Lesson 88- Natural Wisdom vs God's Wisdom
I began my last program with the question, “Is the goal of human existence a trouble-free life?” and then spent the rest of the program demonstrating that the answer was “No!” Whether you look at the natural world that is based on the laws of Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest, or the philosophy of Hegel who says that the law of life is struggle, or Fredrick Douglas, the ex-slave, who said “Without struggle there is no progress” or Jesus struggling up the Hill of Golgatha it appears that the God who made this universe values struggle and expects that those who would follow Him to accept this as a pre-condition for salvation. And if there is any remaining doubt consider this reading from the Book of Sirach in the Bible:
“My son, when you come to justice and fear, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, incline your ear and receive the word of understanding, undisturbed in time of adversity. Wait on God, with patience, cling to Him, forsake him not ; thus will you be wise in all your ways. Accept whatever befalls you, when sorrowful be steadfast, and in crushing misfortune be patient; for in fire gold and silver are tested, and worthy people in the crucible of humiliation. Trust God and God will help you; trust in Him, and He will direct your way…”
In short, “if you want life and you want it fully, pick up your Cross and follow the Truth.”
We live in a time of pleasure and ease and we naturally fall into the trap of believing that pleasure is of God and pain is of the devil, which is just a disguised form of the philosophy of hedonism that says that pleasure is good and pain is bad. The natural man, because of his connection to the natural world, has difficulty understanding that there could be any redemptive value in struggle, pain, or suffering and yet that is what St. Paul meant when he said beginning in 1 Corinthians 1:17
“ For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not in wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made void. For the message of the cross
is to them that perish foolishness; but to those who are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the discernment of the discerning I will I bring to nothing. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hasn’t God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For seeing that in God’s Wisdom the world through its wisdom couldn’t know God, it was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of the Cross to save them that believed. The Jews ask for signs, and Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, which is a stumbling-block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles but for those who are called it is the power and wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men…”
This is what Peter, thinking as a natural man, didn’t understand when Jesus said that He had to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die. And that is why Jesus rebuked him by saying, “Get thee behind me Satan for you are looking at this from the eyes of man and not from the eyes of God.”
Thus, there seems to be two kinds of wisdom. The “wisdom of the world” and the “wisdom of God.” The “wisdom of the world” is the “wisdom of the flesh” that operates according to the laws of hedonism. The “wisdom of God” is the “wisdom of the spirit” that operates according to the laws of struggle. Anyone who thinks that as Christians we are called to a life of hedonistic pleasure and ease does not understand the message of the Cross which, as Paul said, is a “stumbling-block” to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.” This life, it appears, is a testing ground in which the “laws of the flesh”, which is destined for destruction, are slowly being replaced by the “laws of the spirit”, which is destined to live forever.
Both wisdoms seem to be a part of God’s plan unless we choose to believe that the natural world was created by someone else other than our God. This was the heresy of the Manicheans who, in the infancy of the Church, claimed there were two gods: one who created the material world and the “flesh” and the other who created the spiritual world. They rejected the material natural world because of it obvious harshness. They even went so far as to condemn sexual reproduction because of its connection to lustful feelings and passions. The Church condemned this as a heresy because they also rejected the human nature of Jesus claiming that He had no part in the natural “world of the flesh.”
The Church taught that He shared fully in our human nature and was tempted with the same worldly desires that we all experience. Thus, according to the scriptures, Jesus was tempted three times by the devil in the desert. One involved his flesh’s need for food; another His natural desire for power; and the third involved presumptuous pride. And, of course, His greatest overcoming of the “flesh” occurred in His Passion and death where he faced torture and death rather than reject his Father’s will. By doing this, He raised the natural to the supernatural and saved “flesh” from the futility of never being able to please God because of its dependency on feelings.
Our salvation resulted from His overcoming of the “flesh” by raising it to a higher level. Thus, from the Church’s point of view, the “world of the flesh” is a necessary stepping stone to the “world of the spirit.” In God’s Plan, creation had to go through it just as the Hebrew people had to go through the Wilderness of Sin on their journey from the slavery of Egypt to the freedom of the Promise Land. Why it had to be this way is known only by God, but by faith we accept that it was dictated by His Wisdom. In the fullness of time, God planned to offer, as a “free gift”, the opportunity to move to a higher level of existence to all those who asked. As Jesus said, “Come to Me all you who labor and toil and I will give you rest. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Thus, to move to the next level, one merely has to freely accept the invitation. However, as St. John says the reason that God condemns Man is because the Light (of understanding) came into the world but Men loved darkness.
Those who live by the flesh will die in the flesh, and their spirit will remain in the Gehenna into which we were all born, and those who live by the spirit are on path of Truth that leads to eternal life.
Perhaps some of you will recall the story about two of my married friends, who because of their lack of education, were gifted with great intuitive spiritual insights that they often experienced through visions and dreams. The wife, whose name was May, told me of an incident that happened while she and her husband were praying at the dinner table after their meal. She saw Jesus standing at the top of a road. He beckoned to her and told her to follow Him. After they had gone only a short distance, they came to a fork in the road: one leading left and the other leading right. The Lord said, “Let’s go down the left fork, May.” As they proceeded, she said, “ The road was glorious. The sun was shining, the trees were blooming, birds were singing, and the road was smooth and straight. After only a short period, they came to a door that stretched across the road. Jesus said, “Open the door, May.” She obeyed and a chilling darkness enveloped her that terrified her and almost sucked the life out of her. The Lord closed the door and said, “Let’s go back to where the road divides. When they arrived, He said “Let’s go down the right fork.” This road was just the opposite of the first one. The sky was dark and stormy. Instead of flowers there were thorn bushes that scratched and punctured her skin. The road itself had rocks, sharp stones, and broken glas that bruised and cut her feet and it descended into deep valleys and rose to high mountains. She said that it seemed like it would never end. Then suddenly another door appeared that stretched across the road. The Lord told her to open it and when she did a bright, warm light enveloped her that gave her a sense of total acceptance and love. After the Lord closed that door they returned to where the road divided. When they arrived, He said, “May, I place before every human being these two roads and they are free to go down either one and, even change their minds. However, once they reach the end of the road, they must go through the door.”
Do you get it? The first road was the road of hedonism and it led to perdition. The second road was the road to Calvary and it led to life eternal. And the problem that faces each of us is that the natural man is programmed to follow the first road and that is why Jesus says that we must be “born again” to a supernatural level.
Does this mean that we have to live lives of agony in order to be saved? I hope not because I like to be as happy as anybody else. However, I do believe that it requires that at some point in our lives, we must bring our flesh under the control of our rational mind and that is why the Church has instituted the practices of fasting and penance and periods like Lent. While we are in our flesh there will always be a struggle between the flesh and the spirit that even St. Paul had to face. In Roman 7:21 he says:
“ It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love to do God’s will so far as my new nature is concerned but there is something else deep within me, in my lower nature that is at war with my mind and wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. In my mind I want to be God’s willing servant but instead I find myself still enslaved to sin.
So you see how it is: my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature? Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ, our Lord. He has set me free. ..For the power of the life-giving Spirit- and this power is mine thorough Christ Jesus- has freed me from the vicious circle of sin and death.”
Notice that Paul, even though he has been “born again” is still struggling with his lower nature. What has changed is an attitude that in the long term will lead him out of sin. It has taken him from the hopeless circle of the flesh and placed him on a linear path to salvation. In other words, he is now willing to be saved from his sinful nature.
