Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Eckhart's New Earth (Part II)

I'm becoming prone to making a statement in one post, and then recanting it in a later post. The cause being one of two reasons. #1) I speak too soon. #2) I allow myself the freedom of changing my mind. The latter is the better habit of the two. The habit of keeping an open mind, within boundaries of faith and reason, is a habit I choose to foster and hope to keep.

I said in an earlier post that Part II would be about why Eckhart Tolle's novel, "A New Earth," is not worth reading. I had previously bought the book and after reading the first chapter, formed that opinion. However, in order to respectfully and properly respond to the book, I needed to read more. I did read more, a majority of the book. For the sake of time, I skimmed parts of it. After doing so, I've decided to give it a good slow read, that in ways it actually is worth reading, when viewed through the correct lens with the awareness that my core beliefs will differ from the author's.

This book should be read with caution, but has the potential to, in fact, aid the Christian in the working out of one's salvation.

It's not surprising, actually. That the book might be beneficial is not surprising. Eckhart Tolle acts as a philosopher, observing humanity in its being, function, and purpose. He uses spiritual language to do so, quoting Jesus more often than any other spiritual teacher. He never misquotes Jesus. Misinterprets, yes. But some of the language is the same and some of the lessons are the same. Which I feel supports the truth that there is a Supreme Being, a God, who is observed and noticeable by all of humanity. By the very essence of humanity as a race, we see God. The major religions all have a similar purpose. Each one sees the dysfunction in our race and tries to alleviate it and renew humanity, individually and as a whole. Christianity is unique in that its founding prophet, teacher, leader claimed to be God. Ultimately, we believe that Jesus Christ, the second person of the divine Trinity, God himself, became man. God took on the nature of man and so redeemed mankind, making the way once again possible for direct union with God.

Ego: that is how Tolle describes the dysfunction of humanity - the thoughts and ideas associated with "I" that lead to false personal identification. This false personal identification is a consciousness which most commonly defines itself through possessions: what I have, what belongs to me, what I want. But it is also the idea that "I" is just that, an idea. The word "I" is a very small word for such a complex individual, and we tend to define our "I" by things, roles, our bodies. The ego displays itself in opinions, resentments, the need to be right, successes and failures, comparison, posturing, greed, the need for power, to name a few... Sounds like what we Christians like to call Pride. This idea is the basis for the majority of the book, and it makes sense to me. I see it. I understand it. Seeing this can help me in my life.

So what does Tolle see as the solution to this dysfunction? Awakening. Awakening to the inner being underneath the ego and then fusing it to your outer purpose, or in other words, responding to the world around you with the new consciousness of your inner being. Yes, in ways this idea can help me. But it doesn't get to the bottom of the problem, and that is: how will the dysfunction be eliminated completely? Obviously the need is within us to eliminate the dysfunction entirely. It will not be eliminated completely by this spirituality alone.

Tolle states that his book is a book on spirituality, which can be molded into any person's choice of religion. He believes one can separate religion and spirituality. I personally, don't see how the two things can be separated, for to ask oneself questions about one's spirit will ultimately lead to questions about that spirit's creator. Tolle goes so far as to discourage religion, saying it is a form of man's ego, a system of doctrine, that leads to ideologies which cause war and dissent. In fact, Tolle likes Jesus very much. However, he dislikes Christianity. He says the following of spiritual teachers, such as Jesus, and then further of religion:

"Those rare individuals then spoke to their contemporaries. They spoke of sin, of suffering, of delusion... They then pointed to the possibility of awakening from the collective nightmare of "normal" human existence. They showed the way. The world was not yet ready for them, and yet they were a vital and necessary part of human awakening... Their teachings, although both simple and powerful, became distorted and misinterpreted, in some cases even as they were recorded in writing by their disciples. Over the centuries, many things were added that had nothing to do with the original teachings, but were reflections of a fundamental misunderstanding... And so religions, to a large extent, became divisive rather than unifying forces... They brought more violence and hatred... They became ideologies, belief systems people could identify with and so use them to enhance their false sense of self. Through them, they could make themselves "right" and others "wrong" and thus define their identity through their enemies, the "other," the "nonbelievers" or "wrong believers."

Incorrect. False. A relative truth formed from his own perspective.

Christianity teaches that truth is handed down from a Supreme perspective. Not our own. That's what's missing in all of this. If spirituality can exist apart from a system of beliefs, specifically apart from Christianity, then it will be a spirituality whose effectiveness of the renewal of man is limited. A spirituality derived from man himself cannot correct his own dysfunction because he is limited by that very dysfunction. We must be given a renewed spirit from an outside Source and an outside perspective. And it's given to us by the Incarnation. By God becoming man, taking on death, and presenting the new man, the new resurrected awakened man, before God for eternity as a Living Sacrifice. This is what Christ meant by "the way." It is "the way" because it is God's way.

Christianity requires an element of spirituality that Tolle does not mention: Faith. We must accept Faith. We must awaken to it. We must keep it. The faith to believe what God has said is True.

57 comments:

MamasBoy said...

Tolle wants to hijack Jesus for his own purposes, but to do this, he must discount our primary sources that tell us about his life. If Jesus disciple's could screw it up so royally, then what other accounts of His life are left? What makes us think that Tolle can reconstruct who Jesus really was 2000 years later? I doubt even Tolle believes that he can do this, so personally, I doubt he truly "likes" Jesus, though he probably likes his own imaginings of who Jesus should have been.

I had an interesting conversation with a big fan of Tollle-like spirituality on a flight back from a conference a month ago. The guy ran a non-profit that educated people on the very "cutting edge" ideas in culture, including religion. The disdain that this man had for traditional religion was palpable, and he was a bit embarrassed to express his condemnation in such strong language, devout relativist that he was. Yet, he couldn't bring himself to admit that Christianity was an alternative spirituality on equal footing with his agnostic spirituality. There was no right way to view an unknowable God(s), therefore Christianity, which has concrete claims about God, was a far inferior spirituality.

I view folks like Tolle as dangerous because they seek not just to express their ideas, but to banish traditional forms of religion and morality from both the private and especially the public sphere. Their's is the "dictatorship of relativism," as Ratzinger so aptly put it.

MB

FancyPants said...

The disdain that this man had for traditional religion was palpable, and he was a bit embarrassed to express his condemnation in such strong language, devout relativist that he was. Yet, he couldn't bring himself to admit that Christianity was an alternative spirituality on equal footing with his agnostic spirituality.

I felt the same exact thing from Tolle when reading the book. Tolle, in one paragraph, says that his spirituality can be incorporated into one's religion. And in another paragraph he attacks religion, a system of beliefs, a doctrine, whatever you want to call it, for being egotistical. I also noted how he specifically attacks Christianity, not Buddhism, not Hinduism. Clearly his frustrations are with Christianity and he leans more toward the Eastern religions, while at the same time denying any sort of system of belief.

But you can't get away from doctrine, really. Tolle has created his own doctrine. The doctrine of ego, the doctrine of consciousness, whatever. He believes in its validity and in its authenticity.

I understand that at times a person's truth depends on his own perspective, so in that respect, I understand relativism. That what you know depends on how you see it. But still, it doesn't alleviate the fact that what you see isn't necessarily the Truth. Truth has to be present despite the individual for it to be real truth. Someone explain it to me if it's explainable.

I doubt he truly "likes" Jesus, though he probably likes his own imaginings of who Jesus should have been.

I think you're right about that.

MamasBoy said...

"I also noted how he specifically attacks Christianity, not Buddhism, not Hinduism. Clearly his frustrations are with Christianity and he leans more toward the Eastern religions, while at the same time denying any sort of system of belief."

That is an interesting observation. I observed the same thing in my conversation with the CEO on the plane. He spoke very negatively about celibacy in the Catholic church on one hand, calling it completely "unrealistic," and then turned around in the next breath and said it was positive for some people. (like maybe a Buddhist monk? I doubt he's very pro-shaker)

MB

csp said...

Excellent post and very balanced. My only disagreements are about the "Jesus is God" claim and religion v. spirituality.

The claim that "Jesus is God" is quite debatable. There are actually more scriptural references to Jesus making it very clear that he is not God the Father. Even the references that he is God can be interpreted differently. Saying that "God is in me and I'm in God" for instance is not saying that he is God, but only being "lived by" God (e.g. his will and not my will).

As for religion, spirituality, etc. there can be "spirituality within religion" and "spirituality outside religion". Tolle does seem to promote the latter because the history of the orthodox Church has such a sordid history (dark ages, inquisition, crusades, witch burning, collaboration with nazis, child abuse, etc.) that have led to the torture and death of millions in the name of Christ that he feels the infrastructure of the religion Christianity is too solidly based on ego structure. It became "politicized", bent to human desires and became hollow. The great Danish Christian mystic Kierkegaard would not disagree. Jakob Boehme, the great German Lutheran mystic however, would disagree. The debate goes on. :-)

katy said...

I am utterly impressed that you are blogging on this book. I don't think I could get my thoughts down in such a cohesive manner. My neighbor and I have been talking about reading it for the same reason you did, but maybe I'll just read your take instead.

On a totally different subject, I need to ask you a question. Will you email me at kathrynsmoore@gmail.com?
Thanks chica!!

FancyPants said...

CSP, welcome. Thank you for your comment. I do enjoy a good debate. =-) Your comments are thought provoking, and I gladly offer a response.

The claim that Jesus was God. You're right in that there are Scriptural references where Christ is speaking and acting simply as a man. Also, it is important to note that when Jesus speaks of God he says "Father." This is because God is three persons in one nature. Jesus (God the Son) is the second of those three persons, and he often speaks of the Father (the first of those three persons.) But in order to look fully at the nature of this man, we not only look at what he says, but what he does and what others who walked with him say about him.

I'll first take your example:

John 10:38: that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father."
(39) Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

Jesus says earlier:

John 10:29: I and the Father are one. (31) Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him.

He was not saying the mere statement that he acted on behalf of God or through God, because if he were, the Jews would have no reason to stone him. The Jews had many past prophets who spoke for God. But this one made himself equal with God.

Also, when Jesus is being questioned before his crucifixion, he gives the answer to who he is, "I Am." Funny, that Tolle uses this same phrase when describing Truth. Tolle says I am truth. Therefore, I Am. But Jesus, a devout Jew, did not mean that he was "present consciousness." He quoted what God said to Moses in the burning bush . He used the phrase by which every Jew understood God: I Am.

For the interest of time, I need to move on.

Jesus also claimed to forgive sins. Remember, he was a Jew and was surrounded by Jews. This was absurd to them. By claiming to forgive sins we was claiming equality with God. Only God could forgive sins.

Jesus himself makes the challenge: John 8:46: Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me?"

Jesus did not sin.

Jesus raised people from the dead. Another action only God could perform.

Most importantly, we must not forget Jesus' resurrection and ascension.

And lastly we take a look at what the Apostle John says about him at the beginning of his gospel. John, who walked and lived with Jesus, wrote"

"(1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He was with God in the beginning.... (14) The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,[d] who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

FancyPants said...

It's also important to note the nature of Jesus. He was one person, God the Son, the second person of the divine Trinity. But he was two natures. He had both the nature of God and the nature of man. Therefore, in the gospels, we will see him, as the disciples did, acting and speaking as simply a man, and also acting and speaking as God.

Bill Hensley said...

Excellent summary of the Biblical support for Christ's divinity!

Getting back to the topic...I read your post with great interest. It seemed like exactly the sort of topic that I would love to comment on, which is why I was surprised when I couldn't think of anything to say. :-)

Then it hit me. Listening to your report of what Tolle believes, I found I have no idea what he's talking about. What does it mean to be "spiritual" apart from any religious framework or belief system? What in the world does "Awaken to your inner being" mean? Maybe it's my engineering mind at work here, but that phrase seems to contain no actionable information whatsoever.

One of the things I like about Christianity is that it is objective, historical and factual. Others might disagree about its veracity, but there are concrete claims to wrestle with, not just a bunch of mumbo jumbo.

Am I being tacky and intolerant? :-)

csp said...

First, the triune nature of God is quite marginalized in the orthodox Bible canon. The Apostles Creed had to be added later to help boost the concept of a triune nature. The Gnostic Gospels have as a much more central theme that of the triune nature. It is also found in Hinduism (Rama, Krishna, Shiva) as well as in the Egyptian Mystery Schools (Osiris, Isis, Horus).

Secondly, the "other" scriptural references to Jesus as not being the same as God the Father...

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. [Acts 3:13]

Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone [Mark 10:18] * Also contradicts that Jesus never sinned.

I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. [John 14:28]

... and the head of Christ is God. [1 Cor 11:3]

... that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. [John 17:3]

God has raised this Jesus to life... [Acts 2:32]

God has made this Jesus ... [Acts 2:36]

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. [Luke 2:52] * A very interesting comment about his development into the Christ.

Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)

Yet not as I will, but as you will. [Matt 26:39]

the Father is greater than I. [John 14:28]

And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form [John 5:37]

I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. [John 8:28]

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? [Matthew 27:46]

Maybe I'll try and cover some of your other comments in another post. :-)

MamasBoy said...

Fancypants,

I hate to disagree with you on your evidence, when I agree with your overall point, but I don't buy some of your examples.

For instance, you say, 'Jesus also claimed to forgive sins. Remember, he was a Jew and was surrounded by Jews. This was absurd to them. By claiming to forgive sins we was claiming equality with God. Only God could forgive sins."

I don't think Jesus ever taught that only God could forgive sins. In fact, he specifically commanded his disciples to go out and not just forgive sins, but retain sins.

Also, I would have to agree with csp that Scripture by itself does not make a crystal clear case for Jesus being coeternal with the Father. Scripture says, "you are my Son, today I have begotten you." (quoting from memory, so feel free to correct me there).

I would argue that partly why the Scripture isn't clear is because it wasn't meant to be the whole enchilada. It contains only a fraction of the teaching that the disciples passed on to their followers. Thus, Tradition (e.g., the creeds) is essential to the proper interpretation of Scripture.

MB

FancyPants said...

CSP,

The claims that Jesus makes concerning his servanthood, that the "Father is greater" than himself, is explained well by Paul, who writes,

"(6) Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, (7) but made himself nothing, taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness. (8) And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!" (Phil 2: 6-8)

Jesus' divine being expressed by the words, "being in the very nature God," His human nature expressed by "made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness."

Yes, he was a man. He chose to do so. He took on the form of servant, taking on the confined and spacially limited body of a man. His man nature was created by God in Mary's womb. His purpose as a man was to do the will of His Father who sent him. God raised him back to life. This doesn't mean he did not also possess the divine nature.

The creeds were not added to "boost" anything. They were added to stamp out heresies.

FancyPants said...

MB, Jesus gave his disciples this "power" to forgive sins after the resurrection. If they have the authority to forgive sins as Jesus does, it is only because Jesus has given them the authority. The authority proceeds from Jesus.

When Jesus stated his authority to forgive sins, it was by his own authority.

Luke 5: (20) When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven."

(21) The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, "Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?"

(22) Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? (23) Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? (24)But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...." He said to the paralyzed man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." (25) Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. (26) Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, "We have seen remarkable things today."

The only argument I can see with this evidence of the divine nature of God, would be to say that God the Father gave God the Son the authority to forgive sins. And then, the forgiveness of sins wouldn't necessarily prove Jesus's divine nature. That's true.

Is the forgiveness of sins appropriated to God the Father? I'll check on that.

More Scriptural evidence of Jesus' eternal existence and equality of divine nature.

John 8:58: "Before Abraham was born, I am."

John 16:15: "All that belongs to the Father is mine."

Tradition is essential to the proper interpretation of Scripture.

Agreed.

csp said...

I'm not denying the divinity of Jesus or his becoming the Christ (anointed one) ... only his equality with God the Father. Gnostic Christians, in particular, understand the transfiguristic process that Jesus undertook to bring to fruition the Christ on earth.

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness ... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him. [Gen 1:26-27]

then later ...

He (Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. [Col 1:15] * This particular scripture has a lot of deep meanings.

As for the Apostles Creed ... yes I understand that its main purpose was to try and stamp out competing heresies, but it did so by emphasizing characteristics of the triune nature that are not explicitly described in the orthodox Biblical canon.

Also, I don't think Jesus is referred to as "God the Son" in the scriptures, but the "Son of God". Correct me if I am wrong. Two different meanings.

Forgiving sin:

In Matthew 9:2, Jesus said to a certain man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Because of this, some say that Jesus must be God since only God can forgive sins. However, if you are willing to read just a few verses further, you will find that the people “...praised God, who had given such authority to men.” (Matthew 9:8). This shows that the people knew, and Matthew agrees, that Jesus is not the only man to receive such authority from God.

Jesus himself emphasized that he does not speak on his own authority (John 14:10) and he does nothing on his own authority, but he speaks only what the Father has taught him (John 8:28). What Jesus did here was as follows. Jesus announced to the man the knowledge Jesus received from God that God had forgiven the man.

Notice that Jesus did not say, “I forgive your sins,” but rather, “your sins are forgiven,” implying, as this would to his Jewish listeners, that God had forgiven the man. Jesus, then, did not have the power to forgive sins, and in that very episode he called himself “the Son of Man” (Matthew 9:6).

MamasBoy said...

"but it (the creeds) did so by emphasizing characteristics of the triune nature that are not explicitly described in the orthodox Biblical canon."

Is all truth explicitly contained in the "orthodox Biblical canon?" I would assert that it was not the purpose of Paul's letters explicitly describe all truth concerning the Trinity. In fact, Paul specifically states that he expected not just his written letters, but his oral teaching to be obeyed. To say that we only need to believe what is explicitly taught in Scripture is to say something that Scripture itself doesn't assert... and that ignores the fact that explicitness is a very subjective term. FP has laid out many verses in support of Jesus coequality with the Father. I agree with her interpretation. I just don't think that the evidence is overwhelming, and don't expect it to be given that Paul wrote to address problems for the most part, and the gnostic heresy was in its infancy.

FP: I agree that men only have power to forgive sins if God grants it. I was just saying Scripture isn't clear whether Jesus was given that authority by the Father, or if He possessed it in and of himself because of His Deity.

MB

MamasBoy said...

typo, I meant the Scripture you cited isn't clear about where Jesus power to forgive sins came from.

MB

FancyPants said...

I also need to clear up a typo. My last comment should read, "The only argument I can see with this evidence of the divine nature of Jesus, would be to say that God the Father gave God the Son the authority to forgive sins.

CSP,

Going back to the passage in John, the gospel written by arguably the closest to Jesus Christ while on earth.

John 1:1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

What do we know from this passage. We know that the Word existed with God, and at the same time was God. The Word, or God the Son (a term to denote the Word as the second person of the Trinity), then became flesh. So the Word was Jesus. Jesus was with God in the beginning and He was God in the beginning. That is to say that they are One, or equal, both God, but different persons.

MB,

I find the above passage both explicit and overwhelming. =-)

But I do agree with you, that the doctrine of the Trinity is not necessarily "explicit" (in subjective use of the word). But it is there in the Scriptures, would you agree?

CSP,

if you do not deny the divinity of Jesus, but deny Jesus as God (not God the Father, but God), then who do you say he is and what do you believe was his purpose here on earth?

csp said...

I'm getting ready to head out of the country for a few days, so am short of time and can't respond to all the posts until I return. But ... I'll try and answer one. :-)

I'm a Gnostic Christian and we believe that man was once "divine" in the sense that we were created from and by God (in his image). Through a misuse of our God given creative powers and deviation from God's will we "fell" into the realm of space and time. However, a remnant of our original being (divine spark) remains to be reborn as a spirit-soul to replace our mortal-soul (earthly personality). Jesus was "sent" to walk this path of liberation and show us the way of return to the original realm of life [I'm skipping many details of this process]. The Christ force is the original creative force [as you mention in your quotes] through which he transfigured. Jesus became the Christ, thus divine.

Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. [1 Col 8:6]

Super Churchlady said...

Wow! Interesting discussion. With regard to Jesus' power to forgive sins: Eternal Judgment is unique to God - and this power has been given to Christ (as God) alone. Because He has the power to judge - doesn't He - by implication (if for no other reason) have the power to forgive?


John 12 48 - All men will be judged according to Jesus' words.

Matthew 25:31-46 - All nations will be gathered before the Son of Man. He will separate them and send them into eternal punishment or eternal life.

2 Corinthians 5:10 - We must all be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ to receive the things done in the body, good or bad.

John 5:22,23 - The Father does not judge anyone but has given all judgment to the Son. [Acts 17:31]

csp said...

Nice quotes. There is a "judgment" with the Christ force. However, if you look at the full John 5:22-23 passage it - again - separates the Father from the Son. Divinely linked yes, but different.

Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. [John 5:22-23]

Is the Christ part of and sent by God the Father? Yes. Is the Holy Spirit part of and sent by God the Father? Yes. It's a tricky concept. Interesting discussion.

FancyPants said...

CSP, obviously, one of our major differences lies in the definition of, or maybe even existence of, the Trinity. But for the purposes of this discussion here, I'll attempt to explain the Trinity (in its orthodox meaning, which I believe, is the correct meaning.)

God is three persons in one nature. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

The three persons are distinct, but not separate. They each possess totally the nature of God. But they are indeed, one infinite and divine nature.

Let's define nature and person. Nature answers the question what we are and what we can do. A person and a snake have two different natures. A person is not a snake. A person is not a rock. Obviously, a snake and a rock cannot do what a person can do.

Person answers the question of who we are. A person decides what he will do with the nature given to him.

Let's take a quick look at man. Each man has one person to one nature. Put three different people in a room, and you have three separate people, each possessing a human nature. But although each nature is similar, they also each have their own. The first man cannot think with the second man's intellect. The second man cannot love with the third man's will.

God is three distinct persons in one nature. The three distinct persons act and decide with one and the same intellect and with one and the same will, infinite and divine. For there is One God.

csp said...

Thank you for your clear definition. We are, if I understand you correctly, actually in agreement about the triune nature of God. Three distinct powers (you say persons) of one divine nature, mind and will.

As Gnostic Christians we say ...

Ex Deo nascimur (Born from God)
In Jesu mortimur (Died in Jesus)
Per spiritum sanctum reviviscimusesu (Resurrected by the Holy Spirit)

FancyPants said...

CSP,

Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you do not believe that Jesus is God, then we cannot be in agreement concerning the Trinity. Or perhaps it's the Incarnation we most disagree about. We believe that God the Son was made man, that Jesus, from birth to death, was fully God and fully man. Which gives his death on the cross its ultimate meaning. On the cross, God takes on the punishment for man's sins. We believe, as it is today, Christ remains both God and man standing at the right side of the Father, resurrected as a living sacrifice and intercessor of how man, through Jesus Christ himself, has been set right.

The term "power" and the term "person" are very different terms. I'm not sure they are synonymous.

You wrote earlier: Jesus was "sent" to walk this path of liberation and show us the way of return to the original realm of life. The Christ force is the original creative force through which he (Jesus) transfigured. Jesus became the Christ, thus divine..

If I understand you correctly, then to a Gnostic Christian, Jesus was not originally the Christ force but transfigured into the Christ. Meaning that Jesus and the Christ force are, or were?, separate entities?

Also, if Jesus was not God, how do you explain the importance of Jesus' death on the cross? How does it save us?

csp said...

The last post is very confusing. Let me see if I understand this right and you can correct me if I'm wrong.

1. Jesus was an incarnated God from birth.

2. God punished himself on the cross for our sins.

3. Jesus is literally standing in heaven - as literally both God and man - at the right side of God.

4. Jesus was resurrected as a living sacrifice and intercessor of how man, through Jesus Christ himself, has been set right. [this is very convaluted and confusing. can you re-explain this more clearly?]

As for "power" and "person" there is a big difference. As has been stated in the scriptures God has never, nor ever will be, seen. God the Father, Christ and the Holy Spirit are beyond personal form, labels or concepts. The only close descriptions are power, vibration, radiation, light, love, etc. God, Christ, Holy Spirit, etc. were in and working through Jesus.

