A friend of mine recently described that at the end of a day of video meetings he feels like his head has been squeezed in a vice.
If you can relate, then look out for false gods and ancient heresies.
As difficult as this season of social isolation has been, we’ve been flirting with this for many years. I don’t mean we’ve been asking for a pandemic or all that’s come with it, but we have been toying with a kind of neo-Gnosticism—an updated version of a very old heresy that goes something like this:
spirit = good
physical = bad
This may not resonate with your sense of the culture, but as people that habitually look to the virtual world to resolve human issues is a people that is leaning hard toward Gnosticism.
You can see hints of this everywhere:
- In the million ways, we were opting to “live” online even before Covid thrust us apart. (Virtual meetings, gaming, shopping, and dating didn’t start a few months ago.)
- We daily scroll through social media feeds cultivating “friends” and grooming our image.
- We involuntarily turn on our devices because we no longer know how to regulate our bodily emotions without them.
- We watch live events through our screens, recording the real so we can watch the recorded version later.
- We mistake being attractive for actually being good (said differently, we prefer the appearance of good over good itself).
- And in the area of sexuality, I’d suggest it’s our cultural entrenchment in Gnosticism that has given rise to a nearly undisputed embrace of things like online porn, VR sex, and transgenderism.
(I write all this with great compassion for those of you who wrestle relationally, emotionally, or in any sexual area. In my view, Gnostic thought makes these struggles all the more difficult to navigate. Regeneration is here to help!)
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m grateful during this season that our screens enable us to see and talk with loved ones, friends, and coworkers. Also, I’m not suggesting that a virtual meeting or Facebook post is morally akin to things like online porn. However, I am pointing out the common denominator:
Our culture approaches the human body as though it is replaceable, alterable, or expendable.
For Christians, this ought to sound an alarm because Christianity’s understanding is that to be a human being means you are simultaneously both soul and body. To put a starker face on it, separating soul from body or body from soul cannot make a person more alive (nor more fruitful, flourishing, or free). It can only make a person dead.
But the good news is that God does not stand afar off from our slide into death. For this reason, he did not merely “put on” flesh, he “became flesh” (John 1:14), and he did so precisely because he esteems human beings—these unique soul-body creatures he made—that much. He came to restore human beings to oneness, to integrity again.
I know Covid-19 has been and is a time of great loss, sickness, and financial hardship. But considering the subtle but real cultural slide into Gnosticism, and its accompanying view that our bodies as replaceable, alterable, or expendable, might God be asking, “Is this really what you want?”
I don’t believe this current season should be wasted on waiting for things to get back to “normal.” Instead, I suggest we use it as a time of self-examination, soul-searching, and repentance—the kind of repentance that involves both soul and body.
The gods we’ve worshipped are shaking. Will we, God’s people, continue to prop them up because of the ease and comforts they afford us?
Jesus, teach us to esteem our bodies as you do. Word made flesh, lead us!
Questions for reflection: Where in your life might you have unwittingly embraced the notion that your body (or anybody’s body) is a problem rather than a gift? Where might you have slipped into preferring the ease or safety of interacting online rather than face-to-face when possible? Where else might you have bought into thinking that people’s physical bodies are optional when it comes to knowing and being known, loving and being loved?