Most of what we know about Gnosticism doctrines and practices come directly from the Church fathers. From the early Church, the accounts of the Gnostics and their practices is unavoidably colored by a strong hostility for any other Gospel that the Church today would do well to emulate. Paul emphatically states, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” (NKJV Galatians 1.8)
It is true the biggest prohibitive to gaining knowledge is the conclusion one already has it. I will strive to maintain that in mind. In the HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion Gnosticism’s definition is: “a term used for a category of religion that emphasizes knowledge as essential to salvation.” (Smith, Green and Buckley 387)
The definition from the HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion sounds simple enough. However, the application of that definition runs much deeper against the grain of Christianity than it intrinsically implies. Paul was more than convinced that Gnosticism was a heresy. Nonetheless, today the gospels other than that taught by Paul are regrettably fairly common.
We’ll look at the theme of Paul’s Gospel to see what he often preached. We’ll see what the church historians have to say about Gnosticism. Then, we will take a look at today’s subtle approach and Gnostic practices that exist in the church, and try to resolve the existences of Gnostic variants taught. Finally, a brief look at Gnosticism which seems to be resurgent today. Here is a short list of what Masyk-Jackson feels Gnostics believe:
1. Gnostics believed that spiritual knowledge is the key to attaining salvation;
2. Gnostic leader Carpocrates believed that the soul needs to go through many lifetimes before attaining salvation, thus suggesting a belief in reincarnation;
3. Both male and female images for the supreme God existed;
4. Women, like Mary Magdalene, played a significant role in writing the Gnostic texts;
5. There is a duality in the concept of God. Gnostics believed that there is a true God who is the essence of every person and non-living design and a false God or creator God, who created the imperfect world, and;
6. According to the Gnostics, humans mirrored the duality found in the world; they are in part flawed from the creation of the evil designer and yet also include the ability of the true God. (Masyk-Jackson "What is Gnosticism?")
This is only a short list of Gnostic beliefs, and the variants groups and differing beliefs and rules of the Gnostics vary so profoundly it would require more space than I have in a short essay. On a personal note:
1. I'm working on a Masters degree in Biblical Studies and wanted to thank those that have emailed me with encouragement. The more I learn the more I know that there is more to learn than I have time left in the world. The task is that enormous.
2. What does apostasy mean? A non-technical definition is "turning your back on God". This country that we live in, America has done this knowingly. The distaste for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is both obvious and disgusting. I think we as Christians must not acquiesce to America's apostasy. We must pray constantly everyday to seek God's mercy and forgiveness for our leaders who are ultimately responsible.
3. This is easy to say, and hard to do. Stay in the Word of God. I can tell you from my own life there have been times in the past when I ignored it as well. But as I committed the time to study, my life and circumstances improved to the degree that I submitted my time to the Word of God which is life to soul and body. The Lord is God is now ordering my path and circumstances for my good. Give it a try.
4. I would like to know if you are reading the articles I write, and how they are being useful to you. You may email me at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you. Merry Christmas to you and your family from Judy Ann and myself. The signs of the times are converging on the Word of God. Study and come to your own conclusions.
Masyk-Jackson, Janis. What is Gnosticism? Suite101. N.p., 25 Mar. 2013. Web. 11 Aug. 2013.
Scofield, C. I.. The Scofield Study Bible, New King James Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Oxford University Pub., 2002. Print.
Smith, Jonathan Z., William S. Green, and Jorunn J. Buckley. The HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1995. Print.