Know this: Virtue in a vacuum is like the proverbial sound in the forest–irrelevant without a witness. Character is no private deed. To retreat is nothing more than a man closing his eyes and shutting his mouth to injustice.
Virtues are not estimates to be lofted gently against evil.
Virtues are not to be withheld from view in the name of grace.
Virtues are not to be politely swallowed in humble realization that we are all just sinners anyway.
Love is not a moral blank check against the endless tide of indulgent action.
Love is not blind to the cause and effect of reality.
Love is not indifference to plunder and injustice and servitude.
~John immel: Excerpt from the 2012 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny
“Don’t misunderstand: the problem of ‘victim mentality’ is not even on the radar screen—they have removed the word “victim” from their metaphysical dictionary.”
“Justice necessarily implies victim. Victim necessarily implies worth. All three are conspirators with the glory story.”
Martin Luther had more on his mind than silly Popes when he nailed his 95 Theses to the front door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. That protest launched the Reformation, but six months later Luther presented the systematic theology of the Reformation to the Augustinian Order in Heidelberg. Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation laid the foundation, and John Calvin later articulated and applied its basic principles to the full spectrum of life in his Institutes of the Christian Religion.
The Cross Story and the Glory Story
Luther’s cross story, or theology of the cross is the crux of the Heidelberg Disputation and introduced in the first sentence of the Calvin Institutes:
Our wisdom, insofar as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.
That’s Luther’s theology of the cross: a deeper and deeper knowledge of our putrid humanity as set against God’s holiness. And NOTHING in-between. All of creation, all events, and all reality contribute to deeper knowledge of one of these two, and then both as a deeper knowledge of each gives more understanding to the other; knowledge of both, and the experience of both. Hence, every blessing, including our good works which are done by the Holy Spirit to begin with, lends more understanding of God’s glory. Every evil event, sin, and tragedy lends deeper understanding in regard to our total depravity and worthlessness. But of course your mother is dying of cancer; I am amazed that God would give anyone as many years as He has given her. Who are we to think we deserve even one year of life? And what a wonderful opportunity for her to suffer the way Jesus suffered for us!
This is the cross story. See the illustration below. This is a contemporary depiction from that camp—this is their assessment:
Anything else at all that gives any credit to humanity—Christian or non-Christian is the “glory story.” That would be our glory specifically, and not Christ’s. To the degree that humanity is considered, the glory of Christ is “ECLIPSED.” This is the theses of a book written by John MacArthur associate Rick Holland: Uneclipsing The Son. Everything is perceived as speaking through one of these two perspectives. ANYTHING coming from what is perceived as the “glory story” is summarily dismissed. Be sure of it: this is how Calvinists think. This is their worldview.
In one of the former Resolved Conferences sponsored by John MacArthur and Holland, in one of his messages, Holland extols a letter written to Puritan Christopher Love by his wife as he awaited execution. Holland forgot to mention to those listening that Love was executed for espionage against the English government while letting the audience assume he was executed for loftier spiritual-like reasons. The following is excerpts from the letter:
O that the Lord would keep thee from having one troubled thought for thy relations. I desire freely to give thee up into thy Father’s hands, and not only look upon it as a crown of glory for thee to die for Christ, but as an honor to me that I should have a husband to leave for Christ…. I dare not speak to thee, nor have a thought within my own heart of my own unspeakable loss, but wholly keep my eye fixed upon thy inexpressible and inconceivable gain. Thou leavest but a sinful, mortal wife to be everlastingly married to the Lord of glory…. Thou dost but leave earth for heaven and changest a prison for a palace. And if natural affections should begin to arise, I hope that the spirit of grace that is within thee will quell them, knowing that all things here below are but dung and dross in comparison of those things that are above. I know thou keepest thine eye fixed on the hope of glory, which makes thy feet trample on the loss of earth.
Justice? That implies that humanity has some sort of value. That implies that life itself has some sort of value. That implies that humanity should be protected through threat of punishment. That’s the glory story. Therefore, Calvin stated the following:
Those who, as in the presence of God, inquire seriously into the true standard of righteousness, will certainly find that all the works of men, if estimated by their own worth, are nothing but vileness and pollution, that what is commonly deemed justice is with God mere iniquity; what is deemed integrity is pollution; what is deemed glory is ignominy (CI 3.12.4).
Death by Biblical Counseling
The church must face up to a sobering reality in our day. The vast majority of biblical counseling that goes on in our day is based on this construct—you will be counseled from the perspective of the cross story, and anything that smacks of the glory story will be snubbed. You are not a victim. There is no such thing as a victim. Christ was the only true victim in all of history. Don’t misunderstand: the problem of “victim mentality” is not even on the radar screen—they have removed the word “victim” from their metaphysical dictionary. “Victim” is part of the glory story; Christ as the only victim is the cross story. I am not a victim. That’s impossible because my sin nailed Christ to the cross. Thank you oh Lord that I was raped. Thank you for this opportunity to suffer for you. Thank you for the strength to forgive the one who raped me in the same way you forgave me. What a wonderful opportunity to show forth your gospel!
Hence, when the leaders of a Reformed church came to inform parents that a young man in that church had molested their toddler, this was the opening statement:
Today, we have before us an opportunity to forgive.
The parents were then counseled to not contact the authorities. Those who do are often brought up on church discipline. Justice necessarily implies victim. Victim necessarily implies worth. All three are conspirators with the glory story. And be not deceived: this is the logic that drives Reformed organizations that are supposed to be mediators in the church; specifically, Peacemaker Ministries and G.R.A.C.E. A major player in the Biblical Counseling Movement is Paul David Tripp. In 2006, he wrote a book that articulates the horizontal application of Luther’s theology of the cross: “How people Change.” Of course, the title is a lie; if he really believed people change, that would be the glory story. Notice also that it is, “How People Change” and not, “How Christians Change.” That’s because this bunch see no difference in the transforming power of the new birth and ordinary Christ-rejecting people.
In the book, Tripp, like all who propagate Luther’s theology of the cross, posits the Bible as a “big picture” narrative of our redemptive life. The Bible is a mere tool for one thing only: leading us more and more into the cross story and away from the glory story. This is accomplished by using the Bible to enter into the cross narrative and thereby seeing our preordained part in the “big picture” narrative of redemptive history. Though Tripp is not forthright about it in the book, this is known as the Redemptive Historical Hermeneutic. By seeing our life through the cross story, we are empowered to live life for God’s glory. This is done by seeing ALL circumstances in life (Heat) as preordained in order to show our sinfulness (Thorns) and God’s goodness (Fruit) for the purposes of having a deeper understanding of both resulting in spiritual wellbeing. In other words, all of life’s circumstances are designed to give us a deeper understanding of the cross story: God’s holiness, and our sinfulness. I have taken his primary visual illustration from the book and drawn lines to the cross story illustration to demonstrate the relationship (click on image to enlarge):
Understanding this lends insight to Tripp citations on the Peacekeepers Ministries website:
Paul Trip wrote a great post over at The Gospel Coalition blog all about the need for pastors to pursue a culture of forgiveness in their ministry. Pastors (and anyone serving Christ) have a choice:
“You can choose for disappointment to become distance, for affection to become dislike, and for a ministry partnership to morph into a search for an escape. You can taste the sad harvest of relational détente that so many church staffs live in, or you can plant better seeds and celebrate a much better harvest. The harvest of forgiveness, rooted in God’s forgiveness of you, is the kind of ministry relationship everyone wants.”
Then he describes three ways forgiveness can shape your ministry. I’ve listed them, but you can read how he explains them in detail.
“1. Forgiveness stimulates appreciation and affection.
2. Forgiveness produces patience.
3. Forgiveness is the fertile soil in which unity in relationships grows.”
He closes with this exhortation:
“So we learn to make war, but no longer with one another. Together we battle the one Enemy who is after us and our ministries. As we do this, we all become thankful that grace has freed us from the war with one another that we used to be so good at making.”
And concerning another author, they also stated:
Last week, Steve Cornell at The Gospel Coalition blog posted some really great insight into the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. They also offered up some excellent and biblically sound steps in dealing with a situation where an offending party is hesitant to reconcile.
Here he summarizes a key distinction:
“It’s possible to forgive someone without offering immediate reconciliation. It’s possible for forgiveness to occur in the context of one’s relationship with God apart from contact with her offender. But reconciliation is focused on restoring broken relationships. And where trust is deeply broken, restoration is a process—sometimes, a lengthy one”…. His ten guidelines for those hesitant to reconcile are rooted in scripture and, I think, incredibly helpful.
1. Be honest about your motives.
2. Be humble in your attitude.
3. Be prayerful about the one who hurt you.
4. Be willing to admit ways you might have contributed to the problem.
5. Be honest with the offender.
6. Be objective about your hesitancy.
7. Be clear about the guidelines for restoration.
8. Be alert to Satan’s schemes.
9. Be mindful of God’s control.
10. Be realistic about the process.
Notice the overall blurring of distinction between the offended and offender with the subject of forgiveness.
The Cross-centered Anti-justice Pandemic is No longer Exclusively a Reformed Thing
Apart from Calvinism, the redemptive historical cross-centered approach is crossing denominational lines en masse. We at TANC see doctrines that were born of Luther’s theology of the cross in non-Reformed circles constantly; specifically, heart theology (deep repentance), exclusive interpretation of the Scriptures through a redemptive prism, Gospel Sanctification, and John Piper’s Christian hedonism. And we also see the same results. It is not beyond the pale for a pastor who has raped a parishioner to be the one counseling the victim sinner. You know, the “sinner saved by grace.”
God is a God of justice, and throughout the Scriptures He demands that we be people of justice. He demands that we come to the defense of the victim. I close with fitting words from church historian John Immel:
And this is the challenge. This is the challenge that I have as a man who is passionate about thinking: to inspire people to engage in complex ideas that drive tyranny. So here’s my challenge to those who are listening.
Do not be seduced into believing that righteousness is retreat from the world.
Do not be seduced into believing that spirituality is defined by weakness and that timid caution for fear of committing potential error is a reason to be quiet.
