Paul's Passing Thoughts

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 Protestant Twisting of 1John: A Clarification, Part 1

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

Originally published March 22, 2015

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Welcome to Blogtalk Radio False Reformation this is your host Paul M. Dohse Sr. Tonight, we are going to attack and unravel interpretive abuses of 1John, particularly 1John 1:9 and 2:1. There is only one other text twisted for ill use more than these two verses, and that would be Galatians 2:20 and 3:1-3. Later, In part 2, I will toss in an exegesis of those verses as a bonus.

There may be a lot of different religions and even more denominations, but for all practical purposes they all have one thing in common: this whole idea that salvation is a process with a beginning and an end. This makes salvation a process that includes our present life.

So, the argumentation between religions and denominations involves the correct way of getting from point A to point B. But there is no point A and point B. When you believe God unto salvation, you get the complete package and the salvation part of your life is finished. It is an instantaneous quickening of the Spirit that transports you from one kingdom to another, from one master to another, from being under law to being under grace, from the old person to the new person, and from darkness to light. You don’t become a servant of righteousness on the installment plan, and you don’t become a kingdom citizen on an installment plan.

How is 1 John used to argue for a progressive salvation, and what is John really saying in his epistle? Way back at the beginning of this ministry, I had this nailed down. If salvation is a process, and eternal life as opposed to eternal punishment is at stake, the Christian life is really a minefield. The focus isn’t being the best kingdom citizen; the focus is making sure you don’t mess up your salvation. The focus is salvation, not discipleship. The focus is fear of judgement, not love.

I realize many Christians hold to OSAS, “Once saved – always saved”, but the problem is how they are led by pastors trained in seminaries deeply grounded in Protestant tradition. That tradition looks to the institutional church as the primary way of getting God’s people from point A to point B in regard to their salvation. Whether OSAS or not, they are led to do the same things week in and week out. Be here at this time or that time; stand up; sing; sit down; listen to announcements; stand up; sing; sit down; listen to the special music presentation; put your tithe in the plate; listen to the sermon (always about the gospel just in case there are lost people present, wink, wink); stand up; sing “Just As I Am” until someone walks the isle so you can stop singing “Just As I Am”; pray; be dismissed; be cordial to people and tell them how much you love them; go home, and come back next week and do it again.

Why? Because all of that ritualism “imparts grace” and enables us to “grow in grace.” It enables us to “grow up in our salvation.” After all, discipleship is the “growing part of our salvation.” We have all said it, but salvation doesn’t grow. While believing in OSAS, most parishioners are led by pastors who believe in progressive salvation/justification which was clearly the foundational premise of Protestantism with the progression being overseen by the Protestant institutional church.

Moreover, let’s face it; while believing in OSAS, there is only one reason people put up with all of the nonsense and drama of the institutional church—OSAS means that if someone leaves the institutional church, they were never saved to begin with. Right? In other words, they function according to the idea that they are led by. It’s OSAS as long as you are “faithful” to the institution. Then each church has its own little “faithfulness” caste system. Those who show up for all of the services are the “core members” that run the church. Those “less faithful” that only come on Sunday mornings are a lower class of member in the caste system.

You have the pastors, staff and deacons, then the “faithful” that attend all of the services and tithe at least 10%, the “casual” attenders that tithe, and then the bottom of the caste strata, even lower than the serfs, the putrid “nonmembers.”

Whether Calvin or Luther, the two icons of Protestantism, these beliefs follow after the doctrine they established for the Protestant institutional church. Access to the institutional church was through water baptism, and the critical need according to the Reformers for formal church membership follows: as Christians, forgiveness for present and future sins can only be found in the institutional church, and those sins condemn us. Forgiveness for all sins does not occur at salvation, but only for past sins. Water baptism initiates us into church membership where forgiveness for present and future sins can be obtained through the sacraments; ie., “gospel preaching,” the Lord’s Table, and anything else deemed as acts of faithfulness to the institutional church not to exclude tithing by any means. Calvin states this explicitly in his institutes, 4.15.1.

All in all, you can say that in Protestantism, the status of sin does not change for the believer—it still condemns requiring perpetual resalvation for every sin committed.

Therefore, 1John 1:9 and 2:1 is interpreted in this light: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9). “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (2:1).

These verses seem to bolster the authentic Protestant position on justification. Confession of sin in our Christian lives keeps us saved. And if we confess our sins, Jesus is up in heaven as our advocate with the Father continuing His work as a propitiation for our sins.

The problem is that this interpretation stands in stark contrast to what other Scriptures state about justification. Biblically, sin has a different classification after salvation—it can’t condemn; it can bring chastisement and present consequences, but it can’t condemn—its ability to condemn has been taken away. Hence, there is no need to have some institution that prevents future condemnation.

Nevertheless, it is easy to understand why the institutional church not only gets a pass on outrageous behavior, but the money keeps pouring in. What will people pay for their salvation and décor that glorifies the institution that saves them? Apparently, no price or compromise is too large. One can also appreciate the fear of so-called excommunication because the institutional church is the only place where one can receive continued forgiveness for present and future sins.

Before I move on, I will solidify my present point. Romans 8:1 states that there is presently NO condemnation for those who are in Christ. In Contrast, Calvin stated that “even saints cannot perform one work which, if judged on its own merits, is not deserving of condemnation” (CI 3.14.9, last sentence). Obviously, the focus is going to be avoiding condemnation, not our freedom to pursue aggressive love in discipleship.

So what are these verses in 1John really saying? Let’s begin to unpack that using the historical grammatical approach to interpretation as opposed to the traditional Protestant means of interpretation, the historical redemptive method. Since Protestantism sees salvation as a process, “redemptive” means that the Bible must be approached with a redemptive prism; ie., the Bible is about salvation. Clearly, this is eisegesis; going to the Bible with a presupposition.

In regard to the history part, this is the belief that history is an unfolding drama about salvation. Hence, all of reality is interpreted through salvation. All of history and the Bible continually reveals the one two-fold redemptive truth/reality: the sinfulness of man and the holiness of God. Salvation begins when we see or understand this reality, and the experience of that reality increases until final salvation.

In contrast, the historical grammatical method uses historical facts to bring more meaning to the text, and all truth is determined by what can be concluded by the grammar—this is known as exegesis. All meaning and truth comes out of the text without anything being read into the text except conclusions from other texts.

In fact, Protestant tradition holds to the idea that a historical grammatical approach to the Scriptures invariably leads to works salvation. Protestant tradition insists that the Scriptures must be interpreted through the prism of total depravity. In this year’s TANC conference, this is what I am going to be hitting on. Christians, save a few, have no idea that Protestant pastors that are leading them view reality in a totally different way than most parishioners. And this is why church looks like it does. And there is no salvaging it—it’s a completely broken system.

So, if you interpret said verses in 1 John redemptively, it fits right into their narrative, right? You have to continue to repent for new sins in your Christian life in order to not be condemned and to keep your salvation. A good old fashioned Baptist lady who I am sure would hold OSAS stated this to my wife Susan in the grocery store a couple weeks ago. When Susan asked her why Christians need to go forward during alter calls, she answered, “they have sin that needs to be forgiven.” Well, why can’t they get that forgiveness by praying at home? You ought to see the reaction Susan and I get when we suggest her mother was saved even though not a member of a church.

Protestantism and all of its offshoots including the Baptists is nothing more or less than functioning Calvinism. Election isn’t the point, progressive salvation is the point. Protestants think salvation grows—salvation doesn’t grow—you are either forgiven once and for all time or you aren’t. Look, if you are going to stay in the institutional church, it makes absolutely no difference where you go. Please, stop driving 15 miles to the Baptist church when there is a Catholic Church right across the street—it’s a shameful waste of gas. It’s all progressive justification.

In contrast, we have to see 1 John in its exegetical historical context. It must be interpreted according to what was going on during the time that prompted this letter. And what was that?

John was pushing back against the number-one nemesis of the assemblies during that time: Gnosticism. Now, there were many, many different veins of Gnosticism during that time, but like denominationalism, there are basics that are fundamentally the same. Denominationalism quibbles about how to get from point A to point B, but it is all progressive salvation.

When you understand the basics of Gnosticism, it is easy to see that John’s first epistle is a point by point rebuttal of Gnosticism, and NOT the proffering of progressive justification. Protestants can bicker with Catholics all they want to about how to get from point A to point B, but again, it’s all progressive justification. If it’s a religious institution, it’s selling final salvation, PERIOD.

If we follow John’s arguments in this epistle, it also apes the fundamental basics of Gnosticism, and that’s what we are going to do:

1 John 1:1 – That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. [KJV].

The Gnostics taught that it really wasn’t the spiritual Christ that died on the cross. Gnosticism holds to the idea that material is evil and only the invisible spiritual world is good. Gnosticism rejected the idea that the spiritual realm, or godhood can be one with the material. You must understand: the biblical concept of God-man is a direct affront to the foundation of all false religions, or the knowledge of good and evil. It is the idea that true knowledge cannot be one with the material. Knowledge is good, material is evil and is only a shadow of true knowledge. Knowledge of the material is enslaved and dependent on the five senses.

Now, stop right there. Let me simplify this for you. All false religion flows from the religion of the knowledge of good and evil presented to Eve in the garden. This is also the first sentence of the Calvin Institutes and all of the Calvin Institutes flow from the foundation of 1.1.1., first sentence, viz, ALL wisdom is the knowledge of man and the knowledge of God; man is inherently evil and God is inherently good.

Also, the first sentence of the Calvin Institutes is the primary theses of Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation which is the Magnum Opus of the Reformation. All fundamentals found in contemporary evangelicalism can be found in the Heidelberg Disputation and flow from it. Calvin’s Institutes further articulated the former. In contemporary evangelicalism, we hear constantly that true biblical knowledge is “the knowledge of our own sinfulness as set against God’s holiness.” This is also the pronounced fundamental foundation of the contemporary biblical counseling movement as constantly stated publically in no uncertain terms.

Why am I interjecting this? Because even though much of our knowledge concerning first century Gnosticism comes from the writings of the early church fathers and while they railed against Gnosticism, they themselves were also Gnostics. However, in the process of railing against Gnosticism, they confirm unequivocally that John’s letter addressed the Gnosticism of their day; it just wasn’t the Gnosticism that they preferred.

And by the way, according to some church fathers, John was addressing a Gnostic named Cerinthus who was a contemporary of John and a personal nemesis.

Cerinthus was a gnostic and to some, an early Christian, who was prominent as a heresiarch in the view of the early Church Fathers. Contrary to proto-orthodox Christianity, Cerinthus’s school followed the Jewish law, used the Gospel according to the Hebrews, denied that the Supreme God had made the physical world, and denied the divinity of Jesus. In Cerinthus’ interpretation, the Christ came to Jesus at baptism, guided him in his ministry, but left him at the crucifixion.

He taught that Jesus would establish a thousand-year reign of sensuous pleasure after the Second Coming but before the General Resurrection, a view that was declared heretical by the Council of Nicaea. Cerinthus used a version of the gospel of Matthew as scripture.

Cerinthus taught at a time when Christianity’s relation to Judaism and to Greek philosophy had not yet been clearly defined. In his association with the Jewish law and his modest assessment of Jesus, he was similar to the Ebionites and to other Jewish Christians. In defining the world’s creator as the demiurge, he emulated Platonic philosophy and anticipated the Gnostics.

Early Christian tradition describes Cerinthus as a contemporary to and opponent of John the Evangelist, who may have written the First Epistle of John and the Second Epistle of John to warn the less mature in faith and doctrine about the changes he was making to the original gospel. All that is known about Cerinthus comes from the writing of his theological opponents (Wikipedia).

At any rate, the teachings of Cerinthus follow the basic fundamentals of 1st century Gnosticism of which there were two schools of thought unchanged from the cradle of society: intuitive knowledge within versus knowledge outside of man. While both schools held to the strict dichotomy of material being evil and the invisible good, and true knowledge being beyond the five senses, they disagreed on where that knowledge is found and whether or not it is intuitive among all men, or a select few preordained by nature or some supreme being.

Cerinthus followed the philosophical school of Idealism which holds to the belief that the one cosmic mind has an intuitive connection within every individual. Finding that knowledge is often a complex mind-numbing epistemology, but curiously, Luther and Calvin had their own angle that built on the Neo-Platonic teachings of St. Augustine.

This Gnostic bent actually allowed for Christ to be human, or at least some form of humanity. Apparently, God became exasperated with man’s penchant for trying to gain knowledge through the material world, and said in essence, “Ok, since you like to think you can know something and try to gain knowledge through the things that are seen, I am going to send my Son to die on the physical cross, and now all knowledge will only be gained through suffering—there mankind, take that!” This is the essence of the Heidelberg Disputation which is a philosophical treatise, not a theological one by any stretch of the imagination. Luther states plainly in the document that ALL knowledge is hidden in the suffering of the cross. Anyone who thinks they can understand Protestantism without a good grasp of world philosophy is sadly misguided. It is one of the historical necessities of historical grammatical hermeneutics.

Hence, in the Gnostic Protestant construct, Christ and His gospel is the only true objective knowledge and is outside of man. Man is not to seek any knowledge within himself, but all knowledge must be sought outside of him in contemplation of the gospel. All of reality is interpreted by the suffering of the cross. The cross is the epistemology from the material to the invisible, or from the evil to the good.

In contrast, other schools believe the epistemology is intuitive within all men because all men have a spiritual being separate from their material being, and the spiritual part of man is nonmaterial and therefore SINLESS. The material body of man is evil because it is material, but his invisible being is good and has a connection to the cosmic spiritual world that must be cultivated by transcending the material. This was key to the drug culture of the 60’s as LSD trips enabled the individual to transcend the five senses and see into the invisible spiritual world. Supposedly.

Other schools of thought believed that even though all men have a material and spiritual aspect, the spiritual anthropology has classifications in regard to who is able to see true knowledge and who isn’t as determined by the cosmos or cosmic mind; ie., determinism. And consequently, if utopia is to ever be achieved, those with the ability to see knowledge must rule over those who have the inability to transcend the material and are enslaved to it.  How do you reason with people hopelessly enslaved to the material? They either understand that they can’t know reality and get with the program, or you kill them.

According to the Reformers, utopia is achieved by understanding that all reality is interpreted through the cross of redemption. This concept was established by Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation and is known as being a “theologian of the cross.” Theologians of the cross are able to know the “cross story,” or interpret reality through the cross, and all others are enslaved to the “glory story” or the story of man. This is the dichotomy of the knowledge of good and evil, or material versus spiritual.

Furthermore, the Reformers believed that the new birth entailed the gift of outward seeing only. All goodness remains outside of man. This is the pious distinction they claim over their fellow Gnostics. Unlike Cerinthus, who would be the modern equivalence of existentialism, no good can be in man, because that does not limit knowledge to suffering and the cross. Even though the early church fathers believed that material is evil and only the invisible is good like all ancient Gnostics, they labeled those heretics who believed that the invisible spirit within man was a connection to the good. That was heresy in their minds. And if you really understand what John Piper et al believe in our day, NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

The true Christians of that day had a different metaphysical take: the material realm is NOT evil, it’s weak. Something that is weak can still be good. The born again Christian struggles with sin because he/she is weak, not because the material realm is inherently evil. Christ really did come adorned in humanity in every since of the meaning because the material is not evil. This understanding of being fits together with the true gospel.

But what Cerinthus et al was teaching speaks directly to what John wrote in his first epistle, and we have addressed some of it in John’s introduction. John, in essence, said the following: Christ was 100% humanity and 100% God. We saw Him, we heard Him, we touched Him, we saw Him die on the cross, there isn’t two Christs, there is only one.

What Cerinthus et al taught explains everything John wrote in this epistle and why he wrote it. It not only explains why John wrote what he wrote in 1:9 and 2:1, it sheds light on why John wrote what he wrote in the rest of the book as well.

And that is what we will look at next.  We will do a point by point fly over of 1 John while interpreting it according to this historical context of Gnosticism. John will address the definition of sin in contrast, the definition of knowledge and truth in contrast, the definition of the true gospel in context, the definition of love and hate in contrast, and the definition of the new birth in contrast.

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The Protestant Twisting of 1John: A Clarification, Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on September 11, 2015

Blog Radio LogoOriginally published March 22, 2015

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Welcome to Blogtalk Radio False Reformation this is your host Paul M. Dohse Sr. Tonight, we are going to attack and unravel interpretive abuses of 1John, particularly 1John 1:9 and 2:1. There is only one other text twisted for ill use more than these two verses, and that would be Galatians 2:20 and 3:1-3. Later, In part 2, I will toss in an exegesis of those verses as a bonus.

There may be a lot of different religions and even more denominations, but for all practical purposes they all have one thing in common: this whole idea that salvation is a process with a beginning and an end. This makes salvation a process that includes our present life.

So, the argumentation between religions and denominations involves the correct way of getting from point A to point B. But there is no point A and point B. When you believe God unto salvation, you get the complete package and the salvation part of your life is finished. It is an instantaneous quickening of the Spirit that transports you from one kingdom to another, from one master to another, from being under law to being under grace, from the old person to the new person, and from darkness to light. You don’t become a servant of righteousness on the installment plan, and you don’t become a kingdom citizen on an installment plan.

How is 1John used to argue for a progressive salvation, and what is John really saying in his epistle? That’s what we are discussing tonight. If you would like to add to our lesson or ask a question, call (347) 855-8317. We will check in with Susan towards the end of the show and listen to her perspective. If you would like to comment on our subject tonight, you can also email me at paul@ttanc.com. That’s Tom, Tony, Alice, Nancy, cat, paul@ttanc.com. I have my email monitor right here and can add your thoughts to the show.

Way back at the beginning of this ministry, I had this nailed down. If salvation is a process, and eternal life as opposed to eternal punishment is at stake, the Christian life is really a minefield. The focus isn’t being the best kingdom citizen; the focus is making sure you don’t mess up your salvation. The focus is salvation, not discipleship. The focus is fear of judgement, not love.

I realize many Christians hold to OSAS, once saved always saved, but the problem is how they are led by pastors trained in seminaries deeply grounded in Protestant tradition. That tradition looks to the institutional church as the primary way of getting God’s people from point A to point B in regard to their salvation. Whether OSAS or not, they are led to do the same things week in and week out. Be here at this time or that time; stand up; sing; sit down; listen to announcements; stand up; sing; sit down; listen to the special music presentation; put your tithe in the plate; listen to the sermon (always about the gospel just in case there are lost people present, wink, wink); stand up; sing “Just As I Am” until someone walks the isle so you can stop singing “Just As I Am”; pray; be dismissed; be cordial to people and tell them how much you love them; go home, and come back next week and do it again.

Why? Because all of that ritualism “imparts grace” and enables us to “grow in grace.” It enables us to “grow up in our salvation.” After all, discipleship is the “growing part of our salvation.” We have all said it, but salvation doesn’t grow. While believing in OSAS, most parishioners are led by pastors who believe in progressive salvation/justification which was clearly the foundational premise of Protestantism with the progression being overseen by the Protestant institutional church.

Moreover, let’s face it; while believing in OSAS, there is only one reason people put up with all of the nonsense and drama of the institutional church—OSAS means that if someone leaves the institutional church, they were never saved to begin with. Right? In other words, they function according to the idea that they are led by. It’s OSAS as long as you are “faithful” to the institution. Then each church has its own little “faithfulness” caste system. Those who show up for all of the services are the “core members” that run the church. Those “less faithful” that only come on Sunday mornings are a lower class of member in the caste system.

You have the pastors, staff and deacons, then the “faithful” that attend all of the services and tithe at least 10%, the “casual” attenders that tithe, and then the bottom of the caste strata, even lower than the serfs, the putrid “nonmembers.”

Whether Calvin or Luther, the two icons of Protestantism, these beliefs follow after the doctrine they established for the Protestant institutional church. Access to the institutional church was through water baptism, and the critical need according to the Reformers for formal church membership follows: as Christians, forgiveness for present and future sins can only be found in the institutional church, and those sins condemn us. Forgiveness for all sins does not occur at salvation, but only for past sins. Water baptism initiates us into church membership where forgiveness for present and future sins can be obtained through the sacraments; ie., “gospel preaching,” the Lord’s Table, and anything else deemed as acts of faithfulness to the institutional church not to exclude tithing by any means. Calvin states this explicitly in his institutes, 4.15.1.

All in all, you can say that in Protestantism, the status of sin does not change for the believer—it still condemns requiring perpetual resalvation for every sin committed.

Therefore, 1John 1:9 and 2:1 is interpreted in this light: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9). “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (2:1).

These verses seem to bolster the authentic Protestant position on justification. Confession of sin in our Christian lives keeps us saved. And if we confess our sins, Jesus is up in heaven as our advocate with the Father continuing His work as a propitiation for our sins.

The problem is that this interpretation stands in stark contrast to what other Scriptures state about justification. Biblically, sin has a different classification after salvation—it can’t condemn; it can bring chastisement and present consequences, but it can’t condemn—its ability to condemn has been taken away. Hence, there is no need to have some institution that prevents future condemnation.

Nevertheless, it is easy to understand why the institutional church not only gets a pass on outrageous behavior, but the money keeps pouring in. What will people pay for their salvation and décor that glorifies the institution that saves them? Apparently, no price or compromise is too large. One can also appreciate the fear of so-called excommunication because the institutional church is the only place where one can receive continued forgiveness for present and future sins.

Before I move on, I will solidify my present point. Romans 8:1 states that there is presently NO condemnation for those who are in Christ. In Contrast, Calvin stated that “even saints cannot perform one work which, if judged on its own merits, is not deserving of condemnation” (CI 3.14.9, last sentence). Obviously, the focus is going to be avoiding condemnation, not our freedom to pursue aggressive love in discipleship.

So what are these verses in 1John really saying? Let’s begin to unpack that using the historical grammatical approach to interpretation as opposed to the traditional Protestant means of interpretation, the historical redemptive method. Since Protestantism sees salvation as a process, “redemptive” means that the Bible must be approached with a redemptive prism; ie., the Bible is about salvation. Clearly, this is eisegesis; going to the Bible with a presupposition.

In regard to the history part, this is the belief that history is an unfolding drama about salvation. Hence, all of reality is interpreted through salvation. All of history and the Bible continually reveals the one two-fold redemptive truth/reality: the sinfulness of man and the holiness of God. Salvation begins when we see or understand this reality, and the experience of that reality increases until final salvation.

In contrast, the historical grammatical method uses historical facts to bring more meaning to the text, and all truth is determined by what can be concluded by the grammar—this is known as exegesis. All meaning and truth comes out of the text without anything being read into the text except conclusions from other texts.

In fact, Protestant tradition holds to the idea that a historical grammatical approach to the Scriptures invariably leads to works salvation. Protestant tradition insists that the Scriptures must be interpreted through the prism of total depravity. In this year’s TANC conference, this is what I am going to be hitting on. Christians, save a few, have no idea that Protestant pastors that are leading them view reality in a totally different way than most parishioners. And this is why church looks like it does. And there is no salvaging it—it’s a completely broken system.

So, if you interpret said verses in 1John redemptively, it fits right into their narrative, right? You have to continue to repent for new sins in your Christian life in order to not be condemned and to keep your salvation. A good old fashioned Baptist lady who I am sure would hold OSAS stated this to my wife Susan in the grocery store a couple weeks ago. When Susan asked her why Christians need to go forward during alter calls, she answered, “they have sin that needs to be forgiven.” Well, why can’t they get that forgiveness by praying at home? You ought to see the reaction Susan and I get when we suggest her mother was saved even though not a member of a church.

Protestantism and all of its offshoots including the Baptists is nothing more or less than functioning Calvinism. Election isn’t the point, progressive salvation is the point. Protestants think salvation grows—salvation doesn’t grow—you are either forgiven once and for all time or you aren’t. Look, if you are going to stay in the institutional church, it makes absolutely no difference where you go. Please, stop driving 15 miles to the Baptist church when there is a Catholic Church right across the street—it’s a shameful waste of gas. It’s all progressive justification.

In contrast, we have to see 1John in its exegetical historical context. It must be interpreted according to what was going on during the time that prompted this letter. And what was that?

John was pushing back against the number-one nemesis of the assemblies during that time: Gnosticism. Now, there were many, many different veins of Gnosticism during that time, but like denominationalism, there are basics that are fundamentally the same. Denominationalism quibbles about how to get from point A to point B, but it is all progressive salvation.

When you understand the basics of Gnosticism, it is easy to see that John’s first epistle is a point by point rebuttal of Gnosticism, and NOT the proffering of progressive justification. Protestants can bicker with Catholics all they want to about how to get from point A to point B, but again, it’s all progressive justification. If it’s a religious institution, it’s selling final salvation, PERIOD.

If we follow John’s arguments in this epistle, it also apes the fundamental basics of Gnosticism, and that’s what we are going to do:

1John 1:1 – That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. [KJV].

The Gnostics taught that it really wasn’t the spiritual Christ that died on the cross. Gnosticism holds to the idea that material is evil and only the invisible spiritual world is good. Gnosticism rejected the idea that the spiritual realm, or godhood can be one with the material. You must understand: the biblical concept of Godman is a direct affront to the foundation of all false religions, or the knowledge of good and evil. It is the idea that true knowledge cannot be one with the material. Knowledge is good, material is evil and is only a shadow of true knowledge. Knowledge of the material is enslaved and dependent on the five senses.

Now, stop right there. Let me simplify this for you. All false religion flows from the religion of the knowledge of good and evil presented to Eve in the garden. This is also the first sentence of the Calvin Institutes and all of the Calvin Institutes flow from the foundation of 1.1.1., first sentence, viz, ALL wisdom is the knowledge of man and the knowledge of God; man is inherently evil and God is inherently good.

Also, the first sentence of the Calvin Institutes is the primary theses of Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation which is the Magnum Opus of the Reformation. All fundamentals found in contemporary evangelicalism can be found in the Heidelberg Disputation and flow from it. Calvin’s Institutes further articulated the former. In contemporary evangelicalism, we hear constantly that true biblical knowledge is “the knowledge of our own sinfulness as set against God’s holiness.” This is also the pronounced fundamental foundation of the contemporary biblical counseling movement as constantly stated publically in no uncertain terms.

Why am I interjecting this? Because even though much of our knowledge concerning first century Gnosticism comes from the writings of the early church fathers and while they railed against Gnosticism, they themselves were also Gnostics. However, in the process of railing against Gnosticism, they confirm unequivocally that John’s letter addressed the Gnosticism of their day; it just wasn’t the Gnosticism that they preferred.

And by the way, according to some church fathers, John was addressing a Gnostic named Cerinthus who was a contemporary of John and a personal nemesis.

Cerinthus was a gnostic and to some, an early Christian, who was prominent as a heresiarch in the view of the early Church Fathers. Contrary to proto-orthodox Christianity, Cerinthus’s school followed the Jewish law, used the Gospel according to the Hebrews, denied that the Supreme God had made the physical world, and denied the divinity of Jesus. In Cerinthus’ interpretation, the Christ came to Jesus at baptism, guided him in his ministry, but left him at the crucifixion.

He taught that Jesus would establish a thousand-year reign of sensuous pleasure after the Second Coming but before the General Resurrection, a view that was declared heretical by the Council of Nicaea. Cerinthus used a version of the gospel of Matthew as scripture.

Cerinthus taught at a time when Christianity’s relation to Judaism and to Greek philosophy had not yet been clearly defined. In his association with the Jewish law and his modest assessment of Jesus, he was similar to the Ebionites and to other Jewish Christians. In defining the world’s creator as the demiurge, he emulated Platonic philosophy and anticipated the Gnostics.

Early Christian tradition describes Cerinthus as a contemporary to and opponent of John the Evangelist, who may have written the First Epistle of John and the Second Epistle of John to warn the less mature in faith and doctrine about the changes he was making to the original gospel. All that is known about Cerinthus comes from the writing of his theological opponents (Wikipedia).

At any rate, the teachings of Cerinthus follow the basic fundamentals of 1st century Gnosticism of which there were two schools of thought unchanged from the cradle of society: intuitive knowledge within versus knowledge outside of man. While both schools held to the strict dichotomy of material being evil and the invisible good, and true knowledge being beyond the five senses, they disagreed on where that knowledge is found and whether or not it is intuitive among all men, or a select few preordained by nature or some supreme being.

Cerinthus followed the philosophical school of Idealism which holds to the belief that the one cosmic mind has an intuitive connection within every individual. Finding that knowledge is often a complex mind-numbing epistemology, but curiously, Luther and Calvin had their own angle that built on the Neo-Platonic teachings of St. Augustine.

This Gnostic bent actually allowed for Christ to be human, or at least some form of humanity. Apparently, God became exasperated with man’s penchant for trying to gain knowledge through the material world, and said in essence, “Ok, since you like to think you can know something and try to gain knowledge through the things that are seen, I am going to send my Son to die on the physical cross, and now all knowledge will only be gained through suffering—there mankind, take that!” This is the essence of the Heidelberg Disputation which is a philosophical treatise, not a theological one by any stretch of the imagination. Luther states plainly in the document that ALL knowledge is hidden in the suffering of the cross. Anyone who thinks they can understand Protestantism without a good grasp of world philosophy is sadly misguided. It is one of the historical necessities of historical grammatical hermeneutics.

Hence, in the Gnostic Protestant construct, Christ and His gospel is the only true objective knowledge and is outside of man. Man is not to seek any knowledge within himself, but all knowledge must be sought outside of him in contemplation of the gospel. All of reality is interpreted by the suffering of the cross. The cross is the epistemology from the material to the invisible, or from the evil to the good.

In contrast, other schools believe the epistemology is intuitive within all men because all men have a spiritual being separate from their material being, and the spiritual part of man is nonmaterial and therefore SINLESS. The material body of man is evil because it is material, but his invisible being is good and has a connection to the cosmic spiritual world that must be cultivated by transcending the material. This was key to the drug culture of the 60’s as LSD trips enabled the individual to transcend the five senses and see into the invisible spiritual world. Supposedly.

Other schools of thought believed that even though all men have a material and spiritual aspect, the spiritual anthropology has classifications in regard to who is able to see true knowledge and who isn’t as determined by the cosmos or cosmic mind; ie., determinism. And consequently, if utopia is to ever be achieved, those with the ability to see knowledge must rule over those who have the inability to transcend the material and are enslaved to it.  How do you reason with people hopelessly enslaved to the material? They either understand that they can’t know reality and get with the program, or you kill them.

According to the Reformers, utopia is achieved by understanding that all reality is interpreted through the cross of redemption. This concept was established by Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation and is known as being a “theologian of the cross.” Theologians of the cross are able to know the “cross story,” or interpret reality through the cross, and all others are enslaved to the “glory story” or the story of man. This is the dichotomy of the knowledge of good and evil, or material versus spiritual.

Furthermore, the Reformers believed that the new birth entailed the gift of outward seeing only. All goodness remains outside of man. This is the pious distinction they claim over their fellow Gnostics. Unlike Cerinthus, who would be the modern equivalence of existentialism, no good can be in man, because that does not limit knowledge to suffering and the cross. Even though the early church fathers believed that material is evil and only the invisible is good like all ancient Gnostics, they labeled those heretics who believed that the invisible spirit within man was a connection to the good. That was heresy in their minds. And if you really understand what John Piper et al believe in our day, NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

The true Christians of that day had a different metaphysical take: the material realm is NOT evil, it’s weak. Something that is weak can still be good. The born again Christian struggles with sin because he/she is weak, not because the material realm is inherently evil. Christ really did come adorned in humanity in every since of the meaning because the material is not evil. This understanding of being fits together with the true gospel.

But what Cerinthus et al was teaching speaks directly to what John wrote in his first epistle, and we have addressed some of it in John’s introduction. John, in essence, said the following: Christ was 100% humanity and 100% God. We saw Him, we heard Him, we touched Him, we saw Him die on the cross, there isn’t two Christs, there is only one.

What Cerinthus et al taught explains everything John wrote in this epistle and why he wrote it. It not only explains why John wrote what he wrote in 1:9 and 2:1, it sheds light on why John wrote what he wrote in the rest of the book as well.

And that is what we will look at next week. We will do a point by point fly over of 1John while interpreting it according to this historical context of Gnosticism. John will address the definition of sin in contrast, the definition of knowledge and truth in contrast, the definition of the true gospel in context, the definition of love and hate in contrast, and the definition of the new birth in contrast.

See you next week.

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The Essence of Gnosticism and Why the Proof is NOT in the Pudding

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on August 12, 2015

Gnostic Nation cutOriginally published September 2, 2014

“To emphasize the shadows is to emphasize life itself.” 

There is one proof that today’s church is saturated with Gnosticism, other than the tyranny that comes with it. For the most part, when you listen to any given message taught to Christians, you will notice that a neutral or third option is missing. It’s an either/or worldview. The essence of Gnosticism is known as “dualism.” All knowledge is either good or evil. In the case of Protestantism, it’s Luther’s cross story or glory story: the knowledge of good and evil; sound familiar? All reality falls into two categories only: it’s EITHER about you, OR it’s about the cross.

“_______…is not necessarily a bad thing (fill in the shadow element), it’s just not the best thing.” Yes my friend, why do you emphasize the shadows when it is only the Son that gives life? In Protestantism, “Son.” In Platonism, “Sun.” For both: shadows = life and the material realm. To emphasize the shadows is to emphasize life itself.

Shadows are true. Plato never said that shadows don’t exist—he just deemed them useless for true knowledge. The virtuous person does not live in the shadows, he/she lives according to the true,good, and beautiful aka Plato’s trinity. The shadows, viz, life and whatever may be going on, is irrelevant to the wellbeing experience of the true, good, and beautiful. In the same way, good Protestants are deemed happy regardless of their circumstances; it is well with our soul.

If ISIS raises their flag above the White House—it is well with our soul.

If there is a pedophile in our church—it is well with our soul.

“Justice!” you say? If you want self-justice, you are just as guilty as the one who followed his self-desire. Come now, use this preordained opportunity to be the bigger person, to show forth the cross of self-denial. If you deny yourself justice, you are showing forth the gospel to the one who should have denied himself the fulfillment of his self-desire. We must “bring grace to the situation.” We must “show forth the gospel.” We must show forth the self-death of the cross.

All of these things are just shadows after all. And to the Gnostic, whether an atheist or a good Protestant, the biggest shadow of all is capitalism. The profound spell of Plato is that he appeals to the social scientist and the religionist alike. Self-concept is the waters of the shadow world that we swim in. To the degree that we empty self and live solely for the sake of community, our individual soul is transformed. To the degree that individuals are transformed, society is transformed. Atheists and Protestants must not fuss; here now, hold hands and say, “ahhhmen.” After all, we all want the same thing: community wellbeing.

One is greatly mistaken if they point to the woes of societies living in the rotten fruits of Eastern mysticism as a contention. Those people are deemed virtuous because they are content in the shadows. If everyone would follow their example, the world would be balanced and the true, good, and beautiful would be manifested. The only reason that countries are poor is because capitalism’s greed takes from some and gives to others, and the earth is therefore unbalanced. The only way to a balanced, unified earth is collective self-death. This is where the liberal Democrat and the Neo-Calvinist both walk in the way of Martin Luther’s cross story.

Hence, the likes of ISIS is an unfortunate example of those who are a bit over-zealous. But they understand the importance of devaluing the life of the individual—they are just a bit extreme in demonstrating that truth. They are misguided, but yeah, if only the capitalist understood their child-like faith.

Bad results are no pudding test. Capitalism isn’t the cure, it’s the cause. This is where the contrast between Christ who said, “the poor will always be with you,” and the dominion theology of the Neo-Calvinist and the liberal democrat alike should strike terror in our hearts.

paul

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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