This is a page that focuses on religious and theological issues, as well as providing comprehensive teaching from a classic Catholic perspective. As you read the articles, it is my hope they will educate and bless you.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Today's New Face On An Old Heresy - Neo-Marcionism

Over the past couple of years I have had this blogsite going, I have addressed a number of heresies and other apostate developments I have seen happening in today's Christian arena, and the more I research them the more I am convinced that heresy is nothing new, despite the fact how "new" its perpetrators say it is.  Many of today's issues are based on ancient heresies the early Church contended with, and as a result there is truly nothing new under the sun when it comes to this stuff.   In particular, a number of today's abhorrent teachings can be traced back to one ancient heresy in particular, and that is Marcionism.  In the following, I will attempt to define the basic tenets of Marcionism, as well as showing how so many things being bandied about today can be concluded as being sort of Neo-Marcionist.  Let us therefore begin.

Marcionism - Background and Major Tenets of The Heresy

The origin of this heresy goes back to a 2nd-century figure by the name of Marcion of Synope, who developed his system of belief sometime around the year AD 144.  Although not technically a Gnostic himself, Marcion was heavily influenced by them in some of his radically-dualistic views, and the only difference between him and the Gnostics was that Marcion contended he got his "knowledge" out of Scripture itself, while the Gnostics believed in some "secret revelations."  There are three basic tenets of Marcion's doctrines that I want to note here based on some research I conducted, and they are as follows:

1.  Anti-Jewish - Marcion maintained that Christianity and Judaism were completely distinct from each other, and he rejected the Old Testament as Scripture

2.  Dueling Deities - In Marcion's scheme of things, the God of the Jewish Old Testament was an evil demiurge who basically bungled earth's creation, and the Jesus of the Bible had nothing to do with him but rather was sent by something called the "Monad" to redeem mankind.  In other words, God was a dualistic being similar to the theologies of such Indo-Iranian religions as Zoroastrianism and early Vedic Hinduism, where their deities were viewed often as both Creator and Destroyer. 

3.  Limited Scriptural Canons - Marcion basically not only rejected the entire Old Testament, but more or less redefined the Pauline Epistles to suit his doctrines and edited the Gospels to make them fit his views.  

As you can see, Marcion's basic system of theology radically departed from orthodox Christianity in several areas.  While Marcion did maintain faith in Christ as both deity and Savior of Mankind, in essence he also renounced the doctrine of the Trinity due to the fact he made God the Father almost like a devil (the proper term for this line of thinking is demiurge).  And, while not advocating Gnosticism, Marcion nonetheless borrowed heavily from their dualistic theology to shape his own.   The Church officially excommunicated and condemned his teachings in the 2nd century, but as you will see, some things did creep into the Church anyway which more or less had roots in Marcionist doctrine.

Modern Incursions Of Marcionism Into Today's Christianity - Neo-Marcionism

Although the Christian Church did officially renounce Marcion and his teachings as heretical, it is quite paradoxical to see that his influence came into the the Church, and some of his ideas have shaped the views of Christians today, which to me is disturbing.  I want to now address a few of those here:

1.  Revocationism/Replacement Theology

Anti-Semitism has raised its ugly head over the centuries among the ranks of the Church in various forms, and in large part it is due to this doctrine, namely that the Church is the "New Zion" and thus replaces natural Israel in God's covenant plan.   The glaring problem with this is that it ignores a lot of Church teaching that basically affirms that 1) the Jews will eventually embrace Jesus as their Messiah, and 2) the coming Apostasy of the Gentiles, in which many of these redeemed Jews will be grafted back into the Church and will lead it in the end times.   I have dealt with that subject in great detail already in previous articles, and if you are interested you can refer to those as it will explain in detail about the end-times Jewish Remnant Church that will exist.  Also, people who come up with this "Replacement Theology" stuff are essentially part of an eschatological view called preterism, which basically says that all the Biblical prophecies in Revelation were fulfilled in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem.  If that were true, then an important question need be asked - why, then, were so many Saints and visionaries of the early Church teaching the salvation and restoration of natural Israel long after AD 70????  Also, the modern state of Israel is proof that the Bible is true and that the preterists are wrong.  The final thought on this, and it also totally negates Marcion as well, is that the early Church not only embraced the Old Testament as canonical Scripture, but for its first several decades the OT was all the Church had, being the canon we call the New Testament was not even in writing yet.  That being said, it is also important to note that 99% of the early Church was Jewish!  Jesus was born Jewish, the first Apostles were all Jewish, and many of the early converts to the Church were Jewish as well - the Church and the Hebrew people are intrinsically intertwined with each other, and there is no separation.  In the end times, this will become more pronounced as God does begin to restore more and more Jews to the covenant through the Church, and the Church will begin to look back to its Jewish roots, thus revealing preterists to be the fools they are. 

