December 13, 2009


What the temptations on the high mountain mean today: What are the salient evils of our time? They are two-fold. (Paul Johnson, February 25, 2009, The Spectator)

I have also been reading the Pope's new book, Jesus of Nazareth, the first part of a projected life of Christ, which has been published by Bloomsbury in an excellent translation by Adrian J. Walker. This book is worth reading for many reasons, but particularly for its presentation of Jesus as the upholder of absolute morality in the face of all temptations to compromise, to take the easy way out and to bow to current fashions and social orthodoxies. What particularly interested me is the Pope's treatment of Jesus's confrontation with Satan just before he began his ministry, above all the last of the 'Temptations'. Since there were no eye-witnesses, Jesus himself must have told his disciples what occurred, and their account later appeared in the Gospels. According to Matthew (iv 8-10), Satan took Jesus up on to a 'high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, "All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me."' Here, as the Pope points out, is the fundamental conflict between the world and the spirit. Is Jesus's mission, as the moral relativists would claim, simply to show goodwill, end world hunger and racism, save the planet and make people be nice to each other -- or is it something fundamentally different, the way to God and the Kingdom of Heaven?

As I see it, the Satan who confronted Jesus during this encounter is the personification of moral relativism, and the materialism which creates it. What we are shown is not merely 'all the kingdoms of the world' but the entire universe, in all its colossal extent, reaching backwards and forwards into infinity and beyond the powers of the human mind to grasp except in mathematical equations. We are told: this came into existence, not by an act of creation, but as a result of the laws of physics, which have no moral purpose whatever -- or indeed any purpose. There is no conceivable room for God in this process, and mankind is an infinitely minute spectator of this futile process about which he can do nothing, being of no more significance than a speck of dust or a fragment of rock. If you will accept this view of our fate, then there is just a chance that by applying the laws of science to the exclusion of any other considerations, and by dismissing the notion of God, or the spirit, or goodness, or any other absolute notion of truth and right and wrong, we shall be able marginally to improve the human condition during the minute portion of time our race occupies our doomed planet.

That is the temptation we are now offered. Science in all its totalitarian dogmatism, or nothing. An exclusively materialist approach to life and living. Not merely an extrusion of the spiritual but a formal denial of the existence of God, and of anything which contradicts or simply just adds to what the current scientific establishment tells us. The temptation to bow before scientism is given an extra edge by the current deification of Darwin, who finds himself, poor fellow, in the role of the anti-Christ, with his natural selection as an alternative to Christianity. Some people might argue that the survival of the fittest is a sound principle. Indeed that was the principle underpinning Hitler's race-theory and other manifestations of social Darwinism.

Hitler believed in biological Darwinism, not Social Darwinism. That's why he had to kill the Jews who had already assimilated to German society.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 13, 2009 10:29 PM
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