August 6, 2011

λόγος VII: Damnable Heresies

Having explained all that I have in the previous six posts of this series there is still a piece missing to this puzzle of the λόγος. There is obviously something else going on here in these opening verses of John’s Gospel. These verses are some of the most profound theology in the Bible about Jesus and the Scripture. They are strongly stated “high prose”, and they are addressing an issue. It is here that we really begin to see the enemy (Satan) behind John’s strategically worded introduction. In contrast to Jesus being "life”, a life that was the light of men, John was combating a heresy deeply entrenched in peoples thinking and it stemmed from the darkness or ignorance of the world mentioned in John 1:5 which had not understood the light (Evans 41-42). It required me six posts of explaining the culture of John’s time so I could build my case here about these two malignant and infectious heresies. When we add all the aforementioned philosophies together we see that we have a culture (Hellenistic) and a parent religion (Judaism) that produced two potent and closely linked heresies: Gnosticism and Docetism.


The first issue John deals with is Gnosticism which was really beginning to gain traction in the 1st century. The early church father Irenaeus, records that John most likely wrote his Gospel to deal with the heresies of the Gnostic heretic, Cerinthus and forms of Gnosticism called incipient Gnosticism that surfaced in the late 1st century (Petko 11, 21). Some of these concerns are also corroborated and paralleled in 1 John. Gnosticism believed that the λογος temporarily became man, but only in a mythical and docetic (phantom) sense but never in the historical sense of a real incarnation (Cullman 252). To the adherents of Gnostic though matter was evil and thought that knowledge or wisdom like the Word was to be distinguished from things of the material world which they believed was perishable and corrupted and therefore incapable of salvation (Bercot 305, Brand 657). Because of this premise Gnosticism claimed or advanced with the thought that a Son of God could not become man. A more nuanced form of Gnosticism called Docetism claimed that Jesus was only the illusion of flesh but not the real thing.

FAIL!...F minus...these dunderheads should've been dumped from their theology classes.


The idea of God in the flesh was so overwhelming for some in this historical milieu that they just couldn’t accommodate and accept it so they embraced a form of Docetism that said Jesus was only a phantom or apparition. They believed His body was not real so He couldn’t really have felt sorrow or pain- contrary to Scripture (Barclay 65, Morris 102). It’s easy to see how a heresy like this could take off simply by misunderstanding God’s purpose for coming into the world. This heresy pretty much was created by having misplaced adoration and not realizing that Jesus needed to come into the world as human. Instead Docetists retreated from it in horror because of a flawed presupposition that God would never truly become human would be too degrading for God to do so. To deny Christ’s full humanity and full divinity is to deny Christ completely. By John stating the Word became flesh he soundly puts this to rest.

These guys don't even warrant getting graded. They are so far beyond FAIL that they should be checked for a pulse and any sign of brainwaves. Good grief man! They believe that Jesus felt no pain? For goodness sakes! FAIL! FAIL! FAIL! These folks should've never been let in the building. Did I say FAIL?!?!

Sadly, both of these heresies seemed to have gained a foothold as the result of an attempt by Christians to make Christianity understandable to a world that had been infused by Hellenized beliefs or philosophical assumptions about reality (Brand et al 658). Again, with John giving Jesus the Christological title “the Word” and then tying it to the flesh in John 1:14, he attempts to shoot Gnosticism’s flawed premise down in a flaming heap. In the end there were more things than just Gnosticism and its derivatives playing into the watering-down and corruption of the Faith. Satan realized he had been defeated at the Cross so he attacked the flegling Christianity at ever conceivable weak point, in this case, peoples weak minds. To this day this attack continues. As a matter of fact we can still see strains of what are essentially modern equivilents of these old heresies rearing their heads on a regular basis. The same old heresies in new clothing or new book covers. This is one of the reasons it is important that all beleivers learn their church history and correct theology and doctrine. Learn history so that it doesn't repeat and we can recognize the wolves among the sheep. We need to understand or theology and doctrine to educate a new generation from repeating the errors of the old.

Of course we have plenty of these type of heresies floating all around us nowadays and they are being perpetuated by so-called scholars and academics that are educated but have apparently learned nothing from history or their education.

"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction." 2 Peter 2:1

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