Gnosticism: Does it Affect You?

(If “Gnosticism” sounded like a disease to you, please know that you’re right–it is a deadly disease, of the soul!)

Modernism, that many-headed hydra of the 20th Century, has brought the terrible heresy of Gnosticism back to our world.

Hercules by John Singer Sargent

Hercules by John Singer Sargent

Gnosticism was a major heresy primarily of the Second Century, but now it’s back!  Does it affect your thinking? Take this quiz to find out:

Gnosticism Influence Quiz

  • Do you and your family infrequently attend Mass and rarely receive the Sacraments?
  • Do you criticize or dismiss the teachings of the Church on the masculine nature of the priesthood?
  • Do you believe that “God is love” means “God is fuzzy, good, happy feelings, and He doesn’t really care what we do as long as we’re nice people?”
  • Do you believe that all Christians are basically good and will go to Heaven, simply because they believe in Jesus?
  • Do you believe that Christ was only, or primarily, a teacher of a more spiritual/enlightened/creative way of living, not a Savior from the evils of sin?


If you answer “yes” to these questions, your faith may be infected with the virus of Gnosticism. Recently I learned that viruses that scientists had long thought were vanished from the earth are still present in layers of permafrost, just waiting to be disturbed and potentially wreak havoc again. Heresies in the Church’s history are like this: they never quite go away, but mutate, change shape, and live deep in the permafrost, eventually coming back to infect men’s minds. How you answer the above questions can tell you if you should be running to the arms of your Mater et Magistra (Mother and Teacher), the Church, to confront these errors in your thinking and get the vaccination for them.

For you reference, here’s a (very simplified!) breakdown of the heresy of Gnosticism:


Even when they rightly reject the beliefs and tendencies of this heresy, almost every Catholic in the U.S. has to have been affected by its manifestation in Catholic culture in some way.  Liturgies in most of our churches are highly sentimentalized, with “worship music” that speaks about things like “God’s dreams for us.” Sadly, pastors do not preach the uncomfortable truths about the high moral standards Catholics must live up to for their salvation. Knowledge of Christ’s teaching to “love our neighbor” is widely believed to be all we need in order to be good Christians. Tragically, most of your fellow parishioners probably do not believe in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist, or the need for and efficacy of the Sacraments. Since we are surrounded by these unfortunate souls who have been poisoned with Gnosticism, we have to know what the Church really teaches, and be always ready to charitably defend the Truth in our communications and our actions.

So, to learn more about this particular heresy’s historical manifestations and doctrinal weirdness, I refer you to the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Gnosticism. If you are interested in Church teaching regarding the nature and importance of the Sacraments, please visit St. Peter’s List for their post 46 Questions to Help You Understand the Sacraments. And if you would like to learn more about what the Church teaches regarding the Liturgy, follow these links to hear an audio recording of an Archbishop’s explanation of the Mass, view a video explaining what is appropriate music for Holy Mass, and read what the Documents of Vatican II really say about the liturgy (in Sacrosanctum Concilium).

I’ll conclude with an admonition to accompany your study with much prayer, and a request for heavenly intercession: Sts. Irenaus and Justin Martyr, ora pro nobis!



2 thoughts on “Gnosticism: Does it Affect You?

    • Thank you! 🙂 I’m glad you liked it! I certainly will be writing more about these things–oddly, I have always been fascinated by the multiplicity of heresies, and the Church’s response to them and how they helped define orthodoxy.
      The fact that Modernism is “the synthesis of all the heresies” just sends shivers down my spine whenever I think of it. If that’s true, there will be plenty to write about!

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