Since its inception the church has been at war, battling against all sorts of wrongful ideas and beliefs. We call these heresies and they are treated as toxic to the soul because they lead us away from revealed truth. Most heresies end with an ism, we might consider Arianism, Donatism, Nesotrianism, and it is a constant battle to overcome them because, like weeds, they tend to die down for a bit but then come back with great vengeance.
The latest heresy to re-emerge, which was all the rage back in the 2nd Century, is Gnosticism. Gnostics taught that the world was created and ruled by a lesser divinity, a demiurge, and that Christ was an emissary of the more remote supreme divine being. Through secret knowledge (gnosis) the spirit could free itself from the vile trappings of the flesh and find redemption. Gnostics held that the entire material realm was essentially evil and that the Spirit, being pure, needed freeing from it. This was the purpose of faith; no resurrection of the body for them!!
Although nobody, to my knowledge, has resurrected the gnostic belief in a demiurge we are nevertheless witnessing a massive revival of the other aspect of Gnostic belief; that materiality is bad and Spirit alone matters. A clear rebellion against Christian belief which maintains man is created as a unity in distinction in which body and soul together form a sacred identity. Created matter is important as witnessed by the incarnation of Christ and his physical resurrection from the dead.
The history lesson complete let us now examine the thinking of the modern culture. And what, but gnosticism, drives the ridiculous (but popular) notion today that God given biological status is irrelevant? Does a man wish to be a woman, or vice versa, no problem; deny observable material truth because, as the gnostics ever held, your identity is solely who you are on the inside! The physical body is poo-pooed, even mutilated and butchered to create a false reality. For it is only seen as a vehicle, an accident of birth, a restrictive cage in which the real person is trapped. This is gnosticism writ large. For the person is no longer an embodied soul but rather an enslaved soul whose evil material body is a prison.
Gnosticism is also behind the modern drive for same sex marriage. For here the necessary biological materiality, requisite to create that ‘unity in distinction’ at the heart of marriage – the coming together of man and woman- is again rejected. The only important consideration, we are told, centres on love between two kindred spirits. The biological aspect is denied at a cost, I would argue, to the needs of children. We witness the denial of everything the church ever taught about marriage and family.
Finally gnosticism is also running amok within Christian understanding. For what, but a denial of the biological aspect of the person representing Christ at the altar, lies behind a call for female priests? We would never cast a hairy chested man as the Virgin Mary in a passion play,it would descend into farce, but many seem comfortable doing the reverse; asking a woman to stand in persona Christi at the Eucharist as if his incarnate self was incidental not revelatory. There is not space to unpack this here but the bottom line is that the nature of God revealed as man has a huge bearing on theology. (Email me for an article on the subject)
The gnostic tendency of many modern Christians should not surprise us. For poorly catechised believers have always looked to the prevailing culture for their lead and been vulnerable to attack. At one point the entire church almost sold out to Arianism before pulling back from the brink. So today we see a huge number of prelates, priests and people in thrall to gnosticism and modernism and hungering for a revolution that would allow historic Christian teaching to be replaced with something more suited to the spirit of the age. But this must be resisted. It is the battle to which the Christian is ever called. We must deny error and stand for truth.
So I do my best to stand firmly behind Christ and against modern Gnosticism. It doesn’t win me many friends but I must do this because I believe God created us in love and that our identity is not an entrapped soul fighting against a wicked body but found in acceptance of our God given identity; body and soul. Furthermore I believe God created humanity male and female and called them together in love for the furtherance of the human race. This unique coming together- of man and woman- is a coming together of two halves of an intended equation. A complementarity is achieved in which each perfects the other through essential difference. This must be cherished and not lost.
Which does not mean I lack compassion for people who struggle in life. The person with same sex attraction needs respect. Where people opt to live outside of the Christian faith I accept the need for legal protection and recognition. Holding to traditional thinking does not mean we are unkind to those who are mentally anguished and imagine they are something they are not. Like the anorexic who imagines they are fat- we must help transexual people without colluding in the fantasy. We can be loving and respectful yet hold to the Christian creeds. At least when the debate is not being closed down by those who would label us haters.
This view might not be trendy. But I believe it is truth.