Saturday, July 15, 2017

Religion vs. Morality Part two  Part One of this blog

Romans 1:18  s"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven again all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men....\  Part two.
(ii) But, secondly, I would show you that to place morality before religion is also to insult man.
It is remarkable to note how it invariably happens that when man sets out to exalt himself, he always ends by lowering himself and insulting himself.
This is something which we hope to consider again in greater detail. I am anxious to emphasise the principle now.
Verse 22 sums it up very perfectly by telling us that "professing themselves to be wise they became fools."
Man always feels that God fetters him and refuses to allow him to give free scope to his wonderful powers and capacities. He rebels against God in order to exert himself and to express himself he rebels in the name of freedom, proposing to produce a larger and nobler type of personality.
That, as we have seen, has been the real meaning of the revolt against revealed religion during the past hundred years. Ah! how much we have heard about the emancipation of man! Moral man was conceived to be so much higher than religious man. That was why morality was placed before religion.
But what are the actual facts?

Let me but cite them in order that I may demonstrate that the old rule is still in force, and that man in attempting to elevate himself has simply succeeded in insulting himself.
For one thing, morality is interested in a man's actions rather than in the man himself.
At the very outset it hurls that insult at us. I do not pause to emphasise the point that its interest in our very actions is always much more negative than positive, which makes the insult still greater. But regarding it at its very best and highest and at its most positive, nothing is so insulting to personality than to say that its actions alone matter.
There is no need to demonstrate this point. We have but to recollect what we think of the kind of person who shows clearly that he is not really interested in us at all, but simply in what we do or what we are--our office or status, or position, or the possibility of our being of some help or value to him.
How insulting!
But that is precisely the position with respect to morality. It is interested only in our conduct and behaviour. It may argue that as our conduct improves, so we improve. But that does not lessen the insult, for it leaves me, the essential 'I', who I am, still subservient to my conduct. And that is ultimately destructive of personality.
How evident that has become in these last few years. We have all become standardised in almost every respect, and there is a monotonous drab sameness about the whole of life.
As we have concentrated more and more on conduct and behaviour, on the mere acquisition of knowledge and how we appear before others, not only has variety vanished, but genius and "character" have become rarer and rarer, and true individuality has been lost.

But again, morality is always more interested in man's associations than in man himself.
Its interest is in society, or the state, or the group, and its main concern about the individual is simply that he should be brought or made to conform to a common pattern.
Its very terms prove that, "state," "society, "social"; those are its words. The individual personality has been ignored and forgotten.
Everything is done for the good of the state or of society.
Here again the argument is, that as the mass is improved, so will the individual be improved. But that is to insult personality by suggesting that it is merely a speck in a huge mass of humanity.

Religion believes in improving society by improving the individuals that compose it.
Morality believes in improving the individual by improving the general state.
I leave you to decide which really places value on the human personality, on man as such.
And the methods employed show this still more clearly.
Morality uses compulsion.
It legislates and forces men to conform to the general standard. Whether we will or not, we have to do certain things. That this is essential in order to govern a state, I grant freely, but still I argue that it is essentially insulting to personality.
Moreover, it is the very antithesis of Christianity, which brings a man to see the rightness of the thing advocated, and creates within him a deep longing and desire to exemplify it in his life. Morality dictates and commands, but as St. Paul tells the Galatians "faith worketh by love."
(iii) But above all else, morality insults man by taking no account whatsoever of that which is highest in man, of that which ultimately differentiates man from the animal.
I refer to his relationship to God. It deals with him only on the lower planes and forgets that he was made for God. At its best and highest it sets limits to his achievements, and to the possibilities of his nature.
It may help to make man a noble and a thinking animal, but it knows nothing of the glorious possibility of man becoming a son of God.
It is earthbound and temporal, and entirely ignorant of the delectable mountains and the vision of eternity.

And it ultimately fails for that reason. A simple and familiar illustration may help here.
A little child is away from home, perhaps even staying with relatives. It becomes homesick and cries for its mother. The friends do their best. They produce toys, they suggest games, they offer sweets and chocolates and everything that they know the child enjoys
But it all avails nothing. Dolls and toys and the rarest delicacies cannot satisfy when a child wants its mother. They are flung contemptuously aside by the young philosopher who realises that, at that point, they are a veritable insult. He needs his mother and nothing else will do. Man in his state of sin does not know what he really needs. But he shows very clearly that the best and highest offers of men cannot satisfy him. Deep within him there is that profound dissatisfaction which can be satisfied by nothing less than God Himself. Failure to realise this is not only inadequate, it is insulting. Man was made for God, and in the image of God, and though he has sinned and fallen and wandered far away, there is still within him that nostalgia which can never be satisfied until he returns home and to his Father.

(i) First of all we note that to do so is an insult to God.

ii) But, secondly, I would show you that to place morality before religion is also to insult man.
(iii) But, thirdly, this attempt to give morality priority over religion also fails because it provides no ultimate authority or sanction for man's life.
Here we are coming to the realm of the practical application of all we have said hitherto.
We are urged to live the good life.
But immediately the question arises, "Why should we live the good life?"
And, here, face to face with this question of "Why?" this isolation of morality from religion leads again to failure.
We can show this along two main lines.

The view which regards morality as an end in itself and which advocates it for its own sake only, bases its answer to this question "Why?" upon the intellect alone.
It appeals to our reason and to our understanding.
What was formerly regarded as sin it regards as clue to nothing but ignorance or lack of true education.
It sets out, therefore, to show and to picture a higher and a better type of life.
It outlines its Utopia, in which all people, being taught and educated, will restrain themselves and do their utmost to contribute to the common good.
It shows the evil results and consequences of certain actions both to the individual himself, and also to the community at large.
But, further, it will have him see that such actions are quite unworthy of him, and that in committing them he is lowerin
g his own standard and being unworthy of his own essential self.
That is its method.
It teaches man about his own wonderful nature and of how he has developed from the animal.
It pleads with him to see that he must now leave the animal behind and rise to the heights of his own development.
It then tries to charm him into an acceptance of these views by holding before him pictures of the ideal society.
It is essentially an appeal to the intellect, to the reason, to the rational side of man's nature.

