Monday, 22 April 2013

Attitude and morality.

I said that before going any further I would look at the foundation of the moral life, since morality is also something which flows from anthropology and spirituality.
The foundations of Christian morality and attitude parallel each other; the Christian moral life then flows out of these foundations, the moral life being shaped by Christian attitude. What I want to do here is to briefly compare Christian and secular morality. In order to do this I need first to describe classical morality; the moral life which was handed on to the Western world by Classical antiquity and embraced by Christianity.
Morality concerns that which will lead to my good (and avoidance of evil). Morality then, involves movement, change, growth, from where I am now, to where I should be. Thus, morality envisages the good that I should seek, the attainment of that good, and the means to achieving that good. Classical antiquity identified the good that I should seek as happiness, the attainment of that happiness as fulfilment, and the means to achieving it as virtue (with law as a pointer or guide).
The Christian life is a radical renewal of morality; the good that one should seek is friendship with God, which one discovers through an encounter with Christ. The attainment of this good is salvation (communion with God and one another), and the means to achieving the good is grace. 
Compared with Classical morality, the Christian life represents a radical renewal of humanity. Objective morality for our forbears, which was the good which I should seek, is now Christ. Subjective morality, which was understood as the growth of my humanity, is now my transformation by Christ. And the means to me achieving the good, which was virtue and the guiding hand of the law - human resourcefulness, is now in grace. Christ is the unique means to human flourishing.
The essential ingredient for the Christian moral life is the encounter with Jesus Christ, who sets a new life process is motion; life in the Spirit. Moral endeavour does not now spring from the Christian, but from Christ. Goodness – the person becoming good – is not the fruit of human effort, but is the fruit of grace.

Secular morality is a misnomer; it merely looks like morality but is, in fact, not a moral system at all. Secularism replaces morality with law. Secularism, which insists on ideological relativism, refuses to acknowledge objective truth. So, it is unable to consider the good that the person should seeks. To do this would align the person with objective truth. Instead, secularism asks, what do you desire? This seems to indicate that one's desires are attainable. But, says secularism, you must remain within the law; do whatever is legal but don't disturb the public order. Or, if need be, we can change the law so that your desires can be acknowledged - so long as public order is maintained. Law then, is presented as the arbiter of morality. In fact, in secular culture law replaces morality. However, this is not all, for secularism has set the human spirit on a quest, a quest governed by law, which now acts as a constraint on my desires. What "secular morality" amounts to is actually a struggle for self-affirmation. "Secular morality" presents an extremely demanding way of life in which I am expected to take control of every situation, and in which life presents an unremitting series of choices. The whole burden of life falls on me. 
Moreover, the secular ethic, which cannot/refuses to see Christ, says that the Christian life is just a set of rules. This understanding of Christian morality - a rule book without grace - has become the popular understanding of Christian morality for many of the baptised also. This tells us that we have much to do in order to re-establish baptised people on the foundation of Christian morality. This foundation is the encounter of the person with Christ, and that which takes place in that encounter - the radical transformation of the person in grace, out of which the Christian moral life flows; a life lived on the basis of the reality of God's love revealed and given in Christ.
It is the transformation of the person by Christ, which is essentially the gift of a new life - life in Christ, life in the Spirit - that shapes the way that the Christian person now undertakes his or her life; the way we live a formed Christian life.

No comments: