Paul's Passing Thoughts

Church Historian, John Immel: Morality, Mysticism, Savagery and Salvation.

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on January 2, 2019

The following is in response to the Ben Shapiro/John MacArthur interview video that TANC Ministries reviewed on December 16, 2018

There is so much in this interview that requires an in-depth treatment.  I’ve had a half dozen articles dancing around my head over the last few weeks, each of them threatening to eat a hole in my brain, so finally I decided to start writing them in no particular order. This isn’t the first part, but it is a part of my ongoing criticism of Ben Shapiro’s interview with John Macarthur December 2nd, 2018.

At around the 9 minute 30 second mark is the following exchange.

Ben’s questions: (summarized) Has it been a mistake to see the president as a moral figure whose job it is to build/uphold societal moral fabric? Are you saying that it is our job in communities to build the social fabric and let the president shape policy?

Johnny Mac: “Yeah, and look, you can’t blame him for the complete destruction of the family. He had nothing to do with that. That’s why the fabric’s coming apart.”

It would have been vogue and cowardly to lump the whole of America’s moral failings on Donald Trump. Indeed Judeo/Christian twitchyness over sexual practice makes him an easy whipping boy. But of the few good things John MacArthur said in this interview, the refusal to dump western culture’s moral decline on President Trump is correct.

Of course Ben Shapiro is morally twitchy as revealed by his litmus test of sexual propriety–e.g. don’t have sex with porn stars.

Whatever one thinks of having sex with porn stars, and marrying more than one wife, and locker room talk on an Access Hollywood video, the root of Ben’s moral superiority is as nonsensical as saying Jews can’t be podcasters in the 21st century because the Pythagoreans in the 7th century BC forbade people to eat beans. It is nonsensical precisely because the question of WHOSE moral standard men are obligated to follow is imbedded in the whims of the gods.

Barack Obama didn’t screw around with porn stars, had only one wife, and there are no Access Hollywood videos with him saying how he would like to grab a woman between the legs. Does that make him a paragon of virtue and “qualified” to stem American moral decline?  Or the better question, does President Obama’s obvious muslim leanings mean that advancing Islamic morality was EXACTLY what he was supposed to do? I mean, if the President’s job is to build/uphold social fabric then the mystical source of that social fabric is irrelevant right?

Yeah huh?  How does that Islamic “moral” expectation work out for an Orthodox Jew?

Ben, maybe you should go ask Linda Sarsour what she thinks of that moral standard or . . . just study some history. Even a casual review of European history details what happens to Jews under that mystical moral framework.

And speaking of history and mystical moral frameworks, Johnny Mac trots down the path in an effort prove his thesis on the causes of America’s moral decline.

Johnny Mac:

You know when you think about how God looks at this or any Society, the default position of humanity is brutally corrupt.

I mean, you read The Bloodlands, so between Soviet Russia and Germany between the late 1930s and 45 and 13 million people are killed, none in a military uniform, none in a war.  13 million people were massacred by Russians and Germans in those brief years. That is a testimony to what will happen to people when evil is not restrained.

I assume the book that Johnny Mac mentions is The Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin written by Timothy Snyder, detailing the slaughter in Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and the Baltic states.

The real number of people killed during those years is probably lost because after WWII the “winners” of the war delivered 2/3rds of the world’s population to a brutally corrupt socialist dictatorship. The Soviet Union rewrote history and therefore the death count with impunity. But 13 million is sufficiently large for us to know that what happened there was really, really, bad. However, I want you to understand the actual number (13 Million +/-) is not specifically important. In this instance Johnny Mac is using lots and lots of murder as the proof of human “brutal corruption.” But Johnny Mac gives the exact same judgment as the explanation for one guy in a car driving through a protest in Charlottesville NC, August 20, 2017.  And the number there was well below 13 million.

See, 13 million and a half dozen are on the same moral par because John Macarthur is trying to use an object lesson to validate his foundational metaphysical assumption: Man is brutally corrupt. Or as he said in the video above. . .

“The human heart is desperately wicked,” he began. “And the human heart is hostile, towards God and self-centered, and proud, and selfish and angry. What Charlottesville simply demonstrates is that fallen humanity is corrupt. All I see in that is the justification of anger.”

Johnny Mac’s overt logic = This (specific) bad thing happened because Man (generally) is morally depraved: selfish, self-seeking, and doesn’t like God very much.

The problem is that his “proof” of human depravity is a narrow generalization that begs the premise: Lots of murder = brutal corruption = human depravity = lots of murder = brutal corruption. Or said another way: his explanation is nonsensical, and it is time for someone to call BS.

