Thursday, December 18, 2014

ANF 5: Hippolytus VII.I-XVI

Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 5

HippolytusThe Refutation of All Heresies

Yet more heresies derived from pagan philosophy are exposited. Yet, this isn't to say the Classical sources are without their uses--Hippolytus cites the myth of Ulysses and his encounters with Charbydis, Scylla, and the Sirens as examples of what we Christians face when heresies arise:
My advice to my readers is to adopt a similar expedient.. either on account of their infirmity to smear their ears with wax, and sail straight on through the tenets of the heretics, not even listening to doctrines that are easily capable of enticing them into pleasure, like the luscious lay [song] of the Sirens, or, by binding one's self to the Cross of Christ and hearkening with fidelity to His words not to be distracted, inasmuch as he has reposed his trust in Him to whom ere this he has been firmly knit, and I admonish that man to continue steadfastly in this faith.
Resuming the discussion of the various heresies, Hippolytus notes that Basilides seems to have stolen his system from Aristotle. Specifically, he draws on Aristotle's natural philosophy (physics) and method (logic). While Aristotle is not completely useless--not least because some of his works (such as De Anima) are so obscure that they're almost unintelligible--at the end of the day he still holds truths that are incompatible with the doctrines of Christianity.

We see this not least when Basilides has to appeal as a defense of his beliefs to a "secret discourse" passed down from the disciples (Matthias in this case) to him. The problem is that when Basilides applies Aristotelian thought and method to his conception of Christianity, he ends up with a created Christ and Holy Spirit, who once were not until they were made. Perhaps they were made out of God's own self, and perhaps they were made out of nothing (maybe even God Himself came out of nothing--the confusion is probably mine and not that of Hippolytus). Pagan thought is simply not compatible with Trinitarian thought, and ends--as does Basilides--in a Gnosticism that either elevates physical creation to godhead or demotes it to being created evil, or both. Jesus, in this system, becomes the way we escape physical creation back into "formlessness." His passion has the sole effect of freeing us from our physical bonds and reunifying us with the unformed Creator.

And, as with most heretics, our only access to these mystical truths (for they are certainly not found in Scripture or in the teachings of the church) comes through special, spiritual revelation given from God through Basilides to those searching for truth.

Saturnilus likewise  teaches a form of Gnosticism, albeit a much simpler and more straightforward one than that of Basilides. And yet, it shares the same failings--matter is bad, and Jesus comes solely to free us from this carnal realm of Satan.

No comments:

Post a Comment