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Ingredients of Modernism – Hubert_Luns

Ingredients of Modernism – Hubert_Luns

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Published by Hubert Luns
Modernism is a current of thought but vaguely defined, and which is sometimes called enlightened thought. On the one hand, God is unknowable (agnosticism) and, on the other, God can only be approached from the heart’s impulse (immanentism). The latter, according to Modernism, is an individual search in which the beginnings of religion come into being from the feelings.
Modernism is a current of thought but vaguely defined, and which is sometimes called enlightened thought. On the one hand, God is unknowable (agnosticism) and, on the other, God can only be approached from the heart’s impulse (immanentism). The latter, according to Modernism, is an individual search in which the beginnings of religion come into being from the feelings.

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Published by: Hubert Luns on Jun 07, 2011
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« Hide your light under a bushel »
 – Ingredients of Modernism –
 According to the philosophy of Immanuel Kant (18
 century) God and the supernatural cannot be known by man, although their existence in itself cannot be denied. Thus the starting point is that our observations remain limited to what we can discern with our senses. From this it follows that our knowledge is always partial and can ‘in no way’ be taken as certain should it extend beyond what is visibly evident. This approach is the foundation of the conviction that belief is limited to the  personal realm and may not be made absolute. The treacherous part here lies in the words “in no way”. As far as the rest is concerned the reasoning is acceptable. That is a fundamental tactic of the opponent: contest the matter by exaggerating. Here Kant attempts to silence the voice of Christian witness by exaggeration, which is in fact a frontal attack on the Great Mission given in Mtt. 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded  you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”. If evangelisation is permitted in our times, it is as a relic from the old days, towards which the rulers of this age are favourably in-clined… for as long as it lasts. Anything that is marginalized is not far off disappearing. We state over against this: “Shall my praise for You be silenced, You my Saviour at all times, You the  Redeemer of my debt? May my knowledge at all times be dedicated to your service!” Let this be the hymn sung by every Christian. Amen!
1 – Christ’s resurrection reduced to a metaphor
The spiritual father of the notion that God cannot be known is René Descartes, who set out the scientific method, known as the Cartesian method, for discovering nature. The most important  principle that he maintained was that one may only accept as knowledge that which can be clearly and distinctly observed (clare et distincte percipere). (1) This means – to take an example – that the contents of a traveller’s suitcase does not exist if the suitcase has not been opened and exa-
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mined by a customs officer. Up till that moment it is  possible only to philosophise about its contents. And that philosophising belongs to the speculative and per-sonal domain and not to the general scientific realm. It is clear that the suitcase cannot contain an elephant, but apart from that the possibilities are endless. Perhaps the suitcase is empty. It probably contains clothing and toilet articles, but in terms of truth such speculations are insufficient, because it could well contain cannabis. This is a sound starting point that prevents someone from being accused on the grounds of pure suspicions alone. But it is going too far to extend this starting point to our relationship with God. A successful method for study-ing nature need not be a method – and it is not – for studying religious and moral questions. God is not simply ‘contents’ but cause,
 cause. (2) The garments in the suitcase are not the cause of the suitcase, nor is the suitcase the cause of the garments. People may have different ideas about the Mover of all things, but that does not mean that it is unreasonable to think on such things and thus practise religion. And it is not optional. If God
 cause us, the He has the right to be served first:
“Dieu est au premier servi”.
 It also means that not all thoughts are equally right. There is such a thing as the historicity of the facts of revelation, which on the grounds of solid research cannot be denied, although some professors of theology make valiant efforts to do so. Thanks to the Cartesian method, science has been able to scale great heights, thereby obtaining an almost unlimited capacity to deal with the material world. In introducing his method, Descartes said of it himself: “
 I will expose the true riches of our souls in order to make accessible to all the
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way according to which they can discover all knowledge required to remain alive and I will give them the means to obtain all the knowledge that lies within the human capacity
.” What he actu-ally says, and so has it been understood (though perhaps he meant something else) is: the spirit – even God – is discovered by the study of the material; indeed the spirit is an exponent of the material rather than the other way round. Know your brain and discover the Spirit! One step further and the obvious conclusion is that when the brain dies the soul disappears. In this way the essentially utter distinction between the natural and the supernatural orders is denied. Also denied is every possibility of God’s miraculous intervention. Christ’s resurrection is thus reduced to the level of a metaphor. Professor van der Ploeg wrote by way of commentary on this: «« There are (according to this) no miraculous interventions of God on earth. (…) Van Iersel wrote: “
 Neither God nor Christ intervene. History and the world go their way unassisted. If the saving work of Jesus – and therein that of God – is continued, it is only there where  people do this work for the salvation of others. God grants no salvation from outside, but  people bring salvation to others and this we can call ‘God’s salvific work’.
” A formulation such as this can only be reasonably understood if we do not believe in a personal God and identify the world with Him. Otherwise it is nonsense. »» (3) There we see all the ingredients of “Modernism”, a current of thought but vaguely defined, and which is sometimes called enlightened thought. This was given a major impulse by the French Revolution. (4)
2 – Modernism, a many-branched and accurséd tree
The school of thought that raised human understanding to the level of absolute norm above belief and religion has come to be known as Modernism. In 1871, in his “Het Modernisme een Fata morgana op Christelijk gebied” (Modernism: a mirage in the Christian realm) the then 34-year-old Abraham Kuyper used the term more than a hundred times in a lecture that lasted for almost two-and-a-half hours. That’s what you call a lecture! In it he made short shrift of liberal Protestantism. (5) Thus he said:
“…while Modernism for me is a phenomenon that seduces like a  far-off view with its tempting beauty; not born through whim or caprice but by fixed law; and yet because of all its glitter loses itself in unreal  shapes.”
 He quotes Edmund Burke, that visionary, who announced in the English House of Commons in 1791:
“I know the value of my line of conduct; I have indeed made a great sacrifice; I have done my duty, though I have lost a friend. There is something in the detested French revolution, that envenoms everything it touches.”
 (6) And Abraham Kuyper continues:
“I too am of the opinion that the struggle against Modernism, in which at present the comba-ting of Christianity has created its tightest system, is  something that we can no longer avoid.”
 In 1881 the Belgian economist C. Périn called it
“an attempt to remove God from every expression of social life.”
 Since then it has become usual to name a wrong direction of thought by this name. Pope Pius X called it
“the collection of all heresies”
 (omnium hæreseon collectum). In his 1907 encyclical he sta-ted:
“If someone had planned to bring together all the sap and, as it were, the blood of every heresy that has ever been committed against belief, into a single whole, he would never have been able to accomplish the task more completely than have the Modernists.”

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