Religion: Can We Know God? (11)-Morality or Desire?

    Modern secular morality is thinly veiled lust. One word from an ancient language translated as "lust" inEnglish is the Greek word epithumia. We do not stretch this word too tightly in either direction when we translate it as "desire." 

   Lust does not have to be wild abandon or the leering, lascivious, licentiousness of modern (or ancient) hedonism. Personal desire is "the lust of our flesh." The desire of personal aggrandizement of needs is sexual but it is also commercial, political, artistic, literary, familial, et al. In fact it is impossible to think of any significant human endeavor that does not partake of the negative effects of personal desire.

   Let me illustrate. I spent some time a few weeks ago listening to an irreligious man propose his way of life. He is the husband of one wife, to whom he has been married and faithful for some time. He eschews vulgar habits. He neither swears nor lies nor cheats on his taxes. He is by all accounts a good fellow. 

   The gentleman stressed his virtuous living, apart from any religious practices of any kind. I left aside for the moment any questions about how he decided his acts of commission and omission were virtuous in the first place and simply asked, "Why do you live this way?"

   "I live like this because I want to live this way. I do whatever I want," he replied.

   As a citizen of this world, I thanked him for his willingness to be decent to family and friends, since that makes less trouble for me. At least I don't have to clean up after this one.

   "Please let me ask you about your motivation, however," I told him and he assented.

    "You do what you do just because you want to do it?" I asked and he nodded vigorously.

   "By that standard, if you decided you wanted to do wrong and practice evil, you would be just as virtuous, because, after all, you are doing what you want to do?"

   He agreed with my assessment.

   "This is where we part ways, then," I told him. "I cannot consider you good when you only obey your own desires. Those can change quickly.

   I think we did part ways at that point. I do not think it was because I scored some imaginary intellectual points. I think he just did not want to continue to talk with me. He obeyed the desires of his own flesh. He left. 

   Please note he did not disagree with my analysis. He just obeyed his nature.

   Desire is a poor way to run a life. Desire is the eros love of the immature and self-absorbed. Desire (eros love) wills its own good. Others may momentarily benefit from another fellow's desire but no one can depend on self-absorption to do good consistently for any other than the self. 

   "Agape" love," Dallas Willard writes, "is love that wills the good of whatever it is directed upon" (Dallas Willard, Knowing Christ Today, p.53.

   Agape love is love as a sustainable life style because it does not need to consume whatever it fixates on. Agape love is available to enrich. The enriching grace of agape love will become most important in a world predicted to grow in population from 6.4 billion to 9.7 billion by 2050. What will be the mien of the man who does only what he wants to do when the world is overfilled with his kind?

   Let me ask again, the man who thinks he only does what he wants and thinks he is doing good, how does he know to define his works as good or bad or even indifferent? If the highest call on mortal beings is to love, how does one manage to become the highest kind of moral being, the agape lover?

   We ought to know this; once we come to hear of Christ, inner spiritual transformation becomes His primary work in/on/with us. Jesus, and Jesus alone among all those who claim  to sense God, teaches agape love. Jesus never says we become worthy to God by our willingness to destroy ourselves and others. Jesus never hints that obedience to an ancient codified law, often modified, will abrogate our selfish nature. Religion predates Science and appears before Art but not all religion is equal. Religions are not alike. This is not something Religion would claim for itself. When men try to make all religions alike, they are not speaking to advance Religion but to dismiss it.

   The most valuable religion is sustainable, evolutionary, centralized in love for God and Man, concentrated on its core message. Alone among His co-Religionists, Jesus announces His intention to change His followers in order to make us fit for eternal life as He infuses us with abundant life.

   In ancient times, a rabbi or teacher would establish his School of Thought. His disciples would study under him and then go out to establish their own School of Thought. They would literally make disciples for themselves. The Disciples of Jesus remained so enthralled by His words that they worked to make disciples for Christ, not for themselves, long after His Heavenly Home-going.

   The agape love of Jesus, sacrificial, effective love, is so overwhelming in His Person that those who meet Him prefer His Way over any other. We who live in this world are appropriately frightened as our reality progresses toward its own destruction. Markets plunge, riches disappear and no one understands exactly why, except that self-love is selfish and selfishness finds a way to requite its own desires. Un-evolved, ancient faith systems, derived from the worst kinds of Man love, threaten world stability and no one knows how to require faith to be appropriately loving rather than dangerously fanatical. 

   Worse, self-absorption (erotic love) appears to be unanswerable. The standard question of Post-Modernism seems to be, "Who is to say?" The apparent intended answer seems to be, "Specialized experts can rule on their specialty and, since we cannot find another authority of meaning, we will defer to these narrow specialists on all matters." 

   This is madness. A frightening world run by madness ought to be our greatest concern. It is the lack of knowledge for which the people perish. We will need to find some Way to Know, and to Know more than what is happening in a laboratory somewhere.

  

Opinions expressed here are mine alone, not those of any other person or entity.

   

2 thoughts on “Religion: Can We Know God? (11)-Morality or Desire?”

  1. From a homily by then-Cardinal Ratzinger:
    “[R]elativism, that is, letting oneself be ‘tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine’, seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.
    We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism.”

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