c) 2012' name='copyright'/>Michael DeShane Hinton: June 2015

Friday, June 19, 2015

Christian Dualism Is Not Gnostic

Spiritual formation depends on the perspective of the New Testament, which is dualistic (carnal vs spiritual, et al).  But some worry about Gnosticism when they hear the word dualism.

First, Gnosticism is not a dualistic system.  Though there are many forms of Gnosticism, it is a pantheistic view from the Orient.  To the Gnostic the material world is the corruption of an impersonal and indiscreet god-force through multiple levels of emanations that became increasingly unworthy.

The Christian position is fundamentally dualistic in that there is a clear boundary between 1) the pure and holy God that created all things ex nihilo and 2) the things themselves that he created, seen and unseen.

Scripture is also clear about why the world is corrupt: our sin.  So, another category of dualism appears within the created world: that which is 1) morally innocent/neutral/good vs. 2) what is corrupted by sin.  There are many other dualities in the New Testament but these are sufficiently illustrative for now, speaking directly to the chief error of Gnosticism, i.e. denying that God is holy in himself with no adulteration of evil.

Second, Gnosticism is perpetually and addictively syncretistic while, according to Irenaeus in AGAINST HERESIES, the Christian faith has a line of apostolic succession that protects the integrity of the message.

Being syncretistic, Gnostics work into their system any and all religions and philosophies.  When, therefore, a Gnostic writer sounds like a dualist one might be tempted to think that dualism caused Gnosticism.  But that is both a causal and factual error, Harnack notwithstanding.

In conclusion, we should not shy away from the dualistic perspective of the New Testament leading to spiritual growth because of a false claim of heresy against it.

“Solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:14 ESV)

“The one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:8 ESV)

“If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13 ESV)

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63 ESV)