Protestants and Gnostics: Distant Relatives?

Some Protestants, especially Baptists, believe their doctrines preceded the reformation and go back far into antiquity.  This is partly true, for example, some of the Gnostics in the second century seemed to have rejected baptismal regeneration and believed that the work of redemption could not be applied through material elements such as water.  How do we know this?  St. Irenaeus of Lyons in the late second century wrote,

“Others [Gnostics], however, reject all these practices, and maintain that the mystery of the unspeakable and invisible power ought not to be performed by visible and corruptible creatures…[t]hese hold that the knowledge of the unspeakable Greatness is itself perfect redemption.”  (Against Heresies, i, xxi, iv)

In a day and age where orthodox doctrines almost seem eccentric, Protestants should be lauded for maintaining many orthodox positions (three cheers for them).  However, the Protestant rejection of baptismal regeneration and the view that Christ is not actually present in the Eucharist, something that would have been impossible for Gnostics since they believed Christ did not really have a body, seems Gnostic.  Essentially, the Protestant denial that God uses any matter to apply Christ’s work of redemption and that salvation is something purely spiritual seems to be Gnostic since it resembles a dualistic view where matter is opposed to Spirit.   May Protestants, by God’s grace and through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, come to accept the orthodox position of the use of matter in the work of redemption and enter into full communion with Christ’s Church.

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