Paul's Passing Thoughts

World Philosophy, Politics, and Christianity: John Immel, TANC 2014; Sessions 1-3

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on January 12, 2015


JOHN IMMEL:  I know that people online can’t see this, but this is – luckily, you guys can see this. So about three weeks after the conference last year, I get an e-mail from Paul, Paul Dohse, the organizer of this conference. And the title of the e-mail is “Thoughts?” In the body of the e-mail it says, “See attached jpeg.” That’s it. So I read this and I can’t for the life of me figure out what he’s talking about. So I write to Paul back and I say, “Paul, can you explain this?” Now you have all heard Paul speak. So it is at no end of irony that Paul’s e-mails are notoriously short to the point of cryptic. There are no rabbit trails in Paul’s e-mails. So I write on the reply, “I have no idea what you want from me here.” So finally, Paul writes me back and he says – is this hot? Is this a little too hot?

PAUL DOHSE:  A little, yeah.

JOHN IMMEL:  Can you turn it down just a touch? Check, check, check? Does that work?

PAUL DOHSE:  That’s better.

JOHN IMMEL:  That’s a whole better? Okay, good. All right, so he writes me back and he says, the idea – now mind you, with this in mind, this is Paul’s response. “The idea that freedom of man is practically a pipedream because he is enslaved to his own desires spiritually, hence, at the very least indifferent to political freedom on a social level.” So, here’s his question. “So will the New Calvinist Movement cause political indifference in American society among Christians?” And I’m like, “Oh, I get it.” So then I go back to this. And for those of you online, you can’t see this. But this guy, Mark Ray, I get to use the cool pointer now. Mark Ray here, I don’t know who he is, don’t care, don’t matter. He says right here, “It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.” And this is when I finally understood what Paul’s after. And he’s interested in me commenting on the impact of New Calvinism on American culture, what it’s trying to do.

Now, of course, he, this Mark Ray, is actually quoting a guy by the name of Edmund Burke. You can look him up. He’s not really an enigmatic character. But Edmund Burke held the fundamental assumption about human existence, and this quote ultimately that the nature of man requires that man can only be governed by a totalitarian government, that the function of government is human restraint. So anyway, Paul is asking me to weigh in on this particular issue. And my response was, yes. I’ll summarize. Yes, this is exactly what the Neo-Calvinist movement is willing to do. Now my e-mail response to Paul was about 500 words. I gave a detailed explanation, and it turns out – well, I gave that explanation. I won’t tell you what I said. And so then, I send them off to Paul, and Paul says to me, “This would be a perfect progression from this year to next year. This could be your 2014 thesis for next year’s conference.” So this is exactly what we’re going talk about, the Edmund Burke comment and its specific impact on the progression of American thought, where we are. Now of course the flyer says that I’m going to talk about National Socialist Germany. That is true. We are going to talk about that.

But before I get too much farther into this, I guess I do need to make some introductions. My name is John Immel. I like to introduce myself this way. I am no one from nowhere. And the important thing about this is that there is a general trend and a general move within Christianity. The assumption being that if you’re standing behind a pulpit that you bear some form of authority, and that the expectation is that whatever I say, you have some obligation to accept. I reject that as a fundamental premise. I’m not here as a representative of authority. I am here to present to you ideas and the most powerful arguments that I can bring to you. And your part of this conversation, and it is a conversation, is for you to bring your highest and best rational self to this engagement. I’m going to make the most powerful argument I can, and I want you to engage your brain and to think and to analyze and to find out what is correct, what is true. And if I’ve done my job well, you will end up agreeing with me because I believe I hold right ideas. But here is how this works. If you can find a flaw on what I said, then you have the ability to say ,”Hey, John. Now here I think is an adjustment.” And if you make a powerful argument, if you make a good argument, and I apply my rational individuality to that, I go, “You know what? That’s true.”

Now having said that, I did write a book. I wrote a book, this book, called Blight in the Vineyard: Exposing the Roots, Myths, and Emotional Torments of Spiritual Tyranny. You can buy this online at It’s $23.99 online. If you like what I say in the conference, those of you who are watching online, if you like what I say, you’re going to find more of the same in here. Now I will say this. I wrote this, and I’ll get into this just a little bit more here in the moment. I wrote this using a modern denomination called Sovereign Grace Ministries as my anecdote. But the book is not about Sovereign Grace Ministries specifically. The book is about how the ideas embedded in what we’re going to talk about shaped this specific ministry. So I talk about a who so we can talk about a what. And the what are the ideas that are behind it. And in particular, the Neo-Calvinist, the new resurgent movement of Calvinism in the United States.

Now it is a little dated because when I wrote this, most of the major players, and those of you familiar within evangelical Christianity certainly will have heard names like CJ Mahaney, Brent Detwiler, Joshua Harris. These were all people at the top of the uber super apostles, whatever they want to call themselves now. There’s been a split within that denomination, and so that current history is not reflected in the book, but it actually doesn’t matter because the book is not about the personalities or the organization of that denomination. The book is about how the ideas were used to create this denomination in Sovereign Grace Ministries and ultimately how that causes them to act within that denomination. So you’ll still get the same things even though like I said it’s historically dated.

So this conference, this specific conference represents the culmination of about – at least 20 years of thinking for me. And to give you a sense of scope, which is what I think I do best, I think I give people the framework best. I need to actually talk about me personally a little bit. I got born again when I was 15. So my exposure to Christianity is going on 30 years. Now I got born again and became immediately a part of a brethren church in Eaton, Ohio, actually not too far from where we are now. And my introduction to Christianity was dramatic. I’m confident there are people that can tell you about my life during my high school career. But I took Christianity seriously, and I invested in Christianity. I invested in what I believe to be the truth with absolute commitment. So by the time I was 18, I was fully invested and fully committed to Christianity, modern American Christianity. Now I’m going to make a distinction here. Modern American Christianity, Christianity in America, and we’ll talk about this much later as a historical development. In America, Christianity first had the opportunity to disagree, the first to fundamentally diverse from the historic Calvinist roots. And about starting in the early 19th century, in the United States a unique brand of Christianity showed up, and that was the Pentecostal movement. And the Pentecostal movement was a renewal movement, a return to the gifts of the Spirit–speaking in tongues, healing, and a very immediate, very specifically present kind of Christianity. And it was rooted in and it had some of its intellectual roots in the Wesleyan movement. They rejected determinism. They rejected predestination. And they believed in free will.

Now when I say charismatic and when I say Pentecostal, unfortunately, there is some profound limitations to those definitions because there really is no formal definition of Pentecostal and no formal definition of charismatic. I can tell you what they tend to emphasize. Well, all renewal movements are necessarily movements of personality. Most of the early revival movements in the United States came from men with specific messages–John Alexander Dowie, John G. Lake, William J. Seymour. If you have any interest at all in learning the evolution of charismatic/Pentecostal movements, these names are going to be at the top of the list. Now by the time we hit fast-forward a few – probably about 40 years, we’re now in the middle of a resurgent charismatic movement called the Charismatic Renewal. And it was Pentecostalism all grown up. And one of the primary leading figures of that timeframe would be men like Oral Roberts, one of the first men in the history of the world to impact the globe by mass media.

Now when I came into Christianity, this is around 1981, ’82, the charismatic renewal was still unformed. There weren’t really mega churches as you and I know mega churches. We were still back then arguing whether or not you could have guitars in church, whether you could have drums in church. Now today, if you don’t have contemporary music and guitars and drums, nobody shows up. But back then, people were going to war over whether or not you should have a guitar and an amplifier, to give you some sense of proportion of how far we’ve come. Now mind you, by the time I’m 19 years old, I end up going for a series of reasons to Oral Roberts University, thinking that I would arrive at say charismatic utopia. People that believe – most of my young life, I took, you know, the idea of taking the Gospel to the streets very seriously. And so I was very much on the frontline, and the nature of social hostility, I had experienced that. So I was tired. And so I was looking for a place where I could fit in and blend in. Now unfortunately, my personality and who I am pretty much eliminates that as an option.

So I get to Oral Roberts University, and my love is, of course, ideas. And so I find myself terribly attracted to studying theology. My degree is in Systematic and Historical Theology with a minor in Old Testament. What that basically means is that the sum of my education, my bachelor’s degree, was in church history, the progression of church doctrine and systematic theology. Now the funny thing about Oral Roberts University was this. I get there thinking that I would necessarily fit in and that many of the doctrines that I have grown up learning and investing in, that they would be reflected in the school of theology. And then you have Oral Roberts as the icon, the school of theology then therefore. And mind you, this is not Bible school. This is a real genuine committed school of theology. Well, aha me. I get into the Department of Theology and the department head at the time was Siegfried Chasman [SOUNDS LIKE 0:14:53]. And Siegfried Chasman was a Calvinist, a committed Calvinist from Europe. I think he was from not Germany, the country that stays perpetually neutral.

MAN:  Switzerland.

JOHN IMMEL:  Switzerland. I think he’s from Switzerland. I could be wrong, but I think that’s where he came from. So he’s a committed Calvinist. Now mind you, most people make this fundamental mistake. They assume that Calvinism is somehow negotiable, that we can somehow pick and choose which parts of Calvinism we want. And so then they try to hybridize a lot of these ideas. And in particular when confronted with the charismatic movement, the doctrines that are most consistently ascribed to that renewal, people tend to think, “Well, we can kind of pull them in, but this is really the true core of the Gospel, and if we can figure how to somehow successfully integrate it all, then everything will be fine.” This is false. It’s not possible. It does not work, and we’re going to eventually figure out why. And on many levels, Dr. Chasman was a super nice guy, but he was a committed Calvinist, and he organized the Department of Theology around that body of idea. And he knew he had an entire student body committed, for the most part, to the Pentecostal charismatic concepts. So he was patient. But at the end of the day, in his mind, real theology was rooted in Calvinism.

Now herein is the implicit conflict. You would go to chapel Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the charismatic speaker of the day would blow through and say whatever they had to say, and the Theology Department who sat physically, if you can envision this, in maybe center would sit up here, and I could physically see them, and without fail, they were universally outraged at whatever was said up front. And I will never forget the day, I think it was the leader of music, stands up in front and he’s leading worship for the student body, and he stops and he says, “Now everybody clap because when we clap, we summon angels.” I can see why some of you looks – you’re like, “What?” Exactly. That was the kind of doctrinal output that very often came from the front. Now I’m not saying that it was universally bad. I’m just saying that you could hear things like this. And the Theology Department would react mildly. So I was dead square in the middle of the ongoing fight, the power and the effectiveness of charismatic style doctrines and the critique of pure, well, effectively, the only form of academic theology that is Protestantism [SOUNDS LIKE 0:17:52].

So now I’m going to fast-forward through about a decade. Of course, I graduate and I have no home. Charismatic churches don’t have the interest on what I’ve learned or what I know. But by the same token, I get to spend an entire college career addressing the fundamental problems that I saw with Calvinism as such, combating those arguments, being aware of these arguments, writing endless papers on those arguments, defending those papers against myself and the entire classroom. So I am no stranger to the fight. By the time I get to Washington, D.C., the Washington, D.C. area, specifically Gaithersburg, Maryland, I am now 26 years old, and I land on the doorstep of a then People of Destiny International. Now for those of you who don’t know, People of Destiny International eventually becomes Sovereign Grace Ministries, but this is still them in their sort of infancy. They have become sort of a national player, but they have not made the dramatic move from where they were as a generally charismatic church–they believe in speaking in tongues, laying hands on the sick. Now granted, there was very qualified doctrine from their church, but they still practiced it on some level. Along about 1991, they started to make a transition into what I knew was Calvinism, and I had fundamental objections to Calvinism from that point. Now of course they look at me – well, let me say this first. When I first got there, they presented themselves as these very broad-minded, interested in ideas thinkers, social commentators, and frankly, I thought it felt home. I was eventually to learn that was totally false. They had no interest in ideas. And they had no interest in anybody else’s input. I made the faulty assumption that I could object, that this was a reasonable action on my part, on anybody’s part as I saw a problem with the doctrine, that they should be able to say, “No, that’s not true.”

This of course embroiled me in all manner of church conflict to the point that they eventually told me I was deleterious. “And oh, by the way, why don’t you go out and start your own church?” That has never ceased to amaze me, the irony. By the way, you’re deleterious, which means, if you don’t know, evil, wicked, pernicious and destructive. You’re deleterious. By all means, go out and start your own church. To this day, I think that’s hilarious. Yes, by the way, we can’t control you. Would you really go out there and wreck everybody else’s life?

So I’m confronted with these ideas. And trust me I was a half an inch – even knowing what I know, I was a half an inch from making the jump. I was a half an inch from making the jump and committing myself to Calvinism as such. Now that didn’t obviously happen. And it took me a long time to unravel the problems. But because of the way I tend to approach the world, I saw commonalities. Now of course the original criticism was, “Well, the reason there’s a conflict, John, is because you’re here. The conflict is you.” Okay. And in as much as you accept some other assumptions, then that makes abundant sense. But remember, by the time I land on their door, I got almost a decade of Christian life behind me. I already have an identity, an identity that spanned a number of different denominations, a number of different church flavors, plus the intention to create theology as a professional pursuit. So the standard denunciations and the standard objections to me didn’t work. I did not quickly embrace the notion that I could be so fundamentally wrong. But this ultimately set me on the path of identifying what is the commonality here? Because here is what I noticed, I had already seen these doctrines in some form and in some fashion even in the charismatic churches. I get out of Sovereign Grace Ministries and I go participate in other churches and I still see the same themes, the same ideas. And trust me, I was one of the few people going around when – this is back in the ’90s, actually objecting to the broader actions of Sovereign Grace Ministries. I was absolutely a lone voice. So any preacher I ever heard that ever said to me, every preacher in the pulpit, “Your job is to submit to me. It is my job to defend the sheep,” if I heard that, I specifically went to them and I ask them to get involved in protecting the sheep in context to the conduct of this ministry. Universally, they said no way.

So I see these things creeping up consistently, and fundamental to them was the doctrine of submission and authority, the presumption that select men had the moral right to dictate to me intellectual conclusion, and that concurrent with that submission, that they were somehow uniquely qualified to understand the truth and nobody else really was. And that by virtue of that authority, that they had the right to treat me however they chose. However they qualified that justification, at the root, that’s what they presumed. And if I was not willing to embrace what they said, it was a moral failing on my part. And the presumption is that the moral failing began with me. And for a while of course I accepted the presumption that the problem was me. But then I realized, wait a minute. This stuff exists whether I’m at the church or not. There’s only one other common denominator, and that is the doctrine.

