Paul's Passing Thoughts

The History of Western Philosophy and Its Societal Impact on the Church – Part 4

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

The following is part four 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 five
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for part eight

We continue in our discussion of the major contributors in the progression of Western thought. Many concepts and doctrines that we have traditionally come to think of as Biblical orthodoxy in reality have their roots in ancient philosophies. Here is a brief summary of the thinkers and their contributions that we have studied so far:

Thales – The first scientific approach to explaining reality as opposed to a pantheistic approah. The concept of one universal “stuff” and its various forms.

Heraclitus – Because everything is in a constant state of “flux”, man is unable understand the nature of reality. The first to introduce a division of reality. Two “realms”.

Parmenides – Precursor to Aristotle’s “Law’s of Identity” and existence. Existence is real, but change is not. Change is only apparent because of man’s faulty perception.

Zeno – The Dichotomy Paradox.  Movement was an illusion and plurality and change was impossible.

The Pythagoreans – Orphic mystics.  Introduction of the soul/body dichotomy.

The Atomists – Described a mechanical model for metaphysical concepts.  Introduction of determinism.

This brings us to part four, and we will pick up where we left off.

 

Sophism
The modern disparaging term sophistry is used to describe someone offering a false argument for the express purpose of clouding the issue. The word’s origin comes from a professional class of philosophy and rhetoric teachers of the fifth century. The name became a criticism because of the way the Sophists conducted their teaching business.  At the time their great sin was taking money for teaching philosophy to the aristocracy, and they engaged in open deception. And the reason they engaged in open deception you will understand shortly.

Their goal when teaching the nobles was to win the argument by whatever means. Persuasiveness was a desirous skill in Athens because it was a means to political power and wealth, and the Sophists focused their instruction on these skills. Since they didn’t believe in truth, they saw no moral failing in their methods, and this made them villains to most of their contemporaries.

Actually, they were villains for probably two reasons. Plato didn’t like them at all. And most of what we know about them is from Plato. He often used them as straw men for Socrates to knock down. But the second reason they were considered villains was that they are credited with starting was is called “egoism”.   This is the “egoism” that everybody fears, the idea that the world is mine to conquer and your needs and rights don’t matter.

There were two main Sophists.  One is Protagoras, considered to be the father of Sophism.   The other is Gorgias.

Now I need to introduce you to another philosophical concept. This is called skepticism. Skepticism means there is no objective or certain knowledge. It is impossible to know anything absolutely. There is no absolute truth. If you hear somebody say that, they are a skeptic. Nothing can be known, and when I say nothing I do mean nothing. The Sophists where skeptics.

The Sophists said that there was no certainty to be had for any creature, and they sought to prove that every sense perception to any creature was necessarily invalid. Others had suggested that man’s senses were invalid, but the Sophists took this argument to new heights (or lows depending on how you look at it). They made an all-out attempt on the faculties of man to show that every sense perception is wrong, not just that man can be taken in by the occasional illusion or hallucination, but that man can never trust anything from his senses.

The Sophists taight that whenever we perceive, what we perceive depends on two factors. It depends on the object being perceived and the nature and condition of your sensory apparatus. For example, the colorblind man looks at a tree and says the tree is gray, but a man with normal vision looks at the same tree and says it is green. The same object, but different sensory outcomes. One man is sick, the other healthy. They both eat pie. One says it tastes sweet, the other says it tastes bitter. One man is in a hot tub and gets sprayed with water from the hose and says, “how cold!” Another man craws out of the Arctic Ocean and gets sprayed with water from the hose and says, “how warm!”

What was the conclusion the Sophists drew from this? The key factor in each instance was that the quality of the sensory apparatus determined the effectiveness of the experience, so that it appears that all sensory information is utterly subjective. How then can we ever know anything for sure? What is the right experiential knowledge? Who has it?

According to the Sophists, nobody. No one can perceive reality except as a subjective function of his specific senses. All we can ever know is that what you perceive right this second is what you perceive right this second. So the only certainty is, “it seems to me now,” because in a few minutes your senses will probably change. The inescapable conclusion then is that since the perceptions change from person to person and from time to time, each individual lives in his own private subjective little world.

According to the Sophists, there is no such thing as “truth”, there is only subjective experience.

luther-and-reasonNow watch what happens to man when this happens.

If the senses are invalid then reality is unknowable. If reality is unknowable then reason is useless. If reason is useless then truth is unknowable. They have just reduced man to less than nothing.

Here is the main argument for these conclusions. Everybody disagrees about what is rational. Who is to say what is really true? Since everyone seems to disagree about everything, the whole question must be hopeless. If man had a way of arriving at the truth, they would agree. The fact of disagreement means that reason is incapable of arriving at truth.

There was a second argument best expressed by Gorgias who offered up three propositions.

  1. Nothing exists
  2. If anything existed you couldn’t know it
  3. Even if you could know it, you couldn’t communicate it.

This is the most succinct statement for absolute skepticism, and you can see now why skepticism descended into complete subjectivism and complete relativism. There are no absolutes, and there is no objective truth.

Has anyone ever heard this before? Think about an aristocrat in the Bible, a government official, maybe taught by the Sophists. Think Jesus. Think crucifixion. Think of the words of Pontias Pilate, “What is truth?”

This was a predominant way of thinking for centuries.

It is the single greatest attack on human senses ever constructed. It is foundational for Plato’s teaching and then subsequently applied to Christian teaching from Augustine and on. So this perspective effectively crippled epistemology, man’s qualification for discerning truth, for over one thousand years. And you wonder why there was ever a time called the “Dark Ages.” It was dark on principle. It was dark metaphysically, it was dark because the “church” said it was impossible to know.

You actually see some variation of this in the modern day. But you see it in more subtle forms in very reasonable conversations about the nature of truth. On a blog, one individual by the name of “Ben” asked me a series of questions and made the following comments:

“…also by definition, truth must be absolute. Said another way, truth cannot be relative. This is not to say that all human action has a case-specific absolute, but that eventually, at some hierarchical level absolutes must exist. Most secular ethics are relative. To say, for example, that some morality naturally selects itself is relative. Utilitarians are relative, and obviously so is majority rule in all its forms.

“It follows then that absolutes must be derived from a source outside the human sphere. Any configuration conceived by humans, even unintentionally through biological processes, always reduces to relativism.”

What is the fundamental assumption about the nature of human existence? That man cannot fully grasp the nature of truth. This is skepticism at its root. Ben’s assumptions are two-fold. Ethics are the providence of a supernatural source, and the reason is because man is incompetent to know the truth.

When you hear a preacher talking about your cramped little subjective lives, he is staking a claim to the roots of Sophism. He is seeking to condemn individual men for their inherent subjectivism. Any time you hear someone say, “it is true for you,” they are giving away their philosophical pedigree. The Calvinist doctrine is true for me even though you are an Armenian with a bad attitude.

One final note on the Sophists and their politics. Remember I said that from the beginning that a philosophical progression starts with metaphysics and ends with politics. Our ethics that arrive from our metaphysical assumptions produce our government action. If you remove reason and senses from human existence, how do you deal with another man? What happens when another man does not accept your version of truth? The only method left at your disposal is the use of force to compel another into your desired behavior. This is the source of all violence in the world. When you remove reason from man and you assume that he cannot know truth, the only thing left is to treat every other man as prey.

Since there is no truth and there is no reason, this of course affects public policy. Your government and public policy is always an expression of your philosophy. And once reason is no longer valid the only means to deal with other men is violence.

(Remember when I said that Sophism became the definition of egoism? This was why they were such villains. This kind of thing is utter anarchy, and it’s not livable. Any rational human being recognizes this. Liberty and anarchy are not the same creature. We are often told that liberty is really anarchy, but that is error because it removes from man his fundamental apparatus of reason. You have two ways to deal with men, by force of ideas or force of violence. The moment we are pointing a gun we are no longer discussing ideas, we are no longer reasoning. So an argument is by far the better course of action because that can be engaged freely, which is the very definition of liberty.)

The Sophists are the first people to pose the Nietzschian will to power as the ethical ideal, which means that man’s primary social purpose is domination. And now you can understand why the Caesars were constantly waging wars of domination. It naturally followed that the ethical premise produced the political outcome.

 

socrates

Socrates
There is some academic debate whether Socrates really ever existed or whether he was simply an alter ego created by Plato as a vehicle to deliver his own ideas. The debate doesn’t really matter though, because ultimately the development attributed to Socrates was crucial in the evolution of Western thought.

Socrates is the first philosopher to take up the task of grounding objective knowledge and objective morality into human existence. This is a huge undertaking considering the pervasiveness of Sophism to this point. Socrates’ focus was on the philosophical discipline of Ethics.  He had a specific approach that was ultimately systematized into Plato and Aristotle.

