There is something appealing about possessing some bit of secret knowledge or trivia that is unknown to everyone, save a select few “initiates” fortunate enough to partake in the mysteries. The seductive allure of secret knowledge—or of just being “in-the-know” about some microniche subculture—seems to be a part of human nature.
We’d like to think in our modern age that we’re not superstitious sorts, but we are haunted everywhere. Scientists have elevated themselves to the level of priests in a cult of scientism, worshipping the emptiness of nihilistic materialism just as the pagans worshipped lifeless idols. Both are made of stuff—hard, material, unfeeling, insensate stuff—and both are equally empty.
But we here on the Right can fall prey to Gnostic fantasies as well. The Libertarian dreams of a utopia in which everyone engages in frictionless free exchanges and all uncomfortable disputes are settled with cash and self-interest. He’s as materialist and deluded as the mask-wearing mandatory vaxxer preaching loudly from the Church of Scientism. The hyper-nationalist dreams of some impossible ethnostate that never really existed in the first place. And so on.
Still, it’s seductive, the idea that we can possess the knowledge of good and evil, of true Reality. After all, that’s the original sin, isn’t, it? Eve, then Adam, could not resist the allure of being—so they were told, dishonestly—like God. But even—perhaps, especially–Christians can fall into this trap.
I’m on my fourth readthrough of Proverbs in as many months, and I think it is quickly becoming my favorite book of the Bible. I’ve highlighted, underlined, and annotated so much, I have begun tearing through the pages, so loaded down with ink they have become. Here’s the section I will read through this morning:
Sometimes I flip admiringly through my over-notated book, pleased as my own piety. Then I’m reminded how foolish I truly I am, and how my perceived self-righteousness is nothing but filthy rags (to my credit, I do write “GULP!” a lot in the margins when God points out the penalty for some earthly foible with which I struggle).
For bookish nerds like me of a philosophical bent, I’m always looking for some deeper meaning in Scriptures. Isaiah was a satisfying read—despite all those dire prophecies—because of all the references to the Messiah. It made me feel smart and cool when I understood some esoteric bit of prophecy—ignoring, of course, the large chunks that didn’t make much sense to me, and which I was too lazy or groggy first thing in the morning to research further.
The wonderful thing about the Bible is that it is not some hidden, secretive gnostic text full of forbidden, forgotten knowledge. Sure, parts of it are mysterious and difficult, and I don’t think any of us wants to spend too much time pondering priestly law in Leviticus. But Proverbs 1:20-33 (NKJV) makes it clear that Wisdom is calling to us, loud and clear:
Wisdom Calls Aloud
20Wisdom calls out in the street,
she lifts her voice in the square;
21in the main concourse she cries aloud,
at the city gates she makes her speech:
22“How long, O simple ones, will you love your simple ways?
How long will scoffers delight in their scorn
and fools hate knowledge?
23If you had repented at my rebuke,
then surely I would have poured out my spirit on you;
I would have made my words known to you.
24Because you refused my call,
and no one took my outstretched hand,
25because you neglected all my counsel,
and wanted none of my correction,
26in turn I will mock your calamity;
I will sneer when terror strikes you,
27when your dread comes like a storm,
and your destruction like a whirlwind,
when distress and anguish overwhelm you.
28Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;
they will earnestly seek me, but will not find me.
29For they hated knowledge
and chose not to fear the LORD.
30They accepted none of my counsel;
they despised all my reproof.
31So they will eat the fruit of their own way,
and be filled with their own devices.
32For the waywardness of the simple will slay them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them.
33But whoever listens to me will dwell in safety,
secure from the fear of evil.”
Notice that Wisdom openly calls to us—and promises that the wise will accept instruction (“rebuke”). But those that reject Wisdom find themselves destroyed.
Trying to “lean… on our understanding”—about which Proverbs 3:5 warns—leads to ruin. We don’t have to put on red robes and intone weird incantations to reject Knowledge—God’s Knowledge—and to embrace folly. Trying to figure out the mysteries of this world independent of a foundation in God’s Word—His Wisdom—will doom us, saint and sinner alike.
3 thoughts on “Gnostic Mysteries”
Outstanding article, Port! You must have gotten some rest along the way.
I’ve never been real big on Proverbs but verse 31 makes me remember what we say in our Daily Office of Morning Prayer (we say it at Evening Prayer as well …), in our confession, “We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.” Here is a little bit more of it: We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us.” “And there is no health in us” – boy, ain’t THAT the truth!
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Good one Tyler! So relevant for all of us.
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