Posts Tagged ‘morality’

I found a nice site that has the rest of the commandments on it from Luther’s Large Catechism: http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/luther/catechism/web/cat-07.html#c5

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“As the First Commandment has instructed the heart and taught [the basis of] faith, so this commandment leads us forth and directs the mouth and tongue to God. For the first objects that spring from the heart and manifest themselves are words. Now, as I have taught above how to answer the question, what it is to have a god, so you must learn to comprehend simply the meaning of this and all the commandments, and to apply it to yourself.

If, then, it be asked: How do you understand the Second Commandment, or what is meant by taking in vain, or misusing God’s name? answer briefly thus: It is misusing God’s name when we call upon the Lord God no matter in what way, for purposes of falsehood or wrong of any kind. Therefore this commandment enjoins this much, that God’s name must not be appealed to falsely, or taken upon the lips while the heart knows well enough, or should know, differently; as among those who take oaths in court, where one side lies against the other. For God’s name cannot be misused worse than for the support of falsehood and deceit. Let4this remain the exact German and simplest meaning of this commandment.

From this every one can readily infer when and in how many ways God’s name is misused, although it is impossible to enumerate all its misuses. Yet, to tell it in a few words, all misuse of the divine name occurs, first, in worldly business and in matters which concern money, possessions, honor, whether it be publicly in court, in the market, or wherever else men make false oaths in God’s name, or pledge their souls in any matter. And this is especially prevalent in marriage affairs where two go and secretly betroth themselves to one another, and afterward abjure [their plighted troth].

But. the greatest abuse occurs in spiritual matters, which pertain to the conscience, when false preachers rise up and offer their Lying vanities as God’s Word.” -Luther’s Large Catechism

Luther goes on, of course, for a couple more pages on this. I think this sheds some light on this often misunderstood commandment.

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“Is God unrighteous? No; but He has His own standard! The righteousness of God is eternal! The love of God is infinite, and not finite! What does this mean? According to human conceptions such a God can be described only as a ‘Despot’, and men are bound to rebel against His tyranny. But He whom men would not naturally wish to name ‘God’ is, nevertheless, God. Through the knowledge of God which is in Christ, He whom men name ‘Despot’ (Luke ii. 29, Acts iv. 24), is known and loved as the eternal, loving Father. The God of Esau is known to be the God of Jacob. There is no road to the knowledge of God which does not run along the precipitous edge of this contradiction. If we conceive of God as conformed to our human ideas, as one cause in a series, as one factor among other factors, He is not the Cause, the Absolute, the Eternal, Personal God–but rather the ‘No-God’. And even this ‘No-God’ is the parable and image whereby we are led inexorably to the point where the contradiction occurs. For the ‘No-God’ points beyond himself, and is himself dissolved to the honour of the true and only God. The will of God is not some good thing, operating independently, to which God is subject. His will is rather the source and sanction of all good, and it is good only because it is what He wills…” p. 350 The Epistle to the Romans

In a discussion with an atheist friend of mine the character of God was brought up. He claimed God was clearly evil, and mentioned evil things in the world, and in the Bible. I said he was mistaken, and here is my reasoning, along with some of Karl Barth’s. From within the Christian perspective (and this may be a debated point) we, as finite human beings, cannot come up with a “measure” by which to judge God as evil. We have no “yard stick” of morality we can hold up to God and say “this is evil”. Instead, He is the measuring stick by which we are judged. Judgment is one way, from God to us. Thus you have Barth talking about God being perceived as a Despot, and the No-God being invented to sooth the minds of those who cannot stomach the true God. But once you can grasp what it means to be the true God, the rest falls into your understanding as well. The Eternal, loving, God the father; the Cause, the Absolute, the Personal God; all of these things become clear then.

I like to keep things short, but here’s some more. To use evil as a predicate for God means you are no longer talking about God. You have switched to some other entity and are judging it. God, by His nature, is good. Without this, He is not God, and to attribute evil to his nature is contradictory.

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“The safe way of duty seems to offer escape from the bewildering profusion of possible decisions. What is commanded is grasped as the most certain. The person in command bears responsibility for the order, not the one who carries it out. however, those who limit themselves to duty will never venture a free action that rests solely on their own responsibility, the only sort of action that can meet evil at its heart and overcome it. People of duty must finally fulfill their duty even to the devil.” p. 79 Ethics

Another ethical category that a person might take on. Notice how Bonhoeffer says that a free action is the only type of action that can ‘meet evil at its heart and overcome it’. I think the final line is very powerful, and reminds me of the time he was writing this; how Nazis were exterminating people under the rule of Hitler.

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“Where moral difficulties are taken so seriously, where they torment and enslave man, because they do not leave him open to the freeing activity of obedience, it is there that his total godlessness is revealed. All his difficulties are shown to be ungodly, frivolous and the proof of sheer disobedience. The one thing that matters is practical obedience. That will solve his difficulties and make him (and all of us) free to become the child of God. Such is God’s diagnosis of man’s moral difficulties.” p. 74 The Cost of Discipleship

It has been a while since I read this book, but I was skimming back through it and found this part particularly interesting and possibly confusing. Does it mean that if we have problems with morality in our life that we are godless? Does Bonhoeffer expect us to be morally perfect Christians? I suspect not, but it could be read that way. What I’m getting from it now is that we could have moral difficulties in our minds, but as long as we obey the law of God, then we are not godless…hmmm? Really? Ok, my third reading of this: To have moral difficulties, such that they themselves are causing havoc in your life, preventing you from living as God commanded, then you are godless. For focusing on the moral difficulties themselves and not on how God commanded us to live, we give up our Christian lives and are drawn down the rabbit hole, so to speak, of moral ambiguities, exactly where Satan would like us to dwell. So, moral difficulties are fine, just don’t make them all you care about; instead keep the focus on simple obedience which helps produce faith, which in turn helps resolve your moral problems. All the while, though, you are not a perfect moral being like Christ was…and that’s ok…

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“No individual exists without participation, and no personal being exists without communal being. The person as the fully developed individual self is impossible without the other fully developed selves. If he did not meet the resistance of other selves, every self would try to make himself absolute. But the resistance of the other selves is unconditional. One individual can conquer the entire world of objects, but he cannot conquer another person without destroying him as a person. The individual discovers himself through this resistance. If he does not want to destroy the other person, he must enter into communion with him. In the resistance of the other person the person is born. Therefore, there is no person without an encounter with other persons. Persons can grow only in the communion of personal encounter. Individualization and participation are interdependent on all levels of being.” p. 176-177 Systematic Theology Volume 1.

What does this mean in regards to abortion? I can’t find definitively what Tillich’s stance on abortion was, but I gather from this that he was “pro-choice”. Unless you can describe the interaction between fetus and mother as part of a communion thus establishing a person in the fetus. Or could you go so far as saying that the doctor who is aborting the fetus as “conquering” the fetus and thus destroying his personhood with his own?

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