Paul's Passing Thoughts

TANC 2013: John Immel

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on September 8, 2013

TANC 2013 2-001


All right. My name is John Immel. I like to introduce myself as no one from nowhere mostly because it’s true. But what I really find interesting about it is most people introduce themselves when they’re interested in some form of credential. And I have no interest in credential. I’m not interested in some form of authority in compelling you to believe what I believe. My interest is that you will find my ideas so compelling that you’d go, “Oh yes. By my own rational faculties, that must be the right answer.” And if that’s my outcome, if that’s the goal I’m going for, then it frankly doesn’t matter who I am.

Having said that though, I do need to tell you I did write a book about this. I wrote Blight in the Vineyard: Exposing the Roots, Myths, and Emotional Torments of Spiritual Tyranny. This version of this book was actually started in 1996 when I was desperately trying to figure out how to address the tyranny within the then People of Destiny International, now Sovereign Grace Ministries. That was its first form. It took on three forms, this being the third. I do specifically talk candidly of Sovereign Grace Ministries. However, I will say this. The book is not about Sovereign Grace Ministries. This book is about the ideology that we’re going to talk about, what we’ve been talking about, the Neo-Calvinist movement that is currently in existence. This goes into a substantial detail about the evolutions of thought, where the ideas come from, how we end up with these ideas, and then some of the arguments that are around it. I highly recommend if you’re interested in more discussion about this. There just are not many challenges to the reform constructs on point. I mean, of course, you can be a good Armenian and say, “Yea, verily,” and start parsing scriptures, but I’m talking about a root challenge to the core assumptions of the reform construct. So I did write this.

I do have a blog, I’ve been remiss in writing there for almost two years now, because I started writing fiction. I decided I was tired being poor, decided to write stuff that I thought somebody actually want to read and pay me for. So my first book is called Dead Certain. It’s on Amazon. Actually, both of these are on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You can order it from there. My goal with Dead Certain was to have a blast, no pun intended, in shooting lots of zombies. It’s a zombie apocalypse, but it’s a fun read. And Dead Certain, my fiction name, my alter ego is J. Lorin. And if you’re interested in zombies and zombie apocalypse and don’t mind that it’s not rated Christian PG-13, you’ll have a blast with it, pretty good.

Brief editorial note from last year. I quoted a song called Living on the Edge, and I gave credit to that song to Mick Jagger. It’s actually not Mick Jagger; it’s Steven Tyler. My editor, she caught it. She told me after, of course, I’ve done it. So I had to tell everybody. Sorry, Steve. Didn’t mean to screw up your song. But, you know, guys with big lips, they all look the same, right? Okay, that was some very politically incorrect humor. So…

We have actually talked a lot about the challenges before us. And it’s just a pretty big deal, and I understand our obsession. I understand why we’re trying to impress upon people the scope of this issue is vast. I understand why we’ve done this. But it seems a little conspiratorial and a little overwhelming to put it in those terms. When we start talking about Plato, him being a pagan, and oh my goodness, John Calvin, what did he preach? it starts to come off as if we’re trying to find the bogeyman in bad places. I will get to Plato and my thoughts on Plato a little bit later. But I want to say this. Our challenge is actually it is that lofty, but it’s much more personal. Because our challenge is actually what happens in the pews. You show up at church. You hear a doctrine. You get some people to shake your hand and look longingly into your eye and say, “You belong.” And as human beings, that’s a powerful statement. If somebody looks at you and says, “You belong,” I want you with me. And that’s hard to repel. And most people go to church for, you know, because of the kids, have a good place to stay, and they like the music, and they generally like the people. But that’s not really where it ends. It is personal because at some point you end up on the wrong side of the pastors. Something happened. It doesn’t matter what. You’ve been told that you’re part of this big grand party and please come talk to us and we’ll help you with your big burdens. And then you go do that.

And suddenly, the marketing and packaging is all wrong. You thought you were right to object or to challenge or to even just be you, and one day that just was not so. And the problem that you have is you look at your Bible and you said, “But here, right here, see?” And they go, “Well, no. That’s not what that says. And it really doesn’t matter because you should be submitted to me.” And you look around and suddenly life is just insane. All those people that hugged you and said, “Yea, verily, we are glad you’re with us,” they turn on you in about a minute. All those friends you had… poof! Where did they go? They have no interesting in hearing what you say. And the crazy part is the more you try to justify or explain your position, the worse it gets. And without fail, they accuse you of being defensive. And of course only defensive people are sinners. If you’re really humble, you wouldn’t dare walk down this line of self-defense, which is really stupid because they’re also telling you, “Justify yourself. Justify yourself. Justify yourself.” Which is it, justify myself or I’m being defensive? So you look around and you’re bewildered. And after you wade through the thousand and one motions that had come out of you in ways that you could not begin to fathom, you say, “What the heck happened?” God’s church is not supposed to be this way, we tell ourselves. And yet here we are dead square in the middle of a conflict that is almost unintelligible.

Well, of course, with the blogging world, these types of experiences within Christianity had been going on for generations upon generations. But in modern age, of course, the blogging world, the Internet, gave us the ability to start comparing notes. And individuals were suddenly able to say, “You know what? This happened to me.” And somebody else says, “You know what? That exact same thing happened to me,” and so on and so forth and so forth and so on. One day we looked around and we said, “Wait a minute. There is a systemic problem here.” And people are now in that place. This is where we sit within Christianity. We know we have a problem. So now we’re saying to ourselves, “So how…” We understand we’ve got a conflict. We can’t figure out what the problem is.

And of course the explanations run the list. It’s the doctrines of men. This one always gets me. All doctrines are doctrines of men. God does not come down here, stand up in public square, and start talking. It’s all doctrines of men. Everybody is standing around all the time talking about the content of what they think and proclaiming that in general to the masses. So what we’re really trying to say is it’s not authentic. If it were true Christianity, true doctrine, we wouldn’t have a problem. Yeah. That doesn’t really solve the problem because like I said, everybody is doing that all the time.

God is testing you. Well, this is a fabulous one. So basically, what you’re ultimately saying to me is that the manifestation of reality is God’s intent. So what then? I shouldn’t solve the problem?

Well, all churches have their problems. This is a Sovereign Grace Ministries classic. They like to pretend that people fussing over the color of the carpet is somehow necessarily the same thing as a child being molested and the pastor covering up and refusing to let the parents go to the authorities as if there is a moral equivalency there.

And then the last, of course, the tried and true get out of sin free card is we’re all just sinners. We can’t really fuss and moan about the fact that somebody has done bad things, you know. We’re all sinners as if there is an other world equivalency between psychopath and your average pastor in a cult. No. Wrong.

And then of course we start digging around in our doctrines, and we start saying, “Well, it’s a failure of polity.” If they had the right government structure, then these bad things wouldn’t happen because we would have checks and balances. And of course Christians have come to believe that the nature of check and balance is really designed to restrain our sinful appetites and desires. And so if we had better government structure, that would prevent these bad things from happening, never once realizing that all governments are always in service to a series of values. And so it doesn’t matter the structure you put in place. Ultimately, at the end of the day, if you have the same values, you will continue to govern towards those values.

And then the last one is if we just had the right people, which is really funny considering we always say it’s the doctrines of men. Well, by definition, if we’re just looking for the right person, what we’re really saying is there is an idealized person out there who somehow magically gets it all right, and finally just come down from Mount Sinai and tell his truth. Well, that’s nutty because it never works. And the one thing we never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever challenge is it’s the doctrine. There’s something wrong with our picture.

So some of you experience this tumult. You started looking for answers, and you’ve heard all of these other points belabored endlessly cycle and cycle. If we loved more, if we prayed more, if we prayed louder, if we prayed quieter, oh my lord, the list of options. And finally, you heard somebody say, “No, it’s not any of that. It is the doctrine.” You heard a guy by the name of Paul Dohse that said, “No, it’s the doctrine.” You heard a guy by the name of John Immel who said, “No, it’s the doctrine. That’s the problem.” And it’s not just a problem. It’s evil. Now that one’s a big one for a lot of people because they want to sustain some kind of a moral equivalency between doctrines as if well, it’s got some good ideas, but there are some things that are good. These guys aren’t all black from top to bottom. And so we don’t want to parse it out. We don’t want to take a position on the content of what they teach. We’re going to get to that because that’s important. And that is going to be an evolution of thought for a lot of people who tune into this.

The doctrine is evil. It is fundamentally and substantively hostile to human existence. But this leads people to a serious problem. If it is the doctrine, if Calvin is in error, gasp! How can that be so? It’s orthodox. This is what the church has believed for, well, for heaven’s sake, for 500 years, or at least the Protestant Church. We would like to pretend that we’re different from the Catholics, but hey, how can you debate orthodoxy? This is what he Church has always believed. Reformed Theology is sacred. John Calvin and Martin Luther, are you kidding? They sat at God’s left hand just right beside Peter, James, and the other guys. How could you possibly begin to challenge who these guys are? The Reformation, my goodness, if it hadn’t been for those guys, we’d still all be Catholics. And those dastardly Catholics, I mean, my goodness, you know, they’re just corrupt. Pope is of the devil. Oh Lord. Anybody ever heard that kind of thing before? Well, yeah.

And then you have to ask yourself, if all that is the problem, if the Reformation is not what we’ve been told it is, and the people at the top of the food chain, this intellectual food chain, are not who we’ve been told they are, then we have to ask the really hard question: why does this happen?

Now here’s my challenge to you. If I had a mirror here, I would actually ask everybody to take a look in the mirror. You streaming media people, if you actually have a mirror close, take a look in the mirror. You want to know why this happens? You’re the reason. It ain’t more complicated than that. And you might say to me, “But isn’t that what everybody else told me? Isn’t that what everybody else told me, that I was a sinner, and I was the reason there was this conflict?” Yes, yes, exactly what they told you. But this isn’t for the same reason.

To understand what really happened, we need to start at the beginning. But before we can start at the beginning, people must take responsibility for the content of their own mind. I will bet money that you have never heard that out of a preacher before. And since I’m not a preacher, you still haven’t. They might tell you to think but maybe not so much. And here’s the thing. Paul and I and Susan can detail for you the list of doctrinal failures. And, of course, with Paul you will OD on doctrinal particulars. We can detail all the root issues and all those spiritual manipulations. I’ve been doing this. I’ve been thinking about this for almost 20 years of my life. I have the ability to do this. But until you, personally, are committed to the content of your own mind, until you’re committed to the content of your own life and your own purpose, nothing I do will matter. And here’s why. Because at the end of the day, if you’re not willing to do that, your worldview exempts you from everything that comes after. You’ve capitulated. You tossed up your hand and said, “Eh, it’s not so much my problem.” So at some point you’ll let your brain go tilt, you’ll shrug at the complexity of the world, and toss up your hands and surrender and insist that Jesus’ message is just simple, and all this brain stuff is just added torment for your peaceful soul. This sounds like a churchy answer. You will console yourself for a while, evading the reality that you were letting other men fill the blanks of your own mind.

Eventually, you will find someone else that will take up the cause of organizing your life yet once again. And not too much after that, you’ll be confronted with the very same spiritual tyranny, the very same social conflicts, the very same church dynamic. And maybe this time it’s worse. And maybe this time the spiritual tyranny, the church tyranny has actually joined political power. Somehow the guy in front of the pulpit somehow managed to get himself elected to office. And now not only does he have a body of doctrine, he got guns. In Christianity we have failed to understand government is force. Polity is force. When people start talking government, when people start talking passing laws, they’re really saying they’re entitled to do is to force you, to compel you, to bring violence against you to bring an outcome. And then tyranny will have been joined with political power, and liberty will be dying under this assault. What will you do then?

The answer, the options are very, very limited because you’ve already abandoned self-directed thinking. The only thing left, we wail and tumult and gnash your teeth that men are just sinners and who can save us? You will toss up your hands in despair, retreat into some church where the intellectual barricade are over the doors and you can fortify against evil. And then, you know what usually happens as everybody overdoses on end time theology and is Jesus coming back? And even comes the Lord Jesus. And when’s the rapture? Does that sound grim? Of course it does. Because that course of non-action is a dead end, and it has only one outcome. And that outcome was you deserve what you got. You are the reason tyranny happens from top to bottom throughout history. Individual men are the reason tyranny happens, not because you’re a wretched old sinner who failed to submit to authority. The reason your interpersonal church relational problems happen is because you refuse to reason, because you refuse to be an independent mind, because you refuse to be an individual.

Now how many people does that statement make nervous? How many of you cringe at the notion that you should be more individualistic? How many of you think that having an ego is being in sin? How many of you equate individualistic with selfish? And last question, how many of you equate selfishness with the greatest expression of moral failing? What if I told you that your reaction to self and selfishness and individuality and ego is by design? What if I told you that despots and tyrants throughout history the world over have specifically set up to persuade all of humanity that the problem is always the individual? And the only solution to the problem is sacrifice? Disturbing thought, right?

So now we get to think. I need to bring you up to speed on some basic thoughts that most people have never heard before. For those of you who follow my blog,, and have read Blight in the Vineyard, of course you all recognize pretty much all of this. This is the substance of what I’m talking about. Okay, this is my utterly self-aggrandizing attempt to writing my own gospel, the Gospel According to John Immel, you guys have it. It’s slide 1. Here is the Gospel According to John Immel 3:1-3. All people act logically from their assumptions. It doesn’t matter how inconsistent the ideas or insane the rationale. They will act until the logic is fulfilled. Therefore, when you see masses of people taking the same destructive actions, find the assumption and you will find the cause.

Okay, I want to break this down. Verse 1, here is the underlying logic of the verse. Assumption plus logic equals action. Verse 2, faulty logic, erroneous rationalizations are still ideas that flow from one to the next to the next until they get to an outcome. That’s important. Just because something is rational doesn’t mean it’s not wrong. What I’m saying rationality in this context is man’s faculty, his cognitive faculty, how he integrates his ideas in his head. Does that make sense? Yes, no, tell me I’m crazy? The logic here, bad ideas still follow from one to the next. Verse 3, mass action plus destructive outcome equals common premise.

Anyway, I’m trying to pick up from where I left off. Now that you could see that this is really the main statement of this summary right here. Now if I hit the next one, all right. This is what I want you to pick up from this. I want you to see the specific relationship between actions and ideas. I submit that man as a rational, cognitive being is specifically designed to operate from the standard. What makes man utterly unique in the world is his ability to cognitively, rationally approach the world. He’s the only creature on this planet that does not automatically by nature adapt to an environment. It’s exactly the opposite. Man must adapt his environment to nature. And the only way he does that is by reasoning, by his cognitive faculties. So once you understand that the nature of man’s existence requires him to integrate ideas, then it becomes amazingly simple to understand that the integration of ideas is what he is always after. He’s always trying to figure out how to take his ideas and put them together like this.

Now most people unfortunately have a big basket in their head, and they toss this idea and this idea and this idea and then it got shaken up. And then when, you know, sort of, kind of whenever it happens, they will pull an idea and go, “This is a good one,” when it comes time for them to act on it. And then it gets a little dangerous when they actually start pulling two or three ideas out. It doesn’t matter that they’re mutually exclusive. They’ll kind of try to force them together. And like a puzzle, there are always kind of jagged edges always hanging out. And they look at the world and it still makes no sense to them, and never once does it occur to them to go back and check their premise. What is your assumption? We’re going to get to this a lot.

Now this study is called philosophy. And of course when I say philosophy in context of Christians, they immediately think of Paul’s major condemnation of vain philosophies. And they start to tune out because they think they’ve got an intellectual get out of thinking free card. Well, okay, after that preamble if you’re still persuaded that you can let your mind go out, good luck to you.

For those of you who are still with me, slide 5. This is the study of philosophy. Philosophy is metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and politics. Actually, the last one is aesthetics, but it doesn’t really apply to where we are. But the four primaries, the things that drive all of human existence are these four studies. And each of these builds on the next.

Okay, here is Power Point slide 6. And here’s the breakdown of each of the functions of each of the areas of the study. The nature of existence equals metaphysics. How we know what we know is called epistemology. How we value what we know is called ethics. How we interact with people is called politics. Each of these folds from one to the next to the next to the next. So what you assume about man’s existence will ultimately impact what you believe man can know. And what you believe man can know will ultimately impact how you think he should ethically act. And how you think he should ethically act will ultimately form your government structure. Remember previously I said we could debate endlessly the issues of polity and how the government structure is, and I told you that always the government structure is in service to the ideas, this is why. Because politics is at the end. Ethics comes before. And if your ethical presumptions presume that you should kill black people, you’ll organize whatever government it takes to kill black people. And of course, the Presbyterian Church did just that. Did I say that out loud? Sorry, Presbyterians. No, actually, I’m not. You should know that.

All right. Do you have a glimpse of the scope? Yes? No? You think I’m crazy? Okay. Philosophy is the broad study of how man integrate his ideas. It is how we know what we know. It is where ideas come from, their objective value, and how those ideas impact our human interaction. So now with this in mind, you can ultimately grasp the implication of what I’m saying here and the Gospel According to John Immel. All people act logically from their assumptions. It doesn’t matter how inconsistent those ideas or insane the rationale. They will act until the logic is fulfilled. Therefore, when you see masses of people taking the same destructive action, find the assumptions and you will find the cause. And this is why when you go to church, you end up in the exact same spot. You find masses of people taking the same action. If you find their assumptions, the roots of their ideas, you will find the cause of their actions.

So my goal last year was to introduce the systemic nature of nature of human thought, to illustrate how this system dynamic impacts human action. And without this mindset, without understanding the system dynamic of human thinking, it’s almost impossible to understand what’s happening. To be sure, without this intellectual tool, no specific doctrinal discussion will matter. It won’t matter how much we dissect sanctification and justification and the centrality of the cross. It won’t matter how many scriptures we stack up in service to our pet doctrines. It won’t matter how much we rail against misplaced church government—presbytery, democracy, papacy. Ladies and gentlemen, that has been done over and over and over, council after council, synod after synod, internecine fight after internecine fight. And yet the church is a slow motion train wreck of tyranny and counterrevolution. I’m going to say that again. Church history is a slow motion train wreck. It is not hard to see. This isn’t happening fast. If you make even a cursory study of the evolutions of Christianity from effectively the mid 2nd century to about 1200, just a train wreck of disaster and bloodshed and tyranny and counterrevolution. Now let me put this on church speak, or said another way, church history is an endless cycle between legalism and revival. Revival in this instance is really nothing more than the return of life, to revive what is actually dying, and the body polity continues to die because it keeps cycling through the same tyrannical ideas. We have never broken out of the cycle because we have never understood the method underlying the madness.

Power Point slide 8, all men can see the tactics whereby they’re conquered. But what they cannot see is the strategy out of which victory has evolved, Sun Tzu, one of the greatest military minds in the planet. And he got it exactly right. The tyrants and the mystic despots of the ages, they’ve been winning because we have never once challenged their assumptions. In the 21st century, we are once again rolling through a philosophical cycle that has repeated itself over and over in history. This cycle is of course why Christians are living through ever increasing manifestations of abuse. People are confronted with the same tyrannies that our forefathers set out to resist. As of now the only real response has been to toss up our hands and look mystified at the stars. We know we are impotent. We remain impotent caught in the cycle of doctrinal fight and church splits and human tragedy. All we can do is wail about human depravity and mumble feebly about needing more faith. Pray harder, sacrifice more, blah, blah, blah.

I tell you the truth. The answer to why this is happening is as easy to diagnose as the common cold. But the first thing we must do is dare to take responsibility for the content of our own minds. Mystic despots have ruled the world with portents of disaster for anyone with the ambition to live life beyond the subsistence, beyond the mediocre. Remember what I said above? And here’s where you come in. Remember what I said above about you being responsible, you being the reason. Autocrats rely on being able to compel outcomes because no one opposes their arguments. Tyrants only succeed when men refuse to think.

So now, here’s what’s coming next. We’re going to begin to try to understand how tyrants have been so successful at waging war against men at liberty. So put on your thinking caps, boys and girls, because now we’re going to jump in at the deep end of the pool. That’s it.


