Paul's Passing Thoughts

Protestantism – Redefining Reality By Reinterpreting Scripture

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on July 7, 2017

Protestantism is more than just a false gospel. It is a redefinition of reality itself. When God created the world He used words to describe it. Words are the product of a rational mind. Since Man is made in the image of God, he also has a rational mind. Man uses the power of language to define his reality and communicate that reality to other individuals. Therefore, if one desires to create a new reality, the most effective way to get another to accept that reality is through the use of words, the redefinition of words, or in some cases the omission of words.

The meme at left is a perfect example of this because it fits the Protestant metaphysical assumption of reality. The verse is well known. Many of us were probably taught this verse in Sunday School as children. But if you look closely, something is amiss with this verse as it appears in the ESV, favorite bible of Reformed theology. Here it is in the King James, the way most of us learned it:

“We love Him, because He first loved us.” ~ 1 John 4:19

The ESV subtly leaves out the word “Him”. The question is, does one little word really make that big of a difference? Before we explore that answer, consider how the verse appears in the original manuscripts. Here is an excerpt from my interlinear Bible program which shows the Greek from the textus receptus manuscript.

It is clear from the Greek that the word “Him” appears in the manuscript and is the direct object in the first clause in this verse. God is the object of our love. Notice how the omission of the word “Him” in the ESV completely changes the meaning of the verse! There is no longer an object of our love. Instead the context of the verse is now about our ability or capacity to love in general.

So the question remains, does one little word really make that much difference in the grand scheme of things? Does it really matter that the ESV left out the object of our love: our Heavenly Father?

To answer this question we must first answer another more important question: Why? Why would Protestantism seek to marginalize the love a believer has for his Father? The answer is simple: Man’s depravity. The metaphysical assumption of Protestantism is that man is depraved and unable to love God. And since the false gospel of Protestantism is based on perfect law-keeping, this keeps believers “under law”, which means according to Protestantism, believers are no different than the unsaved. In other words, believers are just as totally depraved and unable to love God as unbelievers are.

If you think that is farfetched, then please explain to me why a word, which is clearly the manuscripts, was left out for no good reason whatsoever? Would it not seem contradictory, on the one hand, to have a philosophy rooted in the depravity of man and his inability to love God and, on the other hand, have a Bible that definitively states that man indeed loves God?

When this meme from Our Daily Bread showed up in my Facebook newsfeed the other day, the post used this verse in the context of forgiveness and loving others. But understand this, the metaphysical reality of Protestantism makes it impossible to love others because of Man’s depravity. The point according to such orthodoxy is this: unbelievers cannot really love because they don’t have Jesus. But here’s the rub. Believers can’t really love either. Any act of love they do is only experienced subjectively as Jesus does the loving for them.

Thus the omission of the word “Him”. Forget trying to love God. The assumption is that the only reason we love at all is because God had to first love us, and only those whom God sovereignly elected to salvation can show love as they subjectively experience love through them by Jesus Christ.

In fact, even Protestantism’s erroneous perspective on Law circumvents love. Believers are not only unable to love, they don’t even have any means to show love. Keeping the law is the way we show love to God and others. But the Protestant gospel says that we are to live by “faith alone”, trusting Jesus to keep the law for us. So if we aren’t supposed to keep the law, then not only are believers unable to love because of their pervasive depravity, but neither do they have the means to love even if they were able to. Double whammy!

~ Andy

Calvinism and the Problem with Perfection

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on May 8, 2017

PPT HandleOriginally published November 7, 2013

Augustine, Luther, and Calvin were first and foremost Platonists. They integrated the Bible with Platonism. Plato’s theory of forms posits the idea of two worlds; the mutable material world of illusion where reality can only be partially known, and another world where the immutable objective true forms exist. This material world is a shadow world; everything is shadows of the true forms. Therefore, man can only interpret and experience this world subjectively. The tendency is to interpret reality by observing the shadows. To the degree that mankind thinks the material world is reality according to the five senses, subjectivity and chaos will abound.

Therefore, Plato’s ethic was to improve the subjective experience of this life by accessing the true forms through ideas and mathematics—things that transcend the five senses (he believed math was an unchangeable rule and therefore not part of the shadow world). He believed that those who have the capability and willingness to bring more understanding of the objective into the subjective to be an elite minority. These were Plato’s philosopher kings whom he thought should rule society in order to decrease chaos as much as possible. Without philosopher kings, the world would be awash in a sea of subjectivity, everyone living by their own subjective presuppositions based on the shadows of this world. Hence, the arch enemy of the Platonic ideal is individualism.

Plato’s world of true objective forms was his trinity of the true, good, and beautiful. Experiencing the pure form of goodness in this world is impossible—only a shadow of good can be experienced subjectively. Plato’s social engineering has a doctrine, and to the degree that doctrine is applied, a higher quality of subjective existence occurs.

The Reformers put a slightly different twist on this construct. There is no doctrine to apply, only an orthodoxy that focuses on seeing and experiencing. Their version of Plato’s philosopher kings are pastors who possess the power of the keys. Orthodoxy is mediated truth determined by “Divines,” and passed down to the masses for the purpose of experiencing the objective power of the gospel subjectively. The Reformers made the true forms “the gospel,” and reality itself the gospel, ie., the work and personhood of Jesus Christ in particular.

Therefore, in the same way Plato envisioned a society that experiences the power of the true forms subjectively through ideas and immutable disciplines like mathematics, the Reformers sought a heightened subjective experience through a deeper and deeper knowledge of their own true, good, and beautiful—the gospel. And more specifically, instead of the gateway of understanding being reason, ideas, and immutable disciplines, they made the gospel itself the interpretive prism. So: life, history, the Bible, ie., everything, is a tool for experiencing true reality (the gospel) in a higher quality subjectivity. The Bible and all life events are a gospel hermeneutic. Salvation itself is the interpretive prism. All of reality is about redemption. Salvation itself is the universal hermeneutic.

But both constructs have this in common: Pure goodness and perfection cannot exist objectively in the material world. This is where Calvinism and Platonism kiss. The Bible only agrees with this if it is a “gospel narrative.” But if it is God’s full orbed philosophical statement to all men to be interpreted grammatically and exegetically, contradictions abound. To wit, if man possesses goodness and the ability to interpret reality objectively, Platonism and its Reformed children are found wanting. If Reformation orthodoxy is not evaluated biblically with the very theses of its own orthodoxy as a hermeneutic, even more wantonness is found.

The Apostles rejected Platonism because they believed goodness and perfection could indeed be found in this material world. There is no question of the quality of goodness inside of man that enables mankind to interpret reality objectively, the quantity of goodness notwithstanding.  In contrast, a dominate theme in the Calvin Institutes is the idea that no person lost or saved can perform a good work. Like Plato’s geometric hermeneutics, the Reformers believed the Law lends understanding to man’s inability to do good because eternal perfection is the standard. The best of man’s works are tainted with sin to some degree, and therefore imperfect. Even if man could perform one perfect work, one sin makes mankind a violator of the whole law. The Reformers were adamant that no person could do any good work whether saved or lost.

Why all the fuss over this point? Why was Calvin dogmatic about this idea to the point of annoyance? Because he was first and foremost a Platonist. The idea that a pure form of good could be found within mankind was metaphysical heresy. Because such contradicts every page of the Bible, the Reformers’ Platonist theology was made the hermeneutic as well. Instead of the interpretation method producing the theology, they made the theology the method of interpretation. If all of reality is redemptive, it must be interpreted the same way.

For the Platonist, the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh poses a huge problem. He is the truth. He came to the material world in a material body. Platonism  became Gnosticism and wreaked havoc on the 1st century church. Notice how the first sentences of 1John are a direct pushback against the Gnosticism of that day:

1John 1:1 – That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Christ is the true, good, and beautiful, and He was touched, felt, seen, heard, and understood. Game over. This is the paramount melding of Plato’s two worlds resulting in a plenary decimation of his philosophy. Nevertheless, Calvin et al got around that by keeping mankind in a subjective realm while making the material world a gospel hermeneutic. Reality still cannot be understood unless it is interpreted by the gospel—everything else is shadows.

Martin Luther took Plato’s two worlds and made them two stories: our own subjective story, a self  “glory story” that leads to a labyrinth of subjectivism, or the “cross story” which is the objective gospel. Luther made Plato’s two worlds two stories, but still, they are two realms: one objective and one subjective. In the final analysis mankind is still incompetent, and void of any good whether saved or lost.

Whether the Reformed gospel or Platonism, the infusion of objective goodness is the heresy. Man cannot have any righteousness in and of himself, whether lost or saved. The pushback against this idea can be seen throughout the New Testament. A few examples follow:

1John 2:4 – Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.

1John 2:20 – But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.

1John 2:26 – I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

1John 2:29 – If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

1John 3:2 – Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears[a] we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.

Romans 15:14 – I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.

Christians can know goodness, and perform righteousness objectively. This speaks to the quality of the righteousness when it is performed—it is perfect and acceptable to God. We are not limited to a mere subjective experience in regard to righteousness. When we are resurrected, the quantity thereafter will be 100%, but our present righteousness is acceptable to God when it is performed by us. If it is accepted by God, it is perfect.

Even the unregenerate know good, and can perform it. The works of the law are written on their hearts, and their consciences either accuse or excuse them (Romans 2:12-15). Though enslaved to unrighteousness, they are free to perform righteousness (Romans 6:20). The very goodness of God can be understood from observing creation as well (Romans 1:20).

The only way the Reformers can make all goodness outside of man is to make the Bible a salvation hermeneutic. It is the only way they could integrate the Bible with their Platonist philosophy.

paul

The History of Western Philosophy and Its Societal Impact on the Church – Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on February 1, 2017

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

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

My job is explaining cultural impact. That’s a tall order. There are three reasons for that because diagnosing a cultural disease requires being an epidemiologist, or one who studies and analyzes the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations.  To be an epidemiologist you have to know:

  1. What the pathogen is
  2. Where the problem starts
  3. How to respond to it

Explaining the complex factors that impact all this takes a lot of time. So when I was thinking about this and what all it needed to entail, I decided that for us to really understand where we are in history intellectually, the only way to do that was to do a review of the development of Western thought. We need to pretty much start at the beginning. And that means we are going to have to put on our thinking caps.

What we are discussing is, in my estimation, of incalculable importance. Those who make it their aim to understand these subjects will be at the forefront of being able to withstand the tide of collectivism that we see washing across the face of this earth. To be sure, the resurgent Neo-Calvinist ideology is merely a subset of a broader collectivist trend. If history is any measure, the Neo-Calvinist movement and its intellectual children will go a long way to paving the way for the tyranny that is on the horizon.

Since I am going to start with the basics, I fully expect what I am about to tell you to be disturbing.

If you look at your life, your greatest miseries are when chaos prevails. Your greatest joys and pleasures are when you bring order to the world in which you live. I don’t care if the world in which you live is as narrow as cleaning up your children’s toys in the living room. You will take great satisfaction in taking that chaos and bringing it back to order. I believe this is part of the nature of how we are built. I contend that the nature of human existence is this: we are the “order-bringers.” Having been created in the image of God, since God is an order-bringer, man is as well.

With that understanding, the nature of our challenge in this earth has always been to rule and subdue the chaos that is around us and to produce order in whatever we choose. This is going to be a radical thought for many of you. The purpose of life is the purpose of your life, whatever you choose that to be. It is your job to find your meaning and identity in the context of the work that you do in bringing order to the world in which you live.

You are the order-bringer of your life. The absolute that you are seeking is staring you in the face every time you look in the mirror. Pain and misery are the result of looking outward at the surrounding chaos in an effort to find order. Satisfaction and joy come when man finishes his work, deems it good, and then wants to share it with others.

This is exactly what God did. God created the world and all that is in it, deemed it good, and took joy and satisfaction in what He accomplished, so much so that He shared it with man, a creature designed and created in God’s very own image with the ability to appreciate exactly what God accomplished because he shares that same sense of satisfaction in accomplishment.

When you understand that context, you will be able to understand what happened in Western thought. The reason Western thought stands so profoundly unique is that it arrived at some revolutionary concepts independent of anything else.

Man looked around and saw the tides of change everywhere, chaos. He saw oceans rolling, mountains upheaving, volcanoes erupting, tornadoes, earthquakes and all manner of natural disasters. He saw social evolutions, conquest, counter-conquest, wars and famines and destructions. And he looked at all of this and said, “where can we find order in the chaos?” The constant disarray told him there is in fact no order. The question was how do we make sense of this all?

While not every thinker is represented in the timelines that follow, each person represents a new idea in the evolution of human thought. It is by design that I purposefully chose to stop at St. Augustine, and the reason why will become evident as we go on. In the west, we are the direct recipients of this progression.

The progression itself isn’t specifically evil. There is no nefarious intent in what these men were seeking to accomplish. They are trying to answer a very fundamental question, and it is the same question that we ask ourselves when we were old enough to look at the world and say, “This is scary!”

 

 

Thales
The first man who tried to make sense of the world was Thales. He was one of the first people in Western thought to take a stab at answering this question. And for this reason he is regarded as the father of philosophy. He lived in a town called Miletus in Asia minor, hence the name of the school he founded, the Miletians. Only four sentences from his works survive, however we can reconstruct his ideas from his disciples and other sources that reference the Miletian school’s tradition in subsequent centuries.

Here is Thales’ theory. The universe is made up of one substance. Computers, animals, stars, theologians; they all boil down to one “stuff”.  This is called monism. His reasoning went like this. If there is a universal “stuff”, man can explain how everything is related. The first question then was why was this an important thing to identify? The answer was that if everything was one substance, then we would be able to explain change. Now in this context, “change” means chaos. In Thales’ mind, it followed that all the chaos around us is really just another form of this universal “stuff”. This would be the common denominator to tying everything together.

For Thales, this universal “stuff” was water. While it seems absurd to us, from his point of view this seemed completely logical. Water was the “stuff” that took three forms: solid, liquid, and gas. Water seemed to be able to turn into air (what we know as evaporation). If you dug into the earth deep enough, eventually you would find water. After the rain it seemed that you would find things living in the puddle left behind.

Even though he got the wrong answer, here is what is important by geometric factors. He is the first person in recorded history to employ a scientific approach. He observes the world and draws a conclusion. This is the essence of science. For the first time he offers an explanation of the cosmos that isn’t related to some god somewhere.

We have a hard time from our perspective in history because we are so familiar with the scientific method. From the time we are very small, our minds are geared to make these rudimentary observations. This was not so in the ancient world, where everything was some kind of a god. The air you breathe was a god. The grass you walked on was a god. There was a water god, a sun god, a fire god, a moon god, fish god, harvest god. So the universal explanation for everything that happened had been because some god of something caused it. What Thales did is the intellectual equivalent of going from a three-year-old who still believes in Santa Clause to a twelve-year-old who is finally being introduced to calculus.

 

 

Heraclitus
Heraclitus used the word logos to describe the defining force behind the universe. However he didn’t use it like the Christians used it. Logos has a number of interpretations and usages. Most Christians are familiar with the Stoic interpretation that logos = the word of God. Heraclitus thought that the logos had immeasurable properties as if it were some extra-worldly entity.

According to Heraclitus, man is not able to understand the logos. The universe is in constant change. His aphorism describing these concepts survives to this day.

“Ever newer waters flow on those who step into the same river.”

Heraclitus is basically telling us that no matter what you do, it is in constant change. He describes reality as a unity of opposites, which meant all existing entities are characterized by pairs of contrary properties. He described his idea like this: the path up and down are one in the same.

Here is Heraclitus’ explanation for change.

“Reality’s essential nature lies in being both the same as itself and different from itself. In order to change, a thing must become different from itself. If it remains the same as itself, it hasn’t changed. But also after it has changed it must still be the same thing. Otherwise there has been no change but simply the substitution of one object for another. If a changing thing then is an identity of opposites it is both “is” and “is not”, and what “was” and “was not” what it will be.”

Clear as mud, right? When Heraclitus looks at reality he doesn’t see one “stuff” as Thales’ did. Instead, he sees nothing everywhere. He sees everything changing. He sees everything “becoming”. His conclusion was that everything changes all the time. It is change that is the governing force of the universe.

Now his river metaphor makes sense. Now you can understand why Heraclitus arrived at this disastrous conclusion – there is no such thing as a universal “stuff”. On the contrary, there are no things at all because everything is changing.  A contemporary historian of philosophy summarizes Heraclitus this way:

“All things flow. No man can ever step twice into the same river.

“How could he?

“The second time he tried to step, new waters would have flowed down from upstream. The waters would not be the same. Neither would the bed and the banks be the same, for the constant erosion would have changed them, too. And if the river is the water, the bed, and the banks, the river is not the same river at all. Strictly speaking, there is no river.

“When people talk about a river, they suppose that a name applies to something that will remain there for a time at least. But the river remains there no time at all. It has changed while you pronounced its name. There is no river. Worse yet, you cannot step into the same river twice, because you are not there twice. You too changed. And the person who stepped the first time no longer exists to step the second time. Persons do not exist.

“When anyone says that something exists, the meaning is that that something does not change, at least for a short time.

“An object that is real must be an object that stands still.

“Suppose a cleaver sculptor takes a lump of children’s modeling clay and begins to work it rapidly, it shortly takes on the appearance of the child’s teddy bear. And if the sculptor should stop, we would call it a teddy bear. But he doesn’t stop. His nimble fingers keep working, and the momentary bear turns into a small statue of Zeus, only quickly to disappear into the form of the Empire State Building.

“But, ‘What is it?’ you ask. The answer is not that it’s a bear or a god or a building.

“Under these circumstances, all we could say is that it is modeling clay. And we could call it clay because the clay remains the same throughout the changes. But if the clay itself never remained the same, if it changed from clay to wax to paper maché and so on and never stopped changing, we could call it nothing.

“Nothing, that is, it does not exist. It is unreal.”

~Gordon H. Clark: Thales to Dewey, A History of Philosophy

This is the implication of Heraclitus’ philosophy, and he was profoundly influential.

Is your head spinning yet? If it is, this is by design.

Question: if you think that chaos (i.e. change) is the core of existence, what does that do to man’s senses? Answer: It strips him of any effectiveness whatsoever. It makes man’s senses invalid, because while they show us solid things, “reason” explains that everything is changing, therefore man’s senses must be too base, too unrefined to understand reality.

This poses a huge problem for human existence. The solution, therefore, was to divide reality, because we also know that things can’t always change. This is the source of the two “realms” philosophy

  • The Realm of Reason – The capacity to understand the constant change.  True reality is a Heraclitean flux.
  • The Realm of Appearance – Shaped by incompetent human senses. Reality as it appears to man.

Anytime you hear someone talking about dividing reality somehow, they are utilizing a Heraclitean philosophy.

“Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”
~ John Calvin, The Institutes of Christian Religion, Book I, Chapter 1, Section 1

 

 

Parmenides
In opposition to Heraclitus, Parmenides bases his entire thought on this one principle:

What is, is. What is not, is not.

He contended that nothing cannot be. In other words, you cannot have “nothing” and have it be something. He made his point this way:

“For never shall this prevail, that things that are not, are… Thinking and the thought that it is are the same; for you will not find thinking apart from what is, in relation to which it is uttered…For to be aware and to be are the same… It is necessary to speak and to think what is; for being is, but nothing is not.

“[In criticism of Heraclitus] Helplessness guides the wandering thought in their breasts; they are carried along deaf and blind alike, dazed, beasts without judgment, convinced that to be and not to be are the same and not the same, and that the road of all things is a backward-turning one.”

His conclusion was that existence is an obvious fact. Existence is universal. Existence is eternal. Therefore non-existence is impossible. A thing cannot disappear, and something cannot originate from nothing. So man can’t even think about what does not exist. That which does exist is called the Parmenidean One, which is timeless, uniform, and unchanging.

Lastly, Parmenides goes on to argue that movement was impossible because it required moving into the void. Now here is the thing, he’s got existence, but now he has to figure out how to deal with the implications of change, and so his solution is to decide that change is really not possible. Here is his logic:

“How could what is perish? How could it have come to be? For if it came into being, it is not; nor is it if ever it is going to be. Thus coming into being is extinguished, and destruction unknown.”

I want you to notice that Parmenides is actually the early form of Aristotle’s laws of existence. “A” is “A”. The law of identity. What you see is exactly what you see. There is no disconnect here, which is a substantial leap forward in the evolution of human thought. Unfortunately, Parmenides drew an erroneous conclusion, which is understandable when seen from the context of the Heraclitean Flux that he was trying to counter. He concluded that the word is packed completely full. There are no holes and no spaces, but rather one big slab of “stuff”.

When he concluded that change was impossible, he meant change of any type; motion, alteration, course correction. And of course the logical conclusion of this premise is that there is no such thing as talking, moving, smiling, vibrating, waves on the ocean; it is all a gigantic illusion. Therefore he concluded there is no change at all, this world is completely motionless in every respect.  The way we explain change is that we are calling man’s senses into question.

Now notice, even though Heraclitus and Parmenides disagree about the nature of chaos and change, both of them blame man’s senses as the culprit in the explanation. The failure is not a faulty assumption. The failure is man.

To be continued…


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

Calvinism and the Problem with Perfection

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on August 11, 2015

PPT HandleOriginally published November 7, 2013

Augustine, Luther, and Calvin were first and foremost Platonists. They integrated the Bible with Platonism. Plato’s theory of forms posits the idea of two worlds; the mutable material world of illusion where reality can only be partially known, and another world where the immutable objective true forms exist. This material world is a shadow world; everything is shadows of the true forms. Therefore, man can only interpret and experience this world subjectively. The tendency is to interpret reality by observing the shadows. To the degree that mankind thinks the material world is reality according to the five senses, subjectivity and chaos will abound.

Therefore, Plato’s ethic was to improve the subjective experience of this life by accessing the true forms through ideas and mathematics—things that transcend the five senses (he believed math was an unchangeable rule and therefore not part of the shadow world). He believed that those who have the capability and willingness to bring more understanding of the objective into the subjective to be an elite minority. These were Plato’s philosopher kings whom he thought should rule society in order to decrease chaos as much as possible. Without philosopher kings, the world would be awash in a sea of subjectivity, everyone living by their own subjective presuppositions based on the shadows of this world. Hence, the arch enemy of the Platonic ideal is individualism.

Plato’s world of true objective forms was his trinity of the true, good, and beautiful. Experiencing the pure form of goodness in this world is impossible—only a shadow of good can be experienced subjectively. Plato’s social engineering has a doctrine, and to the degree that doctrine is applied, a higher quality of subjective existence occurs.

The Reformers put a slightly different twist on this construct. There is no doctrine to apply, only an orthodoxy that focuses on seeing and experiencing. Their version of Plato’s philosopher kings are pastors who possess the power of the keys. Orthodoxy is mediated truth determined by “Divines,” and passed down to the masses for the purpose of experiencing the objective power of the gospel subjectively. The Reformers made the true forms “the gospel,” and reality itself the gospel, ie., the work and personhood of Jesus Christ in particular.

Therefore, in the same way Plato envisioned a society that experiences the power of the true forms subjectively through ideas and immutable disciplines like mathematics, the Reformers sought a heightened subjective experience through a deeper and deeper knowledge of their own true, good, and beautiful—the gospel. And more specifically, instead of the gateway of understanding being reason, ideas, and immutable disciplines, they made the gospel itself the interpretive prism. So: life, history, the Bible, ie., everything, is a tool for experiencing true reality (the gospel) in a higher quality subjectivity. The Bible and all life events are a gospel hermeneutic. Salvation itself is the interpretive prism. All of reality is about redemption. Salvation itself is the universal hermeneutic.

But both constructs have this in common: Pure goodness and perfection cannot exist objectively in the material world. This is where Calvinism and Platonism kiss. The Bible only agrees with this if it is a “gospel narrative.” But if it is God’s full orbed philosophical statement to all men to be interpreted grammatically and exegetically, contradictions abound. To wit, if man possesses goodness and the ability to interpret reality objectively, Platonism and its Reformed children are found wanting. If Reformation orthodoxy is not evaluated biblically with the very theses of its own orthodoxy as a hermeneutic, even more wantonness is found.

The Apostles rejected Platonism because they believed goodness and perfection could indeed be found in this material world. There is no question of the quality of goodness inside of man that enables mankind to interpret reality objectively, the quantity of goodness notwithstanding.  In contrast, a dominate theme in the Calvin Institutes is the idea that no person lost or saved can perform a good work. Like Plato’s geometric hermeneutics, the Reformers believed the Law lends understanding to man’s inability to do good because eternal perfection is the standard. The best of man’s works are tainted with sin to some degree, and therefore imperfect. Even if man could perform one perfect work, one sin makes mankind a violator of the whole law. The Reformers were adamant that no person could do any good work whether saved or lost.

Why all the fuss over this point? Why was Calvin dogmatic about this idea to the point of annoyance? Because he was first and foremost a Platonist. The idea that a pure form of good could be found within mankind was metaphysical heresy. Because such contradicts every page of the Bible, the Reformers’ Platonist theology was made the hermeneutic as well. Instead of the interpretation method producing the theology, they made the theology the method of interpretation. If all of reality is redemptive, it must be interpreted the same way.

For the Platonist, the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh poses a huge problem. He is the truth. He came to the material world in a material body. Platonism  became Gnosticism and wreaked havoc on the 1st century church. Notice how the first sentences of 1John are a direct pushback against the Gnosticism of that day:

1John 1:1 – That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Christ is the true, good, and beautiful, and He was touched, felt, seen, heard, and understood. Game over. This is the paramount melding of Plato’s two worlds resulting in a plenary decimation of his philosophy. Nevertheless, Calvin et al got around that by keeping mankind in a subjective realm while making the material world a gospel hermeneutic. Reality still cannot be understood unless it is interpreted by the gospel—everything else is shadows.

Martin Luther took Plato’s two worlds and made them two stories: our own subjective story, a self  “glory story” that leads to a labyrinth of subjectivism, or the “cross story” which is the objective gospel. Luther made Plato’s two worlds two stories, but still, they are two realms: one objective and one subjective. In the final analysis mankind is still incompetent, and void of any good whether saved or lost.

Whether the Reformed gospel or Platonism, the infusion of objective goodness is the heresy. Man cannot have any righteousness in and of himself, whether lost or saved. The pushback against this idea can be seen throughout the New Testament. A few examples follow:

1John 2:4 – Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.

1John 2:20 – But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.

1John 2:26 – I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

1John 2:29 – If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

1John 3:2 – Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears[a] we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.

Romans 15:14 – I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.

Christians can know goodness, and perform righteousness objectively. This speaks to the quality of the righteousness when it is performed—it is perfect and acceptable to God. We are not limited to a mere subjective experience in regard to righteousness. When we are resurrected, the quantity thereafter will be 100%, but our present righteousness is acceptable to God when it is performed by us. If it is accepted by God, it is perfect.

Even the unregenerate know good, and can perform it. The works of the law are written on their hearts, and their consciences either accuse or excuse them (Romans 2:12-15). Though enslaved to unrighteousness, they are free to perform righteousness (Romans 6:20). The very goodness of God can be understood from observing creation as well (Romans 1:20).

The only way the Reformers can make all goodness outside of man is to make the Bible a salvation hermeneutic. It is the only way they could integrate the Bible with their Platonist philosophy.

paul

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