Well, I had enough historical background. My degree made it possible for me to understand the evolution of Christian thought effectively from the 1st century to about the 18th century. And I had enough church history background to understand that this was actually not uncommon. Once I identified those fundamental elements, I realized this has happened before, and it’s happened over and over and over. I finally had to ask myself, how is it possible that the Church finds itself in bed with tyrants or abetting tyrants or as tyrants itself? And let me catch up on the slides here.

And that’s when I came up with this. I’ve shown this in pretty much every conference we’ve got. This is the Gospel According to John Immel, and I identified this consistency. “All people act logically from their assumptions. It does not 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 assumptions and you will find the cause.” Why is the church so consistently found aiding and abetting tyranny? When you see masses of people taking the same destructive actions, find the assumptions and you will find the cause. I wasn’t the only person that had ever made this observation.

Now of course when I formulated this, I hadn’t read James Madison’s. James Madison actually said in the Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments. James Madison, point 7, “Because experiences witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation. 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.” Point 8, “Because what influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments have on civil society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of civil authority. In many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny. And in no instance had they been seen as guardians of the liberties of the people.” And James Madison nailed it. The bulk of Christian history is one long slow motion train wreck of tyranny. This bothered me viscerally. This is a problem. If we ultimately genuinely believe that God is love and yet with stunning consistency and the church that he sees, supposed to call his own, ends up at the forefront of tyranny, there is something seriously wrong with this picture.

Of course, like I said, we are going to talk about National Socialist Germany. But for me to do that, I need to reclaim being able to talk about Nazism. For the most part, the moment you say Nazi, people tend to assume that it’s pejorative and that you’re describing someone who is a jackbooted thug, and the tantamount assertion is that you just want to start sticking people in ovens and killing them. So on some level, I understand why the discussion of Nazis has become taboo. People who don’t know what they’re talking about tend to toss around the accusation without any real association or attachment to reality. But this doesn’t really explain why the discussion of Nazis is so taboo. And I have a conspiracy theory, and I’m going to tell you my conspiracy theory because I think it bears directly on what we’re going to ultimately talk about. I am stunned at the veto power people believe they have when we discuss Nazis, how quickly they are to dismiss the discussion.

National Socialist Germany is an instructional morality event of epic proportions. Let me put it to you this way. If I start talking about Joseph Stalin or Lenin and I talk to you about the things that they did, the fact that they turned Soviet Russia into a bloodbath, the fact that Joseph Stalin created a government-created famine to wipe out a third of its population, if I talk to you about the fact that they had concentration camps and that they did all these evil things, for the most part, people shrug and go, “Okay, maybe that’s true.” And at the end of the day, if they actually want to really carry any discussion on it at all, particularly from the Christian perspective, they go, “Well, of course, that’s what happened. It was a bunch of atheists, you know. If you abandon God, then you don’t have any foundation for morality. And if you don’t have any foundation for morality, you get to act whatever you want, you know, a bunch of atheists, secular humanism, all those bad things.” And people go, “Eh, that’s not such a big deal.” But the moment I say Nazi, there’s a visceral reaction and a visceral rejection of any objective observation of what happened. I find this curios, because in each instance they actually produced the exact same outcomes. The Nazis did exterminate 7 million Jews, but they also exterminated 7 million other people. The body count in Germany was 40 million people, and communists were leading among them, men who held ideology, not race.

And here’s why I think this is. And here’s why I think being able to reclaim this, resisting the veto, the stigma. Two things: Germany in the 1920s was Christian by any definition. Not only was it Christian, it was Lutheran Christian by any definition. Of the 60 million people that resided in Germany, 40 million identifying themselves as evangelicals. For the most part, evangelical Germany is effectively the same as evangelical America. The doctrinal distinctions, the doctrinal deviations are so minor as to be ultimately relevant. The other 20 million identified themselves as Catholic or some variation of Protestantism, with only about 1 percent embodying a genuinely non-Christian mysticism. You understand? And the second thing is that I don’t think people want to notice that National Socialism was about socialism. And I think this is actually the biggest problem. Most people tend to believe that socialism is a kinder, gentler version of economic organization. And if they can keep you away from noticing too closely, then it was socialism was the underlying goal. The Final Solution, the destruction of undesirables, that’s the leaf on the very end of the social tree. But the underlying premise was always that it is the state’s job and the state’s responsibility, it was the state’s moral obligation to take productive work and redistribute it for the masses. This is a prevailing assumption that we are actually seeing emerging in the United States. And the thing that I think that people want to prevent is people noticing the relationship between socialism and the ultimate action that came next in National Socialist Germany. Of course, I firmly reject the notion that people have the right to veto this conversation. It doesn’t make me a nut. All I’m doing is making an observation in the content of history.

Of course, there is a common objection that the reason the evil in Germany took place is because a select few did bad things and that good men did nothing. The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Does this explain what happened to National Socialist Germany? I’m going to let you ponder that question. Before we can genuinely answer that question, we need to do some serious remedial work. We need to understand what shaped Germany in the 1920s. And the reason we need to understand history is because as Adolf Hitler once said, “A man who has no sense of history is a man who has no ears or eyes.”

Now for me to do my job, I’m going to have to introduce you to philosophy. I see some new faces. Some of you have seen this before, but I need new ideas, fresh ideas, different ideas need to be repeated and repeated until people grasp the implication. Of course, in Christianity, the moment somebody says “philosophy,” their minds immediately jump to Paul talking about vain philosophies and they go, “Hoo, punt [SOUNDS LIKE 0:36:05],” and this conversation is over. Well, there are vain philosophies. There are philosophies that the nature of their formulation is vanity. That is true. But the concept of philosophy, the study philosophy is the integration of ideas. Philosophy is comprised of these five disciplines. The first one is metaphysics. The second one is epistemology. The third is ethics. Fourth is politics. And the last one is aesthetics. Here’s an explanation of what this means. The nature of existence is metaphysics. How man knows what he knows is called epistemology. How we value what we know is ethics. How we interact with people is politics. And how man creatively reflects his existence back to himself is called aesthetics or art.

Now here’s the thing. Man cannot help but integrate his ideas. It’s the way he’s built. From the time you’re this big, the first thing you want to understand is how it fits together. He must organize his ideas into a cohesive system exactly like a fish must breathe in water. For man, his ideas do not hang in a vacuum. His ideas must be attached to something. And he must start from the most rudimentary part of his existence. He must start at the beginning. It is a hard thing to learn to think in essentials, to think in principles, to think in terms of ideological relationships. It is hard to learn to think philosophically. However, most people are unaware of this big picture. Most people don’t think in these terms. But they’re constantly treating their ideas as if – most people take ideas kind of like smorgasbord. Oh, I like this one, and I like this one. Nah, I don’t like that one. I like this one. And they put it all in a basket and they [UNINTELLIGIBLE 0:38:39]. Yeah, that’s pretty good. Yeah, that’s pretty good. And they treat the ideas very carelessly. And yet, they will often find themselves dead square in the middle of some form of conflict, some form of psychic pain. And because they treat ideas carelessly, they don’t recognize that the psychic pain that they hold is directly tied to mutually exclusive ideas, mutually exclusive values that are in conflict. And this is because they have not done a successful job at integrating, eliminating the errors from the most rudimentary level of their ideas to the practical outworking. And the result is uncertainty. Susan made a fantastic point in her presentation, and she was talking about the woman who could not reconcile whether she was going to heaven or not. She is experiencing an enormous amount of psychic pain because in her mind, was she damned or was she elect? She could not reconcile the question because by doctrine, she cannot reconcile that question, unless she does what? She commits an act of atrocity that she knows in her mind, at least by doctrinal construct, can never be solved, can never be fixed. But notice, she could not handle the intellectual chaos. She could not handle in her own head that she couldn’t resolve this fundamental problem. Her metaphysical existence, the very nature of her fundamental existence, she needed that result. And that drove her to kill her own baby. This is indicative of the very need that man has to solve this problem in his own mind. It is this kind of power that philosophy really has over the minds of men. It is the nature of who we are.

I have another Gospel According to John Immel quote. Since I’m quoting myself, it seems ironic that I can’t think of the actual reference. Man abhors chaos like nature abhors a vacuum. Man cannot abide intellectual chaos. He must order the nature of his world. And the anecdote that Susan identified, the reason people went insane, the reason there was so much psychic pain in the Puritan world is because the nature of the ideas, the full philosophical statement that is Calvinism drove them to ideological chaos. Man cannot tolerate this. Hence, the quest for an integration of ideas is what’s dominated the whole of human history.

So philosophy is the process of learning to think in integration, learning to think in putting things, ideas together, learning to see essentials, learning to think in principles, learning to be aware of how you integrate your ideas. Don’t treat ideas carelessly. Learn to identify, wait a minute. If I believe this and I believe this, you realize those don’t go together. There’s a conflict. And the moment you experience psychic pain, one of the first things man tends to do is to go, “Oops, I don’t like that reality.” Poof. And he punts [SOUNDS LIKE 0:42:29] the inconsistency into the abyss. Man’s greatest vice is his determination to look at reality and go, “You know what? I don’t care.” To wipe reality out of existence, to take what is and just go, “You know what? I don’t like that.” In a recent blog conversation, a man advocating the power of the Matthew 18 ethic finds himself in the middle of a fight he doesn’t like against someone’s argument he cannot handle. And his response was to go, “You’re dead to me.” To solve his intellectual problem, what did he do? He wiped that man out of existence. This is man’s greatest vice. I want to introduce one rabbit trail. If you read the first chapter of Romans, it is man’s determination to look at reality and wipe out its causal relationship. It sends him into depravity. Rabbit trail, I’ll let you chew on that.

Since it is the subject of this conversation, we are already familiar with how this actually breaks out with Augustine, with Calvinistic thought. Now you’re going to hear this relentlessly. When I say Augustine, I mean Calvin. When I say Calvin, I mean Augustine. They are absolutely connected. And there is no reasonable man with any rational integrity that would like to make a case otherwise. I don’t really understand how I can be any more blunt. Doctrinally, there is fundamentally no distinction between Augustinian doctrine, Lutheran doctrine and Calvinist doctrine. So Augustine says, what is man’s basic metaphysics? Man is corrupt. Man is metaphysically corrupt. He is corrupt from the nature of his existence. He has no redeeming good quality in his existence. Anytime you think you’ve got something good, you don’t. Because man is metaphysically corrupt, that means epistemologically, you can’t know anything. Because man can’t physically know anything, his moral responsibility, his ethical responsibility is his own self-destruction. And because man cannot do good, in other words, he will not follow through on his ethical standard, he necessarily needs a government that will compel him to that action. So if you won’t sacrifice you, there will be a government that will sacrifice you. And last of course is aesthetics. Aesthetics, we’re not going to talk a lot of it, but I’m going to make a couple of references. This is how man reflects the world back to himself. Let me see if I can figure out how to say this quickly. Man needs a means by which he refuels his existence. And he needs a means by which how he takes his most rudimentary assumptions about his life, and he puts that into a form that when he looks back at it, he is refreshed. This is the root of aesthetics. However, if you presume man’s metaphysical corruption and you presume all of these fundamental things that Augustine presumes, what kind of art do you create? You create churches lined with gargoyles. You create Dante’s Inferno where the nature of your art specifically reflects man catastrophe, destruction, impotence, fear, terror, all that anxiety, all that neuroses, all that psychoses is what is reflected back. So your art will always follow your most rudimentary philosophical assumptions.

Now I want to introduce this. You need to understand these elements to understand what I’m going to talk about. The dominant philosophy on the planet is collectivism. It is the presumption that man is first and foremost the property of the state, the property of society, the property of tribe, the property of community or denomination or local church or sect. The almost universal assumption about the nature of man’s existence is that man is the property of the state. Now I know I have statism up there. I’m using this as a generalization. We have collectivism is the biggest box. Everything else is a reflection of this. So we have collectivism, statism which is the political organization of a given geographical political organization, society or the tribe or the community or denomination or sect or church. The presumption is that man is by design a part of this. All right?

Now this I introduced last year. If I may be so bold, this is my contribution to philosophy. I’ve never seen this anyplace else. I think this is a John Immel original. I have identified five categories of arguments that you will see in all forms of tyranny. I don’t care the ideological pedigree. Ultimately, all arguments – and there’s a specific reason I actually put this in a spider web. I wanted you to see that these are connected. These are not static boxes to put stuff in. You will see these arguments consistently with dynamic tension throughout. And here they are. And they start with, inasmuch as they start anywhere with the idea of incompetent masses. Man is fundamentally, metaphysically incompetent. And because he is metaphysically incompetent, he is universally guilty. In the Augustinian construct – this is the foundation of Augustine’s construct. Man is metaphysically a sinner, metaphysically morally reprobate. He is universally guilty. He can never escape his guilt. It doesn’t matter what action he takes. And because man is this and this, it requires that he has a government that dictates good. Once we get to the government stage, the government organizes everything around – the government must first abolish ambition. And what I mean by this is our government must first abolish individual initiative. Man can possess no individual self-motivation. The self must die. And once it succeeds in abolishing abolition, its specific goal is collective conformity. You will remember this here, this right here, this is the goal. The goal is utopian prestige. In every collectivist ideology, you will ultimately see the proclaimed ideal is some utopian ideal, whether it’s the Marxist’s workers’ paradise, whether it’s the Gaia, the utopia of earth nature rule, nature worship, whether it be heaven, racial purity, it’s always some utopian ideal that has no material expression. In other words, you’ll never see it here.

Now I want to go back to – I have one more point that I want to make. Now remember I asked you the question, for evil to triumph, the only thing necessary is for good men to do nothing. This is where most people encounter the philosophical system, ethics. For those of you watching me online, I’m pointing to ethics.

PAUL DOHSE:  Actually, we can see the chart pretty good.

JOHN IMMEL:  Okay, good. Most people have very little exposure to formal metaphysical salience [SOUNDS LIKE 0:52:27] or formal epistemological salience. What they will very consistently do is quote ethical expectations, and they don’t realize that they’re actually admitting and committing to an ethical formulation that is part of a bigger picture. When you hear people say something like, “He’s selfish. He should sacrifice,” I mean, you all have heard that. How many people have said that? Those words, the expectation that it was moral, that selfishness was specifically immoral and that the nature of sacrifice is specifically moral, that is actually reflective of a much bigger philosophical statement that we are going to eventually talk about. Usually, our culture’s social values are expressions of ethics, what we find offensive, what we get offended by in public is specifically a reflection of our ethical values. And those ethical values are ultimately reflected in all of the entire progression here. Do you understand? People don’t know where these ethical formulations come from, which means they don’t really think about what they mean. But when you hear such comments throughout a culture, they are reflecting a full integration of their root [SOUNDS LIKE 0:54:03] philosophy.

Now ethics is where man experiences a political or philosophical formulation. Remember the question I’ve asked you because this is going to be the theme we’re going to hammer on throughout the entire five, however many, sessions I got. I ask you the question. The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Ponder that question in light of that right there. All right? That’s the first session.


JOHN IMMEL:  All right. For those of you who are joining online, assuming you haven’t seen my first presentation, my name is John Immel. I’m going to continue with my case on the nature of philosophy, how it is a driving force of human action and how ultimately it has impacted the evolution of Western thought in particular and specifically how it ultimately shaped National Socialist Germany and how it’s ultimately shaping the current United States of America.

TANC 2013, I began explaining the evolution of Western thought, and I started all the way back from Heraclitus. I highly recommend that if you had seen my TANC 2013 presentation, it’s five hours, it’s a lot of material, but it’s essential to understanding. And one of the biggest challenges I had, and for most Christians, Christians tend to believe that Christianity kind of sprang up out of a whole cloth, but it actually has a very specific place in context to the evolution of Western thought. And the roots of those ideas can be seen as far back as Plato and Pythagoreans, and ultimately, many of our doctrines, our moral doctrines, come from the Cynics and the Stoics.

Now I’m going to pick up where I left off there because this will lay a foundation. I basically brought us up to effectively about 150 AD last year. I’m going to pick up effectively at about 150 AD. With just a touch – I’m going to touch back on Plato. Remember earlier I said that there’s an ironclad relationship between Augustine, Christian doctrine goes from Augustine to Luther to Calvin. The dirty little secret of Western thought and particularly Christian thought is that the roots of Augustine are really Plato. It’s actually not really a dirty secret. The fact of the matter is that anyone with any effort at all can find this relationship. It’s not a secret. It’s hidden in plain sight for everybody. But I want to talk to you specifically about the evolution of Platonist thought that ends up in Augustine’s hands. Plato of course wrote The Republic and many other works. He writes right around about 400 BC, give or take 50 years. He of course as the classical world starts to decline, he falls into some elements of obscurity.

In roughly 200 AD, a guy by the name of Plotinus picks up Plato’s doctrine. Now Plotinus picks up the Cynic and Stoic doctrines. Now if you remember from last year, I will reiterate this point, the Cynics and Stoics believed that the flesh, that the material world was corrupt. Now they predate Christianity by some time. So they don’t get this from Christianity. Christianity largely picks up this soul-body dichotomy from the ancient Western thinkers, that the presumption of the soul-body dichotomy is that the material world is fundamentally corrupt and that there is an inevitable other realm that is somehow pure. The Cynics and Stoics ultimately believe that the nature – and they had different variations on the same concept, but they ultimately believe that the way man approach and achieve knowledge, achieve virtue, was by the discipline of the flesh, that because the flesh was weak, it required kind of like an athlete’s training. Well, this concept, of course, you can see the flavor of that concept in Paul’s writing, who of course picked up a lot of these concepts from the Cynics and the Stoics. Paul tended to pick and choose whatever he thought advanced his particular ideas. But Plotinus takes these concepts, the Cynics and the Stoics, and he takes it to the next logical progression. Not only is the material world inferior, it is in fact totally morally depraved.

Plato believed that this earth was a shadow variation of a perfect world. This world was not true reality. It was really the reflection, the shadow on the wall of a cave. The otherworldly realm was called the world of Forms. Plato believed that man’s grasp of reality was limited. Plato believed that man’s ethical standard was his subordination to the state. Plato believed in compulsory state of education. Plato believed in communism, and Plato believed in totalitarian government. Let me back up and make my observation in – this right here, right? This right here has pretty much summarized what Plato believed. Collective conformity, he believed in compulsory education. This is collective conformity. He believed that man was inferior. He believed that certain men, what he called philosopher kings, should be in charge. They should dictate good.

Enter the Cynics and Stoics. The Stoics begin to actually have an impact on Western thought. They believed that the denial of flesh was an existential ideal. The physical body limits man’s ability to attain virtues. They practice rigorous physical training to attain those virtues. The Cynic and Stoic ideal became the Christian ideal. You see this reflected in Paul’s comments, “I beat my body. It is better that man cut off a hand such that he enters the kingdom of heaven.” The physical body is corrupt and the material world is corrupt. Plotinus, by contrast, you need to understand this contrast. Plato still has a secular philosophy. In other words, he still believes that man, select men, can get to this transcendent world, this world of Forms. And the way man does that is by virtue of his reason. Now it wasn’t a clean blanket statement that all men had this ability. It was really reserved for a select few men who specifically practice virtues that gave them access to the forms and higher levels of knowledge, but it was still a secular version. He introduced…

PAUL DOHSE:  Can I interject with a question?


PAUL DOHSE:  Because I guess that’s the way we’re doing it in the conference. If any of the speakers felt, you know, wanted to wait till afterward, that’s fine. Let me know. But Aristotle believed the same thing, but he believed everybody had that ability?

JOHN IMMEL:  I’m actually going to talk at length about Aristotle, so let me handle Aristotle when I get to Aristotle.


JOHN IMMEL:  I’m trying to illustrate Plato’s full philosophical statement introduces a transcendent reality. Whether there’s still a secular reality, it still has some form of man’s ability to get there. Plotinus drops all vestiges of the human element. According to Plotinus’ disciples, Plotinus had zero interest in the physical life. His entire obsession was attaining a transcendent reality. But his transcendent reality was a religious transcendence. Now I need to make one specific note. He accepted the premise of the mystery cults, the Gnostics. The Gnostics were mystery cults that rose right between the – towards the end of the 1st century up through the middle of the second century. And they said that because man is specifically corrupt, there was a certain initiating practice that gave them access to the knowledge, and they were uniquely qualified to get to this knowledge by virtue of their specific denial of fleshly existence. Well, their condemnation of the physical world ultimately shows up in the latter part of the 1st century as a direct assault on Christianity, and we’ll talk about that here in a minute. This concept is carried forward to Plotinus. And Plotinus ultimately says that men no longer has any ability to access this higher dimension. The only means by which man gets to this dimension is through revelation. Plato’s transcendent world is a secular world. Men has some ability to get to it. Plotinus, it is no longer secular. It is entirely religious realm, and it is only accessed through revelation. Do you see the difference? Do you see the fundamental difference? Yes? No? You think I’m crazy? Okay?

The secular transcendent world is graspable because man is the secularizing part. But a religious transcendent world is not graspable because man has no place in that world. Here’s how Plotinus describes this. And I want you to hear the echoes of this that become Christianity. Let me read. “The One is, in truth, beyond all statement; whatever you say would limit It; the All-Transcending, transcending even the most august Mind, which alone of all things has true being, has no name. We can but try to indicate, if possible, something concerning it. If we do not grasp it by knowledge, what does that not mean that we do not seize it. How does man come to seize knowledge of a transcendent being? It is impossible for man to cease transcendent knowledge by reason.” Now I want you to notice that he wanted reason to be part of man’s incompetence. Man would be entirely dependent on mystic visions, but actually my notes I think are actually in here. Ahh, these are my notes.

The All-Transcendent was by mystic vision. To gain access to the Transcendent was by mystic vision. Or in Christian parlance, Divine Revelation.  The next paragraph is something that Plotinus said. “The All-Transcendent God, the universe, and the universe, the material world has left God out – oh, for heaven’s sake, John. These are terrible. These are actually still my notes.

The All-Transcendent, God, the universe, and the universe is it left God to become – I really have written this wrong. The point being, the all-transcendent world and men, the corrupt world, are apart. They’re not together anymore. It left God. The material world left God. That’s his point.

Now once you understand Plotinus, it becomes very simple to understand Augustine. Because this is the version of Platonism that Augustine got hold of. He did not actually have the original versions. So Augustine sees in his mind he sees the one, the All-Transcendent, he sees that as the Christian God. And it is from here, this is the framework within which he places Christianity. And here is why. Here’s the problem with early Christianity.

Jesus shows up in Israel talking to Israelites about Israel issues. He repeatedly says that he’s talking to the lost children of Israel. He repeatedly says that his focus and ministry is specifically to them and that it is limited, which is why particularly in the Book of Mark and the Book of Matthew, you see virtually no recognition of a world beyond Palestine. You see functionally no understanding of the broader Hellenistic world. Now the first two gospels–Matthew and I believe it’s Mark, I think is the first; Matthew I believe being the second–they have no broader exposure because it was not important to them. The original sources compiled were to those specific audiences. By the time we get to Luke, Luke of course being a Roman has much more concern with the broader Hellenistic world. And his original works are actually to someone named Theophilus. Now it doesn’t matter if Theophilus was a man or a general word for a group of people. Ultimately, Luke’s interest is to a broader Greek world. But even then, Luke’s focus is only in as much as he wants to show the progression of effectively the great commission going to the outermost parts of the earth to these people. That’s his primary driving force. So even by the time we get to the Book of Acts, he still is just focused on that evolution. Interestingly enough, Luke makes no mention of Paul’s writings. We have Paul, but we have no mention of his writings, which tells me the early Christians had no real exposure to Paul’s writings.

And herein lay part the problem. As this Jewish movement started out in this little backwater no nothing territory of the Roman Empire moves in to the broader Hellenistic world, it is confronted with some profound intellectual problems. The Hellenistic world has no association with the Jewish background of the things that Jesus said and did. And this becomes so stark and so dramatic that by the time we get to the Gospel of John, the introduction of the Gospel of John is a full-on polemic against Gnostic doctrines. And that’s because the Gospel of John is probably dated sometime in the late 1st century. So by the time we get to the Gospel of John, we have very obviously now have begun to encounter ideas that we do not know how to overcome. And the shaping and forming of those early traditions was hodge-podge, sporadic, and it didn’t have a lot to do with what Jesus originally set out to do. So Jesus, these words, these gospels, these mini testimonies to this life of Jesus and the Jesus followers and the Jesus movement now is confronted with the broader Roman world. Now trust me, the Roman world would have been fully acquainted with the evolution of these ideas. The Classical Greek world would have dominated their thoughts. They would have had some association.

Now you remember this very strange encounter where Paul decides to go to Mars Hill and debate the local philosophers, and of course Paul, he doesn’t have satisfaction. He’s bothered by these guys. Well, they were looking for a more robust intellectual solution. Paul of course thinks they should have accepted what he said. And here is the essential problem. There was no quick way to explain the nature of the Jesus movement to this broader Hellenistic world because it was not a full philosophical statement. It is a collection of stories and aphorisms and parables. And so to that world and to that mind, it did not have a lot of direct relevance. So by the time we get into the 2nd century, Christianity is really reeling from its exposure – remember, Paul said he went to the Gentiles, but the fact of the matter is he got no traction amongst the Gentiles. He ended up in the Diaspora, talking to Jews, displaced the Jews and debating the merits of their Diaspora theology up against the life and existence of Jesus. That’s what Paul gets most of his traction. But to the broader Roman world, it doesn’t get a lot of traction until you have man start to integrate these ideas, starting roughly in the 2nd century, into the broader philosophical statement.

Now the first people to actually try to incorporate – well, actually, one of the first was Philo. Philo was a Jew, and he was definitely a Hellenistic Jew, and his goal was to take Platonism and merge it into Judaism. And he is one of a number who were making these attempts. So you see Christianity struggling because it does not have the ability to – it doesn’t have a cohesive statement. It doesn’t have the ability to win broader arena of ideas. It has some ideas that have some endurance, but it doesn’t really have any philosophical staying power, which is why by the middle of the 2nd century, ultimately when the Church moved towards orthodoxy, it identified over 80 heresies. I made this point last year. Imagine the robust intellectual environment that must have existed for the people who ultimately purged heresies to identify 80 of them that had Christianity attached to it. That means there was enough ideas in action and enough variance on those ideas that they collected a tradition and that that tradition was ultimately seen as somehow antithetical to what was defined as orthodoxy. So you have a lot of intellectual activity. Unfortunately, the people in charge of who defined that orthodoxy, who defined that intellectual statement believed in violence. And so they were ultimately able to purge it.

And so of course this is Augustine’s – this is actually Christianity up till about 3rd century. This is Christianity’s fundamental problem, how does it sustain – in this broader, virtually hostile world, how does it sustain and compete with all these other ideologies? Well, this is the fundamental problem that landed on Augustine’s lap. And it was Augustine who set out to finalize the integration of these ideas, and what he used was the turnkey solution of Platonism to do it. Because he saw, of course, as I pointed out, he saw the fundamentals of the Christian transcendent religious concept in Plotinus. And that’s what gives him the whole breath to this statement. Now concurrent with this, the Roman Empire is crumbling. There is a lot of chaos, both political and social, happening in the world. And so people are looking for some means and some way to begin to explain these things. And so a corrupt material world and a corrupt man in a war-torn and war-ravaged and famine-ravaged existence, this seems to make an enormous amount of sense.

Now concurrent with Augustine is the political side to this equation. Oh, I need to describe one thing, dogmatism. Augustine also believes and accepts the doctrine of dogmatism. Dogmatism is the expectation that select men are morally qualified, morally justified in dictating intellectual content. Do I need to repeat that?

MAN:  Yes, please.

JOHN IMMEL:  Dogmatism is the belief that select men are morally correct, morally justified to create intellectual content. In other words, the defining measure of epistemology is force, those morally qualified to use force. You understand? Okay. So Augustine ultimately believes, of course, man can’t get to God but my revelation. The All-Transcendent, he can’t get there the way he does get – the only way he ever experiences God is by revelation. God appoints select men who are morally qualified to dictate what that revelation is. Alakazam! Poof! We have dogmatism. Right? Okay.

Concurrent with these theological development is a guy by the name of Theodosius. Christianity started emerging from the fringes of Roman society. Now mind you, for the first two, three hundred years, Christianity was just really very obscure – actually, it’s considered a mystic cult for the longest time. People didn’t know what it was. They were mostly scandalized. They consider Christians atheists because Christianity believed in one god, monotheism, which was a radical concept for that time period. And so the broader Roman world whenever they encounter these atheists, they condemn the Christians because they did not sacrifice to all of the gods, and all the bad things that were happening was the Christians fault. So that’s the early part. By the time we get about to 250, Christianity is starting to emerge as a player in the social-political structure of the world. By 300, the Church was full of all sorts of political ambition. Bishops became effectively synonymous with rulers. Constantine then capitalizes on the Christian statist ambition as he presided over the Council of Nicaea. The Council of Nicaea is when we decided the doctrine of Trinity that you all take as an absolute doesn’t actually show up until about 325. And it took about 50 years when they finalized their formations. So what you believed about the Trinity, that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one and the same, is a product of this specific event. Now the reason it’s the product is because ultimately Constantine says, “You know what, guys? I’m tired of hearing you bicker. I’m going to put an end to this.” And the Trinitarian doctrine that you all believed is what he said was it. And he called all opposing positions to be demented and insane, and then they decided to persecute anyone who happen to believe otherwise. And by the way, by contrast, the Homoyan [SOUNDS LIKE 0:24:42], basically, the Homoyan concept had been the dominant thought for the better part of 200 years. So the Trinitarian concept that you have was not the most prevalent doctrine. There was actually a preceding doctrine. A little bit of trivia for you.

So Constantine galvanizes ecumenical support for his power in the failing Roman Empire. And then he uses his civil authority to condemn opponents to what is what we now call the doctrine of Trinity. In trade, the winning bishops pledged their allegiance to Constantine. Now Constantine dies in 337, but the Council of Nicaea lasted for almost another 25 years. And as each year passed, the Church became increasingly more embroiled in civil governance. And I want to read this. Fast forward to many civil wars and political machinations, wars with the Persians and endless skirmishes with the Goths, the death of Valentinian, the death of his brother Valens at the Battle of Adrianople and the appointment of Flavius Theodosius to emperor in 379. Theodosius’ role in history and more importantly, Church history, has been as Charles Freeman notes in his book AD 381, airbrushed out of existence. This is a profound failing because in 381, Theodosius, emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, decreed that all of his subjects were to pledge commitment to the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit as co-equal on pain of death. For the first time in Greco-Roman history, religious orthodoxy became synonymous with political power. In 381, the power of the state was galvanized into Christianity forever. This forever changed the face of the world. And from this point forward, the leading Christian theological concern was who had the authority, the force, to compel doctrinal outcomes. No matter the specific theological hair being split, the underlying fight was who held the force to suppress the dissenting opinion. By the way, that’s from an article I wrote on, so I didn’t plagiarize somebody. That’s actually me.

Here’s why this is important. Secularism gets a black eye because we tend to assume that secular means immoral. This is actually not true. It’s a false equation. Secularism only means the division of religious orthodoxy from political orthodoxy. A secular state is effectively an agnostic state. It means it has no – the state doesn’t care. The force of government does not care what the specific religious convictions of people are. The Hellenistic world and in particular the Classical Greek world was effectively – even though they believed in hundreds of gods, was effectively a secular state. Man could believe what he chose. He was not compelled by doctrine to believe anything. The only other manifestation of a truly secular state in the history of the world is the United States of America. And it’s important for people to begin to grasp this. The simple greatest political achievement the world has ever seen was a secular state, meaning man was free to believe what it wanted. The state didn’t care and neither should the state care. I’m going to talk about this at length. This is the first point I want to make.

Theocracy on the other hand is the merging of political power with the theological orthodoxy. A theocracy means that man is compelled to a given theological standard by force of government. And this is exactly what happened with Theodosius. Augustine’s doctrine then is able to reign effectively for the next thousand years without contest. No one can muster an objection because it is considered treason to object to Augustinian doctrine. Augustinian doctrine, therefore, is still unopposed. Man’s metaphysical corruption, the doctrine of Original Sin – I asked you [UNINTELLIGIBLE 0:29:24] Google the doctrine of Original Sin. If you do some work, you’re going to find that the doctrine of Original Sin was actually proposed by a guy by the name of Irenaeus, a bishop in Lyons, in about 250. If you read his definition of Original Sin, you won’t recognize it. Because the doctrine of Original Sin that you know doesn’t actually show up until about 400. And that was done by Augustine. Augustine basically decides because he has cared for all the basic premises of soul-body dichotomy of the – mind-body dichotomy from the ancient Greek doctrine, he believes that man is epistemologically corrupt, he abandons reason, and he gains a commitment to dogmatism, dogmatism being of course the presumption that select men are morally correct to dictate intellectual content. Of course, he believes in the primacy of the state, which is of course in his mind the primacy of the church. Now the practical application of this is the three estates through the Middle Ages. The three estates was a class society. The classes were broken down in three parts: some pray, some fight, some work. Which basically meant that the feudal society is organized around priests, knights, and serfs.

Now I want to talk to you briefly, remember when we’re talking about the Cynics and Stoics and how they approached the physical body. Man’s physical body, nature and material world is physically corrupt. What does this mean practically? Do I have this right here? Yes, I do. This produces what is known as asceticism. Asceticism is a philosophical commitment of the individual to destroy every facet of his physical existence. Asceticism is the practical application of the soul-body dichotomy, the evil material world put into practice. Christian asceticism took Paul’s determination to beat his body literally and seriously. The Church taught that asceticism, point one, gave access to the supernatural through the mortification, literally, the death of the flesh. Paul has talked about the doctrines of mortification and vivification. Most Christians tend to assume that when we talk about mortification, we’re really talking about something they can pick and choose. No. literally, mortification, the death of the flesh. It also taught that it appeased or thwarted demons. Say for instance it was believed that the spirits enter the body through food. It drew attention from God that self-destruction would earn God’s pity. Self-destruction showed that man was full of guilt.

I want to give you some examples of ascetic practice. The first one at the top of the list is celibacy. That’s a very common one. Virginity was considered an ethical value, an ethical ideal, and it was tied to the belief that the natural world was evil. Women, and this actually hit women very hard through the Dark Ages, women had no sexual identity because women were either virginal or whores. Women were seen as tempters of men. Celibacy was the means to prevent, and I make this observation, celibacy was also a means by which the Catholic Church could keep their property from disappearing into inheritance. Priests that don’t marry don’t have kids, won’t have wives. The Church gets the money. The Church gets taxes. The Church keeps it. Because when the priests dies, he doesn’t give it away to his family. Another ascetic practice was the renunciation of material possessions. For example, a guy by the name of Alexander Acomidus [SOUNDS LIKE 0:33:31] or Acoimidus? My Greek is rusty, so I don’t know. Actually, I don’t know Greek. He married poverty, which I think is hilarious considering our current preoccupations with defining marriage in America. So he would beg his food and did not keep his excess. One commenter on Alexander’s wife said that his form of monasticism was better because it didn’t create the housekeeping problems of say the Franciscans. In other words, he didn’t have cleric. I think that’s hilarious. Of course, another ascetic practice is the renunciation of food. The ideal Christian fasted for 40 days, as of course practiced by Jesus. It also turns out that starvation past 40 days killed you. They reduced or prevented sleep. They turned sleep into torture. They slept on beds of nails. They were beaten if they fell asleep. Syrian monks tied ropes around their abdomens and slept standing up. Others hung themselves in awkward positions. They condemned hygiene. They refused to cut their hair, fingernails or toenails. They dressed in filthy rags and allowed sweat and dirt to accumulate. I don’t really need to go into how much of that – how nasty that would have been. They abandoned movement. It was common to lock themselves away in monasteries, but they also then would take it further and lock themselves into cells, into smaller and smaller cells. Some ascetics, and I find this horrific, would go into the desert, sit down on a pile of rocks and stay there until their legs are rotten away. They beat their bodies. Men would stare into the sun until they’re blind so that they would never succumb to the lusts of the eyes. Monastic orders wearing girdles around their loins. They would do this so that they would not desire women. Castration and self-flagellation were very common.

Now here’s the point that I want to make. These practices never actually made it into general practice for the simple reason it is not livable. It is by definition designed to kill, this stuff. It is a commitment to death and destruction that cannot be practiced. Now here’s what I want you to notice. It was venerated. It was seen as an ethical ideal. The men who did practice such action were considered saints. The Church turned these people into heroes. Because of Augustine, through the Dark Ages, we have an entire intellectual collapse. Reason cannot grasp God and there is no earthly reality. Remember, we’re talking about the All-Transcendent, a mystical otherworld, an undefinable world, a world entirely apart from men at all. The only means by which he gets to reality is through revelation. Have you ever met somebody who is so heavenly minded they are of no earthly good? You’ve talked to them, right? And it’s surreal. Everything they do is somehow proof-text. The Puritans you talked about earlier, the way they justify, you know, what did you say? The earthquakes, they said – how they find out? I’m sorry. I don’t think I remember.

SUSAN DOHSE:  It was like from the Book of Amos where God thundered from Zion.

JOHN IMMEL:  Right. God thunders from Zion. They have an earthquake, and so the way they explained earthquake is because God thunders from Zion. You talk to people like this and everything they do has – they have no ability to grasp causality. Just basic concepts like gravity, everything they do is in terms of this grand otherworldly perspective. Imagine an entire culture built like this, the entire culture is organized around this fundamental presumption. And I want to make the specific point of the proof-text mindset, the need to use authority to validate ideas. The proof-text mind cannot think in terms of causality. It is a mind that equates causality with authority. It is a mind that does not grasp principles. Proof-texting is merely an appeal to authority, and it is the validation, a rational content because of authority. Of course, what this really means is we’re talking about an entire culture built on rational dependence. In other words, it gets all of its rational content from somebody who dictates. Of course, this is impossible for a scientific society because a scientific society is built around rational independence, the ability to independently review the world and explore the world and find commonalities and find causalities. So the result through the Dark Ages was intellectual stagnation. It paralyzed all critical thinking. Authority was what governed human interaction, and the result was war, war, war, and more war. Because God was always in the business of smiting someone else who got it wrong through the sword of the state. The concept of rights was really a discussion of prerogatives. The Divine Right of Kings is really the divine prerogative of kings. The king is entitled to act without restriction, all based on – I do think I have this note, right? Yes, I do. Ah, I’ll get to that in a moment.

I would like to give you some fast facts about the Dark Ages. Infant mortality rates were estimated at 50 percent. Some sources suggest maybe as low as 30. By age 12, a boy was considered old enough to pledge his life to his sovereign, meaning he was considered old enough to go to war. By 12, girls were considered old enough to marry. They were sold as a chattel, considered a societal burden because they’re a mouth to feed. They could not endure the rigors of agricultural life. The concept of a dowry was designed to make marriageable females more attractive to male suitors. Men were basically paid to take on women. Ninety-five percent of the population worked at agriculture with farm implements out of the Stone Age. Yields were estimated at a quarter of the seed sown. Therefore, it took roughly two acres to feed one person. By comparison, modern farming methods yield in excess of 80 percent, and it takes less than a third of an acre to feed one person. There was no concept of germs, no antibiotics, vaccines, no anesthetic. Anesthetic was considered sinful. Your pain was necessarily the product of your sin, and God deliberately did it to you. And this all made sense because of course suffering is a virtue. Death is a virtue. Pain was merely the natural state of human existence. The three estates divided in between some work, some pray, some fight, this practically meant that 95 percent of the populace were slaves, 2 percent did nothing, and the nobility fought wars of conquests for profit. The largest class, of course, were the people called the villani. It means villager, but it is the root of our modern word, which is villain. They were born into slavery, a generational slavery. This is important to understand. As a class society, as a class based on determination, if you were born a serf, you would be a serf. Your grandson would be a serf. Your great grandson would be a serf. Your great grandfather would be a serf. There was effectively no escape. You were committed. You were basically born into subservience, and there was no ability to get out of it. This is of course the logical conclusion of Augustine’s theories of predestination carried out to practical application.

PAUL DOHSE:  John, let me quickly interject that the Puritans taught that upward mobility is a violation of the Fifth Commandment.


PAUL DOHSE:  If you want to be upward mobile, you were disrespecting your parents’ heritage and place in life.

JOHN IMMEL:  Yes, it is exactly the same mindset, exactly the same body of doctrine.

PAUL DOHSE:  And in colonial America, in Boston, you can be put in stocks for dressing like somebody in the upper class.

JOHN IMMEL:  Correct. It is exactly the same. Remember I told you that most people encounter their broader philosophical statement at the point of ethics. This is exactly the same thing. This is ethical premise of moral inferiority put into practice. A villager, serf, his husband, wife and surviving children, and I do mean surviving from mortality rates in upwards of 50 percent, I mean, surviving, lived in roughly 700 square feet, and they share that space with livestock. Seven hundred square feet would be this room? Oh no, not even, not even. Maybe from here to the wall. It’s small. Justice, and I used the bunny quotes, was meted out with brutal efficiency. Man who stole from a lord’s property, which is effectively everything in sight, could be penalized by being pilloried, drawn and quartered, cut open, limbs, noses or ears cut off. Women, who were accused of crimes, say daring to seduce a priest or lord, and when I mean by seduced, I mean they lusted after her, had their genitals impaled with hot irons, locked in iron maidens, burned at the stake and drowned. The Church sanctioned all of these actions by government. By Paul’s quote in Romans 13, can I borrow somebody’s ESV? That was a joke. Certainly, there’s no ESVs in here, right? Romans 13:1-2, will somebody read it out loud for me. Go ahead, Andy.

ANDY YOUNG:  This is King James.

JOHN IMMEL:  It doesn’t matter. It says the same thing.

ANDY YOUNG:  “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”

JOHN IMMEL:  This is ultimately the foundation of the Divine Right of Kings, the presumption that the king is appointed of God and whatever he happens to do is exactly what God chooses. This is also a corollary of the doctrine of predestination. It’s what God intends. What you see manifest is specifically what God is after. The Dark Ages are dark in principle, and it’s imperative that you understand what this means. Philosophically, it is dark on purpose. It is specifically trying to separate all of man from any good. The fundamental formulations of Augustinian doctrine sought to eradicate man on every fundamental level. Christianity elevated pain and suffering and pestilence and poverty to the highest ethical ideal. The whole of historic Christian doctrine revolves around the veneration of death. Human suffering reaches its pinnacle in Western thought. Destruction of the flesh is the ethical ideal. It’s what you’re striving to do. It doesn’t take an art scholar to understand why the Ichthus, the symbol of a fish, in remembrance of the disciples was replaced by the cross as an enduring icon of Christianity. For the first 400 to 500 years, the cross does not appear in Christian art. But by the start of the 6th century, the cross, which is an emblem of political subjugation and torture, becomes Christianity’s central icon. But what other icon would be appropriate for a religion built on human suffering? Four hundred years after Jesus came to preach life in the covenants of promise, Christianity became a cult of death that ruled the world with a nihilistic iron fist.

I get some heat on occasion for calling Christianity a cult of death. But I challenge you, show me I’m wrong. The sum of Christian doctrine is based on the death of man. It is obsessed and fixated on man’s death. And it worships an icon of death and culture. It holds out Jesus’ death and destruction as its highest ethical action. It preaches at its root man’s highest ethical ideal is his own self-destruction. Now I challenged you with this question: The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. So here’s what I think is wrong with this question. The question must be, what causes good men to do nothing? If they are good, that presupposes they have values, right? That’s what that presupposes, that the nature of values are such that they act consistent with those values, right? What causes good men to take no action? Change the definition of good. Turn death and destruction into good.

You want to know what happened in National Socialist Germany? Change the definition of good. Now for me to actually explain why this is so important, we’re going to have to do some more remedial work tomorrow. Because most people sitting in here don’t really hold the Augustine standard of good in their head. Most modern Calvinists don’t hold the Augustinian, Luther, and Calvin doctrine of good in their head. Most of them get their definition of good from a very different source. And that’s what we’re going to talk about tomorrow. Thank you.

PAUL DOHSE:  Leave those all in there. I’ve got some closing comments. Yeah, go ahead.

ZACH:  I was pondering your question to us, and I arrived at the same conclusion. I said, well, [UNINTELLIGIBLE 0:50:37] take the philosophy to its logical conclusion, doing nothing is man’s greatest good, the realization of man’s moral imperative to do nothing. And what is the best way for man to do nothing? It’s for man to no longer be. The closer man gets to be doing nothing, the closer man gets to be dead, which is what all of this is about. It’s all about telling man that his greatest moral good is to not be himself, which is death. And that’s why people, good people, do nothing because the functional definition of good has to change, just like you said.

JOHN IMMEL:  And I want to continue to echo what Zach just said. This becomes crucial in understanding all tyrannies and all functions of tyrannies. Life is movement in action. Life requires the ability to identify and move and act towards values. The moment you eradicate values, you eradicate the premium of life. There is only one other option, and that is death. Another comment, Paul? I saw Andy I think starting to say something [SOUNDS LIKE 0:52:00].

PAUL DOHSE:  Okay. Yeah, I’ve got lots of comments. A question came in from somebody observing the conference in regard to Andy’s talk. Apparently, she had a power outage or something and by the time she got back, Andy was done. So we’ll address that, and I want to address that, make some closing comments. As far as the question, the fish and the cross, okay, throughout my young life as a Christian, you would hear Christians from time to time saying, “Yeah, you know, the cross, it’s kinda weird. That’s kinda like an electric chair being on top of the church, you know, that if Jesus would come and die in our time, we wouldn’t be worshipping a cross. We would be worshipping an electric chair, right?” So another thing that people are very uncomfortable with, overall Jesus emphasized his death very little…

JOHN IMMEL:  Actually, I would like to really expand that. The fact of the matter is that Jesus talked about his death very little and only within the last about three months of his life.


JOHN IMMEL: It’s never a big deal, and he actually avoids the conversation. And the only time he really pops off about is after basically Peter, remember get behind him saying – has hounded him to the point that he doesn’t have a choice but to say something about it. I have contended, well, for the better part, certainly since I left Sovereign Grace Ministries, the thing that clinched it for me that I knew there was something fundamentally wrong with their doctrine is they specifically defined the gospel as Jesus crucified, when in actual fact, Jesus never preached that. He let that be. The gospel, the thing that Jesus preached is centered in Luke 4, basically verses 17, 18, 19 and 20. The spirit of the Lord is upon me for he has anointed me to preach. Good news to the captive [SOUNDS LIKE 0:54:40]. And he goes on to expand that the nature of the anointing on him was to improve people’s lives. You never hear this message coming out of a pulpit. The definition of the gospel has always been abundant life. The thing that Jesus brought to the table, the thing that made people gravitate to him with such power is the fact that everywhere he went, people got better. Their life improved. And when confronted with the hardship that the disciples experienced, Jesus said, “Are you going to leave me?” And Peter goes, “Where are going to go for words of limitless life?” Now the historic translation is eternal life. And that gets reinterpreted to be the All-Transcendent, the future, the out there, the heavenly life. But the word is actually more better understood by limitless life. But the word is actually more better understood by limitless life. And the cross was not central to what Jesus preached. And I contend ultimately it is an entire misunderstanding of what Paul was talking about when he talks about I preached Christ and him crucified. Christ is in fact the same word Messiah, which is the same word anointed, which is exactly a reflection of what is in Luke.

PAUL DOHSE:  Well, again, though I [UNINTELLIGIBLE 0:56:05], so I’ll say this quickly and then [UNINTELLIGIBLE 0:56:08]. But look, the Bible’s gotta be interpreted in context. When Paul said these things, he was – let me just cut to the chase real quick. I’m not like those philosophers that come to you speaking all of this deep gnosis, okay? I just came as a simple man who doesn’t speak well originally speaking to you about the gospel of actual biblical term here, the gospel of first importance, okay? Yeah, when he came to Corinth originally preaching the first gospel of first importance to people who were all turned upside down with all of these great philosophy, and you mentioned Philo, in my estimation, in my studies, Philo was it in Jewish culture.

JOHN IMMEL:  Yes, he was very important.

PAUL DOHSE:  He dominated to the point where Jesus says to Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” Nicodemus has not a clue as to what he was talking about. I guess my question is before we go to comments is how far does this go back and to what degree can we compare this with Moses saying, “Choose life”?

JOHN IMMEL:  I’ve really never laid this out with any specificity, and it really does require being laid out with a lot of specificity. But I contend that life is the fundamental premise, is the fundamental conflict. The issue has always been life or death. From the beginning with Adam, it was life or death. The issue was not sin directly. The issue was Adam’s destruction. It was Adam’s death. It was Adam’s pain and suffering that were at issue. And so I think this actually is all reflective – it’s all about man’s life.



  1. GRISSOM: First of all, [UNINTELLIGIBLE 0:58:31] very informative and thought-provoking, but the thing about the cross, I think I have to disagree with you on that. In 1st Corinthians 1…

PAUL DOHSE:  We allow that here.

JOHN IMMEL:  Well, wait a minute now. No, you need to submit to my authority here.

PAUL DOHSE:  And I need to say some words about all this, make sure we stay on line in [UNINTELLIGIBLE 0:58:52].

JOHN IMMEL:  Go ahead, Bo.

  1. GRISSOM: First Corinthians 1:17-18, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” I think the cross [UNINTELLIGIBLE 0:59:20]…

JOHN IMMEL:  And that’s fundamental…

  1. GRISSOM: [UNINTELLIGIBLE] to the cross…

JOHN IMMEL:  That is a very Christian anachronistic interpretation, and I understand where you get it, and I haven’t really…

  1. GRISSOM: Well, it’s based on the Hebrew roots, too, that there was a [UNINTELLIGIBLE 0:59:37]. And I think the reason it’s important is because if we didn’t have that, we would have a God that is not just. We’d have a God that’s arbitrary [UNINTELLIGIBLE 0:59:53]. But Andy was pretty – got it.

JOHN IMMEL:  What I find fascinating – and I want to answer your question and your observation this way. What I find fascinating is that for all of Protestant Christianity’s determination to insist that it is not Catholic, it remains metaphysically Catholic, and it remains doctrinally Catholic. The explanation you just gave for Paul’s assertions is very definitely has its roots way back in Augustine. And it’s still…

  1. GRISSOM: It’s in the Bible…

JOHN IMMEL:  No. And this is actually a very important point. There is a difference between something being in the Bible and the interpretive methodology that you arrive at a conclusion being necessarily biblical. And that is a – it’s actually one of the reasons I stay away from doctrinal arguments because I think you have read in specific assumptions, and you have cut and pasted ideas together that may or may not go together, and those are interpretative conclusions. And that is very different than that being a sound doctrine. Anyway, like I said, that’s my take on the subject.

  1. GRISSOM: John the Baptist said [UNINTELLIGIBLE 1:01:13].

JOHN IMMEL:  Correct. But what John the Baptist said is not specifically related to what Paul said.

  1. GRISSOM: I have another question.


  1. GRISSOM: I have a book at home. I think it’s called The Church in the Wilderness by Wilkerson or Wilkinson.

JOHN IMMEL:  Okay. David Wilkerson or…?

  1. GRISSOM: [UNINTELLIGIBLE 1:01:38] evidence that there was another branch on the original church [UNINTELLIGIBLE 1:01:51] that went to the East and actually [UNINTELLIGIBLE 1:01:55] India and China.

JOHN IMMEL:  Correct.

  1. GRISSOM: They weren’t affected by the Reformation, and they were consistent [UNINTELLIGIBLE 1:02:04].

JOHN IMMEL:  If I remember correctly, it was an extra preparation of a Roman holiday. The Sunday…

SUSAN DOHSE:  It finds its roots in [UNINTELLIGIBLE 1:02:27].

JOHN IMMEL:  Yeah, it finds its roots in – yeah, I think she’s right. I think it’s [UNINTELLIGIBLE 1:02:32]

PAUL DOHSE:  The Sabbath.

JOHN IMMEL:  Yeah, the Sunday Sabbath.


  1. GRISSOM: So are you familiar with that branch of…

JOHN IMMEL:  Actually, I am – well, I’m familiar enough with it. I understand – first of all, the evolution of Christian thought, what I’m discussing is the Western thought. Christianity, I made this point earlier, Christianity had many flavors. You have the Eastern Orthodox Church. And you’re exactly right. There was an entire evangelistic effort that made its way all the way to Japan. And it remained kind of an underground sect until it was destroyed and wiped out by, I don’t remember, some emperor in Japan. And that, you know, what we’re talking, it lasted all the way to 16th, 17th century. And a lot of the doctrines you see throughout the Eastern Orthodox Church, you wouldn’t recognize specifically as Christian. I think their canon, one of the primary things is their canon is like ten books, eight books, something like that. They don’t have all the books we have as Protestants. And of course the Catholic Church has a hundred and whatever the heck it is, ninety-something, I don’t remember. So, yes, I am familiar with those traditions. Andy, did you have a comment? You raised your hand, but I think…

ANDY YOUNG:   I can’t remember what it is.

SUSAN DOHSE:  Just briefly. You were talking about pain and sacrifice [SOUNDS LIKE 1:03:53]. That was a concept that was very big with the Puritans, too, where they’re really accusing American midwives of witchcraft because the Native Americans had herbal medicinal history, and the Native American midwives would actually give the women in labor herbal brews that would lessen the pain. And if a Puritan midwife gave anything to lessen the pain of childbirth, they were accused of witchcraft and quickly sent to death, to their death, or they could be whipped in public where they could at least be watched in public. What they don’t realize is a super amount of superstition brought over from Europe and incorporated into religious thought [SOUNDS LIKE 1:05:06].

JOHN IMMEL:  Yes, correct.

SUSAN DOHSE:  But the theological reason why they were not supposed to have anything to relieve pain is because she had the seat of Eve in her, and all women have the seat of Eve. Therefore, they are of lesser value, of lesser importance, weaker vessel, all of that…


So for those of you who were part of the last session and you heard the rather robust conversation, some days I really do think it would be better to be a Neo-Calvinist preacher. I could just say, “You gotta believe what I say and shut up.” No, actually, I don’t think that’s true at all. It was an intense conversation [UNINTELLIGIBLE 0:00:21].

Oh, for those of you who don’t know me, I need to introduce myself. My name is John Immel. I wrote a blog called I want to make a point of distinction. My blog is not a discernment blog. It’s a blog about ideas. I wrote a book called Blight in the Vineyard: Exposing the Roots, Myths and Emotional Torment of Spiritual Tyranny. If you like the kind of stuff that you hear me talk about, you will find a lot more of that in here. I highly recommend. You can find it on Amazon, $23.99. Shameless promotional plug. I’m a capitalist. Buy my book, please.

Okay, I’ve brought you up to the collapse effectively of civilization. And that collapse lasts for almost 800 years because Augustine stands virtually intellectually unopposed. There are of course medieval theologians and so forth that do rise up. Some of them were pretty smart, but ultimately they had nothing important to say in the evolution of Western thought. The result is for all of their departures and all of their good ideas, they never abandon the rudiments of orthodoxy, and so they have nothing new to offer until we get to about 1250 with St. Thomas Aquinas. Now everybody in this room, I need you to look around and become very particularly aware of the environment you inhabit. And everybody online, I want you to look around your house, and I want you to pay attention to all of the things that you have, and in particular, the things that reside in science–light, the switch on the wall, the electricity, your computer. The fact that you’re looking at a computer screen that takes advantage of quantum mechanics to produce everything, your ability to interact with us here. Everything that you see in your house is based on what comes next. Now it takes man an enormous amount of time to unravel [UNINTELLIGIBLE 0:02:38].

St. Thomas Aquinas reintroduces Aristotle into Western thought in 1250, but we don’t actually get to freedom – and I think you can see the outline if I walk all the way over here. We don’t actually get to freedom, liberty and knowledge until almost 1700, well, right about 1700. Man spends an enormous amount of time in this doleful horror story. And it is Aquinas who gives us Aristotle, and Aristotle bails us out of the madness. The reason I want to talk about Aristotle, because ultimately I am going to get to the impact of Neo-Calvinism on the United States of America. And by the time I get down with the next two sessions, I want you to be absolutely aware that America is not possible without Aristotle and without John Locke. The impact, you gotta know what you’re about ready to lose. If you don’t understand what you’re about ready to lose, you won’t understand why you’re about ready to lose, you’ll never understand why I object to Augustine and Luther and Calvin. Because if that’s your total frame of reference, what difference does it make? If you live in Syria today and I say, “You know what? If Neo-Calvinism comes roaring back and it’s going to actually stop the jihadists,” the jihadists would probably say, “What’s the difference? I effectively live in the Dark Ages already under Islam. What’s the difference?” There is no difference because ultimately Augustine’s doctrine produced the exact same Dark Ages that is still prevailing in the Middle East. And it’s all because they ran Aristotle out on a rail. They did exactly the same thing to Aristotle, what the Church did to Aristotle. They condemned him.

Now I’m not going to go over how Aquinas integrated Aristotle into Christianity. That would be a long and tedious project. So I’m just going to start with Aristotle and the elements and roots of Aristotle. Oh, I do want to explain why I had Paul write this up here. I go back to my house last night to finalize PowerPoint slides, and I can’t find it. And it actually – getting all this laid out in PowerPoint, how I want to do it, I knew it’s going to take longer than I had, so I had Paul, somebody – and I can’t write this well. So if I wrote this out, you would think I was illiterate. So Paul wrote it. Thank you.

Okay. Aristotle is the most important figure in all of Western thought. Now with that endorsement, do I recommend you read him? No, not so much. Here’s why. Of course since I’m constantly encouraging people to follow up with my scholarship, go read what I say. Go find the sources that I talk about and do your own work. That probably seems like an awkward thing to say. However, if you go to Aristotle, this is what you will be treated to. Category Section 1 Part 1. Now this is part of Aristotle’s purpose, and actually I think this is the first two paragraphs out of his work. Here’s how it reads. For those of you online, you can’t see this. “Things are said to be named ‘equivocally’ when, though they have a common name, the definition corresponding with the name differs for each. Thus, a real man and a figure in a picture can both lay claim to the name ‘animal’; yet these are equivocally so named, for, though they have a common name, the definition corresponding with the name differs for each.”

I’m going to stop there because you get the idea. It is long and tedious. And here is the problem that we’ve got with Aristotle. The core of what we have we think are lecture notes. There are historical sources that attribute to him an amazing speaking capacity and that his writing was a pleasure to read. Well, that’s not that. So of course the conspiracy theorist in me, when the Church condemned him, I fully expect that they set out to eradicate his writings just like they did every other heretic for 1,500 years. So I think the stuff that was easy to read and understand was either wiped out by the Catholic Church or it was wiped out by Islam. Islam did get a handle on one of the – Aristotle made a brief stop I think right around 1000, 1100 AD, and they actually had a renaissance of sorts, and eventually that itself died out because the logical end of Islam is war and destruction, and of course they set out to destroy anything that wasn’t endorsed by Allah. So I think a lot of the works were lost to that intellectual purge, but the stuff that we do have is very highly, highly technical. So it takes an enormous amount of effort to unravel what he’s after. I didn’t learn Aristotle by this. I learned it from a lot of other sources.

Okay. So as we know, Plato creates this world of Forms. Aristotle spends 20 years in Plato’s Academy. For a series of reasons, he leaves Athens, and eventually, those series of reasons resolve and he comes back and he creates his own school called The Lyceum. But while he was in Plato’s Academy, he was considered one of Plato’s best students, and he was a committed Platonist. He accepted the premise of Platonism from the beginning to the end, the full philosophical statement. However, during his time away from Athens, he began to rethink. Why he began to rethink, I guess I don’t know. I’m sure somebody does. I don’t think I do. But at the end of the day, he decided Plato was wrong, and not just a little wrong. Plato was catastrophically wrong. And as such, he began to rethink the whole of philosophy and the whole shape and scope of philosophy. Now in the grand scheme of intellectuals, Plato was a genius on levels that is hard to grasp for people in everyday life. But still Plato had ideas that came before him that he built on. Aristotle had nothing before him to arrive at his conclusions. Everything before him was exactly the opposite of what he said. And so for Aristotle to arrive at and not only just in the philosophies specifically, but he went on to – he was a biologist, scientist. He had an enormous capacity for learning and knowledge and understanding. So his level of genius has probably not been paralleled since on planet earth [SOUNDS LIKE 0:10:20]. It’s really probably that simple.

Now having said that, there are some substantial errors in Aristotle, or at least the forms and sources that we have, there are some errors. And so one of the biggest problems that Aristotle always had is his inconsistencies have always been the undermining value. What we have of Plato is large and consistent. What we have of Aristotle is actually very narrow and there are some fundamental inconsistencies. And in the world of philosophy, the most consistent formulation wins. And it’s crucial that you understand why this is important. We are here specifically challenging the rudiments of the Neo-Calvinist movement, and we are actually pushing back against a huge body of ideas that are all internally consistent. The heavy lifting has been done. The modern age, the modern Neo-Calvinist thinkers are really third and fourth-rate thinkers. All the heavy lifting has already been done for them. All they’re doing is taking the heavy lifting and repackaging it for the modern age. So whenever they see an inconsistency, all they have to do is refer back to the arguments of old. And as a rule, the arguments of old handled the inconsistency. One of the biggest problems within Christianity has been no one has ever successfully sustained a consistent, whole, developed thought in response to Calvinism. And that includes Arminianism. Arminianism is actually not the opposite of Calvinism. And because Augustine spoke unopposed for so long, most of the people who did offer a model [SOUNDS LIKE 0:12:13] were ultimately condemned as heretics. One of the most obvious examples is Pelagius. Most of you are Pelagians. However, you don’t know it. And the reason you don’t know it is because Pelagius was condemned way back in the 3rd or 4th century. I’m sure there’s a scholar out there who will correct me. But way back there, most of the doctrines that we talk about, particularly regarding the doctrine of sanctification are Pelagian doctrines. And of course the Calvinists condemned Pelagians and even semi-Pelagians. Pelagianism, okay? You can actually go read Institutes of the Christian Religion. I believe it is, Chapter 3, and Calvin will overtly condemn the kinds of things we’re talking about, sanctification being semi-Pelagianism and it is actually heresy.

So now back to my original point. The consistency of a line of thought, the most consistent formulation wins in the world of philosophy. But now we get to see the power of ideas because even with these inconsistencies, the Aristotelian framework is enormously powerful, and you will begin to understand why. Aristotle begins to object to Plato’s world of Forms. He is going to reject Plato’s metaphysics at its root. And here’s what I’m going to do. We’re going to talk about his forms. We’re going to talk about Aristotle’s rejection of Plato’s Forms. And then we’re going to talk about particulars, and then we’re going to talk about universals. I know that this doesn’t make any sense to you right this minute, but this shapes the roots of what Aristotle had to say. And the conversations that we have had, I think you’ll immediately begin to identify why we’ve struggled so much in this context to organize our arguments.

So here we go. We’ll start on Aristotle’s attack on Plato’s Forms. I need to make sure everybody knows what those are. Let me briefly reiterate. Plato created a transcendent world that everything you see from where you’re sitting, everything that you see, a table, that table is actually a shadow of the real thing, of the perfect thing. And that was actually located in this world called the Forms. There was a perfect table in the world of Forms, and the table that you see is a shadow. It is imperfect and therefore a shadow of this perfect thing. Aristotle says no, the Forms are a useless theory because it does not explain this world. This world is filled with particulars, things that move, change, grow and act. Now a particular is a table, a chair, a camera, a plate, a shoe, a Phil [SOUNDS LIKE 0:15:15], a Zach [SOUNDS LIKE]. Those are particulars. You understand? This is the world that man needs to understand. Man does not need to know Plato’s static supernatural world. Here’s an example. This world has chairs, tables, dogs, and Calvinists. Plato says that to understand this world, another world must first have chairs, tables, dogs, and Calvinists. As far as Aristotle is concerned, this creates a useless duplication. All that Plato has done is create a useless metaphor and that it does not address the root question, how does this world reflect the world of Forms? By what mechanism does this take place? And of course there is no answer. Because by definition, all that Plato was saying is this world of Forms is somehow a bright enough light that it casts a shadow here. But yet there is still this fundamental division, which means that man is still living in a world that is somehow functionally unreal.

Now here is Aristotle’s major objection that gives you a flavor of the kind of argument he levels [SOUNDS LIKE 0:16:37], but here is his major substantive rejection. To understand this rejection, I need to introduce two concepts: forms, particulars, forms, I already did that, particulars and universals. Particulars are self-contained and self-enclosed things. They are entities, something that exists in itself.


JOHN IMMEL:  Yeah, it doesn’t matter. Whatever you see in the world is a particular. You understand that? Now universals are what is common to a number of particulars. It is the characteristic possessed by many particulars. What is the common denominator of say table-ness or chair-ness or circle-ness? When men conceptualizes these things, he universalizes the concepts into an abstraction. Let me see if I can explain this. I’m mommy’s face, and I’ve got baby on the other side of me. And I look at baby and baby smiles. And I put blanket over my face and baby frowns, and I drop the blanket and baby smiles. Baby is making a perceptual understanding of mommy’s face. But baby has not yet conceptualized mommy’s face doesn’t disappear with the blanket. Do you understand? Yes? No? I’m crazy? This process of learning to identify a particular. This is a remote, but it’s not the specific remote. I have remoteness in my hand. I can generalize remote into a generalized concept. That concept can be abstracted to the nth degree because now I don’t have to remember every single remote I ever see in my lifetime. I can now hold in my head the concept, the abstraction of remote, and it encompasses all of the remotes on the planet. You see, this is an enormously powerful part of human cognition. And it is Aristotle’s ability to identify the process of going from a particular to the concept, to the abstraction that gives Aristotle’s metaphysics and epistemology such enormous power.

Now the concept of universal, what Plato did is he took the universal, he said table has a perfect table somewhere else, so that table is the universal and that’s how we know a table generally. Aristotle says that’s silly. What you just did is took the abstraction, remoteness, created universal perfect remote somewhere in another world, and then said, oh by the way, this remote is a reflection. So in other words, Plato took the universal and made it a particular. This is a powerful, powerful argument. Aristotle called this reification or literally, thing-making. Pretty much he said Plato made up this world that had no function and no purpose and that all that was necessarily important was here and now.

MAN:  Question.


MAN:  What you’re saying according to Plato, that’s not really a remote.

JOHN IMMEL:  Yeah. No, this is a shadow of something else. It’s a shadow of a perfect thing. You understand?

MAN:  Got it.

JOHN IMMEL:  You understand?

WOMAN:  It’s not material.

JOHN IMMEL:  Yeah, it’s not material.

MAN:  It’s not real.

JOHN IMMEL:  Not real.

PAUL DOHSE:  Let me chime in to why this is important. I do a lot of Reformed reading. The constant things throughout much of the literature is Plato versus Aristotle.

JOHN IMMEL:  It is. And let me get to why that is. I’m headed that route.

PAUL DOHSE:  And basically, you’re reading all of this stuff on a good Christian reading about theology, what’s all this bickering back and forth about Plato and Aristotle? This is key.

JOHN IMMEL:  It is key because this is the fundamental conflict, and you’ll see why. Here’s how Aristotle explains this. We separate common characteristics of entities, particulars, by our selective awareness, by observing the differences among them, we then reduce things to a common denominator. And this is how we go from particulars to universals. When a baby first enters the world and looks around and sees chair, chair, chair, chair, chair, chair, it doesn’t understand all of these chairs. These are all somehow unique and individual events. But eventually, it identifies the common denominators of chairs, and it begins to conceptualize chair in general, and then it abstracts to the bigger picture.

Now notice Aristotle’s distinction. Just because we can perform the action of selection does not mean that the common denominator exists in a separate supernatural reality. But separating things in thought is very different than being separated in reality. When man practices this selective process, he is performing abstraction. For example, within this room, you could identify all the shapes of the circle in the room, so we can ignore color, and if it’s a part of a chair or connected to the wall, we can extract the concept circle from each instance. But this mental process does not mean that the circle is out there somewhere in a form. Like I said, Aristotle calls Plato’s world of Forms the fallacy of reification, literally thing-making. Plato is making a thing of a human cognitive process. This is a brilliant deduction. Aristotle identifies a fundamental flaw by pointing out that this is really nothing more than how the human consciousness works. It is part of the human consciousness identity, which we’re now going to talk about Aristotle’s metaphysics.

Now you should have some basic insight into how Aristotle conceptualizes the world. Here are the basics. Reality exists. What man perceives is reality. There is no conflict between reality and appearance. Reality is what man observes, and any formulation that says otherwise is error. Particulars are the units of reality. The things you see are particulars. As I said, anything you can physically point at, look at, identify, subtract and blank out everything else and look at that, that is a particular. Everything is an individual and a concrete. Individuality is the particular’s irreducible element. The thing that individualizes it is the thing. Aristotle expands this concepts by saying the particulars are a this and a such. And here is where we get the validity of classification. Remote is a this, but it’s also a such. It’s a specific kind of remote. This remote goes to that little gadget right there. There are other remotes that are classified as television remotes, and there are other remotes that are classified as computer remotes. There are Paul, man, classify different than Susan, woman, a this and a such. This gives us an enormous power of abstraction and organization. Here’s another example. The particular man can now be put into the class Homo sapiens. Man does this with all particulars. Chairs are class this type of chairs. Tables are class of type of tables. Circles are class of type of circles. And abstractions are universals. Remember Plato said universals were reserved for this place in the Forms. Aristotle says no, this is a function of human cognition, and an abstraction is the universal. All we have done is now make the progression between perception to conceptualization to abstraction. The abstraction is the universal. This is a brilliant development in Western thought.

Here’s how he defines the process of abstraction. Men perceives individual trees until he forms the concept of tree that he abstracts into tree-ness and then subsequently categorizes maple trees, oak trees, et cetera. The abstraction tree-ness is then the universal. Here is Aristotle’s distinction, and this is a direct contrast to Plato. Universals are real. Universals are the objects of conceptual thought. Universals are the abstraction of particulars, but only particulars exist. Let me make a distinction. There was a common paradox that was called Zeno, Zeno’s paradox. Zeno said you couldn’t actually cross a room. The reason you couldn’t cross the room is because you could not cross distance. You would go to half and then to half again and then to half again and then to half again and to half again, and you could not cross a room by definition. Of course, this is error because it takes the concept of infinity and turns it into a thing. You do not cross infinity. You cross an identity. And the identity is the distance of a room, 30 feet. Aristotle correctly destroyed Zeno’s paradox by observing that the abstraction infinity was not real. It didn’t exist. It was an abstraction. We use it as a mental unit, as a mental organizer, but it is not in existence like this. So can we cross a room? Absolutely. Why? Because we’re not crossing infinity. We’re crossing an identity, 30 feet. We’re crossing a particular of measurement, here. Do you understand? Yes, got it. Specific, I heard you say it right. Correct.

Now most of the – and I’m going to make a little editorial insertion here. Most of the conflicts that we have regarding the Neo-Calvinist group and all collectivist ideologies is the failure to grasp the distinction between concretes and particulars, concepts and abstractions. Most of our theological discussion in here has failed because it has misunderstood these specific distinctions. And the reason the Neo-Calvinists kick our butt so consistently is because they are masters at manipulating the difference between concept and abstraction. I’ll let you mull. Particulars, concepts, abstractions, okay?

MAN:  Can you give an example of that?

JOHN IMMEL:  Off the top of my head, no, I can’t.

MAN:  I’m sorry if I put you on the spot.

JOHN IMMEL:  Off the top of my head, no, I can’t summarize. Well, let me ponder that, put it on a note to me. Maybe I’ll think about it.

MAN:  Okay.

PAUL DOHSE:  They’re masters at…

JOHN IMMEL:  They’re masters at manipulating the difference between particulars, concepts and abstractions. Actually, you say this all the time. They change the terms. They redefine.

PAUL DOHSE:  Well, I thought that was – I was going to say that I’m thinking that’s a little bit elementary. Let me throw in the one thing you’d see when you listen to them talk is this consistent either-or construct. It’s either this or it’s that. You’re either a Calvinist or an Arminian. You’re either Augustine or Pelagian. I could throw that out there.

MAN:  I think what John’s saying is – I think total depravity is a perfect example because you have the particular man, man is the same, and you have the concept, the abstraction of total depravity. In Calvinist doctrine, the Reformed doctrine, total depravity becomes causal. It becomes an actual thing that has causal power over men. And when you search the reality of man, it becomes its own real force. It ceases to be a concept that man creates to organize what he observes and then it becomes a force itself. So they’re constantly defining the world in terms of real objects and external forces which determine them or control – is that something…

JOHN IMMEL:  Actually, I think he’s dead on. Did you understand what he just said? It’s actually a pretty good example. They turn the abstraction, the metaphysical abstraction, human depravity, into a thing. And that thing imposes itself on man. That’s the kind of manipulation I’m talking about. All I’m doing is observing the rudimentary manipulation that they make. And unfortunately, it’s not necessarily indicative of just the Neo-Calvinist movement. You see this exact same thing in Marxism. You see this exact same thing in Augustinian doctrine. This is not unique to them. It is learning to identify this manipulation. The better you get at learning to think in principles, learning to think philosophically, the faster you get at being able to point out the flaw in what somebody’s saying because you can reduce it down to its simplest elements. Being able to learn to think in terms of this is a particular, the concept that I extrapolate of this remote and then I can subsume it in the broadest sense. But the broadest sense does not exist. Okay? You understand? Let me keep going here, and I think that will start to unravel a lot of [UNINTELLIGIBLE 0:32:57]. And granted, I’ve been at this a long time. This is easily fourth year undergraduate work, first, second year graduate work. So be patient with yourself as this starts to make more sense. Because you are daughters and sons of the Enlightenment. I guarantee you, you believe this stuff because you conduct your life after these principles because you have lived in the time of the Enlightenment. So let me continue.

PAUL DOHSE:  We function according to what we experience.

JOHN IMMEL:  We function according to the belief this exists. And this is a thing and we can identify it and understand it and touch it, measure it and then manipulate it. We understand that. Let me keep going.

And here is Aristotle’s terminology. He says matter is the uniqueness of a particular. Form is the universalizing of those things that a particular shares with other things. So he takes over Plato’s concept of Form, but he uses it entirely differently. And here is Aristotle’s metaphysical wall. You cannot have form without matter, and you cannot have matter without form. Here is Plato’s fundamental error. He creates a world of Forms without matter. And this is the exact same failing in Augustinian doctrine. Augustine’s form is the heavenly and the universal worldly godly realm. This earth has no form. And that’s ultimately what Augustine manipulates to the nth degree throughout the entirety of his ideology. Here is the summary. Particulars exist. Reality is what it appears to human senses. Action, quantity, motion are merely naming what the particulars do. The nature of identity – what is the identity of John? John is a man. John is tall. John has gray hair as a man, but the man-ness of him gives him the ability to move, to act, to walk. John has weight. John can be in motion. All of these things are elements of my identity. And identities are what you encounter in the world.

So here is what this means. Aristotle is the creator of what is called the Primacy of Existence. Everybody prior to Aristotle said that it was consciousness that was primary. Some consciousness, whether some variation of man’s consciousness or some divine consciousness imposed its will on the world and shaped it after its fashion. Aristotle says no, this is backwards. It is reality that comes first and consciousness engages reality. And this is the Copernican shift in philosophy because it puts reality and consciousness as co-weights, co-counterweights in the ability to define what is. It gives the ability for objective knowledge. With the primacy of consciousness, you have no guarantee of objectivity because the first question you must ask is whose consciousness defines reality? Is it Allah? Is it God? Is it Isis? The moment we say, is it Paul? Whose consciousness? Or if you are a follower of Hegel, it is the state that defines reality? Can the state impose its collective will on the world? With this, all you have is the term subjectivism. The primacy of consciousness is nothing more than subjectivism. It is reality first, the primacy of existence first, the correlation of consciousness perceiving that reality that gives you the ability to have objective knowledge; it gives you a plumb line, because man has every confidence that what he sees is. Man’s obsession to alter reality by the mind is the heart and soul of magic. And this is the primacy of consciousness’ preoccupation. This is how pond scum in the Middle Ages magically became frogs. This is how churches magically produced Neo-Calvinist preachers. That was a joke. Everything is it is not. Everything is mutable and changeable. There is no reality and there is no causality. Man practice the primacy of consciousness metaphysics all the time. They see something horrible and the first thing you do is start saying, “No, no, that can’t be.” The blogosphere is doing this with Calvinists all the time. They see one more manifestation of Neo-Calvinist abuse and just magically go, “No, that can’t be. It can’t be the doctrine.” They pretend the relationship between ideas and outcomes do not exist. That must mean it is not reality. This is the implication of the primacy of consciousness. They are defining the measure of truth by their own determination at a given consciousness.

Now let’s move to Aristotle’s epistemology. A man starts his existence tabula rasa, as a blank slate. Man has no innate ideas. One of the biggest problems with Plato’s world of Forms is well, how does man – okay, there’s this other world, but how does man ever get this concept of table? Where does that come from? It just showed up? If he has no ability to perceive it by any means, how does he get it? Well, the historic solution to this was the concept of innate ideas, that somehow man knew it. Before he was born, man knew it and he remembers it as he grows. Well, this creates a whole list of problems by suggesting the preexistence of souls. In the Augustinian version, are you saying that man fell before the Fall? All of these things, these innate ideas, all originate pre-consciousness.

PAUL DOHSE:  Sounds like Socrates.

JOHN IMMEL:  This theory was very common throughout. This was not unique. But this explanation of how man arrives at these universals, this was his explanation. And of course it opens up an enormous number of philosophic problems. Aristotle opposes this thought. He said no, man is born a blank slate. That’s not where this comes from. The way man gets his knowledge is that it begins with the senses, perceptions. Man’s faculty for understanding reality is his perceptions. All formulations that write off the senses at this point are wrong. If you write off the senses, you basically wrapped man in bubble wrap and blinded him and deafened him, and he can – there is no ability for him to actually experience the broader [SOUNDS LIKE 0:41:01] reality. Paul, you have a question on your face.

PAUL DOHSE:  Oh, well, you’re going to have that problem with me because everything you’re saying I read all the time. I mean, in theological terms like what you just said ten minutes ago about the primacy of truth…

JOHN IMMEL:  Primacy of consciousness.

PAUL DOHSE:  Oh yeah, primacy of consciousness. Why am I thinking John MacArthur Jr. justification and sanctification are never separate but distinct.

JOHN IMMEL:  These are the fundamental conflicts, and we’re going to get to the laws [UNINTELLIGIBLE 0:41:48].

PAUL DOHSE:  I apologize because I read a lot of Reformed things. It’s just like Susan yesterday when you were talking and because of what she’s studying in the Puritans, you’re conjuring up a lot of things that we read separately from this perspective. So it’s the same thing.

JOHN IMMEL:  I understand. Okay. Cool. Now I do need to actually explain how Aristotle addresses the issue of volition. This is one of the efforts to devalue or to invalidate the senses, and it goes something like this. Man sees a rainbow, and he sees it from a distance and it physically looks like it touches the ground. And so he goes to try to find where it is, and of course he can’t find it. And the more he tries to walk towards the rainbow, the harder it is to see the rainbow. Or a similar example is you take a stick. A stick is straight in the air. You stick it in the water and you look at it, and suddenly, the stick bends. The historic criticism is, see, the senses deceive us. We really can’t rely on the senses. And Aristotle says, “Nonsense. You made a crucial fundamental error. The senses actually gave you the correct information. You interpreted the information wrong. You misunderstood what that information was designed to give you.” In the stick in the water, of course, you’re engineers, so you certainly understand the implications of how water moves and shapes light. The stick didn’t bend. The light coming back at the senses is what changed the appearance of the stick. The same thing is true of the rainbow. Rainbow of course is light moving through water mist and it creates and diffuses and refracts the light. And so the illusion that you think you see is really the correct manifestation of the entities light, water, air, you get the idea. You understand the distinction? And this is how Aristotle sets out to validate the senses.

Now Aristotle’s next epistemological advance is called concept-formation, and I’ve talked about this kind of implicitly throughout the entire discussion, but I want to reiterate here. Man starts with perceptions and particulars, man, we have a chair and plates and cups and bottles. These are particulars. And then identifies common denominators, types of chairs, chairs with padding, chairs without padding, chairs with wheels on. You understand? We have types of chairs. Okay, I think it will be easier to understand if do this. How many of you watched Sesame Street? I think you’re old enough that most of you probably did. Do you watch Sesame Street? Is it still on?

MAN:  Yeah.

JOHN IMMEL:  Okay. That’s fantastic. Well, I don’t know if it’s to do with nonsense what Sesame Street – when I watched it, I thought it was actually pretty good. I saw it a couple of years ago, and I thought it was just propaganda. I don’t know. Anyway, there was a song on there. What was the song about one of these things is not like the other? One of these things does not belong? On a very rudimentary level, that is the process of concept-formation. Sesame Street put up three circles and a square. And the kid, the three-, four-, five-year-old, fifteen-year-old, I don’t know.

MAN:  Seventeen-year-old. You don’t watch it now.

JOHN IMMEL:  He looks at the screen and he sees these circles and he sees the square, and he goes, “Okay, that’s not like that.” He’s making a contrast, and he’s identifying the commonalities of circles and the distinctions of rectangle and that’s how he begins to form his concepts. This is exactly what Aristotle was pointing to. This is the process of abstraction in rudimentary form. This is how man brings order to his perceptions and begins to classify reality by identifying identities. It is by this method that man goes from circle to wheel to cart to transportation. Do you see how I built the progression? This is how man builds every increasing levels of complexity. He takes the very small, the particular, and he begins to form and shape that, and he understands that each conceptualization goes on each conceptualization, re-conceptualization until he gets to the broadest abstraction, transportation. Perception, the order goes this way, perception to conception to abstraction to universal. And I’m going to keep saying this because this is central to the world that we inhabit. And until you understand how this functions, it is very easy to get wrapped up in the Augustinian ideas and their specific effort to divorce, the followers of these ideas, their specific effort to divorce the world from reality and the world from man’s mind. This is a central attack that we will see over and over again as we progress through my discussion.

Now this leads to Aristotle’s Law of Identity. The behavior of a particular is defined by its nature. The essential characteristics of a particular are what define its identity. The essence of each thing is unique to that thing. This is what all science is based on. You will now understand the axiom of human existence in three laws. Here are the three laws: the Law of Identity, the Law of the Non-Contradiction, the Law of the Excluded Middle. The Law of Identity is the axiom. The next two laws are the subsequent corollaries. It is from this foundation that every cognitive human success originates. The Law of Identity says that man can’t be man and not man, that a horse can’t be a horse and not horse, that A cannot be A and non A. In Aristotle’s words, “If, however, a definition, for example, man, horse, A, were not limited but one were to say that the word is an infinite number of meanings, obviously, reasoning would be impossible. For not to have one meaning is to have no meaning. If words have no meaning, our reasoning with one another and ourselves has been annihilated.” Think of the conversations that we’ve had, how frustrating it is then to land on how we’re going to discuss these things, how often the Neo-Calvinists change definitions, and they place mutually exclusive ideas together. This is what they are doing. They are annihilating reason. For it is impossible to think if anything we do not think of but one thing.

Paul is very fond of talking about the grammatical approach. This is actually one or two levels too high on the philosophical scale. Words are really a description of entities, and it is our means by which we communicate the nature of our perceptual experience. And words hold abstractions and concepts. So when somebody says to you, the clear meaning of scripture, what you first must say is clear by what context? Because unless you have the Law of Identity in action, you will find that they don’t have a context. It is usually a free-floating abstraction, and they are treating the abstraction as if it is the only thing that matters. The Neo-Calvinists are masters of wrecking the Law of Identity.

The Law of Non-Contradiction says it is impossible then that being a man should mean precisely not being a man. And it is not possible to be and not be at the same time. But the point in question is not this. Whether the same thing can at the same time be and not be in name, but whether it can be in fact. This is the important part. Can it actually exist as two mutually exclusive things? The answer is no, never.

The Law of the Excluded Middle says this. “But on the other hand, there can be no intermediate between contradictories, but if one subject we must either affirm or deny on any one predicate. This is clear, in the first place, if we define what the true and the false are.” He is basically saying you can’t punt. You can’t go, “You know what? I can’t figure out how to reconcile these things, so poof!” Yes.

ZACH:  This goes to what Ayn Rand so succinctly put in the book Atlas Shrugged that contradictions cannot exist. If you find yourself contradictions exist, check your premises. One of them is wrong.

