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Athanasius Is My Homeboy

I stumbled over this post on Gnosticism in a sidebar over at Cobb's joint and it got me to mulling over the whole question of what's kosher, theologically speaking, and what isn't. Now, I'm coming at this from a Catholic perspective, so if you want to critique it on those grounds that's fine. OTOH, if you're going to answer back based on what the rabbi said or what your Lutheran minister said then please STFU or take it to your own LJ, because I don't want to get all Anne Rice on your ass for misinterrogating my text.

Now, the Long War against Gnosticism in the Catholic Church is an ongoing thing, dating back to before the fourth century throwdown and continuing today. Gnostics are all about the division between the impure body and the pure mind, common knowledge and hidden knowledge, and other dichotomies that the Church is on record as denouncing. Fundamentally, though, the real problem with Gnosticism is that it divides Truth (and therefore salvation) in two parts, the public Truth that everyone gets from the Gospel and the secret Truth that can only be revealed to those special people who can be trusted with the Mysteries. This directly contradicts what we know about the ministry of Jesus, who hung out with all kinds of folks and spread the word about the new covenant not just to the Jews (who had been defined by the first covenant as the Elect) but to everyone that was around at the time, whether they were Gentiles, Jews, Samaritans or whatever. Jesus wasn't passing out the secret password to the chosen few, he was shedding his blood for everybody. Gnosticism says you have to know the secret word to get into Heaven; Jesus says you can't get to the Father except through Him, which is no secret at all. Put another way, Gnostics put a limit on God's grace, and as we all know from Sunday school God has no limits.

Now, as to the books Athanasius and Irenaeus excluded from the canon, the apocrypha: there was and is no argument that those books could not be read. IIRC, nobody ever put them on the Index, though in the early days of the Church many warned against the possible confusion that could be caused by these books, and Leo the Great went so far as to call for them to be burned.

So while Cobb may find the apocrypha of interest, I think he's a little late to the game. Pretty much any alternate version of Christianity you could want is out there already, including some that deny the divinity of Christ. Which makes one wonder why they're even bothering, but that's their problem, not mine. Studying the apocrypha may yield things of interest and possibly some insights, but you have to remember that they're like tail fins and spoilers - accessories that aren't necessary (much less sufficient) to the proper undrstanding of the faith.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
qob
Sep. 14th, 2006 12:43 am (UTC)
Not a Catholic thing
What you have well stated is straight-forward Orthodox doctrine. The best description I've hjeard of the Apocypha (and of couse as a Protestant, I have a few more books of A.) is that it is fan-fiction. he best of it is pretty good, Clement and Barnabas come to mind, the worst of it is mary sue or slash.
huladavid
Sep. 14th, 2006 02:28 am (UTC)
Re: Not a Catholic thing
I recently mentioned to the Wombat that I'd read The Gospel Of Judas rather than wait for Mel Gibson to make the movie* and he used the "fan/fic" line on me.

Have to admit, I just can't picture "Ennis, I can see your house from here." jokes.

(I am not gonna use the nun userpic, I'm not, not, not, Not, NOT!!)

__________
*Not meant as a slam against Mel, it's just (to misquote Emo Phillips) when the straightline fairy drops a honey like that in your lap, you run with it...
wombat_socho
Sep. 14th, 2006 04:14 am (UTC)
Re: Not a Catholic thing
(I am not gonna use the nun userpic, I'm not, not, not, Not, NOT!!)

Awwww. And it would have made things so much worse!

Zim: Worse? Or BETTER?
wombat_socho
Sep. 14th, 2006 04:12 am (UTC)
Re: Not a Catholic thing
...the worst of it is mary sue or slash

Especially the way some theologians (and I'm using the term very loosely here) interpret the Scriptures.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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