I'll come back to your final comment in another post.

FancyPants said...

CSP,

1. No, not an incarnated God. God the Son incarnate.

2. Jesus took the punishment for our sins. Death. Jesus was fully God and fully man. God the Son atoned for our sins through His ultimate sacrifice. That's why the Incarnation is so important. If Jesus was anything less than God, his sacrifice would not be enough. I find this verse helpful:

Romans 3:23 - 26: (23) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (24) and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (25) God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— (26) he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

3. Literally at the right side of God? Well, no, not literally, because God is an infinite being, so... Some would say, in the bosom of God. Literally standing? Suffice it to say that He is with God as the resurrected man. Fully man and fully God.

4. I think this verse does a better job than I do:

1 John 2:1-2: But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. (2) He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

csp said...

Thank you for clarifying. I am on vacation for a few days, so it may take a little time for me to respond. Thanks.

csp said...

Quickly... read this closely.

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement.. [Romans 3:23-26]

Presented = example
"a" sacrifice and not "the" sacrifice

Jesus walked the path of liberation as an example (presented). We also have to follow and sacrifice our self.

FancyPants said...

CSP,

Please do not feel the need to respond if you are on vacation, but here is my response to you for when you have time to read.

No God did not just make Jesus an example. He was not merely "a" sacrifice, but was "the" sacrifice.

Hebrews 9:26: But now he (Christ) has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. (27) Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, (28) so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Hebrews 10:10: And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:14: because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

Hebrews 10:17: Then he adds: "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." (18) And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

And as I stated earlier, 1 John 2:2: He is the
atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for[a] the sins of the whole world.

You said earlier: God the Father, Christ and the Holy Spirit are beyond personal form, labels or concepts.

but 1 John 1 says:

"(1) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. (2)The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us."

csp said...

Yes, my detailed response will have to wait until I return, but two points to consider. 1) there are many [hundreds if not thousands of] inconsistencies and conflicting scriptural passages and 2) an interpretation of the scriptures describing an inner path of rebirth and return to the original realm of life. One, the more literal interpretation, places the events outside oneself and marginalizes self-responsibility while the other recognizes the symbolic and allegorical meanings of the scriptures as an inner path of renewal through Christ and the Holy Spirit. The orthodox Church reinforced the former interpretation [through force] to develop and maintain its political power.

csp said...

Forgot to ask ... you stated ...

Not an incarnated God.
God the Son incarnate.

Could you explain more clearly how those two statements are different [incarnated God v. God the Son incarnate]?

Thanks.

csp said...

Also ... can you show me in scriptures where it states "God the Son" vs. "Son of God"? Thanks.

Seth Ward said...

Csp,

So what you are stating is this:

(In your first and second points) Since the scripture is unreliable, we can pick and choose what it should mean, because as a whole there is no cohesiveness outside the realm of pseudo-allegory. And the unorthodox view, or Gnostic view, is that there is no real truth other than the one that doesn't take the scripture literally, especially those parts mentioned in the verses Fancy showed.

To me, that is sort of like playing a Mozart string quartet with a rock band and saying that that was how Mozart actually intended it and that the string players of the time just didn't see what Mozart really wanted.

The orthodox view of scripture is that the Scripture is "true." Every word. Even the parts that seem to contradict the other parts. (For the Gnostics Jesus being Fully God and Fully man cannot be reconciled, whereas Christians believe that Jesus said and did things as both, therefore, he was miraculously both-which in the end, could be the only thing that could redeem all of mankind, and creation.)

The Orthodox Christian view is that God did become man, fully man, yet remaining fully God. This is what separates Orthodox Christianity from the Gnostics: Jesus was and is, fully God, and fully man. Perhaps the greatest mystery in all creation- that he was the Logos, the "wisdom" of God - the perfect image of Himself, and became flesh and dwelled among us, thus establishing another great mystery in the Christian faith, one that Descartes described as on of the three great miracles of creation:

Man who was God
Free Will
Things from nothing.

This union of fully God and fully man has been called the "hypostatic union." Something that is a mystery beyond anything the Greek Gnostics could correct or fully know. And it was through Christ that all things were made. Therefore, it was appropriate that through Christ, all things were reconciled and the He should enter into creation to Redeem it. "and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven."(Colossians 1:20)

The orthodox Christian view is deeply rooted in Judaism. Jesus was the new Covenant, the fulfillment of the Law. The Gnostic is essentially the Greek mystery religion view that sees Christ through a lens that interprets his life, sayings and events in such a way that they are in harmony with the "everyone can be God" and you can find that way through a knowledge-pantheistic precept that is found in every other eastern religion.

However, Christianity is in direct line to the Jews, to whom we believe God uniquely showed Himself to Moses and the Prophets, and fully through Jesus the Messiah, "For we have seen his Glory, face to face."

Not the Greeks and their various mystery cults, nor the Eastern Religions, even though there are many good and similar things about their teachings.

In fact, everything about the Mass and the Gospel is Jewish. The last supper was distinctly Jewish, and the symbolism there is something all Christians should study. We are grafted children of Abraham, surely influenced by the greek thinkers, but only as a means of spreading the truth to those who would hear it - as Paul and John wrote to Greek-thinking Gentiles. So there are Greek terms used in the scriptures but the message is wholly Jewish in our views on Jahweh and sin atonement. Flesh and Spirit are good. Both were corrupted. Christ's sacrifice set (is setting them) them right.

The New Testament must be read through a Jewish lens. In this way, you know the true power of what Jesus said and did. It cannot be read through a modern-New-age, or (new or old) Gnostic lens. This distorts the power of Christ's atonement and the incarnation itself into another "version" of every other religion or pathway to God. Jesus said, "I am THE way, THE truth and THE life. No man cometh unto the father but by ME." Stern words for simply another symbolic"Christ" figure.


And, respectfully, that "stamping out the poor Gnostics to maintain political power" bit might be convincing if we didn't have the gospels or the letters from Paul, Hebrews, John and James, not to mention their Martyred deaths, and were only left with the Gospel of Judas and the other 2 and 3rd century mystery books. And if we didn't have the writings of the 1st century saints (some who knew the disciples) and how they proclaimed Christ as Lord and God. They went to the lion's den or other horrible deaths for those beliefs. So, the early dealing of Gnostic heresy started well before Christians had any power, as well as the stamping out of the mystery religions of Egypt and their whole "hidden Gospel of Mark" business.

The Trinity wasn't "invented." It was widely believed but finally codified as an answer to the Gnostic Heresy that had been going on since the Christians evangelized the Greeks. Gnosticism is the product of Early Christian-Judaism mingling with Greek mysticism and the Mysticism takes over. In doing so, the Greek mystics miss the mark and leave behind the true Character of God and the full truth of the Gospel. Just as the Greeks were uncomfortable with Paul and his Jewish Messiah when he preached to them at Athens- God incarnate, dying and rising from the dead- they are still uncomfortable with it. Not much has changed.

No, Gnosticism is post Jesus, Disciples, Apostles and early church fathers. It is a descendent of Greek mysticism and is derived from the same religion that unites every other religion besides Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. It is Pantheism at the core, which is the worlds oldest religion and mans best attempt at understanding God, without God Himself intervening.

This is fine for you to believe, and I respect your choice, but lets not mix words here or pretend to see the same image through a different lens. Christianity is not Pantheism.

The only slightly viable Gnostic argument against the Deity of Christ is that the Jesus didn't stand up and say, "Here ye hear ye, let me tell you about the Trinity." However, he did say things like, "I tell you the truth, before Abraham, I AM." and "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have."

So in the Gospels, you have Jesus doing things only God can do, (heal the sick, calm storms, forgive sins, raise the dead, and claim equality with his self proclamation of "I AM," –things that in His name, the disciples did after.) and you have him demonstrating his fully man characteristics: Sweating in the Garden, praying to God, dying on a Cross, weeping at the tomb...

The truth, not contradiction, is that Jesus was both. The Disciples knew this. The Gospel writers knew this. They chose to leave it as it was taught, and as it occurred. Any first century Jew (or any modern day schooled Jew) would walk away from a reading of the Gospels offended, to the CORE, by Jesus' statements about himself.

But why do you think Jesus didn't say, right off the bat, "Hey, fellas, I'm your God." A few good reasons. Well, the Jews being Jews, if they would have believed he was serious, they would have either stoned him to death (which they tried to do and eventually crucified him) or they would have fallen on their face before him and never got up. Period. To them Jahweh was so Holy, they weren't allowed to even utter his full name. They just said, "Ja." Therefore, the only begotten son of the Father slowly revealed to his disciples who he was, but even then, it was revelation from the Holy Spirit to Peter, and even more fully at Pentecost.

This is also unique about Christianity: This revelation, about Christ, we believe, is a gift. It cannot be known or believed, simply through intellect. It is too high of a knowledge to fully "get." It is not a blind faith, but it IS faith. Therefore, we believe it through faith, a gift of God. It was a Gift to Peter, and it is a Gift to us. "Blessed art thou, Peter, for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee"

As far as further interpretation, I believe the eyewitnesses and what was passed down from them. I believe them over the Mystery cult that tried to infuse Christianity with ethereal, intellectual-but-actually-pantheist perspective.

There is a loooooong list of differences between Gnostic "Christians" and Orthodox Christians. But the most important distinction is the biggie: We believe that Jesus is, uniquely, fully God and fully man and that he died for our sins to redeem mankind and all creation. You believe that we are all God, or "god-like" and Jesus was the perfect example of that. And that with God’s help, we can achieve that chi. (Close, but no cigar.)

We've all seen the Da Vinci Code, and we all heard about Mythra. (Mythra- another attempt, by the Romans, to meld the Cult of their past with enforced Christianity. Mythra changed miraculously from the Bull of its early myth, who sprang from a rock, into, amazingly after Constantine, a Wise man with twelve Disciples who died on a Cross.)

No, Orthodox Christians take their cues from the early Church, disciples and apostles. We accept their accounts through faith. Just I'm sure you would take my description of my Father over someone who heard about him two centuries after he had died.

FancyPants said...

CSP,

"An incarnated God" denotes the existence of more than one God.

God the Son. Son of God. They are the same. The operative word is Son. This is how the Second Person of the Trinity is described relationally to the first, the Father. The only begotten Son of God.

To my understanding, the term "Son of God" was used first by the the Jews to denote and proclaim the Messiah. Whether or not the Jews understood fully at first that the Messiah was God incarnate, I'm not sure. But to be sure, as Jesus revealed himself on earth, it became clear. After the resurrection and surely after Pentecost, the disciples of Jesus did come to this understanding.

You claim that the scriptures hold inconsistencies, but you argue your own points from those very scriptures. It seems to me that you have decided which parts of those scriptures are true and leave out other parts. I was not actually even aware that Gnostic Christians claim the Orthodox Christian cannon as true, yet you claim truth from them in your arguments, while denying others that have been pointed out to you. When the authors of the books and letters of the cannon are connected to the very Jesus of which we both speak.

csp said...

I'll have to answer Seth's post in full when I return from vacation, but to start ...

"I am THE way, THE truth and THE life. No man cometh unto the father but by ME." [fully accepted by Gnostic Christians].

As we say...

Ex Deo nascimur (Born from God)
In Jesu mortimur (Died in Jesus)
Per spiritum sanctum reviviscimusesu (Resurrected by the Holy Spirit)

To clarify...

"Gnosticism" is pre-Christ and "Gnostic Christianity" is post Christ.

"I tell you the truth, before Abraham, I AM." [True. The Christ force is the creative force, so naturally pre-dates creation].

You make a lot of statements about Gnosticism [but are not a Gnostic] that are not entirely accurate. I was raised in the German Reformed Church, read the Bible front to back when I was 12 and realized that my understanding of the scriptures did not coincide with what I was hearing in the Church, searched in my twenties for a Christian faith that resonated with that inner understanding, found it and became a Gnostic Christian in my early thirties.

More later ...

csp said...

"An incarnated God" denotes the existence of more than one God."

No ... I wasn't insinuating more than one God ... just that I understand you to mean that Jesus was in incarnated God.

"God the Son. Son of God. They are the same. The operative word is Son."

No ... they have very different meanings. The first implies "God as the Son" and the second "The Son of God." Very, very different implications. I've never seen "God as Son" in the scriptures.

"You claim that the scriptures hold inconsistencies, but you argue your own points from those very scriptures."

The truth of the Bible still shines through even though there are hundreds if not thousands of inconsitencies, contradictions and conflicts that are the work and errors of man. I've tried to point out those important passages and their interpretations from a Gnostic Christian perspective. If one gets too locked into the belief that the entirety of the Bible is the infallible word of God then you are going to paint yourself into a corner with all of its internal errors.

Again ... using the Bible, Church, substitionary or penal atonement, etc. as the path to salvation is placing all responsibility outside of oneself. Easy, but rife with problems that will take many posts to go into. To bring this all back to Tolle, the Church has promoted this "path" because it reinforces the ego-mind-personality of the individual which in turn supports the egoic structure of the Church institution.

Instead, we have to die to our old self [ego-personality] in Jesus Christ and be resurrected [reborn] by the Holy Spirit.

FancyPants said...

CSP,

Regarding "God the Son" and "Son of God."

No ... they have very different meanings. The first implies "God as the Son" and the second "The Son of God." Very, very different implications. I've never seen "God as Son" in the scriptures.

Their meaning really aren't different at all. If you ask, who is Jesus? And I say: he is God, the Son. You could say, the Son of who? And I'd say, the Son of God. They really are saying the same thing.

And to be quite concise, you really can't say, "God as the Son." or "God as the Father." Because those phrases state that God assumes the role as the Son, or the role of the Father. When in fact, God is the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. But maybe that's a bit nit-picky, I don't know.

By the time of the Pauline writings, the authors' use of the term Son of God clearly implied Jesus' divinity as God. "Being in very nature God..."

There are many times in the gospel where Jesus refers to himself as the Son (not Son of God, but the Son), and when God the Father refers to Jesus as the Son. That's why the operative word is Son.

"And no one knows the Son, but the Father: neither does any one know the Father, but the Son, and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal him."

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son..."

At Jesus' baptism, and at the Transfiguration, the Father says, ""This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased"

Also, when Jesus speaks of his Father, he is very distinctive of his own relationship to his Father in comparison to those around him. When Jesus speaks of his Father, He uses "My Father" and never "Our Father", drawing a very clear distinction between the way in which God was His father and the way God was the Father to all creatures.

He says at the ascension, "I ascend to my Father and your Father." When he shows the disciples how to pray, he says, "So when YOU pray, "OUR Father..."
But never, when he speaks to the disciples of the Father, does his say, Our, but only MY.

Also, Jesus says, before ascending, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,"

Jesus was the only begotten Son of God. The word Son teaches us that He was alike in nature to the Father, and that he proceeds from the Father. Not as a being that the Father has created from nothing, but as coming forth from the Father. Because the Father is infinte and eternal, so will be the Son, and thus no less than the Father but totally equal.

csp said...

I think we will have to agree to disagree about "God as Son" v. "Son of God" as being the same. I feel there is a distinct difference and prefer Son of God as the more clear description.

As for the rest of your post I am in complete agreement. :-)

The main difference between the orthodox and Gnostic Christian being that we see his life as not only a description of what and who Jesus was and his purpose, but also a description of an inner process of transfiguration that each of us has to experience in order to die in Jesus Christ and be reborn by the Holy Spirit.

truevyne said...

"The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried."
-- GK Chesterton

I see truth and flaw in Eckhart as I do in any man's work. Like you, I could learn from him. I do believe Christianity is distorted and misinterpreted often by people. Looking back, sadly, I've distorted Truth myself.
You hit the nail on the head that spirituality will not eliminate dysfunction. The work of the cross is the only remedy.

FancyPants said...

TrueV, love the quote, and well-said.

