It is written:
“Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)
These words were written by the Apostle Paul to the church of God at Corinth. However, the actual saying “evil company corrupts good habits” is from an ancient dramatist named Meander. Paul (and the Corinthians) were very familiar with the words of the famous actor, and they understood the truth of this statement. While recognizing the truth from this pagan writer, they often didn’t apply it.
Such is true with the Gnostics who infiltrated the church. While they taught some elements of truth, the poison they introduced deceived some of the early Christians (who failed to apply these words of Meander, even while recognizing and appreciating the truthfulness of his statement).
Very simply, the Gnostics introduced the idea of individual predestination into the church. Twisting some Scripture, they attempted to lead away the unlearned into the very doctrines that would one day become the foundation of John Calvin’s horrible system of religious instruction (i.e., Calvinism).
How did all of this happen?
Before the time of Christ, there was a group of Egyptian monks known as the Essenes (not to be confused with the Jewish Essenes who wrote the depository known as the Dead Sea Scrolls). These Egyptian Essenes taught a specialized form of predestination (among other things). One of their disciples was a man named Simon (whom we know as Simon the Sorcerer from Acts 8:1-13 especially).
Simon became the leader of the Gnostic movement in the church as he attempted to join the Egyptian Essence practices with Christianity. While the Bible teaches the notion of predestination, it is markedly different from the Essenes doctrine embraced by Simon Magus and some of the early Christians (which they referred to as “fate”) and which was later adopted by John Calvin.
Ken Johnson has written:
“Calvinism teaches the Valentinian Gnostic idea that when the Scripture mentions predestination it is referring to individuals, not groups. This idea that no one can change his “destiny” would mean some people are born saved while others are born damned. The ancient fathers called this concept of predestination “fate.” In Calvinism this is referred to as Irresistible Grace, Unconditional Election, and Limited Atonement. The idea is that God chooses some to be saved, then compels them to be saved, while the others are destined for hell. Each type has no choice in the matter. In order not to confuse Christians, the ancient church fathers referred to the Gnostic form of predestination as fate. To make sure there was no doubt as to the difference, there are numerous quotes from the fathers stating there is no such thing as fate and that God would never compel anyone to be saved, but allows each individual to freely choose salvation by his or her own free will.” (Ken Johnson, Ancient Church Fathers, 51 (Kindle Edition))
How did the early church confront the doctrines of Gnostic predestination, i.e., Fate?