by Max Maxwell
All Rights Reserved.
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Preacher: Yes. That is true.
Socrates: You said that the principle of loving your neighbor as yourself is the heart and soul of daily Christian morality.
Socrates: Yet it appears that, without ordinary secular knowledge, the attempt to love a neighbor may bring harm to the neighbor.
Preacher: Yes, that is true.
Socrates: Does it seem to you that not only do we need secular knowledge to carry out specific moral acts, which we know to be right, but we also need ordinary secular knowledge to interpret the moral principle itself?
Preacher: That appears to be true in some cases.
Socrates: Oh, in some cases? Can you give me one example in which the principle of loving your neighbor as yourself can be understood in its practical daily meaning without any form of ordinary secular knowledge?
Preacher: Come to think of it, no I cannot.
Socrates: Then isn't it true that secular knowledge is necessary not only to fulfill morality in the carrying out of moral deeds, but is always needed even to interpret the main moral principle of Christianity?
Preacher: Apparently so.
Socrates: If faith alone cannot interpret moral principles or carry out moral deeds, is it not true that faith without knowledge is incapable of leading a person to morality?
Preacher: That does appear to be the case.
Socrates: How far a turn we have taken. It now appears that in the absence of secular knowledge, the religious person of faith is completely morally bankrupt and incapable of being moral. It appears that there is no faith, no belief in God, no revelation in any sacred text that can replace ordinary secular knowledge when it comes to actually understanding moral imperatives and successfully carrying out the resulting moral acts.
Preacher: This seems to be true.
Socrates: What of the claim that religious faith is the only basis of morality? If faith always needs secular knowledge to interpret moral principles and carry out moral acts, then is it true that this knowledge is necessary for morality?
Preacher: Yes, I could agree with that.
Socrates: To the extent that knowledge is necessary for morality, will atheists have a capacity to be moral?
Preacher: Only to the extent that secular knowledge can empower us to determine what is the right thing to do or how to carry out a right act. It seems correct to state that ordinary secular knowledge is needed to interpret and carry out all moral imperatives, but faith in God is needed to get our basic moral imperatives in the first place. For example, who would come up with the idea of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" if God did not reveal it through Jesus?
Socrates: Actually, Confucius came up with it centuries before Jesus was born. He said, "Do not do to others what you would not have them do to you." This is the same principle worded slightly differently. He was not a believer in either Judaism or Christianity was he?
Socrates: Did Confucius have any faith in God?
Socrates: If this unbeliever was able to articulate such an important moral principle of Christianity centuries before Jesus was born, would you not say that it is possible for a person to come to moral understanding without believing in God?
Preacher: Apparently it is possible sometimes. However, I believe it is more difficult to reach moral knowledge without faith in God.
Socrates: But it is not impossible?
Preacher: It seems that it is not impossible.
Socrates: At this time, I still have more questions on what morality is and what is its scope of application. This talk with you has also raised some questions for me on the nature of God as a moral authority. For example, does God command something because it is right or is it right because he commands it? And if God commands something because it is right, then is it the rightness of the thing in question that contains the moral authority and not the God who commands? For those who command or do something because it is right are not appealing to their own authority, but submitting themselves to the authority of the rightness of that, which they value. Unfortunately, I have more questions than answers. It is my plight in life.
Preacher: Perhaps we can pursue more questions about morality on another day?
Socrates: I look forward to it.
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© Copyright 2009 Kenneth J. Maxwell Jr.