Friday 21 July 2023

What is the ultimate source of Christian morality (and good living)? Three basic factors

If you, like me, regard as obsolete and (very obviously!) ineffective as of 2023, the traditional idea that Christian morality has the form of a set of laws and rules that were dictated by God and Jesus Christ, and transmitted by The Church, The Bible, Apostolic Tradition etc. -- Then we need to consider what, instead, are the alternative sources of Christian morality. 

The root of Christian morality is first the loving nature of the person who is God the Creator; and secondly our parent-child relationship with Him. 

Our specific and moment-by-moment morality - and our understanding of what we ought to do, and ought not to do - is a consequence of this relationship. 

A close analogy is therefore with morals and values within an ideally-loving human family. 

These do not rely upon fixed lists of general rules, but are much more specific to the nature, age, situation, needs of the individual child and the family context - yet, this relationship-based (instead of rule-based) situation does Not imply relativity or 'anything goes' amorality; because instead a good family is able to create and sustain the highest known (most just and agreed-upon) levels of moral behaviour and good values. 

We might characterize the ideal family situation as one in which the family is bound-together by mutual love, and given direction by in lived-and-experienced knowledge of God's intended goals of creation. And in which morality, and right-action generally, are specific to the person and their situation - because our loving creator-God tailors the individual life of each of His children to provide the conditions they (we) need. 

This matter of the goal of creation, leads on to the third factor in Christian morality; which is resurrection into eternal life in Heaven. Heaven is the goal of creation. 

Because resurrection is eternal, this temporary mortal life is given permanent value; because resurrection is of our-self, we as unique persons bring something distinctive and irreplaceable to the life of Heaven. 

Thus, for each of us, our individual mortal life is tailored-towards the need for resurrection: That is, for each of us to chose Heaven and freely to choose resurrection. 

In other words; Christian morality and values only work if we live both desiring and in expectation of resurrection and Heaven. 

It is the confident expectation of eternal life in Heaven that sets the basic frame for our mortal life on earth. 

To summarize: the roots of our specific morality are based in all-three-of:

1. That God the creator is our loving Father (or loving parents, as I believe).

2. Our relationship with God is that of a loving family - mutual love between parents and child (corresponding to Love of God, the first great commandment), and between God's children (love of 'neighbour': the second). 

3. Our choice and expectation of resurrection into eternal life in Heaven: the gift of Jesus Christ. 


Francis Berger said...

That sums it up quite lucidly.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Frank - It seems that here, as in so many places, "the family" provides the best alternative model of what could be.