Your line of argument is a red herring. My article wasn’t appealing to the details of Gnosticism, and I said only that the answer to my question was “made clearest in the Gnostic versions of Christianity.” I didn’t say there’s no orthodox answer to that question.

The question at issue was, “Why, we might ask, wasn’t Jesus powerful enough to have destroyed the devil’s hold over us, just by shedding his precious blood on the cross, as the Western Christian would put it? Why the additional need for faith in that sacrifice, to avoid the divine punishment of everlasting hellfire?”

The heart of what I used from Gnosticism was the idea that “God is unnatural, nature is ruled by godless forces, and our world persists in all its sin and indifference to spiritual matters.” Thus the transcendent God can connect with us only by an elaborate stratagem. He had to incarnate himself as a human, die on the cross to trick the demonic lord of this world, and then we have to come part way to God to complete the magic of our salvation. We have to trust in the power of Jesus’s sacrifice and invite our spiritual lord to live in our hearts. Then we too can be reborn and made fit to serve in God’s kingdom, which was supposed to be set to wipe away the world that had been corrupted by original sin.

Now all of that rigmarole is explained more cleanly with Gnosticism’s drastic dualism. That’s why I referred to Gnosticism, to drive home the extent of the problem that Christianity was meant to solve.

There’s plenty more of Gnosticism in Paul, though. Read The Gnostic Paul by Elaine Pagels. And the structure and meaning of the Gospel of John are similar to those of the Hymn of the Pearl. As the Wikipedia page summarizes the latter, “we are spirits lost in a world of matter and forgetful of our true origin. This state of affairs may be ameliorated by a revelatory message delivered by a messenger, a role generally ascribed to Jesus. The letter thus takes on a symbolic representation of gnosis.”

That’s what happens in John: Jesus is a divine messenger who performs miraculous signs to remind us there’s light beyond the present darkness. All the details of Gnosticism do is clarify the implicit theodicy that accounts for that split between heaven and earth, God’s perfection and the crushing power of human sin.

I see from one of your articles that you’re inclined to say that Hell is beautiful, because Hell shows God is just and that he keeps his word. Heaven forbid that God break his word, when he can always just change his mind and form a new covenant. And heaven forbid we trivialize the source of being by projecting our bean-counting proclivities onto that mystery. The notion that God would care about morality and justice strikes me as infantile, as I explain here:

Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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