The View From 1776

Good Friday: Gnosticism vs God’s Love

Envelopment and transformation of spirit by God’s love is available to everyone as an individual; the way to truth and light is not through the minds of intellectuals controlling the collectivized political state.

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Good Friday is the symbolic commemoration of the day when Jesus Christ willingly assumed the burden of the world’s sins and died on the cross so that everyone believing in Him might have eternal salvation through the grace of God’s love. 

What does that mean in today’s super-charged clash of world cultures?

Larry Auster’s Conspiracy theories, gnosticism, and the crisis of our civilization gives us one perspective on the answer.  In that article, he writes:

“One of our participants refers to the “conspiratorial ‘insights’” of certain parties.  This is exactly right.  People who say things such as that the “capture” (in scare quotes) of Hussein was really not a capture but some kind of trick believe that they are seeing the real nature of things that the rest of us are too blind to see. That’s why beliefs like this are so immune to reason.  They are not simple mistakes that a person might make, and that might be corrected by further evidence.  They are revelatory (though actually blinding) insights into the hidden truth of the world.  In another recent post I called this kind of experience a false epiphany.

“By the way, much of anti-Semitism—namely the kind of anti-Semitism that sees the Jews as the secret cause of all the ills in the world—rests on such a false revelation.  But of course it’s not limited to anti-Semitism.

“The revelation of such hidden “knowledge” is called gnosticism.

“....Much of “conspiratorial” thinking follows the same basic pattern as the ancient gnosticism.  The person is profoundly dissatisfied with the world.  He cannot accept the fact of man’s fallen state or the imperfections of society.  So he starts to imagine that the fallen state of man or the bad state of society is due to some vast conspiratorial force that is controlling everything from behind the scenes—the Jews, the neoconservatives, the Masons.  If only we can identify and expose this force, we will become free of it and the world will be restored to its right order.”

“....Gnosticism, said [Eric] Voegelin, is a permanent temptation to the human psyche, but is especially deep-seated within Christian society because of the difficult-to-bear distance between God and fallen man that Christianity teaches.  Moreover, gnosticism flourishes in times of profound uncertainty.”

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Gnosis or gnosticism is a concept based on the Greek word meaning “to know.”  Gnosticism refers, not to a doctrine of genuine knowledge, but to various schools of mysterious, conspiratorial ideologies known only to a select group, whose duty is to impose their secret knowledge upon the world by subjugating or exterminating those who do not believe in their ideology. 

In diametric contrast, Christianity is open to every human being on earth, without regard to race, sex, ethnicity, or economic and social status.  Every individual is a child of God.  Every individual is entitled to respect and benevolence, because only God can see into his heart and judge him. 

Christians assuredly may disavow sinful actions and attitudes of individuals and the ideologies which teach and promote such actions and beliefs.  And Christians, as biological beings who must propagate the species, have the right to defend themselves with force against those who would destroy them.

But, when all is said and done, Christians have a duty to emulate Jesus Christ, not to curse their enemies, but to pray that God will soften the hearts of people who revile them.

Gnosticism has occurred repeatedly in world history.  We must therefore conclude that it is a reflection of deep-seated traits of human nature.  Gnosticism is a distorted religious conception that arose during the 7th century before Christ, when local political, social, and religious cultures were swept aside and replaced successively by the Persian Empire, Alexander the Great’s conquests, and the Roman Empire.  Culturally uprooted local populations sought answers to why their worlds had been overthrown.  Many groups found answers in the idea that conditions in the world ought not to be as they were and that bad times had come because of some evil, conspiratorial force.  The various gnostic groups claimed to have discovered secret knowledge identifying the source of evil and offering ritualistic or mystical religious ways to reorder the world.

