Morality Isn't Christianity

Since joining the Eastern Orthodox church almost a year ago, I’ve come to realize, in a much deeper way, what I’ve already come to know these past five years with YU: Spiritual mentorship is like the almost blind leading the almost blind. As St. Paul said ‘we see through a glass darkly’, and yet we must stumble forward in hope and faith and try to point toward that which we don’t fully comprehend.

Which brings me to this past week. I was having a discussion with Trevor over a cup of Miso soup. For the past several years our conversations have revolved mostly around film, politics, and philosophy. He’s an intelligent young man and I’ve enjoyed seeing him grow and wrestle with life. But this past Wednesday he shared a surprising epiphany; “I believe countries that have a Judeo-Christian history create people with better morals.” This statement, led to a conversation about the Ten Commandments, Jesus and the Gospels. The fascinating part was his connection between a healthy morality and the Bible.

This is good, right? Well, yes and no.

If there is one thing that is true about today’s youth culture, it’s that it is fairly morally relativistic. There is no real overarching truth which we should all follow. Truth is subjective. Your reality is “true for you ” but not necessarily for anyone else. So for Trevor to acknowledge that a society with a ‘Christian’ history is more moral, is a healthy step in the right direction. But there is also a problem.

Moral actions are not what Christianity is about.

I heard a priest from Tennessee once say “Christ did not come to make bad men good, but to make dead men live.” and this is my point. Although moral or righteous actions are good and a necessary manifestation of a healthy Christian life, by themselves they are nothing. Christ didn’t come to give us tips to live our ‘best life now’. We don’t need more rules or better rules. A lack of understanding isn’t our problem (per se). We are sick and we need the Great Physician. We need to be united to Christ so that, by His grace, it may actually be possible to live a righteous life.

So what about morality and the Ten Commandments? What do I say to Trevor?

I believe when we attempt to follow moral rules, especially those in the Bible, they are meant to reveal two things: our utter brokenness and inability to live up to them, and the goodness and Holiness of God.

- Chris Hawthorne


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