I understand why people struggle to challenge the presumption.  In western culture the doctrine of Pervasive Depravity has been burned into our minds as a metaphysical given. So most people are quick to scrub through their soul looking for “moral failing” and then extrapolate that internal “evil” as proof of Johnny Mac’s doctrine.  It is as if our individual stray moral infractions mean we are a hair’s breadth away from slaughtering the population of Rhode Island.

Beyond the fact that thinking about stealing a pack of gum is at no point the slippery slope to genocide, anyone exercising an ounce of independent thinking would rightly ask: “If human depravity (generally) is the cause of mass slaughter, then how come mass slaughter isn’t the norm in western culture?”

If Johnny Mac is right then Charlottesville should have looked like Death Race 2000. For that matter, every city, every burg, every village, where two human beings reside should be a cauldron of violence.  And The Bloodlands would be everywhere, all the time, with (God’s appointed) dictators stacking up the bodies like cordwood.


But let’s dig deeper into our own psychies to test the pervasive depravity metaphysic.

Do you recoil at the thought of mass destruction?


Riddle me this: How come?

If you are pervasively depraved, in accord with the historic doctrine, to which many of you still  claim “spiritual” solidarity, how then are you opposed to someone running people over with a car?

By definition you should (at best) be morally . . . blank . . . and (worst??) morally affirming, asking how you can help exterminate  . . . whomever.

If depravity is the causality of man’s “brutal corruption” why does mass slaughter like The Bloodlands affect you?

I know, genocide is horrific to think about, but it is a very very big abstraction that most people have no ability to gasp, so let’s bring this closer to home.

Why is Ben morally indignant about Donald Trump’s sex life?  Again, if we are morally depraved (assuming sex is morally corrupt and sex with porn stars an even greater aberration on the corruption) shouldn’t we all be having sex with porn stars?

If you are not, then why do you have a moral reaction to someone else acting in accord with their existence?

And this is the point: How can you, dear reader, as a depraved soul, render any moral reaction?

If you are depraved, why would you want to render any moral evaluation?

The correct, logically consistent answer is: you wouldn’t because you couldn’t.

You wouldn’t know how to aspire to be moral any more than a fish knows how to aspire to be dry.

And don’t buy into Johnny Mac’s absurd answer for moral virtue: e.g. because you have a belief system based on authority your conscience is restraining (your) evil.

Here is a summary of Johnny Mac’s logic. God has designed evil to be restrained in three ways: Conscience, Family, and Government. You can hear his full rambling explanation near the 10:20 mark but his loose logic says that:

  1. Everyone has a conscience, a “skylight” that condemns them for doing bad things . . . sort of. (You can do bad things to the conscience and end up flying planes into the world trade center).
  2. Families and more precisely fathers us their  “authority” to restrain bad action.
  3. God uses government to keep humanity from doing bad things.

And herein is the glaring flaw throughout the “conscience as restrainer of evil”  explanation. If Man’s metaphysical reality is: “brutal corruption” and ” . . .the human heart is hostile, towards God and self-centered, and proud, and selfish and angry,”  Man can’t also have a good part that keeps him from evil because he doesn’t know anything else. Man cannot originate, follow, or otherwise identify GOOD because he can never know GOOD.  This means that man can’t retroactively “corrupt a good conscience” by rejecting to the “correct” moral framework. Man never knew the correct moral framework.

So the premise collapses on its own vacancy and it doesn’t matter what fathers or governments do. Neither of them can restrain what they are existentially inclined to emulate.  Johnny Mac’s point 2 and 3 are little more than chaff floating over the root error.

Notice that the title “father” does not magically consecrate morality to a moral reprobate. The most compelling object lesson here is that the Catholic church calls their priests father and they can’t seem to stop molesting alter boys.

And as for the restraining power of government  . . . Oh dear God. Government isn’t the restrainer of evil, it is the undisputed, pound-for-pound, super heavyweight, world champion perpetrator of evil. If there is any historical lesson, it is that Government must be restrained at all cost.

A history lesson should not be necessary, but if Ben Shapiro’s sharp mind can be dazzled into rational mush by Johnny Mac’s Bloodlands explanation, it must be needed.

