Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Modernity and Theology
To understand modernity, and its affect on modern theology, we have to understand where it came from. In the early 20th century most people believed that the march of scientific advancement would eventually deliver man from all his ills. As we discovered such miracles as labor-saving devices, mass transportation, flight and medical technology people began to believe that death, disease and suffering were things of the unenlightened past. This belief is the very definition of modernism and its affect was felt across disciplines. In government modernism gave birth to Marxism, Fascism and Communism. In psychology it was believed that in a matter of years the secrets of the mind would be unlocked and all people would live free from mental disturbances. In science, the epitome of faith in modernism was the atomic bomb. People believed that discoveries would only further humanity, never destroy it. So when the atom's power was harnessed many thought of it as free energy. Even the potential for the bomb was heralded as a way of promoting peace. Its power would be a deterrent to armed conflict, and would end wars forever. Or so it was thought...
The high hopes of modernity came to a crashing end in the aftermath of two world wars and the development and deployment of the miracle atom in the form of bombs over Japan. The use of modern science to claim lives with unprecedented efficiency showed a vicious and dangerous side to our technology. People saw through the fog of modernism and realized that it would not solve all the problems of humanity, rather it just complicated the playing field.
Fanatical modernity disappeared, but the ideas of modernism remained. Modernity would not offer man ultimate answers but modern methods were still useful tools. These pockets of modernism remained more entrenched within some segments of society than others. In art and poetry modernity was dead, but in biology it still thrived. Infact the most infected part of society after the collapse of modernism was theology.
Theologians have for years attempted to use modernity to prove God. It seems as if they assume God may be harnessed and brought beneath the inquisitive eye of our microscopes. Once poked and prodded for a bit, then the theologian can either declare God not to exist, or prove infallibly that he does. What the theologian who practices modernism fails to remember is that faith not certainty is what pleases God. God is beyond our ability to quantify him.
Theologians prodded on in the 20th century; asking what could "truly be known" about God. They assumed (wrongly) that when a thing is "truly known" it is known by the abilities of mans logic. And so it went. Twisting downwards in two separate streams; a double helix of idolatry. One one side were the liberals, who affirmed the natural, but then had to deny the attributes of God. They contended that there was no resurrection, no miracles, and they denuded the power of God to affect change in his creation. On the other side were the conservatives, who denied the natural in favor of the supernatural. They held to the "fundamentals" but only at the cost of being totally unable to communicate with the world around them. They became sequestered and ineffectual. Both sides have become something which is not profitable; both landing far afield from what God called His Church to be.
As believers, we must begin to address the concerns of this world, without sacrificing the substance of the God we serve. As God's people we must do both because we are called to be both holy people and salt and light to the world around us. It is the middle way and it is the narrow path which Christ spoke about. This is a frightening and difficult way, a dark path across a steep mountain with treachery only footsteps away. While this is the case, we should not fear. We have a sure lamp to guide us which shines from the truths of the scriptures and if we falter we have a good shepherd to lift us up.