Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Eternal Beauty and Fools Daily Despoiling It In Their Hearts, Driven By A Principle of this World

“But since these men differ among themselves both in doctrine and in tradition, and since those of them who are acknowledged as the more modern endeavor to excogitate [contrive, devise or invent by careful thought] something new every day and to produce something that no one has ever thought of, it is difficult to describe all of their opinions.” -Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Bk 1, Chp. 21, 20 (p. 80).

[There is of course a vacuity to a one-sided approach that seeks only the new. It is just as bankrupt, if not more so, as binding one's thoughts to old custom because it is old. There is at least a fairly reliable presumption for the later that if a custom is old it has been able to stand the test of time and has some substance to it. But both courses can be a substitute for the love of the truth. To those who always seek what is new I ask where is eternity in their hearts? Is it no longer there?

Irenaeus is describing some of the characteristic behaviors as well as painstakingly describing the different doctrines of the Gnostics of his day (Perhaps he would not use the term Gnostic). He is depicting their psychology to an extent. It is not a flattering depiction but though Irenaeus is depicting in order to criticize and he does not think that their error could be graver, it is marvelous to see the kind of spirit Irenaeus embodies, the equanimity, and even humor with which he deals with those he regards as apostates and heretics who are innovating on the doctrines of the faith in a folly that destroys in them and their listeners the sublimity of the God initiated religion.

“They really deserve our pity, these men who by means of the alphabet and numbers so coldly and violently tear to pieces so great a religion, the greatness of the truly unexpressable Power, and the so great Economies of God... Really more impious than every impiety are these people who claim that the Maker of heaven and earth, who alone is the all-powerful God, above whom there is no other God, was emitted from degeneracy, which in turn was emitted from another degeneracy, so that according to them he is the emission of a third degeneracy. Such a doctrine we must really exhale from ourselves and execrate. We must, moreover, flee far from such people. And the more they boldly affirm and rejoice in their fictions, so much the more should we realize that they are under the influence of the Ogdoad [he is here using their teaching on a Ogdoad of Aeons as part of their theology of the origins of everything- Ogdoad I believe means eight] of wicked spirits.” -Bk 1, Chp. 16, 10-18 (p. 70).

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