Every new age brings new ways for people to strike at the faith. We can see this with the long line of heresies that the Church has faced throughout its history. As new ideas and concepts (especially ones of the philosophical type) have been created, so, too, have new heresies been born.
These heresies can seem chic and new at the time, solving what seem like problems of the day in regard to life and the faith, tossing away the things of the past because we supposedly know better now because we’re more advanced in one way or another. While the previous sentence is an apt description of one with a modernist mindset, a heresy first defined in the early 20th century, at its basis, is another, more philosophical concept, known as scientism.
At the basis of every system that claims to be a system of truth there must be a set of unquestionable base assumptions. In Christianity there is Divine Revelation by which we believe in things like the Trinity and the Inerrancy (properly understood) of Scripture. In those systems that sought to supplant Christianity, they looked to the scientific method—that idea by which a hypothesis is made and tested in a repeatable way—as a source of truth, rejecting the idea that anything outside of that could be rightly called truth (a wrong assumption, but not the only one).
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This scientism was used as a blunt object many times by modernist “Biblical Scholars” who were more interested in using biblical criticism to attack traditional beliefs of the Faith and to make a name for themselves than they were in using it to discover deeper truths hidden in the biblical texts and the history surrounding them. Although Pius X clearly and directly refuted the errors that developed out of the modernists’ attempt to scientifically redefine parts of the Faith in this way, the power trip of those who pridefully continued to believe these things was hard to overcome in them.
Hidden in the background of these things was the larger secular cultural context of the mechanization of man. In this context, the dignity of man is reduced from that of being a beloved Child of God to being nothing more than an interchangeable part in a large cultural machine that must always be progressing. No thought is ever given to an end goal to which one is progressing; one is progressing simply for the sake of progressing, with some vague sense of making the world better than it previously was.
Add into that the sense of newer is better based on the commoditization of man, as mentioned in an earlier article, and suddenly the leaders of this progress are the so-called experts. Being parts in this progressive machine, your job isn’t to give input but, rather, to comply with the “experts” because they know more than you do and understand in a greater way than you may be capable of understanding. This is an extremely dangerous concept to allow into the Church for many reasons. The most important of these are in the realms of the doctrinal, pastoral, and catechetical.
The problem of this doctrinal issue, while raised by Pius X, has been mentioned by several other popes since then. It is the idea that someone claiming to have better knowledge about how the world works than the biblical writer can claim that something that was intended by a biblical author to be a statement of literal truth could be deemed to not be true on the supposedly superior authority of an “expert” who is versed in modern science.
This has been used, at times, to say ridiculous things, such as to question the existence of King David, Moses, the Exodus, and even Jesus Himself—statements that are easily demonstrably false. However, if what is stated to be true in the Scriptures is said not to be true, then not only does it reject the inerrancy of the Bible, but it brings into question anything that is written in there, as now one cannot be sure if those to whom the writings are attributed actually wrote them.
In the pastoral, not only does this make it more likely that priests would be willing to preach things to their congregations that are contrary to Divine Revelation and the Magisterium of the Church, it could mean they might become quite dismissive of contrary views to their heterodoxy, questioning not only how one less knowledgeable than their expert can question what they say, but at times whether they are smart enough to “understand why he is right,” and, as Progressives do at times, their sanity.
This is a disaster for the catechetical. Not only does it mean one who speaks contrary to these things by speaking the truth may not be believed by their catechumens, but it also means that a bad teacher who teaches these things may torpedo any hope of bringing their catechumens to believe the actual Faith, leaving them to perhaps believe that they are faithfully believing Catholics when they have no real understanding of the Faith.
With the mechanization of man, and the way a person’s views shift when they see the world in terms of production lines and experts, there is the natural growth of centralization. As this centralization grows, so, at times, does the ability to micromanage the affairs of those below them. While one can see how this has happened in the history of the Church and the Roman Curia, one can also, looking at the current state of Church centralization at all levels, see how quickly things could go bad if higher-up officials take views that are contrary to the Faith, including questioning the reliability and inerrancy of the Bible.
In essence, they could use their authority and political power to try and force those who teach properly to not do so—to instead teach the false teachings that the higher-up believes. This was the case during the time of Arianism, in which not only did most Church leaders believe Arianism, but with things like the condemnation of the concept of Homoousion (the idea that the Father and the Son are of the same substance) and the signing of several semi-Arian statements— under what would later be said to be duress—by Pope Liberius, along with the Blasphemy of Sirmium, many were entirely lost as to who to believe in regard to what the Arians said. With modern technology and Church centralization, such preaching of falsity to the people becomes far easier.
While Arianism was eventually ended centuries ago (though some today try to bring it back), only recently has scientism begun to fall out of favor. Eventually, philosophers rose in prominence who saw the holes in scientism. They saw that there were underlying assumptions about knowledge and our ability to gain it that could not be answered scientifically but that were necessary for their modernistic scientism to work.
Suddenly, more and more of the academic community was faced with the reality that the basic philosophies they thought they could replace traditional religious belief with had no basis to them. They fell apart when one tried to look at the supposedly solid foundations on which they sat, becoming the basis for the supposed need for post-modernism. Once this realization came to the modernists of the religious establishment, this would create quite a mess. Suddenly, it was my truth and your truth rather than the truth, but with those adhering to scientism still, in many corners, holding on.
This has led to quite a mess in the Church. In many corners, it has led to a toxic situation with a pastor of a church teaching false doctrine due to believing the “experts” more than the Magisterium and Divine Revelation. He is teaching in a church where many see the truths of the Faith as nothing more than one opinion among many. At this point, the court of public opinion can become far more of a concern to the people than the truth of the Gospel.
Inconvenient teachings and people are tossed away in order to make room for that which they want to hear and those they want to see, something in direct contradiction with the Gospel. Worship can also become mechanized, leading one to be told that one must worship God not from the heart but in the exact mechanalogical way the “experts” say you should. If the person making the rubric that you, the faithful person, are following either has a wrong idea of active participation in Mass or a wrong concept of the meaning of the Mass for both faithful and celebrant, this can lead to such a rubric interfering with the worship of God and an openness to His graces. This mechanization of the faithful continues to get worse as the view of the human person deteriorates.