Sunday March 15, 2015 | Greg Boyd
2 I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I am saying this so that no one may deceive you with plausible arguments. 5 For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, and I rejoice to see your morale and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
In this fifth installment of Mixed Signals, we explore the Gnostics belief of the church in Colossae and how those relate to the New Spirituality movements rooted in Eastern thought of our day. We explore the biblical perspectives on pantheism, interacting with spirits and reincarnation and ultimately see how finding enlightenment in anything or anyone other than Jesus is deceptive and misses out on the loving character of God.
This week we continue on the journey through our Mixed Signals series, exploring how the Gnostic beliefs Paul is confronting in Colossae still rear their head in our present day culture.
In Colossians 2:2-5 Paul is writing to address Gnostic beliefs. The essence of what Paul is addressing in these beliefs is based on the desire to have a supernatural experience with God and would often include an obsession with angels and other spirits. Gnostics would also include Jesus with these angels, but would not emphasize any singularity to the revelation revealed in Jesus. In the midst of this cultural landscape, Paul emphasizes over and over in Colossians (none more profoundly than Colossians 1:15-20) the particularity of Jesus over and against any other competing philosophies or deities the Gnostic philosophers would espouse.
The present day equivalent of Gnosticism can be seen in the new spirituality movements rooted in eastern philosophy and spiritualism. The influx of these beliefs is rooted in transcendentalism and grew dramatically in its following in the 1960’s and 1970’s (a time when the West turned East for spiritual and philosophical influences).
Greg then went on to describe some his attempts at enlightenment during this time period marked by drug-induced attempts at reaching a higher state of consciousness. One specific example is given from Christmas in 1973 when, in a drug-induced state, Greg stood up in the midst of a group of people and proudly proclaimed “I am the Christmas tree”. When the sun rose on the day following his overwhelming experience of “enlightenment” there was a deceptive nature of euphoria and he noticed something profoundly evil about the experience. The dissatisfaction of this experience became a catalyst to pursuing Christianity and Jesus.
Given the importance of engaging in dialogue rooted in love it is essential that one makes a distinction between the Practices that are often associated with Eastern thought (which are not necessarily evil or wrong; i.e. acupuncture, yoga, oils, etc.) and ones reasoning behind WHY these Practices work. Christians have a history of throwing out the beneficial baby with the theory/reasoning bathwater. It is also essential that we not turn our specific calling from God into a universal denouncement or approval.
That being said there are three primary areas of concern related to Eastern thought.
Finally, in broaching conversations with others following these ideas, it is essential to follow the example of Paul in Acts 17 who found the positives in the beliefs of others (spiritual hunger, existence of the spiritual world, etc.) and used it as a jumping off point to introduce others to the beauty and singularity of Jesus in love (1 Corinthians 16:14). Ultimately, we need to remember that we are loved with an everlasting love from God and we are NOT God and we are NOT the Christmas tree.