Modernists don’t believe what they believe

I saw something good at the site of The Remnant today. The Remnant is responding to another cleric out there, but this is the part I liked:

I was thinking about mathematics this morning, and found it very, very interesting that mathematicians, physicists and engineers that believe:

-in the commutative properties of addition and multiplication
-in the associative properties of addition and multiplication
-in the distributive properties of addition over multiplication
-that the reciprocal of a non-zero number x is 1/x
-that the additive inverse of x is (-x)
-that the additive identity is 0
-that the multiplicative identity is 1

are never called “fundamentalists.

No one ever accuses an engineer of excessive rigidity or of a “fortress mentality” for his unswerving and intransigent belief in the fundamental properties of algebra. No one deems an engineer deeply flawed as a human being if he refuses to entertain the notion that the additive inverse of x might NOT be (-x), much less tolerate a plan for a building put before him in which the plans operate on the premise that the reciprocal of 2 is ¼.  [Try building a building using non-Euclidian principles.]

The heresy of Modernism has been well defined as “to not believe what one believes”. Only in the irrational, self-contradicting philosophical matrix of Modernism does believing in the fundamentals of one’s professed belief system make a person either crazy or evil.

Sadly, in today’s Church, thoroughly infiltrated by Modernism, it is simply incomprehensible that a Catholic not only should, but MUST believe the fundamentals of the Catholic faith with more certainty and less doubt than the fundamental properties of algebra. The supreme truth in the universe is Catholicism, not mathematics. After all, five loaves and two fishes went into baskets, and hundreds, if not thousands of loaves and fishes came out. The multiplicative identity did not hold.

Anyone who actually believes anything is, with regards to that belief, a fundamentalist. To be a fundamentalist is nothing less than to believe what you believe. It is a truly, truly deranged and depraved mind that can hold as not just tenable, but admirable and virtuous that he does not actually believe what he believes.

What the hurling the word “fundamentalist” as a pejorative at Catholics but not mathematicians, physicists and engineers proves is that the hurler fully and completely assents to and believes in mathematics and does not harbor any doubt. The facts of Divine Revelation to which the Church bears witness? Not so much.

Therefore, I am a Catholic fundamentlist, and I cannot be gaslighted by anyone for being so.

Read the whole thing over there.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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19 Responses to Modernists don’t believe what they believe

  1. Thorfinn says:

    [Try building a building using non-Euclidian principles.]

    Judging from some modern building designs I guess this has been tried — with mixed results.

  2. wmeyer says:

    Excellent analogy. I’d rather die defending the faith — truth — than die proclaiming Modernism. There is no question at all which I would prefer to answer for.

  3. Clemens Romanus says:

    As a physicist, I thoroughly concur!

  4. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    “After all, five loaves and two fishes went into baskets, and hundreds, if not thousands of loaves and fishes came out. The multiplicative identity did not hold.”

    Haven’t you heard? There was no literal multiplication of loaves and fish. The real miracle was the sharing!
    Not a few homilists have said this. To which I’d reply: The sharing of what???

  5. Fr. Thomas Kocik says: Haven’t you heard? There was no literal multiplication of loaves and fish. The real miracle was the sharing! Not a few homilists have said this. To which I’d reply: The sharing of what???

    Right. Because, as Mother Angelica pointed out, there were 5,000 people, and not a single Italian in the whole bunch.

  6. majuscule says:

    And from a woman, too…!

  7. Jason the Gray says:

    Fr Kocik,
    I’ve also heard that… theory? interpretation? heresy?… of the Loaves and Fishes.

    The time I heard it, the homilist explained that the crowds did indeed have their own lunches with them. That they were holding out, expecting to be fed by Jesus and the disciples, and trying to save the food they had hidden on them for another time. “We were promised punch and pie,” apparently they thought. Only after the blessing and the distribution of those few bread and fishies, did everyone pull out their own stash. The proceeds of that is what was collected.

    I was young and skeptical at the time, and all that coming from a priest or a deacon (don’t remember now) made all the sense in the world to me. It didn’t offend my mis-formed opinion of the time that even God was bound by the physical laws He wrote in the first moments. Unfortunately, it became part of my faulty understanding of the faith for decades. Because “someone who should know” said it.

  8. CradleRevert says:

    All well and true, though I have to say that I find this whole dust-up between the said priest and the Trad community to be a classic case of “talking past each other.” It starts with an article offering a criticism against a certain contingent of traditionalists, followed by a misinterpretation by some traditionalists as an attack on Traditionalism itself, followed then by a disproportionate response and the predictable crap-storm.

  9. dans0622 says:

    Yes, let’s all be fundamentalist about the truth. It seems to me that the other cleric would say that the fundamentals he opposes are actually untrue. On that topic, I’m sure there is a lot of room for more … unconstructive dialogue.

  10. Anthony says:

    Modernists believe what they want to believe until something new comes along… then they believe that…

  11. Ann Malley says:

    “…All well and true, though I have to say that I find this whole dust-up between the said priest and the Trad community to be a classic case of “talking past each other.” It starts with an article offering a criticism against a certain contingent of traditionalists, followed by a misinterpretation by some traditionalists as an attack on Traditionalism itself, followed then by a disproportionate response and the predictable crap-storm.”

    Sorry, friend, but one must look to the whole to determine what is a “disproportionate response.” The Father throwing out the articles marginalizing Catholics who fall outside his objectively limited parameters for upwards of a year. That’s poking the bear and then trying to explain why the bear is angry without owning one’s demonstrably vacant understanding of the nature of bears, angry bears, bears deprived of food, bears whose cubs have been abused for decades, etc.

    Time for Mr. Wizard to go back to school before telling this one to come home. Fr L is working with limited info and should, for all concerned, reach out for some understanding first so that he can better do his job. The job of shepherding souls, that is, not building his niche as a writer who has to support a wife and kids.

  12. Jack Orlando says:

    The Law of Uniformitarianism, that natural law doesn’t change, is fundamental to the Naturwissenschaften. If I’m told that a fossil is 50 million years old because we know the rate in which Carbon 14 deteriorates, this assumes that Carbon 14 has always deteriorated at this rate. This is the assumption of uniformitarianism. Werner Heisenberg somewhere writes that when Naturwissenschaft (I’m trying to avoid the word “science”) began in the 1600s at the Royal Academy, it was totally empirical. There was a myth that a bug would not cross a chalk line. So a chalk circle was drawn, a bug was put in the middle, and the bug cheerfully crossed the line. Yet when Naturwissenschaft tries to tell us about the past, it is no longer an empirical Wissenschaft, because one can’t perform an experiment on the past, but a hermeneutic Wissenschaft.

    And an atheist has no more evidence for the Law of Uniformitarianism than he has for Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy. Thus Naturwissenschaftler are also “fundamentalists”.

    More later.

  13. Once you start labeling various other Catholics, it is going to be by definition divisive. The Bear acknowledges that it might be useful once in awhile, but we should be very careful. If, as has been suggested, Fr. L is speaking about “a certain contingent of Traditionalists” it means nothing without a definition of the set. So naturally, as Ann said, there’s likely to be a general pushback by the broader set. And if you do go about defining fundamentalists, you quickly paint yourself into a corner because they look a whole lot like just good Catholics. The Bear prefers to recognize the Church as one: the plain ol’ Roman Catholic Church, not the “Novus Ordo Church” (grrr) or Traditionalists. If you like your parish, lucky you. If you are challenged, then nail your foot to the floor in front of your favorite pew and die there. If you must have something different, then, as long as it is solidly in the plain ol’ Roman Catholic Church, then great. It’s none of my business. One Church. Labeling is the first step to fracturing that fraternal bond of unity.

  14. Jack Orlando says:

    I’m not trying to argue, as naive atheists like Dawkins and Harris argue, that the content of The Faith is similar to belief in the Tooth Fairy.

    Newman got it right in two ways.

    (1) What was called “reason” in the 18th C has long ago been rejected by philosophers. Most of our knowledge is not based on ad oculos demonstration or Euclidean proofs; most of our knowledge is known by the degree of possibility/probability, and (2) known in what Phenomenology calls the Lebenswelt, the lived world. Is it possible that the ceiling above me will fall on my head? Yes. Is it likely? No — and someone who would refuse to enter my house because he feared the ceiling would fall, would be rightly seen as either a bit off, or from deep in darkest Missouri. The physicist tells me that atoms, which make up all solid objects, are mostly space. The table on which my computer rests isn’t mostly space, at least not in the Lebenswelt, or as Newman said, consistency would demand that we hold mineralogists for our best masons, and chemists for our best cooks.

