The main plague of modern Christianity is, well, modern Christianity. That is to say, modernism. Modernism may be defined as the conviction that the truths of Christianity were determined by the cultural circumstances of the first century, and that they are therefore no longer relevant of credible by modern people. The truths of Christianity must be ‘re-interpreted’ for modern, scientific, technologically adept people.
The Resurrection and Theological Sleight of Hand
Now, if the modernist were honest about his scheme we wouldn’t mind so much. If he said (as some admirably honest modernists do) “The miracles stories are nothing more than symbolic” we would know where we stood. If he said, “The resurrection is a beautiful fairy tale” we would be clear. If he said, “The Virgin Birth is a make believe fantasy story” we’d understand. Then when he (or she) resigned from being a Christian minister we would accept their resignation with understanding (and not a little delight) and wish them well in their new career as a social worker.
But he doesn’t do this. Instead the modernist priest continues to use the traditional language and liturgy of Christianity. He sings with gusto, “Up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes….” He stands up on Easter day and says with a theatrical tone, “Christ is risen from the dead, Alleluia!” to which his faithful people reply, “He is risen indeed. Alleluia!” And everyone feels warm and comfortable.
Furthermore, the modernist minister feels no qualms about drawing his salary, putting in his expense claims and having the rectory redecorated. Indeed, he perceives himself as something of a pioneer. He boldly goes where others fear to tread. He has faced the difficult questions of Christianity and found a new way through. He sees himself as a true man of faith for “isn’t faith daring to ask the difficult questions and stepping out into the unknown–letting go all the quaint certainties to launch out into the deep?” Indeed, he even sees himself as a martyr for he has gone through persecution at the hands of the Pharisaical and self righteous orthodox Christians.
So Reverend Wooly continues to use all the conventional language of belief. He does so because he recognizes a certain ‘psychological depth’ in the ‘ancient mythical symbolism’. He believes it helps people. It inspires them. But take him on one side and quiz him a bit you discover that he doesn’t really believe in the resurrection at all. For him it is “a beautiful story about life and love eventually overcoming death” or “In some mysterious way the truth and goodness of Jesus continued to live long after his physical body passed away, and isn’t that what we all hope for ourselves and our loved ones?”
Of course this is total and utter nonsense. The resurrection means that the physical person who died rose up from the dead and wasn’t dead anymore. The tomb was empty. They saw him and they were scared. They ate with him and touched his new body. If this didn’t happen then it wasn’t resurrection at all. It was just a beautiful idea, but the beautiful idea couldn’t even be a beautiful idea if the resurrection didn’t happen. The beautiful idea would only be an imaginative story, in which case it wasn’t even a beautiful idea, it was just a fairy tale, and it wasn’t even a very nice fairy tale, because it promised something it could never deliver.
To say the resurrection is nothing more than “a beautiful idea” is as absurd as saying marriage is a beautiful idea. What if a man said he was married, but you never saw the woman, you never saw the engagement ring and you never saw the children which proved that he had made love to the woman? You’d say it wasn’t marriage at all, and it wasn’t even a beautiful idea. It was a lie. And what if humanity built a great civilization on this beautiful idea of marriage but none of the men were ever married to women, but still they talked in glowing terms of “the beautiful sacrament of marriage” You would consider the lot of them to be insane.
So modernism, with its theological sleight of hand is not only dishonest, it’s insane. Those who follow it live in a world cut off from reality. They live in an alternative reality of their own imagination.
The poisonous thing about this modernism, is that it is so difficult to pin down. It has to come from the Father of Lies since it is so insidiously deceptive. Whenever it appears it never speaks plainly and openly. Instead it resorts to half truths, poetical deceptions and charming myths. It is all smoke and mirrors.
Even worse, it has got into every Christian denomination. It’s easy to think this is the disease of the mainline liberal Protestant denominations. Sadly, it has gone deep in the Catholic Church and it affects everything we do. It affects the way we worship, the way we preach, the way we relate to the world, the way we do everything. It lies deeply hidden, and is the root cause of all our problems in the church. Furthermore, like Satan himself, the more a church attempts to root it out, the more subtle the deception goes and the more the lies become hidden under clever academic speak.
So the Catholic modernist hides his disbelief completely and never really says what he means at all, and if he is pushed to explain what he believes about the resurrection he’ll say with a sweet smile, “Of course Christ is risen, and what we mean by that remains a glorious mystery”, or even worse, he says nothing at all, keeps to the liturgical formulas and goes on through his ministry to undermine everything he says he stands for.
Well you can keep it. Give me the old time religion. I believe Jesus rose from the dead. I believe it was physical. If it wasn’t I’d pack it all in tomorrow.