Evangelical Christians have a problem with Gnosticism. No, I don’t mean that some outsider is trying to persuade evangelicals of a secret revelation. I mean that conservative Christians have (sometimes) adopted a view of humanity that approximates the ancient and variegated philosophy of Gnosticism.
Here’s what I mean.
Do we grow by an inner-transformation?
Here’s the scenario. Your spouse struggles with anger. On certain days, he (or she) becomes more prickly than others. How do you diagnose that? For one segment of Christians, the answer is clear: he is sinning, and he needs to repent. This means prayer, confession, and relying on the Spirit. Practically, this means changing very little about one’s lifestyle per se; it means looking inward and purifying the spirit.
And while this is true and good advice, it could ignore the reality that we are bodies. We are composed of spirit and flesh—of inward realities and outward realities. And the union between these two realities results in a complex whole: we have bodies of flesh and spirit.
And this means that what we do with our bodies is spiritual. And what we do with our spirits is corporeal.
We grow by cultivating flesh and spirit
So let’s return to the scenario. Your spouse sometimes becomes angry and irritable. What’s the problem? Yes, he or she probably sins. Yes, your spouse likely needs to apologize. Yes, your partner likely needs to turn to spiritual resources.
And yes: your spouse likely needs to increase the number of hours of sleep he or she gets. Your wife or husband likely needs to take a sabbath rest during the week to recharge. Yes, he or she needs to put down the electronic devices for a few hours.
Christians grow as complex beings. Our spiritual problems often are physical problems. Well, to be more accurate, they are both spiritual and physical problems.
And so we are gnostics
If you’ve never considered that taking a nap might be the greatest contributor to your pursuit of godly virtue, then it’s possible that you are practising a gnostic spirituality. And many of us have thought this way from time-to-time.
But I would like to take a moment to encourage you to look to yourself and cultivate practices of sleep, relaxation, sabbath rest, scriptural meditation, prayer, fasting, and whatever else tends towards growth.
Brothers, we are not gnostics.
The first step is to rest
We are created in the image of God as bodies. On the seventh day, God rested to show us our need to rest and to point us toward the eschatological rest in him when our sight becomes reality.
Rest, whether sleep, naps, or relaxation, is a sign that points us to our final rest in God. Our hearts are truly restless until we find rest in God; and that rest becomes final when we all enter into the eighth-day, that eternal rest in God.
So if you struggle with anger today, repent and pursue the spiritual resources that God has given you. One such resource is rest. So take a nap. As D. A. Carson has said, sometimes the godliest thing you can do is to take a nap.