Ritenbaugh meant exclusivist in that Gnostics claimed the way to salvation was delivered exclusively and uniquely to them, that they alone possessed the higher knowledge which would aid them in their paths to attaining heaven.
|Ralphie, upon learning the secret knowledge |
is just a crummy commercial
"Philosophy is empty deceit. It doesn't give you what you expect. The word "deceit" is interesting in the Bible. One of the words that's used in II Peter 2 is "guile" or "deceit". The original meaning of the word is fish hook. And the interesting thing about a fish hook is that it is not what a fish expects. What you see is not what you get in that circumstance. And he's saying that philosophy is the same thing. It's a baited hook. You think it's going to be wonderful ‑‑ it turns out to be deceiving." (source, sermon, Philosophy or Christ?)
|Plato (left) and Aristotle (right): |
detail from The School of Athens
by Raffaello Sanzio, 1509
Secret knowledge is the main component to Gnosticism, but asceticism is also a part of it. Paul referred to the element of Gnostic asceticism in Colossians 2:21-23.
Man tries to attain higher wisdom and a deeper spirituality by doing certain works. Man also tries to attain higher wisdom by refraining from doing certain other things. In other words, abstinence. The works and the refraining of works are all listed out according to man's philosophies, and are therefore not holy nor profitable to the body of believers nor do they glorify the holy name of Jesus, as Paul indicated in verse 23.
Gnostics believed matter was bad, therefore the body was evil and only the spirit was good. They believed in a strict separation of the two. That is why they deny Christ in the flesh, saying that He would never deign to incarnate into a fleshly body. In Gnostic asceticism we see both ends of the spectrum in their treatment of the body. Some Gnostics proposed that severe treatment of the body through rigorous denial of certain things was the way to deal with evil of the flesh. Others said that since flesh was evil but they had already attained the higher knowledge of the spirit, and since the two were separate, they could do anything they wanted in the body. They were libertines.
Wiki also states of Gnosticism: "Evidence in the source texts indicates Gnostic moral behaviour as being generally ascetic in basis, expressed most fluently in their sexual and dietary practice."
This is not to say that abstinence from certain things is bad. This is the evil genius of Gnostic asceticism. Paul warned the single people to abstain from sexual relations and warned the married people to abstain from relations with others not their spouse. (1 Corinthians 7:1-8). Jesus said in Matthew 6:16-18 about fasting, stating "when you fast", not 'if' you fast, indicating that the activity is good and profitable, an activity that is welcomed by the Lord.
However, Gnostic ascetics went beyond scripture with their abstinence, and actually used it as a weapon of holiness that positioned themselves above others.
Colossian Christians were affected by an ascetic form of Gnosticism that included "ordinances" (KJV) or "regulations" (NKJV) that are not found in God's Word but were the commandments and doctrines of men (Colossians 2:20-23), as well as demons, the "basic principles of the world." (Colossians 2:8). [source]
CARM says "Asceticism is a lifestyle that denies worldly pleasures in order to gain spiritual benefit. There are different degrees of asceticism from casual to severe."
Jentezen Franklin is a Gnostic Ascetic. He claims to have secret knowledge about fasting that if you perform, you will receive a spiritual benefit, such as "experience spiritual renewal and direction for your life . . . restoration of relationship . . . healing . . . release from bondages . . . and so much more!"
He is what modern Gnostic Asceticism looks like. Mr Franklin made up the Daniel Fast and wrote about fasting in his book "Fasting: Opening the door to a deeper, more intimate, more powerful relationship with God." He said in his book:
"When I feel myself growing dry spiritually, when I don’t sense that cutting-edge anointing, or when I need a fresh encounter with God, fasting is the secret key that unlocks heaven’s door and slams shut the gates of hell. The discipline of fasting releases the anointing, the favor, and the blessing of God in the life of a Christian." [more here]
Franklin's Daniel Fast lists certain ingredients and foods that one may eat or not eat during the 21 days. It is based on the fast that Daniel asked the Babylonian overseer to allow Daniel to undertake, so that he would not defile his body with meats sacrificed to idols and could remain within God's commandments.
If you read part 1, you know that the word "secret' is often thrown around by Gnostics, who, you'll remember, are the only ones in the know. So, according to Franklin, fasting is a secret key? How is that so, when Jesus talked about fasting in his most famous sermon in the entire bible, (Matthew 6) well-known and available for all to see, and the Holy Spirit to inspire understanding of? Or is the information about fasting from a man-made doctrine is what's the secret, a secret that Mr Franklin will now reveal? It is the latter.
