What is Man? Part 2

Rogier van der Weyden Christus on the Cross with Mary and St John Crucifixion Escorial

In Part One I suggested that by gazing into the mirror of Christ Crucified we can see answers to the question What is Man? (male and female) because Jesus is an icon of what a human should be like and because His situation is emblematic of the human condition. I proposed that ‘Man is loved and lovable‘ is one conclusion we can deduce and that ‘Man is a sinner’ is another.

The Crucifixion is something voluntarily endured by our Lord because it is the efficient means for redeeming fallen humanity. We can deduce from this that, insofar as He is representative of us, that we can add ‘Man is a lover,’ that is one who loves, to our list of essential human qualities. However, although we can say that Man is loved and lovable unconditionally we must qualify the truth that Man is a lover with the fact that he is also a sinner. This means that every expression of love or feeling of it is, at least potentially, tainted by sin which is produced by disordered affection for or attachment to certain inferior goods at the expense of Good as such.

The idea, recently expressed, that ‘love wins‘ is unreservedly A Good Thing is something I have challenged on my other blog. For our purposes I would say that love translated into intention and act always has to be evaluated in the light of how it fulfils its purpose. What this purpose is might be more easily be discussed if we consider that another conclusion we can draw from the mirror of Christ Crucified is that ‘Man is dependent.’...click here to read more


Moral Abyss: The Limits of #LoveWins

Carlos McKnight, 17, of Washington, left, and Katherine Nicole Struck, 25, of Frederick, Md., hold flags in support of gay marriage outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday June 26, 2015. A major opinion on gay marriage is among the remaining to be released before the term ends at the end of June. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Since the 1960’s the West has increasingly become gripped by a new zeitgeist which might be summarised as ‘everyone should be free to do whatever they want so long as it doesn’t directly harm anyone else.‘ Some might add ‘without their consent‘ on the grounds that if people wish to be harmed why should anyone else stop that? However that might be the shorter form has all the force of an apparent truism. What reasonable person would unnecessarily restrict the freedom of another? Surely only the authoritarian or the bigot could oppose such an obviously fair proposition.

On closer examination though the idea can be seen to contain fatal flaws. It proceeds from an extreme individualism which holds that the individual has absolute priority over the family or society such that indirect harm to these things is considered to be less important than the frustration experienced by an individual prevented from fulfilling her or his desires. Moreover it assumes that the meaning of the word ‘harm’ is self-evident but that is far from being true as debates around issues like abortion, euthanasia or the compulsory wearing of motorbike helmets testify. The combination of these two errors is toxic and capable of producing great harm before the zeitgeist runs its course.

To take the second point first. In the West pluralism is normative, a thousand flowers bloom a thousand schools of thought contend. What this means is that there is no unified moral consensus nor is there an agreed basis upon which one can be formulated. The previous era was united around the propositions of Christianity a religion which is increasingly being rejected and attacked by Westerners. Nonetheless nothing has emerged which can both replace its moral formulae and command near universal support. Definitions of ‘harm’ produced by that system remain the default ones but non-Christians do not necessarily have any coherent arguments to defend these definitions which seem to persist merely by force of habit. Against this individuals and groups whose desires or appetites were suppressed or disapproved of under the  Ancien Régime can advance their case, fine-tuned to speak the language of the zeitgeist, and those forces that feel uncomfortable about the demands can command no intellectually respectable arguments to counter them….click here to read more

Become Like Children

8255080926_7aba630153_nSome religious people would maintain only a mature, adult Christian can act lovingly, with a conscience. Yet Pope Francis and even Sacred Scriptures disagree with this narrow view.
St. Paul explains God will judge everyone by much how truth God has revealed to them. If a tribe hidden in a jungle has never heard the gospel, God will  judge them based on what they know and St. Paul assures us all men have the basic laws of God carved into their hearts. In modern language, we all have an awareness of good and evil or a conscience.
The problem is tapping into and living out from my core where God has inscribed a moral code on my heart. It is  hidden in my deepest self. Actually, if we can block out our own ego and selfishness and simply stop and listen, even a child knows what is right and what is wrong.
The second problem is finding the strength to do what is right. Thank God for Christ because he offers an easy way to love. Relax. Give up striving. Surrender to His love and let it saturate every cell of your body. Then simply let His love flow through you. It ends up being a long journey to such carefree lifestyle because pride and ego get in the way. It is so simple that it seems complicated to our adult, logical minds.

Why Be Moral?

Before answering the Why question a philosopher would ask the What questions- what is morality? what is a moral life? After answering the What and Why they would likely then proceed to the How questions- how can I live ethically? how can human societies be collectively moral? This helps explain why philosophy books tend to be quite big and not very popular. They seem to spend a lot of time proving what the reader already knows to be true or attempting to disprove what the reader thinks of as ‘common sense.’ Religion appears to offer a way of short-cutting all this tedious playing with words. All religions have associated moralities and within the Abrahamic religions these have the sanction of divine revelation. Morality is what revelation says it is, obedience to God is the only acceptable response to revelation and within the content of that revelation, either in the form of scripture or divinely mandated authority, is all the guidance required for individuals and societies to live out the moral life in practice.

There is no real doubt that if this is an accurate summary of religious belief then many of the criticisms levelled at religion by New Atheists like the late Christopher Hitchens (God grant him rest) and the current Richard Dawkins (God keep him on Twitter) are well merited. Such a rigid structure which requires no moral judgement on the part of believers but merely an acceptance of the first principles of faith would lend them and their belief system to being manipulated in the service of anyone who could pervert the interpretation of revelation to suit their own purposes, as Islamic State and Boko Haram appear to have done with Islam. There are, however, a number of things which could be said about this critique….click here to read more 

God, Genocide & Good Neigbourliness

 You shall consume all the peoples which the Lord, your God, is giving over to you. You are not to look on them with pity, nor serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.
Deuteronomy 7:16 

And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you, shall be as one of yourselves, and thou shalt love him as thyself: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
Leviticus 19:33-34

Those who attack the God of the Abrahamic faiths as a genocidal maniac often quote the text from Deuteronomy but never the one from Leviticus. The reverse is true for those who conceive of Abraham’s God as some kind of ethereal fluffy bunny. Yet both texts belong to the same religious tradition and are considered to form part of the divine revelation of God to man. It is especially difficult for the followers of Jesus to reconcile the smiting hip and thigh which forms such a great part of the Old Testament histories to the peaceful teachings and witness of the Son of Mary. So much so that from the earliest times various heresies have been proposed by figures like Marcion and Mani suggesting that there is an evil God who does bad things (most of the Old Testament) and a good God who does good things (most of the New Testament.) Whilst such heresies are seldom actively advocated nowadays they are, as it were, taught by default by those, mostly liberal, theologians who simply omit to defend the ‘difficult‘ passages of the Old Testament.

Is there a single common thread which unites the command to destroy the Canaanites with the Law demanding that strangers be treated with love? click here to read more