Wednesday 31 July 2019

How does morality fit-into Christianity?

By my understanding - there are two common wrong ways of conceptualising Christianity: one is the traditional, the other liberal.

The traditional is that Christianity is primarily a system of morality; and salvation (i.e. resurrection into Heaven) is a reward for a 100% effort to live in accordance with a moral system (repenting all failures to do so).

Traditionalists believe that to advocate and/or not to repent, sexual behaviour outside the code is at least a self-exclusion from Heaven, or (more traditionally) an absolute barrier to acceptance in Heaven.

The liberal view is that Christianity is a gift of salvation from Christ to all; and has essentially nothing to do with morality, especially not with sexual wishes, expressions and behaviours.

Nowadays; the traditional way, in practice, puts a system of sexual morality at the heart of Christian living; while the liberal believes that sexual morality is a matter of worldly expedience merely - an accidental (non essential) product of individual disposition and social circumstance.

Liberals believe that anybody who wants it can dwell in Heaven post-mortem - and sexual behaviour is of near-zero significance; except that those who falsely-insist sex is primary are excluded from Heaven; on the basis that if the sexual code adherents were included, then Heaven would not be Heaven.

I regard both as wrong. Essentially, Christianity is about mortality, not morality; but morality is linked with resurrection into Heaven. I need to explain this, because it is not obvious to most people.

Where does Christian morality come-from? I believe it comes, ultimately, from the condition of Heaven; which is 'organised' (spontaneously, naturally) on the principle of loving creation.

Heaven is a matter of immortal, resurrected persons living (loving, creating) in families*. 

Yes, Heaven is for all of those who want it; but - because Heaven is 'a family affair' - sexual morality is deeply linked with the wanting of Heaven. Because sexual morality is about families.

Those who - in mortal life (unless they repent) - reject the Heavenly-reality of marriage and family Do Not Want Heaven; and therefore will not have it.

Any explicit this-worldly System or legal code of morality - including sexual morality - will inevitably be deficient; since all verbal expressions are both incomplete and distorted. Nonetheless, there is, in actually-existing reality, a morality of Heaven.

The morality of Heaven is based on love, and love is bound-up with creation - the primary (but not only) form of creation is generation, reproduction, i.e. family.

The reality is that we Just Are God's Children and spiritual siblings; Jesus is our brother. It is ultimately all a matter of relations and relationships.

This mortal life is a domain of learning, therefore not intended as a place of perfection; mortal living is temporary, intrinsically corrupted and corrupting; and our salvation is to become saved-from this intrinsic sin. Sin is the condition of mortality. To be saved from sin is to want what Heaven offers - immortal resurrection into the condition of Heaven.

Those who do not want resurrection, and/or who do not want to remain conscious and free agent selves, and/or those who do not want family - all such do not want Heaven; and will not have it.

Why do people reject family? Look around, it isn't uncommon...

Some expediently reject their actual mortal family, perhaps because their earthly family is unloving - some are rejected-by their families; but that is not significant unless they reject the ideal of family.

Many who have utterly miserable and dread-full actual mortal families will - and perhaps with greater intensity - wish for a life of ideal, immortal, uncorrupted family life. They will yearn for the ideality of Heaven because the actuality of earth makes them aware of their need and desire for the truth of family.

Such will be saved, and will find their way to Heaven; because that is precisely what Jesus made possible.

But it seems that there are many (especially nowadays, in the West) who reject family - not in practice but in principle; not specifically but generally.

Often because the Heavenly condition of loving creation in familial relationships (including Men and extending to the divine  - the divine being Men in exalted condition) is something they reject as an ideal.

Such may want to be fully independent agents, without any family ties; perhaps because family ties block what they most want - which may be sexual, or may be related to other gratifications from status, power or whatever. A prime motivator of anything other-than the family ideal, means they do not want what Jesus offers.

There are those who reject the ideal of divine Heavenly family - and therefore in this mortal life they quite spontaneously seek other primary goals; and advocate other ideals...

Some do not want resurrection but prefer to remain spirits. Some do not want to become more divine, but are satisfied with them-selves as they are. Some do not want eternal life of any kind. Some hope for an end to their consciousness - they are tormented by self-awareness. Some want eternal happiness, but do not want eternal and loving relationships. Some want to use people, not love people.

None of these want Heaven; and (since God loves us) they will not have Heaven forced-upon them; theirs is some other destiny.

So, in an ultimate sense, the link between salvation and mortality is real because of our motivation and our ideals.

Those who are motivated to accept Jesus Christ's gift of Heavenly life will - quite naturally and spontaneously, as a consequence of this motivation - have and express and advocate the ideals of Heavenly life during their mortal lives... albeit that ideal will always be modified and impaired by mortal constraints of human limitations in understanding and corruption.

After all, salvation to eternal life is salvation-from these mortal constraints. Salvation is necessarily on the other side of 'biological death'; so there is zero possibility of attaining the ideal in this mortal life.

But not-to-have the ideal is not-to-get the ideal.

Therefore, actual earthly morality is inextricably-linked with immortal Heavenly life.

In other language: ultimately and primarily, sin is the condition of mortality, not morality; and morality is necessarily a part of Heavenly immortality.

Thus Heavenly immortality is attainable only via the motivations of mortal morality. 

*Note: It might be asked where this idea of Heaven organised in families comes from? Three possible, staged, answers are that 1. The idea is to be found in the Fourth Gospel. 2. This is confirmed and amplifed by the Mormon Restoration. And 3. that anyone who has this idea may have it confirmed by divine revelation and direct intuition.


Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

This is inspired, and was exactly what I needed to read today.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Wm - Thank you.

Francis Berger said...

I second Wm's comment. This is an excellent follow-up to yesterday,s post, especially the connection of sexual morality to family.

Lucinda said...


Bruce B. said...

How incompatible is this with Catholic/orthodox understanding?

My (possibly “mis-) understanding is that it is a system where the will must be oriented towards agape-love to reach heaven – membership in the family which is an adoptive family for us. Yes, we won’t have reproductive wives – nevertheless – particular relationships continued from this life can’t be precluded.
This is why sins can be mortal (alternatively venial) – mortal sin is the will is not oriented towards love – of God, man. At the basic level it’s not about the code.

Bruce Charlton said...

@BB. It's not compatible with classical theology (which I regard as mistaken) in the sense that it relies on a different set of metaphysical assumptions. But it is compatible with, and derived from, the Fourth Gospel.

Lucinda said...

A corollary is that many of the relationship problems of life are real eternal problems to solve. The differences between men and women are not just a test. There really is something to figure out in being an embodied person dealing with embodied persons of the opposite sex.

A frustrating problem is to learn to love in a way that truly helps the beloved, rather than, for instance, spoiling them or otherwise making it difficult for the beloved to return love.

As an example, women are often tempted to give in advance and then expect reciprocal giving. This is why young women often fall into a problem with men about sex, because it's very hard for a naive woman who wants to love a man to demand that he marry her first. In women's dealings with each other, the reciprocation rule is a pretty sure bet. A woman gives a female-friend cookies, and the friend will reciprocate. But men are different. They generally don't feel a strong sense of reciprocal obligation, even when they are genuinely grateful. So women can get very angry when men don't reciprocate in the expected way, even though they began by wanting to show love. Many men see the female expectation of reciprocation as underhanded, conniving and unloving, but really it's just a mechanism that helps women bond (and for the most part it only works between women).

Working out these kinds of perspective differences and learning how to love properly is not just a matter of enduring a difficulty of "corrupted and corrupting" mortality. It's all part of mapping out our understanding of beings, male and female, as they really are and will be so we can be properly oriented in loving family relationships.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Lucinda - Thanks.

This is partly why I prefer to emphasise mortal life as 'learning from experience' - rather than as a 'test; 'test' seems to suggest that there is no positive reason for living other than to be tested; rather like the Protestant caricature of salvation as something that can only be lost.

(...Leading to the question of whether it is worth being born in the first place! Or it *would* lead to that question if Protestants acknowledged a pre-mortal spirit life. I should clarify that 'my' church, the one that I support, is of this theology - so I do not think such a belief stops people being good Christians. However, it does to to a problem about what positively to 'do' - spiritually - in a Christian life.)

I agree that reciprocal obligation divies the sexes. men are bound by common interests - a common project; and sometimes there is a very unequal relationship, but so long as both contribute something significant to the goal, it can be sustained.

BruceB said...

Lucinda’s example illustrates the difference with the classical understanding that I favor. In the classical understanding, the fornication to which she refers is a manifestation of the inner sin of lust (men and women are capable of this sin) which only God can see. The first and greatest commandment is to love God – the inner sin of lust and it’s manifestation is not loving God. This is the primary failure to be worked on – not the failures in understanding and working out of family, man-woman, etc. relationships even if those things exist in heaven (which I think they do).

Lucinda said...

Well, I guess I chose that example because it had something to do with immorality. A lot of the mischief of women expecting reciprocity has to do with more mundane things, like doing dishes and investing time in actively building family relationships. But to my mind, your comment illustrates part of the problem of the classical understanding, which seems unable to take into account some very important differences between the sexes, probably because most moral systems are primarily brought about as male projects, and the presumptions about women are mostly of the type: "Well, if I were a woman, this is why I would do what I do." The feminine expectation of reciprocity appears to be something men don't have much experience with, except as outsiders perceiving it as underhanded.

The reason this is a problem is that it has made it almost impossible for traditional types to keep its women from embracing a feminism which actually makes life worse for women. Feminism makes women feel heard and understood. Most good men recognize that a lot of women's loyalty to feminism is just mistaken, but they don't have any way to reassure women that there is special value to the good aspects of femininity they've experienced.

BruceB said...

The classical understanding is based on revelation, not a male project.

Bruce Charlton said...

@BB - Both views are based on revelation. The classical view also includes the assumption that classical desim (e.g. of Plato and the Neo-Platonists) was necessarily correct in its assumption that God the Creator in *must be* single and unified, hence not-incarnated; outside of creation and time; and creates from nothing (ex nihilo).

These assumptions are not to be found in scripture (indeed they are outside the world view of the writers of scripture) - and these have been central to the way that Christian theology developed. When they came into Christianity is not recorded - probably some time after the death of the Apostles.

And it is these assumptions that Mormon theology challenged, and replaced - with a 'common sense' metaphysics that comes from a common sense reading of scripture. Indeed, early Mormon theology was essentially just this - an ultra-Protestant reading of the Bible (the Book of Mormon had near zero effect on early Mormonism - indeed hardly any until the past not-many decades).

Of course that was only the beginning; but it underpins the rest.

Lucinda said...

BruceB - To clarify, I agree that it's based in revelation from God, but seeking the revelation was a male project, and the implementation of the revelation from God was a male project. I don't think male projects are bad. Depending on the worthiness of the males involved, they are often essential to God's work. That's the point of Priesthood.

I’m going to say something that I think men do not like and probably exposes my badness, but I think it’s informational.

I was wondering why I felt as a woman so offended by BruceB’s earlier comment. On an intellectual level, it doesn’t seem that important, but I thought I should try paying attention to why I had an emotional reaction since it’s my belief that the inability of men to figure this thing out is seriously problematic.

Sex is not symmetrical. The woman is giving something and the man is getting something. Morally motivated women have sympathy for a woman caught up in fornication because they see it more like the woman is getting stolen from, and the man is stealing. Older women (as opposed to naive women) know that men have very little appreciation for the physical and emotional hardships women experience as a result of sex (not just when pregnancy results, but even more especially then). So when women are lumped together with men in terms of sexual sin, it feels very unfair. I think most moral women know that this is probably necessary for instructional purposes, but they would like to see it acknowledged that the basic impulse on the woman’s side could have been not fundamentally bad, but that self-giving is actually a good thing in a situation where it can be properly appreciated.

Beyond the particularly sexual situation, this tendency toward self-giving, with its reciprocation expectation, feels to moral women like a fundamental necessity for families and society to function. But like I said, men see it as a strategy for exploitation because of their masculine perspective. And so women’s desires for self-giving are cynically assumed by men to be underhanded traps. Men do not highly value in-group fairness, but this is a primary value for women, who’s self-interest is inextricably linked to group-interest.

Part of the problem seems to be that men are not usually part of the in-group. For various reasons, women prefer to subconsciously think of men mostly as defective women. Life feels less threatening that way. This means that most men are treated by women like they would treat out-group women, ignored and shunned. So it's understandable that men mostly don't notice women's desires for self-giving, because it's an in-group sharing.

BruceB. said...

“These assumptions are not to be found in scripture (indeed they are outside the world view of the writers of scripture) - and these have been central to the way that Christian theology developed.”
Yes, Jesus promised his disciples he would send the Holy Spirit to his Church so the development was organic but guided – of course this is an assumption but the promise is recorded in scripture.

BruceB said...

Lucinda, you are right. Sex is not symmetrical. I’m sure sin is equal in God’s eyes, but female unchastity damages marriages and families more than male does – this isn’t fair but sex isn’t symmetrical.
So family love is better realized when we’re comprehensive with our description of male and female causes of immorality – “women giving” (at best, a partial truth) isn’t complete. The classical understanding captures what this new way of thinking misses.

Bruce Charlton said...

@BB @BB Since I regard the Fourth Gospel as primary, I don't agree that the church was, or is, *necessary* to Jesus's plan of salvation. That Gospel tells us that the Holy Ghost is sufficient for each Man's external spiritual guidance.

BruceB said...

Commented edited.


The problem with this narrative is the observations conducted over my entire life don’t fit with it (real-world, art imitating life, etc.). Women don’t give to the men from whom they would most likely expect reciprocity. Exactly the opposite. Many aspects of their choice of giving suggest lust (and other things) as a motivation (maybe not all motives are negative but then neither are men’s – try to use this argument for say, men and adultery – won’t get far). This working out of relationships as part of a loving family approach to morality misses some of what classical theology captures.

There is a modern Christian tendency to deny these basic sins for women (and to put them on men) – “women give sex to get love, men give love to get sex.”

Lucinda said...


Fair enough. We live in a fairly abnormal situation, a time ruled over by the "mother of harlots and abominations". That's what feminism is. It's a time of delusion and inversion.

Still, immoral women are not motivated by a sexual lust like men, but more a lust for social resources, sexual lust being more Luciferic, lust for social resources being more Ahrimanic. Immoral women feign masculine sexual lust in a bid for social power. It doesn't make it better, maybe it makes it worse, because like you say, female unchastity damages marriages and families more than male unchastity.

But how does that show a deficiency in the loving family morality of Heaven? If you think what's missing is the idea that women can also not want family in Heaven, I agree. If you think what's missing is that decidedly sexually immoral people want to go to Heaven too, then I disagree.

Lucinda said...

Another thing the original post brings up for me is the need to rethink motivations. So under the traditional understanding, if you did the right thing, you don't need to repent. But if we are to be working out motivations, then even correct action with the wrong motivations needs rethinking.

And people mostly get the motivations wrong when it comes to sexuality, even when they get sexuality right, in terms of getting married, etc. They usually do it out of obedience to culture, or maybe perceiving it as some kind of 'price' with a worthwhile payout. This seems to be a necessary phase because of the spiritual immaturity of those of childbearing age.

In my experience, traditional religious people talk about how you don't need to be a murderer to need to repent, that stealing a pen is just as wrong! But I don't think that is helpful. What has helped me more is the realization that even if you did the 'right thing', you need to think about your motivations; even if you have lived a 'good life' (maybe you even never stole a pen!) you need to do the working out of how your hidden desires and ideals matched up with God's purposes.

Repent, yes. But it's not about behaviors, it's about motivations and desires.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Lucinda - That's right, I'm sure.

But/ Also I think this has do be done in a positive and appreciative spirit; and not lead to being wrapped-up in brooding on sins.

Another consideration, however, is that sexual sins are the Big Ones nowadays; since they are the long-term, strategic chosen means by which They have decided to corrupt us. So sexual motivations probably need attention more than others.

The other, neglected - I believe, method is dishonesty. A great deal of the corruption in the past 25 years has been getting people to be dishonest as a matter of normal habit, and indeed regarding dishonesty as morally necessary (so honesty is regarded as 'evil'). I would guess that almost all middle/ upper class people are dishonest every hour of every day while at work - regardless of the devoutness or church.

Lucinda said...


Maybe another way of saying it would be "learning the easy way", learning about morality by doing right for the wrong reasons, then fixing the reasoning. In my case, I married and had children to access social resources, then I realized how shallow and unsatisfactory my initial reasoning was. But I can do my repenting as a woman married to a faithful husband in the context of a functional family. That's definitely the easy way!

I do think male bids for social resources are not sexually-linked like they are for women, and women's sympathy for and promotion of wanters of social resources has been a pretty big factor in the acceptance of the Ahrimanic stage of the sexual revolution, particularly seen in the embracing of bride-zilla aspects of same-sex marriage.

As far as honesty goes, it's like people don't even believe in such a thing as anything other than a virtue signal. It is correlated with willful stupidity, a head-scratching "what could be the meaningful difference between saying this or that?"