It is important to know that William Blatty does not appear antagonistic to Christianity. In fact, it seems that he thinks he's helping Christianity, explaining it! His books are explorations in Christianity, theoretical and speculative arguments in its favor. But Blatty's speculations aren't original at all. In fact, it seems as though the natural propensity of people, in both A.D. 160 and A.D. 2006 is gnosticism.
Marcion and Kant set the tone, leading off with
Pure internalism and subjectivism. Self-enlightenment the goal, with an appeal to [a favorite epigram from the Bible].
Via the CANN elves.
Update: From the learned Frithjof Schuon, via One Cosmos:
The Church of Peter is visible, and continuous like water; that of John... invisible, and discontinuous like fire. John became “brother” of Christ and “Son” of the Virgin, and, further, he is the prophet of the Apocalypse; Peter is charged to “feed my sheep,” but his Church seems to have inherited also his denials... however, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” John “tarries till I come,” and this mystery remains closed to Peter.
One sure tipoff. Not a new meme, often also stated in terms of "Paul -- rules, and Jesus -- love." Two from Column B, please. But no dim sum from Column A, 'cause we're brilliant.
Apart from the bored tone-deaf materialists, casting lots for a robe, there seem always to be two camps at loggerheads -- those pursuing wisdom and gnosis, and those out after miracles and other pragmatic results. Twenty-one centuries of Christianity insist, however, that the beneficent alchemy occurs only with their sometimes shotgun marriage in faith and homage to the counterintuitive Story of the uniquely historically-discontinuous Innocent sentenced to die, willingly and effectively somehow reversing the built-in entropic chaos of each tendency and salvaging both savage sides of mankind.
Are there echoes of Marcion here too, who was ready to dispense with the Torah and its history? No honking burly bumbling candid fishermen please, no stony unsubtle codes of virtue.
No boring plodding pew potatoes.
First Things' Neuhaus sums it up.
There is nothing at all mysterious about people who want a designer Christianity tailored to their own predilections. That’s how we got all those deviant Christianities in the first place. The apostles and their successors in episcopal office spent the first several centuries sorting through the various writings and teachings to establish what became orthodox faith.
In the words of Ralph Stanley:
We will not heed the voice of a stranger
For he would lead us all to despair
Perhaps not right away. Thanatophilic love has an intoxicatingly ecstatic component. But in the long run, Moloch peeps around the corner of the villa, unveiled. If ideas have consequences, heresy is cruel.
A comment by Tony Esolen (of the transcendent Dante translation) on the philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand:
Yet unlike many high-powered intellects, he never thought himself too smart for the holy water and the rosary beads.
Time-honored simple sacramental observance. Or at least no hostility or contempt toward such observance. That's the Sign that routs the gnostic vampire, distinguishing actual keepers of the storehouse, from intellectual jackdaws fascinated by the gems on altars.
Note to a circle of informed readers. These thoughts are only stimulated by recent discussions, showing, as we like to do, where such things tend. Nothing here is targeted toward any sincere participants or inquirers, they being much too wise to take these reflections personally.
And of course don't miss Vanderleun's mother-lode essay on the standard-bearer for transgressive gnostics, one who used a greed-veiling social-justice argument to object to the abject devotion of an ointment-bearing weeping Repentant.
The discussion just keeps on giving, like Kelo awhile ago. See the very erudite Mike Liccione at Pontifications summarize the response to Bryan's (in the comments below) assertion that the Church murdered the Gnostics and suppressed their works. It is to be expected that Elaine Pagels' style would not meld with Michael's in the classroom.
The immediate news hook is the allegation in an article by Fr. Paul Mankowski, SJ, of the Pontifical Biblical Institute, that Pagels carpentered a quote to undermine orthodox doctrine. It would be foolhardy, but more tempting when you're dealing with dead languages and obscure manuscripts.
Vacuous is too kind a word for [Pagels'] text....Essentially, she wants what the pietists wanted, “no creed but Christ (and him undefined)”, and thus the title, Beyond Belief (i.e., beyond creed). For Pagels, faith is merely personal preference on its way to the divine....[How can she] be considered a scholar, let alone an expert? I’d be tarred and feathered were I to write something on the Renaissance or Reformation like this.
Mankowski summarizes the familiar neo-Gnostic claim:
[Pagels] wants to argue that Irenaeus [a Father of the Church] was interested in authority and the Valentinians [one variety of Gnostics] in the life of the spirit.
Which stimulates another rant. Why, if Gnostics are "spiritual," are they so aloof from the spirituality-observances of the exoteric? In other words, why is meditation on one's Marin patio spiritual, whereas praying the Rosary or receiving the Eucharist in an architecturally-uninteresting suburban church filled with incense next to other worshippers missing the point? Is it because Rosaries are imbued with oppressive power and "tell them" what to believe, whereas the Tasteful Elect(tm) are free to enter the ethers without baggage?
It might be flawed on its face, to claim uniquely incorrupt Tabula Rasa of the soul...
James Hitchcock essay.
A parish priest says it all in addressing the Da Vinci Code:
There is no secret, esoteric knowledge in Christianity. Our Lord told the disciples all that he had heard from his Father and he gave the Church the mission to proclaim his teaching to all nations.... Sadly, it is a lucrative business to invent a different version of the gospel.
No secret, esoteric knowledge to be imparted. Now, where acting on the matters of faith, piety, and action already imparted can take you, ask the levitating St. Teresa, the aghast-at-the-glory St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Paul in the Third Heaven. But we probably can decide to put to rest the idea that there is some hidden portal, some treasure map at the git-go, some secret key, that those dumb pew potatoes don't have access to and that can be taken by intellectual violence.