Paul's Passing Thoughts

How To Debate a Calvinist: Part 3 – By John Immel

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

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

Click here for part one  Click here for part two

 

What we have just witnessed over the last two parts of this series is how Calvinists use the various arguments to compel you down a specific line of thinking. Paul Dohse’s discussion on the redefinition of Biblical terms is fantastic because Calvinists manipulate definitions so that they can define an alternate reality. They presume the right to define words however they choose so that it fits whatever narrative they are after, and that narrative is always driving you towards your subordination to whatever their dictates are.

In part one of this series I discussed the Orthodoxy Happy Dance- their ability to take the definition of orthodoxy and make it mean as much or as little as they choose. Whatever the historical or intellectual pedigree happens to be, they reserve the right to pick and choose which parts serve their purpose. In the end, this makes orthodoxy a myth because it ends up having no objective definition.

Then we talked about how Calvinist use Universal Guilt, Dictated Good, and Incompetent Masses as intellectual standards to control how you interact with them. If you are incompetent then you are guilty, therefore they have the moral right to compel you to a given action.

But another problem is revealed the moment Calvinists encounter anybody with any ambition or anyone who refuses to suborn to the collective. Therefore, in order for them to maintain their control over you, they must force you to find your identity in the collective, which means you must be willing to abandon any personal ambition or notion of your individuality.

Collective Conformity is effectively “political correctness.” It is a powerful force in service to tyranny- when somebody decides that the definition of the collective, and failure to abide by the collective, can be met with some sort of social force. When you want select people to think you are good, when you crave their affirmation, when you play by their rules so that they might commend you as a worker of God, this is collective conformity.

But living for someone else’s affirmation means you cannot value your own moral and intellectual judgment. You are irreparably harming your critical powers. Thinking is your human responsibility. Despotism gets its energy from mentally weak mobs. Despots must oppress ideas because thy must render the human mind impotent. Mystic despotism thrives because people feel it more important to conform to the group than to think for themselves.

Here are some of the common arguments that people use to force you into social conformity. In general, these arguments are designed to imply that the individual is epistemologically and physiologically dangerous; that individuals are predators; that individuals are without real purpose; that individuals are selfish.

 

The “Lone Wolf” Argument
It is designed to conjure the image that wolves are effectively predators. Therefore if you are by yourself you are necessarily a predator. This is known as the “loaded question fallacy.” To defend the individual is to defend a harmful instinct. If I reject the notion that just because I am an individual that I am dangerous, I am immediately considered dangerous.

But more importantly, it is an argument that is not based in reality. The fact is, wolves are highly territorial pack animals. If you are a wolf, you are running in a pack. Wolves are governed by the “alpha” male and female, so wolves live in a hierarchical structure. If a wolf finds itself alone it is because it has been driven away by the pack because it is weak or diseased or infirm. Lone wolves are not dangerous peak predators, they are the ones driven out.

If you want a better analogy of a lone wolf, look at the preachers who used to be part of the Calvinist “in” crowd but suddenly find themselves on the outs after having run afoul of whatever the accepted behavior is as determined by the other “alpha” male preachers in that crowd. Or consider those who have had to resign their posts after being exposed for some sort of sexual indiscretion. Those are the lone wolves still trying to vie for a position back in the Calvinist collective.

The other problem this argument brings is that it presumes that a pack isn’t predatory; that if you are part of a group you won’t do predatory things. Wolves by definition are predators. They survive by preying on weaker animals and consuming them. They hunt in packs. Jesus rebuked the Jewish religious establishment by calling them “ravenous wolves”.   Jesus condemned the elites for being predatory. It was a group-think problem.

The fact is that mobs are far more dangerous than individuals are to civil society. That includes the mobs of pastors and elders at your local Calvinist church. Not only do they feed off of each other’s affirmation and feed off the benevolence of the laity, but the moment you decide that you don’t want to absorb whatever they say, suddenly they put you outside the pack, and yet somehow you are the predator. This is a fantastic inversion of reality.

 

The “No Man Is an Island” Argument
This is also known as the “Out There By Yourself” argument. It is designed to package self-sufficiency with subjectivism.   If you are subjectively driven, that must mean you are intellectually in error. This is designed to inspire you to believe that individuality is the same as isolation. Isolation implies immorality.

If you are isolated you have nothing to tell you that you are wrong. The implication is that the reason for individuality is to hide from a moral critique. You will see this accusation a lot. The thinking is that if you were part of a group, the group would be able to tell you what you are unwilling to hear. Somehow groups can’t be wrong because they borrow collective morality from among the individuals.

It also implies that individuality is a danger and a liability. You cannot know the truth because your mind is in isolation. Isolation is selfish. Your gifts and talents are not being used for other people. This is erroneous because it assumes that people are entitled to what you have and what you are.

The real disaster of this logic is that it eradicates personal boundaries. One of the reasons that people end up so exploited in church situations is because they are told they have no right to set a boundary on what other people can consume in their life. So what you end up with is no ability to say, “No, you are not allowed to do that to me. You are not allowed to take that from me.” And then you are not allowed to complain about the exploitation because, by definition, your existence is at the disposal of the collective.

 

“The Princess and the Pea” Argument
One day they preacher comes up to you and says he is concerned about you. And since his job is to speak hard things to you, he is going to tell you that you haven’t been to church in a while, and he is very concerned about your soul. The person who hears this sort of reluctantly acknowledges this and agrees that, no, it’s probably not a good thing that he hasn’t been in church as much as he should.

This person has just conceded the premise that his attendance at church had to do with comfort. If this is you then it is highly likely that, as you are trying to figure out how to pull yourself out of this local Calvinist juggernaut of destruction, you have very real intellectual disagreements. You have very specific reasons as to why you are no longer interested in being in attendance at this church. But you haven’t yet had the courage to get around to getting away from church because you’ve been so conditioned to being there.

So you go out and start shopping around to figure out if there is someplace else you would like to go; a place that is more agreeable to you. But by letting the preacher frame the conversation around your comfort you are basically saying that your reasons for not wanting to be here has nothing to do with rational objections.

What he is really saying is that your theological pedigree is related to your feelings. This is a fundamental problem. You are not having a “feeling” objection, you are having an intellectual objection, and he is trivializing your objection.

This is why I call this “The Princess and the Pea” argument. In the classic fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson, the princess’ claim to authenticity was validated by her sensitivity to being able to feel a pea under twenty mattresses. What she “felt” was more important than any tangible qualities of a princess. Likewise, pastors will trivialize your motives for leaving by focusing on your heightened sensitivities rather than tangible intellectual reasons. Comfort = feelings = listening to doctrines that are pleasing.

Now that they have framed your objections in terms of “comfort” what they are really saying to you is that if you are leaving because you are uncomfortable, what they are telling you is that you are unwilling to hear the hard truth. This is the point where they trot out the passages of scripture about people gravitating towards other doctrines because of having “itching ears”. See, if you were a “true Christian” you would want to hear hard truths. You would embrace the uncomfortable. You would submit to what we have here because we will discuss your pervasive depravity.

You must push back on this assumption. You must not let them frame the argument in terms of feelings. You must let them know that the reason you are leaving is because you have rational intellectual disagreements with their orthodoxy. Any claim made about you not liking hard truth is really a strategy to appeal to your pride. It is designed to get you to justify yourself by declaring your willingness to suffer.

Hard truth = things that are painful.

Things that you don’t like elevates suffering to a virtue. They want you to concede that if you were really interested in growing spiritually, you would be willing to stay and listen to what they have to tell you. They want you to concede that truth is painful; that you shouldn’t get any benefit out of it. They want you to concede that individuals are weak because they don’t like pain. They want to equate rejection of pastors as rejection of truth. This is what you must resist at all costs!

 

The Cramped Little Lives Argument
The implication with this argument is that your individual life equals “small”; community life equals “big”. This is another example of the alternate reality they want you to accept. How many times have you heard somebody say that you should do something that is bigger than yourself? They want to imply that individual life is petty and collective life is significant. It presumes that importance comes from collective consciousness. Something is only important if lots of people want to do it. A failure to embrace the collective consciousness is a failure of your moral existence.

But the reality is exactly the opposite. Community life equals borrowed existence. Remember, Calvinist preachers have to borrow their authority, they have to borrow their righteousness, and they have to borrow somebody else’s mind. So any time they are in the business of telling you that you have to borrow the collective life to have significance, what they are really saying is you have to embrace somebody else’s vision to empower your life. That isn’t big, that’s small. If that is true of you, you just told me that you are vacant inside. It means you do not have the individual energy to go out and identify virtues and values and pursuits that are worthy of your existence.

 

The Gossip and Slander Quicksand
Most people know they want intellectual independence, but then they encounter one of these arguments, so they bounce back and forth trying to decide how much they conform to the group versus their own ambition. As long as they have conceded some level of their own incompetence and guilt, it is very hard to dig themselves out of this trap.

Some people start to “get it” at some point and genuinely push back against the arguments that seek to keep them part of the collective. This is where Calvinists begin to accuse you of gossip and slander. But remember, since they are in control of reality, they get to decide what constitutes gossip and slander. As long as they don’t like what you happen to say to somebody else, as far as they are concerned you are gossiping. Trying to get into a “Biblical” discussion about the actual definitions of gossip and slander is useless.

But Calvinists reprobates who call themselves preachers only want silence on the true things. They don’t want to talk about when they are actually committing evil. They don’t want anyone calling to account their moral virtue.

 

The “I Don’t Like Your Tone” Argument
There are a couple variations on this. “What you say might be true, but how you say it drives men away.” Or, “Humble people don’t talk that way.” “You are proud/arrogant!” These are all variations about tone. The premise is that they get to determine what is the right way to talk. It is an attempt to invalidate your argument because you have some perceived character flaw.

Understand this; when they start objecting to your tone, they have no other objection. It is their last gambit to authority. It sets up their judgment as the standard of correct discussion, and if you concede that your tone might have been wrong, you have just conceded their authority. If they are right about your tone then why aren’t they right about the subject of your objection? If you accept the premise, they can then dismiss or reject anything that does not fit their standards.

I will tell you the truth: you will chase your tail trying to become socially qualified. The moment you concede that someone else has the right to determine how you talk, you will end up in this endless cycle of trying to meet some standard of conversational etiquette that you can never accomplish because they will constantly change the standard to meet their own expectations. It is a powerful method of social control. They can eliminate any scrutiny by dictating qualifications.

 

The “You Are Bringing Harm to the Cause of Christ” Argument.
This is the implication that by being so visible in your disagreement with leadership that you will do irreparable damage to the church’s reputation. As a result, young people will want to have nothing to do with Christianity because of the strife and contention they see.

Every time I hear some variation of this argument, the more I realize how much the doctrines of determinism and pervasive depravity are really an intellectual fraud. If you are a Calvinist, is there any human agency in God’s salvific plan? The answer is clearly, no. It does not matter what your favorite Calvinist personality stands up and says. They are useless. Period.

That being said, does it matter what I say? Does it matter that I disagree with the pastor on a certain issue? No. No matter what you say or how you say it or the tone that you use, it is irrelevant if there is no human agency involved in salvation. According to Calvinism, if young people are going to hell, it is because God wants them to.

 

How then do you rebut your Calvinist tormentors?

  • Never debate scripture. There is no persuasion – only authority.
  • Never debate authority. You don’t have any, and they will never recognize it if you do.
  • Refuse to accept their moral judgment of you. If pervasive depravity is true, they don’t get to borrow morality in order to condemn you. By accepting their moral judgment you are framing the interaction that their judgment is the one to which you aspire.
  • Reverse the frame. The moment they lob a moral accusation against you, call them to account for their moral depravity. By their own admission, they are the ones who are evil, so call them on it.
  • Never apologize or equivocate on independent judgment.
  • Debate reality. Never let them get away with redefining reality.
  • Defend individuality.

Moral depravity is a central doctrine. They have no intellectual integrity when they claim any moral credit. I understand the struggle people have with this because Calvinists have done such a masterful job of claiming the moral high ground. But what I am telling you to do is to double-down on their own moral condemnation. Take the doctrine of depravity seriously, and remind them of it every time they talk. Say it out loud, “The only reason you say that is because you are evil.” Never let them pretend they have moral worth. They can make no vicarious claim to Jesus’ righteousness.

If you have an intellectual conclusion, don’t apologize. When they accuse you of being an individual and thinking for yourself, say, “Thank you.” “I’m glad you recognized that.” “I’m glad that your pervasive depravity allowed you to see truth for a moment.”

Any time they want to dance back into what “the Bible says,” stop them. You say, “No, that’s not what the scripture says. Your sin-corrupted evil mind projects into scripture.” As a free man, my judgment is effective.  I reject the absurd moral judgment that comes with the accusation that humans make mistakes. Human understanding is not measured by omniscience.

In America we are being led down a path where the rugged individualism that is implicit in the understanding of the U.S. Constitution is under full assault. We must become good at defending ourselves and the right to be ourselves and the right for others to be themselves.   Individualism is not a liability; it is a virtue!

…To be continued.


Click here for part one  Click here for part two

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

How To Debate A Calvinist: Part 2 – By John Immel

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

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

Click here for part one  Click here for part three

 

To have a rebuttal for the Calvinist juggernaut of destruction, you have to learn to argue the central roots of their claims. They want to argue for the right to an alternate reality, one that is not this reality as we know it and can observe for ourselves here on this earth at this time. They will use different argumentative techniques to accomplish this, top of the list being making a claim to “orthodoxy”, which is ultimately a claim to authority.

But as we saw in part one, their definition of orthodoxy has no identity, because at any given moment they can make whatever claim they want about the source of that orthodoxy.   You end up with endless “both/and” propositions, which is a violation of Aristotle’s Law of Identity.

 

The “Objective” Truth
When you call them on the fact that they are not appealing to an objective truth the conversation goes something like this – In my comments to Paul Dohse on Paul’s Passing Thoughts in regard to GraceWriterRandy I made the following observations:

“No matter how often you peg Randy into a Calvinist corner he will waive the magic wand of his whim and side step the issue because HE doesn’t believe that. He is not intellectually accountable to any objective standard. No matter how many scriptures you stack in service to illustrating progressive justification he will never concede. No matter how many times you quote Calvin, or Luther or any of the Neo Cal luminaries to illustrate the doctrinal error endemic to the protestant house of cards he will pretend they are some fringe inconsequential distributors of non essential doctrines.”
(source: https://paulspassingthoughts.com/2017/04/28/the-protestant-house-of-cards/comment-page-3/#comments)

To suggest that one is not intellectually accountable to any objective standard are fighting words to Calvinists! When you begin challenging the Calvinist infrastructure of authority that’s when they start to get fussy. But it is very important you understand the intellectual “sleight-of-hand” they will use to attempt to fool you.

After making the above comment on the blog, this was Randy’s response:

“John
A. I am intellectually accountable to one objective standard and one objective standard alone.
B. That standard is the Word of God interpreted according to widely accepted principles of interpretation.
C. It is that standard I intend to rely on.”

Let us dissect part A. My challenge is that Randy is not intellectually accountable to an objective standard. Randy’s rebuttal – he is accountable to the “objective” Word of God; specifically, a book. Here is the sleight-of-hand: Because there is a book that is metaphysically existent, the contents of the book qualifies as objective. Because the book exists, he is accountable to something that everyone can perceive, therefore he is accountable to the objective. Because the book contains God’s words, Randy’s mind is accountable to its content. So then it logically follows that Randy’s ideas are the product of an objective standard. The book exists, therefore the rational standard is objective.

But just because somebody thumps their modern-day ESV doesn’t make the ideas extracted from the words objective any more than touching a rock makes a sculptor understand how to create a statue. Randy is doing what Calvinist defenders do; they are mixing and matching metaphysical expectations with epistemological conclusions. This is fundamental error. He is casually overlooking the rational individual processes required to grasp the “objective” words written on the page.

Consider the number of cognitive conceptual integrations that you must perform in your mind to get to any doctrinal conclusions. How many conceptual integrations must one go through just to get to the point of literacy? How many things to children need to learn to do intellectually before they understand the concept of “See Spot run”? And we haven’t even gotten to the point of them understanding “For God so loved the world,” and the implications behind reading a Bible passage.

This is the sleight-of-hand that Calvinists do constantly. They want to pretend that there is no individual conceptual understanding, any individual cognitive process, therefore this “Word of God” leaps fully-formed into their mind, and then they are appealing to something that is “objective.” This is absurd.

Randy is conflating literacy with objectivity, and that is foolishness. How can something be “objective” that requires the ability to read – which is a highly subjective process – before the standard can even be realized? The fact is, literacy is just the beginning of the long epistemological and conceptual chain through which an individual must progress before they end up with a formal doctrinal declaration. There is an ocean of intellectual conclusions that you must get to before you arrive at any advanced doctrinal assertion.

Or said another way, hundreds of highly individual cognitive evolutions are integrated with incalculable subjective conclusions long before a person can declare intellectual solidarity with any writing. They have no awareness of the individual decisions they make to arrive at their conclusion. This is what this looks like:

At the end of the day, what they think is the definition of “Biblical,” which is why you never gain any traction in any conversation with a Calvinist, because what they think is the authority. Then to add insult to epistemological injury, they think that what they think is “objective.” This is the fraud underneath the entire body of logic. This is why they fight so hard over the right to interpret.

Let’s go on to part B of Randy’s response.

“That standard is the Word of God interpreted according to widely accepted principles of interpretation.”

The obvious question should be, widely accepted by whom? This betrays that Calvinists really think that objectivity equals consensus. Historical precedent. I believe what I think everybody else has always believed. Anybody who is anybody has always believed this, therefore this is accepted principle. So, truth is determined by democratic majority? Randy is actually saying that his so-called “objective standard” is determined subjectively. The moment he claimed “widely accepted principles”, he unwittingly inserted subjectivity into the equation.

This argument is not unique to GraceWriterRandy. He is useful as an anecdotal example, but you will see this same argument leveled over and over every time you attempt to engage a Calvinist in this type of discussion. But this is the central theme of Calvinism; the dirty little secret of their preconception of orthodoxy.

Reformation theology is a commitment to “what everyone has always believed.” This is the classic myth in historic Christian theology, that somehow everyone always believed all this stuff. This is simply not true. It is only true in the alternate realty to which they are constantly trying to compel you. But the reality is that there has never been a timeframe in human history where every Christian on the planet agreed with every single doctrine.

Let’s just take a cursory look at interpretive events in history:

  • From the 1st century to roughly the 3rd century there was no “Bible” to interpret.
  • From the 6th century to the 13th century, allegory was the primary interpretive method.
  • Systematic theology of the Wayne Grudem kind did not show up until roughly the 14th century.
  • Modern higher critical methodology (the endless parsing of Greek roots that so many Bible teachers are fond of) doesn’t show up until Friedrich Schleiermacher in the 18th century.

So the question then is, which one of these interpretive methods is the definitive interpretive standard? The reality is that no Calvinist can answer this, because at the end of the day this is an intellectual black hole; if you fall into this you don’t get out.

We haven’t even begun to discuss the long convoluted process of translating from Hebrew to Greek to Latin to German to English and the dozens of English variants that we currently have in the modern age. We haven’t considered the part when a Protestant king decided to take a red pen to a whole collection of books and make the current 66-book canon the standard for current Christianity. (In reality, the books know as “The Apocrypha” were originally cut out because they would have made the Bible to expensive to publish.)

So how many leaps of infallible logic does a Calvinist have to make to arrive at the notion that they, sitting in the 21st century in America speaking English with a laptop-based Strong’s concordance, have to arrive at the final recitation of truth for all mankind? Frankly the arrogance here is stunning.

If we are really going to arrive at truth by democratic majority, then a billion Chinese can’t be wrong. Buddha and Confucius must have been right. The earth must still be flat because that truth was widely accepted.

Lastly let’s look at part C to GraceWriterRandy’s reply.

“It is that standard I intend to rely on.”

So Calvinists like to pretend they are intellectual giants and autonomous thinkers, but the central forum of theology and orthodoxy is intellectual subordination. Do you see the fundamental problem? Randy wants to pick what he decides is the authority.

Here’s the problem; if you are a Calvinist and you preach submission to authority, you have no right to the words “I think.” The moment those words come out of your mouth, you have betrayed your own body of doctrine. What you should say is, “I submit my mind to John Piper”, or C.J. Mahaney, or Al Mohler, or any one among the number of self-appointed authoritarian “scholars.” But that ultimately leads to the problem of, to whose mind am I submitting? This question they never want to answer.

In Western thought, the intellectual pedigree follows this progression: We begin with the Pythagoreans and the soul/body dichotomy. Next is Plato followed by Plotinus, the one who grafted in the whole Pythagoean idea of the soul/body dichotomy into mainstream Christian orthodoxy. It is the idea that flesh is so overwhelmingly evil and totally unredeemable. This is the origination of the concept of pervasive total depravity. This becomes Augustinian pervasive depravity, and from Augustine we go to Luther, and from Luther we go to Calvin.

So here is the dirty little secret – Calvinists are not independent thinkers!

All they have done is become masters of the logic of better minds. (As evil as Calvin was, he was not a stupid man. What he was able to formulate, and the systematic presentation of his ideas, is an unrivaled intellectual achievement.) All intellectual roads intersect at Luther and Calvin. Their root doctrines are the Heidelberg Disputation, which was the summary version of Reformed Theology, and Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion, the formal presentation of Reformed Theology. This is the heart and soul of all modern-day Christianity.

Every argument – from Al Mohler or Ligon Duncan or C.J. Mahaney or Tulian Tchividjian, to your local pastor to your mini-tyrant overseeing your care group – is not an original thought. The origin of their thinking is found in Luther and Calvin. This is why they accept no proof but their own proof. They accept no definition other than their own because their mind is the doctrinal plumb line. They presume that they understand everything in the Bible correctly and you don’t. Their singular rational standard is their own doctrinal assumption. They reserve the sole right to determine what is “Biblical.”

Since there is no such thing as objective truth, how then do Calvinist persuade? They don’t persuade; they compel. How can you make a rational argument when your fundamental premise is that the mind of man is corrupt? So they must force people to agree, and they do this with “authority.” You are universally guilty – of what? Sin. And because everybody is guilty, they need someone to dictate what “good” is. Those who dictate do so over people who are incompetent – those who are intellectually incapable of understanding the truths that they understand. And the underlying argument that ties all of these assumptions together is an appeal to authority.

A few bold men will suggest that they have authority by virtue of their existence, but most people like to hedge. It goes like this – “I don’t have authority, but that book over there has the authority.” They borrow the authority from the Bible. Here is how you respond to this nonsense – books don’t have force; men use force. The Bible doesn’t have any authority. It cannot reach out and swat you on the head or lead you blindfolded to a mass grave and shoot you in the back.

Any appeal to authority is really an appeal to the moral right to use force. This is the key concept – moral authority. This is the pretense that Calvinists use with impunity; the expectation of their own moral virtue.

But if man is pervasively depraved, and all men commit sin, then how can pervasively depraved men make any claim to morality?

Here is how they get around this. Individual men will sin, but groups of men will sin less because they are in a group. All the men in the group will somehow keep each other accountable. Preachers are pretty good at packaging and marketing this. We kind of like the concept that this group of elders is somehow mutually responsible in keeping each other from sinning. They pretend that they are innocent bystanders in this cosmic predestination of truth. They didn’t want the responsibility, but lo and behold, the mere reality that they are where they are is evidence that God ordained them to this burden of leadership.

But here is the sleight-of-hand. The revelation is the authority, and they are mere servants of the authority.   These mere servants are claiming to have an exemption from the very moral corruption that obligates you to their control.

But the reality is if you believe in pervasive depravity, you still have to overcome depravity. So the intellectual hedge goes like this. Individuals are flawed. Therefore to prevent individual error, we will join a group for checks and balances. In essence, we in a group will borrow each other’s righteousness. Just a few paragraphs ago I told you they want to borrow the authority of the Bible and apply it to themselves. Now they are going to actually borrow the righteousness of other people.

But do you see the glaring problem with this assertion?

If, because of pervasive depravity, man doesn’t have any righteousness, how can you borrow what someone doesn’t have?

How did the group arrive at the substance of ethical action? If you start with the premise that no man can know what “good” is, how is that you get together and suddenly have an understanding of what “good” is? Someone had to identify it. Someone had to measure good action so there was a qualification to join the group. This is the bait-and-switch they constantly put on; the endless violation of the Law of Identity. One minute they are immoral, wretched beasts, and the next minute they have become part of the group, and they are now moral people borrowing each other’s righteousness.

Reformed theology says that man overtly rejects good, but somehow a group of preachers possess good. So riddle me this: if man is hostile to God, how can a group of men be benevolent towards God? If man cannot measure his own moral action, how can he measure a group’s moral consensus? If individual man is a moral and intellectual criminal, how does a group become rational giants and paragons of virtue?

The answer: It is insane to argue that a group of totally depraved men are qualified to define morality. The folks in the asylum are not less insane because they are in the same geographic location. Group morality means morality is proximity.

Here are the takeaways:

  • Calvinists evade reality because reality is their enemy.  If “A” is “A”, then their doctrine collapses.
  • Calvinists can make no claim to objective truth.
  • Calvinists must evade their own intellectual processes.
  • Calvinists are not independent thinkers. You should not fear their arguments.
  • Calvinists do not have morality, so you should never fear their moral condemnation.
  • Calvinists have no authority because they do not have the right to compel you to think anything.
  • Calvinists are morally bankrupt.

Here is a test: The next time you hear a Calvinist begin talking about how much of a wretched sinner he is, agree with him. Then watch how fast they argue their own moral virtue.

…To be continued


Click here for part one  Click here for part three

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

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

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

Click here for part two Click here for part three

“Have you read Calvin’s Institutes today?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Algebra of Authority

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

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

Here’s what happened when Protestantism showed up:

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

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

This is crucial for you to understand: Authority = Force

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

So then how do you debate a Calvinist?

The answer is: You challenge the roots.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disciplines of Philosophy

– Metaphysics

– Epistemology

– Ethics

– Politics

– Aesthetics (art)

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


The Orthodoxy Happy Dance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But be forewarned:

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

…To be continued


Click here for part two  Click here for part three

2017 TANC Conference Archives

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on August 25, 2017

Videos from all sessions are now available!!!
(Updated 8/27/2017)

Conference Wrap-Up Video (YouTube)

Susan Dohse – “In Search of the Biblical Eve”

Session 1
Session 2
Session 3
Video (YouTube)
Video (YouTube)
Video (YouTube)


Paul Dohse – “Protestantism’s Redefinition of Reality”

Session 1
Session 2
Session 3
Video (YouTube)
Video (YouTube)
Video (YouTube)


Andy Young – “A Historical Survey of the First Century Christian Assembly”

Session 1
Session 2
Session 3
Session 4
Video (YouTube)
Video (YouTube)

Video (YouTube)
Video (YouTube)


John Immel – “How To Debate a Calvinist”

Session 1
Session 2
Session 3
Session 4
Video (YouTube)
Video (YouTube)
Video (YouTube)
Video (YouTube)

 

%d bloggers like this: