Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Answer to Jan

This is an attempt to answer your comment to my post 'Parent and Church' of May 10.

The word moral and the concept of morality is unfortunately often used without much consideration of what it means. For example, the Republican Congressman who called high taxes immoral or Christians who talk about the 'moral fabric of society'.

I define morality as having a set of rules, values or maxims and following them. Being moral, in this definition, is adhering to what you consider to be right and staying away from what you consider to be wrong.

Christians often talk about morality in context of Gods law, which makes sense if you subscribe to that law.

Jesus' teachings are therefore very much concerned with morality. However, I don't understand Jesus as primarily being concerned with following a set of rules. Jesus constantly talked about Gods kingdom and emphased loving God and loving your neighbour. The love of God is the foundation of Gods law and therefore moral, but loving God its not mainly about adhering to rules.

When non-believers seek church experience for their children they are not seeking the love of God, but rather standards and adherence to rules, together with a some vague idea of 'spirituality'.

Christianity, I believe, has come so far away from Jesus, that we have become a movement that is primarily seen as believing in rules, i.e. in being moral.

Does that makes sense?


At 19 May, 2006 14:15, Blogger Jan McKenzie said...

I have no doubts that the foundation of ethics in the world rest on a different assumed authority than that of the "kingdom of God". I have little concern for that ethical authority when it deviates from the divine, since I am no longer "of it", having "died to that which held me".

Nor do have any doubts that my lack of concern for its version of morality will, as it has to a small degree already, land me in some difficulty.

In the Bibilical world, where the "kingdom of God" is defined, "love is the fulfilling of the law". Whether we speak of law as spiritual, natural, civil, or ceremonial, all laws of the kingdom of God are held in relationship to the Lawgiver. Their creation, authority, form, or function are derived from a source outside their self, yet consistant with them. To know the Lawgiver is to know his law, as to know his law is to also know him.

It is a straw man argument to set rule in relational opposition to ruler. Being for or against one is to be for or against the other.

Regarding Jesus, love, and relationships, there is no conflict whatsoever between the law of God in any of its forms and his Son. Christ made it explicitly clear that he followed the rule, "Love is the fulfilling of the law".

A fuller, living example of Christ' ethic is seen in his trial before Pilate. In this "legal" proceeding he submits to the authority of misinterpreted religious and civil law, while submitting to and fulfilling the "rule" of his Father and the cause and effect principles of natural law in his death.

What I would argue against is the setting of Christ over and against the idea of "rule". As he showed in his own trial, faith establishes the law. (Romans 3.31). Such opposition originates, not with God, but us: "The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot." Note the theological truth stated above, God and his law are held as equal in moral authority in judging what is opposed to them.

Regarding the question in your next post, whether or not prostitution corrupts morals, the Biblical answer is an unequivical "yes". The corruption is so complete as to bring death, both moral, spiritual, and physical. "Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol" (Prov. 5.5). The story of Sampson illustrates this, his sexual immorality being key to his breaking covenant with the Lord.

That Jesus showed mercy to a prostitute (John 8) upholds the law by the very fact that only mercy and not a legal judgement based on witnesses could justify her. He would later satisfy the laws claim against her by dying as her substitute. If the moral law of God, which is the only true foundation of any humanly constructed ethic, could be changed, then Christ died for a deception, not a truth.

Biblical moral law is the character of God codified for human understanding. It does not hold God within it, but it does hold me under its authority.

For me the question of law is fundamentally this: how can I be reconcilled to a law I have already been found guilty of breaking with impugnity? By pardon, only by pardon. And even in civil law, pardon does not abbrogate law, but upholds its authority.

Christ, therefore, remains Lawgiver in his rule, Saviour in his vicarious substitution for my lawlessness. Through his redemptive propitiation, God is shown to be "just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus"(Rom. 3.26b). Everyone else remains in their guilt and lawful expectation of condemnation, a just and Biblical morality.

It is only the death of Christ for sin that can resolve societies moral dilemas, its ethical paradox's. I have found no other solution. That the world continues to reject God as the only true moral authority means it also rejects his pardon.

The next best thing is to get rid of God as that authority and set up our own code of conduct, which I would submit is the entire human project in a nutshell. So far history has not been kind to the endever.

Having said all this, anyone close to me will tell you that I have resisted authority, moral or otherwise, all of my life and have reaped the consequences of my immorality and continue to do so. The justification of Christ in the sense of pardon has been my only hope. That my own need for pardon is so great only confirms by experience what I know theologicaly, "Faith upholds the law".

At 22 May, 2006 16:43, Blogger Torsten Pedersen said...

Thank you for your response.

I realise that I was trying to differentiate between Gods law and Gods love, in which there is no conflict. Neither is there a conflict between Jesus and the law.

I still, however, find it hard to understand why anyone would seek the law for their children when they reject the lawgiver.

Would non-believing parents send their children to church for moral instruction if most churches morality was inspired by this one command: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength“? I don’t think so. I believe they (correctly) see church as being all about external rules of behaviour.

Concerning the second point. I also believe prostitution is immoral, but that is because I am willing to accept the authority of God and his law. I am not, however, willing to elevate God’s law to universal secular law, as that actually would be contrary to Gods law. Gods law is an interal force that springs from love of God and love of ones fellow human beings.

Judges, like politicians and religious leaders, do, however, often refer to morals without considering what the word means, and without a willingness to submit to any source of legal authority other than their own. That, in my opinion, is tyranny.


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