JOHN IMMEL:  Check your premises. Something is wrong. Correct. And without this – the problem within the Medieval world was they can never check their premise. They always had an explanation for what it was, and so they can never identify an error. You see this dramatically within churches. I think one of the – it’s stunning to watch them rationalize one of two directions, either why God is for them or God is with them. The church’s roof falls on everybody; God is against them. The church’s roof falls on everybody; God is with them. And in each instance, you have mutually exclusive ideas here. Is it God’s judgment or is it God’s blessing? And they will do herculean reasoning efforts to try to justify why are they both and the same – the exact same event is basically two separate outcomes. You are ultimately looking at a violation of the Law of Excluded Middle. You cannot punt. If you find an inconsistency in your thinking, you have something fundamentally wrong with your thinking. I understand how that impacts a vast percentage of Christian doctrine. I get it. But that doesn’t change the flaw. Just because you don’t have the – and this is me going back to the implications of the primacy of consciousness. If your consciousness is first, then you can rewrite reality however you like. But if you’re going to go with the primacy of existence, you cannot do that. You must first identify reality, then figure out how you fit into that. That is how we get to objective knowledge.

ZACH:  And that’s why my objection when people say, “Well, we have sort of have free will, but we don’t really,” because what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to take two mutually exclusive concepts–free will and determinism–and merge them, integrate them into singularity itself. So what you’re really trying to do at the end of the day is you’re trying to say that the human self, that man being man is somehow man and not man at the same time. What you’re doing is you’re trying to parse the metaphysics of man. You’re trying to make man a function of two mutually exclusive forces. That’s what I’m saying. Either man is free or he is determined. The Law of the Excluded Middle says he can’t be a little bit of both because the next question when somebody says, “Well, man has some free will, but in other things he doesn’t have free will,” you say, “Well, where is the distinction in man’s self between his freedom and his determination? Where exactly does the free man begin and the determined man end?” Nobody can answer that question. And the reason is because man, the reality, is absolute. And what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to take two mutually exclusive determinist forces and sort of integrate them into man. And it never works. Again, that’s why I always ask the question, “Okay, if that’s your premise, where does one begin and the other start?” And the answer is I don’t know.

JOHN IMMEL:  You’re exactly right. This is one of the fundamental problems within – determinism has been in the philosophical framework long before Calvin’s got wound of it. Actually, Augustine was a soft determinist. He allowed man some freedom, some action of choice, and others before him did the same thing. But you don’t see hard determinism actually show up until – hard determinism shows up because some of the philosophical expectations of mechanistic world decided that because man was in a world of causality, man really didn’t have a choice, and so you end up with hard determinism. But John Calvin actually took it from Luther, Augustine’s soft determinism and turned it into hard determinism, that man actually has no choice. But to actually get into – from my perspective, to get into the discussion of determinism and causality, at this stage in the game, I really can’t do it. But I think your point is well made. It is holding two mutually exclusive ideas and trying to figure out how to reconcile it. And with stunning consistency, the real answer is punt. I don’t know. We have a mystery. God is a mystery. Let me continue.

PAUL DOHSE:  Well, let me interject one thing. This is all good as long as you define it. I say that man has free will, that in God’s sovereignty, he determines a good end. You’re saying, “We don’t know how it’s going to end.” Right? So let’s be fair. And it’s okay. It’s okay. But let’s define it. Because that’s what we’re about, defining these thoughts and in effect letting people come to their own conclusions. So it’s a mystery to me how God is sovereign and says man has free will, but I’m going to predetermine a good end to the world. You’re saying we don’t know.

ZACH:  Right. I would say check your premises. And I would say if God has a determined outcome already, then any [UNINTELLIGIBLE 0:57:26] free will becomes ultimately irrelevant. You can say I have freedom to do this and that, and I said this to Wade Burleson on my blog. We had a discussion about this, because he made the same argument as you did. And I said, “Okay, you put a man in a box and you shoot him to the moon…”

PAUL DOHSE:  No, no, Wade didn’t make the same argument that I made. Wade Burleson and I didn’t make the same argument.

ZACH:  My example was  you put a man in an enclosed space, you say if within this enclosed space, you have freedom to do whatever you want to do, but I’m going to shoot you to the sun and in two days you’re hidden right in the middle of the sun. Well, whatever man does in the box is ultimately irrelevant to the only real outcome, which is he burns up in the sun. So to make the argument that man has free will in context is ultimately to make an already hardened man [SOUNDS LIKE 0:58:15] and say, well, the outcome has already been determined. Therefore, what you do now is ultimately meaningless. Which is in other words, if it’s irrelevant, then you can’t identify it’s free because irrelevancy can’t have any kind of definitive – meaning you can’t have free will if that free will has [UNINTELLIGIBLE 0:58:32] outcome.

PAUL DOHSE:  I understand that we also agreed on ultimate conclusion that’s irrefutable, okay? You’re saying we don’t know how it’s going to end. I’m saying, yes, we do know how it’s going to end. So that’s fair, right?

ZACH:  I’m saying you can’t know what does not exist and neither can God. If it doesn’t exist, then you can’t know it, by definition. If it does exist, then you don’t have any free choice, by definition. So, yeah, that would [UNINTELLIGIBLE 0:59:04].

PAUL DOHSE:  Okay. All right.

JOHN IMMEL:  All right. Let me persist with this. In summation, the identity of A is in fact the identity of A. The particulars of A must never contradict. For A to maintain its identity, there can be no middle compromise on something not A. This is the foundation of causality. It is because man can identify A and hold no contradiction on the identity of A, it empowers man to successfully make a distinction and see the relationship on how the particulars interact. This is causality. Without causality, everything in reality remains a totally unprecedented event. Man can’t tell why one thing happens versus another. This is crucial to understanding reality. The foundations of causality, the laws that govern causality, is a corollary to the correct judgment of reality. The inability to identify cause and effect is man’s central and greatest failing. And insanity is directly tied to the inability to act to identify causality. Our reality testers are directly related to our ability to identify cause and effect between objects in space. And abstractions and action and motion. Here’s a great example. If you ever want a laugh or maybe cry, it’s hard to tell, Google woman radio show deer crossing. Have you heard this?

MAN:  Yes, I have.

JOHN IMMEL:  How many of you have heard this?

MAN:  I have.

JOHN IMMEL:  Okay. A woman calls into a radio show. It is a five-minute segment, and she calls in and she’s like, “I have tried to talk to my legislators about this. I’ve gotten to the state about this. And I’m really trying to get the message out about this. And I’m talking about all of these deer crossing signs. I do not understand why the government put these deer crossing signs right beside interstates. Because when they do that, the deer cross right to the interstate. Why don’t they take the deer crossing signs and put them like say near schools? Because if they went to your schools, they will cross with the children and be safe, but they’re cross right over the interstate.” And listening to this you’re thinking, “Certainly, this is a joke.” But you keep listening and the host on the radio keep telling well, you know, this doesn’t go together, right? There is no causality here. The deer crossing signs don’t make the deer cross there. And either she was an A, a great actor or exactly what we all think, nutty. Because at the end of the day, what she was failing to do was understand causality. And this is central to human, rational health. The inability to identify causality correctly is largely the source of almost all psychological and individual woes.

So now you can begin to grasp why it is from Aristotle that all effective human cognition flows, all laws of logic, all of man’s conceptual capacity, all of man’s reason, and most importantly, man’s capacity to grasp the world in which he lives. Question: And why is this a threat to despots the world over? Second question: Why has every oppressive ideology sought to unseat Aristotle? Third question: Why do tyrants cling to Aristotle’s shoulders while trying to cut off his head? Here is the answer. Because Aristotelian thought means that existence is knowable, understandable and practiceable, that all men have the means to arrive at the truth, that knowledge is available for all who would use the laws and the rules of logic to obtain it. This foundational concept was revolutionary. It was the original Copernican shift from the transcendent world of Plato’s Forms. Indeed, without Aristotle’s foundation, Copernicus was not possible, and neither is any other advance in human knowledge.

And here is Aristotle’s impact on Western thought. When using the laws of thought, the mind of man is effective to understand man’s existence. An existence that is identifiable is an existence that is understandable. An existence that is understandable is an existence that is explorable. An existence that is explorable is an existence that is controllable. An existence that is controllable is an existence that man can master. And this is exactly what happened. Thomas Aquinas introduced Aristotle into the horror story that was the Augustinian Dark Ages where crime was a starving serf eating the king’s deer, where punishment was an iron maiden or the rack or the stocks, where civil liberties meant the government could do no wrong because the king had a divine right to any action, where child labor law was mandatory 16-hour days scratching in the fields of the lord’s [UNINTELLIGIBLE 1:04:51] with a stick to plant the lord’s crops so that the father can pay the lord’s taxes, where plagues were heaped on the heads of sinners, where the princes and kings waged yet another war against the Lollards or the Catholics or the Protestants and teenagers pledged their oath of loyalty to fight in religious wars.

Aristotle’s ideas soon inspired the Renaissance. Now we got into a conversation about art in one of my last sessions, but I want you to notice now a contrast between Medieval art and say, the art of the Renaissance. Compare Medieval art with say, the Sistine Chapel. Notice now the impact of Aristotle. Now man is no longer this cringing, horrified, tormented beast, writhing in the flames in the pit of hell. Now man is portrayed as almost in the very image of his own Maker. It is a powerful contrast. This is how ideas, the entire progression that I talked about yesterday, how ideas impact as the metaphysical statement rolls out to people, how they begin to roll back to themselves through art the images and the pictures that affirm their metaphysical, epistemological and ethical assumptions.

For the next hundred years, philosophy moves in fits and starts. It travels down blind alleys, intellectual cul-de-sacs. By the time we get to the 17th century, philosophers are exceedingly aware that they need a new start. A new start equated throwing off the Augustinian metaphysical and epistemological framework. Mysticism and dogmatism continued to wreck everything it touched. Something was very obviously wrong. The thinkers in the 17th century merely had to observe that the human history was dominated by ignorance, superstition, poverty, and despotism. Revelations did not work. Faith was merely government-enforced superstition. Dogmatism was really despotism. Despotism led to oppression and poverty. Philosophers needed a new method. This new method was reason. And this is called the Age of Reason. The Age of Reason gave way to the Enlightenment. The Age of Reason, this is the 16th century, right? Help me out, guys. This is 16th century…

MAN:  Yeah.

JOHN IMMEL:  This is the 17th century. Somehow I always have to rethink this every time I talk about it.

PAUL DOHSE:  It confuses me.

JOHN IMMEL:  This is where the thinkers started to advocate reason. This is where reason became the standard. This is where it was advocated by a relatively small group. This is how we see the ideas start expanding into the broader world. You want to know why – actually, I’m going to take a little bit of side trip here. You want to know why state governments, tyrannical governments, always wanted their kids in their schools? Actually, we’ll start back here. Do you see how long it took for Aristotle’s ideas to gain ascendancy? Well, how about if you don’t have to do this? How about if you don’t have to persuade men? How about if you’re a good Neo-Calvinist preacher and all you gotta say is, “You know what? Submit to my authority. I’m going to tell you what to think.” How about if you don’t have any of that? If you don’t have a state school, you got a way to persuade man for them to understand these ideas. But you know what? If all we ever have to do is say, “You know what, parents? You gotta give your kids up to us, and we’re going to tell your kids what to think. And I’m going to teach them some of this common core math. And we’re going to compel your kids to believe what we want them to believe.” You don’t have to worry about the evolution of thought. You don’t have to worry about people being persuaded. You have them at the first generation. That was my side trip.

MAN:  Rabbit track [SOUNDS LIKE 1:08:59]


MAN:  Rabbit track.

JOHN IMMEL:  Yeah. So here we see the world beginning to accept the concepts of the Enlightenment, the superiority, the efficacy of reason, the ability of reason to actually understand the world which man lives. Now we still have some problems. Philosophy has not really – like I told you earlier, there were some problems with Aristotle’s thoughts, the inconsistencies require that men start to try to figure out what those inconsistencies arrived at, which led to a rationalist discussion and eventually to the empiricist discussion here. I’m not going to talk to you about the rationalists. But what I want you to notice the explosion – you should recognize most of these names–Bacon, Galileo, Newton. Here’s Descartes [UNINTELLIGIBLE 1:09:51], but these men here–Bacon, Galileo, Newton, and Locke–these represent the core, the explosion of the power of human reasoning and what it ultimately produces. Here is where man finally gains freedom. This is the one thing that was not yet figured out, political thought. Remember, we started out yesterday – I started at the top, metaphysics and I went to epistemology, then I went to ethics, and the last one is politics. The power of Aristotle’s metaphysics and epistemology ultimately worked out into this area here, and we finally get to an ethic that says man is able and the nature of his ability empowers him towards self-governance. These ideas have little seeds back in here, and man continues to argue for the nature of his own self-governance because why? Because man has ability.

On my blog, I consistently ask this question. Who owns man? At its root, all governments presume – there’s only been two options in the whole history of the human race: either the state owns man or man owns himself. And in political action, this is where we finally get this. This is how man came out from underneath the horror story that was the Middle Ages, the horror story that was the Augustinian doctrine, the horror story that was made after Calvin. Here’s where man finally gets free. Now here’s the challenge that I have. This brings me to the emergence of John Locke. And, Paul, I’m going to offer this up for your consideration. I told you that all of this, what I’m talking about, until you understand what you’re about ready to lose, you really will understand my objections to the overarching construct that we’re resisting.

I think John Locke is essential, but I have 17 pages of John Locke notes. And I think for me to successfully – and I’ve been debating whether to get rid of this, but I think I’ve decided that I don’t really have a choice because it is the central, one of the central, actually, I do want to say the central issue of the National Socialist Germany and how it ultimately impacts the United States. And that is the issue in the addressing of capitalism. I have four pages of notes on capitalism, which means my next session would be long and I still wouldn’t be done. So I will let you ponder. But like I said 17 – fortunately, for most of this, I think I can read what was here, but I will let you decide how you want to handle this.

PAUL DOHSE:  Well, the way the schedule has been designed, there is lots of [UNINTELLIGIBLE 1:12:44]. Okay? So obviously, we need to break for lunch. Let me bring the schedule up real quick. That shouldn’t be too difficult to ascertain.


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