When I went to college, it was at a school that had some affiliation with the Presbyterian Church, USA, but for all practical purposes, it was a private secular school with a chapel. It wasn’t as though there was a pervasive Christian atmosphere. Pretty much it was standard-issue multi-cultural liberalism.
A part of the core curriculum to graduate was a class in the senior year on Ethics. Of course, I almost failed.
It was really difficult for me to process their way of gauging right and wrong because they weren’t willing to pin themselves to any particular foundation. It should be pretty obvious that Ethics is the sort of thing that starts from a set of key principles and works the implications out from there. But being the sort of school they were, it wouldn’t do to just assert what these principles ought to be. What if I don’t like your principles?
Instead, they gave us some options. Apparently, it’s a modern pluralist idea to try to present ethics on a 3-legged stool, kind of as a “choose-your-own” morality. So they give you Kant, Mill, and Aristotle to teach Duty, Utility, and Virtue. You’re supposed to choose which system of reasoning best fits the situation and your taste. You’re even told that each form of reasoning has its flaws, so that you have to balance each against the others.
It really got me. Confused the daylights out of me. The problem was that in my heart of hearts, I didn’t believe in morally gray areas. Still don’t. There are things that are hard to do, but it’s not usually hard to determine the right thing to do. So how did they get this perfectly balanced porridge? It took me years to get an answer, and I wish I’d written down who it was that popped the bubble of my confusion.
It’s actually pretty pathetic. Every system has its flaws so long as man is the measure of all things. If there is no standard to hold to, there isn’t even any way to come to a wrong answer. And if there isn’t any wrong answer, there can’t be a right one either. But the very point of ethics is to determine right and wrong. If you set up the system so that the goal can’t be achieved, then there’s no wonder that no one ever achieves the goal.
Sin is determined to tie up moral knots because that twistedness deflects you from judgment. It takes a Champion to take the sword of authority to cut through those knots with a simple standard. Continue reading “3-leg porridge”