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From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" 
Subject: RE: (urth) Gnostic Wolfe
Date: Mon, 4 Nov 2002 10:35:42 -0800

Josh wrote:

> There's one big difference between the Jewish and the 
> Christian way of looking at things. Judaism says, do the 
> right thing because it is the right thing to do. 

Actually, a close reading of the Hebrew scriptures shows
that from end to end, Law, Prophets, and Writings ("TaNaK")
promise blessings for "doing the right thing," from caring
for the widows-and-orphans to maintining cultic purity, and 
curses for, well, not doing the right thing. The idea of 
Heaven-and-Hell do not enter into it (well, maybe a little, 
very late, in that the very latest Writings seem to suggest
a belief that God has care and concern for the dead in 
Sheol); the blessings are land, prosperity, and descendents, 
while the curses are poverty, infertility, and death. 

Interestingly, the religion of the Chapter is much more
concerned with the afterlife than Temple Judaism ever was
-- Judaism, unlike almost all its neighbors, seems to have
been almost unconcerned with the afterlife; Greeks,
Egyptians, and most Middle-eastern religions all had plenty
to say on the subject. 

> Christianity doesn't really say do the right thing so that
> you will go to Heaven: salvation is a gift of grace, not
> the result of works. 

Yes/no: this is another of those distinctions that dissolves
when the context is broadened. Faith, which is a gift ("gift
of grace" is redundant ... look it up), is the one and only
way of salvation. But "faith" is actually a very ill-defined
term, and some of the NT writers make it clear that "faith"
does not exist without works, that a real faith produces 
works in the faithful. One modern writer (alas, I have lost
her name) summed it up in the aphorism: "We are saved by
faith alone, but the faith by which we are saved is never

Wolfe, I think, would agree; Silk's enlightenment leads to
concrete actions, even if some of them are the result of
his misunderstanding what the God wants from him.

> I have to say that I think that this whole focus on 
> Gnosticism in the Book Of The Long Sun is sort of a 
> distraction from the really more interesting things that Gene 
> Wolfe is doing with these books.

I don't know about them being more interesting, but they
are interesting indeed and there are many, many more of 



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