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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Historical Theology I

Two classes under our belts (I had to watch the first lecture at home, due to this nagging virus). Dr. Pettegrew is a very understandable lecturer and his syllabus is straightforward; he obviously loves this subject and knows it inside and out. This is very good for my ancient brain.

The main text, The Story of Christian Theology, is a pretty good read-with reservations. Like Pettegrew, Dr. Olson has a passion for historical theology, but on the second video we were told that he is an Arminianist and sympathetic to the feminist movement. This explains some of the odd opinions he throws in here and there; such as, thinking it a shame there weren't some church mothers as well as church fathers.

I want to touch on a subject I have heard discussed in plenty of sermons, but definitely didn't have a clear understanding of: Gnosticism.

In brief, those (I am at a loss for a proper adjective here...wait, I've got it!) heretical Gnostics have a theology which would fit much better inside a book of fairy tales than a church. One thing that bothers me is how often Christian and Gnostic are found in the same sentence. I also cringed at New Age Christians. Obviously, after nearly 51 years on this planet and 23 years as a believer, I understand that not all entries in the dictionary under the word Christian are equal, but it still makes my skin crawl.

Points of Gnosticism as I understand them, with a good deal quoted directly.
1. All matter (including that in which we peeps reside) is, by its very nature, a "limiting prison or evil drag on the good soul or spirit of the human person."
2. The spirit is essentially divine - "a 'spark of God' dwelling in the tomb of the body."
3. Salvation is actually attaining a secret other kind of knowledge, the grasp of which your average Bible-toting, pew-warming, saint-serving intercessor is incapable of getting.

Those who were in the gnosis, were aware of their "true heavenly origin of the spirit within, its essential divine nature as an offshoot of God's own being that had become trapped in material bodies." Of the various sects (cults might better describe them), all agreed that Jesus did not really take bodily form when He came to earth, He only looked like He did. "Christ as an immaterial, spiritual messenger sent down from the unknown and unknowable God to rescue and bring home stray sparks of his own being that had become trapped in material bodies." (All quotes from page 29)

Are you creeped out yet? I am. They considered this a truth that was "higher, better, more spiritual taught by the bishops to the unwashed and uneducated masses."

My conclusions? How grateful I am that the Holy Spirit has made the truth of the Gospel plain and understandable for all who have ears to hear! The mysteries found between In the beginning God and The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. are very much within reach of those who diligently pursue them. Little children and the feeble minded can be saved. (I remember hearing a testimony once of a mother with a man who was profoundly handicapped, both mentally and physically, but had a deep understanding of and love for Jesus Christ. The mother said, He may be mentally handicapped, but he is not spiritually handicapped. The man laughed in a tone that clearly conveyed his agreement.)

Since I was a little girl, I have always enjoyed make believe. I read fiction; I read historical fiction for both the entertainment and educational values. Sometimes though, I love getting lost in some well written, extremely imaginative fantasy or science fiction. I am picky about what I choose, as there are some pretty rough stories out there, but it is wonderful to visit the amazing worlds created by authors. As I read about what Gnosticism consists of, I couldn't help but think how the story line reminded me of something I might find in a fantasy novel...the difference: fantasy is make believe; Gnosticism is blasphemy.

1 comment:

emmaus said...

I'm behind in my reading of the big green book but finished the little Calvin book last night. So timely in view of the recent world events.