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If protestantism is a modern form of gnosticism, will it come to an end ?


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#21 Rick H.

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 02:02 PM

When many of those who we might refer to as protestants speak of knowing God, they mean it in the sense of "relate."

Henry Blackaby had a popular book and workbook out a few years ago that was very popular because it covered the many faceted / numerous aspects of knowing God for these 'protestants' very well. I liked his writing about lining up guide posts, like a ship pulling into a jedi does in order to navigate and find one's way, find God's will for one in his or her individual life. Actually, this popular work would disprove very quickly any claims of gnosticism in many forms of protestantism. That was a good book & workbook set (very clear, easy to understand, and direct), it had some things in it that would be helpful to most Orthodox folks that I know who are seeking more of a personal relationship, one that stands in opposition to ritualism and formalism, and too often an unhelpful ambiguity. I think some Orthodox get nervous or repel from the expression "personal relationship with God," but, as many of the protestants use the expression it is a good thing, a Beautiful thing.

In response to the Hegel comment, the apostle Paul wrote of the mind of God to the Corinthians in a way that would support more than undermine his statement . . . but, when many of the protestants speak of knowing God they simply mean relating to, relationship with, or "to bring into or establish association, connection, or relation."

#22 Rick H.

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 02:31 PM

The "common element" of which you speak is not present in Luther's theology - he wrote about the distinction between the "hidden God" (Deus Absconditus) and the "revealed God" (Deus Revelatus).



This is why it is a stupid thing to talk about "protestantism" as if it actually exists or as if there were such a thing as a PC or Protestant Church. It is very ignorant to speak of these things in a way in which blanket statements are made about a group that does not exist. It causes confusion for any who are actually in the know about a 'particular group' or involved first hand. Many people do this here, it is not too smart.

#23 Rick H.

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 02:39 PM

Like the Platonists? What do the protestants mean by "know" anyway? Are we putting all our attention on the word "knowledge" (gnosis) while ignoring the many contexts it can be used?


This is the right question to ask here (and is kind of the point of my first post of the day above, it is a many faceted term.)

#24 Anna Stickles

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 04:06 PM

I think some Orthodox get nervous or repel from the expression "personal relationship with God," but, as many of the protestants use the expression it is a good thing, a Beautiful thing.


As many of the Protestants use this expression it is not an Orthodox thing, it is an individualistic or human centered concept, and not beautiful at all, but rather representative of something distorted from the point of view of the Orthodox phronema.

Indeed, Blackaby's book, Experiencing God had a great deal of impact on Michael and I in helping us move toward a deeper faith in God's providential working in our life, and a more Orthodox understanding of our relationship with Him, based in cooperation rather then Calvinistic ideas of contractual justification. He talks a lot about the dangers of selfishness and self-dependence. But it is still "a land of shallow wells" compared to Orthodoxy.

In dealing with hearing God, Blackaby has in his book a lot of good things about the importance of the church and how God works through this, not as an individualistic "Jesus and me" thing. But notice that when he talks about how we operate in the "body of Christ" this is all about human relationships.

Without the theology of our Eucharistic participation, participation in the the church is merely a local fellowship of believers loving and being accountable to each other. Not bad things, but this bases the church - it's existence and ground of being on the human level. When one takes out the sacramental aspect of the church one looses any ability to see the church in terms of its "universal/catholic dimension. When we take out the sacraments it is no longer the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

Blackaby is a Baptist, and his ideas of the church are deeply embedded in his whole book. For the Baptist, the church is a gathering of individual people who have made Christ their head and who work together for His purpose. For the Orthodox the Church is a "God-man organism".

One way this plays out is that Blackaby emphasizes how "God works through you." On pg 64 of the workbook the section title is "God works through people" and talks about how God worked through this or that individual person from the OT. An Orthodox writer would say "God works through the Church". Much of this theme in Blackaby's writing is much more individualistic and self-centered then how the Orthodox spiritual writers approach this. It lacks the self-effacement and humility one sees in the Orthodox spiritual literature.

I could say more, but will leave it at that. I would say that despite all that is good in this, and even though the good things in it might be easier for converts to access then the same concepts in the Orthodox literature ( being written as it is from within a familiar culture and phronema), it seems to me better to struggle with those writers who offer the same truths in a more fully Orthodox context.

As for the cradle Orthodox. I would not recommend it at all. They will not have the difficulty of understanding the Orthodox spiritual writers that we do. They will be able to absorb more easily an Orthodox context for practicing dependence on God and following His will, a crisis of belief, adjusting our life to God rather then trying to demand our own way and cling to our own will, experiencing God through obedience, etc. All these themes are more deeply and more perfectly covered in the Orthodox literature, if we will make the effort and have the patience to experience it.

#25 Rick H.

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 04:34 PM

As many of the Protestants use this expression it is not an Orthodox thing, it is an individualistic or human centered concept, and not beautiful at all, but rather representative of something distorted from the point of view of the Orthodox phronema.


Again, we see the problematic use of the term protestants (especially as it relates to our own individual experiences in the various denominations that are referred to as 'the protestants'). I'm going to have to quit using this word altogether. What I have viewed and referred to as being some self-less, giving, and God centered examples non-Orthodox Christians in the past, you have viewed as being the opposite in your personal experience. But, either way, it would take many threads to explore the various forms of non-Orthodox Christianity . . . any superficial conversations like the one here will not be helpful and can only be like Spanky and Alfalfa going back and forth saying "Are to!" "Are not!" "Are to!" "Are not!" and so on and so onl

Some groups (like Weslyans) are very close to Orthodoxy in some ways. But, other's like the Reformed Baptists not so much.

Sometimes, "even with the theology of our Eucharistic participation, participation in the church is merely a local fellowship of believers loving and being accountable to each other." I have seen this first hand in a local Orthodox Church. But, again this is my personal experience.

What Blackaby has written in his books might be confusing for some cradle Orthodox, but his practical content, and the big picture that he communicates, could be very helpful especially for some cradle Orthodox. I've sat in the basement of a local Orthodox church before participating in various study and discussion groups and I was surprised at the number of cradle Orthodox who would come up to me after the group was over and say things like, "I appreciate your contribution, you make me think of things that I have never thought of before," the point(s) being there was a kind of awakening from a slumber as well as a more clear understanding. I wish there were more teachers in Orthodoxy that could provide more practical helps just like the one's in Blackaby's books.

I think we have a coalition against bold faced type here on Monachos. I wish someone would start a coalition against the word "protestantism" it really is an unhelpful term for an Orthodox forum (especially for those who do not know much about the many-many groups that are being lumped together within this term.) Add this to the fact that many of us "converts" here have our own personal experiences both good and bad with "protestantism" and how can there be much intelligent conversation about the "protestants," actually the Spanky and Alfalfa routine makes the "Who's on First" routine seem more desirable.

#26 Anna Stickles

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 04:34 PM

Sorry I just could not help one more comment.

"Although organizations and programs are designed to promote outreach, growth, and ministry, they can lead to shallow relationships and indifference. If a church is not careful, it may be helping people experience a program and miss a personal encounter with the living Christ." (pg 210) Experiencing God workbook


After all isn't this why the primary Orthodox understanding of "Church" is our participation in the Eucharist?

If worship experiences are going to improve your fellowship with God they must lead you to experience Him in real and personal ways. When worship services encourage a passive response, when they encourage you to be a spectator rather than a participant, when they focus on people and programs rather then God, they may lead to coldness, apathy, doubt, conflict, and a host of other problems." (pg 215)


How true this statement is, and isn't this why we have a worship centered in liturgical remembrance and ascetical discipline?

But what is Blackaby's idea of what constitutes experiencing God in real and personal ways? "your personal involvement in God's work" of transforming lives as guided by the Holy Spirit. (pg 210)

But here we have cycled right back around to focusing on people and our own efforts and work rather then on worship. The whole book is centered on seeing things in terms of a participation in God's "work" of transforming individual lives, not participation in Christ's sacrifice in the way that we as Orthodox understand this as taught in liturgical theology.

In the end Blackaby has tried to add a spiritual dimension to evangelism and "personal relationship with God" but this focus too is eventually going to lead right back around to coldness, apathy, doubt, conflict and a host of other problems, because it never enters into a right worship of God.

#27 Rick H.

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 04:43 PM

This will be misunderstood by some, but you know Anna, the older I get the less I am interested in "right belief."

I added one word to your quote below, but I think this is really a key point to consider:

Sometimes, "even with the theology of our Eucharistic participation, participation in the church is merely a local fellowship of believers loving and being accountable to each other." I have seen this first hand in a local Orthodox Church. But, again this is my personal experience.


You know?

I know . . . the expression is something like 'right belief and right worship go hand in hand.' But, this is simply not always true.

Well put! Well put!

