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The Moralist

Groups of People: non-followers of Jesus

·         A non-follower is by definition someone who has not given his/her life to follow Jesus.

Group 1: The Antagonist: will negate any kind of possibility of God to fit his/her own framework of possibilities.

Group 2: The Spiritualist: believes in every kind of supernatural possibility – ghosts, energy, reincarnation, etc.

Group 3: The Disinterested: never really thought about God and spends a lot of time trying not to think about mortality, God, or the meaning of life.

Group 4: The Moralist: believes that as long as they are good and people don’t actively hurt one another then God is irrelevant (if He/She exists then they will be good enough, and if not, then the world is a good place).

"But I'm a good person."

If ever one phrase captured the core belief of the Moralist, it is the short and sweet thought that morality is largely a game of scales. Those scales are conditioned:

a. Upon what society says is right (actions)

b. Upon what they themselves believe to be right (intentions)

c. Upon how they hurt others (relations)

d. Upon the supreme mirage of safety (assumptions)

Let's tackle these one by one:

a. The Moralist determines the status of their inherent goodness as it relates to how that goodness is perceived in society. If society as a whole believes, for example, that loving your  neighbor is a good thing,  then they will measure their own morality based on how they stack up to that code. God is largely irrelevant. The moralist bases their morality on the cultural norms and expectations of the day. By way of example: the moralist doesn't need to raise their children based on universal, absolute principles because those depend largely on the relative morality of society. So they just need to act slightly better than their neighbor in order to have a sense of existential goodness.

The problem here is rather simple, and Ravi Zacharias puts it most succinctly: in some societies they love their neighbors, in others they eat them. In the grand scheme of history, then, one can be immoral but moral to their own time and date. Racism is another example. Is it universally wrong to hate someone based on the color of their skin or only in modern society? And upon which standard will their eternity be based?

b. The Moralist ultimately asks us not to judge because they determine their goodness by what they intend to do right. This is generally coupled wth right actions, though not always so. For example, it's wrong (action) to distribute cocaine. But more than that, the Moralist believes it is wrong to sell those drugs to children. Their motive is to protect kids and because they know that motivation within themselves, they feel a keen sense of moral goodness.

The problem here is that our motives tend to shift quite often. We also have this incredible capacity to justify our motives to do anything. The woman who becomes a prostitute will justify that prostitution because her intentions were good. The person who takes someone else's baby does so in the belief the baby will be better off with them. People will destroy entire families because their motives are "good" - "but I'm meant to be happy and I want my kids to grow up with a happy example". Destruction gets justified.

For another example, consider the South in the Civil War. Incredible destruction was wrought based on the good motives of: states rights, individual rights of having slaves, economic rights to have slaves to advance tobacco farming, the rights of society to have a standard of living that those poor black folks just can't measure up to, etc. So they went to war with "good" motives. The problem was that despite their motives, they were wrong. For a modern example: an Al-Quada bomber may have good motives for destroying the World Trade Center (terrorists tend to be idealists).

Put another way: sincerity is not a measure of rightness. We've all been sincerely wrong.

c. The Moralist believes that as long as they aren't hurting others then they are "good". God is, after all, interested in how we treat one another. And as we've examined with other groups, one can have a great deal of respect, honesty, integrity, and positivity without God. So the Moralist decides that as long as they have Boy Scout characteristics, that will then translate into a moral basis for a safe eternity. They are hedging their bets that if there is a God, then He/She is probably grading on a curve. The good just has to outweight the bad, and the first place to start is how much of a nuisance we are to other people.

The problem here is that even a supremely selfish act (like suicide) actually impacts other people. We like to believe that what we do in the bedroom, the boardroom or the backroom doesn't impact anyone but ourselves. But this is nonsense. The addicted father doesn't just hurt himself, but his children. The smoker doesn't just hurt themselves, but others. The selfish mother doesn't just do things for herself, her selfishness impacts her children.  

The second problem here is that even distance - isolating oneself - can be hurtful to others. I think Filter's song, "Take My Picture" expresses it best: can everyone agree that no one should be left alone? Is it more hurtful to be abused or ignored altogether? Psychologists will tell you  that people will seek out bad behavior because even bad attention is better than no attention at all.

d. The Moralist believes that deep, deep down everyone is good and wants to do the right thing. If you travel - even to dangerous countries - you'll likely be okay because people are not their governments. Everyone wants wealth, peace, and happiness. Right?

Of all these points, this is the most absurd becuase it's based on playing the odds. Heck, in America during the celebration of a sports championship (that's a lot of happiness) there is a tremendous danger of that celebration turning destructive. Many happy occasions have been turned into tragedies. Just ask a soccer fan.

The follower of Christ takes a different position:

1. My actions are true to God's principles, which are absolute. Cannibalism and racism alike aren't justifiable at any point in history. Though I'm shaped by my culture, my actions can transcend them.

2. My intentions are true to the Holy Spirit's transforming work in my life. It is the Spirit that manages to make me more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and disciplined. This might be a process, but I am not destined to be who I was. My past actions are not a guarantee of my future.

3. Love is selfless. Love was shown on the Cross - wrapped in the nature of a servant. He is my example for how to relate to others (man, woman, or child). God does not grade on a curve, which is why Christ's perfection and sacrifice are the only way, truth and life.

4. The world is fallen. It is hardly safe. I'm to be wise and innocent simultaneously...and safety is not my primary consideration for moving in this world. Courage is. So the way in which I move and relate is based on the notion that none can touch me unless God allows it. I have confidence without the delusion of safety.

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Within the wide range of moral traditions, religious moral traditions co-exist with contemporary secular moral frameworks such as consequentialism, freethought, humanism, utilitarianism, and others. There are many types of religious morals. -Tax Tiger

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How about the cultist they have their own beliefs that far from the teaching God. -
Ellerslie Mission Society

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About
Derek Webster is pastor of Radiate, a new church planting movement in Richmond, Virginia. Derek also works for a national think tank addressing major demographic trends.


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