Gnosticism held that there was a sharp divide between the spiritual and material, and that the spiritual was pure and ethereal while the material was corrupt and gross. If, however, the material world was all that bad, how was it possible that anybody down here in the middle of it, like Gnostics for instance, had any accurate idea of what was going on? The Gnostic answer was that a certain privileged few had a divine spark within them, a secret gnosis, or knowledge, that clued them in.
Now one of the reasons why so much of the Christian world today is spiritually moribund is that we have quit fighting the contemporary Enlightenment forms of Gnosticism. The pure spiritual realm is made up of the abstract propositions in our statements of faith, and we know these are true because of that gnosis in our hearts, which we now like to call a personal relationship with Jesus.
In saying this, it is important to immediately explain what I do not mean. I do not intend any form of unbelief in the creedal propositions rightly understood. Rather, I am objecting to unbelief in the propositions, one that is accomplished by a very subtle sleight of mind. Jesus said that the Jewish leaders searched the Scriptures—because they thought they would find life. But those Scriptures, Jesus said, bore witness to Him. Propositional truth, whether found in the book of Romans or in the Westminster Confession of Faith, must be understood as a window through which we look. Every true statement, rightly handled, is a window through which a man may see. But every true statement also can become a mural, at which a very “conservative” man can blindly stare. And if anyone points out that the objects in the mural are alive, he brings that person up on charges.
And, of course, there is such a thing as a true relationship with Jesus Christ—He is the Bridegroom, and we are covenantally His bride. God will be our God, and we will be His people. But this relationship is far more glorious than a Gnostic spark hidden away in the recesses of a man’s heart.
The Christians of the second century knew by faith that all these things had happened just yesterday. Our task is to believe in the same way—because Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.