Paul's Passing Thoughts

The History of Western Philosophy and Its Societal Impact on the Church – Part 8

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on February 15, 2017

The following is the final part of an eight-part series.
Taken from John Immel’s third session
at the 2013 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny
~ Edited by Andy Young

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

john immelThe Concept of the “Common Good”

The “common good” is a collectivist myth designed to achieve the outcome of subordinating the individual to the majority. The collective well-being is the supreme measure of ethics. The phrase implies that if the individual acts for the “good” of the group, the individual is taking moral action. Notice the equation; action for the group = morality. However, there are three primary problems with the concept of the “common good”

1. It is deception.
By definition, “common” is a synonym for a generalization, and by definition a generalization does not have a specific definition. So when a person speaks of the “common good”, they are appointing themselves the spokesman for some loosely defined group. In conversation, the “common good” is used to refer to the good of the public or the community or society or the tribe. However, each of these words is merely a poor label for the intangible sum of individual interaction. The point is, such “groups” do not really exist.

  • “The public”: an adjective describing individual conduct exposed to general view.
  • “The community”: little more that the interaction of individual people in close proximity.
  • “Society”: The aggregate actions of many “sub-groups” within a geographic location.
  • “The Tribe”: A “group” based on genetic similarities. A religious denomination is merely a tribal preoccupation shifted from genetic pedigree to doctrinal pedigree.

So the thing that is “common” is not really common at all. There is no “thing” that is the direct recipient of good, because there is no specific object to receive the “good”. The work you do doesn’t benefit the good of the group, it benefits the good of individuals within the group.

The purpose of the deception is to conceal the root presumption that the collective stands supreme to its individual members, for the “common good” is really the good of the group at the expense of the individual members. Or said another way, the individual is a sacrificial animal to the will of the collective. Any individual who is perceived as a threat to the survival of the group must be sacrificed.

Every time I hear somebody talk about altruism and the “common good”, the conceit in this means that if my life is to be sacrificed to you, the necessary presumption is that your life in turn should be sacrificed to me. I own your life by default, and you think that’s morality? You think that’s just and good? So we’re reduced to moral cannibalism?

2. It poses as morality
The “common good” is really a moral subterfuge because it is an indefinable, elastic concept that can be shaped to apply to any outcome for any political whim. Since the group is elastic based on momentary standards of inclusion, the definition of “good” constantly changes. There is really no constant “yardstick” of measurement but rather a thick syrup that clouds the eyes and ears of its victims and makes them abandon morality rather than cling to it.

The “common good” inspires people to lay down values in service to a select few who claim to be spokesmen for the majority. We see this in political conversation all the time. The outcome is that the spokesmen have a moral blank check that every individual is obligated to cash.

You wonder why you hear stories of molestation coming out of church groups and Christian universities and missionary organizations, where the leadership and authority specifically tried to conceal the crimes against the children and members and students. This is the moral blank check that parents are supposed to cash in behalf of the child who was molested. This is EVIL, fundamental evil!

3. It masquerades as good.
If taken literally, the error within the expression “common good” itself becomes glaringly obvious. When people advocate for the “common good”, they think they are saying the “good” of all individuals admitted to the group. Or maybe if they paused to consider more deeply, they are saying the “good” of the majority. This doesn’t yet sound too scandalous because “good” is what is done numerically for the greatest amount of individuals. People do a loose moral calculus and decide that the greater the sum, the more moral the action.

But here is the result of that rationale: moral action is quantifiable by statistical outcome. If morality is nothing more than statistics then it is a trivial exercise to justify the Holocost. Stalin created a famine and killed 7 million people, but by the standard of the “common good” his actions are “moral” because the mathematical formula benefits 100 million faithful communists. The “common good” is used to justify taking enormous sums of money from individuals in order to pay for other people’s medical care, or whatever your favorite government program happens to be.

 

Having identified the three problems with the notion of “common” good, let us examine how this is all used at the root of tyranny.

We now know that the “common good” does not exist because the concepts of group do not exist, and they are never the recipient of any action. Only individuals receive good. Only individuals receive value. It is a false morality designed to subordinate all people to the collective, but who defines the collective?

At the root of all collectivist organizations there is usually only one person holding the yardstick of group inclusion. This person surrounds himself with a gang to defend against any interloper. He is the voice of the people, the voice of community, the voice of society, the voice of the tribe, the voice of the church.

big_brother_1984What people fail to grasp is the “good” of the people is really subterfuge to justify the violation of individual rights. The function of this expression is designed to violate individual rights, and when you violate individual rights you are really abolishing all rights. Groups do not have rights. When you tell me I must subordinate my rights to the group, the group does not gain them by proxy. They have been forfeited.

If there is no such thing as “rights”, the thug, surrounded by his gang, is free to use force (government) to achieve whatever outcome they fancy.The collectivist thug is at once empowered to force people to conform to the collective and shielded against all outcomes. It doesn’t matter what happens next.

This is why you have the brutal absurdity of Soviet Russia. The USSR was built in service to the “common good”, yet the only people who prospered were the tiny gang who surrounded the bloodiest despot in history, Joseph Stalin. The rest of the population lived in sub-human misery for almost three generations.

This is why you have the mystical tyranny of the medieval Catholic church. The Catholic church portrayed itself as the greatest proponent of human good on the planet, yet from effectively 600AD to almost 1500 AD the church leadership lived a comparatively lavish lifestyle, and the serfs existed generation after generation in squalor.

In the modern age, think of any social program that is said and done for “the people,” for “the society,” for “the community”. Now define exactly what the program does; give money for college, pay for medicine, feed the hungry. If you look at the actual event, only a select number of individuals actually receive the benefit, and all of the authority (force) is invested in a bureaucrat whose sole function is to weed out those who never receive the “good”.

Some of you are squirming because I have placed “community” in the same pot of condemnation. You long for community. You conceptualize your local church as a community. You think this is a social ideal. You think that the community does good. And you like the fact that you vicariously participate in the moral reputation, the prestige, of the group. You want the prestige plus you long for an inter-personal connection, and you yearn to find friends and have “relationships.” You pine for an indescribable thing that is a cross between a Norman Rockwell painting and the television sitcom, “Cheers”, where everybody knows your name. For the life of you, you struggle to see how this is the same seedbed of evil that I have been talking about.

Unfortunately, I am about to tell you that Santa Clause does not exist.

Look closely at the real social dynamic of your community. The connectedness, the relationships that you seek is really the exchange of individual value on an inter-personal level. You long to live in Mayberry R.F.D., filled with “Aunt Beas” baking apple pies waiting on the porch, never once realizing that the safety and security and fraternity that you want cannot happen if the highest moral standard is sacrifice of personal desires and personal values for the “common good.”

The price of admission to the community is the very self that you must surrender for public consumption. Think about that. To participate in community means that you must get rid of the very thing that makes you unique. This is why most communities (read “churches”) are petty, and gossipy, and back-stabbing, and cliquey. Everyone in the community is constantly vying for some piece of the “common good.” In the end, you realize that the mindless hoards sitting in the pews are there to graze over you like a buffet table.

Now let’s back up to the 10,000-foot view. Now you can see why metaphysics and epistemology are so important. Now you can see how everything revolves around a specific body of ideas that begins with Thales and evolves all the way down to the Cynics and the Stoics, formalized and systematized by Plato, and eventually shape Augustine, Calvin, and Luther. Inasmuch as you continue to accept their premises, you will continue to achieve the same outcome.

If you think the Neo Calvinists are ugly now, you wait and see what happens when you give them just an ounce of civil authority. There will be bloodshed. I know you think that’s scandalous, I get that. It may not even be the guys in the pulpits right this minute. But if you let this construct get hold of civil government, if you have the marriage of faith and force, they will make John Calvin look like a choir boy and Geneva look like a day at the beach. Make no mistake, at the root of this doctrine lie death and destruction.

When you separate man from his mind and his mind from reality, the only thing he has left to deal with another man is a club. The moment we have a club in our hands we are no longer offering an argument. And these guys don’t offer arguments. They have to bail on the conversation every single time they are pressed on the points of their doctrine. They must punt into the grand “mystery” of God. They don’t have a choice.

Once they are finally confronted with the dead end of their logic, all they can do next is attack and posture and threaten. Inasmuch as you fear that retaliation and extortion, you will willingly shut your mouth. This is why you see such enormous fear coming out of the pews. The discernment blogs and survivor blogs start discussing how they were treated. Everybody online is anonymous, not because they are trying to be deceitful, but because they are terrified!

They have accepted the premise.

What made me specifically so dangerous to them is that I rejected the premise. And that will make you dangerous. When you reject the premise, they will become terrified of you. They do not have the power, and if they ever get close to civil government, resist them with all of your might!

All collectivist cultures are tyrannies.

The philosophy of collectivism claims that there is a mystical, supernatural, social organism that embodies the highest moral values. Of course, only a few elite people with special insight can fully grasp this truth. Somehow they have access to special source knowledge that transcends the average man’s mind. Average men are incompetent, helpless, mindless creatures, depraved and unworthy of social interactions. So they must be purified to serve the collective organism.

Men cannot deal with other men voluntarily because they have no peaceful means to settle disputes. They have no means to act as contractual beings because they are metaphysically incapable of doing good. Human salvation always boils down to an elite clique endowed with some mystical insight, and that insight qualifies them to rule men. They are dictators of an omnipotent, benevolent state, doing what is best for the “common good.”

All collectivist ideologies hold the same political assumption. All collectivist doctrines seek the exact same end – subjugation of the individual. Man must be chained to the collective. Man is property of the state. Statism is always implemented by force.

The measure of social slavery is directly proportional to how much the slogan of “common good” is embraced. Conversely, the measure of civil liberty is directly proportional to how much the same slogan is overtly rejected. Our Founding Fathers rejected this notion of “common good”. They recognized that the legitimate role of government was specifically to defend the individual and his life, his liberty, and his pursuit of happiness. These are notions contrary to “common good.”

It is an easy slogan to reject because there is no such thing as a generalized good, because only individuals receive values. As soon as you realize it is a hoax it becomes a matter of course to refuse to pay homage to the fraud. Good is not being done. The reality is that people are enslaved to the fancies of others. No man has a moral obligation to subjugation to another man.

 

The Longing for Revival

We erroneously believe that a return to God will naturally be a return to morality. A return to morality is really a return to a belief in divine extortion. When morality is the product of divine command, the fight becomes about which divine we follow. What the Platonist/Augustian/Calvinsit version of Christianity has shown is that it has nothing to offer as a counter to militant ideologies.

Their first test was Islam. The eastern church showed itself impotent to stop the ideological tide of Islam. Christianity had so gutted the intellectual rigor of intellectual thought, that when confronted with a totally irrational ideology based on war, it could offer no counter.

Of course, Protestants like to push these things off as “those dastardly Catholics.” But Protestants have not fared any better. The Southern Presbyterian Church was in the forefront of slavery within the United States. Of course, Presbyterianism has a direct pedigree line with ties to the reformed tradition.

The reformed tradition’s next test would be National Socialist Germany. It failed miserably. Lutheran churches, with almost no exception, joined “the party” and remained committed to National Socialism until the collapse of the Third Reich.

Christianity has shown itself impotent to offer any intellectual defense against Marxism, National Socialism, and Islam, and that’s just in the modern day.

But they cannot lay claim to mere impotence. It isn’t “God’s will.” Christianity has with far too much consistency been connected to the tyranny. This is not a new observation.

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

~ James Madison, “A Memorial in Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments”, 1786

 

“In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection of his own.”

Thomas Jefferson SAR Picture~ Thomas Jefferson

 

“Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined, and imprisoned, yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth”

~ Thomas Jefferson

 

“I could never join Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an atheist, which I can never be, or rather his religion was demonism. If ever a man worshipped a false god!”

~ Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to John Adams, April 1823

 

Here is the absolute conclusion of all we have studied in this series. For anyone with intellectual integrity, these things should be fully and entirely unacceptable. This should compel you to evaluate the content of Christianity for what it has said for the whole of its history. It is not an accident that the same tyranny abetted by the church has occurred over and over and over.

And now, having heard where all this is rooted, you are without excuse. Now you have seen where the core of Protestant doctrine comes from. The intellectual pedigree goes as far back as Heraclitus and the Pythagoreans. It finds its full philosophic formation in Plato, it is welded into Christian thinking by Augustine, and it is put into practice by Luther and Calvin – from Augustine to Luther to Calvin to the Synod of Dort to the Westminster Confessions to the Puritans to the local pastor pounding the pulpit.

The dots are all connected, and now it rests on you to resist the disaster.

~ John


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

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

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

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

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

(Continued from part 3)

Now I want to make a series of contrasts.

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

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

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

Madison begins:

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

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

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

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

This is a central Enlightenment idea.

Madison Continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Madison goes on to say in Point 8.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s do a contrast.

Puritan theology:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or do you?

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

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

~ John Immel


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Ground Zero for Understanding the Biblical Counseling Movement

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on February 2, 2015

CWW 4

Originally published September 18, 2013

“I believe this will go down in church history as one of the most grotesque betrayals ever perpetrated on a man in the name of friendship and the gospel.” 

A Chapter Theses for Clouds Without Water: The Biblical Counseling Movement; It’s True History and Doctrine

 In the Beginning, Plato, and then Augustine.

During the first century, the upstart assemblies of the risen Christ suffered a viral affront from Gnostic sects. The first century church was made up of people from all socioeconomic strata, and the Gnostics infiltrated Christianity for that purpose. Those in the first century church well-endowed with money were a valuable resource, and this is who the Gnostic sects primarily targeted with their false doctrine.

Gnosticism has always been about elitism, power, and money. If you want to see an immaculate mural of the American church, read Philip J. Lee’s “Against the Protestant Gnostics.”

Gnosticism finds its roots in the philosophy of Plato. Every American born into the world should be thoroughly apprised of Plato the man and his philosophy. To understand Plato is to understand Western culture politically and spiritually. All the philosophers agree on this point. From there, the math is easy: Augustine was the father of Reformation doctrine, and a rabid follower of Plato. Augustine had little use for the Bible without Platonist insight, and considered Plato a Pre-Christianity Christian.

Of course, the favorite red herring is that Plato is not agreed with on every point, but the fact remains that his primary construct founded Reformed theology: the incompetence of man, and the need for a select few (the enlightened) to rule over the masses. Those with gnosis know how society best functions, and they know how the masses can find individual peace from the desires that rule over them.

The Age of Enlightenment (circa 1630) produced men who were the first to confront Plato’s construct successfully. The most formidable product of that movement was the American experiment which obviously turned out quite well. It was founded on the competence of the individual. The competition was the Platonist Puritans who unfortunately survived the voyage from Europe and wreaked havoc on the East coast. But fortunately, their worldview kept them from settling further inland. “Go west young man!” is hardly the motivational words of competence found among the purer forms of Reformed thought.

Let there be no doubt about it, the idea of merging church and state is grounded in the religion of man’s incompetence. The masses need the state to take care of them. Plato’s philosopher kings contrive orthodoxy, and the soldiers enforce it. This concept did not find its way into the Westminster Confession by accident.  Even those who think the state should be separate from the church think a utopia would arise if the church ran the state. “Separation of church and state” doesn’t mean no theocracy; theocracy would be a good thing, supposedly. The state has always had an interest in ruling over religion because ideas are dangerous, and the church has always been a willing participant if the state agrees to enforce their orthodoxy. The battle between the two for the upper hand of control is the political intrigue that is European history in a nutshell. And that is how the world as we know it will end: the zenith of church statecraft as described in the book of Revelation.

This is Western history, and the  children of the enlightenment would have no part of it on American soil. Ten years after the Declaration of Independence, James Madison successfully stopped a European style push for a church state in A Memorial in Remonstance Against Religious Assessments. For all practical purposes, it was an indictment against the fruits of European Reformed doctrine.

The Reformation’s Historical Cycle of Social Death and Resurgence

The Reformers, being children of Plato, didn’t interpret reality with a normative epistemology. Plato’s Achilles’ heel has always been the application of Eastern mysticism. Instead of reality being interpreted empirically, and a course of action being determined by discovery, conclusions are drawn by using interpretive gateways to the “pure” form of reality that is hopefully good. Plato thought it was good, but his interpretive gateway to reality rejected the five senses out of hand. Gnosis was the key.

The Reformers merely replaced gnosis with the personhood of Christ as a sort of stargate to reality. That reality was predicated on the difference between the unchangeable pure form of Christ, and the inherent evil of man dwelling in a world that constantly changes. Plato equated the pure forms with immutable objectivity, and evil matter with mutable subjectivity. Hence, today’s Platonist Reformers speak of the “objective gospel experienced subjectively.”  This is clearly Plato’s metaphysical construct based on the incompetence of man in regard to interpreting reality. Like Plato, the Reformers of old and new alike bemoan man’s attempt to understand reality “in the shadows” of all matters that “eclipse Christ.” While donning the persona of Biblicism, pastors like Steve Lawson call for pastors to “come out from the shadows.”

This is the theme of books like “Uneclipsing the Son” by John MacArthur confidant Rick Holland. In his book, he hints at why purest Reformed theology gets lost in the minds of Christians from time to time and therefore needs periodic resurgences and rediscoveries. He notes in his book that good grammar makes bad theology. The mystic heretic Paul David Tripp makes the same assertion in “How People Change,” noting that a literal interpretation of Scripture circumvents the personhood of Christ and His saving work. What’s in an interpretation method? According to Tripp—your salvation.

This is the paramount point at hand: the Reformers did not interpret the Bible grammatically, objectively, exegetically, or literally at any point; they interpreted the Bible through the dual prism of  “reality” seen in God’s holiness and our evil. The only objective truth is the person of Christ leading to a mere subjective experience of His power and  grace manifestations. Hence, many Reformed purists in our day embodied in the New Calvinist movement speak of, “spiritual growth in seeing our own evil as set against the holiness of God.” Therefore, commands in the Bible become part of the narrative that helps us see what we are unable to do rather than commands to be obeyed. We merely seek to see, and wait for the subjective experience of “vivification.” The seeing is the “mortification.” Reformed theologians like Michael Horton explain this as a continual re-experience of our original baptism as we perpetually revisit the same gospel that saved us “afresh.”

This reduces the Christian life to experiences of perpetual rebirth found in Eastern concepts Plato borrowed for “practical life application.”  This is the foundation of Historical Redemptive hermeneutics born of Reformed purism.  This is also the interpretive method that is all of the rage in our day through programs like BibleMesh.

This is not the natural bent towards interpreting truth. We are wired to interpret truth objectively, and grammatically—tools like allegory and parables notwithstanding. This is why Reformed purism dies a social death from time to time throughout history. Thus, this metaphysical anomaly experiences “rediscovery” and “resurgence” movements. Be certain of the following: this is the New Calvinist movement in our day, and in essence, a return to the exact same viral Gnosticism that plagued the New Testament church with this caveat added: we by no means possess the doctrinal intestinal fortitude of the first century church.

Ground Zero: The 1970 Resurgence

1970 is ground zero for the present landscape of American Christianity.  In that year, two movements emerged. Since colonial times, the third resurgence of Reformed purism was born through a project called the Australian Forum. In that same year, Dr. Jay E. Adams, a hybrid of Calvinism and Historical Grammatical interpretation, launched the biblical counseling movement. His movement was predicated on the competence of enabled congregants to counsel each other through the deepest of human problems. Adams also recognized the simple concept of anthropology and its relationship to helping people. Because all humans are created by God, what works well for the unsaved should work even better for the saved. If unsaved people who don’t violate their consciences are happier, this should also aid Christians in their walk with God. Bad ideas are simply bad for everyone, the ultimate need for eternal salvation notwithstanding. But that doesn’t mean you throw out the unsaved baby with the bath water of practicality. And in addition, does practicality show forth the wisdom of God and thereby point people to God? Should God not know what makes people tick? Moreover, what is the authority for interpreting human existence? Philosophy,  or the Bible?

Adams’ biblical construct produced astounding conclusions, especially in areas where a medical model covered for escape mechanisms that create another reality for realties one may not like. If Bob is in big trouble, he merely becomes Ted, or maybe even Jane. This is a bad idea for Christians. Adams created a dichotomy between salvation and the Christian life. He believed in the utter incompetence of man to save himself, but abundant competence in colaboring with God for a victorious life over sin. With Adams, it is about CHANGE for the glory of God and the happiness of His people.

Thus, with the resurgence of Reformed purism at the same time, the battle lines were drawn, and a confusion of conflict emerged in the biblical counseling movement. The one predicated on the utter incompetence of man whether saved or unsaved, and the other predicated on the competence of the Spirit-filled Christian. The one predicated on Christians only being righteous positionally, and the other predicated on the idea that Christians are also practically righteous. The one predicated on contemplationism, the other predicated on obedience. This is the civil war that has raged in the biblical counseling movement from its conception until this day. It is for the most part a civil war of servility, lest two different gospels be separate, and careerism maimed.

The Forum doctrine quickly found footing at Westminster Seminary in Pennsylvania where Adams was a professor. The initial vestige of relevant infection was found in Dr. John “Jack” Miller, also a professor at Westminster Seminary. True, Westminster was founded by Reformed purists that believed the many acts of Christ’s righteousness were part of the atonement, not just His one act of death on the cross, but for the most part, the Reformation’s metaphysical anomalies had reduced Westminster to moderate Reformed ideology. If you will, a hybrid Calvinism that interpreted reality grammatically.

Miller changed that. While the doctrine was in the process of suffering a brutal death in Reformed Baptist circles by moderate Calvinists, being labeled as antinomianism, it found resurgent life at Westminster in Miller’s Sonship Theology incubator. The forerunner of this doctrine in Reformed Baptist circles, Jon Zens, discovered the doctrine  in the early years of the Forum while he was a student at Westminster. He actually became heavily involved with the Forum in the 70’s, convincing them that everyday Covenant Theology would be a hindrance to infecting Christianity with the newly rediscovered disease. From that conversation came the birth of New Covenant Theology circa 1981. It was a significant addition to the present repertoire of elements that confuse the real crux of the issue. Till this day, few moderate Calvinists make this historical connection between New Covenant Theology and New Calvinism.

But it was a particular mentoree of Miller’s that saw Adam’s construct as a threat to the successful spread of the Forum’s rediscovery: Dr. David Powlison. Powlison, working closely with Miller, developed the Dynamics of Biblical Change which is a counseling construct based on Reformation purism. This became the counseling model for Westminster’s biblical counseling wing known as The Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF). Later, there was a proposal for an organization that would certify counselors for CCEF. Adams was opposed to it as it smacked of the kind of elitism that he was trying to avoid. Remember, Adams was all about the competence of the average congregant to counsel. But Purist Reformed ideology is all about elitism because Gnosticism is all about elitism; the two go hand in glove.

Show Me the Money

Gnosticism rejects the average man’s ability to understand reality. So, assimilation for purposes of functionality is the main concern; ie., that the masses are controlled by indoctrination that is not necessarily understood, but invokes behavioral goals. But another primary goal is the spiritual caste system that provides millions of dollars for elitist educators. In essence, these are the professional Sophists produced by Platonism. This is why Gnosticism always dwells in the upper socioeconomic strata, as Phillip J. Lee notes in the aforementioned book, Gnosticism is a rich man’s game. CCEF certified counselors are extremely rare in zip codes of average incomes less than $80,000 per year, and nowhere to be found in zip codes of $50,000 or less. This of course, is very telling. Their conferences require registration fees of  $300.00 per person or more.

Meanwhile, NANC Happens

Powlison followed a classic mode of Gnostic deception by seeking to be identified with the persona of Adams’ successful counseling construct while despising the doctrine as a supposed false gospel. To be more specific, he wanted to gain ground by being identified with Adams’ success, and with a deliberate long-term goal of destroying the historical grammatical approach to biblical counseling.

Unfortunately, and to the chagrin of Adams, the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors was born (NANC). “Nouthetic” counseling was a Greek term introduced by Adams and often associated with him. Therefore, Powlison et al were able to be identified with the tsunami like personal transformations of the Adams reformation as a jump start for their own construct, and with a long-term goal of destroying the competition. They did this so effectively that Adams was often thought of as the founder of NANC, which was never true.

Consequently, Adams experienced an increased persecution from within the contemporary biblical counseling movement that he founded. His counseling was dubbed “first generation” biblical counseling and referred to as nothing more than “producing better Pharisees.” I believe this will go down in church history as one of the most grotesque betrayals ever perpetrated on a man in the name of friendship and the gospel.

The fallout in our day is indicative of the spiritual carnage that has always been left in the path of Gnosticism. While the spiritual peasantry cries out in hopes that the elite will police their own, the Nicolaitans of our day laugh all the way to the bank. After all, subjective reality is messy business and peasants just don’t understand. The biblical counseling community has founded organizations who seek to keep them out of court and prevent the obscuring of cash flow. The New Calvinism movement is intrinsically connected by a complicated and massive network of  associations—in many cases disagreeing with each other on “secondary issues.” A prime example is the G.R.A.C.E mediatory organization headed by Boz Tchividjian.  While playing the part of advocates for the spiritually abused, they are professionally networked with serial abusers of the worst sort.

Conclusion

The biblical counseling movement embodied in New Calvinism is nothing more or less than a return to the exact same Gnosticism that plagued the first century church. The fact that Eastern mysticism is often the application can be seen by what happened at a Passion Conference where the who’s who of New Calvinism led the audience in a form of Transcendental Meditation. Tim Keller, a co-mentoree of Miller along with David Powlison in the early days, is a staunch advocate of Eastern mysticism as a practical application for Christian living.

CCEF, and NANC are the epitome of false advertising. They advertise the gospel and change, but believe in neither. Like the father of their faith, St. Augustine,  it is Plato they trust. The banner over them is not love, but a sense of elitist entitlement to be paid and supported by the unenlightened masses for their own good. Sheep that don’t get it are more than expendable; the one in 99 is expendable for the 99 who know their place and pay the Shamans their tax deductible dues.

They invent and sell orthodoxy, the layman’s manual for experiencing perpetual rebirth. On the one hand, there is a Christianity that posits the living water that is received once, the onetime washing, and the moving on to maturity from the beginning principles of baptisms, and then there is the gospel of our day that posits the perpetual rebirth of Eastern mysticism.

But this is not a mere disagreement about how to live the Christian life. How we see the Christian life reveals the gospel that we really believe. When our salvation is not a finished work, something must be done by us to finish it—even if that means doing nothing with intentionality. NOT living by a list of do’s and don’ts is the work that keeps us saved. It is playing it safe by hiding our talents in the ground and giving the Lord back what He originally gave.

Christians would do well to choose which gospel they will live by in our day.  At this point, that conversation has not arrived yet. And to be sure, many do not want the conversation to be clarified to that point. The gospel itself has become the elephant in the room.

paul

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