Biblical morality and human performance

February 11, 2009 § Leave a comment

Biblical morality enlarges the context for human performance, it does not constrict it.

– From Robert Sokolowski, Phenomenology of the Human Person, footnote page 157

Nothing could be more true! If only Monsignor had devoted more time to enlarging on this footnote in his chapter on the role of our wishes in our choices of action, and responsibility when it comes to choosing on which wishes we should act.

In the Christian life, the context of human performance does not merely include the exterior world of action – applying for a job we desire, trying make a certain paygrade, studying to earn good grades, wooing the person we love – but also the life of the soul deep in the interior of the person. Focusing on the life of the soul means that human performance encompasses desires (are my desires ordered towards God or not?), intentions (were my intentions selfish or pure in loving so-and-so?), the order of the will (am I acting on my will alone or on my will aligned with that of God?), and so on.

And as though this were not radical enough, the Christian context for human performance extends to include a form of absence. This absence is the absence of actions that we should have performed, but decided not to. The woman who needed our help with packages; we could have – SHOULD have – stopped but walked on by. The classmate we don’t particularly like who smiled at us and we pretended not to notice. Sometimes the absences of action present the most difficult moral struggles in the Christian life.

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