Morality! Do Christians Need To Understand?
- This is a long and could be confusing article. Anyone that have questions should email them to Faith Hope and Love Ministries firstname.lastname@example.org
< It is not our intention to confuse anyone, but to give enough detail so the reader can draw their own conclusions! >>
During the last Faith Hope and Love Ministries meeting, a young man asked us a direct question, “what does morality mean”? The use of that word had pasted by several moments, but a simple answer was given. Yet, it seems that the fellow was still trying to process the word “Morality”.
Karl this post is dedicated to you for your use and to share with anyone you may desire.
It seems that a good definition of the root word moral is in order:
mor·al (môrl, mr-)
1. Of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character: moral scrutiny; a moral quandary.
2. Teaching or exhibiting goodness or correctness of character and behavior: a moral lesson.
3. Conforming to standards of what is right or just in behavior; virtuous: a moral life.
4. Arising from conscience or the sense of right and wrong: a moral obligation.
5. Having psychological rather than physical or tangible effects: a moral victory; moral support.
6. Based on strong likelihood or firm conviction, rather than on the actual evidence: a moral certainty.
1. The lesson or principle contained in or taught by a fable, a story, or an event.
2. A concisely expressed precept or general truth; a maxim.
3. morals Rules or habits of conduct, especially of sexual conduct, with reference to standards of right and wrong: a person of loose morals; a decline in the public morals.
Just from this definition, there still leaves room for most to individually understanding the word. It seems that we must be taught and given understanding of MORALs by our parents, school teachers, and most importantly our church. The church seems to be the best place to gain a understanding of MORALS and Morality from a Christian Understanding. It should start in the early formative years. Colossians 2:6-22 is a very good Bible passage to start with.
What is Morality?
Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 3:18 am
Tags: etiquette, law, morality, ought, right and wrong, values
People discuss morality quite often and many of our actions are based on assumptions about morality. I will discuss the meaning of “morality” within ordinary language and illustrate the difference between morality and everything else by comparing moral and non moral standards.
What does “morality” mean?
Morality involves what we ought to do, right and wrong, good and bad, values, justice, and virtues. Morality is taken to be important, moral actions are often taken to merit praise and rewards, and immoral actions are often taken to merit blame and punishment.
What we ought to do
What we morally ought to do is what’s morally preferable. It’s morally preferable to give to certain charities and to refrain from hurting people who make us angry; so we morally ought to do these things.
Sometimes what we ought to do isn’t seen as optional. Instead, we often think we have moral duties (obligations). It might not be a moral duty to give to any charities, but it seems likely that we often have a duty not to hurt people.
Nonetheless, what we ought to do doesn’t just cover our obligations. It’s possible to do something morally preferable that’s not wrong. For example, we can act “above the call of duty.” Some actions are heroic, such as when we risk our life to run into a burning building to save a child. Some philosophers call actions that are above the call of duty “supererogatory” rather than “obligatory.”
Right and wrong
Something is morally right if it’s morally permissible, and morally wrong if it’s morally impermissible. For example, it’s morally right to help people and give to certain charities, but morally wrong to kill people indiscriminately.
Good and bad
“Good” and “bad” refer to positive and negative value. Something is morally good if it helps people attain something of positive value, avoid something of negative vale, or has a positive value that merits being a goal. For example, food is good because it is necessary to attain something of positive value because it helps us survive; and our survival could have positive value that merits being a goal. Something is morally bad if it makes it difficult to attain something of positive value, could lead to something of negative value, or has a negative value that merits avoidance. For example, starvation is bad because it could lead to suffering; and suffering could have negative value that warrants its avoidance.
Something has “instrumental moral value” if it is relevant to achieving moral goals. Food is instrumentally good because it helps us achieve our goal to survive; and starvation is instrumentally bad when we have a goal to avoid suffering, and starvation makes it more difficult for us to achieve this goal. http://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/what-is-morality/
We take some of our goals to be worthy as “moral goals” for their own sake rather than being instrumental for the sake of something else. These goals could be taken to be worthy for having positive value (or help us avoid something of negative value)—what Aristotle calls “final ends” or what other philosophers call “intrinsic values.”
Imagine that someone asks you why you have a job and you say it’s to make money. We can then ask why you want to make money and you can reply that it’s to buy food. We can then ask why you want to buy food, and you can reply that it’s to survive. At this point you might not have a reason to want to survive other than valuing your existence for its own sake. If not, then we will wonder if you are wasting your time with a job. All of our goals must be justified at some point by something taken to be worthy as a goal for its own sake, or its not clear that any of our goals are really justified.
Final ends – Final ends are goals that we think are worthy. Pleasure, survival, and knowledge are possible examples of goods that should be taken to be promoted as final ends. Some final ends are also meant to help us avoid something of negative value, such as our goals to avoid pain and death. The goals of attaining these goods are “final ends.” It is possible that final ends are merely things we desire “for their own sake” but some final ends could be better and of greater importance than others. Aristotle thought that our “most final end” or “ultimate end” is happiness and no other good could override the importance of happiness.
Final ends seem relevant to right and wrong. It seems morally right to try to achieve our final ends because they are worthy. All things equal, it seems morally right to try to attain happiness and survive.
Intrinsic values – Intrinsic values are things of positive or negative value that have that value just for existing, and some philosophers think Aristotle’s truly worthy final ends have intrinsic value. The main difference here is that final ends could merely be psychological—what we take to be worthy goals, but a goal has intrinsic value only if it really is worthy. Some people might have “final ends” but actually be wrong about what goals are worthy of being final ends.
We can desire intrinsic values “for their own sake,” many think it’s rational to often try to attain things that are intrinsically good, and whatever is intrinsically good is good no matter who attains it. For example, if human life is intrinsically good, then survival is good for every person.
