Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Disaster of Sacrifice as the Ultimate Moral Standard – Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on July 18, 2017

The following is part two of a four-part series.
Taken from John Immel’s second session at the 2016 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny
~ Edited by Andy Young

Click here for part oneClick here for part three
(Links to the archived files are found below)


I left us with a cliffhanger – Augustine’s flaw in his doctrine.

I’m not going to tell you what that is in this session!

I know, I’m a mean speaker. But before we can get to Augustine’s flaw, I have to dig into this right here, as represented by the chart at the right. I discussed this at length last year at TANC 2015, and effectively I’ve been already talking about this in some fashion for the last five years. This is the order of hierarchy within philosophy.

Now when I say “philosophy,” I really want you to start thinking in terms of here is how man integrates his mind. The foundation is metaphysics. The next level up is epistemology; how man knows what he knows. Notice how epistemology is the largest area of study in the whole construct, because it deals with how man integrates his world. From that understanding we arrive at action in accord with “good.” This is ethics. And so the question we really need to ask is what is ethics? What is human moral action? Since we’re talking about sacrifice as the highest moral ideal, we need to get into this question – what is sacrifice?

Let me ask you this. When someone demands that you sacrifice for the “greater good”, or the local church, what exactly are they asking you to do? Perhaps some of you may answer:

  • Give money
  • Give what you have produced
  • Give of your time
  • Give of your efforts

Here is the real root of what they are asking – sacrifice is the destruction of something. What is being destroyed?

Something of value!

When they ask you to sacrifice to the local church they ask you to give money. That money really represents your personal heartbeats, your personal intellectual efforts, your personal physical efforts. Human production is distilled into money, and that becomes a medium of exchange. So when somebody says they want you to sacrifice, they are asking you to get rid of it on your own behalf, to destroy value.

So the next question is, what are values?

Values are that which one acts to gain or keep.

So let’s break this down. There are two conditions for the concept of values to be possible.   First of all, values presupposes a value-er; an entity or being to whom the object is of value. This means that value requires a certain kind of entity; a being capable of generating action toward a goal or an end. This is very important, particularly in light of what I talked about last year regarding determinism. In a determinist world there can be no such concept as value because a determined entity has to self-oriented/goal-oriented action.   A determined entity cannot have values.

Second of all, in order for the concept of values to be possible, values presupposes an alternative. This means that different outcomes are possible and that the entity’s actions make the difference. As an entity, whatever outcome I bring upon myself is directly related to my actions. A thing is outside the concept of values if action is irrelevant. If you are guaranteed to have or not to have something regardless of action toward or away from that thing, then it cannot be a value.

So the next logical question is what entities fulfill these requirements? The answer is, living organisms; the only beings capable of goal-directed action. Living organisms are confronted with a fundamental alternative.  A living organism must act in accord with its nature to sustain its life. A living organism is not a passive reactor to its environment. A living organism is driven by a singular goal; the perpetuation of its life. By contrast, inanimate matter does not. It exists regardless of its action; it takes no action. Material matter might change form, buts its existence is perpetual independent of any action.

So value implies alternative, and here is the fundamental alternative in the universe: existence or non-existence; life or death. This alternative can only apply to living beings. The existence of inanimate matter is un-conditional. The existence of living beings is conditional, specifically on their pursuit of values to sustain their life. Life requires a specific course of action because living organisms are constantly confronted with life or death.

Ponder that for a moment because this is crucial to what comes next.

A living entity must take action in accord with its nature to survive, therefore life is a certain kind of motion. Death by contrast is stillness. Death is the state where action stops. To achieve death, just stop moving; stop eating, drinking, anything. You’ll get death just as fast as you possibly can.

Next question: How do living beings sustain their life? They seek to acquire things that are valuable. Only entities that must act to acquire specific things to sustain their existence can be said to hold values. Water is valuable because it is a component of life. Air is valuable because it is a component of life. Food is valuable because it is a component of life. Living things seek things out because those things sustain life.

Life makes the concept Value possible

The progression goes like this:

                Life → Values → GOOD

  • That which furthers an organism’s life is the GOOD.
  • That which undermines life is the EVIL.

All living organisms act towards their goals. Most organisms take their actions based on instinct. Man by contrast is a being of volitional conceptual consciousness. Man has no built-in standard of values. He is not guided by instincts. He has no automatic code of survival. Indeed, he has no automatic sense of self-preservation. Babies would die almost immediately if not cared for. How much of parenting is dedicated just to keep kids from killing themselves? Man does not come out of the womb ready to engage the world in which he lives. He needs a very specific set of ideas to make that happen.

Also notice that man does not automatically value life as such. Probably one of the greatest examples of this is Islam. Islam is based on the predicate assumption that men will destroy themselves in the name of Allah. And you can find that same mindset applied to Calvin’s doctrine. How many people in churches are willing to destroy their own lives in service to these higher concepts? They don’t specifically value their lives as such.

It is crucial to understand that learning to love and value life as such, and human life in particular as well as your own life, is an achievement. It is a philosophical achievement that has a very specific set of ideas in place. So man must choose to value life in general, and to be successful he must value his life in particular. So for man to live he must identify the correct values and then choose to follow those values.

And so here is man’s root need for morality. Morality is the proper code of values to sustain human life. Man needs ethics to live. He needs to have way to put what he knows into action to know how to successfully live. This is a crucial development in human history. We have already addressed the fact that historically man has not understood this point. It took Western culture almost 1,700 years to even get within a hint of this concept.

Man requires that he chooses his values to live, which means he chooses between moral action and immoral action. Moral action is that which sustains and facilitates his life. Immoral action is that which is going to kill him. Now those actions have context and much more development behind them, but the point is to understand why man needs a moral code.

Man’s Life/Man’s Character

Life → Values → GOOD → Morality → Ethics → Character

Morality is the standard that facilitates life. Ethics is the moral code. And when a man persists in consistently taking value-driven actions, that is what shapes his character.

And with this in mind you can begin to understand why Augustine and Calvin’s doctrines are so fundamentally hostile to human existence. You can begin to grasp why I have said at every TANC session that Calvinism is the single-most disastrous body of doctrine ever perpetrated on man. The single abiding standard in Calvin’s doctrine is the death of human existence. Calvin’s repudiation of human value is absolute. This is why sacrifice, continued and on-going sacrifice, is so central to Calvin’s doctrine. Calvin hates man’s existence as such and has created a full philosophical statement to facilitate man’s destruction.

So now we can answer the question that I asked at the beginning; what is sacrifice? Sacrifice is the destruction of values. And this should be a big “Ah Hah!” moment:

  • To demand sacrifice is to demand non-existence
  • To demand sacrifice is to demand death

Having said all that, I close this segment with these two questions:

How is there any benevolence in sacrifice?
And how have human being been so duped into believing there is virtue in death?

…To be continued

John Immel 2016 Session 2 Archive Video (YouTube)  Audio Only (mp3)

The Disaster of Sacrifice as the Ultimate Moral Standard – Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on July 17, 2017

The following is part one of a four-part series.
Taken from John Immel’s first session at the 2016 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny
~ Edited by Andy Young

Click here for part twoClick here for part three
(Links to the archived files are found below)


We get to talk about philosophy!

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.

Here is the fundamental premise that I’m trying to bring to light. People act consistently from their body of ideas. They will fulfill that logical conclusion. They cannot escape it because human beings are designed to integrate their concepts from the most basic premises all the way to the highest concepts.

This explanation is best captured in the diagram at the right. My claim to fame within TANC Ministries is to discuss the roots of tyranny. Where does tyranny come from, and why does it exist? This is my contribution to philosophy. I’ve identified five pillars which are the basis for all tyranny. I’ve arranged them into a spider web because I want you to understand that they are all inter-connected. These are not stand-alone events: universal guilt, incompetent masses, collective conformity, abolition of ambition, and dictated good.

In all tyrannies, you will find these fundamental doctrines (and I don’t care if the tyranny is communist, socialist, or Calvinist) behind the arguments that people use to sustain such tyranny.

Man organizes his ideas in a hierarchy.   I laid this out consistently in both the 2012 and 2013 TANC conferences – find the assumption and you will find the cause. One of the most challenging things I think people have when they are evaluating the content of ideas is learning to see root principles; learning to see what is at the bottom of what everyone is thinking.

To do that you have to learn to think philosophically. All men organize their ideas into a cohesive whole, and that science is called philosophy. Now they might not be aware of it, it may not be explicit, but all men have an integration of their ideas. In the world of philosophy that process goes by these sub-divisions or disciplines:

Disciplines of Philosophy

– Metaphysics

– Epistemology

– Ethics

– Politics

– Aesthetics (art)

The nature of existence is metaphysics. How man knows what he knows is called epistemology. How we value what we know is ethics. (The bulk of this series will involve the discussion of ethics) How we interact with people is politics. And how man creatively reflects his existence back to himself is called aesthetics or art.

This series of discussions will focus on the central ethical assumption of the Western world, indeed, the whole world:

Gospel According to John Immel 7:17
”Sacrifice as the highest moral ideal is the lynch pin of the coming Protestant Dark Age.”

Ponder that for a minute.

You can see that I crossed out the word “Protestant”, and I did that, not to minimize Calvinist Christianity’s role in the coming Dark Age, but to emphasize that Western culture is heading towards a collapse. The Western world is committing ideological treason to the ideas that brought liberty and light to the whole world. The Western world’s central philosophical betrayal is the renewed embrace of the primary ethic of sacrifice. Twenty-first century man has decided to abandon the power of individualism a replace it with the primordial ethics of shamens, tribal warlords, and despots.

There is no small irony that in the Western slide into self-destruction, Christianity is paving the way with Augustinian and Calvinist doctrines from ages past that have already proved what they will create. They have already proved that the ideas taken to their logical conclusion will create death, poverty, suffering, and darkness.

It is ironic because Christians like to pretend they are ethical innovators. They love to talk about being separate from the world, and that being “worldly” is the same as being evil, that as Christians they have unique and transforming ideas. Christianity likes to pretend that it originated all the good ideas, and only the bad ideas exist in the world. Christians like to think that self-sacrifice is a wholly unique Christian concept that started when Jesus hung on the cross. They like to think that the world is committed to selfishness and ego, and individuals engaging in self-interest are “worldly.”

But like most myths, when studied beyond the surface it becomes clear that Christianity regularly steals its ideas from other sources. It becomes clear that Christianity repackages worldly ideas and presents them in its own name. For example: taking over Sunday as a day of divine service (it was originally a Greco-Roman holiday dedicated to Zeus); taking over a pagan winter festival and decorating trees and calling it “Christmas”; and probably amongst the most egregious rip-offs in history is the ex-appropriation of Jewish scriptures as the source of Christian authority all the while persecuting and killing the very people to whom the documents were written.

So here is the myth revealed: Christianity did not invent sacrifice for the “greater good”. Indeed, the oldest of all worldly ideas is sacrifice as the highest moral standard. The oldest moral standard known to man, practiced in all cultures and in all continents, is the foundational premise that man must sacrifice himself, must sacrifice his self-interest for the gods, for the tribe, for the people, for the king, for the nation, and the “greater good.”

For the whole of human history, it has been presumed that man is a sacrificial animal. Don’t be deceived that because we don’t see virgins tied to alters and priests holding bloody knives that we in the twenty-first century are more enlightened. We are not. Indeed, the nature of sacrifice today is more pervasive, more destructive, and more vicious. In ages past a sacrifice was done to receive a favor from the gods. It was expected that the destruction of one value would provide something of greater value. Today it is presumed that to receive any benefit from a sacrifice disqualifies the action. Today we sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice alone.

The result is the modern man is offered two existential options:

Sadism – sacrifice enforced as the hands of others
Masochism – self-inflicted sacrifice

Sacrifice is destroying America!

  • Sacrifice is destroying a free society at the root
  • Sacrifice corrupts government
  • Sacrifice destroys achievement
  • Sacrifice destroys the meaning of words
  • Sacrifice destroys marriages
  • Sacrifice gives Calvinist thugs the moral power to perpetrate their tyranny.

But before we trip too far down that path I want to give you a sense of history.

Sumerians – 3500 BCE
From the land of Ur, kings were gods, and the people were created to serve the gods. Fertility was the most sought-after boon from the gods. To acquire these boons people gave sacrifices. There were sacrifices of animals, and there were sacrifices of grain, and there were sacrifices of people. There belief was that the sacrifice of people made it possible to follow the king into the after-life. If was also a common practice for women to sacrifice themselves to follow their husbands into the after-life.

Hindu Vedas – 1700 BCE to 1100 BCE
The belief that the Vedas are divinely inspired documents without human authors. Within these scriptures they detail human sacrifice. Some scholars say that human sacrifice was continued in Bengal in the ancient world through the 19th century. The Thuggee cult that was dramatized in the film, Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom was real. They followed Kali, the goddess of destruction, and it is believed they killed somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 million people!

Shang Dynasty – 1523 BCE to 1050 BCE
The Chinese culture was dominated by ancestor worship. When a man died he passed into the “upper regions.” These ancestors had the power to impact the lives of descendants back down on earth. To inspire these ancestors to act on their behalf, people on earth gave sacrifices – animals, food, grain, wine, and other men. It was believed than man’s abasement before the spirits by offering these sacrifices would show the correct humility so that they might be worthy of good fortune. When the kings died, it was common practice to slaughter members of his elite guard and bury them in the tombs to guard the Shang kings in the after-life.

Abraham (Abram) – 1700 BCE
Now consider the geographical region of these first three civilizations: Mesopotamia (Middle East), India, and China. The Bible in the book of Genesis tells about a man named Abram who came from this very same general region, Ur of the Chaldeans.

“Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there.” ~ Genesis 11:31

“After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.” ~ Genesis 22:1-3

There are two things I want you to see from these passages. First, notice where Abraham and his whole family is from; Ur, the land of the Sumerians. Second, notice that Abraham never considers the command to sacrifice Isaac to be something unusual.   The chances are that he was not the first man to believe that some god somewhere told him to sacrifice his child.

This is very important. Abraham would have been amidst a pantheon of gods. In his culture, everywhere he looked there was a god. And he has this personal God of his own called “Yehowah” (Jehovah) who isn’t know to too many people, if anybody other than Abraham. His household knows Him simply because they have seen Abraham prosper because of Him. So this obscure God says to this man, “Go kill your kid,” – there’s nothing abnormal here to Abraham’s mind.

It is crucial that you understand that at no point in history is sacrifice as a concept unique. Let that sink in for a moment.

Pythagoreans – 570 BCE
I did a full analysis on the Pythagoreans and their impact on Western thought at the 2013 TANC Conference. But a brief review is in order. Their abiding and enduring impact begins with their contributions to music and mathematics. However their greater impact on Western culture is metaphysical. What they offer is profound and unique.

The Pythagoreans celebrate sunrise.

“Man has two parts, a high part and a low part. The low part is the body, the high part the soul. These two are in eternal conflict with each other. The soul is akin to God, to another dimension. Once, it was a god-like creature, inhabiting another, superior, spiritual world. But it sinned. And the result was it fell from grace. And as punishment was included in the body on this earth. The body is therefore the prison, the tomb of the soul. And we are destined, each of us, to go through a series of “reincarnations”. At the end of our earthly span, our soul goes back to the other world, and it gets the appropriate reward or punishment (depending upon its behavior), and then it comes around again, what they call the “wheel of birth.” Sometimes it comes up in another human body, sometimes in an animal body. It lives out its cycle…until…the soul can escape from this body and earth permanently, reunite once and for all with God, and thereby achieve true happiness and salvation…

“How do you [get to it]?…purification…you have to live a good life…an ascetic life…[but] the Pythagoreans at their most ascetic are frenzied hedonists in comparison to the Christians that are yet to come…”

“…to be free of the flesh is man’s highest ethical ideal.”

You can hear the echoes of later Christian doctrine all over this. Here is what the Pythagoreans did. For the first time there was formal concept of man divided against himself – that man was actually two things; spiritual and material. The spiritual was good and the material was functionally evil. They are the developers of human depravity in Western thought.

Most cultures prior to this accepted that the gods were to be revered and their domains were set apart, but it was assumed that man had a right to engage or interact with the gods on some level. The divine was not specifically hostile to man as such, and man by definition could beseech the gods and get boons from them. The Pythagorean premise begins the separation between the material and the spiritual.

Now to my knowledge the Pythagoreans do not participate in human sacrifice in the literal meaning, but they introduce what amounts to a “living death.” For the first time in philosophical history, the presumption is that this stuff (body, matter) that we inhabit is somehow functionally and morally wrong.


Plato to Plotinus to Augustine

Plotinus

I detailed the is a previous conference, but I never get tired of pointing this out. Augustine’s theological pedigree is rooted in Plato’s philosophy via the neo-platonist Plotinus. Plato’s The Republic basically says this: Lesser men are driven by their passions and not fit to rule themselves. Lesser men must subordinate themselves (a.k.a. sacrifice) their base nature to the Philosopher Kings. This is the appropriate order of the world.

Those intellectuals who have the ability to formulate a full philosophical statement, as Plato did, are the ones with the most intellectual power. It is very difficult for people to be philosophical and intellectual innovators. One percent of one percent of one percent of one percent of people in world history will every try to do such a thing. Most people uncritically adopt philosophical statements from whomever they are learning.

Plotinus picks up ideas from the Pythagoreans, the Cynics, and the Stoics who all believed in the soul/body dichotomy, a doctrine which metastasizes as it develops throughout history. While the Pythagoreans would have been considered raving hedonists by comparison, by the time we get to the Cynics, their commitment to the destruction of the body is transcendent. And this is what Plotinus picks up on. By the time we get to Plotinus, he is determined to philosophically eradicate the material world as such, and that specifically means the body.

Plotinus drops all vestiges of the humanist element in Plato’s philosophy. What I mean by that is while Platos’s ideas were wrong, he still held that humanity had virtue. He believed man had value and he still advocated for the betterment of man, but Plato’s was not a religious position even though it had religious elements. But by the time we get to Plotinus, the religious element of spirit-good/matter-evil had reached a peak.

Plotinus probably would have faded into oblivion had it not been for Augustine. Augustine uses Plotinus’ anti-material metaphysic and weaves the Pythagorean’s soul/body dichotomy into Christianity. Augustine said that the nature of man’s sacrifice is individual. This is important. Up until Augustine, men didn’t really consider themselves individuals. They might have identified that they were sole people, but they were always part of something larger. Their nationalities mattered, their participation in the tribe mattered, they conceptualized themselves in the collective mindset. Augustine is the first philosopher to introduce individuality and more importantly, a morbid introspection. Most of you are very keen on doing self-analysis and looking inside and then finding your flaws. This is Augustine’s heritage.

He metastasizes the Pythagorean concept of asceticism and turns it on human life as such. Life qua life is the greatest threat to define existence. The whole of this theology has a singular aim; to make man’s life unlivable and make death the moral ideal.

So now here is the problem. Augustine’s doctrine becomes the de facto standard of Christian orthodoxy for effectively the next thousand years. He stands intellectually unopposed.   There is no legitimate intellectual resistance to Augustine’s doctrine until St. Thomas Aquinas. The reason he is so successful at this is because his doctrine is both heresy and treason to oppose. In other words, it is backed by government power.

The logical conclusion of a doctrine that condemns is called asceticism. Asceticism is the soul/body dichotomy – the intentional destruction of the evil material world put into practice. It is no longer a theory. The kind of asceticism the worked its way across Europe was the practice of trying to incrementally destroy the body. Consider the lengths to which they went to destroy the body: staring into the sun until blind so as not to lust after women, sitting on rocks until their legs wasted away, drinking dirty laundry water.

So Christian Europe basically decides that the apostle Paul’s metaphor to beat his body into submission is to be taken literally. Asceticism was the social ideal during the Dark Ages. The problem is, you can’t really practice asceticism because it will kill you, yet the cultural heroes were all ascetics. They are individually self-destructive but they are held up as a moral ideal. They are venerated even though you don’t really do what they do.

This is the mind set of the European Dark Ages. The Dark Ages are dark in principle because the ideas behind the societal action are dark in principle. If your metaphysics is dark, man can’t know anything because his epistemology, what he knows, his mind, is dark. If his mind is dark, by definition he seeks out darkness. He values darkness. He seeks to destroy. And that means his politics, how he interacts with people, is by definition destructive. Notice the progression. You start with the Augustinian premise of original sin and self-destruction, man is materially and fundamentally evil, it results in a logical conclusion.

Four hundred years after Jesus came preaching life in the covenants of promise, Christianity becomes a cult of death that rules the world with a nihilistic iron fist. But for all of the destruction that Augustine’s ideas created he had one flaw in his theology. He left one avenue of self-interest in his doctrine. That flaw left the world one last glimmer of hope, one last place for man to escape the destruction of human sacrifice. That flaw would remain in human thought for about a thousand years.

…To be continued

John Immel 2016 Session 1 Archive Video (YouTube)  Audio Only (mp3)

The Difference Between “Conservatives” and “Liberals”

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on January 31, 2017

I use quotes in the title around the labels for these two political ideologies because traditionally they don’t have the same connotation that they do today.  Still, when it comes to understanding one’s politics it is necessary to understand the philosophical progression of thought that produces either an individualist or a statist/collectivist.

In summary, one’s assumptions about man and the individual determine one’s inter-personal relation with other individuals. In other words, conservatives in general believe in the individual ability of man to self-govern. Liberals in general believe that individual choice must be sacrificed for the benefit of the state/collective.

It should also be noted that while many “Christians” would claim to be “conservative” (or even libertarian) politically, such a belief is rationally inconsistent with the “religious” idea of “total depravity”, because total depravity is a liberal assumption that produces a completely different outcome. Therefore, the idea of total depravity is incompatible with the idea of man having value.

It should also be obvious that there is no philosophical difference between religion and politics. Both are the result of a philosophical progression of thought.

Is it any wonder why “Christians” are so confused?

~ Andy

 

The Philosophy of the 2016 Cross Conference

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on December 29, 2016

15726636_10155615171629097_752908120015090611_n It would be accurate to say that everyone has a philosophy, they just don’t recognize it as such.  The closest most people get to acknowledging philosophy is when they talk about the philosophical discipline of EthicsEthics and morals are often used interchangeably, but I submit that the two concepts are mutually exclusive; but that would be the subject for another post.

Ethics is the study of how we decide our values; how we decide what is good and what is bad.  We place value on the things that are good.  How we decide our values is a function of epistemology, which is the study of how we know what we know.  Epistemology determines man’s competency to understand reality.

Epistemology is a function of metaphysics, which is the study of the nature of existence.  So when a person enters a discussion about ethics, the context includes whatever pre-existing philosophical assumptions he has already knowingly or unknowlingly accepted on a metaphysical level.

Which brings me to the picture above.  I have yet to listen to any of the podcasts from the 2016 Cross Conference in Indianapolis, IN, but I assume this quote is taken from something Kevin DeYoung said during one of the main sessions.  At first glance, it seems to be an inspiring statement that we could all agree with: basically you cannot have ethics apart from Jesus.

But spiritual “bumper stickers” such as this are the result of a fully formed philosophical system that goes all the way back to metaphysics.  If we understand the metaphysical assumption behind such a statement, we can better understand what DeYoung really means by it.

Because DeYoung, like all the rest of these guys at the Cross Conference, are unabashed reformed theologians, their root metaphysical assumptions are the same as Augustine.  Let me take a quote from John Immel and his second session of the 2012 TANC Conference:

Augustine said “original sin” means the “fall of man.” That is the metaphysical premise. This means that man qua man is fully and entirely disqualified. His very existence is a moral affront. The nature of sin so fully corrupted who and what he is that ultimately man cannot know any good. In other words, you cannot know that water is good for you. The nature of your depravity so corrupts what you are that you cannot define good. The conclusions that arise from this assumption are of vicious nature. Primarily, man has no ethical standard because he has no good. He can never act with good on his own.

So what is the progression of reformation philosophy?  The metaphysical premise is the total depravity of man.  Because man is totally depraved he is epistemologically disqualified from being able to understand his reality.  That means, he CANNOT know what is good.  And if he CANNOT know what is good then he CANNOT ascribe value, which means he is unable to arrive at an ethical standard.

When we take DeYoung’s statement and insert it into this philosophical system, here is what he is really saying.  The ethical teachings of Jesus are meaningless to you because you cannot possibly keep them.  You are epistemologically disqualified from being able to keep any ethical standard because of your depravity.  Therefore, you need Jesus to keep the standard for you.

What DeYoung has stated without stating it is that you need Jesus to keep the law for you because you cannot keep the law perfectly.  This is a righteousness based on the law.  This is keeping man under law, which is the Biblical definition of an unsaved person.  This is why justification is never finished under authentic protestant orthodoxy.  This is a false gospel!

~ Andy

The Philosophy of the Reformation and Its Historical Impact, by John Immel – Part 4

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on December 22, 2016

Taken from John Immel’s third session at the 2012 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny
Published with permission
~ Edited by Andy Young

Click here for Part 1
Click here for Part 2
Click here for Part 3

(Continued from part 3)

Now I want to make a series of contrasts.

The Enlightenment begins around 1650, give or take. The Enlightenment thinkers included men such as John Locke, David Hume, and Adam Smith. From these men comes a large amount of the foundational thought of human freedom, human competence, and human liberty. Enlightenment thought influence our Founding Fathers – Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson to name a few.

Recall that the three English civil wars were religious wars. The American Civil War was not a religious war. It was a war specifically fought in pursuit of liberty and freedom.

james-madisonIn an article written in 1786 by James Madison, “A Memorial in Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” Madison weighs in against the establishment of civil government, civil patronage, and religion. I want you to notice the Founding Fathers’ clarity on the arguments against merging the state, no matter how small, with ecclesiastical establishments.

Madison begins:

“We, the subscribers, citizens of the said Commonwealth, have taken into serious consideration [that] a bill establishing provision for teachers of the Christian religion and conceiving of the same if finally armed with sanctions of law, will be a dangerous abuse of power.”

There was no illusion here. The nature of Christianity, as our Founding Fathers understood, was that it was a dangerous force to be contended with when it was merged with the power of the state. Madison then goes on to detail several reasons for this understanding.

“1. Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth that religion or the duty which we owe our Creator and the manner of discharging it can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force and violence.”

This was revolutionary. While this idea had circulated amongst any number of different sects and any number of different intellectual ties, for the first time, there was a formal effort to challenge at the root that religion could not ever be merged with the force of the state. But rather the force of government was to be tempered by intellect and reason.

This is a central Enlightenment idea.

Madison Continues:

“2. Because the rulers who are guilty of such encroachment exceed their commission from which they derive their authority and are tyrants. The people who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by an authority derived from them, and are slaves.”

“3. Because the free men of America did not wait till usurped power had stricken itself by exercise and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle.”

Hold that thought. I will come back to that in a moment.

“We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it. Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians in exclusion of all other sects?”

This is why the historic fight between Calvinists and Arminians gained some attraction, because we fail to identify the principle that Madison is arguing here. The issue is not necessarily the Arminian perspective versus the Calvinist perspective. The issue at central root is man’s fundamental competence to master his own life, however that may be accomplished. The reason all other doctrinal fights are useless in this instance is because, at the root, until you defend man’s right for moral existence, you have lost. Madison makes this observation in point seven.

“7. Because experience witnesses that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation.  During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, and in both, superstition, bigotry and persecutions.”

It is important to understand that our Founding Fathers had no illusions about the nature of what Christianity was and was not. They understood its broad history. They understood what Puritanism did. They understood what the Massachusetts colony theocracy did. For many of them, it was close enough to their lifetime that it would not have been lore as if we were learning it out of the book. They certainly would have been within striking distance of the religious wars in England and the tides of warfare that swept across the face of the earth.

James Madison goes on to say in Point 8.

“8. Because…what influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; and in no instance have they been seen as the guardians of the liberties of the people.”

This is one of the most scathing denunciations ever! Until Christians are guardians of the liberties of the people, all we are doing is perpetuating spiritual tyrants.

Madison wrote this a mere ten years from the Declaration of Independence and the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. I want you to notice that this memorial and remonstrance takes place dead square between two events: from the specific overthrow of tyranny in 1776, within ten years’ time we already have a religious movement trying to use civil authority to create patronage. In other words, you have a specific group of people seeking to create a means by which others pay taxes to support a religious organization. They were trying to use taxation to advance sectarian orthodoxy.

Madison is arguing for the supremacy of human reason, and he is denouncing the use of civil authority – the merging of religious faith and the power of the state. He is saying it is a menace. Christianity is a menace because Calvinism demands war for all who refuse to bow to its edicts. The current Calvinist defenders can pooh-pooh my point all they like, but I win this argument only because all I have to do is educate people on the public record. This is not complicated.

The Founding Fathers had no illusion about the destructive force of Christian religion, and it is the most virulent forms of Christian thought that the Founding Fathers put absolute barriers in place to curtail this acquisition of civil power.   declaration_of_independenceFor the first time in human history, men sat down and they finally said, “No, man is entitled to the sum and substance of his own life,” and they penned these words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new governments laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers.”

Let’s do a contrast.

Puritan theology:

  • Man is incompetent.
  • Man is morally guilty.
  • Man needs the force of government to compel him to good action.
  • Government is an unquestionable manifestation of God’s appointment.
  • God is wrathful and offers man no rights of existence.
  • God appoints man to a predetermined existence of suffering and bondage.
  • God’s sovereignty appoints man to slavery.

