Paul's Passing Thoughts

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)

From the Reformation to the Third Reich: Protestantism’s Impact on Western Culture – Part 8

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

The following is part eight of a nine-part series.
Taken from John Immel’s sixth session
at the 2014 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny
~ Edited by Andy Young

Click here for introduction
Click here for part two
Click here for part three
Click here for part four
Click here for part five
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for conclusion

 

Christianity’s Solidarity with Socialism

There has been observation that the Founding Fathers were Christians and that a lot of the impetus for the American Revolution came from their Christian perspective.   Certainly any reading of George Washington makes it almost impossible to turn him into a deist. While it is true that many of the Founding Fathers were Christians and considered themselves Christian, they were primarily sons of the Enlightenment, and they held man as an effective, potent, rational creature.

This is in absolute defiance of historical orthodoxy. There is no way you can massage historic Augustinian/Lutheran/Calvinist orthodoxy into rational, competent, successful men. The practical outworking in the United States was that man’s exposure to the Dark Ages was directly centered around the Puritan doctrine, and it was that same Puritan doctrine that the Founding Fathers made an overt effort to separate from government and, in many instances, to defeat.

The reason Americans get so fussy about their right to define their own religion is not because they are emulating orthodox Christian doctrines. It is because they are children of the Enlightenment. It is the Enlightenment that told you that you had the rational capacity to read the Bible for yourself and understand it for yourself. That is entirely an Enlightenment conclusion.

And let me expand this a little further. One of the best contrasts to do is to look how Luther reasoned. He would make an assertion, and then he would stick a reference to a Bible quote. At one point in time, systematic theology was called the “queen of the sciences”, because it was this ability to be able to rattle off every scripture that was supposed to have been somehow designated to any of the main disciplines within theology.

Now if you actually look back through Bible interpretation from effectively Augustine forward, the dominant means by which the Bible was interpreted was by allegory,typology, and metaphors. It was not something that was rationalized.   It was nothing more than putting one’s finger on a verse and saying, “Because it says this, that necessarily means God means this.”

Of course, my degree was in systematic theology, and this is why I eventually abandoned systematic theology because it is really an interpretive methodology. It is not indicative of what the Bible says. The ability to take passages and verses of scripture and somehow cut and paste them together to arrive at doctrines is not reflective of audience, purpose, and intent of author.

That process of learning to identify audience and context are all concepts that came out of the Enlightenment. Once the Church lost control of the universities, men could start inquiring about the truth behind the doctrines in question that had been held for so long because the force of government could be brought to bear from descent. Men finally started to go out and do research, and the vast percentage of that research is actually very recent. Most biblical scholarship has been done probably within maybe the last 80 to 90 years.

All of these scholastic elements are born from the process of higher critical methodology, and most of the men who advanced these higher critical methods were considered outcasts by the Orthodox Church. One such individual who comes to mind is a guy by the name of Friedrich Schleiermacher.   He insisted that you have to learn to identify context, audience, speaker, and context for the writer of the book. Now here in 2014, finding some guy on the computer that can actually do a word study and start parsing out Greek verbs in an effort to recover, at least in his mind, an intent or meaning behind the text, is reflective of Enlightenment thought.

This is not the historic orthodox position, and you will notice in most of the Neo-Calvinist movement, they abhor higher critical methodology with impunity. They demagogue the moral high ground, and then they employ an interpretive methodology.   It is the manipulation of interpretive methodologies that gives them all the power to create any doctrine they want. And the moment you try to pause them and say, “Wait a minute. How can you just arbitrarily say, ‘Oh, Galatians here, Romans here and Genesis here and let’s all put this together,'” they become indignant.

Typically throughout the medieval times, other types of orthodoxy never had any ability to gain any traction because ultimately, you would be condemned for heresy and penalized by government. But in the United States those types of ministries had the opportunity to rise up. And more specifically, the men who actually carried them were either largely uneducated or not seminary-educated, which meant they were not Harvard or Yale graduates, which meant they were not indoctrinated into the Calvinist construct. They were committed to their own rational understandings of their own individual reading of the Bible. And this is crucial to understand.

The problem, however, is that such movements usually had nowhere to go because they had no intellectual framework. It turns out that that is exactly like Christianity back in the 1st century. It did not have a framework. It needed a framework, and unfortunately Christianity became attached to Platonism. Its abiding and enduring capacity is within that overarching philosophical statement. In philosophy the most consistent formulation wins, and as of right this minute in 21st century America, the only overarching full-formulation of Christian thought – and trust me, I have read thousands of pages from lots of different people – is the reformed Augustinian/Lutheran/Calvinist construct.

So having said all of that, let us revisit what inspired my part of this conference.

“The idea that freedom of man is a practicality is a pipe dream because he is enslaved to his own desires spiritually; hence, at the very least, indifference to political freedom on a social level. So will the New Calvinist movement cause political indifference in American society among Christians?”

That the idea of “freedom for the masses” is called a “pipe dream” is the political premise of collectivist governments. Such governments presume man’s nature precludes liberty because man can never control his impulses. Therefore, man’s true freedom is found in subordination to the state. The belief is that the state is a definer of morality, and individuals are at their highest and best when looked after by a paternalistic government.

Of course, we know where this logic leads because history gives us two absolute examples: the Soviet Union and National Socialist Germany. The fundamental political premise of Augustine/Lutheran/Calvinist doctrine is that Christians are to accept whatever government comes to power. This means that Christians must submit to any thug with a gun.

Socially and politically, the most disastrous part of the current New Calvinist movement is the doctrine that demands submission to authority. They do not teach indifference. They teach an intentional servitude. Intentional servitude is far, far worse because it is a doctrine of deliberate capitulation. Such a doctrine demands that Christians presume that any man claiming authority is ordained of God. This means that it does not matter how bad the oppression gets. People must assume that righteous action is submission. “Righteous” action is therefore non-action.

Political indifference can be ignited into political fervor in a blink if social pain becomes too great. But by contrast, people choosing to be passive in the name of “righteous” action is by definition already expressed in passion.  It is simply a passion for doctrinal submission.

