By Bill Randles
(Author of the new release, War Against the Saints)
I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. (1 John 2:21)
The church is undergoing perhaps her final assault from within, as she has been beset with a new wave of Gnostics who have entered in.
What is Gnosticism? One definition of Gnosticism states:
Gnosticism was built on Greek philosophy that taught matter was evil and the Spirit was good. . . . So-called “Christian Gnostics” said since matter was evil, God could not really incarnate in a human body; He only appeared in human form and only appeared to suffer, but basically, it was an illusion. . . .
Prior to Christianity, the Gnostics taught that man is composed of body, soul, and spirit. The body and the soul are man’s earthly existence and were considered evil. Enclosed in man’s soul is the spirit, a divine substance of man. This “spirit” was asleep and ignorant and needed to be awakened. It could only be liberated by a special knowledge that would be later called “illumination.”1
The apostle Paul saw that Gnostic influences were coming into the church, and he addressed them in his epistles (Colossians 2:8-23, 1 Timothy 1:4, 2 Timothy 2:16-19, and Titus 1:10-16).
Gnostics (“knowing ones”) redefined the knowledge of God (i.e., what it means to know and communicate with God). They were elitists who sought “deeper knowledge” than that which is revealed in God’s Word. Gnostics despised doctrine, dismissing it as mere head knowledge.
They held forth a view of “salvation” which was, in fact, merely a self-realization rather than the rescue from sin and judgment through the blood of Jesus (which the Bible says is the only means of atoning for sin).
Gnostics believed that self-realization wasn’t for every Christian but only available to elite Christians who are let in on the secret knowledge (the so-called “secrets of the kingdom” available only to the initiated). The same attacks are presently being launched as dogma also. The “dry, dusty doctrines of another day” are being jettisoned by the “new” Gnostics of today who eagerly covet “new revelation” or “present truth.”
Gnostics influenced me early in my walk with Jesus. I was given a pack of Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagin teachings and entered into the “deep revelations” of the Word Faith heresy. I learned such “revelations” as the following: the believer is just as much an incarnation as Jesus was, faith is a force, and we all can learn to use the laws of faith to get what we need. (If this were true, we wouldn’t need God; we would simply learn the laws of faith and control it like the force. )
The deepest, darkest core of the Gnostic teaching was that we believers are in “God’s class of being.” In other words, “we are little gods” who just don’t realize it yet.
According to the modern Gnostics, Jesus Himself was a man of faith upon whom the Holy Spirit came. He knew all of the laws of faith, which was why He could die on the Cross. Anyone could do so if he or she had the same “revelation knowledge” as Jesus.
Kenneth Copeland, the Word Faith preacher, is certainly one of today’s Gnostics. Here is a sampling of some of his teachings:
Every prophet that walked the face of the earth under the Abrahamic covenant could have paid the price if it were a physical death only. When He said “It is finished” on that cross, He was not speaking of the plan of redemption. The plan of redemption had just begun; there were still three days and three nights to be gone through.2
The Spirit of God spoke to me and He said, “Son, realize this. Now follow me in this and don’t let your tradition trip you up.” He said, “Think this way—a twice-born man whipped Satan in his own domain.” And I threw my Bible down . . . like that. I said, “What?” He said, “A born-again man defeated Satan, the firstborn of many brethren defeated him.” He said, “You are the very image, the very copy of that one.” I said, “Goodness, gracious sakes alive!” And I began to see what had gone on in there, and I said, “Well now you don’t mean, you couldn’t dare mean, that I could have done the same thing?” He said, “Oh yeah, if you’d had the knowledge of the Word of God that He did, you could have done the same thing, ’cause you’re a reborn man too.”3
What blasphemy! A whole generation of Christians has been swept away and corrupted on the deepest level by accepting this man’s unbiblical teachings.
John Wimber was a Quaker who came into the charismatic movement. He eventually taught a famous course at Fuller Seminary, MC510 “Signs, Wonders, and Church Growth,” which launched a “signs and wonders” movement that spread Gnostic teachings throughout the Earth. Eventually, this movement became the Vineyard Fellowship.
Of interest is that Wimber taught that a “paradigm shift” in thinking was necessary to bring the church into “power evangelism.” In my book, Weighed and Found Wanting, I explain:
Wimber, Kraft, White and Williams, as well as many other Third Wave teachers, have been calling for a “paradigm shift” for some time now . . . A paradigm shift is a total exchange of your world view! . . . What is the shift? It is from a primarily Western, rational, logical, objective point of view to an Eastern, subjective, experiential paradigm. Haven’t we been subtly taught over the years that the Western mind set is cold, calculated, rational, based on just the observable facts? On the other hand, allegedly, the Eastern is mystical, from the heart, and based on experience?
Wimber teaches, “We must remember always that the Bible was written in the Middle East, not with rational assumption, that we bring to it as we try to understand it, but with an experiential assumption.”4 I interpret him to be saying that the Bible is not so much an objective book, but a subjective one. Not so much for understanding God mentally, but for experiencing Him intimately.
In another tape, Wimber explains: “You tell someone from the Far or Middle East that cotton only grows in warm semi-arid climates. England is cold and wet. [Ask them] Does cotton grow in England? The answer you’ll get is, ‘I don’t know, I haven’t been to England.’” Or, “I can’t say unless I’ve been there, (experience).”5 This is the new paradigm, a down playing of doctrine or “head knowledge” in favour of mystical experience. Another variation of this is, “God is bigger than His written word,” translated, God wants to bring you into experiences that aren’t in the limits of scripture. Just knowing God “doctrinally” is not sufficient, you now must have self-authenticating experiences. All of these attitudes are the end result of the New Paradigm. This is the shift from primarily objective to subjective thinking in our approach to truth.6
Perhaps the premier proponent of Gnosticism in the evangelical and charismatic church these days is Bill Johnson, the senior pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California. Johnson’s church is the current version of the Toronto Airport Vineyard and Brownsville Assembly of God pilgrimage sites where people influenced by Gnosticism come to “experience” God.
Through Bethel and most notably through their worship team (a popular rock band called “Jesus Culture”), Bethel reaches hundreds of thousands with its Gnostic message of anti-doctrinal, experience-based, New Age-emulating “power” evangelism.
I believe Bethel literally represents the final stages of the apostasy, the slide into the occult which I wrote about in the revised version of my book, Beware the New Prophets.
Here is an example of this redefinition of Christianity and the knowledge of God in occult terms promoted by Gnostics such as those associated with Bethel. An article in The Christian Post titled “Bethel Responds to Christian Tarot Cards Controversy” reported that Bethel “was accused of working with a Melbourne, Australia-based group known as Christalignment, which claims to have worked with many churches in that country to do such readings.”7 According to the article, Bethel denied using “Christian tarot cards.” The article stated:
Bethel admitted the leaders of Christalignment, Ken and Jenny Hodge, are connected with several of their church members as the Hodges are the parents to church evangelist Ben Fitzgerald, and said the church leaders “have a value for what they are seeking to accomplish.”
“They (Christalignment) stand in agreement with the Scriptures that all occult practices (like tarot cards) have no place in the Kingdom and should not be used,” Bethel said in a statement.
Christ Alignment staff describe themselves as “trained spiritual consultants,” and say on their website that they “draw from the same divine energy of the Christ spirit.”8
Christ Alignment staff further stated that,
We practice a form of supernatural healing that flows from the universal presence of the Christ. We draw from the same divine energy of the Christ spirit, as ancient followers did and operate only out of the third heaven realm to gain insight and revelation.9
Satan has seduced large segments of the professing church into Gnosticism and the occult. Like King Saul in the last desperate hours of his life, some have gone into darkness seeking power and a “word” of comfort, having already rejected the true Word of God.
- Mike Oppenheimer, “What is Gnosticism?” (Let Us Reason Ministries, http://www.letusreason.org/Current48.htm).
- Kenneth Copeland, “What Satan Saw on the Day of Pentecost,” audiotape #BCC-19, side 1.
- Kenneth Copeland, “Substitution and Identification,” 1989, tape #00-0202, side 2.
- F.V. Scott, “John Wimber and the Vineyard Ministries” (Passport magazine), p. 19.
- John Wimber, “Ministering in England” Audio Tape (Media Spotlight Report); John Goodwin, “Testing the Fruit of the Vineyard” (Media Spotlight Report, 1990).
- Bill Randles, Weighed and Found Wanting: Putting the Toronto Blessing in Context (St. Matthews Publishing, 1995), p. 81.
- Anugrah Kumar, “Bethel Church Responds to ‘Christian Tarot Cards’ Controversy” (Christian Post, January 6, 2018; https://www.christianpost.com/news/bethel-church-responds-christian-tarot-cards-controversy-212796.
(photo from istockphoto.com; used with permission)