Read the introduction to my new book Beheading Hydra:
A few years ago, when we were on family vacation at Myrtle Beach I dared the kids to go through one of those walk-through spook houses with me. It was terrifying fun. We had to feel our way through dark corridors where most any sort of horror could be lurking.
Suddenly the door of a closet would swing open and a zombie would moan and reach for us, or as we turned a corner a creep dressed as a chain saw killer would leap out and chase us down the corridor where— who knew what other ghastly, ghostly terror might assault us.
It was fun because we knew the various ghouls couldn’t harm us, and that five minutes later we’d be out on the boardwalk again laughing at our own lily livered selves.
The fear in the house of horrors was bad enough, but the real terror was not knowing what was coming next. Was a madwoman with wild hair and knives lurking behind the curtain or was the next fright some unimaginable demon beast? A werewolf, Medusa and her sisters, a chupacabra or the three headed hound of hell? Who knew?
Not wishing to exaggerate too much, but writing at the end of 2020, this year, while not exactly the House of Horrors, has plunged many people into a spook house of stress and the extremes of bewilderment, uncertainty, suspicion and fear.
A distressing pandemic followed by economic hardship, social unrest and a contentious general election in the USA swept many up in a whirlwind of insecurity. At the same time, Catholics continued to be thrown into their own swirl of uncertainty by doctrinal confusion, financial corruption, sexual immorality, political sell outs at the highest level of the church and a pope who seemed to delight in “making a mess.”
Uncertain times, of course, are nothing new. In every age our human family has been caught up in storms of every kind. “Three hundred years before the resurrection… Thucydides wrote describing the decline of the world’s culture around him…and three hundred years after the resurrection St Basil the Great wrote describing the collapse of Roman imperial civilization.” History shows that there have always been wars and rumors of wars, natural disasters, plagues, famines and distress. If you read a history of the church you will soon realize that corrupt cardinals, hypocritical prelates and incompetent popes are also nothing new.
The troubles of 2020 have hit hard because many of us in America had got used to an affluent, comfortable, trouble free life. As John Horvat has written, we have enjoyed a cruise ship culture where everyone was sailing along merrily afloat with an exuberant economy, plenty of food, entertainment and the good life.2 But this is not real. We should remember the great struggles and turmoil suffered by our parents, grandparents and ancestors.
One hundred years ago the world was staggering forth from the horrors of the first world war, bloody revolutions and a flu pandemic. The troubles seemed overwhelming and the future ominous. In 1920, the Irish poet William Butler Yeats’ was caught up in the Irish War of Independence. His pregnant wife nearly died in the flu pandemic, and all around him Europe was reeling from the effects of war and the upheavals of revolution.
His poem The Second Coming perfectly expresses the atmosphere of fear and the foreboding as one faces the future. Things are bad, but what worse horrors lurk around the corner and down the next corridor?
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds. The darkness drops again; but now I know That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
What’s going on in our world? Are things heading towards a terrible climax or is it simply that we are in the middle of turmoil and unrest as the human race has been in every age?
Both are true. Every age has seen change, revolution and uncertainty, but we are also at a turning point. In his book Bad Religion-How We Became a Nation of Heretics, Ross Douthat analyzes the reasons for the present religious crisis in the United States. Coming out of the second world war, America enjoyed a renaissance of religion. Churches were full, families were growing, Christian morality was taken for granted and religious leaders like Billy Graham and Fulton Sheen were riding high. Then everything crashed. Douthat identifies five causes for the sudden nosedive.
The first was political division. Christians fell into right or left wing tribes depending on their view on various social issues like the Vietnam War and abortion. Second was the invention of the birth control pill and the subsequent sexual revolution. Third was an increasingly mobile population and global perspective. This caused many people to regard their own religion as just another faith among many. Fourth was the growing affluence in America. Put simply, people who have everything don’t think they need God. Finally, as Americans became more educated they increasingly regarded Christianity as ignorant, low class and not worthy of their attention. 4
As a result we are experiencing a colossal collapse of organized Christianity. Douthat quotes the sobering statistics: In 1966 the Catholic Church boasted 60,000 priests, 12,000 religious brothers and 180,000 religious sisters. By 1969 two percent of priests had abandoned their vocation, by 1980 seminary enrollment fell by two thirds and religious sisters left in droves.
The falloff rate in the mainstream Protestant denominations during the 60s’s, 70’s and 80’s was even more acute.
Clearly, the great Christian nation of America has stumbled. The crisis of faith is combined with a philosophical implosion and a cultural and moral maelstrom all at the same time. Technological innovation, increasing affluence, social mobility and shifts in our values have brought about a crisis in our culture. The philosophical foundations rumbled like an underwater earthquake far off the coast, but now the tsunami caused by the earthquake is rolling in threatening to sweep over everything.
The anxiety at the beginning of the 2020s is not simply the result of a pandemic and a contentious political climate. These surface problems are only the catalyst for a stress storm that has much deeper causes. This perfect storm is the culmination of five hundred years of devious philosophies, half truths, godless ideologies, false religions and rebellion against God, his church and his timeless truths.
These deceptions are the foundation of the modern world. Living in the high tech twenty first century is like dancing on quicksand. Nothing seems certain. Everything shifts. The center cannot hold. The houses built on sand are crumbling under the crashing of the encroaching sea.
The Modern Mind
What we believe affects how we behave, and how we behave affects what we believe. Ideas matter because we live out our lives according to our beliefs. It follows that false philosophies and distorted ideologies will lead to uncertainty, confusion and fear. Lies produce more lies. Deception is layered with further deception. The people of the lie, live, breathe and promulgate lies. They mentally and spiritually copulate to populate the world with more and more lies.
The chapters that follow outline the contours of the modern mindset. I don’t pretend that this is an exhaustive treatment. I am not a philosopher by any stretch. This is not a scholarly treatise or a complete explanation. For a genuine intellectual analysis read Carl Trueman’s book.7 This book is a sketch rather than a portrait, a prophetic polemic rather than a detached and intellectual analysis. It’s written as a battle plan not a doctoral thesis.
But any good battle plan involves a thorough knowledge of the enemy. Satan is a liar and the Father of Lies, and to counter his lies we need first to understand them. He is the Prince of this world, so we should expect to find his lies embedded in the philosophies of this world.
The belief system of modern man is difficult to define because it is not specified and systematic. It is a worldview without a label and a religion without a creed. Instead it is a compendium of lies, a catalogue of deceptions, a septic tank of subterfuge. The lies are never explicit in our society. They lurk beneath the surface as a set of assumptions, and slither and slide, disappear below the surface only to reappear in a different form.
These lies are not an aspect of the culture. They are the culture. They are the wallpaper. They are the air we breathe. The lies are woven in and through the media, advertising, film, literature and the educational establishment. They are not questioned because they are unconscious. The web of lies is “simply the way things are.” These dark deceptions are the foundation of the culture, and who ever stops to dig down and examine the foundations of the house in which they live?
Furthermore, this network of lies has infiltrated the Christian church. They have not only infected the theology, but our Christian leaders themselves have baptized the lies and introduced them as a traitor may give hospitality to a spy, thereby promoting as Christianity a religion which is, in fact, the religion of antichrist.
To complicate things further, this set of assumptions is not fixed. It is constantly shifting and morphing. The language is constantly changing. The form in which the lies are expressed are forever swirling and deceiving like smoke and mirrors. Just as you were getting a grip on one expression, the terminology changes. That one fades away, but returns in a subtler and more alluring form. This lie disappears but another more seductive but noxious one takes its place.
This shifty nature of the modernist mindset explains why so many people in our age are confused, bewildered and afraid. They are lost in the desert, they teeter on the edge of a precipice where there is no foothold. The constantly morphing nature of the lies should not surprise us because they are the product of the great serpent himself, the monstrous chameleon, the Father of Lies.
However, clarity in this smoke and mirrors world can be archived in one simple step. It requires courage. It requires a bold, bracing splash in the face with the icy water of truth. Pope John Paul II said there were two materialistic, atheistic world systems: communism and unrestrained capitalism. Americans don’t like to hear this, but it is true, the problem with the American form of atheism is that it is woven through the system in such subtle ways that, in our confusion we cannot see it for what it is.
To understand the real heart of darkness we need some straight talk. To cut through all the lies we need to start by making a black and white decision and recognize the lies for what they are: different masks of atheism—and atheism is itself a costume of the Antichrist who seethes with pure hatred of God and his Truth.
Rip off the masks of atheism and strip bare the antiChrist. Decide to see through the elaborate costumes. They are not simply “modernism” or “post-modernism.” We do not simply live in a “post-Christian society.” We live in a society that is deeply atheistic and therefore anti- Christian, and if anti-Christian, then increasingly antagonistic toward Christians themselves.
Do not be deceived any longer and do not put your head in the sand. Now is the time to wake out of sleep. “Even now many antichrists have appeared.”8 Do not be naive and tell yourself that “it is not really so bad.” Do not be afraid that you might be thought to be a paranoid conspiracy theorist. It is not a conspiracy when the enemy speaks openly about their plans. We are at that stage now. The enemies are clear about their ambitions. The dragon, who was so long hidden in his underground lair is stirring. He is ready to deceive openly and ready to breathe fire on his foes.
The Many Headed Hydra
Another powerful serpentine image that illustrates the battle at hand is the Hydra—the mythical water serpent that lurked in the swamps of Lake Lerna—one of the entrances to the underworld. In the ancient myth, the Hydra’s blood and venom were so poisonous that even their stench was deadly.
Instead of one head, the terrible monster of the underworld had many—all of them writhing and twisting— all of them fanged and venomous. When one head was cut off, two more grew back in its place. Socrates used the Hydra as an illustration of the deceitful person who, when his argument is proved to be a lie, immediately comes up with two more arguments.
The Hydra is a perfect illustration of the beast that dominates the modern world. The lies that populate the modernist mind are like the many heads of the Hydra. Cut one off with the weapons of truth, beauty and goodness, and two grow back more venomous than before.
In the following chapters we will examine sixteen different heads of the modernist Hydra. These “isms” are the core
assumptions of the modern world, but they are not the only ones. From each fanged head many others sprout and grow to writhe and sway like a cobra before they strike.
Like the heads of the Hydra, the sixteen “ism’s” seem to have lives of their own, but in fact they interweave with each other, spawn in their spit and replicate. Behead them once and they return in slightly different form because they are all connected to the immortal body of their dragon host.
The last four chapters of the first half of the book are written as dramatic dialogues. Each one is between a representative of Satan and a questioner. These chapters summarize the sixteen “ism’s” and reveal the true result and end point of the devious ideologies and philosophies.
When Christ the Lord went into the wilderness to do battle with Satan, he was offered three temptations: the kingdoms of the world, the satisfaction of his flesh and the worship of the devil. These three categories of the World, the Flesh and the Devil provide a way to categorize the lies of the modern swamp. The first set concerns the
power of this world. The next have to do with the individual’s battle with the flesh and the last review them and bring us face to face with the devil himself.
However unlike the Hydra, who was truly monstrous in appearance, the hydra heads we will consider do not appear terrible at first. Satan smiles before he snarls. Indeed, like all of Satan’s lies, they are seductive, alluring and if you have no defense, they are irresistible. If you are unaware of them, their power over you is all the greater.
Only with clear analysis can we see past their pleasant appearance to glimpse the terrible monster behind the mask and realize that the fangs of the Hydra are venomous indeed, and if we develop the nose for it, we’ll realize that even one whiff of their stench is enough to kill.
While the first half of the book is a grim walk through the horror house of our modern culture, the second half of the book presents the joyful, powerful and practical actions that can be taken to behead the Hydra. The second part of the book has its own introduction, so now, take courage, turn the page and meet the Hydra.
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