THE MYSTERY OF LAWLESSNESS
by Bob Wheeler
So far in our consideration of the events that will lead up to the Second Coming of Christ we have looked at the church. But what about the rest of society? What happens to them?
Our text (II Thessalonians 2) mentions God sending “a strong delusion, that they should believe the lie” (v. 11; NKJV). It is significant that the definite article is used (the lie), suggesting that what is in view here is one particular lie. But which is it?
The immediate context might suggest the “power, signs, and lying wonders” mentioned in verse 9 associated with the Antichrist. But it is also an undeniable fact that there is one particular idea that has radically changed the way most people think about reality and done more than anything else to turn people away from Christianity. That idea is Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution The Origin of Species gained rapid acceptance soon after it was published in 1859, and its impact on Western culture has been profound.
John Dewey explained it like this: for over 2,000 years the Western mind “rested on the assumption of the superiority of the fixed and final” (“The Influence of Darwinism on Philosophy,” 1910). A “species” was considered fixed and unchanging, and knowledge consisted of understanding the essence and purpose of things. But Darwin changed all of that. The very title of his book was provocative: a “species” had an “origin,” it was no longer fixed and definite, but is in a state of flux. “In laying hands upon the sacred ark of absolute permanency, in treating the forms that had been regarded as types of fixity and perfection as originating and passing away, the ‘Origin of Species’ introduced a mode of thinking that in the end was bound to transform the logic of knowledge, and hence the treatment of morals, politics, and religion” (Ibid.). Earlier philosophers had thought in terms of purpose and destiny. “Purposefulness accounted for the intelligibility of nature and the possibility of science, while the absolute or cosmic character of this purposefulness gave sanction and worth to the moral and religious endeavors of man. Science was underpinned and morals authorized by one and the same principle, and their mutual agreement was eternally guaranteed.” But Darwinism “cut straight under this philosophy.” If Darwinism is true, “there is no call for a prior intelligent causal force to plan and preordain” organic adaptations.
That being the case, according to Dewey, “philosophy forswears inquiry after absolute origins and absolute finalities . . .” The whole focus of philosophy changed from the pursuit of absolute values and universal truths to the concrete problems of temporal existence. New philosophies appeared: Pragmatism, Existentialism and Post-Modernism. Knowledge became personal and subjective. By the mid-Twentieth Century such leading intellectual figures as Dewey, Heidegger and Wittgenstein had given up on the idea of knowing universal truths at all.
But what about morality? If morality is not fixed and determined by divine decree and knowable through revelation, what does determine it? There are two possible general answers. One is that morality is determined by society as a whole, and the other is that is entirely a private and personal matter. At first Western culture turned to the first solution. We were convinced that science and reason would lead us to correct conclusions, and that society could be ordered accordingly. This approach is sometimes thought of today as the essence of “Modernism.” There were two different versions of this: the Socialist one employed in the old Soviet Union, and the democratic / capitalist one favored in the U.S. But following the disclosures of the atrocities committed under Stalin, and the presence of racial segregation in the American South, followed by U.S. intervention in Viet Nam, widespread disillusionment with modern, “scientific” methods of organization set in. The younger generation turned to extreme individualism, rejected standards and norms of all kinds. “New Left” theoreticians such a C. Wright Mills and Herbert Marcuse became the prophets of the age. The “youth rebellion” of the ’60’s was followed by the sexual revolution and then by radical feminism. Kids “turned on” and “dropped out.” The results of this Post-Modern, relativistic way of thinking has been catastrophic. Today, ironically, corporate America is stronger than ever. But there is scarcely any semblance of stable family life left at all.
Our text tells us that “the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way” (v. 7). The triumph of this “lawlessness” is now nearly complete. One might ask, why would God allow such a thing to happen? The answer is so that He will be absolutely just when Christ returns to judge the world. The text goes on to say that “they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (v. 10), and that therefore they are to “be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (v. 12). To know the truth and deliberately reject it leaves us utterly without excuse. We justly stand condemned before a holy God. Our apostasy and lawlessness is the prelude to the end.