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The Modernist Believer

There is a contradiction between the Modernist philosopher and the Modernist believer. The believer thinks that the divine is something external, outside of himself. The philosopher thinks that the divine is completely internal to the believer, and does not exist outside of the believer.

The believer concludes that the divine is external and real on the basis of personal religious experiences. The Modernist would claim that if one does not have these personal religious experiences, one is not a believer.

The big problem with this criteria is that personal religious experiences are not unique to the Catholic religion. They are part and parcel of all religions. This position attacks the Catholic faith by equivocating it with every other religion.

Modernists also use personal religious experience to combat tradition. They redefine tradition as “a communication with others of an original experience” (§15). This so-called “tradition” can

  1. communicate a new personal religious experience,
  2. revive any sluggish religious sense in the hearer,
  3. renew any previous personal experiences in the hearer,
  4. awaken the religious sense and personal experience in the non-believer who has not previously had a personal religious experience.

So to the Modernist, tradition, instead of communicating timeless, objective truths, recounts sense experiences with the goal of producing similar sense experiences in the hearer.

Modernists hold that “to live is a proof of truth” (§15). So religions that live and flourish must be demonstrating their success in passing on religious experience. And all religious that succeed in this way must be true. Yet again, Catholicism is brought down to the level of other religions in the Modernist belief system.

Faith and Science

In addition to bringing Catholicism down to the level of other religions, Modernism also makes all religion subject to science. (By science they also include philosophy and history.) They start this off by saying that faith and science are entirely different, and shouldn’t influence each other. After all, science is concerned with phenomena, and faith is concerned with the divine.

Now there is an obvious contradiction to this: aren’t there some phenomena in the visible world that are subject to faith? Perhaps the human life of Christ? Not according to the Modernist.

While such things are phenomena, they have been “transfigured and disfigured” by faith. They have been so worked over that they are now removed from the visible world and are now the object of the invisible divine.

This false distinction lets the agnostic Modernist scientist say no, Christ did not work real miracles, or prophesy truly, or rise from the dead, or ascend into heaven. At the same time, it lets the Modernist believer say yes, all those those things happened in the realm of faith… which is tantamount to saying not in the real, visible world.

Also, instead of just keeping faith and science separate this way, they subject faith to science in three ways. First, they say that in every religious fact, when you take away the divine reality and the personal religious experience of the believer, everything else, especially the religious formulas a.k.a. dogmas, are just phenomena and therefore subject to science. So dogma can change on the basis of new scientific evidence, a new historical discovery, or simply a new philosophy.

Second, while the believer can say “God is the object of faith alone”, he’s really only talking about the divine reality of God, not the idea of God. The idea of God is subject to science and philosophy. Science has the right to direct the evolution of the idea of God. Religious evolution is therefore subject to the moral and intellectual trends prevailing.

Third, a believer does not like to suffer internal contradictions. He will feel the need to harmonize any contradictions he sees between faith and science. And in following the previous two ways, he will harmonize these contradictions in such a way that science wins.

At this point in Pascendi Pius X quotes Pius IX:

In matters of religion it is the duty of philosophy not to command but to serve, not to prescribe what is to be believed, but to embrace what is to be believed with reasonable obedience, not to scrutinize the depths of the mysteries of God, but to venerate them devoutly and humbly.


*This post is part of a series on Pascendi Dominici Gregis. Click here for more posts on Pascendi and Modernism.*