Once again, I’ll move this out of comments on to the main page.

Why?

Because I’m wordy.

Jim said:

“You were surprised that such a bright student could hold a Gnostic belief; but does it really make a practical difference in that person’s–or any other person’s–life, especially since it’s just one out of a panoply? It seems, especially to an outsider, like such a minor heresy in the grand theological scheme of things. If you had never asked, would you have guessed?”

Again, the point of the “resurrection of the body” is that the whole person is redeemed. Christian doctrine also teaches that this “redempted life” of ‘heaven’ is available to us now, through the Spirit (see “already, but not yet” soteriology). Christian ethics can be summed up as “living the life of heaven now.”

If sanctification is “learning to live the life of heaven” and this life is corporeal, then our very sanctification is insufficient if not also corporeal (“offer your bodies as living sacrifices”). How does this play out in the Christian’s life?

1) Worship: The historical Christian church has always incorporated movement in their corporate worship services. Also, “sensory input” (I’m not sure what the word would be) has played prominent roles in numerous traditions (see incense, icons, rosaries, etc.). A Christian that does not think the body important will neglect the richness of these aids.

2) Disciplines: The historical Christian church has also advocated “spiritual disciplines” as means of developing one’s relationship with God. Ironically, these “spiritual disciplines” are often very physical (see fasting, solitude, silence). Personally, I experienced a much richer prayer life once I began praying on my knees and have also experienced significant spiritual growth while fasting. If the body is not viewed as an intrinsic part of our salvation, then it is difficult to see why these disciplines would “work.” Yet I have the testimony of 2000 years of Christian tradition (and personal experience) informing me that they do.

3) Sexual ethics: See 1 Corinthians. This was the whole problem. They didn’t consider the general resurrection to be physical and subsequently thought they had license to act (sexually) however they wished. This was also Jonathan’s point in the comments to my first post.

Are those specific enough? I could give a more specific outline of the role of the body in (specifically) Pauline theology, but these seem to be some of the many applications. I’ll sum up: if salvation is body and soul, that has ramifications for sanctification. If a Christian does not affirm the former doctrine, then they will not adopt certain methods for the latter. Hope this is helpful.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

3 Comments

  1. If a Christian does not affirm the former doctrine, then they will not adopt certain methods for the latter. Hope this is helpful.It’s certainly clear doctrine. But I guess I’m looking for something a little more, well, empirical. Some sort of survey that connects belief to practice. You’ll see why below.

    1) Worship: The historical Christian church has always incorporated movement in their corporate worship services. Also, “sensory input” (I’m not sure what the word would be) has played prominent roles in numerous traditions (see incense, icons, rosaries, etc.). A Christian that does not think the body important will neglect the richness of these aids.These “aids” are also parts of religions like Buddhism and Hinduism which deny the fundamental, material reality of the body. Why would Gnosticism-especially 21st-century creeping Gnosticism–be any different?

    2) Disciplines: The historical Christian church has also advocated “spiritual disciplines” as means of developing one’s relationship with God. Ironically, these “spiritual disciplines” are often very physical (see fasting, solitude, silence). Personally, I experienced a much richer prayer life once I began praying on my knees and have also experienced significant spiritual growth while fasting. If the body is not viewed as an intrinsic part of our salvation, then it is difficult to see why these disciplines would “work.” Yet I have the testimony of 2000 years of Christian tradition (and personal experience) informing me that they do.Again, same experience. In fact, Buddhists are often more disciplined about fasting, meditation, etc. Fundamentally different belief; very similar practice.

    3) Sexual ethics: See 1 Corinthians. This was the whole problem. They didn’t consider the general resurrection to be physical and subsequently thought they had license to act (sexually) however they wished. This was also Jonathan’s point in the comments to my first post.

    This might have been true for the Corinthians, but is there any indication that your Gnostic-leaning students hold the same bizarre ethical view of sexual behavior? (It’s a classic non sequitur, logically speaking.) I submit that whether your body will or won’t be resurrected in its material form, to your average person, would have zero effect on their current sexual practice; a heretical Christian, in my theory, would be indistinguishable from an orthodox Christian.

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  2. “But I guess I’m looking for something a little more, well, empirical. Some sort of survey that connects belief to practice. You’ll see why below.”

    I read to the end and I still don’t see why. I’m not sure what you want to demonstrate by informing me that other religions also practice “spiritual disciplines.” The ramifications of Gnosticism seem twofold: on the one hand, sexual license, and on the other, severe ascetisim. A proper view of the resurrection of the body admits NEITHER of these two positions. Chesterton has a great description of the differences between the Eastern ascetic and the Western, which I can try to find for you (though I’m sure it will not be empirical enough for you). At the least, the Gnostic, Hindu and Bhuddist (it seems) are trying to escape corporeality. The Christian is trying to transform corporeality. Subsequently, even though practices across religions may be similar, attitudes will be significantly different.

    In other words, the Christian will fast and the Gnostic will fast, but they will fast for VERY different reasons and look for very different results. Or the Gnostic won’t fast at all (since it doesn’t matter what he does in the body). The contemporary evangelical Church seems to have taken the latter route.

    “This might have been true for the Corinthians, but is there any indication that your Gnostic-leaning students hold the same bizarre ethical view of sexual behavior? (It’s a classic non sequitur, logically speaking.) I submit that whether your body will or won’t be resurrected in its material form, to your average person, would have zero effect on their current sexual practice; a heretical Christian, in my theory, would be indistinguishable from an orthodox Christian.”

    I don’t think it’s a non-sequitur at all. I’m not a reductionist when it comes to human behavior and so I don’t think my students’ sexual mores come solely from their view of the body. In other words, they have been habituated to think that certain sexual actions are wrong, but not given the grounds to argue for this view. Subsequently, I wouldn’t expect them to immediately become licentious, even while affirming doctrines that would permit it. However, put in certain situations where their beliefs about sexual mores are challenged, it is plausible that they will drop their mores and replace them with more licentious beliefs. Why? Because as everyone knows, the authority of parents doesn’t suffice once you become an adult. So your theory that “a heretical Christian…would be indistinguishable from an orthodox Christian” is plausible. But a “heretical Church” is NOT indistinguishable from an Orthodox Church. It’s easy to see the Churches that have been influenced by this Gnosticism. The evangelical church has, on this issue, been co-opted by the spirit of the age and has not taken corporeality seriously enough, and I take as evidence (which is empirical, right?) the (a) complete lack of spiritual disciplines and (b) the complete lack of focus on corporeality in worship.

    I’ll end there. A man who has learned to debate with Jim need never fear debating anyone else.

    Reply

  3. Thanks for the great discussion so far. I’m not finished, but I’ll be a gentleman and continue my rambling on my own blog, rather than filling up your comments.

    (You can say the last remark only because you’ve never met Max Postman.)

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