False Followers

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

  • Matthew 7:15-23

Then the Lord said to me, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds. Therefore this is what the Lord says about the prophets who are prophesying in my name: I did not send them, yet they are saying, ‘No sword or famine will touch this land.’ Those same prophets will perish by sword and famine. And the people they are prophesying to will be thrown out into the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and sword. There will be no one to bury them, their wives, their sons and their daughters. I will pour out on them the calamity they deserve.

  • Jeremiah 14:14-16

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

  • Deuteronomy 6:5

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

  • Matthew 22:37

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:23

My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you. When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness.

  • Isaiah 26:9

““Tertullian was, with *Irenaeus, the major opponent of Gnosticism. He wrote a number of treatises against it, the best-known being his Prescription of Heretics. He used the same arguments as Irenaeus but, characteristically, took them further. This is seen, for example, in his denial that the heretic has any right even to use the church’s Scriptures. But this argument did not prevent him from himself becoming sharply critical of the Catholic Church in his later years. Tertullian’s longest work was his five books Against Marcion. Marcion was the greatest of the second-century heretics. He had his own distinctive blend of Gnosticism and Pauline Christianity.
“ ‘As they are heretics they cannot be true Christians.  Thus, not being Christians, they have no right to the Christian Scriptures. We can fairly ask them: “Who are you? When and whence did you come? As you are none of mine, what are you doing with my property? Indeed, Marcion, what right have you to hew my wood? By whose permission, Valentinus, are you diverting the streams of my fountain? By what power, Apelles, are you removing my landmarks? This is my property l am the heir of the apostles.” ‘(Tertullian,
Prescription of Heretics 37)”

  • Tony Lane, A Concise History of Christian Thought

Tertullian (155?-220?) has been called the father of Latin Theology and the founder of Western Theology.  He was born Quintas Septimus Florens Tertullianus in Carthage, northern Africa.  This is the second of three writings regarding the writings of Tertullian.

Since Tertullian called out three leaders of Gnosticism, let’s see what David K. Stabnow, General Editor, of churchfails had to say about these three:

Marcion of Sinope
This knucklehead rejected the Old Testament and most of the New Testament, keeping only what supported his beliefs. …
“Though Marcionism, per se, died out in the fifth century, many current churches and some denominations are ‘practical Marcionites,’ picking and choosing portions of the Bible they accept. Many churches hardly ever preach from the OT, and some even imply that the love of Jesus saves us from the vengeful God of the OT. In fact, it is not that way at all: we can learn much about the patience, grace, and mercy of God in the OT. Augustine said, ‘The new is in the old contained; the old is by the new explained.’ The OT and NT are not antithetical; they are complementary parts that make up a coherent whole.
“Jesus is the Messiah, the fulfillment of the gracious promises of the gracious God of the OT to Abraham, Moses, and David, among others. The Bible is the account of the loss and restoration of mankind’s relationship with God, starting with Adam and Eve getting kicked out of the Garden of Eden in Genesis and ending with the church, the Bride of Christ, reigning in the new heavens and new earth in Revelation. Furthermore, every major turning point in the Bible has been accompanied by miraculous signs. The Jews play an undeniable key role in this narrative, from near the beginning all the way to the end. No book, no miracle, and no nation in the Bible should be left out of our message; the whole plan of God should be preached (Acts 20:27).”

  • David K. Stabnow, churchfails (Author of this section David K. Stabnow)

“Apelles taught there were four gods (one good, three bad) in the Bible and that Christ had super flesh. …
“Marcion is by far the most famous heretic of the early church, but the account of his famous disciple Apelles reminds Christians that errant views of God are often handed down and recycled from one generation to the next… The church should always be vigilant against false teachings in every generation and against the way that one false teacher’s influence spawns others.
“At the same time, Apelles’s views of the Old Testament and Christ teach us the importance of connecting the person and work of Christ back to the Hebrew Scriptures. In many ways the Old Testament prepares Christians to confess that Christ is a fully human Servant (Isa 42:1) and yet also ‘God with us’ (Isa 7:14). Moreover, our Lord taught that only by reading and understanding the Law and the Prophets could we appreciate His work, because Moses wrote of Him (John 5:46-47; cf. Luke 14:27). Christ is not some super human or the revealer of a new god that was previously unknown. He is true God from true God, who offers salvation to all who believe in Him.”

  • David K. Stabnow, churchfails (Author of this section Stephen O. Presley)

”Valentinus divided humanity into three varieties with distinct capacities and ultimate destinies. …
Valentinus’s views on anthropology remind the church of the importance of a comprehensive view of salvation that includes the body and soul of anyone who believes in the gospel. While Christians may debate the doctrine of election, we have always confessed that the work of salvation is not fully realized until the return of Christ, when He will raise the faithful to new life. Anyone who confesses Christ and believes the gospel is justified before God and enjoys the blessings and promises of God in the present life. But believers are also waiting for Christ to return again to destroy sin and death ultimately and finally (Rev 19-20).

