Thursday, January 30, 2014

Christianity as an Ethic

In another post I asserted that Christianity is fundamentally an ethic. This needs explaining and some argumentation. An ethical person lives in a certain way and not some other way. In the vernacular he has values and seeks to live according to those values.

If Christianity is an ethic, what of the truth claims that Christianity makes? Jesus was a man who lived in first century Palestine. God exists. Jesus died for our sins. And the list goes on and on even if specific beliefs vary from believer to believer. Belief in these “truths” is a condition of orthodoxy and even of salvation.

Another element of Christianity, especially Evangelical Christianity, is that it is not enough to merely give one’s assent to a collection of propositions, that is to have faith. The would-be Christian must also repent of his former life. Common speech refers to this as “finding Jesus.” When someone “finds Jesus” it means that this person no longer drinks, smokes (probably), does drugs, lies, cheats, steals, etc. Further faith in Jesus is often urged upon someone as means to a “better life.”

Then there is the curious case of the person who claims to have “found Jesus” but continues in his old way of life. In Evangelical jargon such a one is “of the flesh.” This is opposed to being “of the spirit.” The former apparently believes it is enough to be on Jesus’ team, so to speak. A fleshly Christian can be exceedingly clever, able to argue persuasively for various doctrines and “truths” of Christianity. However, a Christian of the flesh lacks a certain something: service, ministration, compassion, devotion, and the like. The Holy Spirit works through a Christian of the spirit to the greater glory of God in word and deed. In other words, commitment to particular ethical ideals.

Be that as it may, what of Christianity’s claims to special truths? My description of the fleshly Christian implies that doctrines and Christian “truths” all serve as a means of persuading, selling and explaining the Christian way of life.

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