As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.
The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. (1 Timothy 1:3-7)
[An elder] must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. (Titus 1:5-11)
The Truth Is, Doctrine Is Either Of Christ Or It Is Of Antichrist
As we turn to the Bible we see that the Lord has given very specific commands to his true pastors and teachers, and even a cursory look at the historical record will show—we do thank God—there were no pragmatic ecumenicists like Rick Warren, nor was there any emerging universalism as Love Wins mythology ala Rob Bell.
One need only look at Acts 4 where the Jewish religious leaders of that day were:
greatly annoyed because [Peter and John] were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. (Acts 4:2-3)
That really doesn’t much sound like the reaction e.g. to Word Faith prosperity preacher T.D. Jakes or his disciple prophet-pastor Steven Furtick, now does it. The absolute truth is that no matter what a given society’s views regarding God may be—though they are free to have them—as you see from our opening text, it’s Christ’s command that His pastor-teachers:
must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. (Titus 1:9).
Unfortunately, today too much of the church visible is not willing to refute those who oppose sound doctrine and instead has become more like Peter was before back in Mark 8:33. This would lead to a most startling rebuke from our Lord; Who clearly told His disciple that he actually held a view that originates from Satan — “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Though I’ve certainly become disappointed by his more recent direction, even so, this comment from evangelical scholar Dr. D.A. Carson will prove enlightening to those who have ears to hear:
Jesus’ words to Peter were not only very severe, they were deliberately spoken in the presence of the other disciples (“Jesus turned and looked at his disciples”). They probably shared Peter’s views and needed the rebuke, too. The severity of the rebuke arises from Jesus’ recognition in Peter’s attempt to dissuade him from going to the Cross the same temptation he had experienced from Satan at the outset of his ministry.
Satan offered him the option of using the world’s means of accomplishing his mission (cf. Matt 4:8-10). On that occasion Jesus rebuked him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: `Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’” (Matt 4:10). Here, too, Jesus recognized the satanic opposition in Peter.
“‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said. `You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’” Peter was opposing the divine will. He had in mind a popular messiahship. That was the way the world thought; it was not how God had planned Jesus’ ministry and mission.
So you see, it’s not as if we haven’t had the chance to listen to the Spirit’s subtle warnings not to think like men and then try to preach the Gospel the way men think it should be preached in this Biblically foreign mission field of pouty postmodernism. For those who have eyes to see, it’s really right there in the text of Scripture; and even our own Biblical scholars have said it—though apparently haven’t realized this kind of teaching is from God the Holy Spirit.
If they did, then they’d have much stronger reaction against things like the compromised Elephant Room. I wonder, is it only through bored indifference and a false humility as we pray: “Lord use me as Your vessel.” And I do wish the reader to know I fully understand there are many who ignore my warnings; who think I’m some harsh, angry man, and/or consider me some kind of radical kook. However, I offer it might not be very wise to so easily dismiss what I’m saying.
O without a doubt the accepted way of writing today is to do a kind of “plus-minus” assessment of a given subject; but have we really considered this from the Lord’s perspective, or is this rather the things of man in secular academia? Suppose I were to write an article about cancer; would I really need to elaborate on some of the more “positive” aspects of this terminal disease, like say, how quickly and suddenly it can metastasize and just how completely it kills a body?
And Now A Critique Of Gnosticism Offered By An Evangelical Scholar?
But is this type of plus-minus writing regarding false doctrine, what we find in the Bible? Not the one I read from. Let’s take the example of Gnosticism; although its purveyors in the first century claimed to be Christian teachers, where in Holy Scripture would we possibly find a true Apostle of Christ saying something along the lines of:
Oh yes Cerinthus; what a charming and erudite fellow, and a very articulate spokesman for Christian Gnosticism. I preached on the same platform with him at the last Compromisers For Christ Conference in Caesarea. And I really got to know him quite well; and I do have to say I thoroughly enjoyed his new book The Real Christ: Rethinking Jesus Through The Eyes Of A Gnostic. I thought it was actually very skillful how he was able to marry the central Gnostic teachings to those of our Lord Jesus.
It’s truly a very scholarly work; after reading this book from our brother Cerinthus—after all he loves Jesus the Christ as well—perhaps we do need to reexamine our approach to the Incarnation itself and some kind of substitutionary atonement. On page xlii Cerinthus explains how the all-containing unknowable god, the ultimate good of Pleroma—the spirit world—runs into a problem when one of his lowest aeons, Sophia attempts to be like god and produces an aeon of her own—the evil Demiurge.
Cerinthus then masterfully weaves a very compelling argument from his repainting of history. First of all, he insightfully explains to us that one of these aeons was actually ‘the Christ.’ This aeon, he presses forth—nearly convincingly, or not—then decends on the man Jesus of Nazareth at his baptism. Cerinthus then tells us what a miracle this was because we all know the material world is actually illusionary evil.
Now this aeon, he enlightens us from his obviously thorough research, did not come from the evil Demiurge, who is in stark opposition to the good force; that utterly unknowable/god consciousness within us all. As any fine scholar, Cerinthus—who is a Christ-follower in his own way—then documents through his detailed scholastic analysis from numerous Gnostic teachers (complete with copious footnotes), that it is this Demiurge which actually created this evil material world in the first place.