  • David K. Stabnow, churchfails (Author of this section Stephen O. Presley)

In what Tertullian is saying, he is saying that these false prophets have no right to claim the Scripture at all, even if they believe a sentence here or there.  And why did Tertullian fight against these Gnostics with this tactic?  If Tertullian’s argument had been accepted, we would not see these three Gnostics listed in a book on “Church Failures” for they would have been considered something outside the church entirely.  But now, we must answer the questions that were completely and satisfactorily refuted 1500 years ago.  The old heresies keep returning, simply packaged a bit differently.

Okay, that was a lot, but before we get serious, did you notice where Marcion was from? Sinope, which a town on the Black Sea in present day Turkey (spelled Sinop these days, both the province and the town).  Sinope is where Diogenes is from, the crazy philosopher who lived in an abandoned washtub and ate with the dogs.  I am not saying that the town produces people with crazy ideas.  All towns do that, but this town produced people with crazy ideas that others listened to.

While Diogenes said some very profound things, along with his crazy lifestyle of denying even the basic needs of life, like decent clothing and shelter, Marcion introduced the concept that we all have a license to pick and choose what we want to believe in the Bible.

Yes, we can all pick and choose, but in doing so, we create our own false god, one with which we are most comfortable.  Have we strayed enough away from the true God and true Jesus to not believe in Him at all?  That is for God to decide, but as human nature reveals, and in this case Apelles confirms, when we take one step away from the biblical Father God and Jesus, the next generation is rarely self-correcting back to the true God, they go further in the wrong direction and their god is no better than Baal or Molech.

Apelles, according to churchfails, was Marcion’s teacher’s pet.  He basically said that the Jews lied about everything in the Old Testament.  His concept of the four gods is that the one good god was blamed for all the bad stuff that the three bad gods were doing in the Old Testament.  Strange that Apelles contradicts himself when he wrote 38 books on how the Old Testament contradicts itself.  His contradiction?  Calling the Old Testament nothing but fiction, but then creating three bad gods to explain what happened in the Old Testament.  I see his contradiction, and I doubt if it is just me.

Then we come to the distinct capacities and ultimate destinies of Valentinus.  The Scriptures above that talk of heart, soul, and mind – or is it heart, soul, and strength? Or spirit, soul, and body?  Valentinus felt that we were elected by God to have only one distinct capacity.  The Psychics, the true Gnostics in his opinion, were the saved ones for they were the only ones who had a soul.  Now the Pneumatics, who were the church elite, highly religious, might have a chance at salvation for they were the only ones with the capacity to be spiritual.  There was no help though for the Hylics; they only had the capacity to be matter.

Valentinus believed that God the Father created the heavens and the earth, but Valentinus lowered God the Father to be less than some other god that no one has ever heard of, except from Valentinus.

Pastors and theologians will argue whether spirit and soul are two different things.  The Isaiah Scripture could be redundant, speaking poetically, or talking about two different things.  But the Scriptures that talk of heart, soul, and body (or mind, or strength), are referring to each of us who are made in the image of God.  We refer, in some evangelistic circles (4 Spiritual Laws), that Jesus comes into our hearts to reign.  That does not mean our blood pumping muscle.  Mark Lowry calls it the center of our emotions, but we can see it as our center of our consciousness.  And the soul is that part of us that will never die.  Did we always exist?  God says to Jeremiah that He knew Jeremiah before he was born.  But whether our soul has always existed, but only becoming conscious upon birth, or the soul comes into existence at birth, the soul will never die.  The body, mind, strength will die.

Marcion’s teaching date around 144AD, Apelles around 150AD, and Valentinus around 165AD.  From picking and choosing what we feel comfortable in believing to creating bad gods that do mischief and blame the good god for it to taking the soul, spirit, and body of each of us and reducing it to only one that matters – no chance of redemption, no chance of faith having anything to do with it.  And all within about 15 years.  Apostasy and Heresy feed upon themselves and begin to take over.

I titled this False Followers in that Marcion may have been the false prophet, but Apelles and Valentinus followed his lead and had followers of their own.  And while Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that we should be aware of false prophets, in practically the same breath He speaks that not all who say “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven.

I have heard people say that they “hated” the God of the Old Testament, and this said by church goers that never missed a Sunday.  While many people who regularly attend church and are genuinely “nice” people, they fall prey to many of the small, seemingly insignificant things that the Gnostics produced.

Jesus told us to beware of false prophets, and some false prophets simply grab what someone else said in the past and put a fresh bow on it and change a couple of key words, and then they lead the masses astray.

If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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