Can I compare Protestants to Gnostics seeing how both (i think) deny the real presence?

St Ignatius of Antioch wrote in 110 AD:

“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes.”

When St Ignatius is referring to those who hold “heterodox opinions” is he talking about the gnostics? Or some other people? Did all gnostics deny the true presence or just some?

If he is talking about the gnostics, can i rightly tell a protestant that he/she is like the gnoistics of the early church who denied the true presence at the Eucharist?

I’m pretty sure the ECFs would have labeled some but not all Protestants heretics. Protestants don’t deny the human nature of Jesus so i think it would be apples to oranges comparison.

I do believe much of the gnostic sect held that the God who was in the Garden of Eden was not truly the God. That we were given a false religion to worship a deity’s child who was playing with us and that well above that deity’s parents was the one true God much as we conceive him. I think with beliefs like that you might find a historically savy protestant wholly offended by the claim they are like that.

On the flip side go for it and just segregate the part you mean.

Most wont know much about the sect.

And it might be funny to see the person get miffed.

it is my understand that the MAIN thing about Gnosticism ( from the Greek word gnostikos, “having knowledge”) is that they knew or perceived special “facts” that the un-enlighten just couldn’t understand.

“A common characteristic of some of these groups was the instruction that the realisation of Gnosis (esoteric or intuitive knowledge) is the way to salvation of the soul from the material world.” wiki

“The Gnostics supposedly had knowledge of God that was exclusive. They considered themselves superior to the average Christian.”

IOW : they are the only ones who really knew.

I only want to compare a protestant to a gnostic when it comes to the Eucharist. I want to draw a comparison in this regard only.

But i want to make sure its a fair comparison.

Gnostics don’t believe in transubstantiation or the Real Presence…
They don’t believe Jesus was God in the flesh…

So it is not a fair comparison.

Might be problematic since many Protestants don’t deny the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Tell the Protestants what you like and see if they don’t reciprocate fair and square!

Or, just to be different, rejoice that God has placed someone in the world that believes half as much as you do!


Didn’t Pope Francis tell us the other week not to be Gnostics (people who flaunt badges of superior insider knowledge in others’ faces) nor Pelagians (people who lay down rules they think others should follow to get their approval).

Yes, you can compare some Protestants to Gnostics. A comparison doesn’t mean equality. There are, in my opinion, many Gnostic elements in Protestantism. One aspect incorporates the repulsion of the material world. There are some articles and at least a couple of books on the subject.

I guess you could but I would not.

You receive grace through the sacraments, but they receive grace from reading the scriptures. In many of them you can see the tangible effect that their brand of Christianity has had upon their lives.

And if validly baptized they are imperfectly joined to the Church.

Gnostics typically believe in writings that are not considred inspired by anyone who is anyone.

That’s what I was thinking.

I’m not sure what purpose that would serve, nor how it would further any conversation in a useful way.

For one, as others have pointed out, some Protestants (such as many Anglicans, Lutherans, etc.) do not deny the Real Presence. They may define it differently, and Catholics would say that their communion does not actually have the Real Presence, but they still believe in it and believe that they do.

Second, if your only point of comparison is that both groups don’t believe in the Real Presence, that’s not really a helpful comparison. You might as well compare Protestants to atheists or Buddhists. They don’t believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist either.

Protestants condemn Gnosticism though.

Lutherans do, at least.


That’s the whole point of the comparison. I’m trying to get protestants to condemn themselves.

Gnostics don’t believe in transubstantiation or the Real Presence…
They don’t believe Jesus was God in the flesh…

That is NOT the Protestant position


From the Apology of the Augsburg Confession

Article X: Of the Holy Supper.

54] The Tenth Article has been approved, in which we confess that we believe, that in the Lord’s Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and substantially present, and are truly tendered, with those things which are seen, bread and wine, to those who receive the Sacrament. This belief we constantly defend, as the subject has been carefully examined and considered. For since Paul says, 1 Cor. 10:16, that the bread is the communion of the Lord’s body, etc., it would follow, if the Lord’s body were not truly present, that the bread is not a communion of the body, but only of the spirit of Christ. 55] And we have ascertained that not only the Roman Church affirms the bodily presence of Christ, but the Greek Church also both now believes, and formerly believed, the same. For the canon of the Mass among them testifies to this, in which the priest clearly prays that the bread may be changed and become the very body of Christ. And Vulgarius, who seems to us to be not a silly writer, says distinctly that bread is not a mere figure, but 56] is truly changed into flesh. And there is a long exposition of Cyril on John 15, in which he teaches that Christ is corporeally offered us in the Supper. For he says thus: Nevertheless, we do not deny that we are joined spiritually to Christ by true faith and sincere love. But that we have no mode of connection with Him, according to the flesh, this indeed we entirely deny. And this, we say, is altogether foreign to the divine Scriptures. For who has doubted that Christ is in this manner a vine, and we the branches, deriving thence life for ourselves? Hear Paul saying 1 Cor. 10:17; Rom. 12:5; Gal. 3:28: We are all one body in Christ; although we are many, we are, nevertheless, one in Him; for we are, all partakers of that one bread. Does he perhaps think that the virtue of the mystical benediction is unknown to us? Since this is in us, does it not also, by the communication of Christ’s flesh, cause Christ to dwell in us bodily? And a little after: Whence we must consider that Christ is in us not only according to the habit, which we call love, 57] but also by natural participation, etc. We have cited these testimonies, not to undertake a discussion here concerning this subject, for His Imperial Majesty does not disapprove of this article, but in order that all who may read them may the more clearly perceive that we defend the doctrine received in the entire Church, that in the Lord’s Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and substantially present, and are truly tendered with those things which are seen, bread and wine. And we speak of the presence of the living Christ [living body]; for we know that death hath no more dominion over Him, Rom. 6:9.


Both took Jesus’ words symbolically.

No. That’s Zwingli. Not representative of Lutherans or the Reformed.

I suggest you learn something about Protestant beliefs before you try this. And also,

I’m trying to get protestants to condemn themselves.

smacks of extreme rudeness, judgementalism and arrogance. At least you are honest about it. But I think you will find most Protestants will be condemning YOU with this approach.

There is a thread over in the Non-Catholic forum on’ The Gentle Art of Apologetics. I suggest you read it.

You know what i mean. I’m just trying to show them (in a polite way) that the early church believed in the real presence and that they were challenged by the gnostics on this. Didn’t mean to sound rude :o

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit