Some are wondering why I wish to introduce my audience to a basic, yet accurate, understanding of what such phrases as “Stoic determinism,” “Gnosticism,” and “Manichaeism” mean. The answer is simple. One must understand these concepts to be able to evaluate the thesis, being promoted by Ken Wilson and the Provisionalists, that Reformed theology is nothing but the ancient heresies of Gnosticism and Manichaeism transported, via Augustine, into the faith–a faith that had, for hundreds of years before him, taught universally the exact same thing as—21st century Provisionalists, specifically, that God does not elect anyone to salvation, but “provides” the opportunity for all, and that all, without the intervention of supernatural grace, possess the ability in and of themselves to accept or reject the offering.
Here is a sentence from Wilson’s Oxford dissertation (a work that has been touted by Leighton Flowers and the Provisionalists as the cutting edge of historical and theological scholarship), p. 35:
Manichaeism taught free will was totally lost after humanity’s fall.
Now, when a modern day Christian reads these words, what are they to think? Does “free will” mean the same thing in the Manichaean context as 21st century Christianity, or even 16th century Christianity (the Reformation)? What does “totally lost” mean? Does this not mean that in Manichaeism mankind possessed free will “before” “humanity’s fall”? And what does “humanity’s fall” mean in a Manichaean context? Is it the same concept as in modern Reformed teaching?
Once you realize that Manichaeism is a fully dualistic religion, with two ultimate powers, light and darkness, existing eternally, and that there was no intention, on either part, to “create” humanity in the first place, you start to realize how vastly different Manichaeism is. And once you understand the mythology of Mani, that mankind is an accident, created by sexually excited demons as part of their warfare against the light to keep the light particles they had managed to capture in an earlier battle with one of the emanations from the true light, you start realizing how utterly absurd it is to compare the Manichaean myth with the Christian teaching of Jesus, who taught that one God created all things, including man, and that man was made good and upright. Once you see the vast chasm that exists between the fundamental concepts of these faiths you realize that to even pretend to compare them in this fashion is at its very best horribly misleading.
While it is common for scholars of religion to compare anything and everything in such a fashion (which is where you get all the “Jesus was just a myth cobbled together from Egyptian and Greek and Roman mythology” videos on YouTube), due to their presuppositional starting point of rejecting the idea that there is, in fact, any divine revelation or truth to begin with, it is something else for a professor in an ostensibly “evangelical” seminary to utilize the same kind of misleading and horribly inaccurate expression. Let me quote from a recognized source concerning the creation of mankind and the “fall” in Manichaeism. Be warned, this stuff is vile.
First we have to deal with the “Seduction of the Archons.” We are sort of in the middle of the story here, and I intend to try to summarize all of it eventually, but the kingdom of darkness, which is fully equal to, and as eternal as, the kingdom of light (neither created the other, there is no self-existent God in this religion, and hence, obviously, no correlative to God’s decree), attacked the kingdom of light. Everything that the primary entity of the kingdom of light does is in response to this aggression. So the primary entity of the kingdom of light “emanates” various beings, one of which is called Primaeval Man, who allows himself to be captured by the powers of darkness. Part of his substance is stolen (light), but he is eventually rescued. The entirety of the story is about how to get back that light which was captured by the darkness.
Both Gnosticism and Manichaeism have a lot of sexual content to them. The “Third Messenger” sailed past the demonic dark powers. Somehow he showed himself androgynously. So, to the male Archons he appeared as the naked virgin of light, and to the female Archons as a naked shining young man. So this portion of the “godhead” is hermaphroditic.
Now again, be warned. Here we go. The male Archons are so struck by the female form they have orgasms and spill their semen upon the earth. The female archons, who are already pregnant, are so excited by the male representation that they have abortions, and these abortions fall to the earth. When the sperm falls to the earth, plants sprout, and hence vegetation was said to contain much light in Manichaean mythology. The abortions devoured tree-buds and thereby assimilated the light that those already contained. Right, Joseph Smith’s wildest dreams were never this wild.
So the kingdom of darkness strikes back, and here is how:
To retain that portion of light which still remained to it, matter in the person of “Concupiscence” (Iranian, Az) evolved a plot: a major part of light was to be concentrated in the creation of an individual as a counterweight to the heavenly creation. A male demon, Asqalun, and a female one, Namrael, were chosen to put the plan into effect. To assimilate those particles of light which had fallen upon earth and were present in the Archons’ abortions, Asqalun engulfed all those monsters which were male whilst Namrael was correspondingly served with the female ones. Then Asqalun had intercourse with her and begot Adam, then Eve, the first two human beings. Thus mankind, as has been properly stressed, originated from a revolting mixture of cannibalistic and sexual performances. His body, as the purely animal manifestation of the Archons, and his lust, the libido driving him in accordance with matter’s plot to procreation and parturition, these are man’s heritage from his demonic provenance. But the world of light neither could nor was willing to leave man at the mercy of the world of evil. In Adam was gathered the greatest portion of the remaining imprisoned light and that was why he became the first subject of effort at redemption on the part of the world of light. (Geo Widengren, Mani and Manichaeism, 1965, p. 59).
OK, again, sorry to have to delve into these things: blame Ken Wilson, who is seriously telling us that Calvinists are actually Manichaeans and that there is some real, serious, historical connection between this demonic insanity and the teaching that God created all things according to His good purpose and will. But let’s think about Wilson’s claim in light of this Manichaean mythology. Remember the sentence I quoted from his dissertation above:
“Manichaeism taught free will was totally lost after humanity’s fall.”
In light of what Manichaeism actually teaches, can you see now why I have at times been at a loss to even express how utterly absurd his thesis is? See, he uses Christian terminology when he says “free will was totally lost after humanity’s fall.” He is trying to connect this to Augustine and through Augustine to Calvin and hence to all Calvinists today. But when you know what Manichaeism actually taught, you realize that to even use that terminology is desperately deceptive. We are talking about the offspring of two demons, Asqalun and Namrael. The assumption inherent in the language of his sentence is of the creation narrative in the Bible. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There is no creator God in Manichaeism. There is no creation, really. Adam and Eve are the result of sexual debauchery and even cannibalism of creatures of darkness seeking to maintain the particles of light they have captured from Primaeval Man. What on earth does this insanity have to do with the concept of “free will” being “totally lost”? Nothing, obviously. Adam and Eve have no free will because they are the offspring of demons of darkness in a plot to keep light in captivity! What on earth could this possibly have to do with the Christian narrative of the creation of Adam and Eve by the one Creator God, Yahweh, man’s fall from a state of innocence to one of rebellion, spiritual death, federal headship, and everything else that cannot possibly have any corollary in Manichaeism? What is more, there really was no “fall” to begin with. Adam and Eve came into existence as creatures of darkness from the start. The only way you could predicate a “fall” is that the light they encapsulated had been stolen from the defeat of the Primaeval Man by the forces of darkness!
But here is the point. The theological conclusions Wilson promotes assumes that the language he uses can move from Stoicism to Gnosticism to Manichaeism to Augustine to Calvin to the modern day in a willy-nilly fashion. It can’t. I do not have any idea why this obvious abuse of language made it through the dissertation process. I truly do not. But it is being used to promote real confusion, and simple error, today. And that is why we are taking it apart, piece by piece, and hopefully doing some edifying in the process by giving folks a good foundation in church history. And one thing is for sure: this kind of language will NOT survive cross-examination in debate, where consistency, or the lack thereof, is the key.