Archive for the ‘Mere Christianity’ Tag

What Morality Is   2 comments

“I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond. One has a glimpse of a country where they do not talk of these things, except perhaps as a joke. Everyone there is filled full with what we should call goodness as a mirror is filled with light. But they do not call it goodness. They do not call it anything. They are not thinking of it. They are too busy looking at the source from which it comes.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. pg. 130.)

No one has ever become “good” or “righteous” on the basis of morally proper behavior. Morality is Satan’s big laugh on mankind.

Morality is a result of the fall of man into sin. Morality is a lie, based on the falsehood of independent-self, autonomous man. Morality is sinful. Sin is anything not derived from God. Morality is sinful because it advocates the autonomy of goodness and fails to understand the spiritual nature of all human behavior.

“Whatever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23), and morality is not based on faith. Therefore it is sinful.

Morality is humanistic. Humanism is based on the thesis of the autonomous self-potential of mankind, first introduced in the Garden. Morality is humanistic because “goodness” is alleged to be knowable by oneself and do-able by oneself apart from God.

Morality is psychological manipulation. Behavioristic psychology attempts to manipulate human behavior in “behavior modification,” failing to understand the spiritual source of all behavior. The social moralists employ such behavioristic psychological manipulation to keep their particular “society” in check and functioning in accord with their self-oriented objectives.

Morality is offensive to God. God hates autonomous morality! It is contrary to His intent for mankind. Isaiah graphically stated that “all our righteous deeds are as a filthy rag” (Isaiah 64:6). Paul described his religious and moral efforts as but “rubbish” or “dung” (KJV) in Philippians 3:8. Morality is offensive to God.

Morality is “another gospel.” When Paul wrote to the Galatians warning them of the religionists who were trying to add moralistic requirements to the simple gospel of grace in Jesus Christ, he indicated that they were bringing “another gospel” which was “no gospel” at all since it was devoid of any “good news.” History is replete with moral supplements becoming part and parcel of so-called “Christian religion.” Whenever morality is introduced it supplants the singular sufficiency of Jesus Christ and constitutes “another gospel.”

Morality is “salvation by works.”  Paul wrote to the Ephesians explaining, “For by grace are you saved through faith, that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8,9). Salvation is always enacted by the dynamic of God’s saving work in the provision of His grace. Salvation begins in conversion, but the continuing dynamic of the “saving life” of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:10) makes us safe from satanic misuse, abuse and dysfunction in order to restore us to the functional use God intended by His grace activity in the Christian. Morality says we don’t need salvation or a relationship with Christ. We simply need to be “good” according to how our society defines “goodness” this century.

Morality is legalism. Morality sets up a code of acceptable conduct, rules and regulations of right and wrong that form an independent, external law, to which all subjects are expected to conform. Striving to conform to the law is thus the moralistic objective of “obedience.” Moralistic, legalistic “obedience to the law” is far removed from the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5) that listens under God’s Spirit and is obedient to Life.

Morality is deadly. Legalism lacks the vibrancy and vitality of divine life. Paul wrote in II Cor. 3:6, “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” The “letter of the law” on which morality rests is deadly! It kills all expression of God’s life in man, as man works himself to death!

Morality is devastating and destructive. Incapable of ever measuring up to the moral requirements, man is increasingly frustrated, unhappy and grieved.  It binds a person, making them slaves to law, convention and social approval. To the Galatians Paul explained, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free;…do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Morality destroys the freedom to be and do whatever God wants to be and do in us. The rigid chains of moral inflexibility allow for no novelty, newness, no spontaneity of fresh expression of the Spirit.The Pharisees engaged in their perpetual pretense of piety. Though their moralistic attempts are often called “self-righteousness,” in reality they had a pseudo-righteousness, no righteousness at all, just sin! Jesus detested, opposed and exposed the Pharisaical morality.

“Ethical behavior by itself can too easily entrench a man in self-righteousness. He has joined the Pharisee, praying with himself to a god who is not the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘I thank thee that I am not as other men are.’ …No mortal man can win by self-effort what in the nature of things must always be a gift.” Frank Lake, Clinical Theology. New York: Crossroad. 1986. pg. 168.

Morality is fraudulent. It can never deliver what it promises. It does not achieve the results it is designed to achieve. Paul explained in Colossians 2:23 that morality is of “no value against fleshly indulgence.” Those patterned propensities of selfishness and sinfulness in the desires of our soul will never be dealt with, or overcome by, moral suppressionism or by moral striving to overcome. Morality is a contrived substitute for Christian living. As a posturing pretext of living a “good Christian life,” morality plays the part of an impostor. Instead of disallowing our selfish expressions by allowing the life of Jesus Christ to be lived out through us, morality masquerades self-oriented conformity as “spiritual behavior.” It’s hypocrisy!

Morality is idolatry that reduces God to a moral ideal, an ethical standard and a behavioral formula that becomes an ideological idol constructed and carved in the human mind, which the moralist then submits to rather than God.

“Seeking to be godly by submitting yourself to external rules and regulations, and by conformity to behavior patterns imposed upon you by the particular Christian society which you have chose, and in which you hope to be found ‘acceptable.’ You will in this way perpetuate the pagan habit of practicing religion in the energy of the ‘flesh,’ and in the very pursuit of righteousness commit idolatry in honoring ‘Christianity’ more than Christ.” (Ian W. Thomas, The Mystery of Godliness. pg. 43.)
Morality is a religious inevitability. Wherever you find religion you will find morality. They are always “coupled” together. Why? Because religion is a man-made social organization that requires morality standards to give it external form, to give it a reason for existing, to cement loyalty and conformity, and to keep the guilt payments coming in. As people perceive their inability to please and appease God by their inadequate moral behavior, they seek to buy off their sin in “indulgences.”

Morality is also a worldly necessity. In the society of the “world,” populated by fallen mankind, morality is necessitated to keep the chaos of selfishness and sinfulness “in check,” if even temporarily.

Morality is also relative. Human, social, worldly and religious morality is never properly related to the absoluteness of God’s character of goodness, and to the absolutely only expression of God’s goodness by derivation from God by God’s grace. Morality is relative to the intents and desires of the prevailing authorities in the particular society over which they have manipulative control, albeit governmental or ecclessiastical. Morality is relative to the majority of the individuals in that society willing to accept the moral standards, either under threat of punishment or by democratic concensus of what is “good” and/or “evil” with an individual accountability to the so-called “good” of the whole. Morality is relative to the limitations of fallen man in keeping such moral conditions, due to the selfishness and sinfulness of the “flesh.”

Morality is antithetical to Christianity. Morality always attempts to establish “goodness” apart from God alone, and its availability to man by the indwelling of Jesus Christ alone. Morality denies the derived existence of good in the character of God. Morality denies the derived knowledge of good by the revelation of God. Morality denies the derived expression of good by the grace of God. Morality precludes the primary assertion of the Christian gospel, that the availability for the expression of God’s goodness in man is only by the presence and empowering of the Spirit of Christ in man, received by faith in regeneration and sanctification.

“Morality…necessarily collides with God’s decision brought to pass in Jesus Christ, which locates the life and truth of man out beyond anything that man can formulate, know and live.” (Jacques Ellul, To Will and To Do. pg. 71.

Christianity is not morality. In many ways, it is the anti-morality.

Faith is Clinging to What Is Known   3 comments

Faith is a complex experience, so it is hard to address the whole of it in a blog post. I’m not even attempting that.

The early Christian believers had knowledge as well as faith. Peter, John and Mary saw the empty tomb. Thomas was offered the opportunity to touch the nail scars. Paul met Jesus face-to-face in the road. They KNEW that Jesus was risen again because they’d seen and talked with Him. It was such a powerful experience that Jesus’ brothers, James and Jude, who were greatly opposed to His ministry during His lifetime, became believers who were willing to die for their faith. The knowledge that He was risen so convinced that them Jesus was God incarnate that it gave the early believers the courage to speak the gospel even under persecution and most of them would die for their faith. Even when everyone around them said they were wrong, they held fast to the KNOWLEDGE of what they had actually experienced and that gave them faith that God would keep His promises for the future.

Modern Christians do not KNOW God in the same way that early Christians did. We must exercise faith more than they did. Yet that does not mean we do not have some knowledge to support our faith.

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:

I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of evidence is against it. That is not the point at which faith comes in. But supposing a man’s reason once decides that the weight of the evidence is for it. I can tell that man what is going to happen to him in the next few weeks. There will come a moment when there is bad news, or he is in trouble, or is living among a lot of other people who do not believe it, and all at once his emotions will rise up and carry out a sort of blitz on his belief. Or else there will come a moment when he wants a woman, or wants to tell a lie, or feels very pleased with himself, or sees a chance of making a little money in some way that is not perfectly fair; some moment, in fact, at which it would be very convenient if Christianity were not true. And once again his wishes and desires will carry out a blitz. I am not talking of moments at which any real new reasons against Christianity turn up. Those have to be faced and that is a different matter. I am talking about moments where a mere mood rises up against it.

Now faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding onto things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian, I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable; but when I was an atheist, I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why faith is such a necessary virtue; unless you teach your moods “where they get off” you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of faith.

For Lewis faith is the determination of the mind to cling to what is known in the face of what is felt. Though it involves trust it’s all about knowledge: trusting that what one knows to be true remains true even when it does not feel true.

The early Christians had every reason to desire to recant their story. Their culture made it uncomfortable and eventually fatal to believe that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. Their faith in Him didn’t bring them power or prestige. It brought them death, and yet they held to it even as the sword hung over their necks. Clearly, they had no doubts about what they believed.

They KNEW Jesus.

I may not know Him in the same tangible way they did, but that does not mean I don’t KNOW Him.

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