Views on Christian morality
After reading Law, Love and Christian life by Vincent MacNamara, I have learned that there are many different views on Christian morality and there is not necessarily one, which is greater than the next, in fact there are many principles that can be used together. Vincent MacNamara has many views on the subject and from the book I found that the points, which recurred, were, the importance of the bible (the Ten Commandments), natural law, judgement, conscience, sin and forgiveness. These were discussed very well in the book and I found the examples for each were of great benefit as they helped me to understand each point.
The book was very well structured making it easy to follow. The first chapter MacNamara deals with the word ‘Morality’ and it’s meaning. He stresses that the source of morality should not be thought of as a set of rules given to us by God. Many people believe that morality is imposed on us while others believe it comes from within. I believe that it comes from within. It is like a little seed, which is planted inside us and with the right nourishing, and teachings, it flourishes and grows. We see that different people have their own views and opinions on certain Moral teachings.
It is ok for people to have their own opinions but they must be able to justify their beliefs. People should believe in what is in their hearts and they should act and do morally because they want to themselves and not because the church wants them to. Morality can be totally independent from religion; in fact non-believers can sometimes be the most morally sensitive people of all. Morality is about what is inside, it is the voice which tells you to do good or bad, the church give us a moral code by which to live by, this helps us to stay on the right track.
Non-believers rely on the law of the land and the voice inside them, for many this enough. Views on morality has changed through the years, the older generation have very set idea’s on moral codes, rewards, heaven and hell. This doesn’t seem to be such a big thing for the youth. We have discovered that the Ten Commandments, which we know today, might not be the ones given to Moses all those years ago. The Commandments appear as a code of conduct and for years, many people lived their life afraid of the sanctions and therefore observed them.
We should think of Judaism as receiving morality as a natural experience rather than the receiving of the Ten Commandments as we saw in the bible. So we are told that the greatest Commandment of all is to Love your neighbour, so if this is so we know that a true Christian is one who cares for their fellow human beings. So why should we be moral? Because it is the will of God? As Christians, we tend to refer to right and wrong using words like “because God said so” after it. We should really believe in things for ourselves, “because we believe it is right or wrong”.
We Christians believe that if they follow the life of Christ, they will have salvation. We believe that we will be forgiven if we are truly sorry, and we believe in life everlasting. This is comforting for Christians; it is a reason for believing. How do we know right form wrong? What makes something right or wrong? Should we depend on the bible, Ten Commandments, church or God to tell us right and wrong? When something is wrong, it is not because someone in authority e. g. ‘God’ says it is wrong, it is because the act in itself is wrong.
Humans generally know what is considered to be appropriate behaviour we call this natural law. Some like to use both methods together so as not to slip up. Nowadays even important documents like the Vatican council documents refer to natural law. The Ten Commandments are not enough now that life has become more complicated, right or wrong decisions are not easily arrived at. For example if a girl is raped, she cannot really be condemned for pre-marital sex as it was not her fault. In these situations we need to follow our conscience, take into account the circumstances before we make decisions on people.
The bible can help us find a set of general values, however these values may not last forever, circumstances and situations change with time, therefore morals should change a little too. We may come across situations where the judgement is not ready-made, in these cases; we must examine them and spend more time thinking about them, as they are more complex. “The truth in love”. This chapter introduced a new word to me. “Agape” this means neighbourly love. Love is a very important moral response, which is expected of us. Years ago there wasn’t as much emphasis on Love.
People seemed to worry more about the ‘Do Not’ commands. Do not kill, steal, and commit adultery. I think this is because people feared the implications of such actions. Love is the fundamental principle of morality. If we truly love one another, we should have no fear of committing any of the sins mentioned above. As Christians we should promote good and avoid evil. The Golden rule is to treat others, as you would like them to treat you. We have many relationships in life, some people we naturally like and others whom we may not be so sure about.
It is the people we may not like that we should work on and try to accept them for what they are. How can we achieve human wholeness? We must learn to accept people for what they are, worry about the welfare of others and not just your own, you should have friendships, education, self-esteem, well-being and a sense of responsibility. We have a natural law within us. St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Paul believe that the truly free do not need anyone to guide them in this task because they have their law inscribed in their hearts. Is morality based on doing the greatest good?
Well you have to do your best fro everyone involved. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to choose one over another and there is a lot to take into account, these decisions can be very difficult. We must gather all the facts and reflect on the consequences of such actions before we can decide weather we think they are right or wrong. There are principles to be considered here, the long term effect of the act, the consequences to the community, the question of which rule produces the greater good, we need to consider individual rights, greatest needs and also urgency.
Another principle is that you cannot undermine a life. To obtain one value sometimes means you might have to act against or sacrifice another. This is where the principles come in, how do we make the decision? This chapter looks at the individual and his/her ability to live morally. To be able to see the truth and to be able to act on it because it is what you believe in. As we go through life, we experience many different situations. We pick up information on different things, so we become more knowledgeable on how to act on things morally.
It is too easy to arrive at the point of not being able to see, not wanting to see or not being able to want to see. To see what? To see right and wrong for ourselves. “He who avoids evil just because it is a command of God is not free” – Thomas Aquinas We have a personal responsibility to make our own decisions, to see and do and question what we believe. To do what we believe is right and to avoid what we believe is wrong. Morality has been undermined in the past in the sense that some moral rules have been too inflexible.
You should do good and avoid evil; You should respect others; You should not commit murder; You should not take your own life; You should not have sexual relations with anyone else’s spouse. We can agree on some of these rules, but we may have to question others in some cases. How do we define murder? In the cases above what were the circumstances? What was the state of mind of the person committing the act? Another way of questioning right and wrong is to use the double effect principle. MacNamara gives many examples of where and how the double effect principle is used.
It can be a very complex principle to use, there are many ways of looking at the different dilemma’s. They can sometimes prove to be very confusing. MacNamara stresses here again that the church cannot make something right or wrong. You must believe it your self. Chapter 8 is on Conscience. We are always aware of our conscience and of right and wrong, of values and truths in life, of a moral dimension to life and of the fact that wee cannot live solely for profit or pleasure. Conscience has the power to make you feel good or bad about something, happy or even guilty about something.
The commandments have been given to us as the minimum source of right and wrong. We must develop our conscience, so we can truly know the difference between right and wrong. Chapter 9 also deals somewhat with conscience. It deals with the sin and forgiveness side of it. How our conscience is hurt when we do wrong and how if we truly repent we will be forgiven. It eats away at us still as we as Christians need to believe that we will be forgiven. The message given to us by Vincent MacNamara seems to be to live like God. To listen to your heart and you will know what is right.
The Ten Commandments are a good source of morality but they don’t work in every situation. He seems to even shy away from the teachings of the church. While everything we are being told is important, it is maybe even more important to listen to your self and to make your own decisions. I enjoyed the book; I found it gave me a good insight to what we had been doing in class. I realise that everyone has his or her own opinions on Morality, on what is right and wrong. The book helped me to look at things in an objective way, so that I can make my own decision on it.