Recently I was listening to a lecture by Dr. D.A. Carson on Romans 3:21-26, “The Center of the Whole Bible.” In his background to the text, he reminded his hearers that for the previous two and a half chapters, Paul had been building an argument that there is no excuse for a denial of God—culminating in a series of references to the Old Testament in Romans 3:10-18:
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
The beginning of this argument, though, is found in Romans 1:18-23 which reads:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
“Claiming to be wise, they became fools…” That’s a powerful statement, isn’t it?
My old pastor would often lament the reality that people today are educated beyond their intelligence. We have access to more information than any culture in the history of man, but little wisdom.
Dr. J. Budziszewski is the author of several books including Written on the Heart, The Resurrection of Nature, The Nearest Coast of Darkness, True Tolerance and What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide, and a professor of Philosophy and Government at the University of Texas at Austin.
He knows this reality all too well.
In fact, he wrote his dissertation on it—opposing the idea that we had any inherent sense of morality at all.
“Claiming to be wise, they became fools…”
Here’s what Dr. Budziszewski says about his experience:
I have already said that everything goes wrong without God. This is true even of the good things He’s given us, such as our minds. One of the good things I’ve been given is a stronger than average mind. I don’t make the observation to boast; human beings are given diverse gifts to serve Him in diverse ways.
The problem is that a strong mind that refuses the call to serve God has its own way of going wrong.
When some people flee from God they rob and kill. When others flee from God they do a lot of drugs and have a lot of sex. When I fled from God I didn’t do any of those things; my way of fleeing was to get stupid.
Though it always comes as a surprise to intellectuals, there are some forms of stupidity that one must be highly intelligent and educated to commit. God keeps them in his arsenal to pull down mulish pride, and I discovered them all. That is how I ended up doing a doctoral dissertation to prove that we make up the difference between good and evil and that we aren’t responsible for what we do. I remember now that I even taught these things to students; now that’s sin.
It was also agony.
You cannot imagine what a person has to do to himself–well, if you are like I was, maybe you can–what a person has to do to himself to go on believing such nonsense.
St. Paul said that the knowledge of God’s law is “written on our hearts, our consciences also bearing witness.” The way natural law thinkers put this is to say that they constitute the deep structure of our minds. That means that so long as we have minds, we can’t not know them.
Well, I was unusually determined not to know them; therefore I had to destroy my mind.
I resisted the temptation to believe in good with as much energy as some saints resist the temptation to neglect good. For instance, I loved my wife and children, but I was determined to regard this love as merely a subjective preference with no real and objective value. Think what this did to my very capacity to love them. After all, love is a commitment of the will to the true good of another person, and how can one’s will be committed to the true good of another person if he denies the reality of good, denies the reality of persons, and denies that his commitments are in his control?
Visualize a man opening up the access panels of his mind and pulling out all the components that have God’s image stamped on them. The problem is that they all have God’s image stamped on them, so the man can never stop. No matter how much he pulls out, there’s still more to pull. I was that man. Because I pulled out more and more, there was less and less that I could think about. But because there was less and less that I could think about, I thought I was becoming more and more focused.
Because I believed things that filled me with dread, I thought I was smarter and braver than the people who didn’t believe them. I thought I saw an emptiness at the heart of the universe that was hidden from their foolish eyes.
Of course I was the fool.
[from the article, Escape from Nihilism, by Dr. J. Budziszewski]
Powerful words to consider. Now some questions:
- In what ways to we place our intelligence over biblical wisdom?
- When we are confronted by this truth, how will we respond?