Discussion with a Gnostic on Jesus' Resurrection
This short dialogue is an interesting one. This gentleman retained the nickname ‘Gnostic.’ Gnosticism is/was the teaching that tried to reduce Christianity to a philosophy. The Gnostics claimed they had secret and superior knowledge. It generally taught that matter was evil and that the God of the Bible is a lower god called the Demiurge. The Absolute Supreme Being is unknowable. Jesus could not be God in flesh because matter is evil. Therefore, Jesus became the Christ when the "heavenly Christ" came upon Him at His baptism.
This dialogue is short, and it was my first encounter with a gnostic.
Matt: Hi. What's up?
Gnostic: Not much . . . You?
Matt: Not much. Why the nickname. Why 'gnostic'?
Gnostic: I am a gnostic. And you?
Matt: I’m a Christian. What do you mean by gnostic?
Gnostic: As in the "heretical movement" of the first two centuries.
Matt: So, you deny Jesus is God in flesh?
Gnostic: That is a difficult question to answer. We believe the answer to be yes and no. He was God, but not truly manifested in the flesh.
Matt: To say that Jesus was God but not truly manifested in the flesh is a form of docetism, I believe.
Gnostic: Docetists said that the flesh and the divine cannot mix, therefore Jesus was truly God but only in the form of a human being. Gnosticism offered two traditional answers to the question . . . Adoptionist Gnostics said Jesus was a regular man, but when he was baptized by John a divine power descended on him and he was "adopted" as the Son of God. And Valentinian Gnostics accepted the idea of Jesus being truly human and truly divine, but argued that there were actually two persons residing in the same body, a human person and a divine person . . . and when Jesus died it was only his physical nature that was crucified, while his divine person lived on.
Matt: Both of those views are in error.
Gnostic: But according to any, no Jesus was not actually an enfleshment of God, since, as St. Paul quite rightly tells us in 1 Corinthians, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor can the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Matt: Flesh and blood . . . true, an idiom for sinful flesh. However after the resurrection, Jesus said he had flesh and bones (Luke 24:39) He had risen from the dead in his physical body . . . He was god in flesh.
Gnostic: He walked through doors . . . his disciples couldn't recognize him on the road to Emmaus . . . His post-resurrection body was different, it shifted forms, it was not like his pre-resurrection body . . . even according to the canonical gospels.
Matt: He did not walk thru doors. He simply appeared in a room.
Gnostic: Can a physical body simply translocate itself?
Matt: Jesus said he would raise his body in John 2:19-21 . . . he retained the scars after his resurrection. it was the same body. 1 Cor. 15:20-581 speaks of a resurrected body. It is different, yet it is the same body--only resurrected.
Gnostic: It also speaks of two bodies, a spiritual body and a physical body.
Matt: Yes . . . but take it with all of the Bible . . . they are the same thing . . . like a butterfly was once a caterpillar . . . they are they same life--only transformed.
Gnostic: Yes, I would agree with you absolutely that that is what Paul is ultimately teaching. I am just using his metaphor as a jumping-off point but I would go beyond it and say that they are two different things.
Matt: But to do that is an error . . . I mean no offense. Jesus said he'd raise the same body he died in. He did.
Gnostic: And that resurrection can only take place when the spirit is free from the flesh, free from the pain and the pleasures of physical existence . . . and that separation of spirit from flesh at the crucifixion is how a Gnostic would describe Jesus' resurrection.
Matt: He retained the scars . . . it was the same body . . . yet he was able to do 'weird' stuff.
Gnostic: Not a resurrection of a mass of flesh and sinful temptations, but an rising of the spirit up out of the physical nature.
Matt: That isn't what Jesus said about his own body. Why would it be different for others? He is, after all, the first-fruits of the resurrection.
Gnostic: Yes! and just as he shed physicality and arose as a "life-giving" spirit, so will we . . . he is the prototype of our "resurrection", of our ascension past the flesh.
Matt: But, he rose in the same physical body he died in. John 2:19-21 prophesied that. Jesus said it.
Gnostic: No, but Gnostics never accepted most of the canonical scriptures as actually being the word of God.
Matt: Why not?
Gnostic: Well, that is a primary difference in our beliefs.
Matt: Canonicity is another subject.
Gnostic: The life that he gives us is the capacity to move beyond the temptations and pleasures and pain of mortal existence.
Matt: Wait a second, please.
Matt: How do you handle Jesus' own words that he would raise His own body from the dead? He even told Thomas to stick his finger in His hands and into His side . . . He still had the wounds . . . It was his body--the same one.
Gnostic: I don't believe Jesus uttered those words. I find the statement blasphemous, just as you would not believe that Jesus said some of the things written down in Gnostic gospels, I am sure.
Matt: It is in the Bible recorded by those who knew him. So, then, you're accusing John the apostle of being a liar?
Gnostic: sorry I'm going to have to run. Take care, god bless.
I was surprised by the abrupt termination of this conversation. But that is often the nature of discussions on the Internet.
Gnostic’s weak areas were his inconsistency with believing what Jesus said, casting doubt on God’s word, and not dealing with the issue of Jesus’ physical resurrection.
My weak area was not knowing more about Gnosticism. I was familiar with it but not very knowledgeable. Had I known more, perhaps the conversation would have been better. By the way, the intro to this dialogue was easy to write after the conversation--as I did my research afterwards.
- 1. When converting the site to a CMS (Content Management System) format, I added ":20-58" to the scripture reference so that the scripture bot would pit it up and the reader would be able to see the text. Matt Slick 12/3/08.
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