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The Modernist Philosopher

The Modernist philosopher begins with Agnosticism. Many people think that agnosticism is simply acknowledging that one does not know whether or not God exists. But in the Modernist system, agnosticism is a denial that anyone can even know whether God exists. All we can reason about is phenomena: things that appear to us, and the way they appear to us. Since the existence of God is not a phenomena, we can’t reason about it. We can’t even consider God as a historical subject.

Right out of the gate, the Modernist has started to oppose solid Catholic teaching about reality. The first Vatican Council anathematizes those who say that God cannot be known with certainty from human reason. We can come to know God through reasoning.

Where agnosticism puts limits on what the Modernist philosopher can reason about, vital immanence declares where he can start reasoning. Reasoning, in the Modernist system, starts with the phenomena that man experiences. Having denied the ability to reason about God, their understanding of religion must start with phenomena. They say that since religion is a form of life, the explanation for religion must be found in the life of man. Man has an interior “need or impulsion” that sparks such phenomena. Since God is the object of religion, faith is the interior sense of a need for the divine. This need of the divine, this religious sense, might not even be felt, but instead be a subconscious need.

This interior, religious sense is not only the basis of faith for the Modernist, but also the source of revelation. They even go so far as to say that the religious sense “is the germ of all religion, and the explanation of everything that has ever been or ever will be in any religion” (§10). This goes for the Catholic religion as much as any other.

So the interior religious sense, through the agency of vital immanence, is the basis of faith and the explanation of everything in faith. But when God presents himself through this religious sense, the impression is confused and indistinct (according to the Modernist). The only way for it to become more clear is for the intellect to reflect on and analyze religious sense impressions. “The mind then, encountering this sense, throws itself upon it, and works in it after the manner of a painter who restores to greater clearness the lines of a picture that have been dimmed with age.” (§11)

This working over of sense impressions with the mind brings the Modernist two results: first, a concept in a simple, popular statement, and secondly, secondary propositions that are purportedly more precise and distinct, and elaborate that original statement.

According to the Modernist, secondary propositions that the church agrees upon are then considered dogma.

Let’s walk this back a minute. First, someone receives a religious sense, which is nothing more than an inner impulse of some vague sort. Then, by reflecting on that sense, the Modernist produces what amounts to a slogan, and then refines that slogan to suit his purposes.

To the Modernist, this prideful speculation is the source of dogma. Not the omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent God Almighty, no, but somebody reflecting on their tummy rumblings.

That’s awful enough. But then the Modernist goes on to say that since these dogmas come from confused sense impressions in man, and not through any means of objective revelation, these secondary propositions (which they also call symbols) are subject to change.

Yes, according to the Modernist philosopher, dogma is subject to change. Not only is it subject to change, but it must change, to be in accord with the living religious sense.

This is completely contrary to the nature of God, who is unchanging, and whose dogmas are unchanging.

So, to recap: in the Modernist philosophy, agnosticism and vital immanence lead to defining faith and revelation as a personal religious sense, which becomes the changeable source of changeable dogma.


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