the Church on the Hill
by Pastor D. Eric Williams
Gnosticism is an ancient heresy that is finding fresh popularity in post-Christian America as is evidenced by the recent republication of the "Gospel of Judas." Indeed, the unveiling of the latest edition of "Judas" has been heralded by the mainstream press as a crippling blow to orthodox Christianity. The only reason they can get away with this sort of
balderdash is because too few Christians know their own history.
Gnosticism has several variants; the common thread in all forms of Gnosticism is the belief that there are two basic forces in the universe; good and evil. In some forms of Gnostic thought, good and evil (light and dark), are two sides of the same force or deity. Other Gnostic sects taught that good and evil are separate, competing entities. Also common to all Gnostic thought is the idea that the physical realm is inherently evil and that only those who possess special knowledge are able to
transcend it and inherit their destinies in paradise (the word "gnostic" is derived from the Greek word for knowledge, "gnosis"). Some Gnostic sects believed that since the physical realm was meaningless, it didn't matter what one did in the body and absolute debauchery was the order of the day. Other sects taught that the physical sphere should be ignored as
much as possible and practiced extreme asceticism. In any case, Gnosticism in all its variants is nothing new and the Church cannot allow its resurgence to go unchallenged.
Which brings us back to the recent publicity surrounding the "Gospel of Judas." To begin with, there is nothing unfamiliar about this supposed work of Judas. As early as A.D. 180 Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons mentioned it in his treatise against Gnosticism. Moreover, "Judas" was published in English as recently as 1970. In other words, "Judas", like the other
"lost books of the Bible" has been known for nearly 2000 years. It offers nothing original in its criticism of Christianity; the only reason the mainstream media is excited about its republication is that the mainstream press is always excited about an opportunity to attack Christ and His Church.
Written by a Gnostic sect known as the Cainites, "Judas" is a bizarre tract that attempts to portray the Betrayer as one of the "good guys" and Christ as a Gnostic master longing to leave his physical body behind in order to ascend to the realm of pure light and spirit (the Cainites derived their name from their attempt to rehabilitate Cain, the murderer of his brother Able, and other unsavory Old Testament characters). The work was rightly rejected by the Church because it is so evidently contrary to the teaching of Scripture.
One of the things that the resurrection of Jesus Christ teaches us is the importance of the physical realm. When Jesus rose from the dead he wasn't merely a cipher, a ghost without material substance. He was flesh and bone, able to be touched and felt. Likewise he was able to eat and enjoy the created realm as any physical human being would (Luke 24:36-43). Not
only that, He ascended into heaven and resides there yet today with a physical body (Acts 1:9-11). Even before His resurrection, Jesus affirmed the value of human existence in the material world by His own birth and life. Because Jesus met with all phases of human life, we know that life in the womb, infancy, childhood, young adulthood, and the adult years all have meaning, value and purpose in Him.
Truly all of creation is designed as an illustration of God's character - especially the human life and experience in Christ (Ps. 19:1-6, Rom. 1:19-23). Don't be fooled into thinking otherwise by a slick repackaging of an ancient heresy. Instead, continue to work at bringing all of life and creation under the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord and King.