Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Are things getting worse?

Are things getting worse around us?

According to science, yes. The label for this tendency is "entropy," and it is summed up as the Second Law of Thermodynamics. And anyone who has ever had to deal with rust or mold or putrification knows that the universe has a natural tendency to degrade, to move from order to chaos, to break down over time.

Does this jibe with the Word of God? Absolutely.

At the creation, all things: matter, energy, sub-atomic particles, planets, dinosaurs, mankind - everything - were in a state of perfection, or harmony, of non-violence, of non-degradation, not on a trajectory of death, and not moving from order to chaos. Everything was perfect, or as is repeatedly stated in the creation account of Genesis, "good" (six times in the first chapter of Genesis, with the verse 31 climax of "very good" following the completion of creation).

At this point, there was no entropy, second law of thermodynamics, sin, nor death. At this point in human history, we could answer the question: "Are things getting worse?" with a definitive "no."

That all changed in Genesis 3 with the Fall. As a result of sin, so the testimony of Scripture goes, came natural disasters, discord between created things and lifeforms (with each other and with God), and also death itself. Sin became a snowballing phenomenon as evil gave rise to further evil. The world was indeed on a trajectory toward self-destruction and an exponential rise in wickedness and its effects.

At this point, there was indeed entropy, the second law of thermodynamics, sin, and death - and these had a compounding effect on everything else. At this point in human history, we could answer the question: "Are things getting worse?" with a definitive "yes."

The reversion from order to chaos and the increase of evil (Gen 6:5) upon the earth became so bad that God sent a worldwide cataclysmic flood to destroy all living beings on the face of the earth save one family and a group of animals from which to rebuild.

But prior to the flood, at that very time of increasing wickedness and in the face of warnings from God to repent, there were those who didn't think evil was on the rise at all. People went about their day-to-day business in a state of denial of the increase of wickedness and its effects. It is like the phenomenon of living and working near a chemical plant. Being surrounded by the stench makes one increasingly insensitive to one's own environment, feeding a culture of denial that anything is amiss. In cases like this, it takes a prophetic voice from the outside to break the denial of those who have become accustomed to the rot.

Our Lord Jesus compares this state of denial of the increasing wickedness to one another - both in the days of Noah and "now in these last days" (Heb 1:2), as our Blessed Lord becomes that prophetic voice to rouse us out of our denial of the entropy and increasing evil:
"For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man" (Matt 24:37-39).
Our Lord speaks of the increase of evil as time marches inevitably and irresistibly onward until the consummation of time. In fact, he speaks of the Church herself falling under the spell of the secular deniers of Christ as things further degrade into the future (Matt 24:24). Jesus is warning us not to be arrogant, like the antedeluvian entropy-deniers: "See, I have told you beforehand" (Matt 24:25). He has indeed warned us: "And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold" (Matt 24:13 - emphasis added).

The Lord Jesus Himself says "lawlessness will be increased...." I think we deny this at our own peril. It is a false hope to say "nothing has changed, evil is not on the increase, things have always been as they are today."

In fact, this fallacy of constancy is known as "uniformatarianism" - and it is the source of a lot of the evolutionist worldview and denial of Scripture. Much of the controversy of the age of the earth stems from the scientific assumptions made by geologists based on a philosophy of uniformatarianism. It is the reason why scoffers mock the idea that antedeluvian people lived for hundreds of years (Gen 5:3-32). Since we do not observe people living such lifespans today, so the argument goes, the Bible is a book of myths, if not outright fiction - or even a deliberate lie. As an aside, the gradual decrease in lifespans of man from 900+ years (Gen 5:3-32) to 400+ years (Gen 11:10-16), to 200+ years (Gen 11:22), to maximum lifespans as they exist today (around 120 years) - is itself evidence of the entropy.

St. Peter condemns uniformatarianism, and links it with the corruption of sin. He also links it to the scoffers "in these last days" - whom our Lord likewise links to the scoffers "in the days of Noah." Peter writes: "Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation (2 Pet 3:3-4 emphasis added). And in verse 5, Peter explains that this denial is through "deliberately overlook[ing]" the testimony of Scripture that the Lord sent a flood in response to the increasing corruption and wickedness of the world.

The argument that every generation believes things are worse than the last generation only serves to confirm what both Scripture and science teach - that things are going from order to chaos, not the other way around - and certainly not "continuing as they were from the beginning."

The Church is often mocked for being out of step with the world - even as the world becomes more and more corrupt. Even in the span of our own times, we can easily observe the increasing wickedness on the earth and the Church's increasing tolerance of, cooperation with, and in some cases, the eager joining with, the world's increasing evil.

In the twentieth century, the "youth culture" (by definition a rebellion against "tradition" - including the "tradition" St. Paul identifies with the Christian faith itself, e.g. 2 Thess 2:15) became increasingly dominant - from the "flappers" of the 1920s to the postwar "beatniks" of the 1950s, and the "hippies" of the 1960s. And though much of this subculture was quite innocent, its underlying rejection of tradition was to have a radical effect on western culture. Over time, the youth culture became the dominant culture in western society - which is the most influential culture around the world. Today, it is not uncommon to see gray-haired grandfathers and grandmothers wearing skimpy bathing suits, toying with mind-altering drugs, sporting tattoos and piercings, and chasing after youth and promiscuity, making use of things like Viagra and Botox. We're also seeing middle-age people behaving like adolescents - with their children utterly ignorant of the Christian faith in its entirety. The younger culture is reverting to a pre-Christian paganism, if not outright savagery. These kinds of behaviors have become increasingly mainstream - even among Christians.

The western youth culture is increasingly hostile to Christianity and increasingly open to sinful behaviors. Sin has been around since the Fall, but sin is increasingly accepted, taught, promoted, and encouraged "in these last days" - even among Christians. Technology has made its spread all the easier and has exponentially increased the rate of corruption.

And the corruption is by no means limited to the secular.

In a very short span of time, we have seen women's "ordination" not only happen, but become the rule. In most places where it has happened (and with rare exceptions), it has become too late to reverse. In fact, we've seen the wickedness increase to the point where abortion and homosexuality are no longer identified as sinful, but even supported by large swaths of those claiming the title of Christian. There are even "mainline" Lutherans who openly engage in goddess-worship without censure from their denomination - the largest Lutheran body in the United States. The acceptance of this kind of decadence and open idolatry simply would not have happened prior to the 1960s cultural revolution. Idolatry has always existed, to be sure. But one has to be blind to see that this wickedness is not increasing exponentially, as is the Church's acquiescence.

Anytone who thinks "things are continuing as they were" is delusional and in a state of denial - not unlike those "in the days of Noah."

And this is not merely a local phenomenon. There is also an increasing, if not exponential, interest and use of occult practices and demonic religion. Again, this goes beyond the current fascination suburban American teen girls have with vampire love stories. I previously blogged about this manifestation of the increase in wickedness here and here. People may be shocked to learn that the Vatican made it policy to assign an exorcist to each diocese around the world, and that this order did not come in 1540 or 1832, but rather in 2006 - and the plan is to be implemented first in America. People may also be shocked to learn that some half million people in Italy are under the pastoral care of an exorcist.

But the end-time scoffers are not limited to skeptics who believe in evolution and mock exorcism. Sadly, some Lutherans are likewise in a state of denial about the spiritual entropy and the reality that our Lord Himself teaches that "lawlessness" is not a constant, but rather will indeed be "on the increase" as time inexorably marches forward "in these last days."

I believe all Christians must be on alert, knowing that Satan is not to be trifled with, that he will use this sliding scale of morality to get us to gradually lower our guard. Pastors especially, as men entrusted with the care and cure of souls, need to be "sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Pet 5:8). And even if it means being mocked as a "fundie" or derided for not being considered "cool" enough by tricking our daughters out like Hanna Montana (the 16-year old wholesome Disney Christian role model) and calling it "cute," we ought to cling to St. Peter's exhortation and encouragement:
"Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen" (1 Pet 5:9-11).
And the fact that things are getting worse should not drive us to despair! The Lord calls this increasing trouble (Luke 21:20-26) in the world the "birth pains" (Matt 24:8) of the New and Greater Age to come, a restoration of perfection, a repeal of the second law of thermodynamics, and a restoration of the goodness and perfection that was the order of creation before the fall. Instead of denial, we are to embrace the "inconvenient truth" and be prepared (Matt 25:1-13). Far from being discouraged by the increasing wickedness, lawlessness, and evil around us, the Lord gives us courage: "straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near" (Luke 21:28).


kdl said...

Larry, you tell it like it is. Wish my family could attend services with you officiating.


Jonathan said...

Living, as I do, in Northern Virginia near the Smithsonian Natural History Museum (aka: Darwin's Temple--it gives me the heebeejeebees going in there), it is so interesting to see the entropy deniers in action there. One of the big Darwin anniversary exhibits opening officially soon boldly proclaims to visitors, "Evolution--Making Order Out of Chaos." Oyveh! One example they showcase in the exhibit is a '20 mil yr old' moth in solid amber. A couple of observations: 1) Gee, you mean we have the same species of moth today, and how is this an example of "evolution in action"?, (2) So how did they come up with date of 20 MYO--obviously not C-14 dating (though might be interesting), and (3) can't they at least be honest enough to admit they don't have a single example of a mutation that actually adds new, beneficial information and not just transpositional mutations that result from a loss of information?

Christopher D. Hall said...

I know this blog is. Ha ha.

I agree, for the most part. I think of what St. Anthony once said, "God does not allow the same warfare and temptations to this generation as he did formerly, for men are weaker now and cannot bear so much.”

On the other hand, I think Brown has a point in that we should not underestimate the depravity of prior generations.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

What I will say as well is this -- as regards 2 Peter - the idea of all things continuing is not a statement that things aren't worse - but rather that there will be no end to existence - that the sun will always rise just as it always has -- not that there will be a last day.

As for the typicaliness of life, even as in Matthew 25 where we get the warning of great tribulation, in verse 38 we also hear, "For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away."

There is a fundamental. . . sinfulness and typicalness of life in the world. But what is typical, what is common, be it war or rumors of war - it should serve to remind us that the hour has grown late - and there is no need to fall into a calculus saying, "He must be coming soon, because look at the wickedness meter" (one of my members who I've been talking to a bit is a former 7th Day Adventist. . . I'm probably overly sensitive towards end time gaping). Rather, every day is a day closer to the end. . . .

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Christopher:

Good one! :-)

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Or to broach this issue in a Scaerian way, "I think this is all like your level of sanctification - it keeps going up and down - but always getting a little bit lower."