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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How To Debate A Calvinist: Part 4 – By John Immel

Posted in John Immel, TANC 2017 by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on November 30, 2017

The following is part four 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 five

In Defense of the Individual

We started out addressing the central fulcrum of almost all Calvinist arguments – an ongoing quest for an undisputed authority so they can ultimately redefine reality however they see fit. Their endless appeal to all things “biblical” is because they believe that is where they borrow their authority so that they can dictate to you whatever it is they think they want you to know.

We then went on to talk about specific arguments that Calvinist use to control you in context to my “web of tyranny” so that you can understand how Abolition of Ambition and Collective Conformity are used together to keep you intellectually subservient and willing to abandon your individuality.

At then end of part three I stated that you had to successfully advocate for your own individuality. This is so crucial because tyranny cannot thrive in a world of self-confident individuals. Tyranny requires your deliberate subordination – your willing sacrifice of self – to whoever is in charge. So the confident individual, the thinking man, will not be willingly subdued, but he will fight back. We have to get comfortable with the fact that we must defend our individuality.

John Locke is a key figure in the course of human events. Locke made a series of arguments that laid a very profound foundation that culminated in the U.S. Constitution, specifically the separation of Church and State. This foundation has given America political autonomy and political freedom. This is essential to understand in the defense of your individualism because Locke’s arguments are the validation of the individual within the context of a civil society.

I did a full evaluation of John Locke’s philosophy at the 2014 TANC conference. But in this lesson I simply want to focus on some primary points. The first thing I want to discuss is an excerpt from “A Letter Concerning Toleration.” This document was originally published in 1689 which appeared amidst a fear that Catholicism might be taking over England. Locke is responding to the problem of religion and government by proposing religious toleration as the answer. This “letter” is addressed to an anonymous “Honored Sir”, but it was actually Locke’s close friend Philipp van Limborch, who published it without Locke’s knowledge.

“Since you are pleased to inquire what are my thoughts about the mutual toleration of Christians in their different professions of religion, I must need answer you freely that I esteem the toleration to be the chief characteristic mark of the true Church. For whatsoever some people boast of the antiquity of places and names, or the pomp of their outward worship; others, of the reformation of their discipline; all, of the orthodoxy of their faith – for everyone is orthodox to himself – these things, and all others of this nature, are much rather marks of men striving for power and empire over one another than of the Church of Christ.

“In the second place, the care of souls cannot belong to the civil magistrate, because his power consists only in outward force; but true and saving religion consists in the inward persuasion of the mind, without which nothing can be acceptable to God. And such is the nature of the understanding, that it cannot be compelled to the belief of anything by outward force. Confiscation of estate, imprisonment, torments, nothing of that nature can have any such efficacy as to make men change the inward judgment that they have framed of things.

“It may indeed be alleged that the magistrate may make use of arguments, and thereby, draw the heterodox into the way of truth and procure their salvation. I grant it; but this is common to him with other men. In teaching, instructing, and redressing the erroneous by reason, he may certainly do what becomes any good man to do. Magistracy does not oblige him to put off either humanity or Christianity, but it is one thing to persuade and another to command, one thing to press with arguments, another with penalties. This civil power alone has a right to do; to the other, goodwill is authority enough.”

This is a powerful argument against the algebra of orthodoxy that I discussed in part one of this series. Historically, orthodoxy and the people controlling the definition of orthodoxy has always been about merging political force with doctrine. This is why almost immediately after John Calvin writes his “institutes” he becomes one of the main political figures in Geneva, and in very short order they have a religious theocracy. In every instance Protestant Christianity must push for solidarity between civil government and religious orthodoxy because it must be able to control the definition of reality. You can only do that if you can burn people at the stake.

John Locke correctly identifies that the role of the magistrate cannot be the role of the “soul-saver.” He accepts the premise that human reason is sufficient to the cause of his own consciousness and that man cannot be compelled by force to believe any given orthodoxy. Locke makes a clear distinction between the role of religion and the role of government (force). When these philosophical tides roll across the Atlantic and land in the New World, the closest America ever got to the Dark Ages was the Puritan theocracy in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The framers of our Constitution were absolutely sure that such a theocracy should NEVER be allowed the opportunity to grow in ascendancy. The separation of Church and State was designed to limit that fundamental power. They didn’t want the magistrate using force to compel people from heterodoxy into orthodoxy (a.k.a. “political correctness” in religious terms).

“It will be answered, undoubtedly, that it is the orthodox church which has the right of authority over the erroneous or heretical. This is, in great and specious words, to say just nothing at all. Every church is orthodox to itself; to others, erroneous and heretical.”

This is the fundamental conflict within all of Protestant Christianity. Everybody wants to pretend that their definition of “orthodox” is the correct one, so everybody outside that specific definition is, by definition, in error. So the only question within Protestant Christianity is about who has the authority to compel you to believe their definition. The only way to answer that question is to ask who has the biggest guns? It is always a question of who has the most force.

“So the controversy between these churches about the truth of their doctrines and the purity of their worship is on both sides equal; nor is there any judge, either at Constantinople nor elsewhere upon the earth, by whose sentence it can be determined.”

John Locke’s argument successfully made toleration the fundamental principle of Christian doctrine. He pointed out that those bragging of their spiritual pedigree and doctrinal orthodoxy were really seeking political power and hiding behind the name of Jesus. The only thing that saves man is what happens by persuasion of the mind. Souls cannot be won with government force.

Notice, Locke fully believes that man’s salvation resides in his choice to follow rational arguments.

Notice how these arguments go the heart of our 21st century conflict.

At every turn, Calvinists are returning to the primordial ooze of these historical doctrines; the right to sustain dictatorial power over the course of your intellectual individuality. The point here is they all think that their orthodoxy is the sum of their own mind. You have no obligation to subordinate your mind to theirs.

In Locke’s second treatise on government he goes on to lay the foundation for the nature of government. In chapter two on the State of Nature, Locke says that to understand political power correctly man must first understand his natural state. The natural state is equality. We all, as individuals, reside in our own existence. This is not to be confused with “abilities” or “outcomes” specifically. All men have a right to their own existence by virtue of being individuals. By extension, this means that God would not have appointed some men to subjugate others. This is a root argument against the premise of slavery.

The law that governs the State of Nature is Reason. This is the way man interacts with his own existence and solves the problems of his life. Reason touches that all men are equal and independent. The State of Nature is a state of liberty. The law of Reason says that no man may harm another man’s life, health, liberty, or possessions. There is no subordination of men that authorizes one to destroy the other. Inasmuch as man preserves his life, he must also seek to aid in the preservation of another’s liberty, health, limb, or property.

This is a very different social organization than had ever been conceived before. Up until this time, man was the by-product of the collective. But Locke understood that all of us solve our problems by reason, and because man must be free to solve those problems in order to survive, that means there is a reciprocal responsibility to not cause harm to other individuals as they seek to do the same.

Reason wills peace and the preservation of man, therefore the Law of Nature puts into everyone’s hand the right to punish the transgressor of Reason and to hinder the violation of Reason with violence. This is a crucial distinction. I do not have the right to impose myself upon you and steal what you have, but in the event that I do that you have the moral right to defend against it and to prevent it by violence. Any such man who has violated Reason has thus entered into a State of War. It then becomes the obligation of free men committed to reason and liberty to use violence to repel that action.

Locke’s definition of “property” is an essential evolution of thought. He correctly establishes the roots of “private property.” Property is the product of labor. As you go about using reason to solve the problems of existence you have artifacts of that process. That is your work product; the outcome of your labor. Individuals employ their industry to create the substance of their life. Men in the State of Nature must work to survive.

There is an unbreakable relationship between your reason, the product of your labor, and your ability to enjoy that labor unharassed. Seizing man’s property is the same as seizing man’s life. Locke correctly identifies that man is indivisible from his work. He correctly integrates human existence by identifying that reason is the root of man’s production. Thus man’s life and man’s property are corollaries of existence. By contrast, historically man has always been a cog in the wheel of the collective, therefore the work that he does is the rightful property of the collective.

Locke goes on to discuss the beginning of political societies. He identifies the correct order in social relationships. Historically it was assumed that the State was the social primary. Men were born into the State, and their lives were disposed of at the will of the State. Locke says otherwise.

“Men, being by nature, all free, equal, and independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power of another, without consent. A man can only divest himself of his natural liberty, and put on the bonds of civil society, by agreeing with other men to join and unite for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties.

“This any number of men may do, because it injures not the freedom of the rest; they are left as they were in the liberty of the State of Nature. When any number of men have so consented to make one community or one government, they are thereby presently incorporated, and make one body politic, wherein the majority have a right to act and conclude the rest.”

Why do men agree to join and unite? According to Locke it is for the comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one among another. Here is his fundamental point. The reason we enter into civil societies is to enjoy the fruits of our labors. You will recognize this concept expressed in the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Notice the individual comes first.

Here is the progression: Man is first a free, sovereign agent; he labors to create property to satisfy his survival and enjoyment; he seeks social relationships to expand his freedom; he consents to social contracts; government is by consent of the governed.

Here is where I think John Locke did the world a favor. He identified the root of all civilized societies. The root is the individual. The individual’s proper State of Nature is Reason. Private property is a by-product created by rational effort. Government and social contracts are the consequence of individual life, liberty, and happiness. You enter into government contracts to protect yourself from encroachment. Thereby government is subordinated to the individual.

John Locke laid the foundation for a peaceful society by placing theological issues firmly in the realm of personal conscience and delimiting the government purpose. That foundation set the minds of men free, and a light was set forth throughout the earth.

But there was one thing that John Locke did NOT do. He did not tell people how to be effective individuals.

And it is for this reason we will now turn our attention to the last building block of individual defense.

…To be continued.


Click here for part one
Click here for part two
 Click here for part three
Click here for part five

How To Debate a Calvinist: Part 3 – By John Immel

Posted in John Immel, TANC 2017 by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on November 17, 2017

The following is part three of a five-part series.
Taken from John Immel’s third 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 four
Click here for part five

 

What we have just witnessed over the last two parts of this series is how Calvinists use the various arguments to compel you down a specific line of thinking. Paul Dohse’s discussion on the redefinition of Biblical terms is fantastic because Calvinists manipulate definitions so that they can define an alternate reality. They presume the right to define words however they choose so that it fits whatever narrative they are after, and that narrative is always driving you towards your subordination to whatever their dictates are.

In part one of this series I discussed the Orthodoxy Happy Dance- their ability to take the definition of orthodoxy and make it mean as much or as little as they choose. Whatever the historical or intellectual pedigree happens to be, they reserve the right to pick and choose which parts serve their purpose. In the end, this makes orthodoxy a myth because it ends up having no objective definition.

Then we talked about how Calvinist use Universal Guilt, Dictated Good, and Incompetent Masses as intellectual standards to control how you interact with them. If you are incompetent then you are guilty, therefore they have the moral right to compel you to a given action.

But another problem is revealed the moment Calvinists encounter anybody with any ambition or anyone who refuses to suborn to the collective. Therefore, in order for them to maintain their control over you, they must force you to find your identity in the collective, which means you must be willing to abandon any personal ambition or notion of your individuality.

Collective Conformity is effectively “political correctness.” It is a powerful force in service to tyranny- when somebody decides that the definition of the collective, and failure to abide by the collective, can be met with some sort of social force. When you want select people to think you are good, when you crave their affirmation, when you play by their rules so that they might commend you as a worker of God, this is collective conformity.

But living for someone else’s affirmation means you cannot value your own moral and intellectual judgment. You are irreparably harming your critical powers. Thinking is your human responsibility. Despotism gets its energy from mentally weak mobs. Despots must oppress ideas because thy must render the human mind impotent. Mystic despotism thrives because people feel it more important to conform to the group than to think for themselves.

