Thursday, June 12, 2014


Of course Modernism is a heresy condemned by the Church in the early 1900's. It has its roots in the late 1800's Protestantism in terms of new methods of interpreting the Scripture. This led to Protestants using what we now call the "historical critical method" to deconstruct the Scriptures to get back to the communities where the oral traditions associated with the written scriptures where placed into a written essay with a theology evolving from the community in which the oral proclamation originated.

This led Protestant Scripture scholars to apply this method to Jesus and to strip all theology and doctrine surrounding Him to get back to the actual historical Jesus without later theologizing that added layers of "myth" to Him and exalted Him when  in fact  He was just a bungler bouncing through Palestine and Israel and only gradually came to know for Himself if He was or wasn't God.

This liberal Protestant method stripped Jesus of His miracles and attributed them to natural or made up causes. It stripped Him of His virgin conception and miraculous birth. A hammer was taken to the Nativity. It stripped Him of divine knowledge and of being One with the Father. It stripped Him even of His resurrection (for if bones could be discovered, wouldn't Jesus still be Lord?) kind of nonsense was posited.Of course stripped of the resurrection, this stripped Jesus of the Ascension and Giving of the Holy Spirit. Then of course one could question the sacraments of the Church, the after life and ultimately become agnostic or atheists.

In reaction to this Protestant deconstruction of Jesus and the Bible, Protestants who had good sense reacted. But of course they have no Magisterium. So the Fundamentalist movement in Protestantism developed around the time of the 1920's.

Pope Pius X knowing what was going on in liberal Protestantism at the time and the influence this could have on Catholic academics sought to stop it in its tracks through papal authority.

I don't think this is the main problem for Catholic today, the heresy of modernism. And in fact the use of the term modernism is off-putting to us who are modern and we confuse what this means with our own understanding of how hip it is to be modern.

The biggest problem Catholics face today is Post-Christianity. Now don't panic when I use the Wikipedia resource to scissors and paste the following description for you:

Postchristianity[1] is the belief that the loss of the Christian monopoly in political affairs, especially in the Global North where Christianity had previously flourished, will eventually lead its demise in favour of secular nationalism.[2] It includes personal world viewsideologiesreligious movements or societies that are no longer rooted in the language and assumptions of Christianity, at least explicitly, although they had previously been in an environment of ubiquitous Christianity, i.e. Christendom.

Other scholars have disputed the global decline of Christianity, and instead hypothesized of an evolution of Christianity which allows it to not only survive, but actively expand its influence in contemporary societies.

The decline of Christianity

Until recently, the overwhelming majority of Christians have lived in White nations, allowing theorists to speak of an "European Christian" civilization; conversely, radical writers have seen Christianity as an ideological arm of Western imperialism.[3] As a result, the loss of Christian influence in the West has led to beliefs of inevitable global decline of Christianity.

Thus defined, a post-Christian world is one in which Christianity is no longer the dominant civil religion, but that has gradually assumed values, culture, and worldviews that are not necessarily Christian (and further may not necessarily reflect any world religion's standpoint, or may represent a combination of either several religions or none). Generally, therefore, post-Christian tends to refer to the loss of Christianity's monopoly, if not its followers, in historically Christian societies. For instance, according to the 2005 Eurobarameter survey, the majority of Europeans (in general) hold some form of belief in a higher power, although relatively fewer point explicitly to the Christian God.

In his 1961 The Death of God, the French theologian Gabriel Vahanian argued that modern secular culture in most of Western Civilization had lost all sense of the sacred, lacked any sacramental meaning, and disdained any transcendental purpose or sense of providence, bringing him to the conclusion that for the modern mind, "God is dead".

Thomas J. J. Altizer and William Hamilton of Emory University, drew upon a variety of sources, including the aphorisms of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison, and brought this line of thought to public attention in a short-lived intellectual movement of the mid-to-late-1960s among Protestant theologians and ministerial students. Conservative reaction on the right and social-advocacy efforts on the left blunted its impact, however, and it was quickly overlooked in favor of more ethically-oriented movements such as the Social Gospel and feminist theologies, within mainline Protestantism.

My final comments: Our problem today is post-Christianity not modernism, post-Christianity may well flow form the modernist mentality. 


Marc said...

Modernism involves much more than poor biblical scholarship, and the historical-critical method is just one of its many errors. For example, in another thread, I have just articulated the erroneous Modernist conception of God and shown how certain priests will sneakily attempt to put forward this conception to infect the unwary in their flock.

Gene said...

The Modernist's hope is in man. It is that simple.

Pater Ignotus said...

Marc - Pope Benedict does not agree with your condemnation of the historical-critical method.

"The application of the historical method to the Bible as a historical text was a path that had to be taken. If we believe that Christ is real history, and not myth, then the testimony concerning him has to be historically accessible as well. In this sense, the historical method has also given us many gifts. It has brought us back closer to the text and its originality, it has shown us more precisely how it grew, and much more besides. The historical-critical method will always remain one dimension of interpretation. Vatican II made this clear. On the one hand, it presents the essential elements of the historical method as a necessary part of access to the Bible. At the same time, though, it adds that the Bible has to be read in the same Spirit in which it was written. It has to be read in its wholeness, in its unity. And that can be done only when we approach it as a book of the People of God progressively advancing toward Christ. What is needed is not simply a break with the historical method, but a self-critique of the historical method; a self-critique of historical reason that takes cognizance of its limits and recognizes the compatibility of a type of knowledge that derives from faith; in short, we need a synthesis between an exegesis that operates with historical reason and an exegesis that is guided by faith. We have to bring the two things into a proper relationship to each other. That is also a requirement of the basic relationship between faith and reason."

