Paul's Passing Thoughts

God’s Acknowledgment of “Self” and the Full Circle of the Ten Commandments.

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on November 12, 2017

Originally Published May 25, 2016

“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” ~ Exodus 3:14

When Jehovah (I Am) identified Himself to Moses at the burning bush, He did more than just tell Moses His name. God made a philosophical statement about reality. God acknowledged His own existence, and in so doing He declared His intrinsic rights because of that existence. Furthermore, by acknowledging His own existence, God also recognized man’s existence. I believe this is at the heart of what the Bible means when it says that man was made in God’s image. We have a right to “self” because God has a right to “self”.   And for us to acknowledge our own right to “self” demands that we by extension must acknowledge others’ right to “self”, just as God acknowledges ours.

Do not misunderstand what I mean by “right to self”. I do not mean “self-ishness”, which the Bible clearly decries. “Selfishness” means to love oneself MORE than another. On the other hand, the Bible never teaches us to love others more than ourselves. Said another way, the Bible doesn’t teach that we should love ourselves LESS than others. It says we are to love others AS MUCH AS we love ourselves. Herein is the way in which we acknowledge another’s right to “self”, we treat others as WE would want to be treated. We see our own value as an individual and in so doing recognize that others have that same value. That value includes one’s right to existence and the means necessary to sustain that existence. The United States’ Declaration of Independence embodied that idea in this way:

“…We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…”

“That all men are created equal” is to recognize that all men have the same basic right to “self” and to existence, and that equality of individualism is preserved in the rights to seek those things which would secure that existence. No one ever has the right to violate another’s right to “self”, EVEN GOD!

In a conversation with a close friend the other day, I posed the question, “why is stealing wrong?” My friend replied that stealing is wrong because God said so; it’s in the Ten Commandments. Stealing is wrong because God said, “Thou shalt not steal.” I then followed up with the next question, “Why did God say stealing is wrong?” For this my friend had no answer. All he could say was, “I don’t know, I never thought about it before.”

You see for my friend, as it is with most people (particularly Christians), that God “said it” was enough for him. It was nothing more than an appeal to authority. An authority says this or that, so we must do it or not do it. This is the same reasoning that led to the slaughter of 6 million Jews while millions of others gave their tacit approval. People’s behaviors are the product of their assumptions, to paraphrase John Immel. No matter how irrational the behavior may seem, if you find the assumption you will find the reason for the action.

So why DID God say that stealing is wrong? It is a simple question, and once challenged to think, my friend finally did ask it of me. Stealing is wrong because it is a violation of “self”, of the individual. Our possessions are the products of our labors which are an investment of ourselves. Your labor is an exchange of value. You enter into that exchange with an employer who trades you wages for your investment of yourself. Those wages then in turn are exchanged for those things that are necessary to further your existence – food, clothing, shelter, etc. – and if there is any surplus, luxuries – car, mobile phone, flat screen TV, etc. So in reality, everything you produce – labor, wages, food, clothing, car, TV, etc. – is a product of you as an individual. For someone to steal those things from you is to violate “you” (self) because those things represent what the individual produced as a function of “self”. You have a right to them because you produced them because you have a right to “self”.

Contrary to what people/Christians are taught, the Bible is not a theological book. It is a philosophical book. And the Ten Commandments in particular are not simply an authoritative codification of do’s and don’ts. It is a philosophical statement from God to man about the value of the individual. It is a statement about how God values Himself, and it is a statement about how God values man. Conversely it is a statement of how man is to value God and how man is to value man. God’s very first statement to man is an appeal to God’s own sense of “self” and value. God as an individual. “I am God. I exist. I have value.” Therefore, the way we show God that we value Him is to have no other gods before Him! We do not make vain attempts to conceptualize God’s sense of “self” by making an image to represent that. We do not mock God’s name because His name is intrinsically tied to who He is. To violate God’s name is to violate who He is.

Man, too, has value as “self”. Therefore, we honor our parents, we don’t murder, we don’t commit adultery, we don’t steal, we don’t lie, and we don’t covet, not because God said so, but because we acknowledge that this would violate another person’s right to “self”. This is the basis for morality. It can be said then that the definition of morality is anything that does not violate God or man as “self”.

God’s command to not covet seems all-encompassing. The last commandment perfectly reduces everything down to the root motivation for all violations of “self”. And that is self-ISHNESS. A desire to usurp for oneself that which rightfully belongs to another. And as we have said before, that is a desire caused by Sin. The Bible describes Sin as an entity that seeks to control others. It seeks to master and enslave. It seeks to violate another for it’s own benefit, to wield control over another.

The New Testament offers another perspective on covetousness.

“For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” ~ Ephesians 5:5

“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:” ~ Colossians 3:5

The apostle Paul had a unique insight among the other apostles in that he was a certified expert on Jewish law. This perspective gave him an ability to draw parallels between Old Testament and New Testament concepts that the others did not. Peter even declared that many of the things which Paul taught were hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16).   In these two passages in particular, Paul sees covetousness as being nothing more than idolatry. I’m not exactly sure how he gets there since he doesn’t elaborate on it.

Still, it is an interesting piece to the puzzle. Consider that one of the Ten Commandments speaks to idolatry. When one thinks of graven images, one usually thinks of idolatry. But Paul seems to suggest that idolatry involves more than just “idol worship”. It is a violation of God as “self”. Covetousness is a violation of man as “self”. What Paul has done here is to show the intrinsic relationship between the two. To violate man is to violate God, and to violate God is to violate man. Do not misunderstand, I am in no way suggesting that man IS God. But I do want to point out that there is a mutual recognition between God and man with respect to existence.

So to violate the tenth commandment is to violate the first, and thus we have come full circle. The Ten Commandments then are not statutes in and of themselves. It is not a means for God to show us “filthy rotten sinners” just how “holy He is” and how “sinful we are.”  It is a full-orbed treatise on morality and existence. It is not a law for authority’s sake. It is God instructing us on reality. What we see in the Bible is that LOVE is the motivating factor in all of this. To love someone is to ascribe value to them. Perhaps this is the relationship between idolatry and covetousness. To idolize something is to objectify it, to assign value based on its desirableness to oneself instead of an individual’s intrinsic value as another individual.

Whatever the case may be, when we show love to God and others, we have thus fulfilled the whole law because in this way we demonstrate a like view of both man and God, and we see reality the way God sees it.

Andy

The Assumption of Church Authority

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on August 15, 2016

The word “assumption” can have at least two meanings. It can mean to take on or take over for oneself as a responsibility. It can also refer to a starting point of an argument; a premise from which a logical conclusion is drawn. In the case of “church authority”, both definitions are applicable.

Protestants must be aware of the assumption, the beginning premise, held by the “church leadership”, the logical conclusions of which produce the resulting behavior observed by so many who come to this ministry seeking answers. Those in so-called “church leadership” have an assumption (self-appointed) of authority based on a faulty assumption (premise).

As a result there are some questions that must be asked:

  1. Is it reasonable to assume that elders and pastors, being fallible men (because after all doesn’t “total depravity” apply to them as well?), could ever possibly be in error regarding doctrine and Biblical interpretation?
  2. If the answer is yes, then what mechanism is there in place, either from Scripture itself or a “church’s” own documented governing principles, to be able to determine if the leadership is in error, thereby making their claim to authority void?
  3. Maybe the same question only stated another way, if a discerning church member were honestly persuaded by his own personal study and illumination of the Holy Spirit that a pastor or elder was in error and promoting false doctrine, and the elder/pastor refuses to hear him, what recourse does that church member have (aside from leaving the church)? (The assumption here being that the member loves his church so much that he is concerned for the spiritual well-being of the church in general and the pastor, elders, and the rest of the laity in particular).
  4. If, on the off chance that an elder or pastor ever conceded the fact that the possibility exists that he himself could be in error concerning doctrine or Biblical interpretation, how would he know that? How would an elder or pastor know if he was wrong? (Of course that begs the question, would he ever admit to it?)

degreeThe answers are obvious because this is the assumption: the leadership is assumed to never be wrong because they are the authority! Their basis for authority IS authority. This of course is a logical fallacy. Nevertheless, an elder or pastor will ALWAYS defer to some other authority. His answers regarding doctrine and interpretation are never going to be based on sound reason from his own personal study. He will always make an appeal to the authority that instructed him (i.e. seminary, et al).

The only difference between you or me and the elder/pastor is the amount of money spent on certification training. The Bible clearly states that all authority rests with Christ. The elder/pastor gets his authority from a framed document hanging on a wall in his office.

Whenever the basis for truth is an appeal to authority, there is no need for persuasion or reasoned debate. Only force and coercion.

Andy

God’s Acknowledgment of “Self” and the Full Circle of the Ten Commandments.

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on May 25, 2016

“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” ~ Exodus 3:14

When Jehovah (I Am) identified Himself to Moses at the burning bush, He did more than just tell Moses His name. God made a philosophical statement about reality. God acknowledged His own existence, and in so doing He declared His intrinsic rights because of that existence. Furthermore, by acknowledging His own existence, God also recognized man’s existence. I believe this is at the heart of what the Bible means when it says that man was made in God’s image. We have a right to “self” because God has a right to “self”.   And for us to acknowledge our own right to “self” demands that we by extension must acknowledge others’ right to “self”, just as God acknowledges ours.

Do not misunderstand what I mean by “right to self”. I do not mean “self-ishness”, which the Bible clearly decries. “Selfishness” means to love oneself MORE than another. On the other hand, the Bible never teaches us to love others more than ourselves. Said another way, the Bible doesn’t teach that we should love ourselves LESS than others. It says we are to love others AS MUCH AS we love ourselves. Herein is the way in which we acknowledge another’s right to “self”, we treat others as WE would want to be treated. We see our own value as an individual and in so doing recognize that others have that same value. That value includes one’s right to existence and the means necessary to sustain that existence. The United States’ Declaration of Independence embodied that idea in this way:

“…We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…”

“That all men are created equal” is to recognize that all men have the same basic right to “self” and to existence, and that equality of individualism is preserved in the rights to seek those things which would secure that existence. No one ever has the right to violate another’s right to “self”, EVEN GOD!

In a conversation with a close friend the other day, I posed the question, “why is stealing wrong?” My friend replied that stealing is wrong because God said so; it’s in the Ten Commandments. Stealing is wrong because God said, “Thou shalt not steal.” I then followed up with the next question, “Why did God say stealing is wrong?” For this my friend had no answer. All he could say was, “I don’t know, I never thought about it before.”

You see for my friend, as it is with most people (particularly Christians), that God “said it” was enough for him. It was nothing more than an appeal to authority. An authority says this or that, so we must do it or not do it. This is the same reasoning that led to the slaughter of 6 million Jews while millions of others gave their tacit approval. People’s behaviors are the product of their assumptions, to paraphrase John Immel. No matter how irrational the behavior may seem, if you find the assumption you will find the reason for the action.

So why DID God say that stealing is wrong? It is a simple question, and once challenged to think, my friend finally did ask it of me. Stealing is wrong because it is a violation of “self”, of the individual. Our possessions are the products of our labors which are an investment of ourselves. Your labor is an exchange of value. You enter into that exchange with an employer who trades you wages for your investment of yourself. Those wages then in turn are exchanged for those things that are necessary to further your existence – food, clothing, shelter, etc. – and if there is any surplus, luxuries – car, mobile phone, flat screen TV, etc. So in reality, everything you produce – labor, wages, food, clothing, car, TV, etc. – is a product of you as an individual. For someone to steal those things from you is to violate “you” (self) because those things represent what the individual produced as a function of “self”. You have a right to them because you produced them because you have a right to “self”.

Contrary to what people/Christians are taught, the Bible is not a theological book. It is a philosophical book. And the Ten Commandments in particular are not simply an authoritative codification of do’s and don’ts. It is a philosophical statement from God to man about the value of the individual. It is a statement about how God values Himself, and it is a statement about how God values man. Conversely it is a statement of how man is to value God and how man is to value man. God’s very first statement to man is an appeal to God’s own sense of “self” and value. God as an individual. “I am God. I exist. I have value.” Therefore, the way we show God that we value Him is to have no other gods before Him! We do not make vain attempts to conceptualize God’s sense of “self” by making an image to represent that. We do not mock God’s name because His name is intrinsically tied to who He is. To violate God’s name is to violate who He is.

Man, too, has value as “self”. Therefore, we honor our parents, we don’t murder, we don’t commit adultery, we don’t steal, we don’t lie, and we don’t covet, not because God said so, but because we acknowledge that this would violate another person’s right to “self”. This is the basis for morality. It can be said then that the definition of morality is anything that does not violate God or man as “self”.

God’s command to not covet seems all-encompassing. The last commandment perfectly reduces everything down to the root motivation for all violations of “self”. And that is self-ISHNESS. A desire to usurp for oneself that which rightfully belongs to another. And as we have said before, that is a desire caused by Sin. The Bible describes Sin as an entity that seeks to control others. It seeks to master and enslave. It seeks to violate another for it’s own benefit, to wield control over another.

