Paul's Passing Thoughts

From the Reformation to the Third Reich: Protestantism’s Impact on Western Culture – Part 4

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on March 10, 2017

The following is part four of a multi-part series.
Taken from John Immel’s third session
at the 2014 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny
~ Edited by Andy Young

Click here for introduction
Click here for part two
Click here for part three
Click here for part five
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for part eight
Click here for conclusion

 

In the previous article we were discussing the re-introduction of Aristotle into Western thought. This is a breakthrough of epic proportions because the ideas of Aristotle are directly responsible for liberty and the explosion of human achievement that takes place in the 17th century.

Aristotle understood that universals do not exist in some transcendent world of Forms as Plato taught, but rather they are the product of human cognition. Man’s capacity for reason makes it possible for him to understand similarities in identities in the physical world and categorize them in such a way that brings order to reality. This is in stark contrast to Plato and other contributors to Western thought to this point. They held human reason in contempt and regarded human senses as inferior for being able to interpret the word around them.

Aristotle’s metaphysical premise regarding the nature of existence and the subsequent epistemological qualification that resulted in acknowledging man having ability to correctly interpret reality led Aristotle to some logical conclusions regarding the behavior of particulars. The behavior of a particular is defined by its nature. The essential characteristics of a particular are what define its identity. The essence of each thing is unique to that thing. This is what all science is based on. The axiom of human existence are understood in three laws.

The Law of Identity
This is the primary axiom of which the other two laws are corollaries. The Law of Identity says that any object cannot both be and not be at the same time. Man cannot be both “man” and “not man.” A horse cannot be both “horse” and “not horse.” “A” cannot be both “A” and “not A.” Aristotle said it this way:

“If, however, a definition, for example, man, horse, A, were not limited, but one were to say that the word is an infinite number of meanings, obviously, reasoning would be impossible. For not to have one meaning is to have no meaning. If words have no meaning, our reasoning with one another and ourselves has been annihilated, for it is impossible to think if anything we do not think of but one thing.”

Think of the conversations that you have had and how frustrating it is how often the Neo-Calvinists change definitions, and they place mutually exclusive ideas together. This is what they are doing. They are annihilating reason.

Paul Dohse is very fond of talking about the grammatical approach. Words are really a description of entities, and it is our means by which we communicate the nature of our perceptual experience. Words hold abstractions and concepts. So when somebody says to you, “the clear meaning of scripture,” what you first must say is “clear by what context?” Because unless you have the Law of Identity in action, you will find that they don’t have a context. It is usually a free-floating abstraction, and they are treating the abstraction as if it is the only thing that matters. The Neo-Calvinists are masters of wrecking the Law of Identity.

The Law of Non-Contradiction
The first corollary to the Law of Identity says this:

“It is impossible then that being a man should mean precisely not being a man. And it is not possible to be and not be at the same time. But the point in question is not whether the same thing can at the same time be and not be in name, but whether it can be [and not be] in fact.”

This is the important part. Can something actually exist as two mutually exclusive things? The answer is no, never. A perfect example of this is the expression coined by Martin Luther, Simul justus et peccator – “simultaneously saint and sinner.”

The Law of the Excluded Middle
The second corollary to the Law of Identity says this:

“But on the other hand, there can be no intermediate between contradictories, but if one subject, we must either affirm or deny on any one predicate. This is clear, in the first place, if we define what the true and the false are.”

He is basically saying you can’t punt. If you cannot figure out how to reconcile a contradiction, you cannot relegate it to the abyss of “mystery.” In the book, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand put it this way:

“Contradictions do not exist. If you believe you have found a contradiction, check your premises. One of them is wrong.”

The problem within the Medieval world was they would never check their premise. They always had an explanation for what it was, and so they could never identify an error. You see this dramatically within churches. It is stunning to watch them rationalize one of two directions, either why God is for them or God is with them. The church’s roof falls on everybody; God is against them. The church’s roof falls on everybody; God is with them. And in each instance, you have mutually exclusive ideas. Is it God’s judgment or is it God’s blessing? And they will do Herculean reasoning efforts to try to justify why are they both and the same – the exact same event is basically two separate outcomes. You are ultimately looking at a violation of the Law of Excluded Middle. You cannot punt. If you find an inconsistency in your thinking, you have something fundamentally wrong with your thinking.   Consider how that impacts a vast percentage of Christian doctrines!

In summation, the identity of “A” is in fact the identity of “A”. The particulars of “A” must never contradict. For “A” to maintain its identity, there can be no middle compromise on something not “A”. This is the foundation of causality. It is because man can identify “A” and hold no contradiction on the identity of “A” that empowers man to successfully make a distinction and see the relationship on how the particulars interact.

Without causality, everything in reality remains a totally unprecedented event. Man cannot tell why one thing happens versus another. This is crucial to understanding reality. The foundations of causality, the laws that govern causality, are a corollary to the correct judgment of reality. The inability to identify cause and effect is man’s central and greatest failing, and insanity is directly tied to the inability to act to identify causality. Our internal “reality testers” are directly related to our ability to identify cause and effect between objects in space; abstractions and action and motion.

So now you can begin to grasp why it is that all effective human cognition flows from Aristotle- all laws of logic, all of man’s conceptual capacity, all of man’s reason, and most importantly, man’s capacity to grasp the world in which he lives.

Question: Why is this a threat to despots the world over?

Second question: Why has every oppressive ideology sought to unseat Aristotle?

Third question: Why do tyrants cling to Aristotle’s shoulders while trying to cut off his head?

Here is the answer. Because Aristotelian thought means that:

  • Existence is knowable, understandable, and practicable.
  • All men have the ability to arrive at the truth.
  • Knowledge is available for all who would use the laws and the rules of logic to obtain it.

This foundational concept was revolutionary. It was the original Copernican shift from the transcendent world of Plato’s Forms. Indeed, without Aristotle’s foundation, Copernicus was not possible, and neither is any other advance in human knowledge.

Here is Aristotle’s greatest impact on Western thought. When using the laws of thought, the mind of man is effective to understand man’s existence. An existence that is identifiable is an existence that is understandable. An existence that is understandable is an existence that is explorable. An existence that is explorable is an existence that is controllable. An existence that is controllable is an existence that man can master.

And this is exactly what happened. Thomas Aquinas introduced Aristotle into the horror story that was the Augustinian Dark Ages, where crime was a starving serf eating the king’s deer, where punishment was an iron maiden or the rack or the stocks, where civil liberties meant the government could do no wrong because the king had a divine right to any action, where child labor law was mandatory 16-hour days scratching in the fields of the lord’s property with a stick to plant the lord’s crops so that the father can pay the lord’s taxes, where plagues were heaped on the heads of sinners, where the princes and kings waged yet another war against the Lollards or the Catholics or the Protestants, and teenagers pledged their oath of loyalty to fight in religious wars.

Aristotle’s ideas soon inspired the Renaissance. I want you to notice the contrast between Medieval art and the art of the Renaissance. Consider the impact of Aristotle in the Sistine Chapel. Now man is no longer this cringing, horrified, tormented beast, writhing in the flames in the pit of hell. Now man is portrayed as the very image of his own Maker! It is a powerful contrast. This is how the entire progression of ideas have impact as this metaphysical statement rolls out to people, and now they begin to roll back to themselves through art in the images and the pictures that affirm their metaphysical, epistemological and ethical assumptions.

For the next hundred years, this philosophy moves in fits and starts. It travels down blind alleys, intellectual cul-de-sacs. By the time we get to the 17th century, philosophers are exceedingly aware that they need a new start. A new start equated throwing off the Augustinian metaphysical and epistemological framework. Mysticism and dogmatism continued to wreck everything it touched. Something was very obviously wrong.

The thinkers in the 17th century merely had to observe that the human history was dominated by ignorance, superstition, poverty, and despotism. Revelations did not work. “Faith” was merely government-enforced superstition. Dogmatism was really despotism. Despotism led to oppression and poverty. Philosophers needed a new method. This new method was Reason.

The Age of Reason gave way to the Enlightenment of the 17th century. Reason became the standard, and the world was beginning to actually understand the world which man lives. Notice the explosion. You should recognize most of these names – Bacon, Galileo, Newton, Descartes, Locke. These men represent the core, the explosion of the power of human reasoning and what it ultimately produced. Here is where man finally gains freedom.

There is the one thing, however, that remained to be figured out – political thought. The power of Aristotle’s metaphysics and epistemology ultimately worked out into the area of ethics. We now have an ethical standard where man is able to determine value, and the nature of this ability is what empowers him towards self-governance.

I consistently ask this question, who owns man? There have only been two options in the whole history of the human race: either the State owns man or man owns himself. In political action, this is how man finally came out from underneath the horror story that was the Middle Ages, the horror story that was the Augustinian doctrine, the horror story that was made after Calvin.

This brings me to the emergence of John Locke and the issue of capitalism. This will be the central issue in National Socialist Germany and ultimately how it impacts the United States.

To be continued…


Click here for introduction
Click here for part two
Click here for part three
Click here for part five
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for part eight
Click here for conclusion

 

From the Reformation to the Third Reich: Protestantism’s Impact on Western Culture – Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on March 9, 2017

The following is part three of a multi-part series.
Taken from John Immel’s third session
at the 2014 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny
~ Edited by Andy Young

Click here for introduction
Click here for part two
Click here for part four
Click here for part five
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for part eight
Click here for conclusion

 

The Re-Discovery of Aristotle!

St. Thomas Aquinas

In the previos two posts I have brought you up to the collapse of civilization. That collapse lasts for almost 800 years because Augustine stands virtually intellectually unopposed. There are some medieval theologians and so forth that do rise up, and some of them were pretty smart, but when it came right down to it, they had nothing important to say in the evolution of Western thought. The result is for all of their departures and all of their good ideas, they never abandon the rudiments of orthodoxy.

Then around 1250, St. Thomas Aquinas appears on the scene and reintroduces Aristotle into Western thought in 1250. Aquinas is critical because he integrated the philosophies of Aristotle into Christianity. I cannot understate the importance of this because the re-discovering of Aristotle is what makes the concepts of freedom and liberty as we know it possible. Aristotle is responsible for the coming Enlightenment Era and thinkers such as John Locke. I dare say that the United State would not have happened had it not been for Aristotle.

I want you to notice this timeline. Even with the contributions of Aquinas in 1250 AD, we do not get to freedom, liberty and knowledge until almost 1700! That means that man still spends another 500 years or so in this doleful horror story of the Dark Ages. But it is Aquinas who gives us Aristotle, and Aristotle bails us out of the madness.

The reason I want to talk about Aristotle is because because ultimately I am going to get to the impact of Neo-Calvinism on the United States of America.   By the time I get to the next two parts of this series, I want you to be absolutely aware that America is not possible without Aristotle and without John Locke.   You must know what you are about to lose and why you are about to lose it. And if you don’t understand this much, then you will never understand why I object so vehemently to Augustine and Luther and Calvin.

Aristotle_Color

Now I’m not going to go over how Aquinas integrated Aristotle into Christianity. That would be a long and tedious project. So I’m just going to start with Aristotle and the elements and roots of Aristotle. Aristotle is the most important figure in all of Western thought. Aristotle was a student of Plato and spent 20 years in Plato’s Academy. For a series of reasons, he left Athens, and eventually, those series of reasons resolve and he came back to Athens and created his own school called The Lyceum. But while he was in Plato’s Academy, he was considered one of Plato’s best students, and he was a committed Platonist.

In the beginning he accepted the premise of Platonism and its full philosophical statement from the beginning to the end. However, during his time away from Athens, he began to rethink, and he decided Plato was wrong, and not just a little wrong, catastrophically wrong. As such, he began to rethink the whole of philosophy and the whole shape and scope of philosophy.

Now in the grand scheme of intellectuals, Plato was a genius on levels that is hard to grasp for people in everyday life. Still, Plato had ideas that came before him that he built on. Aristotle had nothing before him to arrive at his conclusions. Everything before him was exactly the opposite of what he said. So for Aristotle to arrive at the conclusions that he did is illustrative of the capacity of his own genius.

Aristotle objects to Plato’s world of Forms. He rejects Plato’s metaphysics at the root. Plato created a transcendent world where everything you see is actually a shadow of the real thing, of the perfect thing.   Those perfect things were actually located in this world called the Forms. There was a perfect table in the world of Forms, and the table that you see is a shadow. It is imperfect and therefore a shadow of this perfect thing.

Aristotle rejected this idea because he believed the Forms are a useless theory because it does not explain this world. This world is filled with particulars, things that move, change, grow and act. Particulars are independent entities that can be categorized by what they have in common, such as a dog, a tree, a man, a remote control. They are self-contained and self-enclosed things, something that exists in and of itself.

This is the world that man needs to understand. Man does not need to know Plato’s static supernatural world.

Here’s an example. This world has chairs, tables, dogs, and Calvinists. Plato says that to understand this world, another world must first have chairs, tables, dogs, and Calvinists. As far as Aristotle is concerned, this creates a useless duplication. All that Plato has done is create a useless metaphor that does not address the root question, how does this world reflect the world of Forms? By what mechanism does this take place? And of course there is no answer, because by definition, all that Plato was saying is this world of Forms is somehow a bright enough light that it casts a shadow here. But yet there is still this fundamental division, which means that man is still living in a world that is somehow functionally unreal.

Here is Aristotle’s major substantive objection. To understand this objection, I need to help you understand the distinction between universals and particulars. I have already defined particulars for you. Aristotle recognized that particulars can be categorized into universals. Universals are what is common to a number of particulars. It is the characteristic possessed by many particulars. What is the common denominator of say table-ness or chair-ness or circle-ness? When men conceptualizes these things, he universalizes the concepts into an abstraction.

Let me see if I can explain this.   Consider a remote control for your television. That particular remote controls a particular device, namely your television. You can generalize “remote” into a universal concept. That concept can be abstracted to the nth degree because now you do not have to remember every single remote you have ever see in your lifetime. You can now hold in your head the concept, the abstraction, of remote, and it encompasses all of the remotes on the planet. You see, this is an enormously powerful part of human cognition. It is Aristotle’s ability to identify the process of going from a particular to the universal (concept), to the abstraction that gives Aristotle’s metaphysics and epistemology such enormous power.

What Plato did is he took the human mind’s ability to conceptualize a universal and instead said “remote” has a perfect “remote” somewhere else, and that is how we know a “remote” generally. Aristotle says that is silly. What you just did is took the abstraction, “remote-ness”, created universal perfect “remote” somewhere in another world, and then said, oh by the way, this particular remote is only a reflection. So in other words, Plato took the universal and made it a particular. This is a powerful, powerful argument. He pretty much said Plato made up this world that had no function and no purpose and that all that was necessarily important was here and now.

Here’s how Aristotle explains this. We separate common characteristics of entities, particulars, by our selective awareness, by observing the differences among them. We then reduce things to a common denominator. And this is how we go from particulars to universals. When a baby first enters the world, he looks around and sees chair, chair, chair, chair, chair, chair, but he does not understand all of these chairs. At first to him these are all somehow unique and individual events. But eventually, he begins to identify the common denominators of all chairs, and he begins to conceptualize “chair” in general, and then he abstracts to the bigger picture.

Notice Aristotle’s distinction. Just because we can perform the action of abstraction does not mean that the common denominator exists in a separate supernatural reality. Separating things in thought is very different from separating in reality. When man practices this selective process, he is performing abstraction. For example, within your room, you could identify all the shapes of the circle in the room, so you can ignore color, or if it is a part of a chair or connected to the wall you can extract the concept “circle” from each instance. But this mental process does not mean that “circle” is out there somewhere in a Form.

Aristotle called Plato’s world of Forms the “Fallacy of Reification”, literally “thing-making.” Plato is making a particular out of a human cognitive process. This is a brilliant deduction. Aristotle identifies a fundamental flaw by pointing out that this is really nothing more than how the human consciousness works. It is part of the human consciousness identity.

Now you should have some basic insight into how Aristotle conceptualizes the world. Here are the basics. Reality exists. What man perceives is reality. There is no conflict between reality and appearance. Reality is what man observes, and any formulation that says otherwise is error. Particulars are the units of reality. The things you see are particulars. As I said, anything you can physically point at, look at, identify, subtract and blank out everything else and look at, that is a particular. Everything is an individual and a concrete. Individuality is the particular’s irreducible element. The thing that individualizes it is the thing itself.

Here is Aristotle’s distinction, and this is a direct contrast to Plato. Universals are real. Universals are the objects of conceptual thought. Universals are the abstraction of particulars, but only particulars actually exist. Let me make a distinction. There was a common tool of debate that was called Zeno’s Paradox. Zeno said you couldn’t actually cross a room because you could not cross distance. You would go to half and then to half again and then to half again and then to half again and to half again, and you could not cross a room by definition. Of course, this is error because it takes the concept of infinity and turns it into a thing. You do not cross infinity. You cross an identity. And the identity is the distance of a room, 30 feet. Aristotle correctly destroyed Zeno’s Paradox by observing that the abstraction “infinity” was not real. We use it as a mental organizer, but it is not in existence like this. So can we cross a room? Absolutely. Why? Because we’re not crossing infinity. We’re crossing an identity, 30 feet.

Side Bar: Most of the conflicts that we have regarding the Neo-Calvinist group and all collectivist ideologies are the failure to grasp the distinction between concretes and particulars, concepts and abstractions. Most of our theological discussion has failed because it has misunderstood these specific distinctions. And the reason the Neo-Calvinists kick our butt so consistently is because they are masters at manipulating the difference between concept and abstraction. I’ll let you mull that over.

Aristotle said matter is the uniqueness of a particular. Form is the universalizing of those things that a particular shares with other things. So he takes over Plato’s concept of form, but he uses it entirely differently. Aristotle noted that you cannot have form without matter, and you cannot have matter without form. This is Plato’s fundamental error; he created a world of Forms without matter. This is the exact same failing in Augustinian doctrine. Augustine’s Form is the heavenly and the universal worldly godly realm. This earth has no Form. Augustine manipulates this to the nth degree throughout the entirety of his ideology.

 

Aristotle’s Metaphysics
Everybody prior to Aristotle said that consciousness was primary. Some consciousness, whether some variation of man’s consciousness or some divine consciousness, imposed its will on the world and shaped it after its fashion. Aristotle said that is backwards. It is reality that comes first and consciousness engages reality.   This is known as the Primacy of Existence, and this is the Copernican shift in philosophy, because it puts reality and consciousness as co-counterweights in the ability to define what is. It gives the ability for objective knowledge.

With the primacy of consciousness, you have no guarantee of objectivity because the first question you must ask is, whose consciousness defines reality? Is it Allah? Is it God? Is it Isis? Or if you are a follower of Hegel, is it the state that defines reality? Can the state impose its collective will on the world? With this, all you have is the term subjectivism. The primacy of consciousness is nothing more than subjectivism. But it is reality first, the primacy of existence first, the correlation of consciousness perceiving that reality that gives you the ability to have objective knowledge; it gives you a plumb line, because man has every confidence that what he sees is.

Man’s obsession to alter reality by the mind is the heart and soul of magic. And this is the primacy of consciousness’ preoccupation. This is how pond scum in the Middle Ages magically became frogs. Everything is and it is not. Everything is mutable and changeable. There is no reality and there is no causality.

Man practices the primacy of consciousness metaphysics all the time. You see something horrible and the first thing you do is start saying, “No, no, that can’t be.” The blogosphere is doing this with Calvinists all the time. They see one more manifestation of Neo-Calvinist abuse and just magically go, “No, that can’t be. It can’t be the doctrine.” They pretend the relationship between ideas and outcomes do not exist. That must mean it is not reality. This is the implication of the primacy of consciousness. They are defining the measure of truth by their own determination at a given consciousness.

 

Aristotle’s Epistemology.
One of the biggest problems with Plato’s world of Forms is if there is this other world, how does man ever get this concept of “table”? Where does that come from? If he has no ability to perceive it by any means, how does he get it? Well, the historic solution to this was the concept of innate ideas, that somehow man just knew it. Before he was born, man knew it and he remembers it as he grows. All of these things, these innate ideas, all originate pre-consciousness.

If you recall from the 2013 series on the evolution of Western thought, practically every system of thought included the idea that somehow man’s senses and his ability to perceive were impaired or invalid. Aristotle opposed this thought. He said that a man starts his existence tabula rasa, as a blank slate. Man has no innate ideas. The way man gets his knowledge is that it begins with the senses, perceptions. Man’s faculty for understanding reality is his perceptions. All formulations that write off the senses at this point are wrong.

Man sees a rainbow, and he sees it from a distance and it physically looks like it touches the ground. And so he goes to try to find where it is, and of course he can’t find it. And the more he tries to walk towards the rainbow, the harder it is to see the rainbow. Or a similar example is you take a stick. A stick is straight in the air. You stick it in the water and you look at it, and suddenly, the stick bends. The historic criticism was that the senses deceive us. We really can’t rely on the senses.

Aristotle realized that was nonsense. You simply made a crucial error. The senses gave you the correct information, but you interpreted the information wrong. You misunderstood what that information was designed to give you. The stick in the water appears bent because at some point you learn the implications of how water moves and shapes light. The stick didn’t bend. The light coming back at the senses is what changed the appearance of the stick. The same thing is true of the rainbow. A rainbow is the result of light passing through water mist which refracts the light, and so the illusion that you think you see is really the correct manifestation of the entities light and water.

Aristotle’s next epistemological advance was called concept-formation which I have already discussed at length earlier in this article. It is the ability of man to take perceptions and particulars, identify the common denominators between them, and conceptualize abstractions called universals. This is how man brings order to his perceptions and begins to classify reality by identifying identities. It is by this method that man goes from circle to wheel to cart to transportation.

This is how man builds every increasing levels of complexity. He takes the very small, the particular, and he begins to form and shape that until he gets to the broadest abstraction. The order goes this way, perception to conception to abstraction to universal. And I’m going to keep saying this because this is central to the world that we inhabit. Until you understand how this functions, it is very easy to get wrapped up in the Augustinian ideas and their specific effort to divorce the world from reality man’s mind. This is a central attack that we will see over and over again as we progress through this discussion.

To be continued…


Click here for introduction
Click here for part two
Click here for part four
Click here for part five
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for part eight
Click here for conclusion

There is NO Difference!

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on October 31, 2016

TANC 2015, John Immel, Session 1: Examining the Historical Perspectives and Evolution of Determinism

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on October 13, 2015

The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation; Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on June 6, 2015

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Welcome truth lovers to Blog Talk radio .com/False Reformation, this is your host Paul M. Dohse Sr. Tonight, part 2 of “The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation.”

Greetings from the Potters House and TANC ministries where we are always eager to serve all of your heterodox needs. Our teaching catalogue can be found at tancpublishing.com.

If you would like to add to our lesson or ask a question, call (347) 855-8317. Remember to turn your PC volume down to prevent feedback.

Per the usual, we will check in with Susan towards the end of the show and listen to her perspective.

Remember, you may remain anonymous. When I say, “This is your host; you are on the air, what’s your comment or question—just start talking.

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 lesson without need for you to call in. You can post a question as well.

Last week we did pretty well; we began with an introduction and completed the first two theses. Tonight, we begin with thesis 3.

Thesis 3: Although the works of man always seem attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins.

Human works appear attractive outwardly, but within they are filthy, as Christ says concerning the Pharisees in Matt. 23:27. For they appear to the doer and others good and beautiful, yet God does not judge according to appearances but searches »the minds and hearts« (Ps. 7:9). For without grace and faith it is impossible to have a pure heart. Acts 15:9: »He cleansed their hearts by faith.«

The thesis is proven in the following way: If the works of righteous men are sins, as Thesis 7 of this disputation states, this is much more the case concerning the works of those who are not righteous. But the just speak in behalf of their works in the following way: »Do not enter into judgment with thy servant, Lord, for no man living is righteous before thee« (Ps. 143:2). The Apostle speaks likewise in Gal. 3:10, »All who rely on the works of the law are under the curse.« But the works of men are the works of the law, and the curse will not be placed upon venial sins. Therefore they are mortal sins. In the third place, Rom. 2:21 states, »You who teach others not to steal, do you steal?« St. Augustine interprets this to mean that men are thieves according to their guilty consciences even if they publicly judge or reprimand other thieves.

In this third thesis, Luther declares ALL works of men evil. That includes the works of believers as well. Again, we come to a paramount tenet of the Reformation; total depravity does not only pertain to mankind in general, but also the saints. Even though the works of men appear “good and beautiful” (eerily similar to Plato’s trinity of the good, true, and beautiful), they are evil:

If the works of righteous men are sins, as Thesis 7 of this disputation states, this is much more the case concerning the works of those who are not righteous.

By the way, this is synonymous with the Calvin Institutes 3.14.9-11. Luther hints in this thesis in regard to why all the works of men can be deemed wicked: they are under the law, and no man can keep the law perfectly:

 But the works of men are the works of the law…

This is another way of saying that Christians remain under the law just like unbelievers, and since no person can keep the law perfectly, all bets are off. The Calvin Institutes 3.14.10 is an in-depth articulation of this idea. This is amazing because it’s right here where Reformed soteriology falls completely apart and turns the whole Bible upside down. Right here, you are looking at it. It’s the idea that Christians cannot perform a good work because they are still under the law and the law demands perfect obedience.

Also, amazingly, all of the major tenets of the Reformation gospel are in this one thesis. Let’s begin with Luther’s heart theology that actually laid the foundation for the contemporary biblical counseling movement; at least what came out of Westminster’s CCEF. An illustration can be seen below.

Luther cites Matthew 23:27 and Psalms 7:9 to make the point that the outward works of men are meaningless and God looks upon the heart. In this theology, the “heart” is the seat of faith. Even though the believer can do no good work; the believer’s heart (or faith) can be pure. What Luther proffers as we move along is a purity totally disconnected from works, and purity (faith) that is strictly an ability to perceive, and depending on the Reformed camp, experience the works of God completely separate from anything man does. If we pay close attention, we see these ideas in this third thesis.

For without grace and faith it is impossible to have a pure heart.

We must continue to remember that what Luther is saying about the heart is completely disconnected from man’s ability to do a good work. Why? Because everything man does is under the law and no man can keep the law perfectly. Again…

But the works of men are the works of the law…

Everything man does whether lost or saved is under the law, and since no man can keep the law perfectly; all of his works are condemned. The next part is very important:

Acts 15:9: »He cleansed their hearts by faith.«

The heart is cleansed by faith alone, and as we will see further along in our study, Luther believed that these cleansings needed to be repeated for ongoing present sin. But a little bit of thinking will reveal it here as well. If we are still under the law, we continue to sin against the law which necessarily demands a repurification. Especially since this sin is “mortal sin.” However,

But the works of men are the works of the law, and the curse will not be placed upon venial sins. Therefore they are mortal sins.

It boils down to this: if one thinks they performed a good work or are able to perform a good work, that’s mortal (subject to death) sin. But a faith that separates itself from works is venial (forgivable) sin which must be continually sought to receive ongoing cleansing. Luther elaborates on this more in the latter theses, but note how he uses Psalm 143:2 in this regard:

 »Do not enter into judgment with thy servant, Lord, for no man living is righteous before thee«

To not completely depend on faith alone, and thinking that you can do a good work is being under the curse of the law:

Gal. 3:10, »All who rely on the works of the law are under the curse.« But the works of men are the works of the law, and the curse will not be placed upon venial sins.

So there is no middle ground; one either depends totally on faith or on works. The belief that one can do a good work is tantamount to being cursed.

This third thesis is the very heart of the Reformation: no man can do a good work, and to believe that is pure faith apart from any good works. Again, faith and good works are separated. Now you know why Luther didn’t like the book of James. The premise for this is the supposed fact that believers remain under law which is a glaring contradiction to Scripture. The “heart” is the seat of pure faith apart from any works; faith and works are mutually exclusive throughout the life of the “believer.”

Thesis 4: Although the works of God are always unattractive and appear evil, they are nevertheless really eternal merits.

