Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Philosophy of the Reformation and Its Historical Impact, by John Immel – Part 1

Posted in John Immel, TANC 2012 by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on December 14, 2017

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

Click here to read Part 2
Click here to read Part 3
Click here to read Part 4

I was listening to the radio and a song by one of our modern philosophers came on.

Steven Tyler

Steven Tyler, lead singer, Aerosmith

“There’s something wrong with the world today.
I don’t know what it is.
Something is wrong with our eyes.
We’re seeing things in a different way.
And God knows it ain’t His.
It sure ain’t no surprise.”

This is from a song by Aerosmith, “Living on the Edge.” The song’s refrain says over and over that we can’t help from falling.

It is true: there is something world with the world today. But I contend that it is not inevitable that we fall.

Throughout my life I have been involved in various flavors of Christianity, and I continually found myself running up against the same interaction over and over and over. And, of course, for the longest time the easy criticism was, “It’s you. You’re the problem.” There are a lot of doctrines within Christianity that affirm that – yeah, it’s probably you. If there is a problem, you are probably the problem.

But then I began to realize that the same problem exists whether I’m involved in the social dynamic or not.

How is that possible? How is it possible that I can go from denomination to denomination to denomination – from Word of Faith to Charismatic to Baptist to Methodist – and it didn’t matter?

After much thinking I arrived at what I believe is the root of all failed human actions.

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.

The words “logic” or “logically” in this context refers to the consistent progression of a given set of ideas. That does not mean the ideas are logical in the sense that it is accurate thinking. I am talking about how Idea “A” through Idea “Z” go together to create an entire perspective. What I realized was that when the same people take the same action, they will produce the same outcome.

Let me break this down by section.

Verse 1 says: assumptions + logic = action.
Verse 2 says: faulty logic or erroneous rationalizations = ideas that flow from one to the next to the next.
Verse 3 concludes: mass action + destructive outcomes = common premise.

Something is wrong with the world today, but I submit that the error is imbedded in common faulty root assumptions. When I surveyed history and I saw men taking the exact same steps, coming to the exact same conclusions generation after generation, millennia after millennia, I realized they all held similar root assumption about man and about life.

Typically, when I start talking like this is people say something like: “Well, people just need Jesus.” What they mean to say is that ideas are irrelevant unless the mystical solution of “Jesus” is applied to the problem. But that can’t be right because other people might say: “Well, people just need Buddha,” and still others might say, “Well, if Islam ruled the world, all the problems would go away.”

And here is why “people just need Jesus,” is no answer to the world’s problems: bromides are not solutions. Bromides never address the forces driving the problem.

The problem with faith is people tend to take their own faith very personally and very seriously . . . and very uncritically. They tend to assume that faith equals a license to subjectivity; that they are entitled to believe whatever they happen to believe just because they believe it.

So the challenge that I have forever run up against is that when I start talking about digging into the roots of our assumptions, the reaction is, “You know what? That’s complicated. That requires me to think. And I don’t really care to do that too terribly much.”

I am sympathetic on many levels to that frustration. We would like to say to ourselves, “The declaration of God’s love is so simple. Why on earth does this have to be complicated?” I understand that frustration. It seems that if something is so simple, the process of believing should be left to that simplicity. But here is the challenge – I contend that theological bumper stickers are not simple because thinking is at no point simple.

Let us use the following metaphor to try to illustrate this complexity. Throwing a ball seems like a very rudimentary process. You let it go. It goes from point “A” to point “B”. Yet no matter how many times you throw a ball from point A to point B, it consistently drops to the earth. Now consider the question, why does the ball always hit the ground? Some very smart people put together the physics of throwing a ball.

D = (Vo ˟ sinθ ˟ t) + (½A ˟ t2) + h

where:
D = distance
Vo = initial velocity
θ = initial arc angle
t = time
A = acceleration
h = initial height

Since I am no math wizard, I could not begin to explain to you the details of this equation. But that’s okay. I don’t have to. What I want you to understand is that a child throwing a football on the beach is engaging in the above formula. This formula details the level of complexity that is involved in throwing a ball from point “A” to point “B” even though a child can perform the action.

Now back to the issue at hand: thinking about what we believe and why.

Thinking is hard because thinking is also complex. It is just as complex as, if not more so, than throwing a ball because thinking is the mechanics of human action. This is where we get our energy to act in life. From the time when we are old enough to recognize our own consciousness to start motivating ourselves through life, the thing that dominates us every waking moment of our lives are the thoughts that we specifically put into action.

Here is the beauty of my metaphor – ideas are just as calculable as the mechanics in throwing the ball.

People want simplicity but it is in the details that we find the root problems. You may read articles on discernment blogs discussing the issue of “New Calvinism” or a resurgence of Calvinism and Reformed theology. Most people will conclude that denouncing the doctrines of those movements is grand conspiracy. The real solution is if a few “misled” souls would just get on the right path then all will be well with the church.

But the reality is conspiracy as an explanation does not satisfy the discussion of New Calvinism any more than liberation theology describes why America is treading down the path of Marxism, or why Marxism has dominated the whole of the western world, or why Islam is on the rise throughout the globe.

boris-badenovPeople prefer conspiracies. “Christians” would rather hear people say it is the Illuminati or the Bilderbergers or some dastardly mastermind twirling his mustache in a hideaway, spending lots of money to compel people to do things and take mass action. People prefer conspiracy and world masterminds because that is easy. Conspiracies are easy. Thinking is hard.

I contend that the issue driving the world towards the edge is ideas, and ideas are hard. Ideas demand that individuals invest a stunning amount of personal discipline. You must bring your “A” game every minute of every day to be about ideas.

Consider once again the metaphor of throwing a ball. There is a specific problem with that metaphor. It is the issue of gravity. When you throw a ball, of course, the ball at the end of its trajectory hits the ground. It is the existence of gravity within that equation which leads people to believe that the ball must hit the ground every time it is thrown. Because of that gravity, my metaphor tends to break down because in the grand scheme of ideas, I am overtly saying that we can control what we think. If we can understand the progression and the mechanics of our thinking, then we can arrive at a different outcome. But historically, the inevitability of the “gravity” of human action is the observation that man tends down the path of his own self-destruction over and over and over. It is this very observation which has been used as a case in point to say that man is in effect “depraved.”

So how do I remedy the weakness of my metaphor? How do I integrate the immutability of “gravity” with the power of choice and the ability of man to set his own course?

The answer is, change the beginning assumption.

The formula for throwing a ball assumes that you are in an environment affected by gravity. The formula for throwing a ball assumes that your desired outcome is to propel the ball from point “A” to point “B.” Yet with the right amount of velocity, acceleration, and arc, it would be possible to put a ball into orbit or escape gravity altogether. Therein lies the consistency with the metaphor.

I contend that when you challenge the assumptions that have dominated the whole of the western world, you can arrive at a new set of assumptions, and those assumptions can defy the “gravity” that has driven men down to self-destruction.

puritan-whippingSo now let’s discuss Calvinism, New Calvinism, and Reformation theology. The question is: why within this emergent movement do we see such consistent actions, such consistent outcomes, such consistent stories of oppression and domination and coercion? Why, from one congregation to the next, do you see the exact same outcomes?

To answer these questions, we must first find the assumptions, and that means we are going to have to take on ideas. It takes enormous effort to fully evaluate the content of ideas. This is the process of education and expertise. One must be specifically aware of one’s own thoughts. This is intentional consciousness. From the time, you are old enough to say, “I want a cookie,” to the day you read, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,” and every day after and in between, when you crack open a book and you read an equation and you determine to understand what the variables within that equation mean . . . all of these are examples of intentional consciousness.

It takes enormous discipline to order one’s thinking, to evaluate the progression from “A” to “Z.” It takes enormous effort to arrive at real logic, or non-contradictory thinking. Real reason is the determination to understand the over-arching mechanics of your own individual consciousness. By order I mean non-contradictory logic. It is what happens when you can follow the progression of thought from “A” to “B” to “C” to “D,” and you do not find any inconsistencies in that progression. Such a process takes enormous self-definition, that is, an absolute trust in one’s own rational faculties. And this requires self-esteem.

Bookmark the concept self-esteem.

My root assumption is that man is rationally competent. This assumption defies almost all historic Christian doctrine. Now the term “self-esteem” in American culture has been so utterly corrupted that I hesitate to use it, but it still captures what I’m after; an identification of the effectiveness of self. But you cannot get to self-esteem by someone holding your hand, patting you on the back, and telling you that you are okay. You can only get to self-esteem by doing the work, overcoming challenges, and succeeding.

The definition of human consciousness and self-esteem comes from the ability to successfully prevail over challenges. By contrast “New Calvinism” or Reformed theology is designed to undermine this ability at the root. It is designed to undermine man at his most fundamental level. It is designed to eradicate his specific ethical egoistic self. Most people don’t understand that every argument you encounter in Calvinist doctrinal debate, whether it is the distinction between sanctification and justification, or whether it is your moral right to keep the substance of what you have, are all moral arguments designed to de-legitimize your self-esteem. The doctrines fueling the argument are designed to condemn you at your root: to prevent you from having the right to your own self and your moral responsibility for the sum and substance of your own life.

What I am describing is the study of philosophy. In the western world since Immanuel Kant, philosophy has been utterly corrupted, and thus most people have a negative impression of philosophy. And Christians are particularly fond of flipping the page over to Paul’s consternation with what he called “vain philosophies” in order to de-legitimize discussing ideas. But regardless of how you feel, since philosophies exist, you need figure out how to deal with “vain philosophies.” So despite Paul’s anxiety over “vain” philosophies, it follows that understanding good philosophies is important.

Here’s the reality: the ideas we encounter are no accident, and the outcomes are not happenstance. The source of all world evil can be found in evil ideas, or evil philosophies. The outcomes of those ideas have been displayed over and over and over, so we know they are evil. Christians are then confronted with this reality: if the world remains evil then the solutions we have been offering do not work. So one more sermon, one more frothing-at-the-mouth preacher, one more guy pounding his ESV will not fix the problem.

Instead we must have the courage to think, or maybe better said: rethink. Unless people are willing to turn on their minds and challenge their deepest-held beliefs, finding the solution is impossible. Nothing will change. It won’t matter how much we dissect sanctification and justification or the centrality of the cross. It won’t matter how many scriptures we stack up in service to pet doctrines. It won’t matter how much we rail against misplaced church government (Is it presbytery? Is it democracy? Is it papacy? et al). That has already been done over and over and over, council after council, synod after synod, inter-Nicene fight after inter-Nicene fight. For the first time in history, men must rethink the historical fight from its roots.

05f15a210000044d-3418861-misery_scenes_after_the_liberation_of_belsen_in_april_1945_the_p-a-34_1453911882121Mystic despots have always ruled over the masses with portents and disasters for those who dared to live life beyond the mediocre. Tyrants can only succeed when men refuse to think. Autocrats rely on being able to compel outcomes because no one opposes their arguments. This is the challenge that I have as a man who is passionate about thinking: to inspire people to engage in understanding and scrutinizing the complex ideas that drive tyranny.

So here’s my challenge: do not be seduced into believing that righteousness is retreat from the world. Do not be seduced into believing that spirituality is defined by weakness and that timid caution for fear of committing potential error is a reason to be quiet. Do not be intimidated by vague, hazy threats of failure. Do not let yourself believe that faith is a license to irrationality. Do not mistake the simple nature of God’s love as a justification for simple-mindedness. Do not deceive yourself with the polite notion that you are above the fray, that your right to believe is sufficient to the cause of righteousness. There is no more stunning conceit. Do not pretend that your unwillingness to argue is the validation of truth.

Know this: virtue in a vacuum is like the proverbial sound in the forest – irrelevant without a witness. Character is no private deed. To retreat is nothing more than a man closing his eyes and shutting his mouth to injustice. Virtues are not estimates to be wafted gently against evil. Virtues are not to be withheld from view in the name of grace. Virtues are not to be politely swallowed in humble realization that we are all just sinners anyway. Love is not a moral blank check against the endless tide of indulgent action. Love is not blind to the cause and effect of reality. Love is not indifference to plunder and injustice and servitude.

The time is now, you men of private virtue, to emerge from your fortress of solitude and demonstrate that you are worthy of a life that bears your name. The time is now, you men of private virtue, to answer Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and all the nihilists that insist we are living on the edge and we cannot help but fall.   It is time for you men of private virtue to take up the cause of human existence and think.

~ John Immel


Click here to read Part 2
Click here to read Part 3
Click here to read Part 4

A Historical Survey of the First Century Christian Assembly – Part 4

Posted in Andy Young, TANC 2017 by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on December 13, 2017

 The following is part four of a four-part series.
Taken from Andy Young’s fourth session at the 2017 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny

< Part 1  •  Part 2  •  Part 3



What Does Giving Look Like?

Drive down just about any street in any town or city in any state in this country and it doesn’t take long for you to drive past a church building. If you made it a point to count the number of churches you see any time you are out driving about, I daresay you would be shocked at the number. I am reminded of the apostle Paul when he first arrived in Athens, and he wept when he saw the city wholly given over to idolatry. I can imagine the scene was similar. Imagine Paul walking down the road and over here is a temple to this god and over there is a shrine to that goddess, and another temple here, and another temple there. Is it any different with churches? Can we not also say the same thing about the proliferation of churches in our cities? Are our cities too not given over wholly to idolatry, the idolatry of institutionalized religion?

It used to be that you could tell a Protestant church from a Roman Catholic church. Catholic churches were these grand ornate structures with arches and stained glass. While protestant churches on the other hand were more subdued. They might have a steeple with a cross on top, but they were often much smaller and more humble looking. But that is not the case today.

Protestant churches today are building massive steel structures with large capacity auditoriums, high-tech sound and stage lighting, multimedia displays, coffee bars, multi-purpose rooms for banquets and sports activities, book stores, and more. And church ministries are no longer limited to the spiritual growth and edification of its members. You can now find churches involved in community services, free clinics, day care, even aerobics classes and yoga.

Now, none of these things are necessarily wrong in and of themselves. These are noble endeavors. But any person who does an honest evaluation of what passes for church today can come to the conclusion that church is big business. There is much money to be made in doing church, especially in the area of Christian education. It is not unusual for most protestant churches to have some kind of Christian day school, which of course requires its own infrastructure, its own building program, its own budget, its own system of authority.

There was a time when I bought in to all of this. I diligently put my hard-earned money in the offering plate when it was passed. I would be racked with guilt on weeks when I didn’t put in any offering because I was short on cash, and then I wondered how God was going to get me for not giving Him anything that week. I gave not just with my wallet but with my own hands and my time. How many hours did I volunteer helping with the construction of the new school building and gymnasium? How many hours had I invested in painting walls, running cable, working the sound system and stage lights for the school programs, and giving and giving and giving. It wasn’t just me but scores of others in that church who did the same, all so they could have a brand new 2 million dollar gymnasium and high school classrooms.

This is one of the things that hurt the most when we finally decided to leave that church. I remember that last Sunday vividly. I was filing away my choir music after the service that Sunday, and I began to weep. I looked around and thought about the 17 years of my life I had invested in that place, and it hurt deeply and profoundly. I wasn’t aware then of all I know now – that’s been a six year journey for me – but I knew something was wrong. It tore me apart to have to leave because I felt like I was leaving part of myself behind (in a sense I was), but I knew I couldn’t stay there any longer.

I believed that church was supposed to be about winning people to Christ. But that’s not for lay-people like you and me.  That’s for people like pastors and missionaries; you know, people who have special training and went to school to understand theology and stuff. People are slow to answer the call to evangelism, but they sure are quick to plunk their money in the offering plate for a cause. That way they don’t have to work, they can just put their offering in and let someone else do the heavy lifting and feel good about it the whole time. Churches are spending millions and millions of dollars on infrastructure, meanwhile millions and millions of people are on their way to an eternity in hell.

Did you hear what I just said?

Churches are spending millions and millions of dollars on infrastructure, meanwhile millions and millions of people are on their way to an eternity in hell!

But that’s ok; you just think about how good you feel because you went to church this Sunday and gave to the building fund.

Church infrastructure is all about authority, and authority is all about control. One of the best ways a church can control people is through the offering plate. Giving in the institutional church centers around the tithe. Keep in mind, many of us are already familiar with a lot of what I’m going to say, but I’m setting up the argument.  Plus this will be good for the benefit of those who have never heard any of this before.

Now what is the tithe? Tithe is an Old English word that means to pay a tenth. It may actually be a transliteration of the Greek word τιθετω (tie-THEH-toh) which actually means to lay in store or to reserve.   What is interesting is that the English word “tithe” is used in only two places in the New Testament.

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” ~ Matthew 23:23

“But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” ~ Luke 11:42

In these two references, the Greek word is not “titheto” but the word αποδεκατουω (a-po-dek-ah-TOO-oh) which means to pay a tenth from. Why does this number, tenth, mean so much? How did we ever decide on this amount? In Malachi 3:8 we read the following:

“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.” ~ Malachi 3:8

The Hebrew word translated “tithes” is the word המעשר (ma-asar) and it means “a tenth.” So the prophet Malachi is bringing a message from God to Israel or some group of people in Israel and apparently this group has not been paying tithes and offering.   Implicit in this passage then is the notion that the tithe is a requirement or commandment. Now I will get to the specifics of this in a minute, but suffice it to say that Protestantism has engaged in a type of replacement theology, and they point to this proof text here as evidence that the church is supposed to continue paying tithes.  That seems like it might be a reasonable assumption, and if you agreed with that assumption you would be wrong. Here is why.

The question we have to ask is this: Is there any place in scripture where God gave a specific commandment to pay a tithe? And the answer is yes. The very first place we see the mention of tithe is Leviticus 27:30.

“And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’S: it is holy unto the LORD.” ~ Leviticus 27:30

So here we see indeed that God is requiring a certain percentage of what the people produce. The next usage of the word tithe appears in Numbers 18:26.

Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, ‘When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe.’” ~ Numbers 18:26

The first thing I want you to see is that the Levites are responsible for collecting the tithe. But why them? Well you have to go up just a couple verses for that answer, go up to verse 23.

“But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance. But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.” ~ Numbers 18:23-24

Now what do we mean by inheritance? When Israel finally gets to the promised land, after they drive out all the Canaanites they will divide the land among the twelve tribes. And you will recall that Joseph gets a double portion. His inheritance is divided between his two sons, Ephraim and Manassah. The reason then that we don’t have 13 tribes is because Levi is special. Levi is consecrated unto God. God told them Levi doesn’t get an inheritance because He was to be their inheritance. Their inheritance is service to God through the temple. Since Levi doesn’t get any land, God provides for Levi through the tithe. So all the other tribes are required to bring a tenth of what they produce to the Levites as a means of providing for them.

We also learn by reading the Pentateuch that the Levites had specific cities assigned to them. In these cities were storehouses which stored all the tithes for the Levites and then they took from the stores as they needed. I think this is where the notion of the Greek word “titheto” associated with “tenth” originated. It seems as if in the Old English they took the Hebrew word for tenth, “ma-asar,” with the understanding that it referred to gathering the offerings into the storehouses, and they associated it with the Greek word “titheto” which means to lay aside or reserve, and that’s how we come to understand tithe meaning tenth.

Now, let me throw in one more little wrinkle. The Levites were to tithe as well. They were to bring what was called a heave offering to the temple. This heave offering was a tenth of all they collected from the other 12 tribes, and it went to Aaron and his direct descendants, basically anyone who was serving directly in the temple in Jerusalem. So not only did God provide for the Levites, but he provided for the priests as well.

Now if you go back and look at these passages that deal with the tithe there is no mention of money or currency.  The tithe concerns grains, cattle, and fruits. You see the things that the people have produced from the ground. This does not include clothes, this does not include furniture, this does not include cars or tractors or weapons or shoes or anything else that a skilled craftsman might make. So obviously there was some kind of economy for the Levites, some market they could engage in and trade for or produce for themselves.

The point I’m making here is that the tithe only deals with agricultural products, and it was a means to provide for the Levites. The Levites were to in turn tithe to the priests. And that brings us back to what is happening in Malachi 3. What God is saying in Malachi 3 about tithes and offerings is directed specifically at Levi and the priests. Look at the rest of the chapter following verse 8.

“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” ~ Malachi 3:8-10

To understand Malachi 3:8 you need to understand the purpose of the tithe as we’ve just seen in Leviticus and Numbers, and it ought to be clear that this is a rebuke specifically towards the tribe of Levi. They had failed to tithe their own offerings to the priests, the heave offering that they were to bring to the temple which was the way God had provided for the priests. And God said you have robbed me because you have robbed the priests of what is theirs. The entire book of Malachi is a rebuke of Levi. The tithe is only one item in a laundry list of offenses throughout Malachi.

Now I suppose one could make the case that this rebuke of the tithe is a rebuke to all Israel. So for argument’s sake let’s assume it is. Does that really change anything? Does that change the fact of what the tithe is specifically; it’s purpose? Does that give us any liberty to take a commandment regarding the Levites and lay it over top of the church and say this includes the church now? Are we really beginning with the assumption that pastors and elders are the theological equivalent to the tribe of Levi?

And for what purpose? Is it to make sure that the pastors and elders have a living? Ok, I might give you that, but then why do we need building projects and missions budgets and expense accounts? That wasn’t what the tithe was for in the Old Testament. Remember what I talked about in part one about the rabbinical Jews pointing to a verse in Deuteronomy and claiming that was evidence for the command to build synagogues? They took that verse out of context and gave it an application for which it was not intended. Hasn’t Protestantism (and really it began with Catholicism), hasn’t the church done the same thing here with the tithe? For what? All to maintain some notion of authority that they do not have, because like Paul Dohse has said frequently here at TANC, buildings speak to authority, and what price won’t people pay for their salvation?

So what you have then is a system, tithing, tied to an institution for the purpose of maintaining control and authority.

Is there a better way or a right way? What should we be doing with our money? If we are meeting together in home fellowships, what about this issue of offerings? Should we even take offerings?

I want to focus on one particular passage here. We’re going to look at 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9. Now don’t worry, I am not going to take the time to exegete the whole of these two chapters. What I want to do is establish context by providing some historical background. Chapter’s 8 and 9 teach us about giving. So by way of introduction let’s just take a look at the beginning of chapter 8 and then I’ll give some exposition.

1Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; 2how that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. 3For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; 4praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 5And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.” ~ 2 Corinthians 8:1-5

Take notice of the words I’ve emphasized. These are key.  If you are familiar with the book of Acts you should remember that Paul first visited Corinth on his 2nd Missionary Journey. So now Paul is writing ahead to these assemblies at Corinth and he’s letting them know that he’ll be coming through that area again. This is probably what will become the 3rd Missionary Journey. At this same time, there is a lot of persecution happening to the believers back in Jerusalem…

…by the way, let me throw this into the mix: Study the Book of Acts carefully and notice where the majority of persecution comes from. Do the believers experience persecution from secular sources? Do they experience it from the Roman government? I can think of one instance in Acts 19 with the guys who made the statues of Diana. But 99% of persecution comes from institutional religion. It is Jewish religious leaders who are the primary source of persecution against believers in this middle part of the 1st century.

So back to our text. So apparently during his 2nd Missionary Journey Paul must talk about this persecution going on in Jerusalem because at some point the Macedonians decide they’d like to take up a collection. Think of it as a sort of “care package.” They get word to Paul that they have this relief package they want to send back to their persecuted brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. Doesn’t this sound an awful lot like what we saw happening with the early believers in Acts 2 and 4.

Now what is truly remarkable about this is that the Macedonians are experiencing tremendous persecution themselves. Think about the major cities in Macedonia: Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea. If you go back to Acts chapters 16 and 17, you can read all about the persecution Paul and Silas experience during that leg of their journey. They had this group of Jews following them around making trouble for them whenever they came into a new city. And the trouble didn’t stop after they left. We can read about all the trouble that there was in Thessalonica especially. And Paul even makes mention of that again in his letters to the Thessalonians.

So the believers in Macedonia are experiencing all this persecution from the Jewish establishment there. And notice the words Paul uses to describe them to the Corinthians. “Great trial of affliction.” “Deep poverty”. What I find remarkable is that despite their own persecution they have this desire to send a relief package to Jerusalem. They’re not thinking about themselves. They are thinking, “What can I do to help my brothers and sisters suffering in Jerusalem?”

Notice that nobody prompted them to do this. Nobody compelled them. Verse 3 say they were willing of themselves. They got no tax break under charitable deductions. They weren’t led to believe it was a means of grace. They weren’t worried about being brought up on church discipline if they didn’t give their 10%. No, this was a spontaneous response to a need that they saw. And out of genuine love and concern for their brothers and sisters in Christ, they gave, and many of them gave when they themselves had little to nothing to give. And Paul commended them for this.

There was an anecdote going around a few years back.  I have no way of knowing if it is true or not or just one of those feel-good stories that people like to circulate. This is before the time when the Internet became as widespread as it is today. This would have been before Facebook and Myspace and Instagram. People would forward things like this around through email and share it that way. But it was this story about this woman and her young children. I believe she was a widow. And their church was taking up a special Christmas offering for the poor and needy so that they could have a Christmas meal and presents and things. So the children come to the mother and they decide they want to contribute to this collection. And they know that they don’t have a lot of money themselves, but at the same time they don’t view themselves as poor and needy.

So the mom and the kids talk about how they can save money, what things can they do without so that they can have a little extra left over and give that money to this collection. And I think the mom offers to clean houses and the kids sell some toys and they go though trash looking for things they can fix up and resell. And all the time they focus on the poor needy families who will get to have a nice Christmas.

So the Sunday before Christmas this family goes to church. They put the money in the offering, and they just have all this joy because they were able to give to help a needy family. And I think you know where this is going. Christmas morning comes, and there’s a knock at the door, and they open the door and there is the pastor and his wife and a few other people from church, and they have a beautiful Christmas dinner for them and presents for the kids. And so the irony is that they got back what they gave. It’s a nice story. Like I said I don’t know if it’s true. It probably isn’t.

But I tell you this because I can speculate something similar happening in Macedonia. These people, out of love for the believers in Jerusalem figure out a way to give something to this collection going to Jerusalem, even when they have very little themselves. And apparently word of this collection gets around. Word gets to the believers in Corinth, and they decide that they want to add to this collection. They let Paul know, and Paul says, ok I’ll be back in about a year. Have your collection ready when I come back. In fact I believe Paul alludes to this at the end of his 1st letter to the Corinthians. Look at 1 Corinthians 16, he gives them specific instructions about how to take up this collection.

Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.” ~ 1 Corinthians 16:1-3

Notice the expression “lay by him in store”. Paul is telling the Corinthians that whatever they decide they want to contribute to this collection for Jerusalem, set it aside, and then when they all get together on the first day of the week, bring together what they set aside. They were to do this each week so that it is already collected and they are not scrambling around at the last minute trying to get all this organized.

Paul uses this Greek word “titheto” that I told you about earlier. I want to point out that this is not a command to give a tenth.  This is not the word “apodekatoo” that means “to pay a tenth”.  Here we see “titheto” used in its correct context to mean to lay something aside in store for later.  Nowhere in these verses is there a command to bring a tenth of what they earned. He says you bring as God has prospered you. And the word “God” isn’t even in the manuscript. The word he uses for prospered means to succeed in business. So the idea is, you lay aside what you think you can spare of your surplus, or whatever you decide you are able to bring. We’ll see a similar sentiment in just a little bit, so file this away for just a second.

Fast-forward to where Paul is on his 3rd Missionary Journey, and everywhere he goes he’s telling people about what the Corinthians want to do in regard to this collection that the Macedonians started. And that’s what we read about in chapter 9.

1For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you: 2for I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many. 3Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, ye may be ready: 4lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting.” ~ 2 Corinthians 9:1-4

Now Corinth was a prosperous city. It was a major trade route. So because of this constant flow of goods there was opportunity for people to make a lot of money in Corinth. Consequently, it is likely that many of the believers in Corinth were wealthy. So Paul commends them for their generosity. We don’t know the extent, but it must have been significant because Paul talks about it everywhere he goes. And their generosity inspires other people throughout the province of Achaia to give as well.

So Paul says that they had a year to get this collection gathered up, and since he was going to be there soon he was going to send some of his helpers on ahead (and one of them was probably Titus, because he’s mentioned in this passage) to make sure they have everything ready. It would be really embarrassing if when Paul got there that he found that they didn’t have everything they said you were going to have, especially since he’s bragged about them everywhere he went. He doesn’t want them to end up looking bad.

So this is the context. Once you have this background, then this next verse makes abundant sense. And it is a familiar one.

7Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” ~ 2 Corinthians 9:7

And of course any time the pastor gives a sermon about giving he undoubtedly points to this verse and then proceeds to mangle it to pieces. This verse sums up everything there is to know about giving among the assembly of believers.


“As he purposeth in his heart”

Look at how Paul described this with regard to the Macedonians. Back in chapter 8 verse 2 he refers to the “abundance of their liberality.” In Acts chapter 2 verse 45 we saw that the believers there in Jerusalem:

“…sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” ~ Acts 2:45

And in Acts 4 we are told again:

“Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.” ~ Acts 4:34-35

I will stress once again that this was a spontaneous response of these people out of the love they had for others in their family. They were not compelled to do this. And that leads us to this next point.


“Not grudgingly our out of necessity”

If your church says you need to tithe your 10%, is that giving as every man purposes in his heart or is that out of necessity?  Is it a genuine demonstration of love when it is expected of you to give? How are we supposed to give without grudge when the compulsion of the church for its members to give brings about bitterness and resentment, and can I even say, fear?

Any time you see the Body of Christ giving in the NT, what is it for?

What did James, the brother of Jesus, say regarding giving to the church?  Did he say:

  • It is your religious duty to give to the church to help spread the gospel.
  • It is your duty to give to the church to help build our new elementary school wing.
  • It is you duty to give to the church so we can give our pastor a much-deserved raise in salary.
  • It is your duty to give to the church so we can make sure the pastor has an expense account so he can take prospective members out for coffee at Starbucks.
  • It is your duty to give to the church so we can meet our missions budget this month.
  • It is your duty to give to the church so we can remodel and modernize our “worship center”
  • It is your duty to give to the church…and you fill in the blank.

On the contrary, James says the following:

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” ~ James 1:27

Notice that in all of those example I just listed, what is blatantly missing? There is no mention of widows and orphans. There is no mention of those who are in need. There is no mention of someone who is 3 months behind on his mortgage. There is no mention of someone who can’t afford her medication. There is no mention of someone who is going hungry. Are we so deluded to think that there can’t possibly be people like that in our own church? Or is it more likely that even if there are such people, the expectation is that they are still required to give their 10%. “But pastor, they don’t have anything.” It doesn’t matter, you give any way, how, “by faith”, and God will provide. Bring it into the storehouse like in Malachi 3, and God will bless you abundantly! Because if you don’t you’re going to get a visit from Bob the elder.

“But Andy,” you say, “What about the Macedonians? They were poor and they still found a way to give.” Yes, they did. But what is the difference? Was it out of a cheerful heart or out of necessity? Even in Corinth, Paul said, you give as your purpose in your heart. That means, if you are filthy rich and you don’t want to give, you don’t have to. And at the same time you don’t judge and condemn others over what you perceive they should be giving.

I am echoing much of what John Immel talked about in his third session at last year’s TANC Conference. John talked at length about Immanuel Kant and this notion of sacrifice. Kant basically said that what made sacrifice moral was when you did it out of a sense of duty, and even then it was only truly out of a sense of duty when it caused you soul-crushing pain.

What does church tell us? Give until it hurts. It’s a wrong application of the widow’s mite. The poor schlub in your church who finds a way to put something in the offering plate each week is somehow more moral and holy than the rich business owner who tithes regularly, because he’s not experiencing any pain in doing so. That rich person needs to give until it hurts. It’s his duty.

No!

Not grudgingly. Not out of necessity. But every man as he purposes in his own heart.

Think about this: In the institutional church, how much money that goes into the offering place each week gets to people who have an actual genuine need?

I said at the beginning of this session that church is big business. Consider this. In 2 Peter chapter 2, Peter is talking about false teachers and he says this.

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” ~ 2 Peter 2:1-3

Peter said that with feigned words (these guys are nothing more than pretenders) they will use you for their own benefit. They will “make merchandise” out of you. How many building programs, how many pastors’ salaries, how many books will you buy because you think these guys have the answers to life? Are you stupid?   They are using you! In fact this expression “make merchandise” is actually a word that means to trade like a commodity. They will trade you like a commodity. You are nothing more than corn or soy beans or pork bellies to them. The implication is that you will be their slave. Did you hear what I said? You will be their slave. With feigned words they will pretend to be something that they are not, and they will enslave you, and they will buy and sell you like so much chattel on the open market, and the worst part is you make yourself a slave willingly!

In a home fellowship assembly, what need is there of infrastructure? What need is there of paying a salary? What need is there of an expense account? What need is there of a missions budget?

In such an intimate family setting, what is the likelihood that the people in that fellowship will be keenly aware of the needs of the brothers and sisters in that fellowship? And when you gather together for your fellowship meal, how hard is it to say, “There’s a basket over there on the counter. Bill needs some help paying his electric bill this month. If anyone wants to, feel free to drop a few dollars in that basket so we can help Bill keep the lights on in his house.”  ” Mike and Sarah just had a baby. If anyone has some old baby clothes they no longer need, I am sure Mike and Sarah would be grateful if you passed them on to them.” “Jim is recovering from surgery. Is there anyone that would like to bring him a meal this week?”

This is what a family does.  This is what it means when we say that the Body of Christ is a family and not an institution.

~ Andy


< Part 1  •  Part 2  •  Part 3

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 twoClick here for part four
(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)

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The Philosophy of the Reformation and Its Historical Impact, by John Immel – Part 2

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

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

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People hear “philosophy” and they tend to think of academics talking about useless ideas. This perception has everything to do with the collapse of philosophy as a science. In the middle 1700s, Immanuel Kant took hold of “reason” and wrote a book called The Critique of Pure Reason. His goal with to reduce reason to ash. He wanted to destroy man’s competence and reason so that the Christian religion could regain its monopoly on faith.

If you tell people long enough that thinking is irrelevant, then eventually everyone thinks thinking is irrelevant and the average fifteen-year-old sitting in math class says, “Why do I need to know this?” Or the average eighteen-year-old sitting in advanced history class says, “Well, why do I need to know this? Why isn’t it okay that I’m stupid?”

Now they don’t say that out loud because they feel entitled to what they do know, their mastery of the latest X-Box game or their knowledge of whatever is in pop culture, for example. But they see no causal relationship between their given body of thought and their given body of action. No one has ever explained to them that the content of their thinking is in fact a cohesive whole.

Everybody has individual stray thoughts, but those don’t amount to much. On the other hand, full philosophical statements have enormous power. For example, the statement, “Give it over to the universe,” is a philosophical statement. It is a tenet from the book The Secret written by Rhonda Byrne in 2006. This philosophical statement summarizes the elements of quantum physics and the mystical assumption that the universe is a conscious creature that is aware of your needs.

Another example is, “No one can know anything for sure.” This philosophical statement presupposes that there is no objective truth. It is a summation of Friedrich Hegel and Immanuel Kant’s full philosophic conclusions. When somebody insists to you that you cannot know anything, that there is no absolute in life, they are citing a deep philosophical tradition that goes back to the mid 1700s.

Here is another example. “Jesus died for our sins,” is often believed to be a “Biblical” statement.  While it is true that Paul makes this statement in 1 Corinthians 15:3, the traditional “orthodox” interpretation of that statement is rooted in the doctrines of “original sin”, federal guilt, atonement, and the ratification of a new covenant.  And further notice that doctrine of “original sin” first recorded by Irenaeus, who lived from AD c125-c202, differs from Saint Augustine’s theology of “original sin.” Irenaeus taught that God saw sin as a necessary step for the education of mankind rather than some obstacle that God must continually overcome (source: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/zim/ev/ev_01evolution_sin13.html). Notice that Augustine’s variation of Original sin necessitated the concept of federal guilt: the presumption that Adam ultimately is responsible for the simple destruction of the whole race. And then notice that to solve the problem of “salvation” that these doctrines advance requires a specific understanding of “atonement.” All of these doctrines emerge almost 400 years after the gospels were written and are the requisite foundation for the throwaway line “Jesus died for our sins,” to be understood.

Coexist

Can’t we all just get along?

In each statement discussed above there are layers upon layers upon layers in understanding. The conceptual layers are philosophy. It is the progression from the assumptions all the way through to the final summation that ultimately ends up on a bumper sticker. When you see a bumper sticker such as the popular one now that says “coexist” written out in formula or symbols representing all the various spiritual faiths and beliefs. But the bumper sticker means to ask the question: “Can’t we just all get along?” And the bumper sticker presumes that all religions are created equal. If one does not know the content of each religion, then it seems “logical” that people of faith should all be able to coexist.

This is the ultimate power of philosophy, taking ideas, very big, very large ideas and ultimately rolling them down so that you and I can grasp ideas in the simplest terms.

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.

Humans are the sum of their collective ideas. Humans are built to think and to use our minds to engage the world in which we live. The command from the beginning, “be fruitful and multiply,” rule and subdue the earth, presupposes a mastery of the earth. It presupposes the ability to master the earth, and it specifically presupposes that you are charged with the responsibility to master the earth. The one thing that sets man apart above all else is that man is not specifically designed to live in any given environment. He must alter his environment to live in it, which means he must think. He must manipulate his environment to his advantage. Every other creature, every other animal is specifically built to function within its environment. Man is not. Man is utterly separated from all the rest of creation, set at its pinnacle as a master of that creation by virtue of his rational mind. This means by necessity we must understand the difference between good and bad ideas.

Disciplines of Philosophy

– Metaphysics
– Epistemology
– Ethics
– Politics

So when I talk about philosophy, I’m not talking about vain concepts, “vain philosophies,” or intellectual beach balls batted around in ivory towers. I am specifically referring to how we know what we know. The nature of existence is called metaphysics. How we know what we know is called epistemology. How we value what we know is called ethics. And how we interact with people is called politics.

Our metaphysical assumptions about the nature of existence is the beginning of the path down to mass of action. They are the concepts that are above the physical realm that we must come to understand and are in fact transcendent specifically of the here and now. Once we understand this, then we understand epistemology. Man understands how he knows what he knows. Once he understands his existence, he then understands how he interacts with that existence. That ultimately produces his values.

Here is an example. How do you know you should drink water? What is the value of water? You value water because it is necessary to keep you alive. Your specific metaphysical truth that your body needs water to survive makes water good. Those are your ethics. Now let us ask this question. Once we have our ethics, how do we know how to interact with human beings? That is the study of politics. This is the driving force of human existence, from the most rudimentary, to how man understands, to how man derives his specific set of values, to ultimately how man interacts with the rest of the world, the other individuals in the world.

What does this have to do with Calvinism, Reformed theology, and spiritual tyranny?

Absolutely everything.

The existing fight over Neo Calvinism and the Neo Reformed movement in the United States is specifically built upon philosophical issues. They portray the nature of human existence as a moral evil. Man’s very being IS the problem. It is this metaphysical premise that has undergird man’s trend towards destruction. This is a bold statement, but you will understand shortly.

I want you understand a specific principle. The major metaphysical premises, which are your foundational assumptions, determine your epistemological qualification. This speaks to the idea of competence. When we discuss epistemological qualification, we are talking about where we decide who is qualified to do what.   Epistemological qualification defines ethical standard. Once you decide how competent you are, that determines what your ethics are. From there, ethical standards prescribe political culture.

This is high-level stuff but let me try to break this down a little more. Foundational assumptions (metaphysics) determine how effective man is to understand his world, defines moral value, and prescribes government force.

Plato was one of the first man to author a full comprehensive philosophical statement. There were others prior to him, but Plato has dominated the vast percentage of western history, which is ultimately the heritage of the United States. Here is Plato’s premise:

“This world is a mere reflection of other worldly forms.”

platocave-smIn other words, if I were to hold up a bottle of water for you to consider, that bottle of water does not really exist. There is actually a pure and true bottle of water in some other place. The bottle that I hold in my hand is imperfect. It is a form of something else. This assumption therefore determines that man cannot know truth because he experiences the imperfect shadow world. The metaphor Plato uses is that man stands in a cave. There is a fire in the cave that ultimately casts a shadow on the wall. All man sees is in fact that shadow. That’s all man truly understands about the nature of the world. In Plato’s philosophy, only select men of the highest character and a longstanding study can achieve enlightenment.

When you make these first three assumptions about reality, the resulting conclusion is that “philosopher kings” should govern the great unwashed.

Do you see the progression?

The moment you accept as true that man is incompetent, the moment you decide that truth is beyond his capacity, that is the moment you accept that only a select few are somehow able to know the truth, and they are the only ones uniquely qualified to force the rest of us to their enlightened understanding.

Here is another example.

Karl Marx said that history is a community fight over resources. That was his metaphysical premise. The community is first and the community creates truth. Therefore, all members of the community must work for the common good, and the common good is synonymous with the collective will. This means that government is right to force each person to provide according to his ability and to be given only according to his need. Notice that the metaphysical premise ultimately turns part of a culture into slaves.

Here is another example.

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

God must enforce moral standards, and the doctrine insists that the Holy Mother Church is responsible to use that force against depraved humanity.

Anybody who has an inch of knowledge about Catholic church history knows this is where the disaster of the Dark Ages comes from: the massive tide of human destruction and the warfare. The warfare and destruction is no accident; it follows from the metaphysical premise. When you presume that the masses of humanity are functionally incompetent, you can arrive at no other conclusion than that man must be compelled by force.

This is my contribution to the discussion of philosophy in the world.

Universal Guilt + Mass Incompetence = Dictated Good

The first three elements of every cause of tyranny follow exactly this way. All tyranny is derived from two primary presumptions. I call them universal guilt and mass incompetence. Universal guilt basically says that because man is pervasively guilty of some primary moral inferiority, he has no redeeming quality in and of himself. These ideas combine to a government model for dictated good.

This philosophical equation is the source of all tyranny!

Every time you hear a despot, a tyrant, an autocrat speak, if you listen to him long enough you will hear him tell you how incompetent you are and how guilty you are. The primary example in our current culture is the environmentalist propaganda campaign to “Go Green.” Notice the political forces in our culture saying that man is polluting the world and destroying it. Man, is incompetent to do anything else. We must therefore revert to a primitive state where the world is somehow saved. Notice then the themes within the propaganda: man, is universally guilty of destroying the world and he is collectively incompetent to fix the world. The political conclusion is: government must destroy anything that is modern – get rid of cars, get rid of oil, get rid of power, get rid of coal.

Universal guilt equals the metaphysical premise. Mass incompetence equals man’s epistemological determination. In other words, man can’t get the point. He is incompetent at his root. The only thing that’s left is dictating good, and this prescribes the function of government.

Now notice that this is the central premise of John Calvin. Pervasive depravity has wholly corrupted human existence. This determines that all good is the product of God’s specific sovereign action. Notice the vast gap that this places between good and man. Notice how far this removes man from his very environment. This defines man’s life as predetermined in action and in outcome. Lastly, this prescribes an elect few who are divinely appointed to shepherd the flock in God’s behalf.

Americans live with ontological certainty of religious freedom. That big word, ontological, means we are positive that we should be entitled to our own faith. We have never suffered a religious war in the United States. Churches tend to fracture and divide long before it becomes a fight, long before it comes to blows, long before it becomes bloodshed. events-protestant-reformation-1517-1555-iconoclasm-protestant-soldiers-bka24tBut Calvinism validates violence— or civil force.

To John Calvin, total depravity equals mass incompetence. The irresistible grace of the T.U.L.I.P. acronym equals universal guilt. Irresistible grace implies that the prevailing manifestation of humanity is in fact incompetence, so he must be given a specific grace, but only a select few that will get there. Those select few, those who have experienced limited atonement, are the ones that get to dictate the good. They are the ones that get to wield the force to compel a given body of outcome.

Take each of the doctrines of T.U.L.I.P. and pull them apart – the total depravity, the unconditional election, the irresistible grace, the perseverance of the saints – begin to pull those doctrines apart and notice how they fit into the logical progression that I’ve discussed.

Now you can grasp where our current Christian malaise comes from. It is no accident. The doctrines lead to the exact same result. Every time this body of doctrine has risen its ugly head in the world it has led to bloodshed and destruction. It leads to political force. It leads to civil force. This is where it ends.

And now you understand where tyranny comes from.

~ John Immel


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The Philosophy of the Reformation and Its Historical Impact, by John Immel – Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on December 14, 2016

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

Click here to read Part 2
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Click here to read Part 4

I was listening to the radio and a song by one of our modern philosophers came on.

Steven Tyler

Steven Tyler, lead singer, Aerosmith

“There’s something wrong with the world today.
I don’t know what it is.
Something is wrong with our eyes.
We’re seeing things in a different way.
And God knows it ain’t His.
It sure ain’t no surprise.”

This is from a song by Aerosmith, “Living on the Edge.” The song’s refrain says over and over that we can’t help from falling.

It is true: there is something world with the world today. But I contend that it is not inevitable that we fall.

Throughout my life I have been involved in various flavors of Christianity, and I continually found myself running up against the same interaction over and over and over. And, of course, for the longest time the easy criticism was, “It’s you. You’re the problem.” There are a lot of doctrines within Christianity that affirm that – yeah, it’s probably you. If there is a problem, you are probably the problem.

But then I began to realize that the same problem exists whether I’m involved in the social dynamic or not.

How is that possible? How is it possible that I can go from denomination to denomination to denomination – from Word of Faith to Charismatic to Baptist to Methodist – and it didn’t matter?

After much thinking I arrived at what I believe is the root of all failed human actions.

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.

The words “logic” or “logically” in this context refers to the consistent progression of a given set of ideas. That does not mean the ideas are logical in the sense that it is accurate thinking. I am talking about how Idea “A” through Idea “Z” go together to create an entire perspective. What I realized was that when the same people take the same action, they will produce the same outcome.

Let me break this down by section.

Verse 1 says: assumptions + logic = action.
Verse 2 says: faulty logic or erroneous rationalizations = ideas that flow from one to the next to the next.
Verse 3 concludes: mass action + destructive outcomes = common premise.

Something is wrong with the world today, but I submit that the error is imbedded in common faulty root assumptions. When I surveyed history and I saw men taking the exact same steps, coming to the exact same conclusions generation after generation, millennia after millennia, I realized they all held similar root assumption about man and about life.

Typically, when I start talking like this is people say something like: “Well, people just need Jesus.” What they mean to say is that ideas are irrelevant unless the mystical solution of “Jesus” is applied to the problem. But that can’t be right because other people might say: “Well, people just need Buddha,” and still others might say, “Well, if Islam ruled the world, all the problems would go away.”

And here is why “people just need Jesus,” is no answer to the world’s problems: bromides are not solutions. Bromides never address the forces driving the problem.

The problem with faith is people tend to take their own faith very personally and very seriously . . . and very uncritically. They tend to assume that faith equals a license to subjectivity; that they are entitled to believe whatever they happen to believe just because they believe it.

So the challenge that I have forever run up against is that when I start talking about digging into the roots of our assumptions, the reaction is, “You know what? That’s complicated. That requires me to think. And I don’t really care to do that too terribly much.”

I am sympathetic on many levels to that frustration. We would like to say to ourselves, “The declaration of God’s love is so simple. Why on earth does this have to be complicated?” I understand that frustration. It seems that if something is so simple, the process of believing should be left to that simplicity. But here is the challenge – I contend that theological bumper stickers are not simple because thinking is at no point simple.

Let us use the following metaphor to try to illustrate this complexity. Throwing a ball seems like a very rudimentary process. You let it go. It goes from point “A” to point “B”. Yet no matter how many times you throw a ball from point A to point B, it consistently drops to the earth. Now consider the question, why does the ball always hit the ground? Some very smart people put together the physics of throwing a ball.

D = (Vo ˟ sinθ ˟ t) + (½A ˟ t2) + h

where:
D = distance
Vo = initial velocity
θ = initial arc angle
t = time
A = acceleration
h = initial height

Since I am no math wizard, I could not begin to explain to you the details of this equation. But that’s okay. I don’t have to. What I want you to understand is that a child throwing a football on the beach is engaging in the above formula. This formula details the level of complexity that is involved in throwing a ball from point “A” to point “B” even though a child can perform the action.

Now back to the issue at hand: thinking about what we believe and why.

Thinking is hard because thinking is also complex. It is just as complex as, if not more so, than throwing a ball because thinking is the mechanics of human action. This is where we get our energy to act in life. From the time when we are old enough to recognize our own consciousness to start motivating ourselves through life, the thing that dominates us every waking moment of our lives are the thoughts that we specifically put into action.

Here is the beauty of my metaphor – ideas are just as calculable as the mechanics in throwing the ball.

People want simplicity but it is in the details that we find the root problems. You may read articles on discernment blogs discussing the issue of “New Calvinism” or a resurgence of Calvinism and Reformed theology. Most people will conclude that denouncing the doctrines of those movements is grand conspiracy. The real solution is if a few “misled” souls would just get on the right path then all will be well with the church.

But the reality is conspiracy as an explanation does not satisfy the discussion of New Calvinism any more than liberation theology describes why America is treading down the path of Marxism, or why Marxism has dominated the whole of the western world, or why Islam is on the rise throughout the globe.

boris-badenovPeople prefer conspiracies. “Christians” would rather hear people say it is the Illuminati or the Bilderbergers or some dastardly mastermind twirling his mustache in a hideaway, spending lots of money to compel people to do things and take mass action. People prefer conspiracy and world masterminds because that is easy. Conspiracies are easy. Thinking is hard.

