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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Father Rutler: False Pride and AntiChrists

A weekly column by Father George Rutler.

While St. John the Evangelist was still alive, there was already a Gnostic heresy that separated the human Jesus from the divine Christ. It supposed that the man Jesus was given divine power at his baptism (one form of this mistake is called “Adoptionism”), but that this power left him on the cross. The Gnostics could not accept that God would have anything to do with physical matter, which they thought was intrinsically evil. One of these heretics was Cerinthus, an Egyptian who made his way to Ephesus in Turkey. St. John was living there and fled from a building when Cerinthus entered, for fear that the roof might fall in.

This explains the urgency with which St. John writes his letters. He is the only New Testament writer to use the term “AntiChrist” (1 John 2:18, 2:22, 4:3, and 2 John 1:7), although St. Paul speaks of a “son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians: 2:3-4). It certainly would be wrong to claim to know who he will be (or, to be gender neutral: who he or she will be), but this devastating being will have seductive power to enlist followers, will hate the Church, will destroy innocent lives, especially infants, and will claim to be greater than God. St. John says that the AntiChrist already is at work in the world, so anyone who cooperates with him is in one way or another a lesser AntiChrist. The essence of the AntiChrist is deceit. AntiChristianity calls good evil and evil good and inverts the natural order, taking pleasure only in disorder and perversion. “Every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God” (John 4:2-3).

Trying to see the truth of God is like “looking into a cloudy mirror” (1 Corinthians 13:12), but at least we “seek his face” (Psalm 27:8). The AntiChrist would have us seek our own face. This narcissism is his cunning deceit, and it has infected our culture. Results of the American Freshman Survey, to which more than nine million young people have responded since 1966, show that a growing number of them are “convinced of their own greatness whether or not they have accomplished anything.” Along with a 30 per cent increase in narcissistic attitudes since 1979, there is a decline in study, work habits, and the ability to communicate with others. Not surprisingly: “These young egotists can grow up to be depressed adults.”

The cult of “self-esteem” foisted on young people in their schools is not a modern invention. The Prince of Lies told the very first man and woman: “You shall be like God” (Genesis 3:5). False pride is the alchemy for creating little AntiChrists. It was out of love that St. John wrote: “But we are children of God, and those who know God listen to us; those who are not of God refuse to listen to us” (1 John 4:6).


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