Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Philosophy of the Reformation and Its Historical Impact, by John Immel – Part 1

Posted in John Immel, TANC 2012 by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on December 14, 2017

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

Click here to read Part 2
Click here to read Part 3
Click here to read Part 4

I was listening to the radio and a song by one of our modern philosophers came on.

Steven Tyler

Steven Tyler, lead singer, Aerosmith

“There’s something wrong with the world today.
I don’t know what it is.
Something is wrong with our eyes.
We’re seeing things in a different way.
And God knows it ain’t His.
It sure ain’t no surprise.”

This is from a song by Aerosmith, “Living on the Edge.” The song’s refrain says over and over that we can’t help from falling.

It is true: there is something world with the world today. But I contend that it is not inevitable that we fall.

Throughout my life I have been involved in various flavors of Christianity, and I continually found myself running up against the same interaction over and over and over. And, of course, for the longest time the easy criticism was, “It’s you. You’re the problem.” There are a lot of doctrines within Christianity that affirm that – yeah, it’s probably you. If there is a problem, you are probably the problem.

But then I began to realize that the same problem exists whether I’m involved in the social dynamic or not.

How is that possible? How is it possible that I can go from denomination to denomination to denomination – from Word of Faith to Charismatic to Baptist to Methodist – and it didn’t matter?

After much thinking I arrived at what I believe is the root of all failed human actions.

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.

The words “logic” or “logically” in this context refers to the consistent progression of a given set of ideas. That does not mean the ideas are logical in the sense that it is accurate thinking. I am talking about how Idea “A” through Idea “Z” go together to create an entire perspective. What I realized was that when the same people take the same action, they will produce the same outcome.

Let me break this down by section.

Verse 1 says: assumptions + logic = action.
Verse 2 says: faulty logic or erroneous rationalizations = ideas that flow from one to the next to the next.
Verse 3 concludes: mass action + destructive outcomes = common premise.

Something is wrong with the world today, but I submit that the error is imbedded in common faulty root assumptions. When I surveyed history and I saw men taking the exact same steps, coming to the exact same conclusions generation after generation, millennia after millennia, I realized they all held similar root assumption about man and about life.

Typically, when I start talking like this is people say something like: “Well, people just need Jesus.” What they mean to say is that ideas are irrelevant unless the mystical solution of “Jesus” is applied to the problem. But that can’t be right because other people might say: “Well, people just need Buddha,” and still others might say, “Well, if Islam ruled the world, all the problems would go away.”

And here is why “people just need Jesus,” is no answer to the world’s problems: bromides are not solutions. Bromides never address the forces driving the problem.

The problem with faith is people tend to take their own faith very personally and very seriously . . . and very uncritically. They tend to assume that faith equals a license to subjectivity; that they are entitled to believe whatever they happen to believe just because they believe it.

So the challenge that I have forever run up against is that when I start talking about digging into the roots of our assumptions, the reaction is, “You know what? That’s complicated. That requires me to think. And I don’t really care to do that too terribly much.”

I am sympathetic on many levels to that frustration. We would like to say to ourselves, “The declaration of God’s love is so simple. Why on earth does this have to be complicated?” I understand that frustration. It seems that if something is so simple, the process of believing should be left to that simplicity. But here is the challenge – I contend that theological bumper stickers are not simple because thinking is at no point simple.

Let us use the following metaphor to try to illustrate this complexity. Throwing a ball seems like a very rudimentary process. You let it go. It goes from point “A” to point “B”. Yet no matter how many times you throw a ball from point A to point B, it consistently drops to the earth. Now consider the question, why does the ball always hit the ground? Some very smart people put together the physics of throwing a ball.

D = (Vo ˟ sinθ ˟ t) + (½A ˟ t2) + h

where:
D = distance
Vo = initial velocity
θ = initial arc angle
t = time
A = acceleration
h = initial height

Since I am no math wizard, I could not begin to explain to you the details of this equation. But that’s okay. I don’t have to. What I want you to understand is that a child throwing a football on the beach is engaging in the above formula. This formula details the level of complexity that is involved in throwing a ball from point “A” to point “B” even though a child can perform the action.

Now back to the issue at hand: thinking about what we believe and why.

Thinking is hard because thinking is also complex. It is just as complex as, if not more so, than throwing a ball because thinking is the mechanics of human action. This is where we get our energy to act in life. From the time when we are old enough to recognize our own consciousness to start motivating ourselves through life, the thing that dominates us every waking moment of our lives are the thoughts that we specifically put into action.

Here is the beauty of my metaphor – ideas are just as calculable as the mechanics in throwing the ball.

People want simplicity but it is in the details that we find the root problems. You may read articles on discernment blogs discussing the issue of “New Calvinism” or a resurgence of Calvinism and Reformed theology. Most people will conclude that denouncing the doctrines of those movements is grand conspiracy. The real solution is if a few “misled” souls would just get on the right path then all will be well with the church.

But the reality is conspiracy as an explanation does not satisfy the discussion of New Calvinism any more than liberation theology describes why America is treading down the path of Marxism, or why Marxism has dominated the whole of the western world, or why Islam is on the rise throughout the globe.

boris-badenovPeople prefer conspiracies. “Christians” would rather hear people say it is the Illuminati or the Bilderbergers or some dastardly mastermind twirling his mustache in a hideaway, spending lots of money to compel people to do things and take mass action. People prefer conspiracy and world masterminds because that is easy. Conspiracies are easy. Thinking is hard.

I contend that the issue driving the world towards the edge is ideas, and ideas are hard. Ideas demand that individuals invest a stunning amount of personal discipline. You must bring your “A” game every minute of every day to be about ideas.

