By Jarrod Belcher
Last week I used the column to talk about the gnostic controversy in the early church. But Gnosticism never fully died out and even today it continues to influence the church in a significant and negative way. One of the ways we see that is in the modern focus on mysticism and secondly in the obsession with psychological well-being within the church. We are assured that one can simply have direct access to God and his power all on our own. The mystic way is to meditate hard and have God directly talk to you as you bypass Christ and the Word of God. Who needs what the Scriptures have prescribed when we can simply go to God ourselves? Jesus becomes more of a guru or a great example of how to have a relationship with God rather than the Mediator who makes access to God possible. All of this is a rejection of the prescriptions set forth in Scripture. We are not to go to God all on our own. We could never approach him. That’s why Christ must be the Mediator between us and him.
It’s no surprise then that the Church itself is also deemphasized where Gnosticism has influence, or if it’s recommended the prescriptions for worship set forth in Scripture are ignored. Church becomes what we want church to be. Why have communion where we are handling the body and blood of Christ when we can summon an experience with him through our own mystic encounters? Why have the preaching of the word which is meant to instruct when I can meditate and hear God’s voice speaking directly to me? Then there’s the intense focus on whether our emotional felt needs are being met. There is a big market out there for preachers that substitute preaching for pep talks and sermons on improving self-esteem. The preaching preferred in the gnostic influenced church is that which assures me that I’m okay instead of the Scriptural truth that we are sinners before God who stand in judgment if not for the mercy and grace found in Christ Jesus and his work at the cross. The battle with Gnosticism within the church continues. Let us be on our guard.