Friday 2 February 2024

Because Christianity is about personal (and private) motivation, it is intrinsically unsuited to be operationalized as the organizational basis of society

Christianity is about motivation; and motivation is about what we want, and why

Motivation is an inner state; and what matters to Christian salvation is our motivation at the time of choice: at the time when we decide whether to follow Jesus to resurrected eternal life. 

So long as he wants to follow Jesus, and so long as his reasons for following Jesus are good - then anybody can follow Jesus. It is essentially a matter of personal choice; and if that choice is for salvation, there will be no difficulty about doing what is necessary to make this choice possible. 

Therefore Christianity Just Is a very personal and inward matter and directed to ends "not of this world". So; while inferences can and must be made for practical purposes about the motivation of other people; such inferences do Not map-onto spiritual realities. 

Historic Christianity was often (usually) contaminated by the demand to make it the basis of social organization: the demand to make supposedly "Christian" institutions and laws as the framework for a "better world": as, indeed, the framework for personal salvation. 

Yet, the Fourth Gospel especially, but also the Synoptic Gospels, seem to be pretty clear overall that following Jesus to resurrected eternal life was about a personal relationship and personal choice in relation to Jesus himself. 

Therefore, being a Christian is Not primarily a matter of obeying a religious institution, nor of requiring adherence to the dictates of a particular supposedly-Christian social structure (neither of which existed during Jesus's life). 

Indeed (as the IV Gospel informs us) Jesus's main arrangement for the guidance of his disciples post-mortally was the Holy Ghost; which Jesus said was directly available to each individual and sufficient to provide all necessary knowledge and direction for those who wanted to follow Him. 

In other words; Christianity is not about making a better world. At best, a better world might be an unplanned consequence of personal commitments to follow Jesus. 

Instead; Christianity ought primarily to be orientated towards life beyond death.

And Christianity's implications for this mortal life should follow (secondarily) from our motivation and expectation personally (as Sons of God) to participate in the creative life of the post-mortal resurrected heavenly world. 


Kathlene said...

"In other words; Christianity is not about making a better world...Instead; Christianity ought primarily to be orientated towards life beyond death."

This is such a key insight, and reminds me of when Jesus states "Let the dead bury their dead" in Luke and Matthew when he asks people to follow Him. We are asked to follow Him personally and not to concern ourselves with worldly anxieties. With the help of His grace and Holy Spirit we begin to discern what is required of us in our everyday lives as preparation for eternal life in His kingdom.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Kathlene - This does seem to be what Jesus taught, at least that's how it looks to me; but the primacy of the next worldly has been so buried among other details and assertions, that its simple clarity has been all-but lost at many times and places.

Dynamic said...

Completely agree. While I feel that things in this world would be better if there were more Christians, that is not the purpose of Christianity. The improvement in this-world affairs would merely be a side effect of the increased focus on the divine. As Jesus said, "strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things [this-worldly things] will be given to you" (Mt 6:33).

The problem, of course, as you indicate, is that people often encourage the adoption of Christianity in order to make things better in this world (e.g. to end poverty or war or to get God to bestow material blessings on us), which means that such people don't focus on God and eternal life, and as a result miss out on both the spiritual and the temporal gains.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Dynamic - It's a common problem, even if unconscious.

Looking back on when I became a Christian, it was certainly motivated to a significant degree by "socio-political" hopes. These hopes have certainly been dashed (in no uncertain terms!) - but that now seems like a necessary and beneficial disillusionment.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

What, then, is to be the organizational basis of society? How do we decide what conduct to criminalize, when a marriage can be dissolved, who should be able to adopt or foster children, what's a fair lending practice, etc.?

If Christian moral teachings and sociology aren't applicable, what morality and sociology do we use?

Bruce Charlton said...

@A-G - You are trying to dispense with the matter of "being a Christian" and instead to imagine the blueprint for a "Christian society" - separable from its inhabitants actually being-Christians.

There cannot (i.e. *cannot*) be a society that has a valid moral/ legal framework separable from the metaphysical assumptions, beliefs, motivations etc. of people as individuals.

We now Know that it is the world-view of modernity, its basic assumptions concerning reality, that make for this inverted, nihilistic world. We Know that laws/ rules/ traditions etc make no difference - when there is no motivation to interpret or enforce them justly.

Hollow Men cannot be made good.

The idea that one can separate "Christian ethics" from being-a-Christian, and can have a "Christian society" in which its people are materialist atheists, was in fact one of the steps of apostasy, en route to where we are now.

But that is what you are asking for!

Think about it.