What’s Wrong with Modernism? Part 2

Science-symbol(This is the second half of an article originally published in The Banner, April 23, 2001, pp. 24-26. For the first half, see here.)


One morning I was watching TV with my 2-year-old daughter. A skit in a children’s show taught, “Science always saves the day!” That is scientism in a nutshell. Science is elevated to the role of Savior. Remember our “Star Trek” hero Mr. Spock? He was a science officer.

Modernism has a strong faith in the ability of science and technology to save the day. As in “Star Trek,” science is seen as the means to solve all the world’s evils. By means of the scientific method, we can gain the right knowledge and understanding of how something works and why things go wrong and come up with solutions for it.

We have applied the scientific method to all areas of study. In literary studies, for instance, interpreting a work of literature has turned into a science [in the late 1960s]. To properly analyze a text, we must read it in a detached and objective manner. We must leave our own values behind, and we cannot judge the text’s values as right or wrong. Like scientists, literary scholars should not make ethical judgments but merely seek to discover and present the facts. These days, however, we acknowledge that we cannot leave our values behind even if we want to. And ethical considerations are now OK in literary studies. Continue reading “What’s Wrong with Modernism? Part 2”

What’s Wrong with Modernism? Part 1

PaineAgeReason(Another old article I had written. This was originally published in The Banner, April 23, 2001, pp. 24-26.)

Postmodernism is all the rage these days. Plenty of books and articles have been written about it. Students take classes about it. Even The Banner published an article on it last year (Jan. 31, 2000).

Many Christians oppose postmodernism’s teachings, especially the claim that there is no absolute truth – or at the very least, if there is absolute truth, that we can never know it. I think Christians have good reasons to be suspicious and critical of postmodernism. However, in their fight against postmodernism, many have allied themselves with modernism. These Christians see modernism as the bastion of absolute truth and a safeguard against postmodernity’s skepticism and relativism.

This is a dangerous trend. We must remember that before postmodernism came along, modernism was an enemy to the faith. Simply because Christianity and modernism now share a common foe in postmodernism does not mean that we should be allies!

Modernism as an intellectual movement has bred many idols. Among them are rationalism, scientism, and individualism. Even Christians have not been immune from unwittingly bowing down to these idols alongside their worship of the one true God. Before we observe these three idols, let us take a brief look at their source – modernism. Continue reading “What’s Wrong with Modernism? Part 1”

Counterfeit Faith 2 – Experientialism

No Experience Necessary

In my previous post, I warned against dogmatism as a counterfeit faith. In this post, I want to warn about falling into the opposite extreme. This post was actually published in The Banner (April 2014 print edition) as “The Idolatry of Experience“.

In addition to simply giving equal time, I also think this post helps to avoid some misunderstandings from my previous post and also to clarify some concepts. I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not against theology or dogma or doctrines. I love theology. I think it is important. Neither am I suggesting that we get rid or do without theology or dogma. A previous post suggests that theology matters deeply. I was merely warning us from turning good, necessary and important things like beliefs, doctrines and theology into an idol.

Theology is an aid that helps us to love God. In fact, it is a necessary aid, without which we cannot know God. Everybody has a theology, which can be as simple as a rudimentary form of knowing what one believes to the more sophisticated academic style theology that you find in systematic theology textbooks, or even to more articulated ones like we find in church confessions and creeds. But precisely because it is so good and necessary and so helpful that we can be tempted to trust it or to love it more than we ought.

Hence, this article on the idolatry of experience also nicely illuminates how idolatry works – how we can be tempted to turn something good and necessary, even a gift from God, into an idol. And also explains why idolatry is bad for us. Although applied to experience, you can also see how to apply it back to dogma/theology/intellectual ideas.

Continue reading “Counterfeit Faith 2 – Experientialism”

The Myth of Race

Sign for "Colored waiting room", Geo...
Image via Wikipedia

This article was published in The Banner, March 2003, pp. 38-40.

Christians are not immune from racism. For example, [on the day of] his ordination ceremony, a Black pastor of a white Toronto congregation was mistaken for the janitor! A visiting elder assumed that the only black man in a white church must be the janitor. This is a subtle and even unconscious form of racism.

Even the most intelligent people fall prey to racism. The noted theologian and politician Abraham Kuyper believed that “the highest form of religion, i.e., Calvinist Christianity, and the highest kind of human being on the creaturely scale, i.e., the white race [and not the blacks] belonged naturally together” (Infected Christianity, p. 93). Kuyper actually called the “life of the colored races [in] Africa [as] a far lower form of existence” (Calvinism: Six Stone Lectures, New York: Revell, 1899, p. 34).

Racism is a sin that needs to be rooted out of the church. But so far there has been very little theological analysis of racism. Most Christians rely on sociological and psychological studies. Though helpful, such studies do not sufficiently address racism as a spiritual sin. If racism is a sin, what exactly is the source of this sin? Why does it have such a strong grip on people? Is the cure simply a matter of ‘sensitivity training’? Are affirmative-action policies adequate? Or, to ask a question directly affecting us Reformed Christians, how did Abraham Kuyper’s philosophy contribute to South Africa’s apartheid? Continue reading “The Myth of Race”