Friday, June 05, 2015

Why I am so immoral

Everybody knows that it is good to have a strong sense of ethics.  A strong moral code.  On the other hand, it is not generally considered good to be strongly committed to ethical positions which contradict the majority view.  To a large extent we have democratised ethics, such that in most situations what is 'good' is defined by the majority opinion.  It is interesting to see how things which were 'evil' a generation ago are now 'good'.  I am not sure if many people realise we are constructing morality as we go along in this way; I suspect there is a widespread but rather naive belief that we are discovering that our forebears were wrong.  It is not clear to me what new information we have to overturn their conclusions.

But I am not much interested in strong moral codes, whether fashionable or not.

Whilst Holy Scripture contains a number of moral codes itself - Ten Commandments, anybody? - I do not think that morality in this sense is very important in the Bible.  It is certainly true that Scripture encourages us to think wisely, and to work out in practice what it means to do the good.  This may well result in the drawing up of private or public ethical codes, and that is fine and at least potentially good.

But the main thing is not ethical codes.

There is a difference between a person trying to live by the rules - whether their own set, or society's set, or even a Biblical set - and a person trying to live responsibly.  By responsibly I mean at least two things: living in response to another Person - God - as he takes action in the world and particularly (in this connection) as he commands; and living in the knowledge that one will be held accountable by another Person - God - who will ultimately weigh what one has done.

It is less about a good moral code, and more about a righteous God.

This way of life is so much more weighty.  Things really count here.  I must listen, and obey - and this is always a personal interaction.  Though it might mean searching through books and thinking hard, at the end of the day it is about receiving the command of God, which can never really be reduced to an ethical theory.  Whoever came up with the phrase 'divine command theory' had presumably no acquaintance with actual divine commands.  And having received a command, one must follow it, knowing that one will give account.

This way of life is also more difficult.  Codes of ethics are always subject to revision, and no matter how strict they are can usually in time accommodate themselves to shifts in fashion.  The God who does not change, though his commands are always new and personal, will always be who has been.  It is listening to him that leaves Christians out of step - on life issues, on sexual ethics, on a host of issues.

And in a world where ethics is defined by fashion, to listen to the commands may also make us immoral.

No comments:

Post a Comment