“Gnostic distaste for embodiment”

June 27, 2013

So… Anything interesting in the news this week?

Christianity Today posted a must-read article from Andy Crouch yesterday whose main point I’ve argued for a while (though not nearly as well): that embodied sexual differentiation matters to God.

What unites the LGBTQIA coalition is a conviction that human beings are not created male and female in any essential or important way. What matters is not one’s body but one’s heart—the seat of human will and desire, which only its owner can know.

Christians will have to choose between two consistent positions. One, which we believe Christians who affirm gay and lesbian unions will ultimately have to embrace, is to say that embodied sexual differentiation is irrelevant—completely, thoroughly, totally irrelevant—to covenant faithfulness.

The proof text for this view will be that in Christ, there is neither male nor female. And as with all readings based on proof texts, upholding it will require openly discarding a vast expanse of other biblical material, the many biblical voices (including Jesus’) that affirm and elucidate the significance of male-and-female creation…

It is no accident that as normative sexuality has been redefined, from an essentially exterior reality uniting male and female bodies to an essentially interior reality expressing one’s heart, the charges of bigotry have been heard more fiercely against those who hold the traditional Christian view. How dare we Christians speak against any person’s heart?

As Crouch argues, one thing at stake in the question of gay marriage, theologically, is that matter matters:

For behind the dismissal of bodies is ultimately a gnostic distaste for embodiment in general. To uphold a biblical ethic on marriage is to affirm the sweeping scriptural witness—hardly a matter of a few isolated “thou shalt not” verses—that male and female together image God, that the creation of humanity as male and female is “very good,” and that “it is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18, NRSV).

Sexual differentiation (along with its crucial outcome of children, who have a biological connection to two parents but are not mirror images of either one) is not an accident of evolution or a barrier to fulfillment. It is in fact the way God is imaged, and the way fruitfulness, diversity, and abundance are sustained in the world.

Crouch reminds us, however, that we Christians who affirm the traditional Christian teaching on human sexuality stand in solidarity with our LGBTQ neighbors in one important way:

All of us know, in the depths of our heart, that we are queer. Our yearnings, especially those bound up with our sexuality, are hardly ever fully satisfied by the biblical model of one man and one woman yoked together for life. Every one of us is a member of the coalition of human beings who feel out of place in our bodies east of Eden. And every one of us has fallen far short of honoring God and other human beings with our bodies.

5 Responses to ““Gnostic distaste for embodiment””

  1. Clay Knick Says:

    Wasn’t that brilliant? Andy is one sharp guy. I heard him at Duke Div. a few years ago, then again this past year. He came early to the event this year, walked in & sat right down beside me. We talked off & on over the next couple of days. He is one sharp brother. Have you read his, “Culture Making”? Excellent. His newest book, “Playing God” will be out in a few months with IVP.

  2. Clay Knick Says:

    Ben W3 calls Andy a polymath which is pretty spot on, I think. Andy worked for IVCF for a number of years at Harvard, then at some point got his M.Div. from Boston Univ. I’m so glad he’s at CT.

  3. Tom Harkins Says:

    Excellent points by Crouch. I do have a slight question about his final point. As with everyone else (not an excuse), I “fall short of the glory of God” with respect to “sexuality” issues. However, I would be careful about an argument that “all sins are created equal,” so to speak. Don’t know if Crouch is saying that with the closing you quote, but I note that some sins are “death penalty” sins, whereas others, such as theft, require “restitution +.” Sodom was burned to the ground. So, while I think we must all have humility and admit we are faulty, personally I think that homosexuality, which simply defies the divine plan for sexuality altogether, may be “worse” in that respect. Not all will receive the same heavenly rewards (1 Cor. 3), and not all the same punishments (few stripes versus many stripes).

    Also, I think there is another difference. Despite falling into sin, I recognize it to be sin (at least in retrospect) and am sorry and feel awful about it. Whereas, with most homosexuals, they say they are “okay,” and are not doing anything wrong. I think this “arrogance” about sin is another damning factor, if you will.

    • brentwhite Says:

      I agree that all sins aren’t created equal, but sexual sin is sexual sin—regardless of one’s orientation. The problem with Sodom was the extent of the depravity. But it’s easy enough to imagine that straight men could have wanted to rape female angels, if they exist, and how would that be any better? I strongly agree with you about repentance of recognized sin, however.


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