Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Cardinal Ratzinger on `the Gnostic model' vs `the Christian model'

Here is a quote by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), in his excellent little book, "In the Beginning ...", on "the Gnostic model" vs "the Christian model", i.e. "the common core of Gnosticism, in all its different forms and versions , [is] ... the repudiation of creation ... The Gnostic option aims at ... power through knowledge ... Gnosticism will not entrust itself to a world already created, but only to a world still to be created:

"As I survey all the perplexing shifts in the spiritual landscape of today, only these two basic models seem to me to be up for discussion. The first I should like to call the Gnostic model, the other the Christian model. I see the common core of Gnosticism, in all its different forms and versions, as the repudiation of creation. This common core has a common effect on the doctrine of humankind to be found in the various models of Gnosticism: the mystery of suffering, of love, of substitutionary redemption, is rejected in favor of a control of the world and of life through knowledge. Love appears too insecure a foundation for life and world. It means one has to depend on something unpredictable and unenforceable, something we cannot certainly make for ourselves, but can only await and receive. What is awaited may fail to appear. It makes me permanently dependent. It seems like a permanent risk factor, a source of insecurity over which I have no control. I can be cheated, and I am completely powerless to prevent it. Thus, instead of being a beautiful promise, love becomes an unbearable feeling of dependence, of subjection. This risk factor must be eliminated. We cannot stake everything on it in advance. All we can rely on is what we can control, knowledge, which gives us power over the world and, as an all-inclusive system, is free from unpredictability. In the Gnostic view of the world, whether ancient or modern, creation appears as dependence, and God as the reason for dependence. This is the very essence of God, his definition, and the reason why Gnosticism can never be neutral in matters concerning God, but rather aggressively antitheistic. The Gnostic option aims at knowledge and at power through knowledge, the only reliable redemption of humankind. Gnosticism will not entrust itself to a world already created, but only to a world still to be created. There is no need for trust, only skill. The Christian option is the exact opposite. Human beings are dependent, and only by denying their very being can they dispute the fact." (Ratzinger J., "`In the Beginning ...': A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall," Eerdmans: Grand Rapids MI, 1995, pp.96-97. Emphasis original).

In view of Pope Benedict XVI's previous statement (as Cardinal Ratzinger) that "he wanted a smaller, but purer, church" ("Pope Benedict XVI a wedge or a unifier?," MSNBC, April 19, 2005), it is going to be interesting to see what actions (if any) he will take against those who claim to be Roman Catholics, but who seem to fit the "Gnostic model" rather than "the Christian model" (Ken Miller and John Haught come to my mind).

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"

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