This is the Puritan construct. This is Reformation theology. This is Calvinism. This is the most virulent form of Reformation thought.

Contrast this with what comes out of the Declaration of Independence:

  • That man is competent to understand.
  • That man can understand the world in which he lives.
  • That his epistemology is fully intact.
  • That by virtue of that ability, truth is self-evident.

The equality of human creation endows all with the same right. There is no election to specific privilege, yet in the Calvinist construct, the men standing in the pulpits today are claiming a special privilege.

Man has a right to life, liberty, and happiness, yet the Calvinist construct says there is no such thing; that any effort towards right or life or liberty or the claim to any happiness is a self-deception and a manifestation of your depraved nature. Just government is a product of human consent.

Consider this, that for almost 1,800 years, the Church had said that it was the divine right of kings to dictate government, and that government was in fact divinely appointed. Man had no right to question, for the most part. Whatever happened was in fact the product of God’s will.

The American Declaration of Independence was the first time in human existence that men articulated that just government must be the product of human consent. I am only governed in as much as I choose to let you govern me. Truth is not the property of the state. The state is in fact the servant of man’s defense. This was revolutionary.

The advances of man, the things that have eradicated human suffering across the board, are directly tied to human liberty, because when man is free, man is free to think.  Thinking men are free to create, and creating men are free to exchange value with whomever they chooses to associate. Man can better his life as he sees fit, and he can solve the problems of the beggarly elements of this earth.

I am able to do in the 21st century what a paltry number of human beings had ever been able to do, and it is directly related to the legacy of human competence, human freedom, and human liberty. You do not get this level of prosperity with the ideology of the Dark Ages. Every place this ideology has manifested itself, it has driven man back to the Dark Ages.

These exact same metaphysical assumptions that are in Calvin are in Augustine. These exact same metaphysical assumptions that are in Augustine are in Islam. Notice that if you go to any place in this world where there is a purely Islamic state you will see the dark ages in modern times: you will see the same paltry human condition from over a millennia ago in western civilization. This is true because the ideas are the same.

Liberty, freedom, thought; they are absolutely tied together. Human competence and human liberty are essential for the benefit of man.

I have now come full circle in my argument. The cohesive structure of ideas from the metaphysical premise to the epistemological ability to the ethical understanding to the political action; all of them run in a progressive line of thought.   This is the answer to my original observation:

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.

Christians love to thump their ESV while laying claim to the Declaration of Independence and the Founding Fathers. They hold freedom of religion as a certainty. They love the prosperity that rational thought, logic, and industry produce. But they do not even blush at the hypocrisy when they pound that same ESV to claim solidarity with Reformation orthodoxy. They will then rate John Calvin as the great reformer of Geneva. They will speak sagely, calling Jonathan Edwards their homeboy, not once realizing the philosophical schizophrenia. These are mutually exclusive worldviews.

In the world of election and limited atonement, there is no such thing as self-appointment and self-determination. There is no such thing as self-governance, because you do not own you.

In a world of irresistible grace, there is no such thing as private property, private possessions, or even personal boundaries, because whatever good you have is a manifestation of God’s grace, and all grace is administered by His stewards of grace.

And in a world of predestination, there is no right to inquire. In a world of predestination, there is no human sensibilities to be conservative. Your pain and your suffering is irrelevant. Who are you, O man, to challenge God, to inquire the things of God, the mysteries of God! Your pain is what you should have.

In the metaphysical world of T.U.L.I.P., there is no real justice. Everything is one great big fat sin before God, because the nature of man is utterly offensive to God. If you happen to be a part of the group that gets picked, it’s all good. And if you don’t, then it sucks to be you. The threat of damnation hangs over your head like the Sword of Damocles. Your sin violates God. So, who are you to demand recompense for a violation of sins against you? How dare you speak justice? You don’t own you.

Or do you?

This is the first choice. This is the fight within the ages. Who owns man?

Father, in the name of Jesus, we must live in understanding. Never before has man been defended. We’ve defended you and we’ve swatted our own. But never have we defended man’s right to live, right to exist, right to live, right to prosperity; never have we done this successfully. To throw off the tyranny of the ages, Father, we need your wisdom and understanding. We need to have the eyes of our understanding opened, that our insides will be filled with light. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

~ John Immel


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