Monday, 27 May 2013

Vatican I - Condemnation of Agnosticism and Vital Immanence

The First Vatican Council contains the following canons:
If anyone says that the one, true God, our creator and lord, cannot be known with certainty from the things that have been made, by the natural light of human reason: let him be anathema. (De Revel.)
If anyone says that it is impossible, or not expedient, that human beings should be taught by means of divine revelation about God and the worship that should be shown him : let him be anathema...(Ibid.)
...If anyone says that divine revelation cannot be made credible by external signs, and that therefore men and women ought to be moved to faith only by each one's internal experience or private inspiration: let him be anathema. (De Fide.)
Essentially, this all contains a condemnation of two principles which Pope Pius X notes constitute the philosophical foundation of modernism. The first of these principles is agnosticism. Agnosticism claims, primarily, that nothing can be known by the intellect which is not perceptible by the senses; the world beyond what the senses perceive is inherently unknowable. The intellect is limited only to the knowledge of phenomena. This doctrine has its origin in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, one of the principal figures instrumental to the decline of western thought. The Modernists adopted the philosophy of Kant and attempted to apply it to religion, blind to the fact that religion and agnosticism are inherently incompatible with each other. True religion assumes the existence of a deity, which can be known by human reason. Indeed, that God can be known by reason is not only taught by the tradition of the Church, as manifest in the above condemnation, but it is also taught in scripture itself: "The knowledge of God is clear to their minds; God himself has made it clear to them; from the foundations of the world men have caught sight of his invisible nature, his eternal power and his divineness, as they are known through his creatures" (Romans 1,19-20). 

The other half of the philosophical foundation of modernism is called vital immanence. Pope Pius X, again in his encyclical Pascendi, teaches us that according to vital immanence, religion arises purely from within man himself, deriving all its credibility and force from man's own personal experience as its source. Religion essentially arises from an inner sentiment in the heart of man, and this sentiment is not only where the modernists locate faith, it is also where they locate revelation itself. Further, this is also the origin of the divine reality itself, God, for God is the object and the giver of revelation; the revelation of God consists in that religious sentiment, God revealing and God revealed. Thus, in a sense, man himself turns out to be the creator of religion, of religious truth, of God Himself, rather than being the discoverer of it all.

Pope Pius notes that while agnosticism is the negative half of the philosophical basis of modernism, vital immanence is the positive side; for whereas agnosticism tells us how religion does not arise, vital immanence tells us how it does. Agnosticism tells us that man cannot discover God; vital immanence tells us that, in a sense, man creates God. Agnosticism denies external revelation; vital immanence claims that revelation is completely internal. This is contrary to reason and to all of Catholic teaching, which is built upon the assumption that man must discover God, even if with God's supernatural help. God has created man in order that man might find Him and worship Him; man does not create God according to his own subjective experience and liquid necessities. God is prior to man, not the other way around. Modernism inverts that order, turning religion into an anthropocentric thing, rather than a theocentric thing. 

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