Department of Biblical and Religious Studies | Messiah, a private Christian College in PA
Our department is a community of students and Christian scholars who specialize in biblical studies, religious history, theology, world religions, and Christian ministry. Our goal is to model and encourage informed thinking about Christian faith and practice and the role of religion in the world.
We foster spiritual and theological reflection that enables individuals to develop and deepen Christian commitment, interpret matters of faith intelligently, and minister to others with wisdom and compassion. The principles of natural moral law are the universal judgments made by right reasoning about the kinds of actions that are morally appropriate and inappropriate for human agents. They are thus, at least in principle and at a highly general level, deducible from human nature. Aquinas held that reason, in knowing these principles, is participating in the eternal law, which is in the mind of God Summa Theologiae I, q.
Aquinas was not initially successful in persuading the church to embrace Aristotle.
Aquinas was a Dominican friar. The other major order of friars, the Franciscan, had its own school of philosophy, starting with Bonaventure c. First, Scotus is not a eudaimonist. He takes a double account of motivation from Anselm — , who made the distinction between two affections of the will, the affection for advantage an inclination towards one's own happiness and perfection and the affection for justice an inclination towards what is good in itself independent of advantage Anselm, De Concordia 3.
Original sin is a ranking of advantage over justice, which needs to be reversed by God's assistance before we can be pleasing to God. Scotus says that we should be willing to sacrifice our own happiness for God if God were to require this. Second, he does not think that the moral law is self-evident or necessary.
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But the second table is contingent, though fitting our nature, and God could prescribe different commands even for human beings Ord. I, dist. One of his examples is the proscription on theft, which applies only to beings with property, and so not necessarily to human beings since they are not necessarily propertied. Third, Scotus denied the application of teleology to non-intentional nature, and thus departed from the Aristotelian and Thomist view. This does not mean that we have no natural end or telos , but that this end is related to the intention of God in the same way a human artisan intends his or her products to have a certain purpose see Hare , chapter 2.
Europe experienced a second Renaissance when scholars fled Constantinople after its capture by the Muslims in , and brought with them Greek manuscripts that were previously inaccessible. In Florence Marsilio Ficino —99 identified Plato as the primary ancient teacher of wisdom, and like Bonaventure cited Augustine as his guide in elevating Plato in this way. His choice of Plato was determined by the harmony he believed to exist between Plato's thought and the Christian faith, and he set about making Latin translations of all the Platonic texts so that this wisdom could be available for his contemporaries who did not know Greek.
go site He was also the first Latin translator of Plotinus, the Neo-Platonist. Many of the central figures in the Reformation were humanists in the Renaissance sense where there is no implication of atheism. The historical connection between Scotus and the Reformers can be traced through William of Ockham d. The Counter-Reformation in Roman Catholic Europe, on the other hand, took the work of Aquinas as authoritative for education.
However, Suarez accepted Scotus's double account of motivation. The next two centuries in European philosophy can be described in terms of two lines of development, rationalism and empiricism, both of which led, in different ways, to the possibility of a greater detachment of ethics from theology.
Descartes was not primarily an ethicist, but he located the source of moral law surprisingly for a rationalist in God's will. The most important rationalist in ethics was Benedict de Spinoza — He was a Jew, but was condemned by his contemporary faith community as unorthodox. Like Descartes, he attempted to duplicate the methods of geometry in philosophy. Substance, according to Spinoza, exists in itself and is conceived through itself Ethics , I, def. Everything in the universe is necessary, and there is no free will, except in as far as Spinoza is in favor of calling someone free who is led by reason Ethics , I, prop.
Each human mind is a limited aspect of the divine intellect. On this view which has its antecedent in Stoicism the human task is to move towards the greatest possible rational control of human life. Leibniz was, like Descartes, not primarily an ethicist. The rationalists were not denying the centrality of God in human moral life, but their emphasis was on the access we have through the light of reason rather than through sacred text or ecclesiastical authority.
After Leibniz there was in Germany a long-running battle between the rationalists and the pietists, who tried to remain true to the goals of the Lutheran Reformation.
Examples of the two schools are Christian Wolff — and Christian August Crusius —75 , and we can understand Immanuel Kant — , like his teacher Martin Knutzen —51 , as trying to mediate between the two. Wolff was a very successful popularizer of the thought of Leibniz, but fuller in his ethical system.
He took from Leibniz the principle that we will always select what pleases us most, and the principle that pleasure is the apprehension of perfection, so that the amount of pleasure we feel is proportional to the amount of perfection we intuit New Essays on Human Understanding , XXI, He thought we are obligated to do what will make us and our condition, or that of others, more perfect, and this is the law of nature that would be binding on us even if per impossible God did not exist.
He saw no problem about the connection between virtue and happiness, since both of them result directly from our perfection, and no problem about the connection between virtue and duty, since a duty is simply an act in accordance with law, which prescribes the pursuit of perfection. His views were offensive to the pietists, because he claimed that Confucius already knew by reason all that mattered about morality, even though he did not know anything about Christ.
Crusius by contrast accepted Scotus's double theory of motivation, and held that there are actions that we ought to do regardless of any ends we have, even the end of our own perfection and happiness.
It is plausible to see here the origin of Kant's categorical imperative. His idea was that we have within us this separate capacity to recognize divine command and to be drawn towards it out of a sense of dependence on the God who prescribes the command to us, and will punish us if we disobey though our motive should not be to avoid punishment Ibid.
The history of empiricism in Britain from Hobbes to Hume is also the history of the attempt to re-establish human knowledge, but not from above from indubitable principles of reason but from below from experience and especially the experience of the senses. Thomas Hobbes — said that all reality is bodily including God , and all events are motions in space. Willing, then, is a motion, and is merely the last act of desire or aversion in any process of deliberation.
His view is that it is natural, and so reasonable, for each of us to aim solely at our own preservation or pleasure.
The second precept is that each of us should be willing to lay down our natural rights to everything to the extent that others are also willing, and Hobbes concludes with the need to subordinate ourselves to a sovereign who alone will be able to secure peace. He argues for the authority in the interpretation of Scripture to be given to that same earthly sovereign, and not to competing ecclesiastical authorities whose competition had been seen to exacerbate the miseries of war both in Britain and on the continent Ibid.
John Locke — followed Hobbes in deriving morality from our need to live together in peace given our natural discord, but he denied that we are mechanically moved by our desires. He agreed with Hobbes in saying that moral laws are God's imposition, but disagreed by making God's power and benevolence both necessary conditions for God's authority in this respect Treatises , IV. He also held that our reason can work out counsels or advice about moral matters; but only God's imposition makes law and hence obligation , and we only know about God's imposition from revelation The Reasonableness of Christianity , 62—5.
He therefore devoted considerable attention to justifying our belief in the reliability of revelation. The deists e. Frances Hutcheson — was not a deist, but does give a reading of the sort of guidance involved here. He distinguished between objects that are naturally good, which excite personal or selfish pleasure, and those that are morally good, which are advantageous to all persons affected.
He took himself to be giving a reading of moral goodness as agape , the Greek word for the love of our neighbor that Jesus prescribes. Because these definitions of natural and moral good produce a possible gap between the two, we need some way to believe that morality and happiness are coincident. This moral sense responds to examples of benevolence with approbation and a unique kind of pleasure, and benevolence is the only thing it responds to, as it were the only signal it picks up.
It is, like Scotus's affection for justice, not confined to our perception of advantage. God shows benevolence by first making us benevolent and then giving us this moral sense that gets joy from the approbation of our benevolence. To contemporary British opponents of moral sense theory, this seemed too rosy or benign a picture; our joy in approving benevolence is not enough to make morality and happiness coincident. We need also obligation and divine sanction.
Joseph Butler —, Bishop of Bristol and then of Durham held that God's goodness consists in benevolence, in wanting us to be happy, and that we should want the same for each other. He made the important point that something can be good for an agent because it is what he wants without this meaning that the content of what he wants has anything to do with himself Fifteen Sermons , — David Hume —76 is the first figure in this narrative who can properly be attached to the Enlightenment, though this term means very different things in Scotland, in France and in Germany.
Hume held that reason cannot command or move the human will. The denial of motive power to reason is part of his general skepticism. He accepted from Locke the principle that our knowledge is restricted to sense impressions from experience and logically necessary relations of ideas in advance of experience in Latin, a priori.
From this principle he derived more radical conclusions than Locke had done. For example, we cannot know about causation or the soul. The only thing we can know about morals is that we get pleasure from the thought of some things and pain from the thought of others. Hume thought we could get conventional moral conclusions from these moral sentiments, which nature has fortunately given us. Probably he included premises about God's will or nature or action. This does not mean he was arguing against the existence of God. Some scholars take this remark like similar statements in Hobbes as purely ironic, but this goes beyond the evidence.
The Enlightenment in France had a more anti-clerical flavor in part because of the history of Jansenism, unique to France , and for the first time in this narrative we meet genuine atheists, such as Baron d'Holbach —89 who held not only that morality did not need religion, but that religion, and especially Christianity, was its major impediment.
He accepted from the English deists the idea that what is true in Christian teachings is the core of human values that are universally true in all religions, and like the German rationalists he admired Confucius.
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