varnish and plaster... the well-known mirage of the desert
... but all to no avail , and in the end even those who are least seriously minded have had enough of such puttering. The tactics of covering things over is no longer wanted. The honeymoon days of spiritual insensibility are ended.
— above from google books snippet (only), pointing to
Abraham Kuyper, “A Fata Morgana” (translated from the Dutch by the Rev. John Hendrik de Vries, D. D.), The Methodist Review (March 1906) : 185-203 (187)
Second Part (May 1906) : 355-378 (both at hathitrust)
the landing passage (at 187-88) in full —
Thus speaks faith, and the spirit of our times urges this claim and in turn stimulates one to this self-defense, provided the intention is serious. The men who deal in varnish and plaster have indeed long and bravely tried to cover over, artfully and ingeniously every split and tear in our social life, but all to no avail, and in the end even those who are least seriously minded have had enough of such puttering. The tactics of covering things over is no longer wanted. The honeymoon days of spiritual insensibility are ended. At last we have learned that that conventional form is a tombstone and not a shield. Courage has been restored in the blood and luster in the dull eye. We dare take it again as a matter of course to ride an opponent unsparingly in the harness. Yea, we have even so far advanced that the sympathy of the more wide-awake spirits is forfeited when one pretends to confess the Christ after the Scriptures while avoiding war with modernism. Just because, however, of the seriousness of this conflict, the attack may never seek strength in underestimation nor may it degenerate into abuse. He who does not appreciate his opponent does not attack him, but the phantom of his own fancy. This style of warfare I wish to avoid. The very appreciation of modernism shall furnish me the ground of opposition; and I cannot state more briefly and accurately both what I appreciate in modernism and what I oppose in that spiritual tendency than by considering modernism as the “fata Morgana in the Christian domain.” To elucidate this figure, by which I desire to sketch the character of my opponent, permit me a brief explanation of this somewhat foreign term.
“Una fata” is the Italian for what we call “a fairy.” Among these forms of the imagination there was one to which the Italian peasantry gave the name of Morgana, and from this fairy the inhabitants of Reggio borrowed the name of “fata Morgana" for a beautiful aerial phenomenon which, as they said, was painted by her scepter upon Reggio’s horizon. The phenomenon itself should not be mixed up with the well-known mirage of the desert...
Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920)
Prime Minister of the Netherlands between 1901 and 1905, an influential neo-Calvinist theologian and a journalist. He established the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, which upon its foundation became the second largest Calvinist denomination in the country behind the state-supported Dutch Reformed Church.
In addition, he founded the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Anti-Revolutionary Party, and a newspaper.
He vigorously ridiculed modernism in theology as a new-fangled fad based on a superficial view of reality. He argued that modernism missed the reality of God, of prayer, of sin, and of the church. He said modernism would eventually prove as useless as ‘A Squeezed Out Lemon Peel,’ while traditional religious truths would survive.