Saturday, August 21, 2010

Just one moral code among many

Many Christians are very scared of the specter of Post-modernism, a thought system which when popularly used ends up devolving to "There is no Universal Truth" or "one truth is just as valid as the next." Seriously, Post-modernism is a common and frequent whipping boy, and its anti-modern aspects which are beneficial (Postmodernism exists to question the truths presented by modernism - you know, all those "truths" that assume that there is no God, no miracles, because that would just be right silly).

Why? I think part of the reason is too often we think of Christianity in moral terms. We know that we need to start with preaching the Law and then the Gospel, but we confuse the Law with morality... and if Christianity is presented first and foremost as a moral code, or if that is what you think Christianity is, then indeed Post-modernism is the scariest thing in the world.

Why? If you play up Christianity's moral truths, you are jumping into a competitive world. Buddhism can give you an interesting moral code, as can Hinduism, or even Islam. And if it is just about moralism, just about moral behavior - well then, (thinks the typical post-modern thinker) any one of these is just as good as the other - it's just what flavor I want to use.

This was illustrated most clearly to me when I was visiting my old Greek Professor, Ralph Doty, at OU a few years after graduation. Dr. Doty is. . . well, I know he was raised Baptist, but he has a good knowledge and love of buddhism (something I understand completely - I almost did grad work focusing on Japanese Buddhism -- interesting stuff). Well, as is common at OU, one of his students determined that she was going to save his soul and convert him - he mentioned respect for Buddhism, so she was going to win him for Christ. And she took a nice little tract, and it had "The 4 things you must to do be a Christian" - and they were all moralistic, man centered. Love your neighbor, things like that.

At this point, Dr. Doty says, "Hmmm, that's interesting," and then turns around and pulls a Buddhist text and says, "Hmmm, love your neighbor - that's here, and then that one, oh, that's here" for all the points, and then asked if she wanted to read his book while he read hers. She fled.

Now, Dr. Doty illustrated a point in a very blunt and caustic fashion (as Dr. Doty is want to do - my favorite line - his absence policy is if you miss or are tardy for seven classes, you fail. "If your grandmother dies, miss class and bury her. If she dies seven times, put a stake through her heart and be done with her.") If we treat Christianity as a moral code, as a way of living your life - eh, there are tons of those. In fact, if this were just morality, I'd probably belong to that Jedi Church thing, cause it's weird and I can be weird.

But we forget two drastic points.

1. Morality does not equal the Law. The Law is not "be nice." The Law is you are a sinner and you are going to die, and you deserve it. The Law is not one code among many, but it is a very specific statement about you. The Law explains the "problem" of evil. Yes, there is evil in the world, and you know what - you're it. Don't try and get bogged down in metaphysical discussions - look at yourself, look at the wickedness you do.

The Law explains that. The Law explains that like no other system of belief does -- and unlike every other moral code, it says that ultimately all your discipline and strength won't fix that.

This makes Christianity, when properly taught, utterly unique - it removes Christianity from the whole morality buffet that frightens people in these Postmodern times. "But, but, but - people with post-modern mind sets might decide that they just like something better!" Yeah, so what? People always have.

But the Law has a wonderful post modern hook -- all those truths people claim, they are all same and all flawed -- and postmodern thought loves seeing how supposed differences are really the same, and postmodern thought loves seeing where an assumed truth is false. Opportunity knocks.

2. Most, most importantly - Moralism does not equal the Gospel. The ultimate thing that cuts through Post-modern palaver, the thing that makes Christianity stand out and be unique in the world is the Gospel - Jesus died for you so that you might live forever. Nothing comes close (closest would probably be Amida Buddhism, but Amida will just help you to not exist forever -- a completely different concept). Jesus is the solution to the Law and all those pesky truths it reveals.

Seriously - if you are worried about Christianity being lost in the post-modern religious buffet - proclaim more Christ. It is the most unique doctrine in Christianity.

Of course, if you bothered to read the introduction to Pieper, you'd know this. The Gospel is what makes Christianity stand out from every other religion on the planet. He wrote that to counter Modernist thought - but like all truths of God, which cut through time and space, which are stronger than the wisdom of men, be it modern or post-modern - it still holds true today.

Don't let your Christianity become just another moral code.

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