Paul's Passing Thoughts

Biblical Metaphysics: more free writing notes.

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on November 21, 2013

Volume 2 coverBiblical Metaphysics

It is indeed a strange reality that the best contemporary definition of biblical metaphysics comes from the political guru Rush Limbaugh: “Words mean things.” The next sentence threatens to steal the fire from all debates on Calvinism with crass simplicity: Words in heaven mean the same thing as they do on earth.

According to Matthew 4:4, Christ said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Christ either said that or he didn’t, and Moses is now central in this discussion once again. Remember our discussion of him in chapter three? He told Israel to not ask who would bring the word down to earth from heaven; there is no such need, the word is near, and in us. Nor is it too difficult for us.

Most of religious history is like political media. We listen to a political speech on TV, and then a commentator or “political expert” tells us what they said. The serpent came to Eve like a political commentator; he also came to Christ in the wilderness the same way. The great unwashed masses need to be told what God said to us by elite mortals. When Christ came, He turned that construct completely upside down. Christ was God in the flesh speaking directly to the people. In regard to the Sermon on the Mount, Scripture states that Christ “taught” them (Matthew 5:2). When you are “taught,” it assumes you have learned something. The crowd learned something that day directly from God, and without an expert commentator to interpret it for them. Not only that, these were the commoners of that day. The commoners were obviously Christ’s target ministry.

Christ not only spoke with authority,* but He rebutted the “experts” of that day through a series of, “You have heard that it was said, but I say to you that….” The Sermon on the Mount is also prefaced with a hermeneutic: it begins with the statement that the people were taught, and ends with a promise of a life built upon a rock if one “hears” the words and “does them.” Just like Moses said: the words are near, and we are able to do them. Christ goes out of His way to emphasize the hearing and doing hermeneutic by presenting a parable-in-contrast:

Matthew 7:24 – “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Like most eras in religious history, the Jewish culture during the time of Christ was saturated with religious experts who used caste to oppress the people. Christ never checked in with the religious academia of that day, He virtually ignored them and took the gospel of the kingdom directly to the common people. They had not been taught they were merely controlled:

Matthew 9:35 – And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

The religious hierarchy often confronted Christ accordingly in regard to His “authority”:

Matthew 21:23 – And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”

______________________________________________________________________

*In other words, He spoke on His own authority and not the religious experts of the day. The fact that He did so “astonished” the crowds (Matthew 7:28, 29).

24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

John the Baptist was hardly part of the formal academia of that day. Yet, his authority came directly from heaven. The religious elite of that day were expected to “believe him” because of the truth he spoke. Truth is the authority. Even though that culture was functioning on the authority of men, it is interesting that the religious leaders dared not to admit it and accuse John the Baptist of such.

Power Over the Laity

This book will stay clear of an in-depth evaluation of the Gnostics because they were philosophical decedents of Plato, and a rudimentary knowledge of Platonism is all that is necessary to understand Calvinism. Gnosticism had infiltrated Judaism and saturated the culture of that time and place. The apostolic pushback against their Platonist dualism can be seen throughout the New Testament. But most interesting is the fact that the sect known as the Nicolaitans were the embodiment of first century Gnosticism, and the name “is derived from the Greek word nikolaos, a compound of the words nikos and laos. The word nikos is the Greek word that means to conquer or to subdue. The word laos is the Greek word for the people. It is also where we get the word laity. When these two words are compounded into one, they form the name Nicolas, which literally means one who conquers and subdues the people. It seems to suggest that the Nicolaitans were somehow conquering and subduing the people.”[50]

Not only did Christ mention the Nicolaitans as recorded in Revelation 2:6, but He had a discourse with a Jewish leader, actually, “the” teacher of Israel, denoting very high status, named Nicodemus. This is also a name that means, “victory over the people.”* The conversation is recorded in John 3:1-21, and is the only recorded event where Christ used the new birth in a presentation of the gospel. This is significant.

