…anyone who calmly and patiently reads the Bible as a whole may very well leave many questions about the details open, yet he soon learns to distinguish between where the path is leading and where it is not. But this unequivocal character is not a fact to be grasped by historical or abstract hermeneutical methods. In order to be perceived, it presupposes contemplation of the Gestalt as a whole and, thus, a way of looking in terms of the whole: within the living context of faith and Church.
Benedict XVI, Dogma and Preaching
In Against the Protestant Gnostics, Lee contends that for gnostics of all historical types, salvation is about knowledge of the self for the sake of the self, as opposed to knowledge of the mighty acts of God:
As far as the gnostics were concerned, the “many” were overly fascinated by historical happenings, even by the historical events in the life of Christ. Elaine Pagels, writing on the ahistorical views of Heracleon, reports that he claimed: that those who insist that Jesus, a man who lived in the flesh, is Christ fail to distinguish between literal and symbolic truth. . . . Heracleon goes on to say that those who take the events concerning Jesus “literally”—as if the events themselves were revelation—have fallen into flesh and error. Concern about the mighty acts of God in both the Old and New Covenants was from a gnostic perspective a lower stage in the development of an authentic Christian understanding. To know Christ was not in any sense to have knowledge about the “historical man of flesh and blood” but rather to be personally related to the mythical heavenly being who liberates humanity from historical concerns…
…The reason for this totally different concern of the gnostics is their conviction that the root problem of humankind is ignorance. Judaism and Christianity in their orthodox expressions would understand the basic source of all our misery to be sin, humanity’s failure to meet God’s expectations or its own potential; gnosticism would see the human predicament as resulting from a profound blindness concerning the human situation. “Ignorance of the Father,” states the Gospel of Truth, “brought about anguish and terror. And the anguish grew solid like a fog so that no one was able to see.
Someone passed this quote along to me the other day from a book review J. Greshem Machen wrote in the 1920’s. Still has something to say to us today perhaps.
The entire book is really based upon the pragmatist assumption that religion can be separated from theology and that a man can obtain the values of the religious life apart from the particular intellectual conception which he forms of his God. This assumption leads in the first place to an artificial treatment of history, which altogether fails to do justice to the real complexity of human life; and it leads, in the second place, and in particular, to the reconstruction, contrary to all evidence, of a primitive Gentile Christianity which shall exhibit just the type of nontheological religion which the modern pragmatist desires.
J.Gresham Machen, “Review of Arthur Cushman McGiffert’s The God of the Early Chrisitans” (1924) in Selected Shorter Writings, edited by D.G. Hart, 499-50.
“No one can understand Virgil in his Bucolics and Georgics unless he has been a shepherd or a farmer for fifty years. No one can understand Cicero in his letters unless he has been involved for twenty years in the life of a state. Let no one think that he has tasted Holy Scripture unless he has for a century ecclesias gubernarit and has been responsible for the Church.”-Martin Luther