This week, Fellows Class 18 learned about virtue, ethics, and moral knowledge. This class explored what the good life is and how we are to live the good life now.
The world has countless ways to define what the good life is. For some, it may be through simply doing meaningful things, but for others, it may involve hedonism, fame, and wealth. These ways of living seem to teeter closely with the likes of existentialism, which tells us to create our own meaning in life and not worry about others. However, this worldly view has led to the rapid decline of moral knowledge, or knowledge of how to live life well. In class, I (Matthew) learned that knowledge is important for four main reasons:
- Knowledge authorizes people to act
- Knowledge directs the actions of individuals
- Knowledge assists in developing and supervising policy
- Knowledge allows us to teach others in a proper manner
I think that now more than ever, our society has a minimal amount of true moral knowledge, and I am often told by others what morality is. This shift from morality being objective and based on Christian ethics to subjective and reliant on feelings and cultural traditions has come about for a variety of reasons. These include a search by philosophers for “social enlightenment” and a desire to make morality more “scientific.” Without a true understanding of moral knowledge, however, it is impossible to live the good life.
Moral knowledge in the tradition of Jesus is based on justice and love. We cannot have one without the other. Justice without love becomes legalistic and vindictive. Love without justice is merely sentimentality and destroys what we seek to love. God is love, and we are created in the image of God to love. This is seen in the two greatest commands that Jesus gave to all of mankind: (1) love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and (2) love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:28-33).
That still begs the question: what truly is the good life and how are we called to live the good life? Created objects are typically deemed as good when they do all that they are designed to do. We are God’s created beings, so being a good person means that we should be all that we are designed to be. God designed us in His image, an image of love, meaning we are to love and build a relationship with God and others. We cultivate the good life through the spiritual disciplines, which is Spirit-empowered training for shalom, or the way things are supposed to be. These disciplines include meditation, study, prayer, and solitude. The good life is with Christ, and you and I can live the good life now.