But we can go back earlier in history to see the Greek/Jewish combination of philosophy and religion with Philo of Alexandria (20 BCE – 50 CE). Philo was a Hellenistic Jewish (Neo-Platonist) who fused Greek philosophy with Judaism. Philo read the Bible as allegorical, for it was through allegorical interpretation you would gain the true knowledge. This is the case with the later development of Kabbalah that the symbolic and not the literal meaning of the bible is where the real meaning is found.[51]

______________________________________________________________________

*From the Greek name Νικοδημος (Nikodemos) which meant “victory of the people” from Greek νικη (nike) “victory” and δημος (demos) “the people”.

The Jewish leaders during the time of Christ were heavily influenced by Platonism, and their government of faith and force had the authority to enforce all Jewish laws on the populous except capital punishment.[52] It was very similar to Plato’s political construct; i.e., the religious edicts and civil laws of the leaders were enforced by the Temple Guard. But the main point I want to make here is the reoccurring theme of the word being close. Once again, we see Moses being brought to bear, this time, in the conversation between Christ and Nicodemus:

John 3:13 – No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Christ was refuting elitist orthodoxy. Nicodemus and the other religious leaders of that day were not mediators between God and the commoners. They did not bring down the word to earth. The word is already near, and in us, through the new birth. All must be born again form above. Truth and salvation doesn’t originate in the flesh of men, it comes down from above. This is the melding of heaven and earth. This is the melding of spirit and material. In essence, this serves as a refutation of Plato’s metaphysical dichotomy of the material and invisible.

Nicodemus was not even familiar with this basic spiritual truth of the new birth though he was “the” teacher in Israel. Salvation comes directly to those who believe in Christ, not through elitist orthodoxy. The following confused Nicodemus: the power Christ was able to display apart from the blessings and authority of the religious leadership:

John 3:2 – This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Christ cut right to the point—salvation is imparted directly to the believer and Christ is the only mediator. This turned Nicodemus’ religious hierarchy completely upside down. This is a major point of contention throughout the New Testament:

1John – 2:26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

We have no need for anyone to teach us—we should rather “abide in him,” not some spiritual elitist ruler. There are those gifted to encourage and equip us in abiding, but they are not mediators.

Words

The Bible is God’s full-orbed philosophical statement to every individual. The first two chapters are His metaphysics, epistemology, and ethic. But for our purposes concerning the point at hand, we want to focus on God’s epistemology of words. Our world and reality is interpreted grammatically. God spoke the world into existence with words, but the power of His words is not the only consideration, we must also consider the fact that words enable us to interpret reality. Word identification makes what is relevant. Even UFO’s are significant because they are explained as unidentified, and they fly. Light is light because God identified it with the word, “light.” This gives light meaning, and its meaning becomes reality in the words, “bright,” “warm,” etc. Certainly things can exist without words, but they have no relevance. What was it, before God “separated” light and darkness as recorded in Genesis 1:4? We don’t know, it wasn’t named with a word. But light and darkness as one would be interesting to see and experience. But would there be words to give that phenomenon relevance? I suppose so; it would simply be a “phenomenon.”

God created words to communicate with mankind, and they mean things, and they mean what God says they mean. This is extremely relevant to our conversation for the Reformers claimed, and still claim to be the masters of words. And be sure of this: those who interpret words interpret realty. As we will see in chapter five, Martin Luther hijacked God’s epistemology with his theology of the cross. Calvinism is not a doctrine of any sort, it is a philosophy that posits a Reformed interpretation of reality itself. The question before us in not whether or not we believe in election; at stake is the very interpretation of reality itself.

Tagged with:

51 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Argo said, on November 23, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    Paul,

    Yes. It is a lie. Lies do what? Deceive. Why? To manipulate. Who? Man. Who is what? Truth.

    Thus, lies are specifically designed (by the father of them, the devil) to move truth AWAY from man. They are designed to manipulate man in order to bring chaos to mans efficacious-to-LIFE ordering of his environment by putting the objective source of knowable TRUTH beyond him. If you see Cow, and someone says no, that’s a dog, that person is denying your ability to rightly observe reality with your senses. That is the point of lies. To rule men…to make them slaves of the Primary Consciousness.

    My grounds: Metaphysics must precede epistemology. You have to exist before you can KNOW anything, by definition. How you know any idea or concept or truth, how you ARE any truth is a direct function of your EXISTENCE. This makes existence of man a prerequisite for truth. If truth is before man, we concede it is outside of him.

