Onlline Sermons

We have posted a lot of sermons from our Universal Life Church ministers. Some are Christian and some are not. You are welcome to use them or just enjoy them as you like.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Rev. Nick Federspiel, DCS
Gnosticism – what is that? I never heard of it until I initiated formal theology studies and prepared for a trip to Egypt. I should have taken this course before I went to Cairo and Aswan, I would have been asking an entirely different set of questions of the Coptic Church. In my opinion if one is unfamiliar with the vocabulary related to Gnosticism and similar philosophies one won't be by mid course – patience is required; for example: Aeons, Autogenesis, Archon, Demiurge, Dualism, heresiological, Hermetic Corpus, leontomorphic, libertinistic, Monism, mythopoetical, Manicheanism and Mandaeanism, Neoplatonic / Neopythagorean , pseudepigrapha, syzgies, pleroma and etc. and etc. Thus until all this soaks in speed reading is out and rereading and external research are in. Other than that I am a bit nonplussed – what to say in this essay? I am not sure I yet comprehend Gnosticism in all its variations or if anyone really does. So to anchor an essay starting point, and highlight some key points of Gnosticism, I include other Gnostic references, and I now skip ahead to lesson 17:

Lesson 17: "When it pertains to evil, Gnostics believe that anything from the physical world or creator of that world, such as the Demiurge is evil. And …
Certainly, all the manuscripts found at Nag Hammadi had some different perspectives, and thus they were determined not worthy of "holy" (Catholic Church canon) inclusion. That they were ordered destroyed is shocking and almost unbelievable.  But such an action shows how unfairly Christianity, as we know it, was established.  Only the chosen books of the Canon held the "truth." …"

If the purpose of the course was to highlight the virtues of Gnosticism, I admit I failed to appreciate them. The canon was not based per se on the 'truth" but weighed the apostolic content, fundamental synergy of messages and glorification of one good God. The canon did not require all the verses within "books" to be congruent and void of any hint of contradiction. The ancient scribes could read through textual issues just as well as we can – maybe better.
Christians and Jews died by the tens of thousands under persecution and thus to say the church fathers were "unfair" in establishing Christianity defies civil comment.
If this course was to impress one with scholarship, I would be more complimentary if the author was more politically sensitive or less critical of shall I say "other established religions." Since the tone is in many of its parts are a criticism, then I will discuss some fundamental issues of Gnostic doctrine explained within this course in like manner.
The first fundamental difference is that of Gnostic polytheism and that the inferior and evil God was the creator of Earth. Of course, Christianity developed monotheism given the eventual definition of the trinity. Christianity was a break in the pagan legacy of most of the world's existent philosophical approach to gods of the elements, animals, idols and heavens and Gods that procreated more gods. Gnosticism retained polytheism and Christianity matured away from it. The Gnostic's supreme God creates (allows) an evil creator (perhaps akin to a Satan) , but he did permit "a spark" of himself to be in all humans. If humans develop the spark into GNOSIS, aka knowledge, then their souls will be saved. The doctrine goes on to say few will achieve that. Thus the religion is but a doctrine for the few. Gnostics believed Jesus acquired Gnosis. What is Gnosticism? From lesson 1:
Lesson 1: If I was to give an answer to what is Gnosticism then I would have to say, Gnosticism is about creation and cosmology, (it is study of the Universe in its totality ), myth, moral principles, salvation and mysterious.
Since the world's creator is evil, so the Creator must be evil as well. To the Gnostic, this physical world must be rejected for the individual must do all it can to escape it.

As well saying 8 and 107. This tells us only a very select few will entry the kingdom of The Father. The central character passes up the multitude so they may choose only one, the largest and strongest. To the Gnostic though this didn't mean physically, but the spiritually strongest.

The truth is a simple definition of Gnosis and Gnostic doctrine is illusive. It certainly is a complicated structure to "preach" to the illiterate majority 2,000 years ago. But several of the significant differences in faith and teachings as demonstrated above vs. Christianity are clear. First, we have to deal with polytheism vs. monotheism. Then one has to ponder the logic of a supreme God allowing the universe and earth within it to be entrusted to an evil creator vs. a "good" one (himself?). One must recognize that then pagan "religions" throughout the world worshiped nature, the sky, water, sun, birds, etc. as they owed their lives to their bounties. Many cultures had a God assigned to each. They hardly considered the Earth and its riches evil. They did know there was evil – most frequently that attributed unfortunate circumstances to an ill worshiped god of some sort.

Below is a brief about the Gnostic legend of Sophia. Sophia is too complex to develop in this essay, but to illuminate the Gnostic legends (or beliefs if one is Gnostic); here is an excerpt from external reading. I suggest an adept student will be frequently going outside the box to better understand Gnosticism. Here is a portion of Sophia and the Gnostic equivalent of Hebrew Genesis. The bold highlights are mine.

In his great ambition Ildabaoth decides to create a man after an image he had seen reflected in the waters of space. He employs all the powers of his various creations, but the creature proves a failure, helpless and ignorant and crawling on the ground like a worm. So he is forced to call on the help of his mother who sends him an impulse of divine light. This animates the man and he rises to life.
But seeing the newly made creation soar higher and higher because of the spiritual light from Sophia, Ildabaoth flies into a rage of jealousy. Angrily staring into the deep abyss of matter, his image is reflected back to him and there arises a serpent with eyes flashing red. It is Satan, the Ophiomorphos (having the form of a serpent, an embodiment of envy and cunning. After this Ialdabaoth encases his creations, symbolized in Adam and Eve, in mud to keep them closely tied to the earth. He builds for them the Garden of Paradise, giving them all of the gifts therein. But lest they taste death, he forbids them to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Sophia-Achamoth, from her kingdom above, is always watching over and protecting humanity. Seeing the world that Ialdabaoth has fashioned, she sends her own serpent, the Ophis or Agathodaemon (a divine instructor), who induces Adam and Eve to taste of the forbidden fruit of knowledge. Though they are cast from the Garden of Eden, and do indeed learn the sorrow of death, the divine wisdom stays with them through every trial of worldly life.
In the final act, after watching mankind struggle through aeons of pain and conflict, constantly pursued by Ialdabaoth's cunning, Sophia-Achamoth begs her mother, Sophia the Elder, to send the Christ to help humanity in its unending torment. It is through his crucifixion and resurrection that the kingdom of matter is finally subdued and Ialdabaoth's reign of blindness comes to an end. From his throne in the heavens the Christ continues to reign, collecting all of the souls who have triumphed like him, each one freeing a portion of light encased in the kingdom of matter.

If one makes it through this towards understanding Gnosis or accepting by faith gnosis, then one must consider he is analyzing a religion for a few who achieve gnosis vs. one that offers some hope to all. We need to be objective observers of their respective principles. The eleventh commandment in John 15:12 is to 'love one another as I have love you …' which is not a concept forced upon the people by an evil creator or proposed for the benefit of the few. So one takes whichever religious path one prefers if one limits the field to Gnosticism vs. Christianity.

"I shall choose you one out of a thousand, two out of two thousand and they shall stand as a single one."
Meaning they will come to see the light the truth. They thought Jesus born of evil never the less overcame that obstacle and obtained this state of rarely achieved comprehension. [NF: This is like the Eastern religions. Mediate and become aware.]
The Demiurge was originally sent out by the good God to create the world but [he then] established himself here as an independent deity, that is, he gave himself out to be the Most High and [now] holds captive in his creation the souls which [in truth, instead] belong to the supreme God." (p.109-110)

Who was the hero of Gnostic evangelism? Valentinius was one such person (there were others identified in the course) who merged first century B.C. Gnosticism with Jesus Christ. Lesson 11 describes Valentinius Gnosticism. He became at least in part monistic (also explained in the course). What is monasticism? It is akin to materialism and pantheism. I think it is best described in general terms by Buddhism.
Lesson 20: Because of Gnosticism's insistence on personal responsibility and ethics, its emphasis on singular prayer, the practice of compassion, detachment from materialism and the striving for enlightenment, it has been called "the Buddhism of the West".
What Gnostics reject is not the earth, but they system: the artificial world of injustice, prejudice, institutionalization and materialism.