Gnostic religions have persisted into our modern world in the guise of the various manifestations of secular and materialistic socialism, ranging from the French Revolution’s socialism, to Soviet communism and Hitler’s National Socialism, to the New Deal’s welfare state and today’s liberalism.  All of them reject the Christian faith that humanity’s highest and best state of being is to be found in individuals’ listening to the still, small voices of their consciences, the voice of God.  All of these gnostic ideologies place their faith in the belief that it is possible to make the world perfect, that the world ought to be perfect, and that they, the intellectuals, know how to accomplish it.

Eric Voegelin, my LSU mentor, addressed the persistence of gnosticism in “Science, Politics & Gnosticism,” based on his 1958 University of Heidelberg lecture.  He wrote:

“The more we come to know about the gnosis of antiquity, the more it becomes certain that modern movements of thought, such as progressivism, positivism, Hegelianism, and Marxism, are variants of gnosticism…. The death of God is the cardinal issue of gnosis, both ancient and modern.  From Hegel to Nietzsche it is the great theme of gnostic speculation, and Protestant theology has been plagued by it ever since Hegel’s time.  In recent years, it has been taken up by American theologians who are faced with the pressing phenomena of urbanization and alienation.”

Conditions became even worse after 1958.  In the 1970s, pounded by student anarchism, anti-Vietnam War hysteria, riots, burning, and looting in cities, and the explosion of immorality under the impetus of the President Johnson’s Great Society entitlements socialism, many Christian churches abandoned Christianity.  Many urban ministers became supporters of paganism within the walls of their churches, opting for the flower-child spirituality of drugs and sexual promiscuity.  The impulse continues today, exemplified by the split within the Episcopal Church over ordaining as bishop a man who, while an Episcopal priest, abandoned his wife and two small children to enter a homosexual relationship, which continues even today. 

Professor Voegelin continues:

In the gnostic world view, he writes, “The world is no longer the well-ordered, the cosmos in which Hellenic man felt at home; nor is it the Judeo-Christian world that God created and found good.  Gnostic man no longer wishes to perceive in admiration the intrinsic order of the cosmos.  For him the world has become a prison from which he wants to escape…the aim always is destruction of the old world and passage to the new.  The instrument of salvation is gnosis itself - knowledge.”

Foreseeing the effect of American liberalism’s gnosis, Voegelin concludes:

“Self-salvation through knowledge has its own magic, and this magic is not harmless.  The structure of the order of being will not change because one finds it defective and runs away from it.  The attempt at world destruction will not destroy the world, but will only increase the disorder in society.”

American liberal-socialism is the direct descendant of the French Revolution and the bloody guillotine of its Reign of Terror, through the nightmares of Soviet Russia and National Socialist Germany. The gnosis, or self-delusion, of liberal-socialism leads its followers to the hubristic presumption that their own minds are the creators of all that they see and that, if they can conceive of a perfectly ordered world, then their minds can create it by restructuring society, and woe to him who stands in the way.

The gnosis of liberal-socialism is expressed in the assertion that the knowledge of intellectuals has surpassed the wisdom and power of God.  God and spiritual religion are dismissed as ignorance of a past age.  The mind of the intellectual becomes mankind’s savior. 

Liberals place their faith in a “progress” that has moved the world beyond the Christian faith that created and sustained Western civilization.  What results has not been pretty, nor has it left us better off. 

President Franklin Roosevelt announced that his “second bill of rights,” that is, security under the socialist welfare state, was to replace the original Bill of Rights and its basis in Judeo-Christian morality and reverence for God.  People were now to look to the political state for all blessings.  Implicitly, Big Brother had vanquished Jesus Christ.  Individual morality and personal responsibility no longer applied in a hedonistic and self-centered society in which Keynesian economics exhorted people not to save for the future, but to spend money now, to worship consumption of material goods.

On Good Friday, we must look back to the sacrifice that Jesus made for us and look forward to a better life on earth and to eternal salvation through God’s love and Jesus’s commandment for us to love one another.

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Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/26 at 12:03 AM
  1. "the way to truth and light is not through the minds of intellectuals controlling the collectivized political state."

    "People who say things such as that the
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/29  at  02:17 AM
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