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All right. Thanks for being there. And it’s my understanding, I guess, we’re broadcasting a lot of places. So, again, for those of you who don’t know me, my name is John Immel. I am really no one. I just got a lot of big ideas. I really don’t care for pedigree. I’m not interested in intellectual pedigree. I’m not interested in any form of authority. My goal is to persuade you with the most powerful argument I have, and then for you, with your own rational self-appointment, to arrive at solid conclusions for yourself. So having said, I did write a book, for those who care, Blight in the Vineyard: Exposing the Roots, Myths, and Emotional Torment of Spiritual Tyranny. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble for those of you online, and I do have copies for those here. If you buy from me here, you’ll save yourself, it’s $23.99 online. I’ll give it to you for $20. You’ll save yourself the shipping and $4, if you’re inclined. So that was my shameless self-promotion. Read the book. It’s actually pretty good. You’ll like the stuff. If you like the content of what I’m going to talk about, you’ll definitely like it.

SUSAN: It’s a good book.

All right. My job is explaining cultural impact. Now that’s a tall order, and there are three reasons why this is a tall order. Diagnosing a cultural disease requires being an epidemiologist. And if you’re an epidemiologist, you have to know what the pathogen really is. You have to know where the problem starts and then how to respond to them. And explaining the complex factors that impact all this takes a lot of time. So my goal when I was thinking about this, and I’ve been thinking about this presentation for probably a solid six months trying to figure out what will go into it. I decided that for us to really understand where we stand in history intellectually, the only way to do that was to do a review of the development of the Western thought and pretty much start at the beginning. And that means we’re going to have to put our thinking caps, because there are a lot here. And this is absolutely the longest. I’ve got 36 pages of notes to give you some sense of proportion.

Now, of course, I know that this stuff is obscure to a lot of people. I get that. However, I’m confronted with the reality that if I let it be obscure and if I cater to the fact that people will be uninterested, what that really tells me is I don’t really believe that what I have to say is important. And I do believe that what I have to say is important. My goal is ultimately to resoundingly condemn simplemindedness as a virtue. Simplemindedness is not a virtue. To be a human being is to engage your brain, to engage the world in which you live, take the responsibility for the content of your own mind and your own ideas. And if you hear any theme out of me at all is that man must take responsibility for that. And I invite everyone to condemn simplemindedness as a virtue in every place you see. Any time you hear somebody and you find yourself reverting to simplemindedness as an explanation for whatever is happening, stop yourself, pause, interrupt the conversation, and refuse to let it persist. It is absolutely man’s greatest advice. It is a worse vice than alcohol. It’s a worse vice than methamphetamines. And in actual fact, methamphetamines and alcohol and all other drugs are specifically designed to push the mind out of focus. Out of focus is the goal. That is the root vice. [UNINTELLIGIBLE].

All right. What we’ll be discussing is, in my estimation, of incalculable importance. And I expect that once you understand, not only when you come to understand but those who do understand will be actually at the fore forefront of resisting the tide of collectivism that we’re seeing wash across the face of this earth. To be sure, the resurgent Neo-Calvinist ideology is merely—and this is important—a subset of a broader collectivist trend. We’re making Neo-Calvinism this big. Actually, Neo-Calvinism is about that big in the global scope. And you’ll begin to understand why I say that shortly.

If history is any measure, the Neo-Calvinist movement and its intellectual children will go a long way to paving in the way for the tyranny that is on the horizon. I firmly believe that the world is in peril, and specifically the United States. We are watching an actual trend towards collectivism in this country. The political evolutions, and if you watched my last session, you know as I conceptualized the way man interacts with the world from his metaphysical premise all the way down to his politics, once you see collectivist politics in action, it is directly tied to the collectivist roots way back here. And what we are seeing now in our political ideology is an endless trend towards this kind of collectivism, and it always ends in tyranny. If you take any note today, take that one. Collectivism always ends in tyranny.

Now since I’m going to start at the basics of Western thought, and I know that this is a roomful of Christians and we got Christians watching online, I fully expect you to think what I’m saying is disturbing. I fully expect that. So from the ten-thousand-foot view, let’s get started. This is a John Immel original, and as always as my endless effort at self-aggrandization, the Gospel According to John Immel 2:1, “Man abhors chaos like nature abhors a vacuum.” If you look at your life, your greatest miseries are when chaos prevails. Your greatest joys and pleasures are when you bring order to the world in which you live. And I don’t care if the world in which you live is as narrow as cleaning up the toys that your kids are playing with in the living room. You will take great satisfaction with taking that chaos and bringing it back to order. I believe this is part of the nature of how we are built. I contend that the nature of human existence, we are the order-bringers. Having been created in the image of God, God is an order-bringer. He is a life-bringer. Being created in his image makes us order-bringers. We are life-bringers.

With that understanding, the nature of our challenge in this earth has always been to rule and subdue the chaos that is around us and to produce order in whatever we choose. And this is going to be a radical thought for many of you. The purpose of your life is the purpose of your life. It is your job to find your meaning in context to the work that you do and the identity within the world in which you live. You are the order-bringer of your life. The absolute that you are looking for is staring you in the face when you look in the mirror. Man’s greatest pains come when he looks outside at the chaos in an effort to find order and an absolute. His greatest pleasure, his greatest satisfaction, his greatest joy is he finishes his work and he goes, “It’s good. Now can I share it with you?” And that’s exactly what God did. God took seven days, created the earth, and said, “Hey, this is really cool! Wanna play?” With that in context, when you understand that, you understand what happened in Western thought. Actually, this is the global evolution of human thought. Or primarily, the reason Western thought stands so profoundly unique is they arrived at some revolutionary concepts absolutely independent of anything else.

Go ahead and hit the next one. The obsession begins with man looked around, he looked around in the tides of change everywhere. He saw chaos everywhere. He saw the oceans rolling. He saw the mountains heaving, volcanoes. He saw tornadoes. He saw natural disasters. He saw social evolution. He saw conquests and counter-conquests, wars and famines and destruction. And he looked around and he said, “Where can we find order in the chaos?” The constant disarray told him there is in fact no order. The question was how to make sense of this all.

So this is my timeline. For those of you who are online, you’re actually looking at it. Take a minute to actually look. For those of you in the back, you can actually see this. Yes? Now I want to explain some parts and features of this particular timeline. Notice we’re starting at 600 BC, before the Common Era, okay? This is 600 years before Jesus, right? And my timeline goes to 450 CE. And my last person on this list is Augustine, and that will make more sense why. This is the evolution. This is the progression. And I’ve skipped a lot of individual people, but these are the highpoints. Each person here represents a new idea in the evolution of human thought.

Now in the West, we are the direct recipients of this progression. Now this progression isn’t specifically evil. Now I will say a lot of bad things about Plato, and ultimately there are some profoundly disturbing problems with Platonism. But all these men, there’s nothing nefarious in what these men are doing. There’s nothing specifically evil. They are trying to answer a very fundamental question. It’s the same question that we ask ourselves when we were old enough to look at the world and go, “This is scary.” And all they’re doing is trying to figure out how to make sense of it all. And past the age of about seven or eight, when the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus don’t make sense anymore, they have to start asking themselves some really genuine questions.

So the first guy who actually tried to do this, his name was Thales. He lives, well, when I say he lives, of course, pardon the lack of academic precision. All these guys flourished, and there’s a time frame within which they flourished because we don’t know it. We don’t know the dates. Well, we know generally that this is when they existed. Thales exists about 585 BC. He was one of the first people in Western thought to take a stab at answering this question. And for this reason he is regarded as the Father of Philosophy. He lived in a town called Miletus, a town in Asia Minor, hence the name of the school he found called the Milesians. Only four sentences from his work survived. So it takes nothing to master what he said. However, we can reconstruct his ideas from his disciples and other sources that reference the Milesian School’s tradition in subsequent sessions. Here is Thales’ theory. The universe is made up of one substance. Computers, stars, apples, theologians, they all boil down to one stuff. His assumption was that if we could identify one substance, then we could understand how everything fit together. We would have an explanation for the chaos because even the chaos will be reduced down to this one stuff. This is called monism.

Now his reasoning went like this. If there is a universal stuff, man can explain how everything is related. Here was the first question. Why is this an important thing to identify. Here is the answer. Because if everything is one substance, then we would be able to explain change. Now in this context, when I say change, ultimately think chaos. Understand? Yes, no? All right. Computers and toe jam and mayonnaise and redheads are all really different forms of this one substance. And that means we can deal with change because we can identify this one substance. In Thales’ mind, it followed that all the chaos around us is really just another form—make a note, you Platonists—another form of this universal stuff. This would be the common denominator tying everything together. In other words, man can understand the order of things.

For Thales, this universal stuff was water. While it seems absurd to us, from his point of view in the intellectual development of his peers and his time frame, this seemed utterly logical. Water was the stuff that took three forms: solid, liquid, gas. Water seemed to be able to turn into air because you put it in a bowl, you left it out for a day, the next day you came back it was gone. When you dug in the earth, when you dug down far enough, eventually, the earth turned to mud and eventually turned to water. And after it rains, it seemed that if you went to a mud bowl after it rains, you would find things that were alive in them. So in his mind, this one stuff was water because of all these what he considered to be objective, observable things. Yes?

Even though he got the wrong answer, here is what is important by geometric factors. He is the first person in recorded history to employ a scientific approach. He is observing the world and drawing a conclusion. And this is the essence of science. Now for the first time he gives an explanation for the cosmos that isn’t related to some god somewhere. We have a hard time from we sit in history because we are so familiar with the scientific methods, and our minds are geared from the time we were very small to make these rudimentary types of observations, but this was not so in the ancient world. In the ancient world, everything you look at was some form of god. So the air you breathe was a god. The grass you walk on is a god. Everything you touch was a god. So the explanation universally was the reason things are is because the gods have done it. What Thales did is the difference between the little kid who believes in Santa Claus and the 12-year-old who is finally being introduced to math and calculus. He is finally being introduced to the rudiments of science, to look at something, make an observation, draw a conclusion. It is my understanding this was the first naturalistic approach in understanding the world. As I said, historically, the explanation for everything was somehow mystical. So here’s the key point. Thales’ concept of how to deal with chaos, this one stuff, was all done by observation. This is key because we’re going to build on this presumption.

Go to the next one. Yes. All right. Our next thinker is a man called Heraclitus. Heraclitus, roughly 535 BC. Actually, let me do a caveat first. My goal is to highlight the highlights, so I’m going to skip a lot of people. Now there are a number of people who come between Thales and Heraclitus that get honorable mentions in the evolution of thought. But for the most part, they’re irrelevant to the actual major players that come next. He also had a school, but I don’t know what it’s called and it doesn’t matter. A hundred and thirty fragments of his work survived and as thus the roots of his philosophy.

Here are the basic concepts. Heraclitus used the word “logos” to describe the defining force behind the universe. However, he didn’t use it like the Christians use it when we’re talking about the Gospel of John. Logos has a number of interpretations and usages. Most Christians are familiar with the stoic interpretation that logos equals the word “god.” But that is not how it is used by Heraclitus. He thought that logos having measurable properties as if it were some extraworldy entity. But his writings are obscure and so it’s kind of tough to peg him down.

Now this is the note that I want you to take away. Man is not able to understand logos. The universe is in constant change. His aphorism describing this concept survives to this day. This is Heraclitus. “Ever-newer waters flow on those who step into the same river.” Or, “You can’t step into the same river twice.” He is basically telling us, his worldview is is that no matter what you do, it is in constant change. He describes reality as a unity of opposites, which meant that all existing entities being characterized by pairs of contrary properties. He described this idea like this. The path up and down are one and the same.

Here is Heraclitus’ explanation for change. Reality’s essential nature lies in being both the same as itself and different from itself. In order to change, a thing must become different from itself. If it remains the same as itself, it hasn’t changed. But also after it is changed, it must still be the same thing. Otherwise, there has been no change but simply the substitution of one object for another. If changing thing then is an identity of opposites, it is both is and is not. And what was and was not what it will be. Okay, clear as mud, right? It gets worse.

Now remember, everyone is trying to insert Thales’ observation: what is this universal stuff? Don’t lose track of the thread here. Heraclitus says wait a minute. I don’t know what he’s talking about, this one stuff, this universal stuff. I don’t understand it. I look around I don’t see one stuff. I see lots of stuff. When I look, I can’t find anything everywhere, not water, not air, not fire, not even Oreo cookies. So here is what I see. I see everything changing. I see everything becoming. That was his definition of change—becoming. Becoming what? Something else. His conclusion was that everything changes all the time. It is change that is the governing force of the universe. It is change that is the governing force of the universe. Note that his one stuff is change.

Now you can understand why Heraclitus arrived at this disastrous conclusion that it’s change as the governing force of the universe. Now his river metaphor makes sense. And now you can understand why Heraclitus arrived at this conclusion. There is no such thing as a universal stuff. On the contrary, there are no things at all. No pots, no pink pants, no dust mites, no Neo-Calvinists because everything is changing into another entity. There are no entities at all. Now what does that do to human epistemology? That poses a monstrous problem. If you can arrive at the conclusion that there are no entities at all, what then does man do?

Let me show you how serious he was about this. This is actually from a guy by the name of Gordon H. Clark, Thales to Dewey: A History of Philosophy. Go ahead hit the next slide, please? Can you guys in the back read this? Yes? No? Okay, I’m going to let you familiarize yourself with that before I read it.

Okay. Here’s how Gordon Clark summarized the implications of Thales’ premise. “All things flow. No man can ever step twice into the same river. How could he? The second time he tried to step, new waters would have flowed down from upstream. The waters would not be the same. Neither would the bed and the banks be the same for the constant erosion would have changed them too. And if the river is the water, the bed, and the banks, then river is not the same river at all. Strictly speaking, there is no river. When people talk about a river, they suppose that a name applies to something that will remain there for a time at least. But the river remains there no time at all. It has changed while you were pronouncing the name. There is no river. Worse yet, you cannot step into the same river twice, because you are not there twice. You too changed. And the person who stepped for the first time no longer exists to step the second time. Persons do not exist.”

The second slide, slide 5, Gordon Clark 2, go ahead and read that for me. Get briefly familiar with it.

Gordon Clark continues, “When anyone says that something exists, the meaning is that that something does not change, at least for a short time. An object that is real must be an object that stands still. Suppose a clever sculptor takes a lump of children’s modeling clay and begins to work it rapidly, it shortly takes the appearance of the child’s teddy bear. And if the sculptor should stop, we could call it a teddy bear. But he doesn’t stop. His nimble fingers keep working, and the momentary bear turns into a small statue of Zeus only quickly to disappear into the form of the Empire State Building. But, ‘What is it?’ you ask. The answer is not that it’s a bear, or a god, or a building. Under the circumstances, we could say is that it is molding clay and that we could call it clay because the clay remains the same through the change. But if the clay itself never remains the same, if it changed from clay to wax and then to papier maché and so on and never stopped changing, we could call it nothing. Nothing, that is it does not exist. It is unreal.” This is the implication of what Heraclitus said. And Heraclitus’ idea was profoundly influential. This is the heart and soul. When you hear somebody tell you that reality isn’t real, this is Heraclitus. When they say there is no absolute, that’s Heraclitus.

Are you dizzy? I suspect you are. But let me tell you, this is by design. Question, if you think that chaos is the core of existence, what does that do to man’s senses? Now I’m actually looking for an answer; that’s not rhetorical. What does that do to man’s senses? If you think chaos is the core of existence, that existential reality is chaos, what that does do the senses?

PAUL: Strips them of hope.

Strips them of any effectiveness at all.

SUSAN: Shorts them out.

That’s exactly right. Man’s senses are invalid because while they show us solid things, reason explains that everything is changing. Therefore, man’s senses must be too base, too unrefined to understand reality.

Go ahead and hit slide 4, please? This is the source of the two-realms philosophy. This poses a huge problem for human existence. This solution, this answer to Heraclitus, or this extension of Heraclitus’ ideas pose a huge problem. So the solution therefore was to divide reality because we also know that things can’t always change so we have to have some form of constancy. So how do we do this thing? So he came up with two realms: the realm of reason and the realm of appearance. In the realm of reason, reason has the capacity to understand the constant change. Reason has the capacity to understand the Heraclitean flux. The realm of appearance is shaped by the human senses. It is reality as it appears to man, but the senses are shorted out. Two realms. Any time you hear somebody start talking to you about two realms and they start diving reality in half, this is Heraclitus. So here’s the point that I want you to take away with this. Heraclitus equals chaos is the natural state of the universe, human senses are ineffective, and reality is divided.

Okay, go ahead and hit the next slide, please? Okay. We’re moving forward. We’re now to Parmenides. Parmenides flourished in 515 BCE. He is opposed to Heraclitus. He is opposed to the view that everything is an identity of opposites and that everything is becoming. Parmenides bases his entire thought on this one principle: what is is, and what is not is not. He contended that nothing cannot be. Let me say that again because that tends to play on your head. He contended that nothing cannot be. In other words, you can’t have nothing and be something. And here’s the way that Parmenides made this point. He’s how he said it. “For never shall this prevail that things that are not are, thinking and thought that it is are the same for you will not find thinking apart from what is in relation to which it is uttered. For to be aware and to be are the same. It is necessary to speak and to think what is for being is, but nothing is not.” And this is actually his criticism of Heraclitus. “Helplessness guides the wandering thought in their breast. They are carried along deaf and blind alike, dazed beasts without judgment, convinced that to be and not be are the same and not the same and that the road of all things is a backward-turning one.” He didn’t like Heraclitus at all.

His conclusion was existence is an obvious fact. Existence is universal. Existence is eternal. Therefore, nonexistence is impossible. A thing cannot disappear and something cannot originate from nothing. So man can’t even think about what does not exist. That which that does exist is called the Parmenidean One which is timeless, uniform, and unchanging.”

And last, Parmenides goes on to argue that movement was impossible because it requires moving into the void. Now here’s the thing. He’s got existence, but now he has to figure out how to deal with the implications of change. And so his solution is to decide that it’s really not possible at all. Here goes his logic. “How could what is perish? How could it have come to be? For if it came into being, is it not nor is it ever going to be? This coming into being is extinguished and destruction unknown. I’m actually going to skip the next one. That makes the case mostly, and mostly it’s hard to read and hard to hear, so I’m just going to summarize.

Now I want you to notice that Parmenides is actually the early form of Aristotle’s Laws of Logic: Existence is existence; A is A, the Law of Identity. What you see is exactly what you see. There is actually no disconnect here, which is substantially forward in the evolutions of human thought. Unfortunately, Parmenides drew an erroneous conclusion, which is understandable when seen from context from the Heraclitean flux that they were trying to counter. Here is what he concluded: The world is packed completely full. There are no holes and no spaces but rather one big slab of stuff. The conclusion was that change was impossible. He meant any change of any type—motion, alteration, course correction of any kind. And of course the logical conclusion of this premise is that there’s no such thing as talking, moving, smiling, vibrating, waves on the ocean. It’s all a gigantic illusion. Therefore, he concluded, there is no change at all. This world is completely motionless in every respect, and the way we explain change is that we see – ultimately, we are calling man’s senses into question.

Now notice, Heraclitus decides chaos is everywhere. Parmenides said no, there is no such thing as chaos. It’s all one. There is nothing that changes. But both of them decide the culprit is man’s senses. The failure is man. Now make that note because you’re going to see that repeatedly.

We’re going to move to Zeno. And I want to actually address Zeno because it’s a very common proof of the Parmenides Principle. He was Parmenides’ disciple. He continued the arguments against the Heraclitean thought. His goal was to prove that movement was an illusion and plurality and change was impossible. His proofs, the one that I’m going to read you, were said to support Parmenides’ conclusions. Here is his most famous paradox. This is from Aristotle’s physics. That which is in locomotion must arrive at the halfway stage before it arrives at its goal. Now this is basically the endless half-life of infinity. The theory is you can’t cross the room because for you to cross the room, you have to cross half. And then you have to cross half of that, and then you have to cross half of that. And then half of that and half of that and half of that and half of that and half of that and half of that to the point that you could never actually arrive at your destination.

Remember that we’re still trying to figure out Thales’ original question: what is this one stuff? And Heraclitus says oh my God. There is no one stuff. It’s all changing. It’s all chaos. And oh my God, what are we going to do? And Parmenides says no, it’s all stale. It’s all stagnant. And these are the collisions that we have. And he’s using this to explain how this can be. He’s using to deny the implications of change, which is effectively motion. All of the rest of his arguments were pretty much framed and summed up the same way. If you want to test your reasoning skills, do a web search on Zeno’s paradoxes. There are nine paradoxes you can wrap your head around. If you understand Aristotle’s Law of Identity, unraveling Zeno is trivial.

Now you can see the utter quagmire that Western thought is in. Now mind you, this is a monstrous step up from the rest of the world that is still under the tyranny of pantheism and the endless cycles, man is nothing more than a cog in the wheel of life, birth, death, life, birth, death, life, birth, death. And there is no change. There is no forward motion. There is no improvement. There is no concept of blessing. These are all uniquely Judean thoughts basically from Yahweh. Those have yet even become close to get in the universe. So these are light years forward. The development these men are making are light years forward compared to everybody else.

Okay. How long have I been talking? Let’s go ahead and hit the next slide, which should be the Pythagoreans. Okay. Yes, for those of you who are noticing on your timeline, the Pythagoreans actually came right after Thales. I skipped them because I wanted you to understand the scope of the issue, and they are unique, the Pythagoreans because they are a school. They started here, early. They actually have impact pretty much all the way down the timeline. So the Pythagoreans, in the 5th century BCE, notice, like I said, where they are in the timeline. I want you to understand where they are in the timeline, particularly in relationship to where Christianity actually shows up. We’re almost 500 years here that they’re going to develop. And I’m confident you will find the Pythagoreans disconcerting.

Okay. When we talk about Pythagoras, we are really referring to a school that he founded. We know almost nothing about Pythagoras specifically. What we do know comes from a whole scope of literature that came out of the school and from other writers like Parmenides and Plato and other historians. I want you to make this note. The Pythagoreans profoundly impacted Plato. This is the root source of probably 65 to 70 percent of Plato’s ideology, not least of which was the mathematics, but you’ll see the other stuff that’s important. Most of you, of course, have heard of the Pythagorean Theorem, a2 + b2 = c2. It is most often attributed to Pythagoras, but it was most likely a product of someone else within the sect. They were a communistic, religious school, and many people contributed to the school’s intellectual content. While this equation and many other mathematical proofs is attributed to Pythagoras, it is more accurate to understand their intellectual movement is substantially beyond its founder. Their claim to fame is primarily rooted in their extraordinary work in mathematics, music, and astronomy. Now scholars talk of early, middle, and late Pythagoreans, but for our purposes, these distinctions don’t matter much because as you will see, their influence continues to this day.

In contrast to the other thinkers that we have discussed, and this is actually a crucial distinction that I want to make, this group was a group of the Orphic mystery religions. Meaning that the previous thinkers were secular by comparative standards. While we would call Plato a pantheist, the fact of the matter is by comparison, he was an agnostic at best. I thought about actually reading you specifically from their Orphic religion, and I just thought it was tedious so I decided not to. But take any mystical cult/sect you can think of and multiply it by a hundred, you get these guys. They were frenzied hedonists, but they introduced the concept of asceticism. Their preoccupations with the gods and the spirits and the demigods and so forth was off the charts.

Now remember, everyone is still trying to solve the problems posed by Heraclitus and Parmenides. The Pythagoreans came up with this answer. They continued with the concept. They actually took the division and proposed two worlds. The Heraclitean world is the one in constant flux. The Parmenidean world is immutable but sensory, okay? Now here’s the important distinction. Listen to the Pythagoreans dominant theological themes and you’ll understand why they arrived at this conclusion. Listen. “In the beginning, the soul was a godlike creature inhabiting another superior, spiritual world, but it sinned.” Does that ring a bell in anybody’s mind? “The result was they fell from favor with the divine and lost its access to the mysteries.” Where did you hear this from? “The punishment was being condemned to live in the flesh in this earth. The body is therefore the prison or the tomb of the soul.”

Now watch what happens. Here’s what they do with man. Man has two parts: his high part and his low part. His high part is eternal. His low part is flesh and in constant conflict with the eternal part. Where have we heard this before? The high part is the soul. The low part is the body. The human soul is divine and immortal but doomed to live for a period in the grievous cycle that lives incarcerated in flesh. This was called the wheel of birth. Now what they ultimately ended up believing was a variation of reincarnation and transmigration of souls. They believed that you lived in this divine state. Your specific function was you were warring with the flesh. You’re incarcerated for your sins. And you were supposed to work out these sins by virtue of living once again in this life of flesh. And then if you fail, then you were subsequently judged; you came back. And they actually did transmigration of souls which is actually animals. Reincarnation is specifically into another human body. You can come back as an animal—insect, water fish—it didn’t matter.

Soul purification is achieved through an ascetic life which was combined with secret initiation rites that facilitated a release from the bondage of the flesh for an eternal communion with the divine. Where have we heard this before? This is the precursor of the Gnosticism that everybody fusses about in the 1st and 2nd century. This is the roots of this. We have a mystery religion. We have man in a flesh, a flesh body that is functionally depraved, needing some form of enlightenment that is given to him by the gods that is unique to a select few. This is where it starts. They said failure to live a pure life brought punishments after death in the lower planes of the underworld. Harmony is divine. Disharmony is material and flesh.

And now you can see why they arrived at the duality of existence. Their religious worldview led them to conceptualize two different states. But they didn’t leave it there. The Pythagoreans identified three kinds of men: the theoretic, practical, and the apolaustic. The lowest class of men, the theoretic, is a crass materialist, and the men only committed to material gain and the preoccupation with his fleshy life. The next class, the practical, is a class of men who come seeking to participate in enlightened action. They want higher virtues, but they’re still physically working to attain those values. The highest class of men are those who simply look at life. They’re the highest purification because they exist in pure contemplation. It is the philosopher who contemplates about science and mathematics who is released from the cycle of birth. The pure mathematician’s life is the life of the highest plane of existence. Of course, they decided that mathematics as a science was the highest, purest contemplation. It is really the root desire to free oneself from the flesh, and freeing oneself from the flesh became the ethical ideal.

Now you can absolutely see the introduction of the soul-body dichotomy in Western thought. This is where it all originates. Your cross story, glory story, soul-body dichotomy. Augustine’s Original Sin, soul-body dichotomy. Plato’s philosophy that works out basically says the masses are depraved, fundamentally depraved, then you have an oligarchy who is in charge of a ruling governing masses. Two worlds, separation, he actually decided that the reason the philosophers were a better class of people is by virtue of their enlightenment. And this you see when you see the soul-body dichotomy, this is the ultimate end. It’s always dividing humanity. See what’s going on? Okay.

Not only they conceptualized two worlds, but they added a concept of a fundamental depravity of human existence. Heraclitus and Parmenides assumed that men’s senses were suspect, but it wasn’t a metaphysical corruption. This is important. They assumed that men, their senses were shorted out, great way to put that, but it wasn’t a metaphysical corruption. It was only an inability. This turns it into a metaphysical corruption, man’s senses. Because he is material, he is necessarily depraved.

So the question is, of course, since they were a mystic sect, why would they become so dominant? And it’s important to understand how they ended up being so compelling. Throughout history there have been many mystic religions, most of which you will never know existed. By definition, the mystery dies with the last guy who knew the secret. But the Pythagoreans sustained mystical influence because their advances in science were so compelling. Words fail in trying to describe the Pythagorean impact on music, math, and physics. Their work in mathematics and scientific discovery makes possible Kepler, Newton, and Einstein for heaven’s sake. We don’t get to the moon without the Pythagoreans.

Without the Pythagorean foundation, physics would be impossible, which means pretty much everything we see would not exist. So their mystical metaphysical worldview piggybacked into subsequent generations of thinkers because of the power of this part of their ideas. And this really actually shouldn’t be a surprise. Frankly, Christians do this kind of thing all the time. I don’t know how many times we have realized that we presume that if a person has one crucial thing right, then he must have the authority to have everything else right. So they accept rather uncritically whatever comes out of the preacher’s mouth. And of course, my case in point, how could CJ Mahaney would ever have gotten to where he is without this presumption? That was a joke. Sorry, CJ.

Okay, so here’s the summary comments. With the Pythagoreans, we see the introduction of the soul-body opposition as a primary influence of Western thought. And as it moved forward, this division is almost never challenged. It becomes the dominant theme in Christianity almost from the outset. Once Christianity hit the Greek and Hellenistic world, the soul-body dichotomy became the primary presumption. Soul-body dichotomy means the material world is evil, and that concept starts with the Pythagoreans.

Okay, hit slide 9. It should be the Atomists and Sophism. I’m going to finish the Atomists and then I think I’m going to take a break for about five and then start again. Is that all right?

PAUL: It’s okay.

Okay, the Atomists. We’re in about 5th century BC. And here is where we start with their key development. Until now pretty much the progression of thought has been asystematic, meaning there has been no systematic approach to the nature of things. They kind of hunted and pecked around. They had some ideas. They talked some ideas back and forth. But for the most part, it’s been kind of this Wild Wild West of ideas. With the Atomists, this starts to change. They are the beginning of when we start to say, “Hey, we now need to put this in some formal system.” For the first time thinkers tried to develop a whole approach to the primary philosophical questions—metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and politics. I’ll get to that later. When it actually does show up, we’ll get to that later.

The next two groups, the Atomists and the Sophists, made an effort towards systematization. However, they did not succeed. It took until Plato to actually get there. I wanted to deal with the Atomists. They had a significant impact on philosophy in general and in science as a whole. But dealing with the scope of their thought, we’d be there for a long time. And the whole scope of their thought doesn’t really impact Christianity as a whole, but there is one concept that they introduced that absolutely has impacted Christianity, and I’m going to get to them now. This concept, of course, is actually what impacted Augustine and, of course, Luther and Calvin absolutely.

So here’s a very brief summary of Atomist thought. Remember, the Atomists, like everybody else, are trying to reconcile Heraclitus and Parmenides. The Atomists were materialists. Materialism equals reality is matter in motion. Everything, including nonmaterial or mental phenomena, is explained entirely in physical material terms. Now materialism is not being a filthy capitalist pig. Their kind of materialism is what I just described. The Atomists were pluralists. And instead of a universal, a one, stuff, they said, how about if we have many, many, many stuffs? Each of these stuff are unchangeable. And of course the reason they arrived at this conclusion, they said, well, this will satisfy Parmenides assertion that things are unchanging and indestructible. But the smallest unit of this universal stuff is the only thing that can move or change. And this of course satisfies Heraclitus. They’ve actually applied a very interesting solution to the problems posed as is.

Okay, this has a serious flaw because after all we’re looking for a one world substance that integrates everything and explains change. The Atomists’ explanation pretty much makes everything you see, taste, touch, smell, hear that it would have to have its own unique stuff. The world would then collapse on itself for the sheer weight of things, and man would be lost in a total, utter blindingly chaotic world. So they decided this new concept. All physical things have two parts: qualitative characteristics and quantitative characteristics. This evolution of thought gave them the ability to subdivide qualities—colors, smells, sounds—versus quantities—number, length, shape, motion. Pretty genius. See what they’ve done? See how they parsed it down, giving themselves the ability to categorize some things and not others?

By removing quantities in consideration, they were able to reduce the number of “stuffs” needed to explain the universal stuff. They still needed to reconcile their ideas to Parmenides’. They had a solution to absolutes, but now they need to figure out what to do with flux. They asked this question: are qualities real? Their logic went like this. When a smells, is he smelling something real or is his nose playing tricks on him? The simple answer is no, because smell is a quality based on man’s nose. And the easiest way to address qualities was to conclude that nothing was real. Qualities are merely the way stuff affects man. Once again the conclusion is that it’s man faculties that are a problem. Make a note. So in other words, it’s all subjective. But this conclusion begs this question: if there are no qualities, what determines how these things operate? Their answer, the Atomists’ logic went like this. The motion seen is from the physical pressure, the impact of the universal stuff against other universal stuff. Of course, this mental model is what we came to understand as atomist today, but they were applying this to the realm of metaphysics. So they decided that everything you see in action is ultimately acting like the mechanistic approach that we apply in science today but is happening to everything.

Now can you guess what this means? If you have everything and metaphysically acting mechanically, what does that mean? Think for a minute. What do you have? An endless string of causation, right?

MAN: Abstract laws which govern the real.

They govern the real, but it is determined. It is mechanical.

MAN: Right, right, determined.

SUSAN: Cause and effect.

But they have causal relationship, but ultimately every atom that bumps against the next atom against the next atom constantly produces this chain reaction which is all determined. And this is what they introduced into Western thought, the concept of determinism. When you hear John Calvin talking about predestination, predestination as a form of determinism, this is atomistic thought. This is where this comes from.

PAUL: And as a former low-voltage certified electrician, okay, so the theory of electricity comes from this as well.

Yes, here’s the thing, and you see this a lot in ancient thought. Actually, this explanation of the physical world is evolution. It’s the way we actually conceptualize our world, is because it’s the way it works. Now I’m making an important decision. Mechanistically, their concept was fabulous and was essential in the evolution of science. They’re applying it to metaphysics. Do you see the distinction I’m making? So the Atomists, the reason we decided to call them atoms, because atom I think in Greek means indivisible.

MAN: Can’t be cut.

Can’t be cut, right. So you have a great physical representation in atoms; they can’t be cut. But in the metaphysical world, if you can’t cut the metaphysical world, you have the determinist world, which is exactly the conclusion they arrived at. And my point in this instance is to show that this is where determinism actually enters the picture. And this is what absolutely affects Christianity and the evolution of Christianity from here on out.

And so in summary, since everything is materialistically caused, everything is acting in accord with the materialistic nature. So as the universal stuff interacts with other universal stuff, the smallest parts of the largest entities, all outcomes are determined. Their logic continues, “Since man is made up of the same universal stuff, man is then without independent will. Man’s life is equally determined.” And now you can understand why the Atomists are important in our unfolding discussion. They were the first people to offer a systemic argument for determinism. And of course determinism is also known as predestination and is central to Platonist/Augustinian thought.

With that, I’m going to take a break because I need to [UNINTELLIGIBLE].

PAUL: Let me say a few words, then we’ll take a five-minute break. Okay. I know this is taxing on the brain, all right? But the reason this is so very important is to understand leading up to John’s conclusion is one of the absolute most popular Christian ministries there is right now, huge, here is the sub-theme of their ministry. This is considered a, for lack of a better term, orthodox-evangelical down the line Christian ministry, one of the most popular that there is on the face of the earth right now. Here is the sub-theme of their ministry: between two worlds. Okay? An elder on the board of one of the biggest night counseling centers in the country has a blog, and the sub-theme of his blog is between two spheres, gazing at our heavenly destiny. Okay? In theology, there’s huge debates all the time, especially surrounding reformed debate on as far as dispensationalist in the Bible or not dispensationalist. And you say, how can you not be a dispensationalist at least, Old Testament versus New Testament? But the argument is called continuity versus discontinuity. Okay? This all comes what affects us in such a big way today, it comes from this. And it lands right where we are today and affects how we do church and how we think and how Christians conduct their lives. So hang in there. You’re not going to come away with every nuance and element, but you’re going to come away with some very important elements. Okay, we will take a five-minute break, Philip.



I’m going to finish the Atomists and then I think I’m going to take a break for about five and then start again. Is that all right?

PAUL: It’s okay.

Okay, the Atomists. We’re in about 5th century BC. And here is where we start with their key development. Until now pretty much the progression of thought has been asystematic, meaning there has been no systematic approach to the nature of things. They kind of hunted and pecked around. They had some ideas. They talked some ideas back and forth. But for the most part, it’s been kind of this Wild Wild West of ideas. With the Atomists, this starts to change. They are the beginning of when we start to say, “Hey, we now need to put this in some formal system.” For the first time thinkers tried to develop a whole approach to the primary philosophical questions—metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and politics. I’ll get to that later. When it actually does show up, we’ll get to that later.

The next two groups, the Atomists and the Sophists, made an effort towards systematization. However, they did not succeed. It took until Plato to actually get there. I wanted to deal with the Atomists. They had a significant impact on philosophy in general and in science as a whole. But dealing with the scope of their thought, we’d be there for a long time. And the whole scope of their thought doesn’t really impact Christianity as a whole, but there is one concept that they introduced that absolutely has impacted Christianity, and I’m going to get to them now. This concept, of course, is actually what impacted Augustine and, of course, Luther and Calvin absolutely.

So here’s a very brief summary of Atomist thought. Remember, the Atomists, like everybody else, are trying to reconcile Heraclitus and Parmenides. The Atomists were materialists. Materialism equals reality is matter in motion. Everything, including nonmaterial or mental phenomena, is explained entirely in physical material terms. Now materialism is not being a filthy capitalist pig. Their kind of materialism is what I just described. The Atomists were pluralists. And instead of a universal, a one, stuff, they said, how about if we have many, many, many stuffs? Each of these stuff are unchangeable. And of course the reason they arrived at this conclusion, they said, well, this will satisfy Parmenides assertion that things are unchanging and indestructible. But the smallest unit of this universal stuff is the only thing that can move or change. And this of course satisfies Heraclitus. They’ve actually applied a very interesting solution to the problems posed as is.

Okay, this has a serious flaw because after all we’re looking for a one world substance that integrates everything and explains change. The Atomists’ explanation pretty much makes everything you see, taste, touch, smell, hear that it would have to have its own unique stuff. The world would then collapse on itself for the sheer weight of things, and man would be lost in a total, utter blindingly chaotic world. So they decided this new concept. All physical things have two parts: qualitative characteristics and quantitative characteristics. This evolution of thought gave them the ability to subdivide qualities—colors, smells, sounds—versus quantities—number, length, shape, motion. Pretty genius. See what they’ve done? See how they parsed it down, giving themselves the ability to categorize some things and not others?

By removing quantities in consideration, they were able to reduce the number of “stuffs” needed to explain the universal stuff. They still needed to reconcile their ideas to Parmenides’. They had a solution to absolutes, but now they need to figure out what to do with flux. They asked this question: are qualities real? Their logic went like this. When a smells, is he smelling something real or is his nose playing tricks on him? The simple answer is no, because smell is a quality based on man’s nose. And the easiest way to address qualities was to conclude that nothing was real. Qualities are merely the way stuff affects man. Once again the conclusion is that it’s man faculties that are a problem. Make a note. So in other words, it’s all subjective. But this conclusion begs this question: if there are no qualities, what determines how these things operate? Their answer, the Atomists’ logic went like this. The motion seen is from the physical pressure, the impact of the universal stuff against other universal stuff. Of course, this mental model is what we came to understand as atomist today, but they were applying this to the realm of metaphysics. So they decided that everything you see in action is ultimately acting like the mechanistic approach that we apply in science today but is happening to everything.

Now can you guess what this means? If you have everything and metaphysically acting mechanically, what does that mean? Think for a minute. What do you have? An endless string of causation, right?

MAN: Abstract laws which govern the real.

They govern the real, but it is determined. It is mechanical.

MAN: Right, right, determined.

SUSAN: Cause and effect.

But they have causal relationship, but ultimately every atom that bumps against the next atom against the next atom constantly produces this chain reaction which is all determined. And this is what they introduced into Western thought, the concept of determinism. When you hear John Calvin talking about predestination, predestination as a form of determinism, this is atomistic thought. This is where this comes from.

PAUL: And as a former low-voltage certified electrician, okay, so the theory of electricity comes from this as well.

Yes, here’s the thing, and you see this a lot in ancient thought. Actually, this explanation of the physical world is evolution. It’s the way we actually conceptualize our world, is because it’s the way it works. Now I’m making an important decision. Mechanistically, their concept was fabulous and was essential in the evolution of science. They’re applying it to metaphysics. Do you see the distinction I’m making? So the Atomists, the reason we decided to call them atoms, because atom I think in Greek means indivisible.

MAN: Can’t be cut.

Can’t be cut, right. So you have a great physical representation in atoms; they can’t be cut. But in the metaphysical world, if you can’t cut the metaphysical world, you have the determinist world, which is exactly the conclusion they arrived at. And my point in this instance is to show that this is where determinism actually enters the picture. And this is what absolutely affects Christianity and the evolution of Christianity from here on out.

And so in summary, since everything is materialistically caused, everything is acting in accord with the materialistic nature. So as the universal stuff interacts with other universal stuff, the smallest parts of the largest entities, all outcomes are determined. Their logic continues, “Since man is made up of the same universal stuff, man is then without independent will. Man’s life is equally determined.” And now you can understand why the Atomists are important in our unfolding discussion. They were the first people to offer a systemic argument for determinism. And of course determinism is also known as predestination and is central to Platonist/Augustinian thought.

With that, I’m going to take a break because I need to [UNINTELLIGIBLE].

PAUL: Let me say a few words, then we’ll take a five-minute break. Okay. I know this is taxing on the brain, all right? But the reason this is so very important is to understand leading up to John’s conclusion is one of the absolute most popular Christian ministries there is right now, huge, here is the sub-theme of their ministry. This is considered a, for lack of a better term, orthodox-evangelical down the line Christian ministry, one of the most popular that there is on the face of the earth right now. Here is the sub-theme of their ministry: between two worlds. Okay? An elder on the board of one of the biggest night counseling centers in the country has a blog, and the sub-theme of his blog is between two spheres, gazing at our heavenly destiny. Okay? In theology, there’s huge debates all the time, especially surrounding reformed debate on as far as dispensationalist in the Bible or not dispensationalist. And you say, how can you not be a dispensationalist at least, Old Testament versus New Testament? But the argument is called continuity versus discontinuity. Okay? This all comes what affects us in such a big way today, it comes from this. And it lands right where we are today and affects how we do church and how we think and how Christians conduct their lives. So hang in there. You’re not going to come away with every nuance and element, but you’re going to come away with some very important elements. Okay, we will take a five-minute break, Philip.



Okay, we’re up to Sophism. Like I was going to say, the Atomists and the Sophists, they were generally in this area. They were both schools so they continued. And that’s the important part to understand here. Sophism in modern conversation means someone offering a false argument for the express purpose of clouding the issue. The word’s origin comes from a professional class of philosophy and rhetoric teachers in the 5th century. The name became a criticism because of the way the Sophists conducted their teaching business. Of course, at the time their great sin was that they took money for teaching philosophy to the aristocracy and they engaged in open deception. And the reason they engaged in deception you will understand in a minute. Their goal when teaching the nobles was to win the argument by whatever means. Persuasiveness was a desired skill in Athens because it was a means to political power and wealth, and the Sophists focused their instruction on these skills for the aristocracy. Since they didn’t believe in TRUTH, and I have truth here in all capital letters, all right? When they didn’t believe in truth, they saw no moral failing in their methods, and this made them villains to most of their contemporaries. Actually, they were villains for probably two reasons. Plato didn’t like them at all. And most of what we know about them is from Plato. He often used them as straw dogs for Socrates to knock down. You know, Socrates in his dialogues is this kind of alter ego. And the second part of the equation is they’re created with starting what is called egoism. Now this is the egoism that everybody fears. This is the egoism that everybody says you can’t be this, which is basically the world is all mine. It’s mine to conquer, and I don’t really care about you. I’ll deal with you by swatting your head [SOUNDS LIKE] with a club. That kind of egoism. That is not an accurate portrayal of ethical egoism, but this is where it enters into the world. The relationship between anarchy and the individual are actually merged. And we’re going to talk about that. I’m going to mention to you two main Sophists. One was Protagoras, and he is considered the Father of Sophism, and he shows up in about 480 to 410 BC; and Gorgias, who lived in 483 to effectively 375 BC.

Now I need to introduce you to another philosophical concept, and this is called Skepticism. Skepticism means there is no objective or certain knowledge. It is impossible to know anything absolutely. There is no absolute truth. If you hear somebody say that, they’re a skeptic. Nothing can be known, and when I say nothing, I do mean nothing. And the Sophists were skeptics. And you’ll understand why they talk the way they did once you understand what they believed. The Sophists said that there was no certainly to be had for any creature, and they sought to prove that every sense perception to any creature was necessarily invalid. Others had suggested that man’s senses were invalid, but the Sophists took this argument to new heights or lows, depending on how you look at it. They made an all-out attempt to show that every sense perception is wrong, not that just man can be taken in by the occasional illusion or hallucination, but that man can never trust anything from his senses. This is an all-out assault on the faculties of man. The other said they were short-circuited. These guys, they are looking to cut them out entirely.

SUSAN: No circuit.

Correct, no circuits. Here is the famous argument. Whenever we perceive, what we perceive depends on two factors. It depends on the object being perceived, and what you perceive also depends on the nature and the condition of your sensory apparatus. Example, and this was probably the most influential argument that actually lasted all the way through the Dark Ages. It’s Augustine 101. It is the mystics of the Christian eras from 600 to effectively 1200. This is one of their primary arguments. The color blind man and a normal man look at a tree, and one says that he sees green. And the other one says, “I see gray.” The same object but different sensory outcomes. One man is sick, the other healthy. They both eat pie. One says it tastes sweet. The other says it tastes bitter. One man is in a hot tub, and then he gets sprayed with water from a hose and he says, “How cold.” Another man crawls out of the Arctic Ocean and gets splashed with a water hose and says, “How hot.” What was the conclusion the Sophists drew from this? The answer is the key factor in each instance was at the quality of the sensory apparatus determined the effectiveness of the experience so that it appears that all sensory information is utterly subjective.

How then can we ever know anything for sure? What is the right experiential knowledge? Who has it? But according to the Sophists, the answer is nobody is right. No one can perceive reality except as a subjective function of a specific senses. All we can ever know is that what you perceive right this second is what you perceive right this second. So the only certainty is it seems to be now, because in a few minutes your senses will probably change. The inescapable conclusion that is that since the perceptions change from person to person from time to time, each individual lives in his own private subjective little world. How many times you’ve listened to a Neo-Calvinist preacher talk about your narrow perceptions and your little subjective little world? How many times have you heard that? I honestly can’t count.

PAUL: So just because one guy thinks the tree is gray and another guy who is not color blind thinks the tree is green, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s either gray or green because it’s the perception of the person.

Correct. And like I said, this was a reasonably persuasive argument. The medieval time had a terrible time with this argument. Actually, Augustine adopts it. Like I said, it’s Augustine 101. And it takes a specific understanding of the Law of Identity to actually unravel this, to actually get it right. I highly recommend you go try and figure out how to answer this, because you’re going to see some varied form of this. And there’s another one in here, in a minute you’re going to see.

The inescapable conclusion is that since the perceptions change from person to person, from time to time, and the individual lives in his own private subjective little world, so there is no truth as such. There is no truth qua truth, truth as truth. There is no such thing. There is only subjective experience. Now watch what happens to man when this happens. The moment you take any or all of his functions away, now watch what they’re going to do; watch the next step in their evolution. If the senses are invalid, then reality is unknowable. If reality is unknowable, then reason is useless. Watch this progression. If reason is useless, then truth is unknowable. They have just reduced man to less than [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. And here is the main argument for this conclusion. Everybody disagrees about what is rational. Who is to say what’s really true? Since everyone seems to disagree about everything, the whole question must be hopeless. If man had a way of arriving at the truth, they would agree. The fact of disagreement means that reason is incapable at arriving at truth.

Here was their second argument, and this argument was best expressed by Gorgias, who offered up three propositions: Nothing exists. If anything existed, you couldn’t know it. If you could know it, you couldn’t communicate it. This is the most distinct statement for absolute skepticism. And you can see now why skepticism descended into complete subjectivism and complete relativism. There are no absolutes, and there is no objective truth. Does this ring a bell for anybody? Have you ever heard this before? Think Bible. Think about an aristocrat, a government official, maybe taught by the Sophists. Think Jesus. Think crucifixion. What did Pontius Pilate say?

MAN: What is truth?

What is truth? This was common. Remember what I said, this is all background to what happens here. All this is background. This was common. Pontius Pilate is echoing a Sophist presumption. He’s saying, “Well, what’s truth? How can you possibly know this?” Right? That’s where this comes from. That’s how pervasive, you see this in Christian literature. You see this in what we’ve come to call Bible literature. You see these presumptions filtering through [UNINTELLIGIBLE].

PAUL: Well, Pilate also said it in a very disdaining way, like, how could you say there’s truth? That’s ridiculous. It’s absurd.

This is skepticism. This is the single greatest attack on human senses ever constructed. It was foundational for Plato’s teaching and it’s subsequently applied to the Christian form from Augustine on. So this perspective effectively crippled epistemology for over a thousand years. And you want to know why we lived in the Dark Ages. It was dark on principle. It was dark metaphysically. It was dark because the church ultimately said it was impossible to know. And this isn’t limited to ancient thought. We actually see some variation of this in the modern day. The guy whose only absolute is there is no absolute. I don’t know how many times I’ve run into this guy. But you actually see it in more subtler forms in very reasonable conversations about the nature of truth. And I got this guy on my blog, a commenter named Ben. He came for a little while. We had a great conversation going, and then he disappeared. I don’t know what happened to him. But he did ask me these two. He asked me a series of questions, and he made these two comments, and I’m bringing it here now. Here’s what he said. “Also, by definition, truth must be absolute. Said another way, truth cannot be relative. This is not to say that all human action has a case-specific absolute, but that eventually at some hierarchical low, absolutes must exist. Most secular ethics are relative. To say for example that some morality naturally selects itself is relative. Utilitarians are relative, and obviously, so is majority rule and all its forms.” Here’s the second point and the one that I’m going to emphasize. “It follows then that absolutes must be derived from a source outside the human sphere.” Did you hear what he said? He’s looking for an absolute outside the human sphere. What does he presume here? Any configuration conceived by humans, even unintentionally through biological processes always reduces to relativism. What is his fundamental assumption about the nature of human existence? That man cannot truly grasp the nature of truth. This is skepticism at its root. Ben’s presumptions are twofold. Ethics is the province of a supernatural source. That’s his fundamental assumption. And the reason it’s always source and the supernatural source is because man is incompetent to know the truth. This is Skepticism.

SUSAN: That is Calvinism.

And absolutely is Calvinism. When you hear a preacher talking about your cramped little subjective lives, he is staking a claim to the roots of Sophism. He is seeking to condemn individual men for their inherent subjectivism. Anytime you hear someone say, “It is true for you,” they are giving away their philosophical pedigree. The Calvinist doctrine is true for me, even though you’re an Arminian with a bad attitude. That is Skepticism at its root.

Final note on the Sophists and their politics. Remember I said from the beginning, the progression starts with metaphysics and it ends with politics. We go from metaphysics to epistemology to ethics, and ethical assumptions produce our government action. That’s what I told you. If you remove reason and senses from human existence, what’s left? How do you deal with another man? How? It’s not complicated.


A club! That’s it! That’s all that’s left.

SUSAN: Force.

Force, violence. This is absolutely the source of violence in the world. When you realize that removing reason and sense perception from human existence, the only thing left for man to do is to treat every other human being as prey. That’s it. The Skeptics, of course, say there is no truth and there is no reason. This, of course, impacts public policy. Your government public policy is always an expression of your ultimate philosophy. And, of course, once reason is no longer valid, the only means to deal with other men is violence. Remember what I said that Sophism became the definition of egoism? This was why they were such villains because this kind of thing is utter anarchy, and it’s not livable. Any rational human being recognizes liberty and anarchy are not the same creature. We’re often told liberty is really anarchy, but that’s error. And it’s error because it removes from man his fundamental apparatus in the world, and that is reason. You have two ways to deal with men: by force of ideas or force of violence. And the moment we point a gun, we’re no longer reasoning. The moment I’m swinging the stick, we’re not reasoning. So an argument is by far the better course of action because that can be engaged freely. The Sophists are the first people to pose the Nietzschean Will to Power as the ethical ideal, which means that man’s primary social purpose is domination. And now you can understand why the Caesars constantly were waging wars of domination. It followed, the ethical premise produced the political outcome.

Okay, we’re going to move to Socrates. I don’t think he has a slide.

SUSAN: Oh, no he doesn’t have a script.

MAN: No. He was running out of town.

He was. Bless his heart. Actually, Socrates, he’s hilarious because he accepted on some level the democracy of Athens, but he goes around, he riles up all the kids in town because he’s making a mockery of all the university crowds and bigwigs, and they’re not too happy with that.

SUSAN: He corrupted the youth.

He corrupted the youth, which really meant he let them think. He’s supposed to give a defense for himself, and they go, “What do you think should happen to you?” He said, “Well, I think you should support me in luxury for all of my days. I think I performed a service.” And of course they didn’t like that, so they had him drink hemlock and kill himself.

Socrates, of course, he was the preview of Plato. I guess there’s an academic debate whether Socrates actually existed or not, whether it was Plato basically created the brainchild, called him Socrates in order [SOUNDS LIKE] for him to create his Dialogues or they really were two people. Whatever. I don’t care. I’m going to treat that as two separate individuals. The academic debate doesn’t really matter because ultimately, this specific development that he came up with was a crucial evolution.

Both Plato and Socrates are going to answer the Sophists. They think this is intolerable, and they have serious problems with the Sophists. So now remember, here’s the progression. We’re trying to figure out between Heraclitus and Parmenides, and we’ve got the Atomists, and we got the Pythagoreans. We got all these ideas now out there. And now the Sophists show up and say, “Nothing is possible. Oh, woe is us. Let’s all kill ourselves.” So Socrates and Plato said, “We’ve gotta fix this.” And so in this regard, these two guys are heroes because they try and sort this out.

Socrates shows up and he’s the first philosopher to take up the task of grounding objective knowledge and objective morality into human existence. This is a huge undertaking and a very important exercise. He was of course Plato’s mentor, and Socrates’ focus was on ethics, a specific ethical approach that was ultimately systematized into Plato and Aristotle. What was the approach? The answer is he said that the reason people are confused, so habitually in disagreement, so endlessly mired in subjectivism, the reason they despair at ever knowing the truth was because their concepts were never defined. Now it seems like obvious stuff. Well, actually, people still argue and don’t define the concepts, but for us it seems like a good idea that we know what we’re talking about. Let’s at least understand the commonalities of this particular argument, what this is reduced to. And he said, “People will fight over the question, what does it mean to be good or honorable or virtuous and never arrive at a conclusion. But of course identifying this for Socrates’ contemporaries, this was an evolution of thought. Well, yeah, it’s actually a good idea. What does virtue mean? What does good mean? What does honor mean? What specifically embodies this concept?

And he said this is the need for definitions. The question is what are the characteristics of particulars so that we can arrive at a definition. Did you get that? We need a definition. So what are the particulars of honor? What does that mean? What are the particulars of good? What does that mean? For example, when we discuss honor, what is the common denominator of the class called honor? To define the concept, you must generalize what is common to the whole group of a class. So when you think of circles, you don’t have to think of every circle you’ve ever seen. You can merely see what is common to all circles.

So Socrates identified what was the need and central nature of what is called universals. Now this concept of universal is huge. It is the dividing line of everything that comes after this. And you’re going to understand what I mean here in a second. He didn’t use the word “universal,” of course; that actually came later. But it means specifically like this. Universals are the set of properties common to every member of the class, which is the basis of its classification. Okay, I point to four chairs. What are the basis of the classification of chair? This is what we would call say chairhood or the idea of chair or chairness or the essence of chair. What is the universal chair, okay? The specific set of characteristics that reduces down to the common denominator of chair, that is the definition. That is the universal. You understand? Good. If you don’t, let me explain it again. Tell me. I know this is tough. Got it? Good. All right.

If I point to red, that is a particular. And that is distinct from say burnt sienna, and that is also a particular that is different from yellow. So what is yellowness? What is burnt siennaness? What is redness? This is what he is after. Whatever the particulars are that create redness, that is the universal. And so it goes with every classification. And this is very important to understand in your conceptual life. Man engages in this process constantly. This is his unique ability in the earth, his ability to reduce down to commonalities, to universals, a class. And this is how you don’t have to remember every face of every person you have ever seen because you can generalize. You can take this concept. You understand table here. And you can understand that in every instance that you see a table, this is a class of thing. So you don’t have to remember every discrete thing, every particular that you ever see. And so this gives us ultimately a conceptual ability. We can then begin to subsume in these classifications these generalities and then abstract. And that is the profound lever that humanity brings to this earth, the ability to abstract. And Socrates is the first person to lay out this foundation. Of course, Plato is going to exploit this to the nth degree. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Man has the ability to grasp universals. This is what gives him the ability to abstract by classifying common denominators, and that what gives him concepts in place of millions and millions of particulars, concepts and particulars, universals and particulars. Remember this. You’re going to hear this again. Man’s conceptual faculty is what gives him the ability to understand principles and laws which gives him the ability to predict the future. And this is important. If I can abstract a principle, a law, then I can look into the future and see the application of that law repeating itself over and over and over. And the moment I can do that, the world becomes utterly intelligible to me. If my reason is valid and I can understand laws, suddenly, this is not a scary place. You see the evolution of where we’re headed here? This is what Socrates discovered, the importance of the conceptual versus perceptual knowledge. Conceptual knowledge was founded on the knowledge of universals. His logic was that if we can validate universal knowledge, we can answer the Skeptics’ rejection of truth. Man must rise from the merely perceptual stage to the conceptual stage, and this is what stops the fights. At the conceptual stage, man can grasp a universal standard and then end all argument and all subjectivism. And this is how he answered the Skeptics, a very powerful argument.

Move me to Plato, which is the next slide, please. All right. I do want to reiterate this point with you [SOUNDS LIKE] about Plato. I ultimately believe his philosophy fundamentally in error. But he was the first, a genius by actually virtually unparalleled and unrivaled in human history. His system dynamics, his creativity, his ability to integrate enormous amounts of information is only rivaled by Aristotle. Now of course they arrived at two very different conclusions. But he is not a villain as such. He is not deliberately trying to do bad things. He’s trying to take the arguments of his day, and he’s really trying to defend what he sees as really bad things, and he’s trying to take that and turn it into something that’s ultimately usable. Now ultimately, of course, I think that he arrived at the wrong conclusions, but nonetheless he’s not a villain of the black soul kind, all right? You do want to do good to this. Even though he was a pagan, that’s actually an early Christian prejudice.

SUSAN: Christian term.

That’s a very Christian prejudice. He would have considered us pagans. He would have considered us probably insufferable just because we are monotheists utterly. In the 2nd and the 3rd century, of course, the Romans thought that Christians were the pagans because we didn’t believe in all of their gods. So anyway, side trip, let’s get back to Plato. Not quite the villain that I want to portray. The true villains are Augustine and the guys coming later, but we’ll get to that. Actually, you know, I won’t get to that, sorry.

We’re actually moving forward in history. And for the first time, the Sophists and the Atomists, they actually start to try to use something that’s systematic. Plato succeeded. Plato’s the first guy to actually do a comprehensive philosophy. He is the first one to go from metaphysics to epistemology to ethics to government. And like I said, the last segment of that is aesthetics, which is effectively art. And his metaphysics is enormously impacting. It has absolutely shaped the substance of the Western world, with one exception. And that is Aristotle, and ultimately Aristotle is responsible for pretty much every evolution of the betterment of humanity, but he doesn’t really show up as a force until Thomas Aquinas reintroduces Aristotle back into Western thought. But we’re not going to talk about Aristotle, at least not here.

Plato took Socrates’ grasp of universals and then proceeded to develop a metaphysical conclusion and says everything revolves around the metaphysical foundation. We will start at the beginning. Universals must be knowable. Without knowing universals, man is a little more than animal and he’s less moral than the Sophists. Parmenides told us that thou canst know not what is not, right? Thou canst know what is not. In other words, if it doesn’t exist, you can’t know it, right? All right. If universals are knowable, then they must be real. If universals are real, then they must exist. This is Plato’s logic. Plato decided that the next two questions that must be answered are where do universals exist and how do universals exist? The question later became known as the Problem. These two questions later became known as the problem of universals. Plato’s answer to these questions is that there must be two worlds. Once again we see this theme of two worlds. Because the universals and the particulars are not elements of the same thing but fully different things. We already have the early forms of the two worlds and two realities concept by the Pythagoreans. He is taking his influence from them, and he’s developing it into a primary element of his metaphysics. Plato’s conclusions was universals are one per category. So there is one table that is called table and all of the rest of particulars of that form, all right? Do you get it? Do you understand? Particulars are many in any given instance, universals, particulars.

Now remember the background. The conflict is between Heraclitus and Parmenides. From the beginning everyone was trying to solve the riddle of change and multiplicity. So the next question was how to deal with change and multiplicity and immutability. I can tell you guys are getting tired; this is long. But we’re getting close. The logic goes like this. I’m sorry. I missed something here. His solution was to say that universals must be eternal and indestructible. Without something that is unchanging, the world is fully unintelligible, so we need something that is absolute. His logic goes like this. Think of the idea of dogness. We can say that the nature of dogs requires floppy ears and a bark and four paws and so on. These are particulars. But there are many, many dogs with variations on those specifics, yet we understand that there is one concept of dogness. This must be an immutable law of dogness because without immutability, there would never be a law of dogness. Therefore, the universal of dogness must be eternal and indestructible.

His logic continued, particulars aren’t necessarily material and physical. Remember, we’re seeing this over and over. That which is universal is immutable and indestructible. That which is temporal and sensual is destructive and inconsistent and subjective. And here’s how he rationalized this out. Animals can see them, hear them, taste them; they can taste particulars. But do they grasp universals? Dogs can certainly see bones, but do they see boneness? Does dogness see boneness? Plato concludes that boneness is somehow abstract and not part of the physical world, because it can’t be grasped by the physical senses. So particulars are physical; universals are nonphysical. And what followed from that premise was that particulars were understood by the means of the senses, and universals must be understood by the means of reason. With this conclusion, Plato completes his argument about two worlds. And it is the obvious necessity based on the functions of human existence. Here’s how it goes. Universals defined by one per category exists as immutable, unchanging, nonmaterial world known only to the mind. Particulars, defined by multiplicity and change, are physical and material and grasped by the senses. Now we have his two worlds, and we’re about to introduce you to Plato’s forms.

This conclusion, of course, begs the question, if universals are somewhere outside human perception and material existence, how does man ever access the knowledge? Great question. And his answer was man gets his understanding of universals before existence. So what we have really just introduced is the concept of innate ideas.

MAN: That must have been around for a long time because that concept is what John Locke goes after in his Understanding essays when he talks about the mind as a blank slate as opposed to innate understanding which is revealed later after birth. So that must have dominated for…

It has been around a very long time. Actually, this argument, this was a leading one in the church and has remained a leading one in the church, and I’ll get to that. Give me about two seconds here, and I’ll parse this out for you.

If we possess knowledge at birth, man must have what are called innate ideas. They are the product of another world, and the soul is independent of the body, which is central to Pythagorean mysticism. So not only do we now have the soul-body dichotomy, we have an eternal soul that is somehow intimately involved with universal knowledge that is not specifically part of sensory apparatus. We have man utterly divided.

Plato makes many other arguments for the existence of two realms, and I’m not going to reiterate all of them. But many of you are familiar with the next one because it’s a very popular Christian proof. It is generally called the argument for perfection. Plato asks, where do we get the concept and standards of perfection in a category? Where do we get the concept of a perfect circle, a perfect latte, a perfect Oreo cookie, a perfect you fill in the blank? Plato said that all concepts of perfection cannot come from this material world because nothing in this world is perfect because this world is made up of particulars, and particulars are always changing. And if you are changing, you cannot be perfect. Something that changes cannot be perfect because change would imply some kind of deficiency. Perfection requires immutability. Perfection means that it would lack nothing. You can hear the echoes of Christian doctrine all over this. The most obvious example is the perfect cow. What would it eat? It doesn’t lack food because it is perfect. It doesn’t lack knowledge because it is perfect. It doesn’t need to breathe because it doesn’t lack air. If nothing in this world can be perfect, where do we get our concept of perfect? The only conclusion is that man gets his concept of perfect from contemplating another world, a world that holds the perfect embodiment of everything in this world, a perfect archetype of universals. And of course the reason this gets so much traction is because this is exactly how we prove the existence of God. This is what we say. We have the concept of God in our thinking. Where did we get that concept? It must necessarily exist because we wouldn’t have it in our thinking if it didn’t exist. This is exactly the same proof, and this gets enormous amount of traction from the truth of medievals and all the way up to St. Thomas Aquinas. And I think actually this is the rudiment of one of Thomas Aquinas’ proofs. I think he’s got five proofs of God.

So now you know how Plato came up with the world of forms and the world of senses. His world of universals is really called forms. And this is exactly what Susan has been discussing. We now have how Plato has divided up the world, and the universals are what ultimately emanated down to the world of particulars. And man, the only way man ever gets any understanding of all of this world is because he stands in a cave, and inside that cave something is flashing a shadow up against the wall. So he’s getting this reflection, this kind dim haze that you can sort of make out but not really. And that is the limitation of human existence.

So step by step man is taken farther and farther and farther away from life in this world. And this is actually a crucial point. By incremental steps, man has been taken down the path that he is absolutely not part of this world. He’s not able to understand. He’s not really able to interact with it. And in some instances he’s not even really able to know it. And Plato’s solution while an elegant response to the Sophists, the Skeptics, ultimately sets man up for the tyranny that we’re going to inevitably discuss.

Remember when I said human life is defined by how ideas go together. So here’s how they go together. Go ahead and hit me with the next slide. It should be slide 12. So this is the principle. This is what I’ve been telling you now for a couple of hours. Metaphysical premise determines epistemological qualification defines ethical standards and prescribes political culture. What you metaphysically believe about man determines what you think man can do with his brain, which defines ultimately his ethical standard which ultimately dictates the government structure that he surrounds himself with. So let’s break this down some more. Hit me with slide 13, please?

So your foundational assumptions determine how effective man is to understand the world which defines his moral values which prescribes government force. I’m saying the same thing over and over because I want you to understand this progression. Once you get this progression, it becomes trivially simple to dissect any given philosophical position. Go ahead and hit me with slide 14, please?

And this is how Plato ultimately summarized – this is me summarizing for Plato. I don’t have that in my notes. So this is exactly the same thing stated only with Plato’s specifics. This world is merely a reflection of otherworldly forms. This determines that man cannot know truth because he experiences the imperfect from a shadow world. That defines that the only select men of the highest character and longstanding study can achieve enlightenment. Now we’ve actually caught this theme repeatedly. It is always an elect few, a select few, that have the ability to understand this great, grand mythical truth. And it’s everybody else, based on whatever their disqualification is, that cannot understand it. This distinction, this two-world distinction, ultimately creates the class society. This is the root source of class society. It’s the endless presumption that some are uniquely qualified by virtue of their ethical achievement, however that is arrived at, to ultimately govern those who cannot arrive at that ethical achievement. We have seen this absolutely in every instance. Slavery was justified for this exact reason. The white man was superior because the white man was inferior, and the white man should basically rule over the slave. Our treatment of the Indians was exactly the same way. This two-world concept always boils down to a class society that is determined, predestined to rule over a subclass. Always. The only reason to advocate determinism, predestination, is to establish a class society. There is no logical, rational reason to advocate the doctrine of determinism unless your specific goal is to produce a class society. Because if it is all determined, why are you arguing? What are you trying to persuade? By definition, I am who I am because I am determined to be that. There is no rational appeal to achieve any other end. So if you’re arguing with a determinist, the answer is why are you arguing? And at the end of the day, the only reason he is arguing is because at some point he believes he should be in charge of your life. That’s it. It’s that start. It’s that ugly, and it’s that bold. And if you get this concept, you can unravel the 99 percent of all determinist arguments. You just look at them and say, “Why are you arguing?” That’s it. That’s the end of discussion. Now they’ll keep trying to argue, but your point is there is no argument. You don’t rule me. Only men with volition can choose the nature of their own government. All right, now that was me preaching for a minute. Sorry.

MAN: It’s good.

Are you starting to get the picture of how philosophy integrates ideas? Are you starting to see how what man believes affects the existence of what he does? Are you starting how what man knows affects how he thinks he should act? All right, that’s Plato. That’s what I’ve been talking about Plato.

I do want to talk about the two other movements.

PAUL: You got one more slide.

Go ahead and put it up there. I’m not sure what it’s for. Go ahead. Yes, Cynics and Stoics. Actually, I have two more slides. I’m going to talk about these two, and then I’ll get into the summary. So I want you to see this.

I’m going to talk about two people: Cynics and Stoics. They really actually impact philosophy as such. They are more a culmination of all these ideas than two specific movements. Okay, we have a resurgent Sophist movement and resurgent Pythagorean movement. These guys, like I said, they didn’t have a profound impact, but you are going to see a theme for them that has actually become very central to the Augustinian Christianity all the way through from effectively the 5th century to about 1100 or so. And you gotta see these guys, because I want to talk to you about their logical conclusions.

Cynicism/Cynics, cynic I think in Greek means dog. So they were literally called the dog philosophers. I really honestly don’t understand why, but whatever. These guys were the first street preachers. In Christian parlance, they’re evangelists. They considered themselves humanity’s watchdogs. Pun intended. And it was their job to hound people, pun intended, about the error of their ways.

SUSAN: Oh my. 

And that was really funny. Come on. This also sounds like the Neo-Calvinists I’ve met. Their favorite pastime was to probably expose the pretense at the root of everyday conventions. They believe that it was their life task to convert the masses to what they called mental clarity. They rejected all wealth, power, sex, fame because these pursuits were the stuff of the polluted mind with internal haze.

Diogenes of Sinope, he was one of the early founders. He is reported to have lived in a tub, refused to wear shoes in the winter, refused to bathe. He ran around the streets without clothes. He wandered from the streets to cities preaching Cynic doctrines, and those doctrines were specifically designed to save men from the bondage of their flesh. Where have you heard these themes before? If man was liberated from the bondage of flesh, they will be liberated from worldly suffering and uncertainty. Where have you heard these things before? Here is the summary of their ideology. The goal of life is mental clarity or lucidity, freedom from internal haze which signified ignorance, mindlessness, folly, and conceit. Freedom is achieved by living in harmony with nature. Mental haze, ignorance, mindlessness, et al is caused by false judgment of values which causes negative heartache, anxiety, unnatural desires, and evil character. Man flourishes, he truly lives, by achieving what is called self-sufficiency. Now when I talk about self-sufficiency, for them it’s not what you’re thinking. I’m not talking of rugged individualism. They have a different take on freedom, ignorance, false judgment, and value unnatural desires, evil character, et cetera. So they’re not talking about rugged individualism, rather an internal indifference to life’s hardships. Their definition of self-reliance was an indifference to hardship. One progresses towards this life in clarity of thought by ascetic practices which helps one become free from the influences of the flesh. And since they had a great disdain for fame, they tended to act shamelessly in public in direct effort to slight all social conventions.

Now here is the point that I want you to pick up from the Cynics. How does man achieve harmony with nature where he is indifferent to all hardship? Their suggestion was the way man achieve this indifference was constant, arduous training of the body. You see this theme in Paul’s comment when he says, “I beat my body.” And for those of you who wanted to be truly scandalized by Pauline doctrine, go take a fast look at his relationship with the Cynics and the Stoics. Trust me, it will drain [SOUNDS LIKE] you because much of what Paul has to say is direct – it’s not so much a plagiarism, but he used pretty much any convention he could find to make his case. And much of what he had to say was taken right out of their playbook.

And I also want to reemphasize here, they have actually elevated the nature of asceticism. Not only is the flesh bad, but the flesh is bad and the way you defeat the flesh is a specific violence towards the flesh. This is crucial because this becomes a dominant theme later.

Stoicism is a school founded by Zeno of Citium in the early 3rd century. Stoa means painted porch. Zeno taught in a public square in a place called the Agora which had a huge porch. Stoics taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment. Someone of moral and intellectual perfection would not suffer such emotion. Stoics were concerned with the active relationship between cosmic determinism and human freedom and the belief that it is virtuous to maintain a will that is in accord with logos. These are the guys who brought about the concept of logos that you’re familiar with in John chapter 1. Their logos is a divine entity. Remember what I said, the other guys used it differently. These are the guys that brought this concept into the world of the divines.

Stoic religion emphasizes prayer, self-examination, and praise. They described spiritual pursuits like this. God is best worshipped in the shrine of the heart…


by the desire to know and obey him. Where have you heard that theme before? The four cardinal virtues of Stoic philosophy were wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance. Virtue alone was sufficient for happiness. A sage was immune to misfortune because he is dispassionate about all things, both good and evil. Epictetus has this quote: “Sick and yet happy, in peril and yet happy, dying and yet happy, in exile and yet happy, in disgrace and yet happy.” Now you Bible scholars should be able to key in on this very similarity in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9.

SUSAN: Persecuted but not forsaken.

“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” This is Paul echoing Stoic thought.

A sage achieved freedom by studying and seeking universal reason. And that universal reason was their logos concept and a practicing asceticism. Notice, now we have the correlation that not only is it necessary to study this higher mystical concept, but it is specifically essential that the flesh is purged in the process. The flesh is beaten and the study continues. Did you see this relationship? Those who preached, practiced these virtues are enlightened and can achieve freedom from the vicious materialism and emotionalism of this world. Stoics were determinists. They said that everything is subject to the laws of fate. The logos acts in accord with its own nature and governs matter. Souls are emanations from the logos and are therefore subject to logos dictates; hence, their determinism. They described the wicked man like this. He is like a dog tied to a cart and compelled to go wherever it goes. For you history buffs, you will recognize this from the Christian deterministic traditions that describe man like this. Man is on the back of the horse being led around by the devil. This is Reformed Theology 101.

I do want to comment about logos. Heraclitus was the first to use the term. Aristotle used it to mean reasoned discourse. However, the Stoics were the first to use the Greek word “logos” in conjunction with God. They said that the logos was the animating force of the universe. It was this conceptual linguistic shift that made the introductory chapter of the Gospel of John possible. Of course, later Christianity condemned Stoicism, but that didn’t stop them from using stoic concepts—logos, virtue, spirit, and conscience—and advocating the primary theme of Stoic metaphysics and ethics, an inner freedom despite the worldly hardships, the innate depravity of men called persistent evil by the Stoics, the futility and temporal nature of worldly possessions and attachments.

And here are my last comments about these two groups. I want to illustrate how the Pythagoreans’ soul-body dichotomy weaved its path from their relatively hedonism to the Cynic doctrines and the Stoic doctrines in front of us transition from their general mind-body dichotomy to now man must use violence against his own body to achieve enlightenment. And just so you understand, when we start talking about asceticism, we’re not talking about giving up a few apple pies from McDonald’s. The asceticism that I’m talking about, the asceticism that became the dominant theme, the accepted expression of virtue, we’re now talking about beating the flesh, violence toward the flesh as an ethical ideal. What came next from roughly 250 AD all the way into about 1100, here’s what these people did. They sat on stone pillars until their legs rotted away. They drank laundry water. They slept on beds of nails. They inflicted on themselves personal and/or public flogging for sins. Martin Luther is said to have beat himself. This became an ethical ideal. This is the corruption implicit to these ideas. When you so divide men from reality, when you so divide men from life, you can only worship death. And that’s exactly where these doctrines trend [SOUNDS LIKE].

Okay, my closing remarks. I do want to make a couple of comments because I think Susan is going to probably talk about this. I want to point your attention to Plotinus. I want you to get this. See where Christianity is on this timeline? This is roughly about a hundred years. This is Christianity’s move into the Hellenistic world, okay?

One of the reasons you see such a huge disconnect between Old and New Testament is because the Old Testament had none of these preoccupations. It had no knowledge, no particular knowledge of this information. The information that they were concerned with had an entirely different worldview. Christianity shows up and we don’t actually start getting our text from Christianity until probably about 70 AD, depending on when you start dating. And the early stuff that we had, like say what is called the Q document, which is the precursor to Mark, that doesn’t really show up until probably 30 AD. So we’ve already started to move deep into this. And when you see the fight between Peter and Paul, you see Peter utterly mystified by Paul’s concerns and then specifically Gentile access to the Covenants of Promise. Peter is still very much a Jew in his head. He’s still very much translating the world from the Judaic perspective. And of course we know ultimately Peter changes his mind, but this collision of ideas is catastrophic. By the time we get to the Gospel of John probably dating right around 70 to 80 AD, we have a full disconnect. We have the preamble of the Gospel of John, which is absolutely a Hellenistic document, and that has been actually been cut into a broader tradition. We have an absolute split between Jews and Christians.

MAN: Can you reiterate the Peter and Paul dispute again? I’m embarrassed to ask this, but can you reiterate what that was about again?

Well, we have a couple of different disputes, but the leading one was you have Peter still believing in the Covenants of Promise. And access to the Covenants of Promise is by circumcision. You understand that, right?

MAN: Right, that’s right.

And once you’re circumcised, now mind you, I made this comment on my blog a few times, and it usually gets people riled up. But legalism is a Paul concept. Jews weren’t legalistic. Jews are observant. They don’t consider their diligence to observance to be a bad thing. Paul took that and turned it into a vice for his own particular arguments later. So you have Peter being observant. Peter is observing the law. He is being diligent with the law. Okay, the big with Judaism is that it was temple-centered. To practice the law, you had to be very close to the temple. Without a temple, you have a lot of problems with what they consider to be uncleanliness. And a whole series of subsets of practices that they couldn’t actually achieve without the temple. Now, of course, all through Jesus’ life and he’s all fussed. He’s really upset about the fact that his house had become a house of merchandise. But the problem was is that the only way that Jews can practice their Judaism was to basically take a trip, sell their stuff, take a trip, get to the temple, buy their sacrifices, be observant of their Judaism, and then return home. So the merchandising of the temple practice was directly related to the impossibility of the way the law was constructed.

So here’s Peter, he’s still a very good Jew in his head. He’s still being observant. And he’s still being faithful to the Covenants of Promise. Now mind you, most Christians really have no conception of what I’m talking about when I talk about Covenants of Promise because for most Christians, the Gospel has become Jesus Christ and then crucified. That was not the Gospel. The Gospel was specifically that Jesus was specifically the manifestation, the ultimate manifestation of access to the Covenants of Promise. His life was to give everybody the same access to Abraham’s blessing in the contemporary age. That’s what Jesus preached. So here’s Peter saying to all the Christians, no, if you’re going to become a Christian, we’re still keeping the Covenants of Promise. So you must be circumcised and then be observant of the law. Paul comes along and says, no, that can’t be true. How can circumcision be the important part? Paul has an entire theology on that. Bang. They fight. The fight that they had, and I don’t remember what the source was, it’s my understanding that it was violent. They fought fought. But I don’t know. Does it matter?

The thing that I find interesting is that there really was no resolution to this. Ultimately, what Paul’s idea was, I tell you what, guys. Just call me an apostle. I’ll pay you money, and I’ll go do my thing someplace else. That’s pretty much the resolution. They really never resolved the fight. Now eventually, Peter realizes that access to the Covenants of Promise is not their – the Gentiles weren’t unclean. They actually are allowed to have access to the Covenants of Promise by virtue of the revelation that he gets, the vision that he gets. But the specific fight between Paul and Peter never really resolves. That’s not how it works. So that’s the fight that I was talking about. Does that make sense?

MAN: Yes.

So now we have Paul venturing out into the Hellenistic world. His problem is trying to reconcile Christianity, this little sect right here, with all this. This is his intellectual problem. Now he has, to his advantage, what is called the Diaspora of Jews. So the Diaspora of Jews were the dispersion of Jews that had been gone abroad and basically collectivized in their little enclaves and other basically Roman cities. And so Paul is able to go to the east Jewish cities, and he has two common backgrounds. He has their Jewish heritage, their observance of law, their observance of Torah. And he also has the ability now to start talking about all of this, and he starts to integrate the Stoics, the Cynics, and basically taking their argumentative conventions and tailoring them to his own end. And this is how we end up with what is predominantly what comes after, pretty much the whole of his thought and a number of the doctrines. So that – I’m not sure I remember why I headed down that path. Oh, that was the challenge.

So this is how Jew Christianity expands into the Hellenistic world. Now notice you have a resurgent Pythagorean movement, Sophist, and another Pythagorean movement. This is how much it dominated. This is how much these ideas kept showing up and showing up and showing up. Now it’s right here, Plotinus, this is the guy that makes Augustine possible. Plotinus, he was a Neo-Platonist. He has nothing to offer philosophically. He makes no adjustments at all. All he does is reintroduce Platonist ideas. Now mind you, notice, Plotinus is way back here. So we’re talking almost 600 years has passed. We don’t have the Internet. So these guys were rediscovering this is, you know, this is a major discovery. He actually shows up and his information ultimately impacts Augustine.

Now I want to say this. You do have Philo. In Judaism he would have some problems, and it’s always been largely xenophobic, which meant it didn’t like outside influences. And so it was always going to be this backwater, backwooods religion, this really strange monotheistic religion out in the backside of nowhere. And Philo comes along and says, “Wait a minute. We’re not that crazy. Really and truly, here is our religion. Oh, by the way, here’s Plato.” And by the way, he actually makes about a pretty good merge. And so Philo was already trying to merge Platonism. And I think Philo shows up about … do you remember? Do you remember? I don’t know. Philo was in here somewhere. I don’t remember off the top of my head. But he is still in that progression. So Plotinus is not an aberration, and Augustine is not an aberration. Augustine just takes it to the nth degree. Does that make sense?

