“Ancient Gnosticism in New Garb”?: Gnostic Anthropology, Transgenderism, and Christian Orthodoxy

Christian ethicists such as Oliver O’Donovan and Nancy Pearcey have compared the contemporary transgender and queer movement with the ancient Christian heresy of Gnosticism, with Pearcey describing the transgender movement as “ancient Gnosticism in new garb” (Pearcey, Love Thy Body, 196). This paper endeavors to explore the validity of this comparison, and the extent to which the ancient theological dialogue between the Gnostics and the orthodox Christians can aid the contemporary church’s dialogue with the modern transgender movement. The paper surveys ancient gnostic and orthodox Christian sources to present general characteristics of gnostic anthropology and the responses of early church fathers such as Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Tertullian. The paper then utilizes contemporary Christian and non-Christian scholarly work on transgenderism and Queer Theory, including the work of Judith Butler, to argue that there are valid ideological connections to be made between gnostic anthropology and the implicit and explicit anthropological ideas found in the contemporary transgender movement. Given the validity of this comparison, this paper argues that the modern church has much to glean from the discussions of the early church in their defense against Gnosticism. The orthodox views of creation, the body and sexuality, and the human person are strongly tied to core doctrines of the Christian faith and should inform contemporary Christian dialogue with proponents of Queer Theory and the transgender movement.

3 thoughts on ““Ancient Gnosticism in New Garb”?: Gnostic Anthropology, Transgenderism, and Christian Orthodoxy”

Leave a Comment