One of the first terms I learned in my undergrad in Philosophy was Equivocation. It essentially means that one uses a term which can have more than one meaning, while being used in an ambiguous way. Here is an example “Noisy children are a real headache. Two aspirin will make a headache go away. Therefore, two aspirin will make noisy children go away.” The problem with equivocal language is we can be fooled by it. We can be fooled by it if we do not carefully define the terms we are using, and how we are using them.
A culture that is motivated by meaning would be interested in the definition of terms, rather than a culture motivated by keeping things unclear and ambiguous so we can somehow existentially define the meaning of all things as we desire, when we desire it. This little trick of the mind to invent meaning while also leaving it undefined is very much close to the heresy of Gnosticism, and its rampant in our culture today - it is part of the false gospel that denies Christ came in the flesh.
The whole notion of counterfeit money is a good analogy to equivocal language, whereby it may be interpreted as money, but it actually isn’t. The same thing can be said of the Gospel. In fact, when Sacred Scripture first began to employ this language, they did it intentionally. That is to say, the Christians adopted the term “Gospel” from the Roman Empire, but used it to signify something other than what was understood at the time. In this sense, their term was equivocal with the Roman Empire’s.
This very act can be considered subversive. Keep that in mind. The real Gospel is subversive to secularism. Why? Historically, the Romans would use the term Gospel meaning, “good-news” every time a nation was conquered. In this false-peace won by military violence and a power-hungry state, many heard that this was good news. Christ, however, comes to bring real good news, which is the reign of God who conquers not nations, but hearts and souls.
Discerning Equivocal Gospels
It is important to realize that what was done in history can be repeated. I believe the study of history itself is imposed upon us as a moral obligation for this very reason. It is possible, therefore, that the secular culture has its own notion of good news from the Church’s. And in this sense we must always carefully distinguish the two. The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us some warning, based upon Sacred Scripture itself. It teaches us that a false-messiah, will proclaim a false (equivocal) gospel. Let’s listen to the CCC on this note:
675 Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the "mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.
676 The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism.
If you are interested in a book that illustrates this last battle, I’d suggest reading a book that Pope Francis has recommended called: Lord of the World by Fr. Robert Hugh Benson. In it, we find a depiction of the secularism of the entire world, whereby ‘salvation’ comes from the elimination of the Catholic faith. What I found so interesting in the book was the sadness and despair felt by those who believed Catholicism was resurging. The only thing that can make sense out of such a reaction is to deeply be convicted that the equivocal Gospel message is in fact true. That is, that Christ incarnate in the flesh is not the good news, but rather humanity working to save itself in some type of kingdom here on earth.
With deeply spiritual hearts, let us listen to the message we hear, and listen for the voice of Christ who seeks to build a heavenly Kingdom, rather than a false-kingdom of man. If, in our secular world today we find our Gospel entirely compatible with the culture, we may not be proclaiming His Gospel, but something else. Are we seeking, as a Church the applause of the secular kingdom, or the communion of the Kingdom of God?
Great Article, truth be told it's been a while since I read the book. At the time, it was difficult for me to get through it, but I was younger too. So, I might give it a retry. The only thing I can remember is a death bed scene where I think a priest was snuck in to give last rites or see the dying woman, I think it was one of the government's leaders. I could be completely off.
Important message to send, Chris. You're doing good work, here ...