This article is the third blog in my series that discusses the importance of remembering Jesus is fully human as we celebrate the Advent season. Last week, I suggested that we devalue the worth of God’s creation (including ourselves) if we forget Jesus’ humanity. And Christians often do this very thing when they prize the spiritual to the denigration of the physical world. To highlight this issue, I pointed out three of at least seven ways Christians practice a Christian Gnosticism. This week, I will elaborate on the remaining four ways we forget his humanness and thus fall into the gnostic trap.
4. Christian Gnosticism devalues the Sciences, the Humanities, and the Arts. If God’s goodness, beauty or truth are not contained in the physical world, why study these things? Why not just study the Bible?
Jesus coming to us wrapped in flesh reminds us of the importance of the physical world as God’s creation--a place His goodness, beauty, and truth are on display. By studying all that is in the physical world—rocks and plants, people and history, atoms and artistry—we can see God's “fingerprints” and learn much about Him.
5. Christian Gnosticism has no interest in caring for God’s creation. For example, they may say pollution of our land, air, and water is not a “spiritual” issue about which Christians should be concerned. After all, exploiting the environment only affects the physical world, which is of no value.
But the Christmas story reminds us that God loves his creation, so much so that he entered it as an embodied person himself. It is an echo of what God said after each act of creation—“It is Good.” The Christmas story reminds us of our role as stewards of His creation, called to care for the world He provided and value it as something good to be preserved.
6. Christian Gnosticism devalues our physical bodies. Since Gnostics hold that spiritual things are valuable but material things are not, our souls must be the only things that are important to God. So there is little value placed on caring for the body.
But God shatters this error in the birth of Jesus, saying, “I care so much that I will live in a physical body myself!” In fact, in I Corinthians 6:19 He calls our bodies temples of the Holy Spirit! So we have good reason to care for our bodies—through eating well, exercising, and avoiding what will harm us, leading to physical and spiritual flourishing.
7. Christian Gnosticism devalues what we are at our core—embodied persons. We are necessarily “embodied” creatures—that to be human is essentially to be a soul-body unity. Therefore, our worth as human persons involves our bodies as much as it does our souls. Jesus is affirming this in the Christmas Story. By God himself becoming human, which included necessarily having a body, Jesus declares the value of us as humans—as embodied beings.
Therefore we should be grateful to be embodied and not just long for the death of our bodies as some sort of “liberation.” No, in fact, being disembodied after death is an “unnatural” state, which will only last for a relatively short period. We ultimately look forward to the final resurrection of our bodies—in the new heaven and new earth referred to in Revelation 21 and Romans 8:23: "...we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies." The Christmas Story reminds us of this future hope!
The Christmas Story corrects these seven errors. This should give us even more reason to celebrate Jesus’ birth as a human during this Christmas season, and beyond! But as important as the two reasons that we have already mentioned are, there is a third reason that to remember the humanity of Jesus may even be more important…
Until next week, grace and peace.