08 June 2009

The Revolt Of The Intellect Against God

Last month I posted “The Antichristian Revolt” by Henry Edward Cardinal Manning, the Archbishop of Westminster from 1865 to 1892. Here is another post from His Eminence which still seems pertinent in today’s culture.

“But yet, the Son of Man, when He cometh, shall He find, think you, faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8).

By this question our Divine Lord intends us to understand that, when He comes, He shall find many who do not believe, many who have fallen from the faith. Saint Paul says, “Now the Spirit manifestly saith that, in the last times, some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to spirits of error, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1). And again, Saint John says, “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that antichrist cometh, even now there are become many antichrists, whereby we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). The meaning therefore of our Lord is this: not that when He comes He will not find the Church He founded in all the plenitude of its power, and the faith He revealed in all the fullness of its doctrine. “The city seated upon the hill cannot be hid” (Matthew 5:14). It can never be separated from its Divine Head in heaven. The Spirit of Truth, Who came on the day of Pentecost, according to our Divine Lord’s promise will abide with it forever; therefore when the Son of God shall come at the end of the world, there shall be His Church as in the beginning, in the amplitude of its Divine authority, in the fullness of its Divine faith, and the immutability of its teaching. He will find then the light shining in vain in the midst of many who will be willingly blind; the teacher in the midst of the multitudes, of whom many will be willingly deaf; they will have eyes, and not see; and ears, and hear not; and hearts that will not understand. This, then, is the plain meaning of our Lord’s words.

The rejection of the Divine authority necessarily throws men upon the only alternative – human criticism applied to Scripture, to antiquity, to Fathers, to history, to Councils, and to the acts of the Holy See. There is nothing on the face of the earth which the human reason does not claim to subject to itself, to sit in judgment upon, to test as if it were the creation of man, to decide its credibility as if man were the measure of truth, to pronounce upon whether it be Divine or not. The result of this anarchy of criticism is, that multitudes of men have rejected Christianity altogether. Having applied the false principle of human criticism to the matter of Divine revelation, they have logically and consistently carried out the application of a false premise. The premise is false, its result is logical.

Moderate Rationalism consists in this: retaining a belief in Christianity, or the professing to believe it; but the believing of it only so much as, upon private criticism and its own judgment, the individual mind is disposed to retain. But is it not obvious at once that the human reason can only stand related to the revelation of God, either as a critic, or as a disciple in the presence of a Divine Teacher? The moment the human reason begins to criticize, to test, to examine, to retain, or to reject, it has ceased to be a disciple; it has become the critic; it has ceased to be the learner, it has become the judge; and yet find me, if you can, any middle point where the reason of man can stand between the two extremes of submitting to the Divine authority of faith as a disciple, and of criticizing the whole revelation of God as a judge. There is nothing between the two. He who shall believe all the articles of faith, and yet reject one of them, in that rejection rejects the whole Divine authority upon which all the articles of faith alike depend. This spirit of criticism begins in the rejection of the principle of Divine authority and the adoption of private judgment, which is essentially, though at first covertly, a violation of that Divine authority. The human reason thereby unconsciously assumes to itself to be the test and the measure of that which is to be believed.

The revolt of the intellect against God is against His existence, or against His revelation, or against His Divine authority. And there are two stealthy and incipient forms of intellectual revolt to which Catholics are tempted: the one of diminishing what they believe to a minimum, the other in reducing to the least that which they are bound to submit to in point of authority, or to practice in point of devotion.