    Newman also argued that life isn’t long enough for string of experimental proofs, of syllogisms, or even a chain of arguments. We indeed live by faith — fundamental faiths.

  15. anilwang says:

    I have a different perspective. IMO, modernists are hard agnostics (believing religious truth isn’t knowable) or they believe in indifferentism (i.e. universalism or God works out our salvation despite our bad beliefs so we don’t have to worry about it). In either case, fundamentalism is either presumptious or stiffling. So why then religion from their perspective? It helps people, either in this life or in the next or because it’s beautiful and inspiring despite not being 100% accurate. And if you’ve built a reputation in one faith, it often requires great sacrifice to switch (protestant clergy converting to the Catholic Church do this all the time), so they don’t. The mind (especially highly the intelligent mind) is so good at rationalizing that it will find all the “evidence” it needs, even from primary sources for the faith, to confirm their pet theory, it that self-justification can also create indignation that anyone would dare “to corrupt” the faith, especially “fundamentalists”.

  16. Grumpy Beggar says:

    Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    [“. . . “] Haven’t you heard? There was no literal multiplication of loaves and fish. The real miracle was the sharing!
    Not a few homilists have said this. To which I’d reply: The sharing of what???

    I remember reading and hearing homilies of this same nature even back when I was 18 and I subsequently became despondent at the realization that certain members among those ordained to preach the truth , could actually be careless enough to deliver a homily based on the premise that Jesus told a lie (bolds mine):

    Matt 15:32 [NAB]
    Jesus summoned his disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way.”

  17. iamlucky13 says:

    “Fundamentalist” only really became perjorative in the last few decades.

    I was using an apologetics booklet printed in the 1990’s for a adult study group discussion. To my alarm, it kept referring to “fundamentalist” interpretations of the Bible, and I’m pretty sure a recent protestant convert was getting irritated at his former beliefs being insulted that way. However, I was pretty sure that insult wasn’t the intent, so I did a quick read up on the history of the term, and confirmed that for most of the 20th century, the term was a generally neutral way to describe those Christian denominations that tried to emphasize the fundamental beliefs of Christianity, in response to modernist re-intrepretations of them.

    As modernism became more entrenched in society, the term became more contentious, especially as debates reignited over teaching evolution in schools. Unsurprisingly, when I looked at newer versions of the apologetics booklet, the term “fundamentalist” had been replaced throughout with “protestant.”

  18. JabbaPapa says:

    The Remnant article is based on a category error — an axiom does not belong to the same category as a belief

    A belief is anything that we believe to be true, irrespective of whether observable evidence exists about it or not.

    I believe that we all live on a planet of roughly spherical shape that is in orbit around the Sun — and this is no less of a belief than my belief in the transsubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Flesh and the Blood of our Lord.

    An axiom OTOH is a postulate that is necessary within any particular closed system, regardless of whether one believes in it or not — axioms of Sharia law are axiomatic in the same way as the axioms of algebra, even though I believe algebra to be truthful, and Sharia not.

    A man who believes in our Lord from a personal revelation and divine intervention does not lack belief compared to a man whose belief in our Lord has come to him from the Church and from religious instruction.

    Of course, the atheist definition of “belief” as meaning “that which is held to be true without evidence” is even more wrong than the category error of the Remnant article, so the article is useful anyway to some degree as a means of understanding the intellectual fallacy of atheism, but it is problematic in that it is based on that very same false definition, so that using it in an argument against atheists requires adopting a false understanding of belief itself, so that it will not be systematically useful to help the atheists understand their mistakes.

    Beliefs are the entirety of that which we think to be true, so that anyone and everyone bases all of their thought on their beliefs. Provided that this is understood, using the axioms of algebra as a metaphor of how beliefs function within a belief system (religious, atheist, philosophical, or etc.) could be helpful, but one should realise the limits of that method — atheists who do not understand how metaphors work will have trouble understanding this one.

  19. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The point of the story was that the crowd rightly expected the Messiah to provide the Messianic Banquet, but it wasn’t time for that yet. Still, Jesus took pity on the crowd and fed them with His divine power, although building on Nature by multiplying the small amount of food offered.