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Monday, March 06, 2006

UPDATE FOR FEBRUARY 2006

Thanks for praying for Stuart. He returned from Iraq, and is home with his family in Georgia.


Did you ever meet a Gnostic? We actually met a real live one. A Gnostic, simply defined, is a who believes he knows some secretly revealed truth that no one else knows, and he is ready to reveal it to others for a price. (The actual payoff need not be monetary, but can be in prestige, in power over others, etc.) The Italian Gnostic is not satisfied merely to believe his heretical doctrines, but took it as his “divine mission” to try to infiltrate one of the churches in south Italy.

This particular Gnostic is a follower of the self-styled Austrian prophet, Jakob Lorber (1800-1864), whose “revelations” consist in a bad rewriting of the New Testament. His New Revelation is contained in 14,000 pages in 35 volumes. Claiming that God called him to be His “secretary,” Lorber framed his revelations in first person, as if Jesus Himself were dictating them. In a 5,000-page volume called the Great Gospel of John, he fills in the gaps in the Gospels with material and arguments he invents as he goes along. Where he does not agree with the Bible, he attempts to refute it. Like the Gnostic Marcion (c. 140), Lorber mutilated Luke and Acts, and rewrites the other Gospels to suit his taste. There is a flavor of negative higher criticism in some of his attacks on the Creation events. He not so subtly brings in negative criticism of the canon and text of the Bible!

For us, this is a “God thing,” because the Italian Gnostic sent Harold 36 pages of spirited promotion of Lorber's materials (in fine print!). Wouldn't you know it? The Lord had us studying 1 John with two families in Matelica, when these materials arrived. But Harold did not want to waste time dealing in depth with just another version of Satan’s wares. But the “coincidental” timing was startling; it was as if the Lord were saying, “Wake up, Harold! You’re teaching 1 John, one of the New Testament’s most powerful books against Gnosticism, and you can’t take time to take a first-hand look at a real live Gnostic?” Wow! From that point on, his prayer was: “Sorry, Lord, I’ll get right on it!”

Should it be amazing how helpful 1 John and Colossians are for confronting modern Gnostics and strengthening the Church? How very helpful our past studies proved to be! We learned to trust our Bible and recognize the Lord’s voice. Several, upon hearing some of the Gnostic material, commented, “I can hear the voice of Satan in these words.” Someone else agreed, “How better could Satan dupe the unwary, than by faking the voice and words of Jesus?” For one who walks with Jesus for years, the contrast is evident.

 

UPDATE FOR JANUARY 2006

For the Fowlers, 2005 shines as a good year for moving among the churches with our publications and making new acquaintances among the brethren. In fact, we attended eight conventions in Italy and visited in homes from Velletri to Lecce, from Calabria to Florence, from Prato and Aprilia to Terracina.


Why all this convention-going?
We are building credibility among the brethren. We long to meet our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we want them to know us. Over the years, in fact, unfounded rumors have been spread in Italy about the beliefs and practices of churches of Christ and Christian churches. Such stories have prejudiced the minds of many against us too. Some of the rumors were simply misinformation about the difference between churches of Christ and the Disciples of Christ. To “protect their flocks,” some leaders categorized us as belonging to this latter denomination with all of its problems. We were “damned by association”, when, in reality, we had no association with either their doctrines or practices. Accordingly, they put us and our coworkers in a class that actually maligned us. Some of us have been classed as “charismatics” too. Our point in attending conventions is to help, as many of these dear people as possible, to drop the prejudice and get on with the business of evangelizing Italy together. We long for them to know that we are not “the enemy” they feared.

How are we going about healing the rift?
Books say what we really think about spiritual questions. There may be only limited time for conversations at the conventions, but books continue to speak even later and longer.

So, we request permission to set up a display of our books and booklets at the conventions. Enid not only prints and binds the books, but she is also in charge of the book display. (We make no profit; we request only the replacement cost of the material.)

Our host at one convention commented: “