LOVE: IS IT OUR CHIEF IDOL OR OUR MOST PRIZED VIRTUE? — PART 2

fatter_disasterWe live in era when the world seems to be unraveling. Is it unraveling? If it is unraveling, why?

Here we continue with part 2 of LOVE: IS IT OUR CHIEF IDOL OR OUR MOST PRIZED VIRTUE? What is the subject?

How The Idolization of Love Corrupts Church and State

What Is Idol Worship?

Word Origin and History for idoln. mid-13c.,

“image of a deity as an object of (pagan) worship,” from Old French idole “idol, graven image, pagan god,” from Late Latin idolum “image (mental or physical), form,” used in Church Latin for “false god,” from Greek eidolon “appearance, reflection in water or a mirror,” later “mental image, apparition, phantom,” also “material image, statue,” from eidos “form” (see -oid ). Figurative sense of “something idolized” is first recorded 1560s (in Middle English the figurative sense was “someone who is false or untrustworthy”). Meaning “a person so adored” is from 1590s. (from here)

When we idolize something, we put that person, place, or thing before our Creator. We foolishly put our faith in a person, place, or thing that is not worthy of such trust (Note again the origin of the word “idol”.). For the sake of what we can get from our idol, we sacrifice our self (in service) to our idol, and we risk our soul. We don’t “love” our idol, but it does consume us when we try use it to get what we want.

At gotquestions.org, here is how the author begins his post on the differences between ancient and modern idolatry.

Question: “What are some modern forms of idolatry?”

Answer: All the various forms of modern idolatry have one thing at their core: self. We no longer bow down to idols and images. Instead we worship at the altar of the god of self. This brand of modern idolatry takes various forms. (continued here)

The various forms he lists involve stuff (materialism), self (pride), state (mankind), and self-indulgence (various forms of gluttony).

How Does The Idolization of Love Corrupt The Church?

Most Christians have memorized at least one passage in the Bible. We call it The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), but it is really a model prayer. This prayer puts the focus on God and obedience to Him. When we recite it — and mean what we say — we humble ourselves and beg forgiveness for our sins. But this is not the way prideful men want to imagine God, and we have a wonderful capacity for self-delusion.  So it is that once we take our eyes off God, we focus upon what we want. In Grammar Lesson – ‘AS’ and ‘AND’, irtfyblog provides an example of how that works. Here is an excerpt.

So, knowing how a word is defined and used in a specific language, a reader can develop a better understanding of what the writer is trying to convey. Hence, the command:  “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Since we know that ‘As’ is defined as a word used to compare and refer to the extent or degree of something, we can then see that the meaning of the command is really:  “Love your neighbor in comparison to or to the degree of which you love yourself.”

If God had said, “Love your neighbor AND love yourself,” that would have changed the meaning of the command entirely.

Since we very much like to love ourselves, so it is that many of us look for excuses to change the meaning of the Bible. When the folks at gotquestions.org addressed this question, “Why is idol worship such a powerful temptation?”, they considered this matter.

There is another form of idolatry prevalent today. Its growth is fostered by cultures that continue to drift away from sound biblical teaching, just as the apostle Paul warned us, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3). In these pluralistic, liberal times, many cultures have, to a large degree, redefined God. We have forsaken the God revealed to us in Scripture and have recast Him to comply with our own inclinations and desires—a “kinder and gentler” god who is infinitely more tolerant than the One revealed in Scripture. One who is less demanding and less judgmental and who will tolerate many lifestyles without placing guilt on anyone’s shoulders. As this idolatry is propagated by churches around the world, many disillusioned congregants understandably believe they are worshipping the one, true God. However, these made-over gods are created by man, and to worship them is to worship idols. Worshipping a god of one’s own making, however, is particularly tempting for many whose habits and lifestyles and drives and desires are not in harmony with Scripture.

I call this form of idolatry the idolization of “love”.

How do our churches support the idolization of “love”? So that we can focus on the God of Love, we ignore much of scripture. We ignore Hell. We ignore the condemnation of sin. Fearing we deserve the same, we ignore the stories of Israel’s sins and suffering. We also ignore the sins and the suffering of Israel’s enemies, of Sodom and Gomorrah, of the peoples before Noah’s Flood, of Cain, and of Adam and Eve. Refusing to seriously consider the future, we set aside the coming Wrath of God in Revelation.

When was the last time your pastor warned of Hell and damnation? Does your pastor slyly step past the scary parts of the Bible? How many people do you know who read those parts? How many people do you know who have read the Bible?

Is there a Hell? Is there a punishment for sin? If not, then why did Jesus die upon that cross?

We have to study and revere the whole Word of God. Any church that refuses to do that will in time unravel.

Deuteronomy 12:29-32 New King James Version (NKJV)

Beware of False Gods

29 “When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, 30 take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.

32 “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.

For the sake of what they imagine they could get from a demon god called Molech, the Canaanites and their Hebrew imitators burned their children alive.  For the sake of distorted notions of love, we abort hundreds of thousands of children every year.

How Does The Idolization of Love Corrupt The State?

Churches Don’t Provide Character Education

When churches begin preaching sloppy notions about love and ignore much of the Bible, the morals of a nation must suffer. Then the nation itself must suffer. Without a moral people, we cannot make a constitutional republic work. Neither the people nor their leaders will restrain themselves and abide by the law.

There is a certain irony in that. Consider all the rules, regulations and laws we suffer under now, and ignorance of the law is no excuse. In a highly technical society with potentially lethal hand-held power tools; big and even more dangerous cars, buses, and trunks; powerful chemicals; and so forth, we have to have lots of rules, regulations and laws. We cannot just point to a song and chant “What the world needs now is love, sweet love”. We have to understand that loving your neighbor means stopping at red lights. In fact, we have to teach our children and each other what real and sincere love looks like.

Yet too many Christian churches do not teach about the effort required to love. They should. Consider how Jesus summarized the Bible.

Matthew 22:36-40 New King James Version (NKJV)

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Did Jesus say that this passage is all we need to know? Didn’t Jesus spend three years teaching His apostles. Did not even the Apostle Paul, a brilliant scholar, have to spend 2 – 3 years in the desert before he began his work as an apostle (Galatians 1:11-18). For similar reasons, each of us needs to study the whole Bible. Just as the apostles could not teach others how to be good Christians without the instruction of Jesus, we cannot properly live as good Christians without studying the Bible.

An Example Of The Problem

The Bible is a book of wisdom that tells us how we should try to live with each other. Government is an institution we created to keep us from destroying each other. Because we must empower government to control us, government is an institution we can either use properly or abuse.

Here is a very simple, straightforward example. The Bible gives us a personal responsibility to love and help each other. The Bible speaks of voluntary giving, not government-run charity. Yet we have let legions of politicians persuade us that they have the right to take money some people and give it to other people. These politicians give us excuses. “It is for the children.” “It is for the disabled.” “It is for the old.” And so forth.

What at bottom is the excuse for government-run charity — welfare? The politicians defend the welfare state as modern man’s means for loving his neighbor. In fact, what has happened is that the conniving politicians who run these schemes just create large voting constituencies dependent on government handouts.

Government cannot love us. Government welfare is not about love; it is about votes. The Bible does not make exceptions for government handouts. Even when we use the government to do it, when we take the property of another person, that is stealing.

Government Cannot Provide Character Education

Since the time we turned the education of our children over to politicians, each succeeding generation has had less and less familiarity with the Bible. What have the politicians put in its place? It is a vague thing we call Secularism.

Why would our leaders choose to do such a thing? Why would they set aside the Bible, which contains invaluable wisdom, for Secularism. Well, there is nothing new in this. In fact, when Americans chose to prevent the government from establishing a state religion, that was new. Unfortunately, we risk losing what they won.

In the 1830’s Americans started sending their children to schools run by their local governments. Those public schools, ostensibly for the sake of religious freedom, gradually begin separating the religious content out of the curriculum. When state governments and the Federal Government sought to stick their noses into the government-run education racket, Federal and state officials accelerated the process of separating out religious education content. Hence, when the Supreme Court ruled against school prayer, the judges merely finished a process that was almost complete.

Unfortunately, a secular education cannot and does not instill virtue into children.  Therefore, everyone expected parents and churches to somehow make up for this deficit, but relatively few parents and churches ever taught children what was needful. In fact, as some have observed, the way the public schools teach subjects like sex education (handing out condoms to teenagers.) and history (religion starts wars) is often at odds with what churches and parents want children to learn.

Conclusion

If we want to save our republic, we have to focus on a more serious problem. We each have to repair the damage to our souls. We must study the Bible.

2 Chronicles 34 tells the story of a revival in Judah. The priests had lost the Book of the Law in the temple.  When the priests finally began looking towards God again, they then were able to find His Word again (in the Temple where they lost it). The question for today is whether we can do the same.


Continued: A Review Of What Others Have To Say

38 thoughts on “LOVE: IS IT OUR CHIEF IDOL OR OUR MOST PRIZED VIRTUE? — PART 2

      1. Then i would submit such a person doesn’t really have empathy.
        One cannot empathise and yet not empathize at the same time. That is not empathy.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. @KIA

          You may will to respond to insanitybytes22’s comment, but I have a different issue. Your definition of empathy is inconsistent, that is it changes from one comment to the next. First you try to distinguish empathy from love. Then you make caring (or loving) part of empathy.

          Serious debate requires that we agree upon our definition of terms.

          Like

  1. Well done, Tom.

    I would definitely NOT say empathy is the cornerstone of a moral society, but you probably are already aware of that. It may appear that way on the surface, but empathy as a basis for all morality is highly flawed. That is because we are empathizing with the feelings of another and feelings alone, no matter how justified, are a terrible marker for morality.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @insanitybytes22

      Thank you.

      Isn’t how I feel all that matters? Doesn’t every two year old think so?

      Still, we need to try to put ourselves in each others shoes, but why? What do we do with the knowledge we gain?

      Wisdom is a rare thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post on the misuse of love in our society.

    Love without wisdom is like the song verse, love and marriage go together like a hrose and carriage, or the balance symbol on the scale of justice.

    I àm concerned about the point of no return in our nation balance scale.

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “One cannot empathise yet not care. That’s not empathy.”

    I hate to go so dark in a thread about love, but I must report that sociopaths and serial killers and other assorted nasty critters often have a great ability to empathize. That is how they often entrap and exploit their victims, by understanding them better than they understand themselves and by preying off their weaknesses. Empathy does not mean we are going to care. Take for instance a sadist or a masochist, two people I would much prefer do not empathize with me on account of the fact that their particular form of compassion is a bit bent.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You wrote:

    “Since we very much like to love ourselves, so it is that many of us look for excuses to change the meaning of the Bible.”

    You quoted Matthew 22:36-40. It seems obvious from Jesus’ last statement in this passage that Jesus is saying that all of scripture, including its statements about Hell and about condemnation of sin, as well as scriptural allegories such as Sodom and Gomorrah, the Flood, etc., should be interpreted though the lens of love for their meaning. As you know, Jesus confirms this same concept in Luke 10:27, but the differences in context are striking.

    In Luke 10:25-37, as happens so often in the Gospels, a scriptural scholar is again trying to trap Jesus into a contradiction with the law of the scriptures. Jesus’ lawyerly critic here, as in several other such Gospel instances, wants Jesus to go against what the scriptural laws say about who and what is ok to judge and condemn. Jesus avoids the trap in Luke in a very socratian way by answering a question with a question so as to force God’s Law of Love right out of His would-be cross examiner’s mouth. But then the lawyer tries to set another trap by asking Jesus who is his neighbor, and to this Jesus provides the Good Samaritan Parable.

    Here is an excerpt from the Matthew Henry commentary on Luke 22:36-40:

    “Christ gave an instance of a poor Jew in distress, relieved by a good Samaritan. This poor man fell among thieves, who left him about to die of his wounds. He was slighted by those who should have been his friends, and was cared for by a stranger, a Samaritan, of the nation which the Jews most despised and detested, and would have no dealings with. It is lamentable to observe how selfishness governs all ranks; how many excuses men will make to avoid trouble or expense in relieving others. But the true Christian has the law of love written in his heart. The Spirit of Christ dwells in him; Christ’s image is renewed in his soul. The parable is a beautiful explanation of the law of loving our neighbour as ourselves, without regard to nation, party, or any other distinction.”

    Words, like the word “love”, are such imperfect vessels for conveying the infinitely mysterious will of God. Stories import more meaning to us than simple individual words because a narrative can illustrate a message and imprint to our conscious and unconscious minds in ways that mere declarative words and statements cannot. God therefore reveals Himself so often in scripture through the allegorical rather than the literal, and Jesus also often utilized allegory in the form of Parables to illustrate His most profound meaning. The parable therefore speaks for itself, but if forced to define the word “love”, as Jesus is explains it here, by using only one word, I believe it would be the word “compassion”.

    In that sense love then is eternal and universal, but it is also situational, in that it is not confined to customs, rules or laws of a given time, culture and place. Love is also an active word requiring an active response situationally that transcends our partisan politics and the imperfect solutions of our contemporary social and political systemic disputes. Love is the source of universal virtues, but the application of those virtues ends up being an imperfect balance between vices that is always relative to a given time and place and culture.

    We should be carefull therefore interpret scripture in the light of love rather than changing its meaning to somehow justify our own prejudices and politics and to condemn the good faith political solutions of others.

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    1. @Tony

      We should be careful therefore interpret scripture in the light of love rather than changing its meaning to somehow justify our own prejudices and politics and to condemn the good faith political solutions of others.

      With a line like that, how is that you are not doing what you seem to have accused me of doing?

      I will readily admit my interpretation of scriptures is imperfect, but what exactly is it that you disagree with? Instead of beating around the bush, just get to the point and be specific.

      Consider. John 14-17 records how Jesus prepared his followers for His death. Here is an excerpt relevant to this discussion.

      John 14:5-11 New King James Version (NKJV)

      5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”

      6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

      The Father Revealed

      7 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”

      8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”

      9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.

      Imagine a man who knows He is about to die telling His friends that only through Him can they know God.

      What that passage tells us is that you are right, at least to some extent. When we interpret the Holy Scriptures, we must strive to understand them through and in the light of Jesus’ teachings, all of His teachings, not just the ones about love.

      Did Jesus emphasize love? Yes, but Jesus endorsed the Old Testament. And He helped us to understand that the God of the Old Testament and the New are one and the same. He helped to understand that if we want to understand God as well as we can then we must study the whole Bible.

      In addition to love, Jesus talked about a number of subjects. He came with both a carrot (love) and a stick (Hell).

      Like

  5. You ask, “Does your pastor slyly step past the scary parts of the Bible?” This year the Sunday morning Bible class has covered Deuteronomy and Joshua and is working through Judges. Lots of scary parts there! Reminders how desperately a Savior is needed, but also reminders of the Savior who was promised and who now has come. J.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Salvageable

      Glad to hear you are digging in to those parts too.

      Some of the stories in Judges….

      We hang Jesus up on a cross, and then we discovered that we just killed God’s Son, and we don’t think that matters.

      We all need to contemplate Matthew 21:33-46 from time-to-time.

      Thank you for your comment.

      Like

      1. I always enjoyed the answer given to Atheist when asked, “Why doesn’t God come down and show himself so we know he’s real.”

        He did, and we nailed him to a cross.

        Personally, I’ve been studying Daniel in the OT. it reads as direct prophecy for the coming Messiah.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Daniel is definitely a good read.

          Understanding some of the prophecies in any of the books of the Bible is a lot of work, but each has other rewards. Daniel is tells a good story with good lessons.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Who said that I was disagreeing or agreeing with you in my comment that you reference? Why can’t a comment just be additive or augmentative rather than being specifically either agreeable or disagreeable? At least that is what I thought I was trying to be.

    Actually, as you know, there has been much that we disagree on, but we also agree on more things than perhaps each our own form of prideful and argumentative natures would allow either of us to easily admit. If you refer to the quote about “emotivism” from Alistair Macintyre from my comment in your earlier post, then we all seem to be stuck in a feedback loop where we are to disagree endlessly about governmental systemics because each side “agrees” that these two extreme possibilities, individualism verses collectivism, are the “only” two alternatives. I’m not agreeing or disagreeing – I’m denying the fallacy of this false choice. Macintyre is saying that there are older alternatives to resolving moral dilemmas. These either/or systemic choices are not the only two ideologies we are supposed to have – real ideals should drive the complex situational decisions about systemics. The individual choices of systemics are vast and relative to an an almost endless number of situations, even though the ideals that should drive our choices them may be simple, few and quite universal between different times and cultures.

    You seem to want to prove here that the individualistic argument is the morally correct one and that the collectivist argument is inherently sinful by using a legalistic interpretation of scripture, particularly the actions that you have cyphered that God hates and condemns in scripture, and you seem here to be soliciting agreement on this, or else instead perhaps hoping for someone (me?) to take up the fight on the side of collectivism, one can only suppose, by making a legalistic scriptural argument that the collectivist’s scheme of sharing and caring is actually more in keeping with Jesus’s message of love.

    Once these battle lines are drawn over a field which can really have no good victory (because none of us really wants to live in either the former Soviet Union or what has lately become of Somalia) then one can only imagine that you will enfilade the enemy collectivist with Bible quotes, and the collectivist presumably would have to defend by escalating the volume of this unresolvable holier-than-thou arms race to the point of shouting his own holies back at you. When will we Christians recognize the sacrilege in weaponizing Jesus in this way, if for no other reason than these are not the only two alternative extreme systemic choices for people acting in good faith to honor and implement our common, one could even argue “universal”, belief in certain virtues? Is there no way we can just agree to stop the inane and endless argument and return to our commonly held belief in using the virtues (in other words simply expecting each other to act with love and integrity) to balance competing interests so as to expertly craft necessarily imperfect compassionate solutions to the increasingly difficult and rapidly changing problems of a complex globalizing world?

    You have something there when you say that love is the source of all virtue. Let’s start our agreement from there, and let their, not just professed, but actual actions in the loving service of honor, integrity, virtue, intellect and wisdom be our common guide for the imperfect people we choose to lead us and how we expect them to go about creating incremental positive change.

    As noted before, most virtues are an imperfect balance between two vices (such as courage being a balance between running headlong into danger and cowardly running away). Therefore it would seem that the daily practice of virtue, especially in difficult dilemmas, does not always entail an absolutely wrong (or sinful) answer verses an absolutely righteous one. Because of their balance-between-vices nature, the difficult daily practice of the virtues does not lend itself to being legalistically rule driven but is instead, like the actual practice of law, a situational weighing of the scales. Virtousness then is a difficult balance between a mix of often very attractive extreme alternatives that each may lack to some degree or another one or more of the universal virtues. Problems looked at through the lens of what is the most virtuous answer therefore do not lend themselves to reductive notions such as complete collectivism verses arbitrary individualism. But they do lend themselves to the pragmatic service of trying to do what is the most compassionate and loving alternative in a world of full of ambiguity, complexity, suffering and sin.

    I think we two might also agree on this practice of virtue, unless we just want to argue because we like to argue.

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    1. @Tony

      Since I don’t see the point in arguing about arguing, I ignored your reference to Alistair Macintyre.

      I don’t see myself as holding an extreme position. You have yet to prove it, but you obviously think my position extreme. Meanwhile, you fashion yourself as some kind of moderate.

      Effectively, while you talk around the issues, you slap a bunch of labels on me. Extremist. Legalist. Hater.

      Extremist.
      I advocate a constitutional republic. Is that extreme? Statistically? Yes. Because men have difficulty exercising the self-control to make one work, republics are rare. So I guess you are right. Are you pleased to be right about this?

      Legalist.
      Have you ever seriously considered the morality of taxation? Most just accept taxes as normal and inevitable, but in a republic each citizen has an obligation to think about the matter. We don’t. Odds are you have only considered the matter because I have brought it up before.

      The Declaration of Independence lays out the purpose of government. Government exists to defend our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And the pursuit of happiness is not about getting rich. As Aristotle observed, the pursuit of happiness is about the pursuit of virtue.

      To protect everyone’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we must have some sort of government. If we don’t impose one upon ourselves, some tyrant will impose one on us.

      There is nothing about setting up a welfare state in the Bible. There is nothing about setting up a welfare state in the Declaration of Independence. There is nothing about setting up welfare state in the Constitution. In fact, as James Madison noted in the Federalist Papers, the Constitution was designed to prevent factions from forming and successfully using the power of government to rob other people.

      Our social/welfare programs are corrupting our government. That is happening in plain sight. To refuse to see it, we have to blind ourselves with legalistic arguments. We have to blame the rich, Right Wing Christians, big corporations, and so forth. We have to perpetually pretend that if we give the “Progressives” more power and more money everything will be okay.

      Is it a legalistic interpretation of the Bible to say that God frowns on stealing? Well, call it what you wish, but He does. There is no virtue in stealing. Yet if you insist upon seeing virtue as a form of moderation, then please consider the lack of prudence required to give politicians unchecked power to redistribute the wealth.

      Hater.
      You don’t like the fact I say that God hates sin? Well, if you search the Bible with the combination of words, “Lord” and “hates” (=> https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=lord+hates&qs_version=NKJV&limit=25), you will find plenty of examples of what the Lord hates in the Old Testament.

      Is the New Testament different? No. Jesus let us know what He thinks of hypocrites, and He told us more about the character of Satan and this place called Hell (=> https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?search=hell+satan&version=ESV&searchtype=any).

      Does the fact God hates sin mean He hates those who refuse to stop sinning? Should we hate sinners? No and no.

      What Hell is is separation from God. It is what someone who refuses to love God and obey Him does to themselves. Is it God’s vengeance? Perhaps. When those who go to Hell choose to separate themselves from God, God says He does not want that. When the Bible says vengeance is the Lord’s I think the main point is that Christians should leave vengeance to God. For our own sakes, we must forgive and give up revenge. If we concentrate upon putting our faith in Jesus, we will have enough to do.

      Side note. I did not say love is the source of all virtue. You are quoting yourself.

      Like

  7. Does the Bible impose a Republic? Must have missed that Book. If Jesus had been interested in commanding our Earthly governments, seems like a monarchy is what the Bible proscribes and predicts. It also seems silly to draw many systemic assumptions from the arcane political structures prevelent during Biblical times about the legitimacy of the modern state, but I’m sure that you will. It’s not that I find the topic of governmental systemics and its history uninteresting (it’s been a study of mine for much of my life). I just don’t think that this venue allows for much of anything but emoting unauthoritative opinions. It’s not a criticism or even a disagreement, just an explanation of why I’m not taking the bait.

    Anyway, I think that you have implied much that I did not say, and missed the point of much that I did say. For example, I don’t think that I called you an “extremist”. Neither do I remember calling you a “legalist” – my remarks in that regard were in the hypothetical, saying that if someone such as me were to decide to have that same tired battle that Macintyre laments, then you might engage in a legalistic quoting of holy scripture as ammunition to prove your side of that endlessly fruitless ideological debate, or maybe you might not. What do you think you would do? What have you done in the past?

    As for God hating, we have already had that debate privately. I’ve given it a good deal of thought and study since then, and I’m still studying it. So far, it still does not make sense to me. No doubt, you can make a “legalistic” scriptural argument, finding lots of passages about God’s cruel vengeance, but thematically, it would seem that Jesus, in redeeming us, offered a new covenant of love that we should choose out of joy rather than out of fear. Personally, I am certainly motivated to do the right thing out of guilt, but my guilt and repentance is for betraying God’s love of me and God’s commandment to me to love others, not because I fear the wrath of an infinitely serene Being Who I cannot really imagine, but when I try, I cannot rationally or philophically find any logic in His having or needing such primitive vestigial human attributes as hate, vengeance or wrath.

    Perhaps scriptural readings that illustrate God as hateful or wrathful serve an allegorical purpose in the slowly evolving revelation of God to the primitive Israelites that climaxed and became most fully revealed in Jesus. These are just my thoughts on my studies on this to this point, and I am still studying and praying for God’s grace in this regard. However, although I seek to understand how to love God and my fellow humans better, I just don’t feel the need or desire to try to channel God’s hate and God’s supposed vengeance of Hell on the persons or actions that I somehow have cyphered are worthy of it. I fear that would be a tempting hubris for me, but, in my case at least, a hhubris none the less.

    Finally, I would have sworn that you somewhere said that the source of all virtue was God, or in other words, that we try to be virtuous out of love of God and out of an attempt to love each other as God commanded. If I am mistaken in this, then what is the reason we should be virtuous?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Tsalmon

      Does the Bible impose a republic? The Bible has a great deal to say about government, but it does not describe what a Christian government should look like. After the Second Coming, the church will have fulfilled its mission, and Jesus will be our King. Until then, we have to brainstorm a bit to figure out what to do.

      You want know my opinion? For what it is worth, I have over 3600 posts on this blog. I have provided a search window at the top of the sidebar on the right. Enter the terms “government” and “Bible” and see what you turn up. I suggest you also search on “Christian Socialism”. I expect you will disagree with what you find, but maybe you will find it interesting anyway.

      Personally, I am certainly motivated to do the right thing out of guilt, but my guilt and repentance is for betraying God’s love of me and God’s commandment to me to love others, not because I fear the wrath of an infinitely serene Being Who I cannot really imagine, but when I try, I cannot rationally or philophically find any logic in His having or needing such primitive vestigial human attributes as hate, vengeance or wrath.

      God is what He is. It is not about you or me. We are God’s creations, made in His image, not the other way around.

      Look back on your life. Consider what happened when you did something you knew was wrong. You paid a price. If you did not, then be very afraid (Hebrews 12:3-17). Because sin is so wrong, the price we pay for sin can be quite severe. In fact, we cannot pay the full price. That is why Jesus died on that cross.

      Why should we be virtuous? God wants us to be virtuous, and the wise seek to please Him.

      Proverbs 1:7 English Standard Version (ESV)

      The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
      fools despise wisdom and instruction.

      What is the source of all virtue? God. We love Him because He loved us first.

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  8. Ok then, the source of virtue is God and we try to practice God’s virtues because we love God because God loved us first. We can take as many circles to get there as you want, but we still end up in the same place – the source of all virtues is the love of God.

    Quoting Aristotle you also say that virtue is a source of happiness. Have you ever wondered why? Aristotle’s philosophy was preserved in Muslum libraries and finally studied again in Catholic Europe when translations and Muslim interpretations became available during the Middle Ages. Aquinas was perhaps the most authoritative of of a line of Catholic philosophers that built a Christian philosophy on Aristotle’s reintroduced teachings. In short, my understanding of Aquinas is that he reasoned that being virtous was in our true nature as God had made us to be. Perhaps then, being virtuous makes us happy because we are moving teleologically toward the essential nature that God, the Unmoved Mover and the Uncaused Cause, created us to be.

    I’m no expert on Aquinas, and I know I’m not doing his elegant metaphysics justice here, but my point is that perhaps virtue makes us happy because being virtuous is how God meant us to be. In other words, virtue is not something we practice out of fear of the punishment of Hell or out of expectation of the reward of Heaven, but out of love. God’s love causes and sustains the universe, not just initially, but every atom of the universe’s existence at all times and at all places until it’s intended end. And in a Thomian sense the end shapes the beginning sort of like the nail shapes the hammer and the hammer shapes the hand, and so on until moved by the Unmoved Mover, the Uncaused Cause. God is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega.

    We are virtuous therefore because it is in our most essential nature to be virtuous and we follow God’s law of love because it is God’s will that we should do so, not because of carrots and sticks. Remember, the pagan Aristotle had no concept of Heaven or Hell, of such carrots and sticks, as we Christians do, but Aristotle still believed in virtue.

    Which leads me to a question that I have asked before and you have never answered: If you knew absolutely and beyond faith that everything that you believed about God was true, but you also knew that there ultimately would be no everlasting Heaven and there would be no everlasting Hell at the end of this life, would you still practice virtue, would you still try to do the right thing, out of love of God and simply because it is God’s will?

    If we cannot answer that question in the affirmative, then perhaps it is not love that we should worry about as a false idol that we put before God, but instead it is Heaven and Hell, our own selfish fears and desires, that we should avoid worshiping and putting before the love of God.

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    1. @Tony

      An atheist or a pagan can be virtuous. If an atheist or a pagan is virtuous, it is because he chooses to exercise the capacity God gave him to be that way, not because of the love a Being he does not know or acknowledge.

      I don’t necessarily endorse The Message, but sometimes it is easier to absorb than the more literal translations.

      Romans 2:14-16 The Message (MSG)

      14-16 When outsiders who have never heard of God’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong. Their response to God’s yes and no will become public knowledge on the day God makes his final decision about every man and woman. The Message from God that I proclaim through Jesus Christ takes into account all these differences.

      Why do we seek virtue? Why do we seek happiness? Have you considered the fact that happiness is an antonym to suffering. Sure, we want the rewards of happiness, but we also do not want to suffer. Even if there was no Heaven or Hell, I suppose that would still be true, but we have knowledge of the existence of both.

      Ecclesiastes 3:9-15 English Standard Version (ESV)

      The God-Given Task

      9 What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

      14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

      Make sure you read Hebrews 12:3-17.

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  9. Interesting reply.

    The British Anglican later turned Catholic theologian, Cardinal John Henry Newman, theorized in the late 19th Century something to the same effect as you are citing here – that we all have a conscience, no matter what the time, the place, the culture, the dominant religion or the lack of any religion. And Newman thought that because our universal conscience could come from God, God must also exist.

    The Thomian, in some contrast, would say that the “capacity” to be virtuous was part of our inherent essence put there by God, such that practicing virtue (or in other words, acting out of love) was just choosing to live a life more perfectly in keeping with our essential nature which was engendered by a loving God, whether we consciously know or believe that God exists or not. Does a male lion have to have any understanding of God in order to try to be the best lion he can be, to risk injury fighting other males for his own pride of females, and to have some sense of failure (perhaps even sort of a lion form of shame) if he is unsuccessful? Is the lion “happy” if he succeeds at being his best at fulfilling his nature? Perhaps.

    But, at the risk of playing semantics, I am not sure that the “happiness” that Aristotle was talking about in regard to virtuous behavior is the antonym for suffering. For example, a courageous person may suffer (happily?) a great deal in the pursuit of that virtue such that the virtue of courage requires, not responding to, but overcoming fear and retaining an unselfishness of desire for any reward, except of course the reward inherent (happiness?) in the virtuousness itself. Furthermore, acting courageously requires one to balance oneself between and above a “fear” of suffering and/or a “desire” for pleasure, or in other words, precariously between those two vices.

    Thought of this way, fear may be necessary for an act to be courageous, but also, if the only reason that a person is virtuous is because she fears some suffering, then that is not really courage either. For example, if the only reason that a soldier goes into battle is because his commander has a bayonet at his back, by definition, that is not courage, but cowardice. By the same token, if the only reason a soldier is fighting is not for a virtuous cause, but because he has been promised a million dollars for killing other people, then that’s not courage either – it’s a cruelty and greed.

    The point is that, if the only reason we act virtuously is not out of love to fulfill our essential nature as a loving God willed it, but instead because we selfishly fear the suffering of Hell or because we selfishly desire the bliss of Heaven, then we are not really acting virtuously out of love for virtue, or in other words out of love of God and an innate desire to fulfill God’s will. Missing Hell or finding Heaven, whether or not they even exist or the person even knows they exist, is just a bonus to the virtuous person, not a requirement to virtue.

    Scriptural quotes can be found to justify all sorts of actions, some of them quite dreadful (such as the law of stoning an adulteress). That is why understanding the revelation of God in the Bible requires a thematic interpretation. It requires not just throwing quotes around, but a theology and a philosophy of Christianity that makes sense. I’m not saying by this that you don’t have one – I’m just saying that I find the one that you are presenting here, one motivated by fear and hatred, theologically unintelligible to the point that I can’t comprehend it, but that may be my fault.

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    1. @Tony

      Thank you.

      I think you comprehend what I have said well enough, but you have your own theory and agenda, and you find it advantageous to misrepresent my theory and agenda.

      We begin as the children of man. As children, we have yet to learn virtue.

      To learn the value of prudence, we first have to understand the consequences of recklessness.

      To learn the value of justice, we first have to understand the consequences of injustice.

      To learn the value of temperance, we first have to understand the consequences of gluttony.

      To learn the value of courage, we first have to learn what it is to be uncontrollably afraid.

      To learn the value of faith and being faithful, we first have to learn to trust God and to appreciate the faithfulness of others.

      To learn the value of hope, we first have to experience hopelessness. We must learn we can rest our hopes securely in God.

      To learn the value of love, we must first experience being loved. Then we must learn God loves us.

      To learn the value of happiness, we must first suffer.

      Philippians 4:10-13 New King James Version (NKJV)

      10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

      Happiness is an attitude. Paul had that attitude. Paul had faith in God. He felt blessed to be forgiven and allowed to serve. Because he hoped for the life to come and loved God, he was content.

      Paul’s contentment in service to our Creator is not something a little child can experience. That sort of contentment can only be known by a few, but we can strive for it.

      Paul wrote The Epistle to the Philippians while he was imprisoned in Rome. He wrote four such epistles.

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      1. Agreed to all you said here, and I find your last post pretty intelligible.

        If I’m right, you’re saying that Paul found happiness in acting virtuously. Yes, but the triumph of Paul’s virtuous behavior that brought him happiness was not so much because Paul acted out of fear or hatred, but because Paul overcame fear and hatred and instead acted virtuously out of love, love of God and love of all other human beings, even those from other countries with different customs. Strangely, this we seem to agree upon although you sometimes seem to want to pretend that we don’t (as if to agree on anything is to give ground and to give any ground on anything is to lose everything).

        It is the fact that you find it necessary in your article above and in some other articles to place so much emphasis on fear and hatred rather than on love that I find philosophically incoherent to what we seem to already agree upon about virtue. You make the argument that we must judge, we must discriminate between right and wrong. We must have standards. You quote lots of righteous rules, condemnation and hatred out of the Bible. I don’t disagree with any of that. I’m just saying that we have to take all that into account and also figure out how it fits into a thematic Christian philosophy that has timeless and universal consensus, elsewise it is just a bunch of incoherently arbitrary interpretations. It’s just what Macintyre calls “emotivism”.

        We can easily agree objectively on what are virtues (you listed the common ones above), on what generally and objectively is acting virtuously and on what objectively is not. We can even agree “objectively” as to what are the extreme vices to be avoided and disapproved of. We might even agree “objectively” that, in most cases, virtues are a balance between contrasting vices – on “temperance” for example being a balance between avaricious gluttony and harmful austerity. Finally, we might agree, if you could get past your inclination to assign me some ulterior devious motives, that love (love both to and from God and the love of our fellow humans) is the source of virtue. Perhaps I am misconstruing you, but you seem to have said as much.

        However, what we find hard to come to terms with is the relative, subjective and situational element of judging and condemning someone else’s beliefs and actions as lacking virtue (or in other words, as being vice and therefore sinful) in a given time, place, culture and situation. For example, how do we judge our greatest and most revered founding fathers for owning other people?

        In a universal, general and objective sense many of the founders and their actions in owning slaves can be condemned as lacking many virtues, and as blatantly sinful. Not withstanding that objective universal standard, the subjective situation of the customs of the time and place, whether or not each of those individuals subjectively thought his owning of slaves dishonored him as lacking virtue, makes judging and condemning each of those men very difficult. For a given founder, there is a subjective element where time, place and culture must be weighed, and because an imperfect balance between and above vices is involved, virtues involve degrees of imperfection that make a black and white, binary moral judgment unhelpful. Perhaps this why Jesus in the Gospels tells the rule-driven legalists who often test Him to quit judging others based on negative rules (such as stoning all adultresses) and instead to turn to the positive spirit of the law, toward love and compassion.

        Given that we are therefore striving toward necessary degrees of an objective universal perfection in a virtuous balance between competing degrees of vices, and given that this also has a subjective quality as to individual time, place and custom, the concept of categorizing, broadly generalizing and hating certain things as “sin” is about as silly as hating food because you hate gluttony. Because virtue is practiced out of love, hate is simply an absurd emotion to invoke to begin with when an imperfect balance between extremes relative to a given time place and custom is what we are striving for. We avoid the sins of extreme gluttony and harmfully extreme austerity and honor the virtuous situational balance between the two out of love, not hate, we should measure out our condemnation of all but the most extreme situations by degrees of inches instead of by miles of absolutes.

        Let me make something clear also which I hope is obvious, but may not be. This is an intelectual discussion. As you say, it is not about you or me personally. It is about ideas. I am not condemning you or your integrity – I have the highest regard for both, and I love you like a brother (😉). We agree on so many more things than we disagree. I am questioning and critiquing the philosophic consistency of a few ideas that are not at all unique to you, but that you sometimes advocate. You seem to enjoy the challenge. If, on the other hand, you don’t want me to do that, just say so. It’s your blog. It’s not my wish to offend anyone personally. That would be the opposite of my intent here.

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        1. @Tony

          I suppose I should respond to that last paragraph. I love you too, and I have enjoyed the discussion.

          You don’t want to hate sin? Don’t, but I think that is weird. I am going do it.

          We will love, and we will hate. Because there is an appropriate time and place for both, God gifted us with ability both to love and to hate. What is required is the wisdom to know which emotion is appropriate and the discipline to maintain self-control.

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    2. @Tony, who wrote:

      Furthermore, acting courageously requires one to balance oneself between and above a “fear” of suffering and/or a “desire” for pleasure, or in other words, precariously between those two vices.

      Thought of this way, fear may be necessary for an act to be courageous, but also, if the only reason that a person is virtuous is because she fears some suffering, then that is not really courage either. For example, if the only reason that a soldier goes into battle is because his commander has a bayonet at his back, by definition, that is not courage, but cowardice. By the same token, if the only reason a soldier is fighting is not for a virtuous cause, but because he has been promised a million dollars for killing other people, then that’s not courage either – it’s a cruelty and greed.

      The soldier with the bayonet at his back may have felt the cause to be virtuous, but not enough to override his fears. The mercenary, too, may find the cause virtuous, but not enough to cause him to wage war for free.

      Each of these are balances of different, often opposing impulses. If we knew for certain that General George Washington was incapable of feeling fear, it would considerably reduce our admiration for his actions on the revolutionary battlefields.

      Somewhat similarly, there is a Pakistani family who have a significant percentage born incapable of feeling pain. Is it courageous for one of them to do something that would cause a normal person great pain? (No, of course, and most of the folks thus afflicted are dead by 25, and have broken legs irreparably and bitten their own tongues off at much earlier ages.)

      But surprisingly, you have explicitly painted some Christians into this corner a bit. You wrote:

      The point is that, if the only reason we act virtuously is not out of love to fulfill our essential nature as a loving God willed it, but instead because we selfishly fear the suffering of Hell or because we selfishly desire the bliss of Heaven, then we are not really acting virtuously out of love for virtue, or in other words out of love of God and an innate desire to fulfill God’s will.

      Many Christians speak of their Heavenly rewards as their primary driver of decision-making. They don’t want to go to Hell, and there is a stick/carrot effect between Hell and Heaven that, from their words, guides all their actions.

      It belittles Christianity to the extent that this is true, though that would be on an individual basis, and something we cannot really know.

      But I am a non-theist, a non-believer, or atheist if you must, though I harbor no ill will toward Christians as Citizen Tom will attest. I try to do the right thing because I think it is good for humanity as a whole, even if it is sometimes personally expensive. (And it has been; I am poor now instead of rich as a result of the cost of doing the right thing.) Does that make me more “virtuous” than many Christians?

      I also do not “worship the idol” of love, but I have experienced an astounding love with my extraordinary Lady Anne for three decades until she was taken from me. As long as my mind and memory function, I will be richer thereby and will treasure those memories. Does that make me less virtuous to have experienced such an astounding relationship (substantially due to her own virtues)? It was a comment from me that triggered these recent posts from Citizen Tom.

      ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

      Liked by 3 people

      1. @Keith

        Thanks for the comment.

        Different tact than I took, but real examples speak to people. It never occurred to me that without a sense of pain we would bite off our tongue. Yet once you point it out….

        You are poorer one way, but I hope that you find yourself richer in self-respect, good memories, and in the company of people you love.

        As we grow old, what memories can we share with real pleasure with our children? Are they not about the things we and our friends loved ones strove to do the right thing?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Keith,

        I agree completely that virtues are relative, subjective balances that are situational and individual in nature. The general concept of a given virtue, however, also seems be universal and objective to every time, place and culture, and as you yourself seem to attest, universal values are common even to the non-theist.

        You may note that I said that if the “only” reason why the soldier acted was either out of fear or out of greed, then I doubt that, if he were honest with himself, even that individual soldier would consider his actions subjectively courageous. However, in the universal and objective sense of the virtue of courage, as you so well have illustrated, that soldier’s objective intent would also not be considered virtuous. Situationally and subjectively, as you allude, if the “only” reason that a given Christian acted virtuously were for a desire for Heaven or a fear of Hell, rather than out of love or compassion, then that also would not appear to be objectively virtuous either. As you say, individual circumstances rarely are so clear cut, but are a mix of viirtous impulses, along with individual fears and desires.

        Because we seem to agree that virtue is both situationally subjective and also comes from common, agreed upon, universal standards, then I am in no place to judge, nor would I think it appropriate for me to try to judge, the virtues of your relationship with the love of your life whom you have lost. I have now been with the love of my life for over 37 years, and I too cherish her as a reward beyond anything that I merit. I therefore very much empathize with your loss even though I hope to never to fully comprehend it. My deepest condolences for your terrible loss.

        Without judging the particular, because love is the source of all virtue, including the love we share for one another, it would be hard to imagine objectively that a love such that you describe could be anything but virtuous. I think that on this, even my brother Tom and I could agree – the fact that your life with her brought you so much joy and her loss brings you so much sadness could only be the result of the virtuousness of your relationship. Also, although every virtue to some extent is selfless in nature, I don’t think that one has to necessarily suffer for virtuousness. Although virtuousness is its own reward, there is no lack of virtue in love being rewarded with love in return, and the happiness that that shared virtue brings.

        It would seem that if we (all religions, cultures, ethnicities and even atheists alike) could all simply agree to the value of virtue, and that those virtues come from love, then all the other tired, unresolvable political systemic arguments would simply fall by the wayside. I believe the will to find some subjective situational balance between extreme vices out of love from which all virtuousness derives is inherent in our natures and was engendered there by God, but I think that theists of all religions and even most of the prevelent humanist philosophies of non-theists also recognize these same inherent and universal virtues in their own situational ways. It is apparent to me that you certainly do. A general recognition and a consensus on this would certainly change the nature and tenor of all our systemic arguments don’t you think?

        Like

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