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James 3:15 by Robert Dean
Series:James (1998)
Duration:1 hr 7 mins 52 secs

HVP Systems: Post-modernism; James 3:15

 

Satan utilizes what the Bible calls the world system. This is from the Greek word KOSMOS [kosmoj], cosmic thinking. In every generation and in every era cosmic thinking shifts. Some call it the spirit of the age; others call it the worldview. It has to do with the mentality of the culture. Every culture has its way of looking at reality and defining reality, and as we move through history we also see that change from one generation to another, so that the way we look at reality is much different from the way our parents looked at reality. What makes that difference is the influence of culture, cultural thinking, the spirit of the age on each generation. One thing that is important for us as believers is to be able to identify what those cultural influences are, because that is a part of worldliness. There are going to be those things within worldliness that are going to appeal to the sin nature and provide rationalisations for our sin nature. There are also going to be those things in the cosmic system, this worldview, that relate to our production of human good and morality.

 

James says, "But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and {so} lie against the truth." Selfish ambition is man putting himself forward as the final solution to all life's problems, selfish ambition in the mentality of the soul. Emotional sins begin to dominate the soul so that they affect the way a person thinks. Mental attitude sins, then, will affect the way you think. Then there is the prohibition in the past part of the verse: "do not be arrogant and {so} lie against the truth." There is a very interesting juxtaposition of ideas here. In arrogance there are four components which we identify as arrogance skills. The more you practice these the more skilled you will be at promoting yourself in your arrogance. The first is self-absorption. If anybody doubts that we live in a society that is self-absorbed, just look at the way the British reacted to the death of Princes Diana, and the way Americans have reacted to the death of JFK Jr. These are clearly tragic events and tragic events for the family, but for the news media to camp out on everybody's doorstep and gives a blow-by-blow microscopic view of every detail in people's lives shows that we have become so self-absorbed in the whole grief process. And that leads to the second area which is self-indulgence. When we become self-absorbed we then start indulging ourselves. We indulge our emotions so that rather than saying, Okay, it's grieving, I'm sorry this happened, it hurts, I'm going through a lot of sadness and sorrow but now I'm going to move on, we just stop and revel in it. This is all part of what has happened as a result of our psychologised culture. As part of psychotherapy we are told to get in touch with our emotions and that you have to know how you are feeling and why you are feeling and just revel in it for a while so that you are not divorced from that. That is all part of psychology and it is just self-indulgence because it is going to promote a "positive self-image." Notice the emphasis is on self, self, self.

 

Self-indulgence then leads to self-justification. Now that we have indulged ourselves we are going to justify it. We are going to find reasons for why this is good and healthy and beneficial. We are going to justify all of our activity and then this in turn is going to cause us to be more and more divorced from reality. Arrogance distorts reality, and now we are into self-deception where we no longer can see things. Then this leads to greater self-absorption, increased self-indulgence and more sophisticated forms of self-justification and then a further distancing of our mentality from reality in self-deception. And so it goes. It goes on and on and on, and as there are more and more people operating on the arrogance skills an entire culture is developed that is divorced from reality.

 

That brings us to the last phrase: "They lie against the truth." When you are self-deceived and you are in arrogance you are divorced from reality and so you no longer understand what truth is. When Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate before he went to the cross, Pilate looked at Him and said, "They have accused you of being the king." Jesus said, "You have spoken the truth." Pilate disdainfully says, "What is truth?" This is a question that has plagued man throughout the ages. The Greek philosophers from Aristotle on down to almost modern times in philosophy have defined truth as that which aligns with reality, that which expresses reality and that which is consistent with reality. There is an underlying assumption here, and that is that there is an objective, knowable reality, so that we could speak about truth. From the 5th century BC down to the 1800s people believed that truth was knowable and that we could know truth and it was objective and verifiable. But then there was a major shift, and today we live in an era when people have lied against the truth and they reject the truth. Yet as Christians we believe there is an absolute, knowable truth. Jesus said: "You shall know the truth." 

 

James 3:15 NASB "This wisdom [human viewpoint thinking] is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic." The first adjective, "earthly," is the Greek word EPIGEIOS [e)pigeioj]. This has its root in the Greek word GAIA which refers to the earth and has been popularised today by those who are earth worshippers. The second word, "natural," is PSUCHIKE [yuxikh]. It doesn't refer to a believer, it refers to that which is soulish and related to the person who is dichotomous, just having a human body, a human soul, but minus the human spirit. Then "demonic" is DAIMONIODE  [diamoniwdh]. It is demonic; it has its source in that which is demonic. So here we see that according to the Bible we have an identification between human viewpoint thinking, foolishness, worldliness and demonic. So this is Satanic type of thinking. Why? Because it has its roots in arrogance.

