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Ethical morality as responsible wisdom

"Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church." Colossians 1.24

The identity crisis, sparked by Dietrich Bonhoeffer's involvement in the plot to kill Hitler, illustrates the tension between moral principle and the ethical framework in which it must operate. Immanuel Kant offers the example of a person who knocks on one's door asking if one's friend is inside because he intends to murder him. Assuming that the friend is inside, does one assent (for the sake of truth) or lie (for the sake of one's friend)? In the wider ethical circumstances of the situation, blindly following one's moral principles (that lying is wrong) might be consistent with one's idem. Yet it is not necessarily the right thing to do - certainly when taking into account responsibility towards one's friend.

Such dilemmas challenge one's ipse (better self) to act in contrast to one's idem (consistent behaviour). According to Paul Ricoeur, it is responsibility towards our fellow humans which makes the difference. Bonhoeffer goes a step further to include God. And then he elaborates and in so doing significantly enriches our understanding of, and therefore our capacity for, acting faithfully in the most difficult situations...

In becoming a human-being through Christ, God reversed the fall of Adam and Eve by demonstrating how to live perfectly and then offered his perfect life as the ultimate sacrifice for sin on the cross of Calvary. Being perfect, death had no hold on him and so he rose again. Yet in dying for our sin he became sin himself. And so he remains the guiltless sinner, through whom we enjoy freedom from sin and to whom we are accountable for our exercise of that freedom. The implication is that rather then marching through life in a moral straightjacket or, conversely, floating through life in a relativistic "anything goes" bubble, we are called to be filled with the Spirit and exercise the wisdom that brings, along with the responsibility we bear towards God and his creation, including his creatures and especially our fellow humans, in the context of both the smooth and the rough paths on which our journey takes us.

Turas math leibh!



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