Paul's Passing Thoughts

John Calvin: Gnostic Extraordinaire

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on September 4, 2012

“If you believe that going to a Reformed ‘biblical’ counselor is about change, I have some oceanfront property in Xenia, Ohio that I would like to sell you.”

“In the first sentence of the Institutes, Calvin completely circumvents one of the primary purposes of God’s word for the believer.”

Note: You can click on charts to make them bigger.

It’s really not rocket science. The much touted idiom for Reformed thought is, the objective gospel outside of us. What does this mean? It means that all truth, wisdom, knowledge, and reality is contained in the knowledge of God which =’s “the gospel” which =’s the “personhood and works of Christ.” The dirty little Reformed secret is that the effects of the knowledge of God continues to remain outside of us even after salvation. Recently, New Calvinists have had to come clean on this to some extent by admitting that total depravity also applies to believers, and much to the consternation of Sanctified Calvinists who don’t know that they have been sanctified from Reformed soteriology. TANC is in the process of producing a 12 step program for recovering Sanctified Calvinists. The first step is to admit that Calvin was a Gnostic: “Hi, my name is Bob, I unwittingly promoted a Gnostic for ______years.” Hi Bob. The second step is vital for rebuilding self-esteem: “Hi my name is Bob, I have never been a Gnostic, and I am not totally depraved.” Hi Bob.

Obviously, if you are totally depraved, you can’t know anything that actually becomes a part of you and changes your behavior. Sanctified Calvinists must come to grips with the logical conclusions that follow the idea that GRACE remains completely outside of the believer. Reformed thought eventually referred to the antithesis of the “true gospel” as “infused grace.”  In other words, the new birth does not change the individual by making grace a part of him, and thus making change possible via the new creaturehood. If words mean things, and they do, total depravity does not = change. Hence, grace does not enable individuals to perform works.

This line of thought educes statements from the likes of Tullian Tchividjian who boasts that he has never done one work that pleased God and looks to this as the assurance of his salvation. These fanatical concepts are running amuck and unfettered in today’s church because they came from Calvin, and nobody wants to take on Calvin. This is because too many have not paid attention for too long and now don’t want to look stupid. Basically, instead of thinking for themselves, and studying for themselves, they followed others.

John Piper teaches that the crux of the Reformation was the idea that grace remains outside of us after salvation. In other words, grace changes our position, but not us. And he is exactly correct in his assessment. He, like the Reformers, attributes infused grace to the very root of all evil as demonstrated by the following chart published by a Reformed think tank (I discuss Piper’s Reformed view of this in detail: chapter 4 of The Truth About New Calvinism):

I have a lot of work to do in order to nail all of this down specifically, but the basics are pretty simple: if you note the chart above carefully, and think about it, the only place to go from there is Gnosticism—Gnosticism makes it work—Gnosticism is the practical application—nothing else works. By the way, a primary contributor to the above chart was Graeme Goldsworthy. Think about that one for a while. Graeme Goldsworthy was also a contributor to an article entitled, “The False Gospel of the New Birth.” In the article, the new birth is explained away by the Gnostic concept of “emphasis.”

Plato, the father of Gnosticism, believed that matter was a form or shadow of the true, good, and beautiful. The forms were certainly TRUE in regard to being a reality, but man’s basic problem was that he/she EMPHASIZES the shadows over the true form. Likewise, the new birth is true, but is merely a form of the true gospel. Focusing on the new birth (ie., our responsibility to exercise our redeemed will to obey God), “eclipses” the true Sun (a play on words). The life-giving ray of the Sun that manipulates dead matter  and gives it form is a constant theme throughout the Calvin institutes and literature like Pilgrims Progress. We are frozen blocks of ice until the Sun shines its light on us and changes the form of the block gradually, but obviously, the block of ice has no participation in the process.

Calvin presents this Gnostic epistemology in the very first sentence of his Institutes. He states:

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. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two proceeds and gives birth to the other. For in the first place, no man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts toward the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; no, that are very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone.

So, ALL wisdom concerns knowledge of ourselves and God, but the knowledge of ourselves must come first through God. And, since God is the good, and we are the evil, God is the knowledge of the good and we are the knowledge of the evil. All of the Calvin Institutes are framed within this prism—the knowledge of good and evil. I have made a chart below to illustrate this:

As we delve deeper and deeper into the knowledge of both, the glory of God is manifested. As illustrated by the following chart that is a viral illustration in Reformed circles. The knowledge of the good coupled with the knowledge of the evil makes the cross bigger; or in other words, the glory of God:

Of course, this is eerily similar to the lie in the garden. I wouldn’t drive a theological stake on this, but it seems that God called His creation good (including Adam and Eve), and the serpent came along and told Eve that there was also a knowledge of the evil that God was keeping from them. They rest is history. So, God redeems us, and once again His creation is good (as in the new birth made possible by Jesus Christ), and here comes the Reformed crowd with the knowledge of God’s goodness and the news that we are still evil, and the knowledge thereof. Creepy, if you think about it. And I suggest that you do. Go ahead, it’s safe for you to do so—Calvin and Luther are both dead.

