The nature of morality seems to be an ever present hot topic of discussion especially amongst the philosophical bloggers. I have addressed this subject often on this blog, but I feel the need to unearth it once again as I have been talking with bloggers outside of this forum regarding this topic. I am still encountering a lot of misconceptions regarding the Christian view of morality and so I hope to untangle the web of misconstrued ideas to provide some clarity. For those who have discussed this topic at length with me already, please excuse my return to the subject. What follows will be from the Judeo-Christian worldview regarding this subject, at least as best as I am able to represent it and communicate it herein.
All people of all cultures, tribes, nations, societies, have a moral infrastructure within their nature. Everyone has what Francis Schaeffer terms “moral motions” and C.S. Lewis often calls “the moral ought.” We all feel obligatory to some form of ethics and morals even if it is subjectively our own system of what we think or feel are the best course of conduct. Granted while there are great similarities the world over in particulars there are also many variances between cultures and within cultures. Even between families and down to differences between individuals. We all have different particulars of what we see as right or good.
In addition to this, we have the revealed laws given from God to man as recorded in Scripture. Some of these would be in line with what was already figured out by man naturally, but others are somewhat different to what would seem natural and yet often we see the goodness in them and sometimes we just have to trust that it is good. The Scriptural revealed morality is not exhaustive and it is not intended to be. The Old Testament law had a purpose in helping men through an external law to do what is good for them and it had a primary purpose of showing mankind our fallen state and our need for God’s salvation by grace. The law was setting the stage for the next phase of humanity that would soon open the door to freedom from a life in subjection to external laws. God was providing a way to heal the heart so that the laws become unnecessary for out of the heart a man acts if the heart is restored to righteousness the actions will follow.
Let us go back to discussing morality outside of a revealed law. Let us consider the people who have never seen any revealed laws or do not seek them for their moral instruction. These people still have a moral understanding. They feel they know the difference between right and wrong and know they “ought” to do what is right. Their idea of “right” may be skewed, the particulars may be wrong, but the idea that one “ought” to do what is right if only we can figure out what is right is universal. No one says they ought to do what is wrong. They may do what is wrong willingly, but they know they ought not to. The problem consists in figuring out what is the good, the right. The second problem is how to accomplish it for if we think a certain action right we struggle to do that which we think is right despite our convictions of its goodness. So even if we can be certain that A is the right course of action rather than it’s opposite we still encounter the struggle to do A. And even if we succeed several times at doing A, we might not the next time.
So in our natural understanding of morality we have a struggle to do what we think is right as well as having uncertainty regarding what is right. The only thing we really know is that there is a right/good and we ought to be doing that. However, I do realize that there are those who do hold the position that there is no right and wrong, but few if any seriously live out that philosophy in their daily life. Seldom do I meet an atheist who doesn’t think that there is a right and wrong even if our apprehending of the particulars is wrought with subjectivity. Moreover, I understand that atheists argue that morality is arrived at by agreement of a people group or by evolutionary progress of humanity by which our moral understanding mirrors what is beneficial for our survival.
This could naturally explain the moral obligation, but I do not think it satisfies our knowledge of the attainment of the good. We all seem to have this understanding even if we do not philosophically accept this that there is a right, good, true ideal of sorts by which we want to use to measure what’s right and good. However, when we try to actualize this without a God construct it eludes us. Plato spoke of good as being rooted in an abstract form, but his form had no being, no personality. It was just this allusive abstract thing with nothing real from which good could flow.
I present to you that there is this good true right absolute is not an abstract form, nor a subjective collective of humanity, but is found in a real ever present personal holy and eternal being; God. We strive to do what is right because we were created in the image of God. We were made good in a good world by a good God. But something happened that actualized evil and corrupted the good creation. Our struggle between good and evil and even attaining some semblance of certain knowledge of what is good has been brought on by this corruption. We still see glimmers of good, we have moral motions to attain what is good and yet we fall short of the goodness of God for the corruption of creation and our own sin that is in our beings separates us from God. We can see enough to lead us to the path of righteousness, but our efforts are futile without accepting His aid which He has given freely through the work Jesus did in our place to bring an end to the corruption thus bringing restoration to a path of fruition.
Through faith we accept the gift of grace from God to step out of a world of corruption and into the normal good world found only in Him. The real, the good, is rooted in His being and when we step into Him we find what we are looking for. The reality of our being is changed in an instant giving us complete and perfect righteousness free from any performance, work, duty, or moral obligation. It is a gift of grace. Then we start day one afresh walking a new life being born into righteousness and learning along the way how to actualize the reality of our new restored condition awaiting with eager expectation the day when all who are in Him and all of creation will see the full and complete restoration of all things. The glory and goodness will be free from all corruption, sin, death, and decay and it will all shine in the perfect goodness we sometimes see glimpses of when we see a sunrise, the birth of a baby, or some other magnificent beauty of nature that captures our hearts in wonder.
So where does this bring us regarding morality? Morality then becomes obsolete for we don’t earn moral goodness we are given it by the grace of God. We are given righteousness. Our identity changes from one who is unrighteous and struggles for the elusive good to one who has been made righteous and learns to live a new life. Just as when we are naturally born into this world we have to learn how to live this new life. We don’t instantly know how to live it, it is a process being worked out in us. We are not alone in this process, we journey with God’s presence aiding us each step of the way as we go from learning to sit up, to crawling, to walking, and onward as we grasp the reality of this new life. Our transformation is from the inside out; our restoring heart produces new actions that are in line with truth and goodness. We journey as a community helping and encouraging each other in our walk with Jesus. So morality then comes from the inside from our new being as righteous people and not from obedience to laws. The right actions then follow truly from our righteousness in Christ instead of from futile moral obligation to rules that only lead to guilt. Christ sets us free from this guilt of moral failure and gives us the goodness we once sought through obligatory duty to what is right. He makes us right and then shows us how to live right in freedom.
I know this is a whole lot of information, but I attempted to give a thorough treatment of the topic. Each paragraph could easily be an essay or a chapter in a book in and of itself and I am willing to discuss any aspect of these thoughts in further depth in future posts. To those of you that read here regularly and have repeatedly given me your positions on this subject please don’t feel the need to reiterate as this post is more for those who are new here and to those I am conversing with in other forums. However, if you do have any questions or things you want me to expound on I am always willing to hear what you have to say. Thank you for your patience and time.