Here are some of the common arguments that people use to force you into social conformity. In general, these arguments are designed to imply that the individual is epistemologically and physiologically dangerous; that individuals are predators; that individuals are without real purpose; that individuals are selfish.

 

The “Lone Wolf” Argument
It is designed to conjure the image that wolves are effectively predators. Therefore if you are by yourself you are necessarily a predator. This is known as the “loaded question fallacy.” To defend the individual is to defend a harmful instinct. If I reject the notion that just because I am an individual that I am dangerous, I am immediately considered dangerous.

But more importantly, it is an argument that is not based in reality. The fact is, wolves are highly territorial pack animals. If you are a wolf, you are running in a pack. Wolves are governed by the “alpha” male and female, so wolves live in a hierarchical structure. If a wolf finds itself alone it is because it has been driven away by the pack because it is weak or diseased or infirm. Lone wolves are not dangerous peak predators, they are the ones driven out.

If you want a better analogy of a lone wolf, look at the preachers who used to be part of the Calvinist “in” crowd but suddenly find themselves on the outs after having run afoul of whatever the accepted behavior is as determined by the other “alpha” male preachers in that crowd. Or consider those who have had to resign their posts after being exposed for some sort of sexual indiscretion. Those are the lone wolves still trying to vie for a position back in the Calvinist collective.

The other problem this argument brings is that it presumes that a pack isn’t predatory; that if you are part of a group you won’t do predatory things. Wolves by definition are predators. They survive by preying on weaker animals and consuming them. They hunt in packs. Jesus rebuked the Jewish religious establishment by calling them “ravenous wolves”.   Jesus condemned the elites for being predatory. It was a group-think problem.

The fact is that mobs are far more dangerous than individuals are to civil society. That includes the mobs of pastors and elders at your local Calvinist church. Not only do they feed off of each other’s affirmation and feed off the benevolence of the laity, but the moment you decide that you don’t want to absorb whatever they say, suddenly they put you outside the pack, and yet somehow you are the predator. This is a fantastic inversion of reality.

 

The “No Man Is an Island” Argument
This is also known as the “Out There By Yourself” argument. It is designed to package self-sufficiency with subjectivism.   If you are subjectively driven, that must mean you are intellectually in error. This is designed to inspire you to believe that individuality is the same as isolation. Isolation implies immorality.

If you are isolated you have nothing to tell you that you are wrong. The implication is that the reason for individuality is to hide from a moral critique. You will see this accusation a lot. The thinking is that if you were part of a group, the group would be able to tell you what you are unwilling to hear. Somehow groups can’t be wrong because they borrow collective morality from among the individuals.

It also implies that individuality is a danger and a liability. You cannot know the truth because your mind is in isolation. Isolation is selfish. Your gifts and talents are not being used for other people. This is erroneous because it assumes that people are entitled to what you have and what you are.

The real disaster of this logic is that it eradicates personal boundaries. One of the reasons that people end up so exploited in church situations is because they are told they have no right to set a boundary on what other people can consume in their life. So what you end up with is no ability to say, “No, you are not allowed to do that to me. You are not allowed to take that from me.” And then you are not allowed to complain about the exploitation because, by definition, your existence is at the disposal of the collective.

 

“The Princess and the Pea” Argument
One day they preacher comes up to you and says he is concerned about you. And since his job is to speak hard things to you, he is going to tell you that you haven’t been to church in a while, and he is very concerned about your soul. The person who hears this sort of reluctantly acknowledges this and agrees that, no, it’s probably not a good thing that he hasn’t been in church as much as he should.

This person has just conceded the premise that his attendance at church had to do with comfort. If this is you then it is highly likely that, as you are trying to figure out how to pull yourself out of this local Calvinist juggernaut of destruction, you have very real intellectual disagreements. You have very specific reasons as to why you are no longer interested in being in attendance at this church. But you haven’t yet had the courage to get around to getting away from church because you’ve been so conditioned to being there.

So you go out and start shopping around to figure out if there is someplace else you would like to go; a place that is more agreeable to you. But by letting the preacher frame the conversation around your comfort you are basically saying that your reasons for not wanting to be here has nothing to do with rational objections.

What he is really saying is that your theological pedigree is related to your feelings. This is a fundamental problem. You are not having a “feeling” objection, you are having an intellectual objection, and he is trivializing your objection.

This is why I call this “The Princess and the Pea” argument. In the classic fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson, the princess’ claim to authenticity was validated by her sensitivity to being able to feel a pea under twenty mattresses. What she “felt” was more important than any tangible qualities of a princess. Likewise, pastors will trivialize your motives for leaving by focusing on your heightened sensitivities rather than tangible intellectual reasons. Comfort = feelings = listening to doctrines that are pleasing.

Now that they have framed your objections in terms of “comfort” what they are really saying to you is that if you are leaving because you are uncomfortable, what they are telling you is that you are unwilling to hear the hard truth. This is the point where they trot out the passages of scripture about people gravitating towards other doctrines because of having “itching ears”. See, if you were a “true Christian” you would want to hear hard truths. You would embrace the uncomfortable. You would submit to what we have here because we will discuss your pervasive depravity.

You must push back on this assumption. You must not let them frame the argument in terms of feelings. You must let them know that the reason you are leaving is because you have rational intellectual disagreements with their orthodoxy. Any claim made about you not liking hard truth is really a strategy to appeal to your pride. It is designed to get you to justify yourself by declaring your willingness to suffer.

Hard truth = things that are painful.

Things that you don’t like elevates suffering to a virtue. They want you to concede that if you were really interested in growing spiritually, you would be willing to stay and listen to what they have to tell you. They want you to concede that truth is painful; that you shouldn’t get any benefit out of it. They want you to concede that individuals are weak because they don’t like pain. They want to equate rejection of pastors as rejection of truth. This is what you must resist at all costs!

 

The Cramped Little Lives Argument
The implication with this argument is that your individual life equals “small”; community life equals “big”. This is another example of the alternate reality they want you to accept. How many times have you heard somebody say that you should do something that is bigger than yourself? They want to imply that individual life is petty and collective life is significant. It presumes that importance comes from collective consciousness. Something is only important if lots of people want to do it. A failure to embrace the collective consciousness is a failure of your moral existence.

But the reality is exactly the opposite. Community life equals borrowed existence. Remember, Calvinist preachers have to borrow their authority, they have to borrow their righteousness, and they have to borrow somebody else’s mind. So any time they are in the business of telling you that you have to borrow the collective life to have significance, what they are really saying is you have to embrace somebody else’s vision to empower your life. That isn’t big, that’s small. If that is true of you, you just told me that you are vacant inside. It means you do not have the individual energy to go out and identify virtues and values and pursuits that are worthy of your existence.

 

The Gossip and Slander Quicksand
Most people know they want intellectual independence, but then they encounter one of these arguments, so they bounce back and forth trying to decide how much they conform to the group versus their own ambition. As long as they have conceded some level of their own incompetence and guilt, it is very hard to dig themselves out of this trap.

Some people start to “get it” at some point and genuinely push back against the arguments that seek to keep them part of the collective. This is where Calvinists begin to accuse you of gossip and slander. But remember, since they are in control of reality, they get to decide what constitutes gossip and slander. As long as they don’t like what you happen to say to somebody else, as far as they are concerned you are gossiping. Trying to get into a “Biblical” discussion about the actual definitions of gossip and slander is useless.

But Calvinists reprobates who call themselves preachers only want silence on the true things. They don’t want to talk about when they are actually committing evil. They don’t want anyone calling to account their moral virtue.

 

The “I Don’t Like Your Tone” Argument
There are a couple variations on this. “What you say might be true, but how you say it drives men away.” Or, “Humble people don’t talk that way.” “You are proud/arrogant!” These are all variations about tone. The premise is that they get to determine what is the right way to talk. It is an attempt to invalidate your argument because you have some perceived character flaw.

Understand this; when they start objecting to your tone, they have no other objection. It is their last gambit to authority. It sets up their judgment as the standard of correct discussion, and if you concede that your tone might have been wrong, you have just conceded their authority. If they are right about your tone then why aren’t they right about the subject of your objection? If you accept the premise, they can then dismiss or reject anything that does not fit their standards.

I will tell you the truth: you will chase your tail trying to become socially qualified. The moment you concede that someone else has the right to determine how you talk, you will end up in this endless cycle of trying to meet some standard of conversational etiquette that you can never accomplish because they will constantly change the standard to meet their own expectations. It is a powerful method of social control. They can eliminate any scrutiny by dictating qualifications.

 

The “You Are Bringing Harm to the Cause of Christ” Argument.
This is the implication that by being so visible in your disagreement with leadership that you will do irreparable damage to the church’s reputation. As a result, young people will want to have nothing to do with Christianity because of the strife and contention they see.

Every time I hear some variation of this argument, the more I realize how much the doctrines of determinism and pervasive depravity are really an intellectual fraud. If you are a Calvinist, is there any human agency in God’s salvific plan? The answer is clearly, no. It does not matter what your favorite Calvinist personality stands up and says. They are useless. Period.

That being said, does it matter what I say? Does it matter that I disagree with the pastor on a certain issue? No. No matter what you say or how you say it or the tone that you use, it is irrelevant if there is no human agency involved in salvation. According to Calvinism, if young people are going to hell, it is because God wants them to.

 

How then do you rebut your Calvinist tormentors?

  • Never debate scripture. There is no persuasion – only authority.
  • Never debate authority. You don’t have any, and they will never recognize it if you do.
  • Refuse to accept their moral judgment of you. If pervasive depravity is true, they don’t get to borrow morality in order to condemn you. By accepting their moral judgment you are framing the interaction that their judgment is the one to which you aspire.
  • Reverse the frame. The moment they lob a moral accusation against you, call them to account for their moral depravity. By their own admission, they are the ones who are evil, so call them on it.
  • Never apologize or equivocate on independent judgment.
  • Debate reality. Never let them get away with redefining reality.
  • Defend individuality.

Moral depravity is a central doctrine. They have no intellectual integrity when they claim any moral credit. I understand the struggle people have with this because Calvinists have done such a masterful job of claiming the moral high ground. But what I am telling you to do is to double-down on their own moral condemnation. Take the doctrine of depravity seriously, and remind them of it every time they talk. Say it out loud, “The only reason you say that is because you are evil.” Never let them pretend they have moral worth. They can make no vicarious claim to Jesus’ righteousness.

If you have an intellectual conclusion, don’t apologize. When they accuse you of being an individual and thinking for yourself, say, “Thank you.” “I’m glad you recognized that.” “I’m glad that your pervasive depravity allowed you to see truth for a moment.”

Any time they want to dance back into what “the Bible says,” stop them. You say, “No, that’s not what the scripture says. Your sin-corrupted evil mind projects into scripture.” As a free man, my judgment is effective.  I reject the absurd moral judgment that comes with the accusation that humans make mistakes. Human understanding is not measured by omniscience.

In America we are being led down a path where the rugged individualism that is implicit in the understanding of the U.S. Constitution is under full assault. We must become good at defending ourselves and the right to be ourselves and the right for others to be themselves.   Individualism is not a liability; it is a virtue!

…To be continued.


Click here for part one
Click here for part two
Click here for part four
Click here for part five

 

 

 

 

How To Debate A Calvinist: Part 2 – By John Immel

Posted in John Immel, TANC 2017 by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on November 15, 2017

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

Click here for part one
Click here for part three
Click here for part four
Click here for part five

 

To have a rebuttal for the Calvinist juggernaut of destruction, you have to learn to argue the central roots of their claims. They want to argue for the right to an alternate reality, one that is not this reality as we know it and can observe for ourselves here on this earth at this time. They will use different argumentative techniques to accomplish this, top of the list being making a claim to “orthodoxy”, which is ultimately a claim to authority.

But as we saw in part one, their definition of orthodoxy has no identity, because at any given moment they can make whatever claim they want about the source of that orthodoxy.   You end up with endless “both/and” propositions, which is a violation of Aristotle’s Law of Identity.

 

The “Objective” Truth
When you call them on the fact that they are not appealing to an objective truth the conversation goes something like this – In my comments to Paul Dohse on Paul’s Passing Thoughts in regard to GraceWriterRandy I made the following observations:

“No matter how often you peg Randy into a Calvinist corner he will waive the magic wand of his whim and side step the issue because HE doesn’t believe that. He is not intellectually accountable to any objective standard. No matter how many scriptures you stack in service to illustrating progressive justification he will never concede. No matter how many times you quote Calvin, or Luther or any of the Neo Cal luminaries to illustrate the doctrinal error endemic to the protestant house of cards he will pretend they are some fringe inconsequential distributors of non essential doctrines.”
(source: https://paulspassingthoughts.com/2017/04/28/the-protestant-house-of-cards/comment-page-3/#comments)

To suggest that one is not intellectually accountable to any objective standard are fighting words to Calvinists! When you begin challenging the Calvinist infrastructure of authority that’s when they start to get fussy. But it is very important you understand the intellectual “sleight-of-hand” they will use to attempt to fool you.

After making the above comment on the blog, this was Randy’s response:

“John
A. I am intellectually accountable to one objective standard and one objective standard alone.
B. That standard is the Word of God interpreted according to widely accepted principles of interpretation.
C. It is that standard I intend to rely on.”

Let us dissect part A. My challenge is that Randy is not intellectually accountable to an objective standard. Randy’s rebuttal – he is accountable to the “objective” Word of God; specifically, a book. Here is the sleight-of-hand: Because there is a book that is metaphysically existent, the contents of the book qualifies as objective. Because the book exists, he is accountable to something that everyone can perceive, therefore he is accountable to the objective. Because the book contains God’s words, Randy’s mind is accountable to its content. So then it logically follows that Randy’s ideas are the product of an objective standard. The book exists, therefore the rational standard is objective.

But just because somebody thumps their modern-day ESV doesn’t make the ideas extracted from the words objective any more than touching a rock makes a sculptor understand how to create a statue. Randy is doing what Calvinist defenders do; they are mixing and matching metaphysical expectations with epistemological conclusions. This is fundamental error. He is casually overlooking the rational individual processes required to grasp the “objective” words written on the page.

Consider the number of cognitive conceptual integrations that you must perform in your mind to get to any doctrinal conclusions. How many conceptual integrations must one go through just to get to the point of literacy? How many things to children need to learn to do intellectually before they understand the concept of “See Spot run”? And we haven’t even gotten to the point of them understanding “For God so loved the world,” and the implications behind reading a Bible passage.

This is the sleight-of-hand that Calvinists do constantly. They want to pretend that there is no individual conceptual understanding, any individual cognitive process, therefore this “Word of God” leaps fully-formed into their mind, and then they are appealing to something that is “objective.” This is absurd.

Randy is conflating literacy with objectivity, and that is foolishness. How can something be “objective” that requires the ability to read – which is a highly subjective process – before the standard can even be realized? The fact is, literacy is just the beginning of the long epistemological and conceptual chain through which an individual must progress before they end up with a formal doctrinal declaration. There is an ocean of intellectual conclusions that you must get to before you arrive at any advanced doctrinal assertion.

Or said another way, hundreds of highly individual cognitive evolutions are integrated with incalculable subjective conclusions long before a person can declare intellectual solidarity with any writing. They have no awareness of the individual decisions they make to arrive at their conclusion. This is what this looks like:

At the end of the day, what they think is the definition of “Biblical,” which is why you never gain any traction in any conversation with a Calvinist, because what they think is the authority. Then to add insult to epistemological injury, they think that what they think is “objective.” This is the fraud underneath the entire body of logic. This is why they fight so hard over the right to interpret.

Let’s go on to part B of Randy’s response.

“That standard is the Word of God interpreted according to widely accepted principles of interpretation.”

The obvious question should be, widely accepted by whom? This betrays that Calvinists really think that objectivity equals consensus. Historical precedent. I believe what I think everybody else has always believed. Anybody who is anybody has always believed this, therefore this is accepted principle. So, truth is determined by democratic majority? Randy is actually saying that his so-called “objective standard” is determined subjectively. The moment he claimed “widely accepted principles”, he unwittingly inserted subjectivity into the equation.

This argument is not unique to GraceWriterRandy. He is useful as an anecdotal example, but you will see this same argument leveled over and over every time you attempt to engage a Calvinist in this type of discussion. But this is the central theme of Calvinism; the dirty little secret of their preconception of orthodoxy.

Reformation theology is a commitment to “what everyone has always believed.” This is the classic myth in historic Christian theology, that somehow everyone always believed all this stuff. This is simply not true. It is only true in the alternate realty to which they are constantly trying to compel you. But the reality is that there has never been a timeframe in human history where every Christian on the planet agreed with every single doctrine.

Let’s just take a cursory look at interpretive events in history:

  • From the 1st century to roughly the 3rd century there was no “Bible” to interpret.
  • From the 6th century to the 13th century, allegory was the primary interpretive method.
  • Systematic theology of the Wayne Grudem kind did not show up until roughly the 14th century.
  • Modern higher critical methodology (the endless parsing of Greek roots that so many Bible teachers are fond of) doesn’t show up until Friedrich Schleiermacher in the 18th century.

So the question then is, which one of these interpretive methods is the definitive interpretive standard? The reality is that no Calvinist can answer this, because at the end of the day this is an intellectual black hole; if you fall into this you don’t get out.

We haven’t even begun to discuss the long convoluted process of translating from Hebrew to Greek to Latin to German to English and the dozens of English variants that we currently have in the modern age. We haven’t considered the part when a Protestant king decided to take a red pen to a whole collection of books and make the current 66-book canon the standard for current Christianity. (In reality, the books know as “The Apocrypha” were originally cut out because they would have made the Bible to expensive to publish.)

So how many leaps of infallible logic does a Calvinist have to make to arrive at the notion that they, sitting in the 21st century in America speaking English with a laptop-based Strong’s concordance, have to arrive at the final recitation of truth for all mankind? Frankly the arrogance here is stunning.

If we are really going to arrive at truth by democratic majority, then a billion Chinese can’t be wrong. Buddha and Confucius must have been right. The earth must still be flat because that truth was widely accepted.

Lastly let’s look at part C to GraceWriterRandy’s reply.

“It is that standard I intend to rely on.”

So Calvinists like to pretend they are intellectual giants and autonomous thinkers, but the central forum of theology and orthodoxy is intellectual subordination. Do you see the fundamental problem? Randy wants to pick what he decides is the authority.

Here’s the problem; if you are a Calvinist and you preach submission to authority, you have no right to the words “I think.” The moment those words come out of your mouth, you have betrayed your own body of doctrine. What you should say is, “I submit my mind to John Piper”, or C.J. Mahaney, or Al Mohler, or any one among the number of self-appointed authoritarian “scholars.” But that ultimately leads to the problem of, to whose mind am I submitting? This question they never want to answer.

In Western thought, the intellectual pedigree follows this progression: We begin with the Pythagoreans and the soul/body dichotomy. Next is Plato followed by Plotinus, the one who grafted in the whole Pythagoean idea of the soul/body dichotomy into mainstream Christian orthodoxy. It is the idea that flesh is so overwhelmingly evil and totally unredeemable. This is the origination of the concept of pervasive total depravity. This becomes Augustinian pervasive depravity, and from Augustine we go to Luther, and from Luther we go to Calvin.

So here is the dirty little secret – Calvinists are not independent thinkers!

All they have done is become masters of the logic of better minds. (As evil as Calvin was, he was not a stupid man. What he was able to formulate, and the systematic presentation of his ideas, is an unrivaled intellectual achievement.) All intellectual roads intersect at Luther and Calvin. Their root doctrines are the Heidelberg Disputation, which was the summary version of Reformed Theology, and Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion, the formal presentation of Reformed Theology. This is the heart and soul of all modern-day Christianity.

Every argument – from Al Mohler or Ligon Duncan or C.J. Mahaney or Tulian Tchividjian, to your local pastor to your mini-tyrant overseeing your care group – is not an original thought. The origin of their thinking is found in Luther and Calvin. This is why they accept no proof but their own proof. They accept no definition other than their own because their mind is the doctrinal plumb line. They presume that they understand everything in the Bible correctly and you don’t. Their singular rational standard is their own doctrinal assumption. They reserve the sole right to determine what is “Biblical.”

Since there is no such thing as objective truth, how then do Calvinist persuade? They don’t persuade; they compel. How can you make a rational argument when your fundamental premise is that the mind of man is corrupt? So they must force people to agree, and they do this with “authority.” You are universally guilty – of what? Sin. And because everybody is guilty, they need someone to dictate what “good” is. Those who dictate do so over people who are incompetent – those who are intellectually incapable of understanding the truths that they understand. And the underlying argument that ties all of these assumptions together is an appeal to authority.

A few bold men will suggest that they have authority by virtue of their existence, but most people like to hedge. It goes like this – “I don’t have authority, but that book over there has the authority.” They borrow the authority from the Bible. Here is how you respond to this nonsense – books don’t have force; men use force. The Bible doesn’t have any authority. It cannot reach out and swat you on the head or lead you blindfolded to a mass grave and shoot you in the back.

Any appeal to authority is really an appeal to the moral right to use force. This is the key concept – moral authority. This is the pretense that Calvinists use with impunity; the expectation of their own moral virtue.

But if man is pervasively depraved, and all men commit sin, then how can pervasively depraved men make any claim to morality?

Here is how they get around this. Individual men will sin, but groups of men will sin less because they are in a group. All the men in the group will somehow keep each other accountable. Preachers are pretty good at packaging and marketing this. We kind of like the concept that this group of elders is somehow mutually responsible in keeping each other from sinning. They pretend that they are innocent bystanders in this cosmic predestination of truth. They didn’t want the responsibility, but lo and behold, the mere reality that they are where they are is evidence that God ordained them to this burden of leadership.

But here is the sleight-of-hand. The revelation is the authority, and they are mere servants of the authority.   These mere servants are claiming to have an exemption from the very moral corruption that obligates you to their control.

But the reality is if you believe in pervasive depravity, you still have to overcome depravity. So the intellectual hedge goes like this. Individuals are flawed. Therefore to prevent individual error, we will join a group for checks and balances. In essence, we in a group will borrow each other’s righteousness. Just a few paragraphs ago I told you they want to borrow the authority of the Bible and apply it to themselves. Now they are going to actually borrow the righteousness of other people.

But do you see the glaring problem with this assertion?

If, because of pervasive depravity, man doesn’t have any righteousness, how can you borrow what someone doesn’t have?

How did the group arrive at the substance of ethical action? If you start with the premise that no man can know what “good” is, how is that you get together and suddenly have an understanding of what “good” is? Someone had to identify it. Someone had to measure good action so there was a qualification to join the group. This is the bait-and-switch they constantly put on; the endless violation of the Law of Identity. One minute they are immoral, wretched beasts, and the next minute they have become part of the group, and they are now moral people borrowing each other’s righteousness.

Reformed theology says that man overtly rejects good, but somehow a group of preachers possess good. So riddle me this: if man is hostile to God, how can a group of men be benevolent towards God? If man cannot measure his own moral action, how can he measure a group’s moral consensus? If individual man is a moral and intellectual criminal, how does a group become rational giants and paragons of virtue?

The answer: It is insane to argue that a group of totally depraved men are qualified to define morality. The folks in the asylum are not less insane because they are in the same geographic location. Group morality means morality is proximity.

Here are the takeaways:

  • Calvinists evade reality because reality is their enemy.  If “A” is “A”, then their doctrine collapses.
  • Calvinists can make no claim to objective truth.
  • Calvinists must evade their own intellectual processes.
  • Calvinists are not independent thinkers. You should not fear their arguments.
  • Calvinists do not have morality, so you should never fear their moral condemnation.
  • Calvinists have no authority because they do not have the right to compel you to think anything.
  • Calvinists are morally bankrupt.

Here is a test: The next time you hear a Calvinist begin talking about how much of a wretched sinner he is, agree with him. Then watch how fast they argue their own moral virtue.

…To be continued


Click here for part one
Click here for part three
Click here for part four
Click here for part five

How to Debate A Calvinist: Part 1 – By John Immel

Posted in John Immel, TANC 2017 by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on November 13, 2017

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

Click here for part two
Click here for part three
Click here for part four
Click here for part five

“Have you read Calvin’s Institutes today?”

I must confess, I really struggled this year with what I wanted to talk about. My brain bounced off about a dozen things. I originally thought I was going to dig deeper into the impact of John Locke on American civil government, American religion, the American Revolution. But at the end of the day it didn’t really catch and sustain my attention too much.

Then I thought I might actually discuss death and life and exegete the first four chapters of the book of Genesis. And that didn’t really stick with me very long. And I toyed with a half a dozen other things that just don’t bear mentioning.

Then about two or three months ago I was reading an interaction on Paul’s Passing Thoughts between Paul Dohse and a guy by the name of “GraceWriterRandy”. Now, trust me, this conference is not about GraceWriterRandy, but he is a fantastic anecdote. And so I decided to go ahead and talk about what he did and how that applies generally.

So here is what I noticed. And what so caught my attention was that Randy presumed to set the tone for the entire conversation, and frankly it didn’t matter what part of the conversation. He decided that he was going to dictate the moral and intellectual terms across the board. He reserved the right to make the discussion as narrow or as broad as he wanted.

And then what really bothered me is that everybody accepted the premise. Everybody tended to follow along. So if Randy reframed the conversation, everybody accepted the shift. If Randy argued scripture, everybody started stacking up scriptures. If Randy shifted to moral criticism, everybody started lobbing moral accusations. If Randy challenged a definition, everybody started parsing meanings.

And this is when I realized that I actually had my topic of conversation: Arguments with Calvinists, and trying to unravel the roots of their arguments.

And this is why no one ever gets anywhere in a debate with a Calvinist, because they let the Calvinist shape the direction of the conversation. People rarely ever challenge the Calvinist root assumptions. They let the Calvinist decide that it is their sole right to define all things moral, spiritual, and intellectual. And the foundation of all their arguments is the myth of their [Calvinists’] own authority and their entitlement to dictated force.

So I came up with a brief algebra of historic “Christian” authority:

The Algebra of Authority

Catholic Algebra:
Absolute Truth = Apostolic Authority + Scripture = Error Free Doctrine + Apostolic Succession = Papal Authority = Orthodoxy = Government Force

I want you to notice that the fulcrum of Catholic doctrine is Apostolic Authority PLUS Scripture. Everything else, how they get their doctrinal interpretations, is a direct product of this. Catholics had decided long ago that the reason that “Scripture Alone” got so much traction is because the Catholic church, specifically Papal Authority, decided that it was their job to interpret what it said. But at the end of the day, Orthodoxy is what determines Government Force. In other words, the Pope has the right to compel you to what you think.

Here’s what happened when Protestantism showed up:

Protestant Algebra:
Absolute Truth = Scriptural Authority = Predestined Elders = Error Free Doctrine + Ecclesiastical Force = Orthodoxy

It is very important that you see the relationship here. Predestined Elder inherit the implications of their own Absolute Truth. The function of Predestined Elders in the Protestant world is to compel you to think whatever it is they think they have the right to compel you to think.

This is crucial for you to understand: Authority = Force

Any time somebody says, “I am an authority,” what they are really saying is, “I have the right to force you to do something.” There is nothing elegant about it.

So then how do you debate a Calvinist?

The answer is: You challenge the roots.

This is why I insist, particularly with regard to GraceWriterRandy, no one ever successfully challenges the roots of the assertion.

I have been talking about my web of tyranny now for the last six years. This is my contribution to the world of philosophy. I have identified what I believe are the five fundamental pillars of tyranny. It doesn’t matter what the ultimate end game is, all tyrannies have these five sub-categories or arguments: Dictated Good, Universal Guilt, Abolition of Ambition, Collective Conformity, and Incompetent Masses. The function of all these sub-categories is designed to create “Utopia,” or an alternate reality.

The reason I have rendered this as a web is because it is not specifically linear. In other words, there is not specifically a logical progression of one to the other. Instead there is a dynamic tension between all five, so all of the arguments act in harmony with all of the others to compel you down the path of this alternate reality; the right to determine some other realm of thinking.

What we have never really discussed is how the arguments fit into the web. On occasion over the last few years I have made reference to when an argument sits, but I want to have an overarching view. I want to start subdividing some of the arguments that you will hear. I’ve tried to pick archetypes of the arguments, and we will try to unravel them in later sessions.

If we are going to successfully debate Calvinist, we have to get good at identifying the foundational assumptions, because:

The Gospel According to John Immel, chapter 3:1-3

  1. All people act logically from their assumptions.
  2. It does not matter how inconsistent the ideas or insane the rationale. They will act until that logic is fulfilled.
  3. Therefore, when you see masses of people taking the same destructive actions, if you find the assumptions, you will find the cause.

Frankly, I don’t think we can have any better object lesson of this truth played out in our civil discourse than the logical assumption of a group of people tearing down historic monuments over wars that were fought long ago over offenses that are entirely manufactured. They are in actuality fulfilling a body of logic that produces some action.

Ideas are what drive human action. There is body of ideas, and a fundamental integration of those ideas, that produces your actions in any given day. This integration is called Philosophy.

Disciplines of Philosophy

– Metaphysics

– Epistemology

– Ethics

– Politics

– Aesthetics (art)

The roots are your metaphysical assumptions; whatever you accept about the nature of existence. Once you actually establish your foundation of metaphysical assumptions, you move to epistemology. That is what you believe your mind can understand. Once you identify what your mind can and cannot know, you move on to ethics. These are the moral judgments that you have about your actions; what is good and what is evil. This is how we define how we interact with other people through politics. Once man is able to establish these first four disciplines, he is able to refresh his existence with artistic expression. His art is a reflection of his most deeply held values.


The Orthodoxy Happy Dance

You might begin to talk to a Calvinist by presenting to him what Luther or Calvin said regarding a certain doctrine, and all is well and good until the Calvinist encounters something he doesn’t like. At this point he might respond by saying, “Well, Calvin might have believed that, but it was really the Synod of Dort that came up with this thing called T.U.L.I.P.” At this point they have made the Synod of Dort their authority over Calvin and Luther.

So then you proceed to point out a fallacy in T.U.L.I.P or the Synod of Dort, and now they might cite the Westminster Confession as being the final authority on the matter, rejecting the Synod of Dort. Notice what they are able to do. At any point in the argument that they don’t happen to like an given intellectual conclusion, no matter where it starts, they get to dance around between any given authority that suits them at any particular moment.

Take a look at the video below. This is an excerpt from a breakout session at the 2016 Cross for the Nations Conference in Indianapolis, IN. In this clip, you will hear John Piper make a reference to being committed to “the whole Calvinistic scheme.” Watch then, as Paul Dohse challenges Piper on the matter of election, Piper proceeds to engage in this orthodoxy happy dance.

Did you catch it? What you just saw Piper do is exactly what Calvinist do with impunity. They want the right to pick any given authority as their intellectual forbearers and then disown those intellectual forbearers whenever it suits their purpose. And this is why I call it the Orthodoxy Happy Dance, because orthodoxy at the end is this amorphous concept to which they get to appeal. They make an appeal to something that has no functional definition. At the end of the day, the real root of what they are advocating is their right to their own authority.

Notice that when pressed on the Calvin Institutes, Piper immediately became a Biblicist. What you will eventually realize, if you care to pay attention, is that Calvinists don’t read the Calvin Institutes ever. They read a few select excerpt here and there and then pretend that it is their intellectual pedigree, which they then believe gives them the license to tell you what to think. You peg them down on what they think and then they just jump to some other source of intellectual pedigree.

This sort of intellectual two-step is a direct violation of Aristotle’s Law of Identity; that A is A. Something cannot be “A” and “not A” at the same time. But with Calvinists, orthodoxy can be anything they want it to be. They have no intellectual integrity. They are not committed to anything specific. This is why every time you start debating Calvinists your conversations go nowhere.

Any time you have such a conversation, what you must do is make them responsible for their intellectual pedigree. If at any point they want to reject any point of Calvinism, they are rejecting the roots of orthodoxy. You will see this comment consistently:

“Calvinists don’t believe everything that John Calvin said…The Bible says blah, blah, blah…”

This is a glittering gem of colossal ignorance. It kills me every time I see it. I guarantee if you read anybody’s blog and you take somebody to task you will get a similar response. Pay attention to this. This is the formulation. They will identify themselves as Calvinists, and then they will pretend that they don’t believe what Calvin said. Suddenly they are independent thinkers and Biblicists. This is a gambit to what they believe they control – Biblical interpretation.

The next time you hear this line of logic, what you must say is, “So, you reject John Calvin’s ideas? Excellent! We agree on something. In your copy of Calvin’s Institutes, show me specifically to what you object.” This must be the only answer you will accept, but here is the thing; they will never do it. They will want to play their gambit of Biblical interpretation because they believe they own it.

Your rebuttal when they go back to the Bible, you say, “So, you are really saying that Calvin’s ideas are not in the Bible, right?” If they have to constantly run back to the Bible, then that means they cannot find those ideas in the Calvin’s Institutes. The moment they concede that point, then the next question you ask is, “So that means that Calvin’s teachings are unbiblical, right? That would make him a heretic, right?”   Follow this progression of questioning, and don’t let them leave this point! They must commit to what they are advocating.

You want to make sure they can never escape either an acceptance of Calvin or a rejection of Calvin. They must either accept that there is a synonymous relationship between Calvin and the Bible or there is not one. The moment you drive that wedge they are stuck. They use Calvin to establish their historic pedigree – “I have authority because I believe what all these other historic thinkers think.” Yet at the same time they want to turn around and claim intellectual autonomy whenever they choose. So which is it; historical authority or your own intellectual authority? That is the fulcrum of the debate.

If the truth is defined as “authority,” then there is no such thing as “I think…” The assumption is Authority = No Doctrinal Error; that the only way you can hedge against doctrinal error is to have authority. So the reason they argue “authority” is because they insist that they are the ones who get it all right. But the moment you confront them with something that isn’t right, they want to renounce the very thing that gives them authority. This is what you can never let them get away with.

The real argument here is that they have abandoned the right to the Aristotelian Law of Identity. They are constantly trying to say that “A” can be “B” and “B” can be “A”. They want to have a “both/and” reality.

  • Both final authority and error-filled humans.
  • Both defender of orthodoxy and an individual thinker denouncing Calvin’s doctrine.
  • Both herald of God’s mystic revelation and defender of “objective” truth.
  • Both lowly unoriginal mind slave and epitome of rational judgment.
  • Both champion of God’s hard truth and pitiful victim of undeserved criticism.

The way to defeat Calvinists is to deny them their authority and hammer away at reality. Reality is their enemy. The reason they engage in the Orthodoxy Happy Dance is because the moment they are confronted with the specifics of history they are toast.

But be forewarned:

  • Try to rebuff a Calvinist’s right to define all things and they pretend that no is their equal.
  • Try to reject a Calvinist’s monopoly on moral virtue, and they snarl that no man is righteous.
  • Try to refuse to let a Calvinist define reality, and they resort to force.

…To be continued


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Click here for part four
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