Do not be intimidated by vague, hazy threats of failure.
Do not let yourself believe that faith is a license to irrationality. I’m going to say that again to you. This is good. Do not let yourself believe that faith is a license to irrationality.
Do not mistake the simple nature of God’s love for a justification for simple-mindedness.
Do not deceive yourself with the polite notion that you are above the fray, that your right to believe is sufficient to the cause of righteousness. There is no more stunning conceit.
Do not pretend that your unwillingness to argue is the validation of truth.
Know this: Virtue in a vacuum is like the proverbial sound in the forest–irrelevant without a witness. Character is no private deed. To retreat is nothing more than a man closing his eyes and shutting his mouth to injustice.
Virtues are not estimates to be lofted gently against evil.
Virtues are not to be withheld from view in the name of grace.
Virtues are not to be politely swallowed in humble realization that we are all just sinners anyway.
Love is not a moral blank check against the endless tide of indulgent action.
Love is not blind to the cause and effect of reality.
Love is not indifference to plunder and injustice and servitude.
The time is now, you men of private virtue, to emerge from your fortress of solitude and demonstrate that you are worthy of a life that bears your name. The time is now, you men of private virtue, to answer Mick Jagger and all the nihilists that insist we are living on the edge and we cannot help but fall. It is time for you men of private virtue to take up the cause of human existence and think.
~TANC 2012 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny: John Immel; session 1, “Assumptions + Logic = Action.”
“In that Disputation, Luther postulates Pope Gregory’s take on the gospel which is the exact same calling card of present-day New Calvinism.”
“Powlison points to Pope Gregory and Augustine as the pioneers of biblical counseling using a ‘Christ-centered,’ ‘full gospel’ approach. And what was that approach?”
Let’s just take one contemporary example: a Presbyterian church that is now a mere shell of what it was; the remains of a war over the arrival of a New Calvinist pastor who exhibited outrageous behavior and leadership style. Today, some parishioners stand dumbfounded that the Presbytery took positive steps to keep said pastor in place.
As TANC, our newly formed think tank that researches Reformed theology continues to journey into church history for answers, the reasons for present-day tyranny in the church become clearer every day. First, it is driven by the gospel that founded the Reformation. Simply put, it is a gospel that does not believe that people change, but are rather called to contemplate the saving works of Christ in order for His righteousness to be manifested in one of two realms. Whether Baptist, Methodist, or whatever, this Reformed seed, the idea that people really don’t change is at the core of their function though they would deny it verbally. The Western church as a whole buys into this basic concept.
Secondly, the basic concept of spiritual elitists ruling over the totally depraved. You know, the they really can’t change crowd. The Reformation clarion call of total depravity—what’s our second clue if we need one? The spiritual is accessed through the chief contemplationists, and since they have the dope directly from God, they should rule over the totally depraved. Look, I have been a Baptist since 1983, and this is how it works. Again, we wouldn’t verbalize that, but to some degree it is true of all Western denominations because we are the children of the Protestant Reformation. What were we protesting? Naughty philosopher kings; past that, not much.
If we don’t change, the church doesn’t either. Think about that. And we wonder why things are a mess. Apparent growth in numbers is being driven by something else other than a true gospel. And the Reformers deny that while pontificating total depravity. It is testimony to the depth of which this Protestant construct has dumbed down the average parishioner; i.e., the totally depraved change. And nobody blinks. The assumption is that total depravity only pertains to the unregenerate, but that’s not the case according to the Reformed gospel and its time for people to start doing the math on that. The “Nones” and the massive exodus from the evangelical church is taking place for a reason.
I’m not ready to declare Pope Gregory the Great the father of the Reformation and present-day New Calvinism just yet, but recent discoveries reveal some things that should be fairly obvious. We aren’t stupid, just trusting, and that needs to end. Christians need to take advantage of the information age and start studying for themselves as the Christian academics of our day refuse to be forthcoming. They didn’t forget to mention that sola fide is also for sanctification. They didn’t forget to mention the total depravity of mankind AND the saints. They didn’t forget to mention that the new birth is a realm and not something that happens in us—it’s deliberate deception because the Reformed gospel is “scandalous.” The totally depraved are not “ready” for what the enlightened class of philosopher kings understand. By the way, many seminary students will testify to the fact that they are told as much by their seminary professors. Seminaries are where you go to be certified for the purpose of ruling over the totally depraved in order to, in Al Mohler’s words, “save them from ignorance.” Sorry, I prefer to let the Bible and Google save me from ignorance. Thank goodness for the Gootenberg press.
Monks. That’s what we are missing here. Martin Luther. Ever heard of him? He was a monk. What is the very premise on monkism? It’s the idea that the spiritual is obtained by contemplationism. And monkism is not unique to the Catholic Church—it is the link from the Catholic Church to the ancient concept of mystic dualism. Though it pans out in various different ways, it’s the idea that matter is evil and spirit is good. In other cases, it holds to the idea that both good and evil are necessary to understand true reality. Good defines evil, and evil defines good. The more you understand both, the more “balance” you have in the universe. Then there is the goal to birth the spiritual into the physical through meditation/contemplationism. Like I said, there are many takes on the basic approach.
Monks believe that the physical or world realm is a distraction from the spiritual realm. In some cases, they believe that all matter is merely a form of the perfect, or spiritual. Hence, monasteries. Traditionally, monasteries have been clearing houses for the dope from God through contemplationism. And since they have the dope, they should rule the totally depraved for their own good. In some spiritual caste systems, the monks rule directly, in others like the Catholic Church, the monks are the Scribes and Prophets for the rulers; i.e., the Popes.
The fact that monkism would be part and parcel to any doctrine formulated by Martin Luther is a no-brainer. Mysticism is simply going to be a significant factor, and so it is with Protestantism. This becomes more apparent when you consider the core four of the Protestant Reformation: Martin Luther, John Calvin, St. Augustine, and Pope Gregory the Great. Luther’s 95 Theses was a protest against naughty Popes, but he was completely onboard with the Catholic caste system. When his 95 Theses resulted in the unexpected societal eruption that took place, he presented a doctrinal disputation to the Augustinian Order in Heidelberg. And don’t miss this:
In that Disputation, Luther postulates Pope Gregory’s take on the gospel which is the exact same calling card of present-day New Calvinism. In theses 27 of his Disputation, Luther states the following:
Thus deeds of mercy are aroused by the works through which he has saved us, as St. Gregory says: »Every act of Christ is instruction for us, indeed, a stimulant.« If his action is in us it lives through faith, for it is exceedingly attractive according to the verse, »Draw me after you, let us make haste« (Song of Sol. 1:4) toward the fragrance »of your anointing oils« (Song of Sol. 1:3), that is, »your works.«
There could not be a more concise statement in regard to the New Calvinist gospel. Deeds in the Christian life come from the same acts in which Christ saved us. Secondly, they are not our acts, but the acts of Christ applied to our Christian lives by faith alone. Thirdly, when the works of Christ are applied to our Christian lives by faith alone, it will always be experienced by the exhilarating emotions of first love—this is the mark of Christ’s active obedience being manifested in the spiritual realm through the totally depraved. We “reflect” the works of Christ by faith alone. Even John MacArthur has bought into this nonsense, claiming that obedience to the Lord is “always sweet, never bitter.” Francis Chan states that it always “feels like love.” And of course, poke John Piper’s rhetoric anywhere and this same monkish mysticism comes oozing out.
Moreover, Luther states this same concept from many different angles in his Disputation, and theses 28 is clearly the premise for John Piper’s Christian Hedonism.
No wonder then that New Calvinists of our day sing the praises of Pope Gregory. Here is what heretic David Powlison stated in an interview with Mark Dever’s 9Marks ministry:
Caring for the soul, which we try [try?] to do in biblical counseling, is not new. Two of the great pioneers in church history would be Augustine and Gregory the Great. Even secular people will credit Augustine’s Confessions as pioneering the idea that there is an inner life. Augustine did an unsurpassed job of tearing apart the various ways in which people’s desires become disordered. Gregory wrote the earliest textbook on pastoral care. He pioneered diverse ways of dealing with a fearful person, a brash and impulsive person, an angry person, an overly passive person. He broke out these different struggles and sought to apply explicitly biblical, Christ-centered medicine—full of Christ, full of grace, full of gospel, and full of the hard call of God’s Word to the challenges of life.
Powlison points to Pope Gregory and Augustine as the pioneers of biblical counseling using a “Christ-centered,” “full gospel” approach. And what was that approach? It was primarily contemplationism and dualism. In fact, Gregory practically saw “doing” as a necessary evil. In Roland Paul Cox’s Masters dissertation, Gregory the Great and His Book Pastoral Care as a Counseling Theory, Cox states the following:
The overall theme in Gregory’s dichotomies is balance. It is possible that this comes from Gregory’s own struggles in balancing his desire for the contemplative life of a monk versus his reluctant, but active, service as ambassador to Constantinople and pope.“The Regula Pastoralis was in large part devoted to describing how to reconcile the two types of life. He came to the conclusion eventually that while the contemplative life was the better and more desirable of the two, the active life was unavoidable, and indeed necessary in order to serve one’s fellow man.…There could be no better exemplar of the two lives than Gregory himself, but he would have been less than human had he not from time to time mourned the fact that so much of his time must be given over to the active at the expense of the contemplative” [Jeffrey Richards, Consul of God : The Life and Times of Gregory the Great (London ; Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980), 57.].
Powlison, in true Reformed tradition, invokes the either/or hermeneutic, or the either cross story or glory story hermeneutic of Luther’s Disputation by suggesting that any denial of this “Christ-Centered” approach is a wholesale denial of an “inner life.” In other words, suggesting that doing something should be emphasized as much as contemplationism is paramount to denying that there is an inner life. Such statements by Powlison are indicative of his utter lack of integrity.
In addition, Gregory’s penchant for mystic dualism is seen in the same dissertation:
Gregory’s view of health revolved around balance. In Pastoral Care 34 dichotomies are given. For each one Gregory discusses how either extreme is detrimental. The following are a few examples of Gregory’s dichotomies: poor/rich, joyful/sad, subject/superiors, wise/dull, impudent/timid, impatient/patient, kindly/envious, humble/haughty, obstinate/fickly, and gluttonous/abstemious. Further, Gregory explains how certain traits although they appear to be virtues are in reality a vice. For example, in describing the dichotomy of impatient and patient, Gregory says the following about the patient: “…those who are patient are to be admonished not to grieve in their hearts over what they suffer outwardly. A sacrifice of such great worth which they outwardly offer unimpaired, must not be spoilt by the infection of interior malice. Besides, while their sin of grieving is not observed by man, it is visible under the divine scrutiny, and will become the worse, in proportion as they claim a show of virtue in the sight of men. The patient must, therefore, be told to aim diligently at loving those whom they needs must put up with lest, if love does not wait on patient” [Pastoral Care: pp. 109, 110].
In other words, self-control is a vice. Unless cross-centered love is mystically applied according to Luther’s Disputation (theses 28), the latter evil of self-control is worse than the former sin of being offended since such offences serve to humble us (LHD theses 21).
What goes hand in metaphysical hand in all of this is good ole’ ancient spiritual caste tyranny. As Cox further observes,
Shortly after becoming pope, Gregory wrote Pastoral Care. In addition as pope, he reorganized the administration of the papal states, he maintained papal authority in the face of encroachments from the Patriarch of Constantinople, he established links with the Frankish Kingdoms, and most importantly (for these English writers), he sent a party of monks, led by Augustine, to convert the Anglo-Saxons.
Gregory was very influenced by the Rule of St. Benedict and Benedictine monks who came to Rome after the monastery that St. Benedict founded was burnt. In some letters, Gregory calls his work Pastoral Rule. “There is every reason to assume that Gregory in conceiving the plan for Liber Regulae Pastoralis [Pastoral Rule] intended to provide the secular clergy with a counterpart to this Regula [the Rule of St. Benedict].
….This culture of rulers and emperors also helps explain why Gregory saw Pastoral Care and Pastoral Rule as one in the same. By modern day standards, Gregory would be considered overly authoritarian.
A culture of “rulers and emperors” had precious little to do with it, but rather ancient spiritual caste systems that answered the supposed preordained call of God to control the totally depraved. With the sword if necessary. While many of these systems were based on mythology prior to the 6th century, Plato systematized the idea and gave it scientific dignity. But his trifold theory of soul consisting of king, soldier, and producer called for a sociological counterpart that was a mirror image to fit the need. Sir Karl Raimund Popper, considered the greatest philosopher of the 20th century, fingered Platonism as the primary catalyst for religious and secular tyranny in Western culture. And Plato’s mystic dualism (shadows and forms) added not just a little to the MO of the Reformers. According to church historian John Immel:
Calvin’s Institutes (1530) is the formal systematic institutionalization of Platonist/Augustinian syncretism that refined and conformed to Lutheran thinking and became the doctrinal blueprint for the Reformed Tradition [Blight in the Vineyard: Prestige Publishing 2011].
Christ promised us that He would build His Church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. The idea that the Reformers rescued His church from the gates of the Roman Catholic Church is both laughable and the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on mankind. The idea that Christ needed, and continues to need the services of Plato’s philosopher kings is arrogance on steroids. Somewhere, God’s church moves forward. Let us shed the Reformed load that hinders and find our place in that true church.
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There are a lot of Presbyterian pastors that I have much respect for. And I understand their dilemma: Lutheran = Luther, Methodist = Wesley, etc., and Presbyterian = John Calvin. I mean, this is tough: “Hi, my name is Fred. I have been a Presbyterian all of my life, which is a denomination founded on a murdering mystic despot.” Geez, I feel for them—I really do.
Nevertheless, it is interesting to see the tacit admissions that Calvinism has a history that makes some Calvinists, “uncomfortable.” This is where New Calvinism is like a distinguished family getting a visitation from a long lost relative with a long dark past. It’s like already having several dinner parties planned in a small town where a past relative is new in town, and meaner than a junkyard dog, and starts blabbing about family roots. That’s when you cancel the dinner parties or preplan your responses: “Well, many of our relatives are uncomfortable with that part of our family tree.” It is then hoped the guests will be polite and not mention that it is the root of the tree.
As will be thoroughly documented in The Truth About New Calvinism: Volume 2, New Calvinism has the history, doctrine, and character of authentic Calvinism down pat—they are the incarnation of the original article to a “T.” This is a simple thing; the present-day church being awash in spiritual abuse is merely Calvin’s Geneva: act 2. It is what it is. And thanks to the Australian Forum, all of the heavy lifting in regard to the research has been done.
These thoughts bring me to an article that was sent to me by a reader. It was from The Aquila Report which is “Your independent source for news and commentary from and about conservative, orthodox evangelicals in the Reformed and Presbyterian family of churches.” Recently, Aquila reported on a family forum held (I think) in Dallas TX where the Reformed family tried to get some understanding between them and the part of the family tree that showed up again in 1970—wreaking havoc on the rest of the family in the form of Sonship Theology and New Calvinism. Unfortunately, in regard to Powlison, Keller, and Duncan, et al, these are your daddy’s Presbyterians. Presbyterians that have truly grown in grace, but kept the name, are in a quandary to say the least.
The article was reposted on The Aquila Report by Matt Tuininga , a blogger of the United Reformed stripe. It is a commentary on an article written by sociologist Phillip Jenkins who, in the original article written by him, states uncanny parallels between early Reformed clans and Islam. Tuininga begins his post this way:
In a fascinating column in RealClearReligion the famous sociologist of religion Philip Jenkins compares the radical Islam of figures like Sayyid Qutb (author of Milestones and an intellectual father of modern day Islamism) with 16th Century Calvinism.
Well, that’s not good!
But then Tuininga adds this:
Jenkins’s overall point is to demonstrate that a religion often evolves in positive ways only by first passing through dark times.
I’m not sure that’s Jenkins’ overall point, but hey, let’s roll with it. This would then indicate that the “dark” side of the family tree is back with a vengeance in the form of New Calvinism. And be sure of this: the only difference between the behaviors is the filter of American jurisprudence. I have dealt with New Calvinists first hand (some well-known), and trust me, they would light me up with the green wood in a heartbeat if they could get away with it. What they actually did wasn’t much less.
Incredibly, Tuininga then makes the exact same point that author John Immel has been making for years and propagated on Spiritual Tyranny .com and in his book, Blight In The Vineyard. Tuininga quotes Jenkins with conspicuous undisagreement:
In the case of the West, he suggests, the Enlightenment followed the radicalism and iconoclasm of the Reformation; Protestants had to destroy much of what came before them in medieval Christianity in order to forge new ways to the future.
The fact that America’s founding fathers were children of the Enlightenment which was a pushback against European spiritual despotism was a major theme of our 2012 TANC conference. Immel presented the thesis brilliantly, and left little room for denial in regard to the fact that the Reformers were separated from Rome on doctrine (both false, by the way), but not the underlying philosophy that leads to spiritual tyranny. Overall, knowing beforehand that people are not lining up to hear this proposition, we are happy with how the conference turned out and are looking forward to next year.
Hence, “Protestants had to destroy much of what came before them in medieval Christianity in order to forge new ways to the future” focuses on iconic superstition and conveniently leaves out superstitions like the truth test to determine if someone was a witch: if you can swim, you get hung or burned at the stake; if you can’t swim—you drown. Suspicion equaled certain death, so I imagine woman of that era were particularly well behaved. The present-day replacement is the Patriarchy Movement.
In the process of making this argument Jenkins accurately portrays a side of 17th Century Calvinism that most present-day Calvinists would find troubling. Speaking of the Dutch Reformed iconoclasts of the 1560s, he writes,
“Beyond smashing images, the insurgents had other ideas that look strikingly familiar to anyone familiar with radical Islam today, with thinkers like Sayyid Qutb and Maulana Mawdudi.
The Calvinists of the 1560s sought to remodel society on the basis of theocratic Old Testament law strictly interpreted, with the role of the sovereign measured by how far he or she submitted to God’s will. Some thinkers devised a pioneering theory of tyrannicide, justifying the removal of any allegedly Christian ruler who betrayed Christ’s true church. Protestant radicals pursued a harsh policy of reading rival believers out of the faith, defining the followers of images as utterly anti-Christian, deadly enemies of God.…
In the English-speaking world, the heirs of 1566 were the Puritans, the radicals who dreamed of an austere New England. When Puritans seized power in England itself in the 1640s, their agents toured the country, smashing statues and windows in every parish church they could find. By the 1640s, at the height of Europe’s death struggle between Protestants and Catholics, Calvinist ideas that to us seem intolerably theocratic dominated not just the Netherlands, but also New England, Switzerland and Scotland, and were struggling for ascendancy in the whole British Isles. Religious zeal often expressed itself through witchcraft persecutions.”
….To be sure, what Jenkins describes here was not true of all Calvinists. John Calvin himself, living in an earlier century, explicitly rejected the sort of strict allegiance to the Old Testament civil law that Jenkins here describes, and he absolutely rejected the theories of tyrannicide and rebellion articulated by some of his followers. But Jenkins nevertheless accurately describes a strand of Calvinism, and his description of the violence and disorder that was sparked by radical Calvinist notions of what allegiance to God in the public square demanded is truthful, if not representative of the whole tradition.
In regard to Calvin himself, this is blatant denial in the face of historical fact that is not even difficult to find, but he finishes with this head-scratcher:
But Jenkins nevertheless accurately describes a strand of Calvinism, and his description of the violence and disorder that was sparked by radical Calvinist notions of what allegiance to God in the public square demanded is truthful, if not representative of the whole tradition.
The “whole tradition”? Is it a “strand” or the “whole tradition”?
THE DINNER PARTY
….One question we might ask here is to what extent was this old militant Calvinism different from the Islamism with which our nation is in conflict today. If Calvinists today were advocating theories of resistance and revolution, or if they were suggesting that the current U.S. government of Barack Obama is illegitimate such that Christians do not owe it allegiance, would the state have to launch a campaign against them as well? What if they were defending tyrannicide, based on the belief that Barack Obama is a tyrant?
