I'M afraid we need to know more about the Gnostics, because even if they are an old, ancient phenomenon, and should be by now obsolete, the truth is that they still continue to thrive in our modern days of rapid and sophisticated developments.
The effort, I believe, will be worthwhile. For one, because aside from being aware of their presence, we would be led to find ways of how to deal with them more effectively, inviting them to a continuing dialogue to calmly clarify issues and questions that relate to a very intimate part of our lifeâ€”our faith and religion.
Our public discourse should not be limited only to things of politics and economics, technology and sociology. These topics are important, of course, but I believe it is even more important that we talk and discuss about faith and religion.
For sure there will be many things to tackle, many differences and conflicts in ideas and practices to sort out and resolve. But at least if the discussion is made more public, all parties would be made to abide by certain rules of engagement, so to speak, to make the whole exercise fit for our dignity as persons, who would know how to respect one another in spite of the differences.
It's when things are kept hidden and unresolved that unnecessary explosions of pent-up emotions and sub-human expressions can occur. If in political issues, great effort is made to resolve sharp differences among the parties involved, employing all sorts of diplomatic tack, I believe even greater effort should be made in our faith issues.
Recently, I had the amusing if disturbing experience of getting into a thread of discussion in a social networking. Someone posted during Holy Week an image of Christ with welts all over his body after his scourging. It was meant for the others to appreciate its artistic and religious value.
Many expressed their appreciation. I for my part at first did not make any comments. Then someone suddenly joined the conversation and accused everyoneâ€”Catholics, specificallyâ€”of worshipping wooden images instead of God. That's when, in a knee-jerk reaction, I clarified the matter. Still, the fellow persisted.
He claimed he was Catholic before, but now converted into another religion which he considered to be more faithful to the Bible. I have encountered this kind of view before and as far as I am concerned, it's already a settled matter, so I calmly commented that we just respect each other's religious beliefs without attacking others. My idea was to avert unnecessary and acrimonious discussion.
Still, he persisted, making more outlandish claims, like, that we should only believe in the Bible (sola Scriptura), not realizing that there's nothing in the Bible saying that only the Bible should the source of faith, and worse, not knowing that the Bible was based on oral Tradition before it was written.
That's when I got convinced that the discussion was not anymore about faith and religion, but rather about the state of one's mental health. And also, on the part of the Catholics who took on his ravings, about some wounded pride.
It would have been far better just to let him rave to his heart's content and we just prayed that some sense would get into his head. But my Catholic friends, perhaps in some misplaced religious fervor, took his bait. And so the discussion, given the person's conditions, deteriorated into some verbal street brawls.
That incident made think also about the Gnostics of old. They were a very peculiar people, who lived even during the pre-Christian era and who believed that by some strange knowledge that only they exclusively possessed, they would be the only ones to be saved, while all the others were condemned.
They believed that material things were necessarily evil. They did not submit themselves to any authority except their own selves in things related to their beliefs. And they were quite aggressive in their religious arrogance and self-righteousness.
With those conditions, of course, though they had followers, they simply became cults, or isolated religious groups that usually employed questionable psychological means to gain and control adherents.
This phenomenon, I am afraid, is happening even now. I am afraid we are having a resurgence of the Gnostics. And that's why, while we have to accord everyone due respect, we also need to bring things to the open, so everything becomes clear.
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