Gnostic heresies abandoning the accepted doctrine of the incarnation assailed the ancient church with their abjuration of the goodness of the material creation, approving, alternatively, an abstracted mysticism accentuating the mind and the acquisition of knowledge as the supreme essence of human existence.
Though resolutely rejected by the early councils, Gnosticism has resurrected. No longer relegated to the ivory towers of Greek philosophy; it resides in the pews, conferences, and educational institutions of American Protestantism. Forgetting humans are necessarily physical creatures; we opt instead for an anthropology almost solely defined by the human intellect.
Gnosticism’s revival remains so injurious, not merely because it thinks wrongly about God, but because it fails to form the Christian community in a way that orients us toward the Kingdom of God which is come to earth and is embodied in the practices, habits, and everyday lives of the people of God who actually have bodies.
As a seminary community, an education community, we too easily forget that the kingdom of God is not chiefly about changing the way people think, but about changing the way they acts, as well. The Wesleyan model of discipleship is grounded first in practice, then in knowledge. Not the other way around.
So when we attend chapel, church, or class, we must remember that we are not only there to learn, but to be formed and shaped for the Kingdom through the holistic, embodied, practices which accentuate the goodness of the whole person as reflections of the beauty of God’s creation. After all, “what if education isn’t first and foremost about what we know, but about what we love? (Smith, 18)” If this is the case, we can no longer hold a reductionist paradigm which views the Christian faith primarily as a “set of ideas, principles, claims, and propositions that are known and believed.” (Smith, 32) Rather, we need to explore Christian education and worship as that which forges our desires and loves through physical actions emphasizing the goodness of our embodiment.