IT is only in hindsight now that perhaps Romans Chapter 1 has become one of the most prophetic passages in the New Testament. St. Paul lays out an intriguing progression: denial of God as Lord of Creation leads to vain reasoning; vain reasoning leads to a worship of the creature; and worship of the creature leads to an inversion of human **ity, and the explosion of evil.
Romans 1 is perhaps one of the chief signs of our times…
sophistry: a deliberately invalid argument displaying ingenuity in reasoning in the hope of deceiving someone.
[Satan] was a **er from the beginning… he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)
As I explain in my book The Final Confrontation, as well as in Episode 3 of Embracing Hope, the “great dragon… that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan” (Rev 12:9) begins one of his final assaults on humanity—not in the form of violence (which will come)—but philosophy. Through sophistries, the dragon begins to lie, not with an outright denial of God, but a suppression of the truth:
The wrath of God is indeed being revealed from heaven against every impiety and wickedness of those who suppress the truth by their wickedness. For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them. Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. (Rom 1:18-19)
Indeed, just like Adam and Eve, pride was the fowler’s snare. The seeds of the philosophy deism (late 16th century) were sown in the minds of men—the notion that God created the heavens and earth, but then left them, and mankind’s moral future, solely to reason alone. This led to further philosophies that began to deny the “invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity,” such as rationalism, scientism, and materialism that generally viewed human existence from a purely rational and materialistic perspective, relegating the supernatural to mere superstition or myth.
Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes. (Rom 1:21-23)
St. Paul describes a natural progression: when God is shoved aside, man—who because he was designed for God, and the worship of God—then begins to turn the object of his worship to creation itself. Hence, new and more elaborate philosophies began to emerge: evolutionism, for example, proposed that the universe and all of creation are mere matters of chance and an ongoing evolutionary process. Creation, particularly the human person, is not the fruit of a divine plan, but a mere process of “natural selection.” As such, this led to further more disturbing philosophies burrowed within Marxism: the idea that man not only could create his own utopia without God, but that man himself could determine the process of “natural selection” for himself. Hence, Communism and Nazism became the bloody fruits of Satan’s attempt to “suppress the truth” and determine the future. The dragon’s teeth were beginning to show.
The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the “intrinsically perverse” political form of a secular messianism. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, 676
But these satanic movements were only a foreshadowing—a warning of where humanity was going: straight into the mouth of the dragon, into a world-wide “culture of death.” All that was needed was essentially for three other philosophies to be wholly embraced: atheism (the outright denial of God); utilitiarianism (the ideology that actions are justified if they are useful or a benefit for the majority); and individualism that places one’s own wants and needs at the center of the universe, rather than one’s neighbour’s.
We cannot deny that the rapid changes occurring in our world also present some disturbing signs of fragmentation and a retreat into individualism. The expanding use of electronic communications has in some cases paradoxically resulted in greater isolation… Also of grave concern is the spread of a secularist ideology that undermines or even rejects transcendent truth. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, speech at St. Joseph’s Church, April 8th, 2008, Yorkville, New York; Catholic News Agency
Through psychologism and Freudianism, man’s understanding of himself became subjective. Ultimately, the entire order of things, even one’s own sexuality, then, could be perceived, manipulated, and twisted toward self. If there is no God, and therefore no moral absolutes, there is therefore no reason to deny oneself the passion’s of the flesh:
Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper. (Rom 12:24-28)
THE FINAL CONFRONTATION
Thus, we have arrived at what John Paul II called “the final confrontation”—a universal battle between the plan of God and the plan of the dragon; between a culture of life and a culture of death; between the dictates of God and the dictatorship of the dragon’s ultimate instrument of power: a beast that creates a new moral and natural order that opposes the divinity of Christ (Rev 13:1) and denies the intrinsic value of every human being; an order that upholds a…
… dictatorship of relativism that recognizes nothing as definite, and which leaves as the ultimate measure only one’s ego and desires. —Cardinal Ratzinger (POPE BENEDICT XVI) pre-conclave Homily, April 18th, 2005
…sin has thus made itself firmly at home in the world and denial of God has become wid espread”, and so many “almost apocalyptic menaces… gather like a dark cloud over mankind… more than it has ever been in any other period in the course of history. — POPE JOHN PAUL II, Homily at Mass in Fatima, May 13, 1982
THE CULTURE OF DEATH… AND THE ANTIDOTE
And so, St. Paul goes on to describe what a world will look like that exchanges the truth for a lie:
…since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper. They are filled with every form of wickedness, evil, greed, and malice; full of envy, **, rivalry, treachery, and spite. They are gossip and scandalmongers and they hate God. They are insolent, haughty, boastful, ingenious in their wickedness, and rebellious toward their parents. They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know the just decree of God that all who practice such things deserve death, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Rom 12:28-32)
In a letter to Timothy, St. Paul describes this outburst of evil, of a world where the “love of many has grown cold” (Matt 24:12), as behavior which will become prevalent “…in the last days” (2 Tim 3:1-5). The chief harbinger of this final embrace of wickedness, he says, will be a world where men not only deny God, but deny themselves… deny their physical, spiritual, and sexual nature.
Ultimately, the culture of death will not prevail. The dragon’s head will be crushed (Gen 3:15). The antidote to today’s sophistries are remarkably simple… as simple as becoming like a child in one’s approach to everything (Matt 18:3). That means embracing and living out the message of Divine Mercy, summarized in the little prayer Jesus taught St. Faustina: Jesus, I trust in you. In these words lies the path forward through “the valley of the shadow of death”:
For by grace you have been saved through faith… (Eph 2:8)
He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him…. I fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me. (John 3:36; Psalm 23:4)
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