In the United States, Virginia, and Caroline County, we have become used to discerning ethics in accordance with socio-ethical, socio-economic, cultural, and partisan differences – as if white and black residents, Baptists and Charismatics, Christians and non-Christians could possibly exist in cohabitation with one another without some ethical agreement that brings us together.
For every person living in Caroline County, including atheists, there are three fundamental aspects to our socio-economic/ethical lives. First, we all live according to natural law (things which are right or wrong by virtue of our being alive and free). Second, we all live according to civic duty/law (i.e. the laws of our Commonwealth and Community). Third, we live according to theological laws (The Gospel).
Yet, how often do we hold ourselves accountable to these three aspects of moral law? How often do we consider them?
Natural law instructs us that we ought not use our liberty to restrain the liberty of others. In other words, we ought not behave in such a way where the end of our behavior includes the use or subjugation of other individuals as a means to our collective/personal ends. Individuals matter. Period.
Civic Duty/Law instructs us in accordance with what our society permits or will not permit. While a free individual can act in such a way as to offend her community, she is not free to do so without consequence. Finally, there are our theological laws. The Judeo-Christian laws are the most objective.
We have the Ten Commandments. We have Christ’s great two commandments to love God and to love one another. We have grace, forgiveness, and service. We also have individualism, through the Holy Spirit, such that we are each known by God as individuals and not as extensions of our community.
I honestly believe that we have a three-pronged moral instrument through which to judge our own behavior. We have natural law (that we shall not infringe upon the free will or property of others); We have Civic Law (that we shall not break the laws of our governments); and we have our theological laws (where we shall not disgrace the teachings of Jesus Christ Our Lord).
For Christians in Caroline County, there are no circumstances which these three criteria cannot suffice. It may be hard to know what God wills us to do; but in doing anything, it is impossible to do something without knowing whether or not it is moral. Every action in life can be judged by natural law, in accordance with reason, and whether or not we choose to use another human being as a means to an end to which they did not agree. Furthermore, there is the knowledge of the civic law, which we all know and to which we must all have some extraordinary excuse to break. And finally, there is our love for Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
Finding the non-contradiction between all three modes of moral reasoning is the heart of wisdom. Principally because we cannot.