Thursday, June 28, 2012

Secret Knowledge

Irenaeus [c130-c202] was particularly known as a proponent of orthodoxy and enemy of Gnosticism. In recounting his role, this article explains the heresy:
.... The heresy’s starting-point is that this world is too fundamentally flawed to be the creation of a perfect God. Rather, the Gnostics speculated, it was the work of the Demiurge, a partially corrupted emanation from the supreme deity. The ultimate divinity remains hidden from mankind. Even so, buried deep within us, there are inklings of its existence, discernible by those inherently gifted with spiritual insight, or possessed of the appropriate secret formulae.

For the Gnostics, then, religious knowledge was confined to the superior intellect. To such sophisticates there could be no absolute truth or morality, merely intuitions gathered by the favoured few. As for Christ, while He might be regarded as a valued teacher, he could hardly be part of the Godhead.

Irenaeus perfectly captured the smugness that Gnosticism imbued: “As soon as a man has been won over to their way of salvation, he becomes so puffed up with conceit and self-importance that he imagines himself to be no longer in heaven or on earth, but to have already passed into the fullness of God’s powers.

“With the majestic air of a cock he goes strutting about, as if he had already embraced his angel.” ....

While some Gnostics gained a reputation for asceticism, Irenaeus railed against their sexual licence. What else, he demanded, could be expected of those who believed that “conduct is only good or evil in the eyes of man”? Irenaeus insisted that sinful men and women required a religious authority above and beyond their individual whims. Christian practice and morality, he taught, was laid down in apostolic tradition and Scripture. But which Scripture exactly? Irenaeus played an important part in rejecting various Gnostic texts and establishing the canon of the four gospels, later confirmed by Church councils. .... [more]
The priest who captured the smugness of Gnosticism | CatholicHerald.co.uk