Milpitas Christian Church


One of Christianity’s oldest and most dangerous enemies, this heresy keeps showing up in different forms.


  • Pretends to be the “real” Christianity. It is so dangerous because the original Gnostics did read the Scriptures and knew them well, and then they lied and twisted them to mean the opposite of God’s message. Just like Satan always does.

  • Name comes from Greek gnosis “knowledge”

  • Gnostics teach that salvation is gained through special knowledge about God, through direct participation with the divine. Thus there is no one source of Gnostic knowledge, nothing authoritative, but each Gnostic teacher claims to be the one with the truth even when they contradict each other.

  • Focus is on concepts like illusion and enlightenment rather than sin and repentance

  • Teaches that the physical world is an evil illusion and spiritual, immaterial things are the ultimate good reality

    • Salvation involves being freed from the illusion of the physical world
  • Draws from early Eastern and Mediterranean paganism, as well as Greek philosophy, like that of Plato

  • Developed into Gnosticism in the early 2nd century, although early Jewish Gnosticism was active by A.D. 90

  • No one authority, so there is lots of variation among different Gnostic groups

  • For a long time, our main sources for Gnosticism were the writings against it by the early Christians. But in 1945, a collection of ancient papyri were discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, that contained many Gnostic texts, including some that pretended to be written by various apostles and disciples: The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Phillip, The Sophia of Jesus Christ

Early Gnostic teachers

Simon Magus – sometimes regarded as the first Gnostic teacher, claiming he had a special knowledge that made him greater than others (Acts 8:9-24)

Acts 8:9

9 But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great.

Simon is impressed when Peter and John perform a healing by the Holy Spirit, and he soon professes belief in Christ and is baptized. However, he clearly does not understand what salvation is all about. He asks the apostles to sell him the magic to heal as they do, wanting to pay money for the Holy Spirit. Peter sharply rebukes him and tells him that he needs to repent of his sin. Simon’s response is to ask Peter to pray for mercy on him, but he doesn’t actually repent. We don’t know if he ever did.

Some mentions of Simon the Magus by the early Church Fathers:

  • Justin Martyr (d. A.D. 165) said that the people of Samaria considered Simon himself to be a special incarnation of the highest god

  • Irenaeus (d. 180), considered Simon to be a founder of Gnosticism and an enemy of the Church

  • Epiphanius (d. 403) recorded some Gnostic legends

  • Valentinus (d. ~160) – an Egyptian who moved to Rome and associated himself with Christians, only to be excommunicated when he started teaching Gnosticism, whereafter he moved to Cyprus.

    • Claimed his ideas were taught to him by one of the Apostle Paul’s own disciples, but this has no basis in reality

    • Corrupted Christian teachings with a strange mix of Eastern mysticism and Platonic philosophy

    • His version of Gnosticism became the most complex and widely-spread


  • In the beginning, was a Primal Being called theMonad (“The One”) or Bythus. Sometimes this is who they call God. Sometimes he is called Father, but other times is counted as female or hermaphroditic.

    • They describe God not in positive terms as Christians do (omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal, holy, good, etc.) but in negative terms like invisible and incomprehensible

    • God lives in the pleroma, a region of spiritual light far superior to our world. The physical world is a world of darkness.

  • Over long ages, God’s divine light, or consciousness, filters down from him. This is called emanation.

    • Another metaphor is that God is like a rock dropped in water, and the ripples become the rest of creation. The ripples closest to the original rock are more divine, becoming spiritual gods and angels. The farthest ripples become the physical world and evil beings.
  • The first emanations, or thoughts, of God are spiritual beings called æons.

    • These became the embodiments and creators of the world and of various concepts. There are traditionally 30 of them.

