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May 25, 2013

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"While other religious moral systems encourage adherents to behave well because someone is watching and evaluating your merit, Christianity alone removes this driving factor related to salvation."

Pardon me, but have you ever read a little something called "anything by any Christian ever"?

Have you?

Thanks for the link, Amy. I added that to my Amazon wishlist.

Mr. Wallace,

Am I correct in concluding that you do not consider Mormonism to be a form of Christianity? I'm not inclined to argue the point one way or another - I'm asking for clarification because I think it's not uncommon for people (perhaps even including Mormons) to be confused or equivocal on the issue.

How about Catholicism? I've never had any personal connection with the Catholic church, and I'm hoping someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that the sense of God/Christ being ever vigilant, watching your every move and thought in order to judge you (in the event that you fail to confess), has been a pervasive part of the doctrine. I think I'd be rather surprised if this weren't shared by at least some other "bona fide" Christian denominations or variants.

As for the relative esteem we might grant to someone who does something good "because it's right" vs. "because I want you to see me do it and like me for doing it" - I think this distinction is splitting hairs. (A more stark difference is easily recognized when someone does good solely because they think they'll get some significant material reward for it.)

A person who does good to gain the esteem of others purely for the sake of having their esteem, and for no other reason, is really not that different from the one who does good for its own sake, regardless of the views of others. (We could even view the latter as a sort of "abstracted" version of the former.)

Indeed, the distinction seems comparable to the case of the child doing good for the sake of pleasing the parent, vs. the parent doing good for the sake of nurturing the child. Eventually the child matures, takes on the role of parent, and the cycle continues. A clearly positive attribute of Christianity is the way that it resonates and tries to enhance this natural developmental path that is such an integral part of the human condition.

Regarding the notion that the fine gentleman would not have done good if I had not been watching - it stretches credulity almost to the point of creating a strawman. Why would it be necessary that specifically my esteem was being garnered (given that I don't even know the man)? Wouldn't such a gentleman be just as satisfied with the esteem of the paramedics he called, the drivers of the cars he avoided, or the very woman he saved?

    While other religious moral systems encourage adherents to behave well because someone is watching and evaluating your merit, Christianity alone removes this driving factor related to salvation.

I'm fairly sure Buddhism and a number of non-theistic ethical systems also remove the idea of "works-based" salvation.

I'm sorry I can't set this up better. I just don't remember any details. It's been around 50 years.

Perhaps my father had found a wallet with money and ID. And , perhaps, I'd suggested that he keep the money. Something like that.
_______________

ME
But, no one will know!
MY FATHER (immediately and emphatically)
I'll know.

_______________

He was saying he was always watching him and that it mattered to him.

I think he taught me, then and there, that it was the same with me.

I think the I-am-always-watching-me part sank in quickly and easily. It's obvious.

And, I think it already mattered to me somewhat.

But the part about it mattering to me was, and continues to be, a more gradual thing - a thing that is learned and self-taught.

That others know about the wallets I've returned over the years is nice but what I really like is that I know.


I'm fairly sure Buddhism and a number of non-theistic ethical systems also remove the idea of "works-based" salvation.

I don't know about that. The whole point of the four noble truths is to escape suffering, so you could say that salvation in Buddism is escape from suffering. The way to get rid of suffering is to get rid of desire, and the way to get rid of desire is to follow the eight fold path. The eight fold path is all about works. So Buddhism does have a works based salvation of sorts.

so you could say that salvation in Buddism is escape from suffering

But don't do that because 'salvation' - works based or not - is a Christian concept.

No, it's not. Salvation is a state of being saved. That can apply to any context where a person is spared some calamity. Granted, what we are being saved from is different in different religions, but salvation still exists in those different religions. Buddhists hope to be saved from suffering that is caused by desire. Christians hope to be saved from the wrath of God. But they're both salvation. The fact that Buddhists may not refer to it as "salvation" doesn't mean it's not.

I guess I should have said salvation is not a Buddhist concept - that's more to the point.

You'd have reacted the same way, I suppose. I still say don't do it. But, as they say, it's a free country.

I've heard Christians paint Buddhism and other views with Christian terms many times. So no worries.

My theory is that this is how 'World Religion' classes are taught in church basements.

I think I once heard Kent Hovind say that 'evolutionists' 'worship' time (because evolution took a long time). I suppose that's a worship 'of sorts'.

I've also heard many complaints from 'real' Christians that the LDS give Christian terms their own meaning. Hm.

Here's another item of the Gospel that flips other religions on their heads when it comes to a "works" philosophy:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Eph. 2:10

Not only are we unique in that we do good works out of a sense of gratitude and response of love due to the grace shown to us, but those good works we do were prepared for us to do before we even existed...that's amazing!

Not only are we unique in that we do good works out of a sense of gratitude and response of love due to the grace shown to us

No. You are just like everybody else whatever you tell yourselves.

I think that the original post raises an interesting question. Can an act be virtuous in itself apart from the individual who performs it? It would seem to me that an individual could only be deemed virtuous if the motives behind the act are themselves virtuous. But judging the act separately, could we say that the act is stripped of any virtue if the motives of the individual are selfish?

RonH,

I bet many can identify with the story about your father. I like it. It makes sense to say that to a child. There’s a valuable lesson there. However, we don’t say things like that to adults for a reason. Because that’s not why we don’t do bad things. Let’s say that there was a pill that your father could take that would make him forget that he kept the wallet. Would it be okay to keep the wallet and take the pill?

My point is obvious. It’s not the “I’ll know,” or the guilt, or the conscious-in-agony that makes something wrong. Those are just by-products of the wrongdoing. After all, people can be mistaken about what their conscious is telling them.

Can an act be virtuous in itself apart from the individual who performs it?

This is an easy one: No.

Virtue by definition rules it out. Now, the outcome could be preferred to the alternative. But virtuous? No way.

KWM

Upon reflection, you are correct. The same could be said of vice, it's opposite.

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