Definition of terminology…This is the theological climate into John the apostle wrote.
Syncretism: To unify (or combine). In a Christian sense, syncretism is the mixing of Christianity with some other religion or religious practice. In the first century, you had a lot of Jews wanting to mix Judaism with Christianity, thereby making it an outgrowth of Judaism. They tried to validate Christianity with the Law which they had had for 1500 years. Also, Gnostics tried doing some of this, mixing in their “secret wisdom” into Christianity (hence, Paul’s use of “mystery” in his writing).
Gnosticism: So hard to define because it is a religion influx and ever changing. But it primary began as a mystery religion with a direct claim on “secret wisdom” or “secret knowledge.” It had pagan roots (esp. in Platonism, teaching of Plato, philosophy) and was influenced by oriental mysticism. Followers thought they had possession of unique higher insight.
Dualism: Along these lines (Gnostics) and even coupled with it, Dualists came up with the idea of two different gods (one good and one evil) which they used to explain the “dual” nature of (well) everything: life and death, body and spirit, light and dark, good and evil, etc. John will work to squash this in his epistle.
Docetism: believed Christ’s body was an illusion because they believed matter was evil. So how could Christ (a divine being) have a body if matter (flesh) is evil? They even went so far so as to distinguish between two gods: good and evil gods. Well, this will mess up salvation…unless you say Jesus didn’t die for us but for our bodies. Of course, if Jesus had no physical body, the virgin birth, the scourging, the suffering, the crucifixion, the seed promise fulfillment, the prophecies of the OT, the shed blood for our sins could never have happened. John will attack this as he confirms the humanity of Jesus.
Antinomianism: anti-lawism, believed God wants man to be dumb and stay dumb. That’s why he took Adam and Eve out of the garden, destroyed Babel, and flooded the earth. But who arises as the hero of the garden is this is true? Satan!
Adoptionism: (AKA Ebionism) They said Jesus did have a physical body and was a good man, but when he was baptized a Spirit came and inhabited his body (Manichaeism?). This Spirit-being came into Jesus and the personality of Jesus was zapped into a comatose state. Hence, Jesus the man is not conscious. He is manipulated by this Spirit for three years until he is hanging on the cross and leaves him (hence, the cry, “My God, my God…”). John proves deity was on the cross.
Asceticism: The belief that if you gratify or please the flesh in any way, it is wrong. The only way to get control of the body is to beat it into submission. See Col 2.8, 20-23. More of the matter is evil but also the appetites and gratification of these appetites is evil.
Monasticism: Monastery life. Go off into the wilderness and live like a hermit (roots).
Epicurean: More philosophy but they were indulgent of the flesh; eat, drink and be merry…
Stoicism: Other philosophers who looked to the see what the Epicurean did and then “bit the bullet.” They were suppressors of the appetites.
Apostolic Epistemology: those who looked to the apostles for doctrine and practice. How do you know what you know? Source of information (epistemology). Where did Jesus get his information? Holy Spirit. What about the apostles? Jesus, later the Holy Spirit. What about us? Apostles. Everything we know comes from the apostolic and prophetic accounts. We know what we know through them. And we get what they got when we read what they wrote. Fellowship with God…