Commenter, Store In a Cool Dry Place (one of the best internet monikers ever) said this on the thread of the last post:
“Can you please have an article or 2 for Dummies 101, Dummies 201 and 301 regarding Calvinism, neocalvinism, epistemology etc. that I can make reference to. Perhaps more clarity instead of just rants. I love the rants and colourful adjectives.”
Here is my response:
I like to think of my articles as philosophical treatises in rant form. 🙂 Because really, the ranting is just the tone of the argument (for damn good reason), but the points are beyond mere outrage and frustration. I believe that I challenge the root assumptions which undergird Reformation theology/neoCalvinism, as well as other Platonist schools of thought.
Epistemology is simple: it is the study of how we, that is, human beings, know what we know. It is rooted inexorably in metaphysics, which studies the nature of human existence; from a philosophical perspective, it looks at the question (and the pursuant inquiries which it naturally begs) “What is man?”. If the answer to that question is a shrug or a mystery, man cannot logically claim an efficacious epistemology; it is impossible. If man has no relevant meaning, then he cannot be certain of ANYTHING at all, even his own existence, because irrelevancy cannot by definition breed truth…what is irrelevant has no efficacious objective, and such an objective is required for truth to exist.
Epistemology is a DIRECT function of man’s metaphysic. Therefore, if man is nothing, lacking any relevant definition (as seen in the Reformed Christian hermeneutic, for example, particularly in the doctrines of Total Depravity and Original Sin), then he, by definition, must know nothing, as knowledge is a direct extension of man’s existential, essential SELF. If man cannot answer the question “What is man?”, then he by logical extension cannot answer the question “What does man know?”. This should be obvious, and I think it is for most of us. Put simply, if man isn’t man, then man cannot know anything, because there is no one to know anything in the first place.
This basic contradiction (that man is NOT, and yet is somehow aware) is a big problem for many schools of thought, not just Christianity and other religious credos.
For example, science, and especially physics, claims that the material universe is a product of laws of nature which “govern” the existence of everything, and which manifest themselves in mathematical theorems, fondly thought of by many scientists as the “language of the universe/the heavens/the cosmos/God”…this last one being a particularly egregious presumption. If God speaks in Math, then who do you think his priests are?
Notice the pattern? Those of you familiar with the tyrannical machinations of Reformed theology (Protestantism) will recognize it almost instantly. The language of the Cosmos (translated “God” by the scientific determinist, or as I call them “fake atheists”) is that which only a few very gifted people (divinely called and revealed upon proxies), usually haunting the stuffy rooms of trendy universities, are privy to. Thus, they are the ones who get to stand in “God’s” stead and command the power and nature of truth, which is reality, for everyone else.
Anyone who thinks science is somehow absolved by its”objective” and “observable” and “testable” methodologies from flawed and irrational philosophical assumptions is sorely mistaken. No one gets to claim ownership of man’s body and mind by appealing to some kind of divine revelation or external-to-man causal power, ever, no matter how many numbers they can add in their head, ivy league institutions bearing their class rosters, articles and theorems boasting their names, and no matter how many supercolliders they have helped construct. And if they attempt to do this, you can be sure that any argument they make for their epistemological claims–their claim to “know what they know is true”–is going to be rooted in a false metaphysic, which makes the claim patently false and rendering an explanation of it entirely superfluous. And further, history bears out the fact that the assumption that “God/the cosmos/the language of the heavens” reveals (as opposed to teaching) knowledge to a specific group of men for the purposes of leading the unwashed and blind masses into right thinking and behavior always leads to despotism in the end if it is allowed to run its logical course by the support and succor of a complicit government which wields the authority of force (violence).
When science claims that man’s body and mind–which are singular in their existence; there is no distinction between man’s material SELF and his consciousness…both are the IS of man–is a function of outside-man’s-existence laws of nature, it falls prey to the same contradiction in terms which spawns every other despotic world view. Making it, like them, nothing more than mysticism materializing into, as John Immel so perfectly puts it, a cult of death. If man is a direct function of a law of nature which exists outside his material SELF (his body and mind), then man has no rational claim to himself. That is, he has no definition for SELF except: that which is NOT him; that is, the laws of nature which govern (determine) his very material being.
You see, the laws of nature do not merely organize the material universe into its coherent (observable) components. If indeed they are causal in their power and their purpose then they must be directly responsible for the very existence of the material itself, which makes the material universe’s existence a direct extension of the laws which govern, with no rational distinction to be found between the two entities. Which means that the material universe IS the laws of nature, according to Argo’s Universal Truth Number One: Anything which is a direct function of an absolute is the absolute. If we say that the laws of nature merely organize the material universe into its various components, then the natural implication is that the very existence (existential being) of the material itself is not dependent upon any law of nature which governs it. This means then that the supreme ROOT of why everything forms the way it forms and does the things it does and interacts the way it interacts and causes and effects what it causes and effects is NOT the laws of nature but the very root BEING of the material, which does not exist because of a law but because, and only because, and for no other reason, than it is what it is. Period.
