Weblog of a Christian philosophy student

Weblog of a Christian philosophy student. Please feel free to comment. All of my posts are public domain. Subscribe to posts [Atom]. Email me at countaltair [at] yahoo.com.au. I also run a Chinese to English translation business at www.willfanyi.com.

Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Getting the greatest commandment from the second greatest

Luke 10:26-7: Jesus replied, "What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?" The man answered, "'You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.' And, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

Almost no one would have a problem with the idea that you should 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you' (the Golden Rule). The Bible's way of putting it is that you should love your neighbour as yourself. So the second commandment is pretty agreeable to almost everyone (although no one does it perfectly).

For a lot of people it's the greatest commandment that seems hard to understand. Why should God deserve a lot more love and devotion than a human being? Whereas for humans it's 'love like you love yourself' for God it's 'love with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind'.

I'd like to mention an argument for the Bible's view based on 'virtue ethics' (a school of thought in moral philosophy).

In Christian theology there's something different about the way God makes choices compared to everyone else. In Christian theology God not only does the right thing all the time, He also cannot be tempted to do something wrong. This situation cannot be recreated (for some reason) in God's creations.

James 1:13: "When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone"

Titus 1:2 "in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began"

Imagine you lived in a town where there was a person who had this quality. You could always get perfect advice from this person about what to do (from a moral point-of-view).

So there's some sense in the idea of referring our decisions to someone who cannot be tempted to think in an evil way. Whereas the moral advice we give to each other can always be harmed by selfish motives, God's wouldn't (assuming this situation is the case). So making it a rule to always check your decisions with an 'un-temptable' God has a certain logic, assuming you can actually know what this God is saying.

This 'setup' would help you follow the second greatest commandment, because it would protect you from making a moral mistake (for e.g. selfish reasons). It would act as a 'fail-safe' protection for people who can be tempted to do wrong. Doing this successfully would be a great way to honour the second greatest commandment.

And referring your decisions to an 'un-temptable' God sounds a lot like worshipping God if you did it all the time.

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