Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Gnosis

Just to clarify something:

Agnosticism is NOT “atheism without balls.” It is not a middle ground between believing and not. It is not something you say when you're on the fence and trying to “weigh the arguments” for either side. Agnosticism isn't straddling the fence; it is a valid epistemological position.

An agnostic is someone who is NOT a gnostic*. Being agnostic means you maintain the position that one CANNOT truly know if there is a god or not. One can be an agnostic theist, believing that one cannot know but taking god's existence on faith. One can be an agnostic atheist, believing, too, that one cannot know while not believing in the existence of god.

I've been reading through various religion related posts in blogs and I've noticed that many people make the mistake of equating non-theism or implicit atheism with agnosticism. There is a huge difference.

==========
* The wikipedia entry is kinda muddled, but basically they're people who believed they can know the mind of god. “The Golden Compass” and the sequels have elements of gnosticism in them.

3 comments:

Jose Jean Paolo said...

Hmmm, I find it interesting you brought this up now. "One can be an agnostic theist, believing that one cannot know but taking God's existence on faith." I wonder if I fit that bill. It comes close to what I feel. The only reason I posted this comment is too say that this post gave me something to look into which I am grateful for since I have been looking for direction to grow in my "faith", I wanted to extend to you my thanks.

Troy W. Pierce said...

I agree in general, but would like to offer an expansion.

In ancient Greek gnosis is the particular type of knowledge acquired through acquaintance or direct experience. The privative prefix a- means without. So, in addition to an epistemic position of "there can be no knowledge (in general)," in an expanded epistemology it can indicate that one has no knowledge acquired through acquaintance or experience when it comes to God.

The Gnostic position is that one has gnosis, but that it cannot be directly conveyed to someone else. That is, it is a distinct type of knowledge. A Gnostic acknowledges having limited gnosis and so admits to being agnostic in many ways.

missingpoints said...

@Jean:
Glad to be of service.

@Troy
Thanks for the information.

So does the "gnostic" in "agnostic" refer to the ancient Greek concept or the Gnostic position? Or both?