Paul's Passing Thoughts

How To Debate A Calvinist: Part 5 – By John Immel

Posted in John Immel, TANC 2017 by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on December 5, 2017

The following is part five of a five-part series.
Taken from John Immel’s fourth session at the 2017 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny
~ Edited by Andy Young

Click here for part one
Click here for part two
 Click here for part three
Click here for part four

 

Self-Esteem

Self-esteem has become a synonym for all things evil with humanity. Self-esteem has become a function of pervasive depravity. Therefore in the Calvinist world, the goal is for man to loath himself.

There are a series of cultural myths I want to address first. The first one is that good self-esteem is effectively to have no self-esteem; that to have self-esteem is essentially narcissism. But here is the dirty little secret: we all have self-esteem because we all pass judgments on ourselves. What we are really talking about in the issue of self-esteem is what judgment do I apply to my own existence? We all apply moral verdicts to our actions, thoughts, and values.

The second myth involves the pop-culture definition, that self-esteem equals moral absolution. Really, we treat self-esteem more as a coping mechanism that refuses to apply any moral judgment to any personal aspects. It is a fraud. We cannot help passing judgments on our immoral behaviors. Blanket moral absolution is an illusion.

The other option is self-esteem equal self-absorption. This is a singular preoccupation with an internal life openly rejecting existence and the inter-dependencies of all people and things. This is the brute who cannot conceptualize his existence outside his own reality. He is an exploiter and a destroyer because he wants to consume for his own fulfillment at the expense of everyone else.

Does this type of person really exist? Perhaps, but there are very few, and they are usually cultural aberrations. But it is a common mythology that is handed down, and as long as you accept the premise that this is what self-esteem looks like, you will be inclined to believe that any variation of individuality in self-esteem is really this archetypical description.

The last myth is that self-esteem is the by-product of social affirmation; that it can be created by participation trophies, smiley faces, or amoral acceptance of other people. But kids who receive participation trophies know instinctively that they didn’t do anything to earn it, and so ultimately is has no meaning. No matter how many times you pat someone on the back and tell them “good job”, at the end of they day the individual cannot help but to pass judgment on what he really did or did not do.

These myths are not self-esteem because they either render no judgment from the self or require no value from the self.   Each of the five pillars in the web of tyranny is designed to make you pass the harshest judgment you can on your own existence.

The following is a quote by Nathaniel Branden from his book, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem:

“Self-esteem is the disposition to experience oneself as being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and of being worthy of happiness. It is confidence in the efficacy of our mind, in our ability to think. By extension, it is confidence in our ability to learn, make appropriate choices and decisions, and respond effectively to change. It is also the experience that success, achievement, fulfillment – happiness – are right and natural for us. The survival-value of such confidence is obvious; so is the danger when it is missing.”

The web of tyranny is designed to persuade you to lay down your happiness. It is designed to persuade you that you are not competent to understand reality for yourself. Self-esteem persuades us that it is ok to be happy.

I remember some years ago when I was still trying to wade through everything, when I was praying I found myself really, really happy about whatever. And then I would find myself praying and apologizing for being happy because I was scared of the equation that if I was in fact happy that it represented some error on my part. That’s how deeply ingrained these doctrines had become. For many people, as they come out of these doctrines, one of the biggest things that will betray them is the fear that they are not allowed to be happy and that if they are in fact happy there is something spiritually and morally wrong with their existence.

How often do we find ourselves second-guessing ourselves the moment we realize we’ve had success in something? And how many times when we have sat in church has the guy sitting in the pew next to you or the guy standing up in front of you talking to you told you that if you have an achievement it isn’t yours? What makes you think you have any claim to the content of your achievement? It is all designed to beat you down and to eradicate any sense of self-respect.

One of the challenges we have in the modern age is that, as human beings, we have become very good at insulating ourselves from the danger of nature. Most of us live at a level of prosperity that the rest of the world and the whole of humanity has never known. We are inclined to think that it is a given, but it is not. What are considered to be luxuries are the by-products of a long chain of intellectual conclusions that has produced such prosperity.

But the world is profoundly dangerous. Most of us would be hard-pressed to last a week alone in the woods. But the way we are built is to take the content of nature and conform it to our existence, which is exactly right and proper. So when given over to the elements we must first, and almost immediately, figure out how to keep nature from killing us. But the imperatives of day-to day survival today are not the same as they were a hundred years ago. So for us it seems foolish to discuss real peril when it comes to the failure of making individual choices.

But the fact of the matter is that it isn’t any different. If we fail to make rational choices to achieve and have success and fulfill happiness we will die. Just because we are insulated at the moment doesn’t mean we will be insulated forever. The survival standard is exceedingly high. There is fantastic danger in failing to understand this.

So why do we need self-esteem? The answer is simple. Self-esteem is the need for a consciousness to learn to trust itself. I talk about making choices in my last chapter of Blight in the Vineyard. After people have been subjected to going to pastors and constantly vetting the content of their lives through the minds of others, it is hard for them to find a way to make even the most mundane decisions in life. For many people, the choice of whether to go to the store to just buy ice cream will come with this enormous emotional and intellectual hurdle. You can so atrophy your ability to make choices in this world that you will NEVER be able to trust your own consciousness. That is why these doctrines are so destructive.

A volitional consciousness, one that must make choices, is a mind that must choose to think…or not; must choose to be rational…or not. Man is not automatically reality-focused. Man must intentionally orient his consciousness towards the elements of his life. This is the fundamental of life and death.

This begs the question, how do we actually go about building this self-esteem?


The Practice of Living Consciously

This is a respect for the facts of reality. This is being able to look at reality, understand what it’s telling you, and then arrive at the correct conclusion without evading or hedging. It is a determination to be present in each moment of action. In other words, you are confronted with a fact of reality, it demands your attention, and you determine just to be there with that.

This is hard to do, because you are typically doing one of two things. Either you are reflecting on something that happened in the past or projecting out to where you want to go in the future. How many things could be solved if we just dwelt on what needed attention at the present moment?

Living consciously is being eager to acquire information, knowledge, or feedback that impacts our lives. This goes to one of the myths about self-esteem that assumes that you don’t have any ability to critically evaluate your moral action. But someone who is conscious in the moment does so because he knows that moral action is the better choice and advances his success.

The Practice of Self-Acceptance
This is the zealous quest to see ourselves inside and out. It is taking responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, and actions without evasion, denial, or disowning – and also without self-repudiation. This is the common trap that gets so many people to accept the premise that pervasive depravity is true. Contrary to the doctrine, we are very aware of what happens inside of us. And so we say to ourselves in a self-reflecting moment, “Yeah, I know that’s wrong. And since I know it’s wrong and I’m thinking it anyways, that must mean I am morally depraved.” No, what it means is you have to be able to successfully identify yourself where you are. It is not a catastrophic moral failure to recognize an error inside yourself.

We need to give ourselves permission to think our thoughts and experience our emotions. They are what they are. We need to look at our actions without necessarily liking, endorsing, or condoning them. This is the virtue of realism applied to itself. This is our barometer of moral action. Once we can identify ourselves and assess ourselves where we are then it becomes trivially simple to figure out how to correct our course of action.

The Practice of Self-Responsibility
I’ve identified an error, so now what am I going to do about it? We are the author of our choices and our actions. We are responsible for life and our well-being. We are responsible for the attainment of our goals. We cannot borrow someone else’s moral action to get to where we want to be. We are responsible to find ways to exchange value to achieve our goals. This is crucial. If I have a goal that I cannot achieve myself, then it is my job to give somebody else value to help me get there. They do not have an obligation to help me just because. We are responsible to answer the question, “What needs to be done?”

The thread binding all of these is a respect for reality. It is this respect that Calvinist doctrine seeks to undermine at all costs. I call this “spiritual crack”: the endless determination to make you fundamentally dependent on their leadership at every turn and in every instant and at every moment. It is designed to make you addicted; to so erode your self-will that you cannot possibly do anything else. It is evil personified.

Calvinists want you to feel helpless in the face of reality. If you are helpless in the face of your own reality, you will be willing to embrace theirs. They want to inspire you to withdraw and escape. They want you to feel hopeless so that you will beg them to make a new reality. The doctrines are designed to make you hold yourself in the highest suspicion.

Take the doctrine seriously and it will so erode your ability to make a decision that it will render you impotent. Most people intellectually cheat. They smuggle in self-esteem and put on a good face in church. But over time, it will erode your commitment to your own capacity and your own achievements to the point where you become functionally useless at whatever you do best. You end up losing respect for your own existence.

This is what opens you up for such profound exploitation. Once they have you doubting your own existence there are no longer any personal boundaries. People can do whatever they want to you. What objection can you make? What objection WILL you make since you don’t value yourself to draw a boundary? How can you expect moral action out of anybody else? This sets up a standard at church that everybody can use you for whatever purpose, and at any point that you object, you must be the sinner; you must be the problem.

To overthrow their effort you must fall in love with that which exists; you must fall in love with reality. And then you must fall in love with your place in reality. You must live consciously, accept the responsibility of your life, and accept yourself.

Now go forth and take action for your own life!

~ John Immel


Click here for part one
Click here for part two
 Click here for part three
Click here for part four
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3 Responses

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  1. John said, on December 5, 2017 at 5:56 PM

    Great series yet again, John Immel.

    Many Calvinists and the like do not understand the difference between self-esteem and self-love (I, me, mine . . . and I am hot; you’re not). Strange but true.

    If self-esteem is self-respect, then how on earth can one live in love what Jesus has asked us to do, namely love your neighbor as yourself? When “Christians” think of themselves as lowly worms who eat dirt, how is he/she going to treat his/her neighbor? (Ask Paul Dohse and the trouble with his nitpicking neighbor. I know Paul and Susan would do for her what they have been doing for his mom and dear brother. Why? Because The Dohses have it . . . the New Birth, the one true gospel, living out the love).

    And speaking of feeling low down because you have to realize your unworthiness and fell the sin in your life, so you can be nearer to God. My word. Years ago, the Shaman/witchdoctor, the Dalai Lama said that one is the closest to God when you have a sexual climax. I think I am ready to eat second-hand tires and then start singing: “If you’re happy and you know it, kill yourself. If you’re happy and you know it, kill yourself.”

    There is nothing new under the sun. Nada. Not even in Greenland.

    Like

    • johnimmel said, on December 6, 2017 at 10:55 AM

      I think I am ready to eat second-hand tires and then start singing: “If you’re happy and you know it, kill yourself. If you’re happy and you know it, kill yourself.”

      I’m still laughing. !!!!

      Like

  2. Barbara said, on December 5, 2017 at 9:52 PM

    Oh my goodness! Well received!

    Liked by 1 person


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