Christ’s resurrection was the animating message of the primitive church. His atoning death presupposed that message, but it was his resurrection that energized their commission. It was the crucified Lord who was re-enlivened in victory over sin and the grave (Acts 2:22–36), who ascended to assume his cosmic reign at his Father’s right hand (Heb. 1:1–3; Dan. 7:13–14), and who tasked the church to disciple the nations (Matt. 28:18–20).
Resurrection is at Christianity’s heart because ours is a creational Faith. Evangelicals tend to position redemption in the foreground and creation in the background. This has things just backwards. The Fall spoiled creation, and redemption is God’s plan in his Son to restore and enhance that creation. This is why Paul the apostle depicts humanity’s sin as the violation of creational revelation (Rom. 1:18–15) and posits our Lord first as mediator of creation and, therefore, mediator of redemption (Col. 1:12–20). The writer of Hebrews makes much the same point (Heb. 1:1–3). The Son alone can redeem what he created.
It is the resurrected Lord that redeems, and it is his resurrection that affirms this redemption includes our bodies. When Jesus Christ walked out of the grave, he showcased God’s redemptive work as “the firstborn of the dead” (Rev. 1:5) and when he ascended on high, he confirmed glorified bodies will inhabit the new creation. As part of God’s good design in redemption, we see that our bodies matter to him from creation to redemption to glorification. And this is why the gnostic denial of creational goodness is so perverse. In this article, I’ll highlight the creeping Gnosticism that infects our society, explain some of its entailments, and then point to the cure of resurrection.
Christ’s resurrection places an indelible eternal stamp on the inherent goodness of creation. God’s original verdict on creation is “very good” (Gen. 1:31), and despite his curse on creation inflicted due to man’s sin, creation does not become something less than inherently very good. This means even the sin-cursed human body is very good, and in the final resurrection it will be restored to and even elevated above its primal goodness. Man as the crown of creation made in God’s image warrants special dignity. He is God’s vice-regent, his deputy in stewarding the earth for his Lord’s glory (Gen. 1:27–28). Man is not God and can never become God, but he is God’s image and analogue in creation. Christians have therefore almost always held the human body, an essential aspect of man, in the highest regard.
In radical contrast, the Gnostics, the earliest and most pernicious and ever reemerging heretics in the church, see the human body as a cage or prison of The Authentic (spiritual, non-material) Self. Salvation isn’t forgiveness of and rescue from sin, as the Bible teaches, but liberation from the material created order. Creation is the evil from which man needs deliverance. Gnostics, like all other dualists, see man as a radical, and tragic, body-spirit combination. The release of the spirit at death and its ascendence into the heavenlies for reunion with the Abstract Divine is the goal of all human life. For Gnostics, resurrection would be madness—restoring one’s body when man’s chief life aim is to shed it. This pits Christianity as a resurrection-oriented faith against all forms of creation-repudiating Gnosticism.
Gnosticism in the postmodern world has adapted itself to secular neo-paganism. Transsexual “influencer” Dylan Mulvaney has recently captured the national imagination by his perverse “365 Days of Girlhood” and various sponsorships with Bud Light and Nike. The trans collusion with the once-stalwart conservative Anheuser-Busch corporation discloses the penetrating inroads of the most perverse elements of the Sexual Revolution in traditionally conservative corporate America. This, plus Kid Rock’s shotgunning a pyramid of Bud Light cans as a textbook conservative reaction will do nothing but repulse the citizen spectators who find both transgender and redneck exhibitionism distasteful.
Dylan’s depravity runs deeper than any understandable-but-amateurish Kid Rock exhibition can expose. The consequence of a deep, long-standing ideological perversity won’t be overturned by a junior high boys’ shop class prank.
The Dylan Mulvaney phenomenon is sexual Gnosticism, the most blatant form of Gnosticism in postmodern culture. Creation is the operating system of reality, but it just so happens that highly sophisticated, sinful humanity refuses to be constrained by God’s operating system. The objective of depraved human imagination is reengineering reality. For the Sexual Revolution, this means that men can become women, and boys can become girls, and vice versa. Gender, a postmodern multivalent substitute for binary sexual categories of male and female, is fluid reality writ large. Reality isn’t something to which we conform; reality is what we say it is—or so the Revolution claims.
This sexual Gnosticism eventually demands violence. No, I don’t mean rape or S&M, as evil as they are, but “gender reassignment surgery,” or more explicitly, “gender affirmation surgery,” genital mutilation now inflicted even on preteens whose worldview is shaped by people like TikTok’s darling Mulvaney. It’s nothing less than horrific child abuse—and everybody everywhere except the Marquis De Sade (the originator of Sadism) and his acolytes would have believed this before the last decade. It’s also the most supreme instance to date of radical individual autonomy: “I am a law to myself and nothing may stand in my way to fulfill it. Reality prevents my autonomy. Therefore, reality must go.”
An Alien Worldview
The creational- and resurrection-centeredness of biblical Christianity operates as an entirely different worldview than Gnosticism. Indeed, of all the heresies, Gnosticism is its own worldview. This isn’t true of the other heresies. Arianism, a pernicious heresy that posits Jesus Christ as a created being ontologically inferior to the Father, is a specifically theological heresy.
But Gnosticism is more than theological; it offers an entirely different and competing view of the world from the biblical Faith. To be a consistent Gnostic is to interpret all of reality in a contra-Christian way. One can be a modern Arian and hold various correct views on issues like abortion, homosexuality, and socialism. This in fact is just the case with much of Mormonism, a false faith, which borrows theological capital from biblical Christianity.
Gnosticism, however, is at war with biblical Faith at its very root, and therefore, when consistent, must array itself against all that is godly, holy, and good in this world. On matters of sexuality, this deep-rooted alien worldview led ancient (and modern) Gnostics in one of two opposite directions. Since the human body is a disposable prison, one must avoid its valid appetites (food, sex, comfort) at all costs. This is Gnostic asceticism. In postmodern culture the exhibition of the ancient heresy is more pervasively Gnostic libertarianism. The Authentic Self resides inside the body-shell-prison and decides on all sexuality—including “gender fluidity” and “reassignment.” The body impedes the person; the person lives inside the body. If the person is “substandard,” identified, for example, by birth defects like Down Syndrome or old-age dementia, the body may be eliminated. The same goes for unwanted infants (pre- or post-born). The human body may never be permitted to impede or restrict the Gnostic person.
Christianity considers this notion abhorrent. Creation, including the human body, is very good. God made humanity made and female, with no remainder or alternative. Man doesn’t get to decide “gender.” God decides. And his decision is always very good.
The Resurrection is Key
Against Gnosticism and all forms of thought that deny the goodness of the body, resurrection unto glory is the restoration and enhancement of the original creational order. In a post-Fall world, resurrection testifies more than anything else to the dignity of the individual created in God’s image, for if God felt it necessary to raise his own Son’s body from the dead, he must hold man in his totality as created in his image and worthy of the highest creaturely dignity.
For this reason, no dogma could more viciously assault man than Gnosticism, and any revival of a faithful church or a Christian culture must presuppose the vanquishing of that depraved heresy. Indeed, a theology of the body, with its inherent goodness, is needed today. And thus, Christians must proclaim the resurrection for the sake of redemption and creation. Biblical ethics are not immaterial matters; they are spiritual and physical. And in a world gone mad, we must recover a Christian doctrine of resurrection over against a Gnostic form of pagan sexuality.