Originally posted July 7, 2021.
A few things have been changed to “protect the innocent.” <grin >
This post is primarily for my Christian Brothers and Sisters. Obviously all are welcomed to read.
From my Classic Christian point of view let me briefly lay out the Big Picture. This will give theological context to my writings about today’s Gender Identity Moment. You can find more detail about this big picture in my previous posts. Especially, “But, I Love That Body.” And “He Told The Women to Go Away.”
God created a bi-natured world of these constitutive parts, Heaven & Earth, Spirit and Matter, Soul (mind) and Body, Male and Female.
[I’m not forgetting all the other beautiful creatures great and small, nor the sun and the moon, or the land and the sea, but these are the major categories.]
It may seem counter-intuitive, but, yes, Heaven was created too. Classic Christianity maintains that the Triune God existed before the creation of the Heavens and the Earth. In other words, only God is ultimately Transcendent. Only God is uncreated. Everything else exists on a creational plane. Only God “stands over” and thereby has ultimate authority and control over what has been created.
Before going further, let me clear up what may be puzzling to some. By juxtaposing Heaven and Earth, Spirit and Matter, Male and Female, Soul and Body, as I have done am I not saying that maleness corresponds with Heaven, Spirit and Soul and that femaleness corresponds with Earth, Matter and Body and isn’t that dichotomy more than slightly demeaning? Some might say, objectifying?
Well, first of all, the main point is the union of each pairing, or the complementarity of each pair and not the correspondence between the different pairings. For example, both males and females are a mysterious unity of spirit and matter, or if you prefer, soul and body. Each of us have an integrated invisible and visible nature.
Second let me question a further assumption that many make here, an assumption made especially by disciples of Plato (It’s possible to be a disciple of Plato and not know it!) That assumption is something I’ve called, unequal creational dualism.
Unequal Creational Dualism regards the second place position in each pairing as inferior to the first. For example, Plato linked the irrational and physical with the female sex, and the rational and spiritual with the male sex. Making males superior to females in his mind. And only in his mind! Unfortunately his was a very influential mind.120th Century Mathematician & Philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, once said the safest way to characterize Western Philosophy “is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”
But with respect to the great Plato, I reject this unequal dualism on biblical grounds. Because the heavens were created too. And also from the personal experience of knowing my wife and all the other great women in my life. (Not to mentioned throughout history).
Furthermore, I maintain that both parts of God’s bi-natured world were created EQUAL. But equal does not mean same. In the beginning Earth was created equal to Heaven and likewise matter was created equal to spirit. Just like God’s earthly family, humans, were created equal to God’s heavenly family, angels. One may have been created before the other. For example, created spirit before created matter, and heaven before earth, or angels before humans, but that doesn’t make them unequal, any more than adult offspring are unequal to their mothers or fathers. Also, according to the biblical account animals were created before humans.
Here is a scriptural reference to consider:
Revelation 22:8–9 (NRSV): I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me; but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God!”
Maybe you’ve not thought of God’s two families before, but according to Scripture, God created two Image-Bearing families. Equal yet different. One family of incorporeal beings, (angels) and another one of embodied souls (humans).
I view Equal Creational Dualism as a crucial interpretive key in Christian Theology.
For example, we can think of heaven as being another dimension of God’s created order. Don’t be thrown off by spacial metaphors, though the scriptures sometimes suggest those metaphors. Heaven is simply another dimension where God “resides” for the time being. Which means heaven, like our God, is not far off, but very near.
Because of “The Fall” (the fall of angels and humans) the bi-natured world has been separated, first from God, but also from intended creational integration. However, here comes the Good News, God’s Big Picture plan is to bring the two parts of the created cosmos back together again in a holy marriage.
At the center of the original cosmological marriage was a Garden, Eden, in the book of Genesis. At the center of the future cosmological marriage, is a Garden City, New Jerusalem, found in the book of Revelation. These are the Two Garden bookends of Holy Scripture.
I know what I’m writing now will sound Freudian. But I don’t care. This is the biblical witness. And it preceded Siggy Freud by thousands of years. God’s interlocking and overlapping bi-natured world has, at its united center, a Garden of Life. A place where life happens. And the Living God dwells.
Gardens in the Ancient Near East were often regarded as Temples. That’s the case here. The temple garden is the place where heaven and earth overlap, interlock and come together. Hopefully forever. The living God meets with the people of God in that sacred area of overlap. It might help to think of a simple Venn diagram to picture what I mean. As one would expect, the Garden-Temple is a place where life happens. From this Garden Center the dominion mandate of scripture to “be fruitful and multiply” and “take dominion” is inaugurated.
The first commandment in scripture was to have sex and make babies. The objective was to spread God’s kingdom rule by multiplying God’s Earthly Image-Bearers, God’s representatives, across the entire planet. This Big Picture, bi-natured fruit-producing forward-looking existence makes abundant sense to me. Anthropologically. Cosmologically. Soteriologically. Eschatologically. It all fits together as part of The Big Picture design and plan of God. And that plan has not been altered!
How about you? Does that make sense to you? Given what you know of the biblical story? Of God’s creation?
Unfortunately down through the ages, Christians have gotten themselves into trouble by disregarding the importance of either side of God’s bi-natured creation. God created both the invisible world and the visible world and called all of it “very good.”
Visit my post “But I Love That Body” to get more detail on how and why Christians have gone off track. Hint: Plato and other Plato-like worldviews; the unequal dualisms that elevate the invisible and denigrate the visible realm.
The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise – Benjamin West – 1791
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
But as you know disobedience crept in and a breach occurred between God and God’s Image-Bearers. This resulted in the bi-natured parts being separated, parts that were originally designed by God to harmoniously overlap and interlock. Most of us in the Western world are somewhat familiar with what theologians call “The Fall.” But you might not realize there was also a fall in heaven as well as one on earth. A fall before the human fall. This explains the crafty evil serpent in the story, who was more than just a serpent. We know much more about the human fall, but according to Scripture both Image-Bearing families experienced a fall. Creational brokenness, pain and misery have been the sad result. And yet because of the Risen Christ, who was broken on our behalf, who has now ascended to heaven IN a human body, God’s good creation is guaranteed future integration, future wholeness.
Our job now is to align ourselves with God’s plan for creational wholeness.
But there is a problem. Some on the Theological “Right” and the Theological “Left” have been tricked into abandoning God’s bi-natured creational intent. They do this by denying one part, the material part, of God’s good creation. It is an “overspiritualized” anti-creational theology.
On the Right you often encounter the “I’ll Fly Away” mentality. This ol world is not my home, they say and sing. One day Jesus will come and rapture us from this earthly coil and we will live with God eternally in heaven. This view sometimes reduces Christian witness to the “saving of souls.” Less care for the rest of God’s earthly order, ecological life, cultural life, etc., naturally results from this reduced theology. Why polish brass on a sinking ship, some say. Rescuing souls, that’s our business!
On the Theological Left you often find a disregard of one particular bit of matter, the most important human body ever created, and then reconstituted, the Risen Body of our Lord and Saviour. Many on the Theological Left deny the central event of our Faith, the risen body of Jesus. For various modern reasons they “spiritualize” the event. Jesus and what he stands for has been “raised” in our consciousness, they say. But the apostle Paul is clear on this point, if Jesus’ body remained in the tomb then we are pitiable fools to believe the Gospel message that “Jesus is Lord” for he has not conquered Sin and Death if his body did not rise. Since only the body dies, if the body remains dead, then death has not been defeated, only accepted. And Jesus is NOT LORD.
To “overspiritualize” in this way is to preach a false Gospel.
1 Corinthians 15:16–19 (NRSV): If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
We might as well become hedonists. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die, Paul says, if Jesus’s body stayed in the ground.
Also the denial of bodily resurrection means
bodily life has no transcendent meaning.
But that’s not what the Scriptures teach or the Church Historic at its best has taught.
My friends on the Theological Left who are willing to discard the bodily resurrection of Jesus and view the Christian Faith in more “spiritual” terms have misconstrued the Biblical Plan. God’s plan includes the rescue and reconciliation of God’s bi-natured creation so that God can dwell at the center of that reconciled created reality. Again, it is about having the Temple of God at the center of God’s very good creation.
For us humans our charge is to think Godly thoughts and do Godly deeds, as best we can, while we pray “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as in heaven.”
Heaven and Earth. Soul and Body. All of it. Rejoined in an unbroken state of holy matrimony is the intended Big Picture Plan.
Jesus’s bodily resurrection was “the first fruit” of a new creation begun on Easter morning.21 Cor 15:20 (NRSV) But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. A new creation, a new Eden, to be fully consummated at the reconciliation of all things when Heaven and Earth are finally remarried. “I saw a new heaven and a new earth.”3Revelation 21:1
This is the Big Picture celebration that is in our future. And marriage between God’s bi-natured creation is the interpretive key to understanding our past, present & future.
Let me bring this post back to our current concerns. Some of my friends on the Theological Left, especially many members and leaders of the Episcopal Church USA, have jettisoned creational Truth and the transcendent creational value of our bodily life in favor of an unbiblical “spirituality.” When they affirm today’s various Gender Identities as just another expression of God’s diverse world they have opposed creational Truth. In so doing, they have “privileged” the invisible inner life over the visible life of the body, effectively and un-scripturally separating body from soul. Never God’s intent. They do so ostensibly for the purpose of loving everyone and welcoming difference. A laudable goal.
But it is our loving Lord who taught us we were created “male and female.” There are no other options. Not for those who confess a belief in a Creator and wish to remain anchored by the biblical witness.
"Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,..for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." [Matt 19:4-6]
Analogous to this is the marriage of Soul & Body. I believe Jesus would also say about this marriage “what God has joined together, let no one separate.” For the separation of body from soul is the definition of death.
Episcopalian “affirming love” which seeks to affirm the self-assertion of confused individuals, individuals who regard their biological sex, their God-given body, as a material mistake, a mistake that must be corrected and remade in their preconceived image, is a direct consequence of having deemphasized, doubted, & disbelieved for decades the essential doctrinal truths of the Historic Faith: Creation. Incarnation. Bodily Resurrection of Jesus. Bodily Ascension of Jesus. Bodily Return of Jesus. And Bodily Resurrection of Believers.
It is all there in The Ancient Creed’s that most Episcopalian’s still recite every Sunday. But do they still believe them?
If our affirmations of difference don’t align with Truth those affirmations won’t be loving. They can’t be.
Because these theological errors have led many on the Theological Left to believe that bodily life has no transcendent value, they are uniquely susceptible to the arguments of today’s Gender Identity Moment.
Do you see how someone with my theology simply cannot in good conscience disregard bodily life? I can’t accept that only my internal disposition, will or desire, my invisible nature, determines who I am as God’s created being. For God made me body and soul. Today’s Gender Identity Moment runs afoul of God’s creational design. Therefore it must be rejected.
God’s creational design and plan to rescue the creation from its fallen disordered state must be our loving message to anyone who doesn’t identify with their biological sex. (People with gender-dysphoria). And we must not be intimidated into silence because of a spurious understanding of what it means to love my broken neighbor. Love divorced from Truth will be fruitless.
We must embrace, but not affirm. [See my post “Embrace, Don’t Affirm“]
And I must also lovingly say, for I know many Episcopalian brothers and sisters, the affirming stance of your denomination on this issue is one reason why the Episcopal Church USA is dying. A recent report by your denomination reveals that if current trends continue then by 2050 there will be no one sitting in your pews. No one. That’s just 27 years from now. [This survey was conducted in 2019, pre-Covid.]
Marriages and baptisms have dwindled well below replacement levels. Other mainline denominations show similar trajectories. One Episcopal priest called the results “dire.”
“The overall picture is dire – not one of decline as much as demise within the next generation unless trends change significantly,” said the Rev. Dwight Zscheile, an expert in denominational decline and renewal. An Episcopal priest, Zscheile is vice president of innovation and associate professor of congregational mission and leadership at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. “At this rate, there will be no one in worship by around 2050 in the entire denomination,” Zscheile told Episcopal News Service.
Hollowed out places of worship could be the result, if changes don’t happen quick. The Flight from Orthodoxy coupled with a desire to follow “the fresh winds of the Spirit” are the culprits here. Proclaiming “inclusion” as an organizing principal has led, ironically, to including fewer people in the life of Episcopal communities. Conceding to a culture of “personal autonomy” and “self-creation” such as we find in this current Gender Identity Moment will not end well for Episcopalians. Or any other Christian denomination that follows their lead.
For those who have ears to hear. Hear.