Friday, May 24, 2013

The Presbyterian News Service: news as heretical propaganda

If we find in some other book or books a being who is called Jesus but when he speaks it is not the voice of the good shepherd of the New Testament Gospels should we follow or flee?
The Presbyterian News Service placed an article on their site entitled, “The greatest story ever (re) told:  Fresh Approaches to e-Vangelism In the Digital Age.” Part of the story, which was written by Presbyterian Elder Jim Nedelka, concerns Sunday school curriculum, “A place for everyone placemat curriculum,” written by Patty Chapman. But the bigger issue is that part of the story is about past GA Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow and his membership in a group that has published and is promoting A New, New Testament.

A New, New Testament, contains not only the books of the New Testament but also Gnostic works that purport to be on the same level as the New Testament Canon. Those are:

The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Mary (Magdalene,) The Gospel of Truth (which leads the new volume), The Thunder: Perfect Mind, The Odes of Solomon I, II, III and IV, The Prayer of Thanksgiving, The Prayer of the Apostle Paul, The Acts of Paul and Thecla, The Letter of Peter to Philip and The Secret Revelation of John.
And as the news report puts it:

Until the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul and the rest were codified as the New Testament’s canon some 300 years after His resurrection, people heard the story of Jesus told through additional eyes and voices. These Gnostic Gospels are attributed to, among others, Mary Magdalene, Thomas (he of “Doubting Thomas” fame) and even Judas.
Contrary to what is written above by Nedelka, The early church did not hear the gospel through any of the gnostic works. Only Thomas is close in time to the writing of the texts in the New Testament and then even that has gnostic material incorporated.

Most of the texts were written in the second or third century. For instance the “Letter of Peter to Philip” was written in the second century and the “Gospel of Mary” was written in the third century. The voice of the Jesus who speaks in these non-canonical works is not the true Shepherd’s voice. (See R.J. Bauckham in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels IVP.)

E.M. Yamauchi in the IVP Dictionary of New Testament Background gives a general idea of the worldview of Gnosticism, which although it was diverse did hold some similar concepts. Yamauchi writes:

Fundamental to clearly gnostic systems was dualism that opposed the transcendent God and an ignorant demiurge (often a caricature of the OT Jehovah). To some systems the creation of the world resulted from the presumption of Sophia (Wisdom). The material creation, including the body was regarded as evil.  
Yamauchi goes on to explain how supposedly a redeemer was sent to impart secret knowledge as a means of redemption. There was no reason to believe in a resurrection since bodies and the material world were evil. Such ideas have nothing to do with apostolic teaching—they belong in the lair of a wolf. The sad thing is that the PNS put up the article as though it was about factual news, but much of it is propaganda for the book and its heretical message. In fact the author of the news article writes:

The authors hope the 10 Gnostic works, along with the current canon, will pique the reader’s curiosity enough to come to Christ’s table …”
As it is written in the Gospel of John, Jesus, the Lord of the Church, said:

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd to the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers (John 10: 1-5)
I would suggest that those, disseminating, gnostic gospels as the word of God, to Christ’s Church, are certainly not shepherds of the flock. Perhaps hired hands?

 On the other hand, Jesus says that the hired hand runs away when he sees the wolf coming. But these, the ones who have put together the New, New Testament, and those who put it on the Presbyterian News as though it was a good thing and healthy for the Church have embraced and lifted up the wolf and encouraged the sheep to follow it. If the Church is blooded and torn by the wolf they do not care—it is new—so why not embrace the newness?
Jesus Christ has promised to protect his Church—to give his gifts of pastors and teachers who care and will proclaim his true word. Christ calls to those who are willing to suffer under the cross for the true gospel. Christ calls to those who love him, not the world and vain teaching.

 Jesus, Lord, have mercy on your Church.


Dan McMillan said...

Viola - Thank you for responding to this in your face promotion of "another gospel" and "another Jesus". In the last days, Jesus warned us, many will come in His name. Jesus told us "do not follow them." Thank you for your clear warning to those who must not follow anyone other than the true Christ. Dan McMillan

Dave Moody said...

There really isn't anything new under the sun, is there? Thanks Vi.

will spotts said...

Viola - Thanks for underlining one of the chief problems with this: the late date of composition. While debated, all of them fall in the late range.

I believe Elaine Pagels - who can hardly be called anti-Gnostic - maintained that their claim to authorship was a claim to be written "in the spirit of" or "in the voice of" the named author. Gnostics valuing creativity regarded this as true in a sense. Not a strictly historical claim as much as a spiritual claim. Only today do people take these as literal claims.

The second, more important problem you allude to: you can't have it both ways. The biblical accounts describe on Jesus. The Gnostic texts describe another, contradictory one. The biblical accounts describe one salvation. The Gnostic texts describe another, contradictory one. The biblical accounts describe one God. The Gnostics describe a different contradictory one. Virtually everything in the biblical accounts is turned on its head in the Gnostic understanding - and not in a good way.

Then there is the elitism. Gnosticism is the purview of the few - it is the secret of the initiate. This in itself makes the philosophy repulsive - but elitism is common enough.

ghallead said...

Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light-- pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness? Amos 5:20...

PresbyterianG-Man said...

Viola – Thank you for again writing a piece in a manner that helps us understand how and where there is a lack of Presbyterian theological orthodoxy on the fundamental tenets of our Christian faith. Without this orthodoxy, our denomination is doomed to decline until there is a re-awakening and our Presbyterian leaders hear Jesus' words "I am the way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by Me." (John14:6)

Until then there will be leaders like those who were described by Jesus in Luke 6:39, "Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the pit?"

Viola Larson said...

Dan, Dave, Ghallead and G-Man, thank you for commenting. It will decline, but we can still pray and speak the truth.

Viola Larson said...

Will, I am so sorry your comment got caught in my spam. You have contributed a great deal to my posting.