A strong delusion
Is Paul’s word to the Thessalonians being fulfilled in our lifetimes?
Full access isn’t far.
We can’t release more of our sound journalism without a subscription, but we can make it easy for you to come aboard.
Get started for as low as $3.99 per month.
Current WORLD subscribers can log in to access content. Just go to "SIGN IN" at the top right.LET'S GO
Already a member? Sign in.
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s final decision volley on June 30, an op-ed materialized on CNN’s home page almost instantly. Headline: “Conservatives are on a roll to remake America through the courts.”
Stephen Collinson, an accomplished political reporter, wrote, “Unlike liberals, right-wing legal activists prioritized the ideological reconfiguring of the high court as a litmus test in federal elections at all levels and fast-tracked cases on key issues through courts to exploit the Supreme Court’s new makeup.”
Wait, what? I thought when I read that. Actually, the reconfiguring began in 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, nominated liberal Harvard star Louis Brandeis to the high court, triggering the first confirmation fight in U.S. history. Wilson and other “progressives” saw the courts as launching pads for social reform, wrote Hillsdale College history professor Paul Moreno in a 2016 article in the online journal Public Discourse. Legal academics set about turning law schools into incubators for lawyers who would practice “sociological jurisprudence”—making social and economic arguments instead of arguing the law.
Though context-free, Collinson’s take on legal activism is at least open to interpretation. In that sense, it may have been a bright spot in the avalanche of misinformation that flowed from opinion-makers after the Supreme Court term ended.
In 303 Creative v. Elenis, the court ruled in favor of Lorie Smith, a web designer who wanted to create wedding websites but didn’t want to be forced, under Colorado’s nondiscrimination law, to design sites for same-sex couples. After the high court sided with Smith, commentators claimed the ruling laid the groundwork for mass discrimination against gay people, making them second-class citizens.
That is also untrue. We’re used to it, though, right?—this kind of spin. But lately I’ve been wondering: Is it really spin? Or do these people really believe what they’re saying?
Paul wrote to the believers at Thessalonica that in the last days the “lawless one” would deceive “those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false.”
Even then, Paul wrote, the spirit of lawlessness was already at work. Fast-forward to the modern age when, as G.K. Chesterton notes, a parade of philosophers demanded by increasing degrees that “a man had to believe something that no normal man would believe.”
No doubt Christians have invoked Paul’s words to the Thessalonians century after century, as influencers invented new and novel falsehoods. Today, though, we seem to have crossed from reinventing truth to an outright rejection of objective reality.
Killing unborn babies is healthcare. Child mutilation promotes mental health. Helping people commit suicide is compassionate, and so is euthanizing the sick and disabled. These and other equally insane positions, once propounded mainly by activists and edgy academics, are now mainstream. Tens of millions are living in a miasma of lies, a spiritual Matrix.
When I think of this, it sparks compassion. Certainly, the parents allowing surgeons to slice off their kids’ body parts aren’t all evil per se, are they? More likely, they are deceived and really think they’re doing the right thing. And the doctors helping people kill themselves? Evil or deceived?
There’s a scene in the original Poseidon Adventure, in which passengers are trying to escape a capsized cruise ship. One group of passengers is headed toward the top deck, convinced that’s the way out. But they’re wrong because the ship is upside down. It’s the keel, not the top deck, that’s still above the ocean surface. Another group tries to talk them out of it, but they won’t listen, and it’s heartbreaking to watch them trudge to their doom.
It’s also heartbreaking when a holy God gives people what they insist they want.