Skipping over the irony of receiving something called The Rainbow Bible from my mother for as a Christmas present one year (because I’ve already mentioned this, I think), we’ll get right to the part where each book in the Bible was prefaced by an overview of its content, its author, when it was thought to have been written, and so on.
Somewhere in the New Testament, one of the epistles mentioned it was written against “the Gnostics, who believed salvation came from knowledge and not faith.” (This was probably First Timothy, but I’m not sure.)
Anyway, when I was 11 or 12, this was probably my first encounter with the word “Gnostic.”
And here I am, a Gnostic Christian by identity, so much that I used to joke on Facebook on Sundays as my husband and I drove to the UU church that I was the “Lone Gnostic Wolf.”
Anyway, we Gnostics, if I may speak collectively, have the terrible battle of explaining FOREVER the meaning of the word “gnosis” which is often translated as “knowledge.” Gnostics were lambasted as heretics early on and persecuted by the more mainstream church.
“Gnosis” refers to knowledge acquired by a direct experience. Thus, salvation occurs because the individual spirit has directly experienced God for itself- not because it has believed that there is a god or whatnot or has been told that such exists.
Other examples of “gnosis” might be the knowing of a friend’s personality or the knowing how a strawberry tastes.
Contrast this with epistemis, which is theoretical or hypothetical knowledge; mathematics, for instance, would be an example of epistemis.
Now, let’s get real for just a second here.
This is my current attitude on the matter: so what if there’s a group of people who believe that knowledge, even epistemis, is the way to salvation as opposed to faith? Why does that render their interpretation any less valid?
In practice, in this world, knowledge is a good thing. Education is a good thing. Theoretical knowledge that is applied to make our lives better is not something to scoff out, and at times, it seems that this is where the salvation of mankind may indeed be.
But the fact remains that Gnosticism is about a direct experience, and this is precisely why I am the Reluctant Christian that I am. To deny my experience of Christ is to deny patently the fabric of everything I know.
The strangest part is that Christ calls to me and expresses Himself to me in the strangest moments- through pop songs, while I’m driving alone on abandoned roads, during movies, in narratives that seemingly have nothing to do with religion or Christianity, in art that’s also unrelated.
Yet I can always tell that He is the One speaking, and no moments are more potent than those when I understand the concept of “fear and trembling” because I’m touching something REAL, something that goes above and beyond the everyday, ordinary reality and is the very support of the cosmos. It is in these moments that my heart swells so much that I fear my chest might explode, that the explosion of intensity and awesomeness would be the death and perfection of me.
Remember when I spoke previously about the Black Fire? That’s all right here, too.
That may sound strange; the experience of it is even stranger, but it is the utmost fulfilling thing in this world. If this is truly what the Christian martyrs of the past felt when they went to their deaths, then they were never afraid and never suffered.