Delighting in the Law of the Lord: Gods Alternative to Legalism and Moralism
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Moses makes a bronze snake and lifts it up…I meant to refer to that as a prefigurement of Christ, not the real snakes. I disagree. Morality is a broader set of teachings that intersects the Christian faith in some points but not in others.
In my class on Judeo-Christian values I make it quite clear that the purpose of morality is to enable us as a society to treat other human beings with decency, dignity, and honor. Morality is not the consequence of a theological exercise. Morality does not attempt to solve the Mystery of the Trinity or figure out how many angels dance on the head of a pin. Morality as expressed in the Ten Commandments provides a benchmark by which societies can be governed. And yes, sometimes morality needs to be discussed as if there were no God. Some people in society do not believe in God, or believe in a different god than the Judeo-Christian God.
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Actually, you made much of my point for me. Pilate and the Sanhedrin agreed. Trinity and angels and pins are not commensurate. You make the governance of societies the greater good — which finally speaks in harmony with secularism. The history of secularism is the invention of an existence considered apart from God not the death of God. Along with rise of secularism is the rise of the newly-invented nation-state, which brought not less bloodshed, but more.
Some of Hauerwas and his associates have written rather well on the problems of the modern nation-state. The state has many problems as a concept. It imagines that it can command my loyalty even my killing loyalty in the name of the state. A king could command loyalty, but the king was not a state, and the king had limits.
The great wrestlings between king and courtier as in the case of Thomas More is simply one of many examples even in Russia where the king could be questioned, even disobeyed. Hauerwas again notes that nuclear was is the ultimate democratization of war — everybody gets to die.
The modern abolition of the distinction between combatant and non-combatant cf. Sherman, total war, etc. A human being ceases to become human and now becomes an American, a Frenchman, etc.
The whole subject is full of depth and layers worth discussion — but secularism, an invention of Protestant Christianity and modernity their child — are indeed a degeneration of Christianity. They were born under failed Christian settings — their replacement — the nation state — is not a given — just language for organizations whom we believe have the license to kill. It is also weak and unable to save. Which state does not, as a matter of policy, lie to other states and to its own citizens?
The state is largely about power and very little more. I expect more out of a king, or a Czar if they are Christian. I expect more out of Christianity. I want a king or head of state who believes he will have to give account before God in some manner. The American Civil War fits neatly into the same framework. CS Lewis, in one of his poorest moments, imagines Christians killing each other on the battlefield, waking up in heaven and apologizing like a couple of guys have an accident at a tea table.
As a Christian I can speak to people of no faith, all faith, any faith. My faith is not an obstacle. However, every body of faith should recognize that the secular states wants to destroy their religion — to reduce it to the second-storey and by no means hold it great than the so-called ethics of the state.
Great article. That seems very improbable and dangerous to me. While there are times for punishment or reward in life, I am also very wary of any psychology cognitive behaviorism, for example that relies upon it as part of its method of inciting change or growth. Do you recommend any particular book as for Orthodoxy in general? The interviewers asked open-ended questions about right and wrong, moral dilemmas and the meaning of life. When asked about wrong or evil, they could generally agree that rape and murder are wrong.
What in your estimation is the role of the Church in equipping Christians to think morally? For example, would you rather your teenager smoke a cigarette or cheat on an exam? I have talked to priests who could not give a straight yes or no answer to this question. Another one: if your dog that you love dearly or a stranger were drowning in a lake and you could only save one, which would you save, your dog or the stranger? So obviously we as Christians — and Orthodox Christians — have work to do because our kids are not equipped to answer these relatively easy moral questions.
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If they cannot answer the easy choices, how will they then be able to tackle bigger moral dilemmas? Two are married to Orthodox priests. I have one and almost two grandsons. All of them are people who may good choices for themselves and for those around them, and take the teaching of the Church seriously. The problems you point to are the sad result of a secular system that is sick to the core, to the breakdown of the family with the increasing aid of the state.
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We cannot do what parents will not do, as painful and sad as it may be. The role of the Church is to be the Church. I happen to think there are much better ways to teach than the scholastic model and that this has largely been the case in the best times of Christian East.
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I think that we often over state how different the Orthodox take on things is the point that we end up discounting or denying authentic aspects of our own tradition. Seraphim Slobodskoy. There is a moral law, and all Orthodox Christians are obliged to keep it. If people keep initially out of fear of punishment, that is the first step towards keeping it out of love, as the desert fathers make clear. I know that you would agree, I just think you have over stated things a bit here.
I think a question I would have is that if a moral person dies without becoming a mystic read christian here will that person go to heaven or be cast into hell. John, The Law of God is indeed widely used in Russia — in some ways for lack of anything else.
But it is used and with effectiveness. The teaching of right and wrong in children and in adults has been long recognized by the fathers as two different things altogether. Father, my comment could be interpreted as tongue in cheek or impertinent but it hits at the heart of something that has caused me a lot of distress over the years. Most of the people who I dearly love do not share the same focus on spiritual matters that I have.
They live good, moral decent lives but never have endured the Great Canon of St Andrew in all it glory. My question is…whats to become of all of us? Leonard, Seriously, love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. But the other questions become distractions such that we think to much. Love more.
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