Saturday, April 14, 2007

Gnosticism

I. Gnosticism
A view that a special secret knowledge will save you out of this evil world.
It is the liberation of the spirit, because it is enslaved by its union with material things.
We are freed through knowledge of gnosis.
This is not just information but is a mystical illumination that results from revelation of the eternal.
Jesus, for Christian gnosticism, is the one who brings the mystical illumination and liberates us from our connection to matter.

II. Why Christian leaders objected to gnosticism
The doctrine of creation and the divine rule over the world
Doctrine of salvation
Christology
III. Creation
For the Gnostics, the world is not the creation of God, but instead is the result of an error committed by an inferior and evil or ignorant being. The things of this world are not just worthless, they’re evil.

IV. Salvation
Gnostics held that salvations consisted of saving us from our material existence.
Christians affirmed that the salvation included the human body, and the we will be resurrected physically.
V. Christology
Christians affirmed that Christ was God come in the flesh: the incarnation.
Gnostics said that Jesus only appeared to be a fleshly being, but was really a spirit-being who brought us the secret knowledge.
VI. Defenses against Gnosticism
Canon of Scripture
Apostolic Succession
Apostles’ Creed
VII. Canon of Scripture
Marcion had proposed a set of Scriptural books that fit with Gnosticism.
Hence, the Church put forward a canon of Scripture that, for example, included the Book of Matthew, which connects Christ to the Old Testament, or I John, which says that if anyone says that Christ has not come in the flesh, he should not even be bid Godspeed.
While Protestant Christians think that a biblical appeal would have been enough to defeat Gnosticism, it should be remembered that mass-produced Bibles were not available in that time. So this was not the sole weapon the Church used to defeat Gnosticism.
VIII. Apostolic Succession
Persons properly licensed to teach doctrine within the Church had to receive authority to do so in virtue of standing in a succession of authority from the Apostles. The teachers of Gnosticism could not claim this kind of authorization, so their teachings were rejected.
This is a Catholic approach to dealing with doctrinal conflict. With the doctrine of apostolic succession, the authority to reject doctrine comes from within the Church, and is not to be found in the written word of Scripture.
What if Scripture and Church authority (apparently) conflict? We have to wait over 1300 years to see this issue battled out between Catholics and Protestants?
IX. Apostles’ Creed
The church had a list of questions for people who were going to join the Church. Some Christian churches still say the Apostles’ Creed in Church. The “I believes” of this creed are the positive answers to the questions that were asked of those who wished to join the Church.
These statements were directed against the doctrines of the Gnostics. The Gnostics did not believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth. The did not believe in a Christ who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, and was raised bodily from the dead. Thus the creed was a third line of defense against Gnosticism.
X. Can’t we all just get along? Agree to disagree, you know?
Apparently not. What the Christian leadership maintained was that the very guts of Christianity were threatened by the Gnostics.
Orthodoxy is the term for correct belief. As a revealed religion, the Christian leadership believed that a correct understanding of salvation through Christ was sufficiently important that they felt they had to kick people out who were distorting it.
Heresy is the opposite of orthodoxy, and the Gnostics were condemned and kicked out of the Church for heresy.

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