The Myth of Modernity – Part 1 (July-Aug 2010)

By Matt Dabbs

by Edward Fudge
July – August, 2010

“Modern” people get it, they said, and if you don’t, well, you must not be “modern.” Human culture is evolving upward, if not every human being. Soon all problems will be solved. We hold the key (science), we know the password (information) and we possess the necessary means (human ingenuity and effort). All truth is absolute and we can know it absolutely, package it in facts and pass it on to others. Intuition is subjective and experience is highly suspect. The more we learn, the more we can explain. The more we explain, the less our need for faith. Religion will be more about reason and less about mystery. We are in charge — “we” as individuals, that is. Personal expression, personal development and personal fulfillment are what matter most.

Every sentence in that first paragraph is part of a mindset belonging to what many people now call “modernism” or “modernity.” This bundle of outlooks and attitudes was born with the Enlightenment, and it began to die about halfway through the 20th century. These notions deeply affected believers and nonbelievers alike, andshaped the way many Christians read and interpreted the Bible. For many unbelievers, the rise of reason meant explaining away the supernatural parts of the Bible. For many believers, it meant explaining that supernatural things happened only long ago. The notion that all reality can be reduced to facts caused some people to reject faith in favor of science, and caused others to focus on religious dogma in a very dogmatic way.

On the one hand, the focus on self-interest resulted in capitalism and democracy. On the other hand, it also resulted in the exploitation of workers in factories and mines, and it encouraged many of the relatively small number of have’s to accept the permanent misery of the very large number of have not‘s. Focusing attention on the individual to the neglect of society also encouraged many Christians to view themselves as a “soul” inside a body (rather than as a whole person who is part of God’s creation), to see conversion only as a “moment of decision” (rather than as a change of life), to define salvation solely as escape from hell (with little meaning for the present) and to think of the church as an institution created to meet consumer needs (instead of a community of fellow-travellers who are trying to learn from Jesus and to follow him).
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Copyright 2010 by Edward Fudge. Permission hereby given to reproduce, reprint or forward this gracEmail without change and without financial profit.


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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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