What’s Wrong with Gnosticism?

Recently we Christians have been bombarded with a slew of Gnostic readings and studies which gnaw at the heels of Christianity. Since the discovery of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas at Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945, scholars have had a heyday deciphering the purpose behind the Gnostic faith.

So what is Gnosticism? Without getting too intellectual or theological, Gnosticism basically indicates that the requirement of salvation is special knowledge from God, which they call, simply, knowledge. Although Gnostics admit that Jesus came to earth to save mankind, Gnostics believe He came to bring this special knowledge which would lead people to salvation. They did not believe that Jesus Christ actually lived and died as a fully human individual, nor that He died for the remission of our sins. Instead, they believe that He only appeared to be human, and that either an image of Him was crucified or that someone else was crucified, and the people of the time didn’t realize that they were crucifying the wrong person (imagine that!).

Why is this such a big deal?

First of all, Jesus Christ Himself said, while He was here on earth, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). So there it is, Jesus Christ Himself said that it is faith in Him, not the ‘knowledge’ He brings, that is the key to salvation.

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, prepared to be offered a conciliatory sacrifice for the salvation of the human race, He begged the Father, ‘Saying, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done”’ (Lk 22:42, quotes added). The cup, of course was His soon-to-come crucifixion. If Jesus Christ were not truly human, would He have had any need to ask the Father to remove the cup from Him? If Jesus wasn’t really going to be crucified, but rather someone else was going to take His place, would He have asked the Father to take the cup from Him? Of course not.

Next, Luke records: “And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (LK. 22:44-45). Would Jesus have needed an angel to strengthen Him or would He have sweat blood if He were not really going to die? And back to the plea in verse 42 above, if there were any method by which salvation could have been accomplished (e.g. knowledge), then why would the Father have let His own Son suffer such agony? The reason Christ died was because there was no other way. If the way to heaven were via knowledge, then Christ could have delivered the knowledge, left earth, and gone back to heaven. But knowledge isn’t the way to heaven; the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ is. Hence His complete humanity and complete death, burial, and subsequent resurrection.

If Gnosticism has merit, Jesus Christ died in vain. I believe He died for me. What about you? Did He die in vain, or did He die for you?

Note: Scripture references are from the KJV.

You have my permission to reprint and distribute this article as long as it is distributed in its entirety, including all links and copyright information. © Sean Mize 2006

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