Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pragmatism: Modernism Recycled


by John MacArthur

Is Pragmatism Really a Serious Threat?

I am convinced that pragmatism poses precisely the same subtle threat to the church in our age that modernism represented nearly a century ago.

Modernism was a movement that embraced higher criticism and liberal theology while denying nearly all the supernatural aspects of Christianity. But modernism did not first surface as an overt attack on orthodox doctrine. The earliest modernists seemed concerned primarily with interdenominational unity. They were willing to downplay doctrine for that goal, because they believed doctrine was inherently divisive and a fragmented church would become irrelevant in the modern age. To heighten Christianity's relevance, modernists sought to synthesize Christian teachings with the latest insights from science, philosophy, and literary criticism.

Modernists viewed doctrine as a secondary issue. They emphasized brotherhood and experience and de-emphasized doctrinal differences. Doctrine, they believed, should be fluid and adaptable—certainly not something worth fighting for. In 1935, John Murray gave this assessment of the typical modernist:

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