"In the first few centuries following Jesus' death and resurrection, a variety of descriptions were given to explain the nature of Christ that were eventually rejected by the church because of their inconsistency with Scripture. One of the earliest of those heresies was called Gnosticism. Gnosticism drew from the ancient Greeks, particularly Plato, in that the earth and matter were evil. This world is filled with evil and suffering but also suggest that there must be something better, something purer, to be found. In that view of things, the physical world becomes a prison, and the physical body a prison house for the soul. What we need to be saved is to know the secret to escape. How do we go from this place of prison into a purer form of existence? The Gnostics pointed to a secret knowledge as the answer. In their eyes, Jesus was an incarnation of the true god and came to bring salvation through his teaching. Through this teaching, man could become aware of the ""divine spark"" already within him just waiting to be released.
More and more, popular thinking has been influenced by this teaching. Kung Fu Panda is a prime example. The movie depicts a conflict between good guys and one really tough bad guy, all of whom are vying for the privilege of gaining the Dragon scroll that contains the ""secret"" to limitless power. Po, the overweight and clumsy panda, is chosen to become the Dragon warrior and open the scroll. But Po, a noodle-soup restaurant owner to be, doesn't know any kung fu and seems incapable of being trained. Eventually, through the enticement of food, he learns and by the end of the movie, to everyone's surprise - even his own - he fights the bad guy and wins the scroll. But when he opens it, he finds it empty. The secret to limitless power was already inside him. He just needed a way to bring it out and believe in himself. This is a form of Gnosticism that prevails today. We all have that ""divine spark"" that just needs a bit of secret knowledge to draw out and find a better way of life. The Gnostic Jesus figure in King Fu panda, surprisingly, turns out to be the panda's seemingly out-of-touch noodle-soup-restaurant-owning-goose-father. But the real salvation is accomplished by the Panda through belief in himself. This message has invaded our culture.
The form that Gnosticism took in the early centuries didn't look exactly like this but had many similarities. To make it work, they needed a savior that fit their understanding of the world. The gospels present a different picture of the Christ figure, one that was scandalous in their view of things. This passage in John presents us with God himself as the savior, who comes in the flesh to bring salvation to those who believe in him. It is a stark difference. Gnosticism says believe in yourself and become your own god. The gospel says believe in Christ and become a member of the family of God."
1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. (ESV)