(Can you tell I watched the Fiddler last week like I always do each Christmas)

#28 Anna Stickles

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 04:45 PM

"Sometimes, even with the theology of our Eucharistic participation, participation in the church is merely a local fellowship of believers loving and being accountable to each other."


Participation in the Church is what we make of it. It is not dependent on what anyone else around us is doing because it is first God centered through the Liturgical worship rather then dependent on human community or fellowship. Even the most worldly and secular priest still has to perform the same liturgy.

#29 Rick H.

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 04:52 PM

That's kind of what I mean too Anna when some non-Orthodox writers want to talk about participation "In Christ" the other 164 hours of the week that we are not in the brick and mortor local church. In my own personal experience, very few of these writers want to talk about knocking on doors and trying to get people to repeat the sinners prayer these days, but just the opposite, they are writing about living the wonderful Spirit-filled life the other 164 hours of the week (other than Sunday morning).

#30 Rick H.

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 04:53 PM

PS I like it when we post at the same time! :)

#31 Anna Stickles

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 06:52 PM

Well Rick, you know that my definition of the Spirit-filled life is wrapped up in the quote by Watchman Nee that I have on my profile. And it's why I love the Liturgy, because here is the visible, the physical, manifestation of what Nee was talking about. Nee was able to see the truth, but I am glad I have found the fullness of it.

This really brings us back around to the topic of this thread - without the Eucharist, the icons, the liturgy and the whole expression of the spiritual life in and through the material that permeates Orthodoxy, you have a spiritual life that tends towards the gnostic - if what we mean by "gnostic" is stressing the importance of the spiritual and denying the importance of the physical.

And this goes way beyond our few hours actually in the Liturgy on Sunday morning. I think as we really absorb what the Liturgy is all about, more and more our whole life becomes a reflection of, a living out of what finds its most clear expression there. Ultimately the goal of the Orthodox spiritual life is for our whole life -24/7 to become a continuous Liturgy.

#32 Jan Sunqvist

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 08:09 PM

This really brings us back around to the topic of this thread - without the Eucharist, the icons, the liturgy and the whole expression of the spiritual life in and through the material that permeates Orthodoxy, you have a spiritual life that tends towards the gnostic - if what we mean by "gnostic" is stressing the importance of the spiritual and denying the importance of the physical.


Protestantism, is to me the exact polar opposite of 'gnosticism'. Gnosticism does not deny the importance of the physical, but sees the physical as posing a force of resistance to 'developing' the spiritual, so to a Gnostic physical has a crucial role. It simply means that for a gnostic, gnosis ie 'initiation' on the lines of a certain kind of 'enlightment ' into the spiritual realities/truth is what is salvific.
I don't see how this has anything to do with any mainstream form of Protestantism.

#33 Rick H.

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 09:36 PM

Anna, even though you were the only monachos member considerate enough to send me a present this year, I have to agree with Jan . . . "Other Christianism" in all of its forms cannot be equated to any of the many forms of Gnosticism. No way, no how.

As far as your Nee quote goes, very good! For me there is a conclusion of the whole matter of our previous conversation to be found in the expression "the fullness of the Truth." But, then we are back to an old conversation here on monachos about the nature and boundaries and limits of the fullness of the Truth. I think I will just go see what's left on the cookie plate.

To the other monachos members who did not get me a present this year, I will not see you at the pancake social this year!

#34 Anna Stickles

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 01:14 AM

Ok guys, I yield on the whole gnostic thing. I really just don't know enough about it. What I vaguely remember is that gnostics consider the material world intrinsically flawed and therefore not able to be redeemed. Salvation consists in salvation from the material world in some sense, not salvation of it, since the material world itself, not sin, is the cause of suffering. Of course most Christians of any stripe don't believe anything like this.

But in practice, much of the PC evangelical movement (that part of it that is not from sacramental traditions) rejects the basic idea of the role of the material world in our relationship with God -for them it is salvation through Christ working in the individual heart alone. They deny the Eucharist, deny we are saved through the obedient, sacrificial life and prayer of the Theotokos and the saints, deny the theology of icons, deny that grace is present in ritual, etc.

#35 Marcelo Souza

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 08:17 PM

As a former Protestant - and a former Minister in a Reformed church - I think the terms "protestantism" and "protestants" are perfectly legitimate. While there are many differences among different Protestant groups, there are legitimate generalizations that clearly apply as a meaningful definition. Also, as a former Minister and teacher of theology, I do see many parallels between main gnostic tenets and many Protestant assumptions, which are not just tangential. While Protestants cannot be simply said to be gnostics, many common gnostics beliefs have become common assumptions to a wide variety of Protestants, either explicitly or implicitly. And by the way, gnostic groups were various and sundry, but must scholars, while recognizing this, have no problem speaking generally of gnostic tenets - just like we do with Protestantism.

