Paul's Passing Thoughts

Pagan Thinkers Inspiration Found In Augustinian Aesthetics

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

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

Advertisements

From the Reformation to the Third Reich: Protestantism’s Impact on Western Culture – Part 2

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

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

Click here for the introduction
Click here for part three
Click here for part four
Click here for part five
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for part eight

I’m going to continue with my case on the nature of philosophy, how it is a driving force of human action. It has impacted the evolution of Western thought in particular, and specifically it shaped National Socialist Germany. It is currently shaping the United States of America.

At the TANC Conference of 2013, I began to explain the evolution of Western thought, and I started all the way back from Thales around 600 BC. One of the biggest challenges I have is that Christians tend to believe that Christianity just sprang up out of a whole cloth, but it actually has a very specific place in the larger context of the evolution of Western thought. The roots of those ideas can be seen as far back as Plato and Pythagoreans, and many of our doctrines come from the Cynics and the Stoics.

I’m going to pick up where I left off in the timeline I began last year, around 150 AD, because this will lay a foundation. I’m going to touch briefly on Plato because the roots of current Christian doctrine can be traced from Plato to Augustine to Luther to Calvin. Actually, it is not really all that much of a dirty secret. The fact of the matter is that anyone can find this relationship with no effort at all. It is hidden in plain sight for anybody to find.

You will recall from our study of the Cynics and the Stoics that they believed the flesh, the material world was corrupt. They were responsible for the introduction of the soul-body dichotomy into Western thought.

Christianity largely picks up this soul-body dichotomy from these ancient Western thinkers. The Cynics and Stoics ultimately believe that the way man achieves knowledge and virtue was by the discipline of the flesh. Because the flesh was weak, it required kind of like an athlete’s training.

Plotinus

Around 200 AD a man by the name of Plotinus picks up on the Cynic and Stoic doctrines. Plotinus takes these concepts to the next logical progression. Not only is the material world inferior, it is in fact totally morally depraved.

Consider what Plato taught. Plato believed that this earth was a shadow variation of a perfect world. This world was not true reality. It was really the reflection, the shadow on the wall of a cave. The otherworldly realm was called the world of Forms. Plato believed that man’s grasp of reality was limited. Plato believed that man’s ethical standard was his subordination to the state. He believed that man was inferior. He believed that certain men, what he called philosopher kings, should be in charge. They should dictate good.

Plato still has a secular philosophy. In other words, he still believed that select men can get to this transcendent world, this world of Forms, by virtue of his reason. Now it wasn’t a clean blanket statement that all men had this ability. It was really reserved for a select few men who specifically practice virtues that gave them access to the forms and higher levels of knowledge, but it was still a secular version.

By contrast, Plotinus dropped all vestiges of the human element. According to Plotinus’ disciples, Plotinus had zero interest in the physical life. His entire obsession was attaining a transcendent reality. But his transcendent reality was a religious transcendence. He accepted the premise of the mystery cults, the Gnostics, where because man is specifically corrupt, there was a certain initiating practice that gave them access to the knowledge, and they were uniquely qualified to get to this knowledge by virtue of their specific denial of fleshly existence.

This means that the secular transcendent world is graspable because man is the secularizing part. But a religious transcendent world is not graspable because man has no place in that world. Here is how Plotinus described this. Listen to the echoes of what becomes Christianity.

“The One is, in truth, beyond all statement; whatever you say would limit It; the All-Transcending, transcending even the most august Mind, which alone of all things has true being, has no name. We can but try to indicate, if possible, something concerning it. If we do not grasp it by knowledge, what does that not mean that we do not seize it. How does man come to seize knowledge of a transcendent being? It is impossible for man to cease transcendent knowledge by reason.”

I want you to notice that he wanted reason to be part of man’s incompetence.

Once you understand Plotinus, it becomes very simple to understand Augustine, because this is the version of Platonism that Augustine got hold of. He did not have the original Plato. Augustine sees in his mind the one, the All-Transcendent, as the Christian God. It is from this framework within which he places Christianity, because there was a problem with early Christianity.

When Jesus showed up on the scene, He was in Israel talking to Israelites about Israel issues. He repeatedly stated that He came to the lost children of Israel. This is why, particularly in the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Matthew, you see virtually no recognition of a world beyond Palestine. You see functionally no understanding of the broader Hellenistic world.

By the time we get to the Gospel of Luke, being a Roman and having much more concern with the broader Hellenistic world, his original works are actually addressed to someone named Theophilus. While Luke’s interest is to a broader Greek world, even then Luke’s focus is only inasmuch as he wants to show the progression of the Great Commission going to the outermost parts of the earth to these people. So even by the time we get to the Book of Acts, he is still just focused on that evolution.

And herein lay the problem. As this Jewish movement, which started out in this little backwater no nothing territory of the Roman Empire, moves in to the broader Hellenistic world it is confronted with some profound intellectual problems.

The Hellenistic world has no association with the Jewish background of the things that Jesus said and did. There was no quick way to explain the nature of the Jesus movement to this broader Hellenistic world because there was no full philosophical statement. It was a collection of stories and aphorisms and parables. And so to that world and to that mind, Christianity did not have a lot of direct relevance.

By the time we get into the 2nd century, Christianity is really reeling. Christianity needed an integration into a broader philosophical statement. One of the first who tried to do this was Philo. Philo was a Jew, and he was definitely a Hellenistic Jew, and his goal was to take Platonism and merge it into Judaism.   He is one of a number who were making these attempts at philosophical integration.

This is the fundamental problem that landed on Augustine’s lap. Augustine set out to finalize the integration of these ideas, and he used the turnkey solution of Platonism to do it.   Concurrent with this, the Roman Empire was crumbling. There was a lot of chaos happening in the world, both political and social. People were looking for some means and some way to begin to explain these things, so a corrupt material world and a corrupt man in a war-torn and war-ravaged and famine-ravaged existence seems to make an enormous amount of sense.

First Council of Nicea

Then there is the political side of this equation to consider. Around 250 AD, Christianity began to emerge as a player in the social-political structure of the world. By 300, the Church was full of all sorts of political ambition. Bishops became effectively synonymous with rulers.

Constantine then capitalizes on the Christian statist ambition as he presided over the Council of Nicaea. Constantine says, “You know what, guys? I’m tired of hearing you bicker. I’m going to put an end to this.” He declared a specific orthodoxy to be upheld. He called all opposing positions to be demented and insane, and then he proceeded to persecute anyone who happened to believe otherwise.

Constantine galvanized ecumenical support for his power in the failing Roman Empire, using his civil authority to condemn. In trade, the winning bishops pledged their allegiance to Constantine. Constantine died in 337, but the Council of Nicaea lasted for almost another 25 years.   With each year that passed, the Church became increasingly more embroiled in civil governance.

Fast forward to the appointment of Flavius Theodosius to emperor in 379. Theodosius’ role in history and more importantly, Church history, has been airbrushed out of existence, as Charles Freeman notes in his book AD 381. This is a profound failing because in 381, for the first time in Greco-Roman history, religious orthodoxy became synonymous with political power. In 381, the power of the state was galvanized into Christianity forever. This forever changed the face of the world. From this point forward, the leading Christian theological concern was who had the authority, the force, to compel doctrinal outcomes. No matter the specific theological hair being split, the underlying fight was who held the force to suppress the dissenting opinion.

Here’s why this is important. Secularism gets a black eye because we tend to assume that secular means immoral. But secularism only means the division of religious orthodoxy from political orthodoxy. A secular state is effectively an agnostic state where the force of government does not care what the specific religious convictions of people are. Even though they believed in hundreds of gods, the Hellenistic world, and in particular the Classical Greek world, was effectively a secular state. Man could believe what he chose. He was not compelled by doctrine to believe anything.

The only other manifestation of a truly secular state in the history of the world is the United States of America. It is important for people to grasp this. The single greatest political achievement the world has ever seen was a secular state, meaning that man was free to believe what he wanted. I’m going to talk about this at length later on.

Theocracy on the other hand is the merging of political power with the theological orthodoxy. A theocracy means that man is compelled to a given theological standard by force of government. And this is exactly what happened with Theodosius. Augustine’s doctrine was then able to reign effectively for the next thousand years without contest. No one could muster an objection because it was considered treason to object to Augustinian doctrine.

Augustine decides he has cared for all the basic premises:

  • The soul/body or mind/body dichotomy derived from ancient Greek doctrine
  • Man is epistemologically corrupt
  • The abandonment of reason
  • A commitment the presumption that select men are morally correct to dictate intellectual content (dogmatism)
  • The primacy of the state (the church)

Central to all of these premises is asceticism. Asceticism is a philosophical commitment of the individual to destroy every facet of his physical existence. Asceticism is the practical application of the soul-body dichotomy put into practice. Christian asceticism took the apostle Paul’s determination to beat his body literally and seriously.

The Church taught that asceticism gave access to the supernatural through mortification, literally, the death of the flesh. Paul Dohse has written at length about the doctrines of mortification and vivification. Most Christians tend to assume that when we talk about mortification, we’re really talking about something they can pick and choose. But in this case is means the literal death of the flesh.   Self-destruction would earn God’s pity. Self-destruction showed that man was full of guilt.

Some examples of ascetic practices included celibacy. This was very common. Virginity was considered an ethical ideal tied to the belief that the natural world was evil. This actually hit women very hard through the Dark Ages because women were either virgins or whores. Women were seen as tempters of men. Celibacy was the means to prevent. Celibacy was also a means by which the Catholic Church could keep their property from disappearing into inheritance. Priests that don’t marry don’t have kids, won’t have wives. The Church gets the money. The Church gets taxes. The Church keeps it, because when the priests dies, he doesn’t give it away to his family.

Another ascetic practice was the renunciation of material possessions. For example, a man by the name of Alexander married poverty, which I think is hilarious considering our current preoccupations with re-defining marriage in America. Alexander would beg for his food and did not keep his excess. One commenter on Alexander’s wife said that his form of monasticism was better because it didn’t create the housekeeping problems of say, the Franciscans. In other words, he didn’t have cleric. I think that’s hilarious.

Another ascetic practice is the renunciation of food. The ideal Christian fasted for 40 days, as practiced by Jesus. It also turns out that starvation past 40 days killed you.

They reduced or prevented sleep. They turned sleep into torture. They slept on beds of nails. They were beaten if they fell asleep. Syrian monks tied ropes around their abdomens and slept standing up. Others hung themselves in awkward positions.

They condemned hygiene. They refused to cut their hair, fingernails, or toenails. They dressed in filthy rags and allowed sweat and dirt to accumulate.

They abandoned movement. It was common to lock themselves away in monasteries, but then they would take it further and lock themselves into ever-smaller and smaller cells. Truly horrific is that some ascetics would go into the desert, sit down on a pile of rocks and stay there until their legs are rotten away. They beat their bodies. Men would stare into the sun until they were blind so that they would never succumb to the lusts of the eyes. Monastic orders wore girdles around their loins so that they would not desire women. Castration and self-flagellation were very common.

Here is the point that I want to make. These practices never made it into general practice for the simple reason that it is not livable. It is by definition designed to kill. It is a commitment to death and destruction that cannot be practiced. But the point is that these kinds of practices were venerated. It was seen as an ethical ideal. The men who did practice such action were considered saints. The Church turned these people into heroes.

Because of Augustine, throughout the Dark Ages we have an entire intellectual collapse. Reason cannot grasp God, and there is no earthly reality. Imagine an entire culture built around this fundamental presumption. This is the proof-text mindset- the need to use authority to validate ideas. The proof-text mind cannot think in terms of causality. It is a mind that equates causality with authority. It is a mind that does not grasp principles.

Of course, what this really means is that we are talking about an entire culture built on rational dependence. In other words, it is a culture that gets all of its rational content from somebody who dictates. This is impossible for a scientific society, because a scientific society is built around rational independence, the ability to independently review and explore the world find commonalities and causalities.

What were the results of the Dark Ages?

Intellectual stagnation. It paralyzed all critical thinking. Authority was what governed human interaction, and the result was war, war, war, and more war. God was always in the business of smiting someone else who got it wrong through the sword of the church/state. The concept of “rights” was really a discussion of prerogatives. The “Divine Right of Kings” is really the divine prerogative of kings.

The intellectual stagnation of the Dark Ages produced infant mortality rates estimated at 50 percent, some sources suggest maybe as low as 30. A villager serf, his wife, and surviving children shared a living space of roughly 700 square feet, and they shared that space with livestock.

By age 12, a boy was considered old enough to pledge his life to his sovereign, meaning he was considered old enough to go to war. By 12, girls were considered old enough to marry. They were sold as a chattel, considered a societal burden because they were a mouth to feed. They could not endure the rigors of agricultural life. The concept of a dowry was designed to make marriageable females more attractive to male suitors. Men were basically paid to take on women.

Ninety-five percent of the population worked at agriculture with farm implements out of the Stone Age. Yields were estimated at a quarter of the seed sown. Therefore, it took roughly two acres to feed one person. By comparison, modern farming methods yield in excess of 80 percent, and it takes less than a third of an acre to feed one person. There was no concept of germs, no antibiotics, no vaccines, no anesthetic. Anesthetic was considered sinful. Your pain was necessarily the product of your sin, and God deliberately did it to you. And this all made sense because suffering was a virtue.

Death was a virtue. Pain was merely the natural state of human existence. Practically 95 percent of the populace were slaves, 2 percent did nothing, and the nobility fought wars of conquests for profit. The largest class were the people called the villani. It means villager, but it is the root of our modern word villain. They were born into generational slavery.

This is important to understand. As a class society based on determination, if you were born a serf, you would be a serf. Your grandson would be a serf. Your great grandson would be a serf. Your great grandfather would be a serf. There was effectively no escape. You were committed. You were basically born into subservience, and there was no ability to get out of it. This is the logical conclusion of Augustine’s theories of predestination carried out to their practical application.

“Justice” was meted out with brutal efficiency. A man who stole from a lord’s property, which was effectively everything in sight, could be penalized by being pilloried, drawn and quartered, cut open, or have limbs, noses, or ears cut off. Women, who were accused of crimes, say, daring to seduce a priest or lord (and when I mean by seduced, I mean they lusted after her) had their genitals impaled with hot irons, were locked in iron maidens, burned at the stake, or drowned.

The Church sanctioned all of these actions by government using Romans 13:1-2

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”

This is the foundation of the “Divine Right of Kings”; the presumption that the king is appointed of God, and whatever he happens to do is exactly what God chooses. This is also a corollary of the doctrine of predestination. It is what God intends. What you see manifest is specifically what God desires.

The Dark Ages are dark in principle, and it is imperative that you understand what this means. Philosophically, it is specifically trying to separate all of man from any good. The fundamental formulations of Augustinian doctrine sought to eradicate man on every fundamental level. Christianity elevated pain and suffering and pestilence and poverty to the highest ethical ideal.

The whole of historic Christian doctrine revolves around the veneration of death. Human suffering reaches its pinnacle in Western thought. Destruction of the flesh is the ethical ideal. It doesn’t take an art scholar to understand why the symbol of a fish (the Greek word ιχθυς “ic-thoos”) in remembrance of the disciples was replaced by the cross as an enduring icon of Christianity. For the first 400 to 500 years, the cross does not appear in Christian art. But by the start of the 6th century, the cross, which is an emblem of political subjugation and torture, becomes Christianity’s central icon.

But then, what other icon would be appropriate for a religion built on human suffering? Four hundred years after Jesus came to preach life in the covenants of promise, Christianity became a cult of death that ruled the world with a nihilistic iron fist.

I get some heat on occasion for calling Christianity a cult of death. But I challenge you, show me I’m wrong. The sum of Christian doctrine is based on the death of man. It is obsessed and fixated on man’s death. And it worships an icon of death and culture. It holds out Jesus’ death and destruction as its highest ethical action. At its root, it preaches that man’s highest ethical ideal is his own self-destruction.

In the introduction I challenged you with this statement: The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. But that statement requires a necessary assumption. If there are men who are good, that presupposes they have values. And the nature of values are such that good men must act consistent with those values.

So then, what causes good men to take no action? What must be the primary assumption?

Change the definition of good!

Turn death and destruction into “good.”

If you want to understand what happened in National Socialist Germany, you must understand that the resulting behavior stemmed from a metaphysical premise that assumed a change in the definition of what was “good.”

Now for me to actually explain why this is so important, we are going to have to do some more remedial work, because most people reading this don’t hold the Augustinian standard of “good” in their head. Most modern Calvinists don’t hold the Augustinian, Luther, and Calvin doctrine of good in their head. Most of them get their definition of good from a very different source. And that’s what we’re going to talk about in part three.

To be continued…


 

Click here for the introduction
Click here for part three
Click here for part four
Click here for part five
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for part eight

 

The History of Western Philosophy and Its Societal Impact on the Church – Part 5

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

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

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


Plato
I think it is important for me to make this point at the outset. Plato was a genius virtually unparalleled by anyone in human history. His system dynamics, his creativity, his ability to integrate enormous amounts of information are rivaled only by Aristotle. Now of course they arrived at two very different conclusions, but Plato is not a villain as such. He was not deliberately trying to devise a bad system of thought. He was attempting to take the arguments of his day, all of the ideas from the various and sundry thinkers we have thus far discussed, and turn it into a system of thought that is useable.

Plato is the very first thinker to successfully develop a fully comprehensive system of thought from metaphysics to epistemology to ethics to politics. His metaphysical assumptions have an enormous impact on Western thought. Plato took Socrates’ grasp of universals and then proceeded to develop a metaphysical conclusion, and since everything that follows revolves around a metaphysical foundation, we need to start at the beginning.

Universals must be knowable. Without knowable universals man is little more than an animal and less moral than the Sophists. Parmenides told us that “thou canst know what is not.” In other words, if it doesn’t exist, you can’t know it. If universals are knowable then they must be real. If universals are real, then they must exist. Plato decided that the next two questions that must be answered are where do universals exist and how do universals exist. The question later became known as “The Problem of Universals.”

Plato’s answer to these questions is that there must be two worlds (once again we see this theme of dividing reality) because the universals and the particulars are not elements of the same thing, but fully different things. Plato is taking his influence by the Pythagoreans and developing it into a primary element of his metaphysics. Plato’s conclusion was that universals are one per category, particulars are many in any given instance.

plato-dog-formNow remember the background. The conflict is between Heraclitus and Parmenides. From the beginning, everyone was trying to solve the riddle of change and multiplicity.   So the next question was how to deal with change and multiplicity and immutability? His solution was to say that universals must be eternal and indestructible. Without something that is unchanging, the world is fully unintelligible.

