Christian Cyclopedia

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1. Designation applied to the liberal movement that arose in some quarters of the RC Ch. toward the end of the 19th c. Under leadership of G. Tyrrell,* A. F. Loisy,* A. Houtin,* et al. modernism made considerable progress. In 1907 it was curbed by Pius X (see Popes, 30), who condemned it as the “résumé of all the heresies.” His 1910 motu* proprio Sacrorum antistitum required of clerics an oath for traditional RC belief and against modernism. See also Roman Catholic Church, The, A 8.

2. Modernism in Protestantism has roots in the early 19th c. Its premise is that there is no revealed and absolute truth and that man is constantly in search of religious truth. It is a theol. method rather than a system of beliefs; it follows principles of Ger. schools of liberal theol. F. D. E. Schleiermacher* claimed to find the source of truth in a pious feeling of dependence on God; A. B. Ritschl* emphasized the kingdom of God and ethics; E. P. W. Troeltsch* sought truth in the comparative study of all religions. Modern presuppositions in philos., science, sociol., and psychol. are considered basic to discovery of religious truth. Modernism claimed that the basic religious truths are: the fatherhood of God, the immanence of God, the brotherhood of man, the perfectibility of man.

3. Liberal theol. held that the function of the ch. was to est. the kingdom of God as an ethical and moral community. Since such a kingdom could not be est. until the soc. ideals of Jesus had permeated all human soc., liberal theol. invented the social* gospel. Modernism may, therefore, be summarized as follows: (a) The religious experiences of the past and the present are the criterion and standard of truth. The Bible is viewed as a record of religious experiences of OT and NT times. All religious concepts (e.g., sin, grace, redemption, heaven) must be reinterpreted in light of current religious experience. (b) It assumes that man's moral growth toward a unified personality is possible if man follows the biological and psychol. laws of the universe. Man must also have faith in his own inherent capability for his development for a good life. (c) The message of modernism is the soc. gospel. FEM

See also Fosdick, Harry Emerson.

J. G. Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (New York, 1923); S. Mathews, The Faith of Modernism (New York, 1924); C. J. Södergren, Fundamentalists and Modernists (Rock Island, Illinois, 1925); L. Berkhof, Recent Trends in Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1944); N. F. Furniss, The Fundamentalist Controversy, 1918–1931 (New Haven, Connecticut, 1954); Controversy in the Twenties: Fundamentalism, Modernism, and Evolution, ed. W. B. Gatewood, Jr. (Nashville, Tennessee, 1969).

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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