The Threat of Mystery

Recently someone came by the Church wanting to know if we would advertise a women’s discussion circle about Mary Magdalene. Based on a couple of books written about the gnostic gospel of Mary, they would explore new images of the Magdalene, the feminine, the goddess, and how it affects their lives. Now I’m all for anything that enhances the sense of the divine spark in every person—I do believe that when Genesis 1 records God as saying “and behold, it is very good,” that it reflects that essential goodness about the givenness of our creation. The feminine has for centuries been sidelined in our society, and according to one author I have read, the movement to suppress women in the Church began in the first couple of centuries. I’ve read some of the great spiritual masters of the past like Teresa of Avila who keep saying, “but I’m just a woman, and what do I know?” If this discussion goes in that direction then I would be happy to publicize it.

However, Gnosticism was rightly identified in the early church as not compatible with Christian thought. The gnostic gospels at their core contain a worldview that does violence to an all-knowing, all-loving God who creates all things good. The “good” god is the god of the spirit, the immaterial and light. The “bad” god, Satan, is the god of the body, physicality and darkness. By knowing the “insider knowledge,” (“gnosis”) one can rise above the body and be joined fully to the Spirit. It’s a full-blown dualism that leaves neither God nor Satan as ultimate or eternal. It’s easy to see how classic gnostic thought is incompatible with the first paragraph of this post.

So, here’s the dilemma. Too many of today’s heroes were yesterday’s heretics. Mystery carries within it an irresistible attraction and a terrible threat. On the one hand, we are drawn to that which is beyond us because we are created for it. On the other hand, there is real and grave danger in the journey. The safety of the known means the death of stagnation. The lure of the unknown might mean death unforeseen.

Abundant life is lived on a knife-edge. But could it really be any other way?

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