News and Views

Christianity and Culture - Ethics

    I grew up in the best country in the world-nominally Christian Canada. That did not mean that every individual was Christian, but it did mean that there was a generally accepted consensus that the laws of the land were roughly based upon and compatible with God's Holy Word, the Bible. It also meant that, in broad terms, Biblical standards were the generally accepted standards for good living, with quite a wide range of interpretations of what that meant. Other viewpoints were tolerated, but not encouraged. 
    As a young adult and university student earning a degree in education, I recognized that Canada in the early 1960s was becoming post-Christian. While I did not agree with much that I was expected to learn in areas such as Philosophy of Education, especially that of John Dewey and his followers, I regurgitated the accepted line on exams, and did not recognize the implications until decades later when I read the Humanist Manifestos and saw John Dewey's signature on the first one dated 1933. What I realized then is what Ted Byfield so capably expresses in his 2008 essay, :"Why History Matters" available at 
    Pierre Elliott Trudeau also had a huge influence in the adoption of humanistic thinking in both Canadian law and culture. One dictionary definition of "moral" is "of or relating to character and human behaviour, particularly as regards right and wrong; virtuous." When I was growing up, children were taught specific ways to do things, such as the correct way to make each letter, and what was right and wrong, good and bad, such as honesty and keeping promises. We were taught a correct way to do things and a right way to be, a system of moral principles, morality, often with unpleasant consequences if we made wrong choices. Words such as "right," "wrong," "good." or "bad" aren't heard much anymore, and, thanks to John Dewey, certainly not in school! 
    Being taught the basic skills for living also provided us with the tools necessary for true creativity while making it unnecessary for us to "recreate the wheel" in any area we chose to explore. Instead of considering "morality," we moved on to "ethics," defined as "the philosophic analysis of human morality and conduct." Of course, every profession has its own code of ethics, and all of them include a clause forbidding one to negatively criticize others in the same profession, which is one of the main reasons why incompetent practitioners continue for so long providing sub-standard services to the public. Ethics moved away from consideration of right and wrong, good and bad, to "situational ethics" which tries t explain why something wrong in one situation can be right in another, and to considerations of the systems by which to recognize "ethical" behaviour, whatever that is after you throw out concepts of right and wrong, which is where we are at today. Now we hear a lot about "values," defined as "beliefs about what is right and wrong and what is important." Since "values" is also the plural of "value: worth, merit, importance; market value," when we think of "values" we can't avoid considering importance first, before right or wrong. Indeed, today our "Canadian values" uphold and promote behaviours that were criminal half a century ago, and that remain wrong according to God's master plan for us, His creatures. 
    Christian morality was and is solidly built on God, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, the source of all reality and all goodness, as He revealed it through His written Word, for example in the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." God does not change, and neither do the moral choices that lead to the best quality of life for His beloved people. On the other hand, our "secular" culture's "values" can be recognized as flowing from statements in "Humanist Manifesto II," such as: "We appreciate the need to preserve the best ethical teachings in the religious teachings of humankind," "Promises of immortal salvation or fear of eternal damnation are both illusory and harmful." "Ethics is autonomous and situational, needing no theological or ideological sanction," "Individuals should be permitted to express their sexual proclivities and pursue their life-styles as they desire," and "We strive for the good life, here and now." 
    As we moved from a cultural consensus grounded in Christian standards to relativistic humanist values, we gave up all sense of having a reference point outside of ourselves, and we humans are masters at rationalizing that anything we want is okay. With no compass or anchor for our values, we have developed an illogical mess of contradictions which include these.     We have developed a huge consensus around the need for self-esteem and self-actualization in a "me-first" culture, while claiming that it is good to help others and marvelling at actual examples of heroically helping others. Both opposite attitudes of entitlement and altruism are encouraged. The culture encourages people who go to great lengths to procure the medical help to lengthen one particular life. All kinds of medical charities receive tremendous support in order to "save lives," while others are pushing for euthanasia to be legalized so that lives considered useless can be ended, murdered. 
    Many oppose capital punishment while supporting the murder of innocent preborn humans. Brutally killing an animal incites more outrage than brutally murdering a human, because human life is devalued by many to mere animal life. The value of life is now in the eye of the beholder, with no consensus, no sense of right or wrong. In addition, Rick Warren writes, "Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone's lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don't have to compromise convictions to be compassionate." Ethically, our culture today is adrift on the stormy, arrogant sea of individual human intellectual rationalizations with neither a compass nor an anchor.

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