Gnosticism: History, Types of, and Modern

General discussions about Christianity including salvation, heaven and hell, Christian history and so on.
Post Reply
cslewislover
Ultimate Member
Posts: 2333
Joined: Thu Apr 24, 2008 8:09 pm
Christian: Yes
Sex: Female
Creation Position: Undecided
Location: Southern California
Has liked: 0
Been liked: 0
Contact:

Gnosticism: History, Types of, and Modern

#1

Post by cslewislover » Sun Jan 10, 2010 1:50 pm

I decided to start this thread because we get a lot of postings related to Gnostic beliefs and modern influences of it. From our main site, there are some links provided about it: Bogus and Refuted 'Christian' Apologetics To start, here is a good and brief article describing Gnosticism.

From GotQuestions?
Question: "What is Christian Gnosticism?"

Answer: There is actually no such thing as Christian Gnosticism, because true Christianity and Gnosticism are mutually exclusive systems of belief. The principles of Gnosticism contradict what it means to be a Christian. Therefore, while some forms of Gnosticism may claim to be Christian, they are in fact decidedly non-Christian.

Gnosticism was perhaps the most dangerous heresy that threatened the early church during the first three centuries. Influenced by such philosophers as Plato, Gnosticism is based on two false premises. First, it espouses a dualism regarding spirit and matter. Gnostics assert that matter is inherently evil and spirit is good. As a result of this presupposition, Gnostics believe anything done in the body, even the grossest sin, has no meaning because real life exists in the spirit realm only.

Second, Gnostics claim to possess an elevated knowledge, a “higher truth” known only to a certain few. Gnosticism comes from the Greek word gnosis which means “to know.” Gnostics claim to possess a higher knowledge, not from the Bible, but acquired on some mystical higher plain of existence. Gnostics see themselves as a privileged class elevated above everybody else by their higher, deeper knowledge of God.

To discredit the idea of any compatibility between Christianity and Gnosticism, one has only to compare their teachings on the main doctrines of the faith. On the matter of salvation, Gnosticism teaches that salvation is gained through the acquisition of divine knowledge which frees one from the illusions of darkness. Although they claim to follow Jesus Christ and His original teachings, Gnostics contradict Him at every turn. Jesus said nothing about salvation through knowledge, but by faith in Him as Savior from sin. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Furthermore, the salvation Christ offers is free and available to everyone (John 3:16), not just a select few who have acquired a special revelation.

Christianity asserts that there is one source of Truth and that is the Bible, the inspired, inerrant Word of the living God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 4:12). It is God's written revelation to mankind and is never superseded by man's thoughts, ideas, writings, or visions. The Gnostics, on the other hand, use a variety of early heretical writings known as the Gnostic gospels, a collection of forgeries claiming to be “lost books of the Bible.” Thankfully, the early church fathers were nearly unanimous in recognizing these Gnostic scrolls as fraudulent forgeries that espouse false doctrines about Jesus Christ, salvation, God, and every other crucial Christian truth. There are countless contradictions between the Gnostic “gospels” and the Bible. Even when the so-called Christian Gnostics quote from the Bible, they rewrite verses and parts of verses to harmonize with their philosophy, a practice that is strictly forbidden and warned against by Scripture (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18-19).

The Person of Jesus Christ is another area where Christianity and Gnosticism drastically differ. The Gnostics believe that Jesus' physical body was not real, but only “seemed” to be physical, and that His spirit descended upon Him at His baptism, but left Him just before His crucifixion. Such views destroy not only the true humanity of Jesus, but also the atonement, for Jesus must not only have been truly God, but also the truly human (and physically real) man who actually suffered and died upon the cross in order to be the acceptable substitutionary sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 2:14-17). The biblical view of Jesus affirms His complete humanity as well as His full deity.

Gnosticism is based on a mystical, intuitive, subjective, inward, emotional approach to truth which is not new at all. It is very old, going back in some form to the Garden of Eden, where Satan questioned God and the words He spoke and convinced Adam and Eve to reject them and accept a lie. He does the same thing today as he “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). He still calls God and the Bible into question and catches in his web those who are either naí¯ve and scripturally uninformed or who are seeking some personal revelation to make them feel special, unique, and superior to others. Let us follow the Apostle Paul who said to “test everything. Hold on to the good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21), and this we do by comparing everything to the Word of God, the only Truth.

Recommended Resource:
The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back: An Old Heresy for the New Age by Peter Jones.
Image
"I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." C.S. Lewis

User avatar
Furstentum Liechtenstein
Ultimate Member
Posts: 3295
Joined: Mon May 08, 2006 6:55 pm
Christian: Yes
Sex: It's Complicated
Creation Position: Young-Earth Creationist
Location: Lower Canuckistan
Has liked: 110 times
Been liked: 34 times

Re: Gnosticism: History, Types of, and Modern

#2

Post by Furstentum Liechtenstein » Sun Jan 10, 2010 2:16 pm

A more concise definition of Gnosticism is in this month's Biblical Archæology Review:

Gnostic Christians believed that YHWH, the Israelite God of the Hebrew Bible, was a lesser god who created the world and humans. The one Supreme God, whom the Gnostics worshiped, was a separate god. He was an indescribable and ineffable deity who dwelled outside YHWH's universe. However his spirit had fallen into the created universe and resided in the human soul. Only by gaining true knowledge, or gnosis, about the order of the universe and the ascent route back to the one Supreme God could the believer return and be reunited with full divinity. For these Gnostic Christians, Jesus revealed gnosis through his esoteric teachings.

This sounds like a mixture of Deism and Henotheism. It's all garbage to me.

FL
Hold everything lightly. If you don't, it will hurt when God pries your fingers loose as He takes it from you. -Corrie Ten Boom

+ + +

If they had a social gospel in the days of the prodigal son, somebody would have given him a bed and a sandwich and he never would have gone home.

+ + +

cslewislover
Ultimate Member
Posts: 2333
Joined: Thu Apr 24, 2008 8:09 pm
Christian: Yes
Sex: Female
Creation Position: Undecided
Location: Southern California
Has liked: 0
Been liked: 0
Contact:

Re: Gnosticism: History, Types of, and Modern

#3

Post by cslewislover » Sun Jan 10, 2010 2:44 pm

Fürstentum Liechtenstein wrote: This sounds like a mixture of Deism and Henotheism. It's all garbage to me.
FL
Yes, well we get a lot of this here (from the above article):
Christianity asserts that there is one source of Truth and that is the Bible, the inspired, inerrant Word of the living God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 4:12). It is God's written revelation to mankind and is never superseded by man's thoughts, ideas, writings, or visions. The Gnostics, on the other hand, use a variety of early heretical writings known as the Gnostic gospels, a collection of forgeries claiming to be “lost books of the Bible.” Thankfully, the early church fathers were nearly unanimous in recognizing these Gnostic scrolls as fraudulent forgeries that espouse false doctrines about Jesus Christ, salvation, God, and every other crucial Christian truth. There are countless contradictions between the Gnostic “gospels” and the Bible. Even when the so-called Christian Gnostics quote from the Bible, they rewrite verses and parts of verses to harmonize with their philosophy, a practice that is strictly forbidden and warned against by Scripture (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18-19).

I now will provide two essays written By Mark D. Roberts, linked to by CADRE (Christian Colligation of Apologetics Debate, Research, & Evangelisim). The articles seem informative and relevant, giving background and some things to mull over. If anyone wants to read more of Roberts' writings, they can go to the link with his name.