All methodologies have their weaknesses and all of them can be mis-used. Allegory can go wrong, too. After all, not every reference to water in the Old Testament is a foreshadowing of Baptism and not every reference to wood is a foretelling of the Cross.

I'm with B16 here....

Pater Ignotus said...

Marc - “Modalism, also called Sabellianism, is the unorthodox belief that God is one person who has revealed himself in three forms or modes in contrast to the Trinitarian doctrine where God is one being eternally existing in three persons.”

The example I gave of my father being known in one way by my three sisters, who were high school age when he died in 1962, and in another way by myself, who was 4 when he died, has nothing to do with Modalism, nor are there “Modalist implications” in this analogy.

My father was known in one mode, as he existed in only that one mode (God exists as Triune). We – my sisters and I – experienced, understood, and came to know that one mode in different ways. I never said or suggested that he revealed himself in different ways to my sisters and to me.

The different ways in which we knew him are perfectly natural and understandable and don’t represent anything weird, unorthodox, or “modalist.”

Pater Ignotus said...

Marc - Here's a description of the principle errors of Modernism by Jimmy Akin that I can live with. Can you?

(1) God cannot be known and proved to exist by natural reason;

(2)external signs of revelation, such as miracles and prophecies, do not prove the divine origin of the Christian religion and are not suited to the intellect of modern man;

(3) Christ did not found a Church;

(4) and the essential structure of the Church can change;

(5) the Church's dogmas continually evolve over time so that they can change from meaning one thing to meaning another;

(6) faith is a blind religious feeling that wells up from the subconscious under the impulse of a heart and a will trained to morality, not a real assent
of the intellect to divine truth learned by hearing it from an
external source.

Not ONE of these six point is contained or suggested in my earlier post that you condemned as an example of Modernism.

Gene said...

Well, Fr. did not post what I wrote. He is protecting Ignotus from less than charitable comments. Not a very good use of his time…Ignotus draws uncharitable comments like a well-known substance draws flies. LOL!

Marc said...

Pater, I specifically said that I was not passing upon any modalist ideas in your analogy. Since you felt the need to explain why what you said didn't implicate modalism, perhaps you recognize that it could be read as such. I certainly think it could be--in the same way the oft-used "mother, wife, daughter" explanation of the Trinity is modalist. So, I mentioned modalism in passing to limit the scope of the discussion because our discussion is not about modalism. I'm sure you are not a modalist.

I do not put much stock in Jimmy Akin's writings. So, no, I cannot live with his explanation. My evaluation of what you wrote was based on an encyclical by Pius X, who, in my opinion, had a greater understanding of modernism than Jimmy Akin or anyone else for that matter. I also referenced other sources that I have studied on modernism, such as The Catechism of Modernism.

As I already said, your clarification of the "father" analogy later in that discussion took it outside the "modernist" realm. The point in my latest post in that thread, then, was only to show that you assumed incorrectly when you assumed (in an incredibly rude way) that I am not knowledgable about this topic. I think it is rather clear, and I have sufficiently shown, that your original analogy, without your later clarifications, falls into the vital immanence error that is part of the modernist heresy. But, again, that isn't the issue. The issue is your assumption that my thinking this is based on a lack of knowledge, and you are incorrect.

As for the historical-critical method and Pope Benedict, honestly, I do not care what the former pope has to say about it. By that I mean, I don't spend any time at all considering biblical hermeneutics. In fact, if I were to try to discuss this subject with you, you would have every reason to call me out for being unknowledgeable! In my previous post, my point was only that modernism involves more than an erroneous understanding of biblical hermeneutics contra Fr. McDonald's original post only mentioning that aspect of the heresy and no others.

Pater said...

Marc - If you are knowledgeable about this topic, then it should be very easy for you to offer 1) a very clear definition of the heresy of Modernism and 2) a very specific critique of my post which you labeled Modernist.

You did not "pass" on modalism in my post - you said, "Setting aside the modalist implications of Pater's “father” example, as well as his later clarifications..."

You said there were "modalist implications."

You have made serious errors in the past when you made assertions concerning the Church's teaching. Specifically you misunderstood Quo Primum regarding changes in the mass. So, yes, I am going to suggest that, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, you are not as well-versed in Modernism (or Catholic theology in general) as you think you are.

Show me that you are, and I'll be pleased to acknowledge it!

Marc said...

Pater, I offered a very specific critique of your post. Thus far, my critique remains unchallenged by you.

Milton said...

Marc, you are wasting your time. The only thing that Pater Ignotus brings to this blog is "a mind not to be changed by place or time."

Pater Ignotus said...

Marc - I saw no specific critique, just an assertion that you think my post was Modernist or that it might be construed by some as Modalist.

A proper critique would start with your definition, not Pius X's, of Modernism and an application of that definition to what I posted.

Marc said...

Pater, what are you talking about?

Gene said...

Marc, He does not know…never has known.