"The earliest notices now to be found on Universalism after the clays of the apostles are in the writings of some of the more prominent Gnostic sects.”
Gnosticism was “one of the three main belief systems” within 1st century Christianity. This “Christian Gnosticism”, as it has been labelled, though an early form of Christianity was crushed by early persecutions. Later in the 12th century, the inquisition may have begun as an attempt to destroy a resurgence of these ideas.
ideas “are once again experiencing a
the world. The discovery of the ancient Gnostic library
at Nag Hammadi in
With the translation of these writings into English there may be a resurgence of Christian Gnostic and Oneness Universalist ideas.
Thomas for example, an esoteric teaching, focuses on oneness seeing through the duality of the mainstream Jewish religion of the day. Some say that this oneness in Thomas sounds new age. Others see similarities to Buddhism. Others see in Thomas a gospel to the Gentiles (or the Greeks), Galatians 2:8.
Whatever the source of these influences, these Christian Gnostic ideas are found throughout the New Testament. Many of the letters of Paul and John appear to have been written specifically to address incipient or early gnostic ideas within the church.
The availability of these Gnostic texts provides an opportunity to understand early scriptural and apostolic discussions about Gnosticism within the canonical scriptures. Traditionally, it has been taught that the apostles were against Gnosticism. An alternate hypothesis to the contention that the biblical authors were writing against Gnosticism is that they were rather writing to (or about) Gnostic believers within the congregation who had gone off into extremes, or those who were troubling their Jewish counterparts.
If so, these writings may complement the canon, and strengthen the faith of the weak that we might grow in knowledge, and come to maturity in love. The writings of Paul and Thomas, for instance, often appear to complement one another.
For example Paul wrote: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him,” 1 Corinthians 2:9.
Jesus gave a similar saying in Thomas, "I shall give you what no eye has seen and what no ear has heard and what no hand has touched and what has never occurred to the human mind," Thomas 17.
The connections between the gospel to the Gentiles that Paul preached and the message found in Thomas are often very striking, Galatians 2:2.
For the sake of the church, which is now being exposed to these Gnostic ideas, there is an opportunity and an occasion to use them in much the same way as the early apostles used them within their writings.
Gnosticism, traditionally labelled as heretical and silenced, could help us to understand and reveal a Pauline message that had been hidden, and difficult to communicate.
However, Gnostic ideas are offensive to some, so they must be presented without offending or causing the weak, or children in the faith to sin against their own conscience. These writings may not have originally been intended for public distribution.
Jesus said, "Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea," Matthew 18:6.
For the children in spiritual understanding and the "infants in Christ," who still perceive a gulf between heaven and earth, Christ can be the bridge. In love, for their sake we “acknowledge nothing… except Jesus Christ crucified," for not in every man is the knowledge (gnosis) of God. For them are given the parables, 1 Corinthians 2:1, 1 Corinthians 3:1, 1 Corinthians 8:7, Mark 4:11.
And knowing that hope does not disappoint, we move from faith, to knowledge, to perfect love being filled with all the fullness of God, proclaiming the Perfect Man.
The challenge is to write in a way that boldly declares these mysteries, without offending the weak believer. Perhaps this was the challenge of the apostle Paul. Could this be our challenge?
said, "Let him
who seeks continue seeking until he
the One Universal Body,