Paul's Passing Thoughts

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

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on November 13, 2017

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

Click here for part two Click here for part three

“Have you read Calvin’s Institutes today?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Algebra of Authority

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

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

Here’s what happened when Protestantism showed up:

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

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

This is crucial for you to understand: Authority = Force

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

So then how do you debate a Calvinist?

The answer is: You challenge the roots.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disciplines of Philosophy

– Metaphysics

– Epistemology

– Ethics

– Politics

– Aesthetics (art)

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


The Orthodoxy Happy Dance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But be forewarned:

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

…To be continued


Click here for part two  Click here for part three
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The Disaster of Sacrifice as the Ultimate Moral Standard – Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on July 20, 2017

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

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


So I left us with a cliffhanger two sessions ago. So let’s start the discussion of the greatest philosophical villains in human history. Do you remember the question? Augustine had a central flaw in his doctrine. Now when I said that, of course the question is when someone says “flaw” they assume that to mean “wrong”. But what I am saying is that Augustine was actually fantastically consistent with his doctrine. He would not have considered this a flaw. However, it turned out to be a flaw because it opened the door later for other people to step in and challenge his root assumptions.

That flaw gave the world one last glimmer of hope; one last place for man to escape the destruction of human sacrifice. If you are an American Christian in the twenty-first century, and in particular within a reformed school with reformed teachers, 90% of what is taught is Augustine, which means 90% of what you believe is Plato. Augustine condemned every expression of human existence, every pleasure, every aspiration, every value.   But Augustine left one thing for man to desire – the desire to go to Heaven!

Here is why this is important. For all of the sacrifice that Augustine is trying to lay on human existence, for all of the self-imposed destruction that Augustine is after, he still allows for this highest virtue (going to Heaven) and he says that all of these things that you sacrifice will ultimately impact on some level the ability to get to Heaven. Augustine is not at all consistent in this assertion, but it’s there. The vestige of this possibility is there.

Now here is what this means in practicality. There is still a relationship between action and outcome, so moral action can produce a moral outcome. In Susan Dohse’s session yesterday she was talking about how the church got into the middle of marriage. It was fascinating listening to the old thinkers basically point out that if you were in marriage and you still abstained you could gain for yourself a better salvation by virtue of this sacrifice. This is exactly the concept I am telling you persisted within Augustinian thought. The successive thinkers still believed that there was some form of moral action that man could take that would produce this given outcome. In other words, man could have values and he could choose those values and get a given outcome.

Now this is crucial because this little shred of possible benefit to human existence actually keeps the door open just enough that by the time we get to the 14th and 15th century we have man in pursuit of a different understanding of his own existence. We have man realizing that he can take actions that benefit his life.

That little itty bitty crack starts to get wider that by the time we get to St. Thomas Aquinas we have the re-institutionalization of reason, and so now we have the first formal presentation of Aristotle which is effectively man-centered/earth-centered (much to the chagrin of the Catholics). So here is St. Thomas Aquinas who ultimately lays the theological foundation that makes it possible for man to have his own existence. That was around 1250.

Fast-forward a few years and we finally get to the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment.

Now here’s the thing. The Age of Reason and the Enlightenment might have been successful – there were so many advances in human prosperity, human development, human understanding from effectively the 16th century to the 18th century that the church may never have recovered. They church knew it was on the verge of being laughed out of existence.

Now were are introduced to the first villains.

John Calvin’s doctrine closed the door on human self-interest as such. His doctrine of double-imputed depravity and the corollary doctrine of progressive sanctification eliminates even a trace of self-interest in God’s salvation plan.

Calvin was clear, man can have to trace, no hint, no breath of good inside him. Any aspiration to any value, any good, is proof-positive of total depravity. That’s his logic.   So man is even morally condemned for wanting to want to go to Heaven. Philosophically speaking, John Calvin made it morally an existential liability separating the moral from the practical absolutely.

So with Augustine there was a vestige of moral practicality. He could aspire to go to Heaven. Whether God would elect him was another issue, but man could at least wish. But in Calvin, even the desire to go to Heaven was proof of moral corruption.

Immanuel Kant


Immanuel Kant

In the course of human history, John Calvin’s work becomes the defining expression of Christianity in the 16th century. And it is my contention that without his philosophical systems saturating the whole of European thought, Immanuel Kant would have remained a fussy little Puritan in Königsberg, Prussia. I will lay Kant’s success at Calvin’s feet.

Without Calvin’s specific brand of total depravity drilled into the minds of European thinkers I submit that intellectuals would not have been theologically predisposed to accepting Immanuel Kant’s premise. In a moment you will see why I say that.

In the 2014 TANC Conference I explained how man climbed out of the primordial ooze of Augustinian thought, through Aristotle to the likes of men such as John Locke. By the time we get to the 17th century philosophers are aware that they need a new start. They need to throw off Augustinian metaphysical and epistemological framework. They know that mysticism and dogmatism wreck everything is touches. Revelation does not work as an epistemological standard. Faith was merely government-enforced superstitions. Dogmatism was really despotism. Despotism lead to oppression and poverty.

This new method of understanding the world was called reason, thus the Age of Reason. The Enlightenment was the full cultural acceptance of the Aristotelian premise. The fundamentals of the Enlightenment were:

  • The world is rational
  • Man is rational
  • The universe is benevolent
  • Man can understand the world and master its secrets

Metaphysically this meant man was competent to understand his own world. This was revolutionary.   So then politically, men were born free and no longer predestined to servitude. Serfdom dies, slavery takes a mortal blow, man challenges the traditional bastions of power, and people start restraining religious tyrants and mystic despots.

I have already said this repeatedly. Liberty and freedom as you and I understand it is a philosophical achievement. It is not an accident. Which means you cannot couple liberty and freedom with the doctrines of the Dark Ages (read Augustine and Calvin). They are antithetical to one another.