The Lutheran Church gutted the Christian will to resist the rise of National Socialism. To be sure, the Evangelical Church was on the forefront of ushering in Hitler’s rise to power, and this is exactly what the historic doctrine will do today here in America. It will demand that people accept any thug with a gun who acts in behalf of the people, who acts in behalf of righteousness, who acts to establish God’s kingdom, to help usher in tyranny here.

Now you know the contrast between the philosophical foundations for collectivist tyranny and individual liberty. You have seen the root ideas of Augustinian and Calvinist theology. You have seen that this ideology sees no conflict with socialist economic doctrines. This ideology sees no conflict with a totalitarian state. Germany could make no distinction between Hitler’s socialism and Luther’s Christianity. I’m going to say that again…

The German people could make no distinction between Hitler’s socialism and Luther’s Christianity.

  • Augustine, Luther, and Calvin said, “Man is nothing. The Church is everything.” The Nazis said Du bist nichts; Dein Volk ist alles. “You are nothing. The people are everything.”
  • Augustine, Luther, and Calvin denounced reason. The Third Reich denounced reason.
  • Augustine, Luther, and Calvin had a doctrine that demanded submission to church authority. Church authority demanded submission to the state. The Nazis demanded submission to the state authority.
  • Augustine, Luther, and Calvin said the only real world was the transcendent, heavenly world. The Nazis said the only real world was the transcendent world created by the German people’s state.
  • Augustine said the material world was immoral. The Nazis fought the perceived Jewish materialistic spirit within and around them.
  • Augustine, Luther, and Calvin condemned men’s private interest, which meant they condemned private property. The Nazis condemned private interest which means they condemned private property.
  • Augustine demanded sacrifice. The Nazis demanded sacrifice.
  • There were no individual rights during the Dark Ages. There were no individual rights during the rise of National Socialism.

The Church and the National Socialists agreed in the fundamentals of human existence. From metaphysics, to epistemology, to ethics, to politics, to art, the Church and the National Socialists agreed that man is corrupt and egoistic – incompetent masses. Individualism is evil – universal guilt. Dogmatism is the only acceptable intellectual standard – abolition of ambition. The highest moral virtue is self-sacrifice to the state – collective conformity. Government is synonymous with providential divine will, and evil must be banished with force of government – utopian prestige. The method is dictated good.

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.

I have outlaid to you all of the assumptions, and now you can understand why people take the same mass action; why 40 to 65 million Germans remained complicit with the actions that went on within Nazi Germany. They all accepted the exact same premise. They held the exact same assumptions, and they followed those assumptions to the logical conclusion. When someone says to me that the state can dispose of man’s property at will, he has conceded the premise that the state owns man totally. So if they can take your money, they can take your life. If they can take your stuff, they can stick you in an oven. The moral justification does not change.

Sacrifice is the collectivist mantra, and it ends with tyranny. Once you establish the moral standard of submission to authority, there is no argument to be made for independent action. Once you accept the premise that it is immoral to take self-appointed action, all self-appointed actions are immoral. Once you accept the premise that personal inclinations are immoral, then all inclinations are immoral, and this includes your inclination to stand against tyranny. The same argument that shuts your mouth when the preacher says something you disagree with is the same argument that keeps your mouth shut when the tyrant starts shooting people in the head.

People blithely condemn self-interest as immoral, but if self-interest is immoral, then so is self-preservation. Self-interest and self-preservation are inseparable. So if you wipe out self-interest as a moral standard, you will existentially wipe out self-preservation. If you wipe out self-preservation, how then can you justify fighting against a tyrant who seeks your destruction? If you won’t fight for your own liberty, how can you live to fight for someone else’s liberty? If you don’t hold liberty as an ideal for your own existence, how can you advocate liberty for Jews, for African-Americans, for rich white people?

Hear me now.

Tyrants know this truth. If they can talk people out of self-interest, they have talked them out of life itself. Tyrants know that if your moral standard is sacrifice, you are already dead. All they have to do is hand you the knife. You will cut your own throat seeking to be moral. National Socialist Germany showed this history. The marriage of the Third Reich with the church doctrine of self-sacrifice brought the Western world within a hair’s breadth of returning to the Dark Ages. This is no accident. The doctrines at the root are the same.

In 21st century America, we are once again rolling through a philosophical cycle that has been repeated over and over in history. We are intentionally moving towards socialism. We have bought into the lie that socialism is a kinder, gentler economic organization. America’s root philosophy is the antithesis of all collectivist ideologies. Communism, socialism, Catholicism, and Calvinism, these are all collectivist ideologies. The Founding Fathers believed in the rational, effective, motivated individual man. They organized a government around the defense of the individual. The defining shape of government was to defend the sovereign individual against all encroachments.

We are sprinting headlong down the path of despotism. The slogans have only changed in name. A century ago, a fundamental transformation was done in behalf of the volk. Hope and change were done in behalf of the German people. Now the move towards socialism is done in the name of grandma’s healthcare. Christian grandma would never dream of walking next door with a gun and demanding her neighbor pay for her doctor visit, but she will think nothing of electing a politician who will hold a gun for her. Christian grandma insists that her politics are compassion, but never mind that compassion and compulsion are mutually exclusive. Never mind that compelling someone to provide an ability or a skill or an expertise at the point of a gun is slavery. Christian grandma, and everyone else who votes with her, handed the keys of the doctor’s office to men with guns. And if they can compel doctors to work for free, they can compel people to stay away from doctors for free.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is nothing hidden here. This is not any different than 1926. The documents have been written, and all you have to do is read. All you have to do is listen. There is nothing mysterious happening in modern American politics. History has repeatedly proven that socialist countries will slaughter millions to sustain the power of a select few. The moment you concede that seizing a man’s property is a moral government action, you have conceded that man is property of the state. The moment that man is property of the state, man can be disposed of as the state sees fit.

This is, of course, why Christians, with ever-increasing manifestation, are confronted with the abuse and tyrannies that our forefathers tried to resist. People wail about human depravity, moan that their leaders have the wrong form of church government, mumble feebly that the parishioners should pray more for their pastors, and demand that people sacrifice more in behalf of the church. The church is impotent to stop the problem because the church refuses to diagnose the problem.

I tell you the truth that the answer as to why this is happening is as easy to diagnose as the common cold, but the first thing you must do is dare to take responsibility for the content of our own minds. Mystic despots have ruled the world with portents of disaster for anyone with the ambition to challenge the traditions of power. Autocrats rely on being able to compel outcomes because no one opposes their arguments. Tyrants can only succeed when we refuse to think.

To be continued…


Click here for introduction
Click here for part two
Click here for part three
Click here for part four
Click here for part five
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for conclusion

 

From the Reformation to the Third Reich: Protestantism’s Impact on Western Culture – Introduction

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on March 8, 2017

The following is part one of a nine-part series.
Taken from John Immel’s first session
at the 2014 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
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for part eight
Click here for conclusion

This specific 2014 conference represents the culmination of at least 20 years of thinking for me. And to give you a sense of scope, I need to begin with some history. In America, Christianity first had the opportunity to disagree, starting in the early 19th century, with the Pentecostal and charismatic movements. They were a unique brand of Christianity that were the first to diverge from historic Calvinist roots.

Because there really is no formal definition for Pentecostal and charismatic, there are some profound limitations to the definitions of either. I can tell you what they tend to emphasize. They are renewal movements, a return to the gifts of the Spirit – speaking in tongues, healing – and a very immediate, very specific present kind of Christianity. They were rooted in and had some of their intellectual roots in the Wesleyan movement. They rejected determinism. They rejected predestination. And they believed in free will.

All renewal movements are necessarily movements of personality. Most of the early revival movements in the United States came from men with specific messages- John Alexander Dowie, John G. Lake, William J. Seymour. If you have any interest at all in learning the evolution of charismatic/Pentecostal movements, these names are going to be at the top of the list.

When I came into Christianity around 1981-82, the charismatic renewal was still unformed. There weren’t really mega churches as you and I know mega churches. Back then we were still arguing over whether or not you could have guitars and drums in church, whereas today, if you don’t have contemporary music and guitars and drums, nobody shows up.

Oral Roberts University – Tulsa, OK

One of the primary leading figures of that timeframe would be men like Oral Roberts, one of the first men in the history of the world to impact the globe by mass media. For a series of reasons, I end up going to Oral Roberts University thinking that I would arrive at charismatic utopia. Given my love for ideas, I found myself terribly attracted to studying theology. I hold a degree in Systematic and Historical Theology with a minor in Old Testament. What that basically means is that the sum of my education was in church history, the progression of church doctrine and systematic theology.

The head of the Department of Theology at the time was Siegfried Chasman who was a committed Calvinist from Europe. As such, he organized the Department of Theology around that body of ideas, but he also knew he had an entire student body committed, for the most part, to Pentecostal/charismatic concepts. The problem is that most people make the fundamental mistake in assuming that Calvinism is somehow negotiable, that we can somehow pick and choose which parts of Calvinism we want. And so then they try to hybridize a lot of these ideas.

Herein is the implicit conflict. You would go to chapel Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the charismatic speaker of the day would blow through and say whatever they had to say. Meanwhile, those in the Theology Department would sit front and center of the auditorium,and without fail they would be visibly and universally outraged at whatever was said from the platform.

So I was dead square in the middle of this ongoing fight- the power and the effectiveness of charismatic-style doctrines, and the critique of the only form of academic theology that is Protestantism.

by the time I had graduated from college, I had no home. Charismatic churches didn’t have the interest in what I had learned or what I knew, but by the same token, I got to spend an entire college career addressing the fundamental problems that I saw with Calvinism as such; combating those arguments, being aware of these arguments, writing endless papers on those arguments, defending those papers against myself and the entire classroom. So I am no stranger to the fight.

When I was 26 years old, I found myself in Gaithersburg, MD on the doorstep of what was then a People of Destiny International church (which would eventually become Sovereign Grace Ministries). When I first got there, they presented themselves as these very broad-minded, interested in ideas thinkers, social commentators, and frankly, I thought it felt like home. I was to eventually learn that was totally false. Around 1991 they started to make a transition into what I knew was Calvinism, and I had fundamental objections to Calvinism. They had no interest in ideas, and they had no interest in anybody else’s input. I made the faulty assumption that I could object, that this was a reasonable action on my part, on anybody’s part, if they saw a problem with the doctrine; that anyone should be able to say, “No, that’s not true.”

This of course embroiled me in all manner of church conflict to the point that they eventually told me I was deleterious. “And oh, by the way, why don’t you go out and start your own church?” The irony of that has never ceased to amaze me, that I could be considered deleterious (evil, wicked, pernicious, and destructive) but yet it was perfectly acceptable for me to go out and start my own church. To this day, I think that’s hilarious.

It took me a long time to unravel the problems, but because of the way I tend to approach the world, I saw commonalities. Now of course the original criticism was, “Well, the reason there’s a conflict, John, is because you’re here. The conflict is you.”

Okay.

And inasmuch as you accept that assumption, then that makes abundant sense. But remember, I had almost a decade of Christian life behind me. I already had an identity that spanned a number of different denominations, a number of different church flavors, plus the intention to create theology as a professional pursuit. So the standard denunciations and the standard objections to me didn’t work. I did not quickly embrace the notion that I could be so fundamentally wrong. But this ultimately set me on the path of identifying what is the commonality here.

I had already seen these doctrines in some form and in some fashion even in the charismatic churches. I would eventually get out of Sovereign Grace Ministries, and I would go participate in other churches and I would still see the same themes, the same ideas. And trust me, I was one of the few people going around actually objecting to the broader actions of Sovereign Grace Ministries. I was absolutely a lone voice. So any preacher I ever heard that ever said to me, “Your job is to submit to me. It is my job to defend the sheep,” I would specifically exhort them to get involved in protecting the sheep in the context of the conduct of that ministry. Universally, they said no way.

In all these churches, fundamental to them was the doctrine of submission and authority; the presumption that select men had the moral right to dictate to me intellectual conclusions. Concurrent with that submission was that they were somehow uniquely qualified to understand the truth and nobody else really was, and that by virtue of that authority, they had the right to treat me however they chose. In whatever way they qualified such a justification, at the root, that’s what they presumed. If I was not willing to embrace what they said, it was somehow a moral failing on my part. The presumption was always that the moral failing began with me. And for a while of course I accepted the presumption, but then I realized, wait a minute, this stuff exists whether I’m at this church or not.

There was only one other common denominator…

…and that was the doctrine.

With my degree and historical background I was able to trace the evolution of Christian thought effectively from the 1st century to about the 18th century. I had enough church history to understand that this pattern was actually not uncommon. Once I identified those fundamental elements, I realized this has happened before, and it has happened over and over and over. I finally had to ask myself, how is it possible that the Church either finds itself in bed with tyrants, abetting tyrants, or behaving as tyrants itself?

And that’s when I came up with this. I’ve shown this in pretty much every conference.

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.

Now of course when I formulated this, I hadn’t yet read James Madison and his Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments, in which he states:

“7. Because experience witnesses that ecclesiastical establishments…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.”

“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.”

James Madison nailed it. The bulk of Christian history is one, long, slow motion train wreck of tyranny. This is a problem that bothered me viscerally. We genuinely believe that God is love, yet with stunning consistency, the church that God sees and is supposed to call His own ends up at the forefront of tyranny. There is something seriously wrong with this picture!

The example of National Socialist Germany is an instructional morality event of epic proportions.   In the 1920s, Germany was Christian by any definition. Not only was it Christian, it was Lutheran Christian by any definition. Of the 60 million people that resided in Germany, 40 million identified themselves as evangelicals. The other 20 million identified themselves as Catholic or some variation of Protestantism, with only about 1 percent embodying a genuinely non-Christian mysticism.

There is a common objection that the reason the evil in Germany took place is because a select few did bad things and that good men did nothing. The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Does this explain what happened to National Socialist Germany?

I’m going to let you ponder that question.

Before we can genuinely answer that question, we need to do some serious remedial work. We need to understand what shaped Germany in the 1920s. And the reason we need to understand history is because, as Adolf Hitler once said, “A man who has no sense of history is a man who has no ears or eyes.”

Now for me to do my job, I’m going to have to introduce you to philosophy.

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. How we interact with people is politics. And how man creatively reflects his existence back to himself is called aesthetics or art.

Man cannot help but integrate his ideas. It’s the way he’s built. From the time he is a toddler, the first thing he wants to understand is how things fit together. Man must organize his ideas into a cohesive system just like a fish must breathe in water. For man, his ideas do not hang in a vacuum. His ideas must be attached to something. And he must start from the most rudimentary part of his existence. He must start at the beginning.

It is a hard thing to learn to think in essentials, to think in principles, to think in terms of ideological relationships. It is hard to learn to think philosophically. However, most people are unaware of this big picture. Most people don’t think in these terms, yet most people treat ideas as some kind of smorgasbord. Oh, I like this one, and I like this one. Nah, I don’t like that one. I like this one. And they put it all in a basket and from time to time they will pull out an idea and say, “Yeah, that’s pretty good. Yeah, that’s pretty good.” They treat ideas very carelessly.

Often they find themselves dead square in the middle of some form of conflict, some form of psychic pain. And because they treat ideas carelessly, they don’t recognize that the psychic pain they hold is directly tied to mutually exclusive ideas that are in conflict. This is because they have not done a successful job at integrating ideas, or eliminating the errors from the most rudimentary level of their ideas to the practical outworking.   The result is uncertainty. Then, one of the first things man tends to do when he encounters a conflict or an inconsistency is to punt the inconsistency into the abyss so that he doesn’t have to deal with it.

Since it is the subject of this conversation, we are already familiar with how this actually breaks down with Augustine, with Calvinistic thought. What is the metaphysical assumption of Augustine? Man is corrupt. Man is existentially corrupt. He is corrupt from the nature of his existence. He has no redeeming good quality in his existence. Anytime you think you’ve got something good, you don’t. Because man is metaphysically corrupt, that means, epistemologically, man cannot know anything. Because man cannnot know anything, his moral responsibility – his ethical responsibility – is his own self-destruction. And because man cannot do good, he will not follow through on this ethical standard. This means he necessarily needs a government that will compel him to that action. So if you won’t sacrifice you, there will be a government that will sacrifice you.

And last is aesthetics. This is how man reflects the world back to himself. Man needs a means by which he refuels his existence. He needs a means by which he takes his most rudimentary assumptions about his life and puts that into a form so that when he looks back at it, he is refreshed. This is the root of aesthetics.

However, if you presume man’s metaphysical corruption and you presume all of these fundamental things that Augustine presumes, what kind of art do you create? You create churches lined with gargoyles. You create Dante’s Inferno where the nature of your art specifically reflects man’s catastrophe, destruction, impotence, fear, terror, anxiety, neuroses, and psychoses. Your art will always follow your most rudimentary philosophical assumptions.

The dominant philosophy on the planet is collectivism. It is the presumption that man is first and foremost the property of the state, the property of society, the property of tribe, the property of community or denomination or local church or sect.

Here is my contribution to philosophy. I have identified five fundamental elements of all collectivist doctrines that are designed to produce tyranny. The reason I have organized this as a web is because I want you to understand that this is not linear. All of these elements are interdependent and do not necessarily follow in a progression. There is a dynamic tension between all the arguments. Some arguments that you hear will have facets of each of these elements. Let’s look at each one of these more closely.

Incompetent Masses
The underlying conclusion throughout Western thought has been that man’s senses or his ability to reason were fundamentally flawed. Man could not understand the world in which he lived. This is the bedrock of incompetence. If you separate man from his mind, man from his body, and man from reality there is no other place for man to live. So if you presume that man is incompetent then you set the groundwork for the next concept.

Universal Guilt
This is a tool designed to drive you to accept your own incompetence. All men are guilty of moral depravity so that no one can advocate a moral standard. If you will accept guilt, a universal guilt, a guilt for no crime whatsoever, a guilt for nothing else than for simply being an incompetent human, you will accept the standard that you are morally incapable of running your own life. If you cannot presume your own moral good then the only thing left is…

Dictated Good
Because man is guilty and incompetent to carry out the important actions, he necessarily needs someone to save him from himself. This is why there has always been a separation between the willing elite and the general masses. This is where the class society comes from. There has always been the presumption that the “true philosopher” had a special access to truth.

Abolition of Ambition
Because man is by nature an individual and not a collective being, he must be talked out of individual action. He must be persuaded that any action done independent of group sanction is the height of moral failing.

Collective Conformity
This is the end game. This is where the full force of government is brought to bear for the sole purpose of creating a neutered humanity without complexion, or variation, or distinction. This outcome is held out as an ethical ideal and forced into existence at all costs.

Utopian Prestige
All arguments are in service to the collective reputation. Notice the outcome is at the center of the web of these five elements. How many times have you heard a preacher talk about the reputation of the church? The argument is that individual action will impact the prestige of his “local collective.” This is the presumption of Utopian Prestige. In every collectivist ideology, you will ultimately see the proclaimed ideal is some utopian ideal, whether it’s the Marxist’s workers’ paradise, whether it’s the Gaia, the utopia of earth, nature rule, nature worship, whether it be heaven, racial purity, it is always some utopian ideal that has no material expression. In other words, you will never see it here.

Most people have very little exposure to formal metaphysical or epistemological science. What they will do consistently is quote ethical expectations, and they do not realize that they are in fact admitting and committing to an ethical formulation that is part of a bigger picture. This is where most people encounter the philosophical system, ethics. Usually, our culture’s social values are expressions of ethics. What we find offensive, what we get offended by in public is specifically a reflection of our ethical values.   People don’t know where these ethical formulations come from, which means they don’t really think about what they mean.

Ethics is where man experiences a political or philosophical formulation. Now consider the statement, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” So then the question becomes, how is it possible for good men to sit by and do nothing? Remember that all behavior flows from metaphysical assumptions and is driven by logic. In order to answer the question, we must first consider, what are the root assumptions, and what is the progression of thought that leads to a behavior where good men will not act against evil?

To be continued…


Click here for part two
Click here for part three
Click here for part four
Click here for part five
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for part eight
Click here for conclusion

The History of Western Philosophy and Its Societal Impact on the Church – Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on February 3, 2017

The following is part three of an eight-part series.
Taken from John Immel’s second session at the 2013 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
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for part eight

We have been discussing the major contributors in the progression of Western thought. Many concepts and doctrines that we have traditionally come to think of as Biblical orthodoxy in reality have their roots in ancient philosophies. Here is a brief summary of the thinkers and their contribution that we studied in part two:

Thales – The first scientific approach to explaining reality as opposed to a pantheistic approah. The concept of one universal “stuff” and its various forms.

Heraclitus – Because everything is in a constant state of “flux”, man is unable understand the nature of reality. The first to introduce a division of reality. Two “realms”.

Parmenides – Precursor to Aristotle’s “Law’s of Identity” and existence. Existence is real, but change is not. Change is only apparent because of man’s faulty perception.

This brings us to part three, and we will pick up where we left off.

 

Zeno
I want to address Zeno and his paradoxes, because they are very commonly used as proofs of Parmenides’ philosophy. Zeno was a disciple of Parmenides. He continued the arguments against Heraclitean thought. His goal was to prove that movement was an illusion and plurality and change was impossible. His proofs are said to support Parmenides’ conclusions. Here is his most famous paradox.

The Dichotomy Paradox: “That which is in locomotion must arrive at the half-way stage before it arrives at the goal.” – as recounted by Aristotle, Physics

This is basically the endless half-life of infinity. The theory is that you can’t ever cross a room, because in order to do so you must first cross half, and then must cross half of that, and so on, to the point where you could never actually arrive at your destination, and in this way, motion does not really exist. It is an illusion. Zeno is using this paradox to deny the implications of change.

Now you can see the utter quagmire that western thought is in. Now mind you, this is a monstrous step up from the rest of the world that is still under the tyranny of pantheism and the endless cycle of man is nothing more than a cog in the wheel of life-birth-death-life-birth-death. The developments these men are making are light-years forward in comparison to everybody else.

 

The Pythagoreans
The Pythagoreans represent a school of thought that is unique from both Thales and Heraclitus. They have an impact on western thought that persists throughout most of the rest of the timeline that we are going to cover. They are important because we are talking about a school of thought that has almost 500 years to develop before the onset of Christianity onto the scene. Pay close attention, because I am confident that you will find the Pythagoreans disconcerting.

When one talks about Pythagoras it is usually in reference to the school that he founded. While we know almost nothing about Pythagoras specifically, what we do know comes from a whole scope of literature that came out of the school and from writers like Parmenides, Aristotle, and others.

Please make a note: the Pythagoreans profoundly impacted Plato. This is the root source of the majority of Plato’s ideology. Again, this will become apparent later as we move on.

Most of you have probably heard of the Pythagorean Theorem, a2 + b2 = c2. It is most often attributed to Pythagoras, but it was most likely a product of someone else within the sect. It was a communistic, religious school, and many people contributed to the school’s intellectual content. While this equation and many other mathematical proofs are attributed to Pythagoras, it is more accurate to understand that intellectual movement was substantially beyond its founder.

Their claim to fame is primarily rooted in their extraordinary work in mathematics, music, and astronomy. Scholars talk of early, middle, and late Pythagoreans, but for our purposes, these distinctions don’t matter much because as you will see their influence continues to this day.

The Pythagoreans celebrate sunrise.

In contrast to the previous thinkers I have discussed there is one crucial distinction I want to make. This group was a part of the Orphic mystery religions, meaning that the previous thinkers were secular by comparative standards. While we would call Plato a pantheist, the fact of the matter is, by comparison he was agnostic at best.

Editorial Note: The following link will provide some insight into the tenets of the Orphism.
https://campus.aynrand.org/campus/globals/transcripts/pythagoras-mathematics-and-the-mysticism
Here is an excerpt just to give you an idea:

“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…”

This is the roots of gnosticism that would take hold in the first and second centuries. We have a mystery religion, man in a flesh body that is functionally depraved needing some form of enlightenment that is given to him by the gods, enlightenment that is unique to a select few. This is where it starts.

They said failure to live a pure life brought punishments after death in the lower plains of the underworld. Harmony is divine. Disharmony is material and flesh. And now you can see why they arrived at a duality of existence.   Their religious worldview led them to conceptualize two different states, but they didn’t leave it there. The Pythagoreans identified three kinds of men:

  • Theoretic – The lowest class of man; a crass materialist; committed only to material gain and the preoccupation with his fleshly life.
  • Practical – Comes seeking to participate in enlightened action; wants higher virtues; still physically working to attain those values.
  • Apolistic – The highest class; those who simply look at life; exists in pure contemplation; the philosopher who contemplates science and mathematics who is released from the cycle of birth; a root desire to free oneself from the flesh

Freeing oneself from the flesh became the ethical ideal. Not only did they conceptualize two worlds, but they added the concept of a fundamental depravity of human existence. Heraclitus and Parmenides assumed that man’s senses were suspect, but it wasn’t a metaphysical corruption. The Pythagoreans’ notion of depravity goes beyond a mere inability, it makes man depraved as a function of his physical existence. Because he is material he is necessarily depraved.

So the question is, if they were a mystic sect, why would they become so dominant? Throughout history there have been many mystery religions, most of which you will never know even existed. By definition the mystery dies with the last follower who knew the secret. But the Pythagoreans sustained mystical influence because their advances in science were so compelling. Words fail when trying to describe the Pythagorean impact on music, math, and science. Their work in mathematics and astronomy makes possible men such as Kepler, Newton, and Einstein. We don’t get to the moon without the Pythagoreans. Without their foundation, physics would be impossible. So their mystical metaphysical worldview piggybacked into subsequent generations of thinkers because of the power of their contributions to the physical sciences.

This should not really be any surprise. Frankly, Christians do this sort of thing all the time. How many times do we presume that if a person has one crucial thing correct that he must have the authority to have everything else correct? As a result we accept, rather uncritically, whatever comes out of the preacher’s mouth. How could C.J. Mahaney, John Piper, John MacArthur, et al, ever get to where they are without this presumption?

Here is the introduction of the soul/body dichotomy into western thought. It is the origin for Martin Luther’s cross story/glory story, Augustine’s “original sin”, and Plato’s two realm idea that requires a philosopher king to bring enlightenment to the incompetent masses. The conclusions of such ideas always result in the dividing of humanity into classes. As we move forward into the development of Western thought, this division is almost never challenged. It becomes the dominant theme in Christianity almost from the outset.

 

The Atomists
Up to this point the progression of thought has been a-systematic, meaning there has been no systematic approach to the nature of things. There has been some tossing around of ideas back and forth, but this begins to change with the Atomists. For the first time, thinkers tried to develop a whole approach to primary philosophical questions, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and politics.

Like everyone else before them, the Atomists are trying to reconcile Thales and Heraclitus. They were materialists, meaning that reality is matter in motion. Everything, including non-material and mental phenomena is explained entirely in physical material terms. They were pluralists. Instead of one universal “stuff”, as Thales proposed, there are many “stuffs”. Each “stuff” is unchangeable. This would serve to satisfy Parmenides assertion that everything is unchangeable and indestructible. The smallest unit of these universal “stuffs” is the only thing that can move or change, which of course satisfies Heraclitus.

This has a serious flaw because, after all, we’re looking for a one-world substance that integrates everything and explains change. The Atomist’s explanation makes everything you see, taste, touch, smell, and hear have to contain its own unique “stuff”. The world would then collapse on itself for the sheer weight of things, and man would be lost in a blindingly chaotic world.

So the Atomists decided that all physical things have two parts: qualitative characteristics, and quantitative characteristics. This evolution of thought gave them the ability to sub-divide qualities (colors, smells, sounds) versus quantities (number, length, motion). It was pretty ingenious. It gave them the ability to categorize some things and not others. By removing quantities from consideration they were able to reduce the number of “stuffs” needed to explain the universal “stuff”. But they still needed to reconcile their ideas with Parmenides. They had a solution to absolutes, but now they had to figure out what to do with flux.

The solution to this was the question, “Are qualities real?”

The logic went like this. When a man smells, is he smelling something real or is his nose playing tricks on him? The simple answer is, no, it is not real, because “smell” is a quality based on man’s nose, and the easiest way to address quality was to conclude that nothing was real. Qualities are merely the way “stuff” affects man.

Once again, the conclusion is that man’s faculties are the problem.

But the conclusion begs the question: if there are no qualities, then how do these things operate? The answer was that the motion seen is from the physical pressure, the impact of the universal “stuff” against other universal “stuff”. This mental model formed the basis for what we now call “atoms”, but they were applying a mechanical model to the discipline of metaphysics.

Can you guess what this means?

If you have everything metaphysical acting mechanically what you end up with is an endless stream of causation. And since man is made up of the same universal “stuff”, this leaves man without independent will. He is simply a product of mechanical forces outside of his control. This is the foundation of determinism, and this is the concept that the Atomists introduced into Western though. The entire scope of Atomists’ philosophy doesn’t affect Christianity as a whole, but this one concept of determinism did. This concept is what influenced St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and others to come.

To be continued…


Click here for part one
Click here for part two
Click here for part four
Click here for part five
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for part eight

The History of Western Philosophy and Its Societal Impact on the Church – Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on February 1, 2017

The following is part two of an eight-part series.
Taken from John Immel’s second session at the 2013 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
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for part eight

My job is explaining cultural impact. That’s a tall order. There are three reasons for that because diagnosing a cultural disease requires being an epidemiologist, or one who studies and analyzes the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations.  To be an epidemiologist you have to know:

  1. What the pathogen is
  2. Where the problem starts
  3. How to respond to it

Explaining the complex factors that impact all this takes a lot of time. So when I was thinking about this and what all it needed to entail, I decided that for us to really understand where we are in history intellectually, the only way to do that was to do a review of the development of Western thought. We need to pretty much start at the beginning. And that means we are going to have to put on our thinking caps.

What we are discussing is, in my estimation, of incalculable importance. Those who make it their aim to understand these subjects will be at the forefront of being able to withstand the tide of collectivism that we see washing across the face of this earth. To be sure, the resurgent Neo-Calvinist ideology is merely a subset of a broader collectivist trend. If history is any measure, the Neo-Calvinist movement and its intellectual children will go a long way to paving the way for the tyranny that is on the horizon.

Since I am going to start with the basics, I fully expect what I am about to tell you to be disturbing.

If you look at your life, your greatest miseries are when chaos prevails. Your greatest joys and pleasures are when you bring order to the world in which you live. I don’t care if the world in which you live is as narrow as cleaning up your children’s toys in the living room. You will take great satisfaction in taking that chaos and bringing it back to order. I believe this is part of the nature of how we are built. I contend that the nature of human existence is this: we are the “order-bringers.” Having been created in the image of God, since God is an order-bringer, man is as well.

With that understanding, the nature of our challenge in this earth has always been to rule and subdue the chaos that is around us and to produce order in whatever we choose. This is going to be a radical thought for many of you. The purpose of life is the purpose of your life, whatever you choose that to be. It is your job to find your meaning and identity in the context of the work that you do in bringing order to the world in which you live.

You are the order-bringer of your life. The absolute that you are seeking is staring you in the face every time you look in the mirror. Pain and misery are the result of looking outward at the surrounding chaos in an effort to find order. Satisfaction and joy come when man finishes his work, deems it good, and then wants to share it with others.

This is exactly what God did. God created the world and all that is in it, deemed it good, and took joy and satisfaction in what He accomplished, so much so that He shared it with man, a creature designed and created in God’s very own image with the ability to appreciate exactly what God accomplished because he shares that same sense of satisfaction in accomplishment.

When you understand that context, you will be able to understand what happened in Western thought. The reason Western thought stands so profoundly unique is that it arrived at some revolutionary concepts independent of anything else.

Man looked around and saw the tides of change everywhere, chaos. He saw oceans rolling, mountains upheaving, volcanoes erupting, tornadoes, earthquakes and all manner of natural disasters. He saw social evolutions, conquest, counter-conquest, wars and famines and destructions. And he looked at all of this and said, “where can we find order in the chaos?” The constant disarray told him there is in fact no order. The question was how do we make sense of this all?

While not every thinker is represented in the timelines that follow, each person represents a new idea in the evolution of human thought. It is by design that I purposefully chose to stop at St. Augustine, and the reason why will become evident as we go on. In the west, we are the direct recipients of this progression.

The progression itself isn’t specifically evil. There is no nefarious intent in what these men were seeking to accomplish. They are trying to answer a very fundamental question, and it is the same question that we ask ourselves when we were old enough to look at the world and say, “This is scary!”

 

 

Thales
The first man who tried to make sense of the world was Thales. He was one of the first people in Western thought to take a stab at answering this question. And for this reason he is regarded as the father of philosophy. He lived in a town called Miletus in Asia minor, hence the name of the school he founded, the Miletians. Only four sentences from his works survive, however we can reconstruct his ideas from his disciples and other sources that reference the Miletian school’s tradition in subsequent centuries.

Here is Thales’ theory. The universe is made up of one substance. Computers, animals, stars, theologians; they all boil down to one “stuff”.  This is called monism. His reasoning went like this. If there is a universal “stuff”, man can explain how everything is related. The first question then was why was this an important thing to identify? The answer was that if everything was one substance, then we would be able to explain change. Now in this context, “change” means chaos. In Thales’ mind, it followed that all the chaos around us is really just another form of this universal “stuff”. This would be the common denominator to tying everything together.

For Thales, this universal “stuff” was water. While it seems absurd to us, from his point of view this seemed completely logical. Water was the “stuff” that took three forms: solid, liquid, and gas. Water seemed to be able to turn into air (what we know as evaporation). If you dug into the earth deep enough, eventually you would find water. After the rain it seemed that you would find things living in the puddle left behind.

Even though he got the wrong answer, here is what is important by geometric factors. He is the first person in recorded history to employ a scientific approach. He observes the world and draws a conclusion. This is the essence of science. For the first time he offers an explanation of the cosmos that isn’t related to some god somewhere.

We have a hard time from our perspective in history because we are so familiar with the scientific method. From the time we are very small, our minds are geared to make these rudimentary observations. This was not so in the ancient world, where everything was some kind of a god. The air you breathe was a god. The grass you walked on was a god. There was a water god, a sun god, a fire god, a moon god, fish god, harvest god. So the universal explanation for everything that happened had been because some god of something caused it. What Thales did is the intellectual equivalent of going from a three-year-old who still believes in Santa Clause to a twelve-year-old who is finally being introduced to calculus.

 

 

Heraclitus
Heraclitus used the word logos to describe the defining force behind the universe. However he didn’t use it like the Christians used it. Logos has a number of interpretations and usages. Most Christians are familiar with the Stoic interpretation that logos = the word of God. Heraclitus thought that the logos had immeasurable properties as if it were some extra-worldly entity.

According to Heraclitus, man is not able to understand the logos. The universe is in constant change. His aphorism describing these concepts survives to this day.

“Ever newer waters flow on those who step into the same river.”

Heraclitus is basically telling us that no matter what you do, it is in constant change. He describes reality as a unity of opposites, which meant all existing entities are characterized by pairs of contrary properties. He described his idea like this: the path up and down are one in the same.