Of Valentinius we read:
Valentinius taught first in Alexandria and went to Rome about 136 AD, during the pontificate of pope Hyginus, and remained until the pontificate of pope Anicetus. In Adversus Valentinianos, iv, Tertullian says:
Valentinius had expected to become a bishop, because he was an able man both in genius and eloquence. Being indignant, however, that another obtained the dignity by reason of a claim which confessorship had given him, he broke with the church of the true faith. Just like those (restless) spirits which, when roused by ambition, are usually inflamed with the desire of revenge, he applied himself with all his might to exterminate the truth; and finding the clue of a certain old opinion (NF Gnosticism) …"

Thus we have an older religion (not per se an issue as Judaism preceded Christianity) that was, unfortunately for us, integrated with Christianity by a dissident rejected for the high office of Bishop. This is in contrast to Jesus who per the canon Gospels was a humanist, worked "miracles" of healing and was an activist in regards to Pharisee abuses of the temple and aloofness from the common people the "Sons of God." Speaking for myself I'll accept Jesus as the New Testament teacher over a character like Valentinius as my foundation for my earthly efforts to enjoy eternity. What would we have if every contender for becoming a pontiff, if passed over, and impatient, started his own religion?

As for monasticism, the search within ones self for the true essence of spirituality as a theology or simply self discipline, that all things are integrated in some way, I think, is a good thing. I do not find some parts of that philosophy in conflict with Judaism or Christianity. I do find monasticism inadequate and accept the applied tests put forth in Christian Apologetics by Doug Powell. One is not going to be obedient to any religion or process of instruction unless one knows himself, his limitations and seeks to improve in all physical and intellectual accomplishments. Thus the Eastern disciplines do not have it all wrong – very much to the contrary. Perhaps renouncing all worldly (material) things goes a bit far in my view as in today's environment one would not be a participant and contributor in most societies with such a stringent view. If it were not for material things we all would be living a primitive existence.

Worshiping material things however is wrong. Only the poor and / or ineffective shoppers say, "money can not buy happiness." The poor can not contribute donations and taxes to the poor. By example, the poor did not recently contribute the reported on billion dollars to the relief of Hati. BUT 'how much is enough?' – 'just a little bit more' is not what this world is about either. Athletes many times talk about being in their zone before a major competition. So can we not have material comforts and honorable spiritual, ethical and moral zones? Is not such a mature balance in life a form of Gnosis?

The author does not avoid any opportunity for controversy.
As history has graphically demonstrated, the various religious crusades to "immanetize the Eschaton" are deadly serious. This truth is tangibly evidenced by the atrocities committed by the socio-political Utopians of secular Gnosticism. Both Auschwitz and the Soviet gulag are products of the same jihad. The secular theocracies that have waged this jihad have consistently been scientific dictatorships edified by Darwinism.

What is immanent Eschaton?

To immanentize the eschaton means trying to make the eschaton (the transcendent, uncreated, spiritual, or future; the end of days, to trigger the apocalypse, see eschatology) in the IMMANENT (within the limits of possible experience) world. …

In all these contexts it means "trying to make that which belongs to the afterlife happen here and now (on Earth)"

Eschatology (lit. 'study of the last') is a part of theology and philosphy concerned with what are believed to be the final events in the history of the world, or the ultimate destiny of humanity. eschaton and Eschatology

Scientific dictatorships are?

As antiquity gave way to modern history, the religious power structure shifted to an autocracy of the knowable, or a 'scientific dictatorship.' Subtly and swiftly, the ruling class seized control of science and used it as an 'epistemological weapon' against the masses.

- by Phillip D. Collins ©, Feb. 24th, 2005
"As the Sun/Moon cult lost some of its popularity, 'Scientists' were quick to take up some of the slack. According to their propaganda, the physical laws of the universe were the ultimate causative factors, and naturally, those physical laws were only fathomable by the scientific (i.e. Illuminati) elite."
- Keith, Saucers of the Illuminati, 78-

Hmmm, like fudged data leads to "Global warming" paranoia which leads to T.A.R.P. legislation?

It is true that the nag Hammurabi texts on display in the Coptic Museum in Cairo have created a realm of controversy that the original Christian process was flawed and usurped by organization and process in the course of its establishment. I am not certain if any religion or discipline well accepted today is any different; certainly not pre A.D. Gnosticism, post Christ Gnosticism or Coptic Gnosticism.

One's faith in the acceptability of a religion should not be based upon the political-bureaucratic process that allowed it to prevail against doubt, persecution and suppression, including force of arms, but in the message itself. Hypothetically what is Gnosticism was the "truth" and it was wiped out by the Roman armies and Catholic canon to extinction, and Hinduism was the "truth" and it together with the Romans brutally scoured both religions from the earth? Then neither would exist. So what any entity did to survive bureaucratically in effect preserved them for their congregations today. Were their acts of those facing the lions, crosses, fires and swords any more revolting than those of the real persecutors? I suggest they were far less so. What of Hindus vs. Buddhists? Jews vs. Muslims? To appreciate this course one should read some of the corollary texts that nag Hammurabi opened us up to. One such text familiar to many is the so called "Fifth Gospel of Thomas" – aka the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas.

Among such Gnostic groups as the Valentinians, women were considered equal to men; some were revered as prophets; others acted as teachers, traveling evangelists, healers, priests, perhaps even bishops.

Gospel of Thomas 114, (also a ULC course) according to Gnostic Gospel of Thomas this is an exchange including Jesus Christ:

(114) Simon Peter said to Him, "Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of Life. Jesus said, "I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the
Kingdom of Heaven."

One can analyze login 114 to any extent one so desires but to make any "politically correct" religious interpretation of this element of "Gnosis" that is acceptable and inspirationally effective to women (one half of the potential congregation) then one must really do some serious editing and achieve some degree of gnosis eloquence typical of a politician or a lawyer - not a corner church minister or corner evangelist! One point is the course does discuss several denominations of Gnostics as I lesson 19 "Gnosticism Today" which is analogous to reviewing the various denominations and apologists of Christianity that march to the beat their own drum.

Also the course, lesson 13, discussed the Gnostic movement's influence on the verses attributed to disciple Paul and Apostle John. This is one reason I took the course. I became aware that some sayings (verses) failed to make any sense within the context of Christ's or the apostles teachings. The verses were being directed at a threat not defined by Roman Emperor worship and paganism, but by something else – Gnosticism. However the course strongly implies Paul was a Gnostic. But was Paul Gnostic or aware of Gnosticism and preached against it as did the Christian church fathers of the next two generations?

Lesson 20: As well we have compared the possibilities that some of the biblical characters such as Paul in his own right may have been Gnostic. The topic has been twisted, gone over and over as the Gnostic believes the teaching of Paul in Gnostic text was actually proof that Paul was a Gnostic

Paul says "The Kingdom of God is within you" which is probably the best single summation of Gnostic theology. Jesus says "My kingdom is not of this world" (Jn 18:36).
From Lesson 13: Some of the scholars of today that study the Gnostics believe that of the four canonical gospels, the elements associated with Q show the clearest connection to Gnosticism.
Gnostic scholars believe that many of the sayings written in Matthew and Luke and attributed to Q have a distinctly koan-like obscurity; for example
Luke 17:33: Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it and
Luke 13:30: Some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last. Other sayings have reference to secret teachings and knowledge to be revealed, such as
Luke 12:2: Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known, which are themes intrinsic to the idea of gnosis - secret knowledge that can be learned. Also, the question-and-answer format of Q was a main form of writing used by Gnostics (for example, compare The Sophia of Jesus Christ).

The motivation, strategy and logic behind these Gnostic vs. Christian or any Hebrew verses are vague and speculative at best.

Lesson 13: For example, Isaiah 34:14 is usually translated ... the 'screech owl' also shall find rest there ..., translating the Hebrew term lilitu as screech owl rather than as Lilith, the name of a Hebrew demon.

"Lilitu" in Aramaic and Hebrew is considered by many scholars together with its gender suffix 'ith' to refer to a night bird not a demon within the context of Isaiah 34:13-15. One must be schooled beyond my current efforts in the intricacies and rules of Biblical Hebrew grammar – but prefixes and suffixes and context are important elements of ancient language translation. This is determined in part by interpreting the 'Lilitu' text inclusively with its surrounding text – i.e. not out of context. Thus 'owl' being as good as any considering Isaiah 34:13-15 is discussing 12 creatures that are not pseudonyms for ancient mythological Hebrew demons.

This is one of the translation differences reflected in contemporary scholarship and the 1611 KJV classical Bible. By example, 'screech owl' KJV is "owls" in GNV and "night creature" in NKJV and "night hag (storm demon Lilith)" in the more recent Oxford RSV. BUT In Biblical Hebrew Westminster Interlinear text Isaiah 34:13 "owl" is 'ione' Strong's H3234 Hebrew for ostrich. 34:14 owl is 'lithith' H3913 hoot-owl, and in 34:15 owl is H7901 an scops-owl (darting on its prey). The Jewish Publication Society Interlinear Tanakh agrees except for 34:14 is "some kind of demon". Thus 5 of 6 very well regarded translations of the text are of fowl and 1 of demons. Judge for yourself.
Lesson 13 Continued: Paul also refers to his teaching by terminology of gnostic significance - I long to see you, so that I may share with you a certain pneumatic charisma (Romans 1:11-12); pneumatic is the gnostic term for the class of people who were governed by their spiritual side and thus saved. As well as the koine Greek word for spirit, though no other alternative word for spirit in Koine Greek is suggested.

The comment on pneumatic charisma (Romans 1:11-12) is accurate. Thus one good point the course makes is the disciples of the New Testament did speak directly against Gnostic theology as did the next generation removed church fathers. The course says there was organized resistance to Gnosticism then. True – 'so the Bible tells me so' if one is aware of and tuned into the Gnostic verses. Gnosis as a movement or word is not in the concordance. (Nave's Topical Bible, Unabridged edition with Index.) Therefore, I would have appreciated an exhaustive list of such Biblical verses, as I doubt I could recognize them all on my own. I would suspect such a list would be highly controversial.

Then there is Hermetic Gnosticism developed by Hermes Trismegistus who by medieval era legend was a contemporary of Moses.
The Asclepius and the Corpus Hermeticum are the most important of the Hermetica, writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, which survive (NF as redacted) the Renaissance it was accepted that Hermes Trismegistos was a contemporary of Moses, however after Casaubon's dating of the Hermetic writings as no earlier than the second or third century CE, the whole of Renaissance Hermeticism collapsed.
As to their actual authorship:
"... they were certainly not written in remotest antiquity by an all wise Egyptian priest, as the Rennaissance believed, but by various unknown authors, all probably Greeks, and they contain popular Greek philosophy of the period, a mixture of Platonism and Stocism, combined with some Jewish and probably some Persian influences.
Hermes Trismegistus is described as a man who became a god, or as a man who was the son of a god.

The easiest way to define Hermetic Gnosticism is to contrast it to its slightly more famous cousin, Christian Gnosticism. It takes volumes to define Christian Gnosticism in its entirety so - for the purposes of this discussion - the focus will be on that which distinguishes it from the Hermetic variety.

A previous post, "Gnosticism: a working definition", defined the nature of the dilemma of Humanity according to the Gnostic view. The various forms of Gnosticism,* all propose
various ways of achieving Gnosis; that is, of finding a way to 'awaken' humanity and to eventually get everyone back to the Pleroma. Christian Gnosticism presents Christ, the Logos,** who with his twin, the unmanifested Sophia, provides a means of achieving Gnosis.

*(I will deal with these in a separate post in which I question whether Gnosticism should properly be defined as a religion at all)

**(lit.: logos the word. See the beginning of the Gospel of John)

A perusal of strictly
Christian Gnostic literature will show that it is from this variety that the gloomiest views of the world originate. This is provides the key to understanding Hermetic Gnosticism. One of the defining characteristics of Gnosticism is something called the doctrine of anti-cosmos. Simply stated, it is the belief that, owing to the way the phenomenal universe (lit.: the universe that we can sense) originated, this universe is altogether objectionable. There is nothing redeeming in it and the sooner it is escaped, the better for all concerned.

Christians were put to death by the Romans. I do not read that the Gnostics were equally persecuted – which is not to suggest they should have been – of course not. The point is today a defensive attitude is irrelevant to presenting, accepting or rejecting a philosophy paramount as it is regarding our eternal guidance. Sadly, religious animosity to the extreme still continues today in the form of hypocritical murder-bombers. At the opposite extreme of atheism are those that murder their own people to help a few elitists with their selfish goals – fabulous religious logic (sic). More blood has been shed over the religions of the world than for any other cause – and it continues. Such is a sad irony and epitaph for any religion with fresh blood under the feet of its lay devoted and faithful. Therefore, I ask this of a religion:

  • Do its supreme most leaders or idol(s) publicly preach love or a call to arms?
  • Does it (did it) produce heroes that transcend(ed) regional geography and religions?
  • Was its cause created by good heroes or by dissidents?
  • Does it give ME an "average Joe" an opportunity to hope for the best in eternity – there obviously being a God of creation as science has no answer for the beginning of the beginning?
  • Am I to hope or to fear?

I could care less how many hands redacted the scripture. It is to me all about the message that counts – the end result – the guidance – the timeliness of the teachings.

Therefore, based upon the above criteria would I choose Gnosticism over Christianity? No. Might you? That is for you to say. Should you take the course? Knowledge is power, but knowledge of what? Lesson 15 is an interesting brief in Christian apologetics. Lesson 15 presents several hypotheses in regards to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and then follows this Christian apologetic dissertation:

Lesson 15 excerpts: (This is regards to Jesus resurrection) With myth, hallucination, and a flawed autopsy ruled out, (NF i.e. theories of grave robbing, magic act, etc.) with incontrovertible evidence for an empty tomb, with a substantial body of eyewitnesses to his reappearance, and with the inexplicable transformation and impact upon the world of those who claimed to have seen him, Morison became convinced that his preconceived bias against Jesus Christ's resurrection had been wrong. He began writing a different book—entitled Who Moved the Stone? — to detail his new conclusions. Morison simply followed the trail of evidence, clue by clue, until the truth of the case seemed clear to him. His surprise was that the evidence led to a belief in the resurrection.
In his first chapter, "The Book That Refused to Be Written," this former skeptic explained how the evidence convinced him that Jesus' resurrection was an actual historical event. "It was as though a man set out to cross a forest by a familiar and well-beaten track and came out suddenly where he did not expect to come out." 36
Morison is not alone. Countless other skeptics have examined the evidence for Jesus' resurrection, and accepted it as the most astounding fact in all of human history.

This is also the path taken by Josh McDowell in his series of books titled Evidence Demands a Verdict. Once he was a skeptic and agnostic that set out to prove Jesus was Jewish mythology at best and in the process became a Christian, apologetic author and guest speaker at the largest churches in America.

The 'scripture' of Gnosticism, Judaism, Christianity, and probably Islam were redacted by scribes (re)recording the original verbal lore. The authors are not always specified thus many say about Judean and Christian scripture that they are pseudonymous. Did the evangelists, scribes and visionaries insert themselves into the text – YES. Even the texts of Hinduism change over time. One can go on an on over the edited and redacted issue of holy books. Who, how many, contributed over to the content of nag Hammurabi Gnostics texts and those that followed?

Acts 8:13 is a simple to explain example of redacting. Jerome deleted Acts 8:37 as his sect believed more than a confession in Jesus was required to qualify one for baptism. But one hundred and fifty years earlier Irenaeus discussed Acts 8:37. However, modern translations of the Bible delete it on the authority that "early translations do not contain Acts 8:37." i.e. Jerome's Vulgate and Psalter! Circular proofs always lead to errors and trouble.

Irenaeus: Similarly, according to Irenaeus, the Ethiopian eunuch needed only baptism for his complete salvation after confessing belief, because he had already been "instructed by the prophets" in his reading of Isaiah. Philip could leave immediately with no problems arising (CCEL Irenaeus, Heresies:III.XII.8; IV.XXIII.2). c 185 – 188 A.D. and …

[Philip declared] that this was Jesus, and that the Scripture was fulfilled in Him; as did also the believing eunuch himself: and, immediately requesting to be baptized, he said, "I believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God."[Ref Acts 8:37.] This man was also sent into the regions of Ethiopia, to preach what he had himself believed … Irenaeus, Heresies:III.XII.8; IV.XXIII.2).

Irenaeus published in the late second century A.D. about c 185 A.D. so Acts 8:13 was original gospel prior to Jerome (c 347 – 420 A.D.) Jerome deleted Acts 8:13 due to his sectarian beliefs on Baptism. BUT Irenaeus clearly refers to Acts 8:13 "after confessing belief..." Modern translations not foot noting this at the very least are in significant error. This redacting example is minor compared to the effects Valentinius had on pre Jesus Gnostic text.

Valentinius merged the original Gnostic religion with that of Jesus and the apostles and that egocentric reaction to not being elected a Christian bishop polluted both (in my opinion). Scribal error and redacting are common to all sacred texts during their eras of development – Gnosticism especially so (i.e. Valentinius and Corpus Hermeticum).

What is the point of all this? Can two (or four) seemingly divergent religions all be true, and at the core of their differences is nothing more superficial than insufficient textual presentation? It is logical that in this universe and on our little earth is there but one true word of God; but is it true that only some of us know what it is and are in 'his' grace, and all others are yet in need?

The Lost Books of Gnosticism were not lost as it turns out, they survived. They were rejected by Christians no differently than if they competed with a 'canon' of Confucianism, Shinto(ism), Hinduism or Judaism. They are Gnostic and perhaps Coptic Gnostic– their own thing. What is your thing? From lesson 20:

Gnosticism stands at the crossroads of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, representing a common ground. Historically Gnosticism influenced Judaism in the development of Kabala, and Islam in the
development of Sufism; it both encouraged and challenged Christianity through its early centuries and contributed profoundly to Christian theology and identity.

Many are agnostic and atheists. Reports indicate atheism is the fastest growing 'religion' on college campuses today. Do people really believe in nothing; that is that the entire universe is that of pure science? Most people are the life time religious captives of their birth right. Are you seeking, questioning, or simply learning? To evaluate other religions, whatever the motivation may be, one has to experience them in some form and read of them. This course is that for Gnosticism. One can take this course as a first time introduction to Gnosticism, not to forget that otherwise there will be no ULC Seminary Gnosis credits (for you)! But, perhaps, more importantly there might not be any 'Gnosis' either. No matter how this fits into one's belief system, at the very least, practicing Gnosticism is a positive, intellectual, spiritual involvement and commitment vs. do nothing drop-out atheism and agnosticism. Just because Gnosticism does not work for me as a Christian Minister does not mean it will not work for you, or that as a person sufficiently motivated to pay for on-line study that this course does not contribute to a greater and more balanced personal knowledge base – for 'knowledge is power - always.'

Copyrighted Rev. Nick Federspiel, DCS 2010.

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