Worthy of Wonder
by Fr. Robert D Smith
In Dostoyevski's great novel, "The Brothers Karamazov", we read: "The learned ones of this world...(have) examined everything heavenly that has been bequeathed to us in sacred books, and, after hard analysis...have absolutely nothing left...Their blindness is even worthy of wonder...Even in the movement of the souls of these same all destroying atheists, it lives, as before, immovably. Those who renounce Christianity and rebel against it...(have not in) their wisdom or the ardor of their hearts been able to create another, higher image of man and his dignity than the image shown of old by Christ. And whatever their attempts, the results have been only monstrosities." (op.cit. book 4, chapter 1, the Pevear-Volokhonsky translation).
He is saying a lot here. He is saying that the very blindness of those who reject the practice of Christianity leads them to concoct such monstrosities in place of the morality of Christianity that the monstrosities themselves are worthy of wonder. The monstrosities are so inane and pathetic that they show that, denials notwithstanding, the truth of Christianity is still "living" in the very hearts of those who claim to deny it. What are these monstrosities which are so outlandish that they prove that their inventors cannot possibly believe their own words? Three instances can be observed.
First, there are many people in the world, many on television, who, with a perfectly straight face, or with what is meant to be a perfectly straight face, say: "I personally believe that it is wrong to kill babies, except in a couple of cases, that of rape and incest. Those opposing all killing of babies are fanatics of some sort."This is taken in today's world as a thoughtful attitude. Those saying it are classed by the world as paragons of rectitude and sound judgment.
Second, there are many who try to dispense with all the Commandments by saying that the only thing that counts is not the observance or the attempt at observvance of the Commandments, but that one respects and admires everyone on Earth, whatever he does and for whatever he does. This, too, is fraudulent because, cross-questioned, even the most debauched of libertines will grant that there are areas of behavior which he does not admire, of which he does not approve. Often these areas of disapproval are merely further extra steps along the path of sin that he himself is following and claiming to admire.
A third group gets the name of God into it. They say "God really approves of abortion, of adulterly, of sodomy, of drug-taking. These and all other forms of behavior are good in the sight of God. All people, at death, step directly into Heaven in the next life. There is no Hell, no Purgatory." These people would make the pre-Christian pagans blush in embarrassment at their barbarism. The pre-Christian pagans were not trying to claim that their gods approved of their immorality. The claim that God approves of all moralities is to say that morality does not exist at all. Even the pagans, most of them, did not go this far.
So many people in this world try to portray devout Christians as extremists, as senseless fanatics, as the equivalent of people living alone for months at the top of a pillar. Christians, in reality, are going to church once a week, learning more and more about the Commandments, the true rules of civilized behavior.
It is the rest, those who reject Christianity, who have made themselves (figuratively) in their manner of thinking, appearing to live happily and contentedly at the tops of pillars. So many of them are doing it, that they think that this must be normal!
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