Morality as per Sylvester & Tweety

Years ago, I was asked to prepare teenagers for their university education. The assignment was part of a series to help those who grew up with a Christian faith. Public education has an inbuilt bias to preserve its Religion of Secularism.

I recently came upon these notes researching for a book I am writing about Ethics. I thought I would share these with you even though they are dated. Trying to reason with bright teenagers about morality was a seemingly impossible task! Nevertheless, the sessions were valuable for both teens and me. Hope they can add value to your journey.

aristotle.jpg

Note #3 – Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird.

Sylvester the cat wants to eat Tweety Bird. Just as he is about to put the little yellow morsel into his mouth, up pops two miniatures of Sylvester himself. One is angelic and the other a demonic image of himself. Each sits on the opposite shoulder and whispers their counsel into Sylvester’s ears.

Is this just a cartoon feature? How about neo-Platonic morality developed by Augustine and encouraged later by later thinkers known as absolutists!

You may be surprised to learn preaching what is moral has not been limited to the church pulpit. There are several systems of principles that have been developed over time. These systems are the practical application to particular beliefs. Your university education will expose you to diverse beliefs.

Man Angel on Shoulder

The science of moral philosophy is known as ethics. The terms ethics and morality are synonymous. They both are derived from words which mean customs and indicate how people are to behave within a given Society.

Ethics is derived from the Greek term, ethika, a derivative itself from ethos, emphasizing character with customs.

Morals is the equable derivative of the Latin term, mores. Mores has been transported into English to mean rules related to the conduct, manners and behavior of people to others.

Sylvester and Tweety as Food

As a branch of philosophy, ethics belongs to the normative sciences. Normative has to do with what is the norm of human conduct. This type of science differs from the formal sciences like mathematics and the empirical sciences such as social sciences. Normative science takes place when psychology scrutinizes the social conditions involved in developing moral principles.

Ethics as a disciple is a collection of “doctrines” which govern social manners. The use of the term “doctrine” is very familiar to you as a Christian. It is the same term used by non-Christians in philosophical discussions. In Western Civilization, these doctrines have been debated since the 6th century BC. Philosophers still strive to articulate what is good and right.

When you begin your university training, you will find yourself inside the chambers where morals are still under debate. That is why it is important you understand ethical principles and how they relate to your Christian values.

Posts in this series:

Morality is Virtue

Years ago, I was asked to prepare teenagers for their university education. The assignment was part of a series to help those who grew up with a Christian faith. Public education has an inbuilt bias to preserve its Religion of Secularism.

I recently came upon these notes researching for a book I am writing about Ethics. I thought I would share these with you even though they are dated. Trying to reason with bright teenagers about morality was a seemingly impossible task! Nevertheless, the sessions were valuable for both teens and me. Hope they can add value to your journey.

aristotle.jpg

Note #2 – Laws serve to represent Society’s morals. They are given with the assumption citizens are capable of obeying and upholding them.

When morality is viewed as a code of behavior, it implies each person is virtuous or, in the least, capable of exercising virtue. That means behavior codes assume you can respect the rules of “right” in relation to social customs.

As a Christian, you may view moral codes as divine law and not human law. You need to recognize that both divine and human law agree that a person who follows the rules of the school; obeys the law of the land; adheres to the creed of a church, et al; such behavior is classified as virtuous.

In plainer language: there are just some actions you know are right thing to do whether or not they come from the Church, the University or your future Employer.

doorhold

Previously, it was considered right and proper for a man to hold the door open for a lady. Today no such social expectation is preached. What was virtuous in Western Civilization previously many not be regarded as such today.

So, how does a Christian know what to do when? Is it proper to conform Society’s standards of morality?

Morality is a code of behavior. What does that mean?

  • Certain actions are accepted as “good”
  • Performing those actions are “virtuous”
  • Virtuous behavior is acceptable “deportment”
  • Right deportment are actions that conform to Divine Law.

At the end of the day, no matter the standards of Society, the Divine Code propagates a superior virtue. Exercise the “mores” of Society only when there is no clear contradiction to the Divine Code.

Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. Acts 5:29

What is the Divine Code? Traditionally, it is known as the 10 Commandments. They form the basis of 603 additional laws issued through Moses. However, Jesus summarized them into 3 (Matthew 22:36-40):

  • Love your Self
  • Love your Neighbor
  • Love your Creator

Morality Is A Behavior Code

Years ago, I was asked to prepare teenagers for their university education. The assignment was part of a series to help those who grew up with a Christian faith. Public education has an inbuilt bias to preserve its Religion of Secularism.

I recently came upon these notes researching for a book I am writing about Ethics. I thought I would share these with you even though they are dated. Trying to reason with bright teenagers about morality was a seemingly impossible task! Nevertheless, the sessions were valuable for both teens and me. Hope they can add value to your journey.

aristotle.jpg

Note #1 – Morality has become associated as a code of behavior. The philosophers believed a certain conduct would lead to happiness.

The early church taught, “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). The pursuit of happiness is not the deportment of Christianity; but rather the pursuit of godly living—living in a way that is God-like. It is not the arrogant pursuit of being gods as Adam and Eve erred (Genesis 3:5) but a contentment to live as God directs in accordance to His word.

From the very beginning, God has been interested in His creation doing what He says to bring them the greater benefit (Genesis 3:11). Philosophy can rob you of God’s blessings if you are not careful (Colossians 2:8). Nonetheless, there is an agreed precept between philosophy and Biblical Christianity: your contentment in life can be found when following a code of behavior.

The Bible assumes you are capable of moral actions. There are certain actions which you are bound to perform. The obligations performed as a social duty are, definition, acts of morality. Each Society adjust the rules, but one fact remains: morality is associated with you keeping accepted rules.

Waiter

For instance, most people do not tip in a restaurant here in New Zealand. It is considered immoral for an employer to not provide servers with full wages. With the provision, tipping is not a necessary part of the server’s wages. However, in the United States, it is customary to tip a server regardless of any wages being received. The respective customs reflect differing moral standards for its Society.

At university, you will be given guide-lines and expectations for your behavior. Jump up and down all you want about your individual rights! It won’t make a difference. Whenever individuals join together, there must be agreement on a set of rules. Otherwise, chaos results and there will be no order for your educational environment.

The New Testament Problem of John’s Writings

Christian thought–what was once known as theology–has evolved over the centuries. Ever since the State takeover of the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.), Christian thought has incrementally removed itself from the original teachings of Jesus Christ.

The first century A.D. preserved the oral wisdom of Jesus in writing. Those writings continued over the next two centuries. The Primitive Church faithfully preserved Christic traditions. Unfortunately, they were not the chosen favorite of the State. Emperor Constantine’s Council created orthodoxy as opposed to heterodoxy.

Adherents of the Primitive Church were thenceforth branded as heretics. Their writings were systematically destroyed. Later generations were dependent on their enemies to explain what they taught. Would you trust your enemy to faithfully represent your beliefs and practices? Of course not!

There have been several more crisis points in the history of Christian Theology. The Great Schism of 1054 A.D. saw the Eastern Church split from the West. Now known as the Orthodox Church, it continues to preserve traditions in place a thousand years ago. Their traditions, however, are still 700 years away from the Primitive Church.

When the Roman priest Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the church door of Wittenberg, the so-called Great Reformation was well underway. Rather than reform the Roman Church it created another schism. The Protestant Church was exorcised for its protests. Although claiming to return to Primative teachings, it took with it many of the religious practices of the time.

The Protestant Church opened the door for further schisms. Different denominations were created. I grew up under the Baptist banner. Baptists, continuing the ancient tradition of schisms, have created an array of traditions. The American Civil War preserved cultural differences between the South and North. The Southern Baptist Convention remains powerful to this day producing 3 U.S. Presidents:

  • William Jefferson Clinton;
  • Jimmy Carter; and
  • Harry S. Truman.

The North did put their own Baptist in the White House: Warren Harding.

Baptists are a haven for Fundamentalists. Any layman could answer “the call” and become a minister. Whether or not he received training was irrelevant. “The blind leading the blind” enabled extreme teachings.

I was a leader in one of those Fundamentalist Baptist sects.

Born and reared under this strain of Christian Thought, I embraced its principles of individual soul liberty and truth being rooted in the scriptures. I began reading the bible at 8 years old. It took me 4 years to finish it and I have repeated that exercise scores of times.

In my teen years I got my hands on the writings of Primitive Church teachers. Much of what I absorbed raised questions when compared to Christian Thought. After divinity training I was lost in the work of the ministry. Any study seemed to be preparation for the 5,000 times I taught or spoke. During the three decades of Baptist ministry, there was a niggling in the back of my heart:

The problem of John’s writings in the New Testament.

Whereas the Catholic and Orthodox Churches emphasize the Gospels over the rest of scripture, the Protestants and Baptists elevated Paul’s writings as the filter to read the Gospels. The niggle in my heart was the fact that John wrote his Gospel and Apocalypse decades after the others.

Why?

My theological and divinity training suggested John later wrote to combat Gnosticism. The problem was when I read John’s writings, I see the preservation of what has been labeled Gnosticism. His high Christology; his emphasis on the Word; his revelation in the spirit of the Book of Enoch; it was hard for me to fully comprehend my denominational teaching.

And then again, should I trust the opponents to faithfully represent what Gnostics teach?

“I trow not” (Jesus, Luke 17:9).

I am not claiming to be a gnostic!

I am reclaiming my heart belief that the Primitive Church faithfully preserved the oral teachings of Jesus.

And I am now filtering Paul’s writings through John’s.