One of my friends from PU (that is, Lance Aschliman) set forth the following questions. Any thoughts? (mine on #1 are below)
Below is a list of my most recent pressing questions. I have a number of thoughts on each, but I am really looking for other opinions. If you have some thoughts or know of any good readings concerning these questions, please email me at (address available on request). It would be much appreciated.
1. How should we distinguish evil from good?
2. How, specifically, do we accept God’s grace of forgiveness?
3. If faith is the assurance of things hoped for, then what is the way we should come to this assurance?
4. What is the Bible and the extent of its authority?
#1. How should we distinguish evil from good.
This seems to me to be the most difficult of the given questions, mostly because the type of an answer that would be most accurate (ie doing what God wants us to) is probably not what Lance is looking for. So lets try to be a bit more specific.
To live in this fallen world is to live in judgement. One day, there will be a judgement to decide who will live forever in the resurrected Kingdom of God set up by Jesus on the New Earth. The cool thing is that we’ve been given the chance to preempt that judgement by repentance and being declared righteousness now (ie being justified) in anticipation of that future judgement. So we are living now as part of the kingdom that rules the New Earth after the resurrection. Given that, for us to live morally is to live under the firm belief (ie faith) that Jesus is Lord (just as he will be on the New Earth). To do that is to live ‘in him’, knowing that he is the ‘end of the law’ (note that he is the goal of the law, not the termination of the law). But how do we live out this fulfillment of the law? For this, I think that Rom 12 and 13 do a pretty good job explaining how to tell the difference summing it up in (Rom.13.10):
Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Now this is all fine and dandy, assuming that we know enough to make each decision. I heard a pastor say once that ‘discernment is a moral problem, not an epistemological one’ by which I think that he meant that the problem is not that we don’t know the answers, it’s that we won’t follow them. It seems like a good non-solution solution, but I think that that gives too much away. Verse 7 of that same chapter says
Pay everyone what is owed: taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.
This verse suggests that it’s a matter of figuring out the right answers too. To pay ‘respect to whom respect is due’ we must know how to figure out to whom respect is due. This is where the Catholic notion of natural law or the Protestant notion of common sense or the Jungian idea of the collective unconscious comes into play. People know to give respect to whom it is due, they just disagree on who deserves it. The way you determine these kind of details depends on who you hold in highest regard, which obviously will come back to who or what you worship (who or what you hold in high regard), which is one more act of falling back into the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Between love, natural or common or collective whatever, and a good dose of humility (recognizing your own limitations, see Rom.12.3, as Socrates suggested: know thyself) all drawing from the Lordship of Jesus Christ, I think that the question of discernment of good and evil will fade away.