Saturday of Trinity 8: The Practitioners of Lawlessness, or Antinomianism

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And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

The subject of lawlessness has come up several times in our devotions, but it’s a subtle topic deserving frequent attention. At least three times lawlessness goes hand in hand with a discussion of false prophecy.

First, it comes up in the passage above.

It comes up again when Jesus speaks of the end times. He says, “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” How is it that lawlessness leads to coldness of love? It’s just as Jesus taught in our Gospel for this week. It leads to thorns.

It leads to thorns because lawlessness is all about the self, and one’s selfish needs. The Law teaches love of God and love of neighbor. It’s the antithesis of selfishness. The lawless prophet projects out the desires of the Self and imbues it with divinity. To engage in such a one is going hurt at some level; it’s a coldness of love.

Third, it comes up with St. Paul. He writes of the “lawless one,” the Antichrist.

“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion…”

St. Paul doesn’t get detailed about what “lawlessness” entails. But we learn it’s a mystery. We learn that it comes along with false signs and miracles, as Jesus also taught us. And finally we learn it comes with unrighteous deception. Then we learn of this “strong delusion” the Lord sends to deceive those who don’t love the truth, (which I wonder might be evolutionism).

So, those who don’t love the truth develop a subtle, mysterious teaching which denies the ten commandments, and this comes with false signs, wonders, and miracles. Gnosticism fits this description perhaps more than any other movement, as it is the mother of all heresies.

Gnostic lawlessness is the denial of the need for law. God’s law only makes sense in a material world of distinctions and beings with substantial properties. Gnosticism is about the denial of matter and substance. How, for instance, can there be a “God among all other gods,” unless there are beings that can be divided up in substantial terms? Gnosticism is all about oneness, lack of division. That’s why there can be no such thing as “God,” because “God” raises the question, “What else other than He? What about not-God?” Their God is just “the all” or “nothingness and everything” and such nonsense (literally).

The same is true with God’s name, His day, the notion of parents and family, bodily existence, marriage, property, verbal truth, and covetousness. Language only arises from a material world – if everything is one, what is there to name? So God’s name is a perversion as well as speaking ill of others. The death of the body is salvation. Property is the definition of perverted, as it is the most blatant example of material stuff being divvied up. Marriage traps us in a reproductive biological shackle and all that entails – motherhood, fatherhood, family. Families delude us into thinking our identity is with other material beings other than our inner selves.

So, all the laws protecting these truths – these truths rooted in a created order and a Creator – but be overthrown. As we’ve contemplated recently, because the created order is seen as evil, the false prophet has a ready foundation upon which to proclaim his lawlessness: “The created order is evil! Look at the wars, the famines, the disease. I will teach you to be freed from this. Abandon the world. Abandon marriage and foods. Abandon your physical life in this world – who cares from whom you were born, or what tribal deities you worshiped; God is above names; don’t get caught up into all those rituals. Abandon your property (to me, I’ll take care of it for you). Why can you trust me? Because God is in me; the ‘Christ’ spirit is in me – and no, don’t get so walled up and rigid in your thinking to lock the ‘Christ’ into that flesh and blood person named Jesus. Jesus was just a body the ‘Christ’ used.”

As if to arise on the scene just at the right time, giving credence to the Gnostic view that the material world has no real meaning, the theory of evolutionism comes along and “proves” the world is plastic, always changing, with no essential being. Given the “truth” of evolution, how can anyone not be a Gnostic? What is man? What could a “Jesus” possibly be – goodness, there’s a homo sapiens sitting at God’s right hand. Can you imagine how weird that will be a hundred million years from now when homo sapiens has evolved to something greater and higher? It would be like us saying a monkey is God! The ascension of Christ has “locked in” Jesus to what He was in 33 AD, that is, unless we take a view of Christ in which His flesh is distinct from who He is, which is what Gnosticism does and what St. John calls the teaching of the Antichrist.

It’s all a lie. It’s all a deception. It’s a denial of the obvious truth, of the world’s creation and redemption, a creation witnessed by everyone, a redemption witnessed by 500 at first, and everyone who is baptized. But it’s a lie that came up just in time (mid-1800s) to substantiate a philosophical worldview of a plastic world unbound by any eternal laws – funny how that happened!

And yet, people will entrust their entire existence over to a theory they spent three days learning in high school and have never really checked out, believing there is no real good and evil, believing everything is just random. Believing everything is lawlessness.

And then follows the coldness, the bullying, the mass shootings, the divisiveness, the hatred, the physical violence. What did these people expect?

When Jesus returns, He promises to remove everything that “causes sin,” that is, that causes us to stumble in our faith or sin. How wonderful. Among those He will remove are those who have become the practitioners of lawlessness. May they come to know the truth before it’s too late, when He declares that He, in turn, never knew them.

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