Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Gnosticism

In my wanderings through literature, I have recently paused to study Gnosticism for a while. I have read some of the early Christian writings which attacked it, so now I want to examine the other side.

I am not one of those credulous folk who got caught up in the recent Gospel of Judas hoopla. I have been a student of pseudepigraphical writings for more than a decade.

It is intriguing to compare the positions of Gnosticism with some of the developments in the LDS faith. It is not possible, as some half-wit critic might suggest, that the Prophet Joseph borrowed ideas from Gnosticism, since, aside from fragments, almost nothing of their writings was extant until the Nag Hammadi library was unearthed in the 1940s.

So any similarities are either coincidental, glimmers of original truth that "orthodox" Christianity later lost, or perhaps represent decisions that every religion must make.

Nothing trumps the testimony of the Holy Spirit to truth, in LDS experience. For Gnostics, the ultimate experience was a mystical sort of enlightenment -- and both fight the perceptions of critics that it's all about warm fuzzy feelings or even hallucinations. The LDS Church, however, combines the testimony of the written Word and the promptings of the Spirit, as the ultimate guide to truth. All churches must choose what will be their authority: sola scriptura or the baptism of fire. Some go one way, some the other, some, as we do, combine the two.

Original but garbled truth may lie somewhere in the Gnostic considerations of a Heavenly Mother.

Original but garbled truth may lie somewhere in the Gnostic considerations of a structured heaven and certain steps taken to get there which I will not discuss here.

The early LDS Church seemed to be a movement, like the Quakers, in which all could receive equally valid revelation, whether apostle, prophet or candlestick maker. But such a society could quickly get out of hand, with competing and contradictory revelations cropping up. It came to a head with Hiram Page, after which the Lord revealed His pattern of revelatory order. Revelation would continue -- a path long ago rejected by "orthodox Christianity" when the same dillema was faced --but only in each person's allotted sphere: the prophet for the whole Church; a father for his family, etc.

Finally, it is fascinating that in the Gnostic Gospel of Peter, that Apostle is told by the Lord to place his hand over his eyes and only then does he truly "see." Compare this to the account of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price, when the Lord places His hand over Abraham's eyes, after which that one truly sees, all the cosmic works of God. (Abraham 3:12). This bears some similarities to the account in Mark 8 of Jesus healing the blind man, but the latter account is purely a healing, not a doorway into spiritual visions.

4 comments:

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Tom said...

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