Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hermeneutics Paper Part 5: The Descent into Modernism

The Descent Into Modernism

With all the hullabaloo in the reaction against Post-modernism there is now an almost shocking embrace of Modernism in Confessional Lutheran circles. Part of this embrace of Modernism is due to the fact that Modernism is the fall-back position against Post-modernism. But the main cause for the embrace of Modernism is the continual indoctrination and inundation that takes place from birth on, within Western civilization and its educational, scientific, and governmental institutions.

Consider the statement: “separation of church and state.” Can the interpreter of God's Word draw a clear distinction between the Doctrine as it is found in Scripture, the political right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution to its citizens, and the popular cultural post-modern interpretation? How many readers of this paper can make these distinctions clear to their own parishioners? The notion of inalienable human rights, as presented in the Declaration of Independence, is not a scriptural doctrine but the ideological child of the Enlightenment (the main philosophical movement toward Modernism) handed down to us through humanist philosophers such as John Locke, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, George Mason, and Thomas Jefferson.

Modernism is woven into the fabric of America's founding, it's law, and it's promulgation as a politically free society. Following the influence of John Dewey (1859-1952) upon public (government sponsored) education, religion—particularly Christianity—has been excised from influencing most citizens of the U.S. in their formal educations since the late 1930s.

Most academically acceptable publications and research in the areas of the original languages of Scripture and its history that are available to the interpreter come from a strictly Modernist Materialistic perspective. As shown by the evidence in the sections on Text and Tools earlier in this paper, academically respectable biblical scholarship embodies a rejection of Scripture as the authoritative Word of God. Instead, such respected scholarship views Scripture as a phenomena of human historical development.

So consider what is “history?” Is it a factual description of the past? Is history reliable? Is history true? Can history serve as a limit on the interpretation of Scripture? In as far as history is a human effort to recover and explain the past to those in the present and future, most history written today is simply speculative fiction about the past.

In the so-called “Historical Grammatical” method of interpretation espoused by Berkhof (and also by many in Confessional Lutheranism) the interpreter is cautioned to value the “history” in the Bible as more reliable than any other “history.”1 This author would suggest that the Bible contains the only factual representation of the past available in written form anywhere. Other historical writings, in this author's opinion, are at best able to show us some things and events. But those historical writings are not able to place those things and events with any certainty into the chronology and factual happenings of the past.

Consider the field of Creation Science. This particular field of study is an attempt to study the science of cosmology (the study of the historical origins of the universe) in biblical terms. But it is actually much more than that. It is the imposition of Modernistic Materialism upon the text of Scripture. The field of Science is the embodiment of Modernistic Materialism. Science is based on repeatable predictability. This is what is, at least in pretense, the basis for its historicity. It does turn a blind eye to such repeatable predictability in the area of evolution, where such predictability is impossible. But that does not stop the creation scientist from trying to work within the parameters set by unscriptural Modernistic Materialism. Creation Science doesn't say: “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” It says, for example: “If the system of flood geology can be established on a sound scientific basis, and could be effectively promoted and publicized, then the entire evolutionary cosmology, at least in its present neo-Darwinian form, will collapse.”2 Or Creation Science proposes interpretations of the Biblical text that involve vapor canopies or ice rings.

The problem with efforts like Creation Science is that they undermine the Bible's definition of faith as that of a gift granted by God through the means of grace. In place of this biblical faith efforts to work within the framework of Modernism (such as Scientific Creationism) direct Christians to look at what they claim is or is not materialistically demonstrable. And faith rests on the rational abilities of mankind to work out the historical truth.

In the past few years the press have brought the James Ossuary and what was called the Tomb of Jesus to the attention of the public. Both discoveries were said to have foundational implications for the Christian faith. Both were demonstrated by historical research and scientific research to be frauds. In the case of the James Ossuary such a demonstration would rhetorically imply that Christianity is false. In the case of the Tomb of Jesus the demonstration that it was false would rhetorically imply that Christianity might possibly be a legitimate faith. Modernism has become such a basic framework for many people that the reported results of such historical and scientific research have significant impact on the idea of truth or falsity of Christianity.

The current descent into Modernism is shown by how much value the interpreter places on such “historical” information (which is merely another form of tradition) and makes use of it to limit the interpretation of Scripture itself. This includes the value he places on historical writings about the periods “before” and during Bible times as well as the value he places on the “historical” tools he uses (grammars, lexicons, textual criticism, commentaries, etc.).

1Frankly, there are too many quotation marks around special terms in this paper. For this the author offers his apology with the explanation that it is difficult in presenting a paper to modulate voice to emphasize the special use of a term or phrase. Let the quotation marks serve as clues to this modulation of voice.

2Morris 1974:252.