Just in Time for Easter: Gnosticism, Missing Links, and Other Lies

Welcome to western Holy Week, a time of fasting, prayer and the usual media "debunking" of everything Christians hold near and dear by a secular, childish, and rabidly anti-Christian media that believe that all beliefs are equal except for one particular belief that is less equal than all the others.

During Ramadan, the mainstream media fill their pages with stories of peaceful Muslims who want nothing more than to pray, fast, and get closer to their lord. During Holy Week, Christians get the usual fare: the latest Jesus Seminar explanation of why Jesus couldn’t possibly be born of a virgin and couldn’t possibly be resurrected. The "Seminar" is a gathering of liberal theologians who get together and debate technical papers about the Gospels. The scholars drop colored beads in a box declaring whether they believe or disbelieve the words of Jesus. For some reason, the sight of theologians who have built careers doubting traditional Christian teaching publicly criticizing the teachings they already don’t believe is always news in the news business, and always proof that the only Christians who believe in Christianity are out of the "mainstream."

This isn’t exactly the biggest cross to bear for those of us who actually believe in the virgin birth and the risen Christ. Having spent my career in the media, I can safely say that I’m far more comfortable NOT sharing the beliefs that are rampant among reporters and editors. Nevertheless, I still find the usual attacks annoying and revealing.

Having done the Jesus Seminar shtick for so long that almost everyone has come to ignore it, this year the media have splashed across the front pages the English translation of the so-called Gospel of Judas, thanks to the discovery and translation of a long-lost document. As various news reports and TV shows boast, we now learn that the traitor of the Christian faith might really be its hero! "Some religious scholars consider it the most important theological discovery in the last 60 years," explained the Cox News Service report, in nearly breathless words. "It illuminates, they say, early Christian beliefs and contradicts biblical teaching concerning Judas’ role in Jesus Christ’s death." As the news headline puts it, "Judas a u2018good guy’ in new gospel."

The timing is interesting, and it appears to play off the hype that surrounds the popularity of the book, The DaVinci Code. As Christianity Today explains, "The central claim [Dan] Brown’s novel makes about Christianity is that u2018almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.’ Why? Because of a single meeting of bishops in 325, at the city of Nicea in modern-day Turkey. There, argues Brown, church leaders who wanted to consolidate their power base (he calls this, anachronistically, u2018the Vatican’ or u2018the Roman Catholic church’) created a divine Christ and an infallible Scripture — both of them novelties that had never before existed among Christians."

Conspiracies, secret meetings, Gnosticism, and New Age thinking is so popular that the attacks on Christianity now come mainly from that direction. Instead of acting like followers of Ayn Rand who declare that believers in the virgin birth and resurrection are hopeless mystics (rather than heroic rational-minded individualists like they so obviously are!), Christianity’s foes now argue that the Church has kept the deep mysteries away from the public as a way to enhance its control. Mystery and religion is in, but not the kind that requires self-sacrifice, repentance, agape love, and other such difficult teachings. Which is why seemingly intelligent people will believe just about anything — as long as it doesn’t include any of those traditional Christian elements.

If Christianity were so irrational and stupid, why do the enlightened followers of modern philosophies spend so much time trying to debunk it? Why don’t they just ignore it? They don’t mind that their fellow Americans believe all sorts of rubbish, yet this particular view, rubbish to them, still incites them to rebuttal and ridicule. They can’t stand that so many of us are believers.

There’s nothing new under the sun, and this resurgence of Gnosticism isn’t new either. It is defined by the Catholic Encyclopedia as follows: "Whereas Judaism and Christianity, and almost all pagan systems, hold that the soul attains its proper end by obedience of mind and will to the Supreme Power, i.e. by faith and works, it is markedly peculiar to Gnosticism that it places the salvation of the soul merely in the possession of a quasi-intuitive knowledge of the mysteries of the universe and of magic formulae indicative of that knowledge."

I certainly find the "new" Judas text fascinating, and understand why it is news. Denounced by Bishop Irenaeus in 180, this "gospel" sheds light on early Gnosticism. But the front-page news stories and unthinking descriptions of it in the media as a debunker of Christianity is beyond silly.

Does finding one of those rejected texts really paint a picture of a church that is trying to hide the truth? Or is it merely evidence of — shock and horror! — an editing process, something to which all reporters ought to know a thing or two about? Not every letter to the editor gets in the newspaper, and not everyone’s account got included in the Scripture. The church fathers chose those books that portrayed Christ’s message. Yet, all the time, idiot reporters discover that obvious fact and think it’s enough to prove that all of Christianity is a giant conspiracy or hoax.

How else would the Bible be put together?

In this gnostic gospel, Jesus asks Judas to step away from the other disciples and offers to share with him secret knowledge, which right there should be a clue that this isn’t the Jesus that the Church had known. Believe this hokum if you will, but don’t suggest that the Church was involved in some crazy conspiracy to hide the true Jesus from the masses. It’s far more likely that the Church was doing its job keeping false teachings out of the official canon. That heresy — wisdom through special knowledge, and without acknowledgement of sin or repentance — was popular then, just as it is now.

If this Judas nonsense weren’t annoying enough, consider the other news recently revealed, just in time for Easter. A University of Chicago paleontologist has just found the missing link, "proving" once and for all the humanity evolved from lower species and putting an end to all this talk about intelligent design and God’s role in the creation. It’s all so simple. "Once, 380 million years ago, there were basically just fish on our large water-covered planet," explained a Ventura County Star editorial. "Then, 360 million years ago, there were tetrapods — four-legged creatures crawling around on land."

Why listen to the church fathers, when an editorial writer at a small newspaper has it all figured out.

Don’t let it get you down. Christianity is still relevant, still an outrage to those who reject it. That’s why so many people spend so much time peddling lies during a week that’s supposed to be devoted to the truth.

As an Eastern Orthodox, I don’t celebrate Easter this Sunday. But next Sunday, I eagerly await the Paschal Sermon of St. John Chrysostom, which offers far more wisdom than anyone is likely to receive reading these silly stories from ignoramus newspaper writers:

"O Death where is thy sting? O Hell where is thy victory? Christ is risen, and thou are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen."

Happy Easter.

Steven Greenhut (send him mail) is a senior editorial writer and columnist for the Orange County Register. He is the author of the new book, Abuse of Power.