Thursday, April 20, 2006

God Bless the Gnostics

I seem to be on a Gnostic-themed roll this week, so feel free to skip this if you're getting bored.

Last night I was leading my class on The Da Vinci Code and our subject was Ancient and Modern Gnosticism as it relates to the book (and presumably the movie). One of the class members asked what value the Gnostic writings have for Christians today.

That really made me think. Of course there is the historical interest of seeing how some interpreted the Christian message in the second and third centuries after Christ. But for the average Christian in the pew, I think that the Gnostic writings reflect people struggling over the same basic question people struggle with today--who was Jesus?

Was he God? Was he human? Was he born by divine intervention or not? Did he possess the spirit of God or WAS he the spirit of God? Was his physical body resurrected or was it only his spiritual being that survived the crucifixion?

Modern theologians dispute these questions and average Christians have doubts about the answers to them. In a society which holds truth to be relative, rather than absolute, tolerance is the highest good and the New Gnosticism thrives. The barrier to wider acceptance of these old ideas in a democratic culture is their fundamental elitism--the notion that salvation is available to only those with special knowledge and not to all who profess faith in Jesus Christ.

Truly The Da Vinci Code presents a great opportunity for the church to re-educate itself about these ancient discredited doctrines so that it can spot them more clearly when they appear in modern dress.

Ah, those pesky Gnostics! God bless them, they keep us on our toes.

5 comments:

Sophia Sadek said...

You say that the gnostic teachings had been discredited. That's actually not historically correct. They were validated by the viciousness with which they were attacked.

Jon said...

"validated by the viciousness with which they were attacked."

Heh, that's rich! Let me guess they were attacked by killer albino monks.

Lorna said...

I am looking forward to the Da Vinci Code film ... seen the trailer (and it looks like a James bond :) ... as you say QG the Gnostics keep us on our toes, and I think this film could be a GREAT evangelistic tool (far more than the Passion which was mostly viewed by Christians I think) precisely because ordinary people will go to see it - and talk about it.

:)

PJ said...

This isn't so much a comment as a question provoked by your post, "Last night I was leading my class on The Da Vinci Code…"

What curriculum or discussion guide to you recommend for such classes? There are so many out there, and it's hard to know which will give a good framework for discussion and which will simply reinforce paranoid fantasies.

Thanks!

Quotidian Grace said...

PDJ--

There are a lot of materials out there on the subject. I am doing a 6 part series.

Here is what I am using:

The Da Vinci Code Deception (DVD)
Where Facts and Fiction Meet: The Biblical Christ in a Da Vinci Code society (DVD)
Both DVD's are available from www.visionvideo.com and are inexpensive.

I'm taking segments from each one. Actually I've used some of the bonus interviews from the Da Vinci Code deception rather than some of the regular segments. The segments are 10 to 15 minutes long, so there is time for discussion.

The Gospel Code by Ben Witherington III
This is a good book on the subject by a professor from Asbury Seminary. I'm using it for background.

If you prefer a more academic, less evangelical author, try Bart Ehrman's The Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code.

Mark D. Roberts, a presbyterian minister with a Phd in New Testament from Harvard wrote an excellent series on his blog--www.markdroberts.com
You can download it and copy it for use in a church class. I'm using some of that as well.