Intrinsic value plays the same role as final ends—we think it’s often morally right to try to achieve goals that help people attain intrinsic goods and we morally ought to do so. However, intrinsic values can conflict. If pain is intrinsically bad, that doesn’t mean we should never allow ourselves or others to experience pain because there might be intrinsic goods that can be attained as a result of our pain. For example, homework and learning is often painful, but the knowledge attained can help us live better lives and could even be intrinsically good.
Justice refers to our interest in certain ethical issues such as equality, fairness, and merit. It is unjust to have slavery or to have different laws for different racial groups because people should beequal before the law, it’s unfair, and racial groups don’t merit unequal treatment before the law. It is just to punish all people who break the law equally rather than let certain people—such as the wealthy—break certain laws that other people aren’t allowed to break. Additionally, it’s unjust to punish the innocent and to find the innocent guilty in a court of law.
Some people are better at being moral than others. It’s important that we know the difference between right and wrong, attain the skills necessary to reach demanding moral goals, and find the motivation to do what is morally preferable. For example, courage is a virtue that involves knowledge of right and wrong, skills, and motivation. Courage requires us to endanger our personal well being when doing so is morally preferable, to have skills that make it possible to endanger our personal well being in many situations, and the motivation to be willing to endanger our well being when we ought to do so.
Praise and blame
We often think that moral behavior merits praise and immoral behavior merits blame. It often seems appropriate to tell people who have done good, such as saving lives, that we appreciate it and that what they are doing is good; and it often seems appropriate to tell people who have done something immoral that we don’t appreciate it and that they did something morally wrong. Additionally, it generally seems appropriate to hold people responsible for their actions and let them know that their actions could have been different.
Reward and punishment
One way to hold people responsible for their actions is to reward and punish them for their behavior, and this often seems appropriate. We could give gifts or return favors to people who help us, and break our friendship or ignore those who do something immoral. For example, a company that scams people should be held responsible and punished by consumers who decide to no longer do business with that company.
Sometimes punishments could be severe and could seem immoral in any other context. For example, it might be morally justified to throw murderers in prison even though it would be an immoral example of kidnapping and imprisonment in many other contexts. We can’t just throw anyone in prison that we want.
Moral and nonmoral standards
Not everything is morally right or wrong. Sometimes something is entirely nonmoral and irrelevant to morality—such as standing on your head or counting blades of grass. One way to clarify what “morality” refers to is to compare and contrast it to nonmoral things that are sometimes confused with it.
What we morally or nonmorally ought to do
We don’t just talk about right and wrong, good or bad, or what we ought to do in moral contexts. This is because there is both moral and nonmoral instrumental value.
Moral instrumental value – We ought to do what is necessary to attain moral goals. For example, we morally ought to get a job and buy food to stay alive. It’s morally right to get a job and buy food, and food has moral instrumental value insofar as it helps us attain our moral goal of survival.
Nonmoral instrumental value – Not all instrumental value helps us achieve moral goals. We can also have personal goals that have (almost) nothing to do with morality. For example, I might have a goal of standing on my head and taking gymnastics classes could be what I ought to do to achieve this goal. The right thing to do to be able to stand on your head is to take gymnastics classes, even though it has nothing to do with morality. Additionally, some instrumental values could even be immoral. For example, I might have a goal to murder someone and I could say I ought to use a gun if that’s the best way to murder someone. That’s not to say that I morally ought to murder anyone.
Etiquette tells us how to be polite and show respect within a culture. Etiquette tells us not to chew our food with our mouths open, to open doors for people, and not to interrupt people who are talking. Sometimes being rude and impolite can be morally wrong, but the fact that etiquette and morality sometimes overlap doesn’t mean they are identical or that etiquette is always relevant to morality. First, etiquette tends not to be serious enough to be morally relevant. Burping in the US is considered rude, but it would be strange to say it’s ever morally wrong. Second, it’s often morally right to be rude. Many people think that questioning someone’s moral qualifications and moral opinions is rude, but it’s often the morally preferable thing to do because it’s essential that we have the best moral opinions possible and sometimes it’s a good idea to help people improve their moral opinions. The importance of helping people be moral can override the importance of showing the superficial signs of respect assigned within a culture. Such signs of respect are often arbitrary and can conflict with more important ways of showing respect—such as the respect we show people when we assume that people have a concern to morally improve themselves.
What’s the difference between Human morality and Christian morality?
Human morality would be the standard that people put on each other. It’s summed up very well in Colossians 2:6-22. (Colossians 2:6-22
New International Version (NIV)
Spiritual Fullness in Christ
6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces[a] of this world rather than on Christ.
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh[b] was put off when you were circumcised by[c] Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.[e]
Freedom From Human Rules
16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings.
We have been set free from “human traditions” of the olden days by Christ’s appearance and gift of salvation, so all we have to live by is Him and His law, which is summed up by Love the Lord and Love others as yourself. So, the process in making these decisions would be the law, approval and opinions of other humans, and what the world sees as “the right thing”.
Christian morality is forgetting what people say and turning your heart fully to God! He holds the answers and is willing to give them to you if you truly seek. A lot of humans will have right, Godly answers, but a lot won’t. So in making a christian decision, you must show discretion when asking humans. But ALWAYS go to the Word of God and pray for His guidance. So in making a Christian moral decision one must read the Bible, listen to God, and evaluate the affect it will have on your Christian walk and the affect it can have on others who see you, who claims to be a Christian, acting. Because, believe it or not, others are watching and we have to be on our guard to show them God’s love and righteousness. But don’t freak out too much if you mess up, that’s why Jesus died! 😉