Consider once again the metaphor of throwing a ball. There is a specific problem with that metaphor. It is the issue of gravity. When you throw a ball, of course, the ball at the end of its trajectory hits the ground. It is the existence of gravity within that equation which leads people to believe that the ball must hit the ground every time it is thrown. Because of that gravity, my metaphor tends to break down because in the grand scheme of ideas, I am overtly saying that we can control what we think. If we can understand the progression and the mechanics of our thinking, then we can arrive at a different outcome. But historically, the inevitability of the “gravity” of human action is the observation that man tends down the path of his own self-destruction over and over and over. It is this very observation which has been used as a case in point to say that man is in effect “depraved.”

So how do I remedy the weakness of my metaphor? How do I integrate the immutability of “gravity” with the power of choice and the ability of man to set his own course?

The answer is, change the beginning assumption.

The formula for throwing a ball assumes that you are in an environment affected by gravity. The formula for throwing a ball assumes that your desired outcome is to propel the ball from point “A” to point “B.” Yet with the right amount of velocity, acceleration, and arc, it would be possible to put a ball into orbit or escape gravity altogether. Therein lies the consistency with the metaphor.

I contend that when you challenge the assumptions that have dominated the whole of the western world, you can arrive at a new set of assumptions, and those assumptions can defy the “gravity” that has driven men down to self-destruction.

puritan-whippingSo now let’s discuss Calvinism, New Calvinism, and Reformation theology. The question is: why within this emergent movement do we see such consistent actions, such consistent outcomes, such consistent stories of oppression and domination and coercion? Why, from one congregation to the next, do you see the exact same outcomes?

To answer these questions, we must first find the assumptions, and that means we are going to have to take on ideas. It takes enormous effort to fully evaluate the content of ideas. This is the process of education and expertise. One must be specifically aware of one’s own thoughts. This is intentional consciousness. From the time, you are old enough to say, “I want a cookie,” to the day you read, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,” and every day after and in between, when you crack open a book and you read an equation and you determine to understand what the variables within that equation mean . . . all of these are examples of intentional consciousness.

It takes enormous discipline to order one’s thinking, to evaluate the progression from “A” to “Z.” It takes enormous effort to arrive at real logic, or non-contradictory thinking. Real reason is the determination to understand the over-arching mechanics of your own individual consciousness. By order I mean non-contradictory logic. It is what happens when you can follow the progression of thought from “A” to “B” to “C” to “D,” and you do not find any inconsistencies in that progression. Such a process takes enormous self-definition, that is, an absolute trust in one’s own rational faculties. And this requires self-esteem.

Bookmark the concept self-esteem.

My root assumption is that man is rationally competent. This assumption defies almost all historic Christian doctrine. Now the term “self-esteem” in American culture has been so utterly corrupted that I hesitate to use it, but it still captures what I’m after; an identification of the effectiveness of self. But you cannot get to self-esteem by someone holding your hand, patting you on the back, and telling you that you are okay. You can only get to self-esteem by doing the work, overcoming challenges, and succeeding.

The definition of human consciousness and self-esteem comes from the ability to successfully prevail over challenges. By contrast “New Calvinism” or Reformed theology is designed to undermine this ability at the root. It is designed to undermine man at his most fundamental level. It is designed to eradicate his specific ethical egoistic self. Most people don’t understand that every argument you encounter in Calvinist doctrinal debate, whether it is the distinction between sanctification and justification, or whether it is your moral right to keep the substance of what you have, are all moral arguments designed to de-legitimize your self-esteem. The doctrines fueling the argument are designed to condemn you at your root: to prevent you from having the right to your own self and your moral responsibility for the sum and substance of your own life.

What I am describing is the study of philosophy. In the western world since Immanuel Kant, philosophy has been utterly corrupted, and thus most people have a negative impression of philosophy. And Christians are particularly fond of flipping the page over to Paul’s consternation with what he called “vain philosophies” in order to de-legitimize discussing ideas. But regardless of how you feel, since philosophies exist, you need figure out how to deal with “vain philosophies.” So despite Paul’s anxiety over “vain” philosophies, it follows that understanding good philosophies is important.

Here’s the reality: the ideas we encounter are no accident, and the outcomes are not happenstance. The source of all world evil can be found in evil ideas, or evil philosophies. The outcomes of those ideas have been displayed over and over and over, so we know they are evil. Christians are then confronted with this reality: if the world remains evil then the solutions we have been offering do not work. So one more sermon, one more frothing-at-the-mouth preacher, one more guy pounding his ESV will not fix the problem.

Instead we must have the courage to think, or maybe better said: rethink. Unless people are willing to turn on their minds and challenge their deepest-held beliefs, finding the solution is impossible. Nothing will change. It won’t matter how much we dissect sanctification and justification or the centrality of the cross. It won’t matter how many scriptures we stack up in service to pet doctrines. It won’t matter how much we rail against misplaced church government (Is it presbytery? Is it democracy? Is it papacy? et al). That has already been done over and over and over, council after council, synod after synod, inter-Nicene fight after inter-Nicene fight. For the first time in history, men must rethink the historical fight from its roots.

05f15a210000044d-3418861-misery_scenes_after_the_liberation_of_belsen_in_april_1945_the_p-a-34_1453911882121Mystic despots have always ruled over the masses with portents and disasters for those who dared to live life beyond the mediocre. Tyrants can only succeed when men refuse to think. Autocrats rely on being able to compel outcomes because no one opposes their arguments. This is the challenge that I have as a man who is passionate about thinking: to inspire people to engage in understanding and scrutinizing the complex ideas that drive tyranny.

So here’s my challenge: do not be seduced into believing that righteousness is retreat from the world. Do not be seduced into believing that spirituality is defined by weakness and that timid caution for fear of committing potential error is a reason to be quiet. Do not be intimidated by vague, hazy threats of failure. Do not let yourself believe that faith is a license to irrationality. Do not mistake the simple nature of God’s love as a justification for simple-mindedness. Do not deceive yourself with the polite notion that you are above the fray, that your right to believe is sufficient to the cause of righteousness. There is no more stunning conceit. Do not pretend that your unwillingness to argue is the validation of truth.

Know this: virtue in a vacuum is like the proverbial sound in the forest – irrelevant without a witness. Character is no private deed. To retreat is nothing more than a man closing his eyes and shutting his mouth to injustice. Virtues are not estimates to be wafted gently against evil. Virtues are not to be withheld from view in the name of grace. Virtues are not to be politely swallowed in humble realization that we are all just sinners anyway. Love is not a moral blank check against the endless tide of indulgent action. Love is not blind to the cause and effect of reality. Love is not indifference to plunder and injustice and servitude.

The time is now, you men of private virtue, to emerge from your fortress of solitude and demonstrate that you are worthy of a life that bears your name. The time is now, you men of private virtue, to answer Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and all the nihilists that insist we are living on the edge and we cannot help but fall.   It is time for you men of private virtue to take up the cause of human existence and think.

~ John Immel


Click here to read Part 2
Click here to read Part 3
Click here to read Part 4

The History of Western Philosophy and Its Societal Impact on the Church – Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on January 30, 2017

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

Click here for part two
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

john immelWe have actually talked many times before about the challenges before us. I understand our obsession. The scope of this issue is vast. It seems a little conspiratorial and a little overwhelming to put it in those terms. When we start talking about Plato and him being a pagan and what John Calvin preached, it starts to come off as if we’re trying to find the boogie man in bad places.

While our challenge is lofty, it is much more personal, because our challenge deals with what happens in the pews. You show up at church, you hear doctrine, you get some people that shake your hand and look longingly into your eyes and say, “you belong.” That is hard to resist. Most people go to church because their kids have a place to stay, or they like the music, and they genuinely like the people. But that’s not where it ends. It is personal because at some point you may have ended up on the wrong side of the pastors. Something happens, it doesn’t matter what, but originally you have been told that you are part of this grand party, and then you find yourself under scrutiny, and suddenly the marketing and packaging is all wrong. You thought you were right to object or to challenge or to just be you, and one day that just was no longer so.

The problem that you have is that you look at your Bible and show supporting references for your objection, but you are told that’s not what that really says, and it really doesn’t matter because you should be submitting to some authority. Suddenly, you look around and life is now insane. All those people that hugged you and said “ye, verily, we are glad you are with us,” have now turned on you in less than a minute. All those friends you had, where’d they go? They have no interest in what you have to say. And the crazy part is the more you try to justify or to explain your position, the worse it gets. Without fail they accuse you of being “defensive”, and of course only “defensive” people are sinners. If you were really humble you wouldn’t dare walk down this line of self-defense.

You look around and you are bewildered. After you wade through the thousand and one emotions that have come out of you in ways that you could not have begun to fathom, you stand back incredulous and wonder, what the heck just happened? “God’s church is not supposed to be this way,” we tell ourselves. And yet here we are, dead square in the middle of a conflict that is almost unintelligible.

Of course these types of experiences within Christianity have been going on for generations. But in our modern age of blogs and the internet, we now have the ability to start comparing notes. Individuals are suddenly able to tell their story about what happened to them, and somebody else will read that and affirm those experiences with their own. As the solidarity among hurt and abused individuals grew, one day we stopped and said, wait a minute, there is a systemic problem here.

This is where we sit within Christianity today. We know we have a conflict, but we haven’t been able to identify the problem. The explanations run the gamut from:

“Doctrines of men” – Well, all doctrines are doctrines of men. God does not come down here, stand up in the public square and start talking. It’s all doctrines of men. Everybody is standing around all the time talking about the content of what they think and proclaiming that in general to the masses. What they really mean is it’s not authentic. If it were true doctrine we wouldn’t have a problem.

“God is testing you” – This one is fabulous. Basically what you are saying is the manifestation of reality is God’s intent. So why then are you seeking to solve the problem? This is how God means it to be.

“All churches have problems” – This a neo reformed classic. They like to pretend that people fussing over the color of the carpet is somehow the same thing as a child being molested and the pastor covering it up and refusing to let the parents go to the authorities. As if there is a moral equivalency.

“We’re all just sinners” – The tried and true “get out of jail free” card. We can’t really fuss and moan about the fact that somebody’s done bad things.

“It’s a failure of ‘polity’” – If you had the right government structure then these bad things wouldn’t happen because we’d have checks and balances, and of course Christians have come to believe that the nature of checks and balances is really designed to restrain our sinful appetites and desires, and so that’s what would make a better government structure that would prevent these bad things from happening, never once realizing that all governments are always in service to a series of values. And so it doesn’t matter the structure you put in place, at the end of the day, if you have the same values, you will continue to govern towards those values.

“If we just had the right people” – Which is ironic considering we assume the problem is the doctrines of men. By definition, if we’re just looking for the right person, what we’re really saying is there is an idealized person out there who somehow magically gets it all right and finally gets to come down from Mt. Sinai and tell us the truth. Well, that’s nutty, because that never works.

The one thing we never challenge is the doctrine itself. There is something wrong with that picture.

Some of you have experienced this tumult. You started looking for answers, and you’ve heard all of these points belabored in endless cycles – if we loved more, if we prayed more, if we prayed louder, if we prayed quieter. Finally you heard somebody say, “No, it’s not any of that. It is the doctrine.” You heard a man named Paul Dohse say, “No, it’s the doctrine.” You heard a guy by the name of John Immel say, “No, it’s the doctrine.” That’s the problem.

And it’s not just a problem. It is EVIL!

That one is a big one for a lot of people, because they want to sustain some kind of moral equivalency between doctrines, as if to say, well, it’s got some good ideas, but, you know, there are some things here that are good, and these guys aren’t all bad from top to bottom. And so we want to parse it out. We don’t want to take a position on the content of what they teach. The doctrine is evil. It is fundamentally and substantively hostile to human existence.

But this leads people to a serious problem. If it is the doctrine, if Calvinism is error, [gasp!] how can that be so? It’s orthodoxy. This is what the church has believed for 500 years, or at least the Protestant church. We would like to pretend that we’re different from the Catholics, but hey, how can you debate orthodoxy? Reformed theology is sacred. John Calvin and Martin Luther, are you kidding? They are at the base of God’s left hand, right beside Peter, James, and the other guys. How can you possibly begin to challenge who these guys are? The reformation, my goodness, if it hadn’t been for those guys we’d all still be Catholics. And those dastardly Catholics, my goodness, they’re just corrupt, and the Pope is of the devil.

Anybody ever heard that before?

Then you have to ask yourself, if that is the problem, if the Reformation is not what we’ve all been told that it is, and the people at the top of the intellectual food chain are not who we’ve been told they are, then we have to ask the really hard question; why has this happened?

Here is my challenge to you. Take a look in the mirror. You are the reason this happens. It isn’t any more complicated than that. Now you might say to me, but isn’t that what everybody else has told me? Everybody else told me that I was a sinner and that I was the reason there was this conflict. Yes, but this isn’t for the same reason.

To understand what really happened we need to start at the beginning. But before we can start that the beginning, people must take responsibility for the content of their own mind. I will bet money that very few people have ever heard a preacher say that before. A preacher might tell you to “think”, but maybe not so much. Here’s the thing. Paul and Susan Dohse and I can detail for you the list of doctrinal failures. We can detail all of the root issues and all of the spiritual manipulations. I have been thinking about these issues for almost twenty years of my life, so I have the ability to do this. But until you personally are committed to the content of your own mind, your own life, and your own purpose, nothing I say here will matter.

Here is why.

heads-sandAt the end of the day, if you’re not willing to take responsibility for the content of your own mind, your worldview exempts you from everything that comes after that. You have capitulated. You have tossed up your hands and said, oh well, it’s not that big of a deal. At some point you’ll let your brain go tilt, you’ll shrug at the complexity of the world, and toss up your hands in surrender, and insist that Jesus’ message is just simple. All this “brainy” stuff is just added torture for your peaceful soul.

This sounds like a “churchy” answer. You will console yourself for a while, evading the reality that you are letting other men fill the blanks of your own mind. Eventually you will find someone else that will take up the cause of organizing your life yet once again. And not too long after that you will be confronted with the very same spiritual tyranny, the very same social conflicts, the very same church dynamic.

But maybe this time it’s worse. And maybe this time, the spiritual/church tyranny is actually joined with political power. Somehow the guy in front of the pulpit managed to get himself elected to office. And now, not only does he have a body of doctrine, but he has guns.

In Christianity we have failed to understand that government is force. Polity is force. When people start talking government, when people start talking about passing laws, what they are really saying that what they are entitled to do is force you, to compel you, to bring violence against you to bring a desired outcome. And then tyranny will have been joined with political power. And liberty will be dying under its assault.

What will you do then?

The options are very limited because you have already abandoned self-directed thinking. The only thing left will be a wail and a tumult of gnashing of teeth that men are just sinners and who can save us? You will toss up your hands in despair, retreat into some church where the intellectual barricades rule over the doors and you can fortify against the evil.

This all sounds very grim. That course of non-action is a dead end, and it has only one outcome. And that outcome is, you deserve what you get.

You are the reason tyranny happens, from top to bottom, throughout history. Not because you are a wretched old sinner who fails to submit to authority. The reason your interpersonal church relational problems happen is because you refuse to reason, because you refuse to be an independent mind, because you refuse to be an individual.

Now, how many people does that statement make nervous?

How many of you cringe at the notion that you should be more individualistic? How many of you think that having “ego” is deviant sin? How many of you equate being individualistic with “selfish”. How many of you equate selfishness with the greatest expression of moral failing?

what-if-i-told-youWhat if I told you that your reaction to self and “selfishness” and individuality and ego is by design? What if I told you that despots and tyrants throughout history the world over have specifically set out to persuade all of humanity that the problem is always the individual, and the only solution to the problem is sacrifice?

Disturbing thought, right?

So now we get to think. I need to bring you up to speed on some basic thoughts that most people have never heard before.

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.

Here is the underlying logic.

Verse 1 – Assumption + logic = action.

Verse 2 – Faulty logic, erroneous rationalizations, are still ideas that flow from one to the next, until they get to an outcome. That’s important. Just because something is “rational” doesn’t mean it’s not wrong.

Verse 3 – Mass action + destructive outcomes = common premise.

I want you to see the specific relationship between actions and ideas. I submit that man, as a rational, cognitive being, is specifically designed to operate from this standard. What makes man utterly unique in the world is his ability to cognitively and rationally approach the world. He is the only creature that does not automatically by nature adapt to an environment. The exact opposite is true. Man must adapt his environment to himself, and the only way he does that is by reason.

Once you understand that the nature of man’s existence requires him to integrate ideas, then it becomes amazingly simple to understand that the integration of ideas is what he is always after. He’s always trying to figure out how to take his ideas and put them together.

Unfortunately, most people have a big basket in their head, and they toss in this idea and that idea, and they shake it all up, and from time to time they will pull an idea out of this basket and decide, this is a good idea, and then they will act on it. It gets a little dangerous when they start pulling out two or three ideas. It doesn’t matter if they are mutually exclusive, they will try to force them together. They then look at the world, and it still makes no sense to them. Never once has it occurred to them to go back and check their premise; what is your assumption?

This study is called philosophy. Of course when I say “philosophy” in the context of Christians they immediately think of Paul’s major condemnation of “vain philosophies”, and they start to tune out because they think they have an intellectual “get out of thinking free” card.

Disciplines of Philosophy

– Metaphysics

– Epistemology

– Ethics

– Politics

These four studies drive all of human existence. 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.

Each of these disciplines of philosophy is a function of the previous one, forming a progression of thought. What you assume about man’s existence will ultimately impact what you believe man can know. What you believe man can know will ultimately impact how you think he should ethically act. How you think man should ethically act will ultimately form your government structure.

We can debate endlessly about the issues that create the problems within the church or fixing those problems with the right government structure, but government structure is always in service to ideas. This is the reason why. Politics is at the end of a philosophical progression of thought that begins with a metaphysical assumption.

Philosophy is the broad study of how man integrates his ideas. It is how we know what we know. It is where ideas come from, their objective value, and how those ideas impact our human interaction. With this in mind, you can grasp the implication of what I’m saying in the Gospel According to John Immel:

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.

This is why when you go to church you end up in the exact same spot. You find masses of people taking the same action. If you find their assumption, the roots of their ideas, you will find the cause of their actions.

So my goal last year at the 2012 TANC Conference was to introduce the systemic nature of human thought; to illustrate how this system dynamic impacts human action. Without this mindset it is almost impossible to understand what is happening. To be sure, without this intellectual tool, no specific doctrinal discussion will matter. It won’t matter how much we dissect sanctification, justification, and the centrality of the cross. It won’t matter how many scriptures we stack up in service to our pet doctrines. It won’t matter how much we rail against misplaced church government.

Ladies and gentlemen, that has been done over and over, council after council, synod after synod, internecine fight after internecine fight. And yet the church is a slow-motion train wreck of tyranny and counter-revolution. If you make even a cursory study of the evolution of Christianity from the mid-second century to about 1200 it is a laundry list of bloodshed and tyranny and counter-revolution.

To put this into “church speak”, church history is an endless cycle between legalism and revival. Revival in this instance is nothing more than the return of life, to revive what is actually dying, and the body politic continues to die because it keeps cycling through these same tyrannical ideas. But we have never broken out of the cycle because we have never understood the method underlying the madness.

“All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what they cannot see is the strategy out of which victory has evolved.” ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The tyrants and the mystic despots of the ages have been winning because we have never once challenged their assumptions. In the 21st century we are once again rolling through a philosophical cycle that has repeated itself over and over in history. This cycle is of course why Christians are living through ever-increasing manifestations of abuse.

People are confronted with the same tyranny that our forefathers set out to resist. As of now, the only real response has been to toss up our hands and look mystified at the stars. We know we are impotent. We remain impotent, caught in the cycle of doctrinal fight, church splits, and human tragedy. All we can do is wail about human depravity and mumble feebly about needing more faith. Pray harder. Sacrifice more.

Blah, blah, blah.

I tell you the truth, the answer to why this is happening is as easy to diagnose as the common cold. But the first thing we must do is dare to take responsibility for the content of our own minds. Mystic despots have ruled the world with portents of disaster for anyone with the ambition to live life beyond the substantive, beyond the mediocre.

Here’s where you come in. Autocrats rely on being able to compel outcomes because no one opposes their ideas. Tyrants only succeed when men refuse to think.

In then next session we are going to learn how tyrants have been so successful at waging war against liberty. Put on your thinking caps. We’re about to jump into the deep end of the pool.

~ John


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The Philosophy of the Reformation and Its Historical Impact, by John Immel – Part 4

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

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

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(Continued from part 3)

Now I want to make a series of contrasts.

The Enlightenment begins around 1650, give or take. The Enlightenment thinkers included men such as John Locke, David Hume, and Adam Smith. From these men comes a large amount of the foundational thought of human freedom, human competence, and human liberty. Enlightenment thought influence our Founding Fathers – Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson to name a few.

Recall that the three English civil wars were religious wars. The American Civil War was not a religious war. It was a war specifically fought in pursuit of liberty and freedom.

james-madisonIn an article written in 1786 by James Madison, “A Memorial in Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” Madison weighs in against the establishment of civil government, civil patronage, and religion. I want you to notice the Founding Fathers’ clarity on the arguments against merging the state, no matter how small, with ecclesiastical establishments.

Madison begins:

“We, the subscribers, citizens of the said Commonwealth, have taken into serious consideration [that] a bill establishing provision for teachers of the Christian religion and conceiving of the same if finally armed with sanctions of law, will be a dangerous abuse of power.”

There was no illusion here. The nature of Christianity, as our Founding Fathers understood, was that it was a dangerous force to be contended with when it was merged with the power of the state. Madison then goes on to detail several reasons for this understanding.

“1. Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth that religion or the duty which we owe our Creator and the manner of discharging it can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force and violence.”

This was revolutionary. While this idea had circulated amongst any number of different sects and any number of different intellectual ties, for the first time, there was a formal effort to challenge at the root that religion could not ever be merged with the force of the state. But rather the force of government was to be tempered by intellect and reason.

This is a central Enlightenment idea.

Madison Continues:

“2. Because the rulers who are guilty of such encroachment exceed their commission from which they derive their authority and are tyrants. The people who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by an authority derived from them, and are slaves.”

“3. Because the free men of America did not wait till usurped power had stricken itself by exercise and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle.”

Hold that thought. I will come back to that in a moment.

“We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it. Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians in exclusion of all other sects?”

This is why the historic fight between Calvinists and Arminians gained some attraction, because we fail to identify the principle that Madison is arguing here. The issue is not necessarily the Arminian perspective versus the Calvinist perspective. The issue at central root is man’s fundamental competence to master his own life, however that may be accomplished. The reason all other doctrinal fights are useless in this instance is because, at the root, until you defend man’s right for moral existence, you have lost. Madison makes this observation in point seven.

“7. Because experience witnesses that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation.  During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, and in both, superstition, bigotry and persecutions.”

It is important to understand that our Founding Fathers had no illusions about the nature of what Christianity was and was not. They understood its broad history. They understood what Puritanism did. They understood what the Massachusetts colony theocracy did. For many of them, it was close enough to their lifetime that it would not have been lore as if we were learning it out of the book. They certainly would have been within striking distance of the religious wars in England and the tides of warfare that swept across the face of the earth.

James Madison goes on to say in Point 8.

“8. Because…what influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; and in no instance have they been seen as the guardians of the liberties of the people.”

This is one of the most scathing denunciations ever! Until Christians are guardians of the liberties of the people, all we are doing is perpetuating spiritual tyrants.

Madison wrote this a mere ten years from the Declaration of Independence and the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. I want you to notice that this memorial and remonstrance takes place dead square between two events: from the specific overthrow of tyranny in 1776, within ten years’ time we already have a religious movement trying to use civil authority to create patronage. In other words, you have a specific group of people seeking to create a means by which others pay taxes to support a religious organization. They were trying to use taxation to advance sectarian orthodoxy.

Madison is arguing for the supremacy of human reason, and he is denouncing the use of civil authority – the merging of religious faith and the power of the state. He is saying it is a menace. Christianity is a menace because Calvinism demands war for all who refuse to bow to its edicts. The current Calvinist defenders can pooh-pooh my point all they like, but I win this argument only because all I have to do is educate people on the public record. This is not complicated.

The Founding Fathers had no illusion about the destructive force of Christian religion, and it is the most virulent forms of Christian thought that the Founding Fathers put absolute barriers in place to curtail this acquisition of civil power.   declaration_of_independenceFor the first time in human history, men sat down and they finally said, “No, man is entitled to the sum and substance of his own life,” and they penned these words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new governments laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers.”

Let’s do a contrast.

Puritan theology:

  • Man is incompetent.
  • Man is morally guilty.
  • Man needs the force of government to compel him to good action.
  • Government is an unquestionable manifestation of God’s appointment.
  • God is wrathful and offers man no rights of existence.
  • God appoints man to a predetermined existence of suffering and bondage.
  • God’s sovereignty appoints man to slavery.

This is the Puritan construct. This is Reformation theology. This is Calvinism. This is the most virulent form of Reformation thought.

Contrast this with what comes out of the Declaration of Independence:

  • That man is competent to understand.
  • That man can understand the world in which he lives.
  • That his epistemology is fully intact.
  • That by virtue of that ability, truth is self-evident.

The equality of human creation endows all with the same right. There is no election to specific privilege, yet in the Calvinist construct, the men standing in the pulpits today are claiming a special privilege.

Man has a right to life, liberty, and happiness, yet the Calvinist construct says there is no such thing; that any effort towards right or life or liberty or the claim to any happiness is a self-deception and a manifestation of your depraved nature. Just government is a product of human consent.

Consider this, that for almost 1,800 years, the Church had said that it was the divine right of kings to dictate government, and that government was in fact divinely appointed. Man had no right to question, for the most part. Whatever happened was in fact the product of God’s will.

The American Declaration of Independence was the first time in human existence that men articulated that just government must be the product of human consent. I am only governed in as much as I choose to let you govern me. Truth is not the property of the state. The state is in fact the servant of man’s defense. This was revolutionary.

The advances of man, the things that have eradicated human suffering across the board, are directly tied to human liberty, because when man is free, man is free to think.  Thinking men are free to create, and creating men are free to exchange value with whomever they chooses to associate. Man can better his life as he sees fit, and he can solve the problems of the beggarly elements of this earth.

I am able to do in the 21st century what a paltry number of human beings had ever been able to do, and it is directly related to the legacy of human competence, human freedom, and human liberty. You do not get this level of prosperity with the ideology of the Dark Ages. Every place this ideology has manifested itself, it has driven man back to the Dark Ages.

These exact same metaphysical assumptions that are in Calvin are in Augustine. These exact same metaphysical assumptions that are in Augustine are in Islam. Notice that if you go to any place in this world where there is a purely Islamic state you will see the dark ages in modern times: you will see the same paltry human condition from over a millennia ago in western civilization. This is true because the ideas are the same.

Liberty, freedom, thought; they are absolutely tied together. Human competence and human liberty are essential for the benefit of man.

I have now come full circle in my argument. The cohesive structure of ideas from the metaphysical premise to the epistemological ability to the ethical understanding to the political action; all of them run in a progressive line of thought.   This is the answer to my original observation:

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.

Christians love to thump their ESV while laying claim to the Declaration of Independence and the Founding Fathers. They hold freedom of religion as a certainty. They love the prosperity that rational thought, logic, and industry produce. But they do not even blush at the hypocrisy when they pound that same ESV to claim solidarity with Reformation orthodoxy. They will then rate John Calvin as the great reformer of Geneva. They will speak sagely, calling Jonathan Edwards their homeboy, not once realizing the philosophical schizophrenia. These are mutually exclusive worldviews.

In the world of election and limited atonement, there is no such thing as self-appointment and self-determination. There is no such thing as self-governance, because you do not own you.

In a world of irresistible grace, there is no such thing as private property, private possessions, or even personal boundaries, because whatever good you have is a manifestation of God’s grace, and all grace is administered by His stewards of grace.

And in a world of predestination, there is no right to inquire. In a world of predestination, there is no human sensibilities to be conservative. Your pain and your suffering is irrelevant. Who are you, O man, to challenge God, to inquire the things of God, the mysteries of God! Your pain is what you should have.

In the metaphysical world of T.U.L.I.P., there is no real justice. Everything is one great big fat sin before God, because the nature of man is utterly offensive to God. If you happen to be a part of the group that gets picked, it’s all good. And if you don’t, then it sucks to be you. The threat of damnation hangs over your head like the Sword of Damocles. Your sin violates God. So, who are you to demand recompense for a violation of sins against you? How dare you speak justice? You don’t own you.

Or do you?

This is the first choice. This is the fight within the ages. Who owns man?

Father, in the name of Jesus, we must live in understanding. Never before has man been defended. We’ve defended you and we’ve swatted our own. But never have we defended man’s right to live, right to exist, right to live, right to prosperity; never have we done this successfully. To throw off the tyranny of the ages, Father, we need your wisdom and understanding. We need to have the eyes of our understanding opened, that our insides will be filled with light. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

~ John Immel


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The Philosophy of the Reformation and Its Historical Impact, by John Immel – Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on December 21, 2016

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

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In part two, I addressed the concepts of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and politics. Then I explained how the progression of those concepts produces specific outcomes. The principle I highlighted was that all metaphysical premises determine epistemological qualification. Epistemological qualification defines ethical standards, and ethical standards prescribe political culture. Said another way, foundational assumptions determine how effective man is to understand his world. This defines man’s moral value, and his moral values prescribe the government use of force.

Christians say polity when they talk about church government. My goal is to tie the spiritualized word polity to the reality: polity = force.   Most people fail to understand that government is nothing more than a monopoly of force. Likewise, church polity is nothing more than a monopoly of force. The reason force becomes the primary crux of these metaphysical issues is because the central fight for the whole of human existence has been the question of “who owns man?”

Historically the predominant assumption has been that man is the property of the state. Government owns man. It doesn’t really matter what government. It doesn’t matter what age that government is in, whether we are talking about Sparta, or Rome, or the Holy Roman Empire and Charlemagne, the conclusion was that the state owned man. Man’s specific function was to lead his life at the behest of the state.

Some historical background:

From AD 350 to roughly AD 450, there was a massive evolution in Christian thought. Up until about AD 300, Christianity was a marginal religion in a much broader intellectual and religious world. Then a series of events brought Christianity to the forefront, and Christianity emerged as the state religion. This merged the quest for truth with the power of the state, forever changing the face of Christianity. Follow the logic: the moment government is the arbiter of religious orthodoxy (read doctrine) the government must be in charge of reality. And if the government is in charge of reality then government is in charge of compelling people to believe specific things. Always remember government is force.

comply

We know what is best for you!

So when Christians talk about polity aka government they are trying to take the sting off what they really mean. When a man insists that he has Biblical polity, what he is ostensibly advocating is the moral right to compel everyone else there to conform to what he says.

In the unfolding drama in modern American Christianity, one of the leading doctrines is the issue of submission to authority. When truth is placed in the hands of “authority” they are claiming for themselves the right to force people to believe what they believe. The loose logic reasoning goes like this: if right ideas were enforced all the bad things would go away.

But notice that the bad things never go away.

Notice this logic played out in Islam. Islam calls itself a religion of peace because it believes that as long as Islam rules the world, it will enforce peace. The world will be at peace because Islam will brook no dissent.

Now notice the same logic from Marxists. “The reason there’s bloodshed is because those dang bourgeoisie won’t give up all their money to the proletariat. If we compel evil rich people to do what is “right” there would be no more bloodshed.” And this is the trap that this always produces. The presumption is that the utopia will occur if everybody would just get their ideas right.

But it never happens because it cannot happen.   The moment you decide that one person, even a group of people, are somehow uniquely qualified to use force to defend truth, what you have is religious orthodoxy. Religious orthodoxy and political correctness are nothing more than two heads of the same beast: one is secular orthodoxy and one is a religious orthodoxy. It is the use of government force to tyrannize people to believe the same thing.

Through marketing and packaging, religious orthodoxy tries to portray itself as being done on behalf of God. And who can argue with things that are done on behalf of God?   Since God isn’t standing here to say otherwise, it is a pretty easy thing to get away with.

So where is the plumb line? How do you know who is in charge of what?

Some insist the answer is in the “bible”. They pound the book and say, “See, it’s all said right here.” But the moment anybody stands up and says, “Well, I don’t happen to agree with what that says. I don’t happen to agree with your conclusion on that scriptural “interpretation.”…

…Then what do you do?

The dirty little secret is that nothing gets resolved until somebody points a gun. The epistemological standard requires force.

mediator-bob-listen-to-me

Baghdad Bob…Mediator Extraordinaire!

Notice that those who govern “For the glory of God” call their form of government theocracy, when in actual fact, theocracy is always oligarchy. Since God is not personally dictating what happens next, dictating his will defaults to men who have – somehow – magically transformed themselves into the recipients of divine mandate. That means you have a very, very small group of men who believe they are uniquely qualified to define truth for everyone. This is oligarchy.

So this means that there are a few men who monopolize force to define God’s existence. It is a simple matter for them to say they are doing whatever they are doing on behalf of God. They get to define God on their terms. God’s will is the subjective whim of those using force. This is why faith and force are the destroyers of the world.

By contrast when we are discussing reason, we are discussing the whole of human understanding, rationality, and logic. We are actually having the only exchange that cannot be resolved with violence. We are arguing the elements that are measurable and identifiable by anybody who chooses to enter into the conversation. So there is a right answer. There is a right conclusion. There is something out there whereby we can all arrive at the same plumb line.

The appeal to faith on the other hand is really an appeal to subjectivity. In fact the appeal to faith has become a license to subjectivity. The moment the world is subjective, force becomes the only means to compel other minds to enter in to like minded subjectivity. This is the real source of all religious wars. This is the background history that confronted our Founding Fathers. They were the first men to successfully challenge at the root the substantive cause of tyranny. For the first time in the world, these key elements were articulated:

  • Man owns himself.
  • The state is subordinated to the will of the individuals.
  • Truth can never be the property of the state.

This revolution of thought is directly tied to the Enlightenment. Remember the progression: Foundational assumptions determine how effective man is to understand his world, which defines moral value, which proscribes government force. The Founding Fathers believed in man’s competence. That was the central theme of everything for which they argued, that man was specifically competent to self-govern. This collides head-on with the Calvinist-Puritan construct: man equals incompetence.

Calvin believed this:

– Pervasive depravity has fully corrupted the whole of human existence.

– This determines that all good is a product of God’s specific sovereign action.

– This defines that man’s life is predetermined in action and outcome.

– This prescribes an elect few who are divinely appointed to shepherd the flock in God’s behalf.

The Puritans brought that mindset into the colonies. Puritanism was the most virulent strain of Christianity to come out of Europe and to land on these shores. It has always collided with the Enlightenment thought. Here is a summarization of some articles of religion from Puritan thinkers.

Puritan Leaders’ Impact On Colonial Religious Life

  • “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” is the lingering metaphysical worldview etched in the minds of men declaring God as a vindictive sovereign.
  • Whatever God’s benevolence might theoretically represent, ultimately, this worldview may seem wrathful and damning; terror is the only appropriate reaction to divine awareness.
  • Man’s depravity requires authoritarian government to stand between yourself and his lascivious impulses.
  • Pride in human ability is man’s leading vice and the outworking of wretched deception.
  • Salvation is the miracle of being approved access to heaven that this otherworldly utopia is granted or denied according to God’s mysterious plan.
  • The unintelligible nature of God’s intention in the feeble minds of men makes it capricious and malicious to every failing of human existence.
  • Men are pilgrims through this worldly realm, a hostile empire fraught with all manner of evil. Man is a depraved creature, entirely ill-suited in the bewildering environments, specifically prone to sinful self-destruction.
  • The boons of wealth and health are gifts. Therefore, man is merely the steward charged with a divine trust. The elect are then qualified to dispose of their brothers as the collective sees fit. Stewards in God’s appointment rule those siblings granted to their control.
calvins-hashtage

#religioushashtagsforcalvinists

This is why I point out the ultimate full philosophical power from metaphysics to politics. This is Calvin’s role. Very few human beings on the face of the planet have ever successfully integrated an entire philosophical statement – from metaphysics through epistemology, through ethics, all the way to politics – into something that can be digested for human consumption. While it is the single-most disastrous body of ideas ever perpetrated on man, he was still a genius.   The power of his ideas is fact that he parsed it in such a way that it was easily understandable from start to finish. Its power is its full statement.

What are the results of his ideas?

Civil War: Eventually, this body of thought becomes centered in England. Between the time of Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion in 1536, and the beginning of the Enlightenment period, England experiences three civil wars: the first from 1642-1646, the second from 1648-1649, and the third from 1649-1651. It will take a trivial amount of research for you to find the causes of the English Civil Wars: They were religious wars based on a fight over religious orthodoxy e.g. Calvin’s doctrine.

The Puritans: In modern American lore, the Puritans are everybody’s favorite Thanksgiving story. We like the Puritans because we think they are like us, but in actual fact there was a reason the Puritans were persecuted. They were militant ideologues who were determined to create a theocracy . . . somewhere. The closest they got in Europe was when Oliver Cromwell ruled as Lord Protector from 1653 to 1658. He called himself the Protestant Moses. The closest they got was to a theocracy was the Massachusetts colony.

The Act of Uniformity: The Church of England decided, after a series of wars, to dictate a specific form of public prayer, the sacraments, ordination, and church rights. The Puritans thought the Church of England was far too permissive, and when they couldn’t establish their doctrinal “purity” by force they left England because of “persecution”. They were not looking for religious freedom. They were looking for a place where they would be unopposed in setting up a religious tyranny.

The Salem Witch Trials: These occurred between 1692 and 1693. Again, a trivial amount of research will reveal these were specific religious persecutions, the merging of civil force with religious orthodoxy to create a culture of death. I know that is not popular and I’m sure that will make you nervous. That’s fine. I want you nervous. I want you to see the trend of social destruction.

Jonathan Edwards: To the Neo Reformed crowd, Jonathan Edwards is their homeboy. However, if you have ever read “Sinners in the Hands of a Angry God” you know it is a vicious piece, and you know that Jonathan Edwards was an evil little man.

(continued in part 4)


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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

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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


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