(1928 – #336)

(Henri Delafosse. Le quatrieme evangele; Les ecrits de St. Paul. Le epitre aux Romains; La peiemiere epitre aux Corinthiens: “Christianisme” Rieder; “La chronique des Idees”. L. Gabrilovitch. Christianisme, marcionisme, antitheisme).1

Thought hostile to Christianity is becoming focused, refined, it assumes new forms, less coarse, it resorts to new methods of struggle. We see this as regards the “Christianism” series, which is put out as a publication of Rieder under the editorship of Couchoud. In this series came out also the book of Couchoud himself, “Le mystere de Jesus”, in which is denied the historical existence of Jesus Christ. Concerning this book, brilliant in form, I have already written in Journal “Put'”, in my article “The Scientific Discipline of Religion and Christian Apologetics”. We have at present before us the books of Delafosse concerning the Fourth Gospel and the Epistles of the Apostle Paul with translated text. The books of Delafosse, just like the book of Couchoud, just like all the series, cannot be numbered amongst truly objective scientific investigations. This objective scientific element is something the most leftwing of German Protestants have, e.g. Harnack. The books however of the “Christianism” series wage an anti-Christian propaganda and represent a form of negative apologetics. What all this leads up to ultimately, what it leads up to in the books of Delafosse, and of L. Gabrilovitch in his sharp article “Christianism, Marcionism, Anti-Theism”, printed in Issue No. 17 of “La chronique des Idees”, is of the same sort as presented by Rieder. In his capacity as a Russian, L. Gabrilovitch is more radical and bold and more inclined towards religio-philosophic generalisations. Modern adversaries of a churchly Christianity attempt to fight against it with the assist of an uniquely reborn Marcionism. Marcionism however signifies an acutely vexing setting to the problem of theodicy, which in essence never had a rational theological resolution, one that is acceptable for the moral consciousness of man. The governing trends of traditional theology have been a very fertile soil for ever new and anew forms of Marcionism rising up. Modern man, when he approaches religion, becomes struck and shaken by the problem of evil and suffering. Ivan Karamazov does not accept “God’s world” because of the tears of a little child. He spurns both the Creator and the creation, in which there is pestilence and plague. This was a problem formerly, quite striking and shaking for Marcion, a man himself morally deep. In comparison with him the modern Marcionism is quite muddled an affair. Marcion, just like all the Gnostics,2  did not understand the mystery of freedom, the mystery of God-manhood, the mystery of the Holy Trinity. He fought against an abstract monotheism, which is foreign to Christianity and which is not in the Bible. But the modern Marcionists contend against the abstract monotheism and oppose to it either an anti-theism or atheism. Marcion rose up against the God of the Bible, the God of the Old Testament, against the Creator and Fashioner of the world, responsible for having created evil and suffering, and against this he set in opposition Christ, the revelation of an other and unknowable God, foreign to the world and not responsible for having created the world. Christ came to set free from the power of the evil God, the Demiurge, such as had created this evil and tormentive world. If atheism be something set in opposition to the theistic teaching, according to which this world was created by an All-Good God, as revealed in the Bible, then Marcion was an atheist. But this is a conditional terminology. Marcion in actuality was a dualist, just as were all the Gnostics, and he believed in his own Good God, in which the modern atheistic Marcionists do not believe. Marcion stood religiously and infinitely higher than the modern Marcionists, who make use of him for propaganda purposes of atheism. L. Gabrilovitch interprets Marcion in the sense that he taught about an irreal meonic God, at the same time, as he taught about an unknowable God foreign to the world, in the reality of which he believed (Vide A. Harnack, “Marcion: Das Evangelium vom Frenden Gott” [“Marcion: Gospel of the Foreign God”]).

