Monday, January 08, 2007

Starting the Year With a Bang

I like to start the new year with a bang. This past week's series on a centrist Christian approach to homosexual practice has certainly done that. I am still working through the comments -- I will give a more thoughtful overview tomorrow.

One point has struck me, though: we do not have a good name for a category of moral acts which are discretely tolerated, or formally overlooked, if the actors are making a good faith effort to wrestle with the dilemma. And yet, I think, in dealing with real people, we make such allowances all the time. There is no good way to build this kind of toleration into an ethical principle, because it really is a species of practical judgment in a particular case. Because we have to rely on many actors to make correct practical judgments in cases like this, the issue cannot be settled at the level of ethics.

3 comments:

José Solano said...

". . . We do not have a good name for a category of moral acts which are discretely tolerated, or formally overlooked, if the actors are making a good faith effort to wrestle with the dilemma." (Gruntled)

Are you asking about a category of "moral" acts or "immoral" acts? Moral acts don't have to be discretely tolerated or overlooked. They should be praised. Perhaps you can clarify.

Gruntled said...

It is the category that needs the name. It is the parallel to the problem of social practices which are not ideal, but are good enough. I elaborate some examples of this problem in the following post. The existence of this category is central to my idea of what centrism entails -- see the three GC Manifesto posts cited at the top of every edition of this blog.

José Solano said...

Thank you Gruntled for pointing me to your GC Manifesto. It helps me better understand what you are saying.

Based on your definitions, where would you place Jesus Christ and the Apostles?

Isn't it interesting that Jesus teaches us at the summation of His Sermon on the Mount, "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." And Paul tells us in Col. 1:28, "Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus."

Aren't we falling into a word problem with the expression "good enough" when by Christian teaching we can never be "good enough" till we are perfect in Christ and therefore we remain sinners in need of mercy. But, we cannot expect mercy unless we confess our sins and continually strive and teach others to strive for that perfection in Christ. ". . . Leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection. . . ." (Heb. 6:1) And the exhortations to strive for perfection go on and on in Scripture. How then can we teach to make compromise with sin?

I think we are conflating general political processes ("social practices") for reaching compromise on many issues where compromises are reasonably "good enough" solutions, with Christian teaching on moral conduct for which only perfection is good enough. Don't commit adultery does not mean that if you commit adultery only rarely it is "good enough." It is an absolute teaching in which there can be no compromise.