That the works of God are unattractive is clear from what is said in Isa. 53:2, »He had no form of comeliness«, and in 1 Sam. 2:6, »The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.« This is understood to mean that the Lord humbles and frightens us by means of the law and the sight of our sins so that we seem in the eyes of men, as in our own, as nothing, foolish, and wicked, for we are in truth that. Insofar as we acknowledge and confess this, there is »no form or beauty« in us, but our life is hidden in God (i.e. in the bare confidence in his mercy), finding in ourselves nothing but sin, foolishness, death, and hell, according to that verse of the Apostle in 2 Cor. 6:9-10, »As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as dying, and behold we live.« And that it is which Isa. 28:21 calls the »alien work« of God »that he may do his work« (that is, he humbles us thoroughly, making us despair, so that he may exalt us in his mercy, giving us hope), just as Hab. 3:2 states, »In wrath remember mercy.« Such a man therefore is displeased with all his works; he sees no beauty, but only his depravity. Indeed, he also does those things which appear foolish and disgusting to others.

This depravity, however, comes into being in us either when God punishes us or when we accuse ourselves, as 1 Cor. 11:31 says, »If we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged by the Lord«. Deut. 32:36 also states, »The Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.« In this way, consequently, the unattractive works which God does in us, that is, those which are humble and devout, are really eternal, for humility and fear of God are our entire merit.

Here we have the Reformed mainstay doctrine of mortification and vivification. This is a major Reformed soteriological doctrine along with double imputation and the vital union. But in regard to M&V, here it is folks—right here. This is probably where this doctrine is first introduced.

But first, let’s look at the Reformation’s single perspective on the law also in this thesis. Luther makes it clear that the supposed sole purpose of the law is to bring man down into despair because of his total depravity:

This is understood to mean that the Lord humbles and frightens us by means of the law and the sight of our sins so that we seem in the eyes of men, as in our own, as nothing, foolish, and wicked, for we are in truth that. Insofar as we acknowledge and confess this, there is »no form or beauty« in us, but our life is hidden in God (i.e. in the bare confidence in his mercy), finding in ourselves nothing but sin, foolishness, death, and hell, according to that verse of the Apostle in 2 Cor. 6:9-10, »As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as dying, and behold we live.« And that it is which Isa. 28:21 calls the »alien work« of God »that he may do his work« (that is, he humbles us thoroughly, making us despair, so that he may exalt us in his mercy, giving us hope), just as Hab. 3:2 states, »In wrath remember mercy.« Such a man therefore is displeased with all his works; he sees no beauty, but only his depravity. Indeed, he also does those things which appear foolish and disgusting to others.

Once we use the law, and God uses circumstances to bring us into despair, that is the mortification part, God brings about vivification, or exaltation. As you can see, Luther uses 2Corithians 6:9,10 to make the case for that. This suffering is actually the good works of God as opposed to the evil works that look good to man; ie., good works done by men whether saved or unsaved. Later in this disputation Luther will define that as the story of man, or the glory story, viz, good and beautiful works done by man, versus the cross story, viz, the works of God that look unattractive. As we will see further along, this is Luther’s very definition of the new birth. The Christian life is a perpetual death (mortification) and resurrection (vivification) cycle that continually repeats itself experientially from despair to joy.

This is also the basis of John Piper’s Christian Hedonism doctrine. Joy must be part of the salvation experience because it is the upside of the perpetual new birth experience that keeps salvation moving forward by faith alone. If you only experience despair, that’s a half gospel. Many are confused by John Piper’s Christian Hedonism doctrine until they understand M&V, then it all makes perfect sense why joy must be part of the salvation experience. Contemporary Reformers state it this way:

Progressive sanctification has two parts: mortification and vivification, ‘both of which happen to us by participation in Christ,’ as Calvin notes….Subjectively experiencing this definitive reality signified and sealed to us in our baptism requires a daily dying and rising. That is what the Reformers meant by sanctification as a living out of our baptism….and this conversion yields lifelong mortification and vivification ‘again and again.’ Yet it is critical to remind ourselves that in this daily human act of turning, we are always turning not only from sin but toward Christ rather than toward our own experience or piety (Michael Horton: The Christian Faith; mortification and vivification, pp. 661-663 [Calvin Inst. 3.3.2-9]).

At conversion, a person begins to see God and himself as never before. This greater revelation of God’s holiness and righteousness leads to a greater revelation of self, which, in return, results in a repentance or brokenness over sin. Nevertheless, the believer is not left in despair, or he is also afforded a greater revelation of the grace of God in the face of Christ, which leads to joy unspeakable. This cycle simply repeats itself throughout the Christian life. As the years pass, the Christian sees more of God and more of self, resulting in a greater and deeper brokenness. Yet, all the while, the Christian’s joy grows in equal measure because he is privy to greater and greater revelations of the love, grace, and mercy of God in the person and work of Christ. Not only this, but a greater interchange occurs in that the Christian learns to rest less and less in his own performance and more and more in the perfect work of Christ. Thus, his joy is not only increased, but it also becomes more consistent and stable. He has left off putting confidence in the flesh, which is idolatry, and is resting in the virtue and merits of Christ, which is true Christian piety (Paul Washer: The Gospel Call and True Conversion; Part 1, Chapter 1, heading – The Essential Characteristics Of Genuine Repentance, subheading – Continuing and Deepening Work of Repentance).

Now, the next thesis is fairly interesting. In the fifth thesis, Luther distinguishes between crimes and mortal sins.

Thesis 5; The works of men are thus not mortal sins (we speak of works which are apparently good), as though they were crimes.

For crimes are such acts which can also be condemned before men, such as adultery, theft, homicide, slander, etc. Mortal sins, on the other hand, are those which seem good yet are essentially fruits of a bad root and a bad tree. Augustine states this in the fourth book of ›Against Julian‹ (Contra Julianum).

This is pretty straight forward. Criminal acts are NOT classified as mortal sins. Criminal acts are works that are condemned among men while mortal sins are the good works of man that are really “fruit of a bad tree.” Those of orthodoxy must deny that man does any good work at all that is not condemned by God. The belief that any man can do any kind of meritorious work falls under sin that will not be forgiven. This means that Reformed persons in the know would seek daily forgiveness for every, and all acts performed by them. It pretty much boils down to this quotation cited by a theological journal:

The flesh, or sinful nature of the believer is no different from that of the unbeliever. “The regenerate man is no whit different in substance from what He was before his regeneration.” — Bavinck [Reformed philosopher Herman Bavink] (Present Truth: Sanctification-Its Mainspring  Volume 16 Article 13).

At this point it is fairly easy to draw a watershed conclusion in all of this: the lynchpin idea of the Reformation was that salvation can only be obtained and maintained with a righteousness not our own, but also the exclusion of righteous acts performed by us. At this point, there is only one way forward: a mystical manifestation of works performed by deity; Martin Luther’s Alien Righteousness. This necessarily demanded and still demands a discussion of a philosophical ideology to make manifestation and realm birthing feasible. The Heidelberg Disputation not only does that, but articulates the theoretical life application and how these manifestations are experiences in reality. Luther was very concise in that regard while anticipating future objections.

Thesis 6: The works of God (we speak of those which he does through man) are thus not merits, as though they were sinless.

In Eccles. 7:20, we read, »Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.« In this connection, however, some people say that the righteous man indeed sins, but not when he does good. They may be refuted in the following manner: If that is what this verse wants to say, why waste so many words? Or does the Holy Spirit like to indulge in loquacious and foolish babble? For this meaning would then be adequately expressed by the following: »There is not a righteous man on earth who does not sin.« Why does he add »who does good,« as if another person were righteous who did evil? For no one except a righteous man does good. Where, however, he speaks of sins outside the realm of good works he speaks thus (Prov. 24:16), »The righteous man falls seven times a day.« Here he does not say: A righteous man falls seven times a day when he does good. This is a comparison: If someone cuts with a rusty and rough hatchet, even though the worker is a good craftsman, the hatchet leaves bad, jagged, and ugly gashes. So it is when God works through us.

Luther’s rusty and rough hatchet is an interesting metaphysical illustration. Notice carefully who the “’good’ craftsman” is. That can’t be us, right? Right, we are the rusty and rough hatchet. A hatchet, like all other tools, is a completely passive instrument. It has no life of its own. It only does what the craftsman does with it. Like one Reformed teacher said to me, “The Christian life is done to us not by us.”

Also, the hatchet doesn’t get any credit for the work, but only the good craftsman using the axe. This is Luther’s cardinal point of the thesis. This is a strict metaphysical dichotomy of good and evil with man defining evil and God defining good (The Calvin Institutes 1.1.1.). All manifestations of good on earth must come from above, and no good can be in man or come out of man.

Of course, this makes God the creator of rusty and rough hatchets; ie., sin and evil, but remember, as Luther stated, the good work of the craftsman only appears to be evil to us, right?

Although there is no room in this series to unravel every Scripture text that Luther twisted for his own purposes, I will speak to his use of Ecclesiastes 7:20 to make his point. All that verse is really saying is that man needs wisdom because he is not sinless and is prone to erroneous ways and death without wisdom. It’s not saying that no man does any good work. The idea in the text as noted by translations like NASB follows: no man does only good exclusively.

A thought before we go to the phones for you who are aware of our ministry’s dustup this week with the Wartburg Watch. Some folks from over there came over to PPT claiming that we have no orthodoxed credentials; therefore, apparently, our views are not relevant. Well, two things: if this is not orthodoxy, what is? And secondly, how can people claim to be advocates for the abused when they hold to this doctrine? They are either blowhards that don’t even understand what they are talking about, or they do understand. Which is it? Let’s go to the phones.

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