Jack Sparrow’s moral compass

I’ve pointed out recently how I feel about using the “religion as a moral compass” argument. This dislike for that argument goes hand in hand with another issue I have, regarding interpretation.

While it sounds good to say the Bible is infallible, it doesn’t seem to matter much unless the interpreter is also infallible. Obviously none of us are infallible interpreters, but we can have reasonable discussions about how difficult sections can be interpreted, and come to a reasonable and well considered solution to differences. Something else we can do is pray (sure critics aren’t going to accept this, but this post isn’t for critics). The idea being that if we go into our study of the Bible prayerfully and without that obstinacy that makes us want to be the clever one, then The Holy Spirit can guide us. Here’s where the problem comes.

There is, according to Christianity, only one Holy Spirit, but many people claim their conflicting views are “inspired.” The problem now is that people don’t really want to have their belief called out, and react defensively, or claim the other person is attempting to pick a fight, or, as is often the case with Christians, “influenced by the devil.” This makes discussions about Biblical issues almost impossible in interdenominational discussions, and sometimes untenable within a denomination.

In order to get around being called out for logical or well thought out opposition to their opinions, Christians have taken to falling back on a charismatic type conversational style, and claiming inspiration from God/Jesus/The Holy Spirit/Angels. This flies in the face of any rational conversation, since it isn’t falsifiable, and anyone who tries to respond is a heretic/misguided/uninspired. Quotes from the Bible will not change the persons opinion, since they are, most often, ruled out as “out of context.”

While quoting things out of context has plagued Christianity since its origins, pointing it out has become an automatic refutation of what is being said, even if it is correct. Many people have told me I’m quoting out of context, then failed to explain (or even attempt to) how context would vindicate what they are saying. These kind of arguments seem to allow us as Christians to remain stagnant and without spiritual growth because we no longer feel the need to question what we believe, in fact we’re encouraged not to question.

Often discussions like this cover how we should explain an alleged contradiction, or the exact character of the trinity, or what the 144,000 in Revelation should be viewed – stuff that isn’t really going to affect how we live our lives as Christians. Unfortunately, more often we find that these discussions run directly into how Christians should live. Anyone who has discussed theology with an adventist will be familiar with their issue over Saturday vs Sunday worship, which often provokes some kind of response about “Old Testament Legalism.” If the adventist comes back with, corporal punishment and tithes are also Old Testament, but the Sabbath is one of the ten commandments, then the “Holy Spirit has shown me that…” argument surfaces. Obviously all these issues, along with tattoos, planting “mixed seed” (a vegetable garden), shaving your head, trimming your beard, stoning homosexuals, eating pork, and whether ladies should wear headgear in church come down to how well we follow what God tells us in the Bible. There needs to be a consistent systematic approach to understanding what we keep and what we leave in order that we can live as God intends us to.

If we are simply listening to voices in our heads, how can we claim that our canon (the Bible) – that which defines our religion – is a moral compass. It obviously isn’t if we don’t carefully and prayerfully examine what is printed therein, and live by it. When we start calling on voices in our heads, voices we can’t trust. It was allegedly God who decided that sending thousand of europeans to their deaths in the crusades, it was allegedly God who decided to have inquisitions, it was allegedly God who inspired Joseph Smith, Mohammed and David Koresh. What happens when we start invoking divine inspiration in rational discussion comes down to blaming God for our bad ideas.

What seems to me to be happening in Christendom is a case of Jack Sparrow’s compass. You’ll recall that it was an unique compass that never pointed north, it pointed to the thing you most desired, or basically, where you wanted it to point. This seems to be the moral compass of Christianity, each denomination (and even people within denominations) have their own moral compass that points where they want it too, and they all claim to be divinely guided. The problem isn’t so much the fact that there doesn’t seem to be moral agreement among groups that share a religious canon (although this is a problem), the problem here is that, with all this divine inspiration going around, there’s no way to have a reasonable discussion that could lead us to a better understanding of what living a moral life should mean.

So not only is the moral compass argument a bad argument because it is Biblically refuted (Genesis 3:22) and neurologically refuted, it is also simply not the case, Christianity, for the average believer (possibly more so than other religions), seems to be like Jack’s compass, just pick what you most desire from your religion, and find a denomination that interprets the Bible to point you there.

What are your thoughts?

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One thought on “Jack Sparrow’s moral compass”

  1. There are rules as to what goes through the Cross and what doesn’t. Context does remain important. I think in general thinking too hard and trying to understand something which we were not created to understand is going to cause problems. Why is faith then so important.

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