modernism, postmodernism, and fundamentalism

Discussion in 'Fundamental Baptist Forum' started by tinytim, Jun 7, 2007.

  1. tinytim

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    While looking at Church history, It occured to me that fundamentalism arose because of a reaction to modernism in the 20th century.

    Since around 1990, modernism is losing out to post-modernism.. people are realizing that humanism, and science are not the answers to everything.. and there is a search for truth...

    The problem is, there is so much information for people to choose from, so they pick and choose what they think is truth...

    Modernism is dying.
    We are beyond modernism... hence the term Post modern..

    And we beginning to live in a post-modern world... (most places)

    Now since fundamentalism was a response to modernism...
    And since modernism is dying, how does that affect fundamentalism?

    Could this be the reason we see a split between the neo-fundamentalists or as some call them (UFOS) Ultra seperatism, and onlyism.......and the traditional fundamentalists...

    It seems that fundamentalism is in a flux...

    Fundamentalists are taught to fight... Stand for truth... but when the enemy (modernism) is dying, who do you fight?

    Could that be the reason you see so many different stripes of fundamentalists.. fundamentalists are taught to fight to the point that when they don't have a common enemy, they fight each other?

    What will be the fundamentalists response to post modernism?
    For over a 100 yrs we were trained to fight one enemy... modernism
    I think it is time to get ready to fight another... post modernism

    I feel the emergent church movement is a response to post modernism..
    What response will the fundamentalist movement give?
     
    #1 tinytim, Jun 7, 2007
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  2. J.D.

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    Good questions, Tim. First, I've always understood it this way (correct me if this aint right):

    Modernism: Truth is relative.
    Post-Modernism: Truth does not exist.

    I think of fundamentalism as a reaction against theologica/biblical liberalism, not modernism, although I understand that you're speaking of the larger societal movements, not just movements within the church.

    There could be an odd coming together of fundamental and liberal believers to stand against the frontal assault against the very notion of truth from the post-moderns. Even though liberals believe that truth is relative, at least they believe that truth does exist, and they might find themselves standing with we who believe in absolute truth against the haters of the very idea of truth.

    The fundamentalist movement was mainly a successful effort to present a united front against the liberals, who began gaining influence in the mid 1850's, and since there needed to be some way to establish a definite front in the war, the "5 fundamentals" were established as a dividing line. Bible-believing people of all stripes came together to defeat the liberal take-over, as the history of the SBC in the 20th century clearly shows (not limiting the struggle to the SBC - it was much larger than that).

    Also, I think fundalmentalism has been, over time, discredited by cultish leaders, and by the media unfairly associating whacko's like Phelps and Benny Hinn with it. It'll be intersting to see if fundamentalism can retain, or rather reclaim, it's identity in the future.
     
  3. tinytim

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    I think it's ability to reclaim it's honor is to realize that post-modernism needs to be dealt with.
    I am still trying to understand post modernism. I don't think any of us really have a grasp on it, because it is a brand new philosophy.

    I always understood that modernism thought you could find the truth in science, and humanism...
    And post modernism says there is no absolute truth.. truth is relative to ones situation...
     
  4. J.D.

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    You may be right about that. I'll check that out when I get a chance.
     
  5. Gold Dragon

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    I don't think these are common understandings of those terms. If we want to express these loaded terms in oversimplifications:

    Modernism: Truth is absolute and scientific rationalism will ultimately discover all truths
    Post-modernism: Truth is relative and scientific rationalism is flawed
     
  6. Bob Alkire

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    Very good. I agree.

    I think this mind set leads to an attitude, that if it isn't new it is so yesterday, out of date.

    Our so called educators have taught us that we are smarter and have it harder than any group that has come before us. Education, both Christian and secular are of that attitude many times, they know more and so much of yesterday was wrong, they rewrite so much, to get it to fit into their mind set.

    In others words the world and the church is a moving target, it is harder to hit a moving target than one which isn't moving. Most people want to teach or give their views and don't want to hear yours or the teachings of the past.

    Get back to teaching the Word, getting the Gospel out to the lost and having our walk talk better or equal to our talk and fundamentalism will be find.
     
  7. exscentric

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    As to the fundy's battles, they started way back even within the early fundys. There was splitting going on over different issues. In the 60's-70's I lived in a large city full of ind. fund. bap. churches and they wouldn't even come together close enough to buy pencils for their schools in bulk - had to be separate you know :laugh: They could have saved thousands on school supplies but they wouldn't. Even then there was snipping between pastors about what other pastors were doing. Multiple forms of fundamentalism had to be the result - it was in their genes :wavey:

    As to the modern/postmodern I feel it is kind of like neo-evangelism - everyone has their own theory and nobody really knows what it is because of the many theories.

    Personally I stay away from the terms since to many church goers it sounds like some philosophical discussion and they don't like philosophical stuff. When someone (maybe here in the next few days :) gets them defined understandably they will begin to have meaning. :thumbs:
     
  8. Gold Dragon

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    hey tinytim, lots of good ideas for discussion.

    Fundamentalists did not reject all of modernism. They rejected certain conclusions of modernism that disagreed with their theology (ie. evolution, rejection of the supernatural) while seeking modernist style explanations that agreed with their theology (ie. creation science).

    One aspect of modernism that contrasts with postmodernism is an approach to different views. With absolute rationalistic truth, different views are a challenge to one's personal worldview since both can not be right. But in a postmodern context, different views are tolerated and do not present a challenge to one's personal view.

    For a fundamentalist, it could be both good and bad. It may mean that their position may be considered and heard as one of many valid views instead of simply dismissed and ridiculed as being irrational or non-scientific. However, in a pluralistic postmodern society, intolerance of other views is frowned upon and fundamentalists are not known for being tolerant.

    I think if fundamentalists are sensitive of their own approach to different views, they can take advantage of our current tolerant postmodern ethos to preach the good news of Christ to ears that would have been very closed to fundamentalism in the modernist context.

    Some fundamentalists have defined themselves by what they are fighting against. And I agree that this has lead to many divisions within fundamentalism even when they had a tangible common enemy.

    I think if that is the approach that fundamentalists take with postmodernism, they will lose the war before the first battle.

    I agree that the emergent church is one of many Christian responses to postmodernism. I generally support the emergent church in its attempts to take a very modernist influenced Christian faith to a postmodern culture just as Paul took a very Jewish influenced Christian faith to a Greek culture.
     
  9. Plain Old Bill

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    I think fundamentalism is the perfect answer to a post-modern world. Post-modernism has no set value system, nothing is certain, you can't count on or trust anything.

    Sticking to the fundamentals of the faith,preaching a simple gospel message,proper discipling, and Good Bible teaching are just what people are looking for. Something that they can fix thier sights on and count on to live by. A real value system.:godisgood: A God that will love them and walk with them them the last mile of the way.A god that will be with them through thick and thin.A God who will not walk out on them when everybody else does.
     
  10. npetreley

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    I think that's pretty close. The way I've seen it written is that there is no metanarrative - that is, there's no story about the story of anything. Everything is just a conglomeration of a variety of perceived truths (since there is no real truth), each equally legitimate and deserving of representation.

    The funny thing about it is that a statement like that is self-disproving. It is, itself, a metanarrative -- it claims that the true story of the story is that there is no story of the story. As the wikipedia points out, critics of postmodernism say it's like the liars paradox: "This statement is false."

    For what it's worth, you should pay a visit to the following site. Reload the page for a new article each time. It's a postmodernist article generator, and the nonsensical pseudo-intellectual output can be really funny.

    http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo

    Here's a tiny sample of the kind of stuff it creates:

     
  11. Joseph M. Smith

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    We need to wrestle a while with the observation that both fundamentalism and modernism were/are essentially rationalistic. That modernism is rationalistic has been pointed out already on this thread ... its trust in science and logic. But fundamentalism has a deep streak of rationalism in it too ... the notion that truth is an objective entity which can be mined by people who posit the literal interpretation of the Bible and then go to work on that basis. Still more logic than love, more assensus than fiducia.
     
  12. Plain Old Bill

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    Actually the modernist movement has moved on to the post-modernist movement where there is no real truth,truth has become flexible and fluid, ever changinmg.Post modernism is steeped in secular humanism.
     
  13. Baptist Believer

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    Precisely. Those who became "Fundamentalists" rightly reacted against atheistic modernism using the language and terminology of their day to make their case. Unfortunately, the followers uncritically picked up on the modernist-influenced language and terminology of their forebearer's arguments and reduced their own "faith" into into a rationalistic quest for theological certainty and completeness, exemplified by a philosophical demand for inerrancy and the concern for winning rational arguments and political power, over the calling of following Jesus in the discipline of discipleship and learning to love other Christians, the lost, as well as those who are the enemies of Christ.

    Yep. I am a product of that heritage, and I am still recovering.
     
  14. Plain Old Bill

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    Are you both describing fundamentalists or UFO's(ultra-fundamentalists onlyists)with all of there extra-biblical garbage.

    I submit a real fundamentalist would be very accepting and show a great deal of love toward brother and sister Christians as well as having a heart for the unsaved.
     
  15. EdSutton

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    And of this, they are absolutely sure! :rolleyes:

    tinytim, you have well analyzed this in a nutshell.

    Ed
     
  16. John of Japan

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    I see a serious misunderstanding on this thread of the historical meaning of the term "modernism." It was actually a synonym for theological liberalism, with the nuance that modernists thought the fundamental doctrines of Scripture to be outmoded. SBC theologian Millard Erickson describes liberalism and then says, "Liberals espouse this position. While some have preferred the label modernist, seeing themselves as updaters of the old beliefs, they do not really regard the essence of Christianity as bound up with the particular doctrines that were held by ancient believers. Thus, it is not necessary to conserve or preserve those doctrines" (Christian Theology, 2nd ed., p. 123).

    In the glossary of A History of Fundamentalism in America (1st ed.) by noted church historian George Dollar it says under "Modernism," "See Liberalism." There Dollar has, "Religious Liberalism has varied somewhat from country to country. In America it is inseparably indentified with the social gospel, which addresses itself to the social needs rather than the heart needs of man. It is derived from the German rationalists and Higher Criticism. It rejected miracles and the inspiration of the Bible. It sought to harmonize the Scriptures with science. Those who, at the turn of the century, actively contended for these ideas may be designated as Modernists, though in belief they would be classified as Liberals" (p. 383).

    The rosy, post-mil views of theological liberalism meant that it was dealt a severe blow by WW2, which showed that alas, Humankind is not growing better but worse. Knowledgeable fundamentalists believe that it was replaced as an enemy by Neo-orthodoxy, an enemy which is still active. Thus, if you go to a fundamentalist seminary nowadays you are likely to hear detailed refutations of Neo-orthodoxy.

    Post-modernism is a different story altogether, since it did not arise within theology.
     
    #16 John of Japan, Jun 15, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 15, 2007
  17. Joseph M. Smith

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    Thanks for the mini-essay on modernism. I think you are right, that there has been at least a slight confusion in the use of this term. The original posting, and mine, intended to speak more broadly about modernism as a way of thinking, generally and not just theologically, that focuses on reason, science, and criticism as the way to truth. In that sense some of the stances of early 20th Century liberal theology did participate in modernist assumptions, but modernism is a broader category than theological liberalism. It is just that during the heyday of the controversies sparked by Darwinism and the like, the term "modernism" was often used for liberalism, and as a pejorative.

    Properly speaking, the term "liberalism" as applied to theology, means a low Christology and a weak anthropology -- that is, seeing Jesus as something less than the Incarnate Word and seeing human nature as something other than universally sinful. It does not properly apply to one's position on the interpretation of Scripture (e.g., the Southern Baptist use of "liberal" to describe those who do not subscribe to inerrancy).

    You are quite right that the liberal view went bankrupt as WW II arrived. No one could any longer claim that human beings were essentially good, just needing education, when sophisticated Germany became the seat of Naziism. In my own family, my father-in-law used to describe how he, like many young British men after what they call "The Great War" (i.e., 1914-1918) took a vow of pacifism, but as Hitler rose to power, he began to see that evil can become so demonic that there is no choice but to fight it.

    And yes, neo-orthodoxy arose as an alternative both to liberalism and to fundamentalism. Just why it is "the enemy" in some circles escapes me. Neo-orthodoxy seems to me to encompass the best of both worlds -- the reverence for Scripture that fundamentalism contributes and the awareness of a wider world that liberalism contributes. It may be my age (69), but I am an unreconstructed Brunnerian!
     
  18. John of Japan

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    I took the original post to be about the fundamentalist view of modernism. Perhaps tinytim can clarify for us, but he did write in the OP, "fundamentalism arose because of a reaction to modernism in the 20th century." And of course this is the "Fundamental Baptist Forum."

    Personally, I think your broader definition of modernism neither applies to fundamentalism nor is accurate in general. Please note this from a secular source: "Modernism, in theology and philosophy, attempts by a group of scholars and church officials to reinterpret Christian doctrine in terms of 19th-century scientific thought. Modernists of the Roman Catholic church, including Irish theologian George Tyrrell, British-Austrian theologian Baron Friedrich von Hügel, and French theologian Alfred Loisy, tended to regard some church dogmas as symbolic rather than literally true. As part of the Modernist movement the influence of the Roman Catholic church government and its centralization in Rome were attacked. Perhaps most notable was the scholarly movement to work and publish without supervision from the church. In 1907 Pope Pius X issued both a decree, condemning biblical criticism and Modernism, and an encyclical, calling Modernism a synthesis of all heresies. In 1910 Pius issued a motu proprio (a message prepared on papal initiative alone), which, among other things, required an anti-Modernist oath from all clerics in the church.

    "Protestant Modernists, including German theologians Friedrich Schleiermacher and Albrecht Ritschl, attempted to find new interpretations of religious experience and an understanding of history that could accommodate the implications of the theory of evolution and discoveries in psychology, archaeology, and ancient history. To a large extent, they denied literal interpretation of the Bible and the historical actuality of the Jesus Christ of the Gospels. They also stressed ethical and moral behavior rather than adherence to formal creeds." (Microsoft Encarta '98 Desk Encyclopedia)
    We are agreed in general here. However, your definition of liberal theology neglects to take into account the liberal emphasis on higher criticism. Fundamentalists in the beginning of the movement universally opposed higher criticism and called it liberalism. Read the original "Fundamentals" pamphlets or the writings of a man like Machen.

    This is where the view of Scripture enters the picture. I think the issue of higher criticism is deeper than just inerrancy, but deals with the very integrity of Scripture. But this thread is not about that, so I'll hold off.
    I will always refuse to apply a human philosophy like existentialism to my theology. But I doubt that I could reconstruct you. :smilewinkgrin:
     
    #18 John of Japan, Jun 15, 2007
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  19. tinytim

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    The way I understood it is this:
    General modernism arose because of humanism, Darswinism, and the general thinking that mankind can improve this world through knowledge and science...
    Out of general modernism came theological modernism which is the same as liberalism, and theological modernists started analyzing and tearing apart the scriptures and in the process placed their knowledge above what God had said...

    Again, the way I understand my history, (of course I am not as old as some of you that lived through it....:laugh: )fundamentalism was a reaction to the modernist's liberal theology...

    Now we are in 2007, Post-modernism is taking over modernism...
    OUr generation is realizing that science and humanism are not true answers to the world's problems.. so people are looking elsewhere...
    They are searching for truth within their hearts, while claiming that there is no absolute truth... we are split within our understanding of truth.
    Thus some get "truths" from Christianity, combine them with "truths" from Buddhism, and "truths" from Wicca, and try to come up with a religion that works for them...

    Just as religious modernism arose out of modernism, I am wondering if there will be a false religious movement arise out of post-modernism, and if so, what religious movement will rise up to fight it.

    And are most fundamentalists ready for the fight.. or are they still fighting an enemy that has changed.

    I want to be ready to fight the good fight... but I want to know I am fighting the right enemy...

    I hope this clarified my OP.
     
  20. Plain Old Bill

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    Good posts Joj and highly educational too. Thanks. Well you know me, you have piqued my interest so I am off to read and learn more about modernism and liberalism.:godisgood:
     

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