By the 18th century the church, both Protestant and Catholic, knew that it was in great danger of being laughed out of existence. The church needed a “savior”, and his name wasn’t Jesus. His name was Immanuel Kant. Consider the following citation of Kant’s:

“I cannot even make the assumption – as the practical interests of morality require – of God, freedom, and immortality, if I do not deprive speculative reason of its pretensions to transcendent insight.

For to arrive at these, it must make use of principles which, in fact, extend only to the objects of possible experience, and which cannot be applied to objects beyond this sphere without converting them into phenomena, and thus rendering the practical extension of pure reason impossible. I must therefore abolish knowledge to make room for belief.

~ Preface to Second Edition, Critique of Practical Reason , B XXX

Kant is rough reading, and he is so intentionally with the aim to make you loose confidence in your ability to understand. Let me attempt to translate this for you.

The practical interests of morality require the belief in God. But I cannot even make the assumption of God, freedom, and immortality if I do not deprive reason of it’s pretensions to transcendent insight (read omniscience).

For to arrive at God, freedom, and immortality, reason must make use of principles. Principles can only extend to the objects of possible experience. Reason cannot be applied to objects beyond this sphere – to things in transcendent dimensions – without reducing the things of the transcendent into the realm of possible experience. Or said another way, reason deals with reality, not mystical worlds. Because reason is “limited” to reality, and by existence “pure” reason – reason attached to nothing, limited by nothing, is impossible.

To make it possible for men to once again have religion, I will abolish knowledge to make room for belief.

His whole point here is, because reason is attached to the material world it cannot possibly be omniscient, and because it can’t be omniscient it can’t know God, but without God we don’t have morality. Therefore Kant said it was his goal to destroy reason for the sake of religion. And he actually did a pretty good job.

Kant was a genius. In the world of philosophy, the comprehensive nature of what he did is probably only paralleled by Plato and Aristotle. So he is no lightweight. I am not qualified to discuss the full scope of Kant’s thought. I’m not even going to try. It would be very tedious and would take us weeks to get through. For the sake of this discussion I am only going to give you a summary of what he taught.

The real world is unknowable and reality doesn’t exit. Man makes up his own reality.

Huh? Who would believe that? Well, pretty much the whole Western world. Let me give that in more detail. Man cannot know what Kant calls the “nominal world”. The nominal world is the “real world”. Kant describes this realm as things in themselves, for a whole list of reasons that we won’t discuss. By contrast man does know what Kant calls the “phenomenal world”. Reason knows this world because he makes it up, and he knows this phenomenal world through a whole series of processes that is also beyond the scope of this discussion. His logic goes like this:

Because man has eyes he can’t see things in themselves. Because man has ears he can’t hear the nominal world. Because he has skin he can’t feel. Because he has a tongue he can’t taste. Because he has a mind he can’t know anything.

Kant’s progression of thought goes like this:

Metaphysics – The world is divided between the nominal and the phenomenal
→ Epistemology – Because man has no access to the nominal world, man has no true knowledge.

With this in mind, knowing how all of these ideas integrate, what do you suppose Kant’s ethics are? Here is Kant’s argument. Since man can’t know the nominal world, the “real world”, he most certainly can’t know his real self. So man’s phenomenal self has a moral duty to a set of moral commands. He calls the source of morality the categorical imperative, a non-mythical, non-earthly set of commands.

So here’s a question. If the commands don’t come from heaven and they don’t come from earth, where do they come from? They come from man’s perfectly nominal self, a self which he can’t know. Dizzying, right? Don’t worry about it, the only thing that matters is that man performs his duty to the categorical imperative.

How does man act on this categorical imperative? This is a challenge, because Kant thinks man’s will is handicapped. Kant has his own brand of bondage of the will. You theology aficionados should know that the bondage of the will is the doctrine central to Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation.

“…for the will stands at the crossroads halfway between its a priori principle which is formal (nominal world) and its posteriori incentive which is material (phenomenal world)”

Basically what Kant is saying is your will stands nowhere. That’s his point. Your will is ineffective because it is in neither place.   His solution to the will being nowhere, on how it’s handicapped, is what he calls duty. Here’s how it goes. Because the will can’t really do anything because it doesn’t sit anywhere, man has to have a method by which he can take action, and he calls that duty.

“Thus the first proposition of morality is that to have genuine moral worth an action must be done from duty. The second proposition is an action done from duty does not have its moral worth in the purpose which is to be achieved through it but in the maxim whereby it is determined. Its moral value therefore does not depend on the realization of the object of the action but merely on the principle of the volition by which the action is done irrespective of the objects of the faculty of desire…

…The third principle as a consequence of the two preceding I would express as follows: duty is the moral necessity to do an action from respect for law.”

~ Immanuel Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals

 That’s a very wordy way of saying that the only choice you have is to take action on this thing called duty. That action has no intrinsic moral worth. It doesn’t matter what the outcome is. In fact the outcome is antithetical to its moral value.

Now remember what I told you John Calvin did. John Calvin separated morality from practicality. Immanuel Kant has just created the secular version of the exact same concept. Kant is saying that there is no relationship between morality and action. They are hostile to one another. But, O, it gets worse!

“…The submission of [man’s] will to a law without the intervention of another influence on [his] mind…is a far more worthy purpose of man’s existence…the supreme condition to which the private purposes of man must for the most part defer.”

~ Immanuel Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals

Man’s highest purpose is to be done in accordance with law because it is his duty to act and for no other reason. He doesn’t need a reason because reason is irrelevant to moral action. So now we have a problem. Man cannot know reality, the judgment of his mind is irrelevant, and man’s will to act is morally impotent. How then can man be sure he is taking moral action?

“It is a duty to preserve one’s life, and moreover everyone has a direct inclination to do so. But for that reason the often anxious care which most men take of it has no intrinsic worth, and the maxim of doing so has no moral import. They preserve their lives according to duty but not from duty. But if adversities and hopeless sorrow completely take away the relish for life, if an unfortunate man, strong in soul, is indignant rather than despondent or dejected over his fate and wishes for death, and yet preserves his life without loving it and from neither inclination nor fear but from duty, then his maxim has moral import.”

~ Immanuel Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals

Your moral value is only apparent if you are in pain. What Kant is really saying is man’s inclination to preserve his life has no moral value, but if a man who is faced with all manner of suffering decides it would be better to die and still chooses the duty to preserve his life, then that man has moral worth. The only way to know if man is doing a moral action is if acting out of duty creates pain.

Think about that for a minute.

Kant’s version of sacrifice then is absolute. He even outdid Calvin in this regard. Calvin said there is no moral action, period. Kant specifically says that moral action is only accomplished by suffering.

Duty = Morality = Soul-crushing PAIN

The result of such ethics is the politics of Sadism. That is the only thing available to you in your own existence. Notice that this places sacrifice as the highest philosophical principle. Human sacrifice is done for the sake of human sacrifice in pain.

By way of comparison, consider the following:

“That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened”

“He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.”

~ Martin Luther, The Heidelberg Disputation, Theses 19 and 20

It should be apparent that Kant’s philosophy is the secular version of the exact same body of doctrine that was being rejected out of hand by the intellectual world. Now the intellectuals in Europe and America suddenly have the ability to have the exact same sacrificial doctrine with a legitimate secular twist. We don’t have to claim it was God telling us it’s our job to sacrifice, we can now find an acceptable secular reason why people must sacrifice. And why must we sacrifice? Because our political powers require that they have authority and control over the masses.

Let’s evaluate. Life requires the pursuit of values, but duty requires that man receive no values to any action. Proof of moral action = PAIN. Therefore the ideal moral state is total moral dissipation; total non-value; a total state of self-imposed ongoing agony. Man’s desire must collide with his duty. Man must rebel against his desires. Man must feel pain in the conflict.

Kant’s philosophy is a perfect secular overlay of Calvin’s doctrine. Kant requires that you desire to live at the highest possible level of love and happiness and achievement but relish every wound that strikes those down. Kant is advocating a slow, leisurely, prolonged death by sado-masochism. Kant is advocating self-sacrifice as an end in itself.

Now most people don’t know this background to this next word – altruism. When most people think of altruism they think of generosity. This word altruism was coined by a man named August Compte to describe man’s proper relationship to other men. In Utopia, all men would sacrifice their interest to all other men. Here is the problem, when people hear “altruism,” they think of love, empathy, humanity, or generosity, but this is a profound error.

Altruism really means that man’s first a primary reason for existence is the benefit of other men. His first mortgage on his life is paid to every other person he sees. You don’t have the right to draw breath because somebody else draws breath. Notice that this is not kindness or generosity. It is not kindness or generosity to give $5 to a homeless man. Why? Because the homeless man is entitles to your $5. And for you to be truly moral, you must suffer when you give that $5. You don’t give it to him because it makes you feel good. You don’t give it to him because you’ll go to Heaven. You don’t give it to him for any other reason than you are going to suffer because you gave him the $5 he was entitled to.

It is not humane for a doctor to heal the sick. The sick have the right to his knowledge just because they exist and just because they are sick. And to be truly moral, the doctor should heal the other people while those he loves, the people he values, suffer.

It is not love for a man to dedicate himself to his wife. He must hold all men as equal value, and he must sacrifice his wife’s well-being if he gains pleasure from that well-being. The bottom line for most marriages is that it is my duty to love you even if I don’t love you.

So let’s cut to the chase. Under altruism, man is the property of all other men. Property is the right to exercise power; to dispose of, to keep, to the exclusion of other interests. So if you are the property of other men, then politically they are morally correct to use force against you to dispose of you however they see fit.

This is the secular version that sanctions the ability of people to “raise awareness” about some cause and then compel other people to do what they want them to do. If you moral obligation is sacrifice, and you are the property of other men, then you have no moral right to what you can do, make, be, whatever, it doesn’t matter. Your sole purpose and function in this lifetime is for the disposition of other people. And if some people refuse to sacrifice it is moral for men to kill the selfish people.

How can murder be moral? Under Kant it’s actually very simple. (Actually, this is true under both Calvin and Kant’s moral framework.) As long as the tyrant does not want to kill people, and he does so at no personal gain, and for the benefit of other people, it is moral to kill 7 million Jews. The moral standard basically says you can do any action as long as you don’t enjoy it, indeed if you suffer from it and you do it on behalf of other people it doesn’t matter what you do next.

Here is why this has become so important. Most men couldn’t express their ideas in terms of metaphysics and epistemology. They don’t know what that means, and they don’t care. Most people encounter a philosophical system at the point of ethics. Yet their ethics implies a pre-supposed metaphysical and epistemological framework. That is how they get sucked into the problem.

Most people encounter Calvinism at the moral point. They go to church and are told what is good and moral and what is evil. Eventually they realize that why things are good and bad are directly related to specific metaphysical and epistemological presumptions. Then they go to the pastors, and the pastors assume it is their right to compel them to any given action. It is all consistent through the entire progression.

That’s where we are in American history. And now you understand why I said before that man’s moral choice is either:

Sadism – sacrifice enforced at the hands of others

Masochism – self-inflicted sacrifice.

Here’s what Calvin and Kant really created. Morality is man’s executioner. There is an absolute breach between morality and action. Man can never ever ever ever hold a value. Man must sacrifice his values in the most painful means possible, which means that Kant closed the door on human value with ruthless precision. It is for this achievement that Kant is the true destroyer of humanity, and altruism is the evil that saturates American Christian churches.

…To be continued.

John Immel 2016 Session 3 Archive Video (YouTube) Audio Only (mp3)

From the Reformation to the Third Reich: Protestantism’s Impact on Western Culture – Part 6

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on March 13, 2017

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

Click here for the 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 seven
Click here for part eight

 

The Rise of National Socialism and the Assault on Capitalism

It is my conviction that the anti-Semitism and, of course, the Holocaust directly related to anti-Semitism is what obscures the larger discussion about National Socialism. I know that the eradication of a specific genetic population really hits us where we live. We know that is the one thing we can never escape, and so when there is organized, government-driven hostility towards the genetics of our creation, that’s hard to get out of your head. But you must also remember the National Socialists wiped out almost an equal number of people who were not Jews. They wiped out pretty much anybody who they decided stood in their way of whatever their statist ambitions were.

Let us begin with the champion of all Germans, Martin Luther. Little-known to people who do not pay any attention, Luther wrote a book entitled, On the Jews and Their Lies. I want to give you a few excerpts out of the introduction.

“I had made up my mind to write no more about the Jews or against them. But since I learned that those miserable and accursed people do not cease to lure to themselves even us, that is, the Christians, I have published this little book so that I might be found among those who oppose such poisonous activities of the Jews and who warned the Christians to be on their guard against them…

“We propose to discuss their arguments and boast and prove convincingly before God and the world, not before Jews for, as already said, they would accept this neither from Moses nor from the Messiah himself… To this end, we quote Moses in Genesis 17… When God instituted circumcision, he said, among other things, ‘Any uncircumcised male shall be cut off from his people.’ [Genesis 17:14 ]”

Now I want you to notice Luther’s stated purpose. “We propose to discuss their arguments and boast and prove convincingly before God and the world…” He is trying to make a specific intellectual rebuttal. This is a theological treatise, and this is important. There is a common myth, one of many around us, that Luther was somehow just misled, and these are just some vague ramblings. No. This is just as important in Luther’s mind as the Heidelberg Disputation. This is just as central to Lutheran thought as the rest of his doctrinal works.

As I said, it is often stated in his defense that Luther was a victim of long-held prejudices. He was merely reacting out of his horrible biases, that it is the unfortunate writing of an ignorant soul, that he can’t really be held responsible for the actions of people 400 years in the future. I contend this is all nonsense. Luther wrote this when he was 60, and this is after a long-considered development.

Notice in his first comment he said, “I made up my mind to write no more either about the Jews or against them.” He had a long history of dealing with the Jewish people in his mind. So he writes this at last because he ultimately believes he must organize a defense for Christianity against the Jews. So those people who actually insist that Luther is somehow not culpable here are people who are trying to wipe out reality and rewrite history.

And really, it will take you about an hour and a half to two hours to wade through, but on its face, On the Jews and Their Lies is a theological treatise with the same intentions as Bondage of the Will and the Heidelberg Disputation. The notion that he should not be responsible for the actions of people 400 years later is nonsense. The fact of the matter is that everybody expects people to conform and to act according to Luther in theology. This is a fundamental expectation. You cannot pick and choose. You cannot tell me his doctrine is what everybody should do because of his orthodoxy and then in turn tell me that something he wrote with just as much theological impact is somehow irrelevant to people’s actions. Luther was a definer of his time. He was not a victim of his time. Luther is the intellectual plumb line for all things orthodoxy, and it is expected that people conform, and it is nonsense to assume that he should not be directly accountable.

He goes on to say,

“Shame on you, you damned Jews, that you dare to apply this earnest, glorious, comforting word of God so despicably on your mortal greedy belly and that you are not ashamed to display your greed so openly. You are not worthy of looking at the outside of the Bible, much less of reading it. You should read only the Bible that is found under the sow’s tail, and eat and drink the letters that drop from there.”

Do I really have to unscramble that? This is the kind of language you would find in an elementary school. Gooey poop and pee, really? Now, I didn’t say it was a great theological treatise, and I didn’t say he was a whiz kid of theological defense. I’m only telling you he intends this to be held this way. But I do want to notice the theme that gets lost among the distraction, and that is Luther’s preoccupation with the perception of Jewish “greed”. In this short paragraph there are two references to it; “greedy belly” and “that you display your greed so openly.” Keep that in mind as you consider this next quote.

“They curse us goyim (literally means ‘nations’ but is used as a pejorative for all non-Jews). In their synagogues and in their prayers, they wish us every misfortune. They rob us of our money and goods through their usury, and they play on us every wicked trick they can. And the worst of it is that they still claim to have done right and well, that is, to have done God a service. And they teach the doing of such things. No pagan ever acted thus. In fact, no one acts thus except the devil himself, or whomever he possesses, as he has possessed the Jews.”

Beyond the entirely paranoid ramblings up here, again what is the theme? What is he really criticizing the Jews for? Their money, their wealth, their prosperity. He calls it greed. That’s designed to condemn it. But what he’s really upset about is that they have prosperity and he does not.   Notice the theme of this next quote.

“So we, the German Christians, are even at fault in not avenging all the innocent blood of our Lord and of the Christians which they shed for 300 years after the destruction of Jerusalem. We, German Christians, are at fault for not slaying them. Rather, we allow them to live freely in our midst despite their murdering, cursing, blaspheming, lying and defaming. We protect and shield their synagogues, houses, life, and property. In this way we make them lazy and secure and encourage them to fleece us bodily of our money and goods, as well as to mock and deride us, with a view to finally overcoming us, killing us all for such great sin and robbing us all of our property. Now tell me whether they do not have every reason to be the enemies of us accursed Goyim, to curse us and to strive for our final complete and eternal ruin.”

Now I’ve spent a little bit of time searching through history, and I cannot remember any Jewish incursion to oppress the German people. I can think of no place in history where the Jews were pillaging and plundering their way to wealth. I’m being a little facetious here, but the point is I do not know where Luther gets all this. But I do want you to notice again the fundamental theme. Luther thinks that Jewish wealth and greed is a problem. With this in mind, it makes abundant sense why Adolf Hitler could say this:

“Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

This is from page 65 in my copy of Mein Kampf. Now, it is important to note that even in its original inception, no one objected to Hitler’s thoughts published in Mein Kampf.   No one in the Christian Church thought this was a strange thing to say. There was no appreciable theological objection to Hitler equating defending himself against the Jews with being the work of the Lord and it necessarily being a Christian ideal. So what you are actually seeing here, as we roll from Luther to Hitler, is that a theologically-founded anti-Semitism was in fact considered Christian orthodoxy for most of Church history. The Christian orthodox position is what shaped how the Germans created their legislation, and this is well-documented.

Here is a guy by the name of Kirche Bischof (which is German for “church bishop”). He makes this comment in June 1933:

“If anyone can lay claim to God’s help, then it is Hitler, for without God’s benevolent, fatherly hand, without his blessing, the nation would not be where it stands today. It is an unbelievable miracle that God has bestowed on our people,”

The “unbelievable miracle” being Adolf Hitler.

Germany’s population was roughly 65 million people in 1930. I want you to notice this next quote from a pastor by the name of Mathias K. This was an interview after the war, and I want you to notice how he describes his mindset and the mindset of the German people.

“Part of my childhood memories is how the cattle were driven past my parents’ home to the cattle market. Those who had control of the cattle were the Jews. In every village it was the Jews who had the trade and traffic in their hands, and they had the cattle business, the grain train, and they had the general store where you could buy everything. The farmers had simply become slaves of the Jews, and they never got anywhere. The Jewish question ate away at those in the countryside.

“All that hatred sat deeply within the people. Strong anti-Semitic concerns were already there. It’s not at all the case that Herr Goebbels invented all of it. Rather the entire ideology and also the rhetoric were there. The Nazis had only to take it and carry it to its conclusion.

“So one can’t overlook the fact that when 1933 came and there were not a few good Christians who had no objection at all if the Jews got pushed back a bit. They didn’t start with concentration camps; it began with propaganda. But people said, ‘Oh, the cheeky Jews, let them get what is coming to them.’”

Again, I want you to notice the theme. The Lutherans equated their poverty with Jewish prosperity. They specifically resented Jewish prosperity. Jew meant prosperous. It meant upper class. This is the root of their hatred.

Here is another quote from a guy by the name of Erich Koch. He was the president of the provincial Protestant Church – actually, the president of the provincial Protestant Church synod, which means he was actually pretty important. I’m trying to think of an American variation, maybe like being the head of the Moral Majority or the Southern Baptist Convention. There will be somebody of that stature within the church.

“Externally, much has changed. But in our church the world of Christ according to the doctrine of Luther remains…Righteousness, truth and love should guide us, but not only at the level of charity but also in the joyful and active struggles for our Protestant confession of faith.”

He also said, and this is after the war in court records,

“I held the view that the Nazi idea had to develop from basic Prussian Protestant attitude and from Luther’s unfinished reformation.”

Now here’s the punch line. Erich Koch ultimately decides to resign his position as president of the synod, and he became one of the leading men to kill thousands of Jews and political dissidents, and he helped to enslave the remaining Slavic population.

This is the cover from a pamphlet called “The Cross and the Swastika.” It was created by a small church group in some Prussian province by Gerhard Hahn, president of the provincial church council. Here’s what he said:

“The cross of Christ and the swastika do not need to oppose each other. They must not do so, but rather they could and should stand together. One should not dominate the other, but rather each should maintain its own meaning and significance.

“The cross of Christ points towards heaven and admonishes us. Remember that you are Christian people carried by the eternal love of the heavenly Father, free through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, sanctified by the power of God’s Spirit.

“The swastika, however, points to the world as a divine creation and admonishes us. Remember that you are German, born in German territory to parents of German blood, filled with the German spirit and essence formed according to German nature.”

He goes on to say later in the pamphlet:

“The cross of Christ and the swastika must have a positive relationship!

The church must affirm without reservation Adolf Hitler’s total state, the last bulwark against the Satan of Bolshevism. It should not be forgotten that had it not been for Hitler, we would have long since sunk into Bolshevism and probably would no longer have churches and ministers.

The church must affirm without reservation the Fuhrer of the National Socialists, Adolf Hitler, the Chancellor of the German Reich. He expects the church to help build the Third Reich… It is the task of the Church to create and provide this foundation.”

There is no question in the mind of the Evangelical Lutheran Church that there is a synonymous action. The National Socialists and the church are only divisions in name. They are not divisions in fact. And this is very important for me to point out. The presumption is that somehow the Church was set apart and all this was done to them. This is historical error of the first order. And when I say Evangelical Lutheran Church, if you look at the Lutheran Church here in the United States, we are talking about a denomination with virtually no difference in doctrinal distinctions. The rudiments of Lutheran orthodoxy then are the rudiments of Lutheran orthodoxy today.

So let us ask the question. What causes this kind of devotion? Let us briefly explore the idea that Christians are led astray. There are three variations of this: Hitler was possessed. It was the devil. It was satanic delusion. I have heard this objection a few times, and this is one of those objections that – I’ll be blunt – you shouldn’t utter this in public. And here’s why. If there are Christians that would like to advance this excuse, I’m going to suggest that you should be quiet. You must understand what you’re really saying.

Of the 65 million people in the Germany, 40 million people named themselves “Lutheran.” So if Christians can be deceived by the devil on so massive a scale, Christians should be banned from all political action because their judgment is nonexistent. If you are going to blame this on the devil, delusion, mass delusion, mass hysteria, and say it is confined specifically to Lutheran Christians, then the logical assumption is that Lutheran Christians have no business around anything important.

Blaming mass action on demonic forces makes the governing force of man’s mind malevolent ghosts. If the devil can corrupt Christian epistemology, then the solution is to make sure Christians are kept far away from all the important decisions. There should be no Christian in the White House near the atomic nuclear button. And I guarantee you, if you want to offer this up, and you want to continue to advocate this as something that should be genuinely accepted in public, and you want to reasonably make this case, what will happen by offering this argument in public is going to guarantee that eventually legislation will be passed to prevent Christianity from being part of any public discussion.

Now here’s a variation on the same argument. I call it a kind of “Stephen Spielberg” defense. Remember in the Raiders of the Lost Ark, there was the maniacal Nazi who wanted to find Ark of the Covenant because he wanted to gain absolute power. Here, it was the idea that the Nazis led the world astray because Hitler was obsessed with cultic doctrines.   So, if Hitler had not had an obsession with cultic doctrines and held to real Christian doctrines, the Nazis would not have done these things. Well, first of all, this still means that Christians were incompetent to grasp the truth. In other words, they saw what was happening, they heard what Adolf Hitler said, and they still could not grasp what the man was saying. This, of course, still speaks to Christian epistemological incompetence.

But I want to make a secondary point, and it has to do with the source of moral action. I know that this gets to people because, as of right now, most Christians are under the expectation that the last best hope for human morality is Christianity. The Neo-Calvinist movement has set themselves up as the source of this last great hope. Without them, the United States is doomed to total moral chaos, and the reason they say this is because the Bible says thou shalt not whatever. That the Bible is the actual source of morality. And I know why people say that, but what you are really saying is that the source of morality is located in a metaphysical otherworld.

Now here’s the problem. The moment you open the door to the source of morality being in an otherworld, you have severed morality from this earth, and you have no control of what walks back through the door that leads to this otherworld. If the Christian God is the source of morality, then why can it not be the Muslim god or the Hindu god? If morality is merely the product of a transcendent religious world, then the entire spectrum of the transcendent religious world is available. But by simply repeating the mantra of “The Bible says, the Bible says, the Bible says,” Christians think that they are going to somehow gain traction.

The easiest way to defeat this argument is to say, “So what?” It is ultimately no argument, and at its root, it ultimately severs man from morality. If there is no reason to be moral, then man has no means to be moral. This is exactly historic Calvinist teaching, that because there is this transcendent world, this heavenly realm, and man is metaphysically corrupt, he cannot do good anyhow.

So at the end of the day, the Christian doctrine ultimately condemns man to the exact same place as antinomianism does.  Antinomianism says that there are no laws man is morally obligated to keep. The doctrine of pervasive depravity is effectively the same thing. The nature of man’s depravity is so vast he cannot keep the law. He cannot be moral. We are in exactly the same place. Ostensibly, Christianity is not advancing morality, and we see the prime example in National Socialist Germany.

Next I would like to actually address the assumption that the people just did not know what Hitler and the Nazis were going to do. Let me first reiterate that there really was no practical distinction between the Church and the National Socialist Party. It does not matter whether Hitler or Goebbels or any of the rest of those guys actually had a statement of orthodoxy in and of themselves. That is irrelevant. The point is that whatever the people heard from the leadership, they saw no conflict within their Christianity. This is crucial.

In 1925, the social malcontent, out-of-work painter, and a ham-fisted scribbler wrote a book about his struggles while cooling his heels in the clink. The miles and miles of rambling prose revealed a mind filled with logical conundrums, philosophical plagiarism, and dead-end German phrases. The book correctly received a cool reception, and from the few that waded through the tedious, often bellicose rants, the “Fuhrer of the Beer Hall Putsch” was a joke rat in an Austrian-Jewish punch line.

The book, of course, was Mein Kampf, and its author was Adolf Hitler. The book was not well-written. Having read it myself, I can tell you it is not compelling. On occasion you’ll run across something that is kind of cool. Since I do not speak German I cannot testify to this first-hand, but some commentators have observed that there are some sections of it in German they cannot translate because it makes no sense even in German, so it has no ability to be translated into any other language.

There are many historically inaccurate details. Hitler was fond of quoting contemporary thinkers but often quotes them inaccurately or draws erroneous conclusions. He is given to long passages that are devoid of reality. There are quite a few of those. Despite all these shortcomings, however, it sold roughly 240,000 copies by 1933, about the time he was voted chancellor.

After he was elected chancellor, Mein Kampf was a wedding gift to every newlywed couple and every soldier. By 1942, 10 million copies were in print, available to a total population of people in excess of 65 million. His ideas were not a secret. There is no way anyone could have honestly said, “I don’t know what this man is about.” He was not a master communicator. He did not have some massive Svengali-like hypnosis or Criss Angel ability to compel you to think things. I read the book, and never once was I compelled to utter, “Sieg heil,” not once.

The error behind assuming that it was Hitler’s force of personality that did this leads people to ignore the ideology. It leads people to equate tyranny with the flamboyant and the charismatic. Political action is not sustained by personality. It is always ideology. Ideology is philosophy turned into political action. There was nothing unclear about Hitler’s program.

Adolf was a shrewd judge of political actions and adversaries. He told everyone what he thought and how the political program should progress. He detailed re-armament in spite of the Treaty of Versailles, territorial expansion in spite of the Treaty of Versailles, the abolition of democracy, which at that time would have been the Weimar Republic, and a commitment to socialism.

He believed in the German state. He believed that the people born of the German blood were property of the German State. He believed in eugenics and the elimination of the Jewish threat. Now mind you, the bulk of Germany believed in eugenics, but the specific application to Jews had not manifested yet. The Final Solution hung out there, but no one ever really objected.

He detailed his contempt for the Catholic Church, because he knew German Catholics were not German first. He knew they were Catholics first, and since he knew he could never influence Rome, he knew he could never dominate them.   Since he could never dominate Rome, he knew he would never have access to their minds.

But for all of its failure, what Mein Kampf revealed was threefold:

  1. It was a crystal clear picture. It was a detailed blueprint for National Socialism.
  2. It showed a man who had an amazing capacity to size up his political adversaries and allies.
  3. Above all, it showed that he was a man who believed it was moral to build the first and exploit the second with impunity.

And this is the bottom line. The political ideal, the social ideal, the government ideal was no secret. It was available for anyone paying attention. And the people did pay attention, and they agreed. And that is the point. The people of Germany voted to put Hitler in power. And that’s because they saw no fundamental distinction between what they believed as Christians and his specific policies.

