The Gregorian Institute Shield, composed of the crossed gold and silver keys of the Papal Insignia, an open book with the words 'Via Veritas Vita' ('The Way, the Truth, and the Life') written on its pages, three golden six-sided stars on a red banner, and a Germanic cross.

at BENEDICTINE COLLEGE

Destroyer of the gods

At the next Symposium on Advancing the New Evangelization (March 20-21, 2020, at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas), we will ask what are the “gods” of modern secular culture, and how should Christians respond to them? We are challenging the notion that the secular is an irreligious space. If the human person is a “religious being” then the secular age has its gods as well. Today the gods of health, wealth, and pleasure have taken the place of fire, wind, or reptiles. What other gods Christians must identify, and how should they engage these gods for a new transformation of culture?

If you would like to contribute to the conversation at the next Symposium, submit a presentation proposal by Dec. 1, 2019, by clicking here.

“The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself,” says the Catechism (No. 27).

With this the Catholic Church affirms a fundamental reality for each person. It is an affirmation based on the words of Sacred Scripture and testimony of Sacred Tradition. It is also based on the nearly universal experience of human civilization. Wherever we look in history we find humans worshiping in community. This characteristic of human life is so prevalent that the Church suggests, “that one may well call man a religious being” (No. 28).

That being said, Scripture and the experience of history demonstrate that man easily mistakes creatures for the Creator. The Book of Wisdom tells the story of humanity’s religious history. Even those who were outside of the revelation and covenant with Israel were capable of knowing God. However, as the author of Wisdom stated, “For all men who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature; and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know him who exists, nor did they recognize the craftsman while paying heed to his works, but they supposed that either fire or wind or swift air, or the circle of the stars, or turbulent water, or the luminaries of heaven were the gods that rule the world” (Wisdom 13:1-2).

Saint Paul picked up on this narrative in his Letter to the Romans, declaring, “Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived 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 senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles. (Romans 1:20-23)

In summary, man is a religious being, but he is not very good at it. We are deeply in need of Divine Revelation. As Christianity spread, it challenged these lesser gods. Through the power of the Spirit, heroic virtue, and the unity of faith and reason, Christians “destroyed” the gods of the Greco-Roman world. From St. Paul at the Areopagus to St. Boniface among the Germans, idols were challenged and taken down. And while the West is no longer tempted to worship at the altar of Zeus or burn incense to Minerva, the fallen human heart has not lost its capacity to make idols and to sacrifice to them.

For information on the Destroyer of the gods Symposium, click here.

 


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Matthew Muller

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Matt Muller is an assistant professor of theology and director of programs for the Gregorian Institute at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. He completed his PhD in historical theology from Saint Louis University in May 2017. His dissertation was on Newman's understanding of Biblical inspiration in his Anglican years. He earned a Masters in Catholic Studies from the University of St Thomas, in Minnesota where he wrote his masters thesis under the direction of the late Don Briel on the role of imagination in Newman's writings on education. After graduating from Benedictine in 2006, he served for three years as a missionary with FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) at the University of Illinois. He and his wife, Jordan, have three children: Anthony, Owen, and Juliana.