Paul, continuing to describe the moral depredations of pagan
, goes deeper than a mere catalogue of vices: Rome
At the origin of all these negative things lies the negation of the truth in favor of what is convenient – or rather, of what is profitable. The starting point in man is a resistance to the evidential character of the Creator that is present in his heart as the sign of a Being who looks at him and summons him… Paul is far from regarding atheism, or an agnosticism that is lived out as atheism, as an innocent position. In his eyes, it is always the fruit of a refusal of that knowledge which is in fact offered to man; man is unwilling to accept the conditions attached to that knowledge.
Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, p. 96
Reflection – Strong language here! It is important to note that Ratzinger will go on in this essay, which I’ve already blogged about twice, to acknowledge that many who struggle with faith and are either atheists or agnostics are not consciously or deliberately resisting God out of malicious selfishness.
Nonetheless, we must acknowledge, at least in our own hearts, the truth of this observation. There’s something in us that just doesn’t want to be mastered, doesn’t want a God who is the Lord of all. To believe in God is to believe that I have a Lord. One of the turning points of my own life was a moment when I had a happy realization that Jesus, in fact, had a right to my obedience. I wasn’t doing him no favors by obeying him! I wasn’t being some kind of especially nice guy. It was a simple matter of justice. He is Lord; I am not; he is to be obeyed. Period.
And there is something in us all, for sure, that chafes at that God. And there is something in this world, for sure, in the very structure of our experience of the world, that bears witness to just that God, that Master. There is a Force (trust the Force, Luke!) that binds all reality together and gives it coherence, order.
And so, if we truly set ourselves towards our own self-will, our own devices and desires, then we must blind ourselves to these ‘signs of intelligent life in the universe’, deafen ourselves to the voice of goodness, truth, and beauty that echoes from the caverns of all beings, harden ourselves against the solicitations of all these creatures knocking Jehovah Witness-like at the doors of our minds and hearts to tell us they and we have a Maker.The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows forth the work of his hands. If we do not wish to glorify God or unite the work of our hands to His, then we must, ultimately, blind, deafen, harden, and deaden ourselves to ‘all of that’. The choice is always open to us; the way is always offered to us; the truth is, as Mulder and Scully kept telling us, ‘out there’. We can accept God and the world he made; if we reject God, we end up rejecting the world he made, too.