Gnostic Sex

A lot of us have been thinking the last couple of days about how our culture came to be where it is. The religious freedom piece may be the most important, but for now I want to focus on how our society came to believe that homosexual activity and changing one’s gender are perfectly natural activities worthy of praise. As I see it, there are two main catalysts.

  1. Modern Individualism

We are living in the age of Peak Enlightenment, when the modern focus on the self is approaching its climax. Western individuals can hardly be more obsessed with themselves and their rights, and we are now learning how such narcissism may do real harm to themselves and others. Society will continue to disintegrate as individuals wrangle over whose rights, freedoms, and dignity should be respected and whose must not be.

The Enlightenment taught us to follow the thoughts and desires of our autonomous selves. What started out as the Pursuit of Reason eventually devolved into the Pursuit of Pleasure, with ever more exotic attempts to find our true selves. But people who start with themselves can never find who they truly are, so it’s not a surprise to see sexual immorality give way to homosexual activity (Rom. 1:21-27) and now even gender reassignment.

We must compassionately pray for those people who are caught up in Peak Enlightenment. Politically and culturally they seem to be winning, yet they know in their hearts that their lives are not the way they’re supposed to be. They may say that they are staying true to their real self, but they don’t understand who or what that might be. They are lost, and as such, need our love rather than scorn.

  1. Gnosticism.

But modern individualism alone won’t lead to homosexual practice and gender reassignment. It must be combined with a Gnostic view of the human body. Only people who think their body is merely a shell for their true, spiritual self would attempt to have sex with a person of the same gender or attempt to surgically change the gender of their body to match the supposed gender of their soul. You can’t have an LGBT movement without a full dose of Gnosticism.

This is a blind spot for many Christians. Some push back when I explain why we need a robust appreciation for creation. They fear that too much talk about the goodness of the physical world will distract from their appreciation of heaven. It doesn’t, as I explain in Becoming Worldly Saints. Here I just want to say that their singular focus on the spiritual plays right into the hands of the sexual revolution they are trying to stop.

We can’t consistently explain why homosexual activity is wrong if we can’t emphasize the goodness of the human body, and we can’t consistently do the latter unless we emphasize the goodness of creation. Our bodies are not just temporary residences for our souls. They are vital to the real us, and their gendered expressions will be raised on the last day.

A consistent defense of heterosexual marriage must resist the heavenly preoccupation of Gnosticism. You can be so heavenly minded you’re of no earthly good. Worse, you can be so heavenly minded you do earthly bad.

Picture by Oakland Local. Used by permission. Sourced via Flickr.

20 Comments

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  1. Awesome work Mike! I appreciate it. Do you see a swinging back of the pendulum? Or must we have complete collapse first?

  2. I suspect the collapse will cause the pendulum to swing back. The logical outcome of this trajectory is chaos. Unless Jesus comes, which has always been a distinct possibility, but is now starting to really feel like it.

  3. Great thoughts, as always. The transition from thinking theologically to thinking psychologically (at least as psychology is understood by our culture) has been key. I see at least some measure of collapse coming. Humanistic thinking is so deeply ingrained and assumed that Biblical orthodoxy is not even seen as a plausible alternative now.

  4. Mike, I’m sure you’ve read Peter Jones work in this area of Gnosticism and Sexuality. I have found his work “spot on” in “connecting the dots” on Gnosticism and the revival of pagan sexuality. The work of Carl Jung also comes to mind as someone who wanted to revive Gnostic tendencies (fleshed out in neo-paganism).

  5. Rev. Bryant J. Williams III April 30, 2015 — 3:18 am

    Dear Mike,

    I wonder if the any one has equated the Gnostics with the Nicolaitans of Rev. 2-3? I ask this since it appears from what is mentioned in Rev. 2-3 about the Nicolaitans that an anti-nomian form of Gnosticism is being referred to in contrast an ascetic form of Gnosticism.

  6. Elden Stielstra April 30, 2015 — 10:40 am

    Well done. Gnosticism just won’t go away even(especially) in evangelical circles. But as Augustine said after the resurrection our physical bodies will consist of the same material components of which the present body is made; reshaped into its most perfect possible form and developed to its mature perfection..(Dei. 22.19) Wait a minute – it sounds like Heaven may be a place on earth.

  7. Rev. Bryant J. Williams III April 30, 2015 — 1:19 pm

    I think that is one of the purposes of Revelation 21-22. It shows a New Heaven and New Earth (alluding to Isaiah) in which redeemed mankind is enjoying Paradise in the New Jerusalem on the New Earth. I can just imagine the shock Gnostics would have over this. Their view that the material world is evil would not allow for Creation being material and perfect. It is apparent that Revelation 20-22 combats this false notion.

  8. I’d like to see your thinking on the second point more fleshed out. I don’t feel you ever connecpointhe dots. Also, it is only a wrong understanding of heaven that would lead us to Gnosticism. A right understanding of the physical nature of it will not, and keeping our eyes focused on it as Christ taught will always be a good thing.

  9. Tony: The dots will connect if you realize that heaven is not for our bodies but where our souls go awaiting our resurrection. The Bible never uses heaven for the end, but only for the intermediate state.

  10. Good thoughts – thanks!
    Just a quick note about your #2 –
    push-back on the “goodness of the world” does not always
    come from a super-emphasis on heaven – it can also come from
    seeing how, in the 2000 years since NT, this concept has evolved, IMO,
    beyond NT teaching. Particularly nowadays. I don’t see Paul and other NT writers,
    or OT writers, putting as much emphasis as we do today on the “goodness of creation” per se.
    No doubt the Bible writers appreciated God’s creation in terms of earth, sky, stars, bodily
    appetites (including sex), but we have to note how much more sophisticated and complex
    we’ve made these things in our conversation than they originally appear in Scripture.
    Maybe all the depth of scientific understanding and the Renaissance and Romantic movements
    have helped to bake in concepts and thoughts that surpass the teaching of Scripture – and so
    we must be careful of blending the two, and not use Scripture as the defining reference point.
    Just some thoughts?

