Paul's Passing Thoughts

Pagan Thinkers Inspiration Found In Augustinian Aesthetics

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on November 23, 2017

As John Immel so successfully detailed for us in past TANC conferences, Augustinian orthodoxy (and ultimately authentic reformation Protestantism)  is a fusion of Christianity and ancient pagan philosophy. The theological pedigree can be traced from men like Thales and Pythagoras to Plato to Plotinus. So then it should come as no surprise that medeival cathedral builders paid homage to these pagan thinkers in the construction of their cathedrals since they were so influential in shaping the orthodoxy.

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God’s Acknowledgment of “Self” and the Full Circle of the Ten Commandments.

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on November 12, 2017

Originally Published May 25, 2016

“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” ~ Exodus 3:14

When Jehovah (I Am) identified Himself to Moses at the burning bush, He did more than just tell Moses His name. God made a philosophical statement about reality. God acknowledged His own existence, and in so doing He declared His intrinsic rights because of that existence. Furthermore, by acknowledging His own existence, God also recognized man’s existence. I believe this is at the heart of what the Bible means when it says that man was made in God’s image. We have a right to “self” because God has a right to “self”.   And for us to acknowledge our own right to “self” demands that we by extension must acknowledge others’ right to “self”, just as God acknowledges ours.

Do not misunderstand what I mean by “right to self”. I do not mean “self-ishness”, which the Bible clearly decries. “Selfishness” means to love oneself MORE than another. On the other hand, the Bible never teaches us to love others more than ourselves. Said another way, the Bible doesn’t teach that we should love ourselves LESS than others. It says we are to love others AS MUCH AS we love ourselves. Herein is the way in which we acknowledge another’s right to “self”, we treat others as WE would want to be treated. We see our own value as an individual and in so doing recognize that others have that same value. That value includes one’s right to existence and the means necessary to sustain that existence. The United States’ Declaration of Independence embodied that idea in this way:

“…We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…”

“That all men are created equal” is to recognize that all men have the same basic right to “self” and to existence, and that equality of individualism is preserved in the rights to seek those things which would secure that existence. No one ever has the right to violate another’s right to “self”, EVEN GOD!

In a conversation with a close friend the other day, I posed the question, “why is stealing wrong?” My friend replied that stealing is wrong because God said so; it’s in the Ten Commandments. Stealing is wrong because God said, “Thou shalt not steal.” I then followed up with the next question, “Why did God say stealing is wrong?” For this my friend had no answer. All he could say was, “I don’t know, I never thought about it before.”

You see for my friend, as it is with most people (particularly Christians), that God “said it” was enough for him. It was nothing more than an appeal to authority. An authority says this or that, so we must do it or not do it. This is the same reasoning that led to the slaughter of 6 million Jews while millions of others gave their tacit approval. People’s behaviors are the product of their assumptions, to paraphrase John Immel. No matter how irrational the behavior may seem, if you find the assumption you will find the reason for the action.

So why DID God say that stealing is wrong? It is a simple question, and once challenged to think, my friend finally did ask it of me. Stealing is wrong because it is a violation of “self”, of the individual. Our possessions are the products of our labors which are an investment of ourselves. Your labor is an exchange of value. You enter into that exchange with an employer who trades you wages for your investment of yourself. Those wages then in turn are exchanged for those things that are necessary to further your existence – food, clothing, shelter, etc. – and if there is any surplus, luxuries – car, mobile phone, flat screen TV, etc. So in reality, everything you produce – labor, wages, food, clothing, car, TV, etc. – is a product of you as an individual. For someone to steal those things from you is to violate “you” (self) because those things represent what the individual produced as a function of “self”. You have a right to them because you produced them because you have a right to “self”.

Contrary to what people/Christians are taught, the Bible is not a theological book. It is a philosophical book. And the Ten Commandments in particular are not simply an authoritative codification of do’s and don’ts. It is a philosophical statement from God to man about the value of the individual. It is a statement about how God values Himself, and it is a statement about how God values man. Conversely it is a statement of how man is to value God and how man is to value man. God’s very first statement to man is an appeal to God’s own sense of “self” and value. God as an individual. “I am God. I exist. I have value.” Therefore, the way we show God that we value Him is to have no other gods before Him! We do not make vain attempts to conceptualize God’s sense of “self” by making an image to represent that. We do not mock God’s name because His name is intrinsically tied to who He is. To violate God’s name is to violate who He is.

Man, too, has value as “self”. Therefore, we honor our parents, we don’t murder, we don’t commit adultery, we don’t steal, we don’t lie, and we don’t covet, not because God said so, but because we acknowledge that this would violate another person’s right to “self”. This is the basis for morality. It can be said then that the definition of morality is anything that does not violate God or man as “self”.

God’s command to not covet seems all-encompassing. The last commandment perfectly reduces everything down to the root motivation for all violations of “self”. And that is self-ISHNESS. A desire to usurp for oneself that which rightfully belongs to another. And as we have said before, that is a desire caused by Sin. The Bible describes Sin as an entity that seeks to control others. It seeks to master and enslave. It seeks to violate another for it’s own benefit, to wield control over another.

The New Testament offers another perspective on covetousness.

“For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” ~ Ephesians 5:5

“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:” ~ Colossians 3:5

The apostle Paul had a unique insight among the other apostles in that he was a certified expert on Jewish law. This perspective gave him an ability to draw parallels between Old Testament and New Testament concepts that the others did not. Peter even declared that many of the things which Paul taught were hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16).   In these two passages in particular, Paul sees covetousness as being nothing more than idolatry. I’m not exactly sure how he gets there since he doesn’t elaborate on it.

Still, it is an interesting piece to the puzzle. Consider that one of the Ten Commandments speaks to idolatry. When one thinks of graven images, one usually thinks of idolatry. But Paul seems to suggest that idolatry involves more than just “idol worship”. It is a violation of God as “self”. Covetousness is a violation of man as “self”. What Paul has done here is to show the intrinsic relationship between the two. To violate man is to violate God, and to violate God is to violate man. Do not misunderstand, I am in no way suggesting that man IS God. But I do want to point out that there is a mutual recognition between God and man with respect to existence.

So to violate the tenth commandment is to violate the first, and thus we have come full circle. The Ten Commandments then are not statutes in and of themselves. It is not a means for God to show us “filthy rotten sinners” just how “holy He is” and how “sinful we are.”  It is a full-orbed treatise on morality and existence. It is not a law for authority’s sake. It is God instructing us on reality. What we see in the Bible is that LOVE is the motivating factor in all of this. To love someone is to ascribe value to them. Perhaps this is the relationship between idolatry and covetousness. To idolize something is to objectify it, to assign value based on its desirableness to oneself instead of an individual’s intrinsic value as another individual.

Whatever the case may be, when we show love to God and others, we have thus fulfilled the whole law because in this way we demonstrate a like view of both man and God, and we see reality the way God sees it.

Andy

Rapture Fever – Guest Writer, John Immel

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on August 24, 2017

I was 17, (I think) at Fishnet, a Christian Woodstock, when I had my first serious conversation about end-time theology. I had that conversation with Hal Lindsey, a preacher who has made his living packaging and repackaging all things Second Coming. If memory serves I disagreed with his reading of a passage in Daniel. He was less than amused; he was the authority and I . . . wasn’t. My peon public objection was a threat to his livelihood. Preachers can never tolerate such things.

Back then I was under the delusion that preachers wanted to talk about the truth, about the ideas that shaped doctrine. It took me a long time to figure out preachers never have that motive. Certainly, had I understood this truth, Hal’s reaction to my question wouldn’t have surprised me.

Since I’m a hard-headed soul the interaction at Fishnet wasn’t the last unwelcome doctrinal conversation I would have with preachers and certainly not the last discussion about “biblical” eschatology.

(Eschatology, for those of you who don’t know, is the formal term for the Rapture, or End Time things.)

Anyway, the next notable time I entered this Rapture fray was during college: 1988 to be exact. A guy by the name of Edgar C. Whisenant, published a book titled: 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988.

The book was garbage but it still took the country by storm. (If Wikipedia is to be believed, it sold 4.5 million copies.) True story. I visited a friend of mine from college in Virginia and when her mother (we’ll, call her Mrs. H) heard me reject Whisenant’s book she cried for two days. Mrs. H. started praying and fasting to save my soul and read from 88 Reasons Why . . . every couple of hours to persuade me. When that didn’t work Mrs. H. gave me a Pre-Millennial systematic theology book by Dwight L. Pentecost. I pulled out of the driveway with Mr. H begging me to recant lest I be left behind.

So, you can imagine that if the country at large had this kind of emotional investment, the veritable belt buckle of the Bible Belt in Tulsa Oklahoma at ORU, my university of choice, was sweat soaked infestation: Rapture Fever burned across the quad in South Tulsa, like Pentecostal wild fire.

As a budding Theology student, and as an eager member of the ORU School of Theology, I joined the general academic outcry against the madness. A great college friend Bret Nicolson, now a pastor in Evansville Indiana, and I spent HOURS, in our ORU dorm rooms, arguing the merits and doctrines of the Rapture madness. Those many musings eventually culminated in me doing my Senior thesis on the subject. I titled the paper: “Are We Getting Out of This Place or Not.” Dr. Autry was not amused. The upside was, the Dwight L. Pentecost book was a primary source for my rebuttal. Mrs. H. if you are reading this, thanks. And oh, . . . told you so.

>snicker<

Anyway, in 1988 the furor over the Rapture was new to me, but now I’m older and a LOT wiser. Rapture Fever infects the masses about every decade or so. Resurfacing again in my life time in 1995 when the world was treated to the Tim LaHay, Left Behind series. Just for the record, the only thing that got left behind in the books and movies was any respectable biblical exegesis and acting. But hey, he sold a LOT of books: 65 Million copies.

(Evidently the Rapture is a growth business.)

And the next one that comes to mind was Herold Camping who said that May 24th 2011 was the day that big J was gonna whisk everyone away.

(Do you like how I did all that alliteration. That was kinda fun)

And then in 2017 there was an eclipse and Jesus is supposed to be coming back . . . again.

And of course, He didn’t. He hasn’t and he’s not this year, not next, or the one after that or the one after that. (Mark my words. If not I’ll be glad to say I told you so). But that won’t stop LOTS of people from making really, really bad life choices even in the face of insurmountable evidence that whomever is making the prediction the day or hour or year will be WRONG.

So how can this be? How can ostensibly, intelligent, 21st century people, with a full grasp of reality in 95% of their life get so screwed up in the other 5%.

Where does this Rapture Fever come from? And why does it cycle with such consistency?

I’ll tell you but, like Hal Lindsey and Mrs. H. and a host of other people I’ve encountered when talking about this subject, you won’t like the answer.

Spoiler alert. I’m gonna rip off the band aid.

The rise of Rapture doctrine is inversely proportional to social/political chaos.

Or said another way, the more people feel uncertain about the future the more helpless they feel in dealing with reality, the more they abandon reality and look for a way to escape.

Or said another way, the feebler people feel, the more they yearn for someone to erase reality.

Or said another way, the Rapture, the longing for the return of Jesus, is an existential punt.

I told you, you wouldn’t like it.

And we have seen this existential punt, drawn through history like a standing wave, cycling above and below the line as cultures and nations ebb and flow through civil stability and unrest.

And do you want to hear the real punchline to the joke: The cycle is exacerbated by historic Christian doctrines. The roots of Christian doctrine come from St. Augustine merging 2nd century Christianity with 3rd century Platonism. 90% of what you hear in church today, in the 21st century, is Augustine, which really means you’re listening to Plato.

Hey, don’t shoot the messenger. You can find this stuff out yourself in about 2 hours with that cool answer box called Google. Just think, I spent a LOT of money 20 years ago, to learn this stuff. You can get it for free.

Anyway, Augustinian dogmas turned the world into an insurmountably evil place, inhabited by a metaphysical aberration called Man and dubbed the cosmos malevolent.  The height of this worldview is in the Dark Ages: the Dark Ages were dark in principle because people during that time took Augustine seriously and the result was a nightmare come to life. Thankfully, the world was pulled out of the madness by Thomas Aquinas: he reintroduced Aristotle to the world, and within 400 years the Enlightenment sparked the Age of Reason, that culminated in the American Constitution. Political freedom released the human mind to thrive and soon the world was filled with light: the cosmos was intelligible, knowable and benevolent. And for a while, it seemed that Augustinian doctrines would slide into the primordial ooze like so many disastrous ideologies that came before.

“John, you are crazy! Your great learning is driving you insane! I don’t listen to Augustine, I listen to my preacher and he reads the BIBLE! He’s always telling me about the good that God does.”

Hold on there, Festus. I get it. I’m Dorothy pulling the curtain back revealing the man pulling the very real, very tangible levers. I’m that punk in 4th grade who told you that Santa Clause wasn’t real and it was mom and dad that put the presents under the tree. You might not like it but that doesn’t change the truth.

The intellectual pedigree goes like this (assuming you are a Protestant) Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Reformed Theology—a bunch of 17th century thinkers—the 20th century resurgence of Calvinism, your pastor. There isn’t any preacher in America that hasn’t been affected by the resurgence of these doctrines. And I’d bet money that for every time that preacher tells you about the “good” he hedges and fudges with three times the reiteration of your sin, and depravity and guilt, and weakness.

And so here we are in the 21st century, being fed a steady diet of metaphysical gloom and doom and the name of Christian righteousness. The more Augustinian doctrines of self-doubt and human impotence overtake a cultural mind the more people pine for a world that is not this world.

So, there you have it. Go to church on Sunday and hear how wretched you are, how bad the world is, how evil life is. Watch the news. Watch America—the single most amazing political achievement in human history—tearing itself apart; watch people do evil and call it good, do crazy things and call it sane. It is enough to make grown people turn to alcohol or religion. Any religion. Any mysticism that can show them how to get away from reality.

You think I’m being cynical?

Nope. Just making an observation.

The problem is that the very doctrines people turn to for comfort and hope are the same doctrines that affirm reality is an evil chaotic place that no man can tame or grasp.

Now you can follow the progression to Rapture Fever:

  • As the cycle of social unrest increases social instability, the more people go to mystical sources to find “answers.”
  • Preachers tell everyone that this world is evil and everyone is sinfully incompetent.
  • Psychological impotence grows in its own echo chamber of despair.
  • Eventually people accept the premise and punt.

Alakazam Poof! The Edgar C. Whisenant’s and the Tim LaHay’s and the Harold Camping’s of the world seem like the clarion call of sanity. Their voices affirm people’s greatest fears and satisfy their greatest hopes. Men will sell their souls for a glimpse of stability so if someone claims a special ability to reveal a new reality, they will lobotomize themselves to wipe out what they feel they have no power to master.

My greatest objection to Rapture doctrine has little to do with when it will or won’t happen. My objection has always been against the underlying attitude: the wholesale abdication of civil responsibility. It is much easier to breathe portents of divine retribution and pretend you will be somewhere else when the bad #$%@ happens.

It sounds Churchy for preachers to thump their Plexiglass podiums while reading the book of the Revelation and ranting about God pouring out Fire and Fury against whomever violates their moral sensibilities. But in the end it is all posturing. People infected with Rapture Fever have no intention of taking any action, responsibility, or initiative. “I’m getting out of here so I don’t care what happens next,” is their battle cry. They capitulate, pretending that the course of human events is beneath them. They abandon the responsibilities of self-government and flee the obligations of a representative republic without so much as a fair thee well. The result: they contribute to societal decline by sitting idly, waiting for a bus that never comes and then complain their world is turning to #$%@.

And it is for this abdication that those infested with Rapture Fever should be called to account by the doers, the able, the rational, the responsible, and the motivated.

Get in the game!

~ John Immel

The Disaster of Sacrifice as the Ultimate Moral Standard – Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on July 18, 2017

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

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


I left us with a cliffhanger – Augustine’s flaw in his doctrine.

I’m not going to tell you what that is in this session!

I know, I’m a mean speaker. But before we can get to Augustine’s flaw, I have to dig into this right here, as represented by the chart at the right. I discussed this at length last year at TANC 2015, and effectively I’ve been already talking about this in some fashion for the last five years. This is the order of hierarchy within philosophy.

Now when I say “philosophy,” I really want you to start thinking in terms of here is how man integrates his mind. The foundation is metaphysics. The next level up is epistemology; how man knows what he knows. Notice how epistemology is the largest area of study in the whole construct, because it deals with how man integrates his world. From that understanding we arrive at action in accord with “good.” This is ethics. And so the question we really need to ask is what is ethics? What is human moral action? Since we’re talking about sacrifice as the highest moral ideal, we need to get into this question – what is sacrifice?

Let me ask you this. When someone demands that you sacrifice for the “greater good”, or the local church, what exactly are they asking you to do? Perhaps some of you may answer:

  • Give money
  • Give what you have produced
  • Give of your time
  • Give of your efforts

Here is the real root of what they are asking – sacrifice is the destruction of something. What is being destroyed?

Something of value!

When they ask you to sacrifice to the local church they ask you to give money. That money really represents your personal heartbeats, your personal intellectual efforts, your personal physical efforts. Human production is distilled into money, and that becomes a medium of exchange. So when somebody says they want you to sacrifice, they are asking you to get rid of it on your own behalf, to destroy value.

So the next question is, what are values?

Values are that which one acts to gain or keep.

So let’s break this down. There are two conditions for the concept of values to be possible.   First of all, values presupposes a value-er; an entity or being to whom the object is of value. This means that value requires a certain kind of entity; a being capable of generating action toward a goal or an end. This is very important, particularly in light of what I talked about last year regarding determinism. In a determinist world there can be no such concept as value because a determined entity has to self-oriented/goal-oriented action.   A determined entity cannot have values.

Second of all, in order for the concept of values to be possible, values presupposes an alternative. This means that different outcomes are possible and that the entity’s actions make the difference. As an entity, whatever outcome I bring upon myself is directly related to my actions. A thing is outside the concept of values if action is irrelevant. If you are guaranteed to have or not to have something regardless of action toward or away from that thing, then it cannot be a value.

So the next logical question is what entities fulfill these requirements? The answer is, living organisms; the only beings capable of goal-directed action. Living organisms are confronted with a fundamental alternative.  A living organism must act in accord with its nature to sustain its life. A living organism is not a passive reactor to its environment. A living organism is driven by a singular goal; the perpetuation of its life. By contrast, inanimate matter does not. It exists regardless of its action; it takes no action. Material matter might change form, buts its existence is perpetual independent of any action.

So value implies alternative, and here is the fundamental alternative in the universe: existence or non-existence; life or death. This alternative can only apply to living beings. The existence of inanimate matter is un-conditional. The existence of living beings is conditional, specifically on their pursuit of values to sustain their life. Life requires a specific course of action because living organisms are constantly confronted with life or death.

Ponder that for a moment because this is crucial to what comes next.

A living entity must take action in accord with its nature to survive, therefore life is a certain kind of motion. Death by contrast is stillness. Death is the state where action stops. To achieve death, just stop moving; stop eating, drinking, anything. You’ll get death just as fast as you possibly can.

Next question: How do living beings sustain their life? They seek to acquire things that are valuable. Only entities that must act to acquire specific things to sustain their existence can be said to hold values. Water is valuable because it is a component of life. Air is valuable because it is a component of life. Food is valuable because it is a component of life. Living things seek things out because those things sustain life.

Life makes the concept Value possible

The progression goes like this:

                Life → Values → GOOD

  • That which furthers an organism’s life is the GOOD.
  • That which undermines life is the EVIL.

All living organisms act towards their goals. Most organisms take their actions based on instinct. Man by contrast is a being of volitional conceptual consciousness. Man has no built-in standard of values. He is not guided by instincts. He has no automatic code of survival. Indeed, he has no automatic sense of self-preservation. Babies would die almost immediately if not cared for. How much of parenting is dedicated just to keep kids from killing themselves? Man does not come out of the womb ready to engage the world in which he lives. He needs a very specific set of ideas to make that happen.

Also notice that man does not automatically value life as such. Probably one of the greatest examples of this is Islam. Islam is based on the predicate assumption that men will destroy themselves in the name of Allah. And you can find that same mindset applied to Calvin’s doctrine. How many people in churches are willing to destroy their own lives in service to these higher concepts? They don’t specifically value their lives as such.

It is crucial to understand that learning to love and value life as such, and human life in particular as well as your own life, is an achievement. It is a philosophical achievement that has a very specific set of ideas in place. So man must choose to value life in general, and to be successful he must value his life in particular. So for man to live he must identify the correct values and then choose to follow those values.

And so here is man’s root need for morality. Morality is the proper code of values to sustain human life. Man needs ethics to live. He needs to have way to put what he knows into action to know how to successfully live. This is a crucial development in human history. We have already addressed the fact that historically man has not understood this point. It took Western culture almost 1,700 years to even get within a hint of this concept.

Man requires that he chooses his values to live, which means he chooses between moral action and immoral action. Moral action is that which sustains and facilitates his life. Immoral action is that which is going to kill him. Now those actions have context and much more development behind them, but the point is to understand why man needs a moral code.

Man’s Life/Man’s Character

Life → Values → GOOD → Morality → Ethics → Character

Morality is the standard that facilitates life. Ethics is the moral code. And when a man persists in consistently taking value-driven actions, that is what shapes his character.

And with this in mind you can begin to understand why Augustine and Calvin’s doctrines are so fundamentally hostile to human existence. You can begin to grasp why I have said at every TANC session that Calvinism is the single-most disastrous body of doctrine ever perpetrated on man. The single abiding standard in Calvin’s doctrine is the death of human existence. Calvin’s repudiation of human value is absolute. This is why sacrifice, continued and on-going sacrifice, is so central to Calvin’s doctrine. Calvin hates man’s existence as such and has created a full philosophical statement to facilitate man’s destruction.

So now we can answer the question that I asked at the beginning; what is sacrifice? Sacrifice is the destruction of values. And this should be a big “Ah Hah!” moment:

  • To demand sacrifice is to demand non-existence
  • To demand sacrifice is to demand death

Having said all that, I close this segment with these two questions:

How is there any benevolence in sacrifice?
And how have human being been so duped into believing there is virtue in death?

…To be continued

John Immel 2016 Session 2 Archive Video (YouTube)  Audio Only (mp3)

The Disaster of Sacrifice as the Ultimate Moral Standard – Part 1

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

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

Click here for part twoClick here for part three
(Links to the archived files are found below)


We get to talk about philosophy!

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

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

Here is the fundamental premise that I’m trying to bring to light. People act consistently from their body of ideas. They will fulfill that logical conclusion. They cannot escape it because human beings are designed to integrate their concepts from the most basic premises all the way to the highest concepts.

This explanation is best captured in the diagram at the right. My claim to fame within TANC Ministries is to discuss the roots of tyranny. Where does tyranny come from, and why does it exist? This is my contribution to philosophy. I’ve identified five pillars which are the basis for all tyranny. I’ve arranged them into a spider web because I want you to understand that they are all inter-connected. These are not stand-alone events: universal guilt, incompetent masses, collective conformity, abolition of ambition, and dictated good.

In all tyrannies, you will find these fundamental doctrines (and I don’t care if the tyranny is communist, socialist, or Calvinist) behind the arguments that people use to sustain such tyranny.

Man organizes his ideas in a hierarchy.   I laid this out consistently in both the 2012 and 2013 TANC conferences – find the assumption and you will find the cause. One of the most challenging things I think people have when they are evaluating the content of ideas is learning to see root principles; learning to see what is at the bottom of what everyone is thinking.

To do that you have to learn to think philosophically. All men organize their ideas into a cohesive whole, and that science is called philosophy. Now they might not be aware of it, it may not be explicit, but all men have an integration of their ideas. In the world of philosophy that process goes by these sub-divisions or disciplines:

Disciplines of Philosophy

– Metaphysics

– Epistemology

– Ethics

– Politics

– Aesthetics (art)

The nature of existence is metaphysics. How man knows what he knows is called epistemology. How we value what we know is ethics. (The bulk of this series will involve the discussion of ethics) How we interact with people is politics. And how man creatively reflects his existence back to himself is called aesthetics or art.

This series of discussions will focus on the central ethical assumption of the Western world, indeed, the whole world:

Gospel According to John Immel 7:17
”Sacrifice as the highest moral ideal is the lynch pin of the coming Protestant Dark Age.”

Ponder that for a minute.

You can see that I crossed out the word “Protestant”, and I did that, not to minimize Calvinist Christianity’s role in the coming Dark Age, but to emphasize that Western culture is heading towards a collapse. The Western world is committing ideological treason to the ideas that brought liberty and light to the whole world. The Western world’s central philosophical betrayal is the renewed embrace of the primary ethic of sacrifice. Twenty-first century man has decided to abandon the power of individualism a replace it with the primordial ethics of shamens, tribal warlords, and despots.

There is no small irony that in the Western slide into self-destruction, Christianity is paving the way with Augustinian and Calvinist doctrines from ages past that have already proved what they will create. They have already proved that the ideas taken to their logical conclusion will create death, poverty, suffering, and darkness.

It is ironic because Christians like to pretend they are ethical innovators. They love to talk about being separate from the world, and that being “worldly” is the same as being evil, that as Christians they have unique and transforming ideas. Christianity likes to pretend that it originated all the good ideas, and only the bad ideas exist in the world. Christians like to think that self-sacrifice is a wholly unique Christian concept that started when Jesus hung on the cross. They like to think that the world is committed to selfishness and ego, and individuals engaging in self-interest are “worldly.”

But like most myths, when studied beyond the surface it becomes clear that Christianity regularly steals its ideas from other sources. It becomes clear that Christianity repackages worldly ideas and presents them in its own name. For example: taking over Sunday as a day of divine service (it was originally a Greco-Roman holiday dedicated to Zeus); taking over a pagan winter festival and decorating trees and calling it “Christmas”; and probably amongst the most egregious rip-offs in history is the ex-appropriation of Jewish scriptures as the source of Christian authority all the while persecuting and killing the very people to whom the documents were written.

So here is the myth revealed: Christianity did not invent sacrifice for the “greater good”. Indeed, the oldest of all worldly ideas is sacrifice as the highest moral standard. The oldest moral standard known to man, practiced in all cultures and in all continents, is the foundational premise that man must sacrifice himself, must sacrifice his self-interest for the gods, for the tribe, for the people, for the king, for the nation, and the “greater good.”

For the whole of human history, it has been presumed that man is a sacrificial animal. Don’t be deceived that because we don’t see virgins tied to alters and priests holding bloody knives that we in the twenty-first century are more enlightened. We are not. Indeed, the nature of sacrifice today is more pervasive, more destructive, and more vicious. In ages past a sacrifice was done to receive a favor from the gods. It was expected that the destruction of one value would provide something of greater value. Today it is presumed that to receive any benefit from a sacrifice disqualifies the action. Today we sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice alone.

The result is the modern man is offered two existential options:

Sadism – sacrifice enforced as the hands of others
Masochism – self-inflicted sacrifice

Sacrifice is destroying America!

  • Sacrifice is destroying a free society at the root
  • Sacrifice corrupts government
  • Sacrifice destroys achievement
  • Sacrifice destroys the meaning of words
  • Sacrifice destroys marriages
  • Sacrifice gives Calvinist thugs the moral power to perpetrate their tyranny.

But before we trip too far down that path I want to give you a sense of history.

Sumerians – 3500 BCE
From the land of Ur, kings were gods, and the people were created to serve the gods. Fertility was the most sought-after boon from the gods. To acquire these boons people gave sacrifices. There were sacrifices of animals, and there were sacrifices of grain, and there were sacrifices of people. There belief was that the sacrifice of people made it possible to follow the king into the after-life. If was also a common practice for women to sacrifice themselves to follow their husbands into the after-life.

Hindu Vedas – 1700 BCE to 1100 BCE
The belief that the Vedas are divinely inspired documents without human authors. Within these scriptures they detail human sacrifice. Some scholars say that human sacrifice was continued in Bengal in the ancient world through the 19th century. The Thuggee cult that was dramatized in the film, Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom was real. They followed Kali, the goddess of destruction, and it is believed they killed somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 million people!

Shang Dynasty – 1523 BCE to 1050 BCE
The Chinese culture was dominated by ancestor worship. When a man died he passed into the “upper regions.” These ancestors had the power to impact the lives of descendants back down on earth. To inspire these ancestors to act on their behalf, people on earth gave sacrifices – animals, food, grain, wine, and other men. It was believed than man’s abasement before the spirits by offering these sacrifices would show the correct humility so that they might be worthy of good fortune. When the kings died, it was common practice to slaughter members of his elite guard and bury them in the tombs to guard the Shang kings in the after-life.

Abraham (Abram) – 1700 BCE
Now consider the geographical region of these first three civilizations: Mesopotamia (Middle East), India, and China. The Bible in the book of Genesis tells about a man named Abram who came from this very same general region, Ur of the Chaldeans.

“Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there.” ~ Genesis 11:31

“After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.” ~ Genesis 22:1-3

There are two things I want you to see from these passages. First, notice where Abraham and his whole family is from; Ur, the land of the Sumerians. Second, notice that Abraham never considers the command to sacrifice Isaac to be something unusual.   The chances are that he was not the first man to believe that some god somewhere told him to sacrifice his child.

This is very important. Abraham would have been amidst a pantheon of gods. In his culture, everywhere he looked there was a god. And he has this personal God of his own called “Yehowah” (Jehovah) who isn’t know to too many people, if anybody other than Abraham. His household knows Him simply because they have seen Abraham prosper because of Him. So this obscure God says to this man, “Go kill your kid,” – there’s nothing abnormal here to Abraham’s mind.

It is crucial that you understand that at no point in history is sacrifice as a concept unique. Let that sink in for a moment.

Pythagoreans – 570 BCE
I did a full analysis on the Pythagoreans and their impact on Western thought at the 2013 TANC Conference. But a brief review is in order. Their abiding and enduring impact begins with their contributions to music and mathematics. However their greater impact on Western culture is metaphysical. What they offer is profound and unique.

The Pythagoreans celebrate sunrise.

“Man has two parts, a high part and a low part. The low part is the body, the high part the soul. These two are in eternal conflict with each other. The soul is akin to God, to another dimension. Once, it was a god-like creature, inhabiting another, superior, spiritual world. But it sinned. And the result was it fell from grace. And as punishment was included in the body on this earth. The body is therefore the prison, the tomb of the soul. And we are destined, each of us, to go through a series of “reincarnations”. At the end of our earthly span, our soul goes back to the other world, and it gets the appropriate reward or punishment (depending upon its behavior), and then it comes around again, what they call the “wheel of birth.” Sometimes it comes up in another human body, sometimes in an animal body. It lives out its cycle…until…the soul can escape from this body and earth permanently, reunite once and for all with God, and thereby achieve true happiness and salvation…

“How do you [get to it]?…purification…you have to live a good life…an ascetic life…[but] the Pythagoreans at their most ascetic are frenzied hedonists in comparison to the Christians that are yet to come…”

“…to be free of the flesh is man’s highest ethical ideal.”

You can hear the echoes of later Christian doctrine all over this. Here is what the Pythagoreans did. For the first time there was formal concept of man divided against himself – that man was actually two things; spiritual and material. The spiritual was good and the material was functionally evil. They are the developers of human depravity in Western thought.

Most cultures prior to this accepted that the gods were to be revered and their domains were set apart, but it was assumed that man had a right to engage or interact with the gods on some level. The divine was not specifically hostile to man as such, and man by definition could beseech the gods and get boons from them. The Pythagorean premise begins the separation between the material and the spiritual.

Now to my knowledge the Pythagoreans do not participate in human sacrifice in the literal meaning, but they introduce what amounts to a “living death.” For the first time in philosophical history, the presumption is that this stuff (body, matter) that we inhabit is somehow functionally and morally wrong.


Plato to Plotinus to Augustine

Plotinus

I detailed the is a previous conference, but I never get tired of pointing this out. Augustine’s theological pedigree is rooted in Plato’s philosophy via the neo-platonist Plotinus. Plato’s The Republic basically says this: Lesser men are driven by their passions and not fit to rule themselves. Lesser men must subordinate themselves (a.k.a. sacrifice) their base nature to the Philosopher Kings. This is the appropriate order of the world.

Those intellectuals who have the ability to formulate a full philosophical statement, as Plato did, are the ones with the most intellectual power. It is very difficult for people to be philosophical and intellectual innovators. One percent of one percent of one percent of one percent of people in world history will every try to do such a thing. Most people uncritically adopt philosophical statements from whomever they are learning.

Plotinus picks up ideas from the Pythagoreans, the Cynics, and the Stoics who all believed in the soul/body dichotomy, a doctrine which metastasizes as it develops throughout history. While the Pythagoreans would have been considered raving hedonists by comparison, by the time we get to the Cynics, their commitment to the destruction of the body is transcendent. And this is what Plotinus picks up on. By the time we get to Plotinus, he is determined to philosophically eradicate the material world as such, and that specifically means the body.

Plotinus drops all vestiges of the humanist element in Plato’s philosophy. What I mean by that is while Platos’s ideas were wrong, he still held that humanity had virtue. He believed man had value and he still advocated for the betterment of man, but Plato’s was not a religious position even though it had religious elements. But by the time we get to Plotinus, the religious element of spirit-good/matter-evil had reached a peak.

Plotinus probably would have faded into oblivion had it not been for Augustine. Augustine uses Plotinus’ anti-material metaphysic and weaves the Pythagorean’s soul/body dichotomy into Christianity. Augustine said that the nature of man’s sacrifice is individual. This is important. Up until Augustine, men didn’t really consider themselves individuals. They might have identified that they were sole people, but they were always part of something larger. Their nationalities mattered, their participation in the tribe mattered, they conceptualized themselves in the collective mindset. Augustine is the first philosopher to introduce individuality and more importantly, a morbid introspection. Most of you are very keen on doing self-analysis and looking inside and then finding your flaws. This is Augustine’s heritage.

He metastasizes the Pythagorean concept of asceticism and turns it on human life as such. Life qua life is the greatest threat to define existence. The whole of this theology has a singular aim; to make man’s life unlivable and make death the moral ideal.

So now here is the problem. Augustine’s doctrine becomes the de facto standard of Christian orthodoxy for effectively the next thousand years. He stands intellectually unopposed.   There is no legitimate intellectual resistance to Augustine’s doctrine until St. Thomas Aquinas. The reason he is so successful at this is because his doctrine is both heresy and treason to oppose. In other words, it is backed by government power.

The logical conclusion of a doctrine that condemns is called asceticism. Asceticism is the soul/body dichotomy – the intentional destruction of the evil material world put into practice. It is no longer a theory. The kind of asceticism the worked its way across Europe was the practice of trying to incrementally destroy the body. Consider the lengths to which they went to destroy the body: staring into the sun until blind so as not to lust after women, sitting on rocks until their legs wasted away, drinking dirty laundry water.

So Christian Europe basically decides that the apostle Paul’s metaphor to beat his body into submission is to be taken literally. Asceticism was the social ideal during the Dark Ages. The problem is, you can’t really practice asceticism because it will kill you, yet the cultural heroes were all ascetics. They are individually self-destructive but they are held up as a moral ideal. They are venerated even though you don’t really do what they do.

This is the mind set of the European Dark Ages. The Dark Ages are dark in principle because the ideas behind the societal action are dark in principle. If your metaphysics is dark, man can’t know anything because his epistemology, what he knows, his mind, is dark. If his mind is dark, by definition he seeks out darkness. He values darkness. He seeks to destroy. And that means his politics, how he interacts with people, is by definition destructive. Notice the progression. You start with the Augustinian premise of original sin and self-destruction, man is materially and fundamentally evil, it results in a logical conclusion.

Four hundred years after Jesus came preaching life in the covenants of promise, Christianity becomes a cult of death that rules the world with a nihilistic iron fist. But for all of the destruction that Augustine’s ideas created he had one flaw in his theology. He left one avenue of self-interest in his doctrine. That flaw left the world one last glimmer of hope, one last place for man to escape the destruction of human sacrifice. That flaw would remain in human thought for about a thousand years.

…To be continued

John Immel 2016 Session 1 Archive Video (YouTube)  Audio Only (mp3)

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