Where the world comes to study the Bible

Threat to Christianity

One of the earliest and most potent threats to early Christianity came from the heretical group known as the Gnostics. Blending elements of Christianity, Greek philosophy, and oriental mysticism, the Gnostics denied the orthodox view of God, man, and the world, and Christ. The apostle John included them in the camp of the Antichrist.

The Gnostics were so called because of their view of revelation. The word gnosis is the Greek word for “knowledge.” In many cases the Gnostic heretics did not make a frontal assault against the apostles or against the apostolic teaching of Scripture. In fact, many of them insisted that they were genuine, Bible-believing Christians. It wasn’t that they rejected the Bible; they just claimed an additional source of knowledge or insight that was superior to or at least beyond the knowledge of Scripture. The “Gnostikoi” were “those in the know.” Their knowledge was not derived from intellectual comprehension of the Scripture or by empirical research, but was mystical, direct, and immediate. God “revealed” private, intuitive insights to them that carried nothing less than divine authority.

Here is a typical Gnostic statement:

We cannot communicate with God mentally, for He is a Spirit. But we can reach Him with our Spirit, and it is through our Spirit that we come to know God . . . This is one reason God put teachers (those who are really called to teach) in the church—to renew our minds. Many times those who teach do so with only a natural knowledge that they have gained from the Bible and other sources. But I am referring here to one of the ministry gifts. Those who are called and anointed by the Spirit to teach.

God has given us His Word, and we can feed upon that Word. This will renew our minds. But He also puts teachers in the church to renew our minds and to bring us the revelation of the knowledge of God’s Word. (Kenneth E. Hagin, Man on Three Dimensions (Tulsa, Okla. Faith Library, 1985), 1:8,13.)

Notice that this quotation does not include a direct assault on the Bible. The Bible is recognized as God’s word. But in order to understand the Bible we need something beyond our natural mental ability. We need the Spirit-anointed teachers to “bring us the revelation of the knowledge of God’s Word.”

This is a typically Gnostic statement, but the quote is not from Valentinus or any of the other early Gnostics. It is from the pen of a modern missionary of Gnosticism, Kenneth E. Hagin. It is from Hagin’s Man on Three Dimensions. Hagin’s theology echoes the tripartite epistemology of early Gnosticism (man as having three separate entities: body, soul, and spirit).

Robert Tilton also claims a direct pipeline to divine revelation:

God showed me a vision that almost took my breath away. I was sucked into the Spirit…, caught away … and I found myself standing in the very presence of Almighty God. It just echoed into my being. And he said these words to me … exactly these words … “Many of my ministers pray for my people, but I want you to pray the Prayer of Agreement with them” … I have never seen the presence of God so powerful. This same anointing flooded my Spirit-man … It’s inside of me now, and I have supernatural faith to agree with you. From that day forth, as I have been faithful to that heavenly vision, I’ve seem every kind of miracle imaginable happen when I pray the Prayer of Agreement with God’s people. (Robert Tilton, newsletter from Robert Tilton Ministries, Word of Faith World Outreach Center, Box 819000, Dallas, TX 75381)

It seems that in Robert Tilton the church is blessed with a twentieth-century apostle whose visions of revelation exceed that of the apostle John and whose miracle powers surpass that of the apostle Paul. If we are to believe Tilton’s astonishing claims, there is no reason we should not include his writings in the next edition of the New Testament.

Paul Crouch of the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), has revelatory dreams and has warmly embraced the neo-Gnostic dogma. His network has become a prime distribution center for the growing movement. Kenneth Copeland also receives phrases from God in “his spirit.”

The Agony of Deceit by Michael Horton, Editor, 1990, Moody Press, pp. 38-40.