  11. Thank you, Steve. I don’t mean to sell you a book, but I disagree with your thoughts on the OT and NT and the goodness of creation. I discuss this in “Becoming Worldly Saints,” but for now I will cite Genesis 1, 1 Tim. 4:1-6, 1 Cor. 15, John 1:14, Is. 65:17-25, Rev. 21-22, Psalm 104, 2 Pet. 3:13.

  12. Mike, I may need to get a copy of your book to further read you on #2, but for now would like to offer a push back on and suggest that simply focusing on gnosticism may cause us to misunderstand A LOT of the underlying views going on for folks.

    For instance, materialism and existentialism has just as much to do with the widespread acceptance of homosexuality and transgenderism. Yes, there are a lot of hyper-“spiritual” people who overly emphasize the soul and the spirit as being of eternal value. But the secular and atheist mindset believes no such thing. In fact, they emphasize the physical, prioritizing body parts and determinism over and above any spiritual, moral, or ethical demands which come from the soul. People from this background (who I believe outweigh the gnostic pagan view at this point) see sexuality as very much a physically and biologically determined reality, but that reality for them is devoid of spiritual meaning and thus interpreted very differently from the monotheistic viewpoint. It is logically consistant for them to fully value and emphasize their physical bodies and still still see themselves as “supposing’ to be gay or another gender, because they believe that what their bodies “tell” them is ultimate. If their body parts respond a certain way to the same sex, it has nothing to do with their will – it’s telling them how they were really made. If their body feels like they have more in common with a female identity than a male one, then it is telling them who they really are.

    This is why I would push back on the idea of exalting a creational mandate and heterosexual family ideal as the
    the penultimate narrative for Christians. At the end of the day, the answer to homosexual practice is not heterosexual practice, it’s holiness through Christ. And saying so is not gnosticism. The answer to transgender tendencies is not doubling down on principles of manhood, it’s holiness through Christ. Saying so is not gnosticism; it’s pointing people to the free gift of faith in Christ through the regeneration of the Spirit — and the only hope for this world.

    (whew. So, now I guess I need to go get the book🙂 )

  13. Jay:

    I agree with a lot of what you have written. I don’t know why you would think that I would think that holiness in Christ is a form of Gnosticism. Of course the answer to all sin is Jesus, and holiness through him. This leads us either to celibacy or heterosexual monogamy.

    I think there is an inconsistency in the culture right now regarding the body and spirit. On the one hand we hear people say “I was born this way” and on the other hand they want to change their bodies to conform to their souls. The only consistent thing here is sinful autonomy. We sinners will play whichever side of the street allows us to get what we want.

    The irony is that people are materialists, as you suggest, at the same time they play the Gnostic game when it comes to homosexual behavior. There is no other way around it.

  14. Reblogged this on and commented:
    People need the LORD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. I think this might take the prize for the dumbest thing I’ve ever read.

  16. Thank you, Mike, for your response~ I;m looking forward to digging into the book, which I ordered yesterday. God bless.

  17. Mike, thank you for exposing the way Gnosticism is shaping the discussions Christians will have to face with those who argue for transexualism to be accepted by the Church. I thought you would be interested to read a real interaction that demonstrates that these discussions are no longer academic, but are playing out in the real world of apologetics.
    On the TGC article by Russel Moore “Joan or John” for example, “Laura” is blatanltly Gnostic: “This also appears to me to say that the body is the important thing about a person, and the soul is changeable and just needs to conform to the body. This is not a Christian teaching.. I think when the Bible says we are made in the image of God it is not talking about our physical bodies at all. And I continue to think you are making too much of the physical body. People are born with all kinds of physical defects, yet God is good. We fix those physical defects and go on. If there’s nothing more to being male than having a male body part, or nothing more to being female than not having one, then gender is nothing. These vessels are temporary and they are going away. What’s left?.”

    I answer:

    “Our bodies our chosen vessels are not “going away.” “We shall
    all be changed”, indeed, but our bodies will be glorified. blazing out
    with the resurrection life of Jesus,conformed perfectly to his image at
    last,but our sexes will remain distinct. You are repackaging Gnosticism,
    Laura.”

    She got two upvotes for that unbiblical point of view!

  18. Andy Hollander May 2, 2015 — 2:13 pm

    Ok, so a materialist worldview is probably not the strongest philosophy for a transgender person, correct? Seems that we are dealing with a population that would than accept the probability of a a supernatural world… at least it’s a starting point. I’m trying to think like Paul in Athens here.
    I’m always looking for an evangelistic angle, and this gets me started!

  19. It’s a fascinating paradox we observe in modern society: the co-existence of utter naturalism and gnosticism. The world rejects the idea that we have a soul, yet at the same time seeks to transcend and even defeat nature by living out a projection of their ego. It is tacitly acknowledged that there is more to life than our bodies, yet the supernatural is viewed as nonsense. What a bizarre and broken sexual spirituality.

  20. regarding this quote: “On the one hand we hear people say “I was born this way” and on the other hand they want to change their bodies to conform to their souls.”
    I don’t think that’s exactly what’s going on. Most transgender people see their bodies as a puzzle and believe they are following their physiological make up by identitifying with the opposite sex. While it’s true that they are in conflict with the “born this way” crowd, in that transgenders admit that the way they were born was in some sense in a broken, they are still operating primarily/mostly from a physiological perspective and not trying to “conform to their souls” per se.

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