A third common attack device is Modernism, which examines historical events and persons as if they occurred and lived today rather than in the past. It severs history from its context and setting, misrepresenting historical beliefs and events. For example, Modernists would look at what American Methodists believe today, recognize that they are among the most socially liberal of Christian denominations, and then declare that John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield were also socially liberal because they founded Methodism. Yet the Wesleys and Whitefield were characterized by numerous beliefs and practices that are anathema to most Methodist congregations today, including the overtly evangelical nature of the denomination at its founding, its outdoor camp meetings and revivals, and its tendency for demonstrative behavior that observers in that day described as emotionalism and fanaticism---behavior that would make many Methodists today extremely uncomfortable. In fact, it is highly unlikely that the Wesleys or Whitefield would ever be invited into the pulpits of modern Methodist churches. Modernists assume that everything is static---that as today, so it was then, but to accurately portray history, each group or individual must be measured not by today's modes of thinking, customs, and usage but rather by the context of their own times.
This is not to say that there is no absolute truth or that historical era's movements, and individuals should not be judged by the immutable standards of right and wrong that transcend all generations---the standards that Jefferson and the Founding Fathers described in the Declaration of Independence. Indeed, all must be judged by immutable objective standards, as " the laws of nature and of nature's God." But just because those in previous generations often saw through a glass darkly does not mean they can be dismissed out of hand. Yet this is invariably what occurs when history is presented through the filter of Modernism. Too often today, Jefferson's life is wrongly judged and critiqued as if he were living now rather than two centuries ago---a practice that produces many flawed conclusions. I would also add that Confederate Generals and heroes such as Robert E. Lee, and Nathan Bedford Forrest are judged by Modernist standards. Along with slaveowners such as George Washington, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson.