Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 19, 1970
NUMBER 41, PAGE 2a-3

Christianity And Philosophy

[Number 2]

Gordon Wilson

The third issue with which philosophy has been concerned is ethics, or the problem of man in society. Utilitarian ethics is interested in how to build a better society. Upon what principles will such a society be built?

There have been many ethical systems devised and promulgated, none of which has had any particular impact upon humanity in general. The reason for this is that such systems are either concerned with what people should be rather than what they should do, or else they are lacking a single prevailing principle or rule. People cannot understand being unless it is given as a motivation for doing; and no one can remember a set of rules, unless they are tied together by a single unifying rule which can be used as a yardstick by which to measure all areas of conduct.

Plato, in the fourth century b. c., proposed building a new society along political lines. In his "Republic" he called for a military and aristocratic establishment which would eventuate in a philosopher — king, to whom all rule would belong. In this republic the working people would have no political rights at all, seeing that it is not their function to rule, but to labor, each man according to his talents. This "Republic" was intended as a jab at the egalitarian Athenian society of his day, and was thus limited in its purpose and practicality.

Sir Thomas More published "Utopia" in 1516 to suggest a new kind of society founded upon certain concessions to man's material needs. It was to be built upon eternal beauties: the 24 garden cities. It was to avoid the necessity of compromise by the simple stratagem of limiting its population. Labor was to be required in this utopia, but only labor of the lightest and unskilled character: primitive agriculture and handicraft, with the working day limited to six hours. There would be periodic changes of occupations on the part of everyone, in order to avoid boredom. "Utopia" was a thinly disguised slap at the conditions prevailing in 16th century England. Its impracticality and eventual failure as a solution to the problem of man in society is seen in the fact that the very word "utopia" has come to mean an idealistic but unattainable world.

Aldous Huxley took a decidedly anti-utopian view of society in his "Brave New World," published in 1932. He in effect decided that society cannot be constructed on a plane of idealism, and pictured the world of the future as mechanized and sterile. He surrendered the question of how to build a better society by conceding that the best society is whatever will be — and what will be is bleak.

The lesson needed is how to keep from exploiting one another and being exploited. Neither socialism nor capitalism can teach this lesson, for both are economically founded. What is needed is a principle or rule that can always be applied. Jesus said, "Love thy neighbor as thyself." This is a simple concept, but is it not adequate if followed? He who loves his neighbor will avoid cheating or otherwise imposing upon the trust of others. Love does not defraud, nor does it insist upon having its own way. Love offers compromises cheerfully and without regret. He who loves his neighbor as himself will not exploit his neighbor, because he loves him. Neither will he be exploited, because he loves himself. In this simple concept Christianity provides the only adequate solution ever found to the problem of man in society.

Philosophy is also concerned with man as an individual. The issue is raised because of the complex nature of man. Surely the most difficult quest in the world is to know thyself. There are some feelings that I am very proud of, being conscious that they are noble and superior. Other feelings I know are wretched, wicked, and loutish. This inner dichotomy philosophy has not been able to explain. Even depth-study in psychotherapy has not been able to solve the problem, but only reveals what is already known: that there is a human predicament.

The Bible says that man was created in the image of God, but refused to accept this relationship. Being in God's image means more than the mere fact of possessing an immortal spirit nature. It involves also our participation is divine characteristics of rationality, free will, and above all, holiness. But man, fallen through sin, has become what he was not created to be.

Psalm 8 speaks of man as God planned for him to be: "For thou hast made him but a little lower than God, and crownedst him with glory and honor. Thou makest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands..." We can observe that man is happy when he is a servant of God and a lord of creation; but this relationship has been turned topsy-turvy.

Chart Goes Here

The origin of (moral) evil, then, is rooted in the will of man. God gave Adam a simple choice of good and evil, of obedience or disobedience. Adam made the wrong choice; and always man has chosen wrongly at times in his life, thus bringing about a conflict within his own nature. The rebellion of the will is responsible for the problem of man as an individual.

Man can channel this rebellion of the will into such practices as Hitler's genocide; or into skidrowish depravity; or, more subtle, serving the wrong values. But Jesus Christ came to set things right. He came to reconcile man to God... Only when man is reconciled to God, entering into the relationship which God intended for him to sustain to deity, can he be reconciled to himself. Thus, Christianity solves what philosophy cannot even explain: the problem of man as an individual.

3451 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., San Diego, California 92117