There was no mass delusion. There were no demonic forces. There was no fiendishly clever super secret plot. The German people willingly, openly, purposely took action in accord with National Socialism. From the least to the greatest, they voted for a man who pledged lies in service to despotism, and the Lutheran Church insisted that Hitler was God’s man to protect the people.

So what was the appeal of the National Socialist Party? Before I can explain the answer to that question, I have to lay one more foundation. I have to talk to you about a dirty word in America. I have to talk to you about capitalism.   But that will be in the next article.

To be continued…


 

Click here for the 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 seven
Click here for part eight

 

Anti-Catholic or Pro Gospel: A Review of Tim Challies’ Article – Part 6

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on May 19, 2016

This is the sixth and final part of a six part series.
Click here for Part One.
Click here for Part Two.
Click here for Part Three.
Click here for Part Four.
Click here for Part Five.

We are coming to the end of our review of the Tim Challies article, “Anti-Catholic or Pro Gospel”. There is one more point to examine, but before we get to that I want to disclose something I discovered in my research for this series. The very same canons from the Sixth Council of Trent that Challies uses for his evaluation in his article are the same ones found evaluated in this article. Since I could not find any publication date on it, I cannot determine who wrote their article first. I’ll let you compare them for yourself and come to your own conclusion on that, but it certainly does make one scratch their head. At any rate, it does serve to reinforce the notion that Reformed talking points run far and wide.

The Protestant Reformation is probably the biggest farce that has ever been perpetrated on Christianity. That farce lives on with help from the likes of Tim Challies and writings such as the one under evaluation here. Whether or not his misrepresentation is purposeful or he is simply just confused himself, it doesn’t excuse him from being complicit in the deception of the thousands of laity who look to him daily for their interpretation of reality. Elders are to be above reproach, and there is certainly much in his own writing that can be cause for reproach.

So then let’s get on with our examination of point number six. Once again, I have included the quote from the canons of the Sixth Council of Trent so that we may consider them alongside Challies’ own rejection of Catholic doctrine.

“If anyone says that the Catholic doctrine of justification as set forth by the holy council in the present decree, derogates in some respect from the glory of God or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, and does not rather illustrate the truth of our faith and no less the glory of God and of Christ Jesus, let him be anathema. (Canon 33)”

“This is the heart of the issue, isn’t it? The Roman Catholic doctrine of justification, as laid out by the Council of Trent, and as systematized in the canons, does that very thing—it diminishes the glory of God and the merits of Jesus Christ. It adds to Christ’s work. To add anything to Christ’s work is to destroy it altogether.”

This is Martin Luther’s “Theology of the Cross” plain and simple. It is the “cross story” vs. the “glory story”. Challies might have just as well quoted from Luther directly.

Thesis 22: That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened.

…This has already been said. Because men do not know the cross and hate it, they necessarily love the opposite, namely, wisdom, glory, power, and so on. Therefore they become increasingly blinded and hardened by such love, for desire cannot be satisfied by the acquisition of those things which it desires. Just as the love of money grows in proportion to the increase of the money itself, so the dropsy of the soul becomes thirstier the more it drinks, as the poet says: »The more water they drink, the more they thirst for it.« The same thought is expressed in Eccles. 1:8: »The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.« This holds true of all desires.

Thesis 24: He, however, who has emptied himself (cf. Phil. 2:7) through suffering no longer does works but knows that God works and does all things in him. For this reason, whether God does works or not, it is all the same to him. He neither boasts if he does good works, nor is he disturbed if God does not do good works through him. He knows that it is sufficient if he suffers and is brought low by the cross in order to be annihilated all the more. It is this that Christ says in John 3:7, »You must be born anew.« To be born anew, one must consequently first die and then be raised up with the Son of Man. To die, I say, means to feel death at hand.

In the above-cited Heidelberg Disputation, Luther contended that man’s desire to do works only feeds “the glory story,” or the story of man. In Luther’s construct, ALL reality is interpreted through two stories: the glory story (the story of man), and the cross story (the story of redemption). Giving any credence to the works or the belief that man can perform good works only contributes to the story of man and his glory. This includes believers! When Challies claims that the Catholic doctrine of justification diminishes the glory of God and the merits of Jesus Christ and adds to Christ’s work, that’s Luther’s “glory story” and not the “cross story”.

And he is exactly right; that is the heart of the issue. It was what the reformation was all about. It was a battle over “infused grace” vs. the obedience of Christ in our place. But the dirty little secret is that it was an argument over those things with regard to progressive justification, which the reformers never denied and actually upheld. The dispute was simply over the means. Authentic Protestantism saw no difference between justification and sanctification. It saw sanctification as the means by which justification was preserved, not the means in which we bring glory to our Father through good works.

This is what is meant when reformed teachers uses phrases like, “sanctification is the growing part of salvation,” or, “the same gospel that saves you sanctifies you.” It reveals their belief that justification is a process. But unlike Catholicism, that process is maintained by “faith alone”. It is why they view works in such a derogatory manner, because works diminish the “cross story”. They diminish the “work” that Christ does in maintaining the believer’s declared righteousness. “Christ’s work” is not simply His “work” on the cross. “Work” in their construct is a collective term that encompasses all of the tasks that Christ performs, including an active obedience to the law continually imputed to the believer, so that when God looks at you, all He sees is Christ. But if at any time you believe that any work you did originated with you, you rob Christ of His glory and make it your own, “destroying it altogether.”

What this all boils down to is that the whole argument over works vs. “faith alone” is a distraction from the real issue. We are lead to believe that it is an argument over justification. We are left to assume that Protestant’s believe that justification is a one-time event. But the real debate of the Reformation was an argument over the means of maintaining justification.

No wonder so many Christians are confused. I myself could not understand why obedience in the Christian life was looked upon so negatively by my reformed pastor and elders, when all of scripture clearly stated that believers are to obey. I had no problem understanding and making the distinction that it had nothing to do with me trying to stay justified. I wanted to obey because I loved my Father. But now that I understand the way authentic Protestantism regards works as well as their take on progressive justification, it all makes so much more sense now. And what I find is that with practice, the duplicity and doublespeak become so much easier to spot.

