Context matters

What is the basic perspective in Christianity, when it comes to one’s actions?

First, learning and growing both for what we are doing in this life and what we will do in the next. In Christian terms, the learning is primarily understood as part of the process of ‘theosis’ – i.e., becoming more like God. Ascetics, similarly, is about training, i.e., learning and growing (from a root word meaning bodily training, from which we also get ‘athletics’).

But that leads to what we are doing – you don’t just practice making a building, you make buildings. So second, doing things that matter. These are things that matter in and of themselves here and now, and that will build things in the next life. In Christian terms, this is called ‘building the Kingdom of Heaven’.

This dual vision – training and doing – is compatible with a typical secular viewpoint, and for this reason much of Christian reasoning or practices are shared by secularists. The difference comes in the context – Christians believe the training or doing applies not just to this life, but the next. I.e., there is meaningful continued personal existence. This does two things.

First, it amplifies the importance – we are no longer just talking about the next 50 years, but the next (eternity). This is one of the reasons that Christianity has greater motivational potential. Second, it means there might be consequences to things that we cannot see by considering only this life. This allows Christianity to answer certain moral questions that secularists seemingly cannot (such as why do good things if they don’t benefit oneself – the answer is that by doing good things you are in part creating a state of affairs in the next life). Similarly, because it coincides self-interest and actions that aren’t self-interested in this life, it also gains motivational potential when considering things that are good for people here and now.

4 thoughts on “Context matters

  1. fschmidt

    The concept of an afterlife is critical for morality. Without this concept, no one cares what happens after they die and so there is no long-term morality.

    But there are many different concepts of afterlife. Christianity has Heaven. Eastern religions have reincarnation. And the Old Testament has what is basically an evolutionary perspective, that afterlife is the success of one’s descendants (genes). The Old Testament view is compatible with science, while the modern (liberal) secular view is incompatible with science, particularly evolution.

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  2. admin Post author

    What is the modern (liberal) secular view as you see it (are you referring to the view that there is simply no meaningful continued existence)?

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    1. fschmidt

      Yes, I am referring to no meaningful continued existence. Rationally this leads to hedonism, or at least to the questions of Ecclesiastes. But modern culture is remarkably lacking in self-awareness and continues to have an element of Christian Universalism, meaning an obligation to all of humanity, for no logical reason. This turns out to be even worse for morality than hedonism.

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  3. admin Post author

    I agree with you that a typical secularist worldview leads to questions which don’t seem to have good answers (and behind this they seem to rely upon a kind of societal moral inertia, or ‘lack of self-awareness’, as you put it), and the best answer a typical secularist can give to various questions regarding helping others, especially when at one’s own (this-life) expense, seems to be something like ‘Well, I do this because I do it’.

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