Release is also another buzz word. Because Gnostics claim they have the knowledge unto salvation, thus the path to heavenly power is contained within us, so all it takes it this practice, that discipline, that knowledge to release what is already inside us. A Gnostic will tell you how, if you buy their book...
Manifest is another buzz word. Once the discipline is concluded, the power we release will be made manifest.
However, the truth is we have no power, we are weak. Only God has power. (2 Cor 13:4; 1 Cor 1:25; Eph 3:7). We can do nothing apart from God! (John 15:5)
So of course nothing man can do will unleash the power of heaven, but if you were hooked into the Daniel Fast or another kind of Gnostic, ascetic practice and your "power" was not "released" nor made "manifest," maybe you wondered if you had done it wrong. Maybe you were jealous of all the other, more successful people who claimed to have grown close to God. Maybe you just felt left out, and wondered how or what you could have done to 'ascend' on the higher, holier paths that others seemed to have attained. That's Gnosticism's subtlety in using ascetic practices as a weapon, and that is why it is wrong. For Paul wrote-
"The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him." (Romans 14:3)
Lest you think I took a tiny portion of his man-made ascetic fasting discipline out of context, let's look at some more. On Rick Warren's ministry page, Mr Franklin is speaking of the Daniel Fast again. He discussed reasons for starting this fast. He said that it is good to begin it in January, "after overeating at holiday season, after Christmas, people are looking for more discipline in their life." Franklin says that Jesus said seek the kingdom first, and this means the first of the year. He said starting the fast at "the beginning of January is good, after getting through all the ball games and the parties." But Paul said in Colossians 2:16
"Let no man disturb you about food or about drink or in the distinctions of feasts and beginnings of months and Sabbaths,"
And Paul said as far as indulgence goes, (or holiday over-indulgence) in Colossians 2:23, "These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh." In other words, will an ascetic fast stop you from overindulging at 4th of July? Or a family reunion? Or the Next Christmas? No? So does that mean the power of heaven was not released through your practice nor made manifest in the world? Did God fail? Or did you? How defeating it is to be on that hamster wheel!
Daniel Grabbe wrote, "This third [Gnostic] heresy is easily seen in the antinomianism (literally, "against law") of the Gnostics, who may not have been against every law, but were certainly against any law—any standard of conduct or requirement of righteousness—that impinged upon their standard of conduct. Thus the ascetic Gnostics who grieved the Christians in Colossae held to manmade regulations of "do not touch, do not taste, do not handle" (Colossians 2:20-21), while rejecting the command to "rejoice" with food and drink during the God-ordained festivals."
|Look how big this church is.|
They must have done the Daniel Fast!
In attempting to meld man-made ascetic practices with holiness, Mr Franklin uses numbers to try and cement the success of his Daniel Plan. But Paul said in Colossians 18 and 19 in part:
"Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism ... and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God." In other words, a private, individual, Holy Spirit inspired growth of a person who then increases in fruits for the benefit of the body. Everyone wants to seem holy by doing a fast or completing some such ascetic dicipline, but that does not mean the church is growing disciple by disciple. It likely means the opposite.
Mr Franklin even goes so far as to say if you read his plan of asceticism contained in the Fasting book "I believe [you will] even hear the voice of God speaking through the words to you in a personal way..."
But the writer of Hebrews 1:1-2 said, "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe."
Mr Franklin is really saying that 'In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us through me, in my fasting book.'
Live a crucified life, but not an ascetic one. Brothers and sisters, fast as the Holy Spirit prompts you for the purpose of glorifying God, not as an antidote to holiday overindulgence, church growth or releasing personal power. Develop abstinence in the various things according to the bible's outlines, not according to people who make up lists of approved foods and then claim if you adhere to them you will unlock heaven! Denial of the flesh is good, because in the flesh is sin, (Galatians 5:24; Romans 8:13-14) but not according to man-made philosophies, but only according to the Spirit.
Paul said to the Colossians, "For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding." (Colossians 1:9)
Note: In listing the buzzwords, understand that the words themselves are neutral. It is only using them in context of a Gnostic sermon or ascetic practice that one should have their antenna raised and investigate further, using the bible as your barometer. For example, fasting to commit something to God is good. Fasting to get a blessing or release power is bad.
Ascetic Buzzwords: release, power, seed, spiritual formation, fasting, consciousness, transformation, spiritual therapy
Note: as above.
Ascetic Practices: yoga, contemplative meditation or centering prayer, labyrinth walking, fasting, Lectio Divina
Part 1: Secret Knowledge
Part 2: Asceticism
Part 3: Depreciation of Jesus
Part 4: Ceremonies & Rituals
Part 5: Worship of Angels
Part 6: Human Traditions