Even though we do not really change according to Reformed thought, what does change? Before I address that, let me first answer the cat-cries that I presently hear. Notice in the very popular Reformed illustration above that we don’t change, the cross does. It gets bigger. We get worse in our own minds which also makes the cross bigger. We are the knowledge of the evil and are totally depraved accordingly. If you believe that going to a Reformed “biblical” counselor is about change, I have some oceanfront property in Xenia, Ohio that I would like to sell you. Come now, let us reason together, how do the totally depraved change?

According to Reformed thought, we don’t change; we manifest God’s glory; ie, “spiritual formation” or “transformation” or “reorientation of the heart.” Regardless of how change-like their terms sound; once again, ask yourself how the totally depraved change, and remember—we don’t change, only the manifestation of God’s glory does. This transformation takes place by “knowing.” We are transformed into the image of what we know. This is also a Gnostic concept. In fact, Calvin quotes Plato accordingly in book 1, chapter 3, section 3:

This did not escape the observation even of philosophers. For it is the very thing which Plato meant (in Phoed. et Theact.) when he taught, as he often does, that the chief good of the soul consists in resemblance to God,  i.e., when by means of knowing him she is wholly transformed into him.

As an aside that I am not going to address deeply here, Reformed thought holds to the idea that anything more than obtaining the knowledge of the good while letting any result thereof  happen naturally—is works salvation. As some in that camp state it: “You can’t just leap from the command to obedience.” Right. You have to know that the command is a command that we can’t keep, and see it as a work that Christ has already accomplished for us—anything more than that is works salvation. What we know about the command will create a manifestation of God’s glory. “Ya, like, we will then obey, right?” No, no, and no. Again, how do the totally depraved obey? Again, how do we obey if only the cross grows, but not us? By the way, the cross illustration above also illustrates Luther’s Gnostic concept of law/gospel. The law is meant to drive us to despair of self-righteousness (knowledge of the evil via the good) which drives us back to the foot of the cross. See illustration below:

This is only true of unbelievers, but for the born again believer, the Bible is God’s full philosophical statement for life and godliness (Matthew 4:4, 2Tim. 3:16). In the first sentence of the Institutes, Calvin completely circumvents one of the primary purposes of God’s word for the believer.

Much more research is needed, but one gets a hint of how this all supposedly works in real life as Calvin refers to the ideas of Socrates and Aristotle as well in book 1, chapter 5, section 3:

Hence, certain of the philosophers have not improperly called man a microcosm (miniature world) as being a rare specimen of divine power, wisdom, and goodness in containing within himself wonders sufficient to occupy our minds [emphasis mine] if we are willing to employ them.

This seems to indicate that God is satisfied with man contemplating Him in their minds only, while what happens in the outside world is totally in God’s control. The fact that Reformed thought holds to the idea that all occurrences in human history point to God’s glory in one way or the other—is no big secret. Therefore, since God is not the creator of evil, but preordains it for his glory, all human occurrences should be seen as either a manifestation of the good or a manifestation of the evil, or the knowledge of good and evil as well, but with both purposed for glorifying God accordingly. So, a bad event is knowledge of evil which glorifies the good by contrast, while good things that happen are obviously knowledge of the good as well. What is true of the “believer” in his mind, is also true in the metaphysical world. When we contemplate the goodness of God in our mind, the cross is bigger. When we see our own depravity—the cross is bigger; likewise, good and bad events in the world make the cross bigger as well. This explains the Reformed infatuation with tragedy. Do I think this philosophy is at the core of why there is so much indifference in the church to spiritual tyranny and abuse? YES.

Moreover, it explains why there is no concern over the fact that Reformed theology’s European legacy is aflame with the Witch Wars (in some villages, the female population was completely eradicated), the Inquisition, the Peasant Wars, the Thirty-Year War, the First English Civil War, the Second English Civil War, the Third English Civil War, and the Levellers’ rebellion against Puritan tyranny. These were all religious wars involving theocracies—mostly of the Reformed stripe.

