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

Friday, April 15, 2011

Moral contributions from the Bible

Has the Bible made important contributions to the development of morality? Here are three areas:

1. The Bible has been positive influence regarding the idea that everyone is equal. From an evolutionary perspective, the idea that every person is equal in a really fundamental way seems a bit hard to find. But in the Bible we read:

Acts 10:34-5: "Then Peter replied, "I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right."

Romans 2:11: "For God does not show favoritism."

Gal 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

The image of God is equally given to everyone (Gen 1:27).

2. Another area that the Bible has had a large positive impact on is the idea that doing unto others involves really caring about people who are hostile towards oneself and forgiving people who don't deserve forgiveness (although I note that not everyone would agree with these values). Normally when we think of 'doing unto others' we include in that the idea that we should be able to get revenge on people who wrong us, an instinct that comes easily. But Jesus says that really 'doing unto others' involves loving your enemies, praying for people who persecute you, and forgiving those who wrong you (Matt 5:44, Matt 6:15, Luke 10:27). Also, God has given us an example of forgiveness to follow (Matt 18:33) and that is that God tries to forgive everyone, using the only way possible (Matt 26:39), even though we have not earned God's forgiveness and weren't 'owed' Jesus' sacrifice. This is a surprising moral insight or argument from the Bible.

3. Another interesting moral concept from the Bible relates to a way of distributing social status in a community that accepts, loves, and honours every single person there. If people follow it carefully, it completely sidesteps certain unhappy problems with social status and people seeking social status. Jesus says that the greatest person in a community should be the greatest person because they serve everyone else. While the person who is least should be the person who is least because they are served by everyone else (Matt 20:26-8). It's an ingenious system for keeping pride in check and making sure every member of the community is honoured, that a lot of people wouldn't have thought of without the Bible.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The theoretical and practical problems of grace

Suppose two people are having a conversation about tennis matches between the world's best tennis players and one person asks, "But what would happen if someone got to the Grand Final and instead of playing properly, they just stood on the court, with their arms frozen to their sides, and span around again and again? What would happen then?"

In a way I believe this is like asking, "What would happen if God saved someone and they decided they didn't really like God and wanted to live a life lacking in empathy?"

When God saves someone God's Holy Spirit is supposed to be in them and with them and God and the Holy Spirit are supposed to change, over a long time, people's desires regarding wrongdoing. So if this process is happening, then there should be no way that someone's fundamental orientation should be against God and towards hurting people.

Phil 1:6: And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (NL)

The idea of someone undergoing this process deciding to abuse grace and embrace wrongdoing is a theoretical problem. It's not a practical problem. Just like in theory people in tennis Grand Slam finals can choose to spin around in circles instead of play, but in practice this is not a problem.

Another analogy might be if someone decided they really wanted to lose weight and someone organised a diet and exercise plan for them that would be really effective. Now, imagine they had the chance to eat chocolate cake every night and never exercise. They can do it, but they would ask themselves: should I, who want to lose weight, really eat these things and never exercise? Compare to Paul:

Romans 6:1-2: Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? (NL)

Paul points out that in theory Christians can do the wrong thing as much as they want and still go to heaven. But in practice, one, God has changed Christians' desires/wants so this is impossible and, two, if you love God and think being nice is a good thing, then why would you decide to ignore God and hurt people?