Do We Learn By Experience?

“While people often claim moreover to learn by ‘experience,’ it is rather from an intellectual analysis of experience that they learn, if at all, in such cases.”

Carl F. H. Henry
God, Revelation & Authority — Vol.1 pg. 264

Clearly what Dr. Henry is suggesting is that we do not learn by experience but rather we learn by how we interpret our experience. This can be the only explanation for two or more people going through the same experience and ‘learning’ different things from that experience. This is only to say that our presuppositions about the nature of God and of His reality inform us as to interpreting our experiences. A Christian and non-Christian going through the same difficult experience will come out of that difficult experience with substantially different conclusions. The Christian will interpret the experience through the eyes of confidence in God’s character and be able to say with that ‘God intended it for good,’ while the non-Christian will often use the experience as proof that God is absent.

Dr. Henry’s observation is why I am forever encouraging people to interpret life through God’s promises and to resist interpreting God through the difficult circumstances and vicissitudes of life. If God be for us who can be against us? If God is for us then whatever adversity he sends us in this vale of tears will he not turn it to our good?

This kind of certainty should make a HUGE difference in the way that we interpret our experiences.

Another point that Dr. Henry seems to be making is that people don’t learn by experience but rather they learn by thinking. This is a key concept in an age that is experience oriented. Experience does not shape us but rather how we think about experience. Similarly, neither do we learn or think by emotion. Emotion is the consequence of thinking and interpreting something we experience in a certain way. This is why I’ve never been able to understand the idea that people ‘think with their emotions.’ Nobody has ever thought with their emotions since emotions are the consequence of some kind of previous thinking. If I am experiencing the emotion of sadness it is because I am thinking a certain way about some kind of experience. The same holds true for every other kind of emotion. It is not possible for emotion to be the ground of our thinking since emotions are but visible manifestation of the kind of thing we are thinking. Even in an age of image where we speak of our emotions being manipulated, what is really the case is that our thinking is being manipulated.

All of this is why, then, the Scripture teaches not ‘as a man experiences so he is’, or ‘as a man’s emotions are he is’, but rather ‘as a man thinketh in His heart, so he is.’

Bugs Bunny And The Nature Of Reality

When I was a boy, like most boys, I watched cartoons. Because of some recent cogitations one particular cartoon keeps replaying in my head as an illustration for the nature of reality. In this cartoon one of the characters gives another one of the characters (I think it was Elmer and Bugs) several whaps over the head with a mallet (pretty standard cartoon fare here). The result of which is several lumps growing out where the mallet fell. At this point one of the characters pushes the lumps in only to find out that they come back out at another point on the head. You see the lumps can be pushed in but they don’t go away. They merely find expression someplace else.

I have become convinced that this is the nature of reality. Things don’t go away. Even when we try to make them go away they come out someplace else. Perhaps some examples will serve to clarify the point that I am making.

The most obvious example is somebody’s insistence that they are an A-theist. They proclaim that they have pushed God out of their reality. But have they really? Do they really operate without a God in their reality? Rather isn’t it the case that they have chosen instead to hide from themselves the fact that they are serving as their own God? The individual has ascended to the most high to take his position as the Almighty. The typical John in American practices Johnism, the typical American Becky practices Beckyism, the typical Andy in American practices Anydism while his American Wife Amanda practices Amandaism. A God concept hasn’t really gone away in their reality. They have pushed it in on one side only to fail to see how it has grown back up someplace else.

Another example of what I am trying to get at is the idea of Priests. A Priest is a person who represents the people to God. The Priest is the one who is in charge of making sin and guilt go away. Most Americans except for a few Catholics would tell you that the whole idea of ‘Priest’ is pass`e in our country. We have pushed that lump in and told ourselves that it is gone forever but I submit that we have failed to see it projecting in other places. We are just as consumed with Priests as any ancient culture that has ever been. The only difference is that we hide it from ourselves by not calling our modern Shamans ‘Priests,’ using instead words like Psychiatrist or Psychologist. We are our own gods but we find ourselves being uncomfortable with ourselves (that discomfort being our sin) and as a result we go to the Priests so that the sin and guilt of being uncomfortable with ourselves might be taken away.

Another example is predestination. Predestination can’t be effaced. Either we will submit to God’s predestination or we will try to create some other kind of predestination. In Aldous Huxley’s book, ‘Brave New World,’ we find the State having a category called ‘sociological predestinators.’ In our current culture we have school to work programs that are in essence an example of the State seeking to predestinate the future of the child. Another example is a kind of strong behaviorism that suggests that a person is completely controlled by their (predestinating) environment. Predestination is part of God’s reality and we will either submit to His teaching on the doctrine or fallen men will create bastard predestination.

