All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:12)
Charge them before the Lord to avoid disputing about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. (2 Timothy 2:14)
The first time I smoked a cigarette (I was 12 or 13 at the time), I inhaled deeply, naively imitating adult smokers I had seen. My lungs responded with a racking storm of coughs, so violent it felt as if they would leap from my chest. Somewhat later, my body's response to my first bold swallow of Scotch whiskey was not so prolonged, but it was equally repugnant.
Driven by the desire to fit in, or just grow up too quickly, many of us cultivated a taste for habits from which the body recoils in pain and horror. Like bad smells, we become accustomed to bad habits, but this doesn't alter the evidence of our natural constitution.
Of course, these days I'm sure that someone has developed a critical taste theory to justify the suggestion that our body's initial response to experience is somehow an intellectually complex human construct, somehow produced by social and economic forces. The thought presently, presently riding high, is that we choose who and what we are, making up our identity in our own creative will and imagination.
For most of my life, the empirical results of scientific reasoning, based on rigorously disciplined factual observations, could still be cited to limit and circumscribe this willful creativity. In scientific terms, for example, the male-female distinction persists, even after surgery and chemical manipulation alter the body's outward appearance. Chromosomes bear scientific witness to the persistent facts — a man's a man, for all that; and a woman's a woman. Both are natural facts.
These days, however, we must deal with the assertion that human will supersedes even this empirically scientific understanding of our nature. After all, what becomes of the distinction between human beings and birds when humans now fly farther and faster than any bird — even in the vacuum of outer space? In Genesis, the Biblical serpent said that we would be as gods — lo and behold, doesn't technology make it so? Utopia is no longer beyond our reach, right? So it seems, but only as long as we do not too much ponder the Earth — awash in blood and strewn with human bones and waste — that the use and abuse of technologically enhanced human powers have left behind.
Of course, we can see the future as some blissful paradise if we blind ourselves to the clear implications of enslavement, disease, insanity and ultimate extinction produced by deadly applications of the draughts of technology we have already brewed and quaffed from that information, much less those, much more deadly, still in development. Wars that result in death tolls it once took centuries to produce have come and gone in less than a week of years.
Insidiously, the future itself is being bled of human life — by decades afflicted by an insidious campaign to exterminate humanity that masks murder as a freedom, which all humanity must be forced to approve and exercise. Where this freedom is made to prevail, the corpus of human community deteriorates. The common sense of intrinsic individual worth, once watered by flowing streams of family love and honored obligations, chokes on the homage of the love that has no aim but self-regarding pleasure.
How can it be that people who tout their dedication to "progress" have made this murderous freedom the idol of their cause? They forget that human will comes to nothing but in the future. We can survey the so-called triumphs of our will only in the depressions our footfalls make in the substance of our present existence. We only pretend to achieve something beyond it. We can never outrun the present.
The future exists for us only if, here and now, we accept the terms on which our understanding extends itself into the future; only if we choose, like well-disciplined athletes, to accept the rules that allow us, beforehand, to anticipate the nature of our goal: "An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who reaps the larger harvest" (2 Timothy 2:6).
Immanuel Kant's critique of reason made more sense than the critical theories by which, at present, we deconstruct the possibility that creatures like ourselves will populate the future we purport to build. Kant sought after the pre-existing essentials of reason in terms of which the limits of our understanding can be understood. These essentials depend on what we are, not what we will or even hope to be.
But the being that we are derives from the will of being pregnant with the possibility of our existence, which therefore informed the existence of the world (we would perhaps say programmed the world) with that possibility in mind. This being, antecedent to our existence, is self-evidently not an expression of our will, but of being simply, in and of itself (much like the name God gave Himself, for Moses to use when speaking to the Israelites in Exodus 3:14). Before we exist, God gives meaning to our being here, and He extends that meaning in and through the will that determines both the nature of the world and of our way of being within it.
This is why we were never meant to die. This is why our life may be fully restored, but only in Christ. To make this clear, Christ came to us, so that through his eyes we might see the way to God in truth, in spite of the shortfall of grace occasioned by our sin. What is the vocation of the Church, but to seek out, instruct and encourage all who are willing to admit Christ's mind within them, so that we may see and share and faithfully pursue the life God has intended for us since the beginning?