I submit that interpretation is antithetical to the idea of a “plain meaning” of Scripture. “Words mean things” as a truism ultimately is incomplete. The logical assumption of such a statement is that words can somehow exist in a vacuum of meaning outside of the context of the human agent and his/her environment. Since this is not rationally possible, “words mean things” MUST be qualified. And, of course, the obvious problem is that once this statement is qualified the question which must be begged is, “WHO gets to decide what the words mean, exactly?”. And the question which is begged by the begged question is, “Why do THEY get to decide what the words mean?”
Why does Paul Dohse get to decide what the words mean instead of the Calvinists he and I oppose? Nothing against Paul, but the question is a legitimate one. Why should I trust his definitions over the definitions of the Reformed crowd? What makes his interpretation more noble and righteous than theirs? Simply swapping external standards of TRUTH will not solve anything. And I asked Paul several times in a debate with him “What is the standard of TRUTH”, and got no answer. That was concerning. Either the standard of TRUTH is man and his life, or it is something else. If it is something else, then ultimately man must die in service to it…his life and existence itself is meaningless, and an affront to truth. So it is quite irrelevant what the standard is if it is not man’s life. Whether it is the Bible or whether it is God or whether it is Calvinism is quite immaterial at the end of the day.
Anyway…I’ve gotten ahead of myself.
It isn’t enough to say “words mean things”. Thus you cannot approach the Bible with the interpretive premise of the “plain meaning of the text”. There is, again, no plain meaning of any text. The things the words mean are never simply “what they are”. Outside of a human agent interpreting the words, they cannot possibly mean anything at all. Each an every person is the absolute context for every item in the lexicons of every language in the world. Therefore what the words mean will always and only ever be a direct function of the individual human being considering them. It can be no other way.
Thus, as we have shown that words need a context by which their meaning can be discerned (interpreted), we are left with only two choices which have to do with deciding that the meanings of words are actually “legitimate” or not. Words and their meanings are only legitimate in how they serve a context…except, what is “context” exactly? For there is no such thing as a context in a context…meaning, context is not a thing itself. The context is then of a standard of absolute TRUTH…and this is constant, perpetual, never-changing, and infinite, and it is the thing which all concepts, words, meanings, interpretations and contexts perpetually revolve around. The context then is the standard of TRUTH wherever it happens to be at any given moment with respect to its environment (place and time). And therefore words must always serve the standard–its perpetuation, health, and affirmation–before they can be given any meaning or value.
So, yes…as I was saying, when considering “context”, which is the standard of TRUTH as it relates to its environment at any given moment, we have two choices we can make. The standard of TRUTH is either ourSELVES, meaning, our existence and life; or the standard of TRUTH is well…something else, something outside of your existence. And this is the root difference between the Primacy of Consciousness approach to existence, and the Primacy of Existence. The Primacy of Consciousness approach puts the standard of TRUTH outside of man’s life. Meaning, man himself doesn’t really exist except as he sacrifices himself for this “law” of existence outside of his own. Put simply, man’s only moral obligation–indeed, his only moral act–is to die for the “cause”, so to speak…either literally, or practically, via surrendering his person and property and mind to the “priests” of the Primary Consciousness, or, as is sometimes the case within certain schools of Biblidolatry, to figure out for himself, in the absence of a mystic overlord in the flesh, just how he is supposed to remove his self from the existential equation by figuring out just what the “plain meaning’ of the text is and then dying to that.
Thus, we see, in the Primacy of Consciousness model, man only really “lives” when he denies that he has any ownership of himself because he must, being utterly outside of TRUTH, lack any epistemological competence, and therefore cannot really claim to know anything at all, especially himself if he is outside the Primary Consciousness. For without the outside standard, he has no hope of even claiming he exists at all…his life is merely an illusion, and thus, has no real bearing on TRUTH. Death is his moral obligation thus again…and he can’t really even know this without the knowledge of the Primary Consciousness, which he cannot get, by definition, from the Primary Consciousness on his own which is why the proponents of this philosophy are so big into “election”. The way you know you are “elected” to “salvation” (the categorical death of you which is supposed to, contradictorily, bring life) is if you concede the truth of the Primary Consciousness without considering your life as a context by which to vet its “truth”. And the rest of us unfortunate slobs are rightful heirs of judgement and wrath…somehow culpable for our “evil” even though, according to the philosophy, we had no choice but to be “evil” because we weren’t divinely (and arbitrarily) chosen by the Primary Consciousness. A choice which, incidentally, can have nothing to do with us…and so how we are still culpable for our judgement and hell is well, as John Immel would say, punted into the great cosmic abyss of God’s (Primary Consciousness) mystery.
So, man’s only real “knowledge” is then, the Gnosis, or divine revelation given to him by an intermediary of the Primary Consciousness. In the case of Calvinism, the mystic impostors for God (Pastors) are the intermediate between man and God; and in the case of the Biblicists, they would say that the Bible is the intermediate between man and God. And what I mean by “intermediate’ is, of course, the divinely chosen keeper of the Gnosis.
If you have already seen that there is and can be no real distinction between the keeper of the Gnosis and the Primary Consciousness itself (or himself or herself, depending) then hats off to you, because you are absolutely right. Why? Because you, in your infinite depravity and the tragically embarrassing moral failure that was your birth, can by no means have anything to do in any way with the Primary Consciousness because he, she, or it is completely mutually exclusive to your life; and as such, you need to have something or someone around who or which can connect the Primary Consciousness to your existence. And that someone or something is the compelling force which has the “keys” by which to either “save” you or “damn” you according to their impossible-to-dispute claim to hold mandate from the Primary Consciousness to serve as his/her/its absolute power to enforce its absolute will upon humanity with the singular purpose of destroying all of it, either by integrating it (again, somehow…and trust me the logic is impossible to reconcile) into itself or by killing off the detractors. In other words, the purpose of the Priests is to decide which of the existentially-challenged savages is sacrificing themselves and which, in their stubbornness, need to be sacrificed on the PC’s behalf.
The Primacy of Existence approach is the better one, and the one which we all must insist upon as the approach for our lives because it is the only rational one. It is the only one that doesn’t trade man’s life for his death.
The PE approach basically says that man’s life is the plumb line for all TRUTH because, quite obviously, nothing can be said to exist at all without a human agent existing FIRST. The reason being that for you to know anything as TRUE and for TRUTH to have any relevancy to you, you must actually exist first. You can neither know TRUTH, nor can truth be revealed to you without your life being there to serve as the source…the reference, not the vessel, of that truth. This of course leads one to the only logical conclusion: all truth is an extension of individual human life. There is nothing that can be said to be true that denies the prerequisite of life before it can be seen to be true. In order for the revelation of God to be known as TRUE, man’s life is required to serve as the revelation’s reference. This means that all truth must affirm man’s life as the absolute, infinite reference. Anything that says that man’s life is outside of truth…or that man’s life proceeds from a construct, a Primary Consciousness, that is outside of his existence, cannot possibly be true. For there is no way that man can be birthed by something or into something which is wholly exclusive to him. In other words, man is the source of HIMSELF. You are the constant in everything…and without you, nothing can be qualified as even existing let alone as TRUTH.
Of course, the emotional knee-jerk reaction to this is that I am nothing more than a man-worshiping apostate…my claims, heretical and criminal, denying God, denying Christ, and blah, blah, blah. Well…if anyone can explain to me how they can know any TRUTH at all outside of the frame of reference of their own SELF, then I’m all ears. Believe me, it is quite an impossible argument to make.
Don’t you think its ironic that the only way you can claim a TRUTH which exists whether you are around or not is because you are around? That the only way you can declare a truth outside yourself is from within yourself? That the only way you can know God is because you were born first? Or do we pretend that what we know precedes ourselves? That you know what you know because you weren’t around to know it? That its true to you, even without you?
There is absolutely no logic to that. Think about it, and thinks some more. Without YOU, you cannot claim that ANYTHING exists…by definition. Don’t we think it is ironic and contradictory for someone to say “truth doesn’t need me to be true” when the only way they can possibly concede that is because they exist?! Who makes the statement “truth doesn’t need me”? ME is making that statement. ME, the person, has to exist first before they can know the truth which somehow doesn’t need them to be true. Without them, there is no frame of reference for truth…no frame of reference for the existence of anything. The backwards logic is mindblowing.
No, you give birth to what you know. What you know did not give birth to you. You say, “Argo, but I didn’t need to exist for Abe Lincoln to be President, or for Jesus to walk on water. Those events were true even though I wasn’t yet born.” And I say, how can you know that except by your existence? The answer is: you cannot. And so which comes first in the “chain of truth”? Your existence, or the fact that Abe Lincoln was President. The answer is: your existence must come first. Before you can know that Jesus walked on water before you were born, you had to be born.
This is fun, huh? Isn’t it great turning traditional logic on its head? I love it.
And so the PE approach rightly claims man’s life as the standard of TRUTH, and thus gauges truth, value, meaning, morality, etc. in how it affirms man’s life. Those things which affirm him are truth, those which deny him are false. Those things which seek to perpetuate his life according to his own tastes and pleasures and health and contentment and satisfaction as an end are “good”; those which demand from him pain and suffering and death as an end are “evil”. Does this mean that pain is always evil and pleasure is always good? No…that is the argument of the “words mean things” crowd. Remember, the context is always human life. Pain and suffering can be good if the end is individual life..such as giving your savings away to help provide for your sick mother a place to live. Pleasure and comfort can be evil, such as when you enslave other men for your “pleasure”. The context is what is “good” for LIFE. And so what I mean by “pleasure” and “pain” go beyond whatever “plain meaning” we might have. No, they must be defined according to the context of the individual in how they pursue their own life, as is their right, while obviously affirming the rights of others with whom they relate to do the same. Jesus dies on the cross to affirm man’s life and God’s goodness. It was suffering, but the end was life. It was ultimately his choice to pursue life, and this WILL bring pleasure in the end because life is GOOD, and good is rationally defined by what is MOST pleasing…and what is most pleasing will always be SELF-affirming, not what is painful and life-despising. So am I saying that Jesus dying on the cross had value not only for man but for Him? Yes I am. Our relationship with God is an exchange of value, just like it is with any relationship. As God turns man to Himself by his mercy, God reaps the benefits of man’s adoration…this adoration and worship is pleasing to him. A sweet aroma, as the Bible says. To say that God finds no value in man that He would sacrifice for him in such an epic way is to not only underestimate man’s innate worth because he is able to rightly observe God as God, which God likes, but also underestimates the goodness of God and the power of God as the Creator of man in the first place. God will by no means create that which can observe God as God without that creation being something God will unreservedly adore. What is the next best thing to being God? To be recognized and worshiped as such, I submit. And further gratifying is knowing that you gain this adoration by providing something of equal value and esteem: man’s LIFE; knowing that you gain this adoration and praise and worship in the most moral way possible: by giving man his SELF, his LIFE. And this life is GOOD, and being good will then feel good.
To hate one’s life, I submit, is to hate God. And no, this does not contradict Luke 14:26. For what is “hating one’s mother, father, sister and life” mean in the context of following the Christ? Jesus is making the argument that no one else can BE you for you. That YOU are your life, and it is not found in anyone else. Hating your life in that context, I submit, is hating the world’s definition of what is YOU. Because that is a standard of life outside of the infinite and absolute YOU, which is the root of your moral goodness before God. To pretend that anyone else has a right to define who you are for you…that you belong to some notion or idea is NOT Christ’s message. Christ’s message is to be “born again”, from this life into His. Born again means throwing off the definitions of this world for who you are and returning once again to the perfect moral innocence you had as a child. Where on the day of your reason you looked around and knew that you were YOU, alone, and nothing and no one else was you and that you were GOOD. And that it was RIGHT and TRUE and GOOD to be you and to live. And that this–being you–is the end of your existence; its absolute purpose. To be you. And to affirm that same level of moral innocence in others by loving them for THEIR existence as human beings having innate worth before God. And by this, we affirm that we can know God as the Creator of this good life, and thank Him, not despise Him for birthing us into a hell on earth which demands that each and every one of us sacrifice ourselves to some idea, some standard which someone ELSE has decided for us that we must conform to in order to truly live.
And that…that life of you and you alone, by no standard except the innate goodness of your very material being as a creation of God is the life we love, and that is the life we do not dare despise.
In the next post on this subject, we will look at the particular Primary Consciousness of “Bible”, as is espoused by Christians who would call themselves Biblicists. We will look at why this approach shares the same destructive outcomes as Calvinism/Reformation theology, and why replacing allegorical hermeneutics with “literal” hermeneutics is basically the same thing: saying the Bible is the standard of TRUTH is no different and has no better moral outcome than saying Reformed interpretive premises are the standard of TRUTH.