#36 Rick H.

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Posted 05 January 2012 - 01:56 PM

As a former Protestant - and a former Minister in a Reformed church - I think the terms "protestantism" and "protestants" are perfectly legitimate. While there are many differences among different Protestant groups, there are legitimate generalizations that clearly apply as a meaningful definition. Also, as a former Minister and teacher of theology, I do see many parallels between main gnostic tenets and many Protestant assumptions, which are not just tangential. While Protestants cannot be simply said to be gnostics, many common gnostics beliefs have become common assumptions to a wide variety of Protestants, either explicitly or implicitly. And by the way, gnostic groups were various and sundry, but must scholars, while recognizing this, have no problem speaking generally of gnostic tenets - just like we do with Protestantism.



Welcome to Monachos Marcelo.

I don't know what to say at this point other than even reading on a survey level, in seminaries without clout (or in universities with only comparative religion departments), it is absurd to suggest that the thousands of denominations can be lumped together in one particular group. It is unhelpful and creates confusion to generalize in this way. If one gives credibility to this method, then one must give credibility to the school of the traditionalists and the perenialists (which lump together many Christian faith traditions and denominations including Eastern Orthodoxy based on mystical commonalities). I remember watching with amusement in one of my seminaries when the Weslyan Seminary would come for their annual debate with my reformed seminary and after it was over each thought they tore the other to shreds and wrote about it in their respective theological journals. For one example, the revivalists can in no way be in the same category with the reformed--I can't believe this is questioned, this is nutty to me.

It has already been shown clearly in this thread that it is to create a straw man when one tries to ascribe gnosticsim to a group that does not exist in reality. One can link just about anything together if one desires to . . . I can link Weslyan teachings to Orthodox teaching no problem but it would be incorrect to bundle these together and suggest a genuine unity or use a meaningful term to refer to this so called unity.

It would be just as ridiculous to charge Orthodoxy with Gnosticism or to try to find parallels between the two.

Edited by Rick H., 05 January 2012 - 02:44 PM.


#37 Rick H.

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 03:21 PM

This is a post I made in another thread that seems like it belongs here:


This is the book we used in my catechumen class.

Although, I remember how I felt when I read the first five words of the first line in the first paragraph in the book:

"All Protestants are Crypto-Papists . . ."

Wow, two with one blow.

1.) Categorize
2.) Label
3.) Dismiss / Reject

I wonder how it would be if the tables were turned and an Orthodox convert to an Evangelical Free Church was sitting in the basement for a class and read a book that began:

"All Orthodox are Crypto-Fundies . . ."




#38 Anna Stickles

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 06:50 PM

There is a time for everything and everything in its time. Even labeling and categorizing. Every time we use words we label and categorize. The way out of a fallen use of this is not simply to reject any kind of categorization as fundamentalist and try to divest ourselves of all categories. Then we end up with some amorphous meaningless psuedomystical "One" - re: the centering prayer thread discussion - this is not Christian.

"A characteristic of of modern currents of thought is "universalism" the attempts to make a synthesis that will include all "partial" veiws. ...Those who do not come up to these mystical, universalist heights are dismissed as "legalistic", "moralistic", narrow, etc." Fr Seraphim Rose

Does it really matter whether we "label, categorize, dismiss/reject" or just dismiss/reject because someone has label/categorized?

Forgive me, but let's get off our high horse.

#39 Ryan

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 07:05 PM

I agree that we invariably label and categorize, but in this case the label simply doesn't fit and gets in the way of a serious discussion of what's being labeled.

#40 Rick H.

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 07:07 PM

Does it really matter whether we "label, categorize, dismiss/reject" or just dismiss/reject because someone has label/categorized?




Is this a spiritual IQ question?

I pick b.)

Or, actually I pick c.) which is "Yes, when the PURPOSE of labeling and categorizing is to DISMISS or worse." (insert swastika emoticon)

Anna, I think you completely miss the correlation between any form of true prejudice and the above process / thinking.

This has nothing to do with high or hobby horses, it's an ugly thing regardless of how it is justified (or employed).

. . . or, maybe again we are working in the area of shadows here?




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