This was the approach. Socrates said that the reason people are confused, so habitually in disagreement, so endlessly mired in subjectivism, the reason they despaired at ever knowing the truth was because their concepts were never defined. Now that seems obvious to most of us, the need to understand the commonalities of a particular argument. Socrates went on to say that people will fight over the question of is a man good or honorable or virtuous and never arrive at a conclusion. Identifying this problem, for Socrates and his contemporaries, was an evolution of thought. We will never come to agreement until we can first agree over the definitions of good, honorable, or virturous.

The question then is what are the characteristics of particulars so that we can arrive at a definition? What are the particulars of good? What are the particulars of honor? What are the particulars of virtuous? For example, when we discuss honor, what is the common denominator that is the class called “honor”? To define the concept you must generalize what is common to the whole group of a class. So when you think of “circles”, you don’t have to think of every circle you have ever seen. You can simply see what is common to all circles.

universalsSocrates identified what was the need and the essential nature of what is called universals. This concept is huge. It is the dividing line of every system of thought that comes after. Universals are the set of properties common to every member of a class, and it is the basis of its classification.

Every item that can be categorized into a specific class is called a particular. Man engages in this process constantly. This is his unique ability, to reduce down to commonalities, to universals, a class. He doesn’t need to remember every single instance of a particular in order to identify it. Using the concept of universals he is then able to see any given particular and identify it by instinctively categorizing it into a given class.

Man’s conceptual faculty is what gives him the ability to understand principles and laws which in turn gives him the ability to predict the future. This is important. If I can derive a principle by generalizing a particular, then I can look into the future and see the application of that principle to other instances and reasonably predict an outcome. If my reasoning is valid, and I can understand laws, suddenly the world is not such a scary, confusing, chaotic place.

This is the importance of the difference between conceptual versus perceptual knowledge. Conceptual knowledge is founded on the recognition of universals. Perceptual knowledge is founded on what man understands from reality’s interaction with his senses, and that varies from man to man. Socrates goal was that if we can validate universal knowledge, we can answer the skeptics’ rejection of truth. Man must rise from the merely perceptual stage to the conceptual stage, and this is what stops the fights. At the conceptual stage, man can grasp a universal standard and end all argument and all subjectivism.

To be continued…


Click here for part one
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

Absolutely Critical to Effective Ministry: Knowing the Two Realities of Protestantism

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on December 11, 2015

ppt-jpeg4Originally posted May 7, 2015

If we are to accomplish anything in contemporary Christianity, we must begin to live by a basic hard-fast rule: our actions must be guided by the knowledge that there are two realities in contemporary Christianity – grammatical-historical and redemptive-historical.

These are usually discussed as methods of Bible interpretation, but they are really much more than that according to Protestant tradition. These are two different ways of interpreting reality itself.

We will begin by defining the redemptive-historical interpretation of reality along with this caution: one of the most powerful influences that this view of reality has is the dismissal of its basic premise as mere mysticism held by fringe elements of Protestantism. Those who dismiss it out-of-hand then proceed to function by its tenets unawares. The who’s who of Protestantism care little that the masses understand this ideology, just so they function by it.

In fact, Protestant leaders assume most parishioners are unable to grasp its tenets. Therefore, redemptive-historical reality must be explained in a way that will enable congregants to apply it to their lives and function a certain way within church culture. Redemptive-historical reality is primarily the crux of Protestant orthodoxy and its spiritual caste system.

In mythology, we often link the bizarre narratives to the philosophy itself, but that’s a mistake. Roman, Greek, and Babylonian culture was not developed by superstitious idiots. What we fail to understand is the narratives are stories that convey principles to the spiritual underlings so they can apply principles of higher knowledge to their lives. They cannot understand the higher knowledge, but those who can need to tell the underlings how to live in order to obtain the best possible society.

“Orthodoxy” can be likened to mythological narratives that teach those of lesser spiritual understanding how they should live, but they are based on well thought out metaphysical (state of being) systems of knowledge. We shouldn’t be surprised that what seems to be superstition has ruled the greatest empires on earth. This is because the core ideology is always a succinct system of thought that is greatly underestimated. The ancient philosophers were not idiots. Democritus (circa 400 BC) was the originator of atomic theory. The sophist class of philosophers were the first to apply philosophy to sociology in an in-depth way (circa 500 BC). ALL present-day psychologies are founded on the basic theories of that day. For example, the basic ideology that drives the theory of rehabilitation in our modern-day prison systems came from Socrates.

Let’s now define redemptive-historical reality. I will be using a quote from Graeme Goldsworthy who is considered to be the contemporary father of redemptive-historical hermeneutics:

If the story is true, Jesus Christ is the interpretative key to every fact in the universe and, of course, the Bible is one such fact. He is thus the hermeneutic principle that applies first to the Bible as the ground for understanding, and also to the whole of reality (Graeme Goldsworthy: Gospel-centered Hermeneutics; p.48).

This is a pretty straight forward statement and accurately depicts what Protestantism is really founded on; not a theology per se, but a way to interpret reality itself. How in the world does one interpret all of reality through the one person Jesus Christ? You MUST understand: Martin Luther articulated the answer in the foundational treatise of Protestantism, the Heidelberg Disputation.

The Heidelberg Disputation is a concise systematic ideology that explains how all of reality is to be interpreted through redemption, or if you will, the man of redemption, Jesus Christ. Again, the power of this ideology is a dismissal of it out-of-hand by those who proceed to sit under its “theology.” The theology of the metaphysics redefines biblical terms, and uses them to lead the masses into a functioning Christocentric view of reality.

We will not plunge the depths of the Heidelberg Disputation in this writing, but the principles will be outlined and their inevitable functionality among Christians. Before we move forward, let’s examine additional statements that confirm this approach among Christians. This testimony was given in a recent email to me:

An old acquaintance of ours (Presbyterian as they get) has said more times than I can remember something like this: “Every verse in the Bible, from Genesis 1 through Revelation, is talking about Jesus.” Years ago that sounded so intellectual, holy; today it sounds like hogwash. I mean, are we really expected to believe that the passages talking about incestuous rape are talking about Jesus? Come on, really?

Well, as ridiculous as it sounds, the answer is, “yes.” Many function according to the theology that is predicated on this foundational interpretive method for not only the Bible, but reality itself.

Pause: keep in mind that those who function according to this interpretation of reality without understanding its premise will reflect back the resulting interpretation of Scripture. They repeat pulpit talking points without ever investigating the source of them, or the logical conclusions of the talking points. Sometimes, such people are referred to as “useful idiots.” But again we need to be cautious: people who blindly follow others do not do so for the sake of following blindly—they are functioning according to some sort of ideology that leads to the blind following.

Higher Knowledge cropped

Let’s look at some more examples from proponents of New Covenant Theology:

New Covenant Theology insists on the priority of Jesus Christ over all things, including history, revelation, and redemption.  New Covenant Theology presumes a Christocentricity to the understanding and meaning of all reality (1st tenet of NCT according to the Earth Stove Society, a NCT think tank).

Not much ambiguity in that statement. Pretty clear on its face except for how one would apply it to real life. Again, many might scratch their head in regard to that statement, but proceed to let the theological orthodoxy that flows from it shape their life and thinking. At the point of debate with such people, their orthodoxed talking points will reflect the metaphysical premise. They will absolutely not be swayed in their thinking because they concede that they cannot understand the higher knowledge, and the authority of the higher knowledge is part of the orthodoxy.

Pause: I used to be involved in a ministry that evangelized Jehovah Witnesses. Debating the Bible with them led nowhere because their orthodoxy reinterprets all biblical terms and phraseology. When Christ is referred to, it is assumed that their presuppositions regarding Christ are the same, and they are not. Instead, we challenged their orthodoxy, i.e., the Watchtower publication. Likewise, let me reveal a concluding theme of this study: never debate the Bible with a Protestant; instead, bring their authority into question. Refuse to discuss anything else for it will be futile for reasons yet to be examined.

Let’s look at another statement from the New Covenant Theology camp:

At this time, resist the temptation to utilize subsequent passages to validate the meaning or to move out from the immediate context. Remembering that all exegesis must finally be a Christocentric exegesis.

Look for Christ even if He isn’t there directly. It is better to see Christ in a text even if He isn’t, than to miss Him where He is (The Biblical Theological Study Center: A Christo-Presuppositional Approach to the Entire Scriptures; Max Strange. Online source: http://goo.gl/5sGjP).

The question quickly becomes, “How can you see Jesus in every verse in the Bible?” This is where the Bible becomes a “meta-narrative.” That can mean, “grand narrative,” but in this case it means “metaphysical narrative.” The Bible is a narrative, or story that depicts redemptive reality. You will get confused unless you understand that the theory also posits the inclusion of multi-purpose perspectives into the metaphysical story (a story that depicts true reality). The text grammar doesn’t determine the perspective resulting in a particular objective outcome, but the assumed outcome determines the perspective. So, can “passages talking about incestuous rape” say something about redemption? Of course. In this example, the passage is not talking about Jesus specifically, but denotes why His redemptive works are needed. In some way, according to the prism, the verse always speaks of Jesus and His redemptive works.

This approach to interpreting reality (state of being, or metaphysics), what we call epistemology, plugs into the basic ancient philosophy of total inability. This proffers the idea that man cannot know or comprehend reality. The metaphysic follows: man dwells in a realm apart from true reality that he cannot comprehend. Secondly, somehow, usually via a theory of predeterminism, there are a select few that can ascertain truths from the other realm. Usually, the delineation of the realms is the material versus invisible with mankind residing in the material realm.

The Reformers recognized a reality that man functions in, but deemed it “subjective,” or shadowy. Focusing on this shadowy realm leads to despair. In the aforementioned foundational document of Protestantism, Luther contended that man’s material realm only feeds “the glory story,” or the story of man.

In Luther’s construct, ALL reality is interpreted through two stories: the glory story (the story of man), and the cross story (the story of redemption). Giving any credence to the material world or the belief that man can know the material world empirically only contributes to the story of man and his glory. Yes, man functions in this world, but it does not possess any objective wisdom that can bring true well being. Only an ever-clearer understanding of the cross story can bring well being.

What then is the cross story specifically? It is twofold: it is the holiness of God as set against the sinfulness of man. This is the only objective truth and reality that can bring well being. The goal is a deeper and deeper understanding of how inept we are in every category of life as set against the glory and holiness of God.

Pause for main point: according to this philosophy, the sole purpose of the Bible is to lead us in seeing the cross story with more and more clarity. To the extent that we do that, we will have well being. AND, to the extent that each individual lives according to the cross story, the well being of society as a whole will increase. When Reformed folks talk about “transforming society with the gospel,” this is exactly what they are talking about. To the extent that the populous embraces the doctrine of inability, society will be transformed.

One reason for lauding this epistemology is unified agreement on interpretation. If every verse is about Jesus, there is no division in opinions. Secondly on this point, it gives Christianity a pass on defending inerrancy; e.g., narratives are not meant to be technical systems of theology that require consistency in logic. Thirdly on this point, if some sort of Christocentric conclusion is drawn from the text—it can’t be wrong. If the interpretation of the text somehow demeans man and exalts God, error is impossible.

Before we address the grammatical-historical approach to interpreting reality, let me add some thoughts to the redemptive-historical perspective. This perspective now dominates the institutional church. Just yesterday, I participated in a conversation on a social media site in which the following statement was made about Proverbs chapter 8:

The Old Testament reveals shadows of what Jesus Christ will be in the New Covenant. I can easily say that wisdom personified in Proverbs 8 is Jesus Christ.

If one reads Proverbs 8, the assertion that it is about Christ is beyond presumptuous at best. It is a complete rejection of the plain sense of the grammar; even in lieu of the personification being in the female gender.

Also, these two perspectives on reality are a salvific issue with the Reformed. A denial of total inability equates with the grammatical-historical view of reality which is supposedly an attempt by man to glorify himself by writing his own story. By believing that you can understand reality, you are in essence making yourself God.

The most common question is the issue of biblical imperatives that are clearly directed at mankind. This assumes that man is able to obey because grammatically, the commands are directed at him with a demand for obedience. But again, addressing these commands with the presupposition of total inability that equates with the redemptive-historical prism, the commands are supposedly meant to deliberately frustrate man and “drive him to despair of self-righteousness.”

The Reformed continually concede that the Bible states things in grammatical form, but that is always followed with the proper “gospel context” according to the redemptive-historical interpretation of reality. The classic example is this quotation from Neo-Calvinist Paul David Tripp:

….and the Bible does call us to change the way we think about things. But this approach again omits the person and work of Christ as Savior. Instead, it reduces our relationship to Christ to “think his thoughts” and “act the way Jesus would act.” (How People Change 2006, p.27).

Notice that Tripp concedes that the Bible calls us to do things according to the grammatical context, but goes on to say that is a denial of the gospel (omits the work of Christ as savior). On page 26 of the same book, Tripp calls obedience to the word of God a “behavioral approach” that “separates the commands of Scripture from their Christ-centered gospel context.”

Lastly before we move on, when one is able to wrap their minds around the redemptive-historical approach to interpreting reality, it will be recognized that this approach now saturates the Protestant institutional church.

What is the grammatical-historical approach to interpreting reality? As with the other prism, I am not going to elaborate on the “historical” part except to say that the redemptive-historical hermeneutic makes history part of the prewritten gospel narrative. History is simply the redemptive story playing out as scripted by God.

The political commentator Rush Limbaugh often notes that “words mean things.” This is a good working definition of grammatical-historical interpretation; it draws conclusions from a technical evaluation of the words in a sentence whether spoken or written. The many categories of language that give meaning are considered also, which speaks to the “historical” part of the term. Does the sentence mean the same thing today that it meant then? For instance a sentence written in 1940 might say, “Bob is gay.” History informs us of the meaning in that day: Bob is happy. Today that means Bob is a homosexual. The etymology of words and many other factors weigh-in, but all have this in common: they are empirical tools.

This interpretive method also assumes mankind is able to comprehend the realty he dwells in according to empirical observation and can draw conclusions on his own. Man has ability.

Pause: how did Luther get away with denying that mankind had any kind of ability at all? He chalked-it-up to man’s self-perceived ability that can accomplish things in the material world. These accomplishments are of no worth and only accomplish one thing and one thing only: they serve man’s lust to glorify himself. Luther believed that satisfaction from accomplishment was nothing more than sinful pride. To Luther, the only redeeming thing about the world was that heaven manifested its works on earth according to God’s sovereign will. If man lives life subjectively and professes that his evil “good” works cannot be distinguished from heavenly manifestations “experienced subjectively,” that is venial sin that can be forgiven. In accordance with authentic Reformed tradition, Luther believed the following: the belief that any man, including Christians, can perform a good work is mortal sin.

Therefore, the Reformed often define wisdom/knowledge according to two categories: “worldly knowledge” and “wisdom from above.” Sure, man can obtain worldly knowledge that improves his circumstances, but it is all prideful according to Luther. Wouldn’t this approach propagate a lot of death and misery due to a lack of science? Yes, but that was exactly Luther’s point. Many are perplexed by the embracing of ideologies that result in third world cultures, but those who are perplexed make the point for those in the other camp: what is the perplexity of the detractors? Answer: they are perplexed that other people do not lust after materialism as they do. Hence, third world cultures are often seen as being virtuous by the Reformed.

This is why Luther introduced suffering as a hermeneutic that interprets reality. There is true wisdom in the cross story because according to Luther, “all wisdom is hidden in suffering.” According to Luther, many reject this interpretation of reality and dub it the “foolishness of the cross.” Luther also stated that men call the good evil (suffering), and evil good (anything that prevents suffering). This is why Luther called reason an “ugly whore who should have dung rubbed in her face.”

The grammatical-historical perspective of reality assumes man can interpret his own reality, and the material world is not inherently evil. Believers and unbelievers share common realities that are simply practical and not evil.

Here is the challenge: to bring biblical knowledge to bear on grammatical-historical reality when the prevailing view of Protestantism has been the redemptive prism for hundreds of years.

But there is good news as well: the grammatical prism is what man utilizes intuitively. People assume they can interpret their own reality. Of course, the Reformed see this as the very problem.

Does this mean that grammatical-historical Christians should evangelize the lost world and forgo debate with Protestants? Yes it does, because it is a futile endeavor. You are trying to reach people who define reality itself differently. Protestants are redemptive-historical religionists.

Knowledge cropped

Futility cropped

Susan Dohse on Plato, Augustine, Calvin, and the Reformation

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on May 26, 2015

SusanTANC 2013 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny

Transcript: Susan D. Dohse MEd.  