I contend that the issue driving the world towards the edge is ideas, and ideas are hard. Ideas demand that individuals invest a stunning amount of personal discipline. You must bring your “A” game every minute of every day to be about ideas.

Consider once again the metaphor of throwing a ball. There is a specific problem with that metaphor. It is the issue of gravity. When you throw a ball, of course, the ball at the end of its trajectory hits the ground. It is the existence of gravity within that equation which leads people to believe that the ball must hit the ground every time it is thrown. Because of that gravity, my metaphor tends to break down because in the grand scheme of ideas, I am overtly saying that we can control what we think. If we can understand the progression and the mechanics of our thinking, then we can arrive at a different outcome. But historically, the inevitability of the “gravity” of human action is the observation that man tends down the path of his own self-destruction over and over and over. It is this very observation which has been used as a case in point to say that man is in effect “depraved.”

So how do I remedy the weakness of my metaphor? How do I integrate the immutability of “gravity” with the power of choice and the ability of man to set his own course?

The answer is, change the beginning assumption.

The formula for throwing a ball assumes that you are in an environment affected by gravity. The formula for throwing a ball assumes that your desired outcome is to propel the ball from point “A” to point “B.” Yet with the right amount of velocity, acceleration, and arc, it would be possible to put a ball into orbit or escape gravity altogether. Therein lies the consistency with the metaphor.

I contend that when you challenge the assumptions that have dominated the whole of the western world, you can arrive at a new set of assumptions, and those assumptions can defy the “gravity” that has driven men down to self-destruction.

puritan-whippingSo now let’s discuss Calvinism, New Calvinism, and Reformation theology. The question is: why within this emergent movement do we see such consistent actions, such consistent outcomes, such consistent stories of oppression and domination and coercion? Why, from one congregation to the next, do you see the exact same outcomes?

To answer these questions, we must first find the assumptions, and that means we are going to have to take on ideas. It takes enormous effort to fully evaluate the content of ideas. This is the process of education and expertise. One must be specifically aware of one’s own thoughts. This is intentional consciousness. From the time, you are old enough to say, “I want a cookie,” to the day you read, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,” and every day after and in between, when you crack open a book and you read an equation and you determine to understand what the variables within that equation mean . . . all of these are examples of intentional consciousness.

It takes enormous discipline to order one’s thinking, to evaluate the progression from “A” to “Z.” It takes enormous effort to arrive at real logic, or non-contradictory thinking. Real reason is the determination to understand the over-arching mechanics of your own individual consciousness. By order I mean non-contradictory logic. It is what happens when you can follow the progression of thought from “A” to “B” to “C” to “D,” and you do not find any inconsistencies in that progression. Such a process takes enormous self-definition, that is, an absolute trust in one’s own rational faculties. And this requires self-esteem.

Bookmark the concept self-esteem.

My root assumption is that man is rationally competent. This assumption defies almost all historic Christian doctrine. Now the term “self-esteem” in American culture has been so utterly corrupted that I hesitate to use it, but it still captures what I’m after; an identification of the effectiveness of self. But you cannot get to self-esteem by someone holding your hand, patting you on the back, and telling you that you are okay. You can only get to self-esteem by doing the work, overcoming challenges, and succeeding.

The definition of human consciousness and self-esteem comes from the ability to successfully prevail over challenges. By contrast “New Calvinism” or Reformed theology is designed to undermine this ability at the root. It is designed to undermine man at his most fundamental level. It is designed to eradicate his specific ethical egoistic self. Most people don’t understand that every argument you encounter in Calvinist doctrinal debate, whether it is the distinction between sanctification and justification, or whether it is your moral right to keep the substance of what you have, are all moral arguments designed to de-legitimize your self-esteem. The doctrines fueling the argument are designed to condemn you at your root: to prevent you from having the right to your own self and your moral responsibility for the sum and substance of your own life.

What I am describing is the study of philosophy. In the western world since Immanuel Kant, philosophy has been utterly corrupted, and thus most people have a negative impression of philosophy. And Christians are particularly fond of flipping the page over to Paul’s consternation with what he called “vain philosophies” in order to de-legitimize discussing ideas. But regardless of how you feel, since philosophies exist, you need figure out how to deal with “vain philosophies.” So despite Paul’s anxiety over “vain” philosophies, it follows that understanding good philosophies is important.

Here’s the reality: the ideas we encounter are no accident, and the outcomes are not happenstance. The source of all world evil can be found in evil ideas, or evil philosophies. The outcomes of those ideas have been displayed over and over and over, so we know they are evil. Christians are then confronted with this reality: if the world remains evil then the solutions we have been offering do not work. So one more sermon, one more frothing-at-the-mouth preacher, one more guy pounding his ESV will not fix the problem.

Instead we must have the courage to think, or maybe better said: rethink. Unless people are willing to turn on their minds and challenge their deepest-held beliefs, finding the solution is impossible. Nothing will change. It won’t matter how much we dissect sanctification and justification or the centrality of the cross. It won’t matter how many scriptures we stack up in service to pet doctrines. It won’t matter how much we rail against misplaced church government (Is it presbytery? Is it democracy? Is it papacy? et al). That has already been done over and over and over, council after council, synod after synod, inter-Nicene fight after inter-Nicene fight. For the first time in history, men must rethink the historical fight from its roots.

05f15a210000044d-3418861-misery_scenes_after_the_liberation_of_belsen_in_april_1945_the_p-a-34_1453911882121Mystic despots have always ruled over the masses with portents and disasters for those who dared to live life beyond the mediocre. Tyrants can only succeed when men refuse to think. Autocrats rely on being able to compel outcomes because no one opposes their arguments. This is the challenge that I have as a man who is passionate about thinking: to inspire people to engage in understanding and scrutinizing the complex ideas that drive tyranny.

So here’s my challenge: do not be seduced into believing that righteousness is retreat from the world. Do not be seduced into believing that spirituality is defined by weakness and that timid caution for fear of committing potential error is a reason to be quiet. Do not be intimidated by vague, hazy threats of failure. Do not let yourself believe that faith is a license to irrationality. Do not mistake the simple nature of God’s love as a justification for simple-mindedness. Do not deceive yourself with the polite notion that you are above the fray, that your right to believe is sufficient to the cause of righteousness. There is no more stunning conceit. Do not pretend that your unwillingness to argue is the validation of truth.

Know this: virtue in a vacuum is like the proverbial sound in the forest – irrelevant without a witness. Character is no private deed. To retreat is nothing more than a man closing his eyes and shutting his mouth to injustice. Virtues are not estimates to be wafted gently against evil. Virtues are not to be withheld from view in the name of grace. Virtues are not to be politely swallowed in humble realization that we are all just sinners anyway. Love is not a moral blank check against the endless tide of indulgent action. Love is not blind to the cause and effect of reality. Love is not indifference to plunder and injustice and servitude.

The time is now, you men of private virtue, to emerge from your fortress of solitude and demonstrate that you are worthy of a life that bears your name. The time is now, you men of private virtue, to answer Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and all the nihilists that insist we are living on the edge and we cannot help but fall.   It is time for you men of private virtue to take up the cause of human existence and think.

~ John Immel


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