CSP,

While I am happy to agree to disagree about what "Son of God" means and implies, I have a difficult time accepting that you agree with the rest of the post. For if you believe that the Son (how Jesus describes himself) and the Father are equal, then you must believe they, Jesus and the Father, are both God, infinite and eternal. And if you believe they are equal, infinite and eternal, while at the same time denying them as the same, then you believe there is more than one God.

It's OK for us to disagree on as many points as we disagree on. However, it is not OK to say that one is like the other, when they are in fact very different.

Here is a summary of Gnosticism (post Christ) found at the Apostolic Gnostic Church in America website: www.gnostic-church.org

"We Gnostics believe that in the world around us we experience a physical principle, which brings with it such things as suffering, pain, death, impermanence, and a spiritual principle that brings such things as peace, love, joy, beauty, connection, and what is eternal in the human soul. We further believe that these principles have different origins -- that the spiritual principle originates in the one true God, whereas the physical principle originates in a lesser and imperfect Creator, who produced a flawed Creation -- thus we would not consider the Creator-being in Genesis to be the true God, but what we just call the "demiurge" or "creator." However, the spiritual essentially underlies and is panentheistically suffused into the physical world, so the purpose of life is to attain "knowledge" (the literal meaning of "gnosis") -- not factual knowledge, but experiential knowledge of encountering the spirit in yourself, in other people, in nature, and ultimately in God. We also believe in two major bridges or mediating forces between God and the human being who help us to achieve gnosis, Christ and Sophia."

I can derive a few things from this summary.

The Gnostic believes:

1) In a creator that is not the true God. While Christians believe that there is only one God who is Creator. Believing that there is a lesser god who created the world is pantheism, dualism to be specific.

2) Salvation is achieved through "gnosis" or knowledge, and Christ is a bridge unto that knowledge. While Christians believe that it is the actual sacrifice of Christ, fully God and fully man, that redeems us and atones for us and saves us.

3) Gnostics believe that matter = evil, and spirit = good. Christians believe that both matter and spirit are good because God created us with both matter and spirit, and "saw that it was good." Man has sinned and fallen, and for the time is dying. But the perfect Jesus Christ remains both matter and spirit, and at his return all matter and spirit will be renewed to its original state.

So, we could be using the same words to mean two very different things, and it's very important for all of us to understand this.

I will address your statement shortly regarding the Church promoting the ego-mind-personality of an individual

csp said...

I believe in only one God. Christ and the Holy Spirit hold a special place in the divine hierarchy. They are divine and eternal. As Jesus said, the Father is greater than I.

Be careful about the information you find on Gnostics and Gnostic Christianity because there are as many varieties as there are varieties of orthodox Christians. Some are very dualistic and others not. Some are panthiestic and others not. Some are occultic or mystical and others not.

FancyPants said...

CSP,

If you believe differently than stated above you are welcome to explain your beliefs.

But there are things you will find do not differ in orthodox Christianity, Catholic and Protestant. That is: the belief in One God existing infinitely and eternally, and as Creator and Sustainer of all things, the Trinity, the cannon of the New Testament, salvation through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and the belief that He will come again.

Disagreements among other issues can hardly be considered equal to that of discrepancies between monotheism and pantheism.

Which brings us to Tolle's determination of ego-centric doctrine. Specifically in Christianity.

First of all, salvation through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ is as you have said yourself, placing responsibility outside of oneself. Someone else saves us. This does not mean that we don't take responsibility in accepting that gift, or in the working out of one's salvation, but yes, the act of salvation itself is given to us.

How can this at all be considered ego-minded? We cannot claim or boast within ourselves of a righteousness that saves us. We can only stand on that of Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, the Christian Church, in defending itself against heresies, such as Gnosticism, protect what was given to us through Jesus Christ. We believe that the Truth has been given through Jesus Christ, and that the Christian Church holds the keys to that Truth. We do not protect what we have created. We protect what God has given to us. The Church is the very evidence of Christ's work on earth. And we would be remiss to let the message brought by Christ to be misinterpreted and falsely represented. It is not ourselves that we represent, but what God has given us. It is not ego. It is done not in the name of ourselves, but in the name of God. If the Truth that the Church holds is not ego-minded, then the Church itself cannot be considered ego-minded. Certain members of that Church, in various ways, because of their humanity, could be considered ego-minded. But not the belief that the Church holds. But we do not believe what we believe to be "right" in the sense of, I am right and you are wrong, we believe what we believe because we believe it to be the Truth.

I know there is a part of the Christian history that is "dark," but the beauty is that, despite humanity, the Truth has not been lost. Glory be to God.

It's here that I have to excuse myself from this discussion. Thank you, CSP, for your kindness and patience in your posts. I've enjoyed the discussion very much. Anyone else interested is more than welcome to continue in the discussion. But for my individual purposes, I need to focus on other things.

csp said...

My particular Gnostic Christian order is monotheistic and not pantheistic.

Of course, there are similarities between Christian sects, but Christianity ranges from Mormonism and Seventh Day Adventist to Eastern Orthodox and Catholicism. There are some very significant doctrinal differences amongst these and many other Christian sects.

As for the dark history of the Church well ... Gnostic Christians have always been at the receiving end of the sword of orthodox Christianity (e.g. Manicheans, Cathars, etc.), so it is easy to dismiss, but I think it is a serious issue to consider when analyzing doctrinal beliefs systems and their consequences.

What I meant by a reinforcement of the ego-personality is that it does not require a death of the mortal self as a pre-requisit to the rebirth by the Holy Spirit.

Thank you for the opportunity for discussion.

Take care.

MamasBoy said...

"But I do agree with you, that the doctrine of the Trinity is not necessarily "explicit" (in subjective use of the word). But it is there in the Scriptures, would you agree?"

Yes, I agree. The doctrine of the Son's coeternal being with the Father is contained in the passages you cited above. I just think the Arians had some decent proof texts, too. (e.g., John 14:17 and 20:28 speak of God being Jesus God and of the Father being greater than the Son). If one looks at these Scriptures from the POV of an Arian, then Jesus is one with the Father from the perspective of moral perfection and not being. In other words, Jesus was the first and highest creation (Proverbs 8:22).

I don't say this because I agree with the interpretation of the passages, I just see any attempt to use Scripture and only Scripture to combat them as being inadequate, since the disagreement is over Scriptural interpretation and there are some decent proof-texts on both sides. The biggest flaw in gnosticism (from where I sit), is that it misappropriates Scriptures that were written by, and then later selected by and chosen by people who were not gnostics, many of whom actively expounded upon the errors of gnosticism. Gnostics can argue that the apostles direct followers all missed the boat, but it is illogical that the apostles would have left their knowledge of the true "hidden" meaning/interpretation of the Scriptures to people other than the apostles, many of whom contradicted each other. In other words, if one is to combat the gnostic heresy effectively, it will help immensely to use the tools and methodology that the early Church (which gave us the Scriptures) used. The gnostic beliefs are wrong because they look outside of the orthodox Scriptures to writings that were rejected by the Church (bad canon) and because they interpret the true Scriptures in ways the apostolic Church never did.

MB

csp said...

Quote: In other words, Jesus was the first and highest creation (Proverbs 8:22).

Response: Correct.

Quote: The biggest flaw in gnosticism (from where I sit), is that it misappropriates Scriptures that were written by, and then later selected by and chosen by people who were not gnostics, many of whom actively expounded upon the errors of gnosticism.

Response: 1) There is good reason to believe that the Apostles were Gnostics themselves. 2) Those that compiled the Bible canon chose those books that could best fit an orthodox v. gnostic interpretation, but the chosen scriptures can still be understand Gnostically.

Quote: The gnostic beliefs are wrong because they look outside of the orthodox Scriptures to writings that were rejected by the Church (bad canon) and because they interpret the true Scriptures in ways the apostolic Church never did.

Response: That is a rubber band theory of truth. You can't say the Gnostics are wrong because they also use other texts that were rejected by the Church and interpret the Bible differently. What if the Church purposefully rejected certain books because they would have reduced their power as an institution and go-between for believers? What if they provide interpretations that deceive followers?

Again ... this is all relying on external authority for finding truth. The Church says it is true, so it is so. How do you know that to be the case? How do you know that they were informed by God? How do you know that they did not bury the truth? Why did they kill heretics? If truth is on the side of the Church wouldn't it prevail without resorting to such extreme tactics?

MamasBoy said...

"1) There is good reason to believe that the Apostles were Gnostics themselves."
Like... Such a theory doesn't fit the facts. Like I said earlier, one would have to argue that the very people the apostles appointed to take over their ministry in the various cities were immediately corrupted throughout the known world, leaving only fringe groups with the "real" gospel. Also, the apostles would have to pretty much reject the NT as the fulfillment of the OT, as was explicitly done by Marcion who called the OT god an evil god and the NT god a good god.

"2) Those that compiled the Bible canon chose those books that could best fit an orthodox v. gnostic interpretation, but the chosen scriptures can still be understand Gnostically."
Scripture was never meant to be self-interpreting. The writers knew that it would take more than just the NT to understand Christian theology and practice. II Thesalonians commands the listeners to obey what they have been taught, either by word or by letter. But if you trace that thought through their successors, you don't come up with gnosticism in any form.

Regarding whether the Scriptures can be interpreted in a gnostic sense, some clearly can't in my opinion. For instance, Paul is quite clearly denying the truth of gnosticism in I Timothy 6:20-21. "O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge (gnosis), for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards the faith."

Now, maybe you reject the canonicity of I Timothy (I'd be curious to know), but he was obviously aware of the creeping heresy.

"What if the Church purposefully rejected certain books because they would have reduced their power as an institution and go-between for believers? What if they provide interpretations that deceive followers?"
Then Christianity is a sham, because orthodox Christianity is the only kind that makes sense historically. Gnosticism has no unity, it is a scattered bunch of ideas which vary dramatically according to which gnostic sect (or individual) one is talking/referring to. The very fact that you had to say you weren't a pantheistic gnostic is quite telling. It seems to me most early gnostics were very pantheistic, in that they believed in the evilness of matter as a degradation of the Godhead. Who can gnostics look to in a chain of thought back to the apostles? They were so scattered from generation to generation and from continent to continent, that such endeavors are fruitless. That is at least my understanding. If you could point to a chain of interpretation that matches your own and goes back to the apostles, I would happily retract the above. One condition: the chain of belief must not have fundamental differences.

"Again ... this is all relying on external authority for finding truth. The Church says it is true, so it is so. How do you know that to be the case? How do you know that they were informed by God? How do you know that they did not bury the truth? Why did they kill heretics? If truth is on the side of the Church wouldn't it prevail without resorting to such extreme tactics?"
Lots there, I believe in the interpretation of Scripture passed on by the Church for many reasons. First, because it best fits the hermeneutical and historical facts. Second, because Paul says to Timothy that the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth. Jesus Himself founded the Church on Peter and promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against it.

How do I know that they didn't bury the truth? Because I don't believe the truth changes from generation to generation, and the orthodox Church is the only one with a consistent theology that was taught by people throughout the known world through the first several centuries.

You ask why did they kill the heretics? I ask when did they kill the heretics? The heretics were killed by the civil authorities because they wanted to avoid problems in civil governance. Several versions of gnosticism came and went without much ado before Constantine. I don't think that was because of Christian persecution. It was because of the inferiority of gnosticism to enable people to survive the persecutions.

Also, you claim that Mormonism is Christian. The problem with that is that nobody else but them believes it: not the vast majority of Protestant groups and certainly not the Catholics and Orthodox.

I hope this doesn't come across too strident. I've tried to learn about gnosticism and found it a rather confusing process. It seems to me that nobody wants to be pinned down when it comes to authoritative sources for understanding what the movement believes in common and why (both recent and historical). My take is that people today consider that relying on any source other than themselves to be too confining to allow for the kind of free-wheeling source selection required by their personalized theological amalgamation, but perhaps I just haven't talked to the right people or understood them properly.

MB

csp said...

Fair post with fair questions. I'm finishing up a short vacation (and my wife just sprained her ankle), so I won't be able to fully respond until possibly Wednesday or later.

One quick response: There is an organized succession of Gnostic Christian sects, but it isn't widely publicized or written about. My particular order is the most current link in a chain of Gnostic Christian brotherhoods preceded by the Cathars and Manicheans.

More later ...

MamasBoy said...

CSP,

no rush. I probably won't be able to get back to blogging for a week or so.

MB

csp said...

Comment: For instance, Paul is quite clearly denying the truth of gnosticism in I Timothy 6:20-21. "O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge (gnosis), for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards the faith."

Response: You added (gnosis) to the passage. "Knowledge" can mean many things and is not necessarily referring to Gnostics at all.

Comment: Who can gnostics look to in a chain of thought back to the apostles?

Response: Many, but let's start with Paul.

The Gnostic Christian, does not make assumptions about God and things of a spiritual nature -- he knows that carnal man cannot conceive of God -- so the True Christian follows the path that enables him to learn directly from God. Like the Gospel of God that dwells within the inner most recesses of the scriptures, this same Source of Spiritual Knowledge dwells deep within the essence of our being. The knowledge of this inner kingdom, or the Christian Gnosis, belongs to the genuine follower of Christ that is able to perceive the true message of the scriptures.

Paul confirms these sacred truths when he writes: "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" (1 Cor 2:9-10). What Paul again confirms is the reality that the physical eyes of man cannot see the Mysteries of God -- his physical ears cannot hear the mysteries of God -- neither can his mind which is limited by the earthly elements which comprise his physical body, brain and nervous system perceive and comprehend the Mysteries of God -- because the Gospel of God can only be revealed to man via his own soul and spiritual nature when the inherent state of division has been overcome.

There are multitudes of these Gnostic passages (from Paul to John) that have been understood and passed on through the Gnostic Christian tradition. I can pass along as many as you like, but this is an example.

MamasBoy said...

CSP wrote, "Response: You added (gnosis) to the passage. "Knowledge" can mean many things and is not necessarily referring to Gnostics at all."

MB: Actually, I didn't add the word gnosis to Scripture. That's the actual word that Paul uses. I consider I Timothy 6:20-21 to be a clear reference to a worldly philosophy that was known for styling itself as being based on real gnosis. That sounds like gnosticism to me, and Paul is clear that such a philosophy is opposed to true Christian thought. Below is a reference from an interlinear Bible so you can check out what I'm saying.
http://www.studylight.org/isb/bible.cgi?query=1ti+6%3A20-21§ion=0&it=nas&oq=I%2520ti%25206&ot=bhs&nt=na&new=1&nb=1ti&ng=6&ncc=6

I'd like to address the verses you quoted and expounded upon, but don't have time right now. I'll try to get to them sometime this weekend.

MB

csp said...

I'm confused. Can't find "gnosis" in that scripture. Found "knowledge" and "science" which makes sense to me.

New International Version

Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.

New American Standard

Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called "knowledge"

King James Version

O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called ...

csp said...

Comment: The heretics were killed by the civil authorities because they wanted to avoid problems in civil governance. I don't think that was because of Christian persecution.

Response: That is incorrect. Just as one example ... the Cathars. Completely wiped out by the "Christian" Church. Pope Innocent III started the crusade in what is now Southern France and Northern Italy executing thousands of Cathars and Cathar sympathizers. After the death of Innocent, Pope Gregory created a special group of Dominican Inquisitors who took torture and executions to an even more extreme level against the pacifist Cathars until they were completely annhiliated. This occurred because the Cathar form of Christianity had become the preferred faith of that region. They lived amongst the people as crafts people and in the service industry (e.g. homes for the elderly and dispossessed, doctors, etc.). They were hugely respected by the people as living pure lives as "Good Christians." This was extremely threatening to the orthodox Church and the Cathars paid the price with their lives.

A good book to read on this subject is: "The Perfect Heresy: The Revolutionary Life and Death of the Medieval Cathars" by journalist and historical writer Stephen O'Shea.

csp said...

Comment: It was because of the inferiority of gnosticism to enable people to survive the persecutions.

Response: Wow. Quite a statement. They were killed due to inferiority. Actually, in my estimation it is the reverse. The orthodox Church has survived because it became politicized (state religion) and an institution of this fallen nature rather than a liberating force. That is how you survive for more than a short, alloted, yet effective time period. Jesus Christ only lived 33 years, but vivified the Christ force in this fallen nature so that others could follow. So too with the subsequent Gnostic Christian sects. They can only circulate the Christ light for a limited period of time because the forces of this nature will eventually crystallize any institution, bending it from the vertical (liberating) to a horizontal (earthly) purpose. So, Gnostic Christian orders shine for their alloted time, revivifying and strengthening the Christ light in this fallen nature and then stop before they become an earthly-only institution. This is why you see them appear and disappear in cycles ... although in reality they never completely disappear, but keep the divine Christ light protected as a spark with the few until the time is right for it to become a flame with and for the many. The Manicheans were, at their peak, one of the world's largest religions, as were the Cathars.

MamasBoy said...

CSP,

You can't find the word gnosis in the Bibles you are reading because you are reading English translations and not out of the Greek. Gnosis is a Greek word, not an English word. If you look I Timothy 6:20 up in a Greek interlinear, you will see that the word Paul used is gnosis. I included a link to a Greek interlinear above.

"It was because of the inferiority of gnosticism to enable people to survive the persecutions."

I would like to point out that the above is not an accurate representation of what I said, especially in light of your response referring to post-Constantine history and in your interpretation of what I wrote as me saying the gnostics were killed "because of their inferiority". Please, reread what I wrote. I never said that.

You have repeatedly referred to the Christians as the persecutors and say they survived only because it "became politicized", ignoring the fact that orthodox Christianity was overrunning the empire before Constantine's conversion and in spite of the persecutions. The Rise of Christianity by Dr. Rodney Stark (an agnostic) is a book by a reputable and unbiased scholar about how orthodox Christianity grew pre-Constantine during the centuries that it was officially illegal and why it was specially equipped to do so.

I don't know enough about the Cathar persecutions to say much, but if it is anything like the Spanish Inquisition, I doubt it is entirely as you have described.

MB

csp said...

Sorry for my misread of your "inferiority" comment. I'll re-read it and comment if necessary.

Of course the Greek translation from the original writings would use "gnosis" for "knowledge" because that is the Greek term. However, that does not mean that the original writings had the intent of equating it with "Gnosticism". That is the problem with using literal translations rather than the original ... or without fully understanding the intent.

What happened to the Cathars at the hand of both the Innocent III crusades and Gregory Dominican Inquisitors, as I described, is fully accepted by historians.

Yes, the "orthodox" aspect of Christianity was growing prior to Constatine, but there was a large Gnostic Christian element as well. This led to heated debates during the formation of Constatine's state-religion, which according to my understanding he didn't really care whether it was Gnostic or orthodox, but only that there was an agreed upon and consistent doctrine that he could stand behind and utilize for political purposes.

csp said...

Comment: I don't know enough about the Cathar persecutions to say much, but if it is anything like the Spanish Inquisition, I doubt it is entirely as you have described.

Response: Interesting that you bring up the Spanish Inquisition.

First, the current accepted number of deaths attributed to the Spanish Inquisition is about 2,000. This does not include cases of torture. Is 2,000 deaths at the hand of the orthodox Church somehow acceptable? What would Jesus say about the Inquisition?

Secondly, exaggerations of the deaths and torture of heretics, Jews and other undesirables during the Spanish Inquisition were created by the Protestants which is known as the "Black Legend." This further supports my criticism of the orthodox Church because on one hand you have the Catholics killing and torturing people and on the other the Protestants lying and spreading propaganda. Neither one of these are in keeping with Christianity and are indicative of institutions being controlled by forces of this fallen nature.

MamasBoy said...

CSP:

You raise an challenging question that deserves more time than I can give it, but this is the best that I can do right now.

"Is 2,000 deaths at the hand of the orthodox Church somehow acceptable? What would Jesus say about the Inquisition?"
I'll be honest here. While I am very uncomfortable with the idea of killing someone for their beliefs and there were certainly excesses in numerous cases, I'm not sure that I'm ready to say the inquisition was all bad and anti-Christ. I view the New Covenant as a continuation/fulfillment of the Old Covenant that God made, renewed and expanded with Abraham/Joseph/Israel, etc. The OT contains some pretty horrendous actions, like genocide, allegedly commanded by God. Jesus was thoroughly a Jew and so were his disciples. They may have dispensed with some of the dietary laws, but they didn't reject the God of the OT. To me, it is easier to accept the inquisition than the conquest of Canaan. To reject the conquest of Canaan and the accompanying genocide, is to reject Christianity, because Jesus was a Jew and accepted the God of the OT.

In understanding the motives of the people who conducted the inquisition, it is useful to note that they really believed that those convicted of heresy were going to hell. One historian who lived back at the beginning of the inquisition estimated that there were 7 times as many reconcilliations are murders. In the eyes of those people, that was a lot of people going to heaven instead of hell. The greatest difficulties come in because of the mixing of politics and religion, because the inquisition was essentiallly a state run function, with papal sanction and limits. Spain was only recently reconquered from the Muslims and there were political concerns about loyalty to the Catholic monarchs. Lastly, the limits and processes put in place by the inquisition were in many cases much to be preferred to general riots by society at large. The pogroms of the late 1300's were very bloody riots. I'd bet money that the Jews and Muslims would have been far worse off if Ferdinand and Isabella had just gone off and conducted their own "inquisitions" without any input from Rome.

"Neither one of these are in keeping with Christianity and are indicative of institutions being controlled by forces of this fallen nature."
True, that there is much corruption on both sides of the Protestant/Catholic divide that sullies the name of Christ and casts doubt on the institutions themselves. I see it as a problem with human nature. No institution is perfect as long as humans run it. Look at the OT and Eli's sons' abuse of their power, sleeping around with the women who served at the sanctuary entrance and whatnot. I'm sure the gnostics have their share of hypocrites, too. Any well documented institution that's had a world-wide continuous presence for 2000 years is bound to have a number of hypocrites and human failings.

MB

csp said...

Comment: I'm not sure that I'm ready to say the inquisition was all bad and anti-Christ.

Response: I think we will have agree to disagree on that one. All teachings and behavior of Jesus would indicate non-support for anything like the inquisition. Remember the stoning of the adulteress?

Comment: One historian who lived back at the beginning of the inquisition estimated that there were 7 times as many reconcilliations are murders.

Response: Firstly, "one" historian. Secondly, which historian and what might be his motivations for making this estimation? Was he Catholic (more than likely) and writing in support of the Church (more than likely)? Thirdly, as most experts know about torture ... false reconciliation and admissions, lying, fabricating, etc. are very common under duress which is why it is not a good technique or strategy (besides moral grounds).

Comment: The inquisition was essentiallly a state run function, with papal sanction and limits.

Response: Not entirely true. It may have been carried out eventually in many parts by the State, but it was absolutely started by the Church. Also, during that time Church and State were completely intertwined in mutual support, strategy and power.

Comment: I'm sure the gnostics have their share of hypocrites, too. Any well documented institution that's had a world-wide continuous presence for 2000 years is bound to have a number of hypocrites and human failings.

Response: There is a difference between hypocrites and human failings and outright, large scale anti-Christian actions. The real problem lies in the belief and conviction that, at least with Catholics, you have a Pope and Church institution that are absolute and direct representatives of God on earth. If this is the case how could/would God allow his representatives and/or institution to do such things? Gnostic Christians do not put this level of faith or belief in either so-called "representatives" of God or an institution, so any hypocritical behavior would be solely individual. Between God and the person.

csp said...

Comment: True, that there is much corruption on both sides of the Protestant/Catholic divide that sullies the name of Christ and casts doubt on the institutions themselves.

Response: I have been thinking about this a lot lately and some Bible passages came to mind.

"Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." [Matt 7:17-18]

"And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." [Matt 3:10]

Don't these passages also refer to institutions? That you can know a tree by its fruits? It is hard for me to downplay the actions of the orthodox Church over the centuries (both Catholic and Protestant) when I read these verses.