Actually, this is not so theoretical. If there is one thing I have learned since starting this blog, it is that there are a number of Calvinists out there today who would espouse virtually all of these views (perhaps even tyrannicide? I’m not sure …). I don’t think most Reformed Christians give the time of day to these thinkers, but there is a minority that is with them all the way…. But I would like to ask those who find these arguments persuasive, do you really want to go back to the heyday of Calvinist revolution and theocracy? Is it the American project that you reject – with its commitment to religious liberty and the separation of church and state? And if so, how do you distinguish your own cause from that of the Islamists, especially the more respectable groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, or the intellectual followers of Sayyid Qutb? To those who, like me, find this brand of Calvinism profoundly troubling, how do you reject it without some sort of distinction between the two kingdoms, between the kingdom of Jesus, and the political institutions of this age?
Well, obviously, Tuininga has no intentions of cancelling his dinner parties. And hopefully, the guests won’t bring up the new family in town who claim kinship: while the children of other families build snowmen and sandcastles, the children of the new family in town build guillotines and gallows. And the New Calvinist’s constant haranguing of the “American dream” has become a constant drumbeat. The particular video of a New Calvinist stating that “every corner of the Earth belongs to us” is also particularity chilling. Just two weeks ago, Susan and I sat under the teaching of a well-known college professor at a Christian University (who is a New Calvinist). His message was absolutely nothing short of a Communist manifesto. Recently, I have received emails from people who attend a Southern Baptist church that is strongly influenced by David Platt. His social socialist gospel is beginning to give people the creeps big-time.
John Immel is way ahead of the curve on this stuff. I recently heard John Piper say that he didn’t believe in a marriage between church and state; I DON’T BELIEVE HIM. In fact, I am going to attempt to meet with people who have information on this for my upcoming book project. More and more, a formula is emerging that seems to explain everything: a united front of denominations (think: John MacArthur hanging with CJ Mahaney etc) who can all agree on a central theme/doctrine: the total depravity of all mankind including Christians, and the need for philosopher kings to save humanity from themselves with the use of the sword if necessary. And by the way, agreement with a knowing nod from Communists and Muslims lingers not far behind. This formula begins to make sense of perplexing love affairs; such as, MacArthur/Mahaney, Horton/ Warren, Piper/Warren, Piper/Wilson, Obama/Warren, Mohler/United Nations, Dever/United Nations, etc., etc., ect., add cold chills.
A SORTOF ADMISSION
But lastly, to bolster this point, Tuininga’s conclusion is to die for:
Jenkins appreciates the fact that the violence and revolution associated with early Calvinism was an important part of the story of how the democratic liberties and political structures that we take for granted came to exist. Calvinism had its own growing pains, and the best political theological insights from its earlier years need to be extracted from a number of assumptions and applications that were inconsistent with the teaching of Scripture. But not every Calvinist views things this way. That’s why we need to keep making the point.
Can we say, I-m-m-e-l? John has shared something with me that I agree with: in my own words; America’s founding fathers were humming Willy Nelson’s “You Were Always on My Mind” while framing the Constitution, and the “you” pertained to John Calvin in particular. While I think that Tuininga would give tacit merit to that assertion….
The Dinner Party:
….Calvinism had its own growing pains, and the best political theological insights from its earlier years need to be extracted from a number of assumptions and applications that were inconsistent with the teaching of Scripture. But not every Calvinist views things this way. That’s why we need to keep making the point.
Guest: Polite silence.
In my recent post, The Doctrine of Centralism and the “Cult” Misnomer, I explain the doctrine of control, or centralism. First, Western culture is predicated on the idea that philosophers should rule over the ignorant masses. This was formulated in the first philosophical think tank and institution of higher learning located in Athens Greece circa 400BC. From there, the philosophy moved forward and made its impact on Western culture through the secular realm and the religious realm.
In the religious realm, Plato’s philosopher kings became popes and Reformation elders. That is why the Reformers and the popes both believed (and still do) in the integration of religion and state for purposes of enforcing “God’s law” on society. The state gets a unifying belief system that unites the populous in the deal, and the philosopher kings get an army to enforce discipline on the totally depraved sheep if necessary. The whole idea that the Reformation was a contention for the true gospel of grace is just really bad history—it was a fight for control of the mutton.
The founding fathers of America were contemporary observers of the results, which have never been good. The U.S. constitution was predicated on the idea of keeping the church separate from state with the latter being in complete servitude to the people. But centralism remains dominate in American religion. However, it can’t enforce its control by the stake or gallows, so it improvises through indoctrination. In years past, popes and the likes of John Calvin did not have to be good at indoctrination because the state enforced their doctrine—contemporary proponents of centralism have to craft their doctrine well in order to gain control of people.
And the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) pastor kings are among the very best. We will now examine the art of centralism indoctrination. Keep in mind that a lot of the indoctrination is already in place via years of “preaching” by Jack Hyles and his recently fired son-in-law who had sex with a sixteen year old girl. We will focus on the centralism being used to deal with this recent scandal, and paving the way for business as usual at the First Baptist Church of Hammond and IFB churches in general.
Because of my busy schedule, I do not have time to document the actual footage I have seen in this situation that fit into the following criteria, but perhaps readers could comment and add the citations for each.
1. The philosopher king has fallen. The emphasis is on the great loss of this vital pastor king whom the totally depraved sinner-saints depend on. He will be mentioned 100 to one in comparison to the victim. “Oh my! The sheep are without a shepherd!”
2. Enlightened, but still of the earth. Remember, though pastor kings are enlightened and “called” of God to lead the totally depraved zombie sheep home through the dark maze of sanctification, they are still SINNERS. These poor souls have been called of God to vex their righteous souls among the totally depraved, and bless their hearts, sometimes they “fall.” How dare we judge them when they have forfeited their rightful place in heaven to lead us amidst this pigpen called Earth!
3. It’s the congregations’ fault. I have heard several comments by IFB big guns who have been brought in to apply the centralism protocol that implements this element, including the interim pastor king. Basically, the idea that because of the inherent selfishness of the zombie sheep, too much pressure was put on Schaap—leading to his “fall.” The kingdom of darkness targets the pastor kings specifically, and the congregation has been an unwitting accomplice with the devil. THEY SHOULD BE ASHAMED!
4. Certification/reassurance by secondary pastor kings. The sub-pastor kings at FBCH reassure the totally depraved zombie sheep that Schaap is still God’s anointed pastor king. They point to his many years of faithful service as proof [this guy was fairly good, it took 11 years to catch him]. As one sub-pastor king noted, “I love this church.” Ah, and if a pastor king loves that church—you must also. Thou pastor king has spoken—let it be written. Who can forget the infamous words of daddy Jack Hyles: “Now I want you to close your Bibles and listen to me.”
5. Dualism. All that IFB does that manifests heaven is a testimony to godly unity, and proof that there is an IFB temple in heavenly Jerusalem. But when something bad happens, it has absolutely NOTHING to do with the heavenly IFB. Because after all, they are “independent” of each other. You idiot, can’t you read the “independent” in “IFB”? In all of their “unity” (IFB has a cooperative network unmatched anywhere on Earth), is heaven manifested on earth, but when they fall get caught, that is a manifestation of the “independent” church’s evil matter. “You can’t just swath a big brush across all of IFB because of this!” Oh yes you can. All IFB affiliated churches run by the same playbook that is driven by the same philosophy. Hence, the results will be duplicated. Look, this prism is exact across all denominational, religious, and cultic lines. It is based a specific presupposition concerning mankind as opposed to a true emphasis on the priesthood of believers. This protocol can be seen to a “T” in the SBC, and especially SGM. Therefore, the massive network based on a given philosophy that produces the behavior is preserved.
6. Us against them. The “world” and competing philosopher kings would love to see the heavenly IFB’s representation on earth fall. Don’t let that happen! Be a team player! “Please, stick with us.”
Yes, much is at stake. IFB philosopher pastor kings could be deprived of the concubines that they so deserve—a small price for us to pay for their sacrifice for us in the evil realm of earthly matter. Fathers should feel privileged and proud as their raped daughters sign confessions for being the devil’s advocates in bringing down the great pastor kings.
And this isn’t just IFB, this is a mirror image of the SBC, SGM, LDS, GARB, etc., etc., etc., etc..
I begin this post with the following illustration. It is a hypothetical conversation between Mary Mystic (a good Christian woman) and Perry Prosecutor (an unregenerate district attorney) at an auto repair waiting room:
Mary: while reading the discarded newspaper lying on the waiting room table; “Oh my, did you hear about that tragedy?”
Perry: “What tragedy?”
Mary: “The woman who drowned her three children by driving her car into a pond.”
Perry: “Yes, I heard about it, I am the one prosecuting the case.”
Mary: “Oh my! Such a tragedy!”
Mary: “Yes! The lives of those precious children are cut short, and of course, the poor mother has lost her mind!”
Perry: “Actually, her mind was well with her, and not lost. The scheme was well planned. The only thing that broke the case quickly was the fact that our seasoned detectives have seen the same well planned scheme before.”
Mary: “Oh, I see. But yet, you would have to be crazy to do something like that to your own children!”
Perry: “Why is it only crazy because it was ‘her own children’? Is killing the children of others less crazy?”
Mary: “Uh, well, I see your point, but why in the world would a mother do such a thing?”
Perry: “The answer is quite simple; her newly found boyfriend doesn’t like children, and the children were getting in the way of the relationship.”
Mary: “Oh come now! Surely it is not that simple! No mother is that selfish!”
Perry: “Well, you’re right, it is not entirely that simple; the mother somewhat resented the children because they reminded her of her ex-husband, who she hates.”
Mary: “How can you be so sure about that?”
Perry: “That’s what she told us when she confessed.”
Mary: “Uh, well, uh, really?”
Perry: “Yes, ‘really.’”
Mary: “Well, for the grace of God, there goes us.”
Perry: “Hmmm. So, you’re a Christian?”
