Monday, March 26, 2007

Eternal Truth and Modernism

Another challenge to the Truth is Modernism and Modernity, which are rooted in the idea that traditional forms of religious faith, art, literature, social organization and daily life have become outdated and stagnant, and therefore it is essential to sweep them aside and "modernize." Modernity is not a systematic philosophy itself, but is instead an attitude or frame of mind towards basic philosophical and cultural issues. Etymologically, "modernism" means an exaggerated love of what is modern, an infatuation for modern ideas. At its most extreme, modernism aims at radical transformation of human thought in relation to God, man, the world, and life. Some modernists may see themselves are part of the avant-garde, that is, the vanguard of some future utopia. Change and "progress," including technological advances, are seen as great goods in themselves, while the status quo is seen as suspect at best. Tradition is rejected while experimentation, innovation, and radicalism are celebrated. Modernism encourages the re-examination of every aspect of existence, from commerce to philosophy to morality, with the goal of discovering what is holding back progress and replacing it with new, and therefore "better," ways of reaching the same end. As such, modernist tendencies are found in other relativistic challenges to absolute, transcendent truth.

The modernist believes that mankind has outgrown the need for "God," and prefers to account for the existence of nature and mankind in terms of physical and natural causes. To the extent that Modernity accepts the existence of God, He is seen as distant, or as an image that is constructed in the likeness of Man. It is widely accepted in Modernism that mankind's fate is determined either by nature or by himself without reference to God. Secularization has thus emerged as one of the main characteristics of Modernity.

As such, Modernism insists that the Church and Catholic dogma are mere human institutions and, thus, their nature may properly be changed over time, even radically. From art to architecture to music to traditional prayer to the liturgy, for the modernist-minded, it is out with the old and in with the new. Modernism undermines defined Catholic doctrine in a fundamental way, denying the idea of objective unchanging truth and authoritative teaching. For the modernist, morality is relative and situational, and traditional moral norms are rejected as being old-fashioned and oppressive. Modernism takes a skeptical view of miracles and the historicity of biblical narratives, focusing on scriptural text alone and ignoring what the Church fathers and others have historically taught about it.

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