Excursus: What is Gnosticism?
Part 10 of series: The Da Vinci Opportunity
Posted for Friday, March 24, 2006

Throughout this series on The Da Vinci Opportunity I have been speaking of Gnosticism. This is necessary because, though The Da Vinci Code doesn't discuss Gnosticism directly, it does draw from Gnostic writings, and it does speak favorably of the gospels generally known as Gnostic. Before I go further in this series, I want to put up a brief overview of Gnosticism. If you're already familiar with this subject, you can check to see if I've done an adequate job. (If not, please e-mail me with your suggestions.) But if your notion of Gnosticism is rather foggy, let me reveal the truth (Gk. gnosis) about Gnosticism.

My favorite definition of Gnosticism was penned by David Scholer, a professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary and an expert in Gnosticism. In his article on "Gnosis, Gnosticism" in The Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments, Scholer writes:

"Gnosticism is the modern term used to refer to a religious and philosophical movement that originated in the first or second century A.D., that was especially strong in the second and third centuries A.D. and that was considered heretical by the majority of Christians at that time as well as the majority of pagan bearers of the Platonic philosophical traditions (i.e., Neo-Platonists). The ancients often referred to the people of this movement as Gnostics (gnostikoi). The movement, which was not a single, monolithic social-theological reality, emphasized at its core a special claim to special gnosis (gnosis, knowledge); thus the terms Gnostics and Gnosticism. Until the discovery in 1945 of a large group of texts near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, most of our knowledge of the ancient Gnostics came from their opponents. With the Nag Hammadi texts (usually designated NHC, Nag Hammadi Codices [Books]), which were made available to the public between 1956 and 1977 and most of which can be identified as Gnostic writings, we have for the first time in our modern period the opportunity to understand Gnostics on their own terms." (p. 400)

. . . . Since we have very little knowledge of actual Gnostic communities, it's hard to say much about how Gnostic people actually lived. Sociological analysis of Gnostic documents can offer some suggestions, but these are more speculative than solid. Yet the fundamental feature of Gnostic belief, which surely influenced Gnostic practice, is a profound dualism that affirms the goodness of spirit and the badness of matter. The physical world, from the Gnostic point of view, is evil. In fact, it was created not by the one true God, as in Christian belief, but by some junior, wannabe god. This god messed up big time, creating something that shouldn't have been made in the first place, and that needs to be transcended if an individual wants to experience salvation. Because they considered matter, including physical bodies, to be fundamentally evil, it's likely that most Gnostics were also ascetics (denying bodily pleasures). Christian opponents sometimes accused Gnostics of being libertines (engaging excessively in bodily pleasures), and some might have been. But a body-denying ethos pervades most of Gnosticism, and suggests an ascetic denial of human existence.

Although Gnostics believed that matter, including human bodies, was evil, they did not think human beings were without hope. Imbedded within people, or at least some special people, was the spark of the divine, a tiny bit of the real God. Thus salvation involved receiving revealed knowledge (gnosis) of the fact that one had divinity buried within oneself. This knowledge, when believed, allowed a person to transcend the evil world, and ultimately to return to the good God. Whereas orthodox Christianity held that sin (rebellion against God) was the fundamental human problem, Gnostics believed that ignorance was that basic problem.

Since matter was basically evil, from the Gnostic point of view, the redeemer was often seen as something other than human. Many Gnostics believed that Jesus the man was not the same as Christ the revealer. Moreover, since salvation required the revelation of knowledge, not atonement for sin, Gnostics had no place for the death of the Savior by crucifixion. In many Gnostic writings the real Christ is not crucified, but stands nearby laughing when Jesus is killed.

The Gnostic system makes sense. I'm not saying I believe it, of course. But it has its own internal logic. Yet this logic leads to elitism, because only certain, special people have the knowledge required for salvation. It also leads to a world-denying life. You would not find in Gnosticism a philosophical basis for making a difference in the world. Issues of justice have to do with the evil world that Gnostics must transcend, not transform. Unlike Jews and Christians, Gnostics have no hope of a renewed world, a new creation yet to come. Rather, they hope to escape this world through their special knowledge of their own divinity. Thus Gnosticism is not only world denying, but also individualistic. One does not find in the Gnostic writings a concern for building a community of believers, though there may well have been such communities. I believe that early Gnosticism died out, not only because it was opposed by orthodox Christianity, but also because its vision was simply too individualistic and other-worldly to sustain a thriving religious tradition.

