Gnosticism, Syncretism and New Agism examined
In this article, I identify and reflect on three heresies that have affected the Christian church down the ages and today.
One of my major concerns that I have touched upon in recent blogs is the prevalence of deception, even among sincere, learned and pious Christians, as was foretold in scripture, e.g. Matthew 24.
There are many ways deception may be manifest. Three that I have identified are Gnosticism, Syncretism and New Agism, which I will consider in this article, albeit at a fairly basic level, noting there are similarities and differences yet the same deceiving spirit that would take us off the straight and narrow way. While room to elaborate, I will use the following definitions, found by searching the Internet:
Gnosticism a prominent heretical movement of the 2nd-century Christian Church, partly of pre-Christian origin. Gnostic doctrine taught that the world was created and ruled by a lesser divinity, the demiurge, and that Christ was an emissary of the remote supreme divine being, esoteric knowledge (gnosis) of whom enabled the redemption of the human spirit.
Syncretism combines different beliefs and various schools of thought. Syncretism involves merging or assimilation of several originally discrete traditions, especially in the theology and mythology of religion, thus asserting an underlying unity and allowing for an inclusive approach to other faiths. Many who subscribe to this notion believe religions are similar and lead to what is in effect the same G(g)od.
New Age is a broad movement characterized by alternative approaches to traditional Western culture, growing rapidly from the 1970’s, often deferring to Eastern religions and practices that are widely accepted, with a particular interest in spirituality, mysticism, holism, and environmentalism.
It would be easy to dismiss Gnosticism as a heresy of the early church and since then we have moved on to new heresies. Balancing the spiritual and the temporal, the divinity of Christ and his humanity, has been the challenge that has faced the Church down the ages. It has given rise to many conflicts. There is nothing new under the sun and, as our meme suggests, there are those around today, those purporting to be and may actually be real Christians who, with reference to the points made by one commentator in the meme above, do elevate the spiritual and downgrade the physical and do claim special knowledge most do not have. I recognise, I may be susceptible, given my beliefs in conspiracy theories, as the idea seemingly unconnected events unrolling in the world today are actually connected and are part of the dastardly plans of an evil globalist cabal seeking to bring about their New World Order that will enslave us all. But the antidote to this is to believe the true gospel and to take note of what NT writers like Paul and John said when it comes to identifying and resisting gnostic dangers.
When I became a Christian as a teenager, I was counselled regarding the importance of holding to the belief there was one only access point to God and that came through His Son, Jesus, by virtue of the sacrifice He made at the Cross of Calvary, and in doing so was warned off those dastardly liberals who taught otherwise. As for adherents of religions coming together, that is part of the system supporting the rule of the Antichrist. At university, I befriended many overseas students, usually of other religions, notably Islam. One stumbling block was my belief that Jesus was The Way to God rather than A way. Toward the latter part of my working life, as a community worker, I found myself interacting with afore-mentioned Liberals and adherents of other religions, and the experience was mostly positive. I have noted the tendency, even among Evangelicals and Catholics, of playing down dogmas of the past. At the same time, I had to resist the temptation to syncretism in order to present a united front etc., which as I read the signs of the times is what is being presently pushed. As for me, I declare with St. Peter …
Ever since the days of “flower power” when I was a student, I have been aware of spiritual folk who believed in some sort of a divinity, often not well defined, in order to embrace all spiritual minded folk, but it was not one that matched the God of the Bible. In many ways, many of these folk were asking the right questions, e.g. as they reject the materialistic hedonism that defines how many alive today live, but looking for answers in the wrong places. “New Age Practices for Christians to Avoid” is an article that lists a number being practiced. The danger, as I see it, is that we are seeing a motley crew pushing the Great Awakening that include modern day, political prophets, often subscribing to the notion we are on the brink of seeing the Millennium ushered in (before Jesus returns), joining forces with New Agers and their equating the Millennium with a time of peace and enlightenment that their Age of Aquarius brings. Whether of not there will be a Great Awakening before Jesus returns to planet earth, I cannot say (see here for my thoughts) but I can say believe the gospel (see here for what the gospel comprises) and do what Jude tells us to do, to contend for the true faith and, while it will mean upsetting well intentioned New Agers who see through the errors of popular culture, we are beholden to telling out the truth.
I have no doubt there are many ways any one of us can be deceived, besides the three mentioned in this article. We need to be on our guard because even the best of us can succumb, which is precisely what the Devil, the master of deception, wants. We render a great service by pointing people to Jesus who is THE Way, THE Truth and THE Life, living as His devoted followers and by the way we contend earnestly for the faith. While God guides us if we ask Him to do so, and we can be helped by fellow believers and through appropriately exercising the gifts of the Spirit, I first and foremost direct people to God and His Word as the primary means of not falling into the Gnostic, Syncretic, New Age and, come to that, any other error.