Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World and Christian Gnosticism
Dystopian litterature has always held a dear place in my heart. I love the way the future
provides such a poignant way to critique the present. Though it was written in the early 30’s Brave New World endures as a scathing condemnation of where the culture could wind up. Huxley is very conscience to play up the pseudo-religion of the future. He cleverly replaces all of the trappings and replaces much of the symbolism of the church with that of the cult of the state/Our Ford. Crosses are replaced by T’s (in honor of the Model-T), communion is replaced by a communal orgy, and swearing with taking Henry Ford’s name in vain.
All of this dark humor is meant to be a cautionary tale of where we as a society may be headed. What is striking to me, is how he perceives/lampoons Christianity. The whole book shows that Christianity was left behind because of its ethereal insistence on the other world. Our bodies don’t matter (or so Huxley observed Christianity to teach) so in the cult of Ford, only our bodies matter. Christians insist (again according to Huxley) on strict aesceticism and so the cult of Ford is incredibly hedonistic.
So the question is whether or not Huxley’s perception of Christianity is true Christianity.
About 75 years before Huxley wrote Brave New World, there was a huge shift in the landscape of Christian theology. The prevailing theology began to shift away from an earthy faith to a spiritual faith. This change mirrored the change in the dominant view of the end times. As evangelicalism emerged in the early 20th, it was born in the climate of waning amillenialism and growing premillenialism.
In some ways popular premillenialism shares a number of things in common with one of the first Christian heresies, gnosticism. Both view teach that the physical body and physical earth are relatively unimportant. They both emphasize the spiritual nature of our faith and see our bodies as cages for the true us. Both tend to emphasize strict discipline and denial of bodily pleasure.
In some ways the Christianity that Huxley caricatures is an accurate portrayal of prevailing faith around him. Thankfully this is not the whole story. Throughout the past few centuries, the Reformed church has held up the view that we as humans are bodily beings in our creation, fall, redemption, and glorification. Our bodies and pleasures are model in the second person of the Trinity, the eternal man.