Saturday, March 29, 2008

Morality and moralism

In one of your lectures at Trinity Western University, you spoke of morality as a heresy and criticised moralism. I remember your explanation, but since you asked for question I thought this would be a good one to answer online. What is the difference between morality and moralism, and when is morality a heresy.

(Please note that the elipses at the beginning of each paragraph do not have a meaning. The programme does not provide for proper indentation of paragraphs, which some readers have complained makes the text a little more difficult to read).

....Moralism is false. It is based in fear and anger, and is often a cover-up for one's own vices. Morality is based in love and advocates the concepts of morality given us by Christ because we understand that what we are taught by Christ and the Apostles is given for our benefit and salvation. It is not filled with fear and anger, but rather it offers a better, safer and more fulfilling life to mankind, and the hope of the Kingdom of God.
....Morality can become a heresy because it can become a substitute for a life in Christ. One can begin to fulfil any given moral code and forget about the struggle for the transformation of the inner person, of the heart. When morality becomes a substitute for a life in Christ, it also leads one into a self-centred and self-entertaining form of worship. There is a moral code and a "worship service" that is centred on pleasing and entertaining yourself, with some vague references to Christ. This is, for example, one of the main heresies of Evangelical Christianity. The so-called worship services often consist in rock and roll bands, torch singers, sometimes in dancing around the altar like witches around a culdron, holding hands in prayer as with a Medium or "spirit channeler" at a seance but refusing to follow the first century Christian practice of making the sign of the Cross on oneself. All is focused on self and self entertainment rather than on pouring the soul out to God in genuine worship. One can speak of "praising the Lord" without ever coming to a sincere repentance or truly pouring out the soul in humble worship, praying with hearfelt repentance and struggling for the transformation of the heart.
....We have studied the subject carefully over the years, and observed the unfolding of ultra-conservative fundamentalists and other "moralists." I want to assert that ultra-moralism is form of pornography and self-hatred. There will be more to say about it later, but it might be a good idea for those who are interested in the subject to look back over history and examine this question. It has been taken up before. Nathaniel Hawthorne touched upon it in the story of THE SCARLET LETTER. The parson on the coach with Moll Flanders is another examination of this phenomenon. We have had so many examples of it in North America in the past few decades, that there are plenty of living examples to examine, even to Jerry Falwell's public denial of the principle of mercy, when he appeared on Larry King's television programme. Yet our Saviour commands us to "go and learn what it means, 'I will have mercy and not sacrifice'."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am saddened by such harsh judgements towards the evangelicals. So many of us have come to Orthodoxy from such backgrounds. It seems more important to show love towards those who do not know the faith then to put them down and compare their worship to that of witches when their desire may be to truly worship God without having any instruction on how. Let us instead pray for them and not be prideful in that we are in the Orthodox faith, for even our worship can be done for ourselves if not done from the heart towards God. With love His unworthy handmaiden.