Paul's Passing Thoughts

Pagan Thinkers Inspiration Found In Augustinian Aesthetics

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

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

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The History of Western Philosophy and Its Societal Impact on the Church – Part 8

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on February 15, 2017

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

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

john immelThe Concept of the “Common Good”

The “common good” is a collectivist myth designed to achieve the outcome of subordinating the individual to the majority. The collective well-being is the supreme measure of ethics. The phrase implies that if the individual acts for the “good” of the group, the individual is taking moral action. Notice the equation; action for the group = morality. However, there are three primary problems with the concept of the “common good”

1. It is deception.
By definition, “common” is a synonym for a generalization, and by definition a generalization does not have a specific definition. So when a person speaks of the “common good”, they are appointing themselves the spokesman for some loosely defined group. In conversation, the “common good” is used to refer to the good of the public or the community or society or the tribe. However, each of these words is merely a poor label for the intangible sum of individual interaction. The point is, such “groups” do not really exist.

  • “The public”: an adjective describing individual conduct exposed to general view.
  • “The community”: little more that the interaction of individual people in close proximity.
  • “Society”: The aggregate actions of many “sub-groups” within a geographic location.
  • “The Tribe”: A “group” based on genetic similarities. A religious denomination is merely a tribal preoccupation shifted from genetic pedigree to doctrinal pedigree.

So the thing that is “common” is not really common at all. There is no “thing” that is the direct recipient of good, because there is no specific object to receive the “good”. The work you do doesn’t benefit the good of the group, it benefits the good of individuals within the group.

The purpose of the deception is to conceal the root presumption that the collective stands supreme to its individual members, for the “common good” is really the good of the group at the expense of the individual members. Or said another way, the individual is a sacrificial animal to the will of the collective. Any individual who is perceived as a threat to the survival of the group must be sacrificed.

Every time I hear somebody talk about altruism and the “common good”, the conceit in this means that if my life is to be sacrificed to you, the necessary presumption is that your life in turn should be sacrificed to me. I own your life by default, and you think that’s morality? You think that’s just and good? So we’re reduced to moral cannibalism?

2. It poses as morality
The “common good” is really a moral subterfuge because it is an indefinable, elastic concept that can be shaped to apply to any outcome for any political whim. Since the group is elastic based on momentary standards of inclusion, the definition of “good” constantly changes. There is really no constant “yardstick” of measurement but rather a thick syrup that clouds the eyes and ears of its victims and makes them abandon morality rather than cling to it.

The “common good” inspires people to lay down values in service to a select few who claim to be spokesmen for the majority. We see this in political conversation all the time. The outcome is that the spokesmen have a moral blank check that every individual is obligated to cash.

You wonder why you hear stories of molestation coming out of church groups and Christian universities and missionary organizations, where the leadership and authority specifically tried to conceal the crimes against the children and members and students. This is the moral blank check that parents are supposed to cash in behalf of the child who was molested. This is EVIL, fundamental evil!

3. It masquerades as good.
If taken literally, the error within the expression “common good” itself becomes glaringly obvious. When people advocate for the “common good”, they think they are saying the “good” of all individuals admitted to the group. Or maybe if they paused to consider more deeply, they are saying the “good” of the majority. This doesn’t yet sound too scandalous because “good” is what is done numerically for the greatest amount of individuals. People do a loose moral calculus and decide that the greater the sum, the more moral the action.

But here is the result of that rationale: moral action is quantifiable by statistical outcome. If morality is nothing more than statistics then it is a trivial exercise to justify the Holocost. Stalin created a famine and killed 7 million people, but by the standard of the “common good” his actions are “moral” because the mathematical formula benefits 100 million faithful communists. The “common good” is used to justify taking enormous sums of money from individuals in order to pay for other people’s medical care, or whatever your favorite government program happens to be.

 

Having identified the three problems with the notion of “common” good, let us examine how this is all used at the root of tyranny.

We now know that the “common good” does not exist because the concepts of group do not exist, and they are never the recipient of any action. Only individuals receive good. Only individuals receive value. It is a false morality designed to subordinate all people to the collective, but who defines the collective?

At the root of all collectivist organizations there is usually only one person holding the yardstick of group inclusion. This person surrounds himself with a gang to defend against any interloper. He is the voice of the people, the voice of community, the voice of society, the voice of the tribe, the voice of the church.

big_brother_1984What people fail to grasp is the “good” of the people is really subterfuge to justify the violation of individual rights. The function of this expression is designed to violate individual rights, and when you violate individual rights you are really abolishing all rights. Groups do not have rights. When you tell me I must subordinate my rights to the group, the group does not gain them by proxy. They have been forfeited.

If there is no such thing as “rights”, the thug, surrounded by his gang, is free to use force (government) to achieve whatever outcome they fancy.The collectivist thug is at once empowered to force people to conform to the collective and shielded against all outcomes. It doesn’t matter what happens next.

This is why you have the brutal absurdity of Soviet Russia. The USSR was built in service to the “common good”, yet the only people who prospered were the tiny gang who surrounded the bloodiest despot in history, Joseph Stalin. The rest of the population lived in sub-human misery for almost three generations.

This is why you have the mystical tyranny of the medieval Catholic church. The Catholic church portrayed itself as the greatest proponent of human good on the planet, yet from effectively 600AD to almost 1500 AD the church leadership lived a comparatively lavish lifestyle, and the serfs existed generation after generation in squalor.

In the modern age, think of any social program that is said and done for “the people,” for “the society,” for “the community”. Now define exactly what the program does; give money for college, pay for medicine, feed the hungry. If you look at the actual event, only a select number of individuals actually receive the benefit, and all of the authority (force) is invested in a bureaucrat whose sole function is to weed out those who never receive the “good”.

Some of you are squirming because I have placed “community” in the same pot of condemnation. You long for community. You conceptualize your local church as a community. You think this is a social ideal. You think that the community does good. And you like the fact that you vicariously participate in the moral reputation, the prestige, of the group. You want the prestige plus you long for an inter-personal connection, and you yearn to find friends and have “relationships.” You pine for an indescribable thing that is a cross between a Norman Rockwell painting and the television sitcom, “Cheers”, where everybody knows your name. For the life of you, you struggle to see how this is the same seedbed of evil that I have been talking about.

Unfortunately, I am about to tell you that Santa Clause does not exist.

Look closely at the real social dynamic of your community. The connectedness, the relationships that you seek is really the exchange of individual value on an inter-personal level. You long to live in Mayberry R.F.D., filled with “Aunt Beas” baking apple pies waiting on the porch, never once realizing that the safety and security and fraternity that you want cannot happen if the highest moral standard is sacrifice of personal desires and personal values for the “common good.”

The price of admission to the community is the very self that you must surrender for public consumption. Think about that. To participate in community means that you must get rid of the very thing that makes you unique. This is why most communities (read “churches”) are petty, and gossipy, and back-stabbing, and cliquey. Everyone in the community is constantly vying for some piece of the “common good.” In the end, you realize that the mindless hoards sitting in the pews are there to graze over you like a buffet table.

Now let’s back up to the 10,000-foot view. Now you can see why metaphysics and epistemology are so important. Now you can see how everything revolves around a specific body of ideas that begins with Thales and evolves all the way down to the Cynics and the Stoics, formalized and systematized by Plato, and eventually shape Augustine, Calvin, and Luther. Inasmuch as you continue to accept their premises, you will continue to achieve the same outcome.

If you think the Neo Calvinists are ugly now, you wait and see what happens when you give them just an ounce of civil authority. There will be bloodshed. I know you think that’s scandalous, I get that. It may not even be the guys in the pulpits right this minute. But if you let this construct get hold of civil government, if you have the marriage of faith and force, they will make John Calvin look like a choir boy and Geneva look like a day at the beach. Make no mistake, at the root of this doctrine lie death and destruction.

When you separate man from his mind and his mind from reality, the only thing he has left to deal with another man is a club. The moment we have a club in our hands we are no longer offering an argument. And these guys don’t offer arguments. They have to bail on the conversation every single time they are pressed on the points of their doctrine. They must punt into the grand “mystery” of God. They don’t have a choice.

Once they are finally confronted with the dead end of their logic, all they can do next is attack and posture and threaten. Inasmuch as you fear that retaliation and extortion, you will willingly shut your mouth. This is why you see such enormous fear coming out of the pews. The discernment blogs and survivor blogs start discussing how they were treated. Everybody online is anonymous, not because they are trying to be deceitful, but because they are terrified!

They have accepted the premise.

What made me specifically so dangerous to them is that I rejected the premise. And that will make you dangerous. When you reject the premise, they will become terrified of you. They do not have the power, and if they ever get close to civil government, resist them with all of your might!

All collectivist cultures are tyrannies.

The philosophy of collectivism claims that there is a mystical, supernatural, social organism that embodies the highest moral values. Of course, only a few elite people with special insight can fully grasp this truth. Somehow they have access to special source knowledge that transcends the average man’s mind. Average men are incompetent, helpless, mindless creatures, depraved and unworthy of social interactions. So they must be purified to serve the collective organism.

Men cannot deal with other men voluntarily because they have no peaceful means to settle disputes. They have no means to act as contractual beings because they are metaphysically incapable of doing good. Human salvation always boils down to an elite clique endowed with some mystical insight, and that insight qualifies them to rule men. They are dictators of an omnipotent, benevolent state, doing what is best for the “common good.”

All collectivist ideologies hold the same political assumption. All collectivist doctrines seek the exact same end – subjugation of the individual. Man must be chained to the collective. Man is property of the state. Statism is always implemented by force.

The measure of social slavery is directly proportional to how much the slogan of “common good” is embraced. Conversely, the measure of civil liberty is directly proportional to how much the same slogan is overtly rejected. Our Founding Fathers rejected this notion of “common good”. They recognized that the legitimate role of government was specifically to defend the individual and his life, his liberty, and his pursuit of happiness. These are notions contrary to “common good.”

It is an easy slogan to reject because there is no such thing as a generalized good, because only individuals receive values. As soon as you realize it is a hoax it becomes a matter of course to refuse to pay homage to the fraud. Good is not being done. The reality is that people are enslaved to the fancies of others. No man has a moral obligation to subjugation to another man.

 

The Longing for Revival

We erroneously believe that a return to God will naturally be a return to morality. A return to morality is really a return to a belief in divine extortion. When morality is the product of divine command, the fight becomes about which divine we follow. What the Platonist/Augustian/Calvinsit version of Christianity has shown is that it has nothing to offer as a counter to militant ideologies.

Their first test was Islam. The eastern church showed itself impotent to stop the ideological tide of Islam. Christianity had so gutted the intellectual rigor of intellectual thought, that when confronted with a totally irrational ideology based on war, it could offer no counter.

Of course, Protestants like to push these things off as “those dastardly Catholics.” But Protestants have not fared any better. The Southern Presbyterian Church was in the forefront of slavery within the United States. Of course, Presbyterianism has a direct pedigree line with ties to the reformed tradition.

The reformed tradition’s next test would be National Socialist Germany. It failed miserably. Lutheran churches, with almost no exception, joined “the party” and remained committed to National Socialism until the collapse of the Third Reich.

Christianity has shown itself impotent to offer any intellectual defense against Marxism, National Socialism, and Islam, and that’s just in the modern day.

But they cannot lay claim to mere impotence. It isn’t “God’s will.” Christianity has with far too much consistency been connected to the tyranny. This is not a new observation.

james-madison“7. Because experience witnesseth 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, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”

~ James Madison, “A Memorial in Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments”, 1786

 

“In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection of his own.”

Thomas Jefferson SAR Picture~ Thomas Jefferson

 

“Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined, and imprisoned, yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth”

~ Thomas Jefferson

 

“I could never join Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an atheist, which I can never be, or rather his religion was demonism. If ever a man worshipped a false god!”

~ Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to John Adams, April 1823

 

Here is the absolute conclusion of all we have studied in this series. For anyone with intellectual integrity, these things should be fully and entirely unacceptable. This should compel you to evaluate the content of Christianity for what it has said for the whole of its history. It is not an accident that the same tyranny abetted by the church has occurred over and over and over.

And now, having heard where all this is rooted, you are without excuse. Now you have seen where the core of Protestant doctrine comes from. The intellectual pedigree goes as far back as Heraclitus and the Pythagoreans. It finds its full philosophic formation in Plato, it is welded into Christian thinking by Augustine, and it is put into practice by Luther and Calvin – from Augustine to Luther to Calvin to the Synod of Dort to the Westminster Confessions to the Puritans to the local pastor pounding the pulpit.

The dots are all connected, and now it rests on you to resist the disaster.

~ John


Click here for part one
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

The History of Western Philosophy and Its Societal Impact on the Church – Part 7

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on February 14, 2017

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

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

john immelWe have hammered pretty hard the notion of people being personally responsible for the intellectual content of their minds. As a man who has been pretty much talking to the air about this very subject for the last twenty years of his life because I couldn’t get anybody to pay attention, it is very easy to become cynical about how people respond to this information. I suspect some of the cynicism is warranted, because no matter how many times I start up this conversation I am usually confronted with the deer in the headlights look from people.

However, what I have learned is that mostly the reason is due to the fact that people have never been exposed to any counter-argument. They are usually more dumbfounded that someone actually has the audacity to suggest that there is something implicitly wrong with reformation doctrine- not that it is something of an aberration or that a few stray teachers didn’t seem to get it right, but that reformation doctrine is fundamentally wrong.

During these lectures I have had the opportunity to talk to some people who have traveled the same path and arrived at very similar intellectual conclusions. I find them to be endlessly engaged, and I find that to be enormously gratifying, to find others people who have begun to do similar work, have started to see the big picture and have arrived at the same conclusions. The piece of the puzzle that was lacking was actually the framework of the puzzle itself. It was a commitment to say no, these ideas are morally evil. There is a root problem with this doctrine that corrupts it without end.

This is a very longwinded way of saying I am encouraged at the potential that is out there. In discussing the notion of tyranny, it has always relied on men who fear resisting it. Tyranny can only persist when good men do nothing. But good demands of you to fundamentally believe in your moral virtue. If you cannot believe in your own virtue, then you can never ever fight what is evil. This is perhaps the motivation of tyranny to promote the willful self-destruction of man, to keep good men in a constant state of devaluing their own virtue so as to not have the motivation to resist.

This is why I advocate endlessly for your own rational motivation, your own specific commitment to your rational faculties. In all that TANC Ministries is trying to accomplish, I loathe the idea that it ends up becoming one more cult of personality. I recognize that people like Paul Dohse and myself are very strong personalities. And it would be very easy for people to trade my personality and the force of my ability as an individual with any of the popular teachers who currently dominate the scene of reformed orthodoxy. I would rather wreck my own reputation on your behalf than for you to follow me simply because you trust me specifically.

I want you to trust the conclusions of your own rational mind.

The ultimate goal is for you to carry the fight on your own.

The beauty of Western culture is that it is ultimately the source of freedom and liberty. In the previous five articles I covered approximately 500 years worth of the evolution of Western thought. It is essentially a masters level course on philosophy crammed into a little more than 8,000 words.

The person I neglected to bring into the discussion is Aristotle. His ability to identify the laws of logic is the only thing that comes close to rivaling Plato. Inasmuch as Plato organized a collectivist ruling dictatorship, Aristotle is essential for the liberties of man. He is the first person to give a systematic presentation on why man specifically is qualified to operate successfully on the earth.

