February 19, 2014

Bratty Kid Next Door – Part Two

In light of a comment by a friend of mine who asks why Christianity would think that it came up with the idea of  an ethical and moral framework, and whether or not my previous post implied that we have a monopoly on this stuff, here are some further musings:

Of course people in the secular Western world can hold a commitment to ethical and moral frameworks (Romans 1 shows how this truth is suppressed, whilst Acts 17 shows how it is self-evident), but they cannot, by their very jettisoning of any transcendent ethic over the past decades, now turn around and universalise it. Not with any integrity at any rate.  All that is left is opinion.

Having dismantled the Christian framework, at least in its hegemony in the West, and having accepted fully that there can be, in Charles Taylor’s wording, no “naive” understanding that God just is, the culture is finding it harder to put an ethic back together again, without having to return to an “ought” rather than remain with an “is”.

Now by “naive” I do not mean stupid, but simply that the passive acceptance that the culture is undergirded by a revealed ethic –  a God-given one – no longer applies in a secular setting, indeed it cannot.  Hence the culture has to work harder than ever before to come up with some reason as to why any particular ethical framework is better. All that is left to it is pragmatism.  It is better to do things this way, because it works.  Which, of course, is like stitching a target to your chest – it virtually invites the arrow of scorn (an arrow I shall refrain from firing).

Now any Christian who observes this new phenomenon of a return to a vaguely Christian ethic will rejoice, and rightly so, because Christians believe such an ethic works. Why does it work? It works because it is given to us by the infinitely wise God who knows better than us, and therefore knows what is better for us.  It works because that’s how the creation was put together.

Now, having spent 40 years shaking off this deistic chain, the culture is creeping slowly back, never wanting to admit that the resultant mess has been its own doing. It’s somewhat like the post-Cold War communists who, after trashing their countries for decades, suddenly tried to take the moral high ground to fix it up after their system had been exposed for the mess that it was. In other words, they’d do anything, try anything, as long as they were able to hold the reins of power.

Hence to suddenly re-discover the ethic that Christianity has been espousing all along is fine by me, as far as it goes.  But to desire to implement it universally one has to admit that it is a universal ethic, and well, the next step is to say that perhaps it is universal because  a universal consciousness exists at the core of the universe, and perhaps that consciousness is its/her/himself ethical, and therefore personal!  And the next thing you have to say is “We wuz wrong!”  It’s a slippery slope.  Before you know it, God is back on the agenda. And that will never do.

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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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