Can Christians Be Moral?
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the lord, and on his law he meditates day and night (Ps. 1:1–2).
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he said that the entire Old Testament, both the Law and the Prophets, can be summarized in the following two commandments: (1) love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and (2) love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36–40). There’s much more to Christian ethics than loving God and loving your neighbor, however.
The Bible is full of commandments, but for Jesus, these two are the most important since from them, the rest necessarily follow. That is not to deny that secular philosophy cannot help guide Christians toward ethical behavior but rather that Scripture is the main authority for Christian ethics.
Considering these two commandments, it may come as a surprise to any reader of history that Christendom has such a bad record at behaving morally. It seems that Christians misunderstood the loving message of Jesus. Or did they?
If we are to analyze the morality of Christianity today, we have to accept that it is clearly different from the morality of Christianity in the medieval ages and even more so from its morality in the time of Jesus. This morality is nothing close to what Aquinas or Luther thought it was. They would hardly recognize a Protestant living in America. It is debatable whether they would call for his burning at the stake for heresy. These distinctions will help narrow the scope of the analysis in this blog post (I continue on this topic in my book).
I remember my shock when coming to Canada and witnessing the Christianity here in my late teens compared to the much more serious Christianity of my Slovakian friends back home. I can imagine that the difference between Calvin and ourselves is much more significant. As Kenan Malik writes, “moral codes,” whether they are religious or secular, are the result of “social structures and needs.”