Sunday 21 July 2019

What should be the basis of sexual morality (for grown-up adults)

Continuing from yesterday's post on the psychological corruptions of the sexual revolution; I need to move on to the matter of the source of our sexual morality.

There is (as CS Lewis argued in The Abolition of Man, where he called it the Tao) a large agreement in traditional societies about the nature of morality. Nonetheless, there are some distinctively Christian aspects; and anyway traditionalist arguments have lost their power to persuade; and indeed become inverted into exemplars of oppression. Similarly, all external sources of morality have long-since been subverted by the utilitarian this-worldly evaluation system of modern societies.

Therefore, morality can now come only from within; that is, we need to know intuitively the nature of morality from our deepest intuitions, from that true self which is divine by virtue of each being a child of God*.

In other words, our morality can come only after our religion or theology, and on the basis of our knowing that there is God the creator, and that God is loving and we are familially linked with God; and may choose to accept Jesus's offer of eternal resurrected life and join with God in the 'work of creation'.

Creation is the key. Everything that is part of creation is 'joined' by loving relations; and can be understood as something like an ongoing state of flow and development. It can be imagined as something like a web of relationships, moving through time, developing and changing; but held together by the web of attracting love between the individuals who choose to be part of it.

This joining is meant to be a choice (not merely something unconsciously taken for granted from social conditioning), inded Just Is a choice - therefore Christian morality is ultimately justifiable 'only' for Christians.

But for Christians; we have consciously made a choice to join, after our deaths, with the existing family of God in the work of creation; our morality, or 'how to behave' will flow from this knowledge and choice.

A Christian will know, not just theoretically but as a matter of experience, how the universe has been set-up, what it is for, how it is supposed to 'go'.

Therefore; any Christian can know, from inner apprehension, everything he needs to know about morality - but this knowledge will Not be in the form of laws or principle or commands - but will be a knowledge based on how creation is meant to go and our specific and personal experiences.

Morality is a word for that which conduces to loving creation as a whole, and through eternity.

Of course, as finite and mortal individuals we can know only a (small, distorted) part of this, from a particular perspective - and we are prone to error. Nonetheless, we can know the fact of our limitation and we can also know when we have erred; because will will perceive our increasing divergence from loving creation.

Since creation is ongoing in time, any error or falsehood will tend to point us off to one side and away from creation. It is our love that lets us know when we are wrong about morality, when our understanding or choice is leading us away from creation.

This divergence can be set right by repentance; and indeed must be set right by repentance else we will be led increasingly away from the 'web of love'.

In sum; as Christians who have chosen to ally our-selves with God in the work of ongoing creation; we each, as individuals, can know sexual morality as we can know any other form of morality.

But there is a special relevance to sexual morality precisely because it is linked so closely to the matter of familial relations, which are the basis of creation.

Creation is held-together in a familial way - and sex is closely related to family relations - both biologically in earthly mortal life; but also spiritually and ultimately. Especially obviously this is so when we consider matters 'eternally' and begin to recognise the nature of the manyfold links of love in the web in ever-developing creation.

We may or may not be able to 'predict' what is a sin in advance of doing it; but we will know what is a sin from our inner experience if we have done it; and we will know this by its effect on that ongoing web of loving relations that constitutes creation... we will experience an increasing divergence from loving creation: we will experience a diminution of love in our own life.

* Note - In this post I am talking about the morality of spiritually grown-up adults, to which they should graduate if ever they emerge from adolescence (most do not). For children, traditional, external sources of authority are still required.


Jared said...

There is an important step from taking a principle that you have learned and being able to learn from your own experience about it. That's why I like the explanation that creation is central to reality and we are invited in Christianity to participate in creation.
Rules and doctrines are good but purpose is more fundamental even when you are learning why you should follow the doctrines.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Jared - I agree. I think people need to know what Heaven is 'for' in order for it to shape our lives here and now.

Dividualist said...

Hmmmm. I don't know if it is a residual "Cultural Christianity" in me or if I figured it out on my own, but my secular morality is precisely all about creation. We need to have something we consider sacred. My first candidate was "life", but I realized it is intuitively wrong. In places full of life, like tropical jungles, much of that life is killing people. Denmark is a nice place because there is hardly any kind of life there left that is not directly helpful or at least not harmful to humans. So my next candidate was creation. Make kids, build houses, establish farms, turn chaos into order, exile entropy! My late father was a construction entrepreneur, when I asked him upon retirement what his life was his about, he said "I am proud I didn't just shuffle papers, I built a hundred houses, renovated two hundred, gave a good home to your mother and raised you." This is intuitively right to me.

Bruce Charlton said...

D - I'm not sure if I understand your point. Creation is good, but when someone believes (as most modern people apparently do) that it (along with oneself) will inevitably (and very soon) be lost in time leaving not the slightest trace behind - exactly as if it had never been... well, does rather take the shine off.