Ethics reflects on the conditions of good moral thinking. Were it to posit an ideal relation of text to action which, in the name of obedience to scriptural authority, effectively abolished thinking, it would abolish morality, and thereby abolish itself. There is a necessary indeterminacy in the obedient action required by the faithful reading of the text. Acts are ordered in a basic repertoire of kinds and types, and of these kinds and types Scripture has a great deal of normative force to tell us; but Scripture does not determine the concrete act itself , the act we must perform now. If Scripture totally determined our actions, there would be no obedience, for there would be no deliberation. Deliberation does not simply repeat what it has heard; it pursues the goal of faithful and obedient action by searching out actions, possible within the material conditions that prevail, which will accord with the content of the testimony of Scripture.
The modern world, when it praises its little Caesars, talks of being strong and brave: but it does not see the eternal paradox involved in the conjunction of these ideas. The strong cannot be brave. Only the weak can be brave; and yet again, in practice, only those who can be brave can be trusted, in times of doubt, to be strong.
G. K. Chesterton
Is greed a religion today? It does seem that for many people material things hold a place in their lives that was once occupied by belief in God. The economy has achieved what might be described as a sacred status. Like God, the economy, is capable of supplying our needs without limit. Also, like God, the economy is mysterious, dangerous and intransigent, despite the best managerial efforts of its associated clergy.
If once our most vivid experiences were religious, today they involve money rituals. For example, the modern day equivalent of the city cathedral is the shopping complex. …
As we already noted, the very things Christianity claims God expects of believers, namely love, trust and service, may well characterize our relationship with money. A glance at the palpable glee on the faces of game show contestants confirms our love of money. You can literally buy ‘securities’ and ‘futures.’ Most disturbingly, as the French ethicist Jacques Ellul put it, “We can use money, but it is really money that uses us and makes us servants by bringing us under its law and subordinating us to its aims.”
Brian Rosner, “Greed as False Religion”
It seems to me rather absurd when Christians feel obliged either to celebrate or to lament the conversion of Constantine - to proclaim it either as the victory of the true faith over its persecutors or as the victory of the devil over the purity of the Gospel - rather than simply to accept it and all its historical sequels as part of the mysterious story of grace working upon fallen natures: to love everything good and splendid that it produced, to deplore everything sordid and evil, and then to recognize as well (and this is the most challenging task of all) that the tale of Christendom’s failure and defeat is also enfolded within those same workings of grace.
Do you know that every man who sleeps believes in God? It is a sacrament; for it is an act of faith and it is a food.
A theology of faithful presence first calls Christians to attend to the people and places that they experience directly. It is not that believers should be disconnected from, or avoid responsibility for people and places across the globe. Far from it. Christians are called to go into all the world, after all and to carry the good news in word and deed that God’s kingdom has come. But with that said, the call to faithful presence gives priority to what is right in front of us – the community, the neighbourhood, and the city, and that people of which these are constituted. For most, this will mean a preference for stability, locality and particularity of place and its needs. It is here, through the joys, sufferings, hopes, disappointments, concerns, desires and worries of the people with whom we are in long term and close relation – family neighbours, co-workers, and community – where we find authenticity as a body and as believers. It is here we learn forgiveness and humility, practice kindness, hospitality and charity, grow in patience and wisdom, and become clothed in compassion, gentleness and joy. This is the crucible within which Christian holiness is forged. This is the context within which shalom is enacted.
James Davison Hunter