Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Disaster of Sacrifice as the Ultimate Moral Standard – Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on July 20, 2017

The following is part three of a four-part series.
Taken from John Immel’s third session at the 2016 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny
~ Edited by Andy Young

Click here for part oneClick here for part two
(Links to the archived files are found below)

So I left us with a cliffhanger two sessions ago. So let’s start the discussion of the greatest philosophical villains in human history. Do you remember the question? Augustine had a central flaw in his doctrine. Now when I said that, of course the question is when someone says “flaw” they assume that to mean “wrong”. But what I am saying is that Augustine was actually fantastically consistent with his doctrine. He would not have considered this a flaw. However, it turned out to be a flaw because it opened the door later for other people to step in and challenge his root assumptions.

That flaw gave the world one last glimmer of hope; one last place for man to escape the destruction of human sacrifice. If you are an American Christian in the twenty-first century, and in particular within a reformed school with reformed teachers, 90% of what is taught is Augustine, which means 90% of what you believe is Plato. Augustine condemned every expression of human existence, every pleasure, every aspiration, every value.   But Augustine left one thing for man to desire – the desire to go to Heaven!

Here is why this is important. For all of the sacrifice that Augustine is trying to lay on human existence, for all of the self-imposed destruction that Augustine is after, he still allows for this highest virtue (going to Heaven) and he says that all of these things that you sacrifice will ultimately impact on some level the ability to get to Heaven. Augustine is not at all consistent in this assertion, but it’s there. The vestige of this possibility is there.

Now here is what this means in practicality. There is still a relationship between action and outcome, so moral action can produce a moral outcome. In Susan Dohse’s session yesterday she was talking about how the church got into the middle of marriage. It was fascinating listening to the old thinkers basically point out that if you were in marriage and you still abstained you could gain for yourself a better salvation by virtue of this sacrifice. This is exactly the concept I am telling you persisted within Augustinian thought. The successive thinkers still believed that there was some form of moral action that man could take that would produce this given outcome. In other words, man could have values and he could choose those values and get a given outcome.

Now this is crucial because this little shred of possible benefit to human existence actually keeps the door open just enough that by the time we get to the 14th and 15th century we have man in pursuit of a different understanding of his own existence. We have man realizing that he can take actions that benefit his life.

That little itty bitty crack starts to get wider that by the time we get to St. Thomas Aquinas we have the re-institutionalization of reason, and so now we have the first formal presentation of Aristotle which is effectively man-centered/earth-centered (much to the chagrin of the Catholics). So here is St. Thomas Aquinas who ultimately lays the theological foundation that makes it possible for man to have his own existence. That was around 1250.

Fast-forward a few years and we finally get to the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment.

Now here’s the thing. The Age of Reason and the Enlightenment might have been successful – there were so many advances in human prosperity, human development, human understanding from effectively the 16th century to the 18th century that the church may never have recovered. They church knew it was on the verge of being laughed out of existence.

Now were are introduced to the first villains.

John Calvin’s doctrine closed the door on human self-interest as such. His doctrine of double-imputed depravity and the corollary doctrine of progressive sanctification eliminates even a trace of self-interest in God’s salvation plan.

Calvin was clear, man can have to trace, no hint, no breath of good inside him. Any aspiration to any value, any good, is proof-positive of total depravity. That’s his logic.   So man is even morally condemned for wanting to want to go to Heaven. Philosophically speaking, John Calvin made it morally an existential liability separating the moral from the practical absolutely.

So with Augustine there was a vestige of moral practicality. He could aspire to go to Heaven. Whether God would elect him was another issue, but man could at least wish. But in Calvin, even the desire to go to Heaven was proof of moral corruption.

Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant

In the course of human history, John Calvin’s work becomes the defining expression of Christianity in the 16th century. And it is my contention that without his philosophical systems saturating the whole of European thought, Immanuel Kant would have remained a fussy little Puritan in Königsberg, Prussia. I will lay Kant’s success at Calvin’s feet.

Without Calvin’s specific brand of total depravity drilled into the minds of European thinkers I submit that intellectuals would not have been theologically predisposed to accepting Immanuel Kant’s premise. In a moment you will see why I say that.

In the 2014 TANC Conference I explained how man climbed out of the primordial ooze of Augustinian thought, through Aristotle to the likes of men such as John Locke. By the time we get to the 17th century philosophers are aware that they need a new start. They need to throw off Augustinian metaphysical and epistemological framework. They know that mysticism and dogmatism wreck everything is touches. Revelation does not work as an epistemological standard. Faith was merely government-enforced superstitions. Dogmatism was really despotism. Despotism lead to oppression and poverty.

This new method of understanding the world was called reason, thus the Age of Reason. The Enlightenment was the full cultural acceptance of the Aristotelian premise. The fundamentals of the Enlightenment were:

  • The world is rational
  • Man is rational
  • The universe is benevolent
  • Man can understand the world and master its secrets

Metaphysically this meant man was competent to understand his own world. This was revolutionary.   So then politically, men were born free and no longer predestined to servitude. Serfdom dies, slavery takes a mortal blow, man challenges the traditional bastions of power, and people start restraining religious tyrants and mystic despots.

I have already said this repeatedly. Liberty and freedom as you and I understand it is a philosophical achievement. It is not an accident. Which means you cannot couple liberty and freedom with the doctrines of the Dark Ages (read Augustine and Calvin). They are antithetical to one another.

By the 18th century the church, both Protestant and Catholic, knew that it was in great danger of being laughed out of existence. The church needed a “savior”, and his name wasn’t Jesus. His name was Immanuel Kant. Consider the following citation of Kant’s:

“I cannot even make the assumption – as the practical interests of morality require – of God, freedom, and immortality, if I do not deprive speculative reason of its pretensions to transcendent insight.

For to arrive at these, it must make use of principles which, in fact, extend only to the objects of possible experience, and which cannot be applied to objects beyond this sphere without converting them into phenomena, and thus rendering the practical extension of pure reason impossible. I must therefore abolish knowledge to make room for belief.

~ Preface to Second Edition, Critique of Practical Reason , B XXX

Kant is rough reading, and he is so intentionally with the aim to make you loose confidence in your ability to understand. Let me attempt to translate this for you.

The practical interests of morality require the belief in God. But I cannot even make the assumption of God, freedom, and immortality if I do not deprive reason of it’s pretensions to transcendent insight (read omniscience).

For to arrive at God, freedom, and immortality, reason must make use of principles. Principles can only extend to the objects of possible experience. Reason cannot be applied to objects beyond this sphere – to things in transcendent dimensions – without reducing the things of the transcendent into the realm of possible experience. Or said another way, reason deals with reality, not mystical worlds. Because reason is “limited” to reality, and by existence “pure” reason – reason attached to nothing, limited by nothing, is impossible.

To make it possible for men to once again have religion, I will abolish knowledge to make room for belief.

His whole point here is, because reason is attached to the material world it cannot possibly be omniscient, and because it can’t be omniscient it can’t know God, but without God we don’t have morality. Therefore Kant said it was his goal to destroy reason for the sake of religion. And he actually did a pretty good job.

Kant was a genius. In the world of philosophy, the comprehensive nature of what he did is probably only paralleled by Plato and Aristotle. So he is no lightweight. I am not qualified to discuss the full scope of Kant’s thought. I’m not even going to try. It would be very tedious and would take us weeks to get through. For the sake of this discussion I am only going to give you a summary of what he taught.

The real world is unknowable and reality doesn’t exit. Man makes up his own reality.

Huh? Who would believe that? Well, pretty much the whole Western world. Let me give that in more detail. Man cannot know what Kant calls the “nominal world”. The nominal world is the “real world”. Kant describes this realm as things in themselves, for a whole list of reasons that we won’t discuss. By contrast man does know what Kant calls the “phenomenal world”. Reason knows this world because he makes it up, and he knows this phenomenal world through a whole series of processes that is also beyond the scope of this discussion. His logic goes like this:

Because man has eyes he can’t see things in themselves. Because man has ears he can’t hear the nominal world. Because he has skin he can’t feel. Because he has a tongue he can’t taste. Because he has a mind he can’t know anything.

Kant’s progression of thought goes like this:

Metaphysics – The world is divided between the nominal and the phenomenal
→ Epistemology – Because man has no access to the nominal world, man has no true knowledge.

With this in mind, knowing how all of these ideas integrate, what do you suppose Kant’s ethics are? Here is Kant’s argument. Since man can’t know the nominal world, the “real world”, he most certainly can’t know his real self. So man’s phenomenal self has a moral duty to a set of moral commands. He calls the source of morality the categorical imperative, a non-mythical, non-earthly set of commands.

So here’s a question. If the commands don’t come from heaven and they don’t come from earth, where do they come from? They come from man’s perfectly nominal self, a self which he can’t know. Dizzying, right? Don’t worry about it, the only thing that matters is that man performs his duty to the categorical imperative.

How does man act on this categorical imperative? This is a challenge, because Kant thinks man’s will is handicapped. Kant has his own brand of bondage of the will. You theology aficionados should know that the bondage of the will is the doctrine central to Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation.

“…for the will stands at the crossroads halfway between its a priori principle which is formal (nominal world) and its posteriori incentive which is material (phenomenal world)”

Basically what Kant is saying is your will stands nowhere. That’s his point. Your will is ineffective because it is in neither place.   His solution to the will being nowhere, on how it’s handicapped, is what he calls duty. Here’s how it goes. Because the will can’t really do anything because it doesn’t sit anywhere, man has to have a method by which he can take action, and he calls that duty.

“Thus the first proposition of morality is that to have genuine moral worth an action must be done from duty. The second proposition is an action done from duty does not have its moral worth in the purpose which is to be achieved through it but in the maxim whereby it is determined. Its moral value therefore does not depend on the realization of the object of the action but merely on the principle of the volition by which the action is done irrespective of the objects of the faculty of desire…

…The third principle as a consequence of the two preceding I would express as follows: duty is the moral necessity to do an action from respect for law.”

~ Immanuel Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals

 That’s a very wordy way of saying that the only choice you have is to take action on this thing called duty. That action has no intrinsic moral worth. It doesn’t matter what the outcome is. In fact the outcome is antithetical to its moral value.

Now remember what I told you John Calvin did. John Calvin separated morality from practicality. Immanuel Kant has just created the secular version of the exact same concept. Kant is saying that there is no relationship between morality and action. They are hostile to one another. But, O, it gets worse!

“…The submission of [man’s] will to a law without the intervention of another influence on [his] mind…is a far more worthy purpose of man’s existence…the supreme condition to which the private purposes of man must for the most part defer.”

~ Immanuel Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals

Man’s highest purpose is to be done in accordance with law because it is his duty to act and for no other reason. He doesn’t need a reason because reason is irrelevant to moral action. So now we have a problem. Man cannot know reality, the judgment of his mind is irrelevant, and man’s will to act is morally impotent. How then can man be sure he is taking moral action?

“It is a duty to preserve one’s life, and moreover everyone has a direct inclination to do so. But for that reason the often anxious care which most men take of it has no intrinsic worth, and the maxim of doing so has no moral import. They preserve their lives according to duty but not from duty. But if adversities and hopeless sorrow completely take away the relish for life, if an unfortunate man, strong in soul, is indignant rather than despondent or dejected over his fate and wishes for death, and yet preserves his life without loving it and from neither inclination nor fear but from duty, then his maxim has moral import.”

~ Immanuel Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals

Your moral value is only apparent if you are in pain. What Kant is really saying is man’s inclination to preserve his life has no moral value, but if a man who is faced with all manner of suffering decides it would be better to die and still chooses the duty to preserve his life, then that man has moral worth. The only way to know if man is doing a moral action is if acting out of duty creates pain.

Think about that for a minute.

Kant’s version of sacrifice then is absolute. He even outdid Calvin in this regard. Calvin said there is no moral action, period. Kant specifically says that moral action is only accomplished by suffering.

Duty = Morality = Soul-crushing PAIN

The result of such ethics is the politics of Sadism. That is the only thing available to you in your own existence. Notice that this places sacrifice as the highest philosophical principle. Human sacrifice is done for the sake of human sacrifice in pain.

By way of comparison, consider the following:

“That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened”

“He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.”

~ Martin Luther, The Heidelberg Disputation, Theses 19 and 20

It should be apparent that Kant’s philosophy is the secular version of the exact same body of doctrine that was being rejected out of hand by the intellectual world. Now the intellectuals in Europe and America suddenly have the ability to have the exact same sacrificial doctrine with a legitimate secular twist. We don’t have to claim it was God telling us it’s our job to sacrifice, we can now find an acceptable secular reason why people must sacrifice. And why must we sacrifice? Because our political powers require that they have authority and control over the masses.

Let’s evaluate. Life requires the pursuit of values, but duty requires that man receive no values to any action. Proof of moral action = PAIN. Therefore the ideal moral state is total moral dissipation; total non-value; a total state of self-imposed ongoing agony. Man’s desire must collide with his duty. Man must rebel against his desires. Man must feel pain in the conflict.

Kant’s philosophy is a perfect secular overlay of Calvin’s doctrine. Kant requires that you desire to live at the highest possible level of love and happiness and achievement but relish every wound that strikes those down. Kant is advocating a slow, leisurely, prolonged death by sado-masochism. Kant is advocating self-sacrifice as an end in itself.

Now most people don’t know this background to this next word – altruism. When most people think of altruism they think of generosity. This word altruism was coined by a man named August Compte to describe man’s proper relationship to other men. In Utopia, all men would sacrifice their interest to all other men. Here is the problem, when people hear “altruism,” they think of love, empathy, humanity, or generosity, but this is a profound error.

Altruism really means that man’s first a primary reason for existence is the benefit of other men. His first mortgage on his life is paid to every other person he sees. You don’t have the right to draw breath because somebody else draws breath. Notice that this is not kindness or generosity. It is not kindness or generosity to give $5 to a homeless man. Why? Because the homeless man is entitles to your $5. And for you to be truly moral, you must suffer when you give that $5. You don’t give it to him because it makes you feel good. You don’t give it to him because you’ll go to Heaven. You don’t give it to him for any other reason than you are going to suffer because you gave him the $5 he was entitled to.

It is not humane for a doctor to heal the sick. The sick have the right to his knowledge just because they exist and just because they are sick. And to be truly moral, the doctor should heal the other people while those he loves, the people he values, suffer.

It is not love for a man to dedicate himself to his wife. He must hold all men as equal value, and he must sacrifice his wife’s well-being if he gains pleasure from that well-being. The bottom line for most marriages is that it is my duty to love you even if I don’t love you.

So let’s cut to the chase. Under altruism, man is the property of all other men. Property is the right to exercise power; to dispose of, to keep, to the exclusion of other interests. So if you are the property of other men, then politically they are morally correct to use force against you to dispose of you however they see fit.

This is the secular version that sanctions the ability of people to “raise awareness” about some cause and then compel other people to do what they want them to do. If you moral obligation is sacrifice, and you are the property of other men, then you have no moral right to what you can do, make, be, whatever, it doesn’t matter. Your sole purpose and function in this lifetime is for the disposition of other people. And if some people refuse to sacrifice it is moral for men to kill the selfish people.

How can murder be moral? Under Kant it’s actually very simple. (Actually, this is true under both Calvin and Kant’s moral framework.) As long as the tyrant does not want to kill people, and he does so at no personal gain, and for the benefit of other people, it is moral to kill 7 million Jews. The moral standard basically says you can do any action as long as you don’t enjoy it, indeed if you suffer from it and you do it on behalf of other people it doesn’t matter what you do next.

Here is why this has become so important. Most men couldn’t express their ideas in terms of metaphysics and epistemology. They don’t know what that means, and they don’t care. Most people encounter a philosophical system at the point of ethics. Yet their ethics implies a pre-supposed metaphysical and epistemological framework. That is how they get sucked into the problem.

Most people encounter Calvinism at the moral point. They go to church and are told what is good and moral and what is evil. Eventually they realize that why things are good and bad are directly related to specific metaphysical and epistemological presumptions. Then they go to the pastors, and the pastors assume it is their right to compel them to any given action. It is all consistent through the entire progression.

That’s where we are in American history. And now you understand why I said before that man’s moral choice is either:

Sadism – sacrifice enforced at the hands of others

Masochism – self-inflicted sacrifice.

Here’s what Calvin and Kant really created. Morality is man’s executioner. There is an absolute breach between morality and action. Man can never ever ever ever hold a value. Man must sacrifice his values in the most painful means possible, which means that Kant closed the door on human value with ruthless precision. It is for this achievement that Kant is the true destroyer of humanity, and altruism is the evil that saturates American Christian churches.

…To be continued.

John Immel 2016 Session 3 Archive Video (YouTube) Audio Only (mp3)


3 Responses

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  1. John said, on July 20, 2017 at 1:25 PM

    So it is okay to imagine Calvin and Kant acting out their abnormal BDSM fantasies, chasing each other hell bent for leather, whips a-cracking and “50 Shades of MICE” drivel blaring over huge speakers that are covered in fresh blood . . . fresh sacrificial blood? This image comes so naturally, doesn’t it?

    Whip it!

    Oh, how I wish I had a mousetrap.


    • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on July 20, 2017 at 1:28 PM

      Thank you John for that fantastically graphic imagery that shall be forever burned into my psyche. I will never be able to “un-see” that! LOL


  2. lydia00 said, on July 24, 2017 at 3:55 PM

    Makes sense. Humans start to realize they have individual potential so the Lord’s and those who want to become Lord’s, like Calvin, develop doctrines that keep them in place.


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