But this means that ultimately it is a matter of opinion.
It claims that its view is the highest, the best, and also leads to the greatest happiness.
But when it meets with those who say that they disagree and that in their view it fails to cater for man's real nature, it has nothing to say by way of reply.

And that has been the position increasingly, especially since the last war, with the cult of self
expression becoming stronger and stronger, and ever more popular.
Those who belong to this cult have denied that the picture drawn by the moralists is the best and highest. They have regarded it rather as something which fetters and restrains, something therefore which is inimical to the highest interest of the self.
Placing happiness and pleasure as the supreme desiderata they have drawn up a scheme for life and for conduct which is the exact opposite.
But this can be shown also in another way. The basing of the appeal solely upon the intellect and the rational part of man's nature is also doomed to failure because it ignores what is most vital in man.
That has been the real fallacy behind most thinking during the past century. Man was regarded as intellect and reason alone.
He had but to be told what was right and he would do it.
It is extraordinary to note how this view has prevailed in spite of the glaring facts to .the contrary.
The possession of intellect does not guarantee a moral life, as the newspapers and the biographies and memoirs constantly testify. An educated and cultured man does not always and inevitably lead a good life.

Those who know most about the consequences of certain sins against the body, are often those who fall most frequently into those sins. \
Why is this? Here the new psychology has certainly given valuable aid, and it is astonishing that its evidence has not finally exploded that view of life which regards man as intellect alone.
Within man there are deep primal instincts. He is a creature of desire and lust. His brain is not an independent isolated machine, his will does not exist in a state of complete detachment.
These other forces are constantly exerting themselves, and constantly influencing the higher powers.
A man therefore may know that a certain course of action is wrong, but that does not matter. He desires that thing, and his desire can be so strong that he can even rationalise it and produce arguments in its favour.
But you remember how St. Paul, in the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, has put it all so perfectly: "For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but that I hate, that do I.' A view which fails to realise that that is fundamental to human nature is of necessity doomed to failure. Man being what he is needs a higher sanction. Appeals to reason and to the will are not enough. The whole man must be included, and especially the element of desire.

(iv) But, lastly, we must say just a word on the other vital practical aspect of this matter. Having asked the question why one should lead the good life, the further question arises, "How am I to lead the good life?"
And here once more we find that morality without religion entirely fails because it provides no power. "For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do," says St. Paul.
That is the problem. The lack of power, the failure to do what we know we ought to do or what we would like to do, and the corresponding failure not to do what we know to be wrong.
Mankind needs not only knowledge of the truth but, still more, power.
Here morality fails, for it leaves the problem in our hands. We have to do everything.
But, as we have just seen, that, in a sense, is the whole of our problem. We cannot.
We fail. Ultimately moral systems only appeal to and help a certain type of person, If We are what is called "naturally good" and naturally interested in such things, they may help us much and encourage us.
And when I say "naturally good" I mean good in the sight of man, not of God, good in the sense of not being guilty of certain sins, not good in the sense of the biblical terms righteous and holy.

Such people are helped by moral systems.
But what of those who are not constituted in that way?
What of those who are natural rebels,
those who are more dynamic and full of life?
Those to whom wrong and evil come more easily and naturally than good?

Clearly morality cannot help, for it leaves us precisely and exactly what and where we were.
It provides us with no power to restrain ourselves the problem to us. It cannot help us. It has no power to give us. And having failed once,from sin, for its arguments can be easily brushed aside.
It provides no power to restore us when we have fallen into sin. It leaves us as condemned failures and, indeed, makes us feel hopeless.
It reminds us that we have failed, that we have been defeated, that we have not maintained the standard.
And even if it appeals to us to try again it really condemns us while so doing and dooms us to failure.
For it still leaves we argue, we are likely to fail again.
Why try, therefore? Let us give in and give up and abandon ourselves to our fate. And alas! how many have done so and for that very reason?

And in the same way it has no enabling power to give us.
It provides a standard, but it does not help us to attain unto it.
It is really nothing but good advice. It gives no power.

We have seen, therefore, that it fails in every respect, theoretical and practical.
How tragic it is that mankind should so long have been guilty of this foolish error of reversing the true order of religion and morality!

For once they are placed in their right positions the situation is entirely changed. In precisely the same way as morality alone fails, the Gospel of Christ succeeds.
It starts with God and exists to glorify His holy Name.
It restores man into the right relationship to Him, reconciling him to God through the blood of Christ.
It tells man that he is more important than his own actions or his environment, and that when he is put right, he must then proceed to put them right.
It caters for the whole man, body, soul, and spirit, intellect, desire and will, by giving him the most exalted view of all, and filling him with a passion and a desire to live the good life in order to express his gratitude to God for His amazing love.
And it provides him with power. In the depth of his shame and misery as the result of his sin and failure, it restores him by assuring him that Christ has died for him and his sins, and that God has forgiven him.
It calls him to a new life and a new start, promising him power that will overcome sin and temptation, and will at the same time enable him to live the life he believes and knows he ought to live.

There, and there alone, lies the only hope for men and for the world. Everything else has been tried and has failed. Ungodliness is the greatest and the central sin. It is the cause of all our other troubles. Men must return to God and start with Him. And, God be praised, the way for them to do so is still wide open in "Jesus Christ and Him crucified."

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