And then, in what just might be considered a quite novel—dare I say refreshing—approach to the emerging Gnostic-Christian faith, Cerinthus elucidates for us a rather tricky question that had previously not been covered conclusively by any of our dear brother Christ-followers in the Docetic Movement concerning whether Jesus was actually a man, or whether He just seemed like one. What a fascinating concept to explore, and we thank Cerinthus for his willing to think outside the box. After-all, he reasons, doctrine doesn’t save anybody; Christ does.
Simon Peter presented a fascinating discussion of this topic in his best seller Jesus Was Here–Or Maybe He Really Wasn’t, though I would quibble a bit with his rather didactic approach in actually reaching a conclusion. Well, that is, if I might be allowed to even call it that. Cerinthus on the other hand understands that ours is clearly a culture of oral storytelling. As such,he is better able to draw from numerous religious sources, and then amazingly tie them all together. In a stunning effort in finding the common ground, he explains that this aeon/Christ itself never had to suffer because it left this man Jesus before He was actually crucified.
Truly a brilliant stroke of scholarship which I would recommend we examine further before we so quickly write off Cerinthianism in favor of Docetism—though I don’t completely opt for either form of Christian Gnosticism—having been almost persuaded that a somewhat higher Christology could possibly be in order from what I have read in that rascal Paul’s writings. Now I also must say—though I’m still not quite sure—but of course, as these Scriptures are hard to understand. Perhaps we should reserve our judgment until someone can come along with another view on this important subject of Gnostic Christianity. We must never forget that despite our differences, and I freely admit some of them still remain significant, we are to love one another.
In closing, I remind you gently—as I don’t wish to upset you—we certainly do not want to do anything to bring division into the Christ community, whatever they are and whomever He/it may actually prove to be. Now this is not withstanding that we ever do discover such a thing, which I tentatively refer to in my book What I Might Believe As A Christ-follower (Maybe), as “a knowable truth.” As another learned brother has said, truth is an irreducible plurality so, I might suggest, we never arrive at truth because it continues spinning back around in new forms.
That aside for now, certainly Cerinthus’ fine critique of Docetism and Apostolic Christianity presents a formidable argument which is now emerging in favor of us all living together as friends of each other’s religion; seeking God/Pleroma in these other sails as it were. For as I have said before, if we will only learn from the sameness of our differences, all the while leaving the differences in our differences behind, then we will be able to just let God/Ultimate Reality sort it all out in the end.
For as we grow in our new understanding of the truth as it is now, as indeed no one can truly claim to understand, then it really could be—probably anyway—as I think that our brother Cerinthus may have observed in ‘The Brotherhood of Gnosis.” Yes, remember in that charming final chapter of his book where he writes: ‘The brotherhood of man must melt together into the unknowable Pleroma that is godself/spirit consciousness to then be born through the goodness of the Divine with its message that we must be caring for our fellow travelers along the road back into that ‘blessed nothingness.’”
Sure, and maybe we all remember that great second century apologist Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, and his classic Learning From Brothers With Whom I Have Significant Differences. No; actually Irenaeus, who was a disciple of Polycarp—himself a disciple of the Apostle John—wrote a voluminous and often scathing five volume refutation of Gnosticism called On The Detection and Overthrow of the So-Called Gnosis, better known as Against Heresies. And along this line, I’m also aware that there’ve been those who have expressed it’s not my place to criticize those whom I often write about.
First, let me assure you that as one trained in Comparative Religion I know very well how to study and evaluate the doctrinal beliefs of a given religious system or professing Christian. Then, as a pastor-teacher, our opening text tells me there are times where I have to — charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine. And say what you will, but I’m also not afraid to speak the truth from God’s perspective — “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30).
As such, we really are witnessing the conveniently comfortable way in which the pragmatic business methods of the world continue to be assimilated into the increasing postmodern evangelical community. When we are shown from the Bible that these practices are not in line with what God Himself would have us do, and since the only other source left is that of Satan himself, I am actually quite justified in exposing this sorry syncretism. You should now be able to see that—despite its many variant levels of compromised, aberrant, and/or heretical doctrines—ultimately this all originates from the rancid root of antichrist mythology.
For it all comes from the same serpentine source as such as these slither together, all the while emerging out onto the way that is broad; and further, they and all who follow them—if they do not repent—will eventually arrive at eternal destination of destruction together (cf. Matthew 7:13-14). Yes, many do laugh at me for teaching such things today. However, no matter how much we’d like to try and convince ourselves that God “understands” our compromises; that He’ll just sort it all out in the end, etc., the absolute fact remains that Jesus has left us here as His ambassadors (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20).
As I close this out, for now, in John 20:21 our Lord clearly says — “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” Logically then, just as it was also once a part of His job, the Master has now entrusted us to tell those who are in sin—and particularly those in the visible church of Christ—to leave that practice immediately. It’s time to say it plainly: All this compromises in order to please people within evangelicalism is sin. Sin still means “to miss the mark” of Christ; and when we do miss this mark it is God’s Name, which is then sullied, and it is His church being mocked.
If you really are His, then you will grieve about the current sad state of the Christian witness…just as Jesus does…
 Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., Expositor’s Bible Commentary: With the New International Version of the Bible [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1976-92), in Zondervan NIV Study Bible Library, limited ed., Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), CD-ROM, emphasis added.