Delafosse sets himself a more modest scientific-historical task. He argues that the Fourth Gospel and the Epistles of the Apostle Paul are indeed Marcionist works, which then were subjected to reworking and re-editing by church people, i.e. in the western terminology, by catalogues. He discerns elements of Marcionism in the spirituality of the Fourth Gospel and the Epistles of the Ap. Paul, in the hostility to the “world”, in the teaching about redemption, in the surmounting of the Law, i.e. in the very essence of Christianity. The argumentation of Delafosse can appear seemingly correct only for those, who fail to see the organic spiritual integral wholeness of Christianity, those inclined to dissect everything. Delafosse recourses to such an approach: everything organic and unique within Christianity, everything New Testament, is rendered Marcionism, — the very idea of God the Redeemer and Saviour for him is Marcionism, whereas the churchly mindset but strives for a reconciling between the Gospel’s God the Redeemer and Deliverer from this evil world together with the Biblical God as Creator of this evil world. The defects for this line of argument are for us perfectly clear. Within Marcionism there were indeed true and genuinely Christian elements, but just as in every heresy, he permitted for extreme overstatements of these elements and separated them off from the full and integrated truth of revelation. The surmounting and transforming effect of Marcionism has entered into the churchly mindset. The true and genuinely Christian elements of Marcionism, combined with the all-entire truth, while free of distortions and extremities, the manic-fanatical aspects characteristic to heresies, represents also the churchly faith and the churchly mindset. But Delafosse does not want to allow, that the all-entire truth was revealed, that it represents something organic; for him it all exists merely in the dissected elements, merely in the separated parts. He sees in the Epistles of the Ap. Paul a struggle against the one-sidedness and extremeness of Marcionism, but for him this is merely an interpolation, a reworking and re-editing of the primary original Marcionist text. There does not exist for him an organic core to Christianity. Along this line, Marcion is transformed into the founder of Christianity, but it is a Christianity not integral, not churchly, rather taken in those its elements, which moreso tend to please modern people. By such methods one can demonstrate, whatever one pleases. Delafosse presupposes, that the Fourth Gospel and the Epistles of the Ap. Paul do not possess wholistically integral a character, but rather are constituted from elements artificially reconciled. For him the wholistic character of the Christian revelation is inadmissible, since he denies the mystery of the Christian transfiguration and the uniting of contraries, the mystery of the Incarnation of God. Everything is rendered divided — spirit and flesh, God and man, eternity and time, heaven and earth. The adversaries of Christianity understand the uniting as a mere compromise. And in their opinion, the aspect about the evil of the world and the need for deliverance from the evil has existed only from Marcion and has been absent with churchly Christianity.

Delafosse, just like all the modern people out of touch and foreign to Christianity, fails to understand the mystery of God-manhood, the uniting within Jesus Christ of two natures, the mystery of God having become flesh and God having become man. The human God, the good God represents Marcionism for such people, rather than the Christian mystery of God-manhood. With Delafosse, just as with Couchoud, just like throughout all the historical science effort concerning Christianity, one can observe a principle of sorts impotence to decide the “mystery of Jesus”, the mystery about the origin of Christianity. Historical science therefore on principle is incapable of deciding the question about the origin of Christianity, since it comes here into clash with metahistory, and not history. The metahistorical never yields itself to historical investigation, it yields but to spiritual experience and to the spiritual tradition of the Church. However, from the outside view for historical science there obtains merely bits and pieces, merely empirical splinters, merely isolated elements. But the metahistorical intrudes upon history and acts within it. And thus only there becomes possible the Incarnation of God in the flesh, the uniting of God and mankind, of spirit and flesh, of heaven and earth. Apart from having an inner communion with Christ, it is impossible to perceive or comprehend what this tradition is about, what always instead is seen are merely the disunited elements, God in Heaven and man on earth. Marcionism always can be investigated moralistically and therefore can be rendered adaptable for the modern consciousness, imbued as it is by rationalism and having lost its faith. Harnack in his noteworthy book about Marcion, the finest of all those written by him, tends to say, that Marcion was somewhere nigh close to Russian religious thought, to Russian writers. This is erroneous. What is nigh close in Marcion to Russian religious thought is that which in him is genuinely Christian, — the understanding of Christianity not as a legalistic religion, but rather the religion of God loving and suffering, but the heresy itself of Marcionism is something alien to it. The heresy of Marcionism, which is morally pleasing for modernity, represents a lack of understanding of the fundamental mystery of the Christian faith, and first of all of the mystery of the Triune God. The opposition between the God, the Creator of this world as revealed in the Bible, a God foreign and apart from this world, in contrast to that of the Redeemer and Saviour of this world as revealed in the Bible, represents ignorance of the mystery of the Divine Trinity. The construct of a theodicy is possible only upon the basis of the teaching of the Holy Trinity, it is impossible for an abstract monotheism. Christianity teaches, that the Father is revealed only in the Son. The Son however is God having abased Himself, having exhausted and emptied Himself (which is kenosis, i.e. “extreme humility”), God suffering and surrendering Himself up in sacrifice. Through the Son is revealed, that God in His inner life is Love. God, revealed as Love, is also the God of Trinity. The Lamb pledged prior to the creation of the world and the Divine Sacrifice enters into the very plan of the world-creation. And Golgotha therefore is not only an anthropodicy, but also a theodicy, a justification of God, of Love and Sacrifice. The abstract monotheistic representation of God, as absolute monarch, as some sort of an Assyrian despot, self-sufficient unto Himself and immobile, like some stone sculpture, demanding a grovelling to Himself and punishing the human race for not fulfilling His will, — this is not an image of the Christian God, this is an image of the Mahometan-like God, it is a pagan idol. Through Jesus Christ, — the Son of God is revealed not as God different from the God of the Bible, but rather genuinely the other and inwardly, in esoteric aspect from God the Father.