In many ways, however, Gnosticism has been making a comeback. In my next post in this series I want to say something about the popularity of Gnosticism today, which has surely influenced Dan Brown in his writing of The Da Vinci Code.

Excursus: Gnosticism vs. Orthodoxy as a Battle for Truth
Part 13 of series: The Da Vinci Opportunity
Posted for Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Yesterday I explained further why, in my opinion, Gnosticism has been so popular among scholars during the last three decades. My last point had to do with the tendency of scholarship to describe the conflict between Gnosticism and orthodox Christianity as a power struggle between the victims (Gnostics) and the oppressors (The Roman Catholic Church, in league with the Roman Empire). This sort of perspective flows freely through The Da Vinci Code, especially in the revelations of Sir Leigh Teabing.

Yet I would contend that the battle between orthodoxy and Gnosticism was not primarily about power, but about truth. It was a fight over the nature of God, the world, and human beings. It was a conflict over how people can find salvation, and what that salvation entails.

Both Gnostics and orthodox Christians believed that there was such a thing as truth, and that this truth mattered for salvation, and that they had it, and that the other side didn't. The contemporary attempt to see in Gnosticism some sort of incipient pluralism misses the boat. Gnostics were every bit as dogmatic about truth as orthodox Christians. They just disagreed about what the truth really was.

Without a doubt, Gnostics believed that they, and they alone, had the genuine truth that sets one free from fatal ignorance and leads to salvation. Consider this passage from the Gospel of Philip (a gospel quoted by Sir Leigh Teabing in The Da Vinci Code).

"Ignorance is the mother of all evil. Ignorance will result in death, because those who come from ignorance neither were nor are nor shall be. [. . .] will be perfect when all the truth is revealed. For truth is like ignorance: while it is hidden, it rests in itself, but when it is revealed and is recognized, it is praised, inasmuch as it is stronger than ignorance and error. It gives freedom. The Word said, "If you know the truth, the truth will make you free" (John 8:32). Ignorance is a slave. Knowledge is freedom. If we know the truth, we shall find the fruits of the truth within us. If we are joined to it, it will bring our fulfillment." (83:30-84:13)

Notice that this passage includes a saying of Jesus that appears in the Gospel of John (which was written about a century earlier than the Gospel of Philip, by the way). Both the Gnostics and the orthodox believed in the ultimate importance of truth. Yet they disagreed profoundly on the nature of truth. For Gnostics, the truth included the evil of the material world and its creator, the seed of divinity hidden in the human heart, and the revelation delivered by the Christ who did not die on the cross. For the orthodox the truth included the goodness of creation by the one true God, the fallenness of the human heart owing to sin, and the atonement accomplished by Christ who had to die on the cross to set us free from sin. For Gnostics, the basic human problem is ignorance. Therefore knowledge leads to salvation and freedom. For the orthodox, the basic human problem is sin. Therefore knowledge alone does not save. Faith in response to the cross and resurrection of Christ is necessary for salvation.

The battle between orthodoxy and Gnosticism, though surely at times a power struggle, was fundamentally a battle over the truth, or one might say, the Truth. Today the battle lines are drawn differently, with the very belief in Truth at risk. And, to be sure, at times today's battle is one of power, as academic societies and universities decide who gets to deliver papers, or publish monographs, or receive tenure. In these skirmishes, the tables of power have often been turned, with orthodox Christians taking it on the chin from the powerful who align themselves with the Gnostics.

Yet, as in the first Christian centuries, today's battle is not simply about power. It's really about truth, and whether there is such a thing as Truth, and whether that Truth is to be found in Jesus Christ as He's revealed in Scripture or not. This is one major reason why The Da Vinci Code has become so popular in some quarters, and so maligned in others. The Da Vinci Code clearly rejects the truth of the Bible, advocating an amalgam of Gnosticism and paganism in its place, and claiming Jesus as it's inspiration. Yet, ironically, as I will demonstrate later in this series, much of what The Da Vinci Code promotes is in fact denied in the Gnostic writings upon which the novel depends.
Image
"I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." C.S. Lewis

Zebulon
Valued Member
Posts: 254
Joined: Wed Jan 02, 2008 9:48 am
Christian: Yes
Sex: Male
Creation Position: Undecided
Location: Quebec, Canada
Has liked: 0
Been liked: 0

Re: Gnosticism: History, Types of, and Modern

#4

Post by Zebulon » Sun Jan 10, 2010 3:09 pm

Fürstentum Liechtenstein wrote:This sounds like a mixture of Deism and Henotheism. It's all garbage to me.
Is this a polite way of saying Bull... :mrgreen:

Unfortunately my response to Gnosticism would start by a french quotation I have found on the Internet. I wanted to post it to you privatly FL but it seems impossible to do?

Anyway I will posted under a tread called Quebec Gnosticism, and then we will come back here if it goes this way...

Zebulon

Zebulon
Valued Member
Posts: 254
Joined: Wed Jan 02, 2008 9:48 am
Christian: Yes
Sex: Male
Creation Position: Undecided
Location: Quebec, Canada
Has liked: 0
Been liked: 0

Re: Gnosticism: History, Types of, and Modern

#5

Post by Zebulon » Sun Jan 10, 2010 4:14 pm

cslewislover wrote: Yet, as in the first Christian centuries, today's battle is not simply about power. It's really about truth, and whether there is such a thing as Truth, and whether that Truth is to be found in Jesus Christ as He's revealed in Scripture or not. This is one major reason why The Da Vinci Code has become so popular in some quarters, and so maligned in others. The Da Vinci Code clearly rejects the truth of the Bible, advocating an amalgam of Gnosticism and paganism in its place, and claiming Jesus as it's inspiration. Yet, ironically, as I will demonstrate later in this series, much of what The Da Vinci Code promotes is in fact denied in the Gnostic writings upon which the novel depends.[/i] [/color]
Very interresting what you are bringing here Cslewislover.

I would just bring a glimpse : Gnosticism, NewAgism, Freemasonree? And what else with a blink to Ageofknowledge: Catholic History?

Kindly,

Zebulon

User avatar
ageofknowledge
Esteemed Senior Member
Posts: 1086
Joined: Sun Apr 22, 2007 11:08 am
Christian: Yes
Sex: Male
Creation Position: Day-Age
Location: Southern California
Has liked: 0
Been liked: 1 time

Re: Gnosticism: History, Types of, and Modern

#6

Post by ageofknowledge » Fri Jan 22, 2010 1:51 am

Aye.. look at the big brain on cslewis? :)

cslewislover
Ultimate Member
Posts: 2333
Joined: Thu Apr 24, 2008 8:09 pm
Christian: Yes
Sex: Female
Creation Position: Undecided
Location: Southern California
Has liked: 0
Been liked: 0
Contact:

Re: Gnosticism: History, Types of, and Modern

#7

Post by cslewislover » Fri Jan 22, 2010 12:45 pm

ageofknowledge wrote:Aye.. look at the big brain on cslewis? :)
??? CS Lewis had a very big brain! He had a photographic memory and so was able to be highly productive. Sooooo lucky . . . (his wife also had a photographic memory).

But if I had a bigger brain, maybe I'd know why you posted that. And maybe I would've had the time to write the articles I posted myself. I still want to post more, but I'm not sure how much time I'll have to do essays myself. I'm already behind in getting some summary up of Behe's book, that I told Danny I'd do.
Image
"I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." C.S. Lewis

Post Reply