This is the transcript of a conversation I had with a commenter named “Tom” over on the comments thread of the latest post at Spiritual Tyranny (here), with a few extra thoughts specific to this blog article at the end.
Herein, Tom commits the same mistake of reason which eventually leads all well-intentioned Christians right back into the arms of mystic abuse and tyranny. (I hold aloft Wartburg Watch as exhibit A of how this can happen…see my last post). It is the mistake of ALL despotic doctrines, no matter which flavor you prefer…political, religious, economic.
It’s basically this: man never gets to be man. The absolute metaphysic of the singular SELF of the individual is parsed. Man is no longer an IS, he is man plus something NOT man, which makes man a direct function of what he is NOT; which is, of course, rationally impossible. We see man plus his depravity; man plus his class; man plus God’s grace; man plus the laws of nature and mathematics; man plus his race; man plus his collective “people. These outside forces are claimed to have a causal power over man that he is unable to resist, and consequently, man is never in a position to really make a rational or moral decision or to perform an efficacious act independently. He is always governed by something outside of him. And whatever that happens to be is the plumb line of whether he is at his root good or evil.
Now, most of these parsed-metaphysic apologists will argue that the ownership of man by these outside forces is only partial. Man still bears some free will of his own, of course, they will sagely assure you. He’s totally depraved, but not really TOTALLY totally depraved. Or, the laws of nature govern material reality absolutely, but still, man, somehow, possesses the ability to have an unfettered mind by which to freely observe these absolute laws.
Now, I won’t go into detail here as to why this argument is rationally unsustainable, but suffice to say that the logical progression of this thinking inevitably leads to man’s total and utter inability to ever really BE himself, which means he cannot really know anything, which means he cannot really do anything, which means he ultimately needs to be compelled by force to behave.
And this is what I am attempting, in part anyway, to get across to Tom.
How can a Christian philosopher ignore this distinction? How is it that those “In Christ” are expected to behave precisely like those who are not? How can these two groups agree on a metaphysical starting point? How, when Christianity is in decline in a nation, can that nation have an increasingly Christ-honoring metaphysic?” – Tom
Are you suggesting that there is a metaphysical difference between those who are “saved” and those “not saved”? And if so, what by what argument can you defend such an assertion? Metaphysical states are absolute, I submit, and cannot be morphed from one “essence” to another (e.g. the “depraved and unable” metaphysic to the “righteously able” metaphysic). This makes the existential root of man’s BEING merely a direct function of some force OUTSIDE of him. Depravity pre-salvation, and “grace” post-salvation. This is of course nothing more than determinism…and is simply another way of arguing that man as an actual, legitimate and distinct SELF does not exist. Which of course makes the metaphysical distinction you speak of entirely irrelevant, for obvious reasons. If man is not really man, then what difference does it make to him which force controls (determines) him at any given moment. The answer: none at all. –Argo
I certainly would not suppose actual metaphysical reality changes when I become saved. But my reality does. Metaphysics must be considered both absolute and relative. God is absolutely who God is. That cannot change. But my relationship with God is very different than an atheist’s. Further, SOMETHING happened when I got saved. I was “translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son.” I am a “new creation.” That changes not the absolute metaphysics that governs the universe at a macro level, but the relative metaphysics that now attends to my new status. At minimum, God now exists *for me*. That changes (or should change) my entire picture of the universe, at a metaphysical level. For me, a new cognitive filter becomes active, in which I judge the ideas floating around based on MY NEW metaphysics.
Sadly, most of Christendom wants to teach the flawed metaphysics you and John are all excited about. So, most new Christians adopt that metaphysics as their own. And that metaphysical basis is identical to that of “the world.” To me, the metaphysics of “the world” is beyond our control. The only metaphysics we have any control over is that which we can control, i.e. in “the church.” But the church is corrupt and teaches bad metaphysics. So I propose a church which is founded with a goal of avoiding obvious corrupting influences (power, domination, favoritism, government tax collection, paid clergy, hierarchy, disbursement and collection of funds, ownership and disposition of real estate). Such a church may, as John seems to believe, be impossible. But given the options (Corrupt Church as Usual or Just Not Congregating Anymore), it seems to be worth a try.
And yes, btw, such a church would be composed of metaphysically different people. If only because they subscribe to the fundamental metaphysic of the universe: “Jesus is Lord.” Most Christians behave as if He is not. If He were Lord, churches would obey His clear instruction in Matthew 18. But they do not. Will adherence to Matthew 18 resolve all conflict? No. But it will provide a safe place for God’s sheep to grow in the grace of loving one another. Which is the *only* commandment of Jesus. Again, if only He were Lord!!! –Tom
With respect, you are attempting to argue both sides of a mutual exclusivity: Metaphysical reality is absolute; metaphysical reality is not absolute.
Put more simply, you are trying to argue that man is man while NOT actually being man, at the same time. Man is distinctly different at the “micro” and “macro”levels. Man is a duality of absolute SELF. Unfortunately, there is really no logical argument built to carry that idea.
If metaphysical reality is ABSOLUTE and therefore does not change, then there is no such thing as a “micro” metaphysical reality (your “relative” metaphysic), and a “macro” metaphysical reality (your “absolute metaphysic”).
So then what changes when we get saved? Not our metaphysical essence, for that is absolute, as you admit. What changes (or rather, should change but sadly doesn’t) is how we DEFINE our metaphysic. There are only two ways to define the human metaphysic, rationally and irrationally. The only rational metaphysic is that which you also rightly define as God’s: God is God…or better said, God is Himself.
If God is God, absolutely, and God is NOT anything NOT God, then the same must be true for man in order for man and God to have any kind of rational interaction. In other words, if God is God, and is never NOT God, then man MUST also be man, never NOT man. “God is HIMSELF” is God’s metaphysic. Which means that man’s metaphysic must logically be likewise: “Man is HIMSELF”. Period. The thing we must ask the proponents of typical Christian “orthodoxy” founded in an utterly irrational view of man as “finite” is: How can what is infinite and absolute (God) have a relationship with what is finite and temporal? The infinite and absolute is utterly incompatible with the finite and temporal, by definition. Existential and metaphysical equality is a necessary prerequisite for any kind of relationship between two agents, be it man and man or man and God.
So man, like God, can never be anything NOT himself. He is what he is. THAT is his singular and absolute metaphysic, full stop. Nothing else can be said; nothing added; no relative this, no micro that. Man is man, period. And you are done in defining his metaphysic. Your essay on the metaphysic of man should be only one sentence, three words. Any longer and it becomes a lie.
That being said, the only relativity in the matter lay in the CONCEPTS man and God, as SELF-aware (conscious) agents use to define their relationship (via language, which is purely an abstract conceptual paradigm used to efficaciously organize what is observed).
The only “metaphysical difference” between one conscious agent and another is HOW they each define the SELF. The rational person, Christian or not, should see SELF as the absolute singularity of their own individual existence, observing a relationship with OTHERS via a conceptual paradigm which ultimately is rooted in relative values (e.g. “distance” between two absolutes is always going to be relative, by definition). But metaphysically speaking, the two agents each are who THEY are. Only this proper understanding of the NON-relative metaphysic can lead to a rational and efficacious relationship with an OTHER (God, or another person).
In short, metaphysics do not change, BELIEFS change. And that’s Christ’s whole message. A change in BELIEF is necessary for an efficacious change in RELATIONSHIP. Jesus was never about denying man’s absolute SELF (and from that his absolute worth and truth) or attempting to redefine man’s absolute metaphysic, He was about getting people to believe in it.
The only difference between the “saved” and “unsaved” is, then, how they think. A new creation is nothing more than the same man conceding a NEW (and hopefully rational) philosophy. Which, as I said, really doesn’t happen in Christendom, and hasn’t for a loooooong time.
The only way you can change the church culture is the only way you can change a nation’s culture: thinking. And everyone, saved or unsaved, can think.
You see, what Tom is saying in this exchange is that “something” happens, which (somehow) changes all of reality down to the root metaphysic…even though reality really doesn’t change (the macro/micro metaphysical contradiction). We Christians are the same person we were before salvation, and also we are not.
Tom’s message thus is no different from any other in “orthodox” Christianity. Man is ultimately a function of mutually exclusive concepts which are given causal power (e.g. depravity/sovereign grace) to rule him absolutely, though not (in yet another open defiance of logic) simultaneously. For man has a totally depraved metaphysic prior to salvation, and then (somehow) gets a grace metaphysic after. This both removes man from the existential equation completely so that there now is no actual definition of man because he is always defined as a direct function of what he is NOT, and it asks us to accept that the foundation of all truth is a zero sum ideal…that is, absolute evil is contradicted with absolute good in man, and the converse would also be true. This is probably as irrational as any thinking can get.
And that’s why it’s all about “faith” today in Christianity, where “faith” is nothing more than the elevation of ignorance as man’s epistemological ideal. And this makes sense because the metaphysical concession that man’s SELF is a function of an absolute force outside of him makes the removal of man—man’s DEATH—the moral ideal. For instance, man must get out of the way so that God’s will can be fully manifest “in him”…man’s selfishness, his stubborn and rebellious tendency to want to think and act as an agent distinct from God and His plans is the root evil and the cause of God’s wrath and judgment upon the earth.
In short, Christianity in its various “orthodox” Protestant and Catholic pedigrees is little more than the worship of death and ignorance. Go into any church on a Sunday (or Saturday of you are a SDA) and see if I’m wrong . What are they always singing about? The cross as the moral ideal ( the death of Christ–which by extension, of YOU–as the direct cause of life…the meta-narrative of the cross, where the cross, an instrument of torture used to compel the masses to submit to Caesar, is the CENTRAL IDEAL of the faith); and the utter inability of man to make rational decisions and thus engage in moral actions apart from God’s sovereign determining will (complete human ignorance) as “wisdom”.
This of course makes the collection of unsaved souls merely rank barbarians by definition. Therefore, sooner rather than later, some Christian “leader”, like every other tyrant, decides that the metaphysically superior human, who is now a direct function of God as opposed to his depravity, has the moral obligation to rule the world and to lead the blind masses into the collective form of a “godly” nation…by force if necessary.
And it’s always necessary, ain’t it?
Beware of Christians who attempt to argue that their salvation and devotion to the Christian moral ideal is the root of why they should be given the reigns of civil government. They are doing exactly what Tom is doing: indefensibly claiming a superior metaphysic to that of their fellow non-Christian man. Thus, the only way for them to “prove” this “truth” is to reveal their willingness (which is always couched as a test of devotion) to kill for their cause (and cover for abuse, and blackmail, and extort, and lie, and steal); to broadcast their utter lack of compassion, compunction, and sympathy by eradicating anyone who stands in their way.
History is my witness:
The metaphysically altered Christian has attained a new level of existence (Heaven’s Gate), by which he is called to lead the masses of totally depraved idiots who are unable to see or hear the truth and are reflexively rebellious by “nature (Calvinism, neo-Reformationism), which gives him a new “perfect” and absolute body collective, the authority of which he appeals to in order to force the inclusion of others (Marxism, People’s Temple (Jim Jones)). And he cries from his pulpit in a shrieking vibrato that this is the divine mandate of the master race of God’s elect (National Socialism/Fascism).
It’s all the same philosophy. Rooted in the idea that man’s absolute metaphysic of SELF can somehow be dissected.