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The Moral Maze
Everywhere there appears to be a state of confusion. Truth mixed with falsehood appears as the new normal. Nothing appears as it is –– who can we believe and trust?
The Moral Maze…
The decade of the 1960s witnessed profound change in the established world order. The post-WWII global configuration was essentially bi-polar, with the United States-led West aligned against the Soviet-dominated East. In the 1960s, this split along ideological and economic lines divided the world into five centers of power: the Soviet Union and its satellites; Communist China and Southeast Asia; Europe and the United States; Africa; and Latin America. This article will look briefly at each of these regions and the general United States foreign policy strategy for each. The emphasis will be on Latin America, in particular Bolivia, and events such as Cuban-instigated insurgencies, affecting U.S. engagement in the southern hemisphere. In Latin America, Cuban-sponsored revolutionary fervor was a major factor in determining the U.S. strategy.
The Allied powers determined at the end of World War II the Security Council’s permanent membership in the newly formed United Nations (Chiang K’ai Shek’s Nationalist China, not Communist China, held a permanent seat). The power blocs of the Fifties began to erode in the Sixties. It was the Soviet Union that faced off against the West in the Cold War, and instigated such provocations as the erection of the Berlin Wall.1
Durer’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
So, who can we trust?
It is a lot like being trapped in a maze –– how do we find the centre and once we have found it –– how do we get out? We all feel overwhelmed and trapped!
When we speak about the ‘moral maze,’ we mean our attempting to discover the correct way to navigate our way through life and its multitude of perplexities.
At the heart of the matter is the question of our moral and ethical response to life and the multitude of decisions that we face daily.
From the perspective of having a living faith, where are we to look to for help to determine how we should choose to respond to any given situation that presents itself to us? Let us remind ourselves that the Scriptures teach us that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the ‘world, the flesh, and the devil.’ There are powers and principalities of darkness seeking to control and influence our every decision.
Arm yourself! With a knife, gun, or bomb? NO! While I am not a pacifist, I do believe that it is important to defend ourselves, our families, communities, and and countries, notwithstanding, our weapons of warfare are not these things, but spiritual, the mighty pulling down of strongholds! In the power and mighty name of Yeshua our Messiah and Lord we can be victorious!
But we ask –– how does this apply and work out in the here and know? Not pie-in-the-sky-when-you die! Heaven on earth now!
Let’s be real and not find ourselves being delusional, with our living in the Moral Maze!
Let our yes, be YES, and our no, be a definitive NO! In Afrikaans there is an expression that says,
"Jy kan nie op twee stoele gelyk sit nie!"
‘You can’t sit on two stools at the same time.’
For in attempting to do so you will find yourself falling between the two and landing on your rear end on the floor.
Similarly, as a believer, we can’t falter between two options – make up your mind? Whose side are you on? God or humankinds? Let’s face up to reality now!
So what’s at the heart of the matter? We discover that there are many different facets to the moral maze.
1/ For starters, God is no longer on the throne –– ‘God is dead, and humankind is alive,’ or at least they think so!
In the philosophical concept described by Nietzsche. For other uses, see God is dead (disambiguation).
“God is dead” (German: Gott ist tot; also known as the death of God) is a statement made by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche’s first use of this statement is his 1882 The Gay Science, where it appears three times. The phrase also appears in Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
The meaning of this statement is that since, as Nietzsche says, “the belief in the Christian God has become unbelievable”, everything that was “built upon this faith, propped up by it, grown into it”, including “the whole […] European morality“, is bound to “collapse”.
Other philosophers had previously discussed the concept, including Philipp Mainländer and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Proponents of the strongest form of the Death of God theology have used the phrase in a literal sense, meaning that the Christian God who had existed at one point has ceased to exist.
Death of God theology
Although theologians since Nietzsche had occasionally used the phrase “God is dead” to reflect increasing unbelief in God, the concept rose to prominence in the late 1950s and 1960s, subsiding in the early 1970s. The German-born theologian Paul Tillich, for instance, was influenced by the writings of Nietzsche, especially his phrase “God is dead.”
William Hamilton wrote the following about American radical theologian Thomas J. J. Altizer‘s redeployment of Nietzsche’s view:
For the most part Altizer prefers mystical to ethical language in solving the problem of the death of God, or, as he puts it, in mapping out the way from the profane to the sacred. This combination of Kierkegaard and Eliade makes a rather rough reading, but his position at the end is a relatively simple one. Here is an important summary statement of his views: If theology must now accept a dialectical vocation, it must learn the full meaning of Yes-saying and No-saying; it must sense the possibility of a Yes which can become a No, and of a No which can become a Yes; in short, it must look forward to a dialectical coincidentia oppositorum [i.e., a unity of the opposites]. Let theology rejoice that faith is once again a “scandal,” and not simply a moral scandal, an offense to man’s pride and righteousness, but, far more deeply, an ontological scandal; for eschatological faith is directed against the deepest reality of what we know as history and the cosmos. Through Nietzsche’s vision of Eternal Recurrence we can sense the ecstatic liberation that can be occasioned by the collapse of the transcendence of Being, by the death of God […] and, from Nietzsche’s portrait of Jesus, theology must learn of the power of an eschatological faith that can liberate the believer from what to the contemporary sensibility is the inescapable reality of history. But liberation must finally be effected by affirmation.
It is not enough that God is dead, for the vast majority of humankind in the West, he does not exist at all!
This has serious consequences, because the moral and ethical choices that we make are therefore rather arbitrary, with no moral absolutes. You can do what you please, whenever you want, and it really doesn’t matter how you behave.
To illustrate this, I must relate a recent brief and very unpleasant encounter that I had with someone, when I asked them not to park across an access gate – A tirade of abuse was hurled at me.
Did I deserve it? Was the response proportionate to the request I had made? I was direct in my request, but not impolite.
So, you tell me, is this normal behaviour that you would expect from someone who was a stranger?
Perhaps this woman was having a bad day, or maybe this is her normal default setting when things don’t go her way?
It is not surprising that relationships breakdown, that wars happen between people and different nations.
2/ Situational Ethics What is true for you does not therefore need to be true for me! Truth is relative, because there are no longer any moral absolutes! Believe whatever you like! Stealing is OK, what you must look out for is that you don’t get caught. Lying is also OK, just don’t get found out. And down the slippery slope we go…
How does this modern world impact upon religion in general, and Messianic –– Yeshua/Jesus believing faith in particular? This is an important question to attempt to answer to help us find our way through the moral maze.
1/ Folk on the whole are confronted with a feeling of alienation and hopelessness as they are confronted with the present pressing realities and growing sense of foreboding. People used to like to sing, ‘Jesus is the answer for the world today!’ But the sceptic and disillusioned say, ‘really, where is the answers that he promised to make this world a better place?’ We are confronted with huge pressing problems, Covid, avian flue, the economic down turn, the Russian –– Ukraine war, the spiralling cost of energy, food, plus now food shortages –– Unpredictable weather caused through flooding, coupled with drought. And the list goes on…
Albert Durer’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Is there any good news?
2/ However, when optimism and hope are in short supply, that is when true faith can be born in our lives!
Humankind’s extremity is God’s opportunity!
In our attempt to navigate our way through the moral maze we are confronted with having to make choices, particularly moral and ethical ones can be difficult for us to make.
Sometimes the distinctions between them are unclear. Society constantly presents us with choices between what the world chooses and what we know as Messianic believers to be right. As follower of Yeshua in a secular world, we often worry about making unpopular choices. I think it’s a case of not wanting to be seen as different to others. But there will be occasions when we have to make a stand, maybe on ethical issues, yet when we do, we are sometimes ignored or even classed as even being fanatical. In all of this though we have a choice. Our choices can be God’s choices for us. We can choose not to participate in activities that we know to be detrimental to society. If we were to choose good over evil in each situation, how would our world change? And so that brings us to Jesus and the by three very human temptations. “You must be hungry,” Satan said to him. “Use your power to turn these stones into bread. Throw yourself down from this temple. You will not be harmed. Fall down and worship me and everything you see shall be yours.” Yeshua is confronted by three temptations that come to all of us. Food, religion and politics. What could be the harm of any of them? They are all ways for Yeshua to become an influence, to become known to the people. Wouldn’t that be a good thing?
The problem with such temptations is that they all have a powerful meaning in our lives, so they can all be abused. With his strong connection to humankind, Yeshua resists the temptations. He lives by that great commandment, “Love God and your neighbour”. Times of temptation will occur in our lives. We may have a deep sense of loss because of the death of a loved one. We may lose our job or go through the pain of a broken relationship. We may suffer through sickness, or depression. We may be tempted by power or by wealth at the cost of integrity. How we allow such times in our lives to bring us into a relationship with God and with others is the measure of the temptation. Each of us has the power through our choices to shape and give meaning to life. Living as a follower of Yeshua is a response to a deliberate choice. It calls for a decision to place our faith in Messiah Yeshua. It is a call to commitment. When we go through a wilderness time, it is a time of commitment to spiritual growth. It provides an opportunity to reflect on the meaning and consequences of our choices. Our life is a series of choices. What has shaped your lives? What shape would we like it to take? How can the choice to follow Yeshua afford us an opportunity for us to reform our lives, to allow God’s Ruach HaKodesh/ Holy Spirit to re-shape us so that our whole community is re-created. I have heard it said that forty days is the optimal time in which to re-shape some aspect of one’s life. So, let us use every opportunity as a time to bring ourselves into a closer and more open relationship with our creator. May we experience a renewal of life in and through allowing God to guide us through the moral maze. Amen.” [With acknowledgement to the Revd Stephen Smith of St Paul’s, Newbridge, South Wales, for letting me use a section of recently preached sermon that I have adapted].
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