Saturday, June 10, 2006

CQOD: 06/11/06 -- Davidman: the withering of morality

Christian Quotation of the Day

June 11, 2006
Trinity SundayFeast of Barnabas the Apostle
Meditation:
    The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."
        They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
        there is none who does good.
    The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man,
        to see if there are any who understand,
        who seek after God.
    They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
        there is none who does good,
        not even one.
        -- Psalm 14:1-3 (ESV)

Quotation:
    The essential amorality of all atheist doctrines is often hidden from us by an irrelevant personal argument. We see that many articulate secularists are well-meaning and law-abiding men; we see them go into righteous indignation over injustice and often devote their lives to good works. So we conclude that “he can’t be wrong whose life is in the right”—that their philosophies are just as good guides to action as Christianity. What we don’t see is that they are not acting on their philosophies. They are acting, out of habit or sentiment, on an inherited Christian ethic which they still take for granted though they have rejected the creed from which it sprang. Their children will inherit some what less of it.
    ... Joy Davidman (1915-1960), Smoke on the Mountain [1955]

Quiet time reflection:
    Lord, may I not be silent before atheism, but speak the Gospel.


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2 Comments:

Blogger Andrew said...

I was disheartned today to read the comments on the CQOD email. The quotation was from Joy Davidman (1915-1960), Smoke on the Mountain [1955] and was entitled "The Withering of Morality". It led us to assume that it was the lack of Christ in people's lives that led to the decline of morality, but I would counter that with the fact the "good" people exist in every faith and some who adhere simply to their own personal beliefs of right and wrong. My concern was that talk like this leads to fundamentalism and extreme beliefs. Jesus was all-welcoming, and although he spurned the religious and secular "systems" that were in place, he did not teach us to damn those who thought differently, or believed differently, instead he asked us to open our hearts.

To say that there is none that are good who do not adhere to Christian policy is wrong on so many levels. Those whom do not believe in Christ and his teachings are not by definition bad, nor are they necessarily working out of habit, sentiment, or an inherant Christian ethic.
There are non-Christians in this world that follow personal belief systems or other faiths. The Bible was full of characters who had never met God, did not believe, or chose to ignore the teachings...and yet God opened his heart to them because they were righteous people.
In today's climate of religious intolerance, bigotry and secularisation, who are WE to judge? Objectively, we can not possibly say with authority that our way is the only way to heaven! God throughout the Bible welcomed those to him from many different paths - Old Testament and New.
There are Buddists in this world living peaceably, not through Habit, nor through Sentiment, nor through Christian ethics. They live in harmony with the world and with themselves and, by default, with God. They may not call "God" by that name, but they live the lifestyle and converse with the Almighty regardless.
So much of religion, and religious intolerance, comes from the differences in how we label things. For a Muslim, ALLAH is the title of choice, for Jews and Christians, GOD. Every faith has it's unique titles, and who are we to say, without any cause for question, that our word, a word created by man, is the right one. If we accept the differing labels for our religious beliefs, we might find we share much more with our fellow believers - be they Sikh, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, or even non-believers whose hearts are open.
I know a man that doesn't not believe in organised religion, but who will take time every day to thank the creative force responsible for all life. A man, who does not go to church or temple, but who will walk his dog in the mountains every weekend and witness the beauty around him with a grateful heart. A man, who has raised four children into Adults who all have the same appreciation for life. A doctor, a teacher, an aid worker in Africa, and a minister. A man who, according to your claims, is bad and evil but was responsible for the saving of 200 lives in a shipwreck, and countless others now with both a healer and a faith-healer as offspring. In my eyes, God is great and God is good, and I have no doubt that this man will be raised up to be seated at God's table when his judgement comes as reward for his selfless and righteous life.
Closed minded Christianity is NOT what the Bible teaches us. Fundamentalist Christians are as dangerous as any fundamentalist Muslim. Although they may not become suicide bombers, the hatred and judgement the spread will lead to the loss of as many souls.

10:58 AM  
Blogger Robert McAnally Adams said...

Dear Andrew,
    I want to take the time to respond to your note because it contains the very misapprehensions that the author was complaining of.
    Jesus did not say (so far as I know), “open your hearts.” What he said was, “Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself,” and “Follow me.” Contrary to common persuasion, Jesus did not “welcome all,” but only those who would follow Him and obey Him. What He in fact preaches is that there will be a great divide, separating those who know Him and those who do not. Now that is simply the record we have. If you have another belief, it does not follow from the record.
    As to God welcoming “those to him from many different paths,” they may well have started on various paths but they ended up on one—following Yahweh. Nothing else was even remotely acceptable to God, according to the Biblical record.
    The author is not complaining about atheists who do good. She is suggesting that those who do good are acting, not on the basis of their philosophies, but on inherited Christianity. By listing all these examples, you have essentially made her case for her. This is true even for those you mention who come from outside Christendom. Have Christian ethics nothing in common with the (better) ethics of the world’s religions?
    As to labels, we call things by different names because they are different. When I look the objects of veneration in the world’s religions, I see essentially nothing in common with Yahweh. Why should I be in awe of a supposed deity who bears no resemblance to Yahweh?
    As to the way to heaven, there is no way. Man cannot get to Heaven. Man by himself is lost. That is the message of the whole Bible. Only God’s grace—a power utterly outside man’s control—can save the sinner from destruction. The story of how that was made possible is called the Gospel.
    The goodness you cite in the various examples at the end of your note bears witness to the fact that Davidman has hit the nail on the head. The reason you think that those men have done or been good is precisely your inherited Christian values. For people in Western culture, that is simply inescapable. And, this inheritance is getting weaker and weaker with every passing generation, to the detriment of Western civilization.
    As to your final comment, who is close-minded? The Bible reveals a truly marvelous truth, that God has come to us in the Person of Jesus Christ, inviting us to follow Him, and that the condemnation of sin, under which everyone lies, can be broken. Hardly any will take advantage of this opportunity, but the invitation is open. It is not about being good (no one has the capacity to be sufficiently good; see the Psalm quote)—it is about following Jesus. That should open anyone’s mind.
    I can’t know or guess how fundamentalist Christianity has wounded you. I am sure that, in the hands of sinners, it has wounded many. You have my sympathy. But your fear of the issue that lies at the center of this subject is impeding you from a clear evaluation of the situation. All belief systems claim exclusivity. A Muslim believes his way because he thinks it is correct. So does a Buddhist or a Hindu or whatever. An explicit or unspoken corollary is that the other views are wrong, mistaken, in error, or flawed. Since those religions declare themselves to be the one true way, I would not have the temerity to contradict them, by denying that they make a claim to exclusivity.
    The trouble is, amalgamating and homogenizing the world’s religions into a concentrate of ground truth is not feasible. We are not given that choice, precisely because the exclusivity claim of each religion lies at or near the heart of that religion. Choosing the truth and separating that from the falsehoods is the business of life, and while it must be done carefully, it is not a task to shrink from.
    Christians don’t believe in Christ because He is an icon of their social or political or cultural cause; we believe Him because we believe He is Who He said He is—the Son of God, come here to reveal the Father to us. We follow Him because He has called us and enabled us to do so, in some measure.
    Does all that mean I have closed my mind? Well, I admit that I have closed my mind to the arguments that lead to 2+2=5, and to the arguments that lead to gassing Jews, and to the arguments that support the view that “every day, in every way, we are getting better and better.” We must close our minds to the things we conclude to be falsehoods, else we will never see any truth at all.
    Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

4:40 PM  

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