I like what Edward Long writes: “The last word of the gospel does not concern the ambiguity of ethical choice but proclaims God’s grace in Christ” (Edward L. Long/Conscience and Compromise/164).
Casuistry is a necessary processs. It presupposes sin and relates God’s ultimate demands upon us to the condition of a sinful world. Long rightly notes that “it can therefore make no sense unless the good news of the gospel goes beyond it. Sin necessitates casuistry (ethics), but it must help men to creative action beyond that sin.
In Plato’s seventh book of The Republic, he pictures humans chained in a cave where they can see only their own shadows cast by the fire against a screen. They mistake the shadows for reality. Outside the cave there is the light of the sun—which is reality. The prisoners in the cave cannot easily look at the light of the sun because their eyes are blinded by its brilliance and so they content themselves with the shadows in the cave.
Commenting on Plato’s story, Long offers this analysis: “The modern Church lives in a secular world. Largely unaware of its condition, it becomes a prisoner in a cave that hides the light of God. It fails to see the light of the gospel because it is preoccupied with the shadows of the cultural conditions it mistakes for reality.”
“Much of the Church,” he suggests, actually resists, by “expelling its prophets or ignoring their preaching, the light of the gospel as it judges human institutions—institutions cherished by men because they can see no other hope. Christians should seek so to change the Church, and subsequently the world, as to let God’s light shine into the darkness” (emphasis added).
It is for us as Christians to seek to conquer that sin that keeps out the light. Moreover, men will never become the source of the light. In fact, the gospel does not promise that they shall overcome the darkness of their souls with their own illumination, the being something unacceptable to the humanist who sees man picking himself up by his own bootstraps.
It does not even suggest, writes Long, “that men will seek to get out of darkness by their own initiative BUT IT DOES PROMISE THAT WHEN MEN REMOVE THE SIN THAT SEPARATES THEIR OWN LIFE FROM THE LIGHT OF GOD, THEN GOD’S LIGHT WILL SHINE IN” (emphasis added, pp 164-165).
Long’s 1954 publication left us an approach to Protestant Casuistry/ethics. Although written more than half a century ago, I found portions of it as current as today’s newspaper. It drove home a new sensitivity to avoiding downsizing to the level of the culture around us, regarding the way we think things through.
There is a shortfall of ethical thinkers today and Christians need a greater awareness of morality and ethics. There are still those black and white issues in which we can stand on truths that remain full of truth at all times and are not simply situational. On the other hand, there are grey areas today where Christians lose their influence by failing to discern properly and think-through ethically.
I'm sharing the substance of the book's conclusion when the author writes “if men cease to seek the best that they know, their repentance is a sham and their casuistry a spurious avoidance of duty. But if men do the best that they can by means of a casuistry that seeks to relate the demands of Christian love to the actualities of life (emphasis added),” he agrees, “recognizing the finiteness and compromise involved, then for them the gospel has truly good news, the news of the gift of grace in Christ by means of which alone men are made whole, and the life that they live is transformed into an acceptable service of God” (166).
I like that: "gift of grace in Christ…”!
Ethical living by itself cannot save us or our world. Nor can one live truly ethically without wholeheartedly pursuing an ethic that allows “faith” to guide and govern our behavior (our relationships within our culture). Having said that, when we have done our best and missed the mark, we can cast ourselves upon the SAVING GRACE of the RISEN CHRIST and know that a loving Heavenly Father will be there to acknowledge us as part of His Household.
This is walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com at Warner’s World.