    And welcome in the philosopher kings.

    Like

  2. trust4himonly said, on November 24, 2013 at 12:32 PM

    Argo, can I then re-define absolute- since its abstract?

    Like

    • paulspassingthoughts said, on November 24, 2013 at 1:15 PM

      Woe.

      Like

  3. trust4himonly said, on November 24, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    I don’t agree that there is only abstract- We see that with the way God create differences. Some people are are abstract thinkers and that is good, because that is why we have scientists who are willing to think outside the box (but actually find out that things or living organisms can only fit within its own kind which is concrete). The bad thing with people who are more concrete is that we want to think only one way, when in actuality there are many different ways to look at things (within the boundaries that God has already set up- Natural Law).

    Like I said with the word “gene” – We only know that it is what it is- a gene. Now someone can come up with another term but still whatever constitutes a gene will still be what it is. It cannot be any different. Argo, the only reality we know is what we have right before us- Romans 1 states this so beautifully when Paul says we can KNOW reality of God by what we see. Now Faith for instance is both abstract and concrete. It is abstract because Faith can take on different forms – one can have faith in there spouse or another god; and one can have faith in God, Himself. But the concrete reality of faith is that it can’t be doubt or distrust or anything other then what it is. This is a great gift of God to be able to know what really IS, otherwise we will be searching for meaning endlessly and fruitlessly.

    Like

  4. Argo said, on November 24, 2013 at 4:29 PM

    T4H,

    There is the material (physical) and the abstract (conceptual). Every concept is not material, therefore every concept must be abstract.

    “Absolute-ness” is a concept/abstraction. “Absolute-ness” does not materially exist. This is is why EVERY word is an idea/concept, and why language is entirely abstract. Words/language then are a direct function of the material agent (man and God) who uses them/it to organize their environment to the standard of TRUTH, which must be their life. So it isn’t that concepts need to be “concrete”, it is that they must be TRUE in order to efficaciously organize the environment to promote life. A lie destroys life because it tell man that he is NOT in fact able to properly organize his own life. If someone lies to you, they are telling you that what you would observe is false…that your senses fail to grasp material reality.

    Thus, there is no “sin” in redefining “absolute”. There is no sin in redefining language. The sin is WHY are you doing that. To affirm life, or deny it? If you do it to promote the standard of life, then redefine it…it happens all the time. Often times words we use today bear little resemblance to what they originally meant (for example “atom” does not mean now what it meant when a Greek (I think) philosopher first coined it).

    Like

  5. Argo said, on November 24, 2013 at 4:30 PM

    Paul,

    Was “woe” directed at me or T4H? And what do you mean, in either case? Thanks.

    Like

    • paulspassingthoughts said, on November 24, 2013 at 4:55 PM

      Worded another way, “snap” in regard to, “Argo, can I then re-define absolute- since its abstract?”

      Like

  6. paulspassingthoughts said, on November 24, 2013 at 5:25 PM

    Thought that was a profound argument.

    Like

  7. […] having a debate with Paul Dohse on his blog http://www.paulspassingthoughts.com recently (link- https://paulspassingthoughts.com/2013/11/21/biblical-metaphysics-more-free-writing-notes/#comments).  In this debate I have asked several times for him to tell me what he thinks the standard of […]

    Like

  8. Argo said, on November 25, 2013 at 4:37 AM

    Why? It is merely a tendering of T4H’s same argument: language is not abstract but is somehow actual.

    Since there is no way to actually observe “absolute-ness”, I am not sure how this argument can be logically made regardless of what the word is. Chicken, furry, or absolute. Simply changing the word doesn’t change the basic premise: words are real.

    They are not. They are concepts concepts exist in mans mind only.

    Like

  9. Argo said, on November 25, 2013 at 4:48 AM

    Further, the question is an indication that neither of you are correctly identifying my argument. That might be my fault; it might be yours. I have repeatedly stated that I am NOT disputing your premise that “words mean things”, but I am instead disputing your conflating of that phrase with: “words ARE things”.

    We all can agree on a definition of “absolute”. But we cannot agree that “absolute-ness” is a thing itself.

    Like


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: