Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What's GOOD in this foreign country?


In the latest edition of Primer, Ed Shaw's article on Life in a foreign country notes the following matrix on the foundations of our morality, from The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt:
1. Care vs. Harm
2. Liberty vs. Oppression
3. Fairness vs. Cheating
4. Loyalty vs. Betrayal
5. Authority vs. Subversion
6. Sanctity vs. Degradation
He notes that evangelicals prefer the categories down the list and seem like people in a foreign country - defining what's good differently to the culture around us. Where we look to the bottom half of the list, our culture is intellectually and emotionally more persuaded by the top of the list.

The gospel of Jesus however can easily be articulated in the higher up the list categories... In Galatians 2, for example, an appeal could be made to authority - though there's a downplaying of those held in 'esteem' but also Paul's clear commitment to the authority of God's revelation to him of his Son Jesus.

We could speak of Paul's bringing of divine authority to bear, but he's just as much demonstrating in the gospel...
  • A commitment to the extraordinary care of God for sinful people in sending his son to rescue us. Paul will not tolerate harm being done to Titus or the Galatians, especially not to exclude them from sonship in God’s family. Christ means us no harm and is the greatest care.
  • An unwavering commitment to defending the liberty of people to live as sons in God’s family. The oppressive of slavery to the destructive authority of idols is intolerable. The Christian gospel is really not enslaving... it's everything else that is slavery compared to sonship.
  • An unbreakable commitment to the gospel that doesn’t discriminate on outwards things and so cheat people of the gift that could be theirs, but rather with utter fairness offers life to all and any in this world. Christianity isn't going to cheat anyone - though it's claims are exclusive, they have a deep fairness, a super-fairness in reality that goes way beyond fairness to grace.
None of which is to say that actually we don't think well in terms of loyalty/betrayal, nor authority/subversion, nor sanctity/degredation -- we think we don't think those are important but we probably know they are.

The challenge is that if an evangelical appeals that our good news is good because of God's authority, because of an appeal to loyalty or an appeal to sanctity/purity, that is deeply unpersuasive... whereas when good news is articulated as care, liberty and fairness we feel very different. I think the Bible uses all six to explain and persuade, but I'm aware I lean to some more than to others.

LISTEN - Mere Fidelity podcast - Andrew, Alastair and Derek talk about Haidt's book.