Because the Church of England wasn’t lopping of enough heads to satisfy the Puritans, they tried to bring their show to America, but the founding fathers shut them down. There is a reason why America has never had a religious war.  Nevertheless, their very first theocracy resulted in the very same European behavior: the Salem witch trials. As a memorial to the glorifying knowledge of the evil, New Calvinists signed the Danvers Statement on Puritan Manhood and Womanhood at the same location.

The restrained tyranny is now manifesting itself in New Calvinist “churches.”  Abuse and tyranny will always follow the philosophy.

And of course, for the glory of God.

paul

4 Responses

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  1. paulspassingthoughts said, on September 4, 2012 at 5:31 PM

    Reblogged this on Clearcreek Chapel Watch.

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  2. lydiasellerofpurple@yahoo.com said, on September 4, 2012 at 6:45 PM

    Excellent post!

    For the life of me I cannot understand how so many can ignore the fruit of Augustinian/Calvinist history. It is all right there…the fruit of total depravity and special knowledge. Luther was all about wiping out the peasants in the Peasant War. Sheesh! Do people actually read many of Luther’s writings and think he was a good guy? His very words were used by the Nazi’s to bring the Lutheran church on board early on with the Aryan Laws. And of course, allegience to Hitler was not big deal considering the history of the state church thinking.

    You wrote: “Of course, this is eerily similar to the lie in the garden. I wouldn’t drive a theological stake on this, but it seems that God called His creation good (including Adam and Eve), and the serpent came along and told Eve that there was also a knowledge of the evil that God was keeping from them. They rest is history. So, God redeems us, and once again His creation is good (as in the new birth made possible by Jesus Christ), and here comes the Reformed crowd with the knowledge of God’s goodness and the news that we are still evil, and the knowledge thereof. Creepy, if you think about it. And I suggest that you do. Go ahead, it’s safe for you to do so—Calvin and Luther are both dead.”

    This is it in a nutshell. I will never forget the YRR pastor who asked me” if my heart was wicked or not as scripture claims”. I said no and he was shocked. He could not believe I had the nerve to say that and called me self righteous and elevating myself over God. How could I agree to such a thing? I have been “Born Again”.

    All they do is make me want to avoid them. No telling what the wicked heart, totally depraved person might do to you! They need Jesus Christ!

    BTW: I need to make a confession. Sort of like the 12 step thing. My name is Lydia and I have never finished Pilgrims Prograss. I have tried. Oh, how I have tried. Many starts. I just could not stand it. Allegory is not my thing at all. Same with Hannah Hurnard.

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  3. JeffB said, on September 10, 2012 at 3:05 PM

    Paul –

    You make good points, here and elsewhere, about Calvinism possibly (I haven’t completely given up on it yet) making man so passive and helpless that it seems to make a mockery of God’s commands.

    On another, though related, aspect of Calvinism, the emphasis on God’s glory, you wrote: “The fact that Reformed thought holds to the idea that all occurrences in human history point to God’s glory in one way or the other—is no big secret. Therefore, since God is not the creator of evil, but preordains it for his glory, all human occurrences should be seen as either a manifestation of the good or a manifestation of the evil, or the knowledge of good and evil as well, but with both purposed for glorifying God accordingly.”

    It seems to me that this pov is supported by Scripture: “You will say to me, therefore, ‘Why then does He still find fault? For who can resist His will?’ But who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Or has the potter no right over the clay, to make from the same lump one piece of pottery for honor and another for dishonor? And what if God, desiring to display His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath ready for destruction? And what if He did this to make known the riches of His glory on objects of mercy that He prepared beforehand for glory— on us, the ones He also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?” (Rom 9:19-24)

    I realize that this passage is in the midst of a discussion of Jews (Israel) and Gentiles, but I think it applies to individuals also – Paul mentions Jacob, Esau, and Pharaoh, for instance. Any thoughts on this?

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    • paulspassingthoughts said, on September 10, 2012 at 3:42 PM

      Jeff,

      Yes, I think Paul was in essence saying, “Even if God proposed to do that, who are you to question it?” Also, even if Paul wasn’t using a hypothetical to make a point (which is what he seems to be doing [even without the “What” in “What if….” the word has the idea of being conditional]), the Reformers make that point the whole ball of wax. Furthermore, Rom. 9:19-24 is in context of justification regarding those who want to earn it through works. The Reformers extended the same to sanctification. That means that we have to maintain our justification by faith alone, but when the two are fused together, any and all requirements are a colaboring with God for justification. I believe this is why God abolished the law in regard to justification. He eliminated the standard of judgment for justification all together. We are no longer under the law. This seems strange, but it gets back to God doing anything He wants to do.

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