Book Review: Primitive Christianity In Crisis

Primitive Christianity In Crisis:  The ‘Mystery of Lawlessness’ Prophecies, Gnostic Christianity In Our Time, by Alan Knight

I wish this book had been written before 1995, but once I obtained a copy as a student at the Ambassador Bible Center in 2004 (from its second edition), I had a greater understanding of the pedigree of the antinomian heresy that I had faced as a teenager growing up in ‘Primitive Christianity,’ as Alan Knight refers to that branch of Christianity that seeks to follow the apostolic church and avoid the heresies of later nominal Christianity.  And if one is a part of that religious ‘tradition,’ this book is an important one to read.

The book is organized in three parts.  The first part looks at the historical background of gnosticism, examining Hellenism, the history of Gnostic Christianity, the Eighth Day Hellenistic Sabbath (which one can read about in writings by Gary North, in his commentary on Genesis, with the gnostic anti-Sabbatarian arguments nearly unchanged from the first and second century origins of the heresy), the origins of Gnostic Christianity, the hostility of the Bible to Gnostic Christianity, and Thyatira and the “Deep Things of Satan.”

After this comes the real meat of the book, examining Gnosticism for our time, looking at the ‘Mystery of Lawlessness’ today in Protestant theology, including such “core” doctrines as eternal security (once saved always saved) and predestination, followed by some harsh conclusions about reformation theology, including the Gnostic roots of such theology coming from Augustine.  The book then concludes with some tips on how to identify apostasy (so much easier in hindsight), how to find spiritual balance and avoid extremism (a necessary reminder), some final conclusions, along with five excellent appendices on hellenistic apostasy in NT prophecy, the symbolism of Balaam, the full story behind Colossians 2, Hebrews 4 and the Sabbath, and a short introduction to the great Indo-European pagan reformation, followed by a helpful bibliography and glossary.

To put it bluntly, if one is a Protestant, one is not going to like this book.  Augustine’s “solutions” to the problem of Roman Catholic legalism end up being ripped straight from gnosticism.  Calvin’s much vaunted “TULIP” theology ends up being gnostic extremist heretical positions that exaggerate genuine biblical truth into apostasy.  Luther’s belief in eternal security ends up being recycled gnostic licentiousness directly condemned in scripture (particularly Jude and James).  If you are even sympathetic to such beliefs, the connection between Protestant Theology and classic Gnosticism ought to be disconcerting.  But don’t say you weren’t warned.

Primitive Christianity In Crisis is a wonderful book, not only because of its scholarly, authoritative tone, its amazing research, and its elegant craft, but also because the book is very timely.  Primitive Christianity is facing the same crisis now that was faced in the first century, with the same kind of heresies and the same kind of appeals to compromise biblical faith with Hellenistic heresies.  Hopefully the book finds enough readers willing to connect the dots between our present issues with heresy and the first century, both to realize there never has been a “golden age” of Christianity and to realize as well just how old our “new” heresies really are.  This is a message that needs to be known.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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