Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Much has been written concerning Dan Brown and The DaVinci Code. So much that I won’t go much into it here. However, CatholicExchange has a series of articles today that are wonderful introductions into the definitions of Gnosticism and Rationalism, two heresies that are at work in the world today. Be sure to read through both if you can, not just because the information on Dan Brown, but because of the basic definitions of two things that Catholics today do not have a good historical understanding of.

In the introduction to his piece on TDC and Gnostics, Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes of the second century, which eerily reminds me of the twenty-first century:

In the second century, the Roman Empire had grown tired. Under the Emperor Trajan (d. 117 AD) the empire had reached its greatest territorial extent. For over a hundred years the Pax Romana had reigned over the Mediterranean world, a peace kept in place by the unrivaled power of the Roman military machine. But the empire had declined far from its republican roots and republican virtues. Sensuality and materialism were the order of the day. Of course, no one took the religion of Jupiter, Juno, and the Vestal Virgins very seriously. Worship of the emperor and the Roman gods was a matter of civic virtue, not of true religious devotion. Affluence and corruption led to boredom and restlessness.

In such an environment, people often look to far-off, exotic lands for something new and exciting. So it is no wonder that ideas from Persia, married to a mish-mash of ideas drawn from Greek philosophy, magic, and other exotic sects, coalesced into a something that came to be known as “Gnosticism.” Gnosticism was not a tightly organized religion, but rather a general way of thinking that characterized a wide variety of sects following different leaders and often disagreeing sharply on several points.

Kevin J. Symonds then discusses TDC and Rationalists:

One of the negative effects of the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment was a mistrust of Divine Revelation as a source of knowledge. “Reason alone,” apart from faith, became the slogan. The Church, already scoffed at in post-Reformation Europe, had to defend herself against self-styled "Rationalists."

The Rationalists knew they could not attack the Church head-on with her highly organized structure. To get at the Church, they focused on discrediting the Bible. Various claims of the Church were found in the Bible, and as a tangible document, it was open to attack. Thus was born the “historical-critical” method for studying the Bible.

The method involved dissecting and analyzing the Bible, not for the glory of God and deepening of faith, but to discredit its divine inspiration. The Rationalists’ aim was to “reconstruct” the Church by their machinations and effectively destroy her apostolic tradition. Beginning with a denial of the faith, they made a doomed attempt to debunk the claims about Jesus through history. They had to account for the existence of the Church and the existence of faith in her members through the theories of secular humanism. Everything, including the Bible’s origin and composition, had to be accounted for in merely human terms. It rose to such a pitch that it prompted Pope Leo XIII to write the encyclical Providentissimus Deus (1893) in response. During this period, manuscripts were discovered that revealed more of Christian history. Instead of being studied and placed in their correct context in light of Revelation, these documents were given more credence than the canonical writings.


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