Sunday, Oct 05, 2008: “Ethics After Easter; Chapter 3”

St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
“Ethics After Easter” by Stephen Holmgren
A Study Led By Rev. Deacon Mary Slenski
Sunday, October 5, 2008


                                            Ethics After Easter (1)


                                       Chapter 3- The Book of Nature


Prayers for the Natural Order


40. For Knowledge of God’s Creation


Almighty and everlasting God, you made the universe with all its marvelous order, its atoms, worlds, and galaxies, and the infinite complexity of living creatures: Grant that, as we probe the mysteries of your creation, we may com~1P know you more truly, and more surely fulfill our role in your eternal purpose; in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, 827)


Proper 17  The Sunday closest to August 31


Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.


From Bishop Tutu: “During the darkest days of apartheid I used to say to ~” W. Botha
the president of South Africa, that we had already won, and I invited him and other white
South Africans to join the winning side. All the ‘objective’ facts were against us-the
pass laws, the imprisonments, the tear gassing, the massacres, the murder of political
activists-but my confidence was not in the present circumstances but in the laws of
God’s universe. This is a moral universe, which means that, despite all the evidence that seems to be to the contrary, there is no way that evil and injustice and oppression and lies can have the last word.”(2)


Interpreting the Book of Nature: “We take it for granted that human beings can and do invest the objects of their experience and attention with moral value. The question
therefore turns on whether or not the actions or objects that we observe within human
experience have inherent moral value of their own.” (p. 53)


“What ethics and the sciences have in common is this: what we observe lies beyond us
and exists prior to us. It is true that quantum physics has made us aware of some
ambiguity in the relationship between the observer and the observed at the level of
particles Yes, we do construct meaning and order in our minds. But the world of
nature possesses meanings of its own that have been placed there by the creator and
precede any meaning we might want to give it. The challenge for us is to try and discern
where the two diverge.” (p 56-57)


Morality and the Book of Nature: “The court [at Nuremberg] determined, however,
that the crimes of the Holocaust violated something much more fundamental because
these were ‘crimes against humanity.’ They violated moral principles embedded in the
nature of reality and accessible to human reason regardless of whether or not particular
individuals had happened to notice them or not. The crimes of the Third Reich were
therefore crimes against a morality that is integral to reality.” (p. 57)


“[B]y claiming that moral value is inherent to creation, we place our moral conversation
under a discipline. We must then reason together in the awareness that our understanding of moral value is always subject to comparison with the reality that our claims are supposed to describe. We know that we will encounter false claims about moral principles, and to set these aside we will need to demonstrate through reason how these inadequate principles fall short of and are judged by the actual order of the world.  Comparison makes correction possible.” (p. 58)


Holmgren’s Axioms for Moral Theology


9. All people, whether they are Christian or not, can receive moral knowledge through
the “general revelation” of the Book of Nature. This is not to say that all people will do
so, or that they will choose to act on such knowledge.


(1) Stephen Holmgren, Ethics after Easter, The New Church’s Teaching Series Volume 9, (Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 2000).


(2) Desmond Tutu, God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time, (NY: Doubleday, 2004), 2.