Archive for August 2011

White’s Gnostic anthropology

August 30, 2011

I’d like to share just one thought that came to be lately when I was reading Irenaeus’ Against Heresies and James White’s writings to the followers of Harold Camping. I noticed a striking similarity in the way Irenaeus presents Gnostic anthropology and the way White deals with his audience.

As a Calvinist, White believes some people are elected and regenerated by God and will thus persevere in grace until the end and be saved. Those who are not part of God’s elect have no chance of salvation. But there is a third group: those that are part of the elect but aren’t regenerate yet.

White has different things to say to each group. The true Christians simply need to repent and return to a Bible-believing church (after realizing Camping’s error). The wicked non-elect will never convert and are not worthy of too much of White’s attention. But the sincere unregenerate seekers White will spend much time with, hoping to be instrumental in God’s plan of saving them.

Irenaeus’ opponents shared a somewhat similar view. According to them, some were by nature spiritual and could never lose their salvation. Others were carnal and had no chance of salvation. A third and final group was animal or psychic and could be saved by faith and good works.

The Gnostics’ main concern were the psychics, i.e., the regular believers in the Church. They believed they were called to be instrumental in bringing this lower class to salvation. Irenaeus was decidedly opposed to this anthropology and defended the free will of man, though not forgetting about God’s grace.

Irenaeus’ God saves not by force but by persuasion. For him all men are created in the image of God and are thus responsible for their choices. If man could not really choose freely, punishment and reward would be pointless. And yet Paul teaches we will all be judged by our works (Rom 2).

In conclusion, the Calvinistic anthropology follows the Gnostic one in classifying people into three different groups, of which only one is really targeted in evangelization. The problem of course is that no individual could ever really know which group someone else belongs to.

The Gospel was given to the Church to preach to all people without distinction. All creatures, all nations, let everyone come and drink the waters of eternal life.