So strange, to find a Christianity I am not programmed to believe! I am commanded to disbelieve, even execrate it. From the spiritual ferment of the early Church came a victorious tradition, which expelled this secret Knowledge.
I first read of Gnosticism in the commentaries of William Barclay, who comments that several of the New Testament texts are written to combat it. From the understanding of Barclay which I retain I could tell you of Docetism, the idea that Jesus just seemed to be human, but was pure spirit- only the fleshly shell suffered on the Cross, as Christ stood with John, watching and commenting (Acts of John, I think).
I also knew the idea that the true God, pure spirit, could not create matter, which is evil, but put forth emanations (aeons) and eventually an emanation with no knowledge of the Father created matter. I have a violent emotional reaction against that. I hated my body, as a child. Not so much my penis, as my arm, which was so thin and weak. Then I transitioned, and found my arm and hand slim and beautiful. Flesh is good, and this I know. The early church so condemned that view that we say, “I believe in the resurrection of the body”, and I understand that Protestant and Catholic theologians do not differentiate a soul which comes from the body at the resurrection, but a spiritual body (I Cor 15:42-44- note also v29, which appears to refer to the Mormon practice of baptising the living on behalf of the dead).
There is suffering in the world. Either God will not stop it, and is not all-powerful, or cannot stop it, and is not all good. This is the problem of evil, and Theodicy is the branch of theology answering it. Docetism produces a radically different theodicy. I would say that God is in the whirlwind, suffering with God’s creation, and Christ is on the Cross, transfiguring our suffering into our growth, maturity and glory- do ask, if you would like me to unpack those statements- but Docetism would say that only matter, which is evil, suffers, and the Wisdom of God rescues spirit from matter.
Mmm. That works, actually. It is not even “pie in the sky when you die”- through wisdom and understanding and maturity one comes to realise that physical suffering does not matter. My facebook feed regularly quotes Teilhard de Chardin, We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience, out of context.
Now I come across A New New Testament, where I read the Secret Revelation. I have not read the commentary, but this moves on from Barclay’s Gnosticism bad, Orthodoxy mostly good (he did not believe in the virgin birth) to-
here are contradictory texts valued by early followers of Jesus. What value can we find in them?
The Secret Revelation is another Dogma. I do not just accept it- I am attached to my physical body, and don’t call it evil- but, can we find in it anything good?