2. Gospel of Inclusionism/Universalism

For some weird reason, the heresy of universalism is getting a lot of converts among proportedly Evangelical and Pentecostal ranks, as evidenced by people like Carlton Pearson, Rob Bell, and Don Earl Paulk, among others.  This too goes back to Marcion's dualistic view of the Godhead, because Marcion did teach that Jesus was all good, while the God of the Old Testament was an evil demiurge who screwed up creation so Jesus could fix and restore it.   Universalism is the next logical step to that thinking and here is why.   In Marcion's view, the "God" of the Old Testament was defeated by Jesus, who more or less became the God of the New Testament and therefore replacing the "wrath" of the original creation with the love and mercy of a new God.  As a result, Marcion maintained basically that humanity could escape the wrath of the "Old Testament demiurge" because Christ restored the earth, and the easy conclusion one would jump to who embraces this would be then that all humanity is saved.  This is becoming an increasing fad now today even among "conservative" circles, and it is unfortunately contrary to Scripture.   Jesus says in John 14:6 that He, and only He, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and only through His atonement, which we have the free will to accept or reject, can we receive eternal salvation.  Marcion errs, as do modern proponents of this "Inclusionism" stuff, by ignoring the fact that God created us with free will, and although He offers the gift, it must be accepted on our part too.  And, that is why universalism in all its forms is a heresy.

3.  The "Emerging Church" Movement

Although many would hesitate today to call the proponents of the Emerging Church heretics, unfortunately they fall into that category by the very things many of their proponents advocate.  The Emerging Church can also be rightly called Neo-Marcionist as well because it shares a similar goal with Marcion - separating the Church from its roots.   Marcion sought to separate Christianity from its Jewish roots because he was a rabid anti-semite, while many in the Emerging Church movement have as their premise the "deconstruction" of Christianity as we know it because it is too "tradition-bound" and needs to be more culturally-relevent.  By rejecting Christianity's past, the Emerging Church crowd also denies its witness, and thus the result is now that fundamental doctrines such as the primacy of the Cross, the reality of sin and the need for redemption, the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, and the hope of the Second Coming are basically discarded because many proponents of the Emerging Church consider them too "negative" or "offensive."   Some of these Emerging Church proponents have even courted universalism (Brian McLaren is one such person) and have adopted outright New Age/occultic language (Eugene Peterson's The Message translation of the Lord's Prayer for instance, which replaces the words "On earth as it is in heaven" with the Wiccan/New Age verbiage "as above, so below," as one example).  This deconstruction of Christianity is nothing new, as James Rutz, one of the first advocates of this stuff, advocated it in his 1993 book The Open Church long before the Emerging Church phenomenon came into vogue. 

All of the above attest to the fact that although heresy may be rejected by the Church officially, tenets of it tend to sneak in from the most subtle of sources.   The Apostles in Holy Scripture did warn though that in the last days there would be much deception, and a great "falling away," and I believe we are seeing it now.  Satan, though, is not original - he just has taken something from his arsenal he used years ago, tweeked it a little, and it is recycled as a new face on an old heresy today.  And so it is with Marcionism - we today have Neo-Marcionism in many forms and in many sectors, and they overlap often.   I guess, as the old adage goes, there truly is "nothing new under the sun."

We must be vigilant to defend against this stuff, for it can be very subtle and deceptive to those not in tune with the Holy Spirit and read up in the Holy Word to see it.  Too many Christians are running around today ignorant of even basic doctrine, and as a result, they truly are being carried about by every wind of doctrine that blows through the average Christian church.  Sadly, there are too many false teachers making a lot of ill-begotten loot off that ignorance, and it speaks volumes of our own spiritual laziness in regard to being more disciplined and diligent in our Christianity.   Let these articles that I have written, as well as many other courageous heralds of truth out there, be a wake-up call to you - study to show yourselves approved (II Timothy 2:15), hide the Word of God in your heart (Psalm 119:11), and keep your armor on (Ephesians 6), as there are forces at work in these times that will destroy your faith if you are not properly educated as to what it is and properly equipped to discern false teachings.   God bless you until next time.