The latest Mere Fidelity podcast went online yesterday. Within it we discuss the significance that the resurrection has for Christian ethics, particularly focusing upon natural law. Take a listen and share your thoughts in the comments!
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About Alastair Roberts
Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
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Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.
Obviously there was so much that could be said on this that there’s no way to talk about everything. The conversation did focus largely on relating the old and the new, and there seemed to be a concern to stress the continuity of the two. (I’m sympathetic to this for exactly the reasons suggested: the over realized eschatology whose advocate thinks she can simply disregard all structures supplied by creation.) What didn’t get brought up–and I only bring it up now because it seems to me to help clarify the discontinuities between the new order brought in by Jesus’ resurrection and the old order that is passing away–is how Jesus’s crucifixion and death figure into this conversation. I’m interested in others’ thoughts on this question.
The resurrection is itself the vindication of a particular form of life, Jesus’s faithfulness unto the cross. Or you could say the resurrection vindicates Jesus’s humility and truthfulness that culminate in and finds their perfect expression in his death. “Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name.”
Certainly the resurrection is the perfection and final end of the Lord’s creation (which alone complicates the relationship of new to old, where the old is in many ways not adequate to spell out the shape of this perfection; the analogy to the scale of music and the symphony was spot on). It’s the crucifixion piece that to my mind really complicates the relationship, though. I’m inclined to think that a cruciform life simply can’t be fully intelligible to the world. The praxis of the Church will always be in some measure opaque to the world and can’t be fully unpacked for it merely by appeal to natural law, in part because of the sinfulness and unnatural resistance of the world to her proclamation in word and deed, but also because the rationality of the Church’s praxis depends on a particular knowledge that the world cannot possess simply by being an ensemble of creatures.
To this point, old and new (much like scale and symphony) are very much related in the way that natural knowledge of God is related to knowledge of God by revelation (and I’m loosely following Thomas here). We can know THAT God is by natural light, but we can’t know who God is by natural light. We can know that God exists, but there’s no way to reason to the conclusion that God is eternally three distinct persons in unity of being. However, our natural knowledge of God is not dispensable for knowing the triune Lord. It marks us out as the kind of creatures to whom the Lord would reveal himself. We have a working, albeit paltry, vocabulary through which the Lord could teach us about himself. This is closely connected to morality. As human beings, in the way that Alastair was describing, we are the image of God. This means that to be fully human is to give expression to who the Lord is, but in a transposed key. Our natural moral knowledge, at least it seems to me, is inchoate, preliminary, even deficient, just as is our natural knowledge of who is our Lord. Hence, the death and resurrection of Jesus is central to our moral lives, revealing the full measure of humanity, even as these events are the definitive unveiling of the God after whom we are patterned.
I do wonder if the natural law comes back in retrospectively, though. The light of the Gospel may bring a person home to herself in a fresh way, the almost surd whisper of a person’s nature finally receiving its voice. In this way, even explicit natural law arguments may be helpful. However, the center of gravity can still reside in the Good News of Jesus’s death and resurrection.
That’s what I’m inclined to think at least. Again, I’m interested in anyone’s feedback that’s willing to read this too lengthy of a comment.