In October of this year, best-selling author Dan Brown pronounced that God will be replaced by the “collective unconscious” of mankind.
Brown’s words took me back 50 years to my first semester of college. In the fall of 1967, I entered the University of Notre Dame. One of my freshman courses was theology. I expected to broaden and to deepen my Catholic faith, which had been nurtured by eight years of Catholic grade school (actually taught by nuns) and four years of Catholic high school.
To my surprise, our theology professor introduced us to the likes of Immanuel Kant, G.W.F. Hegel, Ludwig Feuerbach, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche, among others. These philosophers were as difficult to comprehend as they were to read. Their common theme was not the power and glory of God and of the faith. Instead, they glorified man and offered the theme that God is dead. At the time, I did not challenge this empty existentialism, which seeks to justify a world without God.
Later that same year at Notre Dame, I stumbled across the perfect response to this erroneous thinking. It was not in a theology textbook or in a scholarly thesis. It was on the wall of a bathroom stall on the fourth-floor of Cavanaugh Hall (which at the time was all-male).
There, someone had written:
God is dead. Nietzsche
Below that, in a different hand, was written:
Nietzsche is dead. God
Those eight words provided both a laugh and wisdom – more wisdom than all the godless secular humanist philosophers combined. Those words are reminiscent of the Simon and Garfunkel song “The Sounds of Silence” with its verse, “The words of the prophets are written on subway walls … and tenement halls.”
In subsequent years, in my faith journey as a Roman Catholic, I have encountered the silly thoughts of Karl Rahner, Edward Schillebeeckx, Hans Kung, Henri de Lubac and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The latter infamously wrote of an “omega point” in the future, at which mankind will evolve into oneness with God.
Over the past half century, I have seen very few new, good ideas, but I have seen many old, bad ideas, recycled.
What all of these false ideas have in common is that they are grounded in pride: The pride of the fallen angels. The pride that sets mankind equal to God. The pride that usurps decisions reserved for God, i.e., abortion, euthanasia, genetic manipulation, etc. The pride that upends the natural order. The pride that invites Divine wrath.
Mankind is still struggling to unravel the mysteries of the universe. Relativity and quantum mechanics are mere theories; there is not even a comprehensive “unifying theory.” Is light a particle or a wave? What is the cure for cancer? Is there intelligent life on the billions of other planets in the universe?
While man is exploring, God is all-knowing. Even if and when mankind understands all of God’s creation, mankind, with its mortal physical nature, will never be able to replace God, the Uncaused Cause, in preserving Creation. Mankind will never be able to “think” like God, because of our fallen spiritual nature via Original Sin.
Ideas have consequences. The world is full of bad ideas, which drive bad actions. Dan Brown’s recent pronouncement should be a call to action for people of faith to spread Christian truth, and to aggressively challenge ideas inimical to the faith.
There is a false notion on the part of many – notably in the Church – that truth will stand on its own, and need not be defended. Eventually, yes, for Christ will triumph in the end. But, in the meantime, until the Second Coming, how many souls will be lost to old, bad, recycled ideas that are left unchallenged?