National Socialist Germany’s theological hero was Martin Luther, so to say the prevailing denomination was Lutheran is a study in the obvious. But for those readers who resist connecting the dots, that means the prevailing doctrine was Reformed Theology. That  means Germany was in solidarity with the Westminster Confession. That means Orthodox Christianity dominated the public square. That means if there was ever a nation whose individual and collective conscience should have had an iron clad “skylight” it was Germany during the 1930’s and 40’s. I dealt with the theological and social forces of National Socialist Germany in my 2016 TANC lectures so I won’t detail them here, but the inescapable, irrefutable reality was the people killing “none in a military uniform none in a war” were the rank and file, good evangelical Christians doing exactly what they thought God wanted them to do.

“But John, the Soviet Union was an atheistic state. Doesn’t that validate the premise?”

Not even close. Marx might have called religion the opiate of the masses in protest to mindless obedience to an all knowing god, but his solution was to flip religious devotion to mindless obedience to an all knowing State. At the root, Christianity and Marxism hold the same fundamental presumption: men are cogs in collectivist wheel to be told what to do, and when to do it from an all powerful external force.  Reason must not apply.

Furthermore, for all of the government enforced atheism in the Soviet Socialists Republic, never forget that the Bolshevik revolution was against Czarist Russia which was a centuries long Christian theocracy: a government consecrated by the Eastern Orthodox Church. The catalyst for the “atheistic” revolution was Czarist theocratic tyranny that had perpetrated generations of atrocity as good Christian rulers.

The reality available to anyone with a critical thinking bone in their body is that The Bloodlands slaughter took place dead square in the middle of peoples steeped in generations of “Judeo/Christian” values. They were the recipients of the “revelation” sent to establish God’s ordained government to “restrain” evil, yet they were the greatest perpetrators of evil.

Johnny Mac’s metaphysical and historical synthesis is total BS and indicative of a profound intellectual bankruptcy  . . . which is the real root of American moral decay.

Johnny Mac and Ben Shapiro are correct that western culture hangs in the balance, but the causality of its decline is NOT because America has abandon Judeo/Christian values.

Morality does not, cannot, come from mysticism, and our salvation from savagery does not, cannot, come from faith. The real causality of America’s moral decline is because its “intellectual leaders” are leading the charge away from what set it apart: Reason.

~ John

10 Responses

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  1. Argo said, on January 3, 2019 at 10:25 AM

    The reason for the moral decline of the west is that there is just too doggone much freedom. People haven’t been held accountable by their Authorities: Priests and Politicians. (Oh sure, there is lip service paid to fathers and conscience, but dads are wholly obligated to the church and the conscience is wholly obligated to the law.)

    Funny how the bigger the church and the government gets the more these institutions seem to think they don’t have enough control.


  2. lydia00 said, on January 3, 2019 at 4:26 PM

    It’s uncanny what Jewish thought leaders see as “Christianity”. I had not thought about it from their perspective until I watched Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson discussing it on Dave Rubin’s show. Shapiro had the Protestant view.

    Then, I was listening to Dennis Prager in the car and the subject arose, indirectly. A caller was lamenting the “total depravity” of us humans as the cause of all evil and Prager Responded that he never understood or accepted that excuse. He said it was something about Christianity that he just did not understand. He went on to talk about how we have to admit that there ARE decent people and evil people. And how it’s a choice to be good or evil.

    I am not a big overall fan of Shapiro but I am also a little bit amused that he didn’t catch MacArthur’s illogical explanation as he views himself the face of morality/reason/facts. If we are totally depraved, that means dads are totally depraved. It means the humans in government are totally depraved and so on. Sheesh. I had this same stupid conversation with Neo Cals for 12 years. Ben either didn’t catch it or views himself one of the arbitrators.

    Here is something interesting on free will


    • Argo said, on January 4, 2019 at 11:13 AM

      I’ve said it before…Shapiro is intelligent, but he’s not that creative. And he seems to have trouble recognizing basic rational fallacies. This is why I struggle to understand just how he rose to the level of the journalistic intelligencia. He did an episode on Tucker Carlson where they debated the issue of whether or not the government should ban self-driving tractor trailers. Tucker was arguing for the affirmative in full-on socialist mode, and Shapiro looked like an absolute amature in the face of it.

      Shapiro’s strength is that he is an exceptional orator and is super energetic and charismatic, and can ingest a multitude of facts and figures and then spit them out with a rapid-fire fluency that is hard to match. But he’s not a great rationalist…he’s a mediocre thinker. If the interviews with Tucker and J-Mac aren’t evidence of this then I don’t know what is.

      It takes anyone on this blog about 10 seconds to figure out that giving the government control over an entire industry is a socialist disaster; it takes us 5 to figure out that when you are debating you must argue assumptions, not applications (e.g. the real issue is whether or not man is actually depraved, and if THAT’S the real cause of all moral woes, not “how can we best contain man’s natural depravity”). How an intellectual child prodigy like Shapiro can miss these things makes me question the “intellectual prodigy” part.


      • johnimmel said, on January 4, 2019 at 1:02 PM

        Yea, Argo, this is well said. He is really good at what he is good at: beating up on college millennial’s. Not a super big rational feat except for the fact that he is doing it in an exceedingly hostile forum. That I have admired, but I’ve always been confused at what passes for thoughtful analysis on his website (and WHO he has writing articles there) And this interview has me seriously worried because he is so revered as a thought leader.


    • johnimmel said, on January 4, 2019 at 12:57 PM

      Hey Lydia . . . I have always been fascinated by the public disconnect about what Christianity is: (its core doctrines and their real impact on the world) particularly those who hold themselves out as thought leaders. Shapiro and Pager being great object lessons.

      I think the disconnect stems from America’s spiritual buffet mindset. American’s think that it is their divine right to accept or reject any religious/spiritual flavor they want and sanctify the choice as the right one . . . just because it is their divine right to do so.

      have a very good friend, a psychiatrist, very successful, an intellectual and a self identified atheist (sort of) . . . and an avid listener to Dennis Prager. the discussion of american moral decline and the “necessity” of a morality given by God as an “objective” standard came up and over the course of a day, I dismantled the rehash of Prager’s arguments. But but i was astonished at how immune my friend was to the “logic.” This is a man who in pretty much every other part of his life, indeed his living is made using the best critical analysis possible, but when confronted obvious inconsistencies, (or even more disastrous) obvious ignorance of Jewish and Christian doctrine–knowing full well that this body of knowledge was my area of expertise–he was totally dismissive. (When he dismissed me here, I laughed and said, the next time we are discussing medicine I’m going to tell you that your decades long effort is irrelevant to what i think. That finally shut him up.)

      Anyway, in the end he reserved the right to craft Judeo/Christian Values in his own image. He was defiant in his determination to pick and chose which doctrines, which passages of scripture, which “objective” moral standard was required to hold society together. And he did it without a blush of shame. He was going to pick and choose what he was going to eat off the buffet and everything else be damned.

      And it is my observation that this is Shapiro’s mindset. This interview illustrates in bold colors, that he doesn’t hold the same level of intellectual rigor as he would say for the average college socialist millennial. He even had some snarky comment at the end of the interview about people using passages i the bible to self discredit various doctrines saying something about debating people who spent a weekend reading the bible and put it away. (I’ll have to find the quote) But the bottom line is the reasons people who only read the book in a weekend CAN find contradictory ideas is because they are so glaringly obvious and yet Ben feels morally insulted that he is on the hook for a reasoned response. He reserves the right to graze of the american spiritual buffet picking and choosing with impunity.

      And most definitely Prager’s mindset. Prager fancies himself a christian so any doctrine that does not square with HIS understanding of Christianity is obviously in error. e.g. his rejection of total depravity.


      • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on January 4, 2019 at 1:19 PM


      • lydia00 said, on January 10, 2019 at 5:52 AM

        John, Prager is a practicing Jew.

        You hit the nail on the head about arguing applications! This is my biggest pet peeve!

        People really have to guard against this. this is one area where President Trump cracks me up. He’s the guy who will ask, why do we need NATO?

        Everyone melts down. That’s why people in government cannot fix government.

        Christianity does not appeal to a lot of atheist and others because it teaches that you can be saved and son all you want. And all you got to do is say sorry! And everyone is supposed to trust you again.

        The buffet style just convolutes Christianity and the institution protects it.


  3. Argo said, on January 4, 2019 at 5:15 PM

    John, I hadn’t considered Shapiro’s willingness to lecture at college campuses under bomb threats. Yeah, I admire him for that. Good point.

    And to your comment to Lydia—the ignorant spiritual masses sure have no problem claiming a monopoly of absolute truth when truth is matter of obedience, not reason. There is so much wrong and ironic there, it’s hard to know where to begin.


    • lydia00 said, on January 10, 2019 at 7:08 AM

      Argo, Everyone wants to declare what is truth as a spiritual/moral concept. What they don’t want is to seek truth in everyday life interactions and question their assumptions along the way. What if that were the object – every day? Right/wrong, good/evil, true/false.


  4. johnimmel said, on January 10, 2019 at 1:06 PM

    Really? Prager is a Jew? Why do i find that surprising? I’ve not listened to him huge amounts but enough that i had the expectation that he was Christian.


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