Okay…where was I before I was so rudely interrupted by Wade Burleson’s attempt to pass off Reformed theology as a legitimate means to “love yourself”…as if that’s possible in a theology which doesn’t acknowledge the existence of YOU in the first place.
Oye…don’t get me started on that again. As you all know, once I go down that metaphysical rabbit trail it’s almost impossible to get me off of it. In either case, it’s best to avoid the detour right now. Suffice to say, in my last post I think I made my point: Wade will likely never understand what it really means to love because his frame of depraved reference is the utter antipode of love. He is, according to his own theology, a perpetual vessel of wrath…and that vessel will only leak love, never contain it. And this should terrify him if he really believes in God, but according to his own theology he cannot even DEFINE God; and its hard to fear what you cannot acknowledge as efficaciously actual. “God” becomes whatever you make Him, and rarely do we fear what we create. Because in that case, we claim omnipotence. And that sounds harsh. But…the truth hurts. Well, it hurts the irrationally minded.
A couple of Sunday’s ago the very young, very neo-Calvinist conservative Sunday School teacher declared that the proper way to stack one’s spheres of life according to their relative value was as follows:
Now, for the sake of full disclosure, he did concede that perhaps “family” could come before “church”…but only after some of the less cowed members of this VERY soon to be neo-Calvinist monstrosity of a “local church” called him out on his (false) confusion. After all, they have always been taught that family, next to God, is the most important aspect of life. And in this area of the country you must understand that what they’ve “always known” and “always done” (to the great exasperation and chagrin of the poor hyper-Calvinist pastor who is desperately trying to drag them over the cliff of Reformed thinking just as fast as he can…for their own good, of course; its always completely altruistic and in accordance with God’s “mercy”, because if nothing else, the void of death is certainly merciful when compared to the dog days of a blue collar life, no? Well, if you are lucky enough to win God’s “election” lottery that is. As for the rest of you? I’ll see you in hell. And if anyone wants to ride with me there is plenty of room in my hand-basket. Lydia, you’ve got shotgun!)…so yes, in this area you must understand that what they’ve always known and what they’ve always done is the equivalent of its very own chapter in God’s “inerrant Word”; and not even the handsome Reformed upstart with the great smile will deny what their pappy always taught them about the “proper” role of conceptual abstractions. Roles which–in order to avoid the sheer orgy of sin that would most certainly result if anyone had the audacity to think that being an individual has anything to do with living one’s own life–must utterly govern the human being’s comings and goings.
Anyway, the young Sunday school teacher recanted and I remember thinking how strange this was. Not necessarily that he did so…that he conceded that perhaps family could supersede church (as long as the pew sitting idiots were going to force the issue), but how quickly he did so. I mean, I understand the power of tradition in an area of the country like this, but this young man must understand that if he has any aspirations of climbing the Neo-Calvinist Polity Structure for Those Desiring to Lord Supreme Rule Over the Unwashed Masses as GOD, Himself, well…he simply mustn’t give in so easily. To be sure, if he had really been studying his neo-Calvinist despot primer he would have understood that at the first hint of challenge; the first blush of disagreement; the first whiff of dissension he should have immediately appealed to his “authority” by directly moving into a proof-text of some Pauline epistle (which he would have had on hand for just such an occasion) while simultaneously insinuating that of all the people in the room, only he has been given the divine insight to interpret “God’s Word” properly.
I mean…sheesh. How does this kid think he’s ever going to compel anyone into right thinking without bludgeoning a few skulls in the name of “standing in the stead”? And you do this starting small, in Sunday school, or Care/Home group. This is where you learn to sharpen your sword upon the basics of theological despotism…it is the primary school of the formal Oligarchy. Sure, it’s small time, but cracking heads is cracking heads in the name of sound doctrine, you know? Everyone is expected to start somewhere. At the very least he could have made some kind of veiled reference to the dissenters’ obvious pride as he was reluctantly conceding that they might have a point. And he should have made his reluctance more apparent, too, now that I think about it.
To be honest, I might have to bring this up with PASTOR (which is how he is referred to in our church…not “the pastor”; and this I find oh, so fucking creepy) and remind him that if he wants to create the neo-Calvinist collective utopia that always follows when “sound doctrine” is implemented–well, which follows once you shut up the little kids crying rape, that is, and blackmail their fucking parents–but anyway, if he wants to create the new Eden of the neo-Calvinist local church he needs to make it more clear to the larvae that they should not be despised for their youth and that they need to make more of an effort to stifle ALL challenges with swift force, no matter how benign those challenges may seem.
Even I know that much. Even I know (and I should, of all people) that you, as a good neo-Calvinist authority in-training, cannot allow even the smallest challenge to your interpretive authority to pass without some consequence. At the very least, if you don’t want to make a scene, you can pull the upstart bastard(s) aside after the meeting and offer to “discuss this further” with him or her, with just a pinch of smugness and unequivocal self-righteousness to let them know that that they are oh! so fucking wrong in their perspective and that if they only realized, if only God had given them the “grace to perceive” as He’s given you, they would be robe-tearingly ashamed to have even brought it up in the first place.
Hell…if the pastor wants, for a nominal fee, I’ll teach the kid myself. I mean, I have the equivalent of a Ph.D. in Mystic Lording and Spiritual Tyranny. I went the the foremost ivy league institution, as did John Immel: Sovereign Grace Ministries. It doesn’t get any more fucking medieval than that. And going medieval on barbarian asses is what Reformed theology is all about. It’s ALL about authority, and literally NOTHING else; and authority is all about force; and force is all about violence. And force can never co-exist with conceding the premises of the opposition. Duh. And make no mistake. The laity IS ALWAYS the opposition. Your job is to keep those fuckers in line. Your job is to keep the sheep in pen so that the wool and the mutton can be harvested “to God’s glory” until Christ comes back. In which case the slaughter will begin and you will be rewarded with 72 dead sheep to feed on forevermore. And your job is absolutely nothing more than that. You keep them in line so that they can tithe and serve. And you don’t reach that objective by telling them that their fucking depraved and theologically blind family comes before the church.
The fact is that the kid was right. Family, if you want to get properly Reformed about it, cannot possibly come before Church.
My readers, many of whom understand this kind of oppressive thinking as well or even better than I do, already know the answer to this. It has to do with distinctions…or rather, the lack thereof. The fact is that in Reformed theology there is NO distinction between God, Himself and the ecclesiastical authority of the local church, which IS the local church. In other words, the Church IS God as far as the laity is concerned. To parse out God and the Church is to make a distinction that simply doesn’t exist in the Reformed construct. Since YOU, the layperson, are at your root pervasively depraved, you lack any kind of efficacious epistemology when it comes to the things of God, from which extends all “reality”. As in the days of Plato’s philosopher kings, it takes a person who has somehow been given the ability to transcend his ( and it’s always a he, never a she…the penis is the receptacle of Reformed revelation; and yes, I do mean that the way it sounds, for I submit that there is a shitload of penis envy going on in neo-Calvinist circles)…yes, it takes a person who has somehow been given the ability to transcend his pervasive sinful nature and “see” the “truth” that God has somehow, IN SPITE OF HIM, gifted him.
Really…it doesn’t make any sense so just go with it.
And that person must “stand in the stead of God”, a phrase I first heard from C.J. Mahaney–and why I didn’t walk out of that cult right then and there, I don’t know. Just full of my own “humility” I guess. If humility was, you know, abject pride and arrogance to the level of Premier Asshole. Anyway, standing in the stead has one purpose only: to compel those who have NOT been given divine absolution from their total depravity into right behavior. And that “right” behavior, no matter how they couch it in heady-sounding and “God glorifying” terms must and shall always be of direct benefit to the leadership.
So, put simply, you exist to serve the wants and whims and comfort of the Church “authority” because they are God to you. They are what you worship, and they are what has preeminent VALUE in your life, beyond the family and everything else. It is all about doing “God’s will”, and God’s will has a strange and yet completely theologically defensible (Reformed theology that is) way of looking like the authority gets a categorical say as to what goes and what doesn’t, and gets to declare that their desires, no matter how indulgent or unnecessary they appear, are the most important thing to you. THEY are the reason you get up in the morning, and work, and earn, and perpetuate. You exist as a direct extension of THEM, because they are the God who is sovereign as far as you are concerned; and everything they think and do was ALWAYS what God wanted and what God intended because they hold to pure determinism as the root of material reality. They can never be wrong and they can never ask enough of you because no matter what they say or ask or do it is as though it proceeds directly from the mouth of God.
You, in your natural state, cannot possibly know or hear or see God. That is why they are there. To be the bridge between filthy, mortal flesh (the shadow world) and the ivory-white and purely washed divine realm (the “forms”). They have the gnosis…they have the revelation. Agreement with and obedience to them is the only proof of TRUTH, and the only relevant sign of your “election”, even though it really means nothing in this regard; you can still qualify as elect even if you happen to be the most treacherous person in town. In fact, one could argue that the greater your moral offense, the greater your ability to be aware of your own moral failure, which is the equivalent of pure gold in terms of being “saved” according to neo-Calvinism. (For more about this, see Paul Dohse’s recent articles and videos at www.paulspassingthoughts.com).
But do you know the logical extension of all of this? You probably already do. I can assure you THEY–that is, the local church leadership–know. Or at the very least they have the nagging inkling in the backs of their minds. Trust me, it’s there. The realization that this is what it ultimately comes down to.
The logical extension is this: since your epistemology is dead and is ashes according to your absolute metaphysical and physical total depravity (and it IS absolute, no matter how they lie and say its not) you can never be in a position to apprehend even THEIR divine “wisdom” as they disseminate it to you via “care group” meetings and Sunday morning “messages/sermon series'”. So all of that Sunday “worship” and “teaching” and all the hullabaloo with the raising of the hands and the swaying from the rafters and the desperate, soaring choruses is all nothing but standing on ceremony when all is said and done IF you concede neo-Calvinism and Reformed theology as the root of your theological and philosophical constructs. It must be categorically meaningless in accordance with your total depravity, which wrecks your epistemology, which makes it impossible for you to define God. And you cannot worship what you cannot know.
So, for those who are by nature unable to make distinctions of “truth” or “good” and thus know God there is only ONE thing which is effective in turning people to His will, to bringing them into compliance with His “divine purpose”…which is of course only and ever relevant within the context of the local church. And that is…..?
And force is violence. Force is punitive, it is NEVER instructive. Because instruction is irrelevant to one who is deemed incapable of any real apprehension. Because in Reformed theology, as I have said before, truth is only divinely bestowed, never learned. Because humanity has no capacity to learn. Because they are epistemologically broken. Because they are metaphysically broken.
And now you know why there can be no legitimate distinction between God and Church. Because God MUST have a means of compelling his “elect” to right thinking, and that takes violence, and that takes an earthly vehicle for the violence…a vehicle which can provide a visceral and fleshly/material frame of reference for the barbarians which need forcing , and that takes HUMAN hands, and that takes a collective ruled by a priest, and that means a local church on every corner where human lives can be relentlessly flanked and monitored.
So, if he was worth his salt, this young Sunday school teacher would have stood his ground on his presumption of the correct ordering of the abstract value structure. In fact, he should have defiantly and aggressively asserted that not only is he right, but that the proper ordering of the hierarchy should really be: CHURCH, family, work. And fuck you, he should have continued, if you really want to get technical about it, the hierarchy could be dissolved into a single term:
For the church is the collective which defines ALL reality for the masses in general.
More later. We aren’t done with this. We still need to examine the rational role of any abstract value hierarchy. Which, spoiler alert…there isn’t one.