Another example is imputation. Here is another word that would leave most people scratching their head if you asked them if imputation was an important concept. We Moderns think that we are done with imputation. We have pushed that lump in but again we have failed to see where it is now protruding. We no longer talk about our sins being imputed to Christ but without realizing it we are forever seeking to impute our sins someplace else. Since ours is a humanistic religion instead of having our sins imputed to Christ we seek to impute them to one another. Having rejected the Scapegoat that God provided in Christ we now spend our lives looking for other people and people groups to be our Scapegoats wherein we can impute our sins. We go to our Priests (the Shrinks) and we discover that the reason we cannot live with ourselves (our greatest sin that needs dealt with) is due to our parents or our environment or because of those minorities that are taking over everything and as a result we impute our sin of not liking ourselves to them. They must be the scapegoat. They become the one who must bear our sins, and so we impute our sins to them. Imputation is alive and well and will never go away. No matter how hard we push that lump in; it always comes out on the other side.

Another example that might be elucidated is religion in general. Many moderns would characterize themselves as irreligious, which is quite a religious characterization. I read an article this week by Richard Dawkins saying that we should get rid of religion. Is that possible or is that just another example of somebody trying to push the lump in on one side, lying to himself that it will not come out on the other side? Religion is the attempt to live in accord with the prevailing Deity. In false religion it is the attempt to manipulate the prevailing Deity. For modern man Religion is now politics. Not only individually but also corporately we are the Deity and the way to manipulate the Deity is to seize control of its control apparatus for our own varied humanistic machinations. As a result politics is the most vocal aspect of religion among many moderns.

How about catechism? How many people do you know who have their children catechized into their religion? Most people would say that catechism is a relic from the past. Nobody does catechism anymore. Catechism is something religious extremists do. Yet, every time a child watches television, every time a child goes to school, every time a child reads a teen magazine, every time a child listens to the radio, every time a child reads a book, every time a child plays with play station II, they are being catechized into some religion. Catechism into ones religion hasn’t gone away. It is just that our religion of modernity is so close to our skin that we don’t even realize how it is we are constantly catechizing our children into the religion of modernity. Catechism is most effective when the children and the parents don’t even know they are being catechized. So you see, we push the lump of catechism in, and we tell ourselves it has gone away, but we fail to see where it has reappeared somewhere else on the old noggin of reality.

If you want to talk about systems of thought the same things applies. Take Communism as an example. Has it escaped dealing with God’s reality or as it instead just pushed the bump on one side of the head in only to find it protruding on the other side? Marx who said that ‘religion…is the opiate of the people,’ gave us a religion called Communism which has a doctrine of salvation that is a deliverance from the oppressive bourgeoisies masters. The Communist religion has its Messiah in the proletariat; its paradise in the classless society; its church in the party; and its Scriptures in the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and, for many years, Stalin. Marx and communism didn’t make the reality of religion go away. It only rearranged the pieces. Reality can’t go away.

This approach applies also too more micro examples as well I think. What I mean by that is sometimes you will hear people say things like . “We need to get rid of hate and intolerance.” If my premise is correct that is not possible. Hate and intolerance is a lump that never goes away. Pushed in on one side it will come up again on another side. Intolerance and hate in the right way can be a positive good. Intolerance and hate in the wrong way is a positive evil. Be assured, though, that every person you ever meet will have the category of intolerance and hate in their reality. It is not possible to get rid of hate and intolerance. The challenge for the Christian is to hate and not tolerate what God hates and doesn’t tolerate.

Nearer to home you will hear some Christians say that we no longer live under the law. They have supposedly gotten rid of ‘law’ from their reality. But is it a law that they are free from the law? Reality bites. Other Christians will say that they have gotten rid of tradition. Tradition is something that only Roman Catholics subscribe to. So, what they are saying is that it is their tradition to live without tradition? Reality bites again. They can keep pushing in those lumps all they want but those lumps just keep reappearing in other places.

All of us have the same reality. Reality and the categories or reality are unavoidable and inevitable. Martin Luther worked with the same reality that Karl Marx did. Margaret Sanger worked with the same reality as Fannie Crosby did. Milton Berle worked with the same reality as Mahatma Ghandi. We can neither increase it nor decrease it, nor change its categories. We can move the furniture around or push the lumps in but none of us get new furniture and all of us live with the same lumps. The trick is being able to get to the point of being able to see to the bottom of what is going on in how people arrange their reality furniture.

The challenge then for the Christian becomes to have our reality correspond to God’s reality. The way our reality gets messed up is when men start with themselves as their beginning premise as opposed to starting with the God of the Bible as their beginning premise. This was Eve’s mistake in the garden and it remains our mistake today. When men start from themselves they take God’s categories and turn them upside down and inside out. They don’t get different reality but they invert the reality that is by calling good, ‘evil’ and evil, ‘good.’ They call beautiful, ‘ugly’ and ugly ‘beautiful.’ They call true, ‘false’ and false, ‘true.’ They in essence call God a liar. But even in doing so they don’t get a different reality because real reality is immutable. The reality that is expressed by those who make themselves the determiner of all facts is a reality that is antithetical to the reality that the God of the Bible calls for but it is still working with the only reality that is.

Reality doesn’t go away.

A Time For Anger

There is a time for everything
and a season for every activity under the sun

Chuck Baldwin penned a recent article probing the anger of Ron Paul supporters. No doubt anger permeates the air around Ron Paul supporters but perhaps it is better to note that it is American patriots who love their country who are angry, who also just so happen to be Ron Paul supporters.

Make no mistake about it, this anger that slowly but steadily leaks from patriots, like so much over abundant air in a over filled tire, leaks because their love of God and country is being violated at every turn. Their anger is no different and no more irrational than the anger one would expect one to find coming from a person who is witnessing a rape but who is practically powerless to intervene. Who is more irrational in such a scenario; the person bleeding anger or the person looking on, who for the life of them, can’t figure out why the person bleeding anger is angry?

Is there no place or time for anger?

We are watching our political elites replace this country’s citizenry with illegal immigration thus assuring the complete destruction of the remnants of a culture influenced by Christian categories and we shouldn’t be angry?

With the exporting of our manufacturing base as a result of NAFTA, GATT, and other like legislation we have witnessed the excision of the muscle and sinew that helped sustain a true middle class and which served as our backbone against those who would do us harm and we shouldn’t be angry?

Daily, millions of our children around the country attend what can only be called mental sewers (euphemistically called ‘public schools’) where they are programmed to be mindless cogs and spare parts in the socialistic machine we are building, with the consequence that those who are being programmed, because of that programming, will in turn program the next generation. We sit by and witness, in these State schools, the titillation of all things hormonal and the destruction of the life of the mind and we are not supposed to be angry?

Right now, another prison bar on our prison cell is being crafted with the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) skulduggery and very few US citizens are even agitated that their political leadership is selling out both their freedom and their national identity in the interest of a greedy mega-Corporate and political class and we are not supposed to be angry?

In the one place throughout Western History where we have consistently found some measure of resistance to tyranny, and some boldness to defend the Crown Rights of King Jesus against Statist usurpers we currently instead find shallowness, surrender, and complete and utter irrelevancy and we are not supposed to be angry? We are to have no anger that the Church out Statist the Statists? We are to have no anger that our ministerial corps can’t connect the dots between spiritual freedom in Christ and how that spiritual freedom longs to manifest itself concretely in cultural institutions that incarnate that freedom? No anger over the reality that the cadre who once were responsible for the cry, “No King but King Jesus,” now can’t bring themselves to admit that Jesus has anything authoritatively to say regarding cultural slavery, bondage and prison?

Creeping on to nigh 100 years we have had to live with organized theft with the presence of the Federal Reserve as it inflates the money supply and milks the citizenry of its financial resources, like so many Jersey Holsteins, in favor of the interest of the farmer central bankers and we are not supposed to be angry? No anger that we are being forced to contribute to an agenda that we are vociferously opposed to through both overt and covert taxation? The Federal Reserve system is a reverse Robin Hood story where the rich take from the poor and give it to themselves and we are not supposed to be angry? It’s acceptable to be angry when somebody points a gun at you and takes your money but it is not acceptable to be steaming when it is done legally?

No anger for a federal government that in my lifetime has legislated against the family with its welfare legislation, title IX and X programs, and abortion policy to name only a few. No anger for state school teachers who subtly and not so subtly undermine the authority of the family and Biblical religion in the classroom? No anger over State funded universities systematically pushing cultural Marxism upon the most impressionable?

We are to be calm and placid in the face of asinine Nanny State regulations that cover who we can hire, who we can rent to, how we speak, how we must compensate our employees in our businesses, and any number of other infinitesimal requirements that we apparently are to infantile to figure out for ourselves?

Where do the legitimate and rational reasons for our anger end? Our civil rights are in danger with such nonsense as the Patriot Act and the stealthy advent of National ID cards. We continue to spill the blood of American boys in pursuit of global Empire. Further is there to be no anger, when at times, it seems that virtually no channels currently exist that can free us from those who are preparing our chains for us?

For these and a million other reasons non-Statist patriotic Americans are angry. Further patriots believe that if people are not angry then the ‘non-angry ones’ have undergone the equivalence of a moral lobotomy. Only the condition of being a moral zombie could account for a rational and sane person not being angry right now.

So yes we are angry, but it is only because we love so deeply. Perhaps we should all be reminded that anger over the loss of liberty is no vice and equanimity in the face of tyranny is no virtue.

Ron Paul echoes Ronald Reagan

“No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. So government programs once launched never disappear. Actually a government bureau is the closest thing to eternal life we will ever see in this world.”

Ronald Wilson Reagan
1964 Speech at Republican National convention

I culled this from a youtube video that is as close to inspirational as the Ron Paul campaign will probably ever get. This video juxtaposes quotes from Congressman Paul with quotes from then Governor Reagan. If I knew how to work my blog site I could put the video here but the best I can do is to give you the link. If Ron Paul had 25% of the presence that Reagan had he would be getting 25% of the vote.

The Amillennial Cirlce

A-millennial eschatology teaches that good and evil grow together until Christ returns. Further a-millennialism teaches the victory Christ achieves will be a victory that is won by an apocalyptic in breaking in which the enemies of Christ are vanquished. A-millennialism teaches that up until the sudden and violent eschatological in breaking of Christ the opponents of Christ had been in the ascendancy in this world at the time of Christ’s return.

Now there is nothing in amillennialism that negates that God will periodically send seasons of Reformation and awakening, but all amillennialism insists that when the end comes it comes in the context of the Church being largely in defeat and retreat mode.

Now what is interesting is a complimentary doctrine that many amillennials advocate. Many amillennialists insist that there are two realms in which men operate. The first sphere is the sacred sphere, which is largely equivalent to the church realm. In this sphere Christ is Lord and rules through His Elders according to His word. The second sphere is often referred to as the ‘common realm’ and in this realm Christ is, in the words of one of their proponents to me, ‘Lord in a different way.’ In this realm Christ rules indirectly through Common Grace and Natural Law. Because this is true the Church as the Church has nothing to say to the common realm, relying instead on Christ’s indirect rule through Common grace and Natural law to provide governance for this realm. Now, amillennialists will insist that individual Christians can and should speak in this realm but they should do so by appealing to Natural law as their source of authority understanding that God’s word does not pertain to this common realm. We must understand that for these amillennialists this realm would be all other realms except the Church realm.

Now where we find the amillennial circle is on one hand they teach that the world gets worse and worse while on the other hand they teach a doctrine that insures that the world will go from bad to worse. In other words if we divide of a sacred realm from a common realm and insist that the Church cannot speak to the common realm (where by the way most of man’s living takes place) what we have insured by way of our theology is that the common realm will go from bad to worse. So the amillennial theology of a common and sacred realm serves as self-fulfilling prophecy that things will go from bad to worse. In short they find in Scriptures that the world will eventually go to hell in a hand basket and they develop a theology that if followed will insure that it will. Behold the amillennial circle.

Now, I think that at least one reason why amillennialists have this theology is their understandable fear of immanentizing the eschaton. The theory is that people who immanentize the eschaton have a nasty habit of forcing their eschatological ideology on everybody else. The ironic thing though is that the amillennialists while trying to avoid immanentizing the Christian eschaton end up immanentizing somebody else’s eschaton by their retreat. That is to say that by insisting that the common realm belongs to common grace and natural law what they end up doing is creating a vacuum in which the other adherents of other gods will try to immanentize their respective eschatons. So while at least some amillennialists want to avoid immanentizing the Christian eschaton what their retreat ends up doing is allowing the immanentizing of other non-Christian eschatons. We must remember that it is never a question whether or not if some eschaton will be immanentized but only a question of which eschaton will be immanentized. I vote for the Christian one.

Another reason I think that amillennialists have this eschatology is that they fear that if Christianity becomes to closely aligned to some ruling matrix found in their putative common realm then if the ruling matrix is found wanting then so will the Christian faith and the consequence will be disrepute brought upon the gospel as it is brought upon the ruling matrix. The problem here though is that the amillennialists theology, in my opinion, is already bringing disrepute upon the Gospel as people observe that the Gospel is good for getting souls saved but little good for spreading the effects of salvation into every corner of every realm. The Gospel is held in disrepute because it is seen as gnostic, personal and individual with few, if any implications for the concrete public square in which humans find themselves living. The Church must be silent in regards to the evils of totalitarianism for God’s word doesn’t speak on that. The Church must be silent on economic systems that have theft as their basis for God’s work doesn’t speak to that. The Church must be silent on educational issues in the public square for God’s word does not speak to that.

It’s easy to see how the world will get worse and worse if the Church has no voice to speak on these kinds of issues. Imagine how disappointed some people are going to if this theology reaches dominance in the Church and the world does go to hell in a hand basket because of it and Jesus doesn’t end up returning.