Category Archives: Holiness

Sometimes, you can be too “pious”

Modesty taught me that I was always on display. There was no occasion in which it was acceptable to be immodest. Not the beach, not at the pool with friends, not in my own backyard (sunbathing was out because a neighbor might glance over and see me). This took my normal self-consciousness as a teenage girl and amped it up to an impossible degree. I once had a bee fly down my (acceptably loose) shirt and, in flailing around to get it out, had a family member comment that I’d just “flashed” my own grandfather. I was horrified for the rest of the week. That’s not normal. The normal order of priorities is getting dangerous animals out of your clothing first, and then worrying about making your own relatives perv on you second. Not so with the modesty doctrine. I should have let it sting me, apparently. Getting stung was the lesser risk.

via How Modesty Made Me Fat « The Unspoken Words.

Read. Listen. Read. Look. Pray. Read.

‘Modest Is Hottest’ – Yeah… No. Peacocks!

The Christian rhetoric of modesty, rather than offering believers an alternative to the sexual objectification of women, often continues the objectification, just in a different form.

via Her.meneutics: How ‘Modest Is Hottest’ Is Hurting Christian Women.

Thanks to AW for this via Twitter.

I remember when I posted this post a few years ago and the heat I took in my former place, er cult, er whatever…

Short Essay on the Three Categories of Ethics

This is an assignment due today. Thought I’d post it. Rip it to shreds, my friends:

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Deontological ethics are those ethics based upon rules which have various sources such as Divine Command, Natural Law, Covenant and Rules, and Covenants and Contracts. The name of these ethics is derived from the Greek word deon which simply means something necessary. Thus, we should understand that deontological ethics are those rules which are seen as necessary for one reason or another, such as identity forming or because they are the will of God. They are seen as an obligation for the rule followers because it binds them to the rule-maker, which in some cases may be God or one another in a society. These ethics have a weakness in that they often produce rules which prevent good or better actions. Lovin gives the example of a Church steward who in following the letter of the law, is unable to make the local congregation more money on its investment. Or, following the Trolley Problem as introduced by Philippa Foot[1], actions are declared wrong regardless if by committing one ‘sin’ (or breaking one rule) better actions result. The results matter little in this genre of ethics, only the morality of the action. In the end, it simply doesn’t allow the individual or society to seek results, only to follow the rules[2].

In teleological ethics regards the “good” as an object of the goal. (Lovin, 22) As Lovin points out, the development of these ethics comes to fruition in the developments of the late 18th and early 18th century democracies. Simply put, it was the ethics of what causes the most happiness to those interested. It allowed societies to question antiquated rules and establish new norms to reflect the new sense of human destiny. These ethics involve achieving a goal, but as Lovin points out, the goals are often difficult to find. Others have noted that this idea of communal happiness has its drawbacks in that often times, rights or long standing rules which are meant to preserve order can be dispensed with because the communal happiness is in question[3].  Bentham is incorrect when he notes that our interests outpace our fears. Both drive one another, and in a teleological society, they can be driven against the minority[4]. Further, as Lovin seems to note, teleological ethics seems to multiply our consumerism in that the objects are multiplied. However, I also note that Lovin notes the positive aspect of teleological ethics, “(T)he principle of community suggest that we should choose those goals that enrich the lives of other people and enable them to live good lives of their own (31).” Perhaps in a teleological ethics of that principle, one can focus on the more positive interests and put their fears at bay.

Virtue ethics are based on the individual and their agency. Unlike the previous two, it is more individualistic and seems to be more situational. On these virtues, Lovin writes, “Virtues are the admirable qualities of persons that emerge from an examination of their narratives and that shape their moral lives (63).” Further, Lovin notes Aristotle who believes that virtue can be learned (64) and then writes that the rules which the individuals have learned have become inseparable from their personas (65). The focus then is not on rules or goals, but on the person themselves, so that once the person is a well-defined virtuous being, they would be expected to take part fully in either a deontological or teleological society. These particular set of ethics deal with individuality morality, which Lovin is able to connect several times to the Christian narrative (for example, 67, in which Lovin connects the Sermon on the Mount as a set of virtues) and to theological virtues. As Augustine, Aquinas and Lovin have noted, the essential moral virtues can be categorized as: temperance, courage, prudence, and justice (68). Of course, the weakness here is that virtues differ from culture to culture, and from time to time, something Lovin notes as well (67). A strength, however, is that these set of ethics seem to be able to be cultivated.

The weakness of the various categories of ethics are easily seen. Deontological ethics doesn’t allow to the result to be factors into the decision making process. It begins with the morality of the action, taken in the abstract, and forces one to align their actions in the concrete with the rule. In teleological ethics, while a good result is the desired goal, it refuses to allow the goal to be easily defined. Happiness for the community may be seen differently by the individuals. Further, with no concrete goal, the need to constantly expand the concept of happiness appears, giving a consumerism view to the community. In virtue ethics, the individual is in view, with the determined goal to make him or her a moral creature; however, the weakness here is that virtue is defined by the time and place of the individual. The strengths then, reverse the trend of moving further away and rejoin the three categories.

