Saturday 15 September 2018

Why obedience and surrender to God's will are wrong descriptions of what God ultimately wants from us

They may have been getting 'carried away' and overstating things for rhetorical effect; but Christian's have quite often stated that obedience and surrender to God's will are the primary Christian virtues. But this is wrong; these are clearly the wrong words, the wrong concepts.

Obedience, surrender, submission to divine will is, indeed, apparently the primary virtue for Muslims; but not for Christians.

Men are sons and daughters of God; that is, children who are intended to grow-up; and, from the work and gift of Jesus Christ, we have the possibility of becoming divine and attaining life eternal. 

Christians need to distinguish what is appropriate for children, and early stages of development - by contrast with God's main purpose underlying creation. Ultimately; good needs to be chosen, not obeyed; actively-embraced not passively-followed.

In this, as in most things, Jesus is the example for Men. 

God's plan and project of creation needs to be understood, and each needs to affiliate with it. The ultimate aim is a alliance between Man and God; with Man raised to the level of divine. Obedience is, at most, a phase en route to this ideal - a developmental means towards the end of grown-up virtue.

Meanwhile, obedience and surrender to God's will may be necessary at specific times and places - but if it is implied that this is the end as well as the means - then we are misrepresenting the whole divine creation, and making Christianity incoherent - or else implying that the creation is a botched job.

Such incoherence of argument has become very obvious to modern Men, so by over-emphasising obedience (perhaps on grounds of immediate expedience), the cause of Christianity may well be impaired. 

This is one reason why theosis - the voluntary development of Men toward ultimate divinity - ought to be given a much greater, central, place in the primary description of Christianity (as it is in the Fourth Gospel).


William Wildblood said...

I think doing God's will, which is, after all, mentioned at the beginning of the Lord's Prayer, simply means aligning your personal will with spiritual reality. It means not acting from the egotistical self but in line with the truth of the universe. The association with obedience and submission implies a kind of slavery which is not God's desire for us at all. He wants us to be free and independent but to be so from the level of a oneness with spiritual truth rather than the self-centred position we normally adopt.

The primary Christian virtue is surely not obedience to God but love of God. Obedience is an early stage in spiritual growth but is replaced by conscious, intelligent cooperation.

Chiu ChunLing said...

The question is whether God gives us commandments out of love or some other motive.

If God gives us commandments out of love, then obedience to those commands is indeed the primary virtue possible to humans, perhaps the only virtue fully possible to any human. It is only by reliance on God's loving commandments that humans have any possibility of truly serving their own interests.

If God's commandments are not motivated by love for us, then obedience to them could not involve anything we should call a virtue at all. It should at best be cowardice and more likely treason to our true interests.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - If God as a person gives a specific commandment to an individual human by direct knowledge (without uncertainties of generalisation, sensory communication and interpretation) - then yes. Otherwise not.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William: "The primary Christian virtue is surely not obedience to God but love of God. Obedience is an early stage in spiritual growth but is replaced by conscious, intelligent cooperation."