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Old September 26, 2003, 04:15 AM
Chris H.
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Continuing on from before...

> What cynical tone? All I do is ask
> questions....

Well, perhaps "cynical" isn't precisely the correct term. I'm referring to the generally negative tone and the many references to early Church fathers and "the Church" being controlling, manipulative, and dishonest.

Now, I don't deny that there were some pretty unsavory, corrupt, & even downright evil characters in or attached to "the Church" over the centuries. No excuses; I don't defend them. But, as you said in your post to Phil, "... you should not blame a religion for things done in its name" -- assuming the "things" are contrary to the teachings of the religion, particularly those of its founder. That includes extra rules & obligations that are forced upon the followers.

Your presumptions imply that the Church leaders had no moral integrity whatsoever and were just trying to control and take advantage of the "sheep" they'd ensnared with this new religion. You have attributed such motives & actions but given no evidence. I have yet to read any indication that there was much, if any, of this type of behavior by leaders of the early Christian Church, especially in the first couple of centuries, which is basically the period we've been talking about.

> Of course you can't. Being a Gnostic means
> you constantly seek knowledge and truth.
> Being a Christian means to not doubt the
> teachings put forth by the Church as True.
> They have intrinsic differences.

OK, it sounds like we agree that Gnosticism and Christianity are incompatible, but we disagree on the reasons & motivations for the early Church fathers leaving GTh (& others) out of the list of approved texts and the eventual, official Christian canon. I would have to differ with you on your meanings for Gnostic & Christian, though.

Perhaps there is a much looser definition of modern-day Gnosticism that you are referring to. But, if we go back to its origins (as you have advocated elsewhere), Gnosticism meant something quite different. Rather than try to summarize it myself, I'll include a quote from the book Jesus Under Fire:

"Gnosticism was an ancient Middle-Eastern religious philosophy with many variations, but unified at least in its commitment to a dualism between the material and immaterial worlds. The creation of the universe, in Gnostic mythologies, more often than not was the product of the rebellion of some "emanation" from the godhead. Matter, therefore, was inherently evil; only the world of the spirit was redeemable. Consequently, Gnostics looked forward to immortality of a disembodied soul, not the resurrection of the body. Salvation for them was accomplished by understanding secret or esoteric knowledge (in Greek, gnosis), which most of the world did not and could not know. Hence, the Gnostic libraries contained numerous documents that purported to be secret revelations of the risen Lord to this or that disciple, usually after Jesus' resurrection."

As I understand it, the Roman Catholic Church ties spiritual salvation closely to the Church itself and gives equal, if not greater, authority to the R.C. Church (ultimately, the Pope) than to the Bible. Perhaps this is what you are referring to?

Coming from a Protestant background, I do not believe in those things. At the dawn of the Protestant Reformation, two of Martin Luther's main concerns were the need to restore the doctrines of Sola Scriptura (i.e., Bible as only spiritual/moral authority) and justification sola fide (i.e., by faith alone). This greatly diminished the importance and authority of "the Church" and the Pope, which is why they screamed so loud.

Luther's contribution can be summed up in his "new" answers to four central issues in the Church:
1) How is a person saved? -- "Not by works but by faith alone."
2) Where does religious authority lie? -- "Not in the visible institution called the Roman church, but in the Word of God found in the Bible."
3) What is the church? -- "The whole community of Christian believers, since all are priests before God."
4) What is the essence of Christian living? -- "Serving God in any useful calling, whether ordained or lay."

In the end, a true Christian is one who recognizes his sinful nature that separates him from the Holy and Living God, recognizes the reconciliation provided thru Jesus Christ alone, surrenders his life to Christ, and commits to serving Him. From there, one can begin learning the finer points of the credal doctrines as they grow and mature as Christians.

> As I said in my post to Phil. Debating... to
> the point of presenting evidence and
> whatnot, is a fruitless exercise. Those who
> firmly believe will still believe. Those who
> don't, won't suddenly "find
> religion." And those who sit on the
> fence not knowing one way or the other, will
> still sit on the fence.

> And each camp will view things like a
> one-eyed fan. Seeing no wrong from their
> team but all little indiscretions from the
> other side.

While that may be true in some, perhaps many, cases, it isn't always. At the very least, a debate gets people thinking about the issues. Hopefully, it helps the debaters themselves to strengthen their arguments, possibly modify their tactics in the future. If there are others witnessing the debate, hopefully they are encouraged to become more familiar with the issues. They may even be persuaded more towards one side or the other, especially if they were a fence-sitter.

> Now. A firm believer will have reasons to
> come up with what Word of The Lord actually
> means. While a non-believer will look it as
> proof JC didn't go up to heaven. The firm
> believe cannot entertain the notion because
> it would undermine the foundation of their
> faith. If Jesus was just a normal man and
> did not die as believed, the religion loses
> its reason for existing. - Regardless of the
> beauty of the message.

> And no-one changes their mind.

Interesting point, though I think that is where careful word-studies, reading commentaries, and proper hermeneutics come in. Being careful not to be too "dogmatic" on issues & doctrines that aren't essential to orthodoxy is also important. One also needs to be intellectually honest with themselves and open to going where the evidence leads, even if it makes them uncomfortable.

> ...For your reading pleasure. I present
> Hank... :o)

Did you make this up? I read it, and I even chuckled a bit at the ending scene. I think I understood all the supposed parallels (e.g., Hank = God and/or "the Church"; the Million $ Gift = God's blessings (some on earth, but most as our "reward" in Heaven); Hank's Letter = probably Mosaic Law, possibly the Bible as a whole and/or further Church teaching, etc.). Perhaps there is meant to be a broader application to certain other religions. All I will say is that it represents a sad and warped view of what it means to know & serve the Lord.

> We won't know all the writings
> which never made it into the compilation we
> know as The Holy Bible.

Isn't that a little like saying, "We'll never know all the rules & regulations that were never included in the NFL Official Handbook."? (Is there such a thing?) An imperfect analogy, but I hope you see my point. :-]

Actually, we do know several other works that were disputed over the years or to be used in private, but not public, worship. They include The Shepherd of Hermas (popular among supporters of asceticism), Revelation of Peter, Wisdom of Solomon, Letter of Barnabus, Teaching of Twelve Apostles, Gospel of the Hebrews, Acts of Peter, Didache. Others were disputed but eventually included, e.g., Hebrews and Revelation of John.

More later in response to your "Reply by the 'Heathen Gnostic', Part 2"...

(This is fun & educational, too!)


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