In virtue ethics, the morality of the individual is cultivated to produce a rational and reasonable creature who fits into the teleos of the society at large. If gives individuality to the society, in that the individual is the building block of a society. The teleos can now be said to rest on group-morality rather than individualistic pursuits. The moral creature is, in society, given a collective goal and purpose beyond commodity production. It is, then, the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness which the society is centered on. Once the individual is cultivated to be moral, and the teleos is declared to be right, then the deontological rules developed will serve as a social contract which protects the individual while maintaining the pursuit of the society.  A society cannot start with rules and build ethics, neither give itself a purpose which is then supposed to bring about ethics, and neither can an individual exist as moral without purpose and rules.

I close with Lovin’s final words, “So the moral life, instead of being a way to defend ourselves, becomes a way to love our neighbors and a way to love God as well.” The moral life, then, is made up of rules and purpose, but the individual’s response to morality, and for the Christian, the individual’s response to God’s morality.



[1] Philippa Foot, The Problem of Abortion and the Doctrine of the Double Effect in Virtues and Vices (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1978)

[2] I note in the Divine Command aspect, the example in 1st Samuel 16 should be ignored. In this passage God allows Samuel to break several rules to address the dangerous situation, which secured a better result over against the result which would have happened if Samuel had obeyed the rules.

[3] Scheffler, Samuel (Ed.) (1988). Consequentialism and Its Critics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[4] I note the Patriot Act and Lovin’s words on 25, “We would not think we had achieved the good life if the price we had to pay for material security was the surrender of control over our future or the denial of beliefs and values we hold most dear.” Further, there is the value of individualism which is surrendered in our consumeristic society.

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George Whitefield on swearing

Among the many heinous sins for which this nation is grown infamous, perhaps there is no one more crying, but withal more common, than the abominable custom of profane swearing and cursing. Our streets abound with persons of all degrees and qualities, who are continually provoking the holy one of Israel to anger, by their detestable oaths and blasphemies: and our very children, “out of whose mouths,” the psalmist observes in his days, “was perfected praise,” are now grown remarkable for the quite opposite ill quality of cursing and swearing. This cannot but be a melancholy prospect, for every sincere and honest minister of Jesus Christ, to view his fellow-creatures in; and such as will put him on contriving some means to prevent the spreading at least of so growing an evil; knowing that the Lord (without repentance) will assuredly visit for these things. But alas! what can he do? Public animadversions are so neglected amongst us, that we seldom find a common swearer punished as the laws direct. And as for private admonition, men are now so hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, that to give them sober and pious advice, and to show them the evil of their doings, is but like “casting pearls before swine; they only turn again and rend you.” Since matters then are come to this pass, all that we can do is, that as we are appointed watchmen and ambassadors of the Lord, it our duty from time to time to show the people their transgression, and warn them of their sin; so that whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, we however may deliver our own souls. That I therefore may discharge my duty in this particular, give me leave, in the name of God, humbly to offer to your most serious consideration, some few observations on the words of the text, in order to show the heinousness of profane cursing and swearing.

Historic Church Documents at Reformed.org.

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John Wesley on why Christianity fails

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...
Image via Wikipedia

From one of his sermons:

Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered? Jeremiah 8:22

1. This question, as here proposed by the Prophet, relates only to a particular people, — the children of Israel. But I would here consider it in a general sense, with relation to all mankind. I would seriously inquire, Why has Christianity done so little good in the world? Is it not the balm, the outward means, which the great Physician has given to men, to restore their spiritual health? Why then is it not restored? You say, Because of the deep and universal corruption of human nature. Most true; but here is the very difficulty. Was it not intended, by our all-wise and almighty Creator, to be the remedy for that corruption? A universal remedy, for a universal evil? But it has not answered this intention it never did; it does not answer it at this day. The disease still remains in its full strength: Wickedness of every kind; vice, inward and outward, in all its forms, still overspreads the face of the earth.

………….

But why is it that so little advantage is derived from it to the Christian world? Are Christians any better than other men? Are they better than Mahometans or Heathens? To say the truth, it is well if they are not worse; worse than either Mahometans or Heathens. In many respects they are abundantly worse; but then they are not properly Christians. The generality of these, though they hear the Christian name, do not know what Christianity is.

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Now, whatever doctrine is preached, where there is not discipline, it cannot have its full effect upon the hearers.

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To bring the matter closer still. Is not scriptural Christianity preached and generally known among the people commonly called Methodists? Impartial persons allow it is. And have they not Christian discipline too, in all the essential branches of it, regularly and constantly exercised? Let those who think any essential part of it is wanting, point it out, and it shall not be wanting long. Why then are not these altogether Christians, who have both Christian doctrine and Christian discipline? Why is not the spiritual health of the people called Methodists recovered?

Read the entire sermon. For Wesley, it is about Christian discipline and doctrine, which seemed to be found only in the Methodists… Surely he is not saying what I think he is saying…

Anyway, but what he is really saying is that many Christians, the world over, do not allow Christianity to work because while they bear the name, they are ignorant of anything actually Christian. I don’t know if he was correct then, but I contend that he is assuredly correct today. Medicine is only useful if you use it properly. Having it on the shelf will allow the sore to fester. To use it incorrectly may lead to something much worse.

Preach it Brother John!

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