RELG 207 Lecture Notes - Lecture 7: Gnosticism, Manichaeism, Pelagianism

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June 17, 2015
The Study of World Religions Christianity
Christianity suffered a series internal conflicts over: discipline, true doctrine, and creed
We can list three heresies that help us understand the Christian doctrine:
Gnosticism as a first dangerous heresy
Crudely pessimistic view of this world and human existence
Inferior God
Redemption granted through knowledge of the origin of: the world, human weaknesses, and
the order of the world
Word per word (Paolo Livieri)
It is a doctrine that had its rules way before Christianity. Usually, these rules arose during
the 4 or 5th century BCE. The aftermath of the doctrine of Plateau, It is a philosophical
doctrine before than a theological doctrine.
The material world is created by the demiurge which is not GOD but is something different;
another principle. Usually, the Gnostics kept away from the material and embraced a
spiritual life as a response/way out of the limited nature of the physical world. Gnosticism
deems that the material world is a lower ; what they want to reach is the higher level of
reality and the main purpose is the complete unity with God and in order to reach this point,
one has to abandon all the physical/material world that limits this certain unity.
Even though it appeared before Christianity, their notion of God is really close to the eternal
God of Christianity. They believe that in every one dwells something good that looks after a
unity with God and that the way to this ascent is a secret knowledge. Through a secret
knowledge, my soul will reach unity with God. They interpreted the death of Jesus Christ as
his escape from the material/physical world . They saw Jesus Christ as someone that left
the material world and reached unity with God.
Against Gnosticism
Gnosticism lived on as Manicheism (Mani (216-274), founder of Manicheism), and was
fought by Saint Augustine
Christians defended three ideas :
1) There is only one God
2) Only God is the creator and redeemer
3) The human beings are responsible for their state due to the original sin, but Gods grace is
universal and for all
Word per word (Paolo Livieri)
Christians reacted against the Gnostic view because they were pessimistic of the world. The
limited reality that prevents the unity with God. Christians did not accept this because they
created world is created by GOD (not by a second principle). Since it was created by God,
the physical world is still GOOD. It is not something that limits by ascent to God. Also, there
is not a demurgy, the only creator is God. The notion of the secret knowledge was also
reacted against by the Christians because you could not save yourself with a secret
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knowledge ; you could only save yourself through the action of God can save (not your
secret knowledge).
It is the original sin has to be attributed by a choice made by a man, it is therefore the fault
of HUMANITY and only Gods grace is the way in which you could be forgiven.
Manicheism and Gnosticism = the same and was fought by Saint Augustine (close to
Arius (250-336) Arianism
Arius was an ascetic Christian priest in Libya about the third century CE
But we say and believe and have taught, and do teach, that the son is not un-begotten, nor
in any way part of the un-begotten; and that he does not derive his subsistence from any
matter; but that by his own will and counsel he has subsisted before time and before ages
as perfect as God, only begotten and unchangeable, and that before he was begotten, or
created, or purposed, or established, he was not.
Word per word (Paolo Livieri)
The un-begotten = God
For the Christian doctrine, this is a big mistake because as we saw, with Paul, he stated that
even before the coming of Jesus, Jesus Christ as a son existed forever in
eternity.Therefore, saying that Jesus Christ (the un-begotten) was not eternity was
interpreted as false and wrong
Pelagius (390-418) Pelagianism
Pelagius (British born) was a Christian moralist, who taught that human beings can actually
perform what is required by Godalthough they stained by the original sin
Word per word (Paolo Livieri)
He stated that we could save ourselves. His way of thinking is pretty clear, since I can do evil,
this means that I could also do good. He also added that that doesnt mean that I cannot create
my skill to act evil or good, but one IS responsible for his/her actions. This is wrong according to
Christians, God is responsible for my good actions because my good actions come from the
grace of God; you are just a tool used by God. Everything good on God is a trace of the grace of
The first four Ecumenical Councils
Council of Nicaea (325)
Council of Constantinople (381)
Council of Ephesus (431)
Council of Chalcedon (451)
Word per word (Paolo Livieri)
The decisions made in the 17-18th centuries before our era, are still today valid and are the
core of actions as Christians. They axis of Christianity was in the East (Shows Image of Map).
Council of Nicaea (325)
The relation between God father and the son Jesus Christ
Subordination subsists in the relation between God and Son
Uniqueness of God (Heresy: Monarchianism)
Jesus Christ is : true God of true God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the
Word per word (Paolo Livieri)
In a sense the Heresy and God are on a higher level, and Jesus Christ on a lower level. This is
a monarchy, God on top and the son under God. They started to write the creed used today :
Jesus Christ is the TRUE God, it is not made or created (only we are made/created). It was a
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