Thursday of Exaudi: The Orthodox Vs. Gnostic Paraclete

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Who is the Paraclete? It’s the Holy Spirit, but it’s a particular title given him by Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of John. The word has been translated as Comforter, Helper, and Advocate. Let’s look at the several passages where He is brought up:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.”

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you….When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

If one thing is clear, the Paraclete’s job is to manifest the work of the ascended Jesus in our world, to fill our faith with Jesus’ words and works, and this by way of declaration. He glorifies Jesus. And His glorifying Jesus is our help. But the big takeaway is this: He points to Jesus.

Notice the opposite understanding of the Paraclete among the Gnostics, as quoted by Gilles Quispel, who says Christ is “the Paraclete from the Unknown who reveals…the discovery of the Self – the divine spark within you.”

So, here we see two understandings of the Paraclete. In one view, the Paraclete manifests Christ from His position at God’s right hand, whereat Jesus has lifted up His – and potentially our – humanity back into a restored fellowship with the Father. Jesus is the flesh and blood Second Adam reinstalled in Paradise, and the Paraclete He sends in His name delivers to us, by declaration, everything this implies for us. We’ve spent a good deal of time on this point (because it’s so important!).

In the second view, the Paraclete also manifests Christ. But this Christ is a cosmic guru who helps you to discover the divine in you. Ultimately you are no different than Christ.

Let’s look at some other differences.

In the first case, there is a clear grace going on. What Jesus has by nature, we are given by the Paraclete’s grace, by His coming to us, being with us forever, taking what belongs to Jesus and giving it to us by way of declaration. It’s all grace. Grace, it might be noted, requires two distinct entities. Grace is possible because of the created order, because diverse entities have arisen with physical properties. You cannot give to another if that other is one with you. Giving requires two separate beings. Jesus is a distinct, flesh and blood being in heaven, and the Holy Spirit takes what is His and gives it to us. It’s all grace.

In the second case, there is no grace going on. What Jesus has be nature, we also have by nature, because the divine spark is in each of us. What is there to give us if we already possess it? All that needs to happen, as the quote says, is for us to be awakened to the revelation of who we really are.

A final difference is in how the two views are related to our vision of the world.

In the first view, the Paraclete fills our faith with a vision – which, by the way, is what the book of Revelation is really about – of our existential reality as it exists in Christ, where He sits at God’s right hand, in righteousness, and with all authority. The Paraclete is the one who manifests this reality in our lives, hearts, minds, and souls. He is why Christians can look at a seemingly evil world and see grace and love everywhere, even in darkness and evil, and give thanks for it. For as the Lord said, “darkness is my canopy.” Christ descended there. He fills all things with His presence, by the Paraclete, but this is only “seen” by those with faith. The Christian looks at everything and sees Christ, who fills all things. As we meditated on recently, the Christian can look at the material world and see the goodness of the Lord, who had declared all things good and who by Christ’s redemption has restored all things to His goodness.

In the second view, there is no role for the material world. Jesus is the Paraclete from an unknown world, a world that transcends above and beyond this material world. There’s no room in the physical world for any divine vision.

This is clearly the view that dominates today. With the triumph of a materialistic world view, where all the world is reduced to mechanistic causes and effects, there is no explanation for the evils of the world other than, what we have is exactly as evolution intended. Obviously! Evil thus becomes writ in the world’s DNA. It’s its essence (say that ten times). Well, that being the case, of course Gnosticism would attract followers. There’s no meaning in the cosmic, material order, so meaning must come from something trans-cosmic.

We see this, for instance, in those who claim they’re all about science, but then claim we have to transcend what our material egos fate us to be. Huh? Who’s “we” in that sentence? How can we posit a “we” that is not reducible to materiality? And yet these same folk will ridiculously say we have to emulate the bees who all work together. See? They say, species can work together and do great things, if you could just transcend your individualism and egos and be more like bees. But evolution didn’t destine us to be bees, but humans, who do things like wage war, rape, and commit genocide. If that’s who we are, that’s who we are, for good and for ill.

But that “we must transcend” or “we must act like the bees” is wherein the gnosis comes. That’s the secret wisdom that will help us escape the materialistic fate of the world, and make it a better place.

So, the divine in us, with the divine in others, will work together and cause humanity to transcend the evil of this world. Of course, we work out this program politically, for that is how people work together on a mass scale. And this is progressivism. And its various manifestations throughout history have resulted in more misery, death, and destruction than anything else. Why? Because it’s man’s religion and man’s divinizing of Self. It’s man’s attempt at Babel.

Only the Paraclete reverses the curse of Babel and actually effects real change in the world. But He does this not by divinizing individuals and “empowering” them to “make the world a better place.” No, He does it by changing the vision of the elect on earth, a holy body of Christians who testify and confess the goodness of the world, who sing hymns of praise in the face of the brandished steel and the other so-called evils, because where others see chaos and evil in this cosmos, Christians see Christ.

That has an effect far different than that of the “the Paraclete divinizes me to change the world” way. It takes the urgency and passion out of one’s vision of the world. Why change the world if Christ is in full control already? And with the deflating of urgency and passion departs the impulse toward totalitarianism, replaced by prayer, joy, and love. Prayer that the Lord’s kingdom would come. Joy that Christ fills all things and fills our vision with His triumph over all darkness and evil. And love for every material thing we come in contact with, for Christ fills all things, and the Paraclete fills our faith with this truth, inspiring that love.

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