 

We live in a time today which is characterized by some of the strangest things going on. Therefore we need to learn to read things critically. We learn doctrine so that we can put on our doctrinal glasses of wisdom and when we see things in the newspaper, when we go to movies, when we watch television, hear the news, we can evaluate all of this stuff. It doesn't just come into our souls but we can evaluate it critically and think about it.

 

Intuition is the epistemology of mysticism. In today's world there is a completely new approach to the written word. The approach is that we can't really understand what we read. We see a big shift away from looking at words and understanding words. We see this in education theory and the focus in more and more on visual things, and this is enhanced by television and computers. In the new approach to the written word what we are told is that we can't really understand what we read, at least not by attempting to discern what an author attempts to communicate! In other words, the author's intended meaning cannot be discerned or understood by you, the reader. Therefore texts no longer have a particular meaning. They become nothing but the images projected by an author and mean whatever we create them to say. In our culture we have lost the concept of truth as absolute. We are operating on arrogance skills of self-absorption, which means that we are viewing all reality very subjectively and we ate lying, we are distorting, we are deceiving ourselves and reshaping truth so that there is no such thing as truth.

 

In a recent survey college students were asked if there was such a thing as absolute truth. That is, is there something that is true at all times in all cultures for all people? Various responses were given to the question: Truth is what you believe; there is no absolute truth; if there were such a thing, how would we even know it?; people who believe in absolutes are dangerous.

 

We have redefined the term "tolerance." Tolerance for most of us when we were growing up meant that you held to your convictions and beliefs, you knew what was right and what was wrong, and though there may have been someone who disagreed with us you respected their right to disagree, but they were still wrong. But they had the right to have their opinions and their views and you tolerated that. Tolerance no longer means that. In another survey people were asked two questions: Which of these two statements would you agree with? The first is, people should hold strong beliefs but respect the rights of others to hold opposing beliefs. Or second, people should hold no strong beliefs. Eighty-five per cent of those who responded agreed with the second one. There is no longer universal belief that there are absolute truths or absolute values. Therefore tolerance is now redefined to mean not that you believe in absolute truth but respect those who hold different views, but that unless you believe that all views are equally valid and equally true and that no belief system can claim absolute truth, you are intolerant. Intolerance is quickly becoming as great a social evil in the late 20th, early 21st century as slavery was in the 19th century.

 

We as believers need to wake up and realize that we are becoming further and further distant from our culture. Most people in our culture, and perhaps even some of our children, have picked up on that. That is what is seeping in through the woodwork. Postmodernism, which is what we have been talking about here, has the view that all truth is purely relative. Once we start buying into that and that is in the cultural realm then what happens is it seeps into the church. Whether we realize it or not it is eating its ways through the walls. In our current cultural context religious belief, especially Christian faith, becomes just another valid option. They no longer believe that religions are based on truth claims which are founded on historical fact, for the very notion of historical fact is no longer valid. Faith has become something that is purely subjective and reduces interpretation, language and meaning to nothing more than personal preferences or opinions. Religion is nothing more than expression of your personal taste rather than a statement reflecting facts and realities because there is no knowable objective reality.

 

Historically, truth has always been defined as that which corresponds to reality, so that reality was viewed as having an objective existence that was knowable. Yet today truth is viewed as something that is just based on a collective consciousness. It is on the group. What does the group come up with? That is the collective consciousness… truth isn't something that is fixed by an external reality but it is decided socially by a group or perhaps by an individual. Truth, therefore, is something that is manufactured or constructed; it is the result of being socially constructed. So everything is the result of a social construct, whether it is the Bible, the Constitution, the Koran, Homer, or whether it is some tribal tale in Africa that has been handed down from generation to generation. All of these are social constructs. In order to understand anything what we have to do is to deconstruct the text.

 

Postmodernism is the worldview and its application in law and interpretation is called deconstructionism. Then it also goes hand-in-hand with an emphasis on multiculturalism, and this flows from its emphasis on everybody as the source of their own truth. Because if your culture over here is African, and your culture over here is homosexual, and your culture over here is Asian, and your culture over here is "just a bunch of white male Europeans—you're the worst of the bunch but we'll let you in because you've been here a long time—then your culture has produced its value system. You can't tell them they are right or wrong and they can't tell you they are right and you are wrong. And of you are a Christian over here you can't tell anybody else they are right or wrong. So every culture has the same value and same significance and same importance as any other culture. If you come along and say your culture is better or try to make any kind of a value or judgment decision based on an absolute about another culture then you are the worst of all because you are "intolerant," and this is the great social sin of the day.

 

How did all of this come about? Hegel said that we learn from history that we learn nothing from history. The problem is that we don't see the trends of history very well. In 425 AD was the Council of Nicea. It was called by the Roman emperor Constantine. This was the beginning of the Middle Ages which we will say ends 1517 on October 31st when Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses on the door of the church in Germany. That can be divided into an early Middle Ages and a later Middle Ages. One thing about the Middle Ages, they were dominated by the Roman Catholic church but everybody everywhere had a theistic worldview and they believed that God existed, that God had communicated to man, and they believed in absolutes. There was a lot of influence at that time from the ancient world, Plato on the one hand and Aristotle on the other. That created quite a lot of impact on the culture at that time. For example, there was the big conflict with Galileo in the late Middle Age period. The earth-centred solar system idea came from Aristotle, not from the Bible. Galileo challenged that thought and because Aristotle had almost been canonised by the Roman Catholic church it the late Middle Ages there really was a battle between old science and new science. Church authority came in on the sideline but it wasn't the Bible versus science as people want to portray it today.

 

From 1517 through to 1600 was the period of the Reformation. The battle cry of the Reformation was the Latin phrase Sola Scriptura, the Scriptures alone. The Reformation set another trend in motion. It had kicked off the authority of mother church but there was another group of people that are so glad to get rid of the authority of mother church because now they were free from theology and could just go out and construct their systems of knowledge on the basis of human reason alone. So they went to the other extreme and there was the beginning of what is called the Enlightenment. The reason it is called the Enlightenment is because "we are free from the darkness of theology and now we have the light of human reason to get us into truth." At the end of the 16th century there was the birth of Rene Descartes. He changed things phenomenally through the whole Enlightenment period because he argued that from reason alone man can arrive at ultimate truth. They still believed that man could achieve truth with a capital T and that there was a universal truth around which man could organize all meaning in life. So he came up with the phrase, "I think, therefore I am." What that means is that he asked, How do I know that God is not deceiving me? How do I know that pain is not just a figment of my imagination? He used the principle of scepticism and he started doubting everything. From that phrase, I think, therefore I am, he tries to argue to all arenas of knowledge through the use of logic, on the basis of this one principle. He is the first of the great rationalists. Rationalists put the ultimate authority in human reason, but it is an expression of faith, isn't it? I believe that my reasoning is capable of constructing a perfect understanding reality. I can come up with truth on the basis of unaided human reason. Then in reaction to that there were some other philosophers such as John Locke and others who came up with what is called empiricism. They didn't believe that you could start with reason alone but that knowledge started with sense data, what you see, feel, taste, smell. And that in the mind we are born with an empty slate and all this sense information comes in and our mind categorizes it and classifies it. And that becomes the basis for knowledge. So we say, to simplify it, it is based on experience. Man on the basis of experience alone can construct his whole view of reality. But of course as we have seen many times both reason and empiricism are limited. Ultimately you have to make some assumptions in reason that you can't prove, so you just have to assume those by faith. It is the same with empiricism. Scripture says that God has spoken into the human realm revelation and we are going to trust that. It is not that it is opposed to reason and experience but the Christian view is that man is going starts from revelation and then through the use of reason and logic and empiricism man is going to construct reality.

 

Locke grew up in a Puritan home, Descartes was a Jesuit priest, and all through that period there was the heavy influence of theism. As a result of that influence of theism they still believed there was an external reality, that there were absolutes, and that man could come to a knowledge of absolute truth.

 

Then there was the Copernican. Copernicus said, like Galileo that the centre of the universe wasn't the earth, it was the sun. Emanuel Kant, when he wrote the Critique of Pure Reason in the late 1700s, said that the centre for knowledge is not "out there," it is in here. From then everything changes, because man can no longer know the ultimate. He devised reality into two areas. One was the realm of God, absolute truth, and values. The other area was all the sense data, thoughts, information. Think of it in terms of upstairs and downstairs. Downstairs are all the details in life; upstairs is that which gives meaning. Up until this point all philosophers thought there was a staircase that got you up there so you could know what was upstairs. Kant came long and said that there is no staircase: the only way you know what is upstairs is if you guess. It has to be there otherwise there is no meaning, but there is no meaning. In other words, with Kant you destroy all objective knowledge: I can't know things in themselves, I can only know things as I perceive them.

 

If we were to diagram this we would start back with Descartes and there was the shift in the Enlightenment. Then Kant came along and lays the seeds for what we now call postmodernism. With Descartes it became known as modernism. It gave rise to modern science, to the idea that all truth is knowable through the use of the scientific method but you still can't really know God, and it ends up in producing what is known as secular humanism. But in reaction to that Kant comes along and destroys the possibility of all objective knowledge and lays the seeds that are later developed.

 

There is always a ping-pong effect in history. You start off with rationalism, and rationalism always produces scepticism. That is what we had in the late 19th century—scepticism about meaning and value and God and Christianity. There was the rise of 19th century liberalism which infected all the major denominations. It is characterized by scepticism: you can't know truth, you can't know God, and that always leads to mysticism. Mysticism says: If I can't prove it logically then I'll just jump to it irrationally. So it is a rejection of logic and reason as the means to get to know truth and the emphasis becomes on emotion and intuition. But you don't have any more truth! Somewhere in all of this the concept that there are absolutes has been lost, and that you can even know absolutes. So anybody who comes along and says you can know absolutes is now the enemy.