Outline of Resurrection Moral Order

Labour of love a long time in the making.

O’Donovan, Oliver.  Resurrection and Moral Order: An Outline for Evangelical Ethics.  Eerdmans, [reprint 1994].

                                                                                                                                  Prologue

Easter Principle

In Christ’s resurrection creation is restored and fulfilment promised; ethics had a foundation (xv).

Difference with Hauerwas:  OO begins ethics with the Christ-event and resurrection; hauerwas with the practices of the Church.

Ethics and final redemption:  Jesus sits at God’s right hand and gives the spirit as a guarantee.  We can be confident about reconciliation because of Christ’s work on the cross.

Sub-thesis: “Love is the principle that confers unifying order both upon the moral field and the character of the moral subject” (226).

The Gospel and Christian Ethics

Resurrection and Creation

“The raising of Christ is representative, not in the way a symbol is representative, expressing a reality what has independent and prior standing, but in the way that a national leader is representative when he brings about for the whole of his people, whatever it is, war or peace, that he effects on their behalf.” (15)

Kingdom ethics/creation ethics:  no dichotomy.   God ushers in the kingdom in the raising of Jesus, which also reaffirms creation.

Natural Ethic

There is an objective reference to the God-made order.

The Spirit and Christian Freedom

The resurrection focuses our participation forward.  It allows me to respond as a moral agent to God’s order (23).   The gift of subjective freedom must be an aspect of our being-in-Christ. The coming of Christ throws off the law as pedagaigos. It makes us adults in God’s order.

OBJECTIVE REALITY

Created Order

creation:  the order and coherence in which the world is composed (31).  It generates an ethical terminology:

  • end–A is ordered to serve B;
  • Creation’s being for Christ is related to being in Christ
  • kind: creates which have generic equivalence in Christ can be ordered to one another teleologically (here O’Donovan avoids the scale of being, but allows at the same time that man is probably more important than rocks).
  • Here OO (34-36) tries to navigate the problems of how creation’s subordinate ends are ordered to each other (per Hegel, Hume, etc).

St Basil’s Two Kinds of Order:  natural and deliberative (37ff).  

The attack upon kinds: the freedom of God

We must not assume a uniform pattern of God’s activity in all ages, for example before and after the coming of Christ (42ff).  

The attack upon ends: the polarity of will and nature

reality without “kinds” is nominalism.  Reality without ends is voluntarism.  Abstracting man from teleological concerns opens the danger to a mechanization of man (52).

ESCHATOLOGY AND HISTORY

Created order cannot be itself while it lacks the Christ-redeemed rule of man that was intended to it (55).  Eschatology answers the question of what creation’s temporal extensions mean.  The ascension is an unfolding of the significance of the resurrection (57).  This means Christian ethics looks both backwards and forwards.  

Natural Ends and History

historicism:  all teleology is time-bound, historical teleology.  It implies that the fulfillment of history is generated from within history (64). The Reformers’ insistence on sola fide/gratia cut this move off at the pass.  “Grace alone” means God is at work from the outside.   

  • Platonic form: per Pannenberg it incorporates not only the Parmenidean arche, but the Socratic arete.   The notion of the good contains an element of futurity.  
  • criticism:  when history is made the categorical matrix for understanding reality, then it can no longer be history.  For a story to be a story, it has to be a story about something (and not just a story about the idea of story).
  • The patristic response:  if creation is extended infinitely in time, then it has infinite possibilities.   By speaking of creation ex nihilo, as finite, they could say the possibilities in history were defined in terms of creation’s being God’s gift (63).  

Historicist Ethics

strong tendency to manipulate and intervene.  Nature does not have meaning from some transhistorical given, but arises from within history by natural forces.  

Western political theology was able to keep a distance from historicist conclusions (for a while, anyway).  It starts from the assertion that the kingdoms of this world are not yet the kingdoms of the Christ, since they do not reflect his judgments.  This allows the believer, who is absolutely subject to Christ, to be relatively subject to earthly powers.  This relative subjectivity opens a “space” between the believer and the powers.  Further, since politics does not have to reconcile the world, it can get along with its own God-ordained business (72).  

If there is no locus of value outside of history, then history will supply its own.  In this case the kingdom of God becomes a form without content.  

KNOWLEDGE IN CHRIST

Knowledge has subjective/objective aspects.  

  • knowledge of things in their relation to the totality of things (77).  Grasping the shape of the whole.
  • The NT contrasts faith/sight, not faith/reason.  
  • subjective aspect: the more encompassing an object is, the harder it is to transcend it and remain neutral.  
  • universals:  our conception of “kinds” (genera) is always open to new particulars. However, the knowledge of the created order from within avoids the empiricist’s dilemma opposed to a knowledge of universals from above.  
  • knowledge is a human way of participating in the created order (81).  
  • knowledge is therefore tied to man’s faithful performance of a task.
  • In summary, knowledge is a knowledge-of-things from within the created order and is vindicated by the resurrection of Christ, who vindicates the created order and gives it back.  Knowledge is a knowledge hidden in Christ.  

Exclusive Knowledge

This knowledge of things in Christ is not of an ethereal Logos, but a particular human.  It is a particular knowledge of the whole order of things created and transformed (85).  

  • Natural Law: how to avoid the ambiguity which attributes universality, not only to knowledge, but to being.  First principles, for Thomas, are self-evident (ST II.I.94.2)
  • It is moral knowledge of the natural order co-ordinated with obedience (87).  It is known by participation, not transcendence.  

Moral Learning

Moral understanding is a grasp of the whole shape of things (90).   Moral learning is all the time “thinking,” the intellectual exploration of a reality (92).

Conflict and Compromise

THE SUBJECTIVE REALITY

Freedom and Reality

Goal of chapter: to show that the redeemed creation does not merely confront us as moral agents, but enables us to participate in it (101).

  1. The Spirit makes the reality of redemption present to us (102)
    1. Any doctrine of the Spirit must first be a doctrine of the Spirit in Christ if it is to avoid the problem of Montanism.  
    2. The Spirit makes the reality of redemption authoritative to us.
  2. The Holy Spirit in John 16:8-11 (105); each of these three moments of judgment is included in the one act of God’s redeeming and fulfilling creation.
    1. crucifixion: the world’s judgment on Christ
    2. resurrection/ascension: The Father’s judgment on Christ
    3. Parousia: Christ’s judgment on the ruler of the world.
  3. The Spirit evokes our free response.
    1. he restores us as moral agents, as the subjects of our actions (106).
    2. freedom is the character of one who participates in the order of creation by knowledge and action (107).  
    3. Freedom is potency, not possibility.This rejects existentialism’s “absence of limits” and libertarianism’s “infinite possibilities.”
    4. Freedom is teleological (Gal. 5.13).
    5. The Holy Spirit restores our access to reality (112).

Alienation and Conversion

  1. Augustine: knowing and willing must be entirely proportionate and coextensive.  The corrupted mind knows something without loving it, or without loving it proportionately (110).  It does not know it in order to justify its love (De Trin. Book 9). The mind in perfect possession of truth loves and wills–reason and will are one.  
  2. The problem of the relationship between reason and will: springs from a disjunction between hearing and doing
  3. Repentance cannot simply realign our will to its continuity with the past.  Something must break that continuity.

Conscience and Autonomy

  1. Guilt: a dividedness of the will with itself.
  2. Conscience:
    1. Thomas Aquinas:  it is bad for the will to be at variance with reason. If you have a mistaken conscience, anything your will does will be sin. Thomas’s larger point, even if we don’t like how he got there, is to caution against an autonomous conscience.
    2. Later 18th century moralists set up conscience as an arbitrary tyrant.

Authority

authority:  something, which by virtue of its kind, constitutes an immediate ground for acting (122).

Christian neo-Platonism: every movement of the human soul is inspired by God; mediated through a diversity of created objects

Natural Authority and the Authority of Truth (cf Ways of Judgment, pp. 131-132).

Political Authority

concurrence of natural authorities of might and tradition (128).  Political authority searches for a compromise while bearing full witness to the truth.

Divine Authority

“What is the relation of the divine command to the created order” (132)?

  • theological rationalism: God speaks through the order reason perceives.  Ps. 104:5; emphasizes the security of the created order.  Emphasizes ontological continuity, tends towards neo-Platonism.
  • theological voluntarism:  God’s command cuts across the rational order.  These psalms emphasize destability (Ps 97.5).  Tended toward immediate contingency of morality upon the revealed will of God.  

Deontic and Teleological Language

Deontic: morality is a matter of command and obedience.  The moral claim is encountered apart from any consideration of the subject’s wish or fulfillment.  

The Authority of Christ

The spirit bears witness to the Resurrected Christ’s authority.  Spontainety and tradition are dual aspects of the same error: failure to critically evaluate the Spirits.  What is tradition but spontaneity in slow motion?  They are not necessarily wrong; just not self-evident.  

The authority of God is located in the public realm (Resurrection).  Moral authority is the authority of the renewed created order where ends and kinds participate.  

Evangelical Authority

*  “When the apostle contrasted law and gospel, he was pointing to the dialectical tension in Israel’s history between the experience of God through promise and the experience of God through command” (151).

  • to experience moral command as “law” is to encounter as from a point in the history of salvation in which God has not yet given the total blessing to his people.
  • “mediated through angels” = the created authority of the community.

Jesus’s authority

  • It is “evangelical” because the moral order he proclaims is the Kingdom of God.
  • Abba prayer:  disciples are invited to share Jesus’s relationship with his father.
  • criticism of externalized morality and religion

Law is command through reciprocal bargain.

Historical Authority

The coming of Christ is the word that re-shapes the events of history (and their teloi).

The Freedom of the Church and the Believer

thesis:  Christ evokes the freedom of the Kingdom of God within us (163).  

  • however, our humanity is destined for the shared life of a city.

The difficulty in classical ethics:

  1. The call of the good, per Plato, meant a solitary and tragic opposition to society.
  2. Aristotle saw that human good always presupposed a social context.
  3. Augustine tries to solve this in City of God: eschatological transcends the tensions between individual and society.

The church isn’t simply a community that speaks to mankind, but is the community that is spoken to.

The Roman view of command and counsel:

  1. it suggested (contra Lk 17:7ff) that God’s demand was limited and less than the total claim of the Good (170).
  2. dangerous wedge between divine command and ultimate realities of good.
  3. Metaphysical ethics must be unitary.  If an act is obligatory, it is so by virtue of its relation to the good, and by virtue of that same relation the performance of it is free.
  4. Therefore, this distinction destroys the very ideas of both freedom and obligation.

Part Three: The Form of the Moral Life

The Moral Field

The form of the moral life is love, the bond of perfection (Col. 3:14).  This section deals with what St Paul calls “The fruit of the Spirit” (182).  

Thesis: The gospel tells us of agents rendered free before the reality of a redeemed universe.  The form their agency assumes will correspond both to the intelligible order which they confront and the freedom in which they act (183).

  • their moral life will be an ordered moral field of action (i.e., human acts)
  • moral ordered subject of action (I.e., human character)

An ordered moral field

Different options

  • to see the moral life as human acts is to see it broken down into a series of discrete and distinct events of human agency, a plurality of responses to the world rather than a single response (183).
  • Fletcher and situation ethics: no matter how problematic Fletcher’s proposal is, it did show the true colors of historicism.  Historicism needs a transhistorical mediation and Fletcher tries to show that doesn’t work.
  • anticipation: divorced from Christian reflection, this is a consequentialist ethic.
    • evaluate acts solely by the consequences they produce
  • Wisdom ethic: “the perception that every novelty, in its own way, manifests the permanence and stability of the created order, so that, however astonishing and undreamt it may be, it is not uttlery incommensurate with what has gone before” (189).
    • Wisdom’s re-presentation as law: declares the central point of Israel’s faith as the meeting of life-in-the-world with life-before-God.

 

indirect voluntary acts: similar to foresight.

direct voluntary acts: intention

the above distinction  advises us that there is a difference between directly intending  an evil effect of one’s action and merely foreesing that it will follow; b) that one may foresee an evil effect of one’s action without desiring it, and c) that one may licitly act in such a way as will foreseeably produce an evil effect (192).

This should be reframed, O’Donovan suggests: it originally arose as a way to understand the differences beween murder and other kinds of killing.  It cannot be used as an ‘analytic a priori” (194).

 

Aquinas’s approach: good and evil in human acts in general

  1. act-as-such
  2. object
  3. circumstance
  4. morality

This demands insight into the craeted order

 

The Moral Subject

Thesis: “Human morality is a series of disclosures in which reality (the heart) forces itself into the realm of appearances (deeds and words) and declares itself, tearing apart the veil of pretense” (206).

 

The Epistemological Priority of Act

  1. The character is known through the acts.
  2. Knowledge of an agent’s character contributes to evaluative moral thought, not deliberative.

The Plurality and Unity of the Virtues

Aristotle: all activities strive for some perceived good, happiness (eudaimion). What is the unifying virtue?  Love.  “True virtue is love for God” (223). The four cardinal virtues are manifestations of this love in typical social relations.

The Double Aspect of the Moral Life

Main point, glossing love your God/neighbor: the love by which we love reality must be twofold in the same way that the reality which we love is twofold: the secondary object derives from the primary object (227).

  • We are to love the neighbor because the neighbor is ordered to the love of God.
  • Yet, love of the neighbor is love of something that is not God (it is also affirming the genuine otherness of creation).

The Ordering of Love

The love to God is not merely one claim among many, but the claim that orders other claims.

Two loves: love to God and love to neighbor

  1. The relation of the two loves is an ordering of means to ends.
    1. Augustine’s “use” and “enjoyment.”
    2. “Res”
      1. Proper objects of “use” (utenda) and proper objects of enjoyment (fruenda)
      2. But Augustine’s reading seems to say that we “use” our neighbor, and O’Donovan rejects this proposal. 235
  2. What is a “person?”
    1. Originally classical Christian thought said that “individuality” resided in reason (nous) or soul (psyche).  When applied to Christ, this was disastrous (238). This either made him two individuals or one individual without a whole range of human attributes.
    2. The solution was to draw a sharp divide between person (hypostasis, individual existence) and nature (a set of attributes).
    3. Modern Kantianism and Hegelianism, in reducing person to “will” and self-consciousness is actually a reversion back to pre-Christian categories.

The End of the Moral Life

The Christian moral life looks to the divine disclosure of God-in-Christ through the Spirit.

Love and its Reward

The idea of reward must always be clarified by something like ipse praemium.  God himself is the gift.  The present hiddenness of God’s new creation demands the public manifestation of the Son of Man in the cosmos.

Love demands that the good be actualized.

Kant downplayed the object of affections/desires/etc in favor of an inner disposition (251).

Various Terminology:

created order: “the structure of the world in its objectivity…its authority to evoke our action” (191).

moral field: “the world as it presents itself to us at any one moment as the context and occasion of our next action.”

Wisdom: “knowledge of the created order.”

casuistry: application of the moral law to action in particular cases.

historicism: the history of an idea is its reality (34). The problem is that the end of a thing is no longer a given ordering-to, which allows free response, but merely historical necessity.

universal in Christ:  his particularity belongs to his divine nature, universal to his human nature (143).  A universe of meaning

 

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About Ephraim's Arrow

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism
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