Now you have the scope of this issue. You get it? [UNINTELLIGIBLE]? You dazed? Yeah. So the next time you hear a Calvinist start thumping the pulpit that they’re the only theological game in town, laugh. Not even close. They’re almost not a blip on the map. And they are only the logical conclusions that start from here. This is where it starts. This is where it gets its formal expression. Platonism here is what produces everything that comes after.

Paul: And that’s what they said plainly.

Oh well, they should say it plainly. That would be the truth.

PAUL: Yeah. And they did. They admit it. They’re not the least bit shy about calling Augustine the Father of the Reformation [UNINTELLIGIBLE].


MAN: I don’t know. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard them admit the philosophical roots from the ancient Greeks. They may say Augustine, I think they just think of it as good old fashioned biblical [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. It’s doing church rites [SOUNDS LIKE]. It’s Christianity rite. It’s the divine review [SOUNDS LIKE] of truth.

Correct. I do want to do this summary. I want this in your heads.

PAUL: We have a myriad of quotations down in the office.

MAN: You do, huh? I knew you’d prove me wrong.


MAN: I know [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. Your research is…

PAUL: Here we go.

Okay, this is my last series of comments. This one’s hard to read. Basically, what I’ve done here is I’ve extracted the common themes from the beginning. The Pythagoreans, this is before, now mind you, this is before Christianity shows up. This is the intellectual frame of reference before we ever get on the map with Jesus, all right? The Pythagoreans, the soul-body dichotomy, matter is evil, body is evil. Only those who are initiated into the mysteries can know the truth. The Atomists’ two worlds, this world is evil and imperfect, determinism. The Sophists, skepticism, senses plus reason are corrupt, truth is impossible. The Cynics and Stoics, enlightenment is reserved for another dimension, a transcendent salvation from the logos after purification and asceticism, hatred for the flesh manifest into action brought to the highest ethical action. Plato integrates all of this into a comprehensive philosophy. And his conclusion was that the only correct form of government was totalitarian collectivism, totalitarian communism.

Once you understand how many root doctrines have influenced us, it absolutely changes the face of Christianity. Now you can actually come to the conclusion, either you’re going to accept syncretism, in other words, the merging of non-biblical pagan sources into the truth or you’re going to have to reject this at the root. And that’s what you’re confronted with. I’ll let you ponder what that means. Thank you.





All right, good morning. I’m not awake yet, so forgive me. It’s not ten o’clock yet. I’m usually still asleep at ten o’clock whether I’m in bed or not. It doesn’t matter.

For those of you online joining us for the first time, my name is John Immel. As I’ve said pretty much in every opening of my commentary is I’m not a real fan of credentials mostly because I think it’s mostly useless in an intellectual argument. I’m more interested that you listen and evaluate the content of what I say for the force of the argument and then evaluate it against your own rational capacities and arrive at a conclusion, and if you decide that I’m wrong, decide that I’m right, I don’t care but to follow the logic until you have satisfied yourself. I believe in the rational, capable faculties of men. Because without that, the only other way to deal with men is the club, which is ultimately where almost all religious subjectivism ends, at the point of sword, bonfire, flaming stake, you know, you get the idea.

So this is not really about credential in my mind. If you have been watching the content of what we’ve been talking here dealing with the Neo-Calvinist movement and the ideas behind the Neo-Calvinist movement, I wrote a book called Blight in the Vineyard. The subtitle is Exposing the Roots, Myths, and Emotional Torment of Spiritual Tyranny. You can find this online, and Barnes & Noble. Highly recommended. Between myself and Paul Dohse and, I can’t think of anybody else off the top of my head, maybe there’s others out there, you’re [SOUNDS LIKE] probably the first formal effort at a rejection, a full rejection, of the Reformed Neo-Calvinist construct for all the reasons we’ve been talking about here at the conference.

Now we’ve hammered pretty hard, pretty much every speaker that’s come up, about people being intellectually responsible for themselves. And as a man who has been pretty much talking to air for the last 20 years of his life about this very subject, because I couldn’t get anybody to pay attention to me, it’s easy to be cynical about how people respond to this. And I suspect some of the cynicism is warranted, because I don’t know how many times I start this conversation and I usually just get a blank glaze. However, what I’ve learned is that most of that glaze comes from the fact that people have never been exposed to any counterargument. They are usually more dumbfounded that somebody could actually say there’s something implicitly wrong with Reformation doctrine, not it’s kind of an aberration that we got a few stray players that just didn’t get it right but know Reformation doctrine is wrong, fundamentally wrong.

Now in this conference, I have actually have got to start talking to some people who have traveled the same path and arrived at very similar intellectual conclusions, and I find them endlessly engaged, and I find this enormously gratifying, to find people who have started to do the work and have started to see the big picture and have arrived at the same fundamental conclusions and that they’re just as actively engaged. Their minds are just as tuned in to the inconsistencies. And the piece of the puzzle that was really lacking was the borders of the puzzle and the commitment to ultimately say, “No, this stuff is morally evil. There is a root problem with this that corrupts it without end.” So that was a windy way of saying I’m encouraged. I see the potential.

When I was discussing the issue of tyranny yesterday, all of this, this will be what we’ll talk dramatically. For heaven’s sake. This is what we’re talking about specifically as my last session unfolds. Tyranny has always relied on, always, that men fear resisting the tyranny. Tyranny can only persist when good men do nothing. And if you can’t be good, you can never resist tyranny. So good requires you to fundamentally live in your moral virtue. It requires you. If you can’t believe in your own virtue, you can never ever suggest that you should fight what is evil. And it’s really that simple. So this is why of course I advocate endlessly for your own rational motivation, your own specific commitment to your rational faculties because I loathe that idea, loathe it, that this ends up being yet one more pulpit personality. I recognize that myself and, of course, Paul, we are both very strong personalities. And it would be very easy for people to trade following my personality and the force of me as an individual for, say, Al Mohler or CJ Mahaney or Mark Dever or the list of the rest of the cults of personality that exists in Christianity. I loathe that concept. I would rather wreck my reputation in your behalf than for you to follow me because you trust me specifically. I want you to trust the conclusions of your rational mind. So it doesn’t matter if I’m ever in this fight because you can carry the fight. That’s the ultimate goal here. Do you all get that? Yes, nod your head. Awesome. Outstanding.

So like I said, I am encouraged. It’s been seriously gratifying. When I said I’ve been talking to the air for 27 years of my life about this stuff, I’m actually not kidding. I have practiced preaching to the trees. I couldn’t get anybody else to listen. It sounds absurd but absolutely true.

All right. Let’s start moving. Yesterday I bit off the monstrous bite of cookie discussing effectively the beginnings of Western thought from effectively Thales, which is absolutely the beginning of Western thought to roughly about a hundred years after Plato, Cynics and Stoics. And I knew that was going to be about master’s level presentation. And believe it or not, I tried to cram in almost 500 years worth of the evolution of Western thought in about two hours. I know it made your head hurt, and that’s a good thing. That just means your muscle is getting stronger. But as soon as this becomes available online, go look at it again. I was thinking last night after I got to the house, a lot of the people online didn’t actually get to see the charts that were associated with it. And my commentary was based on being able to point to the charts and then make some notes, particularly at the end of the presentation. As soon as you have the opportunity, get those charts and start looking at it. Once you begin to understand the scope of things, and these aren’t disparate ideas that you just kind of have to figure out or organize in your head. They actually have a progression.

And the beauty of Western culture is it is ultimately the source of freedom. And the person that I did not bring into the discussion is Aristotle. Aristotle’s ability to identify the laws of logic is the only parallel in history to Plato. In as much as Plato ultimately organized a collectivist ruling dictatorship, Aristotle is central for the liberties of men because Aristotle is the first person to get a systematic presentation on why man specifically is qualified to operate successfully in the earth. So high marks to Aristotle. I didn’t get to him, and I really can’t persist down that path, but you’re going to want to take a look at the two hours of presentation yesterday. Listen to it again and again and again.

Now mind you, again, 27 years I’m pounding away at this. There’s nothing simple about this, but it is understandable. I told you diagnosing the trends of tyranny are as simple as diagnosing the common cold. Once you understand the pathogen, and of course that’s what we’re going to get to, I opened my previous sessions. I brought up the slide by Sun Tzu. Sun Tzu is a – I’m not even sure if he was actually a commander, I don’t remember, if he was actually a commander or if he was just a thinker during the time of Chinese expansion. And he came up with this comment. “All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer. But what men can’t see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.” He was making the observation that it was the underlying strategy that allowed him to win. Man could see the tactics, but they didn’t understand the function of those tactics. And this is exactly what we are now being confronted with. The reason tyranny has been so successful at sweeping across the edge of the globe, around the corners of the globe, is because it is actually drilled down to the same fundamental elements, because man is a rational being in need of a way to integrate his ideas. It is ultimately how those ideas go together that defines how he organizes his political life.

And political life is nothing more than how individuals interact. Now we tend to think of politics in terms of this elaborate game that happens in Washington, D.C., this endless quest for some form of social power. What happens in Washington, D.C. is in fact merely the logical conclusion of a set of ideas. And then those men decide that everybody else should live by those sets of ideas, those sets of values. Now here is the central fight of all political philosophy. The whole of human existence has been over who owns man. The leading consensus, the predominant assumption, the conclusion of the vast percentage of human intellectual capital has been focused on man is property of the state.

Now my goal, my job, in this conference was to discuss the societal impact. The reason I put off telling you what the societal impact was is because I was more interested in laying the foundation for how to get to societal impact. Because once we can identify how we get to societal impact, it’s actually very simple for individuals to start understanding what is actually happening in society. So my goal is to impart you with tools to judge societal impact as opposed to just giving you a checklist that go, yeah, we’re killing babies. That’s the reason. Yeah, we’re tyrannizing people in churches. Yup, that’s the problem. No. My goal is to impart you with tools so you can begin to understand the implications.

So the question is if man is property of the state, what is the moral justification for some to use force against others? Now put on your thinking caps. What have I said ultimately? What was the root presumption throughout history? Man is incompetent. His senses are invalid. And a select few are the ones who ultimately have some form of enlightenment, always an extrawordly force of enlightenment, and they specifically are empowered. Then because of their enlightenment, to rule everybody else. The underlying question within historic Christianity has universally revolved around why they, whoever those leaders are, are specifically authorized to define truth. And who are they? They’re without fail, the rulers. They’re without fail, the church leaders, the papacy, the cardinals, the bishops, the presbytery. Always. All the doctrines revolve around why some select group of men are specifically responsible, specifically empowered to use force to compel a given set of intellectual outcomes. Now yesterday Susan talked at length about how Augustine ultimately justified this very end. The presumption is that the sheep are stupid. The sheep are incompetent. The sheep cannot organize their own life. And more importantly, they should be compelled to do what is good.

Can we actually go ahead and hit slide 2, please? Okay, now I need to introduce you to yet one more philosophical concept.

PAUL: You’ve got it on the live streaming too.

Oh, outstanding. How thrilling is that. Okay, for those of you on live streaming, there’s my chart. I need you to take a look at it. Okay, I’ll introduce you to a number of philosophical concepts. This is huge. This is collectivism. Remember I said, the dividing of human history has always been who owns man. The ultimate goal of all doctrines that service who owns man when man is either the property of the state or the property of the collective versus the property of himself. This is collectivism. What you see here is everything else is a subset of that collectivism. Statism, society, the tribe, the community, denominations, sects, and dare I say it, the local church—these are all manifestations of collectivism. All of them. The dominant presumption is that your life is to be placed at the disposal of the collective. It says that the collective will is the standard of moral value. I see lots of nodding heads in here. This is starting to make abundant sense. The goal is always man must be chained to the collective, and I do mean chained. Man is property of the state, state-ism. Society, tribalism, community—these are all subsets of what man is focused to subordinate the individual to the collective will. And now we’re going to discuss how they do this. Go ahead and hit me with the next slide, please?

Okay, in my endless effort at self-aggrandizement since I’m at no point a Kantian and I believe in rational self-interest, I will take full credit for this. This is actually my contribution to philosophy. I don’t think this exists anywhere else. I have identified five fundamental elements of all doctrines, five fundamental categories that are designed to produce tyranny. The reason I decided to organize this as a web is because I wanted you to understand this is not linear. All of these things actually go together. They fit together. They have a dynamic tension between all the arguments. Some arguments that you hear will have facets of each of the categories. Here are the five categories: Incompetent Masses, Universal Guilt, Dictated Good, the Abolition of Ambition, and Collective Conformity.

Again, since you know that man is a conceptual being, the way he integrates ideas, the power of how they fit together is what drives man to a given body of action. I was saying this when we weren’t actually online. Some people started asking me about the appeal of Calvinism. Actually, they were saying, “Well, what is the appeal of Calvinism? How is it that such smart people get sucked into it?” And my comment was this. The reason people get sucked into Calvinism is precisely because it appeals to the intellectual. Because man is a conceptual being with a need to hang his intellectual hat on specific pegs is the reason that it actually attracts the intellectual. Because the brilliance of Calvin is his ability to reintegrate in a full, comprehensive philosophical statement the scope of Christianity. Now mind you, as a good Catholic, he already had that largely in Augustine, and we know ultimately that he went back to Augustine to get his ideas. But he successfully crafted an entire philosophical statement that undermined effectively what is Catholic authority so that he could actually redirect that authority into what became the Protestant movement. This feat in the scope of human history has actually only been done by about six people that I can think of. Now others have been sub players and sub commentators on the existing dynamic. But for the most part, there are only six. Let me think. No, five maybe. Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Calvin, and Kant. And then in the modern age, the only other person to attempt this is Ayn Rand. That’s it. That’s all I can think of. In the scope of human thinking, this ability is transcendent, the ability to integrate vast amounts of information into a collective, cohesive whole, to give causal relationship from your metaphysical presumption all the way down to your political outworking, this is a transcendent concept. And humanity lives pretty much standing on the shoulders of these intellectual giants or kneeling at the feet of these intellectual giants. And for the most part, we’ve been kneeling at their feet. Because most of these doctrines have been designed, like I said, to organize men around the collective will.

So now let me break down the elements of tyranny. Our first one is Incompetent Masses. Throughout the presentation that I gave yesterday, the underlying premise, the underlying conclusion from effectively Heraclitus to the Cynics and Stoics, the underlying premise was that man’s senses or man’s reason or both were fundamentally flawed. They could not understand the world in which they lived. Here is the bedrock of incompetence. If you separate man from his mind, man from his body, and man from reality, if you separate him down to that nth degree, there is no place for man to go. There is no place for man to live. So if you presume that man is fundamentally incompetent, then you set up the next concept which is called Universal Guilt.

Now within Universal Guilt, this is a tool to drive you to presume to accept your own incompetence. All men are guilty of moral depravity so that no one can advocate a moral standard. And this is crucial. If you will accept guilt, a universal guilt, a guilt for no crime whatsoever, you will ultimately accept the standard that you are morally incapable of running your own life. This is the death knell of all individualism.

If you cannot presume your own moral good, the only thing left—and this is the next category—Dictated Good. Once you accept that man is at no point capable at running his own life, you have established his metaphysical existence, and then you have said he is universally guilty, the only thing left is to say that now man must be dictated towards good. And this is exactly Augustine’s logic. Susan said yesterday that they use the passage, was it Matthew? Compel them to come in. Compel them to do good. Compel them. Now you see this body of logic and it doesn’t actually matter. I contend that ultimately, Calvinism, Marxism, all forms, Bolshevism, Communism, it doesn’t matter. All tyrannical doctrines revolve around this fundamental premise. It doesn’t matter how you define good. If you define good going to church on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and you believe that the force of your government power should be focused on compelling that outcome, you will define that as good. If you ultimately believe that those who do not have should be supplied for by those who do, your definition of good is take from the rich—the people who have earned it, the people who have created it—and give it to those who do not have it, so Dictated Good.

You can see this progression in the modern environmentalist movement. We effectively have the Genesis story, only now it is instead of man has sinned against God, man has now sinned against nature. Man is universally guilty because he dares tread on a blade of grass. He’s incompetent to take care of nature because why? Because he doesn’t understand he’s the real problem. If you actually want some terrifying reading someday, go do a look on environmentalism and population control. Put those two words in, if you want some terrifying reading. You want to see where the environmentalist movement is really going, they presume that human beings are a little more than cockroaches that should be wiped out. And you think I’m being silly. I’m not. Go read it. And this isn’t even like these are aberrations. You go take a look. Just do the work. Trust me. Actually, don’t trust me. Go do the work.

All right. Because man is guilty and incompetent to carry out the important actions necessary, he necessarily needs someone to save him from himself. How many times have you heard that in a good Calvinist church? You need somebody to save you from yourself. This is why there has always been a separation between the ruling elite and the general masses. Always. There is where your class society comes from. There has always been the presumption, and we saw this from all the way back from the Pythagoreans, there’s always been the presumption that the true philosopher, the true Cynic, the true Stoic, the true cultural leader had a special access to truth that the barbarians, the hoi polloi, the bad guys, the masses did not have.

Now we’ve heard Paul talk about Gnosticism. And I don’t think we’ve ever successfully defined that. On a thumbnail sketch, Gnosticism presumed that because man was corrupt in his flesh, the nature of his enlightenment had to come from some other source and a unique select group of individuals were privy to that secret. Well, Gnosticism is a just a resurgent movement of the Stoic and Cynic doctrine, which is not necessarily a little more than an aberration of the Pythagorean concept, which is a little more than Plato’s ultimate political and social organization. It’s all the same thing.

PAUL: Absolutely.

And I’m going to say it again. Look at my chart. It’s all the same argument. It takes on different shapes. It uses different words. But it’s all the same thing. So when you listen to a good Neo-Calvinist preacher standing in the pulpit talking about how we are the first among equals, he’s committing fraud. He’s committing an enormous rational larceny. He wants to pretend he’s also an egalitarian party. But at the end of the day what he really believes is that he is specifically unique. And then by the force of the other uniqueness of the men that he’s got around him, he is still the person responsible for dictating your life. It is corrupt at the root. I’ve gotta calm myself down because this stuff absolutely winds me up. And actually, I’m going to exhort you that it winds you up.

And my last comment in this particular category in Dictated Good is determinism. I have said this before. I will say it again and again and again until absolutely everyone agrees with me. The only function of determinism in all of its forms is to create a class society. That’s the only reason. If everything is determined, there is no intellectual argument. You cannot persuade me because whoever I am is ultimately the outcome of that determinism. Whatever I believe, whatever I think, however I act, the logical conclusion is, well, is that there is no logic. I don’t have a choice. I have no volitional action. I can’t make no choice about between values. I cannot even judge the nature of values. Because why? Because who I am is fundamentally determined. In context to dictated good, it is what sets up select men as the driving force of all political organization.

And you get this in all subsets. How many times in Christianity, what is the buzzword now or one of the half a dozen? God is sovereign. This is absolutely another variation on determinism. It presumes that your outcomes are ultimately appointed, pre-appointed by God, that whatever you see is necessarily God’s will no matter what the circumstance. This absolutely separates you from any causal action in the world. So what does that ultimately imply? You are incompetent to object to the content of your own circumstances. You can’t fix anything. You can’t change anything. And you are universally guilty if you try. Do you begin to see how this is fitting together? You should be having to pry your jaw off the floor. Because I guarantee you, if you’re starting to look at this in these conceptual terms, you will see how many conversations in your life, how many times you wouldn’t talk to a pastor? He was driving down these fundamental ideas, all the subsets in all their arguments. I’m more interested you see the pattern. Because if you see the pattern, you can start to pick this out everywhere.

Okay. Now we’ve got man. We’ve got him guilty, and we’ve got him incompetent, and now we’re dictating good. But here’s the problem. Man is not a collective being. I didn’t actually put this in my notes, so I’m going to adlib for a minute. I started to take these notes, and I didn’t get them into my presentation. As I was driving up, I thought now I need to really explain this. Man is not a collective animal. But very often you will hear people say things like man is not a lone wolf or you can’t be a lone wolf. Man is not an island unto himself, right? But here’s the problem. This isn’t man. This has never been man. Man is created an individual. And someday maybe I’ll actually have the opportunity to wade into where I think this comes from in the Book of Genesis. Not here, not today. Man is a rational individual. He is not a cog in a cosmic wheel.

I want to unravel the buzzwords, the buzz arguments briefly that surround the two that I mentioned. Man is not an island unto himself. This is a false analogy argument. A, man is not a geographical, immovable landmass. Notice how the phrase is designed to misidentify man. B, even islands can be reached by water by the use of a boat that man creates with his rational faculties. Now notice the function of the statement. The statement is designed to package self-sufficiency with subjectivism. Where do we get that from? Where do we get the equation from self-sufficiency and subjectivism? Where do we get the notion that man is necessarily subjective? This goes all the way back to the Cynics and the Stoics, all the way back to the Sophists, right? The statement packages cooperation with a moral foundation for collective subordination, that because men necessarily must cooperate with other men, the only way that real cooperation can occur is if he’s specifically subordinated to the collective.

Remember what I told you yesterday when we were talking about the Cynics, the Sophists, and they were the first people to introduce the concept of Nietzsche’s will to power, and that it was the egoist that was somehow the person to be feared? This comment right here, man is not an island unto himself, is trying to do that same concept by the backdoor. That because man can’t be this aggressive, egoist that beats people over the head with a club, the only way you get to social cooperation is by necessarily subordinating man to the collective will. Do you see how insidious this is?

PAUL: It takes a village to raise a child.

It takes a village to raise a child. One of the more fundamentally evil phrases that has come out of modern parlance. It does not take a city, a state, a collective to raise a child. It requires an individual to teach individualism, rational, ethical egoism to children.

Lone wolf, I have been called this I can’t count the number of times. It’s error. Not only am I not a lone wolf, the assertion is wrong. It is designed to equate the individual with predatory. If I am really a non-accountable predator, it presumes that my natural prey is other men. That is not individualism. That is barbarism. And it reduces man to merely an animal. And as an existential being, man at no point is integrated in the force of the animal kingdom. We stand above the animal kingdom. Even a casual reading for anybody committed to any kind of contextual understanding of the Book of Genesis can see that God specifically sets man above the animals. Man is not a cog in the cosmic materialist world, and certainly is not a cockroach to be exterminated. This is actually a loaded question fallacy, and the dynamic here in the argument is that it requires that the individual to defend individualism. If a person defends his individualism, he is necessarily trying to paint that individual as a predator. And since we don’t want to be perceived as predators, we tend to concede that men are not lone wolves, which necessarily requires that we return once again with our dog tails between our legs back to the collective so everybody can pat us on the head and rub our ears and tell us how much we’re a part, you know, we’re all puppies now, so let’s all just get along. This is a false analogy. I actually wrote a post on this. Actually, I wrote a couple of posts on this. Wolf Religion. For those of you who don’t know my blog,, I actually have an article that I wrote about this thing called “Wolf Religion.” I expanded this metaphor substantially, but I want to point out the highlights.

Go do a casual review of how wolves act. Wolves are highly territorial. They are pack creatures. They are not individualistic animals. They are governed by the force of the alpha and beta male and female. Actually, no, the alpha males and females. Highly territorial, governed by alpha females and males. Inclusion into the pack is directly tied to health and conformity. Every member of the pack has a specific role to play, from the betas all the way down to the very tail end of the pecking order. When somebody tells you you’re not a lone wolf, you say, “Damn right, I’m not a lone wolf. I’m a human being. I’m not a packing animal. I don’t specifically drive the weak and sick away.” If you ever encounter a truly lone wolf, it’s because he’s been driven out of the pack. Go get yourself a half a dozen dogs. You’ll see this social organization show up.

Ultimately, what this argument is trying to say is that accountability equals intellectual subordination to the collective. The challenge that you’re in fact a lone wolf ultimately is saying if you are truly morally accountable, you would submit your will to the collective. It presumes, and this is a huge one, it presumes that the force of moral action is collective will. Christians, you need to hear this. This is exactly why most people get fussed with ethical legalism. Because they tend to presume that if God isn’t in the business of extortion, men won’t do good. It’s the same fundamental presumption of dictated good. If God isn’t’ wielding a monstrous stick, if he’s not tossing people into hell for doing bad stuff, then man won’t act moral. This absolutely divides morality from man. This is huge. Because if morality is a little more than a stick of extortion, all you ever have to do is reject the source of the extortion. Ergo, I reject God, I can be anything I want to be. This is disaster. The immediate answer when somebody comes to me and says that God is the source of morality, I say which one? And I’m being stone cold serious. Which one? It’s an arbitrary assertion. Are we talking about Allah? Are we talking about Zeus? Dionysus? Tiamat? The list of the pantheon of gods that are available for man to pick from, which one? How many gods have been rejected the world over? Most of us couldn’t even name a half a dozen gods, and there are millions. So if you reject the source of morality, God, whoever he has to be, Cthulhu, I don’t care, if you reject the source of morality, man is stuck in a world without the ability to pick values. This is disaster. And this is exactly, particularly in the Western world, precisely what’s happened. Christianity has preached morality for its own sake. And I’m absolutely ripping off Nietzsche here. We preach morality for its own sake. And then we say man must conform to that morality for no better reason than just cause. And so the rest of the world, “You know what? Screw it. We’ll reject that.” Because they saw that the morality was specifically designed to incarcerate man into a collective that was hostile to life.

Once you begin to understand the dynamic behind those phrases—lone wolf, man is not an island unto himself, your cramped little subjective life—now you have to understand where these arguments are actually going. What are they trying to do? They’re trying to rob you – actually, no. I need to make one last comment. Remember what I said, man is not a collective animal. So the question is, what is he? Man is a contractual being. This is how man successfully operates with other men. You look at all of your successful social interactions. What is the quality that makes them successful? You commit your word. You carry out actions. You commit your word. You trade values. These are contracts on the most basic fundamental level. You freely say, “I commit this to you. You commit this to me. We exchange free value.” This should be evolutionary in thinking. Every successful relationship you have is based on the principle of a contractual obligation. You say what you’re going to do. Now you say to me, “So where’s morality?” The morality is obvious. To have successful contractual beings, you must have honesty. You must have integrity. You must have freedom. Because if you do not have freedom, you cannot have a contract. All you got is a point of a gun. And now you have a crucial concept called justice. Because a failure to fulfill a contract is robbing the other person of a value. This is what man is really designed to be. So any time you hear somebody pounding the pulpit for the commitments of the collective, you can look at them and say, “Tyrants! You wanna rob from me. You don’t want to exchange value with me. You want to exploit me. You wanna graze over me like a buffet table.”

Man is a contractual being, which means man is necessarily an individual, which moves us to the next category, the Abolition of Ambition. Because man is an individual, he must be talked out of individual action. He must be persuaded that any action done independent of group sanction is the height of moral failing. This is why ambition within all collectivist doctrines is a synonym for sin. This is where all these arguments, that I gave you two examples of the lone wolf and man is not an island unto himself, these are all designed to get you to lay down any form of ambition. And here’s the thing. We hear ambition and we hear the story of typical of Wall Street tycoon who is trampling lives in an effort to amass one more hundred dollar bill in his pocket. This is how we conceptualize ambition. This is not ambition. Ambition is merely I see a value and I organize an effort to achieve the value. I have the ambition to get a soda. I have the ambition to buy a car. I have the ambition to have a wife. In every instance if I am a contractual being, how do I go about doing that? I organize a value that I have and persuade somebody that they want that value. From the can of soda to a car to the wife or husband. On an interpersonal level, if you’re finding that you’re having troubles on any level is because there is constantly a breach of contract, whatever that contract happens to look like. But this is all based on the drive to want, the desire. The issue of covetousness is not that you want it. The issue of covetousness is your method of attaining it—by murder, by stealing, by destruction. Do you see where this goes?

Ultimately, man must be talked out of his ambition. Now think of the scope of God’s charge to Adam. “Be fruitful and multiply. Rule and subdue the earth.” What an enormous ambition. The scope of Adam’s existence was the earth. And you think you’re in trouble because you want an ice cream cone. Really? God has always been driving man towards his own individual best. Yes, I know I just rocked some of your worlds. It’s okay. Keep thinking with me a while, I suspect you’d get here too. The nature of ambition is not a synonym for sin because the nature of individuality is not a synonym for sin. How individuals conduct their life in breaking contracts is how we get to sin, how we get to death and destruction. Dare I say this note? No.

Once you have been talked out of ambition, your last part is Collective Conformity. This is what they’re driving towards. Remember what we said in the previous example? It’s all about collectivism, all about driving the end towards the collective. This is the endgame. The force of government is brought to bear. The force of government, government is force. Force is government. Government is force. Get this in your head. There is no place of rainbows and tooth fairies and Easter bunnies and pots of gold at the end of government. It is violence, period. There is nothing good about government. The Founding Fathers had an endless suspicion for government in all forms and in all types. Government should never be left to irresponsible action. Government is fire, and it’s a harsh taskmaster. That was George Washington or Mary Baker, depending on who your historical source is. It doesn’t matter. The truth of the matter remains. The greatest force of human destruction on this planet has always been government. Because man becomes property of the state. The force of government is brought to bear for the sole purpose of creating a neutered humanity without complexion or variation or distinction. This outcome is held out as an ethical ideal and forced into existence at all cost.

The death knell of collectivism is individual achievement. They cannot afford for you to achieve anything. Because the moment you achieve, you’ve actually made yourself distinct. You’ve achieved distinction. They can’t possibly have this. And the reason they can’t possibly have this is because they notice that you improve your life by nature of your own volitional choices. The moment they realize you make yourself better by doing this, the rest of the group looks around and goes, “Why can’t I do that?”

The reason Marxist governments end up inevitably in tyranny is because the moment everybody sees, “Well, wait a minute. They’re making their lives better.” The death knell of the Soviet Union, craziness as it was, the Soviet Union tried to put on show trials in the late ’80s I think. No, mid ’80s. They started to put on show trials on television. And their goal was to actually show the people that they were, you know, the politburo is doing its job and taking care of all the subversive, materialistic capitalist pigs. And they put this on the television. And in the process, I don’t remember how it ended up happening, but in the process – oh, you remember those, actually, it was Maury Povich or was it – no. Sorry, I got my sources mix. There was a guy who came over from Russia and did some television shows with Phil Donahue and they started trading these television shows back and forth, and you had the Russian people and the American people. And for the first time the Russian people started to see that it wasn’t a joke. Americans live substantially better than they did. And they couldn’t figure that out. They actually got to see it en masse on television. And suddenly the politburo was encountered with an entire culture. They kept saying, “But you kept telling us that it was bad over there.” And it wasn’t bad. They began to realize, wait a minute. This doesn’t work. The greatest farce in the history of humanity was the Berlin Wall. You have utter poverty on one side of the wall and prosperity on the other. Everybody kept saying we’ll get you prosperity if we did this collectivist thing. And the prosperity never showed up. Every place this thing has been tried, every time man has been tried to be forced into a collective like he’s some drone managed by a queen, it has produced nothing but endless death and destruction.

The organization of the Dark Ages, actually, Susan was talking about this yesterday in your discussion of Augustine and how he conceptualized the pre-determined existence of humanity. Those who worked, those who fought, and those who were actually the enlightened few. Well, that’s the medieval three estates. Some pray, some fight, everybody else works. And when I say some, I meant a few. Statistically, the people in charge were fractions of a percentage of the total populace. And the rest of the populace toiled generation after generation after generation at a subsistence level almost on par with pigs. The Dark Ages should be condemned roundly, not advocated to sainthood. The people who were in charge then should be condemned absolutely, not elevated to sainthood. These men were the leading intellectual force that oppressed humanity for a thousand years. Elevating Augustine to sainthood is a rational atrocity that is off the charts. You wonder why I say this stuff is evil. This is why.

The Collective Conformity ultimately says that the group is prime. The collective is prime. And so what ends up happening is the group must necessarily define what is authentic groupness. And this is where you actually get into the defining factors of authentic groupness are say tribalism, the true Scotsman, or Marxism. Who is the best Marxist that we have? Or, and this is a wonderful one in the church, who has the most correct doctrine? The yardstick of inclusion is always some form of orthodoxy. Always. In the modern age, where we’re seeing this most dramatically? In our current culture’s political correctness, the notion that if you are not politically correct, which means if you don’t carry proper political orthodoxy, there is something fundamentally disqualifying about your life. You’re fundamentally immoral.

Collective Conformity must, by definition, define what is authentic for group inclusion. And then they must hold up that yardstick, and they must pass that yardstick over every individual. And here’s the thing. You wonder why you went to a church for 15 years of your life. You committed enormous amounts of time and resources to that. Everybody hugged and kissed you and told you how wonderful you were. And so thank you very much for being here, and we just love you and adore you. And then you had a conflict and you got kicked out on your butt. And you looked around and said, “Where are my friends?” And here’s the thing that was happening. The whole time you were there, they were holding up that yardstick. And as long as you measured up to that yardstick, okay, you’re one of us. Okay you’re one of us. Okay, you’re one of us. Okay, you’re one of us. And the moment they held up that yardstick and they can say, “No, you’re not one of us,” they did not have a choice but to kick you out on your butt. Because everything was about the collective. That’s why they could graze over you like you’re a buffet table, belch their good pleasure, push themselves away from the table and go, “Next!” with utter presumption, and ask you to say thank you for the privilege. Evil, absolute fundamental evil.

All arguments are in service to the collective reputation. And at the center of the web, I want you to notice what the outcome is. How many times have you heard a preacher talk about prestige, the reputation of the church? Because the content of your action is X, the church suffers a reputation problem. If your action was better, the church would have a better reputation. This presumption, the roots of this is prestige. All collectivist cultures revolve around the prestige of something that is a utopian ideal. I’ve always been a little confused, not least of which because of the doctrine of determinism, how it is that if a man is morally corrupt, if man is a little more than worm, how a great god could ever be concerned that my actions would somewhat tarnish his reputation. There is nothing more spectacularly conceited than a worm suggesting that a creature that transcends him in every dimension and every respect could ever impact his reputation. Yet with stunning consistency, Neo-Calvinists are obsessed with God’s reputation as if they matter. What profound conceit. The only reason that my reputation and my actions could ever impact God’s reputation is if I’m his equal. Go ahead and chew on that for a while.

You see this, and like I said, the ideal is always, it is always a utopian ideal. It’s never achievable. Marxists, the workers’ paradise. Allah, his great glorious dominion of the earth. Every collectivist culture revolves around the appeal, it is always driving you towards its endless moral justification, that if we have this unique, this perfect thing, whatever it happens to be, and everybody fed all of their time, talents and expectations in life and hopes and everything under this thing, the prestige of that thing would be so enormous and great that it would compel everyone else to fall at their knees. Well, it compels everybody to fall on their knees but with their hands above their head ready to get shot in the head. The National Socialist did this with the Nationalist Socialist of Germany, the Fatherland, the prestige of the Fatherland. They went to war on two fronts for the prestige of the Fatherland. Alexander conquers nations for his own prestige, his collective statist will. The workers’ paradise, Stalin kill in excess of a hundred million people in manmade purges, manmade famines for the prestige of the Soviet Union. And what do we hear now? How often in American parlance do you hear people talking about the world doesn’t like America? Our reputation in the world, there’s something wrong with our reputation. People don’t like America. And my answer is, “So?”

But it’s always about prestige. If we had this ideal, if we achieve this ideal and everybody would light this ideal, it would blaze forth from the top of the house [SOUNDS LIKE]. And we would say to ourselves, “Yea, verily, we achieved the ideal,” and then what would happen? Everybody would stand around and marvel at it? The greatest example of this is the pyramids. These massive engineering feats of the Ancient World were for what? The prestige of one, two, three, four guys? That was it. The idealized expectation of the pharaohs, the pyramids. You want to know what the function of Babel was? What did they say to themselves? Unless there are Christians here who proof-text out of the Bible, they don’t believe anything. So… What did they say about it? Let us make a name for ourselves. Prestige, the preoccupation with prestige. And what was the mark of that prestige? We will build a tower to heaven. It was an ideal. They could never get to the heavens. There was never any practical end to that outcome.

Okay, you see the pattern? Once you see the categories and the outcomes they’re in service, it is stunningly easy to pick this stuff up. Take my chart the next time you listen to the news. I don’t care where you listen to. It doesn’t matter. Take my chart and you start listening with these categories in mind. And within half an hour, you’re like, “Oh my God.” Watch a television show. Actually, you’ll see it substantially in art because really where you actually you see it most dramatic in art is the abolition of ambition and collective conformity. Most art, like I said, you have the progression from metaphysics to epistemology to ethics to politics. The last one that we haven’t really talked about at all is art because art is the very leaf on the philosophical tree. It is the highest, most condensed version of a culture’s value statements. When you see a bumper sticker that says, “Coexist” with all these individual symbols, with all these various ideologies, what you’re really seeing is a philosophical statement boiled down to picture. And so your art gives away your ultimate philosophical assumptions. And if you watch television, what is the greatest villain on television? Without fail, the businessman, somebody who’s successful. He’s always half-a-retard whose job is to try to steal money from the poor and destitute and kill people and maim people and harm people, and he’s only half an inch above the endless manifestation of psychopath. These are all reflections of our cultural expectations, all of them. And they’re all designed – the function of them is to drive us towards this collective conformity. Any true individuality is always explained in terms of exploitation, and everything is about sacrifice to the collective. Now of course the moment we enter the discussion of sacrifice, you can’t begin to do that without discussing Kant and August Comte. He is the backbone of modern altruism, and unfortunately, it would take me probably another two days to explain what this amounts to. But I will tell you this, for those of you who are familiar with Kant and the implications of what Kant did, Kant is not possible of course without Luther and Calvin. Luther and Calvin, what Kant was after was to give a spot for Luther and Calvin to still prevail. And without Immanuel Kant, he doesn’t – and he actually raises the standard on human death and destruction by geometric factors. That was free.

All arguments are in service to the collective reputation at the center of the web. How many times you ever heard a preacher discuss the reputation of the church? His premise is that individual action will impact prestige of his local collective. Therefore, do not do individual action. So you see the pattern. I was talking to my editor about this. I’ve done a lot of this already. My editor tell me she didn’t – I didn’t actually let her look at all the examples I gave, but she did say this was strong enough that I need to keep it. So I’m going to discuss one of the primary examples of collectivist opinion. We’re going to talk about the concept of the common good.

The common good is a collectivist myth designed to achieve the outcomes of subordinating the individual to the majority. The collective wellbeing is the supreme measure of ethics. The phrase implies that if the individual acts for the good of the group, the individual is taking moral action. Notice the equation, act for the group, act moral. However, there are three primary problems with the concept of the common good. Number one, it is deception. By definition, common is a synonym for a generalization. And by definition, a generalization does not have a specific definition. So when a person speaks of the common good, they are appointing themselves the spokesman for some loosely defined group. They’re appointing themselves. They’re appointing themselves. In conversation, the common good is used to refer to the good of the public or the community or society or the tribe. However, each of these words is merely in poor label for the intangible sum of individual interaction. My point is they don’t exist. Notice the public is simply an adjective describing individual conduct exposed to general view. The community is really a little more than the interaction of individual people in close proximity. Society is the broadest description given to the aggregate actions of many, many subgroups within a geographic location. A tribe is merely a group based on genetic similarities. Remember what we’re talking about, everybody getting to the group and everybody has a little ruler and decides whether you’re in, you’re out, you’re in, you’re out? Tribalism is the most basic form of collectivist organization. And it’s based on genetics. You’re Caucasian. You’re black. You’re an Asian. You’re Hispanic, which is a joke as a cultural definition, whatever. The point is that all of these groups are really based on a little more than genetics. And on the conceptual level, it means you can’t distinguish between cows and horses. It means you have the conceptual ability that ranks men a little more than purebreds. It is one of the most disgusting non-rational forms of political organization on the planet. And there’s never been a tribe that went to the moon. Rational individuals organize enormous amounts or resources to do extraordinary things.

A religious denomination is merely a tribal preoccupation shifted from genetic pedigree to doctrinal pedigree. Neo-Calvinists are some of the most rank tribalists on the planet. Their obsession with sound doctrine, ugh, whatever. So the thing that is common is not really common at all. There is no thing that is the direct recipient of good. There is no thing that is the direct recipient of good because there is no specific object to receive the good. In other words, the work you do doesn’t really benefit the good of the group. It benefits the good of individuals within the group.

