Paul's Passing Thoughts

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

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

Originally Published May 25, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The New Testament offers another perspective on covetousness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andy

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something of value!

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

So the next question is, what are values?

Values are that which one acts to gain or keep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life makes the concept Value possible

The progression goes like this:

                Life → Values → GOOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

Man’s Life/Man’s Character

Life → Values → GOOD → Morality → Ethics → Character

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

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

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

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

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

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

…To be continued

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

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

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on May 25, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The New Testament offers another perspective on covetousness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andy

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