The logic goes like this. Think of the idea of “dog-ness”. We can say that the nature of dogs requires floppy ears, a bark, four paws, and so on. These are particulars, but there are many, many dogs with variations on those specifics, yet we understand that there is one concept of “dog-ness”. This must be an immutable law of “dog-ness”, because without immutability there would never be a law of “dog-ness”. Therefore, the universal of “dog-ness” must be eternal and indestructible.

His logic continues. Particulars are necessarily material and physical. Animals can see them, hear them, taste them, but do they grasp universals? Dogs can certainly see bones but do they see “bone-ness”? Does “dog-ness” see “bone-ness”? Plato concludes that “bone-ness” is somehow abstract and not part of the physical world, because it can’t be grasped by the physical senses. So particulars are physical, and universals are non-physical.

And what followed from that premise was that particulars were understood by the means of the senses, and universals must be understood by the means of reason. With this conclusion, Plato completes his argument about two worlds. It is the obvious necessity based on the functions of human existence. Universals, defined by one group category, exist as immutable, unchanging, and non-material world and are known only to the mind. Particulars, defined by multiplicity and change, are physical and material and are grasped by the senses.

This conclusion, of course, begs the question. If universals are somewhere outside human perception and material existence, how does man ever access the knowledge? Plato’s answer was that man gets his understanding of universals before existence. So what we have really just introduced is the concept of innate ideas. If we possess knowledge at birth, man then must have what are called innate ideas that are the product of another world, and the soul is independent of the body. This concept is central to Pythagorean mysticism.

Notice what we have. A soul/body dichotomy where the soul is eternal that is somehow intimately involved with universal knowledge that is non-specifically a part of sensory apparatus. We have man utterly divided.

Plato made many other arguments for the existence of two realms, but many of you are familiar with one that is a very popular Christian proof. It is generally called the argument for perfection. Plato asks, where do we get the standards for perfection in any category? Where do we get the concept of a perfect circle, a perfect latte, a perfect Oreo cookie? All concepts of perfection cannot come from this material world because nothing in this world is perfect. This world is made up of particulars, and particulars are always changing. If you are changing, you cannot be perfect. Change implies some kind of deficiency. Perfection requires immutability. You can hear the echoes of Christian doctrine all over this.

The most obvious example is the perfect cow. What would it eat? It doesn’t lack food because it is perfect. It doesn’t lack knowledge because it is perfect. It doesn’t need to breathe because it doesn’t lack air. If nothing in this world can be perfect, where do we get our concept of perfect? The only conclusion is that man gets it from contemplating another world, a world that hold the perfect embodiment of everything in this world, a perfect archetype of universals.

And the reason this gets so much traction is because this is exactly how we prove the existence of God. This is what we say. We have a concept of God in our thinking. And where do we get that concept? Well, it must necessarily exist because we wouldn’t have it in our thinking if it didn’t exist.

Now you know how Plato came up with the world of forms and the world of the senses. The realm of universals is the world of forms. Step by step, man is taken farther and farther away from life in this world. By incremental steps man has been taken down a path that says that he is absolutely not a part of this world. He is not able to understand it, he is not really able to interact with it, and in some instances he is not even really able to know it.

While Plato’s solution was an elegant response to the Sophists, he unwittingly sets man up for the tyranny that necessarily must follow from this progression of thought. Remember what I said: human life is defined by how ideas go together. This is the principle:

Foundational assumption (Metaphysical premise) determines…

-> Epistemological qualification, which in turn defines…

-> Ethical standards, which in turn prescribes…

-> Political culture (government force)

What you assume to be true about man determines what you think man can do. What you think man can do defines his ethical standard or his definition of value. And man’s definition of value dictates the government structure with which he surrounds himself.

How does this look when applied to Plato’s philosophy?

Foundational assumption – This world is a reflection of other-worldly forms. This determines…

Epistemological qualification – Man cannot know truth because he experiences the imperfect from a shadow world. That defines…

Ethical standards – Only select men of the highest character and longstanding study can achieve enlightenment. This prescribes…

Political force – A select few who have the right to rule over the masses.

CASTENow we’ve actually caught this theme repeatedly. It is always a select few that have the ability to understand this grand mystical truth. It is everybody else that cannot understand it for whatever disqualification they may possess. This two-world distinction ultimately creates a class society, the endless presumption that some are uniquely qualified, by virtue of some ethical achievement, to ultimately govern those who cannot arrive at that ethical achievement.

We have seen endless examples of this.   Slavery was justified for this exact reason. The white man was superior because the black man was inferior, and so the white man must rule over the slave. Our treatment of the American Indians was the same way. This two-world concept always boils down to a class society that is determined, pre-destined to rule over a sub-class.

inst-church-caste-finalThe only reason to advocate determinism and pre-destination is to establish a class society, always. There is no logical, rational reason to advocate determinism otherwise. Because if everything is determined, then why is there any argument? What are you trying to persuade? By definition, I am who I am because I am determined to be that. There is no rational appeal to achieve any other end.

So if you are arguing with a determinist, the answer is, “why are you arguing?” At the end of the day the only reason he is arguing is because at some point he believes he should be in charge of your life. It is that stark, that ugly, and that bold. If you get this point, you can unravel 99% of all determinist’s arguments.

Are you starting to get the picture of how philosophy integrates ideas? Are you starting to see how what man believes affects the existence of what he knows? Are you starting to see how what man knows affects how he thinks he should act?

To be continued…


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

The Philosophy of the Reformation and Its Historical Impact, by John Immel – Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on December 19, 2016

Taken from John Immel’s second session at the 2012 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny
Published with permission
~ Edited by Andy Young

Click here to read Part 1
Click here to read Part 3
Click here to read Part 4

People hear “philosophy” and they tend to think of academics talking about useless ideas. This perception has everything to do with the collapse of philosophy as a science. In the middle 1700s, Immanuel Kant took hold of “reason” and wrote a book called The Critique of Pure Reason. His goal with to reduce reason to ash. He wanted to destroy man’s competence and reason so that the Christian religion could regain its monopoly on faith.

If you tell people long enough that thinking is irrelevant, then eventually everyone thinks thinking is irrelevant and the average fifteen-year-old sitting in math class says, “Why do I need to know this?” Or the average eighteen-year-old sitting in advanced history class says, “Well, why do I need to know this? Why isn’t it okay that I’m stupid?”

Now they don’t say that out loud because they feel entitled to what they do know, their mastery of the latest X-Box game or their knowledge of whatever is in pop culture, for example. But they see no causal relationship between their given body of thought and their given body of action. No one has ever explained to them that the content of their thinking is in fact a cohesive whole.

Everybody has individual stray thoughts, but those don’t amount to much. On the other hand, full philosophical statements have enormous power. For example, the statement, “Give it over to the universe,” is a philosophical statement. It is a tenet from the book The Secret written by Rhonda Byrne in 2006. This philosophical statement summarizes the elements of quantum physics and the mystical assumption that the universe is a conscious creature that is aware of your needs.

Another example is, “No one can know anything for sure.” This philosophical statement presupposes that there is no objective truth. It is a summation of Friedrich Hegel and Immanuel Kant’s full philosophic conclusions. When somebody insists to you that you cannot know anything, that there is no absolute in life, they are citing a deep philosophical tradition that goes back to the mid 1700s.

Here is another example. “Jesus died for our sins,” is often believed to be a “Biblical” statement.  While it is true that Paul makes this statement in 1 Corinthians 15:3, the traditional “orthodox” interpretation of that statement is rooted in the doctrines of “original sin”, federal guilt, atonement, and the ratification of a new covenant.  And further notice that doctrine of “original sin” first recorded by Irenaeus, who lived from AD c125-c202, differs from Saint Augustine’s theology of “original sin.” Irenaeus taught that God saw sin as a necessary step for the education of mankind rather than some obstacle that God must continually overcome (source: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/zim/ev/ev_01evolution_sin13.html). Notice that Augustine’s variation of Original sin necessitated the concept of federal guilt: the presumption that Adam ultimately is responsible for the simple destruction of the whole race. And then notice that to solve the problem of “salvation” that these doctrines advance requires a specific understanding of “atonement.” All of these doctrines emerge almost 400 years after the gospels were written and are the requisite foundation for the throwaway line “Jesus died for our sins,” to be understood.

Coexist

Can’t we all just get along?

In each statement discussed above there are layers upon layers upon layers in understanding. The conceptual layers are philosophy. It is the progression from the assumptions all the way through to the final summation that ultimately ends up on a bumper sticker. When you see a bumper sticker such as the popular one now that says “coexist” written out in formula or symbols representing all the various spiritual faiths and beliefs. But the bumper sticker means to ask the question: “Can’t we just all get along?” And the bumper sticker presumes that all religions are created equal. If one does not know the content of each religion, then it seems “logical” that people of faith should all be able to coexist.

This is the ultimate power of philosophy, taking ideas, very big, very large ideas and ultimately rolling them down so that you and I can grasp ideas in the simplest terms.

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

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

Humans are the sum of their collective ideas. Humans are built to think and to use our minds to engage the world in which we live. The command from the beginning, “be fruitful and multiply,” rule and subdue the earth, presupposes a mastery of the earth. It presupposes the ability to master the earth, and it specifically presupposes that you are charged with the responsibility to master the earth. The one thing that sets man apart above all else is that man is not specifically designed to live in any given environment. He must alter his environment to live in it, which means he must think. He must manipulate his environment to his advantage. Every other creature, every other animal is specifically built to function within its environment. Man is not. Man is utterly separated from all the rest of creation, set at its pinnacle as a master of that creation by virtue of his rational mind. This means by necessity we must understand the difference between good and bad ideas.

Disciplines of Philosophy

– Metaphysics
– Epistemology
– Ethics
– Politics

So when I talk about philosophy, I’m not talking about vain concepts, “vain philosophies,” or intellectual beach balls batted around in ivory towers. I am specifically referring to how we know what we know. The nature of existence is called metaphysics. How we know what we know is called epistemology. How we value what we know is called ethics. And how we interact with people is called politics.

Our metaphysical assumptions about the nature of existence is the beginning of the path down to mass of action. They are the concepts that are above the physical realm that we must come to understand and are in fact transcendent specifically of the here and now. Once we understand this, then we understand epistemology. Man understands how he knows what he knows. Once he understands his existence, he then understands how he interacts with that existence. That ultimately produces his values.

Here is an example. How do you know you should drink water? What is the value of water? You value water because it is necessary to keep you alive. Your specific metaphysical truth that your body needs water to survive makes water good. Those are your ethics. Now let us ask this question. Once we have our ethics, how do we know how to interact with human beings? That is the study of politics. This is the driving force of human existence, from the most rudimentary, to how man understands, to how man derives his specific set of values, to ultimately how man interacts with the rest of the world, the other individuals in the world.

What does this have to do with Calvinism, Reformed theology, and spiritual tyranny?

Absolutely everything.

The existing fight over Neo Calvinism and the Neo Reformed movement in the United States is specifically built upon philosophical issues. They portray the nature of human existence as a moral evil. Man’s very being IS the problem. It is this metaphysical premise that has undergird man’s trend towards destruction. This is a bold statement, but you will understand shortly.

I want you understand a specific principle. The major metaphysical premises, which are your foundational assumptions, determine your epistemological qualification. This speaks to the idea of competence. When we discuss epistemological qualification, we are talking about where we decide who is qualified to do what.   Epistemological qualification defines ethical standard. Once you decide how competent you are, that determines what your ethics are. From there, ethical standards prescribe political culture.

This is high-level stuff but let me try to break this down a little more. Foundational assumptions (metaphysics) determine how effective man is to understand his world, defines moral value, and prescribes government force.

Plato was one of the first man to author a full comprehensive philosophical statement. There were others prior to him, but Plato has dominated the vast percentage of western history, which is ultimately the heritage of the United States. Here is Plato’s premise:

“This world is a mere reflection of other worldly forms.”

platocave-smIn other words, if I were to hold up a bottle of water for you to consider, that bottle of water does not really exist. There is actually a pure and true bottle of water in some other place. The bottle that I hold in my hand is imperfect. It is a form of something else. This assumption therefore determines that man cannot know truth because he experiences the imperfect shadow world. The metaphor Plato uses is that man stands in a cave. There is a fire in the cave that ultimately casts a shadow on the wall. All man sees is in fact that shadow. That’s all man truly understands about the nature of the world. In Plato’s philosophy, only select men of the highest character and a longstanding study can achieve enlightenment.

When you make these first three assumptions about reality, the resulting conclusion is that “philosopher kings” should govern the great unwashed.

Do you see the progression?

The moment you accept as true that man is incompetent, the moment you decide that truth is beyond his capacity, that is the moment you accept that only a select few are somehow able to know the truth, and they are the only ones uniquely qualified to force the rest of us to their enlightened understanding.

Here is another example.

Karl Marx said that history is a community fight over resources. That was his metaphysical premise. The community is first and the community creates truth. Therefore, all members of the community must work for the common good, and the common good is synonymous with the collective will. This means that government is right to force each person to provide according to his ability and to be given only according to his need. Notice that the metaphysical premise ultimately turns part of a culture into slaves.

Here is another example.

Augustine said “original sin” means the “fall of man.” That is the metaphysical premise. This means that man qua man is fully and entirely disqualified. His very existence is a moral affront. The nature of sin so fully corrupted who and what he is that ultimately man cannot know any good. In other words, you cannot know that water is good for you. The nature of your depravity so corrupts what you are that you cannot define good. The conclusions that arise from this assumption are of vicious nature. Primarily, man has no ethical standard because he has no good. He can never act with good on his own. It then follows that:

God must enforce moral standards, and the doctrine insists that the Holy Mother Church is responsible to use that force against depraved humanity.

Anybody who has an inch of knowledge about Catholic church history knows this is where the disaster of the Dark Ages comes from: the massive tide of human destruction and the warfare. The warfare and destruction is no accident; it follows from the metaphysical premise. When you presume that the masses of humanity are functionally incompetent, you can arrive at no other conclusion than that man must be compelled by force.

This is my contribution to the discussion of philosophy in the world.

Universal Guilt + Mass Incompetence = Dictated Good

The first three elements of every cause of tyranny follow exactly this way. All tyranny is derived from two primary presumptions. I call them universal guilt and mass incompetence. Universal guilt basically says that because man is pervasively guilty of some primary moral inferiority, he has no redeeming quality in and of himself. These ideas combine to a government model for dictated good.

This philosophical equation is the source of all tyranny!

Every time you hear a despot, a tyrant, an autocrat speak, if you listen to him long enough you will hear him tell you how incompetent you are and how guilty you are. The primary example in our current culture is the environmentalist propaganda campaign to “Go Green.” Notice the political forces in our culture saying that man is polluting the world and destroying it. Man, is incompetent to do anything else. We must therefore revert to a primitive state where the world is somehow saved. Notice then the themes within the propaganda: man, is universally guilty of destroying the world and he is collectively incompetent to fix the world. The political conclusion is: government must destroy anything that is modern – get rid of cars, get rid of oil, get rid of power, get rid of coal.

Universal guilt equals the metaphysical premise. Mass incompetence equals man’s epistemological determination. In other words, man can’t get the point. He is incompetent at his root. The only thing that’s left is dictating good, and this prescribes the function of government.

Now notice that this is the central premise of John Calvin. Pervasive depravity has wholly corrupted human existence. This determines that all good is the product of God’s specific sovereign action. Notice the vast gap that this places between good and man. Notice how far this removes man from his very environment. This defines man’s life as predetermined in action and in outcome. Lastly, this prescribes an elect few who are divinely appointed to shepherd the flock in God’s behalf.

Americans live with ontological certainty of religious freedom. That big word, ontological, means we are positive that we should be entitled to our own faith. We have never suffered a religious war in the United States. Churches tend to fracture and divide long before it becomes a fight, long before it comes to blows, long before it becomes bloodshed. events-protestant-reformation-1517-1555-iconoclasm-protestant-soldiers-bka24tBut Calvinism validates violence— or civil force.

To John Calvin, total depravity equals mass incompetence. The irresistible grace of the T.U.L.I.P. acronym equals universal guilt. Irresistible grace implies that the prevailing manifestation of humanity is in fact incompetence, so he must be given a specific grace, but only a select few that will get there. Those select few, those who have experienced limited atonement, are the ones that get to dictate the good. They are the ones that get to wield the force to compel a given body of outcome.

Take each of the doctrines of T.U.L.I.P. and pull them apart – the total depravity, the unconditional election, the irresistible grace, the perseverance of the saints – begin to pull those doctrines apart and notice how they fit into the logical progression that I’ve discussed.

Now you can grasp where our current Christian malaise comes from. It is no accident. The doctrines lead to the exact same result. Every time this body of doctrine has risen its ugly head in the world it has led to bloodshed and destruction. It leads to political force. It leads to civil force. This is where it ends.

And now you understand where tyranny comes from.

~ John Immel


Click here to read Part 1
Click here to read Part 3
Click here to read Part 4

Colonial Puritanism was Commonly Known as “Platonic Christianity”

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on August 13, 2016

Originally published November 5, 2013

Excerpted from quaqua.org

In their new home, the Puritans implemented many of the same onerous legal restrictions upon religious liberty that had vexed them while living in England. For example, John Cotton, a leading Massachusetts cleric, implemented a law that no man could vote unless he was both a Puritan church member and a property owner (non-Puritans were dispossessed of their private property). Additionally, all colonists were legally required to attend austere Puritan church services. If the Church Warden caught any person truant from church services without illness or permissible excuse, the truant was pilloried and the truant’s ear was nailed to the wood. This approach was widespread and long-lasting in Puritan society. The Plymouth court of 1752 convicted defendant Joseph Boardman of “unnecessary absence from [Puritan] worship” and “not frequenting the publick worship of God.” In short, Puritan salvation was to be achieved through compulsory social engineering of the community, rather than voluntary individual piety.

The Puritans implemented a form of Platonic Christian Socialism, which was based upon an ideological synthesis of such influences as 1) Plato’s Republic, 2) a utopian interpretation of the New Testament (especially Acts 2:44-46), 3) a joint-stock agreement between colonial shareholders and the London-based John Peirce & Associates company, 4) a Continental European cultural attitude toward education (acquired during Pilgrim settlement in Holland), and 5) especially close economic and cultural bonds between Boston’s elite and the ruling class of England. During their first three years in the New World, the Puritans abolished private property and declared all land and produce to be owned in common (a commonwealth).

