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By their fruits you shall know them...

"... every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit." Matthew 7.17

Was Friedrich Nietzsche correct jn his riposte to George Eliot that, in abandoning one's faith, one also turns one's back on the moral code associated with that faith? Over recent years we have heard a lot about moral compasses and spiritual moorings. There would appear to be ample evidence that, the further an individual or society drifts from these fixed points, the looser their grip on morality becomes and the wilder the winds of moral chaos do blow. Look no further than Eastern Europe during the Communist era, or the whole of Western society today, not to mention the moral dilemmas that post-modern values are introducing into British personal and family life...

But does that link extend to faith? In other words, does belief in God imply a specific behavioural response? Not necessarily. To declare that God is love does not necessarily mean that the one who assents to such a declaration will be loving themselves. But ought they?

Three arguments have been advanced to challenge the idea that there is an automatic causal link between faith and action. The first is that they amount to different ways of saying the same thing: to say that Christians ought to love is already implied in the assertion that "God is love" - ie it goes without saying! The second is called "the naturalistic fallacy", which refers to confusing what ought to be the case with what the case is in reality: video footage of starving children does not necessarily imply a compassionate response. Such will only be forthcoming if a moral response is inserted, on the basis that it is wrong for children to starve.

The third objection to the idea of an instinctive moral reaction to faith in God has to do with the nature of God himself. Namely, does it not undermine the sovereignty of God to assume that his worth-ship is linked to his virtue? That would imply that he is not sovereign at all, only insofar as he fulfils what we expect/ demand of him. Surely for God the be God, he must be independent of all restrictions - even moral ones? That is not to suggest that God would ever behave immorally, simply that there is a difference between our appreciation of God - for who he is - and our response to him - as we should.



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