Mary: “Oh yes, for sure!”
Perry: “Thanks for telling me that. I now know not to hire any Christians because we wouldn’t solve any cases.”
Such is the case when such “tragedies” surface in American culture from time to time and the recent movie theater massacre in Colorado is no exception. Nobody has answers, especially Christians. While waxing eloquent about how Christ came to save the world from such things, we don’t know why they happen and what can be done to prevent them. Certainly, making people Christians by faith in Christ alone is not the answer because Christians don’t act any different than unbelievers. Statistically, whether divorce, depression, suicide, sexual abuse—you name it—there is no significant difference.
Is this a surprise? If we don’t know why things happen, how can we prevent them? The world doesn’t know why, so stuff happens. Neither do Christians know, so just as much misery accompanies Christianity regardless of the fact that Christ said He came to give us life—and that more abundantly. Present tense. This hypothetical (in the minds of Chrsitians) result suggested by the God-Man should result in another hypothetical result suggested by the Apostle Peter: people see by our lives that we have hope, and come to us when no one is looking to get some answers. But they aren’t asking. Why would they? There is no less human carnage and decadence lying about the landscape in Christianville.
And the reason is Christian sloth, primarily in the area of THINKING. American Christianity has become a flock of lazy thinkers. We like our Christianity easy, and mindless, and are willing to endure the misery that comes with it. Sound bites, clichés, and truisms long ago replaced Christ’s exhortation to seek with all of our heart, soul, and mind. In the recent TANC conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny, John Immel got it right: “thinking is hard” and “ideas are hard” and Christians are up to neither. This is why we prefer things that are EASY. Thinking is hard. And the Colorado massacre reveals such.
I am not going to cite specific examples, but the Christian articles going viral on the internet are the ones offering the pat answers and borrowing sound bites from the world; for example, calling the massacre a “senseless act.” No it wasn’t. The act was masterfully planned. When the goal of the individual is considered, the act makes perfect sense and again, was very well planned. Like the world, Christians continue to call such well-planned actions “senseless”—because that’s easy and we don’t have to make sense of it—that’s hard.
As John Immel also discussed in the aforementioned conference, we home school our children and shelter them from the world. That is much easier than teaching them to think. Because Christians have lost their will to work hard in the arena of ideas and thinking, we are no match for the world or a cure for them. Therefore, we need to stay separate. Given the circumstances, that’s probably wise. But here is why the world will look to its psychologists for answers rather than us, even though the young man who committed the act was studying to be a psychologist: they at least work hard at trying to figure stuff out. Give them that. Christians don’t do that because it supposedly violates the principle of child-like faith. As Immel aptly pointed out in the same conference, faith is a license to be simpleminded. Figuring stuff out by studying what the Apostle Paul called “the mind of Christ” is pragmatic arrogance.
God is taking care of a mass of different kinds of business in the lives of people through these events. Even with me. Not but two days ago, my son Phillip walked past me with what is known as “alternative music” blaring on some kind of newfangled device. The lyrics of said music is known to espouse its ideas regarding, murder, rape, suicide, authority, virginity, knowledge, and host of other subjects. One such band named “Slipknot,” has hanging one’s self with this device (which strangles the victim slowly rather than the hangman’s noose that breaks the neck and brings a quick death) as their major theme. Has our family sat down to discuss this issue in regard to the mind of Christ? No, because that’s hard. It’s much easier to say, “Well, song lyrics are just words. Certainly, my well-bred child would not be persuaded by such things. Besides, teenagers are focused on the beat, not the words.” That’s easy. What the Scriptures say about thinking isn’t.
In the Great Commission, Christ said to make disciples, not saved people. But we disobey because making disciples is hard—believing in Jesus and signing a card is easy. “Praying about it” is very easy when compared to the very difficult business of CHANGE. And in regard to thinking, the Apostle Paul calls us to a shocking duty: to take EVERY THOUGHT captive and bring it into obedience to Christ. If we think about that, which we don’t, because of the ramifications, we must conclude that our disobedience in this regard can lead to nothing other than unhappiness and ill results. But that’s hard—we want merry mindlessness and a plea of ignorance when things happen that are “difficult questions” that we dare not answer lest we be deemed arrogant know-it-alls. Better that people suffer on the altar of child-like faith. Besides, the unpleasant challenge to vigorously pursue wisdom will be quickly whisked away by the pastor’s pat answers, the caretaker, or a chemical lobotomy if death is stubborn.
The movie was the midnight premier of the most recent Batman trilogy. Just a movie, right? Of course, to give pause and think about all of the craziness surrounding this movie, including its very dark character, would be taking the whole thing too seriously. When people wait in long lines dressed up like the characters to proclaim their “obsession” with everything Batman, such should not give us pause—it’s all just a bunch of fun. But again, the Apostle’s call to hard thinking upsets our merry mindlessness and challenges us to consider these things. In Philippians, chapter 4, Paul exhorts us to “dwell” on what is “true” with the result being “peace.” The Scriptures continually warn of living in a fantasy world and dwelling on untruth. A pastor once shared with me about a certain lady in a midweek Bible study who requested prayer for characters in a daily soap opera that she watched on TV. Her mind was so saturated with the show that the lines between fantasy and reality became blurred.
Hence, while Christians are clueless, I heard solid answers in regard to the massacre from a secular thinker on a morning program. He proposed that three primary elements led to the perpetration of the crime:
1. The individual was taken over by the fantasy and wanted to actually place himself in the narrative (apparently, he was dressed like the Joker and yelled, “I am the Joker” before he started shooting).
2. He may have been overly enamored with the power that the Joker had over other people’s lives and was willing to throw his whole life away, and the lives of others in order to experience that—if even for one hour.
3. He was recently experiencing personal failures and disappointments in his life.
Good points. And there is something for Christians to learn here: we are instructed in Scripture to watch our thinking very carefully, and the Bible addresses thinking in regard to disappointments, attitudes towards others, attitudes towards self, and a myriad of other headings under the topic of thinking. Thinking is hard work, and Christian sloth in regard to thinking is exactly why we are no different than the world.
Bless their hearts, the world works hard at thinking, but they don’t have the answers. We do, but don’t think—our faith is a license for mindlessness. Enough with the softball truisms on this thing. Christians should not be surprised about this event or perplexed about it: uncaptivated, sinful thinking leads us away from guarding the mind which the Bible calls the “wellspring of life.” Sin is powerful, and this event should cause Christians to take pause and reconsider how serious they are concerning the words of the Holy Spirit.
This is not an “isolated incident.” God has knowledge of every person on Earth who has fantasized about doing the same thing (which by the way is depicted in a Batman comic book to a “T”), but didn’t actually act on the fantasy. I seriously doubt that those incidents of sin in the mind are “isolated.” And “isolated” from what exactly? Reality? Good grief.
Of course, sanctified Calvinists like Jay Adams have always been pioneers in teaching Christians to think biblically. Adams was also the pioneer in advocating the competence of believers to counsel themselves and others from the Scriptures. Adams’ revolution began in 1970 and included themes that embraced the church’s greatest needs at that time and yet today, such as, “Competent to Counsel,” and “More Than Redemption.”
However, in that same year, Robert Brinsmead and the Australian Forum were systematizing the newly rediscovered Authentic Calvinism that dies a social death every hundred years or so. It dies a social death because it is vehemently opposed to major themes that are critical for the Christian life; namely, among many,competence, and the idea that the Christian life is more than “the gospel.”
Let there be no doubt: these two emerging movements clashed continually, and continue to do so today. The Forum doctrine, Authentic Calvinism, found life at Westminster Seminary in the form of Sonship theology. The father of it was Dr. John “Jack” Miller, and he had two understudies named Tim Keller and David Powlison. Powlison formulated the doctrine into a counseling construct known as “The Dynamics of Biblical Change” which is the foundation for Westminster’s counseling curriculum—otherwise known as CCEF.
Powlison himself, while lecturing at New Calvinist heretic John Piper’s church, stated precisely what the contention is between these two schools of thought:
This might be quite a controversy, but I think it’s worth putting in. Adams had a tendency to make the cross be for conversion. And the Holy Spirit was for sanctification. And actually even came out and attacked my mentor, Jack Miller, my pastor that I’ve been speaking of through the day, for saying that Christians should preach the gospel to themselves. I think Jay was wrong on that. I – it’s one of those places where I read Ephesians. I read Galatians. I read Romans. I read the gospels themselves. I read the Psalms. And the grace of God is just at every turn, and these are written for Christians. I think it’s a place where Jay’s fear of pietism, like his fear of speculation, psychologically actually kept him from tapping into just a rich sense of the vertical dimension. And I think Biblical Counseling as a movement, capital B, capital C, has been on a trajectory where the filling in of some of these neglected parts of the puzzle has led to an approach to counseling that is more mature, more balanced. It’s wiser. It has more continuity with the church historically in its wisest pastoral exemplars.
After the Forum got the ball rolling, Authentic Calvinism, dubbed, “The Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us,” became Sonship theology, and eventually exploded into the present-day New Calvinist movement. Interestingly enough, in the same lecture, Powlison also articulated further upon another difference in the two schools of thought:
I had an interesting conversation with Jay Adams, probably 20 years ago when I said, why don’t you deal with the inner man? Where’s the conscience? Where’s the desires? Where’s the fears? Where’s the hopes? Why don’t you talk about those organizing, motivating patterns?
And his answer was actually quite interesting. He said, “When I started biblical counseling, I read every book I could from psychologists, liberals, liberal mainline pastoral theologians. There weren’t any conservatives to speak of who talked about counseling. And they all seemed so speculative about the area of motivation. I didn’t want to speculate, and so I didn’t want to say what I wasn’t sure was so.
One thing I knew, obviously there’s things going on inside people. What’s going on inside and what comes out are clearly connected cause it’s a whole person, so I focused on what I could see.”
In other words, Adams insisted on drawing conclusions from what could be observed objectively and is uncomfortable with “helping” people with subjective truth/facts. And Powlison has a problem with that. Why? Because authentic Reformed doctrine contains two ideas that are the mega anti-thesis: the average Christian is not competent, and the Christian life is not more than the gospel. THINKING, and worse yet, objective thinking, is a dangerous stunt that shouldn’t be tried at home by the average parishioner. The parishioner has but two duties: See more Jesus and our own depravity, and follow the spiritually enlightened gospel experts. They are responsible for saving as many totally depraved numbskulls as possible—despite themselves. Their “knowledge” is the latest “breakthroughs” regarding the eternal depths of the “unknowable” gospel because it is the only “objective” source of reality. And reality is deep.
And this is messy business where there is no time to fiddle with totally depraved sheep who think they can know things, and worse yet, figure something out on their own. And of course, the unpardonable sin: critiquing the teachings of the spiritually enlightened with critical thinking. Calvin dealt with such by the sword and burning stake. His New Calvinist children are deprived of such tools, but substitute with character assassination (because what the totally depraved are really guilty of is much worse anyway), bogus church discipline, and the supposed power to bind someone eternally condemned by heavenly authority granted to the spiritually enlightened on earth. Luther himself said of Calvin’s Geneva, “All arguments are settled by sentence of death.”
This brings me to a comment that was posted here on PPT by a reader who uses the handle, “Lydia Seller of Purple.” It was in response to a Calvinist that had the audacity to suggest that Calvinism is an intellectual endeavor meant for the masses. Her superb observations:
Submitted on 2012/07/20 at 3:21 am
“Calvinism appeals to the intellect because the Word of God appeals to the intellect. ”
LOL!!! This is hysterical. Right. Jesus was really impressed with those learned intellectual Pharisees. That sermon on the mount was meant for the intellectual elite of Israel. Kinda embarrassing, Christianity appealed to so many ignorant peasants, too. But you Reformed guys took care of that for us by going along with the state church because they were so much smarter than the ignorant peasants. Yep, they understood the Word better which is why Reformed comes out of the state church tradition. .
“The proper order is intellect, then emotions, then will. Much of so called Christianity appeals to emotions first, then will and never intellect. God made us rational beings for a reason. He wants us to think. When we think properly about God’s truth, our emotions will invariably be affected if we have a heart for God. Such an emotional response will move us to make right choices. Paul put it this way working backwards from the will to the intellect, “You obeyed (the will), from the heart (emotions), that form of doctrine (intellect) unto which you have been handed over.””
But you are totally depraved and unable. That is not rational, Randy. )
The last paragraph is in quotations, so I assume Lydia uses her last statement to comment on that as being from the same guy, but I have some observations on it either way. The only thing that authentic Calvinists want us to think on is the gospel, and with “redemptive” outcomes only, and “redemptive” applications only. And, the emotions always preceding the will, and controlling it, is right out of John Piper’s Christian Hedonism; ie, gospel intellect (gospel contemplationism), then gospel treasure (delight), resulting in joyful obedience which is really a gospel manifestation or “Christ formation” that doesn’t really come from our actions directly. It is also Michael Horton’s Reformed paradigm of doctrine=gratitude=doxology=obedience. I believe my friend, and church historian John Immel has it right: Christian Hedonism was devised to soften the despair and hopelessness that always follows Authentic Reformed theology (leading to its social death) while maintaining Reformed fatalistic determinism.
Such is an insult on the most loving act of all cosmic history. Christ drew deep from truth to overcome his human emotions in obedience to the cross. He endured for the “joy that was set ahead.” His agony preceded obedience in depths that are incomprehensible. Christian Hedonism mocks the very passion of Christ prior to the cross. Hence, the insistence that the totally depraved sheep ignore common sense in exchange for the “gospel context” is the demand of today’s mystical despot abusers. It is also the major ministry theme of Powlison minion Paul David Tripp; this theme can be seen throughout his Gnostic masterpiece, “How People Change.”
I conclude with another apt observation by Lydia regarding the “Reformation”’s tyranny throughout history:
One has to wonder about the Dutch Reformed tradition that made them think making a fortune in the slave trade was Christian. Same with the Presbyterian trained pro slavery Calvinists who were part of the founding of the SBC. Then you have the Calvinist Boers in South Africa and Apartheid. Of course there were no Calvinist slave owners but history seems to show Calvinists have always thought themselves superior to others.
However, I somewhat disagree with the last sentence about Calvinistic slave owners. “The Reformation Myth” will examine the happy Presbyterian slave advocates of the Confederacy, and how their doctrine was an important part of the Confederate machine. And not to mention the roots of Patriarchy that came from the same era as well.
There may be a problem with John Immel over at Spiritual Tyranny .com. Perhaps Immelism should come with the following instructions:
The content herein requires thinking, and includes simple solutions for some problems that others assume are complex. This may cause extreme fear in many who have an existing condition known as mindless-saintaphobia. Remove all household items that could be used to inflict self-harm before reading this material.
This condition, in the same way that pyromania has an irrational fearlessness of fire, has an irrational fear of thinking for oneself, and may cause panic among those challenged to do so.
The church has a long way to go in regard to recovering and rediscovering the lost gospel of thinking. “Gospel” means “good news,” and many Christians are clueless in regard to the fact that the Holy Spirit sees critical thinking as “honorable,” and in fact, is an activity that we can partake in without suffering the wrath of God. What were we thinking? We weren’t. Mindless-saintaphobia was not a problem in that day, so they had John the Baptist. We have John the Provoker.
In case you are wondering what brought this post to bear, let me share, for that is only fair for those who care. I have been cooped up in our tech room for two weeks (as the last sentence clearly indicates) producing the DVD set for the First Annual Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny. After necessarily listening to John’s first message roughly fifty times, two words he used as a primary theme for much of his first session hit me right between the eyes. The ten points under that theme aside, those two simple words beg an argument that ends the discussion concerning the validity of discernment/abuse blogs. After wading through the gargantuan internet wordage for pro and con, pray tell, what are those two words?
Though John outlines ten elements of “private virtue” in his first session, the very two words immediately beg the question: can virtue be private?
The apostle Paul didn’t recommend it. He said to let our good works be “evident to all.” Try the private virtue thing with your wife sometime: “Oh baby, I love you sooooooo much, but I am just not good at showing it.” Next interpretive question: how comfortable is your living room couch.
I get letters all of the time that state something like the following: “We are trying to figure out what is going on in our church”; “We can’t figure it out, we are confused, why won’t the elders just explain it to us so we can decide for ourselves?” “Everyone is just walking around confused ‘like zombies’ [actual quote]. We just want to know what’s going on.”
If I know what’s going on, and I don’t tell them, is that virtuous? It’s a rhetorical question.
In Immel’s conclusion to his first session, he referred to “men of private virtue.” John the Provoker is much nicer than John the Baptist. John the Baptist called them cowards.
Barb Orlowski, D.Min, and author of ChurchExiters.com states the following in an introduction to said blog:
Every year dedicated Christian people leave churches because of spiritual abuse [this is epidemic in our day]. What factors contribute to dedicated and active believers in Christ leaving their churches and becoming exiting statistics? The stories of people who left their home church because of a negative and hurtful experience [more often they are shown the front door] paint a picture of a widespread occurrence, which beckons consideration by church leaders and church congregants alike.
John Immel saw the picture that Dr. Orlowski describes and even experienced it firsthand. I don’t know what his experience was exactly, and he doesn’t know much about mine either; as he said to me over dinner: “I think we are both past that now.” Which brings me to something else Orlowski wrote in a recent article:
The church should lead the way in uncovering any of these dark behaviors. The local church has an opportunity to be part of the solution and not part of the problem regarding these covert and dysfunctional issues in the church today.
As more people understand what spiritual abuse is and what it is not, then there can be an army of people who are able to help in clarifying many of the confusing topics that get intertangled with this issue (Dr. Barb Orlowski: What Spiritual Abuse Is and Is Not).
I dare say that John Immel has seen the picture (which is hard to miss in our day), considered it, and discovered the root cause. He has also articulated the cause/root in a way that invokes a Monopoly-like motto: “Do not pass understanding; do not collect 200 issues.” Now all that’s left is to educate and raise the army.
Immel has clarified the issue in, Blight In The Vineyard: Exposing the Roots, Myths, and Emotional Torment of Spiritual Tyranny (2011 Presage Publishing). Therefore, the solution is easy: promote education that will lead to a rejection of the root cause. Yes, it can be complicated, but it can also be simple; when you follow and support certain philosophies, either “wittingly” or unwittingly— bad things happen. A certain philosophy, or maybe better said, idea, has always spawned the same results from the conception of Western culture. A counter idea has always yielded dramatically different results deemed favorable by those disposed towards happiness. I have come to believe that America was founded on the counter idea. Consider what Immel writes in the introduction to Blight In The Vineyard:
Blogs made it possible for people to compare notes and connect dots. Suddenly, the pixelated events result into high definition and the picture shows a breathtaking consistency. The stories contain striking uniformity in pastoral conversations and actions. They contain profound similarities in the emotional, spiritual, and psychological pain of those who have suffered.
That set me to thinking. How was it possible that from state to state, even country to country, people could recount similar life events with stunningly consistent conversations, outcomes, and backlash? What ideas could produce such underlying fear, anxiety, and spiritual frustration? What ironclad logic could cause masses of people to act out similar conduct that produces such invasive outcomes? What thoughts that lurk under the titles of authority would lead average men to believe they wield unchecked control over people’s lives? How could a denomination reproduce such unswerving reproducibility?
Many today ask the same questions. A reader of my blog named Charles posed the same question this way:
Have noticed this for a great many years, and my wife and I always wondered…. “What text book on abusing the sheep are all these guys reading from,” because they all acted the same.
Right here in this review we see some of what Charles is referring to. Orlowski, Immel, and Charles have never met, but note the similarities in their descriptions and even use of the same words. Nevertheless, here is where I depart for a spell and will return a little later. My perspective has been radically changed by Immel’s book and interacting with him in the arena of ideas. In fact, I have made his book required reading in the Dohse household, and have already led family devotions based on the book’s major theme. I now share my perspective based on additional study/research prompted by Immel’s assertions.
The least common denominator is the debate over the competency of man verses the incompetency of man. I believe the basic philosophy of Plato is vastly relevant to this debate. Plato saw man as utterly incompetent save those who understood that reality must be ascertained by means other than the senses. In other words, reality, goodness, and truth could not be surmised by observation of matter. He believed that the few who are able to see reality should rule over the ignorant masses who are enslaved to mere shadows/forms of the truth. Remember also that Plato lived in a culture inhabited primarily by slaves who served the elite. Some historians estimate that 90% of the Greek citizenship during the time of Plato was slaves.
It is my contention that Augustine (a Catholic Saint) integrated Plato’s ideas with theology and more specifically, Neo-Platonism which later spawned multiple forms of Gnosticism that plagued the 1st century church. The most notable Reformers were followers of Augustine, but the backbone of their theology was the underlying assumption that man was utterly incompetent whether regenerate or unregenerate. I believe that Augustine merely exchanged Plato’s concept of reality with “gospel.” Hence, today we have the elitist gatekeepers of the gospel ruling over the totally depraved.
Now we can return to Charles, and my reply to his comment:
John Immel answers that question in his book, “Blight In The Vineyard.” It’s a philosophy that yields natural results, so it’s like they all read from the same playbook. The basic philosophy sees freedom of ideas as a danger to civilization and the church. Initially, many buy into it for fear of chaos, but the results are always bad according to history. Ideas are very powerful, and almost always tempt the individual to act upon them. Freedom to interpret reality is a kissing cousin to freedom of ideas.
The ideas that rule the day also rule the world. Hence, the Reformation was really a spat between Rome and the Reformers about who was going to control the ideas. Both Rome and the Reformers believed that one’s freedom to interpret reality was nothing that should be tried at home by the common people. When man is seen as utterly incompetent to contribute to his own destiny, love as determinism is the only solution. Visit any of the spiritual abuse expose blogs–the trouble started when people questioned doctrine, or even spoke in way that would enable others to think for themselves. Immel uses happenings at SGM [a denomination of Reformed Charismatics] to illustrate how this philosophy plays out naturally in real life.
Later, John Immel contributed some thoughts to Charles’ comment:
Charles… I think the answer to the question is … yes, they are reading from the same book. Pastors the world over are pulling from the same intellectual traditions. They don’t pastor in a vacuum. They pastor with the whole history of Christianity hanging in their heads like a fog.
Very few people want to reinvent the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Or maybe better said very few people have the ability to challenge peanut butter and jelly orthodoxy, so they tend to review what has always been said, and emulate those foggy ideas.
While very, very few people consider themselves Calvinists… (or even know what he really preached, or practiced) with striking consistency they accept many of the Calvinist assumptions, which is to say they accept Augustinian presumptions about life, and spirituality what God intended the “gospel” to mean.
I have said this in many places… for all of Protestantism’s presumption that they are the authentic real version of Christianity that Catholicism screwed up…. at the end of the day, post Reformation Christian doctrine is metaphysically Catholic, which is to say we are foundationally committed to Augustine’s presumptions.
The ‘abuse’ is merely the logical outcomes of those foundations. The reason we are circling back around the tyranny of the ages, is because for the first time in American history, our doctrinal thinkers (en mass) without any hesitation, with full ‘moral’ clarity, are advocating the historic ideas that justified the tyranny.
So yes… they are all reading from the same book…
Today’s church can stop spiritual tyranny. But it will require agreement on the root cause. And the root cause is Reformed theology. Wherever and whenever it has been tried, despotism and despair has followed: in Calvin’s Geneva; in Colonial Calvinism; in Confederate Calvinism; in the empty promises of the SDA 1888 conference and the Awakening Movement of the 70’s; and finally, in the present-day Neo-Calvinism Resurgence—a sectarian beast resurrected by the Reformed theological dream team of the Australian Forum.
Just like its non-religious philosophical counterparts, classic Calvinists (the original article as opposed to my “sanctified Calvinists” and Immel’s “convenient Calvinism”) think it’s a good idea that has never been done the right way. The philosophy of determinism, fatalism, and the incompetence of the common man is foisted upon the unregenerate by irreligious despots, and by Reformed elders among the saved.
Immel’s book puts feet on these generalizations. The solution is to shun the philosophy; bad things happen when bad philosophy is followed. And through education, we can raise up Orlowski’s army.
Whether Geneva Calvinism, Colonial Calvinism, Confederate Calvinism, SDA Calvinism, or Neo-Calvinism, it always has, and always will die a social death due to its gangrenous despotism. We can hasten its rightful death in our day, and prevent future rediscovery movements with the present-day “picture” following. We can give others another way to follow.
If we can face up to the blight in the vineyard.
Paul M. Dohse
Author: The Truth About New Calvinism: Its History, Doctrine, and Character
New Calvinist Ray Ortlund: Abuse in the Church is Irrelevant, and Elders = Absolute Truth, and Will I Stop Seeing Immelism Long Enough to Write the Review?
Today’s Christians have so lost their will to discern that New Calvinists don’t even have to be careful how they state ideas any longer. Jim Jones would be in cult heaven if he were alive today, and Koolaid will soon dwarf oil in value on the open market. If you have any discernment at all, this recent post by Ray Ortlund boggles the mind: http://goo.gl/b1jeu .
Ortlund, unbelievably, begins the post by citing texts from proverbs that refer to abusers (specifically), and then applies the verses to those who have been abused and protest the abuse. In biblical context, all of these verses cited in Ortlund’s introduction refer to unregenerate people who cause division with deceptive speech, but Ortlund applies the texts to people who supposedly cause division by demanding reconciliation—a “problem” that Scripture never addresses. To the contrary, the Scriptures indict those who keep silence regarding error or injustice.
Ortlund then concludes his introduction with Titus 3;10,11, which speaks to people who belong to groups that divide with erroneous teachings. The word used in this passage is “heretic,” and the idea is the aforementioned—not someone who divides by complaining that they cannot be reconciled to abusers and a subsequent insistence for a biblical resolution. The biblical word “heretic” is also interpreted as “sectarian” because it carries with it the idea of groups that hold to certain doctrines, not individuals.
After butchering these passages, Ortlund states the following:
Not every opinion deserves a place at the table. It is the responsibility of a church’s elders to monitor the conversation going on in their church and encourage the positive and confront the negative.
And that they do, usually in the small midweek meetings in member’s homes. The sermon and teachings from the prior Sunday are discussed by elders who oversee the small groups. The group is also encouraged to discuss any ‘issues” that they know of, etc. The elder of each group is responsible for being on top of how each member is thinking about any given issue. If the THINKING is “negative,” i.e., something the elders don’t like, the problem/parishioner is neutralized. “negative” = unacceptable.
Ortlund continues with Neo-Calvinist despot protocol: those who question = closed minded people who can’t be reasoned with:
Sadly, some people just don’t listen. They are too self-assured. Reasonable discourse leaves them unsatisfied, because they are unsatisfiable. They do not feel that you understand them until you agree with them. The only acceptable outcome is their outcome, which they will pursue relentlessly.
Ortlund then warns concerning those who think they have a right to raise issues because they have been abused by the people who Ortlund accuses them of being. The abusers aren’t the abusers, the victims are:
Sometimes people overreach in this way because they claim they have been hurt. But no one, however wounded, has the right to disrupt the blood-bought peace of a church. The sacred wounds of Christ overrule all others. Moreover, in today’s climate of victimization, hurt can, in fact, be hate. Elders are responsible to discern this and confront it, even if the person offending is a long-standing member and a personal friend.
Since peace is “blood-bought,” it is to be kept at all cost. Notice the reasoning here from the Neo-Calvinist everything gospel interpretive prism: Since suffering purchased peace, suffering must not interrupt the peace that the ultimate suffering purchased. If you haven’t suffered more than Jesus did, your suffering is irrelevant, and an illegitimate reason to disturb the “blood-bought” peace. There are no words to describe the degree of discrepancy between this idea and the truth of Scripture.
Ortlund then spells out in no uncertain terms that there is only one standard for dialogue in the church: POSITIVE Jesus-speak. If anyone throws a rock in the smooth pond and makes waves, show them the front door. Then Ortlund arrogantly pre-speaks for all Koolaid guzzling Neo-Calvinist lambs by saying that this will always meet their approval:
It is the privilege of elders to keep the conversation going on 24/7 in their church positive — about Jesus, his gospel and his mission. Those elders who accept this clear teaching of the Bible and courageously follow through will, in the long run, “have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them.” To preserve their church in those green pastures and beside those still waters, the elders might have to ask the trouble-maker to leave. They will do so reluctantly and carefully, and they will try not to embarrass the offender, but faithful elders will obey the Bible. And everyone in their church will breathe a sigh of relief.
I suppose if I am ever going to write the review for John Immel’s Blight In The Vineyard, I am going to have to stay off the internet for a while. Immel’s book exposes this kind of spiritual totalitarianism, its origin, development, and contemporary examples of how it plays out in real life. The quotes in the book that satirize this kind of tyranny are worth it alone:
It is a vague truism that all churches have their problems. But that doesn’t mean they should have problems or that all problems are morally equivalent. Just because some churches fuss over the color of the sanctuary carpet does not absolve the Catholic leadership of molesting little boys. And it most certainly doesn’t mean the little boys can’t complain of the mistreatment.
But to New Calvinists like Ray Ortlund, all problems are morally equivalent because the suffering that results is less than what Jesus suffered, and making any problems an issue disturbs the “blood-bought” peace that should always entail positive Jesus-speak “24/7.”
Yes, to Ortlund, “God’s Glory” = being served up for dinner. Hence, I close with my favorite sound bite from Blight In The Vineyard:
When the sheep figure out that the shepherd only defends against the wolf because he wants the same wool and mutton. When it dawns on his herd animal mind that he will be eaten either way, he finally stands up like a man and argues against the definition of “God’s Glory” equaling being served up for dinner. In that moment, the howl from the wolves and the shepherds is the same.
Once a rabid respecter of John MacArthur, I now have absolutely no respect for him. I am keeping some of his books in my library for reference purposes, but that’s about it. And as one who actively promoted financing/support for Christians to attend his college, I now consider him a danger to the wellbeing of Christianity in general. I have watched his decline (due to bad company with the likes of mega-heretic John Piper) for some time, but his willingness to support and associate with CJ Mahaney reveals the true heart of John MacArthur Jr.
I am almost finished reading “Blight In The Vineyard” by John Immel, and I’m looking forward to writing a review on it, and I’m taking this review very seriously as I believe this book is one of the most relevant books of our day. I have made the book required reading for all in the Dohse household. Immel, among the other hefty services rendered to the church in said book, provides Cliff Notes (in a manner of speaking) for SGM Wikileaks.
I have gone to Wikileaks and read, primarily because Reformed despots say it is gossip to do so (and thereby doing my duty), but have really been unable to ascertain any great evil on the part of CJ Mahaney because of the massiveness of the documents. Well, Immel clears that all up by pointing out a few atrocities and the page numbers. The only one I had to see follows: the transcript of a recorded conversation between CJ Mahaney and SGM cofounder Larry Tomczak. CJ Mahaney, according to the transcript by anybody’s measure, is trying to blackmail Tomczak who left SGM for doctrinal reasons (Calvinism).
Ok, look, what happened to Tomczac plays out over, and over, and over again in churches daily because of the new resurgence of Geneva style true-blue Calvinism. Aka, New Calvinism. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “Calvinism is the Gospel.” Therefore, as CJ said to Larry, “Doctrine is an unacceptable reason for leaving P.D.I” (People of Destiny International—later renamed SGM). If I only had a nickel for every time we see this played out here at TANK/PPT. It goes like this:
- The elders are informed someone is leaving for doctrinal issues.
- They are immediately confronted with “unrepentant, longstanding sin” in their lives. Like Calvin, they believe (out of necessity for control) that ANY sin is fodder for church discipline.
- They are placed in a church discipline “process” that includes counseling. When you have shown forth “fruits meet for repentance” as judged by fruit inspecting elders, you are released from the counseling (ie., you convert to Gospel Sanctification).
- If you try to leave the church without being released from “counseling,” the assembly is told that you are jumping ship in the middle of the Matthew 18 process. The congregation usually assumes the victim was confronted with an issue or dispute, and left before the offended party could come back with witnesses. The anti-gospel (synonymous with anti-Calvinism per Spurgeon) individual is then excommunicated which totally discredits him/her from blowing the whistle or challenging the doctrine of God’s anointed.
Apparently, in Tomczak’s case, that wasn’t going to fly, so CJ threatened to reveal sins committed by Tomczak’s (at the time a minor) son. Tomczak’s wife, who was on the line, called Mahaney out in regard to the fact that it was pure, unadulterated blackmail. Also consider that the son had confessed the sin and was granted forgiveness thereof. Unbelievably, when CJ is reminded of that, he tells the Tomcsaks that he wouldn’t have promised to keep the forgiven sins confidential if he knew at the time that they were going to leave for doctrinal reasons.
Immel also points out (according to Wikileaks documents) that Mahaney and SGM cronies had their attorneys review a proposal for revealing the sin/sins publically. Their attorneys strongly advised against it because Georgia law protects the rights of minors in such cases. But in a brilliant observation, Immel asks what would have happened if the church and the state of Georgia were the same! (as propagated by the Reformers for the necessary control of the totally depraved zombie sheep). Game over. Tomcsak submits or SGM reveals the information.
And this is the crux. Because Reformed leaders of the John Calvin Geneva Theocracy club cannot evoke the state to enforce their authority (not yet, anyway), they all stick together. MacArthur, Dever, Mohler, Piper et al, see a huge lack of respect in the church for the authority that they think they should have among God’s people. How they choose to save the totally depraved zombie sheep from themselves is none of our business. They have no time to be concerned with the necessary fallout that accompanies the John Calvin gospel of the enlightened ones leading the totally depraved through the fabricated spiritual minefield they call sanctification.
This explains why the cries of abused sheep fall on the deaf ears of other leaders, time, and time again. I have become convinced of this unequivocally. Nevertheless, and while one also wonders what else might be in the Wikileaks documents, MacArthur’s willingness to associate with CJ Mahaney is deplorable. But this is who John MacArthur really is. My God fearing grandmother said it well, and often: “Birds of the feather flock together.”
“When the sheep figure out that the shepherd only defends against the wolf because he wants the same wool and mutton. When it dawns on his herd animal mind that he will be eaten either way, he finally stands up like a man and argues against the definition of “God’s Glory” equaling being served up for dinner. In that moment, the howl from the wolves and the shepherds is the same.”
“It is a vague truism that all churches have their problems. But that doesn’t mean they should have problems or that all problems are morally equivalent. Just because some churches fuss over the color of the sanctuary carpet does not absolve the Catholic leadership of molesting little boys. And it most certainly doesn’t mean the little boys can’t complain of the mistreatment.”
I am presently reading, “Blight in the Vineyard” by John Immel. One should probably read this book a couple of times before they review it (this isn’t the formal review), but my present understanding of the book has provoked some thoughts that are perhaps worth writing about. That’s because the book is very thought provoking. The subtitle is, “Exposing the Roots, Myths, and Emotional Torment of Spiritual Tyranny.”
Let’s face it: spiritual abuse; clergy sexual abuse; clergy manipulation; clergy intimidation; clergy control mania, and everyday spiritual tyranny is rampant in today’s church. Without hardly any effort at all I compiled the blogroll under “Abuse” in this website’s sidebar.
What’s going on? Obviously, something is. And John Immel offers a thesis concerning the root cause in his book. That’s important—endless discussions concerning symptoms will leave us all dressed up with nowhere to go. Immel outlines the historic philosophies that have led to the present spiritual tyranny of our day. And spiritual tyranny often comes with the unspoken clergy perk of selected concubines. Willing and unwilling. That’s my angle here; one of the symptoms of spiritual tyranny.
Immel, in the book, also mentions his own unfortunate collision with the descendants of spiritual despots; such collisions drive some to relentlessly pursue the reasons that this tyranny takes place. Immel was helped in this endeavor by his vast education in church history. My story is the same. What is behind the outrageous behavior of a whole generation of spiritual leaders? And how can their mode of operation be so similar? I also had to know. I even went back to college to get the tools that I needed for the mission. Others who have approached this problem from different angles are finding uncanny agreement with each other on common points.
More of Immel’s book must be absorbed, but for the purpose of this post, I will present a really rough sketch. It all starts with a predominate ancient philosophy that propagated the supposed inability of man to know reality. Therefore, mankind is in need of those who are spiritually enlightened to guide us. This philosophy eventually entered the church under the auspices of total depravity. In fact, man is so totally depraved, that the church enlisted the help of government to keep the totally depraved in line. The governing authorities are often all too happy to cooperate as a way to control the masses with a central belief system. This meant making the Scriptures property of the state with the clergy wing being the only ones who could supposedly interpret them. Daring to interpret the Scriptures for yourself could get you burned at the stake—if you were lucky:
I do further promise and declare that I will, when opportunity presents, making and wage relentless war, secretly or openly, against all heretics, Protestants and liberals, as I am directed to do and to extirpate and exterminate them from the face of the whole earth; and that I will spare neither sex, age or condition; and that I will hang, waste, boil, flay, strangle and bury alive these infamous heretics; rip up the stomachs and wombs of their women and crush their infants’ heads against the wall, in order to annihilate forever their execrable race.
~Pope Paul III, 1576
The Reformation was probably just as much about freedom of thought as it was anything moral or theological. When Papal authority was brought down, a vast verity of religious thought transpired. When the Reformers attempted to bring some theological order back to the masses, they employed the same kind of philosophy and heavy handed control as the popes had. In fact, Calvin also coveted with the government of Geneva and had his share of heretics burned and beheaded. Meanwhile, throughout history, the Catholic Church has continued to treat parishioners as little more than cattle to be herded about and feasted on. As recent as 1948, horrific atrocities by the Catholic Church have been recorded in books such as, “House of Death and Gate of Hell.”
In his book, Immel seems to think that this authoritative control of knowledge (which both the Catholic Church and the Reformers were/are guilty of) ends up being the decrees of men instead of absolute truth. Creeds, accords, confessions, catechisms, and counsels become the authority, and the nomenclature is “orthodoxy.” That’s a word I use often myself.
Think what you will of Immel’s thesis (as well as I have stated it here), but frankly, I see the reality of it everywhere in today’s Christian landscape. Clergy does what it damn well pleases, while the laity is kept in line. And especially in Reformed circles, creeds and confessions are the authority. This has always baffled me, but apparently, this is a mentality that has been present throughout the history of the church.
This expendable laity verses the too big to fail spiritually enlightened mentality is pervasive in today’s church. If you are excommunicated by a church, the church that excommunicated you will write a letter to any church you try to join—letting them know that you are damaged goods. But if you are a spiritually enlightened rapist, the church will write a letter to the judge asking for leniency (http://goo.gl/n9b3X ). I was recently confronted by some pastors for writing a negative article about a particular “man of God,” and thereby “dragging the name of Christ through the mud.” Meanwhile, it is common knowledge that their denomination covered for a known spiritually enlightened pedophile for several years. A layman criticizing one of the pathfinders of our day is “dragging the name of Christ through the mud,” but pedophilia isn’t. And so it goes.
Except in the Bible. Again, one of Immel’s minor theses’ in the book is the idea that orthodoxy and absolute truth are two separate things—orthodoxy is most often the decrees of men used for ill purpose. And hark; we see that plainly in our day. The Bible calls for pastors that sin to be rebuked before all so that the others will fear (1Timothy 5:20). That’s absolute truth, and in other expressions, especially contemporary ones, would be a data base to warn other churches about spiritually enlightened pedophiles (which to date no denomination has agreed to do). Instead, orthodoxy in most of these situations has yielded tragic results by using biblical facts to distort absolute truth.
I’m just sayin’ seems like Immel is on to something.