Was John and Paul Pantheistic According to the Gnostic/New Age Definition of the Word?

Posted By Thomas Perez. December 29, 2011 at 3:38am. Copyright 2011.

Was John and Paul pantheistic according to the Gnostic/New Age definition of the word?

Section 1

However, before we answer that, it is imperative that I should present a brief background on Gnosticism

Gnosticism taught generally that matter was evil, and was the creation of a lesser god (called the demiurge, after Plato). But human bodies, although their matter is evil, contained within them a divine spark that fell from the good. True God Knowledge (gnosis) enables the divine spark to return to the true God from whence it came.

Many on social websites like ”Facebook,’ and the like, actually claim this and often post videos like; Oprah Winfrey denying the true Lord God & Eternal Life – the Man called Jesus. Claiming; along with the Dan Browns, Ron Howard’s, and other modern day Gnostics that Jesus never really died on the cross – therefore, insinuating that He never rose from the dead. This denial often leads to one believing & obtaining what they call the Christ or God consciousness, as a means to salvation. We are told not to believe in God, but to believe that God is. Oprah Winfrey states, we are God – the divine spark that is within us all, we are to find the knowledge that is self redeeming.

Many Gnostics (especially the followers of Valentinius) taught that there was the One, the original, unknowable God; and then from the One emanated Aeons, pairs of lesser beings in sequence. A belief that may not be far from the truth concerning “Yahwism.” The Aeons together made up the Pleroma, or fullness, of God. The lowest of these pairs were Sophia (“Wisdom,” in Greek) and Christ. Sophia sinned by seeking to know the unknowable One, and as a consequence of her sin the Demiurge came into being, who created the physical world. Christ was then sent to earth to give men the gnosis needed to rescue themselves from the physical world and return to spiritual world. It should be noted that Valentinus believed in the Incarnation.

Gnostics identified the Demiurge with the God of the Old Testament; thus they rejected the Old Testament and Judaism, and often celebrated those who were rejected by the Old Testament God, such as the serpent, Cain, Esau, etc. Some Gnostics were believed to identify the Demiurge with Satan, a belief which contributed to the suspicion with which many Christians regarded them.

Some Gnostic sects, who were considered Christians, embraced mystical theories of the true nature of Jesus and/or the Christ which were out of step with the teachings of the orthodox Christian faith. For example, Gnostics generally taught docetism, the belief that Jesus did not have a physical body, but rather his apparent physical body was an illusion, and hence his crucifixion was not bodily.

Most Gnostics practiced celibacy and asceticism, on the grounds that the pleasures of the flesh were evil; a few however practiced libertinism, arguing that since the body was evil they should defile it. This led to further distrust, and was an accusation leveled against other groups who did not follow this practice.

Some would even go so far as to say that Martin Luther and John Calvin insinuated Gnostic beliefs in reference to their doctrine of Justification by faith. I would advise that you read their works and make up your own minds whether that is true or not.  Some Gnostics were Antinomians.

Antinomianism: “Against the law,” was a centuries-old belief whose basic tenet held that Christians were not bound by traditional moral law, particularly that of the Old Testament. Instead, man could be guided by an inner light that would reveal the proper forms of conduct. This rhetoric is echoed within the camps of many who call themselves Universalists. Through I may be a believer in the doctrine of Ultimate Reconciliation, I do not uphold to the many strange roads one would often find themselves & many Universalists traveling upon. It should be pointed out that Universalism and Ultimate Reconciliation are two entirely different matters (For more information on such please feel free to read my studies concerning ultimate reconciliation). It has been my experience to notice that many within the camps of Universalism are indeed inheriting the doctrine of Old time Gnosticism, New Age Gnosticism (the Oprah Winfrey‘s, the Dan Browns, etc), Mysticism, Secret Knowledge, and Antinomianism; as opposed to the simplicity that is in the cross. For preaching of the cross is foolishness unto those that perish.

Gnostics, believing “flesh” or the material world fallen and evil, believed Jesus was a spirit being, who only appeared as flesh (Docetism) many would cite particular passages of Scripture to suit their view (belief) in an attempt to enhance their ideology. For in this they show no esteem for the Word of God; often claiming that only parts of the Scriptures contain truth, while the rest is thus questionable. I hear this all to often via – social networks (like Facebook), different blogs, websites, and in person.

Again, they often like to hand pick particular verses that might lend support or even seem to indicate their position. Here are a few examples…

Romans 8:3-4, For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Eph 3:3-4, “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,” Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)”

Eph 3:19, “And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.”

I Corinthians 15:50, I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

The verses mentioned above are those in which Gnostics would use to bolster their doctrine of Docetism. They would claim that Paul never meant the Christ/God came in the flesh, but claimed revelation, knowledge, etc – from spiritual beings, etc. And we to can obtain this through secret knowledge

To enhance their the doctrine of secret knowledge, they would often cite verses such as these…

Romans 16:25, Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith…

Romans 10:1-2, Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge…

I Corinthians 2:6-7, Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification.

II Cor. 4:6, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

II Cor. 3:9, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”

Eph 1:17-18, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened…

Phil 3:8-9, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith…”

Col 1:9, “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;”

Col 3:10, “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him”

II Peter 2:20, “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ…” and 3:18, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”

Mark 4:11 and Matthew 13:11, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables.”

Section 2

But when one reads the passages of Scripture quoted more carefully…we would discover the sheer simplicity of the physical incarnation.

For example, they quote Rom 8:3-4…notice where it says “in the likeness of”, they would feast upon this; but all the while stumbling at the next declaration of truth, where it says “condemned sin in the flesh”. Notice it says “in the flesh”. Moreover, since it says we do not walk in the flesh but after the spirit, then it should be noted that if that is true (and it is) then the same should be said for the spirit becoming flesh (as in the incarnation) since it is written by John himself, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”

Notice the emphasis on the physical. This was not something spiritually seen, as in a vision, but rather it was seen with the eyes. It was heard and it was touched. Similarly, John writes in the first chapter of his gospel narrative that the “Word was with God,” and the “Word was God” and this “Word was made flesh,” a clear argument for both the divinity and humanity of Jesus.

How do we explain the use of the word ‘with’ in John 1:1-2 and I John 1:2? John 1:1 says the Word was ‘with’ God, but then goes on to say that the Word ‘was’ God. The Word is the thought, plan, or expression in the mind of God. That is how the Word could be with God and at the same time be God Himself. We should also note that the Greek word ‘pros,’ translated here as ‘with,’ is translated as ‘pertaining to’ in Hebrews 2:17 and 5:1. So the Word was with God in the sense of belonging to God and not in the sense of a separate little god or Avatar.

In this instance some would still claim that God appointed Jesus as a god. If that was the case, then why is it written that Jesus is called The Mighty God (‘The’ as opposed to ‘a’) in Isa 9:6? In this instance they will opt to rebuttal and claim that it is just a title given to Jesus, He is a Mighty God or god, but not the Almighty. In this instance we must emphasize that Jehovah said that there is no God before Him and no God shall be formed after Him, neither is there another Saviour to be formed (Isa 43:10-11). Moreover, it is written that Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the Last, the beginning and the end, the Almighty (Rev 1:8, 11, 17-18, 22:12-13). For more on this please see my study ,”The Isaiah 9:6 Controversy”

Cognizant of this, Irenaeus warns us of those who speak of Christ as merely passing “through Mary just as water flows through a tube” (1.7.2). Sounding much like an opponent of modern liberal theology, he criticizes Cerinthus because he “represented Jesus as having not been born of a virgin, but as being the son of Joseph and Mary according to the ordinary course of human generation, while he nevertheless was more righteous, prudent, and wise than other men” (1.26.1). Irenaeus also identifies some of the Gnostic schemes – teaching that in addition to his only “appearing” to be human, Jesus’ suffering on the cross was also and illusion, “[Jesus] had come to amend matters, and had descended, transfigured and assimilated to powers and principalities and angels, so that he might appear among men to be a man, while yet he was not a man; and that thus he was thought to have suffered in Judaea, when he had not suffered” (1.23.3).

It is important to note that in 1 Cor 15:50 Paul does not state that flesh and blood ARE not able to inherit God’s kingdom. The verb (dunatai) is in the singular, IS not able. Moreover, the two terms, flesh and blood are here without the definite article. All this means is that the condition of “flesh plus blood” cannot enter God’s kingdom. As for Heb. 5:7, “in the days of His flesh,” we do not require to reason that when He arose He had no flesh.

After His resurrection, the Lord “presents Himself alive” to His apostles. Literally, stands Himself beside them, with many positive proofs or tokens. There is no evidence whatever that He was not present in a body of flesh. He only disappeared when a cloud “under-got” Him (Acts 1:9). Similarly, on the Mount of Transfiguration, there is nothing to shew that temporarily the Lord lost His body of flesh, to take it back again in a short time. Moses and Elijah were seen by the disciples. Had they been spirits, they could not have been seen. Peter spoke toward (pros) Jesus (Luke 9:33), which implies direct speech to one actually near and visible. Moses and Elijah were seen as men, apparently as much men as the onlookers. Our own bodies are to be changed and transformed (Phil. 3:21) but that does not necessarily mean that we shall not be flesh of a transcendent kind.

When John tells us that the Logos or Word becomes flesh, he means that the Logos now becomes something which He was not previously. He who did appear transitionally and fleetingly to Abraham and others in human form, now becomes permanently flesh, and tabernacles among us. The inference is that He now remains flesh. He could no longer be the Logos or Explanation of Mankind, were He only Spirit. Nor could He continue to be the Son of Mankind were He only spirit.

Another Gnostic thought is the belief that Jesus did not suffer death, but Simon, a certain man of Cyrene, being compelled, bore the cross in his stead; so that this latter being transfigured by him, that he might be thought to be Jesus, was crucified, through ignorance and error, while Jesus himself received the form of Simon, and, standing by, laughed at them. Some today refer to as the “Laughing Savior.” – as once quoted on the ‘History Channel’

The next two verses they quote to uphold the doctrines of secret mysteries revealed unto them are….

Eph 3:3-4, “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,” Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)”

Eph 3:19, “And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.”

However, again when we look at theses passages of Scriptures more carefully, we must ask ourselves; “what are we to make of them”? The mystery here spoken of is not the “secret mysteries” as the Gnostics would insinuate, but it is the fellowship of the Gentiles – now into the fold – all of humanity is given the free gift of grace. I need only to quote the thought in its ENTIRTY….a rare practice today (keeping things in its context)

Eph 3:1-9 “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ”.

In reference to the idea that the “Fullness of God” recorded in Eph 3:19 is in reference to man entailing or receiving ultimate deification so to speak, is ‘Pantheistic’. Yet they would accuse John and Paul as being such & would declare that they even cited such in Scripture as the verses above seem to indicate. Yes, Gnostics are pantheistic, some would even proudly admit it. For they error in not keeping things in their proper context. For in the same book, we read that there is One Lord, and One God and Father of all, and through all, and in you all”

But does the idea of “The Father of all, and through all, and in you all” entail pantheistic doctrines? The answer to that is ‘no’. Granted, it is true that the Father is in us, and through us all; yet the very idea of a multiplying deity runs contrary to the many Oneness passages of Scripture pertaining to the nature and person of God. Gnosticism tries to correlate the nature of Christ and Man (us) together by means of deification and not by means of salvational propitiation. Thus, they would separate the divine Christ from the humanity of Jesus and declare that such a union between the two was only a union of thought, growth, knowledge, and secret wisdom revealed by Jesus as He was becoming/became the Christ or divine deity. Therefore, we too can become one with God through the process of deification or levels of knowledge,

The fullness spoken of here is the fullness that one should have when they are in union with God. The union Christ Jesus had was the Oneness that He had when He was called the “The Word” of God

But the credulity of such a belief and claim can be traced by finding out, “what they consider God is, and who He is”.

The Gnostic doctrine was, as Paul put it, “didaskalias daimonion” – things taught by demons (1 Tim 4). It must be pointed out that these men, who assert that the Maker of heaven and earth, the only God Almighty, besides whom there is no God, was produced by means of a defect, which itself sprang from another defect, so that, according to them, He was the product of the third defect. History also accounts for us how some taught that God “in ignorance formed those powers which are inferior to himself ­ angels, and firmaments, and all things earthly. And in the opinion of Saturnius, “Christ came to destroy the God of the Jews, but to save such as who may believe in him; that is, those who possess the spark of his life”.

Such hostility toward the God of creation is an element that can be seen in just about any branch of the Gnostic heresy. As historian David Christie-Murray argues, the “Gnostic rebellion against the Jewish God and the Law.…and [its] violent rejection of creation.” is in fact to be seen as one of the “basic principles of classic Gnosticism.” (Christie-Murray, David, A History of Heresy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976), p. 26. Interestingly enough, this author concludes ­ with a point a little out of the scope of this paper­­that “Echoes of Gnosticism are to be heard in a number of sects down to the theosophical movement of the last hundred years, and the Gnostic spirit is to be found in some very orthodox pews” p. 31).

It is this belief that entails the supposition that Christ came not as the suffering Saviour to reconcile us back to God, but came to reveal the spark in us all (by way of knowledge & secrets) which leads us back to God – or as they would cite, the true God of the NT not the OT false God.

Consider What Jesus Said

Did not Jesus declare, “I did not come to destroy the prophets of the OT God, but to fulfill them”. Did He not also declare, “All that the Scribes and Pharisees say unto you do them, but do not take their works as an example, for they do not practice what they preach”.

Did He not also declare, “I lay down my life for my sheep”.

Did He not prophecy ,“Destroy this temple and in 3 days I will raise it up”.

Did He not also declare, “If I honor myself, my honor is nothing: it is my Father that honoreth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God”. Who God is He referring to? The God of the OT silly!

Did He not also declare, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”.

Malachi makes mention in the OT recordings and citations of this so-called false evil God or demiurge, and calls Him “Father”. For He is the Father of all flesh.

Moreover, the Scriptures reveals “Luke 3:6, which cites, “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God”.

I can go on and on…But for further study on the validity of the death, burial, and physical resurrection of Christ, please see my other studies:

Apparently both John and Paul declares quite the opposite according to their teachings. Paul emphasizes time and time again the essential message of Gospel, “the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ”

Rom 3:24, Galatians 3:13, Rom 6:23, Col 1:14, Titus 2:13-14, John 14:6, Acts 4:12, Rom 5:9, Col 1:20, Hebrews 9:14, 9:22, Rom 5:1-2, Galatians 2:16, Hebrews 11:1-6, Rom 3:22-24, 11:6, Eph 2:8-9, Titus 2:11, II Cor 5:7-8, Galatians 3:26, I Cor 1:17-18, 15:1-4

John also employs the same doctrine, teaching, and stance concerning, not only the Gospel of salvation, but of the incarnation. All written epistles by Paul and the Gospel of John – and his epistles, are confirmed in the book of Hebrews – a book about the priestly ministry of His sacrifice & the differences between the sacrificial system of the OT and the sacrificial system of grace.

John 14:6, 1:12, 3:16-18, 26, 26, 28, 10:9-13, I John 1:7, Rev 1:5, 5:9, 7:14, 21:11

And not to mention the Apostle Peter – I Pet 1:8-9 I Pet 1:18-19 and Luke – Acts 4:12. And who could forget the story of the first Christian martyr called ‘Stephen’ Acts 6:8-7:1-60. The whole discourse given by Stephen was a testimonial history of Old Testament 101 and New Testament 102 complementing one another within their respective orders – both leading to propitiational salvation as opposed to salvation obtained by secret knowledge.

HOWEVER, it should be noted that while the Old and New Testaments validate each other in ref to propitiational salvation, one should be careful when reading the OT as to know who is doing the speaking – God (EL) or Yahweh. For more on this see the category; God and Theology.

I Cor 1…

17For Christ did not send me to baptize, but – to proclaim good news; not in wisdom of discourse, that the cross of the Christ may not be made of none effect;

18for the word of the cross to those indeed perishing is foolishness, and to us – those being saved – it is the power of God,

19for it hath been written, `I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the intelligence of the intelligent I will bring to nought;’

20where [is] the wise? where the scribe? where a disputer of this age? did not God make foolish the wisdom of this world?

21for, seeing in the wisdom of God the world through the wisdom knew not God, it did please God through the foolishness of the preaching to save those believing.

22Since also Jews ask a sign, and Greeks seek wisdom,

23also we – we preach Christ crucified, to Jews, indeed, a stumbling-block, and to Greeks foolishness,

24and to those called – both Jews and Greeks – Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God

To blaspheme the Father, is to blaspheme the Son. To blaspheme the Son, is to blaspheme the Father.

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