Last week, we talked about how a watered-down version of gnosticism, a heresy that was rejected and condemned by the early church, has reasserted itself in the Church. In broad strokes, this pale echo can be summed up with these two beliefs:
- The physical world, rather than being inherently evil or corrupt, is instead viewed as inconsequential and ultimately unimportant to the eternal scheme of things, and
- The point of life is to be set free from our bodies to some sort of ethereal, spiritual paradise.
These beliefs may seem innocuous on the surface, but they run directly counter to the clear teaching of the Bible.
The best way to see this is to go back to Genesis and poke through God’s original intentions for this world and, more specifically, for human beings.
Let’s start with the creation of the world in general. In Genesis 1, we see a recurring pattern. God speaks something into creation and, once it has sprung into existence, He declares it to be good. As a matter of fact, when He’s done with his creation:
God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.
This speaks directly to the first point I mentioned above. Neo pseudo gnosticism would teach us that the physical world that exists at present is inconsequential and unimportant. It’s a temporary state of affairs and was never intended to be in any way permanent. After all, at some point, we’ll be sent “home to heaven” when we die.
Only was that really God’s intention? I would argue that it isn’t. Consider the way that God created Adam and Eve. He didn’t create them as noncorporeal spirits who were then somehow tricked into taking on flesh and blood. No, part of God’s good creation was to create human beings with soul and body united together. God’s intention was for us to live with this union forever.
The reason why I can state that so confidently is because death wasn’t originally a part of God’s creation. Remember, death entered this world as a consequence of human sin. God didn’t create people with death in mind. Instead, death does violence to God’s original design, separating something that was never intended to be separated.
That’s part of the reason why I dislike that supposed quote from C. S. Lewis:
You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.
Not only did he not say it, it’s also a lie. It implies that our bodies aren’t really us. They’re like a spacesuit that the real us hides inside while we’re in this world, and so it doesn’t matter that we will eventually die. We’ve even tricked ourselves into thinking that death is some kind of friend who ushers us into our real life, the life that we were always intended to have.
But that’s not true. Instead of a friend, death is our enemy and always has been. It’s a foreign intruder. One of my seminary professors put it this way once: “Death is as natural as a knife to the thigh. That’s why it hurts so much when someone we love dies.” We know, on a deeper level, that what we’re seeing isn’t right. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be. It is, simply put, unnatural.
That’s why neo pseudo gnosticism is so problematic. It tries to change our enemy into a sort-of friend. but the idea that death is somehow a natural part of this world is false and it has to be rejected.
Now, it is true that death is a part of the way that the world is now. And that’s an important distinction that needs to be made. Because sin has damaged the world, because the world is fallen and broken, death is a part of our experience. Our perception of the way things ought to be is colored. A fish can’t conceive of a world without water, and we can’t picture a world without death. For us, it seems natural, the way it’s supposed to be, but a careful reading of the Bible reveals that it’s anything but.
Physical matter isn’t inconsequential or unimportant. The world that God created was very good. This is the world we were meant to live in. We were meant to exist, soul and body united together for all eternity. Death was never meant to break that unity.
But it’s not just Genesis that teaches us this. It’s not just when we look at the world’s beginning where we see this truth. We also see it when we look at the world’s end too. But that will have to keep until next week.When we look at Genesis, we see why neo pseudo gnosticism is false. Click To Tweet