The New Testament offers another perspective on covetousness.

“For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” ~ Ephesians 5:5

“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:” ~ Colossians 3:5

The apostle Paul had a unique insight among the other apostles in that he was a certified expert on Jewish law. This perspective gave him an ability to draw parallels between Old Testament and New Testament concepts that the others did not. Peter even declared that many of the things which Paul taught were hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16).   In these two passages in particular, Paul sees covetousness as being nothing more than idolatry. I’m not exactly sure how he gets there since he doesn’t elaborate on it.

Still, it is an interesting piece to the puzzle. Consider that one of the Ten Commandments speaks to idolatry. When one thinks of graven images, one usually thinks of idolatry. But Paul seems to suggest that idolatry involves more than just “idol worship”. It is a violation of God as “self”. Covetousness is a violation of man as “self”. What Paul has done here is to show the intrinsic relationship between the two. To violate man is to violate God, and to violate God is to violate man. Do not misunderstand, I am in no way suggesting that man IS God. But I do want to point out that there is a mutual recognition between God and man with respect to existence.

So to violate the tenth commandment is to violate the first, and thus we have come full circle. The Ten Commandments then are not statutes in and of themselves. It is not a means for God to show us “filthy rotten sinners” just how “holy He is” and how “sinful we are.”  It is a full-orbed treatise on morality and existence. It is not a law for authority’s sake. It is God instructing us on reality. What we see in the Bible is that LOVE is the motivating factor in all of this. To love someone is to ascribe value to them. Perhaps this is the relationship between idolatry and covetousness. To idolize something is to objectify it, to assign value based on its desirableness to oneself instead of an individual’s intrinsic value as another individual.

Whatever the case may be, when we show love to God and others, we have thus fulfilled the whole law because in this way we demonstrate a like view of both man and God, and we see reality the way God sees it.

Andy

I’m in Charge Because I Have the Bigger Stick!

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on May 16, 2016

While we acknowledge God’s authority, God does not appeal to us from a position of authority, He appeals to us from a position of reason. Belief is based on being PERSUADED that something is true; that it is reasonable to believe it. Belief and persuasion is not needed where “authority” is the standard. That God appeals to truth based on reason is the only thing that separates Biblical Christianity from every religion in the world since the beginning of time, for every religion has its own basis for “authority” which it accepts as its standard for truth. Arguments over religion then are nothing more than battles over which “authority” one is going to accept (or which one has more guns). Therefore, no one can claim a monopoly on truth based on authority alone.

Incidentally, arguments over “politics” are the same thing, a battle over which “authority” one is going to accept.   Televised political debates boil down to simply, “My tyranny is better than his tyranny.”  Religion and politics are the same thing, there is no practical distinction.

Andy

Identity

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 5, 2015

TANC M2TANC Ministries is presently working on a book project leading up to our 2016 conference in August. I guess my name will be on the book as the author, but the book is really a group project. Maybe the author should be “TANC Ministries.”

Why this project? I will cite some excerpts from the project objective:

“Those who are disillusioned with Christianity, but haven’t given up on God and are looking for answers, often ask, ‘Where do I start?’ Such people who come to PPT, and are overwhelmed by the mass of information often ask, ‘Where is the best place to start?’ Andy Young recently remarked about the multiple layers of misinformation and the question of where this ministry should start with people on our end of the question…The target audience are those looking for real and truthful answers amongst the confusion; they are those trying to make sense out of life in the confusion of Christianity as we know it in our day. The book will have a theological and philosophical bent. Protestants and Catholics alike are dumbed-down by design, think that the Reformation was a theological debate, are confused about basic elements of metaphysics and being, and need a place to start on their truth journey. Those who buy the book will have this in common: they assume reason is a necessary pathway to finding truth.”

At first, it looked like the project was off to a fast start, but what seemed like great ideas were shot down by the group, so it was suggested that I start submitting free-writing articles to the group based on the usual ministry themes, and this will result in an articulation of objectives that the group agrees with. This article is one such submission to the group.

I am not crazy about Facebook, but on the other hand, it is valuable to our ministry, and yesterday was no exception. I am not going to copy and paste the whole debate here between myself and a couple of Catholics, but I am very tempted to think that it will be the crux of our project. The excerpt that encapsulates the main point follows:

“You act as if the Pope speaking ex cathedra or the council of Bishops as an authority of truth is so absurd. I understand that you disagree with it, and you are entitled to the right to disagree. But the concept in and of itself is certainly not absurd. I have to say, if it comes down to which is less absurd, a church authority instituted by Christ is much more plausible than Jesus giving us a Bible and telling everyone they can discern truth completely (error free) by themselves. (Not saying we are completely void of discerning truth, but we will never be perfect at it). Look around you: if everyone could perfectly discern truth for themselves, then why do non-catholic churches continue to split up each and every day? I think there are like over 30,000 denominations now? We are not trying to attack you, Paul M. Dohse Sr. We are just trying to get to the truth. And I have felt misrepresented by your points, so I have to ask the tough questions.”

To me, this absolutely says it all; perhaps the project group will agree. It boils down to man’s (mankind) identity and his ability to interpret reality. Universally, the goal is man’s well-being.  Is the key to well-being a proper identity? What does man’s identity have to do with evaluating truth? EVERYTHING. Suppose you identify man as a being that cannot know truth? I think that makes the point.

Now, this necessarily involves a discussion about philosophy and its four major tenets: metaphysics (state of being), epistemology (how we know), ethics (the moral application of how we perceive reality), and politics (how the ethics are communicated). But what about the Bible? From my own perspective, I see the Bible as God’s philosophical statement to mankind. If you are able to defend God’s truth, or the Gospel, you must know what the Bible states about these four tenets of philosophy. No? Really? Consider the following fact: this stream of conversation on Facebook was extremely long, and complete with Scripture stacking and citation wars, but to no avail. Why? Because truth is interpreted through the philosophical prism. A Chinese person might as well be attempting to convince an English person that Chinese is better (anything Chinese) while arguing in their perspective languages. The example that astounds me the most follows: people who seek counsel and assume the counselor shares their view of reality. No wonder so few people are helped by counseling accordingly. Another example makes its own point because few Christians will even know what I am talking about. Pastors in our day view reality from two different perspectives, redemptive or grammatical, and most parishioners are clueless in regard to where their pastors stand on that issue. They assume they know what the pastor is teaching from the pulpit, but really they are clueless.

What is the philosophy of the person that I was having the discussion with? Metaphysics: man cannot know truth PERFECTLY. Epistemology: “ex cathedra or the council of Bishops as an authority of truth.” Ethics: prevention of chaos. Politics: expected obedience to authority. Words mean things, so lets examine his words carefully. The issue with man, according to this person, is he cannot know truth “perfectly.” That’s key. So then, what is the ethic? Christ has appointed an authority on earth to prevent chaos because no man can know the truth perfectly.

But wait a minute, neither can the men whom Christ appointed as an authority; likewise, they cannot know the truth perfectly because they are also men, so what gives? This is what gives: authority for the sake of UNITY is the goal, not truth per se. In fact, UNITY defines truth itself. And where does that come from? Yep, P-l-a-t-o. Among most of the classic sophists, unity itself was truth. At least in Plato’s case, this was the definition of social justice as well. Does that ring any bells in regard to churchianity, or Western society in general? Let me further the point. What was this person’s primary argument for the authority of the Catholic Church? Right, to prevent the chaos of “30,000 denominations” the inevitable result of men being free to discern truth for themselves.

But it gets better when one considers biblical metaphysics. Again, via this person’s own words, the issue is INDIVIDUAL interpretation. But wait a minute, I thought a believer is a totally new creature indwelled by the Holy Spirit? What a minute, I thought the Bible said that the Spirit will lead us in ALL truth. So, why would members of one body with one mind in Christ, and striving for that one mind in Christ be lacking in unity? Why is such a notion “absurd.” Answer: because Catholics and Protestants both fundamentally deny the new birth, that’s why. And consequently, we also hear things from Protestant pastors such as Mark Driscoll saying, “Just keep your damn mouth shut and obey.” As Pastor Chad Bresson is fond of saying, Whether an elder is right or wrong is irrelevant to unity. For those who have the audacity to question an elder, Pastor James MacDonald suggests that they be tied to a catapult and “launched into the next county.” Why are they so passionate about being agreed with? Because obedience to authority is what unifies, not truth—authority is truth.

Moreover, with Believers, “perfection” is not the issue, but LOVE is the issue. Law as condemnation versus law as love is also the difference the new birth makes, but enough said for now.  I will see if any of this gets some traction with the project group.

paul

%d bloggers like this: