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Unformatted text preview: Battling Heresy: Gnosticism and the Heresiologists Gnosticism 2nd and 3rd century Christian heresy that threatened the church at large. Derives from the Greek word, gnosis. Sources Means knowledge or the attainment of knowledge Heresiologists Nag Hammadi Library Why did Gnosticism develop? Gnosticism was an attempt to construct a theodicy. Theodicy a defense of God's goodness in light of the presence of evil in the world. Thus Gnosticism attempted an explanation of the origin, development, and continued existence of evil in the world while maintaining the goodness of God or true deity. The Gnostic Theodicy or Metanarrative There is one absolute, transcendent, unknowable God. From this being issued forth several successive emanations called collectively the Pleroma. The last emanation was a foolish creator or demiurge ("craftsman") who set to work on creation without the permission or guidance of the absolute, unknowable God. Identified the creator in Gen 12 with this demiurge Demiurge sometimes assisted by lower angels or planetary beings Humanity was the pinnacle of the demiurge's creation. The absolute unknowable God countered the demiurge by placing in humanity a divine spark or spirit. What was required for humans to return to the divine realm was a "waking up" an attaining of the knowledge of this "story". This spark enabled some humans to see past the monstrous work of the demiurge and to see the goal of humanity as a return of the divine spark to the spiritual realm of the highest God. End of history would be a complete dissolution of the cosmos/creation. Where did a Gnostic come by his or her knowledge? This special "knowledge" was the result of special revelation handed down secretly from an elite group of apostles. E.g., the Gospel of Judas Revelation was typically made by a messenger from the spiritual realm. Messenger Knowledge enabled ("woke up") the elite to escape the fetters of this world and return to their true home ("kingdom of light"). What a conversation with a Gnostic might look like? Choosing the Red Pill This Gnostic metanarrative provided the hermeneutical key for reading Scripture and reshaping the orthodox Christian tradition. E.g., 2 Cor 4:5 "The God of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers." Reshaping the Christian Tradition Gnostic Tenants Cosmology Anthropology Radically Dualistic Matter/Creation incapable of salvation and essentially evil. Only the spiritual matters. Christology Thus they rejected the Incarnation of Jesus. If Jesus is divine or the divine indwells Jesus that which is divine cannot participate in creation or be entrapped in it. Doceticism Jesus only "seemed" to be human. Separationism distinguished the heavenly ChristSavior from the earthly human Jesus. How can Jesus call his disciples to suffer and if he did not? (Irenaeus, Her. 3.18.5) Soteriology Ethics Freedom of the spirit from matter, NOT deliverance from sin. Escape from the world imprisoned under the tyranny of evil powers, NOT the liberation of the world from the tyranny of evil powers in order to restore its lost unity and glory. Ascetic Libertine (according to many of the heresiologists) Heresiologists
Irenaeus and Tertullian Irenaeus (c. 130-c. 200 A.D.) Bishop of Lyons in Gaul Major extant works: Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching Detection and Refutation of Knowledge Falsely SoCalled (Against Heresies) Irenaeus's Defense Against Gnosticism Apostolic Succession A succession of bishops in the church from the time of the apostles. Traces the succession of leaders of the church in Rome back to Paul and Peter. "Every church should agree with this church on account of its preeminent authority" (Her. 3.3.2). Traces the origins of the Gnostic heresy to Simon Magus ("the Magician", cf. Acts 8). These leaders have preserved for the church the "rule of truth/faith" from the apostles. Ignatius Trall. 2, pg. 16 Readings Vol. 1 There is no secret knowledge for the apostles would surely have told these leaders everything. The deposit of Truth is also preserved by the Holy Spirit that inhabits the church "Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those whom they did commit the truth. To which course many nations of those barbarians who believe in Christ do assent, having salvation written in their hearts by the Spirit, without paper or ink, carefully preserving the ancient tradition." (Her. 3.4.1-2) The deposit of Truth is affirmed by the miracles (healings, resurrections, prophesies) done freely in the name of Jesus for the benefit of humanity. Rule of Truth The Christian tenants handed down from the apostles. There is one God and Father who is the Creator This God is unknowable Creates, governs, and reveals Himself by His two hands Wisdom (Spirit) Word (Son) Jesus Christ is His Son who is incarnated for our salvation. He is one person (God's Word) both divine and human. The Holy Spirit has proclaimed through prophecies the acts of God in history and the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. Jesus is coming again to resurrect all humanity and judge all people. Reading the Biblical Narrative Adam Created in the "image" and "likeness" of God Humanity = unity of body, soul, Spirit Image possesses animal-rational nature Likeness possesses God's Spirit "The soul and the spirit are a part of the man, but certainly not the man" (Her. 5.6.1). Those who have received the Spirit are perfect/complete humans. Created with the capacity to grow and develop and obtain immortality. "The glory of humanity is God but the glory of God is a perfect human." (Her. 3.20.2) Fall Interrupted human development (not a loss of perfection that Adam already had) Humanity loss the "likeness" (i.e., Spirit) of God God's restoration of creation carried out in four periods of time defined by four covenants. Adam to Noah, Noah to the Exodus, the Exodus to Christ, Christ to the Parousia Old Covenant "bondage"; external obedience New Covenant "liberty"; an extension of the precepts of the Old but characterized by internal obedience Christ "Jesus became what we are so that we might become what he is." Recapitulation (Her. 3.18.7; 3.19.1, pp. 27-29 Readings Vol. 1) All that Adam lost Christ has regained Jesus redeems the whole human experience thus Jesus experienced every stage of human development (infancy, adolescence, early adulthood, old age). Jesus crucified when he was 49 Jesus accustomed the Holy Spirit to dwell among humans again. Jesus' death on the cross was his ultimate act of obedience that undoes Adam's disobedience. The End The world will persist 6000 years (=6 days of creation) At the end, there will be a bodily resurrection of Christ's faithful followers and a renewing of the entire creation. The dead Christians prior to the resurrection eagerly wait for their resurrection. Tertullian (c. 160c. 220) North African Theologian in Carthage Allegedly became a Montanist later in life Very rigid moralist Thought married people who Polemical work against Gnostics abstained from sex were more praiseworthy than abstinent single people. Prescriptions Against Heretics "Rule of faith" preserved in the Church coming from the apostles before the Gnostic heresy arose. Therefore, on only the Church can rightly interpret Scripture. Anthropology Christology Traducianism the soul is material/corporeal and passed down from parent to child. Thus humanity has inherited a corrupted soul from Adam. Antidocetic / antiseparationist Christ one person consisting of two substances (divine/human) God is one substance consisting of three persons Substance a person's property and right to use that property E.g. a king shares his kingdom with his son Person individual who posses a certain substance ...
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