There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the Gnostic Gospels, the life of Jesus in his early years, the authority and accuracy of the traditional Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), and other related issues. A lot of people have flocked to the likes of Deepak Chopra and others who claim to know the “real” story of Jesus. This got me thinking. I mean, it’s not as if these things are exactly new ideas. People have been undermining the truth of Biblical accounts for centuries and disagreeing with the stories presented in the traditional Gospels. But why, I asked myself, are these ideas given so much credence in today’s time? Why are so many people flocking to the likes of Chopra and New Age gnostics? And I think, at the heart of it, it’s the spirit of our age – Postmodernism/ Deconstructionism – that has given rise to such widespread acceptance of these “secret” Gospels.
In the age of Postmodernism (though technically we’re kind of in the post-postmodern phase… but I won’t pretend to know much about these kind of classifications) there is an extraordinary amount of emphasis placed on questions. Not so much answers. The mysterious, the new, the mystical – all these categories are given a high place in the minds of many people. However, the clear-cut, the traditional, and the orthodox are not held in so much esteem. I won’t go into a history of philosophy (partly because I don’t think it would help and partly because I know enough of it to know I don’t know anything), but basically mankind’s search for meaning within Himself has lead to Nietzsche’s nihilism – and then, manufactured meaning. And so in our time, we are left with trying to come up with an irrational, illogical, unfounded leap of faith (believe just to believe) in order to try and come up with some sort of meaning. This illogic leads us to forsake all kinds of traditional ideas and to look for meaning in those mysterious, unknown, mystical depths. Their nature reflects the very nature of our looking – unfounded and irrational.
But, also, I think that what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery” comes into play here. No matter how relativistic, no matter how “tolerant” people in our age say they are, in fact they consider themselves to be much better and smarter than people who have come before. I think this is due in large part to the theory of evolution (which is another discussion in itself), but I think it greatly adds to the almost-disdain people have for traditions of the past. Oh, many people seem to revere ancient practices, or at least seem to like to study them. But in the end people that lived before us are thought to be less in touch with what the real world is like, less in touch with Reality. Yes, I agree, we are more advanced technologically than people were two thousand years ago. But I find it interesting that we are so quick to throw out traditional, orthodox Christian beliefs that have been around for thousands of years for ideas that were also written back then – and called heresy by church fathers. We forget that if people back then were naïve and out of touch with reality, that would include the writers of the Gnostic Gospels as well.
So why do we give them credence? Why do we accept so readily as possibly true those books that were deemed heresy when they first circulated? Why do we shirk eye-witness accounts of Jesus, books written within a century after his death (which is remarkable, by the way, in regards to historical documents), and a multitude of copies of that canon that show very little in the way of changes? We do it because the Gnostic gospels are new to us, because this story of the “real” Jesus is new to us. Because this makes life more mysterious and interesting. We can revel in the questions now, revel in the mystical and mysterious. We fail to see that that life is misery. We fail to see how unfounded, irrational, and illogical it is to fly in the face of a heap of evidence and hold fast to ideas which have never in the history of the church been seen as other than heresy.
Anyway, those are my thoughts on the matter. Care to add anything?