The mystery of God as Trinity is foreign to Marcionism, just as the mystery of creaturely freedom is foreign to it, since it can only think in terms of oppositions. This world, the “world-here” is actually the child of sin, but this does not signify a blasphemy against the Creator. Sin and evil have entered into the world through the irrational and primordial creaturely freedom, through the creaturely nothingness. And Redemption is a deliverance from the dominion of the creaturely nothingness, from sin and evil, and not from the Creator, it is a bringing of light into the dark creaturely freedom. The Marcionism of our time has been crafted into a weapon of the struggle against God, rising up against God in the name of man, in the name of human well-being and happiness, it is a form of the modern humanism. This spiritual outlook demands its salvation outside of God and in opposition to God, and since its representatives do not believe in God, they then revolt against the very idea of God, as harmful and anti-human. The struggle transpires within the sphere of ideas, and not realities, in which Marcion himself at least still dwelt. The struggle against God here arises in consequence of the irresolvability by reason of the problem of theodicy, of the problem of evil, of which Dostoevsky was so profoundly aware. This is the struggle against God by the Euclidean mind. And the unenlightened human mind proves itself but little resourceful, and merely repeats the old heresies of the first centuries. This is especially clear and evident in the interesting article of L. Gabrilovitch. L. Gabrilovitch — is an humanist, but he is an humanist in a late hour of history. His article to a remarkable degree is grounded upon wordplay over “anti-theism”, “irreality”, etc. He is very far distant from Marcion himself, who belonged to an era of faith, yet he wants to translate him into the language of an era of non-belief. The God of the Bible, a reality for Marcion, would be transferred instead by him into mere nature, indifferent to human sufferings and joys, into Spinoza’s Deus sive natura. Marcion’s good God however, as Redeemer and Saviour, would be transformed by him into the striving of the suffering humankind for deliverance and salvation, for the surmounting of the terror of being. This is a totally anti-Christian and anti-religious state of mind, something akin to a philosophic Buddhism. But then too this state of mind considers itself the religion of the future. Delafosse is quite more unassuming, he would as it were but remain within the sphere of historical criticism. He wants to point out, that the Fourth Gospel, and in the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, the churchly mindset is waging a struggle against Marcionism, within the loins of Christianity itself. It has to be decidedly admitted, that the problematics raised by the heresies played a large and positive role in the discerning of the fullness of truth for the churchly Christianity itself. But the integrally whole truth of the Christian revelation, as it gradually unfolded within history, is more primary than Marcionism, Montanism and all the heresies, which themselves are dependent upon the Christian revelation and are but distortions and deformations of it. It is very interesting to follow out, how the old heresies get reborn into a modernised form, the old revolts against Christianity. The spiritual effect of the heresies has still not run its course and the Christian consciousness has not provided answer still to all the difficulties. The old atheism, the materialism, the positivism of an enlightenment rationalism belongs to a bygone era and now we should have matters with moreso greater spiritual tendencies. And this signifies, that there ensues more responsible a time, closer to the endtimes, and moreso oriented to final things.

Nikolai  Berdyaev.


©  2004  by translator Fr. S. Janos

(1928 – 336 – en)

MARKIONIZM. Under section “New Books” in Journal Put’, Aug. 1928,  No. 12, p. 122-124.

1The series of publications by F. Rieder et C-ie represents in itself an interesting phenomenon. This publishing work is decidedly hostile to Christianity and has sympathies for Communism. Yet together with this, Rieder’s work involved exclusively an interest for religious questions, and likewise for philosophy of the utmost quality. It deals with St. Thomas Aquinas, the Eternal Gospel of Joachim of Flora, Hyppolitus, Schelling, Hegel, etc.

2Among the Gnostics Marcion occupied an altogether unique place. He was first of all a moralist, inspired by the Gospel, and foreign to him is the cosmological gnosis.

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