Here is Heraclitus’ explanation for change.

“Reality’s essential nature lies in being both the same as itself and different from itself. In order to change, a thing must become different from itself. If it remains the same as itself, it hasn’t changed. But also after it has changed it must still be the same thing. Otherwise there has been no change but simply the substitution of one object for another. If a changing thing then is an identity of opposites it is both “is” and “is not”, and what “was” and “was not” what it will be.”

Clear as mud, right? When Heraclitus looks at reality he doesn’t see one “stuff” as Thales’ did. Instead, he sees nothing everywhere. He sees everything changing. He sees everything “becoming”. His conclusion was that everything changes all the time. It is change that is the governing force of the universe.

Now his river metaphor makes sense. Now you can understand why Heraclitus arrived at this disastrous conclusion – there is no such thing as a universal “stuff”. On the contrary, there are no things at all because everything is changing.  A contemporary historian of philosophy summarizes Heraclitus this way:

“All things flow. No man can ever step twice into the same river.

“How could he?

“The second time he tried to step, new waters would have flowed down from upstream. The waters would not be the same. Neither would the bed and the banks be the same, for the constant erosion would have changed them, too. And if the river is the water, the bed, and the banks, the river is not the same river at all. Strictly speaking, there is no river.

“When people talk about a river, they suppose that a name applies to something that will remain there for a time at least. But the river remains there no time at all. It has changed while you pronounced its name. There is no river. Worse yet, you cannot step into the same river twice, because you are not there twice. You too changed. And the person who stepped the first time no longer exists to step the second time. Persons do not exist.

“When anyone says that something exists, the meaning is that that something does not change, at least for a short time.

“An object that is real must be an object that stands still.

“Suppose a cleaver sculptor takes a lump of children’s modeling clay and begins to work it rapidly, it shortly takes on the appearance of the child’s teddy bear. And if the sculptor should stop, we would call it a teddy bear. But he doesn’t stop. His nimble fingers keep working, and the momentary bear turns into a small statue of Zeus, only quickly to disappear into the form of the Empire State Building.

“But, ‘What is it?’ you ask. The answer is not that it’s a bear or a god or a building.

“Under these circumstances, all we could say is that it is modeling clay. And we could call it clay because the clay remains the same throughout the changes. But if the clay itself never remained the same, if it changed from clay to wax to paper maché and so on and never stopped changing, we could call it nothing.

“Nothing, that is, it does not exist. It is unreal.”

~Gordon H. Clark: Thales to Dewey, A History of Philosophy

This is the implication of Heraclitus’ philosophy, and he was profoundly influential.

Is your head spinning yet? If it is, this is by design.

Question: if you think that chaos (i.e. change) is the core of existence, what does that do to man’s senses? Answer: It strips him of any effectiveness whatsoever. It makes man’s senses invalid, because while they show us solid things, “reason” explains that everything is changing, therefore man’s senses must be too base, too unrefined to understand reality.

This poses a huge problem for human existence. The solution, therefore, was to divide reality, because we also know that things can’t always change. This is the source of the two “realms” philosophy

  • The Realm of Reason – The capacity to understand the constant change.  True reality is a Heraclitean flux.
  • The Realm of Appearance – Shaped by incompetent human senses. Reality as it appears to man.

Anytime you hear someone talking about dividing reality somehow, they are utilizing a Heraclitean philosophy.

“Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”
~ John Calvin, The Institutes of Christian Religion, Book I, Chapter 1, Section 1

 

 

Parmenides
In opposition to Heraclitus, Parmenides bases his entire thought on this one principle:

What is, is. What is not, is not.

He contended that nothing cannot be. In other words, you cannot have “nothing” and have it be something. He made his point this way:

“For never shall this prevail, that things that are not, are… Thinking and the thought that it is are the same; for you will not find thinking apart from what is, in relation to which it is uttered…For to be aware and to be are the same… It is necessary to speak and to think what is; for being is, but nothing is not.

“[In criticism of Heraclitus] Helplessness guides the wandering thought in their breasts; they are carried along deaf and blind alike, dazed, beasts without judgment, convinced that to be and not to be are the same and not the same, and that the road of all things is a backward-turning one.”

His conclusion was that existence is an obvious fact. Existence is universal. Existence is eternal. Therefore non-existence is impossible. A thing cannot disappear, and something cannot originate from nothing. So man can’t even think about what does not exist. That which does exist is called the Parmenidean One, which is timeless, uniform, and unchanging.

Lastly, Parmenides goes on to argue that movement was impossible because it required moving into the void. Now here is the thing, he’s got existence, but now he has to figure out how to deal with the implications of change, and so his solution is to decide that change is really not possible. Here is his logic:

“How could what is perish? How could it have come to be? For if it came into being, it is not; nor is it if ever it is going to be. Thus coming into being is extinguished, and destruction unknown.”

I want you to notice that Parmenides is actually the early form of Aristotle’s laws of existence. “A” is “A”. The law of identity. What you see is exactly what you see. There is no disconnect here, which is a substantial leap forward in the evolution of human thought. Unfortunately, Parmenides drew an erroneous conclusion, which is understandable when seen from the context of the Heraclitean Flux that he was trying to counter. He concluded that the word is packed completely full. There are no holes and no spaces, but rather one big slab of “stuff”.

When he concluded that change was impossible, he meant change of any type; motion, alteration, course correction. And of course the logical conclusion of this premise is that there is no such thing as talking, moving, smiling, vibrating, waves on the ocean; it is all a gigantic illusion. Therefore he concluded there is no change at all, this world is completely motionless in every respect.  The way we explain change is that we are calling man’s senses into question.

Now notice, even though Heraclitus and Parmenides disagree about the nature of chaos and change, both of them blame man’s senses as the culprit in the explanation. The failure is not a faulty assumption. The failure is man.

To be continued…


Click here for part one
Click here for part three
Click here for part four
Click here for part five
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for part eight
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