So what’s the purpose of the deception? To conceal the root presumption. What is the root presumption? Yes, that the collective stands supreme to its individual members. For the common good is really the good of the group at the expense of the individual. Or said another way, the individual is a sacrificial animal to the will of the collective. You wonder why you were grazed over like a buffet table? This is why. You were expendable. You are the necessary means of somebody else’s life. Now every time I hear somebody talk to me about altruism, sacrificing for the common good, the conceit in this means if my life is to be sacrificed to you, the necessary presumption is that your life should be sacrificed to me. I own your life by default. And you think that’s morality? You think that’s just and good? So we’re reduced to moral cannibalism? I’ll let you guys chew on that one. Your average Neo-Calvinist congregation, a bunch of moral cannibals. Yeah, Al Mohler has said that.

Number two, it poses as morality. The common good is really a moral subterfuge because it is an indefinable, elastic concept that can be shaped to apply to any outcome for any political wish. Since the group is elastic based on momentary standards of inclusion, the definition of good constantly changes. Which means it’s not a yardstick but rather a thick syrup that clouds the eyes and ears of its victim and makes them abandon morality. The common good inspires people to lay down values in service to a select few who claim to be spokesman for the majority. We see this in political conversation all the time, a select few who say, “By the way, I speak for…” and then you fill in the blank. The outcome is that the spokesman having moral blank check that every individual is obligated to cash. You wonder why they graze over you like a buffet table? This is it. You were supposed to write a moral blank check, and it didn’t matter what came next. And you were supposed to say, “Thank you for the privilege.” You wonder why you hear stories of molestation coming out of church groups where the pastors specifically try to conceal the crime against the children? This was the moral blank check the parents were supposed to cash in behalf of the kid that was molested. Evil, fundamental evil.

Number three, it masquerades as good. If taken literally, the error within the phrase common good becomes glaringly obvious. When people advocate for the common good, they think they are saying the good of all individuals admitted to the group. Or maybe if they pause to consider more deeply, they are saying the good of the majority. This still doesn’t sound too scandalous because good is what is done for a numerically greatest number of individuals. People do a loose moral calculus and decide that the greater the sum, the more moral the action. This, by the way, is John Stuart Mill’s utilitarian [SOUNDS LIKE]. This is precisely the conclusion he came to. That’s a side note. It doesn’t matter.

But who can see what is wrong with this moral standard? Moral action is quantified by statistical outcome? This is disaster, straight-up disaster. If morality is merely statistics, then it is a trivial exercise to justify the Holocaust. Stalin created a famine and killed 7 million people specifically. Actually, I think I said a hundred million. I think my statistic is wrong the first time. Anyway, Stalin created a famine that killed 7 million. By the standard of the common good, his actions are moral because the calculus benefits 100 million faithful communists. And you can run those examples out till you are done with this life. How many times have you heard, and this is actually in our modern political discussion is the common good is used to justify taking enormous sums of money from individuals to pay for other people’s medical care. Because why? It’s morally good because the calculus ultimately tells us that if we do these taxes, we do good for all these people. Well, you run this out, eventually, you can’t actually sustain that model. So then what are you up against? Well, we can’t afford health care for everyone, so you must sacrifice your life. The moral calculus here is well, we can take more care of more colds so we’re going to deny you the MRI to diagnose cancer. That exactly what this says.

So now you can see the three primary problems with the phrase the common good. Now let’s actually notice how it’s used at the root of tyranny. We now know that the common good does not exist because the public, society, communities do not exist. They are never the recipients of any action. Only individuals receive good. Only individuals receive values. We know that it is a false morality designed to subordinate all people to the collective. But who defines the collective? At the root of all collectivist organizations, there’s usually only one person holding the yardstick of group inclusion. And he surrounds himself with a gang to defend against any interloper. The greatest example of this is pretty much any Neo-Calvinist church you walk into. I guarantee you there’s one guy at the top of the food chain. I don’t care how long they want to talk to you about being egalitarian, first among equals, and all that rot. At the end of the day, there’s one guy at the top of the food chain. And it is always a cult personality. And he has a gang around him that’s designed to insulate him from any challenge.

You want to talk about lone wolves, actually, you want to talk about wolves, these are the guys because they are the alpha wolves who are highly territorial. Step on their toes and they come for your throat. You want to talk about wolves? These are the wolves. If this is has been ever illustrated more, it is the actions of CJ Mahaney. He ruled CLC, Covenant Life Church, People of Destiny International, and their current iteration, well, now that they split up but, you know, the whole Sovereign Grace Ministries thing. He surrounded himself with a gang of thugs whose primary function in life was to do nothing but insulate him from any subsequent criticism. And the only way he survives – listen, most of these Neo-Calvinists are third-rate thinkers at best. And I do mean at best. And without the paint by numbers theology wrapped up in Calvinism, these guys are lost. If you ever have an interest in wading through CJ’s sermons from say the late ’80s versus his sermons now, he was all over the map 20 years ago. It took, okay, limited atonement, oh, that’s blue. I’ll put that there. And oh, here, unconditional election. Oh, that’s green. I’ll put that here. Without that, he’s lost. And that’s most of these guys. The intellectual heavy-lifting has been done long ago for these guys.

And they have designed a system that insulates them from all criticism because they cannot answer the challenge. The reason they run you out on a rail is because they don’t want you within miles of what they’re doing if you have any substantive criticism. And this is always true. Tyrants clear the playing field. There is no conversation. There is no public debate. Or whatever is the public debate is total façade so that they can continue to hide what’s really actually happening. He is the voice of the people. He is the voice of the community. He is the voice of society, the voice of the tribe, the voice of the church. What people fail to grasp is the good of the people is really subterfuge to justify the violation of individual rights. This is important. This is the crux of the issue. Remember what I said, man owns himself versus man is property of the state. The function of this phrase, the good of the people, for the common good, all these are designed to violate individual rights. And when you violate individual rights, you are really abolishing all rights. Groups do not have rights. Individuals have rights. Individuals are sovereign in their existence. When you tell me that I must subordinate my rights to the collective, the collective does not gain them by proxy. I have forfeited them. What happens when there’s no individual rights? Since there are no such thing as rights as such, the thugs surrounding the gang is free to use force, free to use government, free to use force, free to use government, free to use force are the same to achieve whatever outcome they fancy for the common good.

The collectivist thug is once empowered to force people to conform to the collective and shield against all outcomes. He is shielded against all outcomes. It doesn’t matter what happens next. It doesn’t matter how many three-year-olds you gang-rape in your church. It just doesn’t matter. I’m not responsible. Whatever happens, it’s not me, certainly, certainly not. It can never be the doctrine. It can’t possibly be it. And this is why you have the brutal absurdity of Soviet Russia. The United Soviet Socialist Republic was built in service to the common good, yet the only people who prospered were a tiny gang that were surrounded by the bloodiest despot in history. Joseph Stalin, the bloodiest despot in history, may be rivaled by Mao Zedong, maybe. I don’t remember the stats right at the moment, but maybe. The rest of the population live in sub-human misery for almost three generations. This is why you have the mystical tyranny of the medieval Catholic church. We’ve already discussed at length what Augustine taught and why Augustine believed the church is empowered to pretty much do pretty much whatever it wanted in service to the good of the sinner, the good of the church. The Catholic Church portrayed itself as the greatest proponents of human good on the planet, yet from effectively 600 AD to almost 1500 AD, the church leadership lived in comparative lavish lifestyles, and the serfs existed generation after generation in squalor.

Let’s move forward to the modern age. Think of any social program that is said and done for the people, for the society, for the community. Now define exactly what the program does: give money for college, pay for medicine, feed the hungry. If you look at the actual event, only a select number of individuals actually receive the benefit. And all of the authority, all of the force is invested in a bureaucrat whose sole function is to weed out those who never receive the good. Some of you are squirming because I have placed community in the same pot of condemnation. You long for community. You conceptualize your local church as a community. You think this is a social ideal. You think that the community does good. You think that the community does good. And you like the fact that you vicariously participate in the moral reputation, the prestige of the group. What’s at the center of my chart? Prestige. You want the prestige, prestige. Plus, you long for interpersonal connection, and you yearn to find friends and have relationships. You pine for an indescribable thing that is kind of a cross between a Norman Rockwell painting and the television sitcom Cheers where everybody knows your name.

For the life of you, you struggle to see how this, the same seedbed of evil that I have been talking about. Unfortunately, I’m about ready to tell that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. Look close at the real social dynamic of your community. The connectedness, the relationships that you see is really the exchange of individual value on a personal level. You long to live in Mayberry RFD filled with Aunt Bees baking apple pie, waiting from the porch, never once realizing that the safety and security and fraternity that you want cannot happen if the highest moral standard is sacrifice of personal desires and personal values for the common good. The self you want to be so appreciated for, you gotta give up to be part of this fictitious Mayberry RFD.

And this is what kills me. I actually have an entire chapter in my book called “The Interpersonal Train Wreck,” and it details this at length. The price of admission to the community is the very self that you must surrender for public consumption. Think of that. To participate in community means you must get rid of the very thing that makes you unique. This is why most communities (read: churches) are petty and gossipy and backstabby and cliquey. The thug behind the pulpit must surround himself with a gang to defend against all interlopers so everyone in the community is constantly vying for some piece of the common good. In the end, you realize that the mindless horde sitting in the pews are there to graze over you like a buffet table. I love this because it absolutely captures the dynamic. They get to belch their good pleasure, push back from the table and shout “More!” And you’re supposed to say thank you.

Now let’s back up to the ten-thousand-foot view. Now you can see why metaphysics, epistemology are so important. Now you can see that all of these revolves around this body of ideas that sits over here. It starts with Thales and evolved all the way down to the Cynics and Stoics, all the way through Plato and the power of Plato’s ideas, how successful he was integrating all these facets and giving you a structure in your heads to hang your intellectual hat. And as much as you accept his promise and carry out to its logical conclusion, you continue to achieve the same outcome. What is the Gospel of John Immel 3:1-3? When you see the same actions happening over and over and over and over and over, find the presumptions and you will find the cause. This is the cause. The Platonist construct handed down through Augustine to Luther, to Calvin produces the exact same outcome every time it’s taken seriously. Every time you move forward with this concept, you produce the same social outcomes every single time.

You think the Neo-Calvinists are ugly right now. You give them an ounce of civil authority, there will be bloodshed. I know you think that’s scandalous. I get it. And it maybe it isn’t even the guys in the pulpit right this minute. But you let this construct get ahold of civil government, they will make John Calvin look like a choirboy. Make no mistake. At the roots of this doctrine is death and destruction. You separate man from his mind and his mind from reality, and the only thing he has left to deal with another man is a club. And the moment we get a club in their hands, the moment we’re pointing a gun, we’re not offering arguments. And these guys don’t offer arguments. They have to bail on the conversation every time they’re pressed to the point of the doctrine. They must punt the grand mystery of God. They don’t have a choice. Because once they are finally confronted with the dead end of their logic, all they can do next is say, “Shut up” or “God will shut you up.” And in as much as you fear that retaliation, in as much as you fear that extortion, you’ll shut up. Which is why you see so much enormous fear coming out of the pews. The blogs start discussing how they were treated. Everybody online is anonymous. Why? Not because they’re deceitful, because they’re terrified.

PAUL: Absolutely.

They accept the premise. What made me specifically so dangerous is I rejected the premise. And that will make you dangerous. You reject the premise, and they are terrified of you. They do not have the power. And if they ever get close to civil government, resist them with all of your might.

All collectivist cultures are tyrannies. All collectivist cultures are tyrannies. Let me say it again. All collectivist cultures are tyrannies. The philosophy of collectivism claims that there is a mystical, supernatural, social organism that embodies the highest moral values. Of course, only a few elite people with special insight can fully grasp this truth. Somehow they, this ruling elite, somehow have access to special source knowledge that transcends the average man’s mind. Average men are incompetent, helpless, mindless creatures, depraved and unworthy of social interaction so they must be purified to serve the organism [SOUNDS LIKE]. And the moment you start hearing people talk about purification, look deep what comes next. I guarantee you, they want to talk about some form of coercion. Men cannot deal with other men voluntarily because they have no peaceful means to settle disputes. They have no means to enter into contractual agreements. We have no means to be contractual beings. Because they are metaphysically incapable of doing good. Human salvation always boils down to an elite clique endowed with some mystical insight. And that insight qualifies them to rule men. They are dictators of a benevolent, omnipotent state doing what is best for the common good. If you’ve ever taken any ten minutes to listen to any Calvinist preacher, this is actually where it’s headed. This is always where it’s headed. Always where it’s headed. Always. All collectivist ideologies hold the same political assumption. All collectivist doctrines seek the exact same end: subjugation of the individual. Men must be chained to the collective. Man is property of the state. Statism always is implemented by force.

The measure of social slavery is directly proportional to how much this slogan is embraced, how much the slogan of the common good is embraced. Conversely, the measure of civil liberty, and this is important. Think of this. The measure of civil liberty is directly proportional to how much the slogan is overtly rejected. Our Founding Fathers specifically rejected the premise of the common good. The force of government, the substance of government is specifically designed to defend man and his life, his liberty, and his pursuit of happiness. This is absolutely contrary to common good. And it is easy to reject because there is no such thing as a generalized good, because only individuals receive values. And as soon as you realize it is a hoax, it becomes a matter of course to refuse to pay homage to the fraud. Good is not being done. Good is not being done. The reality is that people are being enslaved to the fancies of others. No man has a moral obligation to subjugation to another man.

The longing for revival. We believe that a return to God will naturally be a return to morality. A return to morality is really a return to a belief in divine extortion. When morality is the product of divine commandment, the fight becomes about over which divine we follow. What the Platonist-Augustinian-Calvinist version of Christianity has shown is that it has nothing to offer as a counter to militant ideologies. Their first test was Islam. The Eastern Church showed itself impotent to stop the ideological tide of Islam. Christianity got so good as the intellectual ringer of Western thought. Then when confronted with a totally irrational ideology based on war, it could offer no counter. Of course, Protestants like to push these things off as those dastardly Catholics. But Protestants have not fared any better. The Southern Presbyterian Church was the forefront of slavery within the United States. Of course, Presbyterian has a direct pedigree line that ties to the Reform tradition.

The Reform tradition’s next task was National Socialist Germany. It failed miserably. Lutheran churches with almost no exception joined the party and remained committed to national socialism until the collapse of the Third Reich. Christianity has shown itself impotent to offer any intellectual defense against Marxism. Christianity has shown itself impotent to offer any intellectual defense against national socialism. Christianity has shown itself impotent to offer intellectual defense against Islam. And that’s just in the modern day. But they cannot lay claim to mere impotence. It isn’t God’s will. Listen to this. Christianity has with far too much consistency been connected to the tyranny. This is not a new observation. I’m going to read you a quote from James Madison. It’s point 7 in his something in Remonstrance against ecclesiastical establishments. “Because experience witnesses that ecclesiastical establishments… during almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”

Thomas Jefferson said, “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection of his own.”

This is absolutely the case. In my discussion yesterday, I showed you part of that slide [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. One of the things that I didn’t mention was the absolute merging of Church and State happened in 381. That was actually its culmination, but it certainly started with the Council of Nicaea, with all the Trinitarian fights. The move towards the totalitarian Christian state started effectively right around 225. We are already effectively heading that direction sometime prior, but it got its full force of state sponsorship through the Trinitarian fights. And it was merged almost entirely by 381. So from effectively 381 forward, there is no intellectual tradition that survives independent of the sanction of this political orthodoxy. I was actually having this conversation last night. And I want you to get the implications of what this means. Augustine basically talks until Saint Thomas Aquinas shows back up and reinstitutes Aristotelianism back into Christianity. Augustine speaks unopposed for almost a thousand years. He has no effective intellectual challenge. There were some evolutions of thought within the medieval, but for the most part, they have nothing to offer. They have no counter. Even though they know there’s a problem, they keep trying to solve some of these problems, there is no effective counter.

By the time Christianity starts moving toward purging heresies, I believe it’s Irenaeus in about 250. My historical reference might be wrong, but I think it’s right. They identified I think in his book on heresies, they identify 80 sects, 80 heresies that needed to be purged. Now think of what this means. Let’s assume my number is wrong. Let’s assume it’s 20. The church identified 20 intellectual movements that had the name Christianity tied to it. And it was a forceful enough movement that what became orthodoxy thought it was a challenge. If it’s 80, which I’m pretty sure that’s the number, think of how much rich, intellectual tradition that represents.

PAUL: What year would that about?

I think if my sources are right, I’m sure there’s somebody online that will be able to check this, but I think my source is Irenaeus, and I think he wrote a book called On Heresy. And he is right around circa 250 AD. Did I say Irenaeus? I’m doing this off the top of my head. Forgive me. I’m not trying to be misleading, but I think that’s right. Anyway, the book is On Heresy, I’m pretty sure. And ultimately they identified 80 heresies. Think of the power…

PAUL: Irenaeus wrote that book.

I don’t know if he wrote it. Forgive me. I’m talking off the top of my head, so let me not be definitive. I think it’s Irenaeus, and I think it’s around 250, and I think that’s the name of the book.

PAUL: Yeah, the sources I read said he wrote that, if these sources are correct.

Correct. My point is think of the scope of the intellectual tradition this represents. Eighty schools of thought in less than a hundred years that have Christianity attached to it. That is an enormous intellectual tradition that we know almost nothing about. Because it was crushed by the sword of the state. This should fill your soul with shivers and shakes. When Christianity is at the forefront of tyranny, a dominant tyranny, this should be entirely unacceptable to you. I told you Christianity is nothing but church history, and my Church History teacher, Dr. Shelton, forgive me, I know you’re committed to this, and I’m confident you want to disown me. But Church history is a slow motion train wreck of tyranny and destruction. There is a problem with this picture. It’s not okay.

Millions of men, actually, Thomas Jefferson also said this, millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned, yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites, to support roguery in error all over the earth. I like this quote. This has nothing to do with my point, but I really think it’s hilarious. “I can never join Calvin in addressing his god. He is indeed…”

PAUL: Who are you quoting here?

This is Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823. “I can never join Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an atheist, which I can never be, or rather his religion was demonism. If every man worshipped a false god.” I love that quote. It’s hilarious. It doesn’t have anything to do with my point, but I like it.

So here is the absolute conclusion of my comment. This is the driving force where I was trying to push you towards this whole time. For anyone with intellectual integrity, this should be fully, entirely unacceptable. This should compel you to evaluate the content of Christianity for what it has said for the whole of its history. It is not an accident that the same tyranny abetted by the church has occurred over and over and over. And now having heard where all this is rooted, you are without excuse. Now you have seen where the core of Protestant doctrine comes from. The intellectual pedigree goes as far back as Heraclitus and the Pythagoreans. It finds its full philosophic formation in Plato and that is welded into Christian thinking by Augustine and is put into practice by Luther and Calvin. And you see that outworking in the Puritans from there on it. From Augustine to Luther to Calvin to the Synod of Dordrecht to Westminster confessions to the Puritans to the local pastor pounding the pulpit. This is where this comes from and this is where this goes.

The dots have all been connected. And it now rests on you to resist the disaster. Thank you.

PAUL: All right. Well, John, thanks a bunch. And we’re going to take a short break here and have our roundtable discussion summarizing the conference. And I’ve been taking notes and writing down the thoughts, and man, I don’t even know where to start. Okay? I would like to have a roundtable discussion and summarize all the thoughts. I certainly have a lot to say. Look forward to that. And I will want to live-stream this, and immediately afterwards while Susan is preparing lunch, post that to Paul’s Passing Thoughts to give my readers something to chew on until I get all of the sessions posted along with the notes. Susan and John, if you have word by word manuscripts, fine. If you don’t, I’ll have our girl from the Philippines transcribe them for us. She does a wonderful job. And I will post these notes. But looking forward to the roundtable, if we can do a little bit more nibbling. Let’s take about a 15 minutes rest, get our brains back together. I’ll arrange the tables. And if we can hold off, and I think we can, we’ve proven ourselves to be significant troopers, we’ll break for lunch at about 12:30 or so, quarter to one. Alrighty? Thank you.



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  1. […] TANC 2013: John Immel. […]


  2. paulspassingthoughts said, on September 8, 2013 at 1:24 AM

    Reblogged this on Clearcreek Chapel Watch.


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