For the past several weeks, I’ve been writing short-ish articles about a problematic belief that seems to have infected modern Christianity. These beliefs seem like pale echoes of an ancient heresy that was roundly condemned by the Church nineteen hundred years ago. In my not-so-humble opinion, it should always worry us when heresy starts to infect the Church. But one of the questions that’s been asked of me after starting this series is “So what? So what if a feeble strain of gnosticism is alive and well within modern Christianity?”
That’s a fair question. If it’s not doing any damage, why get uptight over it? Except I think that neo pseudo-gnosticism is doing damage to our faith, specifically by giving us an incomplete hope about the future.
Allow me to explain by way of analogy. Let’s say that all of us lived in the same small town in rural America. One day, a massive F5 tornado rips through town and absolutely demolishes everything. Our homes are essentially wiped off the map. Thankfully, due to early warning systems, nobody lost their lives, but we are all homeless.
Well, an extremely wealthy philanthropist hears of our plight. More that that, he decides to do something about it. He rolls into town with a massive fleet of construction vehicles, workers, and architects. He convenes a town meeting where he announces his plan to rebuild our town from the ground up. Everything that was destroyed will be reconstructed, only he’s going to make it better. We won’t just be getting our homes back, we’ll be given new mansions to live in. Heated floors, central AC, jacuzzi tubs, these houses are going to have it all! He’ll even pay off all of our mortgages to boot, so that when the rebuilding is finished, we’ll all be living in brand new houses, free and in the clear.
Now, obviously, it’s going to take some time for the town to be rebuilt. So in the interim, he’s going to get rooms for all of us in a 3-star hotel the next town over. It’s a nice place, certainly cushy in its own right, with a swimming pool and a 24-hour fitness center. Again, this is on his tab, so we’re not going to have to pay for anything.
A series of buses pull up to the town meeting and take us all to the hotel. While riding over to the hotel, your cell phone rings. It’s a member of your family who saw the news about the destruction of our town and they’re worried about you and how you’re doing. In your excitement, you tell this individual, “It’s going to be great! We’re going to stay in a hotel!”
And that’s all you talk about, the hotel. You tell people about how nice the bed is, how great the pool area is, how awesome it is to be living off of room service. As a matter of fact, whenever you speak about the future, you focus only on the hotel, almost making it sound like that is your future permanent residence, the place where the philanthropist wants us to be for the rest of our lives.
Now how silly is that? I think most of us, if we were in that strange hypothetical situation, would never do that, right? We’d understand how awesome it is that our homes are being rebuilt and that’s what we would want to tell other people about.
And yet, this is exactly what far too many of us do when it comes to discussing the Christian understanding of the afterlife. We overlook and ignore the rebuilt mansion in favor of speaking only about the hotel.
What I mean is this: ask the average Christian what happens to us after we die, and most of them will say something like this: “After we die, our souls are separated from our bodies. The former goes to heaven, the latter gets buried in the ground.” Upon receiving that answer, we should all ask the same thing: “Yes, and…?” And again, most people wouldn’t know how to respond to that. What should be a “yes, and” becomes a “period, that’s it.”
And that’s a shame, because that, my friends, is not the hope that we have as Christians.
Now don’t get me wrong. When a Christians dies, their soul does go to heaven. That is part of the promise we have. But it’s not the whole promise. It’s not the entire story. But for too many people it is, and I think that’s partially because they’ve bought into the lie of neo pseudo gnosticism. My soul is what counts, my body doesn’t, and all I’m doing is waiting to leave it behind.
I was once sitting at the bedside of a man who was dying with members of his family. And as we were talking, one of his kids said something like this: “He’s going to heaven now and he’s leaving his body behind because he doesn’t need it anymore.” And I know he was trying to find comfort in a difficult situation, but I winced a little, because he was settling for only half a hope, and it wasn’t even the good half!
So what’s the hope we have? Resurrection. The reunification of soul and body, putting back together what death separates. That is the full hope. That is the rebuilt mansion after a stay in the hotel.
And that’s what we’re going to look at in more depth next week. See you then.Would you rather talk about the mansion or about the hotel? Click To Tweet