If nothing else, I’ve learned, from what I’ve read thus far in Crossing the Threshold of Hope, that Pope John Paul II was a well-read and thorough teacher. In the following excerpt, he continues to deal with the Enlightenment and what its adherents wrought on our world.
According to the Enlightenment mentality, the world does not need God’s love. The world is self-sufficient. And God, in turn, is not, above all, Love. If anything, He is Intellect, an intellect that eternally knows. No one needs His intervention in the world that exists, that is self-sufficient, that is transparent to human knowledge, that is ever more free of mysteries thanks to scientific research, that is ever more an inexhaustible mine of raw materials for man—the demigod of modern technology. This is the world that must make man happy.
Christ instead says to Nicodemus: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish” (cf. Jn 3:16). In this way Jesus makes us understand that the world is not the source of man’s ultimate happiness. Rather, it can become the source of his ruin. This world which appears to be a great workshop in which knowledge is developed by man, which appears as progress and civilization, as a modern system of communications, as a structure of democratic freedoms without any limitations, this world is not capable of making man happy.
When Christ speaks of the love that the Father has for the world, He merely echoes the first affirmation in the Book of Genesis which accompanies the description of creation: “God saw how good it was. … He found it very good” (Gn 1:12–31). But this affirmation in no way constitutes the absolute assurance of salvation. The world is not capable of making man happy. It is not capable of saving him from evil, in all of its types and forms—illness, epidemics, cataclysms, catastrophes, and the like. This world, with its riches and its wants, needs to be saved, to be redeemed.
The world is not able to free man from suffering; specifically it is not able to free him from death. The entire world is subject to “precariousness,” as Saint Paul says in the Letter to the Romans; it is subject to corruption and mortality. Insofar as his body is concerned, so is man. Immortality is not a part of this world. It can come to man exclusively from God. This is why Christ speaks of God’s love that expresses itself in the offering of His only Son, so that man”might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). Eternal life can be given to man only by God; it can be only His gift. It cannot be given to man by the created world. Creation—and man together with it—is subject to “futility” (cf Rom 8:20).
“God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (cf. Jn 3:17). The world that the Son of man found when He became man deserved condemnation, because of the sin that had dominated all of history, beginning with the fall of our first parents. This is another point that is absolutely unacceptable to post-Enlightenment thought. It refuses to accept the reality of sin and, in particular, it refuses to accept original sin.