Monday, August 31, 2015


I think I know why I'm so "on it" about belief. Two weeks from Friday I'll start teaching a 10 week session at UConn in Waterbury for the Osher Life-time Learning Institute. The class is about the so called 'Gnostic' Christians that we only know about because of a discovery in Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1947 of a treasure trove of early Christian writings.

"Gnosticism" is the word people use about those Christians. Interestingly enough that word, as a description was coined in the 16th century and sent back in time to 'label' these Christians.

Church fathers', like Tertullian, used the Greek word 'gnosis'--meaning 'knowledge' to say things about the heretics he saw around him, heretic magnate that he was, but the term didn't exist as a word until 1598 or so.

The so called Gnostic Christians were 'Christians' first and foremost, who simply didn't believe what other Christians did. When the church went from the catacombs to the cathedrals--when Christianity ceased to be against the law of the Roman Empire and became the only accepted religion of the 'Holy' Roman Empire, Christians who had been Christians for generations were driven out and suppressed because they didn't meet the norm of the Nicene Creed.

That creed was written, by the way, to tell people what they couldn't believe rather than telling us what we should believe.

It begins, "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth."

Many Christians in the fourth century didn't believe Jesus' "father' was the God of the Old Testament, the creator of heaven and earth. They had no patience with such a fickle, vengeful god and believed the God of Jesus was behind that God.

So they were out and their literature and ways were cast out.

The church is very good at obliterating those who don't toe the line.

And it all had to do with 'belief'. Not with how people lived their lives or what they did in the day to day. "Christians" who couldn't say the Creed simply weren't Christians anymore.

I have many difficulties with 'creeds', but I AM a Christian. Just like the so called Gnostic Christians.

If you met one, they wouldn't have said, "Hi, I'm a Gnostic" since the word wouldn't be in usage for 1200 years or so. They would have said, "Hi, I'm a Christian", and I believe they were, though the Church drove them out and suppressed their thoughts.

That's why I'm 'on it' about belief....

I'm a "Christian", though, for some, I'm no better than a Gnostic because I have trouble with Creeds.

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.