Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ethics and Moarlity, pt III

In the last portion of this study, I discussed our need for a moral authority with which to enforce our own moral code. However, the problem that presents itself to us is: How dow we determine which moral authority is the best?

There are two essential tests for a moral authority:

1. The moral authority must always rule in favor of our best intersets (not based on what we think is right or what is best for something else, but what truly is right and best for us)

2. The moral authority must act consistently with the code which it enforces.

The tests come out of a simple understanding of reality. If we are to submit to an authority for whatever purpose, we must know that this authority acts with the best interests of ourselves (or the cause to which we are committed) at all times. As anyone knows, if someone does not trust an authority, they will not submit to it. Second, it is hard to accept the authority of a person or governing system which does not operate consistently with the code which it is designed to enforce. For example, a government which denies the freedom of speech to certain members of society hardly has the authority to enforce the ideal of freedom of speech for all.

Thus, these two tests must be clearly passed if one is to consider an authority worthy of enforcing a moral code.

Look at some of the systems examined in the previous installment. Some consider nature their moral authority. In one sense, that means whatever is best for planet earth is best for us (it is, after all, our environment). So, if Mother Nature is our moral authority, we can say "she" is consistent with an environmentalist's moral code, but does that mean "she" has the environmentalist's best interests at heart? Of course not. Mother Nature has no one's interests at heart. In the most real sense, "Mother Nature" is nothing more than the collective of natural laws which, from an evolutionary standpoint, has no particular purpose or goal, certainly not the continued survival of society or mankind.

You can look at all the other authorities one may choose and find that while they may satisfy one (or in a limited way) both of these tests, one cannot take the moral codes that are dictated by world religions, environmentalism, or capitalism, and apply them dogmatically and absolutely to every facet of human existence. In some way, every one of these will fall short somehow, somewhere.

But how does Christianity measure up? That is, not the instituion of Christian religion, but the God who stands at it's core? If we are to hold up the God of Christianity to these tests, how does He fare?

See Deuteronomy 7:7,8:

"7 The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt."

The Bible tells us that God chose Israel not on the basis of any one person's merit, but simply because He loved them. Here the doctrine of undeserved love immediately separates Christianity (and really, the heart of Judaism) from every other world religion. The love of God is determined by who He is, not what we've done. This means that by default, and without question, God has mankind's best intersets always at heart. By extension we see this passed on to Christians in John 3:16 ("For God so loved the world...")

But is God consistent with the moral code the Bible proposes?

Some would say, "No" and piont to the scenes of violence God condones in the Old Testament (and even some of the judgments in the New Testament) and claim God is capricious and uncaring. But one need only consider the fact that if God made all of Creation, He has a right to do what He pleases. And if God is the author of Creation, then He also establishes it's laws and penalties. So the question remains, is God consistent with the moral code the Bible presents?

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23).

The Bible tells us that death is precisely what we deserve, so if one is to say that God is not consistent with His own moral code, it is because He is too loving and gracious (because He has not given us what we deserve), not capricious and unkind (because He has merely passed due judgement on some in history past). Yet even then He remains consistent, for 1 John 4 tells us that God is love and John 14:6 tells us that God (in the form of Jesus Christ) is the truth.

This exposes yet another astounding uniqueness of the Christian faith: God is neither above nor subject to His moral code, He *is* His moral code. He is not above it in that He may disregard it as it suits His purposes (that's caprice), nor is He subject to it, that the Law itself becomes God (that's impotence). Rather, He is the Law - thoroughly consistent and faithful to His moral code (to Himself) in every respect.

"if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself" (2 Tim. 2:13).

In this way, the Christian God establishes His moral authority on the basis that our best interests are always at His heart and that He remains entirely consistent and faithful to the code He enforces, for the code He enforces is the very character of God.

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