Last week well-respected and bestselling New Testament scholar and retired Anglican Bishop N.T Wright wrote a letter to The Times of London weighing in on what he calls “confusion about gender identity.” According to Wright, a professor at Prince William’s alma mater St. Andrews, “confusion about gender identity is a modern and now internet-fueled form of the ancient philosophy of Gnosticism.”
For nearly 1,800 years, orthodox Christians have described Gnosticism as an archetypical heresy that threatened the survival and integrity of Christianity itself. So, what Wright is really saying here is not just that transgender people and their allies are a particular kind of heretic, but they are the oldest and most dangerous kind. It’s a form of theological slander and in Christian circles it has frequently functioned as a conversation-ending accusation. The problem with Wright’s statement is that he is dressing up theological polemic as history and slandering an ancient group in order to denounce a modern one. And his analysis matters because he is an academic whose work is greatly favored by evangelical Christians on both sides of the Atlantic.
In his letter, Wright states that Gnostics view themselves as the “one who ‘knows’ [and] has discovered the secret of ‘who I really am’ behind the deceptive outward appearance.” He adds that Gnosticism “involves denying the goodness, or even the ultimate reality, of the natural world.” Read more via the Daily Beast