We cannot have our metaphysical cake and eat it too. We cannot claim a rational existence which is a direct function of some external law or laws of nature and then declare that we are not, in utter existential and material actuality, those very same laws of nature, and absolutely so. There can be no rational interaction of these two absolutes: laws which govern, and material which is. For absolutes, being infinite, cannot co-exist, by definition. If the law(s) absolutely govern, which science indeed argues it/they do/does, then it must govern the material universe’s very existence, which means that the universe has no SELF to its material essence; has no actual root IT to itself. It then literally is nothing more than the law itself, period. Full stop.
Likewise, using the same logic, if the material itself exists because it is what it is…meaning that its existence and being are a reality because IT is ITSELF, absolutely, then there is no way to logically attach a law of nature outside of it, to it, in order to claim that its existence is governed by this law. Existence of the material itself is absolute, which precludes any causal relationship with any law to govern it; there is no actual thing, object, entity, agent, or whatever else which can be the source of its existence, because its very existence is absolute in its SELF. It needs no law to govern its interactions; it merely needs an observer to make abstract conceptualizations which describe how these material objects interact in order that the observer can define these conceptualizations as TRUTH, using himself as the singular frame of reference for their practical and efficacious application (applied to promote the existence of him SELF) and thus, by logical extension, declare himSELF as the only rational standard of what is TRUE.
And so this is really what science’s “laws of nature” are; they are nothing more than part of a cognitive conceptual framework which is expressed in theoretical mathematical proofs. Man creates these proofs in order to articulate the relative movement of objects he observes; a sort of sheet music for the universe. They aren’t the universe itself, but they allow human beings to create (organize) an environment to serve an efficacious purpose (the human SELF), without having to re-invent the wheel every time we turn around. The same way a musician can take a piece of sheet music and play a song, a scientist can take a series of mathematical proofs and construct something out of his material environment. But these proofs are not what CREATE the material environment any more than sheet music is what creates the movement of air particles which strike your eardrums in a specific pattern. They are not causal. The air particles, and the substantive objects from which science creates tools or technology or buildings or guns or telescopes already existed before the music was ever written down or the mathematical proofs ever developed. Thus, material, actual objects (which includes man) are not there because of laws of nature; they are there because they ARE. Which means that the singular source and root of everything they do, and how they interact with man and other objects IS their very existence; and this is from themselves. They exist because they have the inherent ability to do so. Period. Not because of some outside, invisible “law” or “language” of the cosmos.
Now, the hypocrisy then of scientists (fake atheists) who demand that the universe is a product of abstract laws which somehow cause its actual existence can be seen in how this exact same thinking applies to Christianity.
For the same reason science has no rational answer to the question “What is man?” because it concedes that man is nothing more than an extension of the laws of nature which govern, making man a direct function of what is NOT man, Christianity has no superior alternative metaphysic. Indeed, the difference in the core philosophy between science and Christianity is purely semantic. It is literally nothing more than a few different words .
By declaring man totally depraved at the root of his existence (which is why they deny man’s volition, even though some are liars and some are ignorant and deny this) what they, the modern day “orthodox” apologists, are really doing is making a metaphysical argument, and not, as they assume, an epistemological one.
Let me explain:
Almost every Christian denomination declares in their Statement of Faith than man is totally depraved. This is known in Calvinism/neo-Calvinism as the Doctrine of Total Depravity. They declare that man is blind to the truth of God because he refuses to believe…where “refuses” is a euphemism for “can’t”. In other words, people believe the wrong things instead of the right things. But it is not the belief in the wrong things which is the cause of their depravity (which then would not make it TOTAL), but precisely the opposite. They argue that it is man’s total depravity which causes him to believe the wrong things. You see, wrong belief is a symptom of depravity, it is not the cause of it, which is precisely why those who accept this doctrine must deny man’s free will. Wrong belief does not cause actions…wrong belief comes AFTER depravity in the causal chain of events. It is in man’s nature to believe the wrong things (nature, meaning metaphysic) and thus do the wrong things. It isn’t the belief that drives man’s choices and actions…which are then sinful. No, no, no…for that would make man at his existential, material root innocent, and his sin thus a function of what he chooses to believe and thus chooses to do as a manifestation of that belief. This is something no self-respecting Calvinist (contradiction in terms; Calvinists deny SELF) will EVER concede. It is man’s depravity–his “sin nature”–which determines absolutely his beliefs which then determine his actions. Remember, in the Augustinian/Lutheran/Calvinist construct, which is 99% of all Christianity (basically every Christian who has not yet realized that they’ve been exploited and lied to for most of their spiritual lives), there is no room for any choice at all, except as an obfuscation of the doctrine; and this for purely manipulative reasons…or out of ignorance. You believe what you believe and do what you do because you ARE totally depraved, which is the same thing as saying you ARE total depravity itself, as if total depravity is an actual, material essence, which presents itself to the world as MAN…as YOU. The simple meaning then of this entirely false doctrine is this: YOU…your very material self is absolutely defined by your depravity. Therefore, there is no essence of you, no root material YOU, flesh and blood, at any level, which is not governed by your depravity. Making your flesh and blood literally a direct extension of the concept of depravity; again, as though depravity IS an actual, tangible, material thing.
Is any of this sounding familiar? We just talked about it a few paragraphs ago.
YOU are governed by your depravity. THAT is the doctrine of Total Depravity, and why this doctrine is the salient and destructive seed of Calvinism’s utterly evil and anti-Christian theological assertion. There is no YOU in the existential equation. You ARE depravity, period. The control in which “law of depravity” wields over your material SELF (mind and body) is absolute, and infinite, and thus, there can be no distinction between you and depravity. There is NO place where depravity ends and you begin, or vice versa.
See the theme here? It is exactly the same root philosophy of the mighty physicist. You can’t be YOU because the very notion of an actual YOU which exists independently and autonomously implies that there is something which is not in fact governed by the law of depravity. And if that is true, then depravity is not absolute…is not total. If you are you, then you are not governed by depravity. You are you, and that, not depravity, is the root and causal source of you. Yourself is not of depravity but of your SELF. Which means that the SELF is what is absolute, which means that depravity does not govern because it cannot actually exist. It, like the laws of nature, is purely conceptual; a product of man’s mind. For if YOU are absolute, then there can be no causal entity or agent or force which controls you. For only one absolute cause of something can exist, and absolutes cannot be reconciled, by definition. What is infinite cannot be bounded to or caused upon (in the non-conceptual sense) by something which it is NOT.
Now, unfortunately this is a hard fact for most Christians to swallow. Even those who deny Total Depravity will not accept it because, though they might not like the idea that man cannot actually choose to sin but instead must sin, they still feel the need to believe that man is not inherently capable of being a direct function of himself…that is, his own cause (you can thank science, in part, for this). So, instead of Total Depravity they appeal to “God’s Sovereignty” as the metaphysical substitution. Man can choose, but only because God let’s him.
Whatever the fuck that means.
You see, even though you aren’t totally depraved, you are still utterly bound and restrained in your will and very being by God’s “Will”, and by this they mean that everything that happens and exists is manifest as a direct function of God’s choosing…God’s choice, never man’s.
This is nothing more than a regurgitation, with the requisite semantic differences and euphemisms, of the exact same philosophy of scientific determinism found in the declaration of laws of nature which govern, and spiritual determinism found in the despicable doctrine of Total Depravity. Perhaps it is a kinder and gentler form of the same idea, but it is no less destructive. And is only kinder and gentler in ostensible demeanor, perhaps, but not in force and not in violent outcome when the rubber meets the road.
No need to reiterate all the points; I’m sure you can make the connection by now. If all is controlled by God, then there is no component of YOU which ever gets to be YOU apart from God’s absolute control. God’s control is absolute, thus there can be no distinction between your SELF and God’s control, which means that YOU don’t really exist, but are a mere extension of God’s absolute Will; because there is NO place where God’s absolute Will ends and YOU, not controlled by God, begins. Such a place doesn’t exist, which means that all of YOU is nothing more that God’s Will, period.
Do you understand how this metaphysic–you as a direct function of NOT you–destroys epistemology? The easy logical connection is: if you are not really you then you cannot make any claim to know anything. It really is nothing more complicated than that. If man isn’t himself, because he is a direct extension of some other absolute causal force, then everything man claims to know is a lie. An illusion. There is no “How does man know what he knows?” in the absence of man defined by way of rational metaphysic. And NOT MAN-as-man is NOT a rational metaphysic.
The common and altogether despotic political fallout (politics being another key tenet of philosophy…how man interacts with other men based on his metaphysical and epistemological assumptions) is manifest usually in an oppressive collective (like the theo-marxist neo-Calvinist church), and this occurs when these aforementioned faulty and irrational metaphysical and epistemological notions give rise to the necessary assumption that: TRUTH and GOOD is not learned but is revealed (we discussed this a little previously in this article). Revealed by what? Why, the Primary Consciousness which is said to be the absolute source of everything (in Calvinism’s case, “God”), but which only a few priests, having received their “special revelation” of truth, have been “called” to represent, as Its proxy to the rest of us, of course. And when you present with the audacity to utter criticism of their authority, your disagreement is declared proof that you have not been called to have the “wisdom” and “knowledge” (the gnosis…for this IS Gnosticism) that your rulers-in-the-stead-by-way-of-divine-revelation are privy to.
And so what to do with such a rascal?
Well, what is the easiest way to deal with people who can offer no logical claim nor rational argument for the presence and efficacy of their own physical existence as legitimate, autonomous SELVES?
Why, you FORCE them, of course. And if they still refuse compliance, you murder them in service to the “absolute truth” which is, after all, outside of them, and yet utterly IS them.
And without an answer to the question, “What is man?”, who is really getting hurt anyway?
PS: As far as the roots of neo-Calvinism and Calvinism…have you checked out Paul Dohse’s blog paulspassingthoughts.com? He is all about that. He is the expert, and no article of mine could compare to the volumes Paul has written on the subject.