    • Examples:

      • Ennœa, Idea;
      • Charis, Grace;
      • Sige, Silence;
      • Nous, Intelligence;
      • Aletheia, Truth;
      • Logos, Word;
      • Zoe, Life;
      • Anthropos, Man;
      • Ecclesia, Church;
      • Bythius, Deep;
      • Mixis, Mingling;
      • Ageratos, Undecaying;
      • Henosis, Union;
      • Autophyes, Self-existent;
      • Hedone, Pleasure;
      • Acinetos, Immoveable;
      • Syncrasis, Blending;
      • Monogenes, Only-Begotten;
      • Macaria, Happiness;
      • Paracletus, Advocate;
      • Pistis, Faith;
      • Patricos, Ancestral;
      • Elpis, Hope;
      • Agape, Love;
      • Ainos, Praise;
      • Synesis, Understanding;
      • Macariotes, Felicity;
      • Sophia, Wisdom.
  • Some versions have the first æon be Ennœa, who descended into lower regions of existence and created angels. These angels rebelled against her and imprisoned her in a female body, in which she is abused, shamed, and reincarnated as various women throughout history.

    • God is supposed to descend into the world to rescue his Ennœa from the wicked angels. Some claimed Simon Magus was this version of God.

    • Another idea is that Jesus was indeed God who came down to set things right, but he was a pure spirit and only appeared like a human, and he never suffered and died. These Gnostics also don’t believe that the Christians have kept a true account of Jesus’ teachings. They will call him Savior but not Lord.

    • In this account, the old prophets received their teachings from the angels so that Gnostics who know God don’t have to listen to the prophets anymore

  • All the æons gradually wished to know their creator, the Monad, or Father. Still, he is by definition unknowable and invisible…except to Nous (Intelligence), who communes directly with the Father. But the Father wouldn’t let Nous just tell the other æons about him because he wanted them to learn by themselves.

  • Unfortunately, the æon Sophia (Wisdom) went mad trying to learn about the Father by herself. In her weakness and sin she gave birth to an evil, ignorant being called the Demiurge.

    • The Demiurge creates physical reality, the lowest and worst level of existence. He also makes humans by stealing bits of Sophia’s divine essence and imprisoning them in physical matter.

    • He makes these things but does not understand or love what he has made.

    • He imagines himself as the supreme God.

    • The Gnostics call the Demiurge by many names, including Satan and Yahweh.

    • That’s right, they equate the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with Satan.

  • Humans are the highest beings of the lowest world, composed of both the physical and the psychic.

  • All matter is ultimately composed of fear, grief, and confusion.

So who do the Gnostics say God, and specifically Jesus Christ, is?

  • With the 30 æons now in harmony with the Monad (Father), they wanted to save the divine elements of humanity from the evil matter of the Demiurge. They all contributed to producing two saviors, æons called Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

    • So the Saviors’ goal was to free the higher, spiritual parts of humanity from the lower, physical parts.

    • Hence, the Gnostics say Jesus’s body was an illusion, that He did not suffer and die. (this heresy is called docetism)

    • From Irenaeus,Against Heresies:

      [The Gnostics say that the æons all contributed to make] a being of most perfect beauty, the very star of the Pleroma, and the perfect fruit [of it], namely Jesus. Him they also speak of under the name of Saviour, and Christ, and patronymically, Logos, and Everything, because He was formed from the contributions of all. And then we are told that, by way of honour, angels of the same nature as Himself were simultaneously produced, to act as His body-guard.

  • Some groups of Gnostics reject this, claiming that Jesus was just a human who attained enlightenment but was not an emanation of God.

  • All Gnostics reinterpret Jesus’ sayings to mean mysterious things, and add or take away from the Scripture

What is salvation in Gnosticism?


[The Gnostics] further hold that the consummation of all things will take place when all that is spiritual has been formed and perfected by Gnosis (knowledge); and by this they mean spiritual men who have attained to the perfect knowledge of God, and been initiated into these mysteries by Achamoth. And they represent themselves to be these persons. 2. Animal men, again, are instructed in animal things; such men, namely, as are established by their works, and by a mere faith, while they have not perfect knowledge. We of the Church, they say, are these persons. 2736 Wherefore also they maintain that good works are necessary to us, for that otherwise it is impossible we should be saved. But as to themselves, they hold that they shall be entirely and undoubtedly saved, not by means of conduct, but because they are spiritual by nature. 2737 For, just as it is impossible that material substance should partake of salvation (since, indeed, they maintain that it is incapable of receiving it), so again it is impossible that spiritual substance (by which they mean themselves) should ever come under the power of corruption, whatever the sort of actions in which they indulged..