In part one we considered the following quote by Sun Tzu.

“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

He was making the observation that it was the underlying strategy that allowed him to win. Men could see the tactics, but they couldn’t understand the function whereby those tactics were employed. This is essentially what we are now being confronted with. The reason tyranny has been so successful at sweeping across the globe is because it has drilled down to the same fundamental elements.

Because man is a rational being in need of a way to integrate his ideas, it is how those ideas go together that defines how he organizes his political life. Political life is nothing more than how individuals interact. We tend to think of politics in terms of the elaborate game that happens in governments between parties and the endless quest for social power. Yet what happens in the grand halls of government is nothing more than the logical conclusions of ideas, and then those men decide that everyone else should live by those sets of ideas.

Here is the central fight of all political philosophy. The whole of human existence has focused around the question of who owns man. The leading consensus, the predominant assumption, the conclusion of the vast percentage of human intellectual content has been focused on man is the property of the state.

My job in this series was to discuss the societal impact of the development of Western thought. I have put off revealing to you the ultimate impact until now because I was more interested in laying the foundation of how we get to that resulting impact. Once we identify how we get to societal impact, it is actually very simple for individuals to start understanding what is actually happening in society.

So the question is then if man is property of the state, what is the moral justification for some to use force against others? What have we just studied? What were the root presumptions throughout history? Man is incompetent. His senses are invalid. There are a select few who have some form of enlightenment from some extra-worldly source. Such enlightenment then makes them alone qualified to use force over others.

The underlying question historically within Christianity has universally revolved around why “they”, whoever those leaders happen to be, are specifically authorized to define truth. Augustine justified this very end using the same exact assumptions I just mentioned. The sheep are stupid, the sheep are incompetent, the sheep cannot organize their own lives, and more importantly, they should be compelled to do what is good.

Slide2I need to introduce you to yet one more philosophical concept. Any doctrine that services the notion that man is the property of the state is know as collectivism. The systems illustrated in the figure at the right are all manifestations of collectivism. In these systems, the dominant presumption is that your life is to be placed at the disposal of some collective. The collective will is the standard of moral value. The goal is always that man must be chained to the collective. And I do mean chained. Man is property of the state, to subordinate the individual to the collective will.

How do they do this?

Slide3This is my contribution to philosophy. I have identified five fundamental elements of all collectivist doctrines that are designed to produce tyranny. The reason I have organized this as a web is because I want you to understand that this is not linear. All of these elements are interdependent and to not necessarily follow in a progression. There is a dynamic tension between all the arguments. Some arguments that you hear will have facets of each of these categories. Let’s look at each one of these more closely.

Incompetent Masses
The underlying conclusion throughout all the thinkers we have studied has been that man’s senses or his ability to reason were fundamentally flawed. Man could not understand the world in which he lived. This is the bedrock of incompetence. If you separate man from his mind, man from his body, and man from reality, there is no other place for man to live. So if you presume that man is incompetent then you set the groundwork for the next concept.

Universal Guilt
This is a tool designed to drive you to accept your own incompetence. All men are guilty of moral depravity so that no one can advocate a moral standard. If you will accept guilt, a universal guilt, a guilt for no crime whatsoever, a guilt for nothing more than for simply being an incompetent human, you will accept the standard that you are morally incapable of running your own life. This is the death knell of all individualism. If you cannot presume your own moral good then the only thing left is…

Dictated Good
Because man is guilty and incompetent to carry out the important actions, he necessarily needs someone to save him from himself. This is why there has always been a separation between the willing elite and the general masses. This is where the class society comes from. There has always been the presumption that the “true philosopher” had a special access to truth.

The only function of determinism in all of its forms has been to create a class society. If everything is determined, there is no intellectual argument. You cannot persuade me, because whoever I am is nothing more than the outcome of that determinism.  Yet this is what sets up select men as the driving force of all political organization. The catch phrase these days among all various forms of Christianity is “God is Sovereign.” This is nothing more than another variation on determinism. If God is “sovereign”, then the very fact that certain men are in positions of authority is evidence of their right to run your life.

But the problem is, man is not a collective being.

He is a contractual being. This is how man successfully operates with other men. Look at all of your successful social interaction, and the quality that makes them successful is men freely engaging in a mutual exchange of value for value. This poses a problem for collectivism.

Abolition of Ambition
Because man is by nature an individual and not a collective being, he must be talked out of individual action. He must be persuaded that any action done independent of group sanction is the height of moral failing. This is why, within all collectivist doctrines, ambition is synonymous with sin.

The true definition of ambition is to see a value and then organizing an effort to achieve that value. In every effort as a contractual being, man organizes a value that he has and persuades another that he wants that value.

Consider the scope of the charge that God gave to Adam. Be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth! The scope of Adam’s existence was the earth, and we sit here and worry about how we are going to pay for new tires for the car. God has always been driving man towards his own individual best. So pursuing ambition is not sin. How we break contracts in the pursuit is how we get to sin. Covetousness is not sin because we want something. Ambition becomes covetousness when our means of obtaining value results in broken contracts in our mutual exchange of value with others.

Once you have been talked out of ambition you have arrived at…

Collective Conformity
This is the end game. This is where the full force of government is brought to bear for the sole purpose of creating a neutered humanity without complexion, or variation, or distinction. This outcome is held out as an ethical ideal and forced into existence at all costs.

In collective conformity, the group is prime. The collective must then define what is authentic “groupness”. It defines the parameters for group inclusion. This is where you get concepts such as “tribalism”. Where we see this most dramatically in the modern age and current culture is the concept of “political correctness”. You are fundamentally immoral if you do not conduct your life in a certain way, if you do not speak a certain way, if you do not hold to a specific set of values.

In the church, this presents itself this way: “Who has the most correct doctrine”, and the yardstick of inclusion is some form of orthodoxy. They hold up that yardstick, and they must pass that yardstick over every individual.

But what happens when someone no longer measures up?

Consider, you attended a church for 15 years or more of your life, you committed enormous amounts of time and resources to that church where everybody hugged and kissed you and told you how wonderful you are. But then you had a conflict, and you got kicked out on your butt. Suddenly you looked around and said, “Where are all my friends?”

Here’s what happened. The whole time you were there, they were holding up that yardstick, and as long as you measured up you were one of them. But the moment they could hold up that yardstick and say, “you are no longer one of us,” they had no other choice but to exclude you from the group. Because everything was about the collective.

Utopian Presitge
All arguments are in service to the collective reputation. Notice what the outcome is at the center of the web of these five elements. How many times have you heard a preacher talk about the reputation of the church? The argument is that individual action will impact the prestige of his “local collective.” This is the presumption of Utopian Prestige.

I have always been a little confused how it is that if  man is so morally corrupt how such a great God could ever be concerned that man’s actions would tarnish His reputation. There is no more spectacular conceit. Yet with stunning consistency, Neo Calvinists are obsessed with God’s reputation. In reality, the only way man’s actions could ever affect God’s reputation is if man is God’s equal!

Chew on that one for a while.

Collectivism always seeks some utopian ideal that is never achievable- the Marxist workers’ paradise, Hitler’s Third Reich, the Muslim perception of “Allah”. Every collectivist culture is always driving towards this idea that if we had this perfect thing, whatever that happens to be, and everybody focused all of their pursuits towards that one end, the prestige of that would be so enormously great that it would compel everyone else to fall down before it on their knees.

Well, it compels everyone to fall to their knees, but with their hands behind their back and a bullet to the back of the head.

The National Socialists of Germany went to war on two fronts for the prestige of the “fatherland”.  Alexander the Great conquered nations for his collectivist/statist will. Stalin killed 7 million people in his Workers’ Paradise due to man-made famines, all for the prestige of the Soviet Union.

And what do we hear now? How often in American parlance do you here people say, the world doesn’t like America; that there is something wrong with our reputation in the world? It is always about prestige.

What did the people in the land of Shinar say to themselves? “Let us make a name for ourselves.” What was the mark of that prestige? “We will build a tower to reach unto the heavens.” It was a collectivist ideal, and every resource of human ability was focused into the achievement of that ideal. But they could never get to the heavens. There was never any practical end to that outcome.

Once you know the elements of collectivism and the outcomes to which they are in service it becomes stunningly easier and easier to recognize it all around you. Have this chart in front of you the next time you listen to the news, I don’t care what source, it doesn’t matter, and in less than a half hour your will be sitting there in stunned amazement.

Watch any television drama, which is entertainment, which is nothing more than an artistic expression. These elements are even easier to see in art because art is the most condensed version of a society’s value statement. It is the result of a full philosophical statement boiled down into a picture. And without fail, the greatest villain in most television shows ends up being the one who is successful. This is the manifestation of the abolition of achievement.

These are all reflections of our cultural expectations. They are all designed to drive us towards some collective conformity. Any true individuality is always explained in terms of exploitation, and everything is about sacrifice to the collective.

…To be continued


Click here for part one
Click here for part two
Click here for part three
Click here for part four
Click here for part five
Click here for part six

Click here for part eight

The History of Western Philosophy and Its Societal Impact on the Church – Part 6

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on February 13, 2017

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

Click here for part one
Click here for part two
Click here for part three
Click here for part four
Click here for part five
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 approach. 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.

Sophism – Used deceptive arguments as a means of persuasion. “What is truth?” There is no objective knowledge. Man’s primary social purpose is domination.

Socrates – Introduced the concept of “universals”. Man’s ability to use reason to grasp universal concepts.

Plato – First successful comprehensive system of philosophy. Two world dichotomy, universals/particulars. Only philosopher kings have access to the realm of the “forms”.

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

 

Slide14Cynicism
These guys could be considered the first “street preachers”. In Christian parlance they were “evangelists”. They considered themselves humanity’s watchdogs. Their favorite pastime was to publicly expose the pretense at the root of everyday conventions. The believed that is was their life task to convert the masses to what they called the declarative.

They rejected all wealth, power, sex, fame, because these pursuits were the stuff of a polluted mind with internal haze. Diogenes of Sinope, one of the founders of the Cynic movement, is reported to have lived in a tub. He refused to wear shoes in the winter, refused to bathe, ran around the streets without clothes, and wandered from street to street in the cities preaching Cynic doctrines. Those doctrines were specifically designed to save men from the bondage of their flesh. If man was liberated from the bondage of flesh they would be liberated from worldly suffering and uncertainty.

The summary of Cynic ideology follows:

  • The goal of life is mental clarity or lucidity.
  • Freedom from internal haze, which signified ignorance, mindlessness, folly, and conceit.
  • Achieving freedom by living in harmony with nature.
  • Mental haze, ignorance, mindlessness, et al, is caused by false judgment of values which causes negative heartache, anxiety, unnatural desires, and evil character.
  • Man flourishes (he truly lives) by achieving what is called “self-sufficiency”.

Self-sufficiency in the case of the Cynics refers to an internal indifference to life’s hardships. One progresses towards this life and clarity of thought by ascetic practices that help one become free from the influences of the flesh. And since they had a great disdain for fame, they tended to act shamelessly in public in a direct effort to slight all social conventions.

Here is the point I want you to grasp. How does man achieve harmony with nature? By being indifferent to all hardship. The suggestion was that the way man obtained this harmony was by constant arduous training of the body. You see this theme in the apostle Paul’s comment when he says in 1 Corinthians 9:27, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection…” Here he is using a reference that is influenced by the Cynics. (Editor’s note: While the expression might be familiar to his audience because of Cynic doctrine, Paul is using it in the context of a believer’s sanctification so as to not be disqualified from any heavenly reward he might receive at the Bema.)

Notice also how the Cynics have elevated the nature and importance of asceticism. Not only is the flesh bad, but the flesh must be defeated through specific violence towards it. This is crucial because it becomes a dominant theme later as we shall see.

 

Stoicism
Stoicism finds its beginnings in a school founded by Zeno of Citium in the early 4th century BC. Zeno taught in the public square located on the north side of the Ancient Agora of Athens. The name “stoicism” is derived from this square which was named ποικίλη στοά (Poikile Stoa) which means “Painted Porch”. The Stoics taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment. Someone of moral and intellectual perfection would not suffer such emotion.

Stoics were concerned with the active relationship between cosmic determinism and human freedom and the belief that it is virtuous to maintain a will that is in accord with logos. Remember it was Heraclitus who was the first to use the term logos. Aristotle used it to mean reasoned discourse. However the Stoics were the first to use it in conjunction with god. They said the logos was the animating force of the universe. It was this conceptual and linguistic shift that made the introductory chapter to the gospel of John possible.

Of course, later Christianity condemned Stoicism, but that didn’t stop them from using Stoic concepts and advocating the primary themes of Stoic metaphysics and ethics: an inner freedom in spite of worldly hardships, the innate depravity of man called “persistent evil” by the Stoics, and the futility and temporal nature of worldly possessions and attachments.

Stoic religion emphasized prayer, self-examination, and praise. They described spiritual pursuits like this: God is best worshipped in the shrine of the heart, by the desire to know and obey Him. Where have we heard that theme before?

The four cardinal virtues of Stoic philosophy where:

  1. Wisdom
  2. Courage
  3. Justice
  4. Temperance

Virtue alone was sufficient for happiness. A sage was immune to misfortune because he is dispassionate about all things both good and evil. Epictetus is quoted as saying, “Sick and yet happy, in peril and yet happy, dying and yet happy, in exile and yet happy, in disgrace and yet happy”

A sage achieved freedom by studying and seeking “universal reason”, which was their logos concept, and through practicing asceticism. Notice, now we have the correlation. Not only is it necessary to study this higher mystical concept, but it is specifically essential that the flesh is purged in the process. The flesh is beaten, and the study continues. Those who practice these virtues are enlightened and can achieve freedom from the vicious materialism and emotionalism of this world.

Stoics were determinists. They said that everything is subject to the laws of fate. The logos acts in accord with its own nature and governs matter. Souls are emanations from the logos and are therefore subject to logos dictates.

They describe the wicked man like this: he is like a dog tied to a cart and compelled to go wherever it goes. For you history buffs, you will recognize this from the Christian deterministic traditions that describe man like this: man is on the back of a horse being led around by the devil. This is Reformed Theology 101.

I want to illustrate how the Pythagoreans’ soul/body dichotomy weaved its path from their own relative hedonism to the Stoic doctrines we see before us. How did we get to the point where man must use violence against his own body to achieve enlightenment? And just so you understand, when we start talking about asceticism, we are not talking about giving up a few McDonald’s apple pies or a doughnut for breakfast in the morning. The accepted expression of virtue involved the literal beating of flesh as an ethical ideal

From the late 3rd century to almost the 1100s, here is what these people did:

  • They sat on stone pillars until their legs rotted away.
  • They drank laundry water.
  • They slept on beds of nails.
  • They inflicted on themselves personal and/or public floggings for sins.

This is the corruption implicit to these ideas. When you so divide man from reality, when you so divide man from life, you can only worship death!

…And that’s exactly where these doctrines trend.

To be continued…


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foundational assumption (Metaphysical premise) determines…

-> Epistemological qualification, which in turn defines…

-> Ethical standards, which in turn prescribes…

-> Political culture (government force)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued…


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