Thursday, September 24, 2009

Perfectability and Mutuality in Relationship

Some Christian denominations believe that man is "perfectable". These take "Jesus" as a moral example of faith, lifestyle and purpose. But is this necessarily a universal model for applicability in specifics?

I believe that it is the human aspect of relationship that is the highest moral virtue. And this relationship can be personal, communal, or governmental. But, personal virtue should never be sought apart from society's virtue of upholding human value and supporting human flourishing.

Quoted in Moo's James commentary: "I have often wondered that persons who make boast of professing the Christian religion -- namely love, joy, peace, temperance, and charity to all men (sic) -- should quarrel with such rancorous animosity and display daily towards one another such bitter hatred, that this, rather than the virtues which they profess, is the readiest criteria of their faith." Spinoza

This was a quote on Ken Schenck's blog, "Quadralateral Thoughts", this morning. I thought is was a good start for what I was thinking on for the past number of months.

The assumption of Spinoza is that something "more" than mere normal human relationships is required of the Christian community. Is this feasible? If so, is it healthy?

1). "charity to all men"....this is the "ideal" of Christian faith, but is it really possible to be charitable to ALL? As we live within contexts, we are limited by those contexts. We cannot be charitable to ALL. So location is a necessary qualification.

2.) "virtues, they profess".....virtue is personal and corporal....Is it virtuous for the corporal to "take a life" for good reason or purpose, without their personal knowledge and consent? (This is what happened to Jesus, but was what happened to Jesus, just? And should this be a "standard" for today's modern world?) Is it virtuous for a person in such circumstances, to "look the other way", "turn the other cheek" and "not speak out" against such injustice? What about those whose livlihoods are jeopordized because of someong breaking a law? ( Jesus responded by surrendering to the authorities and "not saying a word". But, what about speaking out against power that is unbalanced and "demented"?)Therefore, virtue is only illustrated within the context of community, but it does not act always in the ways that we suppose. Wisdom demands discernment about what is required in specific situations when it comes to abuse of power, issues of control, and disregard of another's person. Human rights demands that there be an "accounting".

3.)"should quarrel with such rancorous animosity and display daily towards one another such bitter hatred" "conflict" in itself, evil? Does peace mean by definition that there will be no differences to resolve because one party submits to the other party's desire without question? Isn't this stance allowing domination of another human being? And for what reason? Is there ever a justification to domination? I don't believe so. I don't believe this is what a free society allows, as we believe that each one of us has a "right" and a duty to use the gifts and ambitions that have been gifted. But, "selfish ambition" is not virtuous, nor considerate of another.

So, what does a "modern virtuous" Christian do?

1.) Obey the laws of their land. This is universally understood for those fortunate enough to live in free Constitutional governments.
2.) Fulfill his duty to his family. This is also universally understood in working for a living and supporting one's family, but the "duty" beyond that is interpreted in various ways according to individual conscience and human need.
3.)Loving one's neighbor. This also is understood, but is interpreted in various ways. Those that believe in a prescriptive view of the law, believe that Scripture has told us to take care of the orphans and the widow and the poor. Because these people view Scripture as absolute, they deem it mandantory for All Chrstians to do what Scripture specifically says. But, if one meets any other need of a neighbor, is this deemed "sub-par" to "what is written"?
4.) Being kind to one's enemy. Since love is so often considered a feeling in our society, then I use the word "kind", which conveys a respect and regard for one's enemy. But being kind does not mean that one agrees or submits to an enemy. Forbearance is needed.
5.) Many other virtues will be evident, but will vary according to the specific individual and giftings....and convictions.

We dare no make a list and check it twice in standardizing what we in behavior from specific individuals, unless it is the above mentioned universals of character.

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