The dilemma of duality in both ancient and modern variations is found in its separation of tangible substance and the act of knowing. This reductionism lends itself to the distinction between belief and practice, relegating conviction to the position of superiority over method. Universal salvation speculators postulate this view as a tenable position. The gnostic influence in modern theology can be witnessed in the denunciation of scriptural authority and an existential plethora of lifestyle acceptance in Churches that denigrate the value of principles and the truths presented in Holy Writ.

As such, the danger exists in the subordination of faith’s necessary experience for a modular belief system that offers purportedly relevant answers to the problematic questions of life. The Faith is made inferior to the philosophical answers provided on an intellectual platform erected through the process of integrating various religious perspectives and cultural assumptions. The new grid supposedly provides a satiated mental state to faith’s quandaries. Irenaeus, in Against Heresies, aptly assesses the dilemma as he views the gnostic synthesis as a type of a reassembled picture or painting: a created distortion that only vaguely resembles the original.[1]

The over valuation of intellectual properties, creating a sense of superiority for philosophy over theology, particularly in practice, appears to be the historical struggle of the Church. Both Augustine and Aquinas became the forerunners of schools of thought that attempted to integrate Platonic philosophical ideas or Aristotelian philosophical ideas into the Church as relevant and proper grids, whereby God could be understood in a superior way, as opposed to that which was presented by the primitive Hebrews. Philo’s dilemma of incorporating the Allegorical method of religious interpretation into Judaic thought, and the early Church Father’s almost universal acceptance of the Allegorical way as a valid hermeneutic, lends itself to the gnostic assertions that devalue the practical implementation of faith’s prerogatives and conditions that necessarily follow obedience.

It seems that there appears to exist an appropriate area for future and additional research in consideration of the historical milieu of practice and belief in the early centuries of the Church and the similar conditions that may or may not exist in the modern Church. How relevant is the gnostic modes of thinking in deference to the Church? Is the reemergence of gnostic thinking a challenge to the faith of Christianity, or is it an irrelevant and obscure nuisance? There appears to be a disturbing trend developing in the field of the occult and esoteric literature that is once again espousing Gnosticism as a viable belief system. What are the implications for the church currently?

Further pursuit of the re-emerging difficulties of freely associating groups with Gnosticism should be examined as well. Is the ancient practice of hyperbole, exaggeration and specious charges an acceptable methodology when discussing variant theological standpoints today, or are they to be rejected as inappropriate hermeneutical practices? The problem presented is one of circular reasoning, whereby any theological vantage point can find commonalities with the opposition and various heretical schools of the past. An example of this would be the Augustinian/Calvinism theories of predestination and determinism coupled with Mandian thought. The problem is: is this an appropriate line of questioning? These syllogistic arguments are inevitable and invaluable for the defending of doctrinal stances within Systematic or Philosophic Theology.[2] Care must be made in these considerations, however. The danger can be found in excluding Biblically normative practices over philosophic comfort if caution is not exercised.


The charge of Gnosticism or Gnostic tendencies may need to be confined to the realm of philosophy and theology when dealing with orthodox groups, as this appears to be the primary concern of the early church. Gnosticism took root in the era that witnessed the expansion of Greek influence and thought into the arena of the Churches structure. Consequently, philosophical considerations overtook supernatural expressions. The challenge of Tertullian and the Montanist movement’s reaction against the secularization of the Church exists in perpetuity as a statement to this reality (see the previous unpublished paper on Montanism in WU entries). Gnosticism, philosophic inclusions, even Thomism, appear to be attempting to allow the religious thought to exist apart from the genuine supernatural encounters as defined by Scripture.

[1] Irenaeus, Against Heretics, Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 1, Hendrickson Press, MA, 1994, p. 428

[2] Towns, Elmer, Theology for Today, Harcourt Publishers, Orlando FL, 1999, p. 7

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