Andy

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” ~ 2 Timothy 2:15-16

 

Anti-Catholic or Pro Gospel: A Review of Tim Challies’ Article – Part 5

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

This is part five of a six part series.
Click here for Part One.
Click here for Part Two.
Click here for Part Three.
Click here for Part Four.
Click here for Part Six.

We continue on in our examination of the Tim Challies article, “Anti-Catholic or Pro Gospel”. The strategy I am using in these articles is to evaluate both sides of the argument, Catholic and Protestant. I think the best way that we can uncover the duplicity employed by Challies is to examine the argument in context alongside Catholicism. Therefore it is necessary to make sure we have an accurate understanding of Catholicism.

I think it is disingenuous of Challies to circumvent such an evaluation. I don’t believe one can effectively argue against what one group claims they reject about one’s beliefs unless one fully understands what the other’s beliefs are. This is precisely what he is attempting, not to refute Catholicism on its face, but to refute Catholicism’s rejection of his own beliefs. I think it speaks volumes about the fact that Challies knows that there is no real practical difference between Catholicism and Protestantism.  Yet, it provides an effective cover for any serious consideration of what his beliefs are on at least two levels. One, the reader is left to assume that his assessment of Challies’ beliefs are in line with his own. Two, Challies shelters his beliefs from any serious scrutiny since the focus is on Catholicism and not Protestantism.  But as you should well know by now, we don’t play that game here at Paul’s Passing Thoughts!

So having said all of that as an introduction, let’s take a look at point number five from the article.

“If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema. (Canon 30)”

”I believe this precious truth and will fight to the death for it! I believe that at the moment of justification the sinner’s guilt and punishment are removed to such an extent that no debt remains to be discharged in this world or in purgatory before he can enter into heaven. (Rom 5:1, Col 2:13-14)”

The context of this point appears to be an argument over the doctrine of purgatory. Look closely at the word “purgatory”, and you should see the root word “purge”. That is the purpose of purgatory; to purge any remaining sins. A more detailed explanation of purgatory is found on the Catholic Answers website:

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory as a ‘purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven,’ which is experienced by those ‘who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified’ (CCC 1030). It notes that ‘this final purification of the elect . . . is entirely different from the punishment of the damned’ (CCC 1031).

“The purification is necessary because, as Scripture teaches, nothing unclean will enter the presence of God in heaven (Rev. 21:27) and, while we may die with our mortal sins forgiven, there can still be many impurities in us, specifically venial sins and the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven.”[i]

Challies would have us believe that the dispute is over this doctrine of purgatory, but this again only serves as a distraction from the real issue. But an examination of the Catholic view as set against a true Biblical view is necessary to understand Challies’ position.

According to Catholicism, purgatory is needed to “purge” any last remaining vestiges of sin and unrighteousness. In this sense, the “sin debt” is not fully paid. As we saw in part two of this series, Catholics believe in the new birth as a change in the state of being, but if remaining unrighteous must be purged in purgatory, then obviously the implication is that even though believers are born again, they are still sinners.

Reference is made particularly with regard to “venial sins” vs. “mortal sins”. Martin Luther also spoke of “venial” and “mortal sins” in his Heidleberg Disputation. According to Luther, if we believe that we did any good work, that’s works salvation and a “mortal sin.” But, if we attend our good works (as Christians) with fear that it could be us who did it and not God, that’s “venial sin” and not “mortal sin.” Hence, part of the Protestant daily repentance regiment is asking forgiveness for good works[ii] that we have done[iii] just in case it was us who did them[iv]. Catholicism allows for the possibility that there could be venial sins of which the believer is not consciously aware, and it is these venial sins that must be purged in purgatory. Nevertheless, the point is that both Catholics and Protestants agree on a continual need for dealing with present sin, either in this life or the next.

Herein is the basis of the dispute. Reformation theology, as Challies follows it, would deny the need for purgatory on that basis that there is no dealing with sin in the next life other than the final judgment. In this life, venial sins are forgiven in this daily returning to the same gospel that saved you. In living by “faith alone” you acknowledge that you did no good works and you demonstrate your continual need for the righteousness of Christ to be imputed to your account. So while Challies is right in rejecting the doctrine of purgatory, he is still in error regarding the idea of believers still being sinners in need of daily salvation through “faith alone”.

Both Catholicism and Protestantism are in error on the same point. The assumption is a remaining need for forgiveness of “present sin”. In contrast, the Bible says that the born again believer IS truly righteous as a state of being because of his new creaturehood as the righteous offspring of God the Father. This righteous offspring is righteous because there is no law under which he can be condemned. The law was ended for him when he was born again, because the old man died. And where there is no law, there is no sin. This is why the apostle John wrote in 1 John 3:9 that he who is born of God CANNOT sin! If he cannot sin, then there is no need for forgiveness, there is no need for any re-justification by the active obedience of Christ, there is no need for Christ’s righteousness to be imputed to one’s account in order to maintain a righteous standing, and there is no need for any purging of remaining sin before one may enter the Kingdom.

Here we have another example of Challies allowing his readers to assume that they agree with his belief and that their definition of terms is the same as his own. But neither Challies nor any reformed Protestant leader believes that a saved person is truly righteous. That is the real issue at stake.   While he says in his statement, “I believe that at the moment of justification the sinner’s guilt and punishment are removed,” the fact remains that this authentic Protestant doctrine of “faith alone” must be lived out continually so that the work of Christ is constantly done in the life of the believer. Guilt and punishment are removed, so long as one returns to the same gospel that saved him.

We have one last point to examine, and we will evaluate that point in part six.

Andy


[i] http://www.catholic.com/tracts/purgatory

[ii] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/repenting-of-our-good-works

[iii] http://www.reformationtheology.com/2006/08/repenting_of_our_good_works.php

[iv] http://www.monergism.com/repentworks.html

 

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