Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy

Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
the Nanty Glo in My Mind'

News flash: Most religions have common roots

You might expect that I'd lead today's news on my other website, the Christian News & Media Portal, with a link to Cardinal Francis Arinze's calling on Christians to take the Da Vinci Code film to the courts in order to make sure "our religious beliefs are respected," but that harebrained idea is the type that gives Christianity a bad name. Instead, I went with a "news scoop" in the Edmonton Sun by columnist Jeremy Loome that is equally harebrained, but, as the type of journalism that gives media critics like me who know a lick about Christianity lots of fun, I chose it as "signifying" more. Signifying, that is, that most media types who deign to speak of Christianity know next to nothing about what they're writing. Loome's "Net Worth" (or "Networth") column says:

This week, Networth gets heavily religious. Like, did you know thereís now a plausible connection to indicate that all of the major religions originated from the same set of beliefs? Itís not popular with many Christians or Muslims, because it eliminates the relevancy of many branches of their faith, grounded in the concept of one God. But youíre going to be hearing a lot more about it in the years ahead. Thatís progress, folks, and thatís why our first topic is....The Gospel of Judas. Uncovered in Egypt around 1970, the document was recently authenticated as ancient and likely written within a hundred years of the four New Testament gospels. You can read all about it at the fantastic National Geographic site.... Although the verification of the gospelís age is new, the belief isnít.

Of course most religions have common roots, speaking humanly. They're all rooted in curiosity about where we came from and belief that whoever made our existence possible must be exceedingly powerful. C. S. Lewis has both fiction and nonfiction books treating that very proposition and I know of no serious Christians who call him a heretic for advancing his thesis (fiction: Till We Have Faces; nonfiction: The Abolition of Man). Nor are most educated Christians scandalized by the proposal that all monotheistic religions may have their antecedent ("source" may be too prejudicial) in Zoarastrianism...anyone who has wondered where the legendary Magi of Matthew's Gospel came from has usually named the ancient religion of Persia (today known as Iran; Zoarastrianism) first.

To concede both of these points does nothing to legitimize Gnosticism or its Gospel of Judas. Even Loome's conceding that "Judas' Gospel" dates from a century later than the canonical New Testament books demonstrates why, to anyone with a lick of sense and historical information, will conclude it far inferior to the writings of the Apostles and their companions who penned the New Testament.

And it's a flat-out falsehood to say "the verification of the gospelís age is new." It's existence has been known by Christians from at least 180 A.D., less than 100 years after the writing of some of the Apostles' New Testament books, when the Bishop of what is now Lyon, France, Irenaeus, wrote about the so-called Gospel of Judas as an example of heretical attacks on the apostolic faith.

It's also a lie to say that orthodox (apostolic or "New Testament") Christians persecuted the Gnostics at the time Judas' "Gospel" was written, unless by "persecution" you mean my putting "Gospel" in quotation marks here is persecuting this second-century fiction author. Christians themselves were politically and socially powerless for more than 300 years after the founding of the church at Pentecost and, more than powerless, were themselves being martyred for infractions as minor as refusing to burn incense before images of Caesar. How then could they have been in a position to persecute anyone else? And surprise, Loome's link that purports to "prove" that Christians persecuted Gnostics gives no such proof at all, saying only that Christians "threw polemics" against Gnosticism. Polemics are arguments, not flaming spears, as Jeremy Loome's breathless prose would have you think.

And the history is solid that says that by the time of Christianity being tolerated by the first Roman Emperor (Constantine in the fourth century A.D.), Gnosticim had already gone into eclipse. It's also solid in showing that Constantine promised toleration for all religions of the Empire, in the same edict in which he made Christianity legal, itself being strong proof that Gnosticism was not under physical attack. Gnosticism was, and its "Gospels" remain, so flimsy and hate-oriented that no one interested in spiritual growth would take it seriously. Only those looking to use religion as a source of social power, like Simon the magician ("sorcerer") described in the Book of Acts (chapter 8) who tried to buy the Holy Spirit from the Apostles, would take Gnosticism seriously, then or now.

So, sorry, Charlie—er, Jeremy—your great "scoop" ain't worth poop.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy


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