Plato

I’m Susan Dohse. I’m married to Paul Dohse for two years, and it has been an adventure. My role in this year’s conference has changed. This year I became Paul’s research assistant. The pay stinks, but the fringe benefits are really nice. Unlike last year when I spoke from personal experience, which though difficult and emotional at times, was easier than this year’s assignment. This year I was asked to step outside my preschool box and share what I’ve learned through not personal experience but personal study and research. And I am thankful for the World Wide Web, computers, and the Internet even though I fuss and say unkind things to the computer, I am thankful that the Lord created those on the eighth day. If I had to find answers to the questions that I had in the old-fashioned way, by using the card catalog and the Dewey Decimal system, I wouldn’t be here this morning. I would still be at the library roaming the stacks. My role in this year’s conference is to share my research. My goal though is to provoke you to think. What I want to share is only an introduction. It’s not even a scratch on the surface of what there is to know about these historical figures. It’s up to you though to continue the research project. So you do have an assignment. I want you to think of me as just a grain of sand, an irritant in the oyster that over time though yields a pearl.

Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus is speaking here. “Therefore, whosoever hears these sayings of mine and does them, I will liken him unto a wise man who built his house upon a rock. And when the rains descended and the floods came and the winds blew and beat upon that house, it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock. And everyone that hears these sayings of mine and does them not shall be likened then to a foolish man who built his house upon the sand, and the rains descended and the floods came and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and great was the fall of it.”

The foundation of thought that I want to illustrate is built upon a historical figure that I just knew initially in a Jeopardy quiz show fashion, you know. Student of Socrates, Greek philosopher, The Republic. Who is Plato? Well, if I were to ask you to tell me something that you know or you’ve been taught about this man, I’m certain I would get classic textbook answers. Greek philosopher, student of Socrates, established the first university called The Academy, wrote The Republic, I would give you credit for being correct. For over 2,500 years, Plato has been studied, admired, modified, personalized, and deified. He has been described as a great thinker, lover of wisdom, a crusader against error, and an enemy of falsehood. Well, after reading hundreds of pages about him, I cannot help but agree that he was a man of great intelligence. He was a mathematical genius, an advocate of education. In your list of trivia facts, would you also include pagan, polytheist, crusader against individuality, founder of communistic, socialistic, and Darwinian evolutionary thought, enemy of God, hero of the reformers?

Born in 427 BC, the son of noble and wealthy Athenian parents with the blood of ancient kings of Attica flowing through his veins. It was this status in life that gave him the way and the means to pursue his quests. Unlike others of his day, he didn’t have to earn a living and go to school at night or hold two jobs to pay for his education. He was of the ruling class of Athens, a privileged elite.

At the age of 20, Plato came to Socrates and asked to be his pupil. And Socrates saw before him a handsome youth, broad shoulders of an athlete, a noble brow of a philosopher, the limpid eyes of a poet. Those aren’t my descriptive terms. This is how Socrates described him. Socrates accepted him as a student, and this became the beginning of a tender and an intimate relationship that lasted until Socrates’ death. The respect and admiration of the student for his teacher was profound and lasting.

Well, after Socrates was executed, Plato and the other disciples of Socrates took to the world, and they traveled the ancient world. Now whether of fear that they would be arrested and also executed because of their association with Socrates or because they wanted to be foreign exchange students is not really well documented. Plato went to Cyrene where Theodorus instructed him in mathematics. He went to southern Italy where he studied the science of numbers under three of the most learned doctors of the Pythagorean mathematical system of his day, went to Egypt to receive instruction from those learned doctors and priests of that ancient land. Some records say he visited Persia, Babylonia, and even India. So he returns to Athens and establishes his Academy, the first university in Europe where he taught until the age of 81.

So up until his return to Athens, we can say letter P for professional student, P for pagan polytheist. Plato regarded the sun, moon, stars, and planets as the visible gods. These heavenly bodies do not come into beings and then pass away. Plato attributed divine souls to the sun, moon, stars, and planets because they followed that intelligible course through the sky. He also held [SOUNDS LIKE] the invisible gods, the gods of the civilized life where the king was Zeus. These gods care about humans. They’re aware of whether we are good or evil. Though invisible, they can reveal them themselves when they want to. They are not standards of justice, beauty, truth, and goodness, but they were living beings who have the perfect knowledge of those standards. Plato wrote, “I do believe that there are gods, and that in a far higher sense than that which any of my accusers believe in them.”

P for platonic wisdom which unites with methodology. P for philosopher ruler. Plato referred to himself as a philosopher ruler. He stressed the importance of living the life of a philosopher by worshipping ideas. The search of ideas, the appreciation of ideas, the participation of the ideas—that’s the life of a philosopher, and that’s what he taught, and that’s what he believed. So the life of Plato was a tireless quest for those ideas. His life is a sustained effort to live by those ideas and to teach others to do so.

P, political scientist, his political philosophy was explained in his writing The Republic. The ideal state, he says, should be divided into three classes of citizens, and each class has its own particular duty to be performed and a special virtue to be developed. The lower class, the laborers and the artisans, their immediate task, acquire skill. The second class, that’s the warriors, and they’re given the opportunity to develop courage and fortitude at their stage of evolution. And the ruling class, those are those men who have learned how to govern themselves and are therefore fit to govern others. I quote from Plato, “Unless philosophers become rulers or rulers become true and thorough students of philosophy, there will be no end to the troubles of the state and humanity.” When each state concentrates upon its own duty and virtue, there will be a well-balanced and harmonious state in which all of the citizens will work, but not for the interest of self but for the common good of the whole. The state will be in charge of production and that sphere of physical goods and life. (more…)

Absolutely Critical to Effective Ministry: Knowing the Two Realities of Protestantism

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on May 7, 2015

If we are to accomplish anything in contemporary Christianity, we must begin to live by a basic hard-fast rule: our actions must be guided by the knowledge that there are two realities in contemporary Christianity; grammatical-historical and redemptive-historical.

These are usually discussed as methods of Bible interpretation, but they are really much more than that according to Protestant tradition. These are two different ways of interpreting reality itself.

We will begin by defining the redemptive-historical interpretation of reality along with this caution: one of the most powerful influences that this view of reality has is the dismissal of its basic premise as mere mysticism held by fringe elements of Protestantism. Those who dismiss it out-of-hand then proceed to function by its tenets unawares. The who’s who of Protestantism care little that the masses understand this ideology, just so they function by it.

In fact, Protestant leaders assume most parishioners are unable to grasp its tenets. Therefore, redemptive-historical reality must be explained in a way that will enable congregants to apply it to their lives and function a certain way within church culture. Redemptive-historical reality is primarily the crux of Protestant orthodoxy and its spiritual caste system.

In mythology, we often link the bizarre narratives to the philosophy itself, but that’s a mistake. Roman, Greek, and Babylonian culture was not developed by superstitious idiots. What we fail to understand is the narratives are stories that convey principles to the spiritual underlings so they can apply principles of higher knowledge to their lives. They cannot understand the higher knowledge, but those who can need to tell the underlings how to live in order to obtain the best possible society.

“Orthodoxy” can be likened to mythological narratives that teach those of lesser spiritual understanding how they should live, but they are based on well thought out metaphysical (state of being) systems of knowledge. We shouldn’t be surprised that what seems to be superstition has ruled the greatest empires on earth. This is because the core ideology is always a succinct system of thought that is greatly underestimated. The ancient philosophers were not idiots. Democritus (circa 400 BC) was the originator of atomic theory. The sophist class of philosophers were the first to apply philosophy to sociology in an in-depth way (circa 500 BC). ALL present-day psychologies are founded on the basic theories of that day. For example, the basic ideology that drives the theory of rehabilitation in our modern-day prison systems came from Socrates.

Let’s now define redemptive-historical reality. I will be using a quote from Graeme Goldsworthy who is considered to be the contemporary father of redemptive-historical hermeneutics:

If the story is true, Jesus Christ is the interpretative key to every fact in the universe and, of course, the Bible is one such fact. He is thus the hermeneutic principle that applies first to the Bible as the ground for understanding, and also to the whole of reality (Graeme Goldsworthy: Gospel-centered Hermeneutics; p.48).

This is a pretty straight forward statement and accurately depicts what Protestantism is really founded on; not a theology per se, but a way to interpret reality itself. How in the world does one interpret all of reality through the one person Jesus Christ? You MUST understand: Martin Luther articulated the answer in the foundational treatise of Protestantism, the Heidelberg Disputation.

The Heidelberg Disputation is a concise systematic ideology that explains how all of reality is to be interpreted through redemption, or if you will, the man of redemption, Jesus Christ. Again, the power of this ideology is a dismissal of it out-of-hand by those who proceed to sit under its “theology.” The theology of the metaphysics redefines biblical terms, and uses them to lead the masses into a functioning Christocentric view of reality.

We will not plunge the depths of the Heidelberg Disputation in this writing, but the principles will be outlined and their inevitable functionality among Christians. Before we move forward, let’s examine additional statements that confirm this approach among Christians. This testimony was given in a recent email to me:

An old acquaintance of ours (Presbyterian as they get) has said more times than I can remember something like this: “Every verse in the Bible, from Genesis 1 through Revelation, is talking about Jesus.” Years ago that sounded so intellectual, holy; today it sounds like hogwash. I mean, are we really expected to believe that the passages talking about incestuous rape are talking about Jesus? Come on, really?

Well, as ridiculous as it sounds, the answer is, “yes.” Many function according to the theology that is predicated on this foundational interpretive method for not only the Bible, but reality itself.

Pause: keep in mind that those who function according to this interpretation of reality without understanding its premise will reflect back the resulting interpretation of Scripture. They repeat pulpit talking points without ever investigating the source of them, or the logical conclusions of the talking points. Sometimes, such people are referred to as “useful idiots.” But again we need to be cautious: people who blindly follow others do not do so for the sake of following blindly—they are functioning according to some sort of ideology that leads to the blind following.

Higher Knowledge cropped

Let’s look at some more examples from proponents of New Covenant Theology:

New Covenant Theology insists on the priority of Jesus Christ over all things, including history, revelation, and redemption.  New Covenant Theology presumes a Christocentricity to the understanding and meaning of all reality (1st tenet of NCT according to the Earth Stove Society, a NCT think tank).

Not much ambiguity in that statement. Pretty clear on its face except for how one would apply it to real life. Again, many might scratch their head in regard to that statement, but proceed to let the theological orthodoxy that flows from it shape their life and thinking. At the point of debate with such people, their orthodoxed talking points will reflect the metaphysical premise. They will absolutely not be swayed in their thinking because they concede that they cannot understand the higher knowledge, and the authority of the higher knowledge is part of the orthodoxy.

Pause: I used to be involved in a ministry that evangelized Jehovah Witnesses. Debating the Bible with them led nowhere because their orthodoxy reinterprets all biblical terms and phraseology. When Christ is referred to, it is assumed that their presuppositions regarding Christ are the same, and they are not. Instead, we challenged their orthodoxy, i.e., the Watchtower publication. Likewise, let me reveal a concluding theme of this study: never debate the Bible with a Protestant; instead, bring their authority into question. Refuse to discuss anything else for it will be futile for reasons yet to be examined.

Let’s look at another statement from the New Covenant Theology camp:

At this time, resist the temptation to utilize subsequent passages to validate the meaning or to move out from the immediate context. Remembering that all exegesis must finally be a Christocentric exegesis.

Look for Christ even if He isn’t there directly. It is better to see Christ in a text even if He isn’t, than to miss Him where He is (The Biblical Theological Study Center: A Christo-Presuppositional Approach to the Entire Scriptures; Max Strange. Online source: http://goo.gl/5sGjP).

The question quickly becomes, “How can you see Jesus in every verse in the Bible?” This is where the Bible becomes a “meta-narrative.” That can mean, “grand narrative,” but in this case it means “metaphysical narrative.” The Bible is a narrative, or story that depicts redemptive reality. You will get confused unless you understand that the theory also posits the inclusion of multi-purpose perspectives into the metaphysical story (a story that depicts true reality). The text grammar doesn’t determine the perspective resulting in a particular objective outcome, but the assumed outcome determines the perspective. So, can “passages talking about incestuous rape” say something about redemption? Of course. In this example, the passage is not talking about Jesus specifically, but denotes why His redemptive works are needed. In some way, according to the prism, the verse always speaks of Jesus and His redemptive works.

This approach to interpreting reality (state of being, or metaphysics), what we call epistemology, plugs into the basic ancient philosophy of total inability. This proffers the idea that man cannot know or comprehend reality. The metaphysic follows: man dwells in a realm apart from true reality that he cannot comprehend. Secondly, somehow, usually via a theory of predeterminism, there are a select few that can ascertain truths from the other realm. Usually, the delineation of the realms is the material versus invisible with mankind residing in the material realm.

The Reformers recognized a reality that man functions in, but deemed it “subjective,” or shadowy. Focusing on this shadowy realm leads to despair. In the aforementioned foundational document of Protestantism, Luther contended that man’s material realm only feeds “the glory story,” or the story of man.

In Luther’s construct, ALL reality is interpreted through two stories: the glory story (the story of man), and the cross story (the story of redemption). Giving any credence to the material world or the belief that man can know the material world empirically only contributes to the story of man and his glory. Yes, man functions in this world, but it does not possess any objective wisdom that can bring true wellbeing. Only an ever-clearer understanding of the cross story can bring wellbeing.

What then is the cross story specifically? It is twofold: it is the holiness of God as set against the sinfulness of man. This is the only objective truth and reality that can bring wellbeing. The goal is a deeper and deeper understanding of how inept we are in every category of life as set against the glory and holiness of God.

Pause for main point: according to this philosophy, the sole purpose of the Bible is to lead us in seeing the cross story with more and more clarity. To the extent that we do that, we will have wellbeing. AND, to the extent that each individual lives according to the cross story, the wellbeing of society as a whole will increase. When Reformed folks talk about “transforming society with the gospel,” this is exactly what they are talking about. To the extent that the populous embraces the doctrine of inability, society will be transformed.

One reason for lauding this epistemology is unified agreement on interpretation. If every verse is about Jesus, there is no division in opinions. Secondly on this point, it gives Christianity a pass on defending inerrancy; e.g., narratives are not meant to be technical systems of theology that require consistency in logic. Thirdly on this point, if some sort of Christocentric conclusion is drawn from the text—it can’t be wrong. If the interpretation of the text somehow demeans man and exalts God, error is impossible.

Before we address the grammatical-historical approach to interpreting reality, let me add some thoughts to the redemptive-historical perspective. This perspective now dominates the institutional church. Just yesterday, I participated in a conversation on a social media site in which the following statement was made about Proverbs chapter 8:

The Old Testament reveals shadows of what Jesus Christ will be in the New Covenant. I can easily say that wisdom personified in Proverbs 8 is Jesus Christ.

If one reads Proverbs 8, the assertion that it is about Christ is beyond presumptuous at best. It is a complete rejection of the plain sense of the grammar; even in lieu of the personification being in the female gender.

Also, these two perspectives on reality are a salvific issue with the Reformed. A denial of total inability equates with the grammatical-historical view of reality which is supposedly an attempt by man to glorify himself by writing his own story. By believing that you can understand reality, you are in essence making yourself God.

The most common question is the issue of biblical imperatives that are clearly directed at mankind. This assumes that man is able to obey because grammatically, the commands are directed at him with a demand for obedience. But again, addressing these commands with the presupposition of total inability that equates with the redemptive-historical prism, the commands are supposedly meant to deliberately frustrate man and “drive him to despair of self-righteousness.”

The Reformed continually concede that the Bible states things in grammatical form, but that is always followed with the proper “gospel context” according to the redemptive-historical interpretation of reality. The classic example is this quotation from Neo-Calvinist Paul David Tripp:

….and the Bible does call us to change the way we think about things. But this approach again omits the person and work of Christ as Savior. Instead, it reduces our relationship to Christ to “think his thoughts” and “act the way Jesus would act.” (How People Change 2006, p.27).

Notice that Tripp concedes that the Bible calls us to do things according to the grammatical context, but goes on to say that is a denial of the gospel (omits the work of Christ as savior). On page 26 of the same book, Tripp calls obedience to the word of God a “behavioral approach” that “separates the commands of Scripture from their Christ-centered gospel context.”

Lastly before we move on, when one is able to wrap their minds around the redemptive-historical approach to interpreting reality, it will be recognized that this approach now saturates the Protestant institutional church.

What is the grammatical-historical approach to interpreting reality? As with the other prism, I am not going to elaborate on the “historical” part except to say that the redemptive-historical hermeneutic makes history part of the prewritten gospel narrative. History is simply the redemptive story playing out as scripted by God.

The political commentator Rush Limbaugh often notes that “words mean things.” This is a good working definition of grammatical-historical interpretation; it draws conclusions from a technical evaluation of the words in a sentence whether spoken or written. The many categories of language that give meaning are considered also, which speaks to the “historical” part of the term. Does the sentence mean the same thing today that it meant then? For instance a sentence written in 1940 might say, “Bob is gay.” History informs us of the meaning in that day: Bob is happy. Today that means Bob is a homosexual. The etymology of words and many other factors weigh-in, but all have this in common: they are empirical tools.

This interpretive method also assumes mankind is able to comprehend the realty he dwells in according to empirical observation and can draw conclusions on his own. Man has ability.

Pause: how did Luther get away with denying that mankind had any kind of ability at all? He chalked-it-up to man’s self-perceived ability that can accomplish things in the material world. These accomplishments are of no worth and only accomplish one thing and one thing only: they serve man’s lust to glorify himself. Luther believed that satisfaction from accomplishment was nothing more than sinful pride. To Luther, the only redeeming thing about the world was that heaven manifested its works on earth according to God’s sovereign will. If man lives life subjectively and professes that his evil “good” works cannot be distinguished from heavenly manifestations “experienced subjectively,” that is venial sin that can be forgiven. In accordance with authentic Reformed tradition, Luther believed the following: the belief that any man, including Christians, can perform a good work is mortal sin.

Therefore, the Reformed often define wisdom/knowledge according to two categories: “worldly knowledge” and “wisdom from above.” Sure, man can obtain worldly knowledge that improves his circumstances, but it is all prideful according to Luther. Wouldn’t this approach propagate a lot of death and misery due to a lack of science? Yes, but that was exactly Luther’s point. Many are perplexed by the embracing of ideologies that result in third world cultures, but those who are perplexed make the point for those in the other camp: what is the perplexity of the detractors? Answer: they are perplexed that other people do not lust after materialism as they do. Hence, third world cultures are often seen as being virtuous by the Reformed.

This is why Luther introduced suffering as a hermeneutic that interprets reality. There is true wisdom in the cross story because according to Luther, “all wisdom is hidden in suffering.” According to Luther, many reject this interpretation of reality and dub it the “foolishness of the cross.” Luther also stated that men call the good evil (suffering), and evil good (anything that prevents suffering). This is why Luther called reason an “ugly whore who should have dung rubbed in her face.”

The grammatical-historical perspective of reality assumes man can interpret his own reality, and the material world is not inherently evil. Believers and unbelievers share common realities that are simply practical and not evil.

Here is the challenge: to bring biblical knowledge to bear on grammatical-historical reality when the prevailing view of Protestantism has been the redemptive prism for hundreds of years.

But there is good news as well: the grammatical prism is what man utilizes intuitively. People assume they can interpret their own reality. Of course, the Reformed see this as the very problem.

Does this mean that grammatical-historical Christians should evangelize the lost world and forgo debate with Protestants? Yes it does, because it is a futile endeavor. You are trying to reach people who define reality itself differently. Protestants are redemptive-historical religionists.

Knowledge cropped

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The Truth About Predeterminism: A Historical and Biblical Evaluation

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on December 23, 2014

Blog Radio LogoGood evening and welcome to False Reformation blogtalk radio. I am your host, Paul M. Dohse Sr.

If you would like to join the discussion tonight and add to what we are learning, call 347-855-8317 and remember to mute the speakers on your laptop or PC. And by the way, the question or comment does not have to pertain to the subject at hand—it can be off-point.

I am very excited to share what my research has yielded since I began this ministry in 2006, working at it part time until April of 2010, and thereafter full time until now. Resources can also be found at tancpublishing.com.

Tonight we will be discussing the subject of predeterminism, otherwise known as God’s election or predestination. Now, I realize that election and predestination primarily speak to God preselecting who will be saved and not saved, while predeterminism deals with the wider spectrum of human events.

Let me set the table for tonight’s discussion. Starting out in Reformed beliefs can be simple enough. God preselected those who will be saved, and left the rest to their own devices. And, there seems to be Bible verses that state this plainly.

You might even believe that election and freewill are both 100% true. You might believe that this is a paradox. I heard Rick Warren tell John Piper that this is his position, since the Bible states both, both are equally true. You could also argue that paradoxes like this exist in science. Let me give you an example from Dr. Bo Grissom as stated in last year’s conference:

Consider, for example, the physics of light where two seemingly contradictory theories are used side-by-side to explain its different properties.

The wave theory is used to understand the oscillation aspects of light (e.g., Polaroid sunglasses), while at the same time the particle theory is employed to explain other applications (e.g., photoelectric solar panels).  Although these two theories are totally incompatible, each provides useful information in certain technical applications.

To date, scientists simply use the appropriate theory as needed for a particular design problem.  There is no worry about whether light actually exists as a wave, or as a particle, just because it is not yet fully understood.  This same approach may be taken in the spiritual realm and is probably the best stance to take in dealing with the apparent contradiction between individual free will and God’s total sovereignty.

When we extend this God’s predeterminism from salvation to every aspect of life, we are not just talking about election and predestination, or whether one is a 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 point Calvinist, we are now talking about determinism or predeterminism. Hence, the word used in our title tonight. And this is where we must go because Protestantism was founded on hard determinism not soft determinism.

The Protestant tradition is based on Redemptive Historical hermeneutics. What’s that? It is the belief that every facet of human life is predetermined. It is the belief that reality and the state of being is a prewritten story or grand narrative written by God. This is known as metanarrative, or metaphysical narrative, or a grand metaphysical narrative. In regard to authentic Protestantism, all of history is a predetermined gospel, or redemptive narrative also known as the “divine drama.”

This is also the basis of mythology which is NOT superstition. Mythology is merely the most ancient and basic foundations of religion. It is the idea that a force, nature, cosmos, or personal God has prewritten history. The story, as it unfolds, is the state of being. The author of being is always an invisible force who manifests his/her being in the material realm.

Mythology in its various forms also has mediators between the invisible and material. These are elitist guides who have special insight into the invisible realm that cannot be understood by the general populous. Therefore, in order to guide the masses, priests, philosophers, or whatever you want to call them, explain truth to the masses in a way that they can understand it, namely, via a story.

For the most part, people in cultures don’t take the mythological stories literally, they understand that the guides are merely repackaging what they are unable to understand in a way that they can apply it to their lives. Ancient cultures were not stupid people driven by superstition; they understood the mythological narratives to be creeds and catechisms to live by that come from purer truths that only the guides can understand.

Superstition then, is an unreasonable understanding and application of the mythological narrative. That’s what superstition is. It may also include many personal quirks applied to the superstition as well.

So, from the cradle of society comes mythology, and its orthodoxy is metanarrative. This of course requires a spiritual and social caste system or a empirical pecking order. This is why Hinduism is the most ancient of religions—because mythology is the most ancient of religions.

In this ancient construct, everything is predetermined in the story written by the force or personal God, and life is ONLY experienced. It’s like standing in the rain. You feel the rain, you experience the rain, but you have no control over the rain—the rain is a story that you only experience—your part in the narrative is only experienced.

In Hinduism, which is the best example, the spiritual strata is Bhramin, Kshatryia, Vaishya, Sudra, and Untouchables. But listen very careful to what Karma is in Hinduism. THIS IS KEY. I am citing Swami Bhaskarananda: Chapters IX to XI from the book “The Essentials of Hinduism,” Heading; “Predestination”:

Karma is the infant stage of Hinduism where saints believe they are responsible for their own actions, but as growth moves forward, the mature saint…

He becomes convinced that God has been doing everything by using his body, mind, energy and the senses. He feels that he is only an instrument in the hands of God, and whatever God has been doing to him is for his ultimate spiritual good. At this high level of spirituality the doctrine of predestination becomes the only valid doctrine to him. To him the doctrine of karma ceases to be a valid doctrine.

Therefore, these two doctrines, even though apparently contradictory to each other, are valid for people at different stages of spiritual growth.

Hang on to all of this as we are going to plug it back in later. This will all come together for you as we progress.

At this juncture, I am going to inject another key term: the total inability of man. Can we state anything other than the obvious fact that Hinduism representing the foundation of ancient religion is one soul with the total inability of man? Absolutely not.

When I first became a Christian, I was, I guess what you would call Arminian. I only borrow the term to make a point because Christianity is not either Calvinism or Arminianism, that’s perhaps the biggest red herring of all time.

I was later persuaded into believing what is often referred to as sovereign grace. Or, election.  I was never crazy about it though I believed it to be true. To me, there were certain Bible verses that made individual election unavoidable.

Fast forward to the TANC Research era. When my research found that Protestantism was founded on the false gospel of progressive justification, I pretty much deemed the election issue as a diversion from the real issue of the gospel, and pronounced the election issue irrelevant.

I then adopted the aforementioned paradox view and stuck it in my back pocket. I am not going to take the time tonight to discuss why I decided to revisit the issue, but I did. And here was my approach:

I found the issue of law and gospel to be very definitive in the Bible, what I call “theological math,” and assumed that a deeper and deeper objective understanding of law and gospel would lead to more understanding of the more subjective and mysterious biblical issues. What we know are building blocks to what we don’t know. If not, conclusions are merely leaps in logic.

Deuteronomy 29:29 makes it very clear that there are things we are responsible for knowing and doing, but to some degree we are not going to understand everything. BUT, we also need to milk the objective cow for all we can get out of it. You stick with what you know positively and see where it leads you.

And here is where I have been led: I believe freewill is a metaphysical pillar. I believe it is one of the major tenets of being. I also believe that it better answers the more difficult questions such as, “Why did God allow sin into the world?” That is, if He did in fact allow it—we must remember that is a presupposition. God is not limited in any way by perceived attributes. Example: God is omniscient, but does that mean God in unable to not know something because of His omniscience? What if God doesn’t want to know something? Is He UNABLE to not know?

I have come to believe God did not elect individuals, but rather elected the means of salvation which includes people groups and Christ Himself.  I believe God is sovereign and intervenes in the freewill affairs of men to guarantee predetermined outcomes which DOES NOT include every detail of life and history.

The Bible says that God created hell for the Devil and not man; therefore, men go to hell because they choose to go there against God’s desired will. Though the fall caused man to be ashamed and hide from God—God seeks him out and reasons with him.

This brings us to some very important reasons to consider the truthfulness of predeterminism. First, the primary pundit of predeterminism is the Protestant tradition. As we discussed prior, Protestantism is the false gospel of progressive justification. Therefore, predeterminism is fruit from the poisonous tree.

Secondly, and most importantly, the Reformed tradition has made the sovereignty of God the gospel itself. Don’t miss this; note this term: “sovereign grace.” We must understand that sovereign grace is a specified gospel. It is a soteriology or doctrine of salvation—please don’t miss this. Individual election is not a separate issue from the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ according to the Reformed camp.

A key concept of sovereign grace is the total inability of man. In 2008, Calvinist John MacArthur stated the following at a conference:

The doctrine of human unwillingness and inability is perhaps the most attacked doctrine wittingly or unwittingly. The idea that sinners are completely helpless to redeem themselves or to make any contribution to that redemption from sin and divine judgment is the most attacked because in the big picture, it is the most despised doctrine.

Consequently, it is the most distinctively Christian doctrine, contrary to all non-Christian views of men. All religions in the world are some form of a works righteousness system. And at the foundation of all those religions other than the true faith in the true gospel is the idea that people can be good and good enough to contribute to their salvation, to somehow merit favor with deity and a happy after life.

Because this is the universal foundational doctrine of all false systems of religion, it is therefore the most – because, I should say, the opposite of it is the foundation of all these religions, it is therefore the most attacked Christian doctrine. It is distinctively Christian because it affirms the absolute inability of man to do anything to contribute to his salvation.

That’s a crock. What MacArthur said is the well-traveled narrative and historical motif, but the exact opposite is true. The carte blanche religiosity most prevalent in all of human history is determinism. This has always been true in the secular realm as well. In the secular realm it is known as freewill skepticism. Somebody sent me a great video on this a couple of days ago and I found it most fascinating.

But look, mankind has been so saturated with a propensity towards determinism that its philosophical truisms pepper our speech. Quote, “Don’t tempt fate.” “It’s our destiny.” In sports: this team or that team is a “team of destiny.” “Oh well, I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.” One of the biggest hits ever was Doris Day’s  Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be Will Be). In 1964 you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing that song.

So, like the video I was sent the other day, MacArthur who I think represents the general mentality well is proffering the idea that freewill skepticism is counter intuitive—historically, the exact opposite is true. Calvinism is an extremely old shoe. It’s just a chip off the old block of ancient mythology—it follows that tradition.

So, freewill skeptic philosophers as well as Calvinists talk often about free will’s relationship to “American individualism.” And this is the next step to our discussion: determinism goes hand in hand with collectivism, and freewill goes hand in hand with individualism. Let me explain how this works.

If whatever rules the universe in the invisible realm has representatives or mediators in the material realm, that means the majority of humanity cannot know reality. The other alternative is what got Socrates executed. He taught that truth was intuitive to everybody and leveled the playing field which was a really bad idea because only 10% of the population made up the ruling class.

Therefore, his understudy Plato had to get out of Dodge and become a foreign exchange student for a while, but he studied in India and came back to Athens with a much better idea: the philosopher kings are able to obtain the gnosis and teach it to the masses, the warriors inforce the dictates of the philosopher kings, and the sole purpose of the masses is the collective good.

This was never more or less than Plato’s version of the Hindu caste system. The value of an individual is based on their ability to contribute to the common good as judged by the philosopher kings and enforced by the warriors if necessary.

Where did the crux of this system begin? In the garden with the serpent and Eve. The serpent, in essence said, “Eve, you aren’t able to correctly ascertain what God really said, you need me, a spiritually superior being, to properly interpret what God really said.” That’s where all of this starts.  It worked well in the garden, why in the world would the construct ever change, right? This also makes mediators the obvious shoe-in for social engineering or societal wellbeing.

Now we have to figure out who the mediators are, right? How do we figure that out? Who is to say? That’s where predeterminism comes in as well. The mediators are always preordained by God before the foundation of the earth. This goes hand in hand with the social class strata.

Social classes determine who the rulers are, the warrior class, and the artisans. It becomes a matter of lineage or pedigree. And as you know, this has never changed in many, many cultures. In many cases upward mobility is forbidden.

Traditionally, collectivism, again, the idea that the worth of an individual is determined by ability to contribute to the common good, is the doctrine that is always associated with determinism and its spiritual caste. The preordained mediators keep the masses in tune with good karma. Immature citizens think they can actually control their fate, while the wiser artisans and producers know that whatever force they worship is completely sovereign. Hey, if the force didn’t want that philosopher king in power, he or she wouldn’t be in power. And of course, some cultures take it a step further and deem the rulers as the actual material manifestations of a god or several gods. Examples of this would be Japanese emperor worship during WWII and the Pope (the “Holy Father” of the Catholic Church).

I am going to pause here and mention how these ancient traditions show up in the contemporary Protestant church. The president of Southern Seminary, Al Mohler, stated at a conference in Florida that pastors are God’s appointed preordained ministers to save His people from ignorance. That’s what he said. In the Puritan tradition, upward mobility was considered a violation of the fifth commandment because it didn’t honor the social class you were born into. Folks, this is all the same stuff! A book written by Calvinist Paul David Tripp, How People Change, is a 200 + page treatise on how to become part of God’s metaphysical divine drama. You are not in control of anything, you just need to be able to see the world through eyes of faith; i.e., all of life is the unfolding of a preordained redemptive narrative (see endnote at end of transcript).

In addition, Calvin’s three-fold election construct that we discussed last week is identical to the election doctrine of Gnosticism, a later version of Neo-Platonism. The hylic coincide with Calvin’s non-elect, the psychic are the partially initiated, or temporarily illumined, and the pneumatic are the fully initiated or Calvin’s lot that persevere till the end. This is all the same stuff.

Now, we are getting ready to close the first segment so anyone wanting to call in can start ramping up while I finish the first segment with individualism which is mostly identified with freewill. Individualists commonly believe that they do not need a mediator to understand God or reality. Secondly, individualists would reject predeterminism out of hand. Thirdly, they would reject social caste out of hand and deem it as tyranny. Fourthly, they believe happiness is found in accomplishment and would reject anything that hinders upward mobility. Fifthly, they would reject total inability.

However, individualism is what is counter intuitive. Individualism is a unique American experiment which finally happened after man suffered unspeakable misery for 10,000 years at the hands of collectivism. EVERYONE agrees that there has never been a country like America in the history of the world. Well, why not? Why did it take so long? Because individualism is not our natural bent—collectivism is. No? After all of the mass graves and misery amassed by collectivism, why are politicians worldwide still hell-bent on implementing it?

Ever heard of the tower of babel? We wouldn’t even have the individualism that we have now unless God confused the languages. Man was continually commanded by God to spread out, fill the whole earth and subdue it. What did they do? They all gathered in a Hindu huddle at the tower of babel.

That’s the first segment. Conclusion: Calvinism is far from being unique. It’s just the same old warn-out collectivism that has been wreaking havoc on mankind since the garden. Determinism is nothing unique, the total inability of man is not unique—IT’S ALL THE WORLD HAS EVER KNOWN UNTILL AMERICA CAME ALONG. Status quo religious books like the Quran are saturated with the idea of predeterminism from the front cover to the back cover. I could go on and on with example after example.

Segment 2

What about the gospel of sovereign grace? This is a gospel that is defined by predeterminism. Apart from predeterminism, all gospels are deemed false—it must have the determinism element. Freewill is tantamount to a false gospel because it leaves room for man to have a role in the salvation “process” that supposedly starts with beginning justification which is experienced subjectively and ends with final justification. It’s a process of salvation instead of the finished work of salvation being applied to the specific point in time when a person believes the gospel. The life of the born again believer now becomes part of the salvation “process.”

Supposedly, saving faith can ONLY ASK to be part of the salvation process via John Calvin’s Sabbath rest where we must rest from our works because the same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us. We must rest from our works in the Christian life because it is now part of the process. Accordingly, no saint can know positively if they are the called class of elect, or the class that perseveres. Again, this is akin to the Gnostic election classes of  hylic, psychic, and pneumatic. The called, like the psychic, are temporarily or partially illumined and have no way of knowing whether or not they will persevere until the end. Assurance is clearly ambiguous.

This is authentic Protestantism’s definition of saving faith. Ability to choose in any part of the salvation process is tantamount to the ability of man and therefore akin to works salvation. Not unlike spiritual maturity in Hinduism, as the good Protestant grows spiritually, he/she realizes more and more that they have no real role in the salvation process, but only experience God’s prewritten metaphysical narrative. Spiritual growth is defined by a progression from soft determinism to hard determinism.

In the Protestant “gospel of sovereign grace,” soft determinism is the minimal requirement because having freewill is tantamount to the ability to choose which is considered works salvation. Individuals then grow into their final salvation by evolving into hard determinism. This is by no means unique, but very prevalent among the world’s religions including movements like radical environmentalism.

Do Calvinists believe in total inability? Well, many environmentalists believe the very existence of man is detrimental to the earth!

Hard determinism is comfortable with the idea that there is no assurance of salvation which of course is a direct contradiction to the book of 1John. As far as the Reformed stating this in no uncertain terms, chapter 5 of It’s Not About Election is chock-full of citations from Calvin, Luther, and contemporary Calvinists like John Piper.

However, there is a get out of fate free card, right? What is it? The Reformed power of the keys. Simply stated, if you are a member of a Reformed church and you obey the elders and they like you, if you “humbly” put yourself under their authority with issues of error being beside the point—YOUR’RE IN because whatever they bind on earth is bound in heaven and whatever they loose on earth is loosed in heaven. Do you want to go to heaven? Well then, keep your mouth shut and put your money in the plate.

Now, back to this sovereign grace gospel and the next point about it—it makes God’s sovereignty paramount to the gospel and not God’s love. If man has a choice, or freewill which speaks to ability, this would violate God’s attribute of sovereignty. It would deny God is sovereign in all matters of life and being. In other words, God’s sovereignty and freewill are mutually exclusive. Beside the point that this again limits God because of an attribute assigned to Him, the stated biblical cause of God saving the world because of love is changed to God saving the world because of His sovereignty.

This also posits the idea that sin came into the world because of God’s sovereign will and not His permissive will. The unavoidable conclusion also posits the idea that sin coming into the world was God’s desired will. In contrast, God may have chosen not to know anything about what would come out of freewill as a creative principle. The Bible never states that God knew sin was going to come into the world and decided to permit it for some reason. The Bible states that sin was “found” in Satan at some point (Ezekiel 28:15).

Built-in inherent weaknesses or propensities are not part of God’s creation. Rather, God’s attribute of freewill assumes good results because all that God creates is good. Obviously, Lucifer and Adam were created with freewill, but nevertheless, freewill is not the problem. Reformed soteriology makes freewill synonymous with sin, and makes any kind of ability sin as well.

Many in the Reformed camp deny that they believe God’s sovereignty and freewill are mutually exclusive, but total inability assumes freewill is both impossible and sinful, so they cannot have it both ways. In their minds, man is only free to sin because freewill itself is sinful.

In reality, and according to the Bible, God is capable of being sovereign, but often chooses not to be. Again, he is not limited by any of His own attributes. God flexes His sovereignty in electing outcomes (sovereign will) and keeping promises through intervention, but at times chooses not to be sovereign. There are numerous examples of this throughout the Bible.

The Bible also documents cause and effect throughout. The Bible documents God’s intervention to prevent outcomes caused by the actions of men. The Bible also documents God’s active will, passive will, and permissive will. Cause and effect is also described in context of promises and incentive; if a person does this, God promises He will do that.

Hence, the gospel of God’s sovereign grace logically turns the Bible completely upside down if you interpret it grammatically, and that’s the point. Authentic Protestant tradition does not interpret the Bible literally, but according to a metaphysical redemptive story. Reality is a prewritten metaphysical narrative. This is nothing new—it’s the same old song and dance that’s been going on since the tower of Babel.

Really, what it does, if you really think about it—it makes the literal full counsel of God secondary, and the good news of Protestant authority primary. That’s one reason why incessant theological debate in evangelical circles is acceptable—it’s all theater—if you obey your elders and put your money in the plate you’re going to heaven anyway!

Why, for years, have you stood befuddled in regard to what evangelical elders can get away with saying and doing in the church? Because it’s really about the good news of Protestant authority and nothing more or less.

We are going to close tonight in the book of Genesis. I think we see what effect sin had on man; it made man ashamed and caused him to hide from God. Then we see God seeking man out and confronting Him. Shame does not equal total inability.

And this also affects evangelism. It is our role to seek others out on behalf of God. Why has evangelism always been so anemic among Protestants? This is why: Protestants have been taught that man is not only ashamed, but totally depraved with no ability to choose God once he/she is persuaded by the preaching of the word. The incentive to evangelize is not to see people saved, but to glorify God in both death and life. It is a mere proclamation that glorifies God either way, not an attempt to persuade. God is glorified when people are saved because he chose them, and God is also glorified when people reject the gospel because their greater damnation also glorifies God.

In the same aforementioned conference, John MacArthur referred to this idea of glorifying God in evangelism as a “savor of life to life and death to death.” Either way, it is a “savor” unto the Lord. This idea is not only a disincentive; it’s not biblically true and will therefore not find the Holy Spirt cooperative. MacArthur also stated in the same message that “total depravity or unwilling and unable [is]…a gospel theme.” Again, we see God’s sovereignty and man’s inability as foundational to the gospel, not God’s love.

In fact, many Calvinists argue that any gospel presentation that contains a reference to choice is a false gospel. The gospel is to be presented and the results left to God for His glory. If a person asks, “what shall we do?” they are to be told that they can only ask and hope for the best, but God will be glorified either way.

Also, in the same message, MacArthur stated:

The Spirit and the Son are in agreement that this work is a work of divine, sovereign power. And then, of course, we commented earlier, reading John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” John 8:36, “If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” It’s the work of the Son. It’s the work of the Spirit. It’s the work of the Father who draws. In none of these texts, by the way, did Jesus defend the sinner’s ability. In none of these texts did Jesus defend free will. Yes, the sinner has will, and his will is activated by the Spirit in the work of salvation, but his will is not free.

Problems with this view follow: Jesus also said that He would be lifted up in order to draw ALL men to Himself (Jn 12:32). The Spirit also convicts men of sin and the judgment to come (Jn 16:8)—the Spirit works with us in evangelism.

God sovereignly elects the means of salvation and the final outcome of world history, but he does not elect individuals. When saints are called elect, it refers to their identification with a group or purposes elected by God, not the individual per se.

God elected salvation for all men, and the plan of salvation clearly includes an invitation to all of mankind. God sends His Spirit to convict and warn all men while God’s people proclaim His gospel from the word. The goal of evangelism is to “persuade” men to believe the word of God. Faith comes to men through this joint effort between the Spirit and God’s people. The new birth, or regeneration, then comes by faith (Rom 10:17, Gal 3:5).

In contrast, proponents of the gospel of sovereign grace must implement tenets like limited atonement and total depravity to make their case. Many of these tenets are blatant contradictions to the plain sense of Scripture.

And, in regard to Hindus claiming that all religions really agree with them unawares, they just may have a point.

Endnotes

Examples abound. A placard published on Facebook read, “All of your days have been written in God’s book. When you go through disappointment, don’t stop on that page. Stay the course. Keep believing. You may be tired, discouraged and frustrated, but don’t give up on your future.”

Even the late conservative evangelical Adrian Rogers once stated in a sermon:

 “When you are surrendered to the will of God, focused on the Word of God, then the Holy Spirit begins to pray in you and through you. He energizes, motivates, and guides your prayer. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned about prayer is this: the prayer that gets to Heaven is the prayer that starts in Heaven. Prayer is the Holy Spirit finding a desire in the heart of the Father, putting that desire in our heart, then sending it back to Heaven in the power of the cross. The prayer that gets to Heaven is the prayer that starts in Heaven. Our part is just to close the circuit” (online source: http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/love-worth-finding/read/articles/prayer-and-the-will-of-god-11630.html).

You can add to that a sermon by Dr. Devon Berry entitled, How to Listen to a Sermon in which he posits the idea that there is no such thing as edifying personal Bible study. The only thing that counts for receiving progressive grace is sitting under the preaching of elders because they get the word from God in the same kind of cycle described by Rogers. Berry is the chairman of the elders at Clear Creek Chapel in Springboro, Ohio which is a training center for the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation which controls at least 90% of the biblical counseling going on in the evangelical church.

CASTE

CASTE

Calvin's Race

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