What is Gnosticism?

Samuel M. Frost, Th. M.

“Gnosticism” is a terms that gets thrown around a lot.  In this vein, it usually is  a slur, a pejorative for an view that is so “spiritually minded that it is no earthly good.”  There have usually been two polar sides of perennial issues that involve the physical and the metaphysical; that each of these considerations can be lopsided.  To use Carl Sagan’s famous quote, “The Cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.”  This would be a materialist position, devoid of any sense of spirit, soul, mind, Good, Evil, which are all metaphysical concepts and ideas.  Usually, with these types, since the cosmos is all there is (Naturalism), then pleasure becomes the main normative impetus for carving out a life to be lived.  Taking care of yourself and the planet.  Nature itself is the only real thing to be marveled at and adored.

Then, too, you have the Gnostics.  Gnosis is simply a Greek word that means ‘knowledge’ (kno-gnoledge for the stem).  In the case of the Mystics, the Buddhists, and much of Hindi thought, Mysticism is an attempt to enter the blissful, the nirvanic, the escape from this world of matter, things, and appearances and achieve harmony with Spirit, Good, Ultimate Sense of Purpose, Goddess Power.  Razors and showers usually do not come with these type of folks.

Mircea Eliade’s masterful three volume work, A History of Religious Ideas, notes that a gnostic is, in general, believes that “the only object worth pursuing was the deliverance of that divine particle and its reascent to the celestial spheres” (p.374, volume 2).  There are several (and I mean several) forms of Gnosticism(s) floating around in the second century and their precursors before then.  The body is a prison house to be escaped (coming from Plato).  For most of the Gnostics, though, there are some shared ideas.  First, matter and spirit are forever to be separated.  Creation – that is, this cosmos – will burn out eventually.  “God is not interested in man as such but in the soul, which is of divine origin…” (394).  “The body is demonic by nature” (394).

Basically, the Scriptures present Creation as that which is pronounced good by God who made all things.  Gnostics have no end goal for creation other than it eventually burning out of existence, along with all material things.  Material creation has been so corrupted by flesh that it is “fallen” and “beyond reclaiming.”  It was never, in fact, meant to be the home of man, but a transitory, temporary place for enlightening man for his original Higher Goal: Spiritual Bliss.  Man is not to look at things seen, but is to transcend these things through “knowledge” of the Suprasensable World above – the true, heavenly world of the Divine.  That world is the real world, whereas this world will never come to “know” that world, and never be transformed by it – since that is reserved for the Soul only – the true essence of man.  The idea, as Eliade notes, that the human body would be raised from the dead and enter into the Transcendent World permanently was “madness” to the Greeks.  Yet, that was the very controversy the Early Church Fathers preached from the get go.  Jesus, the man born of a woman, the seed of David, the son of man, ascended into heaven bodily and remains for eternity.  This idea simply could not be fathomed.  It is not that it could not be understood, but that it could not be explained as to why God would redeem that which is so corrupted by Evil.  What would be the purpose of redeeming that which is utterly lost?  What concern would the God of the SupraWorld have for placing the stamp of eternality to matter?  The whole point of matter, fallen as it is, is to contrast that with the spiritual life that comes from above and releases us from this world to that world.  What, then, would be the reason for such redemption of this world?

It was this idea, the idea that Jesus, a man with a “rational soul and body” as the Orthodox defined him, could be redeemed with that same rational soul and body and permanently remain as a heavenly, exalted man, that confounded the world.  Christianity brought together the two things that could not ever meet: matter and soul in the Incarnation (in-carnis – flesh) of the Logos with the “man, Christ Jesus.”  In Jesus God affirmed his creation (matter and body), raised it, glorified it, and made it to ascend to his right hand.  Also, he affirmed the invisible qualities of creation and soul by offering renewal to it as well.  Both were affirmed in the resurrection, glorification and ascension of Jesus, son of man.  This was shocking then, as it is shocking now.  For the materialist, the idea of a long dead, long, wind blown scattered ashes of a few thousand year old corpse being “raised from the dead” is the height of absurdity of all foolish absurdities.  For the spiritualist, it is simply something that has no purpose in happening since the soul is already redeemed, and is the only true essence of who we are.  The idea of God reuniting a body to it – a fallen body – is simply and equally absurd.  Of course, some so called Christians have tried to “middle man” the issue by offering the idea that the soul gets a fresh, brand new, never tainted by sin or death body when they expire (or are freed from this mortal shell).  But, Paul’s words are emphatic: the body that is sown, that very body is the one that is raised.  And, his main proof for his assertion is Jesus and the empty tomb, and the fact that he is ‘in heaven at the right hand of the Father’ as the Church has confessed in unison for 2000 years.  Christianity is most alive when it still shocks the mindset of human thinking.  It when it stops shocking it that I begin to worry.  A Christianity “at home” in the world is not a Christianity that is needed; a Christianity that turns the world upside down is.  And the Incarnated Son of Man in heaven does just that, for in that message is contained the idea that God “will quicken your mortal bodies” in the same manner as Jesus.  Will the son of man find faith, or will he find scoffers?

Author: Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

Samuel M. Frost has gained the recognition of his family, peers, colleagues, church members, and local community as a teacher and leader.  Samuel was raised in the Foursquare Gospel tradition and continued in the rising Charismatic Movement of the early 1980’s.  While serving in local congregations he was admitted to Liberty Christian College in Pensacola, Florida where he lived on campus for four years earning his Bachelor’s of Theology degree.  It was there under the tutelage of Dr. Dow Robinson (Summer Institutes of Linguistics), and Dr. Frank Longino (Dallas Theological Seminary) that he was motivated to pursue a career in Theology.  Dr. Robinson wrote two books on Linguistics, Workbook on Phonological Analysis (SIL, 1970) and Manuel for Bilingual Dictionaries: Textbook (SIL, 1969).  It was under these teachers’ guidance that Frost entered into his Master’s studies, being granted a scholarship for Greek I and II at Pentecostal Theological Seminary, accredited, in Cleveland, Tennessee (adjunct of Lee University).  Frost completed his study under Dr. French Arrington, who used the text of J. Gresham Machen, New Testament Greek for Beginners. Frost studied Hebrew for two years under Dr. Mark Futato (author, Beginning Biblical Hebrew, Eisenbrauns, 2003) and Dr. Bruce K. Waltke (author, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, Eisenbrauns, 1990) at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, Florida. With combined credits from PTS and RTS, Samuel completed his Master of Arts in Christian Studies and Master of Arts in Religion from Whitefield Theological Seminary in Lakeland, Florida under the direct tutelage of Dr. Kenneth G. Talbot, co-author of the well reviewed work, Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism (Whitefield Media, 2005) with Dr. Gary Crampton (and Foreword by the late, Dr. D. James Kennedy).  Dr. Talbot also oversaw Samuel’s Dissertation, From the First Adam to the Second and Last Adam (2012) earning him the Magister Theologiae (Th.M.) degree.  He also helped put together A Student’s Hebrew Primer for WTS and graded exams in Hebrew. Samuel’s studies lead him into an issue in the field of Eschatology where his scholarship and unique approach in Hermeneutics garnered him recognition.  Because of the controversial nature of some of his conclusions, scholars were sharp in their disagreement with him.  Frost’s initial work, Misplaced Hope: The Origins of First and Second Century Eschatology (2002, Second Edition, 2006 Bi-Millennial Publishing), sold over four thousand units.  While arguing for the Reformation understanding of sola Scriptura as defined by the Westminster Confession of Faith, Frost’s book launched a heavily footnoted argument for a total reassessment of the doctrine known as the Second Coming of Christ.  The conclusion was that the events of the war of the Jewish nation against their Roman overlords in 66-70 C.E. formed the New Testament authors’ eschatological outlook, and went no further than their own first century generation; a view otherwise known as “full” or "hyper" Preterism.  Internationally recognized Evangelical author and speaker Steve Wohlberg remarked, ‘On the “preterist” side today…we have such influential leaders as Gary DeMar, Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., David Chilton, R.C. Sproul, Max King, James Stuart Russell, Samuel M. Frost, and John Noe.  To these scholars…the beast is not on the horizon, he’s dead” (Italics, his)” (End Time Delusions, Destiny Image Publishers, 2004, page 133).  It should be noted that only Noe, King and Frost supported the “full” Preterist position. Thomas Ice and co-author of the best selling Left Behind series, Tim LaHaye, quote Frost’s work, Misplaced Hope, as well in their book, The End Times Controversy: The Second Coming under Attack (Harvest House Publishers, 2003, page 40).  Dr. Jay E. Adams, who single handedly launched “a revolution” in Christian Counseling with his work, Competent to Counsel: An Introduction to Nouthetic Counseling, (1970, Zondervan), also wrote an analysis of Frost’s work in Preterism: Orthodox or Unorthodox? (Ministry Monographs for Modern Times, INS Publishing, 2004).  Dr. Charles E. Hill, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, wrote of Misplaced Hope that Frost, “attacks the problem of the early church in a much more thoroughgoing way than I have seen” (When Shall These Things Be? A Reformed Response to Hyper Preterism, Ed. Keith Mathison, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 2003, ‘Eschatology in the Wake of Jerusalem’s Fall’ p. 110-ff.).  There were several other works as well that took the scholarship of Frost seriously, like Ergun Caner in The Return of Christ: A Premillennial Perspective, Eds., Steve W. Lemke and David L. Allen (B&H Publishing, 2011). Because of the controversial nature of Frost’s conclusions on these matters, it was difficult to find a denomination within the Church-at-Large to work in terms of pastoral ministry.  That situation changed when Samuel was called by a Bible study group in Saint Petersburg, Florida to found a congregation.  Christ Covenant Church was established in 2002 operating under the principles outlined by Presbyterian historian James Bannerman’s work, The Church of Christ: A Treatise on the Nature, Powers, Ordinances, Discipline, and Government of the Christian Church (Banner of Truth Trust, 1974, original, 1869).  By-Laws and a Constitution were drawn up in the strictest manner for what was considered an “Independent” establishment of a Presbyterian Church, granted that a “call” was received and recognized by Presiding Elders duly ordained from existing and recognized denominations.  Two Elders, one ordained in the Reformed Presbyterian Church (Mike Delores), and another ordained in the Presbyterian Church of America (Dr. Kelly N. Birks, now deceased) tested and reviewed the call, ordaining Samuel on October 20th, 2002, the Twenty Second Sunday after Trinity.  Proper forms were submitted to Tallahassee, Florida with the stamp of a Notary Public Witness.  Christ Covenant Church (CCC) functioned as a local church for five years with a congregation as large as 30 members.  Frost was gaining recognition after Misplaced Hope had been published in January of that year, and conferences were hosted that included debates with another prominent "full" Preterist educator, Don K. Preston.  CCC hosted best-selling authors, Thomas Ice, and Mark Hitchcock from Dallas Theological Seminary; and Dr. James B. Jordan (Westminster Theological Seminary), well-known author/pastor in Reformed theological circles.  Frost was invited for the next several years to speak at over 25 conferences nation-wide, was featured in articles and an appearance on local news in Tampa for one of CCC’s conferences.  The Evangelical Theological Society also invited Samuel to speak at the Philadelphia conference (Frost is currently a Member of ETS as well as Society of Biblical Literature). During this time Samuel had submitted one more book, Exegetical Essays on the Resurrection of the Dead (TruthVoice, 2008; repr. JaDon Publishing, 2010); and co-wrote, House Divided: A Reformed Response to When Shall These Things Be? (Vision International, 2010).  Frost also wrote several Forewords for up and coming authors who were influenced by his teaching materials, as well as cited many times in books, lectures and academic papers.  However, because of certain aspects of Hermeneutics and Frost’s undaunted commitment to scholarship (with always a strong emphasis on the personal nature of devotional living to Christ), several challenges to the "hyper" Preterist view he espoused finally gave way, largely due to the unwavering commitment to Samuel by the Dean of Whitefield Theological Seminary, Dr. Kenneth G. Talbot, who continually challenged him.  In what shocked the "hyper" Preterist world, Samuel announced after the Summer of 2010 that he was in serious error, and departed the movement as a whole, along with Jason Bradfield, Assistant Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, Lakeland, Florida .  Christ Covenant Church had dissolved after 2007 while Samuel continued as a public speaker and writer, largely due to reasons that would unravel Frost’s commitment to "hyper" Preterism as a whole. The documentation of Frost’s departure was published by American Vision’s Founder, Gary DeMar, with a Foreword by Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry.  Why I Left Full Preterism (AV Publishing, 2012) quickly sold out its first run.  The book was later republished under the arm of Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry and is sold today (GoodBirth Ministries Publishing, 2019).  Dr. Keith Mathison, Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida, endorsed the book as well.  Samuel has gone on to write, Daniel: Unplugged (Kindle/Amazon, 2019); The Parousia of the Son of Man (Lulu Publishing, 2019); God: As Bill Wilson Understood Him, A Theological Analysis of Alcoholics Anonymous (Lulu Publishing, 2017).  He is also active as a certified Chaplain with the Henry County Sheriff’s Department, Indiana, and enrolled with ICAADA (Indiana Counselor’s Association on Alcohol and Drug Abuse) working directly under Dr. Dennis Greene, Founder of Christian Counseling and Addictions Services, Inc.  Frost’s passion is in the education of the local church on various issues and occasionally works Pastor Alan McCraine with the First Presbyterian Church in Lewisville, Indiana where he periodically is called upon to give the sermon.  He also is working with Redemption Life Bible Church with Pastor Tyler Jackson in New Castle, Indiana.  Samuel, with his wife, Kimberly, helped to establish Heaven’s Bread Basket food pantry that donates food items to local families in need once a month – a ministry of the Session of First Presbyterian Church. Samuel has four children, one step-son, ages sixteen to twenty-eight and has worked part time at Ace Hardware in New Castle, Indiana for over five years.  He has a solid reputation in the community, and has performed marriages and funerals.  He also sits on the Board of the Historical Preservation Committee in New Castle.

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