Spiritual and Sexual Abuse in the Church: I Can See Clearly Now
In preparation for the second volume of The Truth About New Calvinism and The Reformation Myth, I am reading a hefty amount of material written by Socrates and Plato. Though Socrates was obviously a very annoying person, reading his writings is a real eye-opener in regard to how the first philosophical academy of the western world shapes our present-day thinking from some twenty-five hundred years ago. His very same bases of thought, attitude, and communication techniques that can be seen today are eerily exact—not just similar—exact.
Volume one of TTANC focused on the roots and doctrine of the present-day New Calvinist movement. In preparation for volume two, I dined with church historian John Immel who pointed me to the fact that New Calvinists hold to true Reformation doctrine. Immel then suggested that I research the connections between the Reformers and Augustine, and then Augustine’s connections to Plato. He also provided some clues as to what he believes the connections are. Immel is not one who desires to put ideas in people’s minds; he is more or less a modern-day herald of the need for people to think for themselves.
Mark that. It’s an element that contributes greatly to spiritual and sexual abuse in the church. People – thinking for themselves = abuse. That’s the first part of the equation, we will add to it later. Lest you think that I am alone in seeing hefty significance and a direct relationship between the Soc./Plato Academy and modern-day behavior, consider what others say. In Harper Magazine’s endorsement of “The Wisdom And Ideas Of Plato” by Eugene Freeman and David Appel, they stated the following: “Now anybody can understand and appreciate the basic thoughts that support our modern life.” Though true, not everybody “appreciate[s]” them. Renowned philosopher Karl Popper blamed 20th century totalitarianism on Plato specifically:
Karl Popper blamed Plato for the rise of totalitarianism in the 20th century, seeing Plato’s philosopher kings, with their dreams of ‘social engineering’ and ‘idealism’, as leading directly to Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler (via Georg Wilhelm, Friedrich Hegel, and Karl Marx). In addition, Ayatollah Khomeini is said to have been inspired by the Platonic vision of the philosopher king while in Qum in the 1920s when he became interested in Islamic mysticism and Plato’s Republic. As such, it has been speculated that he was inspired by Plato’s philosopher king, and subsequently based elements of his Islamic Republic on it (Wikipedia: online source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosopher_king).
Volume 2 of TTANC will trace New Calvinism from its contemporary birth (the Australian Forum:1970), and back to its Reformed roots. It will also lightly survey the Reformation’s philosophical underpinnings that came from the Soc./Plato Academy. However, The Reformation Myth will address these same things in much deeper detail. Both books will address this from three perspectives: history; doctrine; and character.
Immel’s primary concern is spiritual tyranny, but an understanding of church history is critical to understanding what makes spiritual tyranny tick. In my research for TRM, the subject of abuse has become so entangled in the results that I have decided abuse will dominate the “Character” section of the book. The fact that Plato’s philosopher king concept dominates today’s church is inescapable—with the same results following that have always marked this philosophy’s existence throughout history.
Socrates believed that true knowledge could not be obtained through observation of the material. He also believed that truth was eternal, and immutable, and a higher good than the gods. One could only access truth through the mind, or ideas; ie, the nonmaterial. The mind was the conduit to the realm of truth which in essence was god, and like the real God, cannot be fully known. To Socrates, the first step to wisdom was realizing that definitive truth cannot be known, but yet, man had a duty to orchestrate life by the best truth that could be ascertained from the mind. In other words, truth was already in each person, and true education was a rediscovering of information already known. It is unclear to me at this point whether Socrates believed that truth indwells us all in the fullness of the truth cosmos, or indwells each of us to varying degrees.
The method for discovering the truth that is in us, according to Socratism, is to ask ourselves questions. When Socrates taught, the teaching began with a question concerning life, and through a lengthy dialogue of questions and answers, the best solution was drawn from the mind’s connection to pure truth. This entailed three things: hard, certified work; the recognition that we cannot know anything definitively; the belief that truth cannot be known through observation of solid matter; and the belief that the only measure of moralism was in regard to what best served the masses verses the few. His understudy, Plato, later identified these characteristics as belonging to philosopher kings, and believed such should rule over the masses for the betterment of society’s whole. In regard to the moral fitness (which cannot be definitively ascertained anyway) of the philosopher king, it was irrelevant because his knowledge was essential to the society as a whole and his personal life only affected him—not society. Hence, in societies that function by philosopher kings (knowingly [rare] unwittingly, or by default [most often]), the written law is not much more than a strong suggestion in most cases.
Plato divided the ideal society into three parts: philosopher king, soldier, and producer. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where this all ends up; the soldiers serve the king, and the producers do not understand the basic fundamentals of truth. All–knowing kings + soldiers = you had better know your place + keep your ideas to yourself because you don’t know that you don’t know.
Now enter St. Augustine. Patron saint of the Catholic Church, father of Reformation philosophy/doctrine, and a follower of Plato. Luther was a member of the Augustinian Order, and Calvin quoted him on every (on average) 2.5 pages of his institutes. Augustine was a dyed in the wool Catholic till the end, and revered as its “Doctor of Grace.” No less credit was given to him among the Reformers. Basic Platonist philosophy drawn from Augustine is really what made the Catholic Church and the Reformation tick, with the same results following. The Reformation was really a spat between Rome and the Reformers about who was going to control the ideas.
For all practical purposes, they were two different camps of philosopher kings at war for control of the producers. The primary crux of the argument, if any, was the idea that the Reformers were moral despot philosopher kings verses the decadence of the popish sort. At any rate, this side of the Reformation, the indifferent attitude towards justice, mercy, and freedom of thought is abundantly evident. By and large in today’s church, we don’t have pastors, we have philosopher kings. They are supposedly so paramount to the wellbeing of the church city-state, that concerns over their outrageous behavior should be overlooked for the Platonist good of the whole. Besides, morals, according to Socrates, are not definitive anyway.
Excellent studies that expound on how Augustine integrated Platonism into theology are not difficult to obtain. To cite just a few examples, Socrates’ “truth” became “gospel “; Plato’s two worlds became Spirit and flesh; and much later, Historicism, which was a product of Platonism, became the hermeneutic for interpretation. But in regard to human carnage, Popper’s complaint has become the same in the church. Whether a philosophy is dressed up in Bible verses or not, the results are the same.
In my mind, nothing else can explain the indifference among church leaders regarding the spiritual and sexual abuse now rampant in the church. And what better example than the ABWE/ Donn Ketchum scandal. The ABWE/GARB brain trust first covered for Ketchum for some twenty years and were part of a massive cover-up. Now the same men who perpetrated the cover-up and were directly responsible for putting additional children in harm’s way are honored continuously in GARB circles. One is being honored via a multi-million dollar athletic center that is being named after him. The infamous Jack Hyles was honored with a Bible college that bears his name. Even the formally laudable John MacArthur Jr. is covering for serial sheep abuser CJ Mahaney.
Why? Because they are the philosopher kings. Their higher knowledge leads us through the maze of what’s best for the church as a whole. After all, thousands of souls would be lost without them; so, best that the sexually abused go away quietly for the sake of the bigger picture. And besides, we are all “sinners saved by grace” anyway. In the Platonist vernacular: we are all those who “neither know nor think that [we] know” (Socrates: The Apology).
I’m convinced that the key to getting rid of sexual/spiritual abuse in the church is to totally rethink the organized church that is the breeding ground for the church’s philosopher kings. What is left that is good about the organized church will not stand up against the philosopher kings posing as pastors; so, who needs them?
And let me remind you of who really makes the organized church possible: the producers. I am confident that eventually the producers are going to figure out that they are paying the salaries of those who expect us to offer up our children to the sexual cravings of the philosopher kings.
I have to believe that the whole, “Who are you to judge? Put your money in the plate, buy our books, and keep your mouth shut” routine cannot go on for much longer.