C@lvin was not the first

There is no doubt that Calvin had original thought, but there is nothing new under the sun, and all ideas have their roots somewhere. I am reading “A History of Christianity” by Diarmaid MacCulloch who describes a school of thought from the early centuries A.D. On page 124 of the 2010 printing MacCulloch says:

Those capable of perceiving [insert the belief structure here] are often said to have been granted that privilege by a fate external to themselves: a predestination. It is these people – [insert name of group here] – whom Jesus Christ has come to save.

Mortal flesh must be mortified because it is despicable – or, on the contrary, the soul might be regarded as so independent of the body that the most wildly earthly excesses would not imperil its salvation.

This is part of MacCulloch’s description of Gnostic thought.

Don’t know about you but to me these words remind me strongly of aspects of Calvinism we have heard discussed on this blog over past months. Predestination, salvation of an elite (those who understand), despicable nature of man, the immutable nature of salvation they are all described above.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on either Calvinism or Gnosticism. I am not saying that Calvinism is Gnosticism. I am not even, necessarily saying that Calvinism is wrong.

I am, however, saying that based on MacCulloch’s description of Gnostic thought is it clear that some of the ideas expounded by Calvinism were present in Gnosticism a millennium earlier.

That is all,

4 thoughts on “C@lvin was not the first

  1. To my understanding Gnosticism is the belief that salvation comes via KNOWING God especially through experience. http://www.archive.org/details/gnosticheresieso00mansrich.
    Calvinism (and other Christian denominations formed after the reformation) are at the other extreme -BELIEF/FAITH in God is what saves us, and we know about God through His Word.

    Where they do appear similar at first is their attitude to the flesh – Gnosticism appears to believe matter is bad, spirit is good, therefore body bad, spirit good. Calvinism when referring to the flesh is referring to our WHOLE sinful nature.

  2. I think both Calvinism and Arminianism both have elements of gnosticism in them. It’s one reason why I didn’t dive into the OSAS/NOSAS debates. Both have ideals of both man and god which can easily be turned to idols.

    To be extreme in either Calvinism or Arminianism, to me, turns God into an idol and not a person I can fellowship with.

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