Paul's Passing Thoughts

Houston, We Have A Problem…

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on January 27, 2019

This article was prompted by a reader’s comment on a recently published article here at PPT.  The comment follows:

“I was always taught that per 1 John 1:9 all Christians are to confess their sins to God on a regular basis. How does that fit in with your studies? If we are no longer able to sin because we aren’t under the Law then how does that passage make sense? You have alluded to the fact that we believers still don’t love perfectly and still do things that are forbidden under the Law. Do we still need to confess our sins regularly to maintain a right relationship with God?”

This is an excellent question and one that bears addressing.  The reader brings up a valid point.  I have often addressed this question in the past with other people in various forms of social media with varying degrees of success; success being determined by how much that person clung to church orthodoxy being the authority that determined his version of truth for reality.  But I don’t think I have ever addressed the question in an actual blog post.

First, I think we have to acknowledge that if we take 1 John 1:9 alone without any supporting context we have an immediate problem because we have a glaring contradiction with 1 John 3:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” ~ 1 John 1:9
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” ~ 1 John 3:9

Contradictions (paradox,”mystery”) occur whenever we have incompatible assumptions.  The way church orthodoxy handles this contradiction is to re-interpret 1:John 3:9 and insert the word “practice” which is not the word used in the manuscript.

“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” ~ 1 John 3:9 (ESV)

Notice that because of the church’s orthodox assumption of righteousness by perfect law-keeping, the ESV interpretation holds out the possibility for believers to keep sinning and thus the need for continual forgiveness of present sin as referenced in 1 John 1:9. I have written a comprehensive article on this subject here.

But the proper way to handle contradictions such as this one is to evaluate our assumptions and determine which one is false.  Whenever we are evaluating passages of scripture there are a few things we need to take into consideration:

  1. The immediate context of the passage
  2. The overall historical context during which time the passage was written
  3. To whom it was written
  4. Grammatical structure.

While John is writing to believers, he is addressing a larger issue, specifically, a sect of gnosticism that had made its way into the assemblies by some false teachers. This particular brand of gnosticism divided man into spirit and flesh and that any time man “sinned” he only did so in his flesh, but his spirit was unaffected. 1 John 1:9 is only part of a larger argument John is making to refute this idea. Paul addressed this historical context in this series of articles beginning here.

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The apostle John is actually presenting a series of rhetorical arguments against this brand of gnosticsm. A close inspection of the grammatical structure of verses 6 through 10 reveal the hypothetical nature of his arguments. At right, here is a screen shot from my interlinear Bible software.

Notice that in the Greek, verse 6 begins with the conditional word “εαν” and the accompanying verb in the “subjunctive mood.”  You don’t need to know the technical details of all this, but what is important to know is that this structure is called a 3rd Class Condition.  In Greek, 3rd class conditions are used to present rhetorical or hypothetical arguments.

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If you look at the grammatical structure of verses 6 through 10 you will see they all begin with this same structure for a 3rd class condition.

So in this case, verses 6 through 10 deal with true biblical JUSTIFICATION set against the gnostic idea of justification.  John is not saying that this is something that believers need to do all the time.  He is not stating that this is the present state of believers.  In other words, “we” is not a reference to believers but rather “we” in a general, non-specific sense.  He is showing why the gnostic idea of justification is false, and he is doing so in a very methodical, logical argument using these five rhetorical statements.

Understood in this context, this passage no longer contradicts 1 John 3:9. Having presented the need for justification and how it compares to gnostic doctrine, John goes on to make the case that believers are justified because they have been born again. John understood that because the new creature is God’s offspring, righteousness is not a matter of sinning or not (ie. Law). Righteousness is a state of being by virtue of the fact that they are born of God!  Sin has to do with condemnation.  Believers don’t “sin” because they are no longer under the law’s condemnation. Where there is no law there is no sin.

~ Andy

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gm3U39lnPO0

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.

Right?

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

Do you recoil at the thought of mass destruction?

Yes?

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

Protestant View on Atonement Dies Hard

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on December 20, 2018

Originally published July 12, 2017

Most Facebook discussions aren’t pretty. Oh, they start out innocent enough, but they have a tendency to turn ugly in a hurry, especially when you challenge pet doctrines. It doesn’t take long for the name-calling and other ad hominem attacks to ensue. But every once in a while you encounter a group of individuals who express a mo (more…)

Follow-up: A Response to the Shapiro / MacArthur Interview

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on December 16, 2018

COUNTERPOINT

One of the salient points brought up by John Immel during our discussion this afternoon was Ben Shapiro’s woeful misunderstanding and mis-representation of the philosophy of Immanuel Kant and it’s resulting impact on western culture.  In response to this, we have reposted a portion of John’s 2016 TANC Conference where he discusses sacrifice as the highest moral standard and Kant’s contribution to that ideology.

Hear John Immel on Shapiro’s assessment of Kant

John Immel on Immanuel Kant from TANC 2016:
https://paulspassingthoughts.com/2017/07/20/the-disaster-of-sacrifice-as-the-ultimate-moral-standard-part-3/

How Most Protestants Respond When Orthodoxy Is Challenged

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on November 2, 2018

Any time one of us here at TANC engages someone in some debate over some tenet of Protestant orthodoxy, something major is always missing in these conversations that we don’t talk about nearly enough. Due to the research myself and others have done for this ministry over the past 10 years, we tend to ply our argument with objective points and expect counter-points in return.

That almost NEVER happens!

I am not even sure how I would frame this issue/observation, but the following may get close: it would seem that our objective arguments are not answered with counter-points, but vague statements of authority. It’s interesting, but we often converse with people who are not anybody important by religious standards, yet they answer us as if their pedigree of authority is to be assumed and we are wrong just because they say so. Responses are really nothing more than the usual talking points that we hear all of the time.  I can only assume that folks think they speak with authority that is not to be refuted because they are repeating what the religious authorities tell them. In other words, no matter what objective argument we pose, it is going to be answered by some talking point that has been certified as “authoritative.”

Also telling in these conversations are answers that are unnecessarily wordy. For example, instead of simply saying “pursue love”, all kinds of stuff about “walking in the Spirit” is added as well as various and sundry Christo-centric verbiage.

Someone may make the observation that, “You have this attitude that someone is wrong because they don’t agree with you.”

Um, Yeah! After all, you can’t have opposing viewpoints and have both be right. And that’s the whole point. If I think you’re wrong, the burden is upon me to provide a rational argument for why my ideas are better. Likewise, the burden is upon you to provide a similar rational argument for why my ideas might be wrong.

But most people don’t argue this way. They don’t know how to provide rational arguments for their ideas. They only know how to rely on appeals to authority. In other words, their ideas are correct only because some authority (whatever that source may be) has deemed it so.

~ Andy

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