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Oct 01 2013

James MacDonald, The Vertical Church, and Aristotle

I was recently asked to read James MacDonald’s book The Vertical Church to address his criticisms of Aristotle. I’ve known for a while that Christianity was in trouble, that the seven-headed beast of Mystic Despotism was waking from its long slumber, that the haunting moan of Medieval European Religion was desperately trying to crawl out of its bloody grave. MacDonald’s book only confirms my expectation and helps me adjust the time clock for its resurrection.

It took fifteen hundred years for men to slay the Platonist/Augustinian beast that ruled the Dark Ages, to crush the ideas that founded despotism, to unseat the handmaiden of Tyranny—the Church—from her oppressive throne. It took a thousand years for men to grasp the basics of liberty, and then another five hundred years to put those ideas into practice.

The champions of liberty were heroes that gave the world a gift. But the children that they handed unspeakable riches to have failed to understand the gift they have been given. The children were handed a wealth they did not earn, so they have treated it as a given, as a perpetual motion machine without cause as they squander the effect. But liberty is not a given, and liberty’s enemy—the seven-headed beast—was not dead, merely wounded . . . and waiting. Waiting for the day when those of weak mind and weak will would once again abandon themselves to Mystic Despots in sheep’s clothing.

The result?

The heirs of liberty are now committing treason against the ideas that set them free. They are selling their souls to modern day mystics preaching the oldest of all worldly doctrines: man’s mind, man’s ego, man’s self, man’s existence is the source of the world’s ills. For a couple of decades, American Christianity has been walking in this direction. But as their ideas started finding more converts, gaining social acceptance, the pace is turning into a sprint toward destruction with men like James MacDonald leading the charge off the cliff of existential annihilation.

Does that sound overly dramatic? Stick around and see if you think so in a minute.

I got through a few chapters of The Vertical Church and knew that MacDonald’s book needs a rebuttal, but he is probably safe from any corporate critique. Christians have shown themselves incompetent in their ability to condemn anything coming out of the Neo-Calvinist movement roaring through American Christianity, seeking whomever it may devour. It is doubtful that “national leaders” will offer an appreciable evaluation, so MacDonald will continue to speak ex cathedra as he sets himself up to rule the church like Cardinal Richelieu.

As for moi taking up the challenge . . . well . . . frankly, I’m already in the middle of two major writing projects: books due out in late 2013 (Dead Alone, J. Lorin) and early 2014 (Dead to Rights, J. Lorin). Plus, I’m working on super-secret project to acquire two or three titles for publication, so time is a bit limited. Maybe I’ll put a formal rebuttal on my Spiritual Tyranny to-do list, or maybe I won’t.

But what I will do is comment on what I was asked to address: The Vertical Church vs. Aristotle.

MacDonald’s book is not unique, nor is it timely, nor is it really about anything “vertical.” Lots of preachers have written books addressing the failures of the Christian Church, and all of them presume that the solution is “more God, less man.” The theological focus of MacDonald’s book has been written about many times from generations past: men named Tertullian, and Augustine, and Luther and many, many others. As for the vertical part, well, that is the part of the book that needs the rebuttal.

But what MacDonald’s book does offer is a splendid game of theological three card monte. Picture a street hustler with his cardboard box and three bent cards shouting “Follow the queen! Follow the queen! Follow the queen!” as he starts mixing the cards. But if you don’t understand the game, you will never notice that he takes the queen off the box in the first chapter. And by chapter two, he will brazenly defy you to show him any cards anywhere in existence.

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    2 comments

    1. 1
      Argo

      Hmmm…vertical church? Tower of Babel, anyone? A reference to the Tyburn Tree, possibly? To the impending hangings which will adorn the lawns of the local church like Calvary should these men ever own the right of the state?

      I figured…yeah, just another reference to the neo Calvinist doctrinal construct which has no room for regular human beings in it. If the church is vertical, instead of, you know…stretching horizontally out to where all the PEOPLE live then this is simply one more reference to the entire thing being between God and the Pastor and he’ll let you know if you need to know. (You don’t.) The vertical church looks only to God, and this merely a euphemism for “incapable of learning”. This should scare the shit out of any pew sitter. The vertical church does not look to the reality of humanity and the greater world around them as the root of their epistemology and metaphysics…they get it from the sky. Somehow. UFO watchers with a hard on for tithes and khaki pants.

      Coincidentally, just before I read this article, on the same day, I listened to a four part lecture on YouTube about Immanuel Kant. I thought it was serendipitous that I should have learned about him right before you mentioning his “categorical imperatives” in this article.

      I left two comments. So far no response from the author of the video.

      “It takes about five minutes to realize that the inevitable conclusion of Kants philosophy is the destruction of man. Since the absolute law of morality (categorical imperative) cannot by definition be violated by itself (not eve defined…but Kant ignores this) the human being is the only agency which can violate the law. Thus, the most efficient way of enforcing the law is to destroy man…remove him from? himself.”

      “Of what value is human life? It? can add no value to the moral imperative. It can only reveal it by acting in CONTRADICTION to it. Thus, if the moral imperative truly is absolute and not contextual to man, man only represents the absolute violation of the law. Killing man as an immoral act then become impossible, by definition. The destruction of man, in Kants philosophy, can only be good.”

    2. 2
      Jacob

      Good post. It’s pretty easy to spot this appeal to mysticism once your eyes are opened to it. 90% of church activity and “church-body politics” are based around it really. Vertical church is just another synonym for Mystic Despotism and the moral justification for ruling people using vague dread and threats of moral action. But as we know, action that is compelled by threat or fear is not truly moral. So is only voluntary action moral? Either way, Pastors are Plato’s “Philosopher Kings” in our modern day. I would love to read a series on church history by you John ;)

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