RECONCILIATION, THE REMARRIAGE OF HEAVEN AND EARTH, the coming together of CREATED SPIRIT WITH CREATED MATTER, and for us individual humans, the reintegration of SOUL WITH BODY.

I bet you didn’t learn that in Sunday School. I didn’t Either. But we should have.

God’s ‘first’ created family, invisible beings and their realm of rule, heaven, will one day be reconciled with God’s ‘second’ created family, humans and their realm of rule, the earth. In like manner, so will our souls be reconciled with our bodies.

A restored, and fully integrated creation, with God at the center, is our destiny. (Again, see the back of the book, Revelation 21 & 22). And remember the beginning.

In the beginning God created the Heaven(s) and the Earth. (Genesis 1:1)

God’s Created Heaven(s) and God’s Created Earth were intended from the beginning to co-exist together in fruitful God-Directed Matrimony. That’s the Biblical Story. That’s Wholistic Spirituality. But so many Christians fail to understand it, which has led many into a gnostic trap. God’s redeemable world suffers because of this misunderstanding, this lack of Christian witness to the Truth about God’s plan.

But….some may say, what about Philippians 3:20-21?

... our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

I’ve highlighted a few words that should provide clues about how to properly interpret this passage. First, our Savior who possesses a glorious ‘body‘ will come ‘from’ heaven to dwell with us. That’s the first thing to notice.

Next, let me provide some crucial historical context; for proper exegesis must consider the meaning of words at the time the text was written. When Paul wrote these words, the CITIZENS of Rome in Philippi were expected to live as Romans in Philippi. Philippi was a proud Roman colony, a ‘second Rome’ actually, and it was full of retired Roman soldiers. These retired citizen-soldiers were not expected to one day RETURN to an overcrowded Rome (which did not want or need them.) They were expected to remain in Philippi to establish Roman peace, justice and culture in that colony.

That is how ‘citizenship’ would have been understood by the recipients of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. That’s how we should understand it. For we humans are citizens of God’s Kingdom on Earth.

Next, we should recognize the historical context of the Greek term parousia: the term that Paul uses in another important text. Parousia means presence and may easily be understood as arrival. It was a word used of Caesar when he would come to pay a visit to one of his colonies. His loyal subjects would of course not wait for him to arrive inside their city, that would be an unconscionable, unforgivable slight, but would go outside the city to meet the “son of god” (yes that is what they would sometimes call Caesar), and escort him in a royal procession back into the city.

NOTE: Archaeologists have found coins from the 1st Century with the image of Tiberius Caesar, adopted son of Augustus (the Caesar mentioned in Luke 2). The inscription found on the coin reads “Ti[berivs] Caesar Divi Avg[vsti] F[ilivs] Avgvstvs” (“Caesar Augustus Tiberius, son of the Divine Augustus“), claiming that after death Augustus had become a god. Making Tiberius a “son of god.”

Denarius of the Emperor Tiberius, commonly referred to as “the Tribute Penny“.

That was one way the word parousia was used and understood in Paul’s day. Unlike most of Paul’s technical terms, terms like righteousness (δικαιοσύνη-dikaiosyne) parousia had zero biblical overtones. It comes from the classical world of Greece and Rome.

Now…read the following passage where Paul uses the word parousia and consider what I wrote in the previous paragraphs.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 Paul writes the following:

 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming (parousia) of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Question: Did reading that passage in light of the popular understanding of what a good Roman citizen should do when the ‘son of god’ arrives from Rome change your understanding of this much quoted Christian text? I hope so.

Still, here’s the confusing part for most. The text does say we will be caught up together with the dead in Christ ‘in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.’

Let’s unpack that, for this language, unlike parousia, does have clear biblical overtones. Those overtones come principally from Daniel 7:13-14, where ‘one like a son of man‘ goes up on the clouds as he is vindicated by God after his suffering.

“I saw in the night visions, 
and behold, with the clouds of heaven 
there came one like a son of man, 
and he came to the Ancient of Days 
and was presented before him. 
And to him was given dominion 
and glory and a kingdom, 
that all peoples, nations, and languages 
should serve him; 
his dominion is an everlasting dominion, 
which shall not pass away, 
and his kingdom one 
that shall not be destroyed.

First. We need to discuss the literary genre of this type of writing. Scholars refer to this style of biblical and non-biblical text as Apocalyptic.

Apocalyptic literature deals with eschatology (ἔσχατος, eschatos, “last things”). This type of writing was especially prevalent from approximately 200 bc to ad 200, starting with Jewish writings and eventually including the work of Christians. Apocalyptic literature reflected its origins in a time of great unrest and oppression. While Jews were in the midst of resisting forceful Hellenization, Christians were being persecuted by the Roman Empire (Collins, “Cosmos and Salvation,” 121–42).

The apocalyptic genre contains a revelation within a narrative framework. The revelation is given to a human being by an otherworldly mediator who unveils a supernatural reality, along with the means by which humanity can become a part of it (Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination, 9).

D. A. Neal, “Apocalyptic Literature, Introduction to,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

The book of Revelation and the Daniel 7 passage above is largely written in the Apocalyptic style. That style contains within it symbolic – coded language for the purpose of concealing from oppressive authorities the truth about the outworking of God’s purposes and their ultimate demise, a truth that the visionary himself wouldn’t fully understand.

Now, back to the parousia text in 1 Thess 4.

Two things: caught up in the clouds could be symbolically understood in the same way that Peter and James and John were ‘caught up in the clouds’ on the Mount of Transfiguration (see: Matthew 17, Mark 9, Luke 9, and 2 Peter 1.) They didn’t leave their bodies behind during that event. But they were definitely ‘in the clouds.’

Also, ‘Meet the Lord in the air‘ perhaps reflects a New Creation ability. We may with our ‘glorified bodies’ move effortlessly between heaven and earth as the Resurrected Jesus apparently did (see: Luke 24:31 & 36 & John 20:19) before his final ascension to heaven and his sending of the Spirit of Christ. (See Romans 8:9, Acts 16:7, Galatians 4:6, Philippians 1:19, 1 Peter 1:11). To be sure, there is mystery here, “how precisely will this work out? what will it look like to us?” but this is the biblical story.

Plus, the Daniel 7 passage, from which Paul draws his language in 1 Thessalonians 4 is based on a VISION. I think it would be unwise to be overly literal in our interpretation of such visionary language.

And lastly, along those same lines, it would be unwise to view heaven as ‘up’ and earth as ‘down’ even though the biblical text implies those spacial metaphors. ‘Up’ for us Americans would be ‘down’ for the Chinese and vice versa. It would be better to understand heaven as simply a different dimension of God’s created space, a dimension that currently is hidden behind a curtain, so to speak, to be ‘fully revealed at ‘the day of the Lord.’

Moving from the Biblical text, yet based upon it, our most developed Creed says, Jesus is a person who is both fully God and fully human. So…the Classic Christian teaching of Christ’s Ascension tells us that right now, in heaven, sitting at the right hand of God the Father, on a shared throne, is the Second Person of the Trinity, and that person has a human body. (See Matthew 26:64 & Acts 7:56)

WHAT?! Yep. Put that one in your theological pipe and smoke it. You might want to sit back, relax, breathe it in, and savor the rich, provocative, this world, implications. Go ahead. I dare ya.

[Now, of course I don’t expect non-Christians to buy into this biblical story. But I do hope as rational beings they can see the darkness that is embedded in the body hatred of Gender Ideology, and make common cause with Classic Christians even though they might disagree with our Theology of the Body. Among other things <grin>]


I’m convinced the ancient heresy of gnosticism1GNOSTICISM: the Gnostics taught a bewildering variety of views. Fundamental to clearly gnostic systems was a dualism, which opposed the transcendent God and an ignorant demiurge (often a caricature of the OT Jehovah). In some systems the creation of the world resulted from the presumption of Sophia (Wisdom).  In any event the material creation, including the body, was regarded as inherently evil. Sparks of divinity, however, had been encapsuled in the bodies of certain pneumatic or spiritual individuals, who were ignorant of their celestial origins. The transcendent God sent down a redeemer (Christ), who brought them salvation in the form of a secret gnōsis or “knowledge.” Most Gnostics were docetics, who held that Christ did not really suffer as he was not truly incarnate. Gnostics hoped to escape from the prison of their bodies at death and to traverse the planetary spheres of hostile demons to be reunited with God. There was for them, of course, no reason to believe in the resurrection of the body. – (Dictionary of Paul & His Letters, InterVarsity Press, 1993, pg 352,) has become embedded in the theologies of far too many Christians.  Especially, in the Mainline Protestant circles of the Western world.  But also, in “low church” Protestantism.  Here I’m thinking of those who regard “this ole world (and by extension, this ole body) as not my home.”  

Gnosticism (see footnote 1 above) was the first major heresy in the early church. And it always seems to be ‘hangin round the house.’ Essentially Gnosticism teaches that the material creation, including the body, was an inherently evil act. The truly ‘spiritual’ individual would know this (gk gnosis) and seek to transcend the deeply flawed material world.

In contrast, Classic Christianity teaches that the creation of embodied souls with an earth to inhabit AND rule was not a mistake, nor an existence to be transcended or “raptured from”, as Gnostics believed then and believe now.  Rather, our visible and invisible nature (body & soul) was designed by God to be an integrated whole.  The separation of which is the definition of death.  And death is what the dark oppressive powers want for us.  Not God.

True Love would not want this for any part of God’s Good Creation.  The reconciliation of invisible with visible is God’s Biblical New Creation plan.  Elsewhere in the letter to the Philippians, Paul encourages us to ‘work out this salvation’ with fear and trembling, a ‘work’ that engages both our visible and invisible nature.

I must also say, in case I’m misunderstood, this talk of human rule MUST be understood as a Christ-like rule, which is to say, we must rule through self-giving, and perhaps, a suffering love, a love characterized mostly by patient persuasion. This is not about rule through human conquest or coercion in the manner of so many kingdoms before us. For it should go without saying that unlike radical Islam and, it must be admitted, unlike some so-called Christian rulers of the past, the followers of Christ must not ‘take up the sword’ to bring about God’s rule. May God forgive those who have.

And also it must be said, believing unwholesome unbiblical things won’t necessarily strip Christians of family membership (by God’s grace), but the roots of these beliefs do come from a dark place, from an un-Christ-like way of thinking. Those errors will certainly blunt our Christian witness and our personal development.  

The dark ‘gnostic’ pull captivating today’s Western world moves us toward an anti-human anti-creational future.  I’m deeply concerned about the foreseeable future.

Some of today’s ideologues would describe their movement as a technologically aided ‘spiritual’ quest in an effort to transcend human limitations (transhumanism).  But as students of scripture we should recognize no substantive difference between that goal and the original Edenic temptation: take, eat “you will be like God….”

We humans were given bodies by God and the ‘limitations’ that come with those bodies, (angels have different limitations) because we were meant to have them.  Forever.  

God made us complimentary male & female humans. We are two halves of one reproductive whole, among other productive tasks we accomplish together. From the beginning it was so (Matthew 19:4).  

As creatures, those are our only options. FULL STOP.

Dear Sister, the lesbian writer of the article I gave you to read eventually came to realize the cultic aspect of Gender Ideology: which is nothing more than ancient Gnosticism in modern dress, with its own initiation, rituals & rules.  She is no longer a true believer in that religion.  Good for her. And her children.

Any thought that someone born male or female was born in the wrong body, a wrongness that may be rectified by a ‘higher consciousness’ and technological innovation, OR the thought that bodies are irrelevant in God’s big picture, is an idea straight out of Gnosticism. It is a pathway to darkness, not light.  It is an outright denial of the Biblical witness, and our ancient Creeds, and must be rejected by Christians.  

We must of course love confused people but we cannot affirm their deeply confused gnostic beliefs about who they are, and who they were meant to become.

Real World Implications.

Today, with the support of public and private Western institutions, including some Churches, healthy bodies of confused teens are being mutilated

Apart from that obvious horror, if we as a culture do not say NO to this gnostic madness, it will result in child abuse charges against parent’s who don’t affirm,  or the loss of a professional license to practice.  Or, as in some countries today, criminal charges against clergy for preaching the truth…with even greater persecutions yet to come.

The hour to stop this Western madness is getting late.  And yet I know God’s time will eventually come, just perhaps not in our day.  Because today too many Western Churches have not been faithful to God’s plan.  Thankfully, the Global Church has not surrendered to this madness. There is Hope. Truthful Love will win. Eventually. For the Lord of Heaven & Earth, full of Grace and Truth, will return and put Heaven and Earth back together again.

Your brother,


Companion Posts


The Myth of the Dark Ages

Additional evidence of this myth is found in Rodney Stark’s fine book, The Triumph of Christianity.

To sum up (according to Post-Enlightenment, Modern thinkers): Western history consists of four major eras: 1) classical antiquity, then 2) the Dark Ages when the church dominated, followed by 3) the Renaissance-Enlightenment which led the way to 4) modern times. For several centuries that has been the fundamental organizing scheme for every textbook devoted to Western history,1Bouwsma 1979, 4. despite the fact that serious historians have known for decades that this scheme is a complete fraud—“an indestructible fossil of self-congratulatory Renaissance humanism.”2Hollister 1992, 7. It is appropriate to use the term renaissance to identify a particular period in the arts when there was renewed interest in classical styles, and to distinguish this period from the Gothic or the Baroque. But it is inappropriate to apply this term to identify the rebirth of progress following the Dark Ages because there never were any Dark Ages !

The Myth of the “Dark Ages” IRONICALLY, THE MOST BENEFICIAL factor in the rise of Western civilization was the fall of Rome! Like all of the ancient empires, Rome suffered from chronic power struggles among the ruling elite, but aside from that and chronic border wars and some impressive public works projects, very little happened—change, whether technological or cultural, was so slow as to go nearly unnoticed. This prompted the distinguished Roman engineer Sextus Julius Frontinus (40–103 CE ) to note that “Inventions have long since reached their limit, and I see no hope for further developments.”3Wall Street Journal, Dec. 28, 2009, A15.

Instead, as the centuries passed most people continued to live as they always had, “just a notch above barest subsistence… little better off than their oxen.”4Harris [1977] 1991, 235. Of course, as much as half of the population of the empire consisted of slaves who, in effect, were oxen. But even most free Romans lived at a bare subsistence level, not because they lacked the potential to achieve a much higher standard of living, but because a predatory ruling elite extracted every ounce of “surplus” production. If all production above the bare minimum needed for survival is seized by the elite, there is no motivation for anyone to produce more. Consequently, despite the fabulous wealth of the elite, Rome was very poor. As E. L. Jones noted, “emperors amassed vast wealth but received incomes that were nevertheless small relative to the immensity of the territories and populations governed.”5Jones 1987, xxiii-xxiv. When the collapse of the Roman Empire “released the tax-paying millions… from a paralysing oppression,”6Bridbury 1969, 533. many new technologies began to appear and were rapidly and widely adopted with the result that ordinary people were able to live far better, and, after centuries of decline under Rome, the population began to grow again. No longer were the productive classes bled to sustain the astonishing excesses of the Roman elite, or to erect massive monuments to imperial egos, or to support vast armies to hold Rome’s many colonies in thrall.

Instead, human effort and ingenuity turned to better ways to farm, to sail, to transport goods, to conduct business, to build churches, to make war, to educate, and even to play music. But because so many centuries later a number of examples of classical Greek and Roman public grandeur still stand as remarkable ruins, many intellectuals have been prompted to mourn the loss of these “great civilizations.” Many who are fully aware of what this grandeur cost in human suffering have been quite willing even to write-off slavery as merely “the sacrifice which had to be paid for this achievement.”7Vogt 1974, 25. Despite his concern for the ‘masses,’ Friedrich Engels took the same position; see Finley 1980, 12. To put it plainly, for too long too many historians have been as gullible as tourists, gaping at the monuments, palaces, and conspicuous consumption of Rome, and then drawing invidious comparisons between such “cosmopolitan” places and “provincial” communities such as medieval merchant towns. In any event, there was no “fall” into “Dark Ages.”

Instead, once freed of the bondage of Rome, Europe separated into hundreds of independent “statelets.”8Jones 1987, 106. In many of these societies progress and increased production became profitable, and that ushered in “one of the great innovative eras of mankind,” as technology was developed and put into use “on a scale no civilization had previously known.”9Gimpel 1976, viii, 1. In fact, it was during the “Dark Ages” that Europe took the great technological and intellectual leap forward that put it ahead of the rest of the world.10White 1940, 151. How could historians have so misrepresented things? In part, the notion that Europe fell into the “Dark Ages” was a hoax perpetrated by very antireligious intellectuals such as Voltaire and Gibbon, who were determined to claim that theirs was the era of “Enlightenment.” Another factor was that intellectuals too often have no interest in anything but literary matters. It is quite true that after the fall of Rome, educated Europeans did not write nearly as elegant Latin as had the best Roman writers. For many, that was sufficient cause to regard this as a backward time. In addition, during this era only limited attention was paid to classical thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle, and that too was taken as proof of widespread ignorance.

Another factor contributing to the myth of the “Dark Ages” is that in this era there no longer were large cities having hundreds of thousands of residents, as had ancient Rome and Alexandria.11Stark 2006. It seemed obvious that high culture could not have been sustained in the small communities of Medieval Europe—in the year 1000 there were only twenty thousand inhabitants in Paris, not many more in London, and Rome had shrunk to fewer than thirty thousand.12Chandler 1987. But perhaps the most important factor in the myth of the “Dark Ages” is the inability of intellectuals to value or even to notice the nuts and bolts of real life. Hence, revolutions in agriculture, weaponry and warfare, nonhuman power, transportation, manufacturing, and commerce went unappreciated. So too did remarkable moral progress. For example, at the fall of Rome there was very extensive slavery everywhere in Europe; by the time of the “Renaissance” it was long gone.

But what is truly difficult to explain is how the creators of the “Dark Ages” myth could have overlooked what would seem to have been their chief interest: high culture. Nevertheless, they missed or dismissed the enormous progress that took place in music, art, literature, education, and science.

Stark, Rodney. The Triumph of Christianity (pp. 238-241). HarperCollins.


(1) Bouwsma, William J. 1979. “The Renaissance and the Drama of Western History.” American Historical Review 84:1–15.

(2) Hollister, C. Warren. 1992. “The Phases of European History and the Nonexistence of the Middle Ages.” Pacific Historical Review 61:1–22.

(4) Harris, Marvin. [1977] 1991. Cannibals and Kings. New York: Vantage.

(5) (8) Jones, E. L. 1987. The European Miracle. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

(6) Bridbury, A. R. 1969. “The Dark Ages.” The Economic History Review. 22:526–37.

(7) Vogt, Joseph. 1974. Ancient Slavery and the Ideal of Man. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

(9) Gimpel, Jean. 1976. The Medieval Machine: The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages. New York: Penguin Books.

(10) White, Lynn, Jr. 1940. “Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages.” Speculum 15:141–56.

(11) Stark, Rodney. 2006. Cities of God. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco.

(12) Chandler, Tertius. 1987. Four Thousand Years of Urban Growth: An Historical Census. Lewiston, NY: Edward Mellon.

Not a few Protestants also contributed to this myth of the Dark Ages.