Thus, the real issue is not whether we have completely conquered the flesh because, according to St. Paul, it is a life-long struggle. What matters is whether we are open to the graces that flow to us through the sacrificial death of Jesus. We are saved by grace and not by our own ability. And that is why the Church instituted the sacraments as conduits of graces that are designed to help us at specific times in our lives. And the two greatest are the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Eucharist because it is the reoccurring reminder to the Father of the sacrificial offering of His Son for our sake and it touches His heart and releases a great abundance of graces. The Sacrament of Reconciliation because it keeps our “sense of sin” alive by reminding us that there are still parts of us that fall short of the expectation of God and by indicating our continuing desire to roots these imperfections out of our being through the graces bestowed by the sacrament. But, like anything else, we must be willing to cooperate with these graces in order for them to become effective in our lives.
The problem that faces us as Christians in our battle with the Secular Humanist for the hearts and minds of men is that our message of the “cross” sounds absurd to people who are still grounded in the “flesh” and their message of “Let it all hang out!” or “Do your own thing” sounds so appealing to them.
They have the easy task of appealing to the flesh and we have a much harder task of trying to bring it under the control of the spirit. However, although in the short term there message seems to be more appealing, in the long term it is our message that brings the peace that goes beyond understanding. Thus, the more evil succeeds, the more certain we can be that a revival is coming when, people, disgusted with the “fruits of evil”, will go searching for something that has lasting value. Thus, Pope John Paul II was correct when he said, “Do not be afraid… this is the springtime of the Church.” The Church is being pruned of “dead wood”: the priests who have scandalized it through their behavior and the laity who, because of their apathy and lack of commitment, either don’t attend Mass or, when they do, rob the Mass of it vitality by their lackluster participation.
God is preparing the Church for battle and only the truly committed will be part of His army. So this is not a time for rest. It is a time for the preparation of our hearts and spirits to breathe new vitality into the Body of Christ. God is ready to take us to a new level and those whose hearts remain in the past will be left behind. A new synthesis is in the making in which the best of the old will be joined with the best of the new and the Church, which is already dying in Europe, will bloom again as if in springtime. As St. Paul says, “The whole creation groans as a woman in childbirth awaiting the revelation of the sons and daughters of God.” There is a New World Order coming but it isn’t going to be Brave New World or Communism, or Socialism, or any other Secular Humanist counterfeit version of the Kingdom of God. It will be the vision of the ancient Hebrew prophets who foretold of a time when “the deserts will bloom, the lion will lay down with the lamb, justice and peace will kiss, and men will take their weapons of war and beat them into tools for farming.” It is a time when God will come and live with us and He will replace our “hearts of stone” with “hearts of flesh” and no longer will we have to teach our children His laws because He will write them upon their hearts.
However, we must remember that we are involved in a spiritual warfare and the weapons are spiritual. In Ephesians 6, St. Paul writes:
“ Last of all I want to remind you that your strength must come from the Lord’s might power within you. Put on the all of God’s armor so that you will be bable to stand safe against all strategies and tricks of Satan. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against spirits- the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world. So use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks, and when it is all over, you will still be standing. But to do this you will need the strong belf of truth and the breastplate of God’s approval. Wear shoes that are able to speed you on as you preach the Good News of peace. In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan. And you will need the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit- which is the word of God. Pray all the time. Ask God for anything in line with the Holy Spirit’s wishes. Plead with him, reminding him of your needs, and keep praying earnestly for Christians everywhere.”
We are involved in a battle of lifestyles and our major weapon is our own lifestyle that, once it is lived with vision of purpose and unity of spirit, will present to the world an “offer that they can’t refuse” because its very wisdom is the antidote they need for their foolishness. For every problem they have, we have the answer and for every solution they try, we have an alternate one that is better. Often it is not their “ends” with which we disagree but their “means.” So in order to clarify this essential difference let me review with you some of the current means being used by the world, if, carried to their logical conclusion, lead to the horror that Huxley described in Brave New World.
When Huxley wrote Brave New World in 1933, the technology to do the things he described was not available. However, currently science and technology can either do, or are on the threshold of doing, nearly everything described in the book. For example, "in vitro" fertilization is commonplace; human embryos have been grown in petri dishes for as much as 14 days; the development of an artificial womb increases as a possibility; some scientists have claimed to have cloned human beings and the Communist Chinese have refused to sign an international agreement to ban human cloning as they intend to forge ahead in this area; genetic engineering is a growing industry and these businesses are already talking about creating babies to the parent's specifications; Pavlovian conditioning has been used in Russia in an attempt to create babies that don't cry and modern psychological knowledge has been used extensively in children TV to implant messages, both consciously and unconsciously, encouraging them to buy certain products or follow different fads; morality based on logical principles is quickly being replaced by catchy slogans like “different strokes for different folks!”. In countries like Sweden, where Secular Humanism has found willing ears, the government is assuming more and more responsibility for the care, training, and rearing of the children and many complain that it is undermining the family as the major social institution for paradigm formation.
However, until recently, the major barrier to the creation of Brave New World has been our attitude against the use of science and technology in this manner. But, beginning in the 1960's, there began a major assault on the traditional values of our society, especially as they related to sex, sexual roles, marriage, and the family. Some looked upon these changes as corrections of past "socially patterned defects"; others saw them as the eroding away of the very values that made our country so great.
The combatants can be divided generally between the conservative, "right wing", which is identified mainly with the Republican Party and the liberal, "left wing", which is identified mainly with the Democratic Party but the real battle is between the forces of Christianity and Secular Humanism. However, no matter which side of the argument a person may support there is no doubt that attitudes changes are in the direction of Brave New World. For example:
1. Since the 1960's, the idea of recreational sex outside of the social institution of marriage has gain more and more popular acceptance. Before this, program like Ozzie and Harriet typified the attitude of the networks towards fornication and adultery. Without a doubt, they represented the view of our Judeo/Christian values. However, today’s TV programs treat both fornication and adultery as a casual part of life that no longer attracts any attention or question. If anything, it is a rarity to see any sit-com or drama present monogamous marriage as a norm. At first, there was a subtle insertion of both behaviors into programs that followed the traditional format but then gradually the programmers kept pushing the line until today there has been a total flip-flop. The individuals in today stories are lone rangers who rarely are connected to an intact family. Sex has become a personal rather than a social act involving individuals rather than families. Also, now that sex has become mainly a recreational activity, elderly people whose sex drives have weakened and/or disappeared are encouraged to restore their interest in sex through Viagra and other drugs and devices. In Brave New World, the World Controller was quotes as saying, “Now- such is progress - that the old work; the old men have sex; the old men have no time. No rest from pleasure, not a moment to sit down and think.” Thus, the young who used to look to the old for wisdom and good example now find that the elderly are “swingers” themselves who often disregard the Sixth Commandment.
Years ago a Jewish teacher I knew who has just recently lost his wife of 35 years told me that his friends kept advising him to get back in the “swing of thing” by attending senior citizen events. He kept putting them off but finally relented. With a look of disgust on his face, he said, “Reilly, do you know what sex has become today?” I said, “No!” He said, “It has become a pelvic handshake. And that mind you is among the senior citizens.”
With the advent of the "pill" many parents began to give their teenage girls (and sometimes boys) a "mixed message" about sex outside of marriage". The parental warning to their daughter of “Don’t fool around. And I mean it!” has been replaced with "Don't fool around but, if you do, protect yourself." Every kid knows that this really means that it is alright to fool around sexually as long as you don’t get pregnant. Thus, the young who used to look to the parents and society in general to help them control and check their rampant sexual impulses during adolescent find themselves abandoned by both. As a result, they are being pulled into impermanent and emotionally destructive relationships at earlier and earlier ages because they find it harder and harder to say “No!” even when they really want to. Recently, CNN interview two liberal Jewish high school girls who had just written a book informing parents that they had to accept the fact that today’s teenagers have a different value structure from their parents. Their values, according to them, have been greatly influenced by MTV and in today’s world sexual activity begins in the sixth grade. My own students claim that it begin in the fifth grade and one girl insisted that it was the third. You might remember that in Brave New World children were encouraged to play erotic games.
The problem is that those liberal forces that are pushing our children in this direction act like we are merely animals with physical impulses that need to be released and satisfied. They forget that we are rational beings who put more into sex than our bodies. As human beings, there is an emotional element involving our self-worth and self respect. This was brought home to me while watching a documentary on sexual values in which a young Jewish girl from a very liberal family was bragging to the camera that her parents routinely allowed her current boyfriends to sleep overnight in her bed. At first, she seemed to be totally accepting of the idea and then, in the middle of the interview, she broke down and cried. When asked why she was crying, she said, “Well, sometimes when the boy laying next to me says that he loves me, I really wished that he did!” There you have it, the fly in the liberal ointment. We have pills that can prevent a girl from getting pregnant but we don’t have one to prevent her from feeling that she is being “used”.
Another liberal parent that I knew told me he didn’t mind how many boys his seventeen-year-old daughter slept with so long as they weren’t “scuzz-bags.”
Scandanavian girls in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, where secular humanistic values have replaced the Judeo/Christian ones, are known for their sexual availability since their parents and society accept the inevitability of sexual activity at puberty. Contraception is taught and whatever that doesn’t prevent abortion does since it was reported that over 50% of the babies in Sweden are aborted. Sweden is also noted for its child pornography industry. Many of our very liberal minded intellectuals are impressed by these socialistic states and want to model our own country after them.
Thus, recreational sex is quickly replacing reproductive sex in this country and throughout the world and we haven’t seen all of the implications yet.
Margaret Mead, a famous anthropologist, while being interview on Channel 12 proposed the mandatory sterilization of all children at birth because it was obvious that the "pill" had not stopped unwanted pregnancies since they have increased by 400% since the 1960's among unmarried teenagers. She said that they could be unsterilized when they got tired of "recreation sex" and wanted to settle down and have families.
However, it appears that we wont have to wait for the state to sterilize us. We are busily doing that for ourselves. A growing number of educated, professionally oriented young men and women are choosing sterilization as an option because they see their career as a lifelong priority which does not leave any room for children. As a result a new type of childless family is becoming institutionalized as terms like DINK (Double-income, No kids) find their way into our language.
It appears that this mentality has even crept into the Christian churches. I was surprised to learn that many Protestant men choose to have vasectomies after a few children and I would not be surprise to discover that the same is happening in the Catholic Church.
On the other hand, while the professionally well-educated and religiously committed lean towards small families or no families at all, more and more children are being born to high school dropouts, addicted mothers, and the mentally and emotionally disturbed.
It doesn’t take a genius to see what the long term effects of this might be. Social bodies and biological bodies lose people or cells every day and must replace them it they wish to continue to function. Thus, there is a constant replacement of dead cells and people going on in our biological and society bodies respectively. In the reproduction of both, there always occur some irregularities that, so long as they are few in number and are not reproducing, can be tolerated. We call these irregularities “cancer” and every biological and social bodies has some. In biological bodies they are the warts and irregular growth of cells that most of us have. In the social bodies, they are the unsocialized or poorly socialized people who don’t fit in because they never learned the social code of the society. They either end up in jails or in sub-marginal areas of society where they often receive aid or assistance without giving back any positive service.
Like irregular cell growth in the body that, because it is not growing, is benign, these people pose no threat to the survival of the society. However, just as biological cancer threatens the body when a benign cell mass begins to grow and multiply, so society is equally threatened when those who are dysfunctional begin to grow and multiply faster than those who are healthy and functional. When this happens people who would never have consider it before begin to entertain the idea of “forced sterilization” which is already happening in places like Communist China.
In Brave New World, the majority of the females were sterilized at birth and became freemartins whose sole job was to provide sexual recreation for any male who asked them. And finally, the state, in the name of quality control, took over the reproductive function of sex and left the secondary purpose of pleasure to the people.
As I said, the only thing between us and Brave New World is our attitudes and these are quickly being shifted in that direction. There are even more warning signs but I see that my time is up, so I’ll have to continue this analysis in my next program.