Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Gnostic Medusa Part Two

Sometimes, people can't see the forest for the trees. That's sort of how I view Gnostics in their tireless efforts to find hidden meanings alien to Scripture. Hence, the photo posted here..done to illustrate a point.

In this installment, I want to give a quick overview of Gnosticism for those who might not be versed in it. While you might not be familiar with the term, I am certain you have heard the ideas expressed and advocated. Even in what are supposed to be Christian churches.

The early Gnosticism battled in Scripture is a precursor to the more fully orbed form in the second century. The following are key beliefs:

1. Man’s body made up of matter is evil, contrasted with God who is spirit and therefore good.

2. Since the body is evil, it must be treated harshly. Ascetic, isn’t it?

3. Salvation is escape from the body, not by faith in the shed blood of Christ but rather by knowledge (gnosis).

4. Christ’s humanity is denied. Some Gnostics believed that Jesus Christ only seemed to have a body. This error is known as Docetism. Other Gnostics believed that the divine Christ (Logos) joined the man Jesus at His baptism and departed when Jesus died. This is called Cerinthianism.

5. Since matter is evil, breaking God’s law is not evil. You could engage in licentiousness because there was no moral consequence involved.

As you can see, these ideas are clearly unbiblical. Yet a substantial number of people in the early church were seduced by these teachings. It’s happening again today. The true Bride of Christ must stand against this deadly heresy now with the same vigor and faithfulness exhibited by the Apostles and church fathers such as Athanasius and Irenaeus. The consequences of not doing so will be eternal.


Dr. Morey said...

Gnosticism was part of the Babylonian Captivity of the Jewish Messianic Church when Gentiles flooded into the church and brought their Greek philosophy with them. Origin is a good example of a GK philosopher who claimed to be a Christian but really brought in all kinds of GK pagan ideas such as the pre-existence of the soul.
They claimed that they had special knowledge through immediate personal visions, dreams,and revelations. Their secret gnosis was above and beyond Scripture. It made them special. They were in the know and superior to those who only had the Bible.

SolaMeanie said...

Thanks for contributing to the discussion! The added information you have provided helps to illustrate all the more clearly how gnosticism is so alien to biblical theology no matter how much its adherents try to Christianize it. It also is another good reminder of how carefully we need to read the patristics. Some of them could well have orthodoxy in one area yet be way off base in another area, such as Origen.

Rob said...

That's really interesting. I had always heard the term and had a general understanding but was never quite sure the application.

Very interesting!


Sophia Sadek said...

Dr. Morey's reference to "Greek" philosophy demonstrates a common flaw in the understanding of philosophy as we have received it from texts in the Greek language.

Many of the Greek philosophers were rabidly chauvinistic. They had little patience to learn alien tongues. But this does not mean that the non-lingual aspects of their discipline were anymore Greek than you or I. In fact, their propensity for lingual purity may have derived from pre-enlightened Hellenic culture.

What does this have to do with Origen? It's all in how an individual and their discipline are perceived by us today. Those aspects of Origen's paganism that the good doctor calls "Greek" were probably introduced into Greek culture from interaction with barbarian societies.

Some French lingual purists wanted to purge the French language of the alien word "computer." The purists didn't realize that the word has the same Latin root as French words.

Likewise, many aspects of "Greek" philosophy have come from the same Chaldean and Egyptian sources as the traditions of Abraham and Moses.

It's no wonder the orthodox dislike Origen. He was a man of integrity.

SolaMeanie said...

So what defines integrity? Whether he agrees with gnostics? I think most biblical Christians would find things to appreciate in Origen. However, he is not biblical in all his theology.

I think you need to revisit your criticism of Bob Morey. You are too quick to dismiss people about whom you know little. His academic credentials are quite impressive.

You asked what Origen had to do with this. You obviously didn't read the earlier material posted. Want to know how I perceive an individual and their philosophy? I read them and take what they say at face value. Knowing the history and culture of the writer in question helps in terms of color. It generally doesn't take a Rhodes Scholar to divine someone's philosophy. It usually comes out clearly when the right questions are asked.

Joe B. Whitchurch said...

How could one named Sophie (wisdom) so clearly miss the point? I didn't sense any wholesale demonizing of Origin, but going with the elitist insider lingual scoop doesn't diminish the insight of Dr. Morey imho. Lighten up, Sophie.

Campisi said...

That's a rather interesting list you have there; biased, but interesting nonetheless. However, there are many lists such as this that perform their primary function much better, without warping itself into a self-refutation.

* The Gnostics posited an original spiritual unity that came to be split into a plurality.

* As a result of the precosmic division the universe was created. This was done by a leader possessing inferior spiritual powers and who often resembled the Old Testament Jehovah.

* A female emanation of God was involved in the cosmic creation (albeit in a much more positive role than the leader).

* In the cosmos, space and time have a malevolent character and may be personified as demonic beings separating man from God.

* For man, the universe is a vast prison. He is enslaved both by the physical laws of nature and by such moral laws as the Mosaic code.

* Mankind may be personified as Adam, who lies in the deep sleep of ignorance, his powers of spiritual self-awareness stupefied by materiality.

* Within each natural man is an "inner man," a fallen spark of the divine substance. Since this exists in each man, we have the possibility of awakening from our stupefaction.

* What effects the awakening is not obedience, faith, or good works, but knowledge.

* Before the awakening, men undergo troubled dreams.

* Man does not attain the knowledge that awakens him from these dreams by cognition but through revelatory experience, and this knowledge is not information but a modification of the sensate being.

* The awakening (i.e., the salvation) of any individual is a cosmic event.

* Since the effort is to restore the wholeness and unity of the Godhead, active rebellion against the moral law of the Old Testament is enjoined upon every man.

This list was compiled by Stephen Hoeller, a man at the forefront of Gnosticism study.

SolaMeanie said...

Self refutation, Campisi? I don't think so.

Nice list by Hoeller. Could he (and you) be biased, possibly? It is one thing to make a list of assertions such as the one you posted and quite another thing to successfully defend the errors in the list. Gnosticism was rejected by the church throughout history for a reason and it had nothing to do with politics or a conspiracy. It is because the teachings within are unbiblical and ungodly. Doctrines of demons, to borrow a line from the Apostle Paul.

Campisi said...

As far as the bias goes, I'd be the first to tell you that I, as well as Mr. Hoeller, are indeed biased in our beliefs, just as you are biased in yours. It is not something to be ashamed of, for it denotes what you believe in. As far as the "unbiblical" and "ungodly" claims, I would just like to mention that these claims are so because the Bible as we now know it was compiled by those who sharply disagreed with the Gnostics. It makes it much easier to debate your opponents when your personal sources are given authority by the leader of the western world (Constantinople), with all of the benefits that come with it. Imagine what would have happened if the Gnostics had succeeded in creating the Nicene Creed, with the full backing of Constantinople; just something to think about.

By the way, I have never read "The DaVinci Code," and never plan to.

SolaMeanie said...

See my comments on "The Gnostic Medusa, part one."