Wherefore also it comes to pass, that the “most perfect” among them addict themselves without fear to all those kinds of forbidden deeds of which the Scriptures assure us that “they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

  • In summary, the Gnostics say that salvation is only guaranteed to Gnostics who obtain perfect knowledge of God, and that they have no need of good works at all. They think Christians might be saved, but only by doing perfect good works, for Christians do not have Gnostic knowledge.

  • This led to the Gnostics being known for living hedonistic lives, because they believed that nothing they did in the flesh mattered at all. In fact, they sometimes said that you_had_to live hedonistically to prove you really believed their teachings. Irenaeus says that Gnostics were known for:

    • Passionately supporting violent gladiator games

    • Engage in wild and perverse sexual activities

    • Seduce married women specifically and try to get them to commit bigamy

    • Seducing Christian women, who later return to the Church when they realize how their Gnostic boyfriends betrayed and abused them

    • Possibly rape

    • Persecuting Christians

    • Acting arrogantly


  • Spirit = good, physical world/body = evil

    • But God made everything good and plans to redeem the physical world in the New Creation
  • So when they infiltrated the Church, they’d say that Jesus was divine but he just took the appearance of a human and temporarily, not the nature and true flesh, because they can’t allow the pure divine to get “corrupted” with the physical

    • But atonement requires Jesus to be truly and fully human as well as divine.

    • 2 John 7 emphasizes this

  • Christianity celebrates the body and the physical world. A holy person is not less physical but far more in tune with their physicality. We oppose sin because it abuses the physicality that God made to be good.

  • When we are resurrected, we will live in our new physical bodies just as Christ does.

    • “Touch and see” and then he eats broiled fish

    • When Christians believe that in heaven we are purely spiritual and not living in our physical bodies, they are becoming Gnostic, a deadly heresy

  • Gnostic truth is ultimately subjective; it’s up to_you_to have a divine experience and claim that you have discovered the truth, and no one is an authority to say you are wrong.

How do Gnostic ideas show up today?

  • Much of the New Age movement borrows from Gnosticism

  • There are some Gnostic churches still active in the Middle East, like in Iran and Iraq

  • The 20th century saw more groups and churches be founded in the West that identify as Gnostic

  • Carl Jung, one of the most influential psychiatrists and philosophers, believed Gnosticism was genuine and truly visionary. He’s had a major influence in many areas of the modern world.

  • The Gnostic Society was founded in 1928 in America and is still active in holding conferences to try to advance Gnostic ideas.

    • Their schedule of upcoming talks and papers to be presented involves a lot of re-interpreting religions, myths, classical literature, and psychology through a Gnostic lens


Our physical bodies are just shells for our spirits or souls

  • A lot of sci-fi literature loves this idea. That’s why there are so many stories about human consciousness leaving the physical body and being “uploaded” like a computer program to another body or computer system.

    • The Matrix, Avatar
  • Even professing Christians have been guilty of this, imagining heaven as immaterial and treating physical concerns as unimportant next to “spiritual” ones

  • Any philosophy that says that you decide your own truth is similar to Gnosticism at root

BUT God teaches us that our physical bodies and our immaterial spirits are linked and cannot be separated while we live, and are each of extreme importance to the other. We must take care of our physical bodies and our spirits. And in the end, we will be resurrected with perfect spirits and perfect bodies.

Satan’s first lie to us was that we would be able to become “like God,” being free from physical limitations and masters of ourselves

Genesis 3:5

5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Since the physical world doesn’t matter, we don’t have to be good stewards of the natural world.

How I conduct my business or political life doesn’t affect my spiritual life

The belief that “normal” knowledge is all a big conspiracy and that mysterious or marginal people always have the secret truth – basically, the philosophy behind modern conspiracy theories borrows a lot from Gnostic ideas of secret truths.

Eternity will be spent in a disembodied, spiritual state.

In Eden, before sin was in the world, God walked with Adam and Eve. They did not have to leave their physical bodies behind to meet with Him.

Jesus’ own resurrected body was physical:

Luke 24:39

39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are different.

John 8:58

58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”