In Plymouth over half the colonists promptly died from starvation. Governor William Bradford observed that the collectivist approach “was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort.” He lamented the “vanity of that conceit of Plato’s . . . that the taking away of property and bringing community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God.” Governor Bradford implemented private ownership of property, but Platonic Christianity continued to dominate other aspects of regional social policy.

For his part, John Winthrop delivered a famous speech in 1630 that articulated the prevailing contemporary Bay Colony ethic of social collectivism:

[W]e must be knit together in this work as one man, we must entertain each other in brotherly Affection, we must be willing to abridge our selves of our superfluities for the supply of others’ necessities, we must uphold a familiar Commerce together . . . [and] make others’ Conditions our own, . . . always having before our eyes our . . . Community in the work, our Community as members of the same body[.] . . . [W]e shall find that . . . when [God] shall make us a praise and glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantations: the Lord make it like that of New England: for we must Consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill.

Winthrop’s words were not mere inspirational rhetoric. Each statement reflected an expansive element of social policy, pressed to its logical end and enforced by the Puritans with deadly seriousness.

The leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony openly espoused rule by the elite. “If we should change from a mixed aristocracy to mere democracy,” Winthrop once explained, “we should have no warrant in scripture for it: for there was no such government in Israel . . . A democracy is, amongst civil nations, accounted the meanest and worst of all forms of government.” John Cotton wrote: “I do not conceive that ever God did ordeyne [democracy] as a fit government eyther for church or commonwealth. If the people be governors who shall be governed?”

Despite utopian aspirations, the Massachusetts colonies were quickly beset with political and religious division. Internally, the Puritans persecuted and even tortured non-conforming Christians. In Boston Common, dissenters were hung or buried alive. In 1636, Roger Williams, who became a Baptist, was banished in the dead of winter and led some religious dissidents away to found Rhode Island. The same year, Thomas Hooker, another preacher at odds with the Bay Puritans, founded Connecticut with a separate breakaway group.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony attempted to curtail further dissent by utilizing a tightly-controlled system of schooling and neighborhood monitoring. In 1635, the first “public school” was established in 1635. In 1636, by general vote of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Puritans established what was then termed “the School of the Prophets.” This divinity school, which grew into Harvard College and then Harvard University, was meant to superintend the lives of the colonists and prevent any further deviations from proper doctrine.

With Harvard established as the capstone of their system of social control, the Puritans then set about to construct supporting strictures. The Puritan paradigm utilized certain aspects of the Platonic paradigm of community child raising, including indentured servitude:

[There was a] practice common among English Puritans of “putting out” children–placing them at an early age in other homes where they were treated partly as foster children and partly as apprentices or farm-hands. One of the motivations underlying the maintenance of this custom seems to have been the parents’ desire to avoid the formation of strong emotional bonds with their offspring–bonds that might temper the strictness of the children’s discipline or interfere with their own piety.

A controlling, punitive culture gradually emerged. The Puritans enacted laws that curtailed parental rights, created community schools, established Puritan precepts as a civic requirement, imposed community taxation for majoritarian schooling, and encouraged citizens to report upon non-conforming relatives and neighbors. By separating children from their parents, community leaders could monitor all family members. No family member could rebel against the community scheme or the official dogma without putting other family members at risk of reprisal. Children became more vulnerable to various forms of abuse.

The Massachusetts Education Law of 1642 (re-enacted with a preamble and local taxation features in 1648) was a natural extension of the Puritan requirement that all citizens had to attend Puritan church services. School was, like church, an institution designed to inculcate a particular world view. Puritans thought that their world view should be sanctioned and disseminated under government auspices. This same precept necessarily underpins the enactment of every compulsory education statute, Puritan or otherwise.

In Connecticut, Yale filled the same role as Harvard did for Massachusetts. Much later in time, Congregational Reverend Eleazar Wheelock founded Moor’s Charity School in Connecticut to “civilize” Native Americans. In 1769, Wheelock moved the institution to Hanover, New Hampshire, and renamed it Dartmouth College. During the Framers’ Era, the Baptists complained vociferously about the oppression they experienced as a religious minority in Connecticut.

As the Massachusetts Puritan society became more overbearing, it developed a psychotic quality. Children committed suicide. Furtive adults coped with an environment in which due process and freedom of expression were denied. A dark era of suspicion and fear took hold, culminating most famously in the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692 — 1 2. (Salem is located near present-day Boston). The aim of the trials was to eliminate individuals with “heretical” views or conduct. In practice, heresy included political criticism of the colonial government, eccentric personal behavior, and criticism of the witchhunt itself.

During the purge, nineteen men and women were executed as witches (along with two dogs thought to be accomplices). About two hundred other nonconformists were imprisoned, and four accused witches died in prison. One man who refused to submit to trial was killed using an European torture technique, peine forte et dure, whereby heavy stones are placed upon a man until he is crushed and suffocated. (Plymouth held witchcraft trials as well, but the defendants were acquitted.)

As the bloodlust ebbed, a general sense emerged amongst colonial leaders that their entire community had gone terribly awry. To their credit, judges and jurors issued public apologies for their errors in judgment. Reverend Samuel Parris was replaced as minister after reluctantly admitting to some mistakes. Unfortunately, Chief Justice William Stoughton, the most culpable actor in the bloodfest, refused to apologize. He was subsequently elected to be the next governor of Massachusetts (a feat emulated by Earl Warren, who was elected governor of California after the internment of Japanese Americans).

Fortunately, the lessons of the Massachusetts Bay Colony were not lost upon the Framers of the United States Constitution. For example, home-educated Benjamin Franklin, one of the most influential Framers, frequently clashed with the officials and clerics in Boston. As a youth, Franklin bridled under the Puritan strictures in Boston, defied the Puritan culture of indentured servitude, fled to make his home in Quaker-dominated Philadelphia, and published criticisms of perceived Puritan bigotry.

Franklin also wrote a scathing criticism of Harvard. Writing under the “Mrs. Silence Dogood” pseudonym, he recounted her fictional deliberation about whether to send her son to Harvard. In the process, Dogood fell asleep and began to dream that she was journeying toward Harvard. Its gate was guarded by “two sturdy porters named Riches and Poverty,” and students were approved only by Riches. Once admitted, the students “learn little more than how to carry themselves handsomely, and enter a room genteelly (which might as well be acquired at a dancing school), and from thence they return, after abundance of trouble and charge, as great blockheads as ever, only more proud and self-conceited.” Franklin founded the University of Pennsylvania with a very different educational mandate.

After Franklin invented the lightning rod, many of the Puritans effectively accused him of sorcery. Reverend Thomas Prince, a prominent Congregationalist Puritan pastor of Boston’s Old South Church and a graduate of Harvard, led the the charge. Franklin, Prince decreed, had defied the will of God, the “Prince of the Power of the Air,” by interfering with His heavenly manifestation. Prince also asserted that Franklin’s rods had caused God to strike Boston with the earthquake of 1755. Franklin used his pithy wit to defang the campaign against his invention. Surely, Franklin observed, if interference with lightening was prohibited, roofs also defied God’s will by allowing people to stay dry in the face of His rain. Resistance to Franklin’s lightening rod subsided when it was discovered that his innovation prevented many churches from burning to the ground.

As another example, John Adams expressed concern about Puritan discrimination against Jews. Much of the discrimination was accomplished through Massachusetts’ imposed system of state-mandated religious observance and government-sponsored schooling. Harvard, for instance, implemented policies and quotas which were designed to curtail enrollment of meritorious Jewish students. John Adams unsuccessfully recommended revisions of the state constitution which would have enhanced free exercise of religion. Adams further urged that slavery be prohibited, darkly predicting it would lead to eventual civil war if uncurtailed.

Colonials living in the southern United States were equally wary of Massachusetts practices. In stark contrast to the Massachusetts model of public education, leading Southerners preferred apprenticeship and home education (a lifestyle that predominated until Reconstruction). Tutors and private schooling supplemented the educations of wealthy Southern children. James Madison, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry, all Virginians, experienced the same general regime of home-education and apprenticeship known to Benjamin Franklin.

In perhaps the most critical indication of all, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams spoke forcefully against the Platonic model of governance by Philosopher-Kings. Jefferson reflected the contemporary sentiment of many of the Framers and Founders when he stated in his letter to Levi Lincoln of January 1, 1802, that “I know it will give great offense to the New England clergy; but the advocate of religious liberty is to expect neither peace nor forgiveness from them.” Jefferson made other comments at odds with the Puritan approach to education, parental liberty, and religious pluralism, including oppression of the Quakers by the Anglican sects. Notwithstanding Winthrop’s aspirations in 1630, statements such as “Lord make our Virginian colony like that of Massachusetts” were conspicuously sparse during the Revolutionary Era.

While it is true that Madison, Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson urged their communities to support education and morality in a general way, they pointedly refrained from endorsing Puritan-style compulsory education or compulsory attendance at school/church. Indeed, compulsory education for government schools did not exist during the Framer’s time. In the civic scheme envisioned by the preeminent Framers, community schools were to function much like public libraries. Some Framers encouraged communities to fund libraries and establish a system for purchasing books, but few legal scholars would suggest that the Framers were thereby endorsing a state power to compel use of library premises or materials. In the absence of conviction for a crime, such a constraint of liberty would clearly have run afoul of numerous Constitutional protections.

The Framers and Founders left no doubt that their Constitutional system of Ordered Liberty, which protected parental rights in so many complementary ways, was incompatible with the Platonic model for an Ideal Commonwealth. In Federalist Paper No. 49, a work promulgated by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison, it is written:

The reason of man, like man himself, is timid and cautious when left alone, and acquires firmness and confidence in proportion to the number with which it is associated. . . . In a nation of philosophers, this consideration ought to be disregarded. A reverence for the laws would be sufficiently inculcated by the voice of an enlightened reason. But a nation of philosophers is as little to be expected as the philosophical race of kings wished for by Plato. And in every other nation, the most rational government will not find it a superfluous advantage to have the prejudices of the community on its side.

In a letter to John Adams, Thomas Jefferson observed:

I amused myself with reading seriously Plato’s republic. . . . While wading thro’ the whimsies, the puerilities, and unintelligible jargon of this work, I laid it down so often to ask myself how it could have been that the world should have so long consented to give reputation to such nonsense as this? . . . Education is chiefly in the hands of persons who, from their profession, have an interest in the reputation and dreams of Plato. . . . But fashion and authority apart, and bringing Plato to the test of reason . . . he is one of the race of genuine Sophists, who has escaped . . . by the adoption and incorporation of his whimsies onto the body of artificial Christianity. His foggy mind, is forever presenting the semblances of objects which, half seen thro’ a mist, can be defined neither in form or dimension. . . . It is fortunate for us that Platonic republicanism has not obtained the same favor as Platonic Christianity; or we should now have been all living, men, women, and children, pell mell together, like beasts of the field or forest. . . . [I]n truth [Plato’s] dialogues are libels on Socrates.

. . . When sobered by experience, I hope that our successors will turn their attention to the advantage of education on the broad scale, and not of the petty academies . . . which are starting up in every neighborhood . . .

Letter from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams (July 5, 1814), in 2 The Adams-Jefferson Letters, at 432-34 (Lestor J. Cappon ed., 1959)(hereinafter “Letters”).

In reciprocal letters to Jefferson, John Adams was equally critical. He said the “philosophy” of Plato was “absurd,” Letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson (June 28, 1812), in Letters, at 308, berated Plato’s concept of “a Community of Wives, a confusion of Families, a total extinction of all Relations of Father, Son and Brother,” Letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson (September 15, 1813), in Letters, at 377, and observed that “Plato calls [‘Love’] a demon,” Letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson (October 10, 1817), in Letters, at 522.

In his most telling observations, Adams described his meticulous study of Plato’s writings, expressed delight at knowing that Jefferson shared the same “Astonishment,” “disappointment,” and “disgust” with Plato, and then concluded as follows:

Some Parts of [his writings] . . . are entertaining . . . but his Laws and his Republick from which I expected the most, disappointed me most. I could scarcely exclude the suspicion that he intended the latter as a bitter Satyr upon all Republican Government . . . . Nothing can be conceived more destructive of human happiness; more infallibly contrived to transform Men and Women into Brutes, Yahoos, or Daemons than a Community of Wives and Property . . .

After all; as long as marriage exists, Knowledge, Property and Influence will accumulate in Families.

Letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson (July 16, 1814), in Letters, at 437.

%d bloggers like this: