Some formulations of “intelligent design” have more intellectual merit than others and there are also many prudent considerations that must be taken into account when it comes to what is taught in public schools.
Today’s first reading (Romans 1:16-25) offers us an opportunity to step back from the details of primary school curricula and appreciate what underlies this whole debate: an association between immorality and rejecting what may be known of God through creation.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven
against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,
who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
Because that which may be known of God
is manifest in them;
for God hath shewed it unto them.
For the invisible things of him
from the creation of the world are clearly seen,
being understood by the things that are made,
even his eternal power and Godhead;
so that they are without excuse:
Because that, when they knew God,
they glorified him not as God,
neither were thankful;
but became vain in their imaginations,
and their foolish heart was darkened.
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God
into an image made like to corruptible man,
and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
Wherefore God also gave them up
to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts,
to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
Who changed the truth of God into a lie,
and worshipped and served the creature
more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
This is not just about old-fashioned idolatry – bowing down before statues of birds and calves (although there is still some of that today) – this is about idolatry in its most basic form: treating as the ultimate good something that is not God.
As it was in the days of St. Paul, so it is now: the most insidious idolatry is the worship of godless intellect and godless pleasure – exchanging the immortal glory of God for the corruptibility of man, worshiping and serving man the creature rather than God the Creator.
When man tries to detach totally from the Creator, the debauchery can be limitless. St. Paul describes this in vivid detail as he continues :
For this cause
God gave them up unto vile affections:
for even their women did change the natural use
into that which is against nature:
And likewise also the men,
leaving the natural use of the woman,
burned in their lust one toward another;
men with men working that which is unseemly,
and receiving in themselves
that recompense of their error which was meet.
And even as they did not like
to retain God in their knowledge,
God gave them over to a reprobate mind,
to do those things which are not convenient;
Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication,
wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness;
full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity;
whisperers, backbiters, haters of God,
despiteful, proud, boasters,
inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Without understanding, covenant breakers,
without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Who knowing the judgment of God,
that they which commit such things
are worthy of death,
not only do the same,
but have pleasure in them that do them.
As always, it is very important not to see denunciations in Scripture as only being directed at people other than oneself, as if St. Paul is only denouncing atheists or people who engage in homosexual activity or whomever, for each one of us in our own way is deserving of God’s wrath (O God, be merciful to me - a sinner).
Indeed, how much more may we be held to account for our own violations of God’s law, for we have not just the guidance of natural law, but the law of God revealed in detail by Scripture and in its perfection in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We may not be engaged in temple prostitution or explicit worship of graven images, yet we Christians are so very often covetous, whisperers, backbiters, proud, boasters, disobedient to parents, unmerciful, and full of debate (especially in the blogosphere).
And because we are Christians, because we say we know God through his most perfect revelation of himself in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – we have even less excuse than the ungodly people we may despise.
Make no mistake: not all sins are alike on every level - some sins involve an ontic evil of greater extent than others (some of them far greater) – yet even the lightest sin is beyond our ability to redeem on our own
For all have sinned,
and come short of the glory of God;
Being justified freely by his grace
through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus
The bottom line of this passage is that when we disconnect ourselves from the knowledge of God, there is no limit on the evil into which we can become immersed – as individuals, as a society, and as a world – as we try to redesign reality in our own image
We therefore need to deepen our knowledge of God: first within ourselves, as individuals and as communities of faith; and then beyond ourselves, through various means of evangelization and also by helping people understand what may be known of God through the design of his creation.
We also need to make stronger the connection between what we know and what we do, between our faith and our actions.
We are all imperfect, we are all sinners, and we are all in desperate need of God’s grace, yet by the grace of God we need to recapture and grow in the integrity of faith, love, and life